Tacoma chiropractor and mom Laelle Martin always knew she wanted her future children to embrace dual cultures: that of her native Pacific Northwest as well as the Latin American culture she grew to love when she spent a year and a half as an AmeriCorps volunteer in Puerto Rico after college.
But like most of the best-laid parenting plans, her lofty vision hit a few speed bumps. By the time her son, Ari, was born in 2009, Martin’s once-flourishing Spanish language skills were growing rusty, and she was too busy to do much cultural education at home.
“It was challenging for me to speak Spanish with him on a regular basis — we had a few books, but I wanted more,” she says. And life is only getting busier: She’s expecting baby number two in May.
After some searching, Martin found Mis Amigos, a language learning center for children on Tacoma’s North Slope, and enrolled Ari in a parent-child course in the fall of 2011. But it’s not just another Mommy-and-me class — this one may actually give Ari a leg up in school, work and life. How? By building his cultural intelligence or cultural quotient (CQ), an increasingly desirable trait for children growing up in today’s borderless world.
Best-selling author David Livermore wrote The Cultural Intelligence Difference: Master the One Skill You Can’t Do Without in Today’s Global Economy, and he defines cultural intelligence as “the capacity to function effectively in a variety of cultural contexts — including national, ethic, organization and generational.” Global research conducted over the past decade shows that those with high levels of cultural intelligence are better able to adapt and thrive in a complex global society, he notes.
In short, Livermore says, it’s no longer enough to be book smart or even emotionally intelligent. Modern children need to learn to succeed in an increasingly diverse, characteristically unpredictable global village, which requires a unique set of skills — one that many kids living in a fairly heterogeneous North American culture won’t acquire on their own.
All of this may seem like yet another metric for busy parents to manage. But experts say that it is possible — even simple — to build a child’s cultural quotient, beginning at birth.