7 April 2009
Upbringing According to Lareau : My Life
As children we live our lives in a certain pattern. Whether is it strict or lenient we all have a certain way of life. Annette Lareau in Unequal Childhoods gives us two aspects of growth, Concerted Cultivation and Natural Growth. Lareau presents the main use of “concerted cultivation” in middle class families (2). The author explains to us that the way of life for these children is more conservative. Each child has its own schedule of events and activities all planned out by parents. The children even have their leisure time scheduled. The reason for this would be because the parents of the young children want them to develop certain skills at an early age, which most do. The skills are responsibility, hard work, teamwork, and to respect authority. All of this is done to the children to develop certain “life chances”.
Another aspect of ones’ life would be “natural growth.” Growing up in natural growth is a completely different experiences then that of concerted cultivation. Lareau writes,
For working – class and poor families, the cultural logic of child rearing at home is out of synch with the standards of institutions. (3)
When writing this she explains to us that in the household of a natural growth child rules are not that strict but when they enter the school environment they have a whole new sense of authority. The working/poor class family does not have as many opportunities as the middle class family. A child growing up in a lifestyle like this has much more freedom and much more space to make mistakes throughout life. One difference between the two groups is that natural growth does not have as many demanding scheduled events as concerted cultivation has. The child has more control of his/her leisure time (3). When a child wants to watch TV or go ride their bike each is allowed to do so. For many those are the only events they have in their days.
When reading about the different ways of life I did not know where to place myself. My parents are both immigrants that came from Serbia and Montenegro. They grew up in a very “natural growth” life style. I am the oldest child in my family. When I was born my parents began to raise me under natural growth. I had to go from babysitter to babysitter because they could not take care of me. Both of my parents worked very hard and long day shifts. My father worked in a metal factory and my mother worked in a sweater factory. When I started school I was never really told I had to be perfect. I was very shy growing up. But they still managed to be very strict with me. When my sister was born and started school my parents’ way of thinking changed. School was our main priority we had to do our best. My parents never had the opportunity to have the good education we had so that is why school was very important. I never had a 100
average but I did make it to the honor roll. We were very disciplined and knew how to act in front of people Making our life style more like concerted cultivation.
While growing up in my teen years my parents became very involved in my life. They were very strict and did not let me do much. I was not allowed to go out. Coming from a different country to America made them very concerned with what actually goes on between teens. They were afraid of mistakes I might have made if they were not tough. The only thing I really had was dance, and I loved it. It never really bothered me that I wasn’t allowed to go out because I had it in the back of my head I always knew that this was all done for a reason. As my mother told me in the interview, “You always worry about the first child the most, is it right was she’s doing? Who is she going to hang out with? , All these questions run through your mind.” If my parents’ did not each me to be a good person and be strict on me I would not be who I am today. I remember as a little girl my father talking to me about how I have to try to do my best in everything I decide to do. Like most fathers he was the most worried about the boys. He would tell me to respect myself and to not to let anyone treat me with disrespect. He has always taught me to know that life is not easy and that I have to work.
WAYS OF LIFE
Lareau writes, “cultural capital are skills individuals inherit”, I feel that my family has given me a cultural capital in my life. At this point in my life I feel like my parents really helped me through a lot. No matter what I do their opinion matters the most. My parents grew up in Europe and were taught in different ways. They were always taught that nothing comes easy and it has to be worked for. With them struggling to come to America and different family problems they were still able to come out of all the tough times. Little by little they were able to go from the working class to the middle class. In Unequal Childhoods Lareau writes,
Compared to Europeans, individuals in the United States are much more likely to believe they can improve their standard of living. Put differently, Americans believe in the American dream: “ The American dream that we were raised on is simple but powerful one- if you work hard and play by the rules, you should be given a chance to go as far as your God-given ability will take you.” (7)
I believe that coming to America for my parents and now for me gave them a new way of life and that would be the American dream. I see a lot of European factors come out in my parents like how they are strict and want to be known as the authority figure, not to be talked back to. This can also be related to “natural growth.” As Lareau explains that the American dream gives us all the opportunity to succeed and do well if we “work hard and play by the rules.” I completely agree with this life is not easy and nothing will be handed
As I go along writing this I can see that more of my life is reared to natural growth with a few tips of concerted cultivation. As I wrote before dance was my sport. In natural growth setting I am able to choose my sport and that sport was dance. I began when I was three and ever since then I loved it. My parents never pushed me to go to each class or ever tell told me that I had to stay. It taught me a sense of responsibility, having to be there at a certain time, hard work- classes tended to last six hours at a time, and teamwork because if one person messed up the whole dance would be ruined. This also taught me a lot of discipline. With these skills learned one can see this as a sense of cultural capital. I was able to carry this out in high school. I was part of the dance team and the drama club. Performing in shows was also my favorite thing to do. It gave me such an adrenaline rush when performing. I was never forced to do anything but growing up it always gave me structure, which I liked. In Unequal childhoods Lareau states,
Although it is less obvious to both parents and children, skills acquired in organized activities will continue to be useful when, as teenagers or young adults, these youngsters take their first jobs (62).
Even though I did not participate in many activities at one time, two was enough. It taught me how to respect an authority figure and take criticism. Life is not easy and there will be someone there to correct and tell you that you are wrong. From this, one needs to grow as a person and realize how to become better. When I applied for my first job I was seventeen, it was the hardest thing I had to do. I applied to work at a clothing store called Zara in Manhattan. I did not know what to expect. Would they like me? Will I be good
enough? These thoughts went through my head. I was hired. When I began to work I took all the skills I learned growing up and put them to use. Zara was not an easy job. I had to make sure all the clothing in my section of the store was folded at all times, I had to help customers, and I had to take orders from people. The managers were on top of me at all times. I was the new girl and the youngest there, and this meant I would be the one expected to make the most mistakes. I did not, I wanted them to see that I was responsible and followed good direction. I also was able to learn a lot just by paying attention to what the other girls did. After a week my manager pulled me in to her office and told me she was very proud to see that I am handling everything the right way. I became proud of myself, I showed myself that I could accomplish a lot by putting effort into whatever I do.
My family is a big part in my life. I have two younger siblings, one sister who is fifteen and a brother who is five. Growing up my parents have always taught us that we had to be there for each other no matter what. My sister is my best friend. I was not allowed to go out when I was younger so she was the closest person I could play with. I remember being in the sixth grade and still playing with dolls because she used to. As I grew up my sister started to too. We grew up sort of in the same pace. We never really competed with one another except when it came to school. My parents used school as a “get- out- of- jail- free card” if we got good grades, and other advantages. The only difference between my sister and me was that her bar was set a lot higher than mine. As I
stated earlier my parents put a lot more pressure on my sister from the beginning. In Unequal Childhoods Lareau writes
Spence’s relative inferiority as an athlete colors his relationship with Garrett. Sometimes he goes out of his way to identify areas in which his older brother is not accomplished (55).
This relates to my sister and I. When either one of us does not get our way, like going out when we want we try to bring out the bad stuff the other did to get her to stay home too. Another time this is used when doing chores, “ I did it today and she did not, it’s not fair.” Competition one way or another will always be there, it is how each situation is dealt with that matters. No matter how much we compete we always realize that we are there for each other. I am always trying to set an example for both my brother and sister. Even though my parents put a lot of stress on my sister for school, I am the child they were the strictest with. I see that things have changed in that way too. My sister gets a lot more freedom then I ever dreamed of, so I try to teach her now what my parents taught me that the more freedom one gets the more responsibility that comes along with it.
Growing up with both concerted cultivation and natural growth has helped me to get to where I am today. If it weren’t for my parents I would not be in college today. It is because of them that I have the skills to succeed in life. I always hoped to do my best I never wanted to be the worst child. I might not be perfect but I do try to take what they say to me to heart. Like my mom always says,
Life is all about obstacles its how you deal with them that determines what kind of life you will have. My biggest advice in life is to believe in God and treat everyone the right way and God will always be there to help you.
I agree if a person tries hard and is genuine with what they do, good things will always come around.
After reading and studying Lareau’s book Unequal Childhoods I have been able to analyze my own life. Concerted cultivation and natural growth are two ways of my life with a little from both. Concerted Cultivation is shown in the way my parents always spoke to me like I was an adult as well as trying to prepare me for future events. Natural growth was also presented to me in my choice of play and leisure time. It was nice to stop and think about the different ways of life and how social rankings determine if it will be an easier one.