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The Big Answer


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The New Family Values

an article in Sociology by Barbara Dafoe Whitehead

(our site's article review)

Whitehead contends that “at the moment, we have a political conversation about the family that’s giving rise to public policy solutions. We have an economic conversation about the family that’s giving rise to workplace solutions. We do not yet have an equivalent cultural conversation about the family that’s giving rise to cultural solutions.” She sees the principle source of family decline from the early 60s on as cultural decline. There’s less commitment, responsibility, community, obligation and sacrifice. Fewer people put their kids’ needs before their own. More people divorce. A lot of win-lose scenarios are being played out in the conflict between work and family.

She’s correct that the cultural decline needs to be reversed, of course. But the answer will never be to put kids’ needs before their own. This is old, mechanistic-reductionistic paradigm, Second Wave, win-lose thinking. The essence of P.E.T. and Winning Family Lifeskills is that relationships and problem-solving get-togethers are all conducted in a democratic, win-win context. All win and none lose. The essence of permissiveness is that kids win and parents lose—which is equivalent to Whitehead’s concept of putting kids’ needs before parents’ needs. The essence of authoritarianism is that kids lose and parents win—which is equivalent to the antithesis of Whitehead’s concept of putting kids’ needs before parents’ needs. But permissiveness as well as authoritarianism have been invalidated permanently as child-raising methods. Only P.E.T. and Winning Family Lifeskills and authoritative parenting work very well.