A common but hard-to-admit fact among mothers is the occasional thought of “she’s a bad mother” upon seeing strange parenting behavior. What’s “strange” to many people is actually “uncommon” from an objective viewpoint; and what’s normal to you may be strange to mothers of other cultures. The fact is that culture has a significant influence on how you raise your child. It’s up to all moms, including you, to understand this fact, because, upon doing so, you can gain a wider view of what it means to raise a child.
1. Learning the Mainstream Culture vs. Preserving the Native Culture
For many reasons, moms may choose to raise their children in non-native or new cultures. For example, many Latino families move to the United States prior to the birth of their children so that their children can be born Americans and obtain an American education. But detriments come with the benefits that a new culture brings, and as far as parenting styles go, this means a conflict between the family culture and the mainstream culture. Moms in such a position often are at a loss of how to balance raising the child to preserve her original culture and raising the child to learn the new culture. Many new moms find that their focus shifts toward the future. Questions such as “should I send my child to an English-speaking school, Spanish-speaking school, or bilingual school?” may keep you up at night, and the reason is clear: your choices now have a lasting impact on your child.
2. Cultural Concepts
Cultural concepts present in the family or mainstream culture can have a direct impact on how parents treat their child. Americans, who emphasize freedoms of all sorts, tend to give their children access to opportunities that allow them to explore and express themselves. The Chinese, who emphasize the concept of “xiao shun,” or filial piety, tend to indulge their children in ways that show their children can rely on mommy and daddy. In this aspect, American families raise their children in an opposite manner when compared to Chinese families. Neither style is objectively wrong, but some moms may look at the parenting styles of moms of different cultures with utter confusion. American moms may think that Chinese moms coddle their children, while Chinese moms may think American moms disregard theirs.
One of the concepts that determines a parenting style is the parents’ support for the child. While parents of all cultures look at the word “support” in a positive light, different styles of parenting have different styles of support. In cultures where the parent-child relationship is particularly close and intimate, support comes in the form of hugging, touching and praising. In cultures where the relationship is not so close, support comes in a more authoritarian form. Moms and dads in these cultures tend to support the child by being strict on her, using this method to help the child develop socially-acceptable habits.
Control is another driving concept of parenting. When you put large amounts of control on your children, you set strict rules and monitoring methods in place. When you give your children more freedom and fewer limits, you relinquish some of your control as a mom to them. Cultures have general yet unspoken standards for how much control is to be given to children. Western moms tend to give their young ones more freedom, allowing them to play much of their childhood. Eastern moms tend to be more authoritative, placing their children in rigorous educational programs earlier; it is not uncommon for a preschooler to take up foreign language lessons in East Asia, for example.
- Child Psychology and Psychiatry; David Skuse
- McClelland Institute: Cultural Differences in Parenting Practices
- Dr. Kun-Hu Chen; Fu-Run University; Taipei
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