In an increasingly globalized world, there are several ways to use multi-cultural experiences to help your children get a leg up as they move toward adulthood and future careers. Here are four of them.
None are easy, but the first may be the most difficult.
1. Be an Immigrant to the US
Sociologists at Johns Hopkins University, Lingxin Hao and Han S. Woo, found that children of immigrants in America achieve more academically and have better transitions into adulthood than their peers with native-born parents. The advantage is highest for foreign-born children whose parents move to the States, followed closely by American-born children of immigrants. Hao and Woo’s findings appear in the September/October 2012 issue of Child Development (“Distinct Trajectories in the Transition to Adulthood: Are Children of Immigrants Advantaged?“)
Explaining the difference,
Hao suggests that there is a greater sense of community among immigrants out of necessity—newcomers often need a lot of assistance when they first arrive in the United States. But Hao, who is from China, thinks there is also a great deal of inspiration to be found among the immigrant community: Parents might be working multiple low-level jobs and encourage their children to seek a better life for themselves. The success stories of immigrants who have “made it” are also held up as role models for immigrant children, something other native-born groups might be lacking, Hao said.
(“Children of Immigrants Are Coming Out Ahead of Their Peers, U.S. Study Finds,” ScienceDaily, September 13, 2012)
2. Don’t be a tiger parent
This one might go under the category of cultural lessons on what not to do.
Regardless of what Amy Chua writes in her book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, “Chinese-style” tiger parenting is not the best model for raising children. This is according to researchers Su Yeong Kim, Yijie Wang, Diana Orozco-Lapray, Yishan Shen, and Mohammed Murtuza. They compared the developmental outcomes of children from 444 Chinese-American families in northern California, using eight parenting dimensions—”parental warmth,” “democratic parenting,” “parental monitoring,” “inductive reasoning,” “parental hostility,” “psychological control,” “punitive parenting,” and “shaming”—to categorize four parenting styles. In order, from the style that produces the best developmental outcomes to the least, they are “supporting,” “easygoing,” “tiger,” and “harsh.”
From the abstract of “Does ‘Tiger parenting’ Exist? Parenting Profiles of Chinese Americans and Adolescent Developmental Outcomes” (published in Asian American Journal of Psychology, March 2013):
Compared with the supportive parenting profile, a tiger parenting profile was associated with lower GPA and educational attainment, as well as less of a sense of family obligation; it was also associated with more academic pressure, more depressive symptoms, and a greater sense of alienation. The current study suggests that, contrary to the common perception, tiger parenting is not the most typical parenting profile in Chinese American families, nor does it lead to optimal adjustment among Chinese American adolescents.
(Nate Kornell “Does Tiger Parenting Work?” Psychology Today, December 14, 2012)
3. Make sure your children learn a foreign language
Bronwyn Fryer, a senior editor at the Harvard Business Review, trumpets the need for “soft skills,” things like “emotional intelligence,” “listening,” and “authenticity,” for global leaders. But, he writes, the top soft skill for executives in global organizations is “sensitivity to culture,” also known as “cultural empathy.” According to Frye,
True cultural empathy springs from personality, early nurturing, curiosity, and appreciation of diversity. But, very importantly, it also springs from deep exposure to more than one language. And this is where American executives fall short.
Learning another language, he says, not only helps in communication, but opens up one’s thinking:
As anyone who has ever learned to speak a foreign language fluently notices how each language shifts one’s consciousness. One day, you wake up and you realize you have been dreaming in the new language. Eventually you realize you are thinking in that language. And when you shift back and forth between, say, your native tongue and the acquired language, you feel like you are driving a car with a stick-shift; you are more involved and engaged in the experience. You take in more; you hear more. And you literally feel different; you are “more than yourself.”
(Bronwyn Fryer, “Why America Lacks Global Leaders,” Harvard Business Review, August 23, 2012)
4. Encourage your children to add overseas work experience to their educations
This one comes a little later in their lives, but they’re always your kids, right?
In 2010, Susan Adams, of Forbes, gathered the views of several hiring experts on the value of work experience overseas. She writes that foreign postings, including the Peace Corps, internships, and other types of jobs, give an advantage to people looking for work. One of the reasons is that living and working overseas exposes people to differing leadership styles.
And some who move overseas find opportunities for long-term employment there. Adams talked with Mary Anne Walsh, a global-leaders coach based in New York, and learned that Walsh’s clients “who moved overseas shortly after college and graduate school . . . advanced much more quickly than if they had tried to climb the career ladder in the U.S.”
Others had this to say:
Dan Black, Americas director of recruiting for Ernst & Young—
We definitely see overseas experience as an advantage. Our clients are demanding more of us these days. They want diversity of thought and diversity of values, and many of our clients are multinationals.
Gary Baker, U.S. global mobility leader for PricewaterhouseCoopers—
[Being part of a minority group in another country] gives you a greater respect for other cultures, and you learn to be better at managing teams that are diverse.
Not only does working overseas build character, writes Adams, but being successful in a foreign country also increases one’s confidence. “If you can make your way in Mexico City, Abuja or Sao Paulo, then traditional U.S. organizational issues will be a snap for you.”
(Susan Adams, “How a Job Abroad Can Give Your Career a Big Boost,” Forbes, November 4, 2010)