Saturday, January 29, 2011

it's an ill wind that blows no good (sense about parenting)

Today's Providence Journal features "The Polarized World of Parenting," an editorial by Brown Medical School researcher and developmental psychologist Richard Rende that precisely captures why a description of sound, effective parenting would likely fail to ignite a Tiger Mother book buying/hand wringing hurricane.

Rende provides a canny analysis of the publishing industry and his take on the kind of information we really need to help us raise happy, resilient, successful kids:
What we need is less hype and more information. Do substantial numbers of kids suffer from depression and anxiety? Yes. Are teens particularly vulnerable to the effects of stress? Yes. Does this mean that kids can’t be expected to excel? No. Is it wrong to foster excellence? No. Do we have answers from research and clinical practice? Yes, we have some. For example, it’s been shown for decades that authoritative parenting — a combination of having a close and nurturing relationship with a child, maintaining an open line of communication and respect, and consistently upholding high expectations — is the most effective way to raise a happy and successful child. That said, we have a pressing need to understand how the modern realities of the scholastic and social worlds may be putting a strain on achieving balance in our parenting. One way to do this is to have open dialogues and exchanges of ideas between parents and other interested parties, not brash statements and the taking of sides.
A meaningful, substantive book on authoritative parenting, as Rende outlines it, may not be hot stuff. It may not impel reaction from here, there (<--- Marjorie Ingall's delicious take on Tiger agita), and everywhere, but it easily could be engaging and excellent. The open, balanced dialogue that Rende advocates: not so easy, but essential.

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