08 September 2009

Notes on Affluent Parenting

The Price of Privilege by Madeline Levine, Ph.D. Definitely add this one to your must read list. So many good topics to discuss, but I will limit myself to just a few.

The author does a great job explaining the impact of materialism and how it relates to internal and external rewards for behavior. In a nutshell, we are a goal/object oriented society, but this may not make kids able to enjoy their successes. Getting good grades does not equal feeling a sense of pride at having worked hard to accomplish a goal you set for yourself. Affluent parents often judge their kids based on a society imposed rubric versus a true understanding of personal success. Combine this with a “material rewards for good work” system and you soon have kids who work only for said rewards, or only feel successful if they fit the mold created for their peers. The take home message: in our attempts to create a better, more enriched, life for our children (because we feel we have the resources to do so) we may be removing our kids’ internal validation system. Long forgotten is enjoying an activity just for the sake of liking it and the understanding that everyone will have strengths and weaknesses, but that is okay. You do not have to do the things at which you excel just because you have an aptitude, and on the flip side, making steady progress in areas in which you don’t excel is just as good as being perfect at said task.

The other concept that I found most interesting was the description of the three basic parenting methods. In quick summation:

Authoritarian Parents- “Do as you are told.” “Because I am the mom/that is what we do in this family.”
Permissive Parents- Parents are kids best friend, shy away from confrontation with kids, blame others for the failures of their kids.
Authoritative Parents- Warm and accepting while still comfortable setting guidelines and limits.

There are pros and cons of each approach, but the Authoritative method is generally regarded as the best. Dr. Levine then goes on to explain how to cultivate this kind of relationship with kids. The important idea seem to be that one actually has to listen to kids and let them try to figure things out on their own, yet feel confident enough to step in and set limits when needed. Concepts of how praise is not always the best reward and how to be appropriately involved and aware while not being intrusive, or helicopter-like, are also explored.

At the end of the day, raising kids is hard work. Money doesn’t make it easier, if only it did. While having read this book will not make me a perfect parent, I enjoyed the framework it suggested. Just because I can provide my children with anything they want doesn’t mean it is in their best interest to do so. No matter where you live, or how affluent you are, in order to raise well-adjusted adults, you have to cultivate the values that you feel are important, not your child’s resume and clothing collection. These ideas, and so much more, are so well explained by Dr. Levine that I really can’t do the book justice in this post, or probably a million posts, so give it a read.

Granted I am sure I will post some more about this since there is one other idea she poses that I think really deserves to be discussed…well make that two more points. Okay fine, I am enthralled by this book and will be writing additional posts on:

- the idea that having a stable relationship with your fellow caregivers is crucial to raising well-adjusted kids


- how the burden of most of this still falls on mothers and why.


Anonymous said...

You state that "in order to raise well-adjusted adults, you have to cultivate the values that you feel are important", but those parents who chase "resumes and clothing collections" ARE cultivating THEIR values ... values THEY feel ARE important. (i.e. materialism as a way of life). In other words, well-rounded parents generate well-rounded children; materialistic parents generate materialistic children; and selfish-arrogant parents generate ...

Alexis said...

That is an excellent point! Our current culture of materialism (in which I am often a participant, no doubt about it) means that these are "our" (in the universal sense, not to imply anything about specific readers) values. This insightful view points to a whole new perspective from which to look at one's family and just what values our actions might be teaching our kids. Good food for though...