Parenting is hard — that’s true in all cases. However, for Latino parents, confronting their own childhood traumas and reconciling them with what they want to teach their children is even more difficult. Parenting expert Leslie Priscilla is determined to change that narrative and create a paradigm shift in Latinx parenting.
Leslie Priscilla is a first-generation, non-Black Chicana mother to three bicultural children. She’s also the founder of Latinx Parenting, a bilingual organization and movement that is “intentionally rooted in children’s rights, social and racial justice, the individual and collective practice of nonviolence and reparenting, intergenerational and ancestral healing, cultural sustenance, and the active decolonization of oppressive practices in our families.”
Through workshops, individual counseling, and virtual sessions, Leslie and her Latinx Parenting team seek to assist, educate and empower the community to create healthy family relationships and break free from the oppressive practices they were raised with. “We have to divorce the expectations that the older generations have about the way we do things without divorcing the values that keep our families connected,” Leslie told BeLatina.
It’s a lofty goal, but it’s a mission that Leslie feels is her purpose.
Through her work, she urges Latinx parents to heal themselves so that they don’t raise “another generation of trauma passing itself off as culture.”
How does she propose to create this paradigm shift? As a starting place, she believes that we need to end chancla culture. Yes, as in the flip flop or sandal that immigrant or Latina mothers used to use as a threat or as an actual cause of physical pain to oppress their children into behaving how they want.
You’ve seen the memes, you’ve heard the jokes, and many of you have been on the receiving end of the chancla. Leslie believes that this type of oppressive parenting, where punishment, shame, and fear are all used to manipulate children, is the root of the problem. To heal the trauma and fix the broken parenting dynamic so many Latinx families have in place, we need to end chancla culture. It’s not about denying your culture or disrespecting the way you were brought up, but rather about healing and reclamation, Leslie believes.
We talked with Leslie about what that really means, why so many Latina moms suffer in silence as they deal with parenting struggles and her most valuable advice for future generations of Latinx parents and families.
Her advice is a wake-up call to parents everywhere and is the guidance, so many Latinx families need as they work through complicated relationships across all generations.
So many parents, especially moms and especially Latinas, suffer in silence. Why do you think that Latinas struggle so much to embrace healing and ask for help?
For people of an older generation in our communities, seeking support for ourselves has traditionally been something that has been translated into admitting that you were weak and did not have enough resources within yourself to be able to overcome the challenges that were presented. Culturally, we have very firm expectations about what it means to respect our elders and our traditions. As Latinas, we have been told that our voices were not important or valuable and that it was not okay to take up space.
So, when the younger generations started becoming brave enough to look at their lives, look at their childhoods, and to begin making some acknowledgments of how those rigid cultural standards did not actually help us thrive, it has done a couple of things. For one, it has made the older generations feel judged about their own lives and life choices. And secondly, it has stirred up in us the fear of being disrespectful or not being grateful enough for the sacrifices that have been made for us to reflect and heal.
What first inspired you to start Latinx Parenting? What kinds of services do you offer to parents and families?
Latinx Parenting was born out of a frustration that I long-held about the parenting world (the speakers, materials, resources, etc.) being completely white-washed and not reflecting aspects of my culture that I felt were worthy of exploring and contextualizing. I knew I wanted to work with parents after working with children as a preschool teacher for so many years. Still, it wasn’t until I started noticing how my body felt in front of different groups of parents that I began to notice how I was set ablaze in a magical way when I was facilitating groups of the hundreds of parents and adults that looked like the family that I had grown up with.
Now, I continue to be of service to families by facilitating groups, though most of the groups have gone virtual. The frameworks I work with are Decolonized Nonviolent Parenting and the framework of Reparenting and everything that falls under those. One of the things I am very clear about is that you cannot parent your children without reparenting yourself, even if that looks like something as basic as having a reflection practice where you can evaluate where your reactions come from.
What are the big picture goals for the Latinx Parenting movement?
The bigger goal of the Latinx Parenting movement is to generate a larger community of people who are decolonizing and implementing liberatory parenting and reparenting practices beginning in their homes with themselves and their children. Being a part of this culture and not having a lot of support from the older generations in ending these power-over dynamics can tend to feel very isolating and we can feel displaced or like this is “white people shit.”
The truth is that honoring children began with our pre-colonial ancestors, and it wasn’t until colonization and all the oppressive systems that came thereafter that we felt compelled to treat our children the way Europeans treated their children for centuries before that: as beings to be controlled, manipulated, or fixed. Therefore, so much of our goal is also to help families remember the indigenous history of our people, and that Chancla Culture is not our culture but is, in fact, colonizer culture.
Tell us why “ending chancla culture” is so important for Latinx parents, especially those trying to balance their own parenting goals with the cultural norms they were raised with.
If we look at the growth of the Latinx population, the census projections have told us that by 2050 a full third of all children in the United States will have some roots in what is known as Latin America. We are the fastest-growing population in this country, and it would only make sense that there is increased attention in how we are actually treating the children in our families. It’s important to understand that Chancla Culture as a term is only meant to reference la Chancla as an emblem of power-over dynamics in parenting. What falls under Chancla Culture also relates to shame, negative self-talk, criticism, judgment, rigid expectation, hierarchical decision making, and authoritarianism overall. We need to get away from these things if we want to move into a world where peace and justice are the norms and where our families can begin to thrive.
Understanding this is one thing. The harder part is moving away from Chancla Culture in our private moments. I am always very leery of parenting programs that promise some kind of drastic change because these things take a lot of time, and we have a lot to unlearn that has been programmed for centuries. It’s a privilege to be able to reflect. My mom didn’t hold that privilege because she was a single income earner to two, and she lived through a lot of trauma and ongoing expectations. Knowing this makes it easier for me to hold my parents with compassion because they did the best they could with the limited resources and support. But I can still acknowledge that they did things that hurt me deeply. These two do not negate one another, and it also allows me to extend grace to myself in times that I have messed up.
What has been the most challenging part of your job and your experiences with the Latinx Parenting movement? What moment or accomplishment are you most proud of?
The hardest part about growing this organization and movement has been to stay true to what my strengths are in this work and ask for help from others who hold different strengths. There have been times that I’ve had to really surrender to the brilliance of other people, and this has taught me so many incredible lessons about what brings me joy and what keeps the fire lit. I have told my team many times that the things that bring me joy are eventually the only things I want to do: facilitate, write, and speak. I have made it a priority for my team to know that this is a place where their strengths are valued, and their needs are just as honored. I have a lot of teachers that help me in this process, and I utilize as many resources as I can, including my therapist, my spiritual counselors, my business astrologer, my business coach, etc. I also rely on my friends to keep me in check and remind me of the intentions I set out to accomplish.
What I’m most proud of is how many people have reached out to let us know how this work has touched them in some way. I love that someone who took my course two years ago recently approached me at the park and told me that someone she met in that class is now her best friend. I love that a cohort from the Decolonized Nonviolent Parenting series still meets regularly on Mondays and always checks in and provides support. I love the team I have built who are in the trenches with me day in and day out. I love that I’ve been able to bring this work into other organizations and agencies for professionals who work with parents directly to then take the message to the people they’re working with closely.
What is the most important advice you ever received from your own parents? What advice do you hope to pass on to future generations?
This is a great question! My mami has always told me not to let my frijoles sit on the fire too long, or they will burn. Her love language has always been cooking, so it makes sense that her consejo is about food. I have burned many frijoles over the years, so I’m still learning this lesson. I always burn food when I am distracted, so I have interpreted this message as being aware of the heat and staying present con los frijoles.
My dad has always told me that age is a mentality. He recently turned 72 and says he is in awe that when he looks in the mirror, he sees an old man now because he doesn’t feel any older than he did in his 30’s. I think this is so wise and helps me remember I can be whatever age I want in my mind.
The advice I would give to future generations is to listen with the inner ear and look with the inner eye, as one of my Maestras would say. We can get so caught up in the outside world that we don’t make time to slow down and see the messages available to us all around, especially in nature, about how to best live our lives. I would offer that we can use this inner knowing to see the design in our own unfolding and be fluid and patient about how it happens.