Prof (Mrs.) Eunice Otl Omeregie
Dept. of Educational & Management, Ambrose Ali University, Ekpoma
This paper addressed parenting in a postmodern age. Parenting is discussed as a process that is geared towards promoting the physical, emotional, social and intellectual development of children right from infancy to adulthood. Four styles of parenting which account for decisions taken by parents formed the basis of comparison along factors of socio-economic class, age, sex. Classification of parents as either good or bad depended on decisions taken by them. A survey carried out among 500 parents in Edo state revealed that parents differed in their views of parenting, styles employed and challenges facing them. The respondents expressed themselves through a questionnaire titled “Parenting Styles and Challenges.” The sample was stratified into male (180) and female (320), old (390) and young (110), and high (190) and low socio-economic group (310). After a descriptive analysis, it was found among others that the two commonest styles practiced by parents were the permissive and the uninvolved. In areas of parental challenges, over 70 areas were listed. Among them were finance, influence of the social media, environmental influences, single parent-hood, insecurity and ‘insensitivity of either of the parents.’ The solution is responsible parenting at all levels.
Keywords: Parenting, postmodern age, challenges.
THE POSTMODERN AGE AND ITS PECULIARITIES
The idea of postmodern age implies that there was the pre-modern age and the modern. It is believed that Shorter (1975) may have been the first to describe the emerging postmodern family. The three important characteristics, he noted were: indifference of the adolescent to the family’s identity, instability in couples’ lives with its resultant rapidly increasing rate of divorce and destruction of the “nest” notion of nuclear family life and the liberation of women. There was also for Shorter (19750, the worry about the slight change then in child socialization, as there was a shift in mothers’ caring for their young children at home, to the use of paid providers due to the mothers increasing participation in the workplace. Therefore single parent, surrogate – mothers, gay and lesbian families with their resultant negative effect have become variants of the postmodern families. According to Shorter (1975) one of the products of the postmodern age is the influence of the postmodern age is the influence of the electronic media which not only reflects, but legitimizes family diversity.
In a related view, Ohare and Anderson (1991) conclude that the postmodern world describes a society that has lost faith in absolute truth, so that people choose what to believe. The common features of this world according to them are pluralism, consumerism, mobility and increasing access to news and entertainment. No wonder Gergen (1991) describes the postmodern family as a “saturated family” whose members feel their lives are scattering due to intensified busyness. Members are faced with different values, attitudes, and opinions, lifestyles, personalities, coupled with a multiplicity of relationships. The home therefore as viewed by these authors as failed to be a refuge of harmony, serenity and understanding, but one of confrontation between people of different ages and gender, based on personal ideologies and social affiliations.
The pre-modern world view developed during the time of the ancient temple state was one that stressed a close link between religion and political power. With this view, holders of power (e.g. Kings and others) were seen as God’s representatives. Therefore there was unquestioning acceptance of authority and belief in absolute truths. The people saw religion as a solution to life’s mysteries. The enlightenment of the eighteenth century, however witnessed the birth of the modern world view. Modernity was built on the pursuit of objectivity and the scientific, methods of acquiring truths. It was characterized then, by questioning of authority and tradition. The belief is that truth is based on fact, so modernity trusts in the power of reasoning. In a nutshell, modernity refers to that cultural condition characterized by constant change in the pursuit of progress, while postmodernity represents a culmination of the process where constant change is the status quo and the notion of progress is obsolete.
In a nutshell, features of the postmodern age include:
Dominance of television and popular culture.
The wide accessibility of information and mass communication.
Increasing focus on civil rights and equal opportunities.
Increase in movements such as feminism and multiculturalism.
Various forms of struggle against oppression or alienation, etc.
The interest in this paper is responsible parenting in the midst of peculiarities already discussed in the postmodernity.
Parenting simply defined is the process of promoting and supporting the physical, emotional, social and intellectual development of a child from infancy to adulthood (Martin, 2000). The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary defines parenting as the process of caring for a child or children. This care covers the four aspects of the child’s development as given by Martin (2000). It is however, the opinion of this author that there is a fifth angle in parenting which is the spiritual aspect that has to do with building the fear and love of God in the socialization process of the child. Therefore parenting describes the process of caring for children’s physical, spiritual, emotional, social and intellectual development of children until they get to a stage in adult life where they are relatively independent. The biological parents of a particular child are his most common caretakers. Others that may play parenting roles are older siblings, legal guardians, aunts, uncles, family friends and in some cases, other family members. Some children may receive parental care from orphanages or foster homes. In spite of the various types of caretakers who may be involved in the process, the aim of this paper is good parenting which can properly focus the child and immune him or her against the negative values of our society today.
FACTORS THAT AFFECT PARENTAL DECISIONS
Three factors that are capable of influencing parental decisions are:
Social class of the parents.
Cultural values. These values change as the society changes.
Parental investment gender bias.
The social class a child belongs to will to a large extent dictate the opportunities and resources that will be made available to him/her.
There is no uniform style of parenting. As already listed, some factors influence the method of parenting adopted by an individual. There are different parenting styles, but for the sake of this paper, four of them are discussed, namely the:
Indulgent or Permissive; and
AUTHORITATIVE PARENTING STYLE: This style is child centred. While authoritative parents encourage children to be independent, they however place limits on their actions. Mere children are allowed to explore freely and make decisions based on their reasoning. The purpose is to encourage the children to be independent and show high sense of maturity. This results when there are high parental demands. This style produces children who are independent and self-reliant; Parents who use this style do not only set standards for their children, but monitor the limits set while allowing the children to develop autonomy. They also expect behaviours that are mature and appropriate to the child’s age. While children’s misbehaviours are not punished arbitrarily, such punishments are done consistently in relationship with the offence. Since parents explain the motive for such punishments, children are more likely to respond to the punishments because they are seen as fair and reasonable. Therefore Stassen (2011) concludes that children of authoritative parents are more likely to be successful, more liked by those around them, generous and capable of self-determination. Such children are more likely to be highly responsible.
AUTHORITARIAN PARENTING: In this style, children are made to follow their parent’s directives with little or no explanation. The interest here is on obedience, so corporal punishment is the common choice of punishment. Another common feature is yelling by parents. This style requires low parental responsiveness and high parental demand. This style may produce children who have low social competence since the parents generally tell them what to do instead of allowing them make the choice for themselves. One effect on the children is that they tend to conform, be highly obedient, quiet and not very happy (Stassen 2011). They may suffer from rebellion and self-blame. In many cases once these children reach adolescence, rebellion becomes a common feature. In spite of the negative aspects of this style, there are evidences that some aspects of the style may be associated with positive outcome.
INDULGENT PARENTING STYLE: Here, the parent is responsive but not demanding. This style can also be called permissive, non-directive or lenient. It describes a style in which parents are very involved in caring for their children but place few demands or control on them (Santrock, 2007). Though such parents are very involved with their children, meeting their needs and wishes they do not require these children to regulate themselves or behave appropriately. These parents try to be friends with their children and do not play parental role. Children are allowed to make their decisions while parents only give them advice as friends would. While children are given whatever they want, parents only hope that the children would appreciate their accommodating style. At times, some of these parents over indulge their children as a way of compensating them for what they (parents) missed as children. So the children are given both the freedom and materials parents missed when growing up. Therefore, this style is lax with few punishments and rules. In addition the child’s expectations are very low and there is little discipline. Such children grow into adulthood not accustomed to aggression in others because of their inappropriate behavior. Research has shown that such children are immature and irresponsible. These children of permissive parents tend to be impulsive and as adolescents may be involved in misconducts such as drug abuse, cultism and prostitution among others. In few cases however, they may be emotionally secure, independent and willing to accept defeat. They may mature quickly and able to face life challenges without the help of others.
NEGLECTFUL PARENTING STYLE: Here the parent is neither responsive nor demanding. Other names for this style are uninvolved, detached, dismissive or hands-off. Generally the parents are not involved in the lives of their children, so they are low in warmth and control. This style of also implies this dismissal of the children’s emotion and opinions by parents. Thought the children’s basic needs are provided, parents are not supportive of their children’s emotions. Various reasons tend to account for such styles. These include parents prioritizing themselves, lack of encouragement on parts of parents, financial stresses, lack of support and addiction to drugs. The implication is that children of such parents develop the feeling that other aspects of their parents’ lives are more important than they are. Many of such children attempt to provide for themselves or stop depending on their parents to get a feeling of independence which may make them mature more than their years (Santrock 2007). The implication is that parents and their children are never on one page. The children become resentful of their parents. Children become withdrawn from social situations, which may negatively impact on future relationships in life. As adolescents, such persons may show patterns of truancy and delinquency. These children also lack external expression of love, so they try to get love from whatever sources they can (Wikipedia.com).
CHALLENGES OF PARENTING IN A POSTMODERN AGE
In addition to the already stated issues about the postmodern age is that postmodernism tend to reject or ignore ultimate standards since they do not believe in absolutes and facts. They accept conflicting ideas with no apparent need to reconcile them. The postmodern age is signified by many confusing situations. It portrays loss of right values and erosion of neigbourhoodness. It is a time where persons are more self-centred, so that actions carried out are geared towards self, tribe, political affiliation, not the common good.
One of the ways to redirect the nation for good is to resort to parents for good parenting technique. However, in meeting with this obligation, there seems to be apparent hindrances to parents in the bid of ensuring good upbringing of children. These challenges are:
Spiritual and Religious.
In the course of this paper, efforts have been made to attempt some definitions of the postmodern age and what it stands for. This is the contemporary time we are currently faced with. Parenting in the postmodern age is very challenging due to the several environmental issues children and other family members are exposed to. Hence, if all the struggles parents go through are for the sake of the future of their children, then they have no choice but to be responsible parents by meeting all the expectations already listed. The question this author is leaving with us today is: “who are parents actually struggling for at the expense of spending quality time with their children?”
Photo credit: anonymous.