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Parenting is the process of nurturing, socializing, and preparing children for their eventual adult roles. Parents perform many roles in society’s continuation and maintenance of social order. Parents serve as primary caregivers and nurturers, but also instill the norms, values, and behaviors of the local community as well as society at large.
The results of the parenting quiz for my parents were unsurprising. My parents were highly authoritarian. I would describe my parents’ child-rearing styles as: autocratic, controlling, strict, punitive, restrictive, and unsupportive. In our household, obedience to parental and religious authority was to never be questioned by the child.
If I were ever to have children of my own (I won’t), my parenting style would be much different from my parents. My quiz results suggested that I would adopt an authoritative parenting style with my kids. I would want to set limits and goals, but also encourage independence. The goal for me, if I were a parent, would be to produce a child that is independent, self-confident, and socially competent. I would try to balance retaining parental authority while encouraging freedom of expression and a strong sense of self.
Socialization is the process of learning to behave in ways that are acceptable in society. It’s also about teaching individuals, starting at the earliest age, the social order and the cultural attributes that are considered desirable in society, such as assertiveness, conformity, competitiveness, deference to authority, duty to god and country, perseverance, self-reliance, and hard work, among others. Parents are the very first to interact with the newest members of society, and as such, are considered the primary agent(s) of socialization. Parents provide care and nurturing to young children but also must instill the cultural values that society desires and believes are good, positive, and worthy.
According to Charles Cooley, it’s our very first social interaction(s) with our parents that we begin the development of a sense of self. Cooley’s idea of the “looking glass self” is, in fact, a social construct that’s created by our perceptions of how other people view us. But, it was George Herbert Mead that characterized the pathway of socialization from the newborn to a recognizable sense of self: preparatory, play, game, and the idea of “generalized other.” It’s this pathway of socialization that each of us follow from the first mimicry of our parent’s behaviors all the way to being able to independently guide our actions according to the attitudes and expectations of society (the “generalized other”).
I didn’t have much social interaction with my parents. This was largely born out of necessity. Both my parents had to work outside of the home because neither made enough money where one could stay home as a full-time parent. My parents were also very emotionally distant and strict; both were products of their own upbringings in very conservative, religious households. Growing up, I was very dependent on my peers for the emotional support I didn’t receive from my parents.
After reading Chapter 3 in the textbook, I better understand the critical role that parents have in their child’s development of her or his sense of self through the first micro-level social interaction and communication that occurs between parent(s) and child. For a long time, I didn’t have a well-defined sense of self, and I floated through various countercultures (punk, goth, etc.) trying to figure out who I was. If I were a parent, I would certainly try to form a much stronger emotional bond with my kid than my parents did with me. So, I would adopt a parenting style that was more communicative, nurturing, give and take, flexible, open, and far less controlling and punitive but with established boundaries and rules as well. Also, I would make time for more parent-child activities such as family meals, playing games, and holidays. Symbolic interactionists recognize how important shared activities are to the development of strong emotional bonds between family members.
I think there are many micro factors of socialization that influence parenting behavior in general. These factors can include ethnicity, gender, race, socioeconomic status, personality of child, personality of parent(s), child’s peers, social media, personal beliefs and values, occupation of parent(s), and upbringing of parent(s). Macro factors of socialization that influence parenting behavior might include the economy, mass media, politics, public opinion, religion, secularization, schooling, housing, geographic location, and health disparities across class, race, and gender.
Both class and religion played huge roles in the way my parents raised me. My very religious, working-class parents demanded conformity and obedience while raising me, and dismissed creativity, problem-solving, and instilling self-confidence. My parenting style would differ from my parents in that it would be more secular but still values-based. Also, I would try to foster creativity, independence, and self-reliance in my kid, and teach her or him to reject conformity and blind obedience to authority.
Not surprisingly, my parents were both distrustful of mass media and the messages it presents, especially to children. I have the same distrust of mass media, especially entertainment media, and I do believe, like my parents, that it can exploit the negative side of human nature and cause aggressive behavior, poor impulse control and the need for instant gratification. Like my parents, if I had a child, I would place certain restrictions on Internet access, social media, and video games, for example. I would certainly set limits on the number of hours per week that my kid could watch TV, be on Facebook/Twitter, and play video games.
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