The Parenting Project: Childhood Part 1

The Parenting Project: Childhood Part 1 November 1, 2012

Here’s the next set of questions for the Parenting Project. They deal with the type of parenting you received from your own parents and while you were at school. I hope you’re consider joining this project and sharing what you know about parenting. Again, only answer as much as you feel comfortable doing. I know some will have had childhood experiences of the type that might trigger just by thinking back to your childhood.

To everyone participating thank you!

Introduction Questions


1. What type of parenting style and/or discipline did your parents follow?

2. Was their parenting/discipline style something that their church taught or was it something they learned from their own family?

3. Was one parent or another more sold on a particular kind of parenting?

4. Did only one of your parents do most of the hands on work of parenting? Who carried out most of the parenting, caring for, teaching and discipline in your home?

5. Where you as a child expected to be a surrogate parent for a younger sibling?

Comments open below

The Parenting Project

The Spiritual Abuse Survivor Blogs Network


NLQ Recommended Reading …

Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment‘ by Janet Heimlich

Quivering Daughters‘ by Hillary McFarland

Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement‘ by Kathryn Joyce


Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • The_L

    1. The best I can describe it is straight-up 1950’s with an extra dash of authoritarianism. Dad felt that in order to be a “real man,” he had to be in control of his family. So every misstep was taken as a personal slight against him. I was unusually late to develop bladder control (I was age 5 before it stopped altogether), and after I hit 18 months, I was spanked for every “accident.”

    It actually got worse when I started reading at 2. Because I was clearly gifted, my father expected no less than perfection from me, and was furious when I demonstrated normal human failings. Impulsive behavior? WRONG. Picking on my brother, the way all kids do? WRONG. Asking embarrassing questions in public, because I was 3 years old and didn’t know better? WRONG. Failing to get, not just straight A’s, but straight hundreds? WRONG.

    Discipline, for me, was pretty much entirely in the form of spanking, because time-outs didn’t work. My brother got sent to his room often, but I was always spanked first. If I cried too long after a spanking, I was told that Dad would give me something to cry about, and he always delivered with another couple of licks.

    It was terrible–even as my brother got older, and other, age-appropriate punishments were applied to him, I still got spanked. Only, from ages 12 to 16, it was with a belt, which was justified because hands probably wouldn’t sting anymore. But it’s tougher to aim a belt, so I started getting it on the legs instead of just the bottom. I knew this wasn’t normal, and was always terrified that my classmates would find out and have something else to tease me about.

    After age 16, I was given “lectures,” if you can call beign screamed at for over an hour (I’ve timed it) a lecture. Mom always had to pull Dad away, and it never took long for me to start crying. What I felt for my father, throughout my entire upbringing, was never respect–it was terror.

    2. I’m pretty sure it was the latter. Dad went to Catholic schools before Vatican 2, and got the infamous whacks on the hand with a ruler from the nuns. Mom still vividly remembers being asked by her grandmother to go out and pick a switch when she misbehaved. Both parents viewed open-hand spanking as being more humane, and the sort of parents who didn’t spank as being overly-permissive. They assumed that if you weren’t spanking, you probably weren’t doing anything else to discipline or punish your kids either.

    3. Mom was more of a peace-keeper. She calmed Dad down when it looked like things were about to reach physical-abuse levels, and would often make sure to scold and/or spank us for something before Dad got home, just so that it would already be done and he wouldn’t feel the need to scream at us and make us feel like nothing. A spanking from Mom hurt, physically, the same as a spanking from Dad, but we learned very early on that if we were doing something we shouldn’t, we wanted Mom to be the one to find out, not Dad. Mom would just tell us we’d done something very bad and not to do that again. Dad would call us stupid, and in the case of me making less-than-perfect grades in school, would ask me why I clearly wasn’t even trying. (Again, I remember getting scolded for making “only” a 98.)

    My mother insists, to this day, that I was not abused in any way. After all, Dad didn’t beat us or anything, and he certainly never abused me or my brother sexually! According to her, child abuse only takes those 2 forms, and since she didn’t see either one going on, clearly everything was just fine.

    4. My parents tried to give us the best of everything: nice toys, lots of outings to parks and museums, family vacations, summer trips to amusement parks. I loved going places with my parents, because they were always much calmer and sweeter to me in public. Dad was the best to go to theme parks with, because he liked to go on the scarier roller-coasters that Mom didn’t like. My brother and I fought in the car over who would get to be which parent’s “park buddy” for the day (but we never called it that).

    Educationally, I’d say both parents contributed in very different ways. Dad encouraged me to watch PBS when the TV was on, and had copies of educational TV specials in book form. Even though those books were for adults, I found the illustrations fascinating from an early age, and would ask Dad all sorts of questions. Dad also taught us about our Italian cultural heritage by sharing some of the old myths about Romulus and Remus, Pandora’s box, and Achilles. He was always happy when I wanted to read books about dinosaurs, or how the human body works, or world history.

    Dad wanted me to be a doctor when I grew up, and felt that even if I didn’t go to med school, I should have exposure to lots of different forms of knowledge and be very well-rounded. His parents were uneducated immigrants, so I think a lot of it was also that Dad wanted me to have the educational opportunities he didn’t really have as a kid.

    Mom was a school teacher, so she stayed home with us during the summer while Dad was at work. She helped us with our homework, and insisted that both of us always work hard and do our best to learn and remember for a lifetime instead of just memorizing for the test (that’s what really mattered to Mom, more than the actual grades themselves). However, during summer, she felt like kids should be allowed to just be kids. We watched Disney movies together, or played games. She told us funny stories from her childhood, and she loved to sing nursery rhymes with us, even though she knew she had a bad singing voice and didn’t sing in public.

    So basically, Mom spent more time with us, but Dad tried to make sure that the time he did have to spend with us was meaningful in some way.

    5. Quite the opposite, actually–I didn’t learn how to do for myself until senior year of high school, when my parents realized that sending a student to college who can’t cook, iron, or do laundry probably isn’t a very good idea. My father’s disciplinary style had squashed every last bit of initiative I had in me, so I didn’t do anything resembling housework without being told. I didn’t want to get in trouble for doing something wrong and maybe breaking something. Nor did I ever ask how to do the housework I didn’t know how to do–I was afraid that then I’d have to do that new chore all by myself with no further help after the initial explanation, and I was never as good at physical things as I was with academics.

    We were expected to clean our own rooms from age 10. I don’t mean tidying up–that was expected of us almost as soon as we could walk and talk! I mean that every Saturday morning, we had to get out the Pledge and go over every surface in our rooms, then get the vacuum and clean the floors. This was the biggest housework task we were consistently asked to do, and Mom would do the equivalent of the “glove test” every week to make sure we’d actually done it. I was expected to set the table and wipe it off, and my brother was supposed to take out the trash, but aside from springtime weeding in the front yard, you’ve read the full extent of all housework we were ever expected to do. Dad mowed the lawn, Mom did the cooking and mending. Mom refused to make things from scratch more than once or twice a week, though, so we ate a lot of pasta since you can make a lot of sauce at once.

    The closest we came to me “raising” my brother is, once I was 10 I was expected to “babysit” him. He was only 2 years younger than me, so it wasn’t really anything like the typical Quiverfull image of a teenager raising a baby sibling. However, if he did something wrong, I got punished right along with him, because I was the older sibling and should have stopped him. Even though my brother always had a strong “leader” personality, and I was always the one who tended to give in to my “baby brother.”