Articles by Debashis Dutta – 9

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The Parenting Empowerment Program – Week 5

Homework Review

Last week, we talked about the four functions of parenting. The functions of discipline and guidance fall under an overall desired outcome of wanting children to feel limitable. And the functions of nurturing and accessibility are related to the desired outcome of helping children feel loveable.

We took a whole bunch of characteristics we wanted in our children when they were older and categorized them under the four parenting functions. I suggested to you that frustrations in parenting come from a lack of balance between the four functions. A “thinking” solution would be to re-analyze your intentionality in parenting and then to look back at the spheres of control, in order to do what you need to do with your child.

The homework was to do the exercise from last week with someone else (your spouse, a friend,) and to think about the differences in beliefs and attitudes around parenting – why you have differed in categorizing some of the characteristics. Finally, you were to have given some thought to how you yourself were parented.

I’ll use some examples from my wife Adrienne and I in the parenting of our daughter, Anjuli. We did part of the exercise separately. We each came up with lists of what qualities we wanted our daughter (and any other subsequent children) to have when she becomes older. Many of these were pretty much the same.

We then individually categorized these qualities into the four functions. We thought similarly about some of the qualities and their category Then there were the ones where we had some differences, some of which are listed below:

Desired Quality Adrienne’s categorization  Debashis’s categorization
Respecting others Guidance Discipline
Respecting elders Guidance Discipline
Receive love  Nurturing Accessibility
Give love Nurturing Accessibility
Self-discipline Nurturing Guidance

And you may have differing opinions too. So, where do these differences come from? How do we know that we’re doing “the right thing” in parenting? Is one way better than another? A path to note here is that there is indeed, no “right” way to parent. We each do the job of parenting according to our own perspective. Some of the ways in which we do things are similar and others are different.

Our perspectives on parenting can be shared, or maybe they differ, but they are shaped according to our own world-view. So, look back at how you categorized each desired trait. Ask yourself why it is that you categorized honesty under nurturing, or whatever. What are your beliefs about honesty? What are your experiences with honesty? What are your values about honesty? And then you’ll see how your world-view is shaped.

Let’s take an example. How about the trait of knowing right from wrong? When I looked at the parenting function I thought it best fit under, I chose discipline. My wife looked at me strangely, because she thought the teaching children about knowing right from wrong is the result of a parent providing guidance. We had a long discussion about it, which I won’t get into here. But the important thing to consider is WHY there is a difference.

So why is it that I think teaching children right from wrong is a function of discipline? Well, let’s see. I’m of Indian origin. My parents were born and raised in India. My father came from relative poverty and my mother’s family was better off. Both families had a large number of children and a mother who raised the children while the father was the breadwinner. Integrity seemed important. As such, children were expected to behave so as to enhance the respect the community and neighbourhood had for the family. So my parents did not necessarily have things explained to them. Rather, as they grew up, they were disciplined or had a consequence for poor behaviour and acknowledgement or a reward for good behaviour, after the fact. When I think about it, it’s learning from trial and error as opposed to learning by teaching.

So, when I was young, it was the same way. I ALWAYS knew what was expected of me and when I was in trouble. In terms of knowing right from wrong, I generally knew because all the way along, I would be disciplined for bad behaviour and acknowledged or rewarded for good behaviour. Things were not always explained, because from our family perspective, they did not have to be explained. Now, as a parent, I have a similar world-view. I will likely spend more time explaining things and guiding my daughter into knowing right from wrong, but there will also be somewhat of an emphasis of learning from trial and error. I value this method.

My wife, on the other hand, comes from a family where things were explained. She knew right from wrong mainly because she was taught this. She was guided through this kind of learning and so she didn’t always have to play the trial and error game. As such, she has learned to talk through situations, to explain things more than I and to expect explanations as well. Her perspective also comes from a community and a culture (North American) where children are treated far more gently and guided in a much more “soft way.” As such, there is considerable emphasis on engaging a child in understanding why and how discipline happens. Adrienne therefore, intends to GUIDE the understanding of right and wrong for our children.

What is better – her way or mine? NEITHER !!!! Each perspective is valuable, important, valid, helpful and relevant. Neither works better because the Goal is the same!!! What is important is to know is HOW our parenting is shaped. Upbringing, culture and personal experience are just three things that shape our method of parenting. Others include, laws, community values, religion, language, education, socio-economic status, morals, values, etc. These “outside influences” all have a part in making us who we are and how we look at the world. So, having an East Indian heritage, a Hindu religion, living in Canada, having experience being on social welfare, rebelling against my cultural norms, etc. gives me a certain world view. This world view differs from Adrienne’s; her world view is shaped by being Caucasian, enduring her parents’ divorce, never being on social assistance, being raised Christian, etc., etc., etc.

You get the point. REGARDLESS OF WHERE ADRIENNE AND I COME FROM, OUR WISHES FOR ANJULI AND OTHER CHILDREN ARE THE SAME. And that is the point. Though we’re different, we want the same characteristics for our daughter.

So, when we add all this together, here is what the diagram looks like:



Alright!!!! Doesn’t that look neat?

So what do you think? Does some of this make sense? We’ve spent a lot of time thinking, talking, writing, and wondering about why we parent the way we do. Notice, I haven’t taught you a thing about WHAT to do with your children. Rather, I’ve tried to take you back to why you do the things you do and most importantly, what characteristics you want your children to have. I really believe that if you generally know what kind of adult you want your child to be, that you’ll know how do it.

Instead of just doing it, think about it.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this five-week presentation and I hope you’ve learned a bit. Take care and have fun.

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