Parenting styles

So far, I see three competing “parenting philosophies” that are popular around these parts.

First is the style I will call “mainstream”. As examples of this style, I will take Dr. Karp and Dr. Mindell. That style is based on getting the children to behave appropriately within the family. Karp’s specialty is calming down babies, Mindell’s is getting them to sleep well. This style approaches babies somewhat “behavioristically” — it revolves around sending in the right inputs to achieve the desired results.

Then there is attachment parenting, as shown in the Sears baby books. This style revolves around an 18 year long pregnancy, in essence. Babywearing, home-schooling and nursing the baby whenever they want to be nursed.

The last style is NVC parenting, based on Magda Gerber’s teaching (and also shown in “How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk”). This style revolves around the metaphor of a relationship with the baby — essentially, welcoming them as a member of the family with their own responsibilities and needs.

It is easy to confuse attachment parenting and NVC parenting. The easiest way to tell them apart is to see how they treat crying. Attachment parenting sees itself as a solution to crying babie. In NVC parenting, crying is accepted as a valid form of communication, and there is no attempt to stop the crying — but to understand the crying, validate it and respond to underlying needs if possible.

Because of obvious ethical concerns, it is hard to do randomized intervention to determine which method leads to good results. However, based on studies like  “Decomposing the Genetic Variable in Income: The Role of Cognitive and Noncognitive Skill,” MIT Working Paper, 2010 and “What Do Twin Studies Reveal About the Economic Returns to Education?” The American Economic Review, Vol 85, No. 3, it seems like parenting has little effect on lifetime income (which is at least a reasonable proxy measure for “life success”). This means parenting should not optimize for life success, but for happy family life throughout childhood. So that would mean, do the behaviorist thing at the beginning, and then less and less in favor of the NVC style as the preferences of the child become more and more salient.

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One Response to Parenting styles

  1. Ken says:

    “…, it seems like parenting has little effect on lifetime income (which is at least a reasonable proxy measure for “life success”).”

    Wow. About all I can say here is that I couldn’t disagree more with this statement. To say that “lifetime income” measures “life success” says something about our culture that I hope isn’t true.

    By that standard, those who dedicate their lives to more altruistic concerns are failures – a conclusion I cannot accept.

    I would _hope_ that your goals for “good parenting” consist of raising your child to be a productive member of society, not just one who seeks to acquire material goods. The measure then would be “how many people have I helped” more than “how much money have I made.”

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