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Understanding & explaining your cultural parenting style

Understanding & explaining your cultural parenting style

“Mama, Why are some parents more strict than others?”

Our little ones have all kinds of questions about the things they notice around them, including the behavior of grown ups in their circle.

When discussing different cultural parenting styles with your little ones, it's important to approach the topic in an age-appropriate and inclusive manner. Here are some suggestions on what you can say:

  1. Start by explaining that every family has its unique way of raising children, just like every person is different. Help them understand that there is no one "right" way to be a parent, and different families have different rules. “In our family, we all say please and thank you, every single time we ask for something.”
  2. Let them know that what works for one family may not work for another, and that's okay. “In our house, we take off our shoes before we enter the house. But in Eddie’s house, it’s okay to keep our shoes on.” 
  3. Let them know that all parents want the best for their children. “All parents love their babies and want what they think is best for them.”
  4. Talk about some positive aspects of various parenting styles to help your little ones see the value in different approaches. “We spend time outdoors so you get to run, play and climb trees but that also means we can’t sign you up for activities on weekends. Amy’s family spends less time outdoors so they have more time for extra activities on weekends.”
  5. Help your little ones understand that even within one family, parents may have their own unique parenting styles or approaches. “Sometimes, Dad may let you eat a little snack before dinner and I don’t let you. That’s okay. As long as you are eating healthy, it doesn't matter that we do things a bit differently sometimes.”

As we raise our little ones in multicultural environments with exposure to different parenting styles, it can be useful to figure a parenting framework for yourself. Here are some instances when you might consider questioning your cultural parenting style:

  1. When it conflicts with your little one's well-being: If you notice that your cultural parenting style is negatively impacting your little one's emotional, physical, or social well-being, it's important to question whether certain aspects of your approach need adjustment. Prioritizing your child's well-being should always be a top consideration.  Example “Expecting boys to be strong and girls to be quiet can affect their emotional development.”
  2. When faced with new information or perspectives: Exposure to different ideas, research, or experiences may challenge your cultural parenting style. It's important to be open-minded and willing to question and reconsider certain practices if new information suggests they may not align with the best interests of your little one.  Example “Feeding your little one versus allowing them to feed themselves.- finding a middle path that suits you.”
  3. When it restricts your little one's autonomy: If you feel that your little one's individuality and autonomy are being stifled, it's worth questioning whether your parenting style allows for their growth, self-expression, and independence.  Example “If you were brought up with a “do as you’re told” philosophy, you may want to consider its impact on you and if you want to continue the cycle.” 
  4. When it perpetuates harmful stereotypes or biases: Cultural parenting styles can sometimes reinforce harmful stereotypes or biases. It's crucial to critically examine your own beliefs and values to ensure that your parenting approach promotes equality, inclusivity, and respect for diversity. Example “Do you comment negatively on homeless people or make jokes about people from another community ?” 
  5. When it hinders open communication: If your cultural parenting style discourages open and honest communication between you and your little one, it may be beneficial to question whether adjustments can be made to foster a more supportive and collaborative parent-child relationship.  Example “Do conversations around certain topics make you uncomfortable? Do you avoid answering your little one’s questions?”
  6. When it limits your little one's exposure to different perspectives: Cultural parenting styles may inadvertently restrict your child's exposure to diverse ideas, cultures, and experiences. It's valuable to question whether your approach allows for an inclusive worldview and encourages your child to appreciate and respect different cultures and perspectives. Example “Do you only socialise with people of a similar background? When you travel, do you try new things?”

Remember, questioning your cultural parenting style doesn't necessarily mean rejecting your cultural heritage or traditions. It means critically reflecting on your practices, being open to change when necessary, and adapting your approach to best meet the needs of your little one in a holistic and nurturing manner.

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