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My wife is Chinese and I am an American guy. We live in the US and have a 4.5 y/o and 18 m/o. My wife's parents, in very traditional Chinese fashion (I guess it's common among many Asian cultures), come every 6 months for a 6-month period (i.e. 6 on, 6 off) to help us cook, clean, raise the children, yell at and complain incessantly about all of us and tell my wife and I specifically what good-for-nothing, incompetent, ungrateful, scum-of-the-earth people we are. And that's just in a morning.

My question comes down to, what will the children's development be like in this situation? Specifically, if anyone has any experience w/ this kind of thing, I'd like to know how your kids turned out; particularly in terms of emotional adjustment, anxiety, patience, etc. I have met few people living regularly in this kind of multi-generational household and fewer still with a multicultural and multi-generational household.

My in-laws are very nice in their thought to come over and never let us lift a finger to do any housework ever again for the remainder of their lives. However, I do worry about the anxiety and stress this places on my children (not to mention the in-laws). To give some perspective, my in-laws grew up in Maoist Beijing. What we in the US would consider less than trivial (e.g. using a paper towel to wipe up a spill), can be a major transgression in their eyes. Obviously, when you've got 2 young boys tearing through the house, breaking things to watch them break, throwing food -- in other words, being kids -- this creates a lot of tension. In addition, my wife and I frequently clash with what we see as my in-laws' overbearing behavior. Over things like career, money, raising our children and just generally what godless sacks of Satanshit my wife and I are. So those are the cons...

The pros that I see: my kids are really bilingual. My Mandarin isn't great and so my wife and I communicate in English. When the in laws are away, I can tell my kid's Chinese deteriorates. Dinner is on the table every night at 6pm (convenient for us but I think more importantly for the kids). Thanks to the Chinese belief that a child without a mouth stuffed with food is a child on the verge of starvation, my younger one has really thrived (whereas before he was underweight). Free childcare is also a bonus and they do provide better care for a young child than any nanny or childcare center. But I also have been trying to think about this more long-term as well. My in laws expect to be taken care of when they're old and my wife has pretty much committed to that. Although I don't know what that means for me (I'll probably be participating in that somehow), I do think it's good for kids to see multiple generations taking care of one another; in fact, that's one of the major criticisms I have of US culture, which I see as a general disregard for the well-being of families and caring for our vulnerable populations.

So anyone with experience in this kind of situation, your advice and feedback are much appreciated. As my post denotes, my wife and I clearly have our own issues with her parents. I'd wager Those who have lived in this kind of culture (natively or otherwise) would agree with me that asking my in-laws to "compromise" -- at least in the US/Western context -- is not going to happen. Given that our situation will probably continue into the foreseeable future, should I just try to shield my kids from some of the craziness? I do try to counterbalance our incompatibility by being a (relatively) calm(er) but firm force in the house, in a meager attempt to arbitrate some peace and sanity.

NOTE: I do make some generalizations about cultures here and I don't mean to offend anyone. I realize that I'm coming at this from my own cultural perspective and I carry my own biases. And yes, I know "they're like that because they love you so try to understand blah blah blah". I'm also aware that we can tell them not to come back; but that is not something my wife, and to a lesser extent I, want. My question, very specifically, is what are children's developmental outcomes when raised in this kind of environment and what can I/we do to optimize our situation.

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    How long do their visits typically last -- a week? a month? – Acire Apr 12 '16 at 11:02
  • @Erica thx for asking - typically/regularly 6 mos in the US & 6 mos away in China. I've edited my Q to specify that. – user9821 Apr 12 '16 at 16:33
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    bicultural would be a better tag than bilingual. The issue at hand doesn't seem to intersect much with language use or acquisition. – MatthewMartin Apr 12 '16 at 22:39
  • @MatthewMartin I agree, but i didn't have sufficient rep to add multi/crosscultural as tags. kind of surprised no one has created one already... – user9821 Apr 13 '16 at 1:39
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My answer comes from what I've learned living with in-laws (from China) for 5 years. Unfortunately I do not have "sources" to back it up.

The development of the children in this situation may be affected as follow:

  • they will copy "bad" behavior they see at home (if any, although this is applicable to any unwanted behavior at home regardless of multicultural situation)
  • they will be less independent (for example, kids get used to grandparents providing things to the kids even before kids ask for them)
  • they will be more timid (due to the way in which kids are taught to "respect" their elders)

This situation can take a heavy toll on you and your wife. Feel free to contact me directly if you'd like. Our "solution" was far from ideal but I could share it privately for you to have a point of reference.

  • thx, i don't think SE allows private/direct msging, but I did send you a msg through the comments section of the website you linked to in your profile page. – user9821 Apr 13 '16 at 1:48
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There are differences in the way children are raised in different parts of the world. I don't see any real problems in terms of child development. The perceived problem is because of the differing expectations given our cultural background. Having in-laws staying with you as a modern family can be difficult even in a Chinese household and this can be the real source of friction. There should only be one head of the house, and that is you. When parents are staying in the same house, that will bring a conflict of authority. Try communicating to them, through your wife, to shorten the visit and/or making it less frequent, if that is possible. I see that your in-laws are doing all they can to show that they care, but not in the way you would like it. But the important thing is that they are concerned in what makes their children and grandchildren happy. If all these long visits make you suffer, don't be afraid of communicating it to them.

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