Thursday, February 18, 2010

Challenging Cultural Difference.

I have another question to answer!

I was asked, which cultural difference has been the most challenging to accept? My first thought was not many. I have traveled to Jordan many times over the past 11 years and I know the culture quite well. However, as I thought about it came to me. The most challenging cultural difference is the ideals of raising children. I am not an expert on raising children, yes I have two small ones of my own, but I am not an 'expert'. It is interesting to me to see how others raise their kids, but it also difficult because I/we have my/our own way that I/we want to raise my/our children.

Parenting here is, in my opinion, pretty laid back. They let the children do as they please, especially younger children. When small children cry or ask for things the answer is almost always, "give it to him" or " let her have it". I personally have a hard time with this because, if I tell my child "No", I mean "No". I probably wouldn't think twice about it, but now that I am here in Jordan...I sometimes question myself and wonder if I am being too strict with a 2.9 year old and a 1 year old. I understand the limitations of a 1 and 2 year old to understand completely; however, sometimes I tell them and teach them things to prepare them for the future as well as for now. I don't want my kids to think if they have a temper-tantrum they will then get their way. Sometimes I find it difficult to go against both what my child wants and the ideals around me and do what I believe is best for my children. This can sometimes lead to inconsistencies and confusion for my children as well as for me.

I also have a very difficult time with giving my children anything they want. After all, I am the adult and they are children; therefore, I know better what is good for them and what is not. For instance, it is perfectly normal here to bring a 2.5 year old to the corner store and allow them to buy a sack full of candy, treats, ice cream, what have you, and then let them devour it all once they get home. This drives me insane. Not only is it going to make them sick and potentially start a lifetime of bad habits, but I am a nurse and their mother who worries about their health. I try to be slightly accommodating when at my in-laws, knowing that this is a way they show their love, but I do put restrictions on how much candy my little ones get to eat...especially when it is before dinner.

Lastly, family life and getting together with one another is a huge part of Jordanian culture and life. Because in many families both parents work, it is common to visit each other after work and after supper. The children are brought from home to home without regard to bedtime hours. Especially in the summer, many children are not in school and so there is no bedtime set. It is completely common to see very young children out shopping or out visiting people after 1000pm and thereafter! It seems that Jordanians don't understand the importance of sleep for a child...? Another example of this is the daycare my husband and I are looking at. It is a very good daycare; however, they do not have a scheduled time for naps.

When I asked my husband about his opinion regarding this subject, he agreed the parenting is too relaxed when the children are young. However, he continued to explain the children here are 'children' until around age five, six or seven. He said that once the children reach about 7 years old, then the parenting style becomes more strict. From this age onward, they are taught about respecting their elders, helping out around the home, religion, school and studying become very important. He said the Islamic Prophet Mohammad (Peace Be Upon Him) taught that children should be treated as such from infancy until 7 years. At 7 years, they should be forced to pray and to be dealt with more strictly. This strictness should then change into a friendship-like relationship after age fourteen. Allah wa'alm (God Knows Best). As my husband and I talked about the differences in ideals, we noticed the patterns of Jordanian styles of parenting to be similar to that of the teaching of the prophet Mohammad (PBUH).

It is interesting to live somewhere else. To discover and learn so many different things. To be an iron curtain about the things you believe. To then learn more, soften more and absorb more. I am fully American. However, my ideals will never be fully American nor fully Jordanian. Just as my husband and his ideals will never be fully Jordanian nor fully American. We take from what we have learned from our up bringing, from our experiences and make them our own unique experience. We are fortunate to have seen and lived with both ideals, so that we can throw out the bad and absorb the good. To make our own ideals. To teach our own children from what we have learned and experienced. It is challenging, interesting and a wonderful opportunity for us, for our children and family.

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