Hey Pulso Fam, last season here on the Pulso Podcast, Maribel — who’s happily on vacation in Mexico right now — and I, went into it on “Mom to Mom.” If you haven’t heard that episode, it’s a candid conversation about how we’re raising Colombian-Venezuelan-Mexican-African American children in today’s climate, how we’re trying to integrate all of our traditions, and do away with the things that aren’t working too. From that venting and commiserating sesh, we left with more questions than answers.
So, that’s why we’re back on the topic of parenting again. But this time, we invited experts onto the Pulso Podcast to dig into HOW to parent differently in ways that are conscious, caring, and still very much culturally connected to our roots.
Our first guest is Lina Acosta, a charismatic, bicultural child development expert and founder of Stop Parenting Alone, who really sheds light into the experiences of us 200-percenters. Her own experience as a bicultural Latina navigating two worlds along with her formal training make for a perspective I’m sure so many of you all will relate to…
Lina Acosta Sandaal: I had a daughter in 2005 and I went through the saying that every single parent goes through, which is: You have a baby or you get pregnant, and then it dawns on you that you have no idea what you’re doing. That, “what did I get myself into? And I am crazy, and for sure I’m gonna mess her up!” So I am crazier than most people. And so I wouldn’t mess my daughter up, 17 years ago I went and got a Master’s. Like literally, right? Searching for the answers that now I give parents freely.
Liz Alarcón: How was your upbringing? What are some of the things that you’re replicating now, and some of the things that you’re, like, hey, let me think twice if I wanna do it the same way as I was raised?
Lina Acosta Sandaal: My family is from Columbia and we moved here when I was seven. I was able to go to the buffet table of Colombian values and ideas and, uh, beliefs and American values and ideas and beliefs, and put what I liked on my plate. It wasn’t smooth, but that’s who I am.
You know, I like to tell parents when you’re raising a bicultural, bilingual child, they don’t belong to either world. Ni de allá, ni de acá, right? We are a bridge. So, and–and I grew up in Miami — so I’m also a Miami girl — which is very, very different than growing up in any other city in the United States.
We are the community that is privileged in the city, the Latinos. But the minute you step outta here — which I did — that’s when I understood, oh wait, I’m a minority? What?
Liz Alarcón: And it can sometimes be lonely, Lina. Is that, uh, part of the connection to why your community is called Stop Parenting Alone?
Lina Acosta Sandaal: The message to parents is: Listen, back in the day where we still lived in tribes and villages and not so long ago, right? It was three adults to one child. And now we’re doing the opposite. Now we’re doing one adult to three children.
Why did I call my company Stop Parenting Alone? Because the number one thing that a lot of parents do when they have this baby is that they isolate. And isolation is one of the top three mistakes that new parents make, right? That then creates the burnout and the stress that is all over the news.
Our brain is social, we survived the wooly mammoths because we learned how to be social with one another. So why Stop Parenting Alone? Because I know that you need a community. I know that the brain needs a village and I know that children need a village. That myth that only Mom can soothe is exactly that, a myth.
Liz Alarcón: What are some other myths, Lina, that you are busting, with Stop Parenting Alone about our concept of Latino values and how we should be parenting?
Lina Acosta Sandaal: Okay. What are some of the myths?
Liz Alarcón: You named one, which is that only Mom can soothe. Another myth I’m sure you have thoughts on is this idea that in many Latino homes, children are like property, meaning they belong to their parents. So whatever the parent says the child must do, no questions asked.
Lina Acosta Sandaal: Let’s expand on that one. The value is respect. The Latino culture is more collectivist rather than individualistic.
The child in kindergarten in the United States is told, “What is your favorite color?” The child in Latino America is told “Who are you a part of? Who are your people?” Right, because we’re raising them to be collectivists.
So a big myth is, those children do not belong to you. Your children belong to the world, right? And we get to sh– we get, it’s kind of, kids are like a car lease, right? You gotta turn it in.
Liz Alarcón: [Laughs]
Lina Acosta Sandaal: Another myth is this idea that we have to punish or make somebody feel bad so that they will learn. That is a myth in multiple cultures, but it’s very, very strong in the Latino culture. That is something that brain science, Neuropsychology, has busted.
What brain science taught us is that when the brain is in high alert, when the brain is feeling emotional or physical pain, it does not learn. What it does, is it learns to defend. I’m not saying that a parent needs to let a child do whatever they want, we still have to set boundaries. It’s just that we don’t have to scream at them to follow the–the prompt. We just have to repeatedly give them the prompt. And, you know, hitting and screaming. I like to call it fast food parenting because it works.
You know, for most children, they get scared and they stop doing it. But they’re not stopping because they’ve learned, “Hey, I don’t hit my brother because I’m supposed to love my brother, and I’m supposed to learn to tell my brother, ‘Hey, don’t take my Play-Doh.’ I don’t hit my brother because I’m afraid of getting hit.”
The other big, um, myth is that children are always happy.
Pero él no tiene nada de qué preocuparse. Para que estás tan bravo, si no tienes nada de qué preocuparte? Which is back to this idea of, like, that no human being, no matter how old they are, stays in one emotion a hundred percent of the time. So again, what’s the pushback? The pushback comes from not knowing development, not knowing how to handle emotion, and not knowing how to be in a relationship. Because, like, if you have issues with romantic relationships, you’re gonna have issues with your parenting.
Liz Alarcón: Yes, totally.
Lina Acosta Sandaal: Because you are having a relationship with another human being. Right?
Liz Alarcón: And what hear you saying, Lina, is that they are a full human that is whole, and that deserves respect and has autonomy, even if they’re six months old or three years old, or seven years old, or 10 years old.
Lina Acosta Sandaal: Correct.
One final myth to bust: Please admit and accept when you make mistakes with your babies. It’s not if, it’s when. I know that you will scream. I know that you will say something less than kind. I know that you will lose your temper with your baby, and I want you to be gentle with yourself and with them.
The most beautiful moment in a relationship is when we go back to that person that we love and we say, “You know what, buddy? I really scared you. And I forgot to take a deep breath because I was so frustrated and I started screaming. And you know that happens, but I’m gonna work on it. And let’s start over.”
So be gentle. Accept your mistakes. Ask for forgiveness, and start again.
Liz Alarcón: Asking for forgiveness: It’s such a simple act, yet I think many of us parents underestimate what a powerful gesture it is to say “I’m sorry” to our kids. Lina left us with so many useful strategies for being more conscious parents, and she’s full of so much more wisdom I know all the caretakers listening will love. Asi que ya saben. To learn more from Lina, follow her on Instagram @StopParentingAlone.
And since I have you on Instagram, give @LatinxParenting a follow, too. That’s the movement our next guest, Leslie Priscilla, founded to liberate our lineage and end harmful practices with our children. From Leslie, you’ll learn eye-opening history, see yourself reflected in much of Leslie’s story, and maybe even start healing parts of your upbringing you didn’t know you needed to heal.
Leslie began our conversation sharing how her childhood shaped her path into designing a more conscious parenting philosophy. It started with her own parents…
Leslie Priscilla: They were not really mature enough to be parents. And so when I was nine years old, they ended up splitting. And so I always say that my first parenting experience was actually being an emotional support to my little sister. So when my little sister was born, amidst all the chaos I was like, I want to make sure that she’s good. I wanna make sure that she’s feeling safe, that she’s feeling secure, that she has somebody that she knows that she can go to. Because at that time, my mom was not well, emotionally. She really did the best that she could, but she also didn’t have the capacity to offer me connection because she was very disconnected from herself, you know?
And so when I became a mom, I was like, I don’t know. I don’t know how to be, I don’t know how to do this. I don’t have a blueprint for this. And I was like, no, I can’t, I can’t have that happen. You know, I can’t.
Liz Alarcón: Yeah. You wanted to break the cycle, right?
Leslie Priscilla: Yes, exactly. But I didn’t have that language at the time, right? I was just, like, uncomfortable. I was like, there’s just a lot in me that feels really uncomfortable and I don’t know what to do with it. The parenting journey wasn’t something that I was ready for. But I feel like my childhood was kind of what began to lead me into the work that I do now.
Liz Alarcón: So now tell us more about where the moment was, where you’re like, okay, I have this background, I have this childhood. At what point do you decide, I’m taking matters into my own hands and founding what is now Latinx Parenting?
Leslie Priscilla: As I was pregnant, as I was reading parenting books, I had really decided that I wanted to give birth at home. I wanted to breastfeed. I wanted to wear my baby. I wanted to do all these things that, when I was reading about them, I was being told that this was Attachment Parenting, and all of the people that were writing these books on attachment parenting were White people.
There’s something missing here. I’m not seeing my culture. Where are my people in these books? And I’m realizing that they’re – those two are so far apart, right? The Gentle Parenting — the intentional connection to kids, seeing children as sovereign, sacred individuals — seems like the right thing. Why does my family not have that? Why is that not something that I experienced as a child? Why is that not something that my primos and primas experienced as children?
They deserve that too. Right? And it was very clear to me when my daughter was born. The moment that she was born, she came out and I looked at her and I immediately had this thought of, “This is me, and I deserve this. I deserve to be looked at in this way. I am sacred in this way.” You know? And something happens to all of us along the way that makes us forget that.
Liz Alarcón: It’s really, it’s really beautiful that you had that, that moment. Um, and I can of course relate having a 10-month-old baby daughter. Right? It’s, it’s seeing yourself in them, but also that – that deep, insurmountable love that you have for this new being and – and yet it’s a mirror.
Leslie Priscilla: Thank you, yeah, it’s a frustrating process though, because as much as I wanted to preserve that idea about my daughter, I still found myself falling into patterns of not treating her in that way, Right? And so I still found myself yelling or scaring her in certain ways, right? And so I always say when we talk about, like, chancla culture, which I’m sure that we might get into, um, it–the chancla is not just the physical, right? Like it’s the ways that we’re scaring children into submission.
Liz Alarcón: I’m, I’m so glad that you meant that because one of my questions that’s circulating for me as you’re talking, Leslie, is where does that come from? That concept of dominance and violence, whether it’s verbal or physical, where does that come from?
Leslie Priscilla: Colonization, girl. Like it all comes from colonization. And I didn’t know that, I didn’t know that when I first had my daughter. I didn’t know that, like, all of the lack of capacity that our family has to recognize that we never deserved violence. Right, that’s like the main thing that when I was working with parents too, is like so many of us in this community really, really have internalized this idea that we deserve punishment, that we deserve violence, that we deserve less than that sacredness. When we get exploited, when we get marginalized, it’s all on par with this very colonial way of living.
Like, “Oh, you’re not gonna talk to me that way. You’re not gonna say no to me.” That dominance is very much there. And it comes from having been oppressed for 500 years. It comes from having adapted a lot of these strategies.
But on this land, we have clear evidence that children were seen as sacred, that they were seen as worthy of collaborating with the family. And that those things were robbed from us when the Europeans came onto this land and started looking at us the way that they had looked at children for centuries. As people who did not speak the language, who were savages. So they started treating us the way that they treated children.
This actually goes so much deeper than we thought. And so it’s more than just undoing the 500 years of colonization. It’s, you know, really replacing these systems entirely with–with our systems of liberation.
Liz Alarcón: What role do you think fear also plays in how we’re manifesting all of these parenting patterns that we wanna do away with?
Leslie Priscilla: Oh man. Fear is like the tool, right? Like, if we’re talking about colonization, like, what is the tool that colonizers use? It’s fear, right? It’s–it’s fear of not surviving. Um, and so there’s–there’s multiple ways I think that we can acknowledge fear. I think that, you know, I think about, for example, the privileges that I hold as a lighter-skinned Latina and how even for me, like, navigating a tantrum, for example, is still challenging. But for a recently-migrated Haitian or uh, Dominican Republic, you know, mother who maybe is here undocumented, um, maybe doesn’t necessarily know the laws; That experience somatically, like in the nervous system, for your child to be having a tantrum in a public space is going to generate so much more stress than it would for somebody like me.
Like you’re afraid of someone looking at you or somebody making it so that your child is separated from you, right? So that experience is so different.
And so when we think about fear, like, we also have to think about how that’s connected to love. It’s like, I love you so much that I’m going to threaten to hit you because I don’t want you separated from me.
And that’s what I didn’t see in the parenting books, you know? I was, like, wait a minute. Like, there’s something really, really missing. Like, we are not acknowledging what would actually make it easier for our communities to parent in these ways; is if our needs were met. And so much of the need is not met because we don’t feel like we deserve it. We were taught that we deserve violence. We were taught that exploitation is normal. This is just what you do. This is just what you accept. And so this is why moving away from that kind of parenting — where you’re negating your child’s sovereignty — is a political act.
We knew what we deserved as children. We knew that we deserve better.
Liz Alarcón: Tell us about your End Chancla Culture movement.
Leslie Priscilla: The End Chancla Culture movement really was started because I was seeing so much media that was glorifying.
I was watching Why You Crying by George Lopez recently, and I found myself laughing at some of these things and I was like, oh my goodness!
It’s made to make us feel like finally we’re represented, right? Like, I remember watching Why You Crying when I was younger and being like, “oh, I’m so glad. Like, this is my family.” You know? And so I think that a lot of people are still in that space where they’re seeing those videos and they’re like, “This is good.”
We have to understand the implication of the normalization. You know, chancla culture is colonizer culture. Chanla culture is oppression culture. Chancla culture is domination culture. Um, and so we have to be very transparent about the ways that shows up in other ways. Like verbal chancletazos, like emotional chancletazos, all of these things that we don’t necessarily consider to be violence but are still violating of a child’s right to safety, integrity, um, and to their sacredness. And so that’s really what the movement to end chancla culture is about.
For a child it’s very confusing in the nervous system when the person that’s supposed to protect them is also the person hurting them. I’m not saying that it’s easy not to do that. But I’m saying that it’s worth it to try to reflect on what else might be able to be done.
Liz Alarcón: There’s so much to do. But if we do it together, Leslie, I know that we’re gonna collectively end all of these cycles that are, like you say, hurting our bodies, our minds, but also our spirits.
Leslie Priscilla: It’s probably not something that’s going to happen in our lifetime. 500 years of colonization is gonna take several generations of undoing and so I just really want folks to be gentle with themselves so that they can be gentle with their children.
Liz Alarcón: You can subscribe to the Pulso Pod wherever you get your podcast. And if you like what you heard, please leave a review on Apple Podcasts and tell a friend to give us a listen. Have ideas or story requests to send our way? Send us an email at [email protected].