When raising your child in America, should you instill Ethiopian values or American values? Is there any American way to raise a child and an Ethiopian way to raise a child? (insert any other immigrant group besides Ethiopian if applicable).
Ethiopians that immigrate to America from Ethiopia are forced to raise their children in an environment totally different from the one that they grew up in. Can you imagine, raising your child in a place where you have never lived before? Language barriers, cultural barriers, fitting into society are all barriers that the immigrant parent has to overcome. How does he or she navigate through these obstacles and raise a child at the same time? I can’t imagine. But people do it every single day. And amazingly the kids turn out just fine. But sometimes, they take a turn for the worst. Sometimes the concept of dualism ends up causing confusion rather than stability. So where do you find the balance?
Ethiopian parents (or any immigrant parent at that) cannot attempt nor pretend to know the American culture perfectly. I think creating a mutual understanding between the child and the parent will allow the child to see that the parent will remain in control. The issue is that kids figure out how to fit into the dominant culture (American culture) faster than the newly immigrated parents do. Children are really like a sponge and adjust much more quickly than the parents do. Here’s where I think the balance comes in, Parents should simply raise their kid however they feel most comfortable. Don’t try to conform into a culture that you know nothing about, because then you just look ridiculous and your child won’t respect you. I think that the fear many have is that raising their child with Ethiopian norms will create an identity crisis. Listen, trust me there are way more things going on in the world that will cause an identity crisis. (I know that is coming out SOO HARSH sounding, but its the truth). When you , the parent, show confidence in your own culture and parenting style, your child will respect you and you will remain in control. Honestly, the same morals, values and rules of society apply around the world. So don’t worry, you won’t confuse your child.
You might be saying, how can you be so sure about these results. Honestly I’m not. I don’t have kids. I’ve never actually raised a child. But I did grow up in a big family. My parents did raise me using their dominant culture, Ethiopian culture. They made me respect their culture, not by force but by showing me that their culture was something to be proud of. They made me feel like it wasn’t anything different than any one else, in fact they made me feel like it was my own. I instinctively crated a sort of dualism in my mind. On the other hand, (this next comment is solely based on my own social community observations) it is my observation that parents that try to assimilate to American culture, when it is something they actually have not adapted to, seem to lose control of their child. I know I talked about issues relating to Identity Crisis in previous posts, but I don’t think being raised with a dualism in my culture is the sold reason for that identity crisis. (And It wasn’t really a CRISIS per se, I survived!!) I think that identity crisis is inevitable for anyone coming of age in this multi cultural multi ethnic society called America!
This is just my Ethiopian American Girl opinion: Balance who you are as an individual and when you show confidence in who you are, your child will respect that. That has been my experience. Please share your experience and opinions here!!
2 thoughts on “Raising your kid “Ethiopian” or “American””
EthiopianAmericanGirl, It is an interesting topic. One that I can kind of relate to but from a different angle. I am American, my wife is Ethiopian. We have one kid, a little boy, just turned 3 years old. We have spent time in three different countries, dealing with three different cultures. What is interesting is like you said, kids’ minds are like sponges. They take in so much of what is around them. Our friends would say that we were not going to teach their kid Amharic. That their kid needs to learn English and the western culture only. My wife and I thought that was not only disrespectful, but closed minded as well. It’s like, okay, so how do you keep your language and culture going throughout generations to come if you do not teach those next in line. My wife and I agreed that she would teach our son Amharic and that I would teach him English. He now speaks fluent Amharic and English, can turn both languages on and off like a light switch. He loves Ethiopian music, but also loves American slow jams and loves to dance with his big head…..lol.
He and his mother is currently in Ethiopia, I am here in the States, just taking care of a few things before I return to join them. Living in the States with our son was definitely different than in Ethiopia. Things here move pretty fast, lots of different choices and influences one might not want their child experiencing so early in life. So, we had to be extra careful about who he was around and what was being said to him. Then of course the rat race here in the states really takes up a lot of your time. Where as in Ethiopia, things seem to be a lot more laid back. We tend to just go with the flow while there. Things will happen when they happen. Culturally speaking, it is more of a village raising the child than just an individual family. Never knew my wife had so many mothers……hahaha. Never knew I had so many mothers there either. Lots of visitors just dropping by, which we love and there it does not matter what you are wearing or how your hair looks during those visits. I walk down the street in shorts, t-shirt and flip flops and feel completely comfortable visiting people we know without calling, going out to get freshly baked bread, vegatables. etc.
Normally, if a child sees his parents are okay, then they feel okay. Stress can roll over from parents to a child pretty easily. My wife and I had this thing where either she or I would constantly throughout the day say to our son; “TK, you ok?” He would always respond; “Yep! TK ok”. After a while, and mostly when I am doing something that requires my full attention and I had that really focused look on my face. Our son would get right up in my face and say; “Daddy, you ok?” hehehe. I would laugh and say; “Yep, Daddy ok!” Everyday when we Skype he always says; “Daddy, you eat? Come lets eat!” Come! Come! as if I can just take a short walk from America to Ethiopia. Sometimes he will forget and say it in Amharic, I will say what??? Then he will repeat it in English…so funny. I bet he is probably saying, “Hey man, you need to learn fluent Amharic already! hehehe. One thing I have noticed is that while living in America, I tend to be more selfish for some reason. Whereas I tend to be less selfish living in Ethiopia and more thoughtful of family members and friends. Kind of weird, but makes a lot of sense in a way.
Anyways, great articles you have here. Would love to see other interracial Ethiopian, and American couples commenting here. Great job!
This is a unique experience. Keep up the good work with your son. Sounds like ya’ll are doing a good job keeping him well balanced!! Kudos