Who is to say what makes good parents?
Annette Lareau, a sociology professor from the University of Maryland, has followed families around, sitting in their kitchens, in the back of their cars, watching parents and siblings interact, and she has come up with some amazing conclusions. While middle class kids race from activity to activity and can be whiny and demanding of their parents, lower class kids never seem to whine and are content to entertain themselves at home. The lower class kids seem more carefree and happy.
In a middle class family there is more talk. Parents explain and negotiate with their kids. Lower class parents are more likely to offer short, autocratic responses when a child asks for something.
And that's where the big difference lies. Middle class kids grow up learning to articulate their needs and wants and from that learn how to operate in institutions and with adults. They can look people in the eye and present themselves in ways that get them ahead. The lower class kids feel more at sea as they get older, and are at a disadvantage without the verbal skills the world expects of them.
David Brooks writes at greater length about Annette Lareau's book "Unequal Childhoods" in the New York Times today. Here's the link .
And to think, maybe the whining that goes on in my house isn't so bad after all. Naw. I'm not willing to go along with that. How about having both? Happy carefree youngins and take-charge articulate young adults down the road. I wonder what Annette would have to say about that.