Nurturance In Families (page 2)
Generally, nurturance means providing the basic necessities of life for children, but in a wider sense, it denotes general support, love, and cultivation for the growing child. In other words, nurturance is “parenting.”
Few adults are actually trained for nurturing roles, but our society expects certain minimums of support and effectiveness from parents as they rear children. The assumption is that nurturance, in its general and wider sense, has been modeled by preceding generations and is refined by an individual’s experience and participation in society. The range of nurturing competence in U.S. homes, however, is wide, indeed.
Range of Child Rearing
The nurturer accepts responsibilities not only for giving children basic physiological care, guidance, and love, but also for stimulating a child’s investigations of the world and monitoring the child’s social relationships with others. The nurturing parent is one who is grounded in humane practice and who has a vision of what children can become. Traditionally, this role has been filled by mothers and fathers; however, other loving adults, such as grandparents, older siblings, and foster parents can, and do, assume the responsibilities of parenting.
Some aspects of parenting may be instinctual, but the most effective nurturers have certain characteristics in common, such as motivation to be with children and knowledge about how to care for them. Health and a sense of well-being, empathy, predictability, responsiveness, and emotional availability have also been identified as traits that enhance parent effectiveness (Bornstein, 2001). On the other hand, certain traits like self-centeredness, depression, and drug or alcohol abuse can affect parenting adversely and may lead to abuse or neglect of children.
Abusive behavior in families moves parenting toward the antithesis of nurturing. Although few parents are so disordered in outlook as to carry out destructive acts with children, a significant number suffer lapses in judgment and vision that result in psychological and physical abuse or indifferent care practices and neglect. Even families with less desirable child-rearing habits frequently have positive qualities, however, and through education, counseling, and support, they can learn to modify detrimental practices.
In spite of highly publicized accounts of dysfunctional family situations, the norm in all communities is that parents are nurturing and concerned for the welfare of their youngsters. Consequently, this text does not focus on the pathologies that accompany abuse and indifference; rather, we have chosen to consider the range of positive nurturance that is featured in the great majority of U.S. families.
Because of the cultural diversity that exists in the United States, communities and schools will serve children who have been reared with various nurturing practices. All families are linked to particular cultural groups, and each group will possess unique values and mores that individual families will follow to a greater or lesser extent. In a community with two or more cultural groups, we find somewhat different viewpoints and probably different practices. Just because a community contains different cultural groups, however, does not mean that antagonism is present. On the contrary, quite different child-raising patterns can easily coexist and interact positively. Cross-cultural exchange might even help families solve child-rearing problems.
Features of Positive Nurturance
Maslow (1970) provided a paradigm that shows, in ascending fashion, the scale of human needs.
Addressing Physiological Needs
Food, warmth, and shelter are bare necessities for survival, and all parents provide them, except in rare cases, when families are caught in physical distress, dislocation, or mental illness. In spite of positive intentions, some financially stressed families find providing these basics difficult. Cold or hungry children cannot respond to any educational program. At the same time, unhealthy living climates can lead to reduced functioning, and improper food choices can lead to obesity and other nutritional problems. Teachers and other service providers must be alert to problems and deficiencies, and arrange referrals for support.
Ensuring Physical Safety
The next level of Maslow's hierarchy involves safety. Ensuring a child’s safety is almost instinctive with parents, and we expect this attention to be provided carefully and lovingly. Most parents are alert to dangers from natural disasters (such as earthquakes and storms), but it is all too easy to overlook hidden dangers, such as lead paint, polluted areas, and unsafe objects and locations.
Giving emotional support and providing love are features of nurturance that occur naturally in typical families. Families express these feelings in different ways. Expressions of love range from nonverbal signals and understated expressions to effusive expressions of affection. Differences in discipline practices are linked to this area of nurturance as well. Some families use physical punishment, whereas others depend on verbal reprimand and discussion or explanation to rechannel behavior. All practices can be effective under particular circumstances. Occasionally, parents overdo their support role and encourage dependency and immaturity in their child. Overconcern and hovering often have undesirable consequences.
Promoting Esteem, Success, and Achievement
Families vary greatly in how they foster esteem and support the achievements of their children. Some parents campaign vigorously with and for their children, whereas others gently encourage or deliberately withhold praise until the end of an activity or a task. Parents sometimes hold children to adult standards in playing games, conversing, or socializing. These expectations can be problematic if children do not succeed, for their aspirations may be deflated. Adult encouragement and delight in partial success normally provide a foundation for children to lift their levels of aspiration.
The final level in Maslow’s hierarchy is an adult level of competence, but families foster readiness for self-actualization by supporting children’s growing independence and sense of responsibility and by encouraging problem solving and decision making at children’s appropriate levels of growth.
© ______ 2008, Merrill, an imprint of Pearson Education Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The reproduction, duplication, or distribution of this material by any means including but not limited to email and blogs is strictly prohibited without the explicit permission of the publisher.
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