There isn’t one, obviously! But there are a lot of studies out there that claim that a lot of it depends on the children’s environment and education. But there are other cultures and communities that would claim that neither of them are that critical, so which is the correct answer? And how much does your culture effect the way you were brought up or are the way you are educating your children?.
One of the most familiar western theories on parenting is the importance of getting to know your child, and creating special customs, activities or rituals to give your children the opportunity to connect with their family members.
“It literally works out to about 5 percent of the time in a week,” explains Alan E. Kazdin, PhD, a Yale University psychology professor and director of the Yale Parenting Center and Child Conduct Clinic.
“The most effective time for a parent to create those special moments is when the child is doing something that she or he can be praised for, such as building with Legos or shooting baskets. During that time, parents should avoid teaching, inquiring, sharing alternative perspectives or offering corrections,” he explains.
This simple bounding activity can be as easy as cooking a meal together, playing a bit of lego, reading a story every night, doing the garden together etc. It’s also recommended to try and be as creative as possible with children, but it doesn’t really matter what that activity or ritual actually is, as long as both yourself and your child enjoy it and you stay away from making it an obvious educational moment for your child.
Another popular theory about being a good parent is the importance to be aware of your child’s development and encourage their curiosity as an essential part of how they learn, and grow. Parents that constantly say “no”, “don’t” tend to stop their children from exploring their senses, and are therefore too sheltered from the outside world claims American author Karen Stevens.
“Throughout childhood, an involved adult close by, who enthusiastically shares and responds to children’s delight in discovery is very important,” writes Karen Stevens in a research paper.
But another question I was curious about was how parenting was tied to our culture and the country we grow up in. In Norway for example, childhood is strongly institutionalised. Most children enter state-sponsored care at 1 year old, and enter school and organised activities earlier than most other countries. Norwegians also consider the open, fresh air as an essential part of their children’s education, and make their toddlers take their naps outside in their strollers, something that is solely practiced in their culture.
In Japan, children growing up in cities are very free to go on about their day without parental supervision. Children take the subways by themselves and go out with their friends without parental supervision.
Both the Japanese and the Norwegian cultures tend to focus on the importance of independence of children, and letting their children do their own things as early as possible, which is something that is less popular in the UK and the rest of Europe and America.
On a different note, American parents have been found to be highly focused on their children’s talents, and on grooming them for success, which can result in taking away from the child’s independence and freedom. Sara Harkness, a professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at the University of Connecticut found in her study that nearly 25% of American parents describe their children with adjectives such as “smart,” “gifted” or “advanced.”
This is not unlike Asian cultures, where parents are very much focused on their children’s academic success, where the parent’s role is to be a primary educator in front of any teachers or lecturers. But not all nations seem to be focused on this side of parenting, where as for example in Spain a lot of the studies on parenting show an important focus on social aspects of children developments. They push their children to spend time with family and put an emphasis on family traditions.
Overall, it’s hard to pinpoint the ideal way to educate and parent a child, especially when these depend strongly on your culture and place where you grow up. But could a mix of all these theories and important factors be key to being the ultimate best parent? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
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