Jagroop Singh

Professor Alvarez

English 110

22 November 2010

Combined Child Rearing: My Life Experience

THE BEGINNING

Most of us live our lives not noticing the things around us and how they affect us. But after reading through Annette Lareau’s Unequal Childhoods we begin to really breakdown our past and begin to realize the many factors and elements from our past that shape the person that we are today. Lareau’s book divides childrearing into two simple methods concerted cultivation and natural growth. Whereas the concerted cultivation method brings up a child to be strong, confident, and independent. And where natural growth leads a child to grow up and raise themselves which makes them dependent on authority with a sense of confinement. But the outcomes of these methods present themselves in the future of the individual’s social lives.

In chapter three of Unequal Childhoods, we meet the character Garrett Tallinger. Born to a middleclass family and raised through the childrearing process of concerted cultivation, Garrett partakes in a variety of different activities. And like a majority of households in the nation, Garrett also has a sibling, a younger brother. But even though concerted cultivation does have its advantages, we also fail to see the many flaws with this method, like sibling rivalry and competition. Particularly in this situation the problem seems that even though Garrett’s parents have invested a lot in Garrett, they have over looked his younger brother, Sam who like any other child seeks their parents’ attention. And in this case it seems that Sam’s not exactly happy with this decision, clearly shown in his tantrums, cries, pouting, and constant lack of interest in the activates Garrett participates in, during the said time.(54). This can be clearly seen when Sam, driven to Garrett’s practices and games, plays and wanders for half an hour but then gets impatient. His behavior can reach a point where he gets so unhappy that he falls apart and it affects all the members of the Tallinger family. “The organization of middle-class family around individual children’s activities shapes the experience of all family members, including siblings who are not themselves involved in a given activity.” (53-54). Relatively speaking this states that the activities of one child will ultimately affect the other member’s of the family’s life. For example, at the ripe old age of 5, my father decided to enroll my big brother to a special tutoring program which would help him improve his academic skills. But somewhere along the line this affected me in the long run. Because when I would get picked up by my dad from kindergarten, then he would take me and go wait at my brother’s school for him to finish, where I would act the same way as Sam did going to Garrett’s games. Ultimately this would affect every single person in my immediate family because first, my bro would gain academic skills and learn to manage his time and focus, while pestered by my consistent whining. Second, my parents would have to change there schedule in order for it to balance out with my brothers and my schedule, and then deal with the problems I would cause. And third this single activity would not only isolate us two brothers but it would also take away the attention of my parents away from me, a huge element in the lives of young children. Simply put this activity made life for my family worse and in fact accomplished the opposite goal of concerted cultivation. And because of that personally I see concerted cultivation as over rated.

BASIC CONCEPT OF NATURAL GROWTH

In chapter four of Unequal Childhoods Annette Lareau illustrates child rearing, through the process of natural growth. Unlike Garrett Tallinger, Tyrec Taylor lives in a working class family whose parent can’t afford to invest in Tyrec like most middle to upper-class households would. This leads Tyrec to live his life by his own agenda and pace, where he gets to decide what he will do, when, and where. Ultimately where as a concerted cultivated child would have three to four activities planned daily or in the weekend, Tyrec’s family would be excited and planning for even a single event or activity talking place. More over kids such as Tyrec don’t learn the same basic rules and principles of society that a middle-class kid would learn. A normal day in the life of a natural growth kid would consist of one to two activities with no planning or prioritizing. Also a family which practices natural growth seems likely to be more individualistic. Meaning that any activity one member might do will not affect the other. Tyrec going out to play will not interfere with Mrs. Taylor’s work, or with Tyrec’s sibling’s activities. Lareau writes “Working class and poor families organize their time differently from middle-class families. Children’s organized activities do not set the pace of life”. (72-73). To put this in simpler terms would say that in Tyrec’s household each member runs on their own agenda which in no way shape or form predicts the pace of another family member. This directly correlates to not only my life but the lives of millions of other people. For example I come from a working class family, naturally having been raised up by the natural growth method of childrearing.

As a young kid my parents both became very hard working people just like a majority of other working class parents, holding down two jobs or full time jobs to survive. In the process this left my brother and me to fend and raise ourselves. Coming from a working class family, my father and mother had to deal with the disadvantages of being immigrants. Because of that I learned how to fend for myself, take care of myself, and how to live. I would go out to play at the playground, bored or alone and when I had nothing to do I would start to “wing” things. Meaning that I would do whatever came to mind. Since I have an older brother I spent a majority of my childhood with him. We both watched each others’ backs and tried our best to decode the ever-growing outside world. As opposed to discipline through lectures, speeches, and timeouts I would get my ass beat. Every time I would make a mistake or do something in appropriate I would get a belt, hanger, shoe, or a two-by-four across the back. But even though all of this occurred my parents never had a hand in what I did or how I did it. My life never determined the pace of their life or even change their life and schedule. Basically this quote illustrate the setup of a middle class and working class family environment, so different and unique that in one family the actions of one member of the family will determine the outcome for the whole family. As opposed to the working class where each member can lead separate and somewhat satisfying lives which will have no impact on how their kin will live their life.

Now let’s put the mass stereotype, that portrays wealthier middle class and upper class children to be the type of kids who take their rights and position for granted, in to perspective. Children usually seem to misunderstand between “privilege” and “rights”, having a sense of entitlement. Mrs. Tallinger mentions two different ways that a child can feel after experiencing an activity. The first as a hero, where you squeeze out the entire satisfaction you can and take it all in. or you can feel like a goat who practically becomes the loser who in essence finds out who their real friends are. Mrs. Tallinger goes on to say that through various planned activities, a young child at the age of nine or ten can mature faster and can play a much more active role in their own life. For example, “children who play on organized teams develop the ability to perform in public, in front of adults, including strangers” (61). A child exposed to said activities gradually improves their real-life skills through performance-based assessments in routinely life. “Middle –class children may take for granted their “right” to be involved in various activities. Their parents, though, remain conscious of the advantages such participation brings to their children” (60). Simply put a child will never appreciate thing at an unripe age. But as they grow and develop they will see the value of activities and the significant role it plays in their life, much like their parents do. But in contrast a mother and father will always see, rather think of, the important and positive impact of active involvement.

Growing up I knew that I wouldn’t exactly participate in a sports team or have rich parents who could afford to invest in me. So I would take to the playground and round up kids to play sports. But at age 13, my parents decided to put me in a minor league sports team. Having the background I did I jumped at the opportunity and became as participant as possible. Soon I got to the point where I took the team for granted saying that it wasn’t important and that basically that there is no “I in Team”. Then a few years later when my parents again forced me to join my high school football team I tried to treat it the way I did my previous team but failed miserably. As I had matured over the years, I realized that when in a team a person must learn to become a part of that team, and the team must learn that all actions reflect on the whole team not just one single person. When I talked to my parents about it they looked at me and told me that even though it took a while I finally understood the true reason they had urged me to participate in to sports at a young age. Going back to the original Lareau quote one can see how it relates to actual life. Where in concerted cultivation even though a child may be unappreciative and take things for granted, the parents stay smart enough to know that later in life the child will understand and benefit greatly from their experiences.

INSIDE THE PARENTS MIND

Children in middle class families tend to have a predetermined schedule of tasks that will keep them preoccupied throughout their leisure time. Thus limiting their creativity and capping the growth of these kids in that direction. On the other hand working class and poor families have parents who do not get very involved in their kid’s life leading them to “show more creativity, spontaneity, enjoyment, and initiative” (83). Though the parents pay minimal attention to these kids, that doesn’t mean they do not care, it simply means that they believe they have no obligation too, and have an obligation to get them fed, clothed, schooled, etc. Ultimately they feel the children should be exposed to these natural occurring experiences. The difference in this issue between a middle class family and a working/poor class family seems that middle class parents see it not as an investment of money on the child but as a privilege to be able to invest time in the child.

Whereas middle/poor class parents see it more as an obligation to be a part of their kids life and the hardest part is to make time for it. “The lack of adult attention and involvement in their activities leaves children in working class and poor homes free to concentrate on pleasing themselves” (83). In my much younger years, my parents both full time workers, I pretty much planned out my whole life. I decide to involve my self with activates that kept me entertained but at the same time simulated all my initiative skills. Meaning that because my relationship with my parents wasn’t one where they were involved twenty-four-seven I had to pick and choose things where I had to be creative to enjoy it. Things like playing with sticks and stones would become baseball, and grabbing a beach ball and using the side walk would become volleyball. All that gave me an initiative to be a much more interesting and live person as opposed to a puppet.

MY CHILDHOOD

When I asked my parents how they raised me, they had a very funny story to tell me. At first it started out as a joke because they didn’t know that this was crucial information for my work but they are very carefree and elusive, so they tried to avoid the conversation. But I did manage to weasel out some very important things about how they raised me. According to my parents, our family was not financially stable. We lived in Anaheim, California where my father worked as a clerk at a convenience store and decided to move to Queens, New York. Here he drove a taxi and tried to make ends meet at home, while my mother looked after me and my brother. Easy to see, my brother and I were never really invested in when it came to extracurricular activities. But when my father did manage to earn a little extra cash, he spent it mostly on my older brother in things like private tutoring and such. But as a kid I didn’t really understand the whole situation so I lived at my own pace, doing things that pleased me and kept me entertained. According to my mother, since my father was working full time and my mom did all the house chores she usually left me and my brother to play by ourselves or with the neighbor’s kids since she couldn’t spend too much time on us, because if she did she wouldn’t be able to finish her work which would interfere with more significant factors of our daily life. “When you were small, you were extremely active and we couldn’t always provide you with everything but we tried our best and managed to raise a fine young man” (Kaur). When I interviewed my mother she kept getting emotional and kept saying how she tried their best. She would repeatedly mention that every single moment she and my dad had to themselves they chose to spend on my brother and I. Now because I have this type of background it directly interferes with Lareau’s theory. Since I don’t fall into either category, it seems that I happen to fall in the middle where most other immigrant families and other ethnic groups fall into. This is the category in which the parents care about their child and also try their best to play an active role in their child’s life. But because they are limited in doing so because of their financial status, jobs, or specific issues, does not mean that they are using a natural growth method of childrearing but in fact are using a combination of both concerted cultivation and natural growth. This also applies to my childhood, due to the fact that although my parents were working class, they managed to have planned actives for me but at the same time allowed me to grow on my own where I planned for my self and kept myself busy. And because of that it seems as though I have adopted the benefits to both methods of childrearing. Such as a sense of independence, entitlement, reasoning with authority, ability to distribute my time efficiently, etc. All in all my point here is to show that there are many ways to raise children, not just the black and white sides which Lareau shows.

The way I was raised seems to emanate from the way my parents were raised. Basically meaning that my parents came from working class and low class families, and the way they raised me is based on how their parents raised them. For example my mother stated that she was from a working class family with little wealth and had to work her entire life just so here whole family could survive all ten of them. She mentions that her parents couldn’t be involved in her life all too much for various reasons, all of them relating to the natural growth method of child rearing. “My parents never really played an active part in my life for many reasons:

    • they never had much time to themselves
    • we always had to put family needs before individual needs
    • Poverty stricken families don’t have the luxury of leisure and money” (Kaur).

Aside from the obvious reasons my mother’s childhood shows why it’s harder for low class and middle class parents to play and active role in their Childs lives. Mainly, and in my mother’s case, it was the decision made by her parents’ to choose family over individual needs. Not only that, but because of the amount of work and labor each member had to put in to the family effort left very little to no leisure time and in case that there was it would be filled with school work.

The way concerted cultivation works in most cases is when the parents work and bring home a fairly large income to support to child. Then they must allocate enough free time to spend with their child which will allow them to notice things their child has potential in and from there expand that in to a talent through various activities. But notice how the factors of life change in this case. First the income must be high, second the parent must have time to invest in their child, and third the parent must be willing to sacrifice both time and money to expand the Child’s talent. All of which are rarely ever available to the low and working class families. But in the case that they are exposed to opportunities such as these most of the parent’s would rather choose to invest it in the overall being of the family instead of the child. Not because they do not view their child as inferior or unimportant but when they weigh the pro’s of investment on the child to the pro’s of investment on the family. The advantages that investing on the family seem to be a lot better in the long run where parents think they will be able to provide better for their child. For example, when my father moved to NYC he worked for several years as a 7/11 manager and managed to save up around $5000. Now at that time he could have invested in me and my brother but instead he invested it on buying his own taxi. And in this specific case, my dad’s investment paid off. Because he bought that taxi he managed to make millions in the past thirty years and now can afford to invest in my brother and me with things like college education and such. So in simpler terms it isn’t always the status of a family that determines the way a child is raised but more of how the parents seem opportunities and choose to invest overall.

CONCLUSION

Everything that happens impacts our life in one way or another. Looking at both methods I believe that either strategy is a very positive way of raising a child. Through concerted cultivation a parent can literally mold the type of person the child will become and give them an advantage in certain social environments. And through natural growth a child can learn how to tackle the world at a young age and “learn the tricks of the trade” which can give that person an advantage in many situations. But when compared to my own upbringing I noticed many flaws in Lareau’s theory. One thing I noticed was that Lareau used a very extreme example. Either the families she used where extremely poor or moderately wealthy. And she forgot to mention the families which used both methods of childrearing like I was. Either way children still have a hand in their own upbringing, because children still have free will and aren’t robots. But after reading the book I am grateful for who I am and how I turned out to be. And finally understand what things affect a persons persona.

Work Cited

Lareau, Annette. Unequal Childhoods: Class, Race, and Family Life. Berkeley: U of.  California P, 2003. Print.

Kaur, Davinder. Personal interview. 25 November. 2010.

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