Recently, there has been a lot of attention and punditry directed towards international cultural norms of parenting. From the Tiger Mom Manifesto earlier this year to the recent interest in French styles of parenting described in Bringing Up Bebe. It is great that we are thinking about and discussing multiple perspectives on parenting, and I think that the time is right to develop a distinctly New England framework for parenting that goes beyond Ferberization to truly reflect and nurture the values we hold about family, citizenship and human development.
Some of the important issues to consider as we work towards articulating a distinctly New England parenting style are, communication styles, disciplinary boundaries and nurturing expression. In family development literature, there are four generally accepted types of parenting styles, each of which come with their own implicit assumptions about the expectations and nurturance within family structures. The authoritative parent maintains firm rules and boundaries, but is mindful of the child's emotional needs and agency. The authoritarian parent draws strict behavioral expectations, and tends to be inflexible in the application of discipline. The permissive parent has few expectations and maintains a democratic family structure with flexible boundaries. Finally, the uninvolved parent is, well, uninvolved with their child and may even stray into neglect.
The folks of New England have been known for a fierce commitment to independence, emotional stability, and resiliency. So what combination of these parental attributes would support a child's development in a style that is uniquely yankee?
Based on this, I suggest the following three values as a scaffolding to build a distinctly New England style of parenting.
- Development is not linear. The pace of children's intellectual and emotional growth varies over time. This should be reflected in flexible expectations about a child's capacity to be the person we wish and work for them to become.
- Independence is fostered through clear and consistent boundaries. Secure and healthy attachment is supported by behavioral expectations that are clearly stated and consistently enforced.
- Respect is the foundation for a strong sense of self. The human mind is resilient and innately capable. By respecting children as competent and "whole" people, we inspire the self confidence that we respect in others.
What would you add to this list?
Aaron Weintraub, MS runs child-centered social skills groups with a focus on children and teenagers withPervasive Developmental Disorder, Asperger Syndrome, High Functioning Autism, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and Shyness. Strengths-based approach in a community based setting. Groups available in Tolland, Mansfield, Willimantic, Hartford, Vernon and Coventry Connecticut.