Some month’s ago, I tuned in to ABC’s program 20/20 and heard the stories of two extreme parenting styles. Each represents a different mindset adults hold today.
Amber and Trent Johnston
The first story was about the Johnston family, from Barnesville, GA. They’re extreme in many ways, being a “big, little family.” Standing no more than four feet tall, they are the largest family of dwarfs and call themselves the “real life seven dwarfs.”
When it comes to parenting, Amber and Trent Johnston go to extremes to keep things extremely normal. They do not modify any of their furniture to accommodate their size. Most parents try to make the world easier for their children, but not them. As Amber Johnston told “20/20‘s” Barbara Walters, “we strive to raise our children in the world that’s not built for them.”
The Johnstons teach their kids to adapt to their environment, to use their resources (some of which are unconventional), and to be wise in their interactions with others. At the grocery store, Amber sometimes lifts a child to reach an item on the top shelf. At home, step stools help them reach sinks and cabinets, and sticks attached to light switches help them turn the lights on and off, but they all learn self-sufficiency.
Lana and Victor Fuchs
The second story was from the Lana Fukes family. Lana is a wealthy entrepreneur and mother who’s decided that if you want a child to behave—you get what you pay for. Lana calls it “rewarding good behavior,” but when you look at what she does for her daughter… you might just call it bribery. She provides personal shoppers for Lizzy, her young teen; she gave her a $10,000 painting for her room when she scored well on exams; she even sent her to the Grammy’s for getting a good report card; in fact, over her lifetime, Lana has spent millions of dollars for Lizzy’s good marks and conduct.
Some rave about her methodology. She’s simply rewarding the behavior she wants. And if they don’t do well in school, they don’t get the luxurious gifts or trips. I agree so far. What’s yet to be seen is this: Can her kids grow into adults who can live a life without extreme rewards or riches? Middle class America doesn’t look or feel like this. All Lana’s son and daughter have known is a lavish life full of possessions. Even with poor grades, they haven’t been introduced to the “real world” of waiting, going without, working long hours, and yielding to others.
The Difference in Philosophy?
So, what is the fundamental difference between the Johnston home and the Fuch home?
The first leadership style is all about RESPONSIBILITY.
Life does not revolve around you, so you must be responsible and resourceful with who you are and what you have. Do what’s right because it is your responsibility.
The second leadership style is all about REWARDS.
Life will revolve around you and provide lavish rewards if you perform well. If you excel, you will enjoy excellent gifts. If you do not, you will not.
I see merit in both styles…but with one question. If you choose to lead with rewards, will your children (or students) ever learn to perform and achieve for the pure joy and satisfaction of the work? Or will they only do well if they get a “prize” in the end?
Let me hear from you. What have you observed as you’ve trained students?