Bi-Cultural Kids

Hi Readers — This essay made sense to me! It’s from Jona Jone (great name!) who was raised in Philly and is now living in the Philippines. – L 

Why Two Cultures is better than One When Raising Your Kids to Become Independent

Giving your children the “best of both worlds” can really help them in becoming more independent. Having my children grow up in a bi-racial family (I am a sassy American who married a Filipino hunk) lets them engage in multicultural traditions and diverse environments:

•             Living in basically two countries lets them engage in two sets of culture. It became easier for my children to relate to people of various backgrounds, even at an early age.

•             Cultural differences affect our parenting techniques. For example, my husband  wanted to teach our eldest to “experience the world” by introducing to her the benefits of playing outside with her cousins and other kids in the neighborhood, while I was more in favor of her staying inside reading books or watching informative shows. Both methods are valid, but they teach different kinds “world knowledge.”

•             Back in the US, children have their own rooms, while I think it’s a custom for Filipino children to sleep on the bed with their parents. My husband won on this one. We let our children sleep-in until they were around 2 years old. It actually worked out for the best because it made us closer and sensitive to their needs. Of course, the time came when they had to learn to sleep on her own, which I have to admit, broke my heart a little but finally gave me space for actual sleeping.

•             As opposed to American parenting, which tends to be stricter and upfront, Filipinos seem to have a warmer approach on things. Undeniably, I believe it is necessary to have a disciplinarian in the house for teaching accountability and responsibility. But what I’ve grown to like about Filipinos is that no matter how attached they may seem, they still allow their children to go out and explore the world on their own. That was why it was customary to let our children go on trips or excursions without us.

I think both Americans and Filipinos are capable of raising independent children, but we’re glad our kids have both perspectives. As opposed to being independent in an individualistic sense (as is common to American children), Filipinos surround their children with love and family support that enable them to become independent in a holistic view. In turn, they get empowered to go out on their own with confidence, knowing that there are people back home who believe in them.  I have to admit, that may just well be the best parenting technique ever. – J.J.

Lenore here: I agree. It’s great to have a lot of experiences, but the one basic that helps ALL kids is having parents who believe in them and their abilities. 

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18 Responses to Bi-Cultural Kids

  1. Natalie July 10, 2013 at 1:03 pm #

    I wouldn’t say two is better than one, it depends on the parents and what they do with what they have. But if people have an opportunity to expose their children to another culture, that’s a wonderful thing. And it’s great the author was able to take advantage of that and change her parenting style from what she learned.

    I come from a mixed marriage, it’s difficult having half the family on the other side of the globe. We try as hard as we can to keep the cousins close.

  2. hineata July 10, 2013 at 2:19 pm #

    Mmmm….keeping the family close is more difficult with lots of them overseas. And we only live a quarter-way round from the others, LOL! We do get back every three years or so, so the kids at least know who each other are….It sounds like JJ the OP might share time in the two countries.

    My kids are tri-cultural and that has, even within New Zealand, led them to having a good grasp of the fact that people live differently, and in many cases very differently, to how they do. Malaysia has been a wonderful place to show them how different religions operate (and co-operate!), with four major world religions operating side by side within walking distance of just about anywhere in the major city my husband comes from. Free range lifestyle though is more prevalent I think in NZ, not by design – most Malaysian parents let their kids walk places etc with a group early on – but through the amount of extra tuition they get from a very early age (6+) that leaves them less free than our lazy little hooahs :-)

  3. Colin Summers July 10, 2013 at 2:56 pm #

    It is so strange when my blog worlds collide. I read a lot of Philip Greenspun, who is a pilot and computer guy. He has a young daughter and travels, so he has written about this same issue (foreign cultures and children). Then this morning he posted this:

    http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/philg/2013/07/09/how-long-must-a-child-be-left-unattended-before-he-or-she-is-abducted-by-a-stranger/

  4. Emily July 10, 2013 at 3:14 pm #

    Excellent essay! I married a man of my same culture and I’m sure we’ll do fine raising children, but the thoughts here are great!

    On a completely unrelated note, I had a wonderful freerange experience yesterday that I didn’t even think about as “freerange” at the time. My baby and I had spent the past week visiting my husband at his military base on the other side of the country where he’s stationed for the summer. We were at the airport waiting for our flight home when my baby needed a bum change and I needed to pee. I went into the restroom and changed her diaper. While I was doing this, another mom came in with her baby and waited for the changing station. I finished up, then headed for a stall, where I figured I would do some awkward thing where I held Baby on my lap (I didn’t bring her stroller). The mom asked me I had to use the bathroom. I said yes. She offered to hold my daughter, her own baby being in a stroller (smart woman). I thought “This will make my bathroom experience so much easier!” and I handed over my daughter and did my business with ease. Now, I could see them underneath the door, but I was hardly staring. I came out, washed up, and we chatted–we were waiting for the same flight. I mentioned this later to someone and got quite the stare. Looking back, I figured no woman with a baby wanted another one to deal with. It was a nice, friendly offer that I took and did not end badly.

  5. Natalie July 10, 2013 at 3:17 pm #

    @emily
    Whenever my mother-in-law visits from Israel, she’s always offering to hold babies, play games with kids, etc. it helps her with her fear of flying. 😉

  6. Michelle July 10, 2013 at 3:17 pm #

    Emily, that’s a great story! It’s a wonderful world when people help each other out. :)

  7. Natalie July 10, 2013 at 3:18 pm #

    @hineata-
    So that would make your family… Malaysian, Maori and New Zealander (ex-pat Brit)?

  8. hineata July 10, 2013 at 3:39 pm #

    @Natalie – yes! Am very impressed with you…though the white (Pakeha) part is a bit of lots of things, but yes, mainly Brit. A very long time ex-pat though, LOL! And yours is Jewish and ‘white’ American then (though of course you could equally be African-American or Hispanic – hope that last isn’t rude!)? Or a combination of Israel and America, both Jewish? Anyway good luck, it can be a bit of a challenge bringing the families together over long distances, can’t it? I hate Skype, can’t get the hang of the time lags, and language difficulties anyway, but have to use it sometimes :-)

  9. Natalie July 10, 2013 at 3:49 pm #

    @Hineata-
    You’ve mentioned your family’s diversity on occasion. I remembered because it was so unusual (over here at least).
    So I’m American, Jewish, but of Ukranian and Belarusian origin. My great grandparents fled before and during WWI. So yes, I’m painfully white. My legs gleam in the sun.
    My husband, OTOH, was born in Israel, but his parents were both from Morocco.
    So our daughters are a pretty cool hybrid. They tan easier than me. 😉

  10. This girl loves to talk July 10, 2013 at 8:14 pm #

    http://www.buzzfeed.com/regajha/31-signs-youre-a-third-culture-kid?s=mobile
    Reminds me of this fun read about being a third culture kid

  11. hineata July 10, 2013 at 11:47 pm #

    @Natalie – yes, I do talk too much, LOL! Your’s sounds very exciting, and it’s great to have kids with a better tan than our own – I seem to get whiter the older I get, too much talk about the Ozone layer down here putting me progressively off the sun :-)

  12. baby-paramedic July 12, 2013 at 6:32 am #

    How do the children feel as they grow up?

    There are difficulties with not fitting with either culture.
    I know it irks me at times having three cultural upbringings in play, and not really belonging to any of them.

    Yes, I am way more open to how other people live etc, but sometimes I think it would be nice if I could just “know” the cultural sensitivities that “everyone” knows, and expects me to know. Giving gifts to the host, for example, is something I still find confusing, and I still have to consult for. This is just one example of many.

  13. Natalie July 12, 2013 at 9:19 am #

    @baby paramedic
    Is that your profession? I really admire you.
    I think it depends on the parents, and what they do with it. How they adapt, etc. I know that in America growing up, I was the token Jew at my school and among my friends. In Israel, I was the token American. Where did I feel that I fit in best? With new immigrants to Israel (from a whole host of countries, not just the US) and with Israelis currently residing in the states.
    Oh. And Star Wars fanatics. But I get that. You don’t feel that you completely belong, you’re always a little bit different.

  14. hineata July 12, 2013 at 7:14 pm #

    @Natalie – talking of being the token, I was reminded about a couple of Muslim American comedians who were out here in NZ a couple of years ago. They talked about how refreshing it was to be overseas – in America they were hated for being Muslim, here in the ‘outside world’ they were just hated for being American :-)

    @baby-paramedic – that’s interesting, and something my husband and I didn’t think a lot about until after we had already started having the kids. Me because I had grown up sort-of between cultures, my dad/me never quite fitting but doing okay anyway, and my husband because as a ‘pure-breed’ he’d never thought a lot about that sort of thing. (Malaysia has races living happily enough side by side but mixing is relatively rare because of the different religions each ethnic group follows). New Zealand though has always had mixed marriage of some type or other, so I don’t know that people here worry in quite the same way about being mixed, but I guess there’s always some odd stuff that happens.

    Our biggest issue has always been the Ministry of Education and their insistence at different times on recording only the ‘ethnicity you most identify with’. Well, when you’re mixed-race, you don’t necessarily identify more with one, and I have always insisted on identifying with both of mine, and all three of the kids’. This has led to some ‘interesting’ discussions with the powers-that-be. One year I was so mad with their refusal to budge that I recorded all three kids as different ethnicities, and for several years after that every year I would change their ethnicities, just to stuff up the stats, which are already stuffed anyway IMHO, as my kids aren’t Chinese, Maori or Pakeha, but mongrel breeds. In fact, I think even today Boy is Maori, Girl 1 is the Euro and Girl two the Chinesei – must check the records again, LOL!

    So the only real ‘problems’ we’ve had have been with the Stats Dept. Other than that, what the kids think about themselves varies with who they’re around etc. I think they possibly will question their identity more than maybe someone who belongs to one culture might, but I don’t think that’ such a bad thing – I did and still do, but at the same time I recognise I’ve had access to opposing mindsets that have made it easier for me to really see and acknowledge that others have completely different ideas to me, and that there is truly not just one way to see the world. My kids seem to do that naturally.

    Not that people from just one culture can’t be aware, or become aware that other cultures have differing viewpoints (particularly if they are growing up in a culture where they’re the minority) but for mixed-race people it is so much more in-your-face. Gosh, even the food implements the kids use in different rellies houses vary :-).

    Personally I see the whole experience as mainly positive. I do agree though that some of the finer points of cross-culture are a bit of a pain – I do still have some weird times when I just don’t get what my husband’s family are up to, and we have had some ‘fun times’ at funerals, for instance, with my husband (Maori do not sit on pillows, as your head, not your butt, belongs on a pillow, and hubby saw no problems with the kids sitting on the pillows at the marae, blithely ignoring me as I’m trying to drag them off, hoping the rest of the family aren’t noticing, LOL!)

    A final positive would be that, thanks to the miracles of mixed-breeding, the kids have a better chance of being good-looking, LOL!

    Gosh, what a long rave….relaxed Saturday :-). Good luck baby-paramedic….

  15. baby-paramedic July 15, 2013 at 1:21 am #

    Oh I agree it is mainly positive, but I just wanted to point out it is not *all* positive. Sometimes it is downright confusing! It seems to be a little worse when you have lived in multiple countries, you don’t really belong to any of them either.

    I hear you about the ethnicity questions! I just refuse to answer. My husband too. This works for us, although with increasing use of computerized systems, it is becoming more and more difficult to get away with it.

  16. hineata July 15, 2013 at 6:02 am #

    Quite possibly, about the multiple countries I guess – have only lived in two myself so don’t know enough about that :-).
    A couple of my cousins, though, although they were straight ‘Pakeha’ New Zealanders, did spend most of their childhoods overseas as exPats, and seem to be a bit like that, unsure of what country they belong in – I guess if you threw another ethnicity (or two!) into the mix, the issue might be even more difficult!

    Yes, was probably being a bit ‘rosy’ about the whole thing, however I have a tendency toward being negative so am trying hard to look just at the good side of things, LOL! I guess a negative can be feeling like you have to redefine yourself every five minutes, depending on the situation :-). Son is in Auckland at the moment on a Maori uni trip, worried because he doesn’t look Maori enough. Worries at Chinese events that he doesn’t look Chinese enough, and as for Pakeha stuff, well, fortunately there is little straight Pakeha stuff, but at times he gives himself a fright, glancing in mirrored surfaces and remembering he is not, in fact, white, LOL!

    And thinking about it, I am not sure if it’s an advantage or a disadvantage sometimes knowing that there is more than one way to see the world. Sometimes I think it might be nice to be absolutely sure that your culture or way of thinking is the ‘way the world is’, and indeed the only legitimate way to see things. While obviously there are plenty of monocultural people who see more than one way to look at things, I think probably every bi- and tri-cultural person does, and just for once it would be nice to say ‘It has to be done that way, so there!’ Maybe that’s why I like Christianity – while it has much room for diverse expression, there are a small number of absolutes that cross culture. Probably the same could be said about other religions.

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