A few months ago I blogged about the potentially bloggable new neighbours who had just moved in next door. I never did blog about them again, and now they’re in the process of moving out.
This family consists of two 23-year-old parents with five children aged 7, 4, 3, 2, and 8 months. I’ve actually grown kind of fond of them over the six months they’ve lived on the other side of the wall. Sure, it’s noisy, but most of the noise has been happy noise.
She’s pretty quiet, actually, and the kids mostly make normal kid noises: laughing, playing, rough-housing, occasionally crying. But him? He runs that household at the top of his lungs. Even when he’s in a good mood, he’s shouting and hollering. PUT YOUR SHOES ON! GO TO BED! COME EAT YOUR LUNCH! DON’T HIT YOUR BROTHER! GET DRESSED! LET’S GO TO THE PARK! GET BACK TO BED! BE QUIET!
For months I’ve been wondering why he yells everything like a drill sergeant. I know parents yell at their kids. I yelled at my kid occasionally too, but for emphasis, not for normal conversation.
Anyway, last weekend it all became crystal clear because his mother came and babysat the kids for a couple of days.
She was ten times worse than him! The moment she arrived she started hollering at those kids and she didn’t stop until fifteen minutes after she left. Not only that, but she brought a bunch of yappy little dogs with her, and she hollered at them all weekend too. And a brooding sort of man, who never said much of anything but looked like he was doing a slow simmer in the back yard all weekend.
She yelled at the kids to EAT YOUR GODDAM CHEERIOS! PUT AWAY YOUR FRIGGIN’ TOYS! WHERE’S YOUR BROTHER GONE THIS TIME? WHO SHIT? I DON’T CARE WHO STARTED IT, YOU BOTH STOP IT RIGHT FUCKIN’ NOW! WHO LOVES YOU? NANA LOVES YOU, THAT’S WHO! TAKE THAT OUT OF YOUR FRIGGIN’ MOUTH!
There was some weird stuff too, like when she argued for a very long time with the three-year-old about whose house it was. IT IS NOT YOUR HOUSE, IT’S NANA’S HOUSE! NO IT’S NOT, IT’S NANA’S HOUSE! NANA LIVES HERE, NOT YOU! IT’S NANA’S HOUSE!
Now all this has got me wondering about culture and parenting. Obviously my neighbour learned how to parent from his mother. You can tell they both love the kids, and they’re fully engaged with them, but their parenting style seems quite aggressive to me. And the kids seem to roll with it. They don’t seem traumatized by all that yelling. They come across as happy, healthy, well-adjusted little kids.
I think my kid would have been completely undone if I’d yelled at him like that all the time.
A couple of years ago, a friend of mine told me about how his daughter-in-law was parenting his grandchildren. He described a parenting style very similar to my neighbour’s. He said she loved the kids but she always seemed angry at them. And he told me that the rest of her family shares that parenting style.
“It’s a French-Canadian thing,” he said, “My ex-wife was French-Canadian and she was exactly the same with our kids. Always yelling at them.”
Maybe it’s just a coincidence, but my next-door neighbour and his mother are French-Canadian too.
Obviously this parenting style wouldn’t be universal among French-Canadians, but do you think it’s possible it’s more prevalent among them? And if so, how come?
How would you describe your own parenting style? (Or, if you don’t have kids, the parenting style you think you would have if you did have kids…)