HomeLatest ThreadsGreatest ThreadsForums & GroupsMy SubscriptionsMy Posts
DU Home » Latest Threads » Forums & Groups » Main » Editorials & Other Articles (Forum) » No Big Deal, but This Res...

Sun Apr 14, 2013, 05:07 PM

No Big Deal, but This Researcher’s Theory Explains Everything About How Americans Parent

Last edited Sun Apr 14, 2013, 07:26 PM - Edit history (1)

Every society interprets its children in its own way: The Dutch, for example, liked to talk about long attention spans and “regularity,” or routine and rest. (In the Dutch mind, asking lots of questions is a negative attribute: It means the child is too dependent.) The Spanish talked about character and sociality, the Swedes about security and happiness. And the Americans talked a lot about intelligence. Intelligence is Americans’ answer. In various studies, American parents are always seen trying to make the most of every moment—to give their children a developmental boost. From deep inside the belly of American parenthood, this is so obvious it isn’t even an observation. It is only by looking at other societies that you can see just how anomalous such a focus is.

Looking back at her research, Harkness can trace the history of how we got this way. During interviews with middle-class Boston parents in the 1980s, she and her colleagues kept hearing about the importance of “special time” or “quality time”: One-on-one time that stimulated the child and that revolved around his interests. Nearly every American parent mentioned it, she says. “It was this essential thing that all parents seemed to think they should do—and maybe they weren’t doing enough of it.”

This seems obviously reasonable. I would likely say “special time” with ironic quotation marks, but I still feel pretty much the same way those parents did. How else would a halfway-decent parent feel? But when Harkness talked to other halfway-decent parents in other cultures, even other seemingly very similar Western cultures, they were oblivious to this nagging feeling. Harkness recalls that “in the Netherlands, a father said, ‘Well, on Saturday mornings, my wife sleeps late, I get up with the kids, and I take them to recycle the bottles and cans at the supermarket.’ ” That was their special, stimulating, child-directed time: recycling bottles and cans. Asked if an activity was developmentally meaningful, the Dutch parents would brush off the question as irrelevant or even nonsensical. Why think of every activity as having a developmental purpose?

What you notice reading these accounts is how much more intensive—how much more arousing—American parenting is. Harkness has characterized it as trying “to push stimulation to the maximum without going over the edge into dysregulation of basic state control.” This is true even if you think you’re different—that you’re not like those other parents at the playground. Culture operates at a deeper level than any individual parenting choice. In a survey Harkness and her colleagues conducted of parents in Western cultures, the last question was, “What’s the most important thing you can do for your child’s development right now?” “The American parents almost to a person said, ‘Stimulation—stimulation is what my child needs.’ Interestingly, even the attachment parents, who were very adamant about being different in a lot of ways—they still gave the same answer.” And all the parents meant a very particular sort of stimulation. The parents talked about themselves in almost curatorial terms: They’d create a setting for intellectual growth. It went almost without saying that the actual stimulation came from the toys.
http://www.slate.com/blogs/how_babies_work/2013/04/10/parental_ethnotheories_and_how_parents_in_america_differ_from_parents_everywhere.html

8 replies, 2026 views

Reply to this thread

Back to top Alert abuse

Always highlight: 10 newest replies | Replies posted after I mark a forum
Replies to this discussion thread
Arrow 8 replies Author Time Post
Reply No Big Deal, but This Researcher’s Theory Explains Everything About How Americans Parent (Original post)
unrepentant progress Apr 2013 OP
Laelth Apr 2013 #1
Curmudgeoness Apr 2013 #2
closeupready Apr 2013 #3
silverweb Apr 2013 #4
angstlessk Apr 2013 #5
Mojorabbit Apr 2013 #6
yurbud Apr 2013 #7
Fumesucker Apr 2013 #8

Response to unrepentant progress (Original post)

Sun Apr 14, 2013, 05:10 PM

1. Very interesting. k&r for exposure. n/t

-Laelth

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to unrepentant progress (Original post)

Sun Apr 14, 2013, 08:10 PM

2. I like the Swedes priorities...security and happiness.

These are the two things that children should have.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to unrepentant progress (Original post)

Sun Apr 14, 2013, 08:13 PM

3. Personally, I'm not that impressed with methods of

 

American parenting, or at least, I believe that too many children are raised poorly.

Yesterday, I passed by a group of early 20-somethings, spray-painting the exterior of a building. I assumed they had a permit, since it was right there in the open and was taking time, but I thought to myself, 'wow, this is how you are spending your life, doing graffiti?'

People are homeless and struggling to eat, and young people spend their lives lunching, smoking pot, graffiti/tagging structures, etc. Hardly the outcome JFK had in mind when he founded the Peace Corps, I'm sure.

Thanks for posting the interesting article.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to unrepentant progress (Original post)

Sun Apr 14, 2013, 08:13 PM

4. Bookmarked for later.



Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to unrepentant progress (Original post)

Sun Apr 14, 2013, 09:06 PM

5. I will never forget ... I was in a laundramat and over saw this

A mother had a a toddler and an infant..the toddler hit the infant..and the mother said and I quote "I will teach you to hit your (brother -sister) and she smacked the toddler...and for sure she was telling the truth..

She WAS teaching the toddler to hit...

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to unrepentant progress (Original post)

Mon Apr 15, 2013, 02:13 AM

6. marking to read later! nt

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to unrepentant progress (Original post)

Fri Apr 19, 2013, 01:58 PM

7. I thought "quality time" was a way for parents who divorced or both worked to feel better about not

providing bulk time.

Wouldn't it be great if you could tell your boss you're going to be at work less but put in more "quality time"?

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to unrepentant progress (Original post)

Fri Apr 19, 2013, 05:14 PM

8. Sounds like the author was talking to upper/upper middle class parents

Lower middle class and the poors aren't so hung up on "quality time", quite often they're more focused on things like feeding, clothing and housing the kid.



Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink

Reply to this thread