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The Harm in Saying "When I was Your Age"

Updated: Mar 12

Dear Asian Youth,

I’m sure that many of you are familiar with the statement:

“When I was your age…”

It is never a fun thing to hear.

Whether you’re talking about school or hanging out with friends, this eye-rolling statement always makes its way into a conversation with parents. Of course, there are moments when this phrase is used in the right context, like when parents share genuine childhood memories that aren’t harmful nor destructive. This can include discussing childhood games they would play or their favorite snacks as a kid. But, here are some examples from personal experience that definitely do not adhere to that:

“You know, when I was your age, if I didn’t know what I was doing on my homework, I would have to walk all the way to the library and READ books! You have the Internet at your fingertips; I don’t understand why you are so confused!”

“Stop being so ungrateful! When I was your age, I had to wake up very early in the morning just to walk to school; that would take me an hour! And it would take me 2 HOURS to walk back home because it was uphill! So you better appreciate me driving you to school or else you would have been late by now.”

“When I was your age, I knew when it was my time to speak and not to speak. If you talked to my parents the way you are talking to me right now, you wouldn’t be living under our house anymore. So shut it.”

Just to name a few.

These statements are harmful and invalidate children’s struggles.

Our world has been constantly evolving. From technology to social norms, there is a clear gap between generations because of the clear contrast regarding the youth of today versus the youth from decades ago. Different struggles exist due to different experiences, and it is unfair for hardships to be compared. For example if I said,

Ugh! My computer isn’t working and I can’t do my work!

An inappropriate response to this would be:

We didn’t even have computers when I was your age! We had to search through hundreds of pages in books, so stop whining.