Posted in Discipline vs. Control, Parenting, Uncategorized

Does Culture Determine Dysfunction? (Part One)

Hello again! I’m hoping all is well with everyone, and thanking you yet again for giving of your time to stop in!

Let’s go right to it:

“Dysfunction is dysfunction no matter what the culture.”

Someone said that to me at least 20 years ago, and I’ve never forgotten it. I’m not sure I agreed with the person then, and I’m still on the fence about it now.

I recently read, A Plain and Fancy Christmas, a novel by author Cynthia Keller. (BTW, this is not a review of the story.)

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In this switched-at-birth story, a young, Amish-raised widow (Rachel) learns she is the biological daughter of non-Amish (a.k.a., “English”) parents. About mid-story, Rachel takes her 10-year-old daughter (Katie) to New York City to meet their blood relatives.

They all go out to dinner. Rachel’s biological parents are thrilled to meet their only grandchild, and behave as “English” grandparents might.

Here is a snippet from page 168:

The waiter came over to ask if they were ready to order.

“Katie,” Gil (her grandfather) said, “do you know what you’d like?”

Rachel bit her lip. It was…not right for an eleven-year-old to be the center of attention this way, all the grown-ups fussing over her and allowing her to order her food first. This was not their way. She could imagine how upset her mother would be if she knew.

(edited for brevity) Rachel leaned over to her daughter, whispering in her ear to remember her manners, no matter how nice and casual everyone was to her.

This passage struck me immediately, and got me thinking about how our cultural backgrounds impact the way we raise our children and judge their behaviors.

What Rachel perceives as ‘wrong’ is based on her Amish upbringing.

The “English”—or those raised in a Western, American-type civilization—tend to openly dote on their children and lavish them with attention. The “English” often allow their children a voice, typically asking for input and offering them choices. We see it as part of helping foster the self-esteem and problem-solving abilities that ultimately result in independence as adults.

That brings me back to my original question: Is dysfunction culturally determined?

My gut, coupled with my education and life experiences to this day, suggests that it is.

Disclaimer: I am not saying anything and everything kids want is okay. (That applies to adults too.) Perhaps this is all my IMHO, but murder, hurting others purposefully—you know, meanness, in general—is a no-no regardless of culture, race or religion. (Certain religions, however, might disagree, but that’s not what this is about.) What I am saying is the “English” tend to be driven by “if it feels right” it’s probably not necessarily bad.

Our culture (i.e., social mores, etc) impacts how we live. When a family is raised with two (or more) cultural backdrops, rules, choices and opinions might conflict.

To keep from getting too long-winded in this post, I will reflect on this topic in more detail next time.

Until then, what are your thoughts on the initial question? Do you agree? Disagree? How much weight do you give your child(ren)’s input on a given matter? Leave your thoughts in the comments below, or you can always email me here: joanne@joannectimpano.com.

Have a blessed day,

Joanne

 

 

 

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8 thoughts on “Does Culture Determine Dysfunction? (Part One)

    1. Agreed, but upbringing influences what we see as appropriate or not. It’s challenging enough raising one’s kids in the same society where the parent was raised, but that much more of a challenge when one brings a different culture into the mix.

      Example: my parents came from Italy as adults. A lot of my mother’s expectations of me as an adult daughter stem from her upbringing on the other side. Uh…yes, we’ve clashed here and there, lol.

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        1. Probably very similar. Among the reasons “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” was such a hit. Those of us raised by parents from the Euro-side have a lot in common. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

  1. Dysfunction can differ even between families of the same culture. Our environment, whether our micro or macro environment, shapes our perceptions, and our perceptions shape what we see as dysfunction. Like you, I’m not talking about the big things. Some things are obvious dysfunction in any culture. But I suspect the smaller things will differ.

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    1. What makes the situation more challenging is when those ‘small things’ are made into ‘big things.’ Then again, that’s a perception too, driven by culture–yes?

      Thanks for your comment and your support, Carrie. Much appreciated!

      Liked by 1 person

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