Let’s stop pretending that everyone should parent the same way.
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A lot has been said about parenting and its link to a child’s later success in life. This suggests that some parents get it right and others do not, and there is good evidence to support this. But does this mean that some cultural variations in parenting are better than others?
In the controversial book, “Tiger Mother,” Amy Chua thinks so. She argues that cultural variations represent deficits in parenting. Chinese parents are more exacting and hold higher expectations, while American parents are soft. If this is true, where do the parenting practices of Mexican parents fit in?
I have a slightly different take on culture and parenting. I grew up in Mexico and my husband in the United States. I have seen a contrast between Mexican and American parenting styles. I’m not a mother, so I am not an expert on parenting yet. But, as an aunt to five young children, and probably a future mom, I would like to know what is better for them, because of course I care about these children’s future success.
During a family reunion, my sister-in-law was making sure the food her kids were getting was organic, natural and free from all those new things people say are bad for you. But she would not let her daughter take the sippy cup by herself and controlled every bit of what her girl was getting. At the same time, my other sister-in-law was negotiating with her son about the food he was getting and letting her one-year-old make decisions as well. The one-year-old kept saying “No!” to things she disagreed on.
Do you know which parent is from Mexico? I didn’t think so.
Lareau, in her book “Unequal Childhoods,” forcefully argues that parenting styles are all about social class. How it works is middle-class parents structured activities that offer advantages like children gaining a sense of entitlement, and interacting in different ways with other adults that are not direct family. Working-class and poor parents, on the other hand, let children decide on the activities they participate in, but under conditions where they can grow. Unlike Chua, race is not the issue, class is.
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