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Parenting can be simply defined as the act of rearing a child. It is a complex activity that involves many specific aspects of behaviors that works independently and together influence the child’s growth. It plays an important role in the growth and development of a child. Parenting encompasses the growth ecology of a growing up child, and hence it is very important in shaping up the behavior of the child and in their physical survival, social growth, cognitive development, and emotional growth.
It has been shown that parents determine or influence their children’s growth by what they do, what they believe, what they communicate to the children, and through their interventions. Parenting does not only involve the genetic contribution that a parent makes to the child’s life but it covers how the parent influences the experience of the children by what they believe and how they act towards children or other people in the growth ecology. According to Bornstein (2006), parenting knowledge is vital in the evaluation of the child’s growth which determines guidance in shaping and correcting their behaviors. A parent who understands his/her child well is in a good position to influence the behavior of the child.
According to Mizuta, Zahn-Waxler, and Hiruma (1996), parenting style is determined by the level of communication between parents and children. Interpersonal communication is very important because it is the core value in any parenting style that is to be adopted by the parents. Communication determines the relationship between the parent and the child. Proper interpersonal communicating is important in passing to the children what is expected of them and informing them why they have to conform to what is expected. Poor communication leads to a poor relationship between the parents and their children. Interpersonal communication creates a personal feeling between parents and their children and effective communication breaks barriers to behavior change and conformity.
According to recent research on parenting by Michelle L. Kelley, Thomas Power, and Winata Hiroko (1992), parents in the united states put on more rules and expect their children to follow them than in Japan. It also reported that parents in the United States give children more input in their socialization process than in Japan. Instead of using punitive measures, parents in the United States responded to a child’s misbehavior with material or social consequences.
At an age of 3-5 years old, mothers in Japan showed fewer demands, were less nurturing, and were more likely to reprimand the child’s misbehavior with scolds. Japanese mothers were more likely to use physical punitive measures in cases where the child showed disrespectfulness to adult authority. The study revealed that in the United States, most mothers used authoritative, permissive, or authoritarian parenting styles while most Japanese mothers predominantly used indulgent and strict styles of parenting.
From the study, it appeared that the Japanese mothers were like to westernize the childrearing style with 25% of the Japanese mothers showing adaptation of the United States mothers’ child-rearing style of permissive or authoritative. Less than 5% of United States mothers showed adoption of the Japanese child-rearing style.
Parenting style in the two countries can be as a result of the living condition and the cultural aspect of the people. According to Denis Talih, et al., (2007), Japanese communities still holds many of their culture and respect for adults and authority is highly regarded. This may explain the strict parenting style of Japanese mothers. The United States on the other hand is a mixture of different cultures and the parenting styles as well could be the result of the interaction of different cultural aspects
According to human behavior scholars, many parenting theories can be used. Parenting theories are based on two indicators. The two indicators that define or determine the parenting style method are parental warmth and parental control. In recent times, the two indicators have come to be referred to as parental responsiveness and parental demandingness. Through effective communication, parents clearly explain to the children what kind of behavior they are expected to have. Communication improves or deteriorates the relationship between parents and their children. There are about four parenting theories that have been researched and put forward by scholars.
Parents have a low level of responsiveness but have a high level of control. Obedience is expected unquestionably. This style displays structured and stated rules with a high degree of psychological control on children, which are punishable if deterred. Children under this system exhibit low self-esteem, poor social skills due to poor interaction with others, and appear more depressed than other children.
Parents are more responsive and less demanding. They allow their children to self-regulation and do not press for mature behavior. It is a kind of democratic parenting. However, it is not effective as children sometimes do not know what is expected of them and many fall prey to peer pressure.
Parents are not demanding or responsive. It is somehow rejecting and neglectful kind of parenting.
This theory defines that parents have both high-level control and a high level of responsiveness but use non-punitive discipline measures. They are made to understand the rules and why they have to follow them. Children under this system are socially and instrumentally competent and show the lowest levels of depression and problem behaviors.
Authoritative parenting appears to produce socially stable children. It results in social competence in children with a low level of problem behavior in both sexes and at all the development stages. According to Nancy Darling (1999), authoritative parents appear to create a good balance in children’s conformity to laid down rules and integrates them well with their respect for the children’s individuality. Hence these children easily balance conformity and achievement demands and their much-needed policy of individuation and autonomy. This has been seen to be one of the best parenting styles. “Authoritative parenting, which balances clear, high parental demand with emotional responsiveness and recognition of child autonomy, is one of the most consistent family predictors of competence from early childhood through adolescence” (Barber, 1996). In this style, proactive parents help children learn the importance of being autonomous and successful in shaping their own lives. They also help the children become independent in decision making and gain value about work.
This theory of parenting puts into consideration the child’s growth needs and the hormonal changes taking place in their body and the need to conform to the existing rules which are for the benefit of the child. It advances parenting through loving guidance and the creation of firm boundaries of conformity. There is a discussion between parents and children and each listens to the other’s needs with parents offering necessary guidance but with flexibility. It is based upon interpersonal communication between parent and their children. This again shows the importance of creating an enabling atmosphere for effective communication in the house. The parent must show unconditional love to the child and love that is for the child’s benefit. When children know that they are loved, they tend to reciprocate that love with obedience and respect.
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The parenting style exhibits parenting using logic. Punitive measures for any wrongdoing will be a short-term resort to deter the child’s behavior. Parents should not protect their children when they have wronged and they should punish them. But corporal punishment without the necessary guidance will not change the child’s behavior. Parents should understand the emotional growth of their children. They should strive to fill the emotional tanks to stabilize them. Parting using mutual respect and listening goes a long way to help shape the child’s future. Parents should listen to their children and their demands. They should take their children seriously and should not dismiss them. Being authoritative means that the parent has some authority over the children and likewise children depend on the parent.
This theory can work in any cultural setup and any part of the world. Its popularity is due to the kind of children that are the result of being brought up in the system. According to the above research, this theory is widely used in the United States and a majority of Japanese mothers are adopting it as well. The fact that it emphasizes understanding between parents and children makes it more suitable to use especially in bringing up adolescents.
- Barber, B. K. (1996). Parental Psychological control: Revisiting a neglected construct: Child Development, 67(6), 3296-3319
- Bornstein M. H. (2006). Parenting Science in Practice: in Segel I. E., Renniger K. A., eds. Handbook of Child Psychology: Vol. 4. Child Psychology and Practice, 6th edition. New York: Willey and Sons
- Darling, N. (1999): Parenting style and its correlates. Eric Digest Champaign: Eric Clearinghouse on Elementary and Early Childhood Education, University of Illinois.
- Denis T. A., Talih, M., Cole, P. M., Zahn-Waxler, C., and Mixuta, I. (2007): The socialization of autonomy and relatedness: Sequential Verbal Exchanges in Japanese and U.S. Mother Preschooler dyads. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 38(6): 729-749
- Kelley, L. M., Power T. G., and Winata, H. K. (1992): Childrearing pattern in Japan and the United states; A cluster Analytic Study
- Mizuta, I., Zahn-Waxler, C., Cole, P. M., and Hiruma, N. (1996): A cross-cultural study of Preschoolers’ Attachment; Security and Sensitivity in Japanese and US Dyads. International Journal on Behavior Development, 19(1): 141-159