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Movement pushes for cultural shift in how Hispanic, Latino families raise children

LatinX Parenting
Posted at 12:22 PM, Sep 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-15 16:02:26-04

LOS ANGELES, Ca. — A California organization is hoping to change the way Hispanic and Latino families parent their children, and it offers healing in the process.

The movement pushes back against cultural norms and encourages parents to take a more modern approach to how they choose to raise kids.

"Our children grow up thinking respect equals obedience when respect is just something that we need to be demonstrating and modeling, but in our culture it’s very hard to get that message across to our elders especially," said Leslie Priscilla, founder of Latinx Parenting.

Latinx Parenting is a bilingual organization rooted in children's rights, the individual and collective practice of nonviolence, cultural sustenance and the active decolonization of oppressive practices in Latinx families.

"Latinx" is a gender-neutral term used for a person of Latin American origin or descent.

Priscilla said love, respect, family are three values that run deep across generations in Hispanic culture.

There is a fourth piece to that culture some might say also runs deep: a flip flop.

For many, a flip flop is a symbol of summer, but for many Hispanics, the flip flop, or la chancla as it's known in Spanish, is a symbol of discipline.

Priscilla said la chancla is frequently referenced as having been used by immigrant or Latina mothers to get children to change behavior, either by threatening or actively using it to physically hurt the child.

Though it’s often seen a source of humor in Hispanic culture, for mom Danellia Arechiga, la chancla is a symbol of oppression from her childhood.

"They didn't do it often but the threat of physical harm to my body was there at times if I didn't act within the way they expected," Arechiga said. "I love my parents but there was a lot of times I felt fearful of them because I just wasn't sure how they’d react or what they’d do."

Arechiga has a 9-year-old daughter. She said ever since she learned she was pregnant, she knew she wanted to parent her child differently.

She came across Latinx Parenting through Instagram a few years ago.

"It totally changed the trajectory of my parenting since then," Arechiga said.

The organization started a movement to end "chancla culture" for good and Arechiga is doing her part to contribute.

"Even if it’s a form of discipline or you’re trying to teach them a lesson, at the end of the day that’s essentially what we’re teaching them through our actions, like people that love you can hurt you," Arechiga said.

Priscilla said this kind of physical discipline - no matter the child's race - causes significant harm to a child’s emotional development.

"It’s not just about how we hit them physically. It’s about how we hit them mentally by shaming them, by talking down to them," she said.

Priscilla said it's time for a cultural shift, similar to how some parents have eliminated spanking.

"Ending 'la chancla movement’ invites us to look at it and say is this actually our parenting practices or is this something we inherited," Priscilla said. "It takes a lot of effort and a lot of internal wherewithal to be able to say actually, ‘I’m going to show up differently to this.’"

Priscilla is also advocating for children to have a voice for themselves, but she said the movement is not permissive parenting.

"We are able to hold boundaries for our children in a respectful way and we’re able to let them have autonomy," she said.

Ending the cycle hasn’t always been easy.

"Doing this work and parenting in this way, it takes a lot more energy and time. It takes patience and it takes compassion," Arechiga said.

However, Priscilla and Arechiga believe it’s an investment that will pave the way for a new path in Hispanic culture, and one that’s already reaping the benefits.

"To me, that’s the most rewarding part. We are building a connection that I don’t think I’ve ever had with my parents," Arechiga said.