We Are a Unit

“American parents say, ‘Be independent.’ Mexican parents say, ‘You’re staying home.'”

Hold a Conversation

In addition to the questions below, please see How to use the questions for reflection.

Clarifying Questions
  • How does the speaker describe the difference between an American and a Mexican way of raising children?  Why does the speaker lean “towards the American side” with her kids?
  • The speaker also describes differences in the way that Americans and Mexicans think about responsibility and accountability.  What do you think she means when she says “neither is wrong” and “you could apply both cultural aspects and still be correct?”
Interpretive Questions
  • Do you agree with the speaker that “neither is wrong,” or are there reasons to defend one culture’s value system as the “right” value system?
  • When you have to choose between cultural values and behaviors, how do you decide?
Implication Questions
  • How would you help people from different cultural backgrounds negotiate their differences?  If it helps, imagine that you’re a principal and you are working with two families–one American, one Mexican–to determine consequences for a fight that occurred between their children on the playground.

Let us know how the conversation or self-reflection went. Email us or discuss the experience in our comment box.

Trascript for We Are A Unit

There’s a lot of trust. There’s a lot of, um, free… freedom, freedom, yes. So parents value freedom. Parents value their kid’s freedom and say, “Be independent. Go out and make your own good decisions. Make your own mistakes.” That kind of thing. Whereas, Mexican parents are like, “You’re staying home, not going anywhere, I, you know, I don’t trust those other people. I don’t trust you not to make mistakes.” So it’s whether to keep your kids close to you, and not let them go out or let them kind of roam free, and I think I’m much more probably towards the American side where I let my, my kids be a lot more independent.

My parents were really really strict, and um, they were very, um, they didn’t want us going out all the time. So, um, they thought, stay close to home and don’t go out late and that kind of thing. They were pretty extreme about it. Um, I think with my kids I’m a lot more aware of the fact that you can’t have such a strict code, and expect children to live with other kids who will have such an extreme opposite. Whereas, like that the kids are left to do basically almost whatever they want.

I think the US has a very individualistic view of, of people. So, you’re responsible for yourself, and you’re responsible for your actions, and your success, and your failures. So each person takes responsibility for their own actions, and I feel like in the Mexican culture while you sort of have some accountability for your actions you are also responsible for your family’s actions. So if my sister makes a big mistake, I have to answer for that mistake in a way. I have, she’s representing the whole family when she makes mistakes. So, as a part of the family I have to help her get out of the problem, or help her resolve the problem because it, it’s for a unit. We’re not just an individual. So it’s not like, well you made a mistake, you’re on your own. It’s more of like our family, this person in our family, our unit, made a mistake. We have to get her outta that trouble, and help her out of it.

Um, neither is wrong. I see the qualities of both, of being an individual, and taking responsibility for your own actions, but I also see the, um, kind of honor in, in saying, well you know what, you messed up, and even if you messed up twenty times we’re still going to accept you, and fix your problems, and, and I remember hearing things on the American side like well if you continue to help people with their problems they’re never going to be able to fix them on their own or they’re just gonna keep making the same mistakes over and over again, and to an extent maybe that might be true, but each situation is so unique and different that, that’s not always the case.

You could apply both cultural aspects and still be correct in my mind, but I thought they both have great points, and um, while they’re two different decisions you know I think if you were only immersed in American culture you would obviously see one as the right decision, and if you were only immersed in Mexican culture you would see one as obviously the correct decision. So for me I just thought I, I can see why both people would think, and I, you know, I think for those kinds of issues I would probably tend to be more Mexican, and there’s other ones that I’d probably be more American in.