Thursday, June 8, 2017

Parenting in SA: one size doesn't fit all

Questioning parenting self-help books from a cultural perspective.
There are a few established "rules" for being a good parent. Praise your children for their achievements, big or small. Be warm and happy when you’re around them. Smile at them and stay upbeat. When it comes to babies, make lots of face to face verbal contact. Look at and talk to them while they babble and play. The Conversation
Parenting matters
These approaches are based on extensive studies that seek to understand the relationship between parenting and child outcomes. Again and again, research has found that parenting behaviours have a huge impact on child development and success, from school performance to good peer relationships. The conclusion? Parenting matters and certain ways of parenting are better than others.
But how much does where you live or grew up influence how you parent? And are the same parenting techniques relevant in every setting? This is what I have studied while researching my PhD.
The Western cultural approach is not appropriate in all contexts
Most research into child development and parenting has been conducted in the West – specifically in North America and Eastern Europe. It is done by Western researchers studying Western children with Western parents. But only 12% of the world’s children and parents live in the West. The vast majority of families in huge swathes of the world have not been studied. What researchers currently know, and what’s presented as "optimal parenting", can only be assumed to explain a small group of people.
Research conducted elsewhere in the world suggests that cultural context is an important consideration when it comes to parenting and child development. It has also found that while some aspects of good parenting are universal, others look very different from country to country.
Praise, face-to-face verbal contact and putting on a warm, positive attitude when around your children are not found universally. They are not assumed to be as important in some places – like Alexandra in Johannesburg, South Africa, where I am conducting my research – as they are in Western contexts.
Individualism vs collectivism
My study in Alexandra, which many people call by its nickname, Alex, has backed up an idea that’s emerging in parenting research from elsewhere in the developing world. This is the notion that parenting practices are and should be intimately related to the context, culture and social values in which a child is being raised.
For example, a child raised in New York’s Westchester County needs to fit in and function in his individualistic culture. Where he’s from, success is likely measured by personal career achievements and individual social standing. This means he will likely need a good job.
To find a job, he will probably need a good Western education. To get a good Western education he will need confidence, good verbal skills and a friendly, smiley disposition. So, as a baby, it makes sense that he will need a chatty, smiley mother who praises and encourages him.
The causal chain is somewhat different for a child growing up in Alexandra, a densely populated area with primarily informal dwellings. It has a very high crime rate, high levels of drug use and domestic violence, and low levels of employment. Important child outcomes are different for parents in this context. Keeping your children away from drugs and out of trouble are far bigger concerns than how many friends they have.
Culturally – as is the case across the African continent – collectivism is valued over individualism in Alexandra. Children are considered to have been raised well if they respect their elders and comply with traditional practices. Modesty is valued. This may mean that effusive praise is discouraged, because it’s seen as putting an individual’s success ahead of a group’s. Parents aren’t trying to build confidence to achieve personal success. Instead, they are focused on building protective strategies and compliance.
Seeking a culturally specific parenting approach
As with any society, some parents in Alex are getting things right while others are not. Some parents raise successful children. Others have told me they are endlessly frustrated with their child’s "bad behaviour" or "poor school performance".
Many of these struggling parents turn to psychologists and social workers for help. But experience and research is showing that helping is not as simple as applying Western interventions based on Western research. And it’s not quite clear where we should start to develop something culturally and contextually appropriate.
My research sets out to establish the "rules" of being a good parent in the very unique context of Alexandra. Ultimately, my work will outline what parental behaviours and practices in Alex are positive and lead to good outcomes. It will also examine which behaviours are not helpful, and where these are coming from.
Nicola Dawson, is a psychologist and researcher into Infant Mental Health, University of the Witwatersrand. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.
Can you relate to Ms Dawson's research? Where have you come up against cultural differences in parenting in South Africa? What set up "rules" are unique in the African context and how would you help a struggling parent without imposing Western values on the family? Please send your stories and comments to chatback@parent24.com for possible publication. Kindly tell us if you'd like to remain anonymous.

Simply put, here are the rules for being a good parent

Despite the conclusion one might reach after reading the latest issue of any popular parenting magazine, the job of parent is actually quite simple; so simple that I can describe the entire ball of wax in less than 15 column inches.
First, a parent’s responsibilities – beyond providing the basic necessities of life – are to provide unconditional love and unequivocal leadership. The “trick,” if you will, is to keep those provisions in a state of balance. Too much of either is toxic. Love without an equal measure of authority expresses itself in the form of numerous enabling behaviors. Likewise, authority without an equal measure of love quickly turns into abuse of one sort or another.
Second, there are but five fundamental understandings that a parent needs to convey, lovingly and authoritatively, to a child:
1. You are to pay more attention to me than I pay to you. (Three bits of helpful information: First, all discipline problems are due to children paying insufficient attention to adult authority figures. Second, the more attention you pay a child, the less the child will pay to you. Third, you obtain a child’s attention by simply acting like you know what you are doing.)
2. I am in charge here; therefore, I tell you what to do. (Helpful information: When giving an instruction to a child, always use the fewest words possible and do not explain why you are giving the instruction. Explanations sound persuasive and provoke push-back.)
3. You do what I tell you to do. (Helpful information: Parents who want a child to obey for their own benefit don’t get it. Obedience is in the best interest of a child. The research finds what common sense affirms; that is, obedient children are also happy children. You get a child to obey by acting like you know what you are doing.)
4. You do what I tell you to do simply because I tell you to do it. (Helpful information: If you do not accompany an instruction with an explanation, then your child is forced to ask for one. That gives you the Golden Opportunity to respond with the most powerful four words in a parent’s vocabulary: “Because I said so.”)
5. At any given time, I do not care what you think of me or any decision I make. (Helpful information: Parenting is not a popularity contest. When you want your child to like you, you end up doing things that negate your ability to provide leadership, which means you end up enabling.)
6. You can always count on me to provide for and protect you under any and all circumstances. (Helpful information: If your child is secure in that understanding, then the world is a safe place and, therefore, eventually becomes the child’s “oyster.”)
I ask you: Could that be any simpler?
parentguru.com

Simple rules for being a good parent

Published: Sun, December 7, 2014 @ 12:00 a.m.
Tribune News Service
Despite the conclusion one might reach after reading the latest issue of any popular parenting magazine, the job of parent is actually quite simple — so simple that I can describe the entire ball of wax in less than 15 column inches.
First, a parent’s responsibilities — beyond providing the basic necessities of life — are to provide unconditional love and unequivocal leadership. The “trick,” if you will, is to keep those provisions in a state of balance. Too much of either is toxic. Love without an equal measure of authority expresses itself in the form of numerous enabling behaviors. Likewise, authority without an equal measure of love quickly turns into abuse of one sort or another.
Second, there are but five fundamental understandings that a parent needs to convey, lovingly and authoritatively, to a child:
1. You are to pay more attention to me than I pay to you. (Three bits of helpful information: First, all discipline problems are due to children paying insufficient attention to adult authority figures. Second, the more attention you pay a child, the less the child will pay to you. Third, you obtain a child’s attention by simply acting like you know what you are doing.)
2. I am in charge here; therefore, I tell you what to do. (Helpful information: When giving an instruction to a child, always use the fewest words possible and do not explain why you are giving the instruction. Explanations sound persuasive and provoke push-back.)
3. You do what I tell you to do. (Helpful information: Parents who want children to obey for their own benefit don’t get it. Obedience is in the best interest of a child. The research finds what common sense affirms; that is, obedient children are also happy children. You get a child to obey by acting like you know what you are doing.)
4. You do what I tell you to do simply because I tell you to do it. (Helpful information: If you do not accompany an instruction with an explanation, then your child is forced to ask for one. That gives you the Golden Opportunity to respond with the most powerful four words in a parent’s vocabulary: “Because I said so.”)
5. At any given time, I do not care what you think of me or any decision I make. (Helpful information: Parenting is not a popularity contest. When you want your child to like you, you end up doing things that negate your ability to provide leadership, which means you end up enabling.)
6. You can always count on me to provide for and protect you under any and all circumstances. (Helpful information: If your child is secure in that understanding, then the world is a safe place and, therefore, eventually becomes the child’s “oyster.”)
I ask you: Could that be any simpler?

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