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How Culture Affects Caregiving Style

As with so many things, the way that a childcare provider or parent approaches the task of caring for a child is often largely shaped by cultural influences. When parents come from disparate cultures or hire a childcare provider who’s own cultural background is dramatically different from their own, misunderstandings and disagreements can be commonplace. After all, what’s warranted and necessary in the eyes of one person may be completely unacceptable to someone who comes from a different background. Before jumping to conclusions about the effectiveness, acceptability or quality of care extended by a parent or childcare provider, it’s important to first consider how their own experiences and background have shaped their perspectives.

Parenting and Childcare in the United States

In the United States and Canada, the culturally accepted method of caring for and teaching children primarily centers around fostering a sense of independence and autonomy in a growing child. More important than anything else are the prospects of protecting the self-image and self-esteem of a child. Authoritarian parenting styles are often considered too restrictive, with more liberal parents seeing such methods as borderline abusive. The term “helicopter parenting” is fairly common in American childcare and parenting circles, and tends to be practiced relatively heavily.

That being said, North America is a veritable melting pot of cultural influences, making it difficult to conveniently label the habits and methods of parents and childcare providers throughout the continent. European-American parents, for instance, tend to lean more towards authoritative parenting than the authoritarian styles practiced by Asian-American and African-American providers and parents, according to an in-depth study conducted by Laurence Steinberg, Ruth Chao and Todd Gipstein.

Childcare and Parenting, Eastern-Style

The first phrase that tends to come to the mind of Americans when asked about their perceptions of Eastern parenting, particularly styles practiced by the Chinese community, is “tiger parenting.” The cultural environment of China and much of the Eastern world prescribes a “tough love” approach to childcare that is typically viewed with shock by American parents. The child-first focus of American parenting styles, on the other hand, are generally seen by Asian parents as detrimental to children and outright negligent. From a cultural standpoint, childcare providers with these ideas will tend to exert more control over the children under their care, have high standards and maintain strict disciplinary guidelines.

The Impact of Religion and Its Role in Shaping Childcare Styles

Just as ethnicity can play a part in the cultural influences that shape parenting and childcare styles, so can religion. Spirituality and religious influences can be very deeply ingrained, in turn making their mark on the way in which a childcare provider or parent interacts with the children under their care. Carnegie Mellon University researchers have found that an emphasis on individualism or collectivism can be determined by the cultural background of a parent or caregiver, which extends to the religious training with which they were raised.

Avoiding the Pitfalls of Prejudice and Stereotypes

When determining the sort of cultural influences that may or may not have shaped the upbringing of a childcare provider and, by extension, the style with which she works with children, it’s important to understand the inherent dangers of stereotyping and prejudicial thinking. For instance, the commonly held perceptions of Asian parenting tend to reflect tenets held by Chinese parents, whereas Filipino or Japanese caregivers’ style will be quite different.

The nature of a childcare provider’s relationship with a child they’re employed to look after will also differ significantly from the attitudes with which they bring up their own children, due to the need to follow employers’ wishes and adhere to the style those parents prefer. Most professional childcare providers understand the necessity to adapt somewhat to the family culture of the children under their care, and will behave accordingly. Rather than making rash judgments or incorrect assumptions based upon your own perceptions of a prospective caregiver’s ethnic or religious background, take the time to discuss your own parenting styles and the methods the caregiver plans to bring to the table.

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