Manners And Family Across Cultures
Manners And Family Across Cultures
Norine Dresser (Writer) gives expert video advice on: How does independence in children differ among cultures?; What should I do if I think a child is mistreated due to his or her culture? and more...
How does treatment of a new mother differ among cultures?
I have a friend (who shall remain nameless) and she was very upset with her daughter-in-law who was from an Asian culture. When her first grandchild was born, she was very put-out because her daughter-in-law wanted mother-in-law to do everything for her... to do the cooking, to do the house-straightening, to take care of the baby. The new granny was very upset with her. She said "She's so lazy." I said "No, I don't think that's what it's about." What it's about is in many cultures in Asia, the mom goes to bed and the family takes care of her for one month. She stays in bed and they do everything. She interpreted it incorrectly thinking "Oh she's lazy, she doesn't know how to do anything." when in fact; she was doing something very traditional. When you think about it, it makes such good sense. If you get 30 days of being waited upon by everyone, it gives you a really good start because your body is really worn out. It's been a shock for you to have the baby and nine months of carrying it. It's very, very practical. In Cambodia, they call it mother roasting. During that time they have slatted beds and they put little, oh, I want to say like a little barbeque, like a little hibachi under the bed and then they keep turning the mom like this so that she takes in heat -- which it's believed that she lost a lot of heat from her body during the pregnancy and the child delivery, and now they have to restore the heat. They pile on blankets and it's just a way in which the community can help the new mom. They cook for her, they do everything for her. Of course in this society, you go back to work in six weeks.
How does independence in children differ among cultures?
In American culture we value independence. And I had a really wonderful illustration of differences. When I was teaching at Cal State LA, at one point in time I had an officemate from Romania. And I invited him and his family. His family meant his wife and his mother-in-law, and his father-in-law. The whole group came for breakfast or brunch or whatever. And I had a new grandchild, my first one. And they brought the little baby over. And those, what do they call them? Onesies? And this family from Romania was so shocked to see that our babies. We're teaching a significant lesson in independence, teaching independence. We're giving her freedom of movement. For them, they swaddle their babies. They hold them tightly. That's an important lesson. It's like Native American tribes put them in cradle boards, and they're all tied up. That's a tight community. They are nurturing dependence and safety and security. Because when tightly pulled together, it's like still being in the womb. They're nurturing community dependence, and we are encouraging independence. It's just the way we're addressing these infants, but it has a very powerful message.
Is respect for the elderly in America comparable to other cultures?
We tend to romanticize and idealize the treatment of the elderly in other cultures. So even in our culture, when a grandparent died, it was automatically thought that he or she would go live with the married children. Not so these days.
How should I treat elderly members of other cultures?
I had this experience told to me. A Chinese family was celebrating some kind of special event, and the young man in the family invited his Anglo boss, and the Anglo boss did what he would have done in another situation, but he went up to the Chinese grandmother and kissed her as a sign of respect, and she felt so disrespected by that kiss, so you don't want to be too demonstrative, always err on the side of doing the least.