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Child Rearing in the Us and Colombia

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Early care-giving is a major factor for a child to feel secure to explore the world around them (Carbonell, Alzate, Bustamente & Quiceno , 2002). How different is this early care-giving between two cultures such as the United States and Colombia? This is a look at the differences and similiaries of raising girls, both born in 1988, in Colombia and the United States. Both girls were raised in nuclear families, with one older sibling, close enough in age to be a major part of each girl's daily life. One was raised in Colombia, although she moved to the United States at the age of eleven, while the other was raised completely in the United States. Both parents of each girl were interviewed as well as the girl herself.

The basic stepping stones, the times that parents love to videotape, the "baby's first" moments all seem to happen relatively similarly in both girls. Self-reported by Paulina, was that she walked around the age of ten months. Similarly, Jane walked at the age of ten months. Both were somewhat delayed in speech, enough so to be taken to doctors. In each case, the parents were told that the child would speak if the family stopped following the non-verbal directions from the child. Paulina's first words were "eso," Spanish for "that," and "Ma." Jane's first word was "Ah-yah" which was meant to be "Alex," her brother's name. Paulina stood alone at the age of eight months (personal communication with subject), as did Jane (personal communication with subject).

Punishment is something all parents must figure out. Hispanics tend to mollify children and be more lenient (Figueroa-Moseley, Ramey, Keltner & Lanzi, 2006). Hispanic parents tend to try to calm their child rather than work towards developmental goals, which tend to be more valued in the United States. Neither girl was punished in the form of "grounding," but both were warned with simple looks from their parents, such as glaring and both girls were yelled at as well. Corporal punishment was used for each girl as well. Paulina was "smacked," and Jane was occasionally spanked. Jane would be sent to her room or made to sit in a chair as in a "Time Out," however Paulina never experienced a "Time Out" and recollects that such a thing was not common in Colombia.

Both girls were raised to speak their mind, and not wait to be spoken to, as long as what was said was respectful. Questions were welcomed by both families, but the girls were expected to know the time and place in which to ask questions. Each girl was also allowed to pick out her own clothes, which has been shown to be good for children, as children see it is important for them to make some of their own decisions, and identify with the choices (Ardila-Rey, Killen, 2001). Paulina's mother tried to teach her what matched, but eventually gave up trying when it, although Colombian mothers tend to worry about the outward appearance of their children (Carbonell et al, 2002). When asked what Jane would choose to wear, Jane's mother replied, "Anything that didn't match," although she, too, tried to teach her daughter matching. No major restrictions were set upon either girl, except to be respectful. Respect was emphasized in both situations.

As respect was emphasized from child to adult, so was it shown from adult to child. Both children were kept informed of what was happening in the family. Children were expected to be a part of dinner conversation and were allowed to participate in the adults' lives. Also, both children were given reasoning behind decisions and had things explained--"because I said so" was used only when the situation would be later explained, and the consequences of an action were described rather than a mere "don't do it."

Chores were a part of each girl's life as well. Both were expected to do what was asked of them to help around the house-- dusting, vacuuming, clearing the table, etc. Jane was expected to help with dinner, which included getting food from the refrigerator, carrying things to the table, loading the dishwasher, setting the table, and occasionally stirring. Jane was given an allowance of approximately five dollars a week, but this was never in exchange for doing her chores. Paulina, too, was not paid for doing her chores. She states, "I was part of the family and therefore I was expected to work in the house without any sort of reward (personal communication, April 10, 2007)." Colombia tends to be a collective society that looks to the benefit of the group, rather than the individual (Pilgrim, Reuda-Riedle, 2002), which applies to this situation in that Paulina was expected to help keep the house in order, without 'payment' because it was for the greater good of the family, being part of the group is an important aspects of a collective culture. Family relationships and interdependence--a common bond between family members, working together for the benefit of the family--tend to be much more emphasized in Hispanic cultures (Carbonell et al, 2002).

A major part of any culture is food and dining, and children are a part of that. Children often lose some of their appetite between ages two and six, and because parents worry, bad food habits are put into place. Sugary foods are offered if a child finishes a meal, and many foods have vitamins and nutrients added. However iron, zinc, and calcium are seen to be deficient because juices and sodas are replacing milk, and cereals and processed foods replace fresh fruits and vegetables (Berger, 2006). It is also hard to maintain good eating habits during this age, because children often need meals to be "just right." Children have very determined ideas for what should be eaten, how it should be eaten, and the entire situation surrounding the meal. Often times the food "required" is not healthy food, but rather sugary or similar to fast-food, like chicken nuggets or French fries. Paulina ate dinner together with her family every night, generally at eight o'clock, as is customary in Colombia. Her mother did most of the cooking, and after dinner, either her mom would not clean up, or her mother would, but with the help of her daughters, while her father did other household things. On weekends, most meals were eaten together. Breakfast was generally around ten o'clock in the morning and lunch was around three o'clock in the afternoon. Very few times, her father would cook, although he cooks more now that they live in the United States. Food was as healthy and fresh as possible. Snacks were fresh fruits, and there were never packaged foods in the house. Jane would eat dinner with her family as well, often around



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