On raising kids: Iranian style


Fariba Lotfi
by Fariba Lotfi

Lately, i have been amused by my mundane day to day activities and for some odd reason thought that some of you might be interested in it too!  After all, i have a feeling that many of us go through same experiences; although we go through it individually (was that an oxymoron?!)

Anywho, my current issue is raising kids.  Last night, i went to the freshman orientation in our public school and listened to the principal advising parents of dos and donts of being a parent in this day and age.  I live in a fairly small town in CT famous for its super uber public highschool.  I looked around me and found the usual mix of blue blooded anglo americans and chinese, indian, iranian crowd.  The principal warned us all of becoming too demanding, expecting too much, asking the kids to take too many honor courses, thus creating anxiety, and pushing our kids towards depression and substance abuse.  All i was thinking was that i do not understand the code here.  If the kid is happy with regular courses; am i supposed to say ok hon, just be happy?  even though i know that the kid can do more?  If i expect the kid to take all honors; then, am i pushing it?  What if the kid is taking all honors courses; does well, and smokes pot as well?  Am i supposed to throw a fit and go bullestic about it?  Would an American mom do that?  Even though i am familiar with all the literature regarding pot (I do research for a pharmaceutical company) am i suppose to let the kid know about it?  The benefits too?!  If the kid is doing well in honor courses and smokes pot too; is that ok?  If the kid does not want to be a super uber achiever and wants to do regular courses; smoke pot once a week, and go to community college; should i just be happy about it?!  What would an American parent do?  Are there any other Iranian parents out there who have gone through the same experiences?  Apparently, no one around me has a kid who is not a super uber achiever!  When it comes to kids; there are not much that people around me share; except for A's,  Ivy-league acceptances; and mega-dollar job offers! 

I must be super KHENG for not getting the code here...I dont want to follow the Chinese model.  Chinese parents seem to have a total control over their kids' life.  The parents work hard; the kids are going from one extra-curricular activity to another; they are always busy with either music lessons,or karete, or Chinese school, or Kumon.  The kids only hang out with other chinese friends.  There are no MEHMOONIS, or parties in their houses.  Kids never come out to play with other kids.  The kids are super uber successful academically.  Somehow, i could not do it this way.  I am not sure i understand the American way either!  American parents dont push as much; but, to me they are all about sports, sweet sixteens, marketing and business degrees and trips to cancun!  Somehow, I dont think i can do that either!  What is left then?!  Where is that happy medium? 



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Kids, school and drugs

by MM on

It is not about being American, Iranian nor Chinese.  Kids are kids and they will try to get away with as much as they can.  Given a choice between a trig problem and play/hangout, there is hardly any competition on what the kid will do.  Many of us intentionally move to towns with good school systems, and sure the same w/ you in CT. 

I was also amused, as were other parents, when one high school teacher told us that it was all about the journey, not about getting A's and studying hard did not matter.  Later, the parents agreed that "this is how the US became #27 in math, #7 in .... in the world".

While a teenager, we encouraged our kid to at least excel in math and English, the foundation for all other studies in the US.    If needed, I also encourage you to even get a tutor for "study techniques", which is hardly touched in schools here, but very important in any study later.  The rest of the courses can be chosen at the universities.  Once our kid realized that we were serious about his studies and this was about his future, he came around and even took advanced courses in several fields in high school. 

As parents, while we cannot force them to go thru it, we should try to show our kids the door to success and encourage them to go through it.  If really not interested in excelling in school, there are other technical schools for vocations like electrician, etc.

And finally, if you have prescriptions for ADHD, depression/anxiety for your kids, be very vigilant to monitor their behavior and emotions.


Niki, I'm totally with your P.S. and previous comment

by Monda on

Physical activity Is key in treatment of depression (in any age), no doubt. However, often the parents of a depressed kid don't realize their own dysfunctions and that of the system where the poor kid is part of.  When they see reluctance from their kid regarding any type of positive activity, they easily give up. And you're right that sports are not all there is. There are many ways to get kids physically involved.


sima: merC!, Fariba: I agree with sima

by Monda on

Do give yourself credit where/when credits are due! That's exactly what i meant by checking into yourself, your accomplishments/resources/strengths, etc. so you can trust your instincts about your kid, on daily basis, moment to moment.  If you're safe and good, he will be too.

I shared your scenario of an unengaged dad.  He was only there to looss or criticize (my parenting mostly, every step of the way, with 3 kids).  One Functional parent is enough though! Not only me saying it, but there's tons of research out there validating it.

I'm so glad you liked the temperament piece.  See if you like my review of MoBB here on IC.

Love this blog, do more :o)  


I'm thrilled to be reading all this!

by sima on

First of all, Fariba joon I'm so glad you initiated this conversation. I hope this is just the beginning.

Second, Monda raised a terrific daughter so I would listen to what she says! She's also one of the only therapists I know who has a truly broad -- and cultivated -- mind.

Third, to me the most urgent aspect of things is the question Fariba asked: How do  you translate all these ideas into day to day -- in fact, minutte by minute -- life? That's where my problem is!

I have a 10-year old so I have no personal experience and certainly no expertise in teenager stuff. But, believe me, I have had my challenges. And in my extreme moments of worry and in fact despair (whether or not they are justified!) I take refuge in this: Have confidence in yourself and your kid.

Immodest as it may sound this is what I say to myself: I am a smart, functional and fundamentally healthy person and my kid is and will be too. Believe it. Keep your eyes on the prize and that's where you end up.

Fariba Lotfi

Agha Mashty

by Fariba Lotfi on

My apologies!  I misread your name and assumed you were a MOM!  Thanks for your uplifting message here!


Wow, this is a great

by 11mashty on

Wow, this is a great conversation going on and I did try to contribute my thoughts earler, as a DAD.   Great many resources have been presented here, some even useful........but none will be more important and critical than your very personal and true connection with your child, his/her talents and yes desires.  Children evolve and change over time, we all did and no part of life is ever repeated.  So, it is important to look at the forest with a lot of attention to the individual trees.  Gaining information through publications and even professionals is good, but please don't let those bury who YOU are as an individual and a family.

Fariba Lotfi

I just love...

by Fariba Lotfi on

love, love this conversation!! You guys make so much more sense than any of the counselors, therapists, khale, and amoo all together!

Monda jan, I read your article on temprament and it was certainly an eye-opener.  It in fact scared me a bit; thinking of co-dependacies and all the other issues that all go back to my own bonding, etc.  While mulling over those issues are extremely valid and valuable, i like to keep an eye on the present and future as well.  Your point about universality of these issues are well-taken; yet, i think the cultural baggage has added a lot to this pot.  The family values are a bit at odd with the immediate surroundings.  And, that to me is the main struggle of being a "multicultrual." 

Nikki jan, thanks for sharing your personal journey with us.  It is sometimes very hard to focus on the big picture and not to lose sight.  You certainly brought it home for me.  Literature shows that only 30 percent of teenagers become a habitual user of drugs.  I still worry what if?!!

I wonder where are the dad's here and what are their two cents?  In my scenario, Monda jan, dad is clueless!  He either reprimends; or overindulges the kid!  I might be doing the same thing too; not knowing what are the norms and how to be a "normal" parent.

Yolanda jan--I guess my challenge is to find that happy medium;)




Fariba take a quick look at Temperament

by Monda on

on my thread on madonna-whore complex, see if it interests you - then I can suggest some published work clarifying each scale.  Contact me back channel if you like.  I'd be happy to be a member of your virtual village. 

Niki Tehranchi


by Niki Tehranchi on

In my humble and unprofessional opinion, all the therapy or anti-depressant medication in the world will not be totally successful in treating depression unless the kid is engaged in some physical activity in addition to that.  That should be mandatory.  Even if he or she refuses to do sports, then push them to get a job that will force them to be outdoors and deploy some physical activity.  My cousin was the typical teen boy interested only in sleeping late, eating and doing nothing. Then he was forced by my uncle to go along with him to construction sites where he really had to use those muscles.  And he made some money at it too.  That really changed his attitude for the better!

Niki Tehranchi

My 2 cents

by Niki Tehranchi on

Everyone is influenced by the way they were raised so I will add my 2 cents.  In scenario number 1, the one about pot.  Well, my parents and extended family were of course of the view that no drug is allowed.  My parents were not hypocrites, saying do as I say not as I do.  They truly lived by that principle.  They never smoked, drank alcohol (not even a glass of wine) and certainly did not take drugs.  What did that lead me to? To experiment with smoking, alcohol and drugs in my teen years of course!  Today, I realized my parents had their suspicion but chose to let it ride as it did not affect my school or social or emotional life.  Meanwhile, I felt absolutly guily for betraying them therefore I stopped myself in these experimentations before they could overtake my life.  Guess what? Today, I don't smoke, do drugs or drink alcohol except for an occasional glass of wine, and I have no interest whatsoever in pursuing it.  Maybe if I hadn't been given the freedom to experiment, who knows how I would have ended up?

Scenario number 2: not showing any interest in anything. That is not that surprising in the teen years.  What a weird time.  You have all the freedom to do anything you want and you waste it away.  Youth is wasted on the young as they say.  I am surprised if the kid does not have at least some interest in music, or the Internet or comics or... As you say, it does not have to be science or engineering.  Even the most basic (and even annoying hobbies) should be counted as interests and nurtured.  If he was interested in a particualr type of music for example, I would love for him or her to play me the music and then discuss it.  Or listen to it on my own and then wow him with my knowledge :o) Maybe even go to a concert together.  All part of bonding experience I suppose. 

Idleness breeds idleness.  If the kid is not interested in any extra curricular activities, then push him/her to either take a class, get a job, or do volunteer work.  Not a vacation went by when my parents did not push me to do those.  At least I had a choice.  So I usually chose work when I could get it.  I worked from the age of fourteen and the pocket money I made (I was never given an allowance) really raised my self-esteem as well as give me social skills that were useful later in life.  Better yet, if a friend of the kid is doing something, it is always good to pair them up.  It keeps motivation and competitive juices flowing when both you and your friend are involved in the same activity.  If no jobs out there, you should go volunteer for a charitable organization.  I think this is something though that you should do together.  It really helps deal with the self-centeredness inherent in teens when they see the reality of the world out there and those less fortunate than them!

Finally, it is good to involve a third party sometimes.  I had an aunt who was closer in age to me than my mom and kind of cool and fun and we would go out and do stuff together and I opened up to her in a way I did not feel comfortable with my mom.  If you have a friend or relative who could take an interest in the child, this also may be the way to go to get them out of their "funk."


Fariba, pot and depression

by Monda on

Good thing now we know what you're talking about!  Firstly, What are Your values/issues with pot? That I don't know.  I can tell you how I went about the pot thing with my kids around your son's age, actually prepped them for my shpeal around 6th grade (junior high) - experimenting is understood, I invited them to try anything at home, I meant pot or alcohol. Around freshman years, I opened up bits and pieces about where I was with pot, I told them what or how I experienced it when I did (actually wit hashish in Iran) how I loved it but decided didn't need it  because a) hashish was not as available to me as pot is here to the kids (at least in CA)  b) I loved tennis, basketball and volleyball, toop divari and vassati in between (really into ball sports) so hashish interfered with that fun.  c) in my family it was not accepted at all.  So where are you with your son's views on pot?

Then the painful depression piece.  I don't know your son.  I don't know where he is developmentally.  and unfortunately I don't know you. So again I have to give you example of mine.  Depression in high school kids is Serious matter.  Mainly because of their underdeveloped defenses and weak executive functioning.  Do take him to a good GP and discuss your concerns at check up, but do not wait for his annual check up.  If you have a good family doctor who is fascinated enough with his craft and his patients, plus bothers to keep himself updated with current research, then you're Lucky! Most importantly, does your son like his doctor?  For teens liking and listening are two very case-specific concepts. So, express your concerns, explain what you see with your son, have him take a good look at other areas of concern such as your kid's hormones, nutrition, physical specs, so he can rule out Depression.  

Again remember if you know your son's temperament (did you find a book on it yet? :o)  then you can accommodate his by helping him/encouraging him to get into tasks that match his temperament, and your family values. If he doesn't want to engage no matter how hard you try to encourage, then negotiate rewards (rewards).... If nothing works, again check into what's it like in your family.  Where is Dad in all this?

Fariba joon there is no easy answer, read on your concerns, talk to people who are experienced and interested in teenagers, find out about developmentally appropriate tasks, check into yourself and any significant figures around your on, attend school talks on pot and depression (our district has been offering at least 5 talks per year since junior high).  Talk to a parenting coach, counselor, do workshops on parenting....

Oh I can tell you how much one can do but we're all different, right?

Do Not think you're a failure no matter how hard your son tries to prove it to you (read developmental and temperament, your style, etc)  and don't isolate yourself. Contact other parents that you like and do share about your kids, not just the economy. At least the two issues that you mentioned are very universal and concerning. And Trust your Instinct with your kid - if you feel he's hurting, then take the steps above to help him. 



Fariba Lotfi

Mahasty and Monda

by Fariba Lotfi on

Mercy for your vote of confidence.  I understand your points 100% and I get what you are saying; be khoda!  The problem is how that translates to day to day behavior?!

Example #1: The kid is not depressed, or pressured; the kid is doing pot!  It is readily available and is as good of a herbal medicine as herbal medicines get!  What are we supposed to do?  The C word (the culture word) starts to play a role now.  The C part of our personality (att for Monda) says "rules and structure, you didnt push enough; the kid is a lost cause."  Our exposure to the western model of parenting says "relax; listen; and let the kid grow out of it."  Do you see the potential conflict? Leading to the parent's depression, guilt, despair; hence the kid's depression, guilt, and despair (as again, Monda put it so eloquently?)

Example #2:  The kid shows no interest in nothing!  It is not the engineering, science, law issue.  It is that the kid is cruising; very comfortably (too comfortably, i might add) and shows no sense of direction, aim, goal, etc.!  Again the C part says "rules and structure, make the choice for the kid; the kid will follow."  Then, the western voice says "relax, listen, wait, let the kid find his virtue."  Again, the cycle of depression, guilt, despair...

That night the principal of the school said something that stayed with me for quite a while.  He said deal with the kid you have; not the one you want.  I am mulling over that a lot lately.  What does that really mean?  How far then, can i guide the kid's being?



Fariba, Here are some of my ideas

by Monda on

Pay attention to your child's temperament and pay attention to your interests, values and temperament (again). There should be a readable piece about Temperaments on the great site that sima suggested. Check it out and see if it makes sense to you.  Bottom line is "Good Enough Parenting".  Bruno Bettelheim's fantastic book by the same name is a must read. Again do check out MoBB and hook up with other moms on any subject your heart desires.  It seriously does take a village.

Basically, if you're happy, your kid's happy.  Whatever that looks like for you ( Reading your blog, I'm not one bit worried about your sanity or personality structure - you sound fine to me from here :o)

I raised kids without any ammeh, khaleh or amoo ya dayi, initialley - but kids tend to come across their own versions of all those significant characters, if we let them and then promote the concept of bonding.  They see our bonding skills. We are their models in the way we are bonded with ourselves and the styles in which we bond with our friends, relatives And of course most importantly, with the kids.

Like Nikki said, pay attention to #1 - yourself, your kid (temperament, personal resources and all), be involved, get to know your kid and her/his friends at each stage of development, help kids with proper age-appropriate socialization so they can come up with their own role models and experiences. 

Remember our kids are as unique as we are. We set the norms. I've had lots of fun with flexible norms myself and no one got hurt! Well she got inquisitive looks at her Irish step-dancing tournaments for 4 years, because she's half Iranian and half Italian (dark complexion relative to the Irish girls).  My step-son on the other hand was this blond white kid always mixed with African American kids because of his fascination with rap and football.  Of course they all shift gears too.  And we join them with love and firmness of our boundaries. 

Love your blog!  The topic is so close to my heart. 


Niki Tehranchi

Be involved, that's the best

by Niki Tehranchi on

I agree with the previous commentator who said it's not about your ethnicity but it's the fact that you even care to ponder and analyze the issue and your options that make you a good parent.  I think the mark of a good parent is to be involved in the child's life, by spending a lot of time with them to get to know them and their evolving personality, interests, friends, likes and dislikes, and making sure the lines of communication are open.  You will be in the position to deal with problems that arise and to nurture positive character traits and activities on a day to day basis. 



by yolanda on

I think you have answered your own question in the last paragraph of your article. It seems to me that Chinese parents are too controlling and they dictate their kids' lives in every apsect and have pushed their kids to the limits. American parents, on the other hand, have given their kids too much freedom, but not enough disciplines......Chinese and Americans are the 2 extremes of the spectrum, the optimum point should be in the middle!

   I still feel the Iranian style is probably closer to the Chinese style 'cause both of them are from Asia.

   I think being too strict is bad and being too lax is also bad!

Thanks for your interesting blog!

Good luck!


Delaram Banafsheh (Yolanda)

"Cactus in the Desert"


I don't think it's about the

by 11mashty on

I don't think it's about the Iranian, American, Chinese or any other particular way.  The fact you are so concerned about this issue means you'll probably make the best decisions.  I have as high of an education as you can get through degrees, lived in multiple countries and languages pursuing it and never really followed what others, including my parents, told me.  I have also spent in excess of 25 years working in higher education here.  If your child displays a certain talent or interest, by all means pursue and encourage it.  If they don't, pushing will lead to nothing but problems.  I think what most of us Iranians (& Chinese) don't realize is that you don't have to necessarily be a physician, lawyer or engineer to have a good life.  A highly educated surgeon who is not that interested in that profession is liable to make errors and possibly end up losing their license and livelihood...just look through these pages for the Iranian examples.  And equally a literature graduate can potentially write the next Harry Potter series and the resulting millions in wealth.  So, I strongly believe pre-determining a child's future by forcing him/her into areas they may not want to will result in disaster ultimately.  A significant proportion of Iranian attorneys in the US (& particularly California) are real estate agents which requires a mere 3 months of preparation for 1 exam; not 7-8 years of education and at least a quarter million dollars to complete.  While being worried is an indication of the excellent parent you obviously are; you probably shouldn't allow it to determine every step, but rather help your child along their path.  And finally, the issue of drugs or depression or other undesirable behaviors are often direct results of unreasonable parental demands; I see examples every single day.  Best wishes as I am certain your child will do the best and become the ultimate contributing adult they can be.........with YOUR guidance and support.


Forget about pearls of wisdom!

by sima on

Where are the khanoom joons and khan amoos and khalehs and dayis etc. to watch the kids so we can sit and rest for a minute? Where are the cousins and bacheh hamsayehs to have some hambazis?

Honey, we're in deep trouble. See you on the other site!


Fariba Lotfi

Sima khanoom

by Fariba Lotfi on

Thank you for the website; i will certainly look into it.

They say it takes a village and they are dot on.  I have faced many challenges in life and i tell you, this one is certainly is on top of the list!  Being multicultural certainly adds to the challenge.  Frankly, i have no clue (and i have read many books on "how to...") Where are the tribal elders when we need them?  What do they have to tell us; what happened to those pearls of wisdom given out by Khanoom joons, and Khan Babas; ameh Talas and amoo joons?  Yes, there are counselors and therapists; but, do they really get what we are saying?



Very good questions

by sima on

I'm always torn between doing things Iranian way or American way -- my kid is half and half. I'm really interested in finding out how the kids see themselves. It's so interesting to hear your musings on this.

BTW check out this website www.mothersofbadboys.com. I know the editor would love to publish this piece. Email her at editor@mothersofbadboys.com and tell her Sima sent you!

And write more here...! I was hoping somebody would one of these days write about bringing up multicultural kids.