Navigating Mexico: The Values Children Learn

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If you were asked what values you think children should learn, you might come up with some variation of the typical four that come to mind after family: respect for others, appropriate leisure activities, belief (religion) and work ethics.

However, those concepts could be considered more activities than values.

What if you were given a more specific list and asked which five were the most important for children to learn?

The World Value Survey does just that every three to four years, surveying tens of thousands of families in countries around the globe to see which of 11 values are the most essential for children to assimilate:

  1. determination and perseverance;
  2. religious faith;
  3. hard work;
  4. imagination;
  5. independence;
  6. obedience;
  7. feeling of responsibility;
  8. self-expression;
  9. thrift, saving money;
  10. tolerance, respect; and
  11. unselfishness.

A good number of the values we identify with as adults were handed off to us during that “formative” stage of life from birth to about age eight.

However, depending on where we grew up, the exposure level to different values may be quite different from in other cultures, which should come as no great surprise.

An interesting substudy of the original study looked at and actually plotted that interesting juxtaposition to see on which side of an evenly balanced scale different countries fell, looking at:

  1. independence versus obedience;
  2. unselfishness versus religious faith; and
  3. hard work versus imagination.

If you have lived or interacted with people in Mexico for any time, you can likely guess that Mexico typically does not fall very evenly balanced on many measures.

Mexico is often the land of extremes, all or nothing.

So, does that concept still hold true or is it changing in the age of globalization?

One way to help navigate Mexico is to understand on which side of the evenly balanced point your home country finds itself compared to Mexico.

Since Mexico and the United States have always had a love-hate relationship, let’s compare family values in those two countries:

In the case of independence versus obedience, the United States leans highly toward the independence over obedience at 55 percent, while Mexico falls heavily on the side of obedience, at 56 percent. In other words, they have opposite values.

Looking at unselfishness versus religious faith, the United comes out perfectly balanced with 50 percent on each sides, while in Mexico. the value of unselfishness is rated at 37 percent and religious faith ranks 30 percent. Thus, the stereotype of Mexico as a faith-based nation appears to be fading away, as other studies indicate.

In the case of hard work versus imagination, almost all countries fall on the side of favoring hard work, with the United States ranking 70 percent on the hard work side, while Mexico charting much lower at 29 percent.

While coming in at a low 30 percent for imagination, that rating for the United States is still among the highest compared to other countries of the world, with only a few, including Sweden, Norway and South Korea, valuing imagination higher. Mexico, on the other hand has a very low 13 percent ranking for imagination as an important value for children to learn.

So if you are not from Mexico, the next time you are having a bad Mexico day, know that the reason may be that your own childhood values do not align well with those of people raised in Mexico.

And if you happen to be raising a child under age 10 in Mexico, know that values other than your own may be the ones your child is acquiring.

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