Raising two Asian boys along the U.S./ Mexico border does not make me the “end-all be-all” expert on multicultural families. Still, I did have to learn some skills. Admittedly the Asian stereotype of being smart and studious made it easier. Much to my sons chagrin, people expected a lot from them. Much to my dismay, the boys learned to work the stereotype to their advantage and frequently escaped suffering consequences when they should have.
Adopting Multiculturally: Live Your Truth and Lead the Way
Racism and intolerance are learned behaviors children repeat without thought, consciousness or awareness of its effect on others. It is a tired, antiquated way of thinking that has run its course. Amazingly, there are parents who still think that way so it is up to the village to teach their children not to follow that path. I tried to instill in my boys that they have the ability to change lives for the better every single day. That is their greatest gift. Here’s what I used to say:
Lead The Way. Develop natural leadership abilities. Be tolerant rather than to expect tolerance. A true leader is a humble servant of the people who lead by example. In this country, personalities are popular. True leaders seldom make it in the history books.
Don’t Give Away Your Power. Anger shows loss of power and contributes to the strength of what the other person said or did. Racism and prejudice are already steeped in anger so don’t give it any more fuel.
Develop a Sense of Humor. A sense of humor develops critical thinking skills because sometimes it’s really hard to find humor about a situation. Laughing helps release pent-up emotions. Laugh at events and situations but not people. That’s still judging which leads to prejudice. My middle son became the master of funny, one line zingers that weren’t mean but definitely made the point.
Live Your Truth. Authentic truth comes from the heart and gut. Wrap your personality around honesty, love, strength and compassion. Know who and what you are, develop strength and live your truth fearlessly.
You Stand Out, So Work It to Your Advantage. Capitalize on being different, but make it count in a good way. A lot of kids go through their whole school career never being remembered by teachers or peers. Being different has a lot of pressures, so turn it around and shine, baby, shine!
Embrace Your Roots. Learn about your past. Listen to your elders’ stories. Your ancestors have much to teach you, so establish that connection. We hired a nanny that had culturally similar roots and was able to help them understand more about where they came from.
Create a Strong Identity. When my kids were little, I made sure their cultural identity maintained a strong presence in their lives. As the boys grew older, they began to identify themselves as Asian Americans. They remain American, but they have learned to embrace their Asian roots. It’s not at all confusing. My middle son said, “There are enough white people running around this place. We need to provide you guys with a little balance.”
So that’s my little snapshot of creating teachable moments when things were good, bad and ugly. My sons are now in their 20s, roaming the world (literally), doing good things. I certainly don’t claim to be an A+ parent, but something stuck with them. They are leading the way and living their truth.
This post is contributed by Elizabeth Reed; A Guest Blogger for Mom at Last