A parenting practice is a specific behaviour that a parent uses in raising a child (Spera, 2005).
For example, a common parent practice intended to promote academic success is reading books to the child. Storytelling is an important parenting practice for children in many Indigenous American communities (Bolin, 2006).
Parenting practices reflect the cultural understanding of children (Day, 2013).
Parents in individualistic countries like Germany spend more time engaged in face-to-face interaction with babies and more time talking to the baby about the baby. Parents in more communal cultures, such as West African cultures, spend more time talking to the baby about other people, and more time with the baby facing outwards, so that the baby sees what the mother sees (Day, 2013).
Children develop skills at different rates as a result of differences in these culturally driven parenting practices (Keller et al., 2004).
Children in individualistic cultures learn to act independently and to recognise themselves in a mirror test at a younger age than children whose cultures promote communal values. However, these independent children learn self-regulation and cooperation later than children in communal cultures. In practice, this means that a child in an independent culture will happily play by themselves, but a child in a communal culture is more likely to follow their parents instruction to pick up their toys (Keller et al., 2004).
Children that grow up in communities with a collaborative orientation to social interaction, such as some Indigenous American communities, are also able to self-regulate and become very self-confident, while remaining involved in the community (Bolin, 2014).
In Kenya, Africa, many male parents are not encouraged to be involved in their children’s lives till they are about 12 years old.
Parenting skills are the guiding forces of a “good parent” to lead a child into a healthy adult, they influence on development, maintenance and cessation of children’s negative and positive behaviours. Parenting takes a lot of skill and patience and is constant work and growth. The cognitive potential, social skills, and behavioural functioning a child acquires during the early years are fundamentally dependent on the quality of their interactions with their parents.
Canadian Council on Learning says that children benefit most (avoids poor developmental outcomes) when their parents:
- Communicate truthfully about events or discussions that have happened, because authenticity from parents who explain and help their children to understand what happened and how they were involved, if they were, without giving defining rules will create a realistic aptitude within children’s growing psyche
- Stay consistent, as children need structure: parents that institute regular routines see benefits in their children’s behavioural pattern
- Utilise resources available to them, reaching out into the community and building a supportive social network
- Take more interest in their child’s educational and early development needs (e.g. play that enhances socialisation, autonomy, cohesion, calmness and trust)
- Keep an open communication and stay educated on what their child is seeing, learning and doing and how it is affecting them
(Canadian Council on Learning, 2007)
Parenting skills are often assumed to be self-evident or naturally present in parents. But those who come from a negative/vulnerable environment might tend to pass on what they suffered onto their families oppressed by their own experiences, those who have inaccurate beliefs or poorer understanding of developmental milestones only engage in the way they know which may result in problematic parenting. Parenting practices are at particular risk during marital transitions like separation, divorce and remarriage (Vuchinich, Bank and Patterson, 1992).
If children fail to adequately adjust to these changes, they would be at risk of negative outcomes for example increased rule breaking behaviour, problems with peer relationships and increased emotional difficulties (Chase-Lansdale, Cherlin and Kiernan, 1995; Hetherington, 1992; Zill, Morrison and Coiro, 1993; Bumpass, Sweet and Martin, 1990; Hetherington, Bridges and Insabella, 1998).
Urie Bronfenbrenner said on this matter that “Every kid needs one adult who is crazy about [them].” (Bronfenbrenner, 1985).
Virginia Satir emphasised on these views by stating “Parenting…the most complicated job in the world” (Satir, 1972, p.202-03).
Research classifies competence and skills required in parenting as follows:
- Parent-child relationship skills: quality time spend, positive communications and delighting affection.
- Encouraging desirable behaviour: praise and encouragement, non-verbal attention, facilitating engaging activities.
- Teaching skills and behaviours: being a good example, incidental teaching, benevolent communication of the skill with role playing and other methods, communicating logical incentives and consequences.
- Managing misbehaviour: establishing assertive ground rules/limit setting, directed discussion, providing clear and calm instructions, communicate and enforce appropriate consequences for problem behaviour, using restrictive means like quiet time and time out with authoritative stance and not authoritarian.
- Anticipating and planning: advanced planning and preparation for readying the child for challenges, finding out engaging and age appropriate developmental activities, preparing token economy for self-management practice with guidance, holding follow up discussions, identifying possible negative developmental trajectories.
- Self-regulation skills: Monitoring behaviours (own and children’s), setting developmentally appropriate goals, evaluating strengths and weaknesses and setting practice tasks for skills improvement, monitoring and preventing internalising and externalising behaviours, setting personal goals for positive change.
- Mood and coping skills: reframing and discouraging unhelpful thoughts (diversions, goal orientation and mindfulness), stress and tension management (for self and in the house), developing personal coping statements and plans for high risk situations, developing mutual respect and consideration between members of the family, positive involvement: engaging in support and strength oriented collaborative activities/rituals for enhancing interpersonal relationships.
- Partner support skills: improving personal communication, giving and receiving constructive feedback and support, avoiding negative family interaction styles, supporting and finding hope in problems for adaptation, collaborative or leading/navigate problem solving, promoting relationship happiness and cordiality.
Consistency is considered as the “backbone” of positive parenting skills and “overprotection” as the weakness (Cutts, 1952, p.7).
Parents around the world want what they believe is best for their children. However, parents in different cultures have different ideas of what is best (Day, 2013).
For example, parents in a hunter–gatherer society or surviving through subsistence agriculture are likely to promote practical survival skills from a young age. Many such cultures begin teaching babies to use sharp tools, including knives, before their first birthdays (Day, 2013).
This is seen in communities where children have a considerate amount of autonomy at a younger age and are given the opportunity to become skilled in tasks that are sometimes classified as adult work by other cultures (Rogoff, 2003).
In some Indigenous American communities, child work provides children the opportunity to learn cultural values of collaborative participation and prosocial behaviour through observation and participation alongside adults (Bolin, 2006).
These communities value respect, participation in the community, and non-interference. The practice of non-interference is an important value in Cherokee culture. It requires that one respects the autonomy of others in the community by not interfering in their decision making by giving unsolicited advice (Thomas, 1958).
Indigenous American parents often try to encourage curiosity in their children. Many use a permissive parenting style that enables the child to explore and learn through observation of the world around it (Bolin, 2014).
Differences in values cause parents to interpret different actions in different ways (Day, 2013).
In some cultures, asking questions is seen by many European American parents as a sign that the child is smart. Italian parents value social and emotional abilities and having an even temperament. They also value social and emotional competence, and believe that asking questions is a sign that the child has good interpersonal skills (Day, 2013).
Conversely, Dutch parents value independence, long attention spans, and predictable schedules, so they view asking questions negatively and as a sign that the child is not independent (Day, 2013).
The values cultures praise can be more broad than just about a specific topic such as asking questions.
American parents strongly value intellectual ability, especially in a narrow “book learning” sense (Day, 2013). Hispanic parents, on the other hand, value respect as a behavioural goal. Along with this, they believe in the idea of putting family above the individual, and emphasise the values of the catholic church (Roosa et al., 2012; Day, 2013).
The Kipsigis people of Kenya value children who are not only smart, but who employ that intelligence in a responsible and helpful way, which they call ng/om (Day, 2013).
Other cultures, such as Sweden and Spain, value more personal values such as being sociable, having security, and happiness (Day, 2013).
Parents in East Asia come from a culture that values nurturing and governance within families; this is called “guan” [gw-an]. They believe that good parenting comes from order within a household. Even with this value, the concept of psychological control is also more common in this area than anywhere else (Doan, 2017).
Differences in values can also cause parents to employ different tools to promote their values. Many European American parents expect specially purchased educational toys to improve their children’s intelligence (Day, 2013).
Some Spanish parents promote social skills by taking their children out for daily walks around the neighborhood (Day, 2013).
Games can be used out of school to help reinforce ideas learned in school like looking at a map and playing geography games, downloading educational game software for a computer at home to learn reading, typing, science and math. Games like Wii Fit have even been used to help with patients receiving rehabilitation for knee surgery (de Freitas, 2018).
Allowing kids time to play video games can help their learning because through video games kids learn memory, hand eye hand eye coordination and visual acuteness. Piaget believed in the “importance of play in learning”. This learning can be done both at home and in schools (de Freitas, 2018).
Some good educational tools in schools today include online games like Kahoot!, BINGO, language apps like Duolingo, math apps like Sushi Monster and using card games to do addition, subtraction and multiplication (Burns, 2014).
Some schools even use Minecraft for tinkering. Educational games have been proven to have a positive effect on students. Improved learning in educational games include but are not limited to: improved hand eye coordination, memory ability and visual acuteness (de Freitas, 2018).
Educational games are linked to technology and many of the games listed above require a device to download the app or computer software. Some of the games only need access to the internet to be played. This play through learning is a great way to keep students engaged and having fun while learning their math facts or work in other subjects (Burns, 2014).
As well, a recent study in the UK performed an experiment in hopes of researching if there is a correlation between the use of touch screen devices and brain development in children from ages 6 months to 36 months. In the study they found that the act of scrolling on screens aids with fine motor skills such as stacking blocks. Other skills such as under gross motor or language categories had a much less significant effect (Smith et al., 2016).
Indigenous American Cultures
It is common for parents in many Indigenous American communities to use different tools in parenting such as storytelling—like myths, consejos (Spanish for advice, in this context), educational teasing, non-verbal communication and observational learning to teach their children important values and life lessons.
Storytelling is a way for Indigenous American children to learn about their identity, community and cultural history. Indigenous myths and folklore often personify animals and objects, reaffirming the belief that everything possesses a soul and must be respected. These stories help preserve language and are used to reflect certain values or cultural histories (Archibald, 2008).
Consejos are a narrative form of advice giving that provides the recipient with maximum autonomy in the situation as a result of their indirect teaching style. Rather than directly informing the child what they should do, the parent instead might tell a story of a similar situation or scenario. The character in the story is used to help the child see what the implications of their decision may be, without directly making the decision for them. This teaches the child to be decisive and independent, while still providing some guidance (Delgado-Gaitan, 1994).
The playful form of teasing is a parenting method used in some Indigenous American communities to keep children out of danger and guide their behaviour. This form of teasing utilises stories, fabrications or empty threats to guide children in making safe, intelligent decisions. It can teach children values by establishing expectations and encouraging the child to meet them via playful jokes and/or idle threats. For example, a parent may tell a child that there is a monster that jumps on children’s backs if they walk alone at night. This explanation can help keep the child safe because instilling that alarm creates greater awareness and lessens the likelihood that they will wander alone into trouble (Brown, 2002).
In Navajo families, a child’s development is partly focused on the importance of “respect” for all things as part of the child’s moral and human development. “Respect” in this sense is an emphasis of recognising the significance of and understanding for one’s relationship with other things and people in the world. Non-verbal communication is much of the way that children learn about such “respect” from parents and other family members (Chisholm, 1996).
For example, in a Navajo parenting tool using non-verbal communication, children are initiated at an early age into the practice of an early morning run through any weather condition. This form of guidance fosters “respect” not only for the child’s family members but also to the community as a whole. On this run, the community uses humour and laughter with each other, without directly including the child—who may not wish to get up early and run—to promote the child’s motivation to participate and become an active member of the community (Chisholm, 1996).
To modify children’s behaviour in a non-verbal manner, parents also promote inclusion in the morning runs by placing their child in the snow and having them stay longer if they protest; this is done within a context of warmth, laughter and community, to help incorporate the child into the practice (Chisholm, 1996).
A tool parents use in Indigenous American cultures is to incorporate children into everyday life, including adult activities, to pass on the parent’s knowledge by allowing the child to learn through observation. This practice is known as LOPI, Learning by Observing and Pitching In, where children are integrated into all types of mature daily activities and encouraged to observe and contribute in the community. This inclusion as a parenting tool promotes both community participation and learning (Paradise and Rogoff, 2009).
In some Mayan communities, young girls are not permitted around the hearth for an extended period of time since corn is sacred. Despite this being an exception to the more common Indigenous American practice of integrating children into all adult activities, including cooking, it is a strong example of observational learning. These Mayan girls can only see their mothers making tortillas in small bits at a time, they will then go and practice the movements their mother used on other objects, such as the example of kneading thin pieces of plastic like a tortilla. From this practice, when a girl comes of age, she is able to sit down and make tortillas without any explicit verbal instruction as a result of her observational learning (Gaskins and Paradise, 2010).