A family is in the core of each individual's life. It is a child's first contact with the outside world as well as its first teacher. Thus, the family shapes the behavior and conduct of children, as they understand their role in the family and society, including development of their social skills. However, there are no specific parenting rules that ensure successful parent-child relationships or discipline techniques that will assure parents those children will grow responsible, respectful, and successful. Instead, there are guides that parents adhere to based on their experiences while growing up or according to their cultural beliefs. Despite coming from different ethnic groups, similarities and differences are evident in the way parents raise their children. This paper focuses on discipline techniques and values that parents belonging to four different cultural backgrounds, namely, African-American, Asian-American, American Indians, and Hispanic-American, consider important in bringing up their children. Sources include information gathered from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other reputable online sources.
A typical African-American family is matrilineal in nature where the mother usually has the upper hand in decision-making in the family. Nowadays, typical African-American families show that children grow up in a family environment where the mother and father are not married, but share the same parenting load. In instances of absentee fathers, children are encouraged to develop strong kinship with other relatives such as uncles, grandparents, and cousins (Barbarin). In addition, African-American homes strictly recognize the importance of hierarchy within the family and adhere to authoritarian ways of disciplining the children. However, this is balanced out with showers of affection and love within family members, thus, despite the rigid ways of raising children, African-American children seldom harbor negative feelings towards their parents (Barbarin).
Asian-Americans are naturally a cohesive family where elders generally work to earn their living, while the children attend school. As a result, Asian-American children usually attain higher Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) scores than other nationalities. What parents generally espouse on their children is the importance of excelling in all aspects of their life, including the economic, social, and academic life of students. Thus, children are exposed early in life on the value of industriousness and persistence in accomplishing their goals (Asian Americans).
A regular American-Indian household is limited to three generations in a family set up. The family is typically composed of the father, the mother, and the children where the younger generation are taught about respecting the elders, charity towards others, and harmony within the family (Light & Martin, 1996). As a people, they shun structures in relationships, and instead, cultivate supportive and harmonious relationships with others outside their family system.
Finally, the Hispanic-Americans are comprised mainly of the immediate family, including extended family members. They may live under the same roof or within the same neighborhood. They are a closely-knit culture that places high importance on the role of the family in an individual's life, thus, even during early childhood days, children are already taught about familial responsibility and respect of elders. As a culture, they have a deep reverence on the authoritative role of the male figure in the family, thus, even though women's role in society is slowly changing, the fact still remains that females play support roles only in a male-dominated household ("Understanding the Hispanic/Latino Culture").
Despite coming from differing cultural backgrounds, research reveals that the "parents held many similar views about which child behaviors were good or bad" (Lubell & Singer, 2008, p. 6). In general, they all considered obedience, respect for elders, honesty, politeness, good manners, and kindness as desirable behaviors of children (Lubell & Singer, 2008, p. 8), whereas, tantrums, sibling rivalries, defiance, selfishness, cursing, and greediness (Lubell & Singer, 2008, p. 9) are unpleasant behaviors. On the other hand, they also differed in what they considered as "desirable or problematic" (Lubell & Singer, 2008, p. 6) behaviors. African-American and American Indian fathers wanted their children to develop their spirituality, while Asians stressed the need for their children to learn how to become more self-confident, aggressive, and independent considering that Asians tend be shy when in the presence of other people (Lubell & Singer, 2008, p. 6).
When it came to addressing misbehaviors, the parents agreed that the best way to deal with the problem is to have open communication with children that will allow them to discuss the bad behavior. They concur that on the onset, parents must already define what the child's limitations are as well as explain to children what the expectations towards them are, and including consequences of their actions in case they fail to meet the expectations or the children do not abide by the parents' rules. It also appears that some of the cultural groups are open to the idea of "moving beyond the previous generation's emphasis on the father as an authority figure" (Lubell & Singer, 2008, p. 7). Asian-Americans and Hispanic-Americans believe that developing loving, playful, and affectionate relationships with their children is more important than keeping an emotional distance from them. On the other hand, African-American parents preferred showing children who is in authority, while maintaining an affectionate relationship with them. In addition, they find that laying down the rules is effective in disciplining the children (Lubell & Singer, 2008, p. 7), which includes ensuring that children do certain house chores (Lubell & Singer, 2008, p. 8).
In conclusion, goodness of heart, respect, and accountability are among the top behaviors that parents believe will help their children become responsible adults, while selfishness and greediness will slow down their inhibit them from reaching their goals. It also proves that parents from different culture all aim to prepare their children to have a successful future by teaching the children values and behaviors that will lead them to the path of success. Therefore, cultural perspective when it comes to disciplining the children is universal despite having various experiences while growing up or belonging to another ethnic group.
"Asian Americans." (n.d.) History World International. Retrieved from http://history-world.org/asian_americans.htm
Barbarin, O. (2002). Characteristics of African-American families. Retrieved from http://www.d.umn.edu/~balbert/documents/CharacteristicsofAfricanAmericanFamilies.pdf
Light, H.K., & Martin, R.E. (1996). American Indian families. Journal of American Indian Education, 26(1). Retrieved from http://jaie.asu.edu/v26/V26S1ame.htm
Lubell, K.M., Lofton, T., & Singer, H.H. (2008). Promoting healthy parenting practices across cultural groups: A CDC research brief. Atlanta (GA): Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/ncipc/pub-res/Healthy_Parenting_RIB_a.pdf
"Understanding the Hispanic/Latino culture." (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.coedu.usf.edu/zalaquett/hoy/culture.html