Coming from different cultures often means there’s innate differences in parenting styles.
It’s a fact. It goes with the territory (literally)
Our background is what makes us who we are.
Having a strong connection to our roots is what gives many of us our identity.
A feeling of belonging to something bigger than ourselves. It lies in culture.
But the question is: What is the best way to raise children when there are cultural differences at play?
What about social classes and social competence? Is that even a thing in some cultures?
How do you raise a child in the best way, if their parents are from different cultures?
Well, I’m smack bang in the middle of experiencing this. So I’m an expert in some ways.
And in other ways, I’m not an expert. I’ve not yet seen the results of our cross-cultural parenting attempts, as our children are still too young.
So all I can do is give my personal view on the matter – based on where we’re at now, which is what I’m doing in this post.
Indulgent Parenting Style?
Long story short. I’m British. My husband is Polish.
We both want to raise our children as best we can.
But there are cultural variations in how we do things, as you’d expect.
We have different backgrounds. Family life is different in some ways.
But that doesn’t make it bad. Far from it!
We both enjoy the fact that we’re from different countries, embracing the family systems we come from and learning so much from each other.
Our joint love of travel and experiencing the world contribute to this, I’m sure.
Being open to cultures and interested in how others do things. We’re not ones to stay ‘boxed in’ as it were.
We both want to include the best of what both our cultures offer.
We also want to bring in different ideas. New things.
Cultural contexts can bring much variation and excitement to a family dynamic, that’s for sure.
And it truly is a blessing to parent across cultures.
There’s a deeper level of awareness of how things happen in my opinion. You think a lot more about what you want, rather than just agreeing with the same old, same old.
What works well in that culture? This is something I’ve been analysing for the last 11 years since dating a Polish man (to who I’m now married).
I’ve done a lot of analysing of my husband’s family policy. What I mean is “how his side does things vs how my side does things”.
I’m overwhelmed in a good way about the connectedness of his side of the family.
How close he is to his brother and sister astounds me.
I see how open his family is in how they express themselves. There’s an eagerness and tenderness to show love for each other. Love exudes from their bodies and in their words.
This openness and warmth are something I’m keen to shower my boys with. I said this from day one. I don’t believe there’s too much love! In my world, there’s not enough love.
The great thing about raising children across different cultural groups is the appreciation of the differences. Embracing the differences and learning from them.
Bringing in fresh ways of doing things which work better for you.
Many people are so stuck in their ways due to cultural conditioning, but when you have access to another viewpoint, another culture, you can pick and choose the good bits (and avoid the bad).
It’s not just our generation, but also what global grandparents can do for children.
The teachings of different ways of life. Different values. Different belief systems. Different behaviours.
When you think about it, it’s huge! It’s life transforming. There are always two ways to do things (in our case) and we’re under no pressure to do it one way or the other.
The blending of cultural worlds into our own little unit is something I’m captivated by, which is why we spend a lot of time switching between our two countries throughout the year.
A few months in Poland several times a year, with our base currently in the UK. We have two homes. Two of everything.
What about when the boys start school? I have no idea yet. I’ll let you know when it comes to it.
Right now, it’s important for us to experience with our children what both countries have to offer, and which traditions and experiences we want to have more of.
New roles are embraced, and the old ones which no longer serve us are booted out (to put it bluntly)
Another great thing about coming from a different cultural background is you’re more intentional with your parenting.
Because nothing is automatic!
We had many conversations over dinner before we had children about what we wanted family life to be like.
And now our kids are here, we still have many conversations. Parent-child relationships is mega important to us.
We must have these talks, because nothing is “just as it is”.
Cultural norms don’t exist when you’re parenting across cultures. In a way, you create your own culture as a blend, which is beautiful. Unique to you!
Parental beliefs differ in most people, but if you’re aligned in wanting the best for your kids, you’ll naturally be more open and upfront about your behaviour with your children, emotional availability, and so on.
We both agreed early on that we wanted to ditch authoritarian parenting as an example.
We’re the first to catch each other out if our standards slip. After all, we have strong roots to fall back on, and bringing these into our family dynamic is a big priority for us.
There are several studies on the benefits of raising children bilingually.
It takes commitment to have two languages in the house, believe me, but it’s worth it for children’s individual development.
This study reveals that babies thrive cognitively when exposed to two languages.
Child development is an avid interest of mine, so I do plenty of reading on the topic. And I’m proud to be raising bilingual boys.
How do we do it?
Simply by speaking our native languages to our children, each of us, independently.
My husband is regiment about speaking Polish at home.
We switch from English to Polish frequently, so they’ll grow up using the languages with ease (we hope).
Children absorb information like a sponge, and I see how our little toddler’s face lights up when we ask him a question in one language, and he answers in the other. It’s fun!
Our children are not yet at the age of academic achievement, but I’m sure being raised bilingually will stand them in good stead for their future.
It’s not only languages but also exposure to different parts of the world in early childhood that promotes confidence and self-esteem, among many other benefits.
This article explains how children have increased willingness to learn, adapt, try different foods and appreciate other cultures due to parents who travel.
I for one am astounded at the confidence of my 3-year-old.
We’re in Poland right now, and today a visit to the local park proved how keen he was to socialise, climb and jump, seemingly with no hesitation.
I’m certain this is helped by exposure to dual heritage and the fact that he’s well-travelled from a young age.
Summary of Parenting across Cultures
- Possibility of greater respect and appreciation for each other’s cultures (and for each other).
- Possibility of improved communication and intentions as parents when from different cultures (for the benefit of the whole family).
- The ability to pick and choose which parts of which culture you bring into your family dynamic.
- Exposure to two different languages in many instances (bilingual)
- The beauty of travel exposes children to the wider world and helps their confidence and self-esteem flourish from a young age.
It’s important to note that none of this happens if there’s no willingness and commitment of the parents to make it happen.
Recommended Further Reading
I follow the research of Diane l. Putnick who writes on the topic of parenting within and across cultures. I also get a lot of useful information from Jennifer e. Lansford. A quick Google search will find their writings.
If you’re not parenting across cultures, you can still apply some of these benefits listed to your own family dynamic.
If you are, how is it going for you?
Feel free to pop a comment and let me know if you agree or disagree with anything I’ve said.
(All thoughts are my own)