Latinx Parenting’s Leslie Priscilla wants to ‘decolonize’ discipline and ‘how we normalize child abuse in our community’
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If you are one of the 181,000+ people following Latinx Parenting on instagramyou’ll have noticed that each post ends with a handful of hashtags, including #RaisingFutureAncestors, #DecolonizeOurFamilias, and #EndChanclaCulture.
The last refers to the chancla, the see-saw that immigrant and Latina mothers are frequently depicted wielding either to spank their children or to threaten them. When Leslie Priscilla, mother of three and lawyer who founded Latinx Parenting, talks about ending chancla culture, it means no longer normalizing fear, shame and violence as parenting tactics.
“Chancla culture is any expression of authoritarianism or power dynamics in a Latinx family,” the former teacher and behavior coach tells Yahoo Life, adding that it’s tied “to how we normalize child abuse in our community”.
“The way normalization happens is to share memes and videos where you usually see a mom or grandma holding a sandal, which we call the chancla“, she adds. And so this emblem really speaks to this overall dynamic that a lot of Latinx families and communities have normalized about how children should be treated. … It extends far beyond corporal punishment into what I call emotional chanclaverbal chancla. Basically, anything that could hit you or touch your heart or your mind or your emotions is just as damaging as a real chancla it hits you.”
Priscilla experienced it. As the daughter of two Mexican immigrants from large families, the California native says she was related to a mother with a lot of her own traumas and therefore grew up in a ‘fear-based’ environment. . It meant being spanked and subjected to emotional and verbal “abuse” that left her feeling “disconnected” from both her family and herself. Priscilla credits the depression and anxiety she experienced as a young teenager to this disconnect, although the birth of her young half-sister provided an opportunity to reframe what parenthood might look like in her family. “I wanted her to have at least one person in her life who was going to be really strong,” Priscilla says now.
Even so, it was only after studying child development in college and becoming a mother herself in recent years that she realized that the toxic tendencies she was absorbing into her childhood were “a whole cultural thing that stretches outward and backward in our history”.
The parenting coach quotes the influence of colonization giving rise to the corporal punishment and fear-based discipline now associated with chancla Culture.
“Most Aboriginal kinship groups did not use corporal punishment before colonization,” she says. “And so over the last 500 years, we’ve gotten to the point where we’ve basically learned to use the tool of the oppressors on our children. The systemic oppression of our families and the marginalization of our families puts us on a level of stress that makes it really difficult for us to practice soft parenting and to practice research-based parenting.We live in a constant state of stress that dates back 500 years.
As the leader of Latinx Parenting, Priscilla — who identifies as both Mexican American and a “detribalized” Indigenous person — leads workshops for caregivers and professionals, with topics ranging from the practice of decolonized and non-violent parenting; intergenerational healing; children’s mental health and more. On Instagram, you might also see her weigh in on the the importance of nurturing your “inside” new” as a form of reparenting or defending Kate Middleton’s parenthood against mom-shaming.
“I can’t imagine having so many eyes on me and expecting me to be a perfect parent with a perfect child,” she said of the Duchess, who faced criticism because her youngest child, 4-year-old Prince Louis was restless during royal events. “I find it really unfortunate that people are not able to show empathy.”
As someone who speaks out against the practice of using shame as a form of discipline, Priscilla tries to show compassion to other parents, especially women of color who are often scrutinized when they are with their children in public.
“I think women of color are the most affected,” she says. “There’s the trope of the angry black woman and the spicy Latina; there are expectations and stereotypes that we have to fight all the time…which are sometimes reinforced by our own people as well, to be honest with you. We cannot live up to the expectations we are accused of.”
This scrutiny adds to the stress felt by parents, which in turn can be passed on to a child. Prioritizing her own mental health needs, Priscilla says, makes it easier to model what self-regulation looks like for her children. She is better able to instill less long-term behaviors to resolve their conflicts rather than snapping and relying on a short-term solution like spanking or yelling, which creates a disconnect and “a pattern of fear”. But she is clear that it is very much a work in progress.
“The most important thing to communicate to parents is: you’re going to make a mistake. We’re going to make a lot of mistakes,” she notes. “Expectation is never perfection.”
As Latinx Parenting works with the next generation of parents, Priscilla acknowledges that there can be some resistance, or guilt, to calling out what their parents or grandparents might have done.
“Because of our history, we have developed this very strong value of respect and the value of familiarism, which is basically how collectivism plays out in our families,” she says. “Respect is often misinterpreted as fear, and then also people misinterpret our image of our parents and our grandparents and the way they raise as disrespectful, because there is is it really strong need to be respectful of our elders. Although this respect for our elders is an aboriginal practice, it is something that is still very dear to us. »
But it is neither disrespectful nor disloyal to older generations to want to heal old wounds or move away from practices that many now consider oppressive.
“It’s also not disrespectful to think and to have sovereignty and to be an individual,” she says. “For our community, the conversation needs to explore those nuances. It’s like I don’t think about how I parented, so I might end up repeating some of the same words and some of the same wrongs.
“It’s never going to be about blame, and it’s never going to be about shame, and I think people struggle with that,” she adds. “They’re just like, ‘but if I say my parents hurt me, don’t you blame them?’ It’s like, no, it’s just that you’re an advocate, really, for your inner child at this time. You don’t blame them. You understand them in the context of their culture, their family history, of their culture history – but you can still own this your experience is. And I think that’s been really empowering for me to be able to say, your experience is different from mine, but we can always integrate our experiences with each other.”
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