Sometimes parenting counter-culturally is exactly what our kids need. It’s good to be different!

3 Ways to Parent Counter-Culturally

And today Frances Green joins us to tell us about her experience spanning two different cultures–and how it impacted her choices to deliberately parent differently. I absolutely loved it–and think she’s spot on! Here’s Frances:

Our family lived in a foreign country for nearly 10 years between Costa Rica and Venezuela.

We knew what it was like to stand out as foreigners because as much as we tried to fit in, we never fully did. All I had to do was speak and my accent gave me away—as if my looks didn’t already do it.

In some cases I didn’t even try to conform to the other culture because there were parts of my home culture that I wanted to hold onto—like going barefoot, making peanut butter sandwiches instead of “arepas” or playing in a long awaited rain with mud squishing between the toes.

We were so accustomed to being different that it wasn’t surprising that we still felt like strangers even when we moved back to the States.

We were out of sync with life at “home” and had a new set of adjustments to make. Grocery shopping overwhelmed me. Greetings and farewells confused me. The school system consumed me.

After 15 years in the States, I’ve definitely mastered the grocery store. But there are other customs in the culture that our family decided not to adjust to after all. We were strangers in Venezuela—living as foreigners and never completely fitting in, so we decided to stay strange in West Texas.

We’ve chosen to live counter culturally, breaking some of the cultural norms, for the sake of our family.

Today, I’d like to invite you to do the same. You don’t have to live in another country to live counter culturally. You don’t even have to play in the rain with me. But you do have to choose different instead of conforming.

I’ll warn you now that it’s not easy. It’s tiring to be different. Your kids will get tired of being different. But it’s worth it. And although others may think you love each other with a bit of a foreign accent, living counter culturally will strengthen your family.

Here’s a list of 3 ways that we choose to love our family with an accent in our home culture. Hopefully it will encourage you to consider how you can love one another counter culturally in your own family rhythms, wherever you live.

1. The culture says, “Stay connected.” We say, “Disconnect.”

We disconnect from social media, the TV and the Internet so we can connect to one another. Because honestly, you don’t connect with the people sitting in the same room if you’re determined to stay connected with people that aren’t in the room. Staying connected to everyone else at the expense of connecting to the family is one aspect of the culture we’ve chosen not to adjust to.

Some ways that we disconnect for the sake of our family are—

  • No TV or texting during meal times.
  • In the morning we don’t turn the TV on or connect on social media. We prepare for the day and eat breakfast without the voices of the world shouting for our attention.
  • Creatively connect with the kids without technology. Some of our favorites were bike rides, board games and ping pong once they were teens.
  • If we connect to technology in the evening, we connect together–we only have one TV so that we are entertained together.

If you’re up for the challenge of parenting counter culturally, then consider ways your family can disconnect from technology so that you can connect to one another.

Your friends may wonder why it took you so long to like their picture on Facebook. But you’ll know that it’s part of the new accent you’ve picked up.

2. The culture says, “Good parents raise high achievers, no matter the Cost”. We say, “Count the cost.”

Who doesn’t want the best for their kids? But sometimes we sacrifice what’s best for our kids—and family– in pursuit of making our kids the best. There’s a difference.

We quickly found that no matter how much we did, there was always pressure to do more. With four kids, our pace of life could get crazy quick. We weren’t ready to adjust to that part of the culture.

So we count the cost before signing our kids up for another team, tutor, practice or lesson. Here are some questions we ask to count the cost–

  • What does it cost beyond the bucks—family meals together, a relaxing weekend at home, maybe our own sanity?
  • What are we saying no to if we say yes to another activity?
  • What are our family’s limits at this time? Every family has different needs and resources, and those vary within a family from season to season. We have to constantly reevaluate our limits.

Sometimes you’ll say yes to an opportunity. Sometimes you’ll say no. But you’ll always count the cost if you love your family with a counter culture accent.

3. The culture says, “Eat fast; eat on the go”. We say, “Eat slow; eat together.”

The average American eats one in every five meals in their car. Since drive thru was invented, we’ve been speeding through meal times with no respect for its value to bring the family together. Whether it’s a burger in the drive thru or a pop tart out of the pantry, we rush through a meal to get to the next activity.

Slow down. Make mealtime the activity.

Mealtimes are the perfect speed bump in the day to pause together.

It’s been a scheduling challenge with four kids, but our family has made it a priority to sit at the table to eat breakfast and supper together most days of the week. It’s counter cultural. It takes effort. Lots of effort. But it’s worth it.

Studies prove its value too—your stress goes down, kids’ test scores go up, and it helps teenagers make better choices. Choose to eat slowly and together with a foreign accent. Eating together is a rhythm of love that will strengthen your marriage and give stability to your kids.

So how about it? Are you ready to parent counter culturally?

It’s more than a week vacation. You’re not going to be a tourist who can tolerate different because you know you’ll return to normal soon. It’s choosing to live differently in your normal. It’s a lifestyle.

Your friends may think you’re a little strange.

Your kids will definitely think you’re strange.

You’ll know that you’re strange. Because you’re choosing to love as a stranger. You’re choosing to love with a foreign accent.

Let me know in the comments: What are some areas that you live differently for the sake of your family rather than conform to the culture?

Frances GreenFrances Green blogs at francesanngreen.com. She writes about what’s growing beneath the surface in the “GREENhouse”–usually in the areas of parenting, the spiritual journey or cross-cultural mission experiences.

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