A parent’s role is to nurture, protect and guide their children, instilling their own morals and values in hopes of achieving successful generativity. In the Caribbean, parents seem to adopt the motto “Spare not the rod and spoil the child”, simply put they will not refrain from punishment when needed, rather, if a child needs to be disciplined, so be it.
Child rearing in the Caribbean is very different from, the rest of the world. In comparison to the Americas, with their child rearing practices saturated and governed by child laws and rights, Caribbean rearing of children is governed by discipline above anything else. American children, when ‘out of line’ their parents seemingly, as conveyed through the media, back down from punishment. If they choose that route, the children are grounded, where they have to remain in their rooms or certain items of possession are taken from them for a period of time, for example a laptop or phone.
The stark difference is that in the Caribbean if a child even makes an attempt to ‘bad mouth’ or ‘raise their voice’ at their parents, they will get either a slap in the face, slap on the arm or on the buttocks. This, however, ranges in severity as not all parents choose to bring physical action to their children, but the slap on the buttocks or in the middle of the hand is a widely used mode of punishment. Some parents also send their child or children to the corner or their room to think about what they have done. For parents who don’t believe in physical punishment, they may skip the slapping all together and put them in the corner in hopes that they realize their wrong doing would not go unpunished, and strong scolding usually follows.
Child rearing in most cases in the Caribbean is geared almost strictly to Christian religious principles and follows a model of conservatism as demonstrated in the thoughts of superiority of men over women, anti-gay attitudes, anti-abortion beliefs and discipline through physical means.
Another ideology in the Caribbean is “do what I say not as I do” which simply put is to be obedient to my words but do not mimic my actions. Caribbean parents seemingly love to do and say anything in front of their children regardless of appropriateness or lack thereof. However, whatever they do, whether it is in using expletives in a heated argument, threatening their child or speaking ill about the next door neighbor, they would say ‘do as I say, not as I do’ so that the child knows not to follow.
Parents of the Caribbean fail to realize observational learning posited by psychologist Albert Bandura which states that children mimic the actions of their caregivers based on observation, especially behaviors which are repeated consecutively. Parents must therefore be mindful of this, by either eradicating the behavior altogether, or performing the behavior only when their children are not around.
Caribbean parents are very expressive and do not ‘mince their words’ that is, they do not sugar coat anything they wish to say. They are blunt and a percentage of the time, mean what they say. Feelings do not matter if it comes in the way of discipline in a Caribbean household and they often leave no room for mistakes. Although the discipline of their children often strikes fear into their minds, parents often see the future which entails their children being better adults and carry on the baton for generations, knowing not to slip up and always be obedient and on the best behavior at all times.
Caribbean parents nonetheless love their children with a passion that won’t be found in any other household, despite their inclination to be a little rough around the edges when it comes to discipline. When it comes to child rearing, the benefits in the long run are positive and build the character of Caribbean people you see as adults today.
By Alexandra Daley