Family Values


"...two different models of the family: a strict father family and a nurturant parent family... [The neocons are referring to] James Dobson... [his book] Dare to Discipline... Dobson not only has a 100-to-200-million-dollar-a-year operation, but he also has his own ZIP code, so many people are writing to order his books...

"The strict father model begins with a set of assumptions:

"...there is evil in the world...

"There will always be winners and loser...

"There is an absolute right and an absolute wrong...

"Children are born bad... they have to be made good...

"What is required of the child is obedience, because the strict father is a moral authority who knows right from wrong... the only way to teach kids obedience... is through punishment... Without such punishment, the world will go to hell. There will be no morality...

"...if people are disciplined and pursue their self-interest... they will become prosperous and self-reliant. Thus, the strict father model links morality with prosperity...

"...pursuing your self-interest should enable you to prosper [Dobson's version of free market capitalism]...

"This is linked to a general metaphor that views well-being as wealth...

"A do-gooder is someone who is trying to help someone else rather than herself and is getting in the way of those who are pursuing their self-interest. Do-gooders screw up the system" (7-8).

"Consider what all this means for social programs. It is immoral to give people things they have not earned, because then they will not develop discipline and will become both dependent and immoral... Promoting social programs is immoral" (9)...

"...what this says about foreign policy... What the father says, the child does... you are the person in power, the moral authority. The others should be asking YOU for permission...

"The strict father worldview... the father is the head of the family. The nurturant parent world-view is gender neutral" (11).

"both parents are equally responsible for raising the children...

"The assumption is that children are born good and can be made better.

"The world can be made a better place, and our job is to work on that...

"...nurturance... means two things: empathy and responsibility...

"...other values immediately follow... you protect your child from... crime and drugs... smoking... poisonous additives in food... Protection is part of the progressive moral system...

"...and caring about others...

"...freedom is a [progressive] value...

"...opportunity and prosperity are progressive values...

"...fairness is a progressive value...

"... open, two-way communication...

"...community-building, service to the community, and cooperation in a community...

"...honesty...

"These are the nurturant values--and they are the progressive values" (13)...

"...a John Wayne movie or an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie [reflect the] strict father model... The Cosby Show [reflects] a nurturing parent model" (20).

"In the nurturant parent model, discipline arises not through painful physical punishment, but through the promotion of responsible behavior via empathetic connection, the example of responsible behavior set by the parents, the open discussion of what the parents expect (and why!), and, in the case of noncooperation, the removal of those priveleges that go with cooperation ("Time out!" and "You're grounded!"). A child raised through nurturance is a child who has achieved positive internal discipline without painful physical punishment. It is achieved through praise for cooperation, understanding the privileges that go with cooperation, clear guidelines, open discussion, and the example of parents who live by their nurturant values" (98).

This nurturant approach is also used in animal training. The new "clicker training" methods use positive reinforcement rather than punishment. The advantage is that a light goes on in the animals eyes and they start trying to help you train them because then they get rewards. The alternative is to use punishment. The result of punishment is that the animal is always afraid of you and has a slave mentality.

"..just about everybody in American culture has both [family] models, either actively or passively. For example, to understand a John Wayne movie, you must have a strict father model in your brain, at least passively. You may not live by the model, but you can use it to understand the strict father narratives that permeate our culture. Nurturant narratives permeate our culture as well.

"Second, many people use both models, but in different parts of their lives. For example, a female lawyer might be strict in the courtroom but nurturant at home.

"Third, you may have been brought up badly with one model, and may have rejected it. Many liberals had miserable strict father upbringings" (99)...

"Conservative Christianity... God is understood as punitive--that is, if you sin your are going to go to hell...

"Liberal Christianity is very, very different. Liberal Christianity sees God as essentially beneficent, as wanting to help people... you can't earn grace--you are given grace unconditionally by God" (George Lakoff. Don't Think of an Elephant! Know Your Values and Frame the Debate: 102-103).


"...two-parent families are spending 16 percent more time at work, or 500 more hours a year, than in 1979" (Joan Blades and Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner. "The motherhood manifesto." The Nationm May 22, 2006: 11).


Colby Glass, MLIS