Nurture. Structure. Latitude. Those are the key ingredients for raising a kid who will be a good learner, worker, citizen, spouse and friend, a leading parenting expert told a forum in Halifax last week.
“There is about a half-century now of research that shows the things that are really essential,” psychologist Robert Evans told a crowd of several hundred that gathered for his spirited talk at Saint Mary’s University.
He said nurturing – unconditional love and parental attention – is problematic these days because “you actually have to be with the child.”
In a modern world where France’s justice minister returns to work just five days after giving birth, “people who love their children and want the best for them are trying to raise them in a hurry.”
Speaking about what he called the myth of quality time, Evans said good parenting is labour-intensive, requiring huge amounts of “mind-numbing tedium.”
He also said the teachers he speaks to these days often talk about students who “assume everything is negotiable” because that’s the situation in their homes. That’s where structure — enforced rules around behaviour and expectations — comes in, which is “profoundly comforting” to kids.
Meanwhile, enough latitude to learn from mistakes and hone problem-solving skills is imperative if kids are to succeed, said Evans, whose latest book is Family Matters: How Schools Can Cope with the Crisis in Childrearing.
“We have more and more parents who want to prepare a path for their child instead of preparing their child for the path,” he said,
Evans, who is Executive director of the Human Relations Service in the U.S. and a former high-school and pre-school teacher, was brought to Halifax by local members of the Atlantic Conference of Independent Schools.
He stressed that each person must tailor his or her parenting approach, but that nurture, structure and latitude must form the foundation.
They build what Evans calls the three Cs: character, caring and competence.