I just read a Scientific American article called
‘Better parenting skills may break the poverty-disease connection’.
I think this is an amazing article about how important it is for children
to be in the presence of adults who are self-aware and self-regulating,
and who are aware of the importance of things like cuddling and speaking and reading to children.
I am all for that – in fact, that is the deepest essence of everything I teach:
that we must all become ‘Child Mind Protection Agents’ to help protect
the unlimited potential of children’s minds (and joy) by helping the adults in their presence
(including us) become more aware of our own fear-based behaviors,
and ‘social-emotional’ (NON-academic) skills that will help children thrive in today’s society.
We need more of this research to happen,
so that we can build more interventions and education to empower parents in those ways.
However, I felt compelled to write about what that article left out.
The article is about how the health of children who suffer
from economic hardship can be improved when their parents’ parenting skills improve.
I first just want to point out that the people who read scientific American
tend not to be the parents in the communities who suffer from economic hardship,
so that message will not reach them necessarily.
My hope – and I believe it’s likely echoed by the author, is how important it is
for the readers of Scientific American to know about how economic stress affects people
– and therefore feel inspired to do something about it.
That would be my greatest hope for articles like this.
We need more people who do have their basic needs met
(and therefore aren’t living in a constant state of toxic stress,
and have the time and mental energy to read these articles)
to think of new ways to use their talents
to find out how to get deep into the roots about
why poverty and inequality even exist in the first place.
… to not just think about the effects of poverty and inequality
– but why they’re there.
If we only talk about the effects, we can only react.
When we talk about the roots – the deepest roots –
we can find ways to prevent and innovate.
The piece that I believe needs to be added here…
when we constantly report on how ‘detrimental’ the parenting style is
of people living in poverty or harsh conditions, we leave out how important it is
for the parents of children who live in middle to upper class socioecnonomic classes
to teach their children (and to empower themselves) to care about others
who don’t have access to the same resources.
I’m not saying it doesn’t happen – it does, I know firsthand..
But I am saying that it’s important to mention it alongside the
talking about ‘bad parenting’ from economically stressed environments.
There is a ‘parenting style’ that is just as detrimental to the well-being of human society…
the ‘parenting style’ of:
“let’s just care about OUR tribe. As long as our exclusive family or community, or people ‘like us’ are ok,
we’ll turn a blind eye to what is going on around us.
Even worse, we’ll perpetuate prejudice and assumptions about other classes or types of people –
we’ll say ‘those parents are just not as good at parenting’.
Sure, we’ll acknowledge on a surface level that it’s because they’re stressed out about money –
but we won’t acknowledge the role we play, or the lack of awareness we have
that contributes to the uneven playing field.”
I believe the message of the article is important and loving.
I feel deeply supportive of what it is saying. This is not a ‘right/wrong’ issue…
it’s about adding more details to help empower as many people as possible.
AND… Let’s be careful about how we use the terms “better”. It denotes a superiority/inferiority mindset –
that can be dangerous, as it allows the people
who believe they are “better” at parenting to be off the hook
for looking to only better their own children’s chance at success,
rather than open themselves to all the millions of opportunities
they can create for them and their children to help alleviate the suffering of others,
and contribute to a just and equitable world.
Parenting skills that foster compassion,
awareness of the deepest roots of inequality,
and the desire to relieve the suffering of others
– even when they are different than what we are used to or comfortable with –
would also contribute to breaking the poverty-disease-connection.
Let me know what you think….