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"Universal"; parenting principles

(30 Posts)
Tom Tue 17-Jun-03 19:52:04

I've been asked to take part in a BBC World service series that starts with 6 parenting 'experts' discussing what are "universal" parenting principles in a studio - they then get a bunch of journos to go to different countries (I think theres' one in China, one in Africa etc) and spend a week with a family who are asked to put those principles into practice....

I wondered what the collective wisdom of mumsnet was - the principles have to apply universally - across class and cultures... not as easy at it might seem.

I'll kick off with an easy one...
To ensure the physical survival of the child through the provision of food and shelter, and where possible, to provide a diet that ensures the physical thriving of the children.

Any offers?

SoupDragon Tue 17-Jun-03 19:54:33

To give your child the skills to survive alone in the "outside world".

Serephina Tue 17-Jun-03 19:55:23

After physical needs, to satisfy emotional needs

Tom Tue 17-Jun-03 20:09:26

I like SoupDragons' one - but I think that needs to be developed...
Is it ... skills required to operate within the economy in order to materially provide for themselves?
Or... Skills such as cooking to enable themselves to eat?
Or... relationship skills so they can find a partner and friends...
Probably all of these.

"Satisfy emotional needs" - interesting idea - I guess parents are pretty much the sole source of emotional nourishment for the first few years, but how long does that last? Certainly isn't the case for teenagers...

aloha Tue 17-Jun-03 20:12:04

To respond to distress (particularly crying) with physical comforting - ie cuddling, rocking (esp babies and very young but also applicable to older children). To protect your child from harming itself through reckless activity (??) eg climbing high walls, going near rivers.

Tom Tue 17-Jun-03 20:34:43

I like that...
"To respond to distress with comfort"

SoupDragon Tue 17-Jun-03 20:38:54

I said "to survive" because each child has a different outside world to survive in. My sons will need to (say) gain a good education and the people skills necessary to get a good job. The child of an African farmer will need to know how to look after cows and plough fields. They both need their parents to teach them the skills to survive in the outside world, that is the universal parenting principle, but those skills will be different depending on what a particular child's outside world is.

Does that make sense??

Tom Tue 17-Jun-03 20:42:13

It does, and I think it's spot on - it's about preparing children for their culture/society/economy.

bossykate Tue 17-Jun-03 20:46:49

i agree. i sometimes think my entire role as a mother is to prepare my son to leave me...

Davros Tue 17-Jun-03 20:50:40

To be responsible and advocate for your child if they are unable to do it themselves or they cannot convey to you or anyone what they need and why.

aloha Tue 17-Jun-03 21:27:15

To teach your child about danger - cars in our case, poisonous snakes in others.

To help them learn to speak by talking to them and encouraging conversation.

To encourage kindness to those smalller and weaker then themselves - including animals.

To help them learn that aggression to their peers and family is unacceptable.


Any good? Would be very interested to know if these are indeed universal.

SofiaAmes Wed 18-Jun-03 00:36:53

Sorry guys, but I don't think a lot of what's been mentioned is universal accross the classes.

Just using my dh's ex's to illustrate examples. A "diet that ensures the physical thriving of the children" just doesn't come into it....they are only interested in giving the children stuff that "they will eat" even if it means a steady diet of coke, sweets and biscuits. I don't think either of them are thinking of their children's emotional needs, they are only thinking of their own. They aren't interested in the children learning skills for providing for themselves...they'd rather their kids join them in watching Eastenders than doing their homework and anyway the govt will provide for them. Cooking? Kids should be kids and not have to spend time cooking or picking up after themselves. Relationship skills..."if they look at you funny, swear at them and then punch them, that'll teach them."
It goes on and on.
The only points raised that seem to me to apply more or less accross classes are the two mentioned by Aloha about responding to distress and protecting from harm and the one mentioned by Tom of provision of food and shelter.
Fascinating subject.

sibble Wed 18-Jun-03 00:44:23

To teach your child to respect their environment

SoupDragon Wed 18-Jun-03 08:12:37

You could argue that responding to distress and protecting from harm aren't universal either. There are threads here about people not putting children in car seats and other potentially dangerous behaviours. Leaving babies in cars when shopping doesn't allow the parent to respond to distress either.

You could also argue that the Eastenders watching, "govt will provide" parents are equipping their children to survive in *their* world. They wouldn't survive in *my* version of the world though

"Relationship skills...'if they look at you funny, swear at them and then punch them, that'll teach them.' " Well, that's one sort of way of forming a relationship. Not a good one though...

I suspect you could negate most of the suggestions one way or another. There will always be exceptions.

Very interesting.

tigermoth Wed 18-Jun-03 08:16:28

Teaching your child that night is when you sleep, not day. To respect the fact that others want to sleep at night too. Very important this.

Showing them what's OK to eat and what is not - ie food that's gone off, poisonous things etc.

Or is this too basic?

fio2 Wed 18-Jun-03 09:01:52

good one tigermoth about the sleeping, you had a bad night too then?

Tom Wed 18-Jun-03 09:37:32

RE: SofiaAmes's point...
Of course, if you take "universal" to mean including what everyone everywhere actually does, then you wouldn't get anywhere. There are people who have killed their children, so even survival would fall down on that criteria.

Just to clarify - it is about establishing parenting principles of good practice that can be applied everywhere. Not parenting principles that are already applied everywhere. It's in the mode of a panel trying to establish principles for parents everywhere, if you see what I mean. Personally, I think using 'principles' as a method of parenting advice is in itself flawed, as circumstances and individuals are so unique that to accomodate them, principles have to have so generalised. I'd much rather advise on individual circumstances. But that's what they asked for...

suedonim Wed 18-Jun-03 09:46:21

The idea of teaching safety is a nonstarter in Indonesia. It simply isn't a concept they are aware of. Many times a day you will see children standing up in the front of cars, asleep on the back of a parents motorbike, working when they are four or five years old, playing with knives or fireworks or in the road. People here have very little sense of responsiblity for themselves. Responsibility is a society/community thing. If, despite society's efforts, an accident happens, it is regarded as god's will.

Tom Wed 18-Jun-03 09:50:45

Interesting - is it something that people would think is a silly idea, or is it something they wouild think is a good idea, but no one every gets together?

suedonim Wed 18-Jun-03 11:24:30

Not sure if that's addressed to me, Tom? I'll assume it is, lol! It's hard to describe the mindset here, it's so different to the UK. People don't really regard themselves as individuals. They are part of a family, then part of their local area, then the village. There are village 'chiefs' that guide daily life. Unlike people in the West, individuals don't like to be noticed as being different for any reason. 'Saving face' is a big, big thing. They will do anything to avoid being embarrassed or disappointing anyone. For eg, if you ask if this is the platform for the 10:00 train, they will always say 'yes', either to avoid having to admit they don't know, or to avoid disappointing you by saying no.

There is also the aspect that life is cheap. My DH has been working with aspects of H&S and it's incredibly hard work to get them to take on board ideas that we regard as the norm in the West. Death, too, isn't regarded as the disaster that we consider it, partly I think, because the family structure is so much stronger, as well as their religious faith. One of the drivers was widowed a while back. He took just the one day off, while he distributed his several children, including a newborn, to various family members, to be raised by them. It's quite an experience to live here, I must say, and a bit frustrating at times!

princesspeahead Wed 18-Jun-03 11:56:52

I agree with physical survival, also with preparing children for independent life, and would add that a fairly universal one is to teach children to communicate - again, the extent and manner to which this is done will vary across the world - speech, reading, music, body language etc - but I think all peoples teach their children to communicate

mmm Wed 18-Jun-03 12:35:05

Could being kind to oneself and to others (ie 'do as you would be done by' and learning limits to avoid destructive behaviour be universal principles ?

mmm Wed 18-Jun-03 12:35:56

That winky face happened by itself.

Tom Wed 18-Jun-03 13:42:42

Interesting - there have been claims in the past that all major religions and cultures teach a varient on 'the golden rule' - i.e do as you would be done by - perhaps that is the basis for a principle aout universal moral education...

sjs Wed 18-Jun-03 16:38:49

I think protection from danger is probably universal. But the "danger" would vary from culture to culture. In western countries - cars, strangers, etc. In other cultures perhaps evil spirits, animals etc. Suedonim your observations made me think of this. Is it in Inodonesia or somewhere else that they don't put babies on the ground for the first year or so of life because they believe there are bad spirits? (or maybe it was somewhere else ... my memory is terrible!) Also in Chinese culture, the mother and child stay at home for the first month (go nowhere) to protect the child. Both of these sound strange to western eyes but are about protecting your child.

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