We've known for decades about IQ , the intelligence quotient, then EQ and how a child's emotional intelligence may be an even better predictor of future success. With all of us being more globally connected than ever before, Licensed Clinical Social Worker & Co-founder of GROW Parenting, Sarina Natkin talks about why the CQ or Cultural Quotient is so important.

What is the Cultural Quotient? Is it an awareness or a skill that can be taught to kids?

  • Simply put, the Cultural Quotient or Cultural Intelligence is about how well an individual can understand and connect with those different from themselves.
  • For many generations, people lived in culturally based communities
  • We now interact with people of different cultures, religions, and abilities daily.
  • Our ability to, not just tolerate, but value the customs, beliefs, and practices of those who are different from us is critical for a democratic society.
  • This is a skill we can all learn and we can help our children develop Cultural Intelligence by beginning to have conversations when our children our young.

How does this differ family-to-family, culture-to-culture?

  • Some families are more comfortable talking about difference than others.
  • In the United States, Caucasian families tend to be least likely to have conversations about race.
  • In fact 75% of white parents never or almost never talk about race
  • Non-white parents are three times more likely to have had conversations about race with their children.
  • This is happening for two reasons
    • First- For families that are part of a minority or marginalized culture, these conversations may come up regularly as family members experience subtle or not so subtle oppression because of their race or culture.
    • Second- Many Caucasian parents today are subscribing to what Authors Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman call Diverse Environment Theory.
      • The belief that just being a part of a diverse environment and regularly exposing our children to different races and cultures was better than talking about race.
      • Think we should not draw attention to race so that our kids grow up viewing everyone as the same.

Why this kind of learning and understanding for children these days?

  • One of the earliest ways babies and young children make sense of their world is by sorting. Tons of toys aimed at just that- by shape, color and size
  • We know that by six months of age, babies find difference in skin color and gender interesting.
  • This idea of not drawing attention to cultural difference does not produce children who do not notice difference
  • It just signals that this is something we are not to talk about
  • Conversations about diversity and difference can be hard.
  • However, if we want our children to continue making the world a better place, we need to help them get the language and understanding they need to do so.
  • ParentMap s cover story for May talks more about why this skill is so important

How can parents or other adults best work with kids to increase their Cultural Intelligence?

  • Notice and Ask Questions
    • Since our kids are noticing difference from early on, we need to take the lead and begin these discussions.
    • We can talk about differences in bodies, abilities, and family structures when opportunities arise.
  • Acknowledge and answer questions
    • There are those dreaded moments when your child loudly says, What s on that man s head, or why is that woman in a wheelchair
    • Our instinct is to shush them- to avoid drawing attention or hurting feelings
    • However, our attitude in that moment conveys a great deal about our own beliefs.
    • When answering questions- use non-judgmental, descriptive words.
  • Exposure to different cultures is also important
    • Food and Music-
      • Visit cultural museums &celebrations such as the many Festal Cultural Festivals that take place at Seattle Center
      • Visit restaurants with food from cultures
    • Take a look at the toys and books in your home
      • Are they all representative of your culture or the dominant culture?
  • Take a look at ourselves as parents
    • Our children are always watching us
    • Your ability to model Cultural Intelligence is one of the most important ways our children will gain cultural awareness themselves.
Read or Share this story: http://www.king5.com/story/life/family/parent-to-parent/2013/04/29/cultural-quotient-cq-is-important/13247850/