Friday, July 16, 2010

Parenting and Culture

Sometimes when we talk about cultures we think of stark contrasts; however, the differences are often more subtle. The word Culture has many meanings, two of which, from, are as follows:

1) The behaviors and beliefs characteristic of a particular social, ethnic, or age group: i.e. the youth culture; the drug culture. and

2) The sum total ways of living built up by a group of human beings and transmitted from one generation to another.|utmccn=(referral)|utmcmd=referral|utmcct=/browse/segue&__utmv=-&__utmk=220713624

Cultures can bring a richness of traditions, values, and ways of looking at the world around you.

Even when someone moves to a culture where a different language is spoken, aspects of their native culture and language will linger with their children and grandchildren for generations. Even when there is an overt attempt to erase all aspects of a native culture it continues to impact generations of children.

Sometimes this can be manifest in very interesting ways, such as being uncomfortable when someone asks about items in your home; but you don’t really know why you’re uncomfortable. The reason may be that in the culture of your grandparents it was rude to ask such question unless invited to comment.

These differences can manifest strongly in a marriage and raising children. Sometimes the contrasts can be so large and significant that it is difficult to maintain a marriage, a budget, agree on many things, and cooperatively raise healthy children. Some of the differences are misconstrued as child abuse and occasionally they really are.

My point is not to say that you shouldn’t marry someone from another culture than your own; however, research is very clear that it is easier to raise children when both parents are members of the same religion (something that can be influenced by culture). What is very clear from the research is that marriage and raising children is hard work. It is important for both parents to be on the same page or at least close to the same page most of the time. If you decide to marry someone from another culture, or if you have already done so, both of you need to learn as much about the other person’s culture as possible. You need to discuss child rearing practices and come to sincere agreement, not just acquiescence, on how you will deal with the many issues which will come up as you nurture and teach your children. You need to have a well thought out and even written plan before the issues arise, which they will. This doesn’t mean you can’t adjust the plan as you go; but do it together without your child(ren) present. Respect both cultures, teach your children the best from both cultures and help your children feel good about their cultural roots.


My wife and I were both born in the western United States . Our ancestry is Western European. To look at and speak with us, most people would assume we have the same cultural background; however this really isn’t the case.

I grew up in a Danish/German home. Most of our traditions included a mélange of German tradition such as opening Christmas presents at the homes of my mother’s relatives on Christmas Eve. (Things like this may seem insignificant; but the whole cultural legacy is huge.)

At the time, I didn’t know it, we had enough to eat; but, we were fairly poor. I milked from one to three cows, had lots of chores to do, and we had a huge garden, which I helped tend.

My wife on the other hand grew up in a home where sometimes they all lived with both their mother and father and a lot of the time they only lived with their mother. Her mother was French and Irish. My wife’s maternal grandmother died when she was fairly young, soon after giving birth to my wife’s mother. My wife’s mother was raised by her French relatives. My wife’s father was from Sicily . My mother-in-law’s father had been quite wealthy and the estate allowed her many financial privileges that many do not have.

Neither cultural was better than the other; but the experiences, traditions, and ways of viewing things were quite different. Different enough that there have been many struggles in coming to an agreement on how to handle certain things.

In any marriage, be prepared for and work through the differences. When there may be cultural differences, be planful about working through those differences in advance.

One last note: If you are raising a child from another culture i.e. through adoption or as a grandparent of a grandchild who has cultural differences other than your own, be mindful and respectful of the child’s culture legacies. Any disrespect for the culture is also disrespect for the child and the child will often feel that disrespect for him or her.

Key words: Google parenting search engine below: Cultural differences in raising children.

This will bring up both scholar and general articles.

Supplemental Material:
Conveying Meaning Through Language and Metaphor

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