Breaking the Barriers: A Cultural Generation Gap

A few weeks ago, we had my two brother in laws stay with me and my husband. The reason for their stay is not so much as a holiday, but rather an opportunity for us to teach them.

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You see, they are currently living in a Polynesian dominated, low income, low demographic suburb and the stereotypes that come with those titles are unfortunately what they fell victim too.

I guess before I go any further, a little background information might help get my point across.

Both mine and my husbands families are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or Mormons as we are commonly known as. As part of our beliefs, we strive to remain clean and pure in body, mind and spirit by abstaining from alcohol, drugs, gang affiliations, sex before marriage and anything that could cause potential harm to ourselves. While we strive to do the best we can, sometimes we fall victim to temptation and allow ourselves to let our guards down for a small moment. We know that these guidelines are there to help us lead healthy and happy lives, however sometimes, life and it’s experiences can be cause enough for us to seek out the hope of temporary, temporal happiness rather than eternal, spiritual happiness.

My two little brothers, made a choice to seek out that temporary, temporal happiness and as a result, they ended up with us in our home. We wanted to bring them down with us, to teach them that they can find happiness in good and wholesome things, and that the choices they make now, can affect their futures to come. They are at the age where they are still trying to discover who they are and what they want to be and any influence, either good or bad, can easily sway them in that direction.

I felt impressed to write a post about them because I feel like there are so many young Polynesians who are where my brothers are at, and they continue down that road because no one cares enough to show them any different. I felt impressed to write about this because I have seen the change 2 weeks has made in these 2 young men, and if I can help influence that change in just one other person, maybe we will start seeing negative statistics and negative stereotypes lessen among Polynesian and Maori youth.

I will insert a disclaimer here and say that first of all, I’m not a Polynesian, however I am Maori. While I can’t ever claim to know 100% what the Polynesian culture entails in a family unit, I will however speak from what I have experienced and witnessed in the time I have known my husband. I also can’t claim to be any kind of professional youth helper but I am however speaking from what I know has helped my two brothers.

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To start, I wanted to first speak about where it starts; in the home, with the family. What I have observed, is that the line of communication¬† between parents and children, is borderline non existent. There is no relationship built that allows the children to feel like they are able to talk to their parents about their feelings or what they are going through without fear of either being growled at, not heard or completely ignored. There is no sense of urgency to be 100% interested and involved in the lives of their children. This has been something I struggle to accept because to me, children and teenagers need to feel like they matter; like they’re heard. Growing up, I was blessed to have a relationship with my parents that allowed me to feel comfortable enough to go to them with questions or they knew me enough to know something was wrong. The dinner table was full of stories of the day and there were always conversations happening. It shocked me when it was the complete opposite at my in laws home. Dinner was quiet and wasn’t always the whole family. The kids didn’t really speak to their parents about what was going on in life.¬† I believe the first step is changing the relationship between parents and their children. Be engaged, be involved and be there. If kids aren’t getting attention, they’ll look for ways to get it. If kids can’t talk to you, they’ll go elsewhere. Home should be their sanctuary, not somewhere to escape from.

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Kids can only be kids to a point, and then they’re required to grow up. I think this is wrong. Kids will be kids and they have the right and privilege to be kids. The adult world lasts a lot longer than childhood does, so why rush them into it when there is no need? It’s a parents job to be the adult and the child’s job to be a child. While children can learn the importance of responsibility and accountability, it doesn’t mean they automatically have to assume the role of adult to learn these things; they can be learnt through chores, parent-child talks, actionable discipline and by example. Children and teenagers shouldn’t have to become the house maid to learn responsibility or respect. They shouldn’t have to do what their parents should because they aren’t able to work and provide. Kids need to be kids and they need to be allowed to play and explore and enjoy life while they can before adulthood takes that away from them. It should be age that defines their adulthood; not their parents, circumstances or anything else.

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Get rid of the hierarchy and false sense of entitlement. Yes parents are parents and they have the right to discipline you, enable or disable your fun and lecture you to the point of no return, but being a parent doesn’t give you automatic dominion over your children. In the Polynesian and Maori cultures, the elders demand and expect respect whether they give it to others or not. They have a sense of entitlement like anyone younger than them isn’t worthy because you didn’t go through what they did etc but to be honest, it does nothing other than create contention between the younger and older generations. Yes you may have had a hard life, but so do the kids these days. They have to deal with things you never had to. They have to overcome things you never had to. Every generation is different and they each come with their own positives and negatives. You can’t punish anyone because they weren’t born when you were. Parents, please stop forcing your kids into respecting you and your generation by instilling fear. Please stop requiring them to live life “your way” or the way of your culture because times have changed and will continue to change which requires change from every one of us. Parents need to learn to adapt to the changing world and recognise that what worked for them may not necessarily work for their kids.

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Get rid of the unnecessarily tough, tough love. Yes, kids need tough love in the form of discipline and rules, but they don’t need abuse, humiliation, embarrassment or anything else that could harm their future self. Children and teenagers need boundaries because the world conforms to certain boundaries. They need to learn the importance of rules and what they mean. They also need to be disciplined to teach them every action has a consequence whether good or bad. They need life lessons to prepare for the harsh world ahead of them. But they don’t need to be bullied, abused and made to feel less of themselves to teach a lesson. We often hear of Polynesians and Maori men and women who abuse their children and families, and try to justify their actions by saying they were abused. While I’m not a psychiatrist and can’t speak about the mental well being of an abuse survivor, I can speak for 2 people who grew up with that and myself who endured it for a time. Abuse is a cycle. It starts somewhere and can be continued through and through until someone steps up and says no, I will be the difference. My mother and husband are 2 examples of those people. Just because you had to endure it, doesn’t mean you need to expose your children to it too. Children don’t need hidings, they don’t need to be whacked or hit, they don’t need basic human rights to be withdrawn from them in order to teach a lesson. Discipline with love and a purpose to teach, rather than to teach them fear in wrongdoing. Children should be grateful for the lessons learnt in discipline not resentful because of the hurt and scars left long after.

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Stop being afraid. Stop being afraid to talk with your children about whatever it is they need to talk about. Home is where there is an opportunity to teach what you know and ensure your children understand rather than them going to Google or their peers and being misinformed. Talking with your children shouldn’t be uncomfortable or shameful or taboo. It should be welcomed and encouraged. Creating an environment where your children can talk to you, will break down barriers between you and them with every discussion had.

Breaking the Barriers: A Cultural Generation Gap | www.mrsyolo.com

Educate yourselves. There is a life outside of your own culture. There are different ways of dealing with things, handling issues, communicating and living. Be open to those ways. Children learn from their parents and if the example isn’t the best, what hope is there for the generation being raised in your home? You are never too old to learn, you’re never too old to acquire knowledge. The world is constantly changing; technology, trends, gadgets, how to’s.. everything is changing and so should we. If you show effort to understand the world your children are growing up in, it may be reciprocated in them being willing to understand the world you grew up in. Kids these days are smart. They learn more at a younger age and they understand more quickly. We as adults need to understand what they do in order for us to learn how to react and deal better in “their world”.

Breaking the Barriers: A Cultural Generation Gap | www.mrsyolo.com

Withholding love is more punishment for you than them. Kids are getting more and more independent. With a million avenues for them to learn and develop themselves without the input of their parents, in a sense if they chose, they don’t need you. Kids can grow up on their own, even though they shouldn’t have to. Withholding your love will do nothing other than make you miss out on them and the lives they will live. Children can forgive but they won’t always forget. They will forgive what you did but it may be harder to forget how it made them feel. Kids won’t always want revenge, but it may become prevalent when they are adults and have families of their own. The love you withheld is now being withheld from you. Don’t create a generation full of resentment because of your ignorance. Love unconditionally and love always. No one deserves to have love withheld – for any reason.

Breaking the Barriers: A Cultural Generation Gap | www.mrsyolo.com

Learn the value of your family. You don’t know what you have until it’s gone, so don’t learn when it’s too late. Kids aren’t kids forever. Sooner rather than later, they will move out, have lives of their own, get married, have kids and time will pass. Don’t waste this time now because you are too busy, too prideful or too anything really. When you have nothing left, I would hope your family were still there.

We all have different cultures, we all have different beliefs, we all have different knowledge, but what we all have that is the same, is the opportunity to choose. We aren’t all dealt with the same cards, but we do all have the choice to choose what we make of ourselves and our families. Choose positive.¬† Choose love. Choose light.

Mrs Yolo xoxo

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