Summary: In her book, Unequal Childhoods, Annette Lareau describes two child-rearing strategies. Concerted cultivation (where parents actively foster and assess the child’s talents, opinions, and skills) is more commonly practiced by middle-class families and the accomplishment of natural growth (where parents care for their children and allow them to grow naturally) is more typical of working class and poor families (the differences are illustrated in our previous post). While concerted cultivation is the child-rearing strategy that is more likely to instil skills and dispositions in children that enable them to succeed in the professional workplace, Lareau argues that both strategies have their advantages and disadvantages. This news clip illustrates the style of concerted cultivation, emphasizes its drawbacks, and describes a movement reacting against it. Concerted cultivation is demonstrated by children in the video who discuss strenuous daily schedules, which is motivated by parents who want their children to compete for their place in the world and excel at everything. It emphasizes the disadvantages of this child-rearing strategy with the children experiencing high levels of stress and anxiety, noting that this form of "parenting becomes a cross between a competitive sport and product development." The majority of the clip discusses Slow Parenting (also called free range parenting), a movement of parenting that reacts against these pressures. It features commentary from Carl Honoré, whose books Under Pressure and In Praise of Slow, encourage parents to slow down. He describes the strategy and its merits this way: "Slow parenting is about bringing the balance back; it's about giving children the time and space to explore the world on their own terms, at their own pace, to make mistakes and learn from them--to get bored even so that they can learn how to create ... and work out who they are rather than who we want them to be." The clip goes on to interview parents who have practiced an extreme form of this (e.g. allowing their 8-year old to travel alone on the subway) and have been criticized by people for being irresponsible. A second function of the clip is to show a cultural practice that could lessen inequality between middle-class and working-class parents. If slow parenting (which more closely resembles the accomplishment of natural growth strategy) were encouraged among middle-class families, it might help to diminish the privileges conferred upon middle-class children while improving their quality of life.
Submitted By: Paul Dean