Excerpt from: “How Individualism and Collectivism Manifest in Child Rearing Practices” by Marcia Carteret
Two Fundamental Patterns in Child Rearing
Based on attitudes towards autonomy vs. interdependence, most all cultures in the world can be divided into two basic patterns of child rearing (though notable differences between cultures that share the same pattern do occur). There can be considerable disapproval across two such fundamentally different value systems, and this disapproval often surfaces in childcare and health care settings.
“Ties between individuals are loose: everyone is expected to look after him/herself and her/his immediate family only.” The United States is the most highly individualistic culture in the world, followed closely by Australia, Great Britain, and Canada. (Hofstede, 225)
In study after study, cultural anthropologists have found that the overriding goal of American parents is to make a child independent and self-reliant. (Small 2002) Every culture has its ideal smart, well-functioning child. The ideal is so ingrained in the culture that few question its validity. In America, that ideal is a highly verbal, independent, emotionally controlled, and self-reliant child. These social skills are seen as essential to success in an individualistic society. (Small 2002) Most American parents believe a child has an inborn temperament, a set of personality traits that can be molded by parenting and society. Babies are bundles of potential and a good parent is one who can uncover the latent abilities and talents in their child, encourage the good while discouraging the bad (Small 1998). American parents are concerned about the self-esteem of their children; the word self-esteem can’t be easily translated into other languages because the trait is not part of the value system in many cultures. Of course American mothers are acutely aware that success in society depends on having good people skills. Being individualistic to the point of overt selfishness is problematic. Successful children achieve a balance between self-maximization and consideration of others.
“Collectivism stands for a society in which people from birth onwards are integrated into strong, cohesive in-groups, which throughout people’s lifetime continue to protect them in exchange for unquestioning loyalty. Members of “we”-group societies make a clear distinction between themselves and those who are not in their group – or clan. (Hofstede, 225)
In the majority of cultures in the world children learn to think of themselves as part of a “we”-group or in-group. Collectivist cultures actually downplay independence and promote dependence on a core group of people. This strengthens the relationships that hold the fabric of a collectivist society together. Reciprocity of responsibility and favors between members of an in-group allows people in an extended family to get things done – in other words, it allows them to negotiate cooperation.
Families in some collectivist cultures actually train children in dependent behaviors. The idea is to teach children to engage in appropriate levels of relatedness – to have an obedient, calm, polite and respectful demeanor. One has to learn to both give and receive graciously. A person has to feel responsible for his behavior and avoid, at all costs, shaming not only himself but also the family, tribe, and community. The worst thing that can happen to a person is to be left alone. Rejection by the in-group is a terrible punishment. Compare this to the American icon the cowboy – he is usually depicted as being a loner by choice. He rides the range on his most faithful companion – his horse. He is a model of self-sufficiency.
Books and Stories
A Story of Four Harmonious Friends: Symbol of Connection Interdependence
Once in a forest in Varanasi, four animals: An elephant, a rabbit, a monkey, and a partridge disputed about the ownership of a tree where all of them had fed. The elephant claimed, “Well, this is my tree because I saw it first.”
To this the monkey replied: “Now, elephant do you see any fruits on this tree?”
The elephant agreed that the tree was without any fruit.
The monkey continued: “That’s because I had been feeding on the fruits of the tree long before you ever saw it.”
Next the rabbit spoke up: “I fed on the leaves of this tree when it was just a small sapling before the monkey ate its fruit and way before the elephant ever saw it.”
Finally, the partridge who had been watching the argument, came forward and asserted: “The tree belongs to me because the tree wouldn’t have grown if I hadn’t spit it out as a seed. I helped plant the seed that grew into this huge tree before the rabbit fed on it, or the monkey ate its fruit, or the elephant saw it.”
The elephant, monkey, and rabbit, conceded that the partridge was the first to know the tree. So all of bowed to the partridge and regarded it as their elder brother.
The four animals became friends and decided to share the tree together in peaceful harmony, enjoying the beauty of the tree’s fragrance, the nourishment of its fruits, and the bounty of its shade. They worked together to obtain fruits: The fruits on the ground and on the lowest branches, the partridge and rabbit found by working together. The monkey climbed the tree and dropped the fruits for everyone to share but only the elephant could reach the highest branches with his trunk. The four animals worked co-operatively and with their combined strength, each one benefited and no one went hungry.
Other animals in the forest often saw them together with the partridge on top of the rabbit who was held up by the monkey who rode on top of the elephant. Since then, they were called “The Four Harmonious Brothers.” September 7, 2006 by nexusnovel
One day, a man exhausts himself trying to chop down a giant kapok tree. While he sleeps, the forest’s residents, including a child from the Yanomamo tribe, whisper in his ear about the importance of trees and how “all living things depend on one another” . . . and it works. Cherry’s lovingly rendered colored pencil and watercolor drawings of all the “wondrous and rare animals” evoke the lush rain forests, as well as stunning world maps bordered by tree porcupines, emerald tree boas, and dozens more fascinating creatures.
As a young girl growing up in Kenya, Wangari was surrounded by trees. But years later when she returns home, she is shocked to see whole forests being cut down, and she knows that soon all the trees will be destroyed. So Wangari decides to do something-and starts by planting nine seedlings in her own backyard. And as they grow, so do her plans. . . .
This true story of Wangari Maathai, environmentalist and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, is a shining example of how one woman’s passion, vision, and determination inspired great change.
The circle of life turns in unexpected ways.Earth Mother awakes with the dawn. As she walks the land, swims the seas, and climbs the mountains, nurturing all of creation, she comes across Man, Frog, and Mosquito. They each give her thanks for nature’s bounty, yet can’t help but give her advice about making their lives better. Everybody’s got an opinion, it seems, and Earth Mother is amused when it becomes clear that the circle of life is not without a healthy dose of cosmic humor.Leo and Diane Dillon lend their formidable talents to Ellen Jackson’s original folktale about the unexpected and sometimes humorous ways that life is interconnected.
Paul Fleischman gives an overview of many of the environmental challenges and empowers the readers to discern the manipulated information that they are bombarded with. It is imperative that today’s youth be given the tools they need to solve the environmental problems that they are going to inherit. This book is one very important tool for this effort. The book is filled with valuable information and great resources. It is put together in an interesting, engaging format, and is printed on 100% recycled paper. One of my favorite things about this book is that it helps teens and readers of all ages gain an understanding about vested interests. It is incredibly important that people learn to use discernment in deciphering the headlines and information being disseminated to sell ideas and products. Ages 14 and up
“A Piece of Scat”. A fun song from the San Mateo Outdoor Education Program.