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Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 1<br />

Eric Wolterstorff<br />

3885 Orange Court<br />

Boulder, CO 80304 USA<br />

ewolterstorff@gmail.com<br />

303-638-2451<br />

Glen Strathy<br />

844 Lotus Ave.<br />

Kingston, Ontario,<br />

K7K 0A6, CANADA<br />

gstrathy@cogeco.ca<br />

613-542-0182<br />

Better Parents, Better Children<br />

Making Your Family the Happiest It Can Be<br />

by Eric Wolterstorff, Ph.D. with Glen C. Strathy


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 2<br />

Contents<br />

Introduction<br />

Part One: Assessing Your Own Childhood Environment<br />

Chapter 1: Self-Assessment Quiz<br />

Chapter 2: Survival<br />

Chapter 3: Provision<br />

Chapter 4: Structured Family<br />

Chapter 5: Fellowship<br />

Chapter 6: Individiuality<br />

Chapter 7: Inclusion<br />

Chapter 8: Tips on Self-Assessment<br />

Part Two: Parenting Within a Community<br />

Chapter 9: Passing on the Gifts You Received<br />

Chapter 10: Assessing Your Child's Community<br />

Chapter 11: Negotiating Home and Community Differences<br />

Chapter 12: School as an Ally<br />

Chapter 13: A Note on Unstable Schools<br />

Chapter 14: Religion as an Ally<br />

Chapter 15: Other Organizations as Allies


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 3<br />

Part Three: Creating a Home Environment<br />

Chapter 16: One Reason You Can't Parent Above Your Level<br />

Chapter 17: Building a Survival Home<br />

Chapter 18: Building a Provision Home<br />

Chapter 19: Building a Structured Family Home<br />

Chapter 20: Building a Fellowship Home<br />

Chapter 21: Building an Individuality Home<br />

Chapter 22: Building an Inclusion Home<br />

Chapter 23: When Parents are Raised at Different Levels<br />

Chapter 24: Gender Issues<br />

Part 4: Becoming a Better, Happier Parent<br />

Chapter 25: Another Reason You Can’t Parent Above Your Level<br />

Chapter 26: How Your Past Affects Your Parenting<br />

Chapter 27: Two Skills Essential for Renovation Work<br />

Chapter 28: Planning Your Renovation<br />

Chapter 29: Deciding what to renovate first.<br />

Chapter 30: Renovation<br />

Chapter 31: Stabilizing Your Current Level<br />

Chapter 32: Should You Try to Move Up a Level?<br />

Epilogue: Will There Ever Be a 7th Gift?<br />

Resources


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 4<br />

Introduction<br />

Right Parenting Approach for You and Your Children<br />

Raising a child may well be the most rewarding project you ever take on and the<br />

greatest responsibility you will ever bear. Your relationship with your child could outlast<br />

any other relationship in your life--perhaps longer than your relationship with your<br />

spouse or your parents. For the first eighteen years of your child's life, you will be<br />

responsible for her safety, welfare, and behavior. Your influence over her will persist<br />

well into her future life as an adult. Her personality, the choices she makes, how easily<br />

she overcomes obstacles and takes advantage of opportunities, will to a great extent<br />

result from the upbringing you have given her.<br />

As a parent, you have two challenges. First, you must pass on the best aspects<br />

of your own upbringing. You must follow the principles and methods your parents used<br />

that benefited you, even though you (and perhaps your parents) may have little<br />

conscious memory of what they were. Second and more difficult, you must try to give<br />

your children a better upbringing than the one you received. You want to ensure they<br />

never experience anything like the worst aspects of your childhood. You want them to<br />

live a happier and more prosperous life than you are enjoying now.<br />

Figuring out how to be the best parent possible can be a daunting task, one both


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 5<br />

aided and made more difficult by the volume of parenting advice available. Decades of<br />

research in fields such as psychology, pediatrics, and child development, as well as a<br />

volume of anecdotal accounts has led to a steady stream of books and articles about<br />

parenting. You can take courses on parenting, both online and in person, and some<br />

high schools include basic parenting as part of the health curriculum. All this is in<br />

addition to the advice offered by clergy, teachers, grandparents, in-laws, siblings, and<br />

friends (those with and without children of their own). New and aspiring parents often<br />

take the message that parenting cannot be left to amateurs. Parents must develop<br />

expertise and follow the current "best practices" in the field to avoid doing their children<br />

a disservice and limiting their future success and happiness.<br />

Things might be easier if there were one accepted parenting approach that<br />

worked for all children and all parents. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Many different<br />

parenting philosophies exist, some based on traditional practices of families and<br />

cultures, others based on recent discoveries in psychology or neuroanatomy. Each<br />

philosophy has its own priorities and limitations. You can spend a lot of time and effort<br />

searching for an approach that addresses your needs and yields the best results for<br />

your family. And whichever approach you choose, so much depends on your ability to<br />

implement it and how you react emotionally when difficult situations arise.<br />

For instance, one popular parenting approach in recent years has been<br />

"attachment parenting," in which parents try to foster a close relationship and maintain a<br />

close physical presence with their children. Attachment parenting aims to help parents<br />

understand their children's needs better and provide a constant role model for their<br />

children to follow. If, as a child, you felt your parents were too distant and wished they<br />

had spent more time with you, you may find this philosophy appealing. However, after a<br />

few weeks of constant close contact with your toddler, you may find yourself growing


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 6<br />

irritable and frustrated with her constant demands, not to mention being incessantly<br />

poked, crawled on, spat on, and clung to. You may crave time to yourself with no one<br />

touching you so you can do some adult things. Not to mention, you may have a spouse<br />

who feels neglected as you devote all your time to your child.<br />

Other parenting approaches focus on children's need for structure. They<br />

advocate establishing routines, timetables, boundaries, and rules. Some lay out strict<br />

procedures regarding discipline. These methods promise to give your children a<br />

predictable, secure environment. Such an approach may make sense to you, if you feel<br />

your own childhood lacked a sense of security, order, or predictability. Trouble is, after a<br />

few weeks of trying to structure your child's life, you may find following all these rules<br />

and schedules drives you crazy. You may realize you've never managed to organize<br />

your own life to such an extent. Trying to organize the life of your child (who may not be<br />

on board with the plan) is a nightmare.<br />

Another popular approach emphasizes making your child spend as much time as<br />

possible developing skills that will prepare her for success as an adult. This may start<br />

with coaching and tutoring to help her excel in preschool and then continue into extracurricular<br />

lessons that prepare her to earn prizes and accolades. It doesn't matter what<br />

the chosen skills are. They could involve any academic, artistic, or athletic ability the<br />

world values. What matters is that your child develops the discipline required to excel at<br />

whatever she does. If you feel your parents didn't encourage you or provide you with<br />

enough enrichment activities, you may be drawn to this approach. The downside<br />

however is that pushing your child to excel can create a lot of stress and fighting in your<br />

home--especially if your child decides she hates practising and doesn't care about<br />

winning prizes. You may also find this approach changes your relationship with your<br />

child, requiring you to become more strict and demanding. You may worry your child's


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 7<br />

strongest memories will be of you being angry with her for not meeting your<br />

expectations.<br />

Alternatively, you might be drawn to a parenting philosophy that says children<br />

need more freedom and independence from adult demands to explore their own<br />

interests and develop a stronger sense of self. You may wish your parents had been<br />

less controlling and intrusive when you were young. So, you try taking a more "hands<br />

off" approach with your own child... only to find yourself worrying what your child does<br />

when you’re not supervising her. Is she physically safe? Is she doing something risky<br />

online? What is she getting up to with her friends? Is she hanging around with bad<br />

influences? What's going on in her head? (This may be especially true when your child<br />

reaches adolescence.) You may worry that, instead of using the freedom you gave her<br />

to do meaningful self-exploration or develop amazing talents, your child instead is<br />

wasting too much time on unproductive activities. What will you do if you experience<br />

such feelings? Will you abandon your chosen philosophy for its opposite?<br />

Many people will look at the shortcomings of various parenting approaches and<br />

conclude that none of them offer an approach that works for every parent or child and<br />

that every parent in the end must trust her instinct and go with what works for her. We<br />

would argue differently. We would say that a parent's emotional state when trying to<br />

implement a particular parenting strategy will generally align with the parent's own<br />

upbringing and life experiences. Most parenting philosophies will work for some parents<br />

and not others because each philosophy typically addresses the needs of one group of<br />

parents, while being irrelevant or unworkable for the majority.<br />

However, we would also say that, while many parenting approaches won't work<br />

for you, there is an approach that will. Given the nature of your upbringing and<br />

background, we can prescribe an approach that will address your needs and the needs


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 8<br />

of your child in the best possible way. It may not be the approach you are drawn to at<br />

first glance. It may not be the approach that works for your neighbors or the one that is<br />

popular just now. But it will give your child a happier, more secure upbringing and<br />

prepare her to be happier more successful adult.<br />

This book draws upon the work of psychohistorian Lloyd <strong>DeMause</strong> who<br />

conducted extensive studies of childrearing practices throughout history. <strong>DeMause</strong><br />

identified six major styles of parenting that humans have employed throughout history.<br />

Working with various colleagues, he found these styles also at work across a variety of<br />

cultures. The styles build upon each other in a necessary and predictable order over<br />

many generations. As each new style becomes dominant within a culture, it offers<br />

children unique gifts, including a greater degree of security and greater freedom for selfexpression<br />

and self-determination – in other words, happiness. Happier children have<br />

more capacity to form positive relationships and develop their individual talents. They<br />

become adults who are better equipped to create meaningful lives for themselves and<br />

contribute to their community. Naturally, adults are inclined to pass on the gifts of their<br />

upbringing to their own children and some will attempt to improve upon it, which is why<br />

childrearing progresses over generations.<br />

Moreover, <strong>DeMause</strong> discovered parallels between the spread of new parenting<br />

styles and the way societies change and evolve. As more advanced parenting styles<br />

become dominant, the amount of violence within society declines and cooperation<br />

increases. Greater cooperation allows societies to build better organized institutions that<br />

can solve more complex problems. In other words, the advancement of human societies<br />

throughout history has occurred alongside improvements in childrearing and may be<br />

largely the result of such improvements.<br />

Like <strong>DeMause</strong>, Eric Wolterstorff has a background in both psychotherapy and


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 9<br />

sociology. He began his clinical practice in the 1990s, during a period when the field of<br />

psychotherapy was coming to be dominated by two major approaches. One approach<br />

focuses on developmental issues--the stages when children reach psychological<br />

milestones, such as a sense of safety, connection, fairness, nurturing, or autonomy.<br />

Following this approach, therapists will look at how a client's difficulties in life may stem<br />

from not having attained certain milestones in childhood. The therapy involves taking<br />

remedial steps to help clients attain the milestones they may have missed or got stuck<br />

on.<br />

The other approach in psychotherapy focuses on how a client's difficulties might<br />

stem from incidents or periods of severe distress in childhood or young adulthood in<br />

which she had experienced disassociation and other posttraumatic symptoms.<br />

Dissociation is a tool by which the conscious mind copes with overwhelming physical<br />

and emotional pain by distancing itself from the memory of the experience. Traumatic<br />

memories, though suppressed, can be triggered by present situations, causing a person<br />

to have behave irrationally or experience unpleasant emotions. Briefly stated, trauma<br />

therapy consists of helping a client heal from traumatic experiences by integrating the<br />

memories of those experiences back into her conscious awareness. Once the client's<br />

mind has integrated a memory, it stops compelling her to behave in maladaptive or<br />

irrational ways.<br />

Eric spent many years working with clients and training psychotherapists in<br />

trauma recovery therapy. He also practised family therapy, a discipline which focuses<br />

on reforming the dynamics of relationships within families so they function better.<br />

However, it was while Eric was working on his Ph.D. thesis on the effects of stress and<br />

trauma on larger communities that he began to explore the works of <strong>DeMause</strong>.<br />

While <strong>DeMause</strong> concerns himself with the history of childrearing and its effect on


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 10<br />

society, Eric found that <strong>DeMause</strong>'s six-level model has several practical applications<br />

when working with individuals and groups. For instance, in the field of psychotherapy<br />

and counseling, therapists use many different approaches to help clients. Each therapist<br />

generally uses whatever approach they prefer or were trained in. Many therapists rely<br />

on variety of approaches combined with their own subjective instinct and experience in<br />

their effort to find what works best for each client.<br />

<strong>DeMause</strong> did not create a psychotherapy technique. However, Eric discovered<br />

therapists can use the <strong>DeMause</strong> model to assess a client’s childhood experiences and<br />

create better therapeutic strategies. Each of <strong>DeMause</strong>'s six parenting styles creates a<br />

distinct milieu or environment within a child's home, which gives her a distinct<br />

understanding of the world that she carries into adulthood. That understanding<br />

determines many of the advantages and challenges she will experience in adult life,<br />

how she interprets her experiences, and what types of counseling will make the most<br />

positive changes in her life. By using the best approach for each client, the process of<br />

psychotherapy or counseling leads to bigger, faster gains at considerably lower cost.<br />

Eric also found that <strong>DeMause</strong>'s model provides a way to understand why<br />

experiences that are traumatic for one person may not be perceived as traumatic by<br />

someone else. In its common (non-technical) meaning, trauma can be defined as an<br />

experience that violates a person's fundamental sense of security and understanding of<br />

the world, an understanding she derives from the level of parenting she received. An<br />

experience that may be viewed as "normal" to someone who was raised at one level<br />

may be experienced as traumatic to someone who was raised at a much higher level.<br />

Moreover, as a person's psyche evolves throughout her life, experiences she may have<br />

accepted as normal when she was a child may, on mature reflection, be felt as<br />

traumatic. Healing those traumas may bring benefits she would never previously have


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 11<br />

imagined.<br />

In the early 2000s, Eric began a series of projects that involved negotiating<br />

agreements between groups of people from different backgrounds that were in crisis or<br />

had experienced a catastrophic event. These included groups from developed and<br />

developing nations, groups with different ethnicities or cultures, or businesses with<br />

different corporate cultures. Since 2013, he has used <strong>DeMause</strong>’s model to work with<br />

communities in postwar environments. His observations anecdotally confirmed<br />

<strong>DeMause</strong>’s claim that the higher the level of childrearing within a community, the<br />

greater the ability of adults in that community to build cooperative relationships and<br />

institutions. In all cases, he found the easiest way to understand a culture and the<br />

capacity of its members to form lasting, peaceful, and mutually beneficial agreements<br />

was to learn about that culture’s dominant childrearing approach. Eric’s findings have<br />

led to his development of a method for analyzing cultures and making more effective<br />

cross-cultural agreements.<br />

Of course, the most important application of <strong>DeMause</strong>'s model is in childrearing<br />

itself. The model can point parents toward strategies that better support their children’s<br />

psychological and social development. Moreover, different strategies will be best for<br />

different parents. Parents cannot simply decide to parent their child at the highest of the<br />

six levels. As tempting though that may be, it regularly fails in practice. The most<br />

effective parenting method will depend on how the parents themselves were raised and<br />

the types of trauma they have experienced.<br />

<strong>DeMause</strong>'s six levels of parenting constitute a developmental model, with<br />

parallels to other models of childhood and adult development. Developmental models<br />

are based on the notion that as children grow, they develop certain traits and capacities<br />

in a series of distinct stages. A child cannot skip any of the stages because each stage


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 12<br />

must be built on the one before.<br />

The best-known developmental model in the field of child psychology was<br />

created by Jean Piaget who observed that children's cognitive development passes<br />

through four distinct stages as they explore and learn about their world. Other<br />

developmental models look at how children physically mature, the rate at which they<br />

develop physical abilities, such as fine motor skills, how their language skills develop,<br />

and typical age-based behaviors. Developmental models are based on extensive<br />

observations of average children's growth and behavior at different ages. Doctors and<br />

psychologists use them to determine if a child's development lags in certain areas and<br />

could benefit from intervention.<br />

In <strong>DeMause</strong>'s model, each of the six approaches to parenting supports a different<br />

stage in a child’s development. As children reach one stage, they gain the capacity to<br />

benefit from the next higher level of parenting. An ideal parent would adjust her<br />

parenting method as her child gets older in a way that supports the child’s emerging<br />

capacities. Few parents are ideal, of course, and many children never experience an<br />

environment in which all their capacities are supported. A few children may develop<br />

capacities in adulthood through self-reflection, psychotherapy, or other methods, but<br />

most people never develop capacities beyond what their childhood environment<br />

supported.<br />

Though the average is higher in developed nations, historically and in many parts<br />

of the world, parenting styles, communities, and individuals have rarely advanced<br />

beyond the first three levels of the <strong>DeMause</strong> model. Progress in childrearing happens<br />

slowly over many generations because most parents cannot create an environment for<br />

their children higher than the one they were raised in without considerable effort.<br />

To determine the best parenting approach for you and your child, you must first


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 13<br />

understand the level of your own upbringing and the level of the community in which<br />

you will raise your children. If you have a partner, he will want to know the level of his<br />

upbringing as well. Each parent’s upbringing gives them certain gifts but also certain<br />

challenges. Your first tasks as a parent will be to give your child the gifts you received<br />

and to address the challenges particular to your level. We have included chapters in this<br />

book that outline the basic steps on how to do this. You may also choose to supplement<br />

this book by seeking the advice of other books and parenting “gurus.” We would stress<br />

that the most helpful advice and experts will be those that prioritize the challenges of<br />

your level. When you know the level of your upbringing, you can recognize whether a<br />

particular parenting approach addresses your needs or whether it is aimed at parents<br />

with different backgrounds and concerns. Advice that addresses a level other than your<br />

own will usually prove irrelevant or unworkable.<br />

The fourth part of this book will show you how to recover from the traumatic<br />

experiences you may have had as a child or young adult. This work matters, because<br />

unresolved traumas can undermine your effectiveness as a parent (as well as in other<br />

areas of your life). As you progress along the path of self-improvement, you will gain the<br />

capacity to be a better parent and a happier, more fulfilled, and more successful person-<br />

-and to help your children do the same.<br />

For many parents, mastering the challenges of their own level of upbringing and<br />

raising their children in a better version of that level is a huge accomplishment.<br />

However, once you have achieved this goal, you may attempt to shift your family to the<br />

next highest of the six levels. To do this, you will first have to shift yourself. And your<br />

partner may have to do the same. While this will require effort, it will also be highly<br />

rewarding, helping your entire family to create happier and more fulfilled lives. We have<br />

outlined the steps you will need to do this work, provided you have the time and


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 14<br />

dedication.<br />

Bear in mind, as you do the work of self-improvement, your children will be<br />

growing up. They may reach the age where they are ready to experience a higher level<br />

than you are able to offer them. Don't worry about this. Almost all parents today and<br />

throughout history have been in this situation, whether they recognized it or not. All you<br />

can do is offer your child the best that you have achieved, and don't try to offer<br />

something you have not. If your children surpass you and offer your grandchildren a<br />

better upbringing than you were able to give them, they will have you to thank for giving<br />

them a solid platform that supports their effort. Perhaps bear in mind the words of the<br />

great poet Kahlil Gibran:<br />

"You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.<br />

The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with<br />

His might that His arrows may go swift and far.<br />

Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;<br />

For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is<br />

stable."


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 15<br />

Part One<br />

Understanding Your Own Childhood


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 16<br />

Chapter 1<br />

Self-Assessment Quiz<br />

To become a better parent, you must first understand how your own upbringing<br />

and experiences have shaped the way you see the world and your sense of what a<br />

"normal" childhood looks like. As a child, you learned to cope and adapt to the<br />

environment created by your parents or other caregivers. In turn, your childhood<br />

environment prepared you to cope with the world in similar ways as an adult. All things<br />

being equal, you will create a similar environment for your own children, one that<br />

teaches them the same view of the world. You will parent much the way you were<br />

parented.<br />

The multi-generational passing on of worldviews means you are unlikely to<br />

create a worse environment for your children than the one you grew up in. You will<br />

instinctively strive to give your children the same benefits you received. You would have<br />

to experience a considerable amount of debilitating stress or trauma for your own<br />

worldview to be changed to the point that you create a worse environment for your<br />

children. On the other hand, giving your children a better upbringing than the one you<br />

received can be a challenge, because it requires changing your fundamental<br />

understanding of the world and learning how to interact with your children in ways that


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 17<br />

differ from how your parents interacted with you.<br />

To give your children a better upbringing, you must know your starting point--the<br />

type of childhood environment you experienced and how it taught you to see the world.<br />

As mentioned in the introduction, human beings have used six basic approaches to<br />

parenting throughout history. These correspond to six types of childhood environment.<br />

Knowing the type of environment you experienced as a child and the advantages and<br />

disadvantages it gave you will tell you how to create a better environment for your<br />

children.<br />

Bear in mind that your effort to become a better parent will involve becoming a<br />

happier and more successful person yourself. An environment that gives your children<br />

greater security, freedom, and opportunities to develop their potential will also be a<br />

better environment for you, one with less stress and more enjoyable interactions. The<br />

entire family will benefit from the process.<br />

The following quiz will help you assess your current worldview and the type of<br />

upbringing you experienced. Your answers will help you identify which of the six levels<br />

your childhood environment corresponded to, as well as your instincts and challenges<br />

as a parent.<br />

Section One: Your Childhood<br />

A. What was the BEST thing about your childhood and the adults who raised you<br />

(parents or other caregivers)? Pick the statement that comes closest.<br />

1. "I'm lucky to be alive today."<br />

2. "My parents had their problems, but they gave me a home and other<br />

necessities and didn't abandon me."


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 18<br />

3. "My parents fulfilled their roles as father/mother as best they could and taught<br />

me to play a valuable role in my family."<br />

4. "My parents were strict, but they taught me right from wrong. I learned how to<br />

plan/manage my life by working within the rules."<br />

5. "My parents respected my privacy and let me pursue many of my own<br />

interests. They taught me to strive for success and to look respectable."<br />

6. "My parents supported me in pursuing my own interests and goals and<br />

encouraged me to be myself."<br />

Answer: ___<br />

B. What was the WORST thing about your childhood and the adults who raised<br />

you? Pick the statement that comes closest.<br />

1. "I constantly feared for my life." (Either because your father or mother was a<br />

danger to you or your siblings or because your home was in a dangerous area.)<br />

2a. "I was orphaned or abandoned by one or more parents (either physically or<br />

emotionally)."<br />

2b. "My parents were terrible providers. I often felt hungry, deprived, or at risk of<br />

serious deprivation."<br />

2c. "I constantly feared that my parents would divorce, abandon me, or fail to<br />

provide for me."<br />

3. "My parents failed to be proper parents. They didn't respect or value me. They<br />

punished or touched me when they felt like it. They treated me like a servant."<br />

4. "My parents were often unfair and inconsistent. They broke promises. They<br />

behaved hypocritically. 'Do what I say, not what I do' seemed to be their motto."<br />

5. "My parents set impossibly high expectations and were obsessed with


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 19<br />

appearances. I could never live up to their standards."<br />

6. "My parents didn't always approve of my choices or give me the help I<br />

needed."<br />

Answer: ___<br />

C. Which of the following statements best describes how difficult it was for you as<br />

a child to defy your parents?<br />

1. I feared that disobeying my parents would put my life in danger.<br />

2. I feared that if I disobeyed my parents they might kick me out or abandon me.<br />

3. Disobeying my parents for any reason resulted in severe punishment.<br />

4. Most of the time, I had to do what I was told. But if my parents were being<br />

unfair, breaking a promise, or not following the rules, I could plead my case with them<br />

and maybe persuade them to change their mind.<br />

5. Provided I met my parents' expectations (earned accolades, looked<br />

respectable, didn't get into trouble), they pretty much let me do what I wanted to do.<br />

6. When I objected to doing what my parents asked, they tried to understand why<br />

I objected before making their final decision. Often, they saw my point of view.<br />

Answer: ___<br />

Section Two: Your Adult Life<br />

A. Which of the following statements best describes your struggle to overcome<br />

negative or harmful impulses?<br />

1a. "I sometimes have violent outbursts that are hard to control. At those times, I<br />

could kill someone if I'm not careful."


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 20<br />

1b."I fear that if I'm not careful I could provoke the wrong person and get myself<br />

killed."<br />

2a. "When a relationship gets too intense, I usually sabotage it or end it."<br />

2b. "I tend to stay in bad relationships longer than I should."<br />

3. "I find it hard to deny my own impulses in order to fulfill my family obligations."<br />

4. "I find it hard not to give into temptation and do things that are hypocritical or<br />

immoral."<br />

5a. "I have a hard time tolerating people who are different. It's hard not to insult<br />

them."<br />

5b. "I have a hard time maintaining a veneer of respectability and politeness in<br />

social situations."<br />

6. "I find it hard to listen to people I do not like."<br />

Answer: ___<br />

B. When you look at a significant person in your life and imagine their thoughts<br />

and feelings, which of the following areas is your primary concern (choose one of the<br />

six) ...<br />

1. Power and Danger:<br />

* How much power does this person have compared to me?<br />

* If I am more powerful than this person, what could I get them to do for me? How<br />

weak are they? Could I kill them if I needed to? Could I make them fear me?<br />

* Does this person have violent intentions toward me or others? How much of a<br />

threat are they?<br />

* If this person is more powerful than me, what do they think about me? How do I<br />

keep them from getting angry with me? How could I get them to protect me?


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 21<br />

2. Power and Abandonment<br />

How much power does this person have over my relationships?<br />

* If this person is powerful, how can I get them to notice me and like me? How<br />

can I please them? What do they want or need?<br />

* How can I connect with this person? How do I make sure this person does not<br />

leave me?<br />

* If I am more powerful than this person, how do I control them? How do I make<br />

them dependent on me? Can I count on their loyalty?<br />

How much does this person need me? Can I make them need me more?<br />

How secure is my relationship with this person?<br />

3. Power and Family<br />

* How much power does this person have over me or my family?<br />

* If this person is powerful, how honorable are they? What do they want or<br />

need?<br />

How do they see me right now? How could I influence them to protect<br />

me or my family?<br />

* How can I influence this person to act more honorably toward me or my family?<br />

4. Beliefs and Morality<br />

* Does this person share my beliefs and moral code?<br />

* If this person shares my beliefs, how faithfully do they follow the rules? Are<br />

they a good role model for me? How can I help them to follow the rules?<br />

* If this person does not share my beliefs, can I convert them to my beliefs or<br />

should I stay away from them?


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 22<br />

5. Public vs. Private<br />

* Is this person respectable and successful. Is this a good person?<br />

* What is this person like on the inside? What do they really think or feel? How do<br />

they act in private? What are their personal interests?<br />

* How does this person balance their need for both outward respectability and<br />

personal fulfillment?<br />

* Does this person respect the image of myself I present?<br />

* Does this person see the real me hidden beneath the image I present?<br />

* Is it safe for me to share my private self with this person?<br />

6. Helping<br />

* How does this person see the world?<br />

* What is important to this person?<br />

* How does this person see me?<br />

* What does this person want and need?<br />

* How might I best help this person?<br />

Answer: ___<br />

C. Which principle of morality is closest to being the central challenge of your<br />

life?<br />

1. Do not kill, except in self-defense or to protect the innocent from being killed.<br />

2. Never abandon your loved ones. Stick by them in good times and bad.<br />

3. The needs of the family must always come before one's personal desires.<br />

4. Treat everyone fairly and impartially, according to the rules of ethics, morality,


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 23<br />

and the law. No exceptions.<br />

5. Follow your conscience in determining how to apply the rules in the most<br />

moral and ethical way according to the situation. The spirit of the law is more important<br />

than the letter of the law.<br />

6. Serve others patiently in the way that is best for them, provided it won't restrict<br />

others from living their lives fully, and even if it goes against your personal preferences.<br />

Answer: ___<br />

D. Which statement best reflects your approach or attitude toward planning for<br />

the future?<br />

1. Staying alive today is enough of a challenge. I'll deal with tomorrow when it<br />

comes.<br />

2. Keeping my family together and paying the bills on time is enough of a<br />

challenge. Worrying about the future a waste of time.<br />

3. My challenge is to honor my ancestors and meet my family obligations, so the<br />

family will be strong and prosperous long after I'm gone.<br />

4. If I have faith and follow the rules, I will be rewarded, if not in this life than in<br />

the next. But if I make plans and stick to them, I'm more likely to get rewards in this life.<br />

5. My challenge is to meet my career goals, so I will have the freedom to fulfill my<br />

personal dreams.<br />

6. My challenge is to be true to myself while making a better world and a better<br />

future for everyone.<br />

Answer: ___<br />

E. Which statement best reflects your feelings regarding trusting others?


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 24<br />

1. The world is full of people who will murder you if you give them half a chance--<br />

so never give them a chance.<br />

2. Relationships come and go. When the chips are down, the only person you<br />

can count on is yourself.<br />

3. I trust my family, because they are the only ones who will be there for me in<br />

times of need, just as I am there for them.<br />

4. I trust people who share my beliefs and are part of my community. I don't trust<br />

outsiders.<br />

5. I trust people who look respectable and treat others with courtesy and respect,<br />

regardless of their background.<br />

6. I consider everyone to be part of my community. I trust people unless or until I<br />

have a reason not to and I try to be worthy of other people's trust.<br />

Answer: ___<br />

F. Which of the following areas do the biggest problems or dramas in your life<br />

tend to revolve around?<br />

1. Staying alive or keeping others alive.<br />

2. Finding and maintaining relationships or getting your material needs met.<br />

3. Meeting your obligations to your family.<br />

4. Following the rules of your religion or community and leading a moral life.<br />

5. Being successful and respected in the world while having a meaningful private<br />

life.<br />

6. Leading a life that combines and balances service to others, personal<br />

fulfillment, and self-expression.


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 25<br />

Answer: ___<br />

Section Three: Parenting<br />

A. Which of the following do you see as your primary challenge as a parent?<br />

1. Keeping your children alive.<br />

2. Providing for your children's needs and being there for them.<br />

3. Fulfilling your role as a mother or father and training your children to fulfill their<br />

role in the family.<br />

4. Teaching your children right from wrong and to follow the rules, being fair with<br />

them, and setting a good example for them.<br />

5. Setting high expectations for your children while trusting them to find their own<br />

path to achievement.<br />

6. Helping your children achieve the goals they choose in their own unique way.<br />

Answer: ___<br />

B. As a parent, the greatest service you could do for your children would be to...<br />

1. Lay down your life to save theirs.<br />

2. Never abandon them and teach them not to abandon their loved ones.<br />

3. Fulfill your role as a parent honorably and prepare your children to lead the<br />

family when you're gone.<br />

4. Be strict, but fair, so they learn right from wrong. Be a good role model, so<br />

your children can one day be role models for others.<br />

5. Set high expectations for them (so they win accolades) while tolerating their<br />

individuality.<br />

6. Support them in becoming the best version of themselves, expressing their


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 26<br />

uniqueness, and fulfilling their dreams.<br />

Answer: ___<br />

Scoring:<br />

How many of your answers were number 1, 2, 3, etc.? The most frequent<br />

number will most likely correspond to the level of your upbringing according to the<br />

following scheme:<br />

1: Survival<br />

2: Provision<br />

3: Structured Family<br />

4: Fellowship<br />

5: Individuality<br />

6: Inclusion<br />

My level: _____________<br />

After scoring, turn to the chapters that follow. You should find the one describing<br />

your level the easiest to relate to.


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 27<br />

Chapter Two: Survival<br />

The first gift a parent can give a child seems so basic, so obvious it may scarcely<br />

seem worth mentioning, particularly if you grew up in a developed country. Yet its<br />

importance cannot be overstated. Simply put, the first gift a parent offers their children is<br />

to keep them alive long enough to reach adulthood.<br />

Most people in today's advanced nations can take for granted that children will<br />

live to become adults (except in rare cases of fatal accidents or illnesses). However,<br />

historically a child's chances of survival have never been as high as today. Prior to the<br />

19th century, the average number of children worldwide who died before age 15 was<br />

46.2%. 1 This high youth mortality rate can only partially be the result of disease and<br />

accidents. The shocking truth most people most people prefer to overlook is that large<br />

numbers of children throughout history have been killed by adults--often their own<br />

parents. As described in detail by Lloyd <strong>DeMause</strong>'s books and the Journal of<br />

Psychohistory, for most of human history infanticide, child sacrifice, and various forms<br />

of abuse and neglect were commonplace and led to the premature death of many<br />

1 Max Roser, "Mortality in the past--around half died as<br />

children," Our World in Data (June 11, 2019)<br />

https://ourworldindata.org/child-mortality-in-the-past#licence


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 28<br />

children.<br />

In advanced countries, most people consider killing children unthinkable,<br />

something outside normal life. Those who grew up in such countries may be familiar<br />

with legends about women who killed their children as an act of revenge against their<br />

disloyal husbands--Medea of Ancient Greece, or Cortez's Native Mexican mistress, La<br />

Llorona. They have heard fairy tales in which parents abandon their children in the<br />

woods to die or stepmothers who try to kill the children of their husband's first wife. They<br />

may have read about mythological figures, such as Chronos, who ate his own children<br />

to avoid being overthrown by them or historical persons such as Abbas the Great and<br />

Ivan the Terrible who killed their sons for similar reasons. But these stories are either<br />

fictional or exceptional. What history often neglects to mention is that before the last<br />

century or two the killing of children was common and generally went unpunished.<br />

Around 1800, the worldwide youth mortality rate began dropping. By 1950, it had<br />

fallen to 27% and the decline accelerated. Today, youth mortality stands at a record low<br />

of 4.6%. No doubt the reduction in children's deaths partly results from the development<br />

of modern medicine, food security, and hygiene. However, another factor we cannot<br />

ignore is the evolution of human culture, in particular people's attitudes toward children<br />

and parenting. The abuse of children that was widespread centuries ago has become<br />

intolerable in much of today's world. Children have rights today, whereas in earlier<br />

centuries they had none. Childrearing practices that were common in North America as<br />

recently as the 1950s are now disapproved of or illegal. Today, civilized nations regard<br />

safeguarding the lives of children as their highest priority and the greatest duty of any<br />

parent. After thousands of years of human culture, the world has dispensed with the<br />

most savage aspects of our past, and most children now receive the first and most<br />

important gift: Survival.


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 29<br />

However, for a child to properly receive the gift of the gift of Survival, parents<br />

must do more than simply keep them alive for 16 years or more. Children must grow up<br />

knowing that the adults in their lives are able and determined to keep them safe from<br />

physical harm. If they do not, if they grow up in an environment where they believe<br />

adults (and especially the adults closest to them) could kill them, let them die through<br />

inaction, or be unable to protect them, that insecurity can haunt them for their entire<br />

lives. We would describe them as having been raised in an unstable Survival<br />

environment. Children who experience such a childhood will likely grow up to be adults<br />

whose fundamental understanding of the world prevents them from being happy or<br />

successful. They will be people who have a hard time thriving in a civilized community.<br />

Most people reading this book are unlikely to have grown up in an unstable<br />

Survival level and will not be the kind of parent who would tolerate the endangerment of<br />

children. Providing children with an environment where they are safe will be so<br />

fundamental and instinctive, they won't have to ever think about it. Nonetheless, some<br />

readers may encounter people who grew up in a Survival environment. A few may have<br />

grown up in one themselves or had relatives who did.<br />

The most obvious places in the world where children fear for their lives are those<br />

where law and order do not exist or where the country is experiencing war, revolution,<br />

or civil unrest. For example, as we write this the Syrian civil war has been raging for a<br />

decade. Other civil wars and violent civil conflicts are taking place in another two dozen<br />

countries. An estimated 250,000 children are currently being used as soldiers and put in<br />

situations where they must either kill or be killed. Unstable Survival environments can<br />

also be created by natural disasters or pandemics that force adults to fight each other<br />

for survival, or practices such as infanticide, which is believed to still occur in parts of


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 30<br />

Papua New Guinea and Asia. 2 Children growing up in any of these environments<br />

cannot feel their lives are safe. They will see the world as dangerous place and adults<br />

as the biggest threat.<br />

Even in developed areas like the US and Europe, a few parents kill their children.<br />

Fortunately, such killings are illegal and so rare they make for shocking news headlines.<br />

When they are discovered, the law punishes these parents and puts their surviving<br />

children into protective care. Nonetheless, even in advanced countries, a few children<br />

grow up in such an environment.<br />

Bear in mind, children do not have to witness killing or suffer near-fatal injuries<br />

for their childhood environment to be classified as unstable Survival. If parents regularly<br />

threaten to kill their children in ways so convincing that the children believe the threat,<br />

the children's psyches will be as adversely affected as if they had experienced actual<br />

life-threatening incidents. Even witnessing threats being made against other children<br />

can be traumatic for a child.<br />

For example, Eric had a client who grew up with a sadistic foster mother.<br />

Sometimes, when the children were eating dinner, she would walk around the table<br />

holding a large knife and tell the children if they didn't behave she would cut their<br />

throats. Another of Eric's clients grew up in Harlem during a difficult period where he<br />

saw teenagers being lost to drugs, becoming addicts, and sometimes dying. His young<br />

mind drew the reasonable conclusion that children's lives were not safe in his world. A<br />

woman Eric trained as a psychotherapist had a father who was mentally unstable. One<br />

time, he invited his daughter into the garage where he kept his guns. Holding a gun as if<br />

he was about to fire, he said, "This is what I do to children who don't behave." From<br />

2 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infanticide#Mainland_China


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 31<br />

then on, she believed her father would shoot her if she misbehaved. She had seen her<br />

father hunting, so she knew he could kill. And with her father's mental illness, she<br />

believed he was quite capable of carrying out his threat.<br />

A childhood marked by a constant fear of being killed by adults is the worst kind<br />

of childhood. A community where the dominant culture permits this behavior is a place<br />

where adults cannot trust other adults or even themselves to refrain from violent<br />

outbursts. Everyone must stay on their guard. Children may witness friends or siblings<br />

being killed and live with the fear they could be next. When children grow up believing<br />

people's lives are constantly in danger, they cannot experience freedom, security, or<br />

happiness.<br />

Growing up in an unstable Survival environment can skews a child's perception<br />

of the world in ways others would find difficult to comprehend. A child cannot feel safe in<br />

such an environment. Anyone can change from friend to foe at any moment, and a<br />

person's life can be drastically changed or ended in a heartbeat. A child who grows up<br />

in an unstable Survival environment can grow up to be a chaotic and dangerous adult.<br />

Constantly fearing someone could try to kill her at any moment, she will perceive danger<br />

where none exists and could respond with murderous violence intended to eliminate<br />

imagined threats. A community where many people have had such childhoods is one<br />

where violence can erupt at any moment.<br />

Many people have had brief Survival level experiences at some point in their life.<br />

Sometimes these are isolated events, such as a near-fatal car crash. Other experiences<br />

can last several weeks or months, such as a military tour of duty in a combat zone.<br />

Such experiences give a person a taste of what life is like at the Survival level--but only<br />

a taste. The difference between a brief Survival level experience and a childhood in<br />

which Survival defines your sense of normality is enormous. In some ways, it's like the


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 32<br />

difference between visiting a poorer country as a tourist and growing up there. The<br />

tourist's experience is voluntary, selective, and short. The tourist has a different life she<br />

will return to. The native's experience is involuntary. She has no protection or relief from<br />

that environment. She knows no other reality.<br />

In his book, The Better Angels of Our Nature, Steven Pinker discusses four main<br />

traits which have developed within advanced human culture as child-rearing practices<br />

have evolved. These traits are empathy, reason, self-control, and morality. Children who<br />

grow up in an unstable Survival level environment tend to become adults who exhibit<br />

the lowest or baseline level of these traits. Here's how these traits will typically manifest:<br />

Focused Empathy<br />

Empathy is the ability to put oneself in someone else's shoes, to understand what<br />

they are thinking and feeling. A child who grows up in unstable Survival environment will<br />

devote most of her empathic capacity to assessing the people around her at every<br />

moment to decide if they are safe or dangerous. Because she could never know when a<br />

mortal threat would arise, she has a developed a heightened sensitivity to warning<br />

signs. She is keenly aware who has the most power or represents the biggest threat in<br />

her immediate environment.<br />

If you were raised in an unstable Survival environment, you will instinctively<br />

adapt your personality to accord with the most powerful person near you. If that person<br />

is a threat, you will do all you can to placate her. You will craft plans to incapacitate her<br />

or escape, should she become provoked. If someone seems powerful but safe, you will<br />

do all you can to ingratiate yourself, so the person will protect you from those who might<br />

attack you. Your interest in other people revolves around how they may affect your<br />

efforts to protect yourself. Who could you use to distract someone dangerous while you


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 33<br />

run away? Who could you betray to save yourself? Who is most likely to betray you?<br />

The downside to this heightened preoccupation with danger is that you will pay<br />

less attention to other traits of the people around you. You may not care if someone is<br />

kind, smart, affable, honest, reliable, creative, funny, etc. Such considerations pale in<br />

importance.<br />

Belief in an Irrational World<br />

Being raised in an unstable Survival environment gives you an instinctive belief<br />

that the world is irrational, unpredictable, and chaotic. Just as the adults who raised you<br />

could shift from being kind one moment to threatening your life the next, you know<br />

everyone around you has the capacity to become a threat at a moment's notice. Allies,<br />

friends, and lovers can turn on you, so you never let yourself be vulnerable.<br />

As a result of your sensitivity to danger, you devote much of your intellectual<br />

capacity to figuring out how to survive from moment to moment. You have little capacity<br />

to make long-term plans. What use are plans when surviving today is enough of a<br />

challenge? Because your world is unpredictable, you see little point in trying to<br />

understand why things happen or to better your life.<br />

Instead, you must dedicate yourself to calculating the course of action that will<br />

give you the greatest chance of survival when the next threat arises. You may have an<br />

instinctive urge to run at the first sign of danger. You must be prepared to leave your<br />

home, possessions, friends, etc. at a moment's notice. You may keep your savings in<br />

the form of cash on hand that you can grab on your way out the door. You may always<br />

want multiple escape routes available, should you need to run. And if you cannot run,<br />

you must be prepared to eliminate a threat as soon as it appears. Again, these are all<br />

part of a survival plan designed to keep yourself alive in a dangerous environment.


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 34<br />

People raised at higher levels often don't understand the thought process of<br />

those raised at the Survival level. A good illustration of this is depicted in the play<br />

Brighten Beach Memoirs by Neil Simon. In one scene, the mother, Kate, is sending her<br />

son, Eugene, to the corner store:<br />

Kate: And get a quarter pound of butter.<br />

Eugene: I bought a quarter pound of butter this morning. Why don't you buy a<br />

half pound at a time?<br />

Kate: And suppose the house burned down this afternoon? Why do I need an<br />

extra quarter pound of butter?<br />

Eugene: If my mother taught logic in high school, this would be some weird<br />

country.<br />

To Eugene, a second-generation immigrant who grew up in a safe neighborhood,<br />

Kate's assessment of risk seems irrational. Yet it is completely rational to Kate, who<br />

grew up in a Jewish community in Poland during a time of invasions and pogroms,<br />

when families had to be ready to flee for their lives at a moment's notice.<br />

Selective Impulse Control<br />

Being raised at the unstable Survival stage means your impulse control, whether<br />

strong or weak, will have everything to do with killing or being killed. Because you could<br />

never assume you were safe as a child, you cannot do so as an adult.<br />

If you are the most powerful person in the environment, you may be prone to<br />

unpredictable and violent outbursts. Little things can set you off, make you feel like your<br />

life is in danger when in reality you are safe. Your impulse will be to destroy the<br />

perceived threat before it destroys you, so you lash out at what appears to be the<br />

source. This impulse will feel completely justified, and you may have little to no ability to


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 35<br />

restrain yourself from violent behavior. At any moment, you can feel as if you have been<br />

plunged into a "kill or be killed" situation.<br />

Your capacity to be provoked into violence can make you a danger to those<br />

around you, including your spouse or children. People feel they must placate or tiptoe<br />

around you out of fear. You may feel a strong need to intimidate others, to make sure<br />

they are too scared of you to ever become a threat.<br />

Conversely, your impulse control may be heightened when you are near people<br />

more powerful than yourself. In the presence of a powerful person, you may appear<br />

quite passive and expressionless because you’re trying to remain inoffensive. You may<br />

be highly deferential toward authority figures, trying hard to win their favor so they will<br />

not become a threat and may even protect you from other dangerous people.<br />

Minimal Morality<br />

Apart from your efforts to appease the powerful, morality, in the sense of "caring<br />

for others' needs," is a luxury you cannot afford at an unstable Survival level. "Kill or be<br />

killed" is your maxim. Just as you cannot reply on others to protect you from danger,<br />

you will do what you must to survive with no regard for other people's safety.<br />

Inability to Cooperate<br />

An unstable Survival upbringing makes it difficult for you to form relationships.<br />

Because you have a deep distrust of others, you have a hard time being a good friend,<br />

partner, or neighbor. You may live a very isolated life because it feels safer to be alone.<br />

When an entire community exists at an unstable Survival level, cooperation<br />

among individuals is rare and precarious. People cannot form extended families, let<br />

alone larger communities. The environment resembles a version of the Wild West in


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 36<br />

which everyone is a gunslinger. Often, the only way to form a relationship at this level is<br />

to either:<br />

a) Find someone weaker than you and dominate them so they won't dare<br />

become a threat to you.<br />

b) Find someone more powerful than you and find a way to please them while<br />

acting very servile, so they will protect you.<br />

Stable Survival<br />

We could say parenting begins when parents dedicate themselves to protecting<br />

their children's lives and put measures in place to achieve that end. When they<br />

succeed, their children experience the security of knowing their lives are safe. We can<br />

then say the environment is at a stable Survival stage.<br />

If your childhood home was a stable Survival environment within an unstable<br />

Survival community, you still knew the world was dangerous and unpredictable. You<br />

knew other children were sometimes killed by adults. But at least you knew your parents<br />

were not a threat. They were capable and determined to keep you alive. Your family<br />

may even have been part of a small group in which the adults worked together to<br />

protect the children. You were one of the lucky ones.<br />

One way of understanding the difference between an unstable and a stable<br />

Survival environment is to imagine your life as an action-adventure film.<br />

Action-adventure films feature characters who find themselves in life threatening<br />

situations. We can group these characters into four broad categories:<br />

Villains: those who kill.<br />

Victims: those who are killed.<br />

Heroes: those who save lives.


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 37<br />

Saved: those whose lives are saved.<br />

In an unstable Survival world, it feels like the Villains are in control and anyone<br />

could become a Victim at any moment. If you are strong, you will likely kill to survive.<br />

You may even become a Villain. If you are weak, you may become a Victim and get<br />

killed.<br />

In a stable Survival world, some of the strong become Heroes by protecting<br />

others. In movies, they are ones who save innocent lives by defeating the Villains. In<br />

real life, they are the parents who keep their children safe. As a result, the Saved get to<br />

grow up and become Heroes to their own children. A stable Survival environment is one<br />

in which the Heroes are in control and most children are Saved.<br />

Note that the only requirement for parents at the Survival level is to keep their<br />

children alive. They don't have to be nurturing. They don't have to be good providers.<br />

They don't have to be kind or respectful of boundaries. They don't have to grant children<br />

rights or do any of the other things parents would be expected to do at other levels. And<br />

usually they don't. It is enough of a challenge just to keep their children alive.<br />

If your childhood environment was so dangerous that the only way your parents<br />

could keep you alive was to hide you under the floorboards and feed you scraps, then<br />

doing so made them Heroes.<br />

Or let's say you had a parent who was so prone to outbursts of rage that she<br />

feared she might one day kill you. Or perhaps she lived with other adults who were a<br />

threat to your life. If your parent believed the best way to keep you alive was to abandon<br />

you--walk out of your life or put you into the care of strangers--she would be a Hero for<br />

doing so.<br />

If you grew up in a stable Survival environment, you likely have many of the<br />

same difficulties we discussed above--difficulty trusting, forming relationships, making


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 38<br />

plans, and cooperating with others. You may feel a need to either dominate or placate<br />

others. These traits inevitably result from growing up in a world you perceive as<br />

dangerous and unpredictable.<br />

A stable Survival upbringing has the advantage of making you more likely to be a<br />

Hero than a Villain to your own children. You may be forever grateful your parents kept<br />

you safe from the villains, so you make a determined effort to do the same for your own<br />

children. With stability, a moral code begins to emerge. The maxim shifts from "kill or be<br />

killed" to "do not kill, except in self-defense or to save the lives of the innocent."<br />

Life is sacred to you because you understand how precious it is. Once parents<br />

and communities reach that understanding, they are ready to start creating an even<br />

better environment for their children--one offers additional gifts.


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 39<br />

Chapter 3: Provision<br />

Survival environment is the first and most important gift a parent can give a child,<br />

but it is not enough. Human beings differ from many other species in that we are born in<br />

a very premature state. Newborn human babies cannot feed themselves, seek shelter,<br />

or meet their other needs. From the moment they are born, children require a secure<br />

connection to at least one parent (or parental figure) who provides for them until they<br />

mature enough to look after themselves. A child who grows up with such a connection<br />

will receive the second great gift, which we call Provision. As with Survival, growing up<br />

in a Provision environment gives children a degree of emotional security. They know the<br />

world can provide for them and other people can be sources of comfort, which equips<br />

them to seek out opportunities and relationships. They have an optimism that will<br />

support their success and happiness.<br />

The formation of a Provision environment typically begins when a mother nurses<br />

her newborn baby. On one hand, she is providing the baby with the nutritional<br />

sustenance it needs to live and grow, as well as warmth from her body. This much is<br />

obvious. However, something else takes place which is just as important--the<br />

development of the child's ability to calm itself and to feel safe.<br />

Humans have two nervous systems, known as the sympathetic and


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 40<br />

parasympathetic. The sympathetic nervous system is responsible for what is known as<br />

the "fight or flight" response, enhancing a person's ability to respond to immanent<br />

threats in a way that helps them survive. We are all born with a developed sympathetic<br />

system because, in a Survival level environment, the ability to respond to danger is<br />

essential.<br />

The function of the parasympathetic nervous system is to put us into a calm state<br />

that promotes rest and digestion. A child's parasympathetic system is underdeveloped<br />

when she is born but develops in infancy through the experience of forming a<br />

connection with an adult (often but not necessarily her mother). The process works as<br />

follows.<br />

When a baby is hungry or distressed, its sympathetic nervous system activates in<br />

response to the threat and the baby cries. A good mother will usually pick up the baby<br />

and begin to nurse.<br />

Whenever two human beings are in physical contact, their nervous systems tend<br />

to move into harmony with each other. While nursing, the mother will generally be in a<br />

calmer state than the baby. Because she is larger, her nervous system will dominate.<br />

Most babies, as they are cuddled and fed, move into a calmer state, which is ideal for<br />

digestion. If the mother is unwilling or unavailable, any adult can perform the same<br />

function by cuddling the baby while feeding it formula from a bottle. Adults may use<br />

other methods to soothe a baby, such as softly singing or rocking her. Babies often fall<br />

asleep while being cuddled or nursed.<br />

A newborn baby should experience being soothed many times a day. And even<br />

after a child has been weaned, she will continue to run to her parents when distressed<br />

to be calmed and comforted. A good parent will cooperate with this process and<br />

continue to provide a soothing presence for the child, as well as meet her material


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 41<br />

needs, for many years. Regular soothing encourages the development of the baby's<br />

parasympathetic nervous system and increases her capacity to be soothed. Over time,<br />

she will internalize the soothing process and automatically calm herself when<br />

distressed.<br />

Children who have their emotional and material needs met consistently by their<br />

parents will develop a higher level of emotional security. They will get less upset by<br />

everyday problems because experience tells them problems are easily solved. They will<br />

perceive the world as a safe place. They will know that having a connection with<br />

another human being makes everything all right. A more poetic way of saying this is that<br />

they will develop the capacity to love.<br />

By the time children have reached adulthood, the process of soothing may be<br />

completely internalized. They will no longer need physical contact with their parents to<br />

calm down. The mere presence or thought of a parent, and the feeling of connection it<br />

stirs, will have a soothing effect. They may also learn to calm themselves with other<br />

positive thoughts or through physical routines such as slowing their breathing, relaxing<br />

muscles, resting, walking in nature, playing, or consuming food and beverages. Of<br />

course, even adults will sometimes seek physical contact or connection with other<br />

human beings to help them calm down in moments of great distress. But people who<br />

received the gift of Provision as children will become distressed less often and less<br />

easily.<br />

If you were raised at a stable Provision level, your parents will have consistently<br />

provided you with both the necessities of life (food, clothing, shelter, and healthcare) as<br />

well as their constant, reassuring presence. When you become a parent, you will<br />

instinctively provide for your own children, because you know that's what parents do.<br />

For people raised at higher levels, the gift of Provision may seem so basic it is


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 42<br />

hardly worth noting. Yet if Provision is the highest level a child experiences, there is<br />

nothing trivial about this gift. Provision has powerful and positive effect on a person's<br />

view of the world and ability to function in it.<br />

Instability on the Provision Level<br />

Unfortunately, some children grow up in an unstable Provision environment<br />

where they either experience insecurity regarding the necessities of life or lack a secure<br />

connection with a parent. Either condition can cause a child to grow up believing she<br />

cannot depend on the world to provide for her, and that deprivation is a real and<br />

constant threat. Such insecurity will make it difficult for her to receive the gifts of higher<br />

levels and will limit her happiness and success as an adult.<br />

The most extreme images of deprivation in Western media are of developing<br />

nations suffering from famine or drought. Another example would be the AIDS epidemic<br />

in Africa that turned many children into orphans. In situations like these, the entire<br />

community functions at an unstable Provision level. However, even in advanced<br />

countries, many children grow up in unstable Provision households. By some estimates,<br />

nearly three million children in the US experience hunger every day, and a small<br />

number of children in every advanced country experience malnutrition. This reality is<br />

often ignored in the news media, though social workers and teachers regularly interact<br />

with deprived children. Of course, in less developed nations, deprivation is more<br />

common.<br />

Some children lose one or more parents through accident or disease. In other<br />

cases, authorities will remove children from abusive homes and place them in foster<br />

care. This may be necessary to protect the child's life (Survival), but the loss of<br />

connection with parents still creates instability on the Provision level, damaging a child's


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 43<br />

sense of connection with a particular adult and jeopardizing her faith that her needs will<br />

continue to be met.<br />

More commonly, children may lose contact with one parent due to a marital<br />

breakup in which the parent loses or chooses not to exercise custody or visiting rights.<br />

Losing a parent creates instability on the Provision level by undermining a child's<br />

confidence she will be looked after. The amount of instability depends on how strong<br />

the child's bond is with the parent who has custody and the age of the child. Sometimes<br />

if a child grows up with two parents who fight a lot or with a parent who is absent from<br />

home for long periods due to work, the child will feel as insecure as if her parents had<br />

separated. A similar result can occur if a parent suffers from depression, illness,<br />

addiction, or a permanent physical disability which renders her oblivious to her<br />

children's needs or unable to meet them consistently.<br />

Children raised in an unstable Provision environment will grow up to be adults<br />

who have a hard time providing a stable environment for their own children. They will<br />

lack the instinct or capacity to provide for their children's needs. In families at the<br />

unstable Provision level, adults may move in and out of relationships frequently, ending<br />

them when they get difficult. This is true for marriages, casual relationships, friendships,<br />

jobs, or even relationships with their children. Some parents disappear for extended<br />

periods or abandon their children altogether. The occupants of a child's home can<br />

change frequently. Such disruptions can create financial insecurity and make children<br />

feel abandoned or neglected. Children may change homes on one or more occasions,<br />

each time plunging them into a new environment and causing them to worry they will<br />

lose the new home as well. Money is often a problem in unstable Provision homes.<br />

Food may be plentiful sometimes, scarce at other times. Healthcare may not always be<br />

available when needed. Children may feel a constant anxiety regarding their material


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 44<br />

needs. They may grow up feeling they cannot count on anything or anyone.<br />

Of course, children can have temporary experiences at the unstable Provision<br />

level, such as a camping trip in which the food supply runs out a day early or getting lost<br />

for a few hours at an amusement park. Some children experience more prolonged<br />

periods of instability, for instance if their parents' marriage goes through a bad patch or<br />

unemployment causes the family to become homeless for a time. Such sustained<br />

episodes of insecurity can destabilize a child's psyche on the Provision level. However,<br />

with temporary experiences, children will retain the sense that security on the Provision<br />

level is normal. They lived in a stable environment before the experience, and they<br />

returned to it after. A childhood in which instability is normal will have a profound effect<br />

on a person that can persist for their entire life, if no intervention is performed.<br />

Let's consider the after-effects of a childhood spent in an environment that was<br />

unstable on the Provision level.<br />

Impulse Control<br />

An adult who was raised in an unstable Provision environment will have a deep<br />

sense that life is unpredictable. If you are such a person, you may feel like you never<br />

know when someone will abandon you or whether you will get your needs met.<br />

Consequently, you may have either an inability to resist your own impulses or an<br />

obsession with gaining control that can manifest in some of the following ways:<br />

In terms of life's necessities, you may be either a miser or a spendthrift. You may<br />

have an obsessive or irrational need to store up material possessions, such as food,<br />

clothes, or money. You may be so afraid of putting your material needs at risk that you<br />

resist change. On the other hand, you may have trouble managing your resources, so<br />

you continually find yourself broke or lacking other necessities. You may sometimes act


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 45<br />

on impulses that sabotage your finances. You may take excessive risks, spend<br />

uncontrollably, gamble, or abandon a long-term financial strategy on a whim. You may<br />

fail to maintain your possessions or damage them for no reason. Some people oscillate<br />

between the two extremes, sometimes pinching pennies, sometimes overspending.<br />

In terms of relationships, you may tend to either:<br />

1. Cling to bad relationships. You may crave the secure connection you didn't<br />

have as a child. So, when you find a connection to someone or something, you may<br />

cling to it as if your life depended on it--even when it goes against your best interests.<br />

You may work very hard to please others so they will not reject you. You may fall in love<br />

too quickly and stay in abusive or unhappy relationships rather than risk being alone.<br />

You may stay in an unsatisfying, low-paying, or even abusive job rather than take<br />

advantage of better opportunities. You may find it hard to leave a school, a<br />

neighborhood, an organization, a mentor, or a circle of friends, even when your loyalty<br />

goes unrewarded. The idea of ending a relationship may be frightening.<br />

2. End good relationships. Children have a hard time understanding why a parent<br />

would abandon them. They are reluctant to find fault with their parent because that<br />

might increase their feeling of insecurity. If you felt abandoned as a child, you might<br />

have instead decided the fault lay in you, that you are unworthy of connection or love.<br />

As a result, you may expect and fear rejection. You may try to avoid rejection by<br />

distancing yourself from others or by rejecting them before they can reject you.<br />

Whenever you grow so close to someone that you start to feel vulnerable, you may end<br />

the relationship rather than take the chance they might break up with you. You may find<br />

yourself unable to resist the impulse to sabotage a relationship--to do something that<br />

will make the other person or group reject you. In this way, the loss feels less painful<br />

because you are exerting some control over it. You may have a strong impulse to quit


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 46<br />

school, teams, or jobs when things get tough. You may abandon friends or communities<br />

that would benefit you. You may have difficulty keeping promises or commitments. Even<br />

worse, you may tend to abandon or neglect your own spouse or children.<br />

Empathy<br />

When you imagine what another person is thinking or feeling, your main purpose<br />

will be to evaluate whether they are willing to connect with you and stay in connection.<br />

This is an improvement over the Survival level, where people focus on who might kill<br />

them or protect them from being killed. However, it still compels you to appease<br />

powerful people, control people, or let others have excessive power over you. You do<br />

what you must to gain the loyalty of someone who will provide you with a sense of<br />

connection or material security, someone who symbolizes the secure parent you wish<br />

you had had. You may feel a desperate need to stay connected to such a person, even<br />

if they treat you badly in other ways.<br />

Alternatively, you may constantly look for evidence that someone will abandon<br />

you. You may take something your spouse or partner does as an indication they are<br />

preparing to reject you when that is not at all on their mind. You may feel compelled to<br />

test the loyalty of those close to you, to the point of starting arguments. You watch for<br />

signs that a friend or partner might not be sufficiently dedicated to your relationship, so<br />

you can decide whether to reject them or do something to make them stay with you.<br />

Reason<br />

At the unstable Provision level, you may devote much of your intelligence to<br />

maintaining your current source of material needs and your current relationships. You<br />

may feel insecure about these matters, so you craft strategies to keep your partner


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 47<br />

happy, your boss happy, your landlord happy, etc. These strategies will be short-term,<br />

as the future is uncertain and your immediate problems are pressing.<br />

For example, Eric had a client who married a successful man. Due to being<br />

raised in an unstable Provision environment, she was deathly afraid of abandonment.<br />

To make sure her husband would never leave her, she dedicated all her time and<br />

intelligence to preparing an extravagant dinner every night for him to come home to--to<br />

the point that she had little time for other relationships or activities.<br />

You may have a plan to store up savings in case you lose your job. You may<br />

take a lover on the side in case your primary relationship breaks down. You may hide<br />

cash, in case your spouse leaves you or you feel a need to leave him. You may feel a<br />

compulsive need to acquire more possessions than you need and squirrel them away.<br />

If you are living and working in a community at a higher level, your insecurity<br />

regarding relationships, though it feels rational to you, may appear quite irrational to<br />

other people. Consequently, you may have more difficulty maintaining good<br />

relationships with neighbors or friends. In a work environment, you may find it hard to<br />

trust your staff or co-workers. You may be very controlling. You may have a hard time<br />

delegating work or trusting others to do their jobs competently. You may micromanage<br />

others to the point that they don't want to work for you or with you. You may crave the<br />

boss's attention and may over-perform or even under-perform to get it.<br />

You may feel insecure in your job, even if you have no reason to. You may be on<br />

the lookout for signs your job will be eliminated or the company you work for will go<br />

under. You may change jobs frequently, to avoid being fired. You may obsessively<br />

acquire new skills in case your existing ones become redundant. You may prefer to be<br />

self-employed, so no one can fire you.<br />

Your anxiety around connection may have a strong influence on how you make


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 48<br />

decisions. You may decide where to live, which school to go to, or which employer to<br />

work for according to whether you have friends or other connections to those places<br />

rather than whether they offer you the best opportunities. This tendency limits your<br />

prospects. You may not apply for the best job or the best school if it means leaving<br />

home or giving up a relationship.<br />

Morality<br />

At the Survival level, the moral code says, "Do not kill, except to protect the<br />

innocent or in self-defense." At the Provision level, this code is inadequate, because it<br />

fails to address the issue of deprivation.<br />

Jealousy, especially among family members, becomes a feature of an unstable<br />

Provision environment. Is your brother taking your share of food while you go hungry? Is<br />

your sister getting more or bigger presents than you? Is the baby getting more love and<br />

attention from your parents while they ignore you? Is someone stealing your boyfriend<br />

or your spouse? Serious fights can occur when people feel their Provision is threatened.<br />

It's worth noting that, in terms of society's legal system, the Provision level moves<br />

away from Survival-type punishments such as torture, dismemberment, or the death<br />

penalty to ones involving deprivation, such as imprisonment, banishment, fines, or<br />

garnishing a person's wages. For children growing up in a Provision environment, the<br />

worst imaginable punishments include being sent to an orphanage, put out on the<br />

street, or disowned.<br />

For example, Glen knows a woman whose father used to tell her and her sisters<br />

that if they misbehaved they would be sent to "The Bad Girls School." This was a<br />

credible threat. What he called "The Bad Girls School" was a real place in her town, a<br />

residence for children whom social services deemed could not live at home. The


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 49<br />

woman's father was a pastor who had connections with the staff at this institution.<br />

Sometimes, when his daughters were listening, he would telephone the Bad Girls<br />

School and discuss the possibility of sending one of them there.<br />

More common punishments for children at the Provision level include being given<br />

a "time out," sent to bed without supper, having possessions confiscated, or being<br />

denied treats.<br />

Stable Provision<br />

The Provision level becomes stable when adults master the challenge of<br />

maintaining relationships with their children (and often their partners too) and looking<br />

after their children's needs consistently. As a result, children grow up with the security of<br />

knowing their parents will always be there. Their parents will always provide a roof over<br />

their heads and food on the table, even if other parents in the community abandon or<br />

neglect their children.<br />

At the stable stage, couples try to stay together for life. They may remain in<br />

imperfect marriages for the sake of financial security or to provide their children with a<br />

stable home. One example of the sense of commitment encouraged in a stable<br />

Provision environment can be found in the traditional Christian marriage vows, by which<br />

a couple promises to stay together "for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in<br />

sickness and in health... 'til death do us part." Other religions and cultures place a<br />

similar value on lifelong marriage. If children grow up feeling confident their parents will<br />

stay together and always be there for them, they will have a greater sense of security on<br />

the Provision level. They will have the ability to form strong relationships with their own<br />

spouse and children.<br />

However, couples do not need to stay together forever for a child to feel secure


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 50<br />

on the Provision level. In countries with good social safety nets, adults have less<br />

financial need to stay in unhappy marriages. Sometimes it is better for parents to<br />

separate than for children to grow up with the anxiety that comes from witnessing their<br />

parents fight constantly. However, if parents separate, the children need to know both<br />

their parents will continue to provide for their material needs and stay in regular contact<br />

with them. If necessary, one parent can sometimes provide everything the children<br />

require. However, children will feel more stable on the Provision level if they can<br />

maintain a strong, permanent connection with both parents after separation. The<br />

children should spend time with both parents on a regular basis, even if the parents no<br />

longer live together. Formal joint custody and child support arrangements can help with<br />

this. It also benefits children if their parents can maintain a friendly relationship with<br />

each other while co-parenting after separation, or at least hide their negative feelings<br />

about each other.<br />

At the stable stage of Provision, people add a new line to the moral code that<br />

says, "Do not abandon your children or fail to provide for them." Abandoning or<br />

neglecting one's children becomes reprehensible. Parents will also teach their children<br />

the value of sharing with friends and siblings. It becomes customary at this level to<br />

make sure everyone in your household has enough to eat.<br />

If you were raised in a stable Provision environment, your parents likely had a<br />

steady source of income, so you never feared deprivation. As an adult, you will find it<br />

easier to hold down a job so you can consistently provide for your children. Because<br />

you had at least one parent you could count on to look after you, you will be less likely<br />

to abandon your children. Other children in your neighborhood may be deprived, but<br />

children in your family are not. Consequently, your family will be much happier than if<br />

you were raised in an unstable Provision environment. Your lives may still revolve


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 51<br />

around the need to maintain relationships, an income, and other sources of provision,<br />

but you will have much better skills in these areas and you will be less prone to<br />

destructive impulses.<br />

A stable Provision upbringing gives children a greater capacity for empathy.<br />

When relationships last longer, it becomes more important to keep them positive.<br />

People learn to pay attention to how their parents, children, and siblings are feeling.<br />

They try to help others feel happier. Children who grow up in such a family will have an<br />

easier time forming and maintaining long-term relationships with other people--including<br />

a romantic partner, friends, or their own children.<br />

Children raised in a stable Provision environment are better at cooperating and<br />

getting along with others in a work environment. They are more likely to have some<br />

discipline regarding money, at least in terms paying of their monthly bills on time and<br />

living within their means. If their income is irregular, they can stretch paychecks so the<br />

money lasts through periods when no income is coming in.<br />

We should note that parents at the Provision level have no requirements other<br />

than providing for their children and being a steady presence in their lives. They don't<br />

have to be friends with their children, respect boundaries, grant them rights, or offer the<br />

kind of emotional support they do at higher levels. They may have little capacity to do<br />

these things.<br />

If all your parents did for you was keep you safe and fed, provide you with a<br />

home, and not abandon you, they did all that could be expected of them at the Provision<br />

level. As a product of that upbringing, that may be all you can do for your own children.<br />

No one who was raised at higher levels can know just how difficult this challenge can<br />

be. The struggle to pay the bills, to make a marriage work, to not walk out the door and<br />

never return, to make sure your children's needs are met every day... these tasks


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 52<br />

require enormous strength for a parent raised at the Provision level. But if you succeed,<br />

you are a good parent.


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 53<br />

Chapter 4: Structured Family<br />

If a child is born to parents who provide her with a safe environment and meet<br />

her needs, she will receive the gifts of Survival and Provision from the moment she is<br />

born. Assuming her home environment is stable on these levels, she will be ready to<br />

receive the third gift sometime between the ages of two and six years. This third gift is<br />

the security of being part of a Structured Family.<br />

Parents often talk about "the terrible twos" (i.e., age 2) as the time when children<br />

start coming into conflict with their parents. Before then, parents can make all the<br />

decisions for their child with little resistance. If you want your six-month-old baby to<br />

wear her green outfit rather than her red one, she won't complain. If you decide to take<br />

her to the park or the supermarket, she's unlikely to challenge your decision. However,<br />

once your baby becomes a toddler, she will become more curious about the world<br />

around her and better able to explore it. She will want to do things that are at odds with<br />

what you want her to do or what you feel is safe. She will start to speak, have opinions,<br />

and want to make some decisions for herself. She will start to hear the word, "No," a lot,<br />

and start to say it too. Tantrums typically result when a child's desires are thwarted or<br />

she is forced to acquiesce to parental demands.<br />

During this period, children learn an important lesson. They do not have the


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 54<br />

freedom to do whatever they want. Those who are bigger, stronger, older, wiser, and<br />

scarier when angry (i.e., parents) will impose their will on those who are smaller,<br />

weaker, younger, and less knowledgeable (children). This lesson is generally driven<br />

home by punishments which parents dole out to non-compliant children.<br />

Of course, most of the demands parents make are intended to support their<br />

children's well-being and make the parent's life bearable at the same time. However,<br />

young children often won't appreciate their parent's concerns and needs. They will not<br />

understand why their freedom is being limited. They will simply internalize the sense<br />

that, in their world, power is distributed unevenly. Those with more power tell others<br />

what to do. Those with less power, must do as they are told.<br />

A toddler will come to appreciate that a hierarchy exists in the family, especially if<br />

she has siblings. Parents have the most freedom and power while the baby has the<br />

least. Other children are ranked in between, according to their age. If one parent seems<br />

to get her way more often, children will perceive that parent as the head of the family.<br />

Through exposure to other families or school, children learn each environment may<br />

have a slightly different hierarchy, but each environment has one. Within the family,<br />

children learn who has power over them and who they may have power over, who they<br />

need to please and respect as well as who should show them respect. They come to<br />

understand the expectations that come with each relationship within the family.<br />

In a family with a structured hierarchy, children can depend on more than just a<br />

relationship with one or two parents. They have a secure place within the larger group<br />

of people known as the family, especially if their family has many members or close ties<br />

with extended family. Being part of a Structured Family gives children a type of security<br />

that doesn't exist in Survival or Provision environments. They know they belong to the<br />

family, and the family belongs to them--permanently. They have allies for life.


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 55<br />

In a Structured Family, children can generally count on other people to behave in<br />

ways that accord with their roles in the family and to stay within their roles. They learn<br />

what type of treatment to expect from others according to their relative positions within<br />

the family structure. And they learn that confining their behavior within the limits of their<br />

own role earns them the respect of other members of the family. Their environment is<br />

more secure and predictable than it is at lower levels.<br />

During the period when young children are learning their place in the family, they<br />

are also becoming aware things are changing. The bigger they get, the more their<br />

power increases. They can do things at age five they couldn't do as babies. Also, new<br />

babies may be born into the family, changing the family dynamics. The child who had<br />

formerly been the baby may have to hand that role over to their new sibling and take on<br />

a different role as the older sibling. As these changes happen, children will become<br />

interested in what their role in the family will be in the future, when they are bigger,<br />

older, stronger, and wiser. They may look to older members of the family to be their role<br />

models and start to imitate their behavior to get an idea what that role will feel like when<br />

they become old enough to fulfill it. They will play imaginative games in which they take<br />

on various family roles (as in the classic game of "House"). They may also act out adult<br />

roles they see in the community (schoolteacher, store clerk, restaurant server) or those<br />

of fictional heroes they learn about in movies, television, or books. They may enjoy<br />

being taught what their role in the family will be when they grow up.<br />

The Benefits of Structured Families<br />

If you grew up in a Structured Family environment, you likely had stronger sense<br />

of security than people raised at the Provision level. Provision level families often look<br />

like loose alliances of individuals. A Structured Family is an entity bigger and more


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 56<br />

permanent than any of its members. People who are raised at this level understand that<br />

the family began long before any of its current members were born and will continue<br />

long after the current members have died. Because the family benefits all its members,<br />

its long-term success matters more than the short-term desires of any one member.<br />

At the Provision level, relationships form and dissolve frequently, so a child<br />

cannot feel certain other people will look after her needs. A child may lack elders willing<br />

to pass on their skills and knowledge or offer consistent support. On one hand, this<br />

encourages self-reliance. However, the child will likely grow up to be a "jack of all<br />

trades, master of none." She may learn to do many tasks for herself in rudimentary way,<br />

but lack the time, resources, and supports needed to develop expertise in particular<br />

areas.<br />

In a stable Structured Family, children get the training and support needed to<br />

develop expertise in the areas appropriate to their role, so as adults they can perform<br />

specific duties with a much higher level of competence. Fathers and mothers will often<br />

perform different roles that require specialized skills. One spouse might be the<br />

disciplinarian while the other provides comfort. One might be the homemaker while the<br />

other does home repairs. One might manage the family business while the other<br />

specializes in home economics. One might nurture the family's business relationships<br />

while the other organizes the family's social engagements.<br />

In a similar way, sons in a Structured Family will be expected to contribute by<br />

learning specific skills and doing certain chores. Daughters will have different skills to<br />

master and perform different chores. Older children will have different responsibilities<br />

than their younger siblings. Part of an adult’s role will be to pass on knowledge and<br />

skills to the next generation. Everyone must focus on doing their assigned tasks as<br />

competently as they can, and in return they can count on others to do their tasks. Each


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 57<br />

family member is respected for the skills they have and the contribution they make. This<br />

division of labor results in tasks being carried out with a higher degree of competence.<br />

Everyone's needs are more reliably met. The family takes care of each other and enjoys<br />

a better lifestyle than a single person could on her own.<br />

A person's role in the family will dictate the terms of their relationships to other<br />

family members. There may be (sometimes unspoken) guidelines regarding how<br />

children should respect their parents, how a husband should respect his wife, and how<br />

a wife should respect her husband. Other guidelines may determine the proper<br />

relationship one should have with a brother, sister, grandparent, uncle, aunt, or cousin.<br />

The nature of these roles and relationships have been established by previous<br />

generations and persist because they help the family live in harmony and prosper.<br />

A Structured Family functions as a support system to those who need more help.<br />

If a person becomes sick, injured, or suffers misfortune, other members of the family will<br />

take care of her and cover for her. Both elders and children are cared for in a Structured<br />

Family much better than at lower levels. Elders are valued for their experience, wisdom,<br />

skills, and past contributions. Children are valued and parented well because the future<br />

of the family rests in them.<br />

Some adults in a Structured Family may play an entrepreneurial role--taking on<br />

risks in hope of earning big rewards which the family will share. For them, the support<br />

offered by the rest of the family ensures that a failed venture will not be devastating and<br />

they can try again.<br />

In return for these benefits, Structured Families place obligations on their<br />

members that take precedence over their individual desires. Failing your family would<br />

risk being disowned--a fate which seems worse than death. Losing your family could<br />

force you to live at the Provision level, a significant loss of security, happiness, and


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 58<br />

quality of life. For this reason, a Structured Family life requires a higher level of trust and<br />

commitment. Everyone must know they can rely on the family, so everyone must be<br />

willing to set aside their own desires for the sake of the family.<br />

The division of labor and mutual support found within Structured Families helps<br />

the family become stronger and more prosperous over time. Compared to the Provision<br />

level, a child fortunate enough to grow up as part of a stable Structured Family can look<br />

forward a life of greater success and happiness. And though the amount of security and<br />

freedom people experience at the Structured Family level is less than at higher levels, it<br />

is considerably greater than at lower levels.<br />

Of course, not all parents succeed in creating a stable Structured Family for their<br />

children. If you were raised at the unstable stage of this level, your parents may have<br />

wanted to create a Structured Family but lacked the skills or awareness they needed to<br />

succeed. In turn, you may have difficulty creating a stable Structured Family for your<br />

own children. Let us therefore consider how instability on the Structured Family level<br />

can adversely affect children.<br />

The Unstable Structured Family<br />

At the unstable stage, parents may ignore or be unable to fulfill their roles in the<br />

family. They may sometimes put their own selfish interests ahead of their<br />

responsibilities, or they may step outside the boundaries of their role. Powerful adults<br />

can easily misuse their power or treat other family members with disrespect. Children<br />

are especially vulnerable to mistreatment.<br />

In an unstable Structured Family, people may not respect the boundaries of other<br />

peoples' roles. Children may be treated more as servants than custodians of the family's<br />

future. They may suffer unnecessary beatings or inappropriate touching. If parents are


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 59<br />

in a bad mood, they may yell at the children or call them names undeservedly. Some<br />

parents seek emotional support from their children, sharing adult problems with them.<br />

This puts too much responsibility on children, making them anxious about things beyond<br />

their control. Of course, inappropriate behaviors are also rampant at the Survival and<br />

Provision levels. But at lower levels people have even bigger challenges to worry about.<br />

They have little capacity to be concerned about issues like maintaining boundaries<br />

between adults and children. At the Structured Family level, these issues come to the<br />

foreground, along with the difficulties that an unstable upbringing may plague you with<br />

as an adult.<br />

We should also note that many people who were raised at higher levels have had<br />

brief or extended childhood experiences at the unstable Structured Family level. In<br />

higher level communities, some of these experiences may be referred to as abuse.<br />

Other people may have spent time in an environment dominated by a powerful but<br />

unstable person who they had to tip-toe around. Difficult or traumatic as these shortlived<br />

experiences are, it is quite different to experience an unstable Structured Family<br />

as "normal," to have such an environment determine your understanding of reality.<br />

Though the after-effects of being raised in an unstable Structured Family are less<br />

injurious than being raised at lower levels, they still may create difficulties, especially to<br />

people who are living in a community that functions at a higher level, as is common in<br />

advanced countries. So let us consider what these difficulties may look like.<br />

Impulse Control<br />

A person who was raised at the unstable Structured Family level, did not fear<br />

being killed, abandoned, or neglected by their parents. But they likely grew up with<br />

parents who were impulsive and whose mood could shift from loving to hostile at a


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 60<br />

moment's notice. As a child in such a home, you would always need to know what mood<br />

your parents were in. You would need strategies to avoid provoking them, because in a<br />

sudden fit of anger, fear, lust, or cruelty, they could inflict a good deal of suffering on<br />

you. The same may also have been true for older siblings or other family members.<br />

As an adult with such a background, you will also be prone to rapid mood swings<br />

and fits of emotion. These emotional outbursts will feel justified in the heat of the<br />

moment but may not be in keeping with your role in the family. At such times, you may<br />

fail to respect others as befits their role. Consequently, you will create an environment<br />

for your children as chaotic and scary as the one you grew up in.<br />

If you are living and working in a community where most people were raised at a<br />

higher level, your tendency to give in to bad impulses can also make it harder to be a<br />

good boss, employee, or neighbor. Your emotional outbursts may feel justified to you<br />

when they happen, but may seem exaggerated and unjustified to other people. You<br />

may be seen as a "drama queen" or "drama king." You may be prone to fits of anger or<br />

whinging. You may be prone to expressing or acting out feelings of jealousy,<br />

vindictiveness, self-pity, guilt, or hatred. You may expect or demand that other people<br />

take responsibility for your feelings and make appeasing you their priority. This is the<br />

result of growing up in an environment where the powerful people (your parents) were<br />

also prone to emotional outbursts and demanded those subservient to them (you and<br />

your siblings) cater to them and their feelings.<br />

Empathy<br />

Like those raised at the Survival and Provision levels, you will use your capacity<br />

for empathy to keep track of what the most powerful person in your environment is<br />

thinking or feeling. This is because, as a child, you always had to know whether your


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 61<br />

parents were in a good or bad mood. Parents at the Structured Family level often see<br />

children as either little devils (when they misbehave) or little angels (when they are<br />

pleasing) and treat them as such. As a child, you had to know how your parents saw<br />

you at any moment, so you could take steps to protect yourself. Failing to please them<br />

could get you punished.<br />

Because of this, you may act more sympathetic to anyone you perceive as<br />

having power over you. Taking care of their feelings will be a priority because you need<br />

their approval. In contrast, you may care little about the feelings of people you see as<br />

less powerful than you. You may ignore them most of the time. If you have power over<br />

someone, you may demand she prioritize pleasing you and sympathizing with your<br />

feelings the way you try to please more important people. Either way, you must know<br />

whether someone is above or below you in the hierarchy to know how to treat her and<br />

whether you should empathize with her. This can make it hard for you to work in groups<br />

where everyone is supposed to be equal or to develop good relationships with anyone<br />

outside whatever hierarchy you operate in.<br />

Reason<br />

At the Structured Family level, people devote much of their intelligence and logic<br />

to working out the purpose behind the various roles in the family. If you grew up in a<br />

Structured Family, your parents may have felt compelled to make sure the family<br />

persisted and prospered over time. They wanted you to inherit more than they did. They<br />

may have spent a lot of mental energy explaining why everyone needed to put the<br />

requirements of their role ahead of their personal desires and impulses. Such teaching<br />

may have given you a greater ability to consider the bigger picture and act in accord<br />

with the greater good rather than giving in to every impulse.


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 62<br />

However, at the unstable stage, parents often fail to be good examples of<br />

prioritizing reason over impulses. Their own desires may distract and tempt them.<br />

Sometimes they will give in to those temptations and fall short of their intent. It takes<br />

them much effort to refocus on what is important.<br />

As a child, it may have been difficult for you to make sense of your parents'<br />

demands. They may have seemed contradictory or inconsistent. Their decisions may<br />

have seemed illogical, and the criteria may have changed constantly. They may have<br />

been generous one day and cruel the next. They may have made promises and broken<br />

them. They may have given you permission to do something and later changed their<br />

minds. Such a childhood environment may have left you with the sense that the world is<br />

too chaotic for you to exert control over your life.<br />

As an adult, your belief that the world is fundamentally chaotic tells you that<br />

making plans, except in very general ways, is a waste of time. Life is unpredictable and<br />

only people with exceptional luck can reach their specific long-term goals. Chances are,<br />

any plans you make will get derailed by unforeseen events or your own irresistible<br />

impulses, so there's little point making them. All you can do is try to fulfill your role as<br />

best you can in the present.<br />

Moral Code<br />

At the Provision level, people develop a moral code that says:<br />

1. Do not kill, except to protect the lives of children or in self-defense.<br />

2. Do not abandon your children or fail to provide for them.<br />

At the Structured Family level, this moral code is inadequate. Though it protects<br />

children from death and neglect, it does nothing to prevent adults from perpetrating a<br />

wide range of abuse and disrespect against them. As children become increasingly


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 63<br />

valued within families, it becomes apparent they need greater protection from family<br />

members who are older and stronger.<br />

Stable Structured Family<br />

At the stable stage of the Structured Family level, everyone in the family fulfills<br />

their roles with honor and consistency. Everyone respects everyone else. Everyone<br />

lives secure in the knowledge that her family supports her and she will always belong in<br />

it.<br />

As people succeed at putting the family's needs ahead of their own desires, a<br />

new type of empathy emerges. People start to understand that everyone has a similar<br />

struggle. No one has it easy. Those below you or above you in the hierarchy have<br />

difficulties fulfilling their role, just as you do. You can appreciate that important people<br />

are not always perfect. And more importantly, you can start to feel empathy for those<br />

who are younger or have a lower place in the hierarchy. You may have had parents or<br />

grandparents who were sympathetic to the challenges you faced and supported you in<br />

fulfilling your role. In turn, this may make you sympathetic to your own children's<br />

struggles. You may want to support your children in learning to fulfill their role in the<br />

family. Putting the family's needs first and fulfilling your role is an act of love and<br />

strength that is to be recognized regardless of a person's rank.<br />

In a stable Structured Family, a new line gets added to the moral code:<br />

3. Value all members of your family for the role they play and respect them as is<br />

proper for your relationship.<br />

This is a more complex moral code with many nuances to be learned. Yet the<br />

effort is worthwhile. If you grew up in a stable Structured Family, this new moral<br />

requirement gave you a happier, more secure life than you could have experienced at


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 64<br />

lower levels.<br />

We should note that being a good parent in a Structured Family does not require<br />

the kind of casual relationships between parents and children that occur at other levels.<br />

Formal relationships within a Structured Family make it easier for older and more<br />

powerful family members to confine their behavior within their role and avoid violating<br />

the boundaries of children or those with less power. Casual relationships are proper<br />

only between those of equal rank.<br />

If you were raised in an unstable Structured Family home, or in a Provision<br />

home, creating a stable Structured Family for your children may be the most difficult<br />

challenge you will ever face. No one who was raised in a higher-level environment can<br />

understand just how difficult it can be. Because your parents were unable to teach you<br />

how to be a proper parent, you must work twice as hard to teach yourself. You will<br />

struggle to fulfill your role in the family and keep within its boundaries. But if you<br />

succeed in raising your children in a stable Structured Family, they will grow up knowing<br />

you treasure them and that they have an important place in the family. They will learn<br />

from your example how to be good parents and good custodians of the family's<br />

prosperity. They will teach their own children the lessons they learned from you.


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 65<br />

Chapter 5: Fellowship<br />

Let's assume a child is born to parents who create a stable environment on the<br />

first three levels. By the time she is six years old, it will be normal for her to be<br />

physically safe, have her needs met, and be a valued part of her family. Assuming the<br />

environment remains stable, she will grow up to enjoy the gifts of these levels as an<br />

adult and provide them to her own children. However, sometime between the ages of<br />

six and twelve, a typical child's psyche will have matured to the point where she can<br />

participate in a different type of social environment, one that offers even greater security<br />

and happiness. We call this new level, Fellowship.<br />

It may be no coincidence that most children begin formal, full-day education (first<br />

grade) at the age when they are ready to experience Fellowship. If a child's home<br />

environment is no higher than Structured Family, she may acclimatize to school by<br />

seeing and treating it as another type of hierarchical environment. The Principal or Head<br />

Teacher will be at the top of the hierarchy, followed by the classroom teacher. Students<br />

are divided by age into grades which form another hierarchy, and within each class<br />

children may establish a hierarchy among themselves based on personality, physical<br />

attributes, or their family's position in the community. Those with more power may bully<br />

those with less. Children may cope with school by finding a role for themselves--the


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 66<br />

"class clown, the "jock," the "teacher's pet," the "ringleader," or the "sidekick." The<br />

Structured Family level is part of the environment of most schools, and children who<br />

never move past the Structured Family level may grow up to see and treat workplaces<br />

or other communities much the same way.<br />

However, schools have also been (often unconsciously) structured to create a<br />

Fellowship environment. In a school, children are separated from their family and its<br />

hierarchy for much of the day and placed in a classroom where they are surrounded by<br />

peers--children the same age. Apart from the teacher, the children in a class are more<br />

equal in power than the members of a typical family. By attending school, a child takes<br />

a big step toward participating in a community where relationships are based more on<br />

equality than hierarchy.<br />

The shift from hierarchy to equality typifies the Fellowship level. Throughout<br />

history, courageous and inventive adults have persuaded people to form Fellowship<br />

communities composed of many families. Fellowships are organizations in which,<br />

though some people have leadership roles, all members are considered equal and<br />

possessed of the same rights. Fellowships are held together by a common set of beliefs<br />

rather than fear of the powerful and work more through cooperation than coercion. A<br />

Fellowship is governed by rules, not the strong. When parents create a Fellowship<br />

environment in the home, their children are better equipped to participate in a school<br />

community and later in the broader community at the Fellowship level.<br />

When a family moves to a new level, it is usually because they want to address<br />

the shortcomings of the level they're on. So, to understand the advantages the<br />

Fellowship level offers and how it works, let's first consider some of the problems that<br />

cannot be solved at the Structured Family level.


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 67<br />

The Limitations of Structured Families<br />

Within a Structured Family, cooperation may be good, and the family may be<br />

prosperous, but cooperation with people outside the family may be difficult. Non-family<br />

members are seen as untrustworthy since they have no established role in the family<br />

hierarchy, which means they have nothing to govern or restrain their behavior toward<br />

you. They are not required to respect you. Likewise, your role within your family does<br />

not require you to respect outsiders.<br />

When a stranger enters a community where Structured Family is the dominant<br />

level, it is acceptable for community members to cheat or rob that person, and sensible<br />

for them to assume the stranger will try to do the same to them. With few exceptions,<br />

such as customs around invited guests, nothing compels anyone to treat people fairly or<br />

kindly if they are not part of the same family hierarchy with a relationship based on<br />

defined roles.<br />

In a community composed of Structured Families, trust and cooperation among<br />

families is also limited. Other families may be enemies, allies, or even victims of your<br />

family. The formation of larger, more profitable alliances can only be achieved by<br />

creating extended or pseudo-Structured Families--such as feudalistic or tribal-style<br />

organizations based on a hierarchy of families. Your family may have to fulfill certain<br />

obligations to families with more power, while at the same time striving to become more<br />

powerful until it can usurp their place. Your family may expect families with less power<br />

to fulfill certain obligations toward it. At the same time, your family must be on guard<br />

against weaker families' attempting to overtake it. Everyone puts the interests of their<br />

own family first and each family competes against others for status and resources.<br />

Competition among powerful families has caused a lot of drama and violence<br />

throughout history.


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 68<br />

A second problem with a Structured Family is that roles are inherited rather than<br />

chosen, which means your parents have a lot of control over your adult life. Suppose in<br />

your adolescence you show a strong talent for music. If you had the choice, you might<br />

seek a career as a musician. However, if your role as the eldest son is to take over the<br />

family business, you may have to give up music lessons so you can learn the business.<br />

If the family decides they need you to study law in college, even though you have more<br />

interest in liberal arts, engineering, or medicine... you must study law and become a<br />

lawyer, because that is what the family needs. If your parents choose a wife or husband<br />

for you, but you don't like the person they chose... the family may be sympathetic. They<br />

may offer advice on how to make your marriage work. But your duty is to marry the<br />

person they chose and have children with that person.<br />

Such practices can benefit the family in the long run, if the parents and elders<br />

make wise decisions. Unfortunately, not all parents make wise decisions. Sometimes<br />

the entire family can suffer if a person inherits a role for which they are unsuited. For<br />

instance, if the person whose role is to run the family business has no talent for<br />

business, the family's fortunes may be jeopardized. If the person managing the family's<br />

social engagements has no talent or enthusiasm for the task, the family's influence in<br />

the community may suffer. Sometimes people can learn to fulfill roles they have little<br />

initial talent or inclination towards, but that may not be the best use of their abilities.<br />

Sometimes a person might do a better job fulfilling a different role, but they will never<br />

get the chance because that role belongs to someone else.<br />

Members of a Structured Family may rely on family members for services when it<br />

may be better to go outside the family. For instance, if you have an accountant, doctor,<br />

lawyer, mechanic, hairdresser, or contractor in the family, you may feel they are more<br />

reliable or more deserving of your business than non-family members, though this may


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 69<br />

not be the case. You may have a duty to give your business to family members, even<br />

when more skilled professionals are available who would do a better job. Similarly, a<br />

business owned by a Structured Family may feel obliged to hire family members, rather<br />

than the most qualified applicants. This practice may put the business at a competitive<br />

disadvantage. At the same time, people may feel obliged to donate their labor to family<br />

members or the family business when other clients or employers would pay them more<br />

or give them better opportunities.<br />

Apart from the above considerations, there are two more powerful reasons<br />

families choose to move beyond the Structured Family level. The first three levels--<br />

Survival, Provision, and Structured Family--share two traits that can limit children's<br />

developing psyches as well as the prosperity, freedom, and happiness of everyone:<br />

1. Might makes right. At the lower three levels, the strong do whatever they want<br />

and demand compliance from the weak. In the case of a family, this means all family<br />

members are subservient to the head of the household and others who are older,<br />

stronger, or more powerful. Heads of household must fear the emergence of younger,<br />

stronger rivals who want to take their place, and nothing protects those who lack power<br />

from the powerful. Weaker members (e.g., children) may be abused or taken advantage<br />

of, and that may be seen as acceptable and normal.<br />

When the dominant culture of a community or nation is at Structured Family or<br />

lower, law and order exist mainly to serve the interests of the strong. Today's developed<br />

nations have moved beyond this state, but many households and organizations in<br />

developed nations still operate this way, and lawlessness still dominates much of the<br />

world. Corruption in advanced countries occurs when powerful people demand or<br />

coerce special treatment and privileges.<br />

2. Life is unpredictable. All human beings are prone to mood swings,


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 70<br />

uncontrolled emotions, and irrational decisions. The trouble with the lower three levels is<br />

that powerful people, including heads of Structured Families, have few mechanisms<br />

keeping their behavior in check. Consequently, everyone grows up in an environment<br />

that is unpredictable and often unsafe, and in turn creates an unpredictable environment<br />

for their children. Those not at the top of the pecking order must be on the alert, afraid<br />

of what a more powerful person might do to them in a bad mood. Again, children are the<br />

most vulnerable to mistreatment by other family members. Growing up in such an<br />

unpredictable environment limits a child's ability to feel safe and free. It teaches her<br />

success in life is all about power--groveling before those with power over you, while<br />

trying to gain power over others. She feels no freedom to enjoy pursuits or relationships<br />

based on other interests because she never truly feels safe. This mindset will persist for<br />

a person's entire life and be passed on to her own children.<br />

The Move Toward Fellowship<br />

The Fellowship level forms after families reach the stable Structured Family level.<br />

It starts when some people imagine a new type of social organization, one without<br />

relentless power struggles and the accompanying chaos. They long for a world with<br />

more safety, order, and predictability, where they can turn their attention to more<br />

enjoyable and profitable pursuits. They realize they want relationships based on trust<br />

and cooperation rather than duty and fear--including relationships with people outside<br />

their own family.<br />

To create a safer environment, everyone in the community must agree to be<br />

governed by a set of rules that are fair and protect everyone. At the Structured Family<br />

level, this sometimes happens when a strong leader dictates the rules for everyone. The<br />

trouble is that the strong don't have to follow any rules themselves. Rules only apply to


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 71<br />

the weak, and often are made to benefit the strong. They do not protect the weak from<br />

the strong. In addition, with each generation new people inherit the reins of power. A<br />

family or a community may have a good, fair, and kind patriarch or matriarch now, but<br />

their successor may have none of those traits.<br />

But in this new type of community, the strong must follow the same rules as<br />

everyone else. Everyone has rights. The weak are not at the mercy of the strong, and<br />

the strong don't worry about being overthrown. With these threats eliminated, everyone<br />

can feel safer. Trust within and among families can increase. Power is more equally<br />

distributed. An entire community of families can be united in cooperation, friendly coexistence,<br />

and mutual aid.<br />

At the Fellowship level, families within a community share a common set of rules<br />

and beliefs. The rules dictate what behaviors are not allowed. They encompass<br />

everything from general principles of morality, politeness, and ethics to specific laws<br />

such as traffic rules and building codes. The former are often codified by religion and<br />

philosophy and the latter by government legislation. The rules are designed to promote<br />

fairness and security within the community. Everyone must follow the rules and the<br />

rules apply to everyone impartially.<br />

Within a Fellowship home, parents establish a set of rules to make the household<br />

fair, predictable, and safe. When children are young, parents may need to take a<br />

Structured Family approach to teaching the rules. That is, parents assume the role of an<br />

authority figure who demands compliance. They punish children for rule-breaking and<br />

reward them for good behavior. However, as children get older (again, typically between<br />

ages 6-12), they will get interested in understanding the rules. They will appreciate that<br />

the rules apply to everyone, including their parents. In a stable Fellowship home,<br />

parents cannot change the rules on a whim. Parents cannot enforce the rules one day


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 72<br />

and ignore them the next. They cannot be arbitrary in handing out punishments. They<br />

can only punish children when they break the rules, and punishment has limits.<br />

Moreover, everyone has rights that not even parents can violate. Everyone's behavior is<br />

monitored so no one gets away with breaking rules. These stipulations make the rules<br />

fair, and when children appreciate the fairness of the rules, they are more inclined to<br />

follow them.<br />

As children spend time outside the home, at school or other places in the<br />

community, they learn that everyone in their community follows many of the same rules.<br />

A community may punish adults for breaking the rules, just as parents punish children.<br />

Punishments can include legal penalties (fines or imprisonment), social penalties<br />

(disapproval, shunning, or public shaming) or religious penalties (such as prayers or<br />

sacrifices to atone for misdeeds).<br />

In terms of secular society, a Fellowship community is governed by laws, not<br />

men. Every citizen is equal in the eyes of the law, and the powerful cannot get away<br />

with rule-breaking anymore any more than the weak. Citizens are taught "crime does<br />

not pay." No one can escape justice. No misdeed goes unpunished. In religious terms,<br />

the Fellowship level is a world where every member of the religion is equal in the eyes<br />

of God. God loves the weak and poor as much as the rich and powerful. God does not<br />

care about your status but how well you follow the rules. God punishes the wicked and<br />

rewards the virtuous fairly, if not in this life then in the next. God sees everything you do<br />

and knows everything in your heart and mind. God's judgment cannot be avoided.<br />

If your parents raised you in a Fellowship environment, your childhood was safer,<br />

more secure, and more predictable than it could ever have been at lower levels. You<br />

may have been punished for breaking the rules, but you knew what the rules were.<br />

Moreover, you knew you could avoid punishment by staying within the rules. You


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 73<br />

couldn't be punished for doing something the rules did not specifically forbid. As a<br />

result, you had some control over your life. Provided you stayed within the rules, you<br />

could pretty much do what you liked. You had much more freedom than children raised<br />

in a Structured Family home.<br />

The rules protected you because other family members had to follow them as<br />

well. If the rules said your older siblings couldn't hit you or take your toys without your<br />

permission, you experienced a level of security that doesn't exist at lower levels, where<br />

older children can bully the younger and parents may or may not intervene according to<br />

their whims. You could make plans without fear they would be derailed by your parents'<br />

erratic decisions.<br />

By the time you reached adulthood, following the rules was a habit, one that<br />

helped you hold down a job and stay out of trouble with the law.<br />

Of course, Fellowship environments can be more or less stable. Being raised in<br />

an unstable Fellowship environment will leave its own special mark on a child's psyche,<br />

so let's consider some of the issues faced by adults who were raised in unstable<br />

Fellowship homes.<br />

Unstable Fellowship<br />

If you were raised in an unstable Fellowship home, the rules may have been<br />

more aspiration than reality. Your parents may have tried to teach you right from wrong.<br />

They may have taken you to religious gatherings regularly or exposed you to stories<br />

with "good messages." They may have punished you when you broke the rules and<br />

warned you against associating with people who don't follow the rules. They may have<br />

praised or rewarded you for outstanding behavior.<br />

However, the older you got, the more you noticed that your parents' actions were


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 74<br />

inconsistent. They didn't always apply the rules impartially. Sometimes you may have<br />

been punished unfairly or not rewarded when you deserved it. Among you and your<br />

siblings, your parents may have had a favorite who received more praise and rewards<br />

than the others, while getting lighter punishments when they broke the rules. Another<br />

child in the family may have been the scapegoat or "black sheep" who received harsher<br />

punishments or reprimands.<br />

Punishments at the unstable stage of Fellowship can also be harsher than the<br />

rules require. Your parents may have known they should hand out punishments<br />

dispassionately, but there may have been times when they lost control and meted out<br />

excessive punishment out of anger or fear.<br />

Effective parents give more rewards and praise than they do punishments. Your<br />

parents may have done the opposite--being more concerned with stopping bad behavior<br />

than providing encouragement.<br />

Your parents may have sometimes broken rules themselves or given into<br />

impulses that undermined the family's happiness. For instance, you may have had a<br />

parent who spent or lost too much money on impulses, suffered from addictions, had<br />

affairs, committed crimes, broke promises, or behaved selfishly. Adults can break the<br />

rules more easily than children, because adults are harder to hold accountable. Yet<br />

such behavior can hurt the entire family.<br />

Growing up at an unstable Fellowship level may have left you with anger or<br />

resentment over things that happened in your childhood. Your parents taught you the<br />

rules were to be followed, yet you saw them breaking the rules. You may have suffered<br />

when the rules were applied unfairly or when family members broke the rules. You may<br />

have been told, "Do what I say, not what I do." Such hypocrisy can haunt you well into<br />

adulthood.


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 75<br />

Impulse Control<br />

Experiencing your parents' rule-breaking may have made you distrustful and<br />

resentful of authority. Your parents were supposed to give you a secure rule-based<br />

environment, but instead you got partial chaos. As a result, you may suspect all<br />

authorities of being untrustworthy or hypocritical.<br />

You may have expressed your resentment as you grew older by giving into<br />

impulses and acting in ways that flaunted the rules or were disrespectful of authority.<br />

Your rule-breaking may have been anything from small violations of social conventions<br />

to illegal or dangerous activities. Rule-breaking can be satisfying, and provide other<br />

short-term benefits, but in the long run you risk incurring severe consequences.<br />

Fellowship communities are often zealous about punishing rule-breakers.<br />

Alternatively, you may have chosen to rebel against your parents' example by<br />

becoming a stickler for rules. You may be harsh in judging others for their<br />

transgressions, while taking great pride in following the rules yourself. You may take<br />

great measures to govern your impulses and impose order on your environment. In this<br />

way, you seek to create the order you didn't get as a child. This too can come with a<br />

cost in terms of relationships and opportunities.<br />

Empathy<br />

At the Fellowship level, a new kind of empathy emerges that changes the<br />

relationship between parents and children.<br />

At the Structured Family level, children who misbehave are often seen inherently<br />

wicked, while those who please their parents may be seen as virtuous. At the<br />

Fellowship level, parents often struggle to resist their own impulses. As a result, they


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 76<br />

start to realize that people cannot be divided absolute categories such as saint or<br />

sinner, law abiding or criminal. Everyone, including children, has the potential to do<br />

good or bad things. Moreover, they realize children need to be taught to be good. They<br />

need their parents' help to resist doing bad things just as adults often need the support<br />

of friends or leaders. In secular terms, they may understand a "primitive savage" lurks<br />

inside all of us that must be restrained by reason and the rules of civilized behavior.<br />

Parents understand that children need adult supervision to keep them safe and ensure<br />

they follow the rules.<br />

Adults in Fellowship communities are aware of their own failures--the times they<br />

gave into bad impulses, broke the rules, or let their emotions get the better of them.<br />

Fellowship communities understand the importance of getting people back on the right<br />

track. They encourage people to confess their failures, seek forgiveness, make amends,<br />

and forgive others in turn. They may impose harsh punishments, but after someone has<br />

atoned for their actions, their slate is wiped clean. Parents often implement similar<br />

practices in Fellowship homes. Children may get lighter punishments if they confess<br />

their mistakes voluntarily. Once they endure their punishment or make amends, they<br />

are forgiven.<br />

When children know the rules limit the severity of the punishments they might<br />

receive, parents become a little less scary. Parents may find ways to get children to<br />

cooperate other than threats and punishment. We mentioned fairness as one way.<br />

Another method is for parents to be good role models, taking advantage of children's<br />

tendency to emulate adults. In a Fellowship home, parents are more interested in their<br />

children and why they behave as they do. They express more empathy for their<br />

children's struggles. Children value their parents' attention and approval, so this leads to<br />

better relationships. And better relationships lead to better cooperation.


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 77<br />

Nonetheless, at the unstable Fellowship stage, parents may perceive a danger in<br />

being too lenient or permissive. They feel strongly that a world where people's impulses<br />

are not constrained by rules (the lower three levels) would be a dangerous environment<br />

that must be prevented. Tolerating misbehavior from children would "let the devil get a<br />

foothold." Children who get away with rule-breaking could grow up to be criminals.<br />

Finding the balance between sympathy and discipline is difficult, and your parents may<br />

not have succeeded.<br />

Moral Code<br />

At the lower three levels, a moral code was developed which said:<br />

1. Do not kill, except to protect the lives of children or in self-defense.<br />

2. Do not abandon your children or fail to provide for them.<br />

3. Value all members of your family for the role they play and respect them as is<br />

proper for your relationship.<br />

At the stable Fellowship level, this moral code becomes inadequate, because it<br />

only applies to members of one's own family, whereas Fellowships are communities<br />

made of many different families. A new provision must be added to the code:<br />

4. Treat everyone in your community according to the rules.<br />

Of course, at the unstable stage, the rules get broken a lot. This is unavoidable.<br />

Everyone breaks rules now and then. So this provision comes with a codicil:<br />

4a. When you break the rules, ask for forgiveness or offer to make amends.<br />

One difference between the Fellowship and Structured Family levels is that your<br />

parents may have apologized to you when they broke the rules. They may have<br />

required you to apologize to your siblings when you wronged them, and vice versa. This<br />

may not happen at lower levels, where the strong are unaccountable to those weaker


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 78<br />

than them. Learning to forgive others and ask for forgiveness are challenges at the<br />

unstable Fellowship level.<br />

Reason<br />

At the Fellowship level, people spend a lot of time thinking about the rules and<br />

how to apply them. They have a hard time following the moral code. It takes effort to<br />

treat people you dislike or perceive as unimportant the same as people you like and<br />

who are important. Behaving well requires more than doing what a powerful person tells<br />

you out of fear. Every time you are tempted to break a rule you must use reason to<br />

convince yourself to make the right choice, even if you don't want to. You must develop<br />

willpower to keep your impulses in check.<br />

The emphasis on reasoning skills in Fellowship communities brings many other<br />

benefits. Misperceptions can be cleared up, leading to better relationships. People can<br />

make better long-term plans and forecast events. Evidence-based approaches to<br />

science, medicine, and law can replace superstition, quackery, and injustice. The entire<br />

community becomes smarter and finds better solutions to problems.<br />

Of course, at the unstable stage, it may be obvious even to a child that adults'<br />

actions do not always make sense, that they often stem from emotional impulses. But<br />

this awareness itself is only possible because children learn to expect the rules to be<br />

followed. They expect the world and their parents to be rational.<br />

Stable Fellowship<br />

We must not be harsh with parents who fail to create a stable Fellowship<br />

environment for their children. If you grew up in an unstable Fellowship home, or at a<br />

Structured Family level, creating a stable Fellowship environment for your children will


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 79<br />

be one of the hardest tasks imaginable. If you didn't experience life in a stable<br />

Fellowship home as a child and never received its gift, your instincts will often be wrong.<br />

You will have to do inner work to acquire the gift of Fellowship before you can give it to<br />

your children. You will have to learn to be strict but fair with your children. You must<br />

strive to see things from their point of view. You will have to follow the rules yourself,<br />

especially when disciplining your children. You must apologize when you break the<br />

rules and make amends. You may need a lot of help from clergy, counselors, friends,<br />

family, or peer groups (religious or secular) to resist your worst impulses. You may need<br />

to spend much of your time in the company of others who can support your efforts and<br />

talk you out of bad choices. This may be the work of a lifetime.<br />

However, if you succeed in creating a Fellowship home, both you and your<br />

children will benefit tremendously. Your family will experience a happier and more<br />

predictable life. Your children will see you as gentle, fair, and far less scary than parents<br />

at lower levels. Relationships within your family will be based less on fear and more on<br />

love.<br />

Children who grow up in stable Fellowship households experience more control<br />

over their lives and more freedom to make their own choices, so long as they stay within<br />

the rules. As adults, they will be better equipped to function in a community where they<br />

have the same rights and freedoms as everyone else. It will be far easier for them to<br />

cooperate and have better relationships with teachers, employers, co-workers, and<br />

neighbors. Good relationships will bring them better opportunities, so their chances of<br />

success in life will be much greater.<br />

We noted above that, at the Structured Family level, parents decide what careers<br />

their children will pursue, who they will marry, and other matters. Parental control can<br />

be as strong at the Fellowship level, but it is more often fair. If you grew up in in a


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 80<br />

Fellowship home, you likely had the same freedoms and privileges as your siblings,<br />

friends, and other members of the community. You had a greater say in matters<br />

pertaining to your own happiness than children raised in lower-level environments. You<br />

could make a case for yourself based on fairness, saying "If my sibling or friend is<br />

allowed to do something, then I should be allowed to do it too." Working within the rules,<br />

you had more opportunity to find a career that was both acceptable to your parents and<br />

suited your talents and interests. You had more power to decide whether and when to<br />

marry. You were more likely to be allowed to choose a spouse you felt compatible with,<br />

provided your parents approved of him, and he was a member of your community. You<br />

had some room to negotiate or redefine your role in the family.<br />

At the same time, the Fellowship level requires you to take more responsibility for<br />

your actions than people have at the Structured Family level. You might make bad<br />

choices and have to live with the consequences, but at least they are your choices to<br />

make.<br />

If you grew up in a stable Fellowship environment, you likely have an easier time<br />

trusting and cooperating with people outside your family. You see people in your<br />

community as potential friends and allies--provided they share the same set of rules.<br />

People from other communities with different rules may still be potential threats, but<br />

your interaction with them will be rare.<br />

Apart from some exceptions, in a Fellowship community, trust is higher<br />

between...<br />

Businesses and customers.<br />

Businesses and suppliers.<br />

Employees and employers.<br />

Citizens and government officials (including police).


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 81<br />

Much of the prosperity enjoyed in the world today comes from the trust and<br />

cooperation that stems from people being raised at the Fellowship level or higher.<br />

Fellowship creates an environment in which people can trust businesses to treat them<br />

fairly and with honesty and courtesy, even if they have no personal relationship with the<br />

business owner. It leads to a standard quality of service from doctors, dentists, financial<br />

advisers, accountants, contractors, or other professionals. It means public utilities and<br />

government agencies provide consistent service to everyone and every business.<br />

Another outgrowth of the Fellowship level is that products in the developed world<br />

must meet standards for safety, quality, and design. The use of standardized parts for<br />

machines and assembly-line manufacturing reflects the mindset that values conformity<br />

and rules. The rapid growth of science and technology over the past few centuries owes<br />

much to the gift of Fellowship. When children grow up in an environment governed by<br />

rules, they can appreciate that the natural world is governed by rules as well. Science is<br />

the effort to discover the rules of nature, while technology is the art of working within<br />

those rules to get desired results.<br />

The democratic form of government also stems from the gift of Fellowship, since<br />

it is a system that uses rules (constitutions, legislation) to limit the power and influence<br />

of the powerful. Unlike monarchies, dictatorships, or oligarchies, democratic<br />

governments need the consent of the governed to remain in power. The principle of<br />

"one person, one vote" stems from the Fellowship attitude that all people should be<br />

equal under the law.<br />

Of course, rule-breaking sometimes happens, which is why a stable Fellowship<br />

community requires a justice system to deal with infractions and dispense punishments<br />

fairly. Justice becomes blind at the Fellowship level, meaning that judges weigh<br />

evidence and arguments impartially. Everyone has rights that are respected, even


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 82<br />

children.<br />

If you can create a Fellowship environment in your home, and raise your children<br />

within a Fellowship community, they will grow up experiencing a world that is<br />

predictable and orderly. They can make plans with greater confidence achieve more<br />

success. In a Fellowship community, they can get an education, start a business, take<br />

out a mortgage, or save for retirement without the fear that such investments will be<br />

derailed by random changes in the rules or crime. They can raise your grandchildren in<br />

a neighborhood where the streets are safe. Because the chances of encountering<br />

violence or other forms of destructive chaos are rare, much of the daily stress and<br />

anxiety experienced at lower levels disappears at the Fellowship level, and is replaced<br />

with happiness, freedom, and contentment.


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 83<br />

Chapter 6: Individuality<br />

If a child is raised in a stable Fellowship environment, she will receive many gifts<br />

growing up that she will most likely take for granted. It will be normal for her to be in an<br />

environment where her life is safe, she lives with one or more parents who provide her<br />

with the necessities of life, she is a valued member of her family, and her family belongs<br />

to a community that shares a common set of rules, rights, and beliefs. All these gifts<br />

make her life predictable and secure.<br />

Only a minority of parents in the world raise their children in homes and<br />

communities that operate above the Fellowship level. However, if a child is fortunate to<br />

be raised in such an environment, she will develop the capacity to acquire the next gift<br />

sometime around the beginning of puberty. We call this next level, Individuality. As with<br />

all the levels, the transition to this level brings results in a huge increase in the child's<br />

capacity to experience freedom, security, and happiness as an adult.<br />

The Oppressive Side of Fellowship<br />

A society's transition to the Individuality level begins after it has been at a stable<br />

Fellowship level long enough for some individuals to feel its limitations.<br />

As we noted in the previous chapter, parents in an unstable Fellowship home


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 84<br />

need to wage a lifelong campaign to rein in their impulses and follow a set of rules, if<br />

they have any hope of reaching stability. They use strict disciplinary approaches to train<br />

children to do the same. Following the rules is a struggle, because the urge to break the<br />

rules arises constantly--and each time an impulse wins out over a rule, it threatens the<br />

return of the chaos and dangers of the first three levels.<br />

As a result, parents and social institutions at the unstable Fellowship level are<br />

zealous about making sure everyone follows the rules. They use intrusive methods to<br />

watch for any signs of rule-breaking and practise zero tolerance when it arises. Because<br />

it is easier to break the rules when no one sees you, people are suspicious of anyone<br />

who spends time alone. Being alone creates opportunities to give into temptations.<br />

People are encouraged to work in groups and spend much of their leisure time in the<br />

company of others--ideally in religious or other support groups that encourage rulefollowing.<br />

Good parents at the Fellowship level keep their children busy with activities and<br />

chores, so they have fewer opportunities to indulge their impulses. Social interactions<br />

between teenagers of different sexes are often chaperoned. Parents supervise young<br />

children to keep them safe but more importantly to prevent rule breaking.<br />

In addition to policing their children's behavior, parents at the Fellowship level<br />

keep a watchful eye on their children's thoughts and attitudes. They may spend much<br />

time teaching children to have correct opinions and chastising them if they express<br />

wrong opinions. They may monitor their children's conversations with friends. They may<br />

read their children's diaries and social media posts, to make sure their children are not<br />

developing or picking up bad ideas. They may rummage through their children's<br />

possessions for signs their children might be engaged in or contemplating rule breaking.<br />

Being a responsible parent in a Fellowship home requires intruding upon your children's


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 85<br />

privacy.<br />

Fellowship communities expect a high degree of conformity from their members<br />

and are intolerant of behavior that deviates from the norm. Anyone who does not follow<br />

social conventions and customs will be made to conform through various forms of social<br />

pressure. These can include what people at higher levels might term bullying or<br />

ostracism. Even in the most advanced countries today, such behavior can be seen in<br />

aspects of military training, the harassment of sub-cultures, and the type of hazing that<br />

was once common in schools of higher learning (though there have been efforts to<br />

eliminate this in recent decades). Deviant behavior of any kind is seen as a threat. A<br />

Fellowship community enforces conformity to help people become better members of<br />

society, so they can receive the benefits of Fellowship.<br />

Another distinguishing trait of Fellowship communities is that they distrust<br />

outsiders. Religious communities at the Fellowship level may be quick to condemn<br />

atheists, agnostics, or people of other faiths as "heathens," "infidels," or "sinful" in some<br />

way. On a secular level, Fellowships may be hostile toward immigrants or people with<br />

different ethnicities or political ideologies. Racism, classism, homophobia, and other<br />

forms of prejudice are rampant at the Fellowship level. Any form of difference can seem<br />

threatening in a community that is fighting to create order and conformity.<br />

While intolerance may be an essential tool at the unstable Fellowship level,<br />

helping to build a more predictable environment, its usefulness diminishes once a stable<br />

Fellowship has been achieved. After one or more generations of children are raised in a<br />

stable Fellowship environment, the likelihood of returning to the chaos of the first three<br />

levels seems remote. As that threat recedes, so does the need for zealous enforcement<br />

of the rules and rigid conformity. While people still acknowledge that rules and<br />

conformity are necessary to some extent for society to be safe, they feel less need to be


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 86<br />

strict about such things. Not all non-conformity seems threatening.<br />

The transition to the Individuality level begins when people start to see some<br />

rules as unnecessary or oppressive. Science fiction writers have created many fictional<br />

dystopias which are exaggerated depictions of how Fellowship communities look to<br />

those who have outgrown them. These include (to name just a few):<br />

The Invasion of the Body Snatchers<br />

1984<br />

Brave New World<br />

Fahrenheit 451<br />

The Prisoner<br />

Dalek's Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. (Dr. Who)<br />

The Borg or the cult of Landru in Star Trek<br />

The planet Camazotz in A Wrinkle in Time<br />

The Stepford Wives<br />

Logan's Run<br />

The Handmaid's Tale<br />

Uglies<br />

These fictional communities feature high conformity, often enforced by constant<br />

surveillance and indoctrination. They are places with authoritarian governments that<br />

suppress freedom of thought and expression and allow no room for individuality.<br />

Individuals in such stories are often brainwashed, converted into cyborgs, or replaced<br />

with mindless robots or aliens. Biotechnology may be employed to control people's<br />

thoughts. The fact that these dystopias are orderly is of no matter because order is<br />

taken for granted at higher levels. What makes them frightening is their intolerance of<br />

difference.


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 87<br />

The Birth of Individuality<br />

Once people become aware of the limitations of Fellowship communities, they<br />

begin to imagine a new environment that preserves the order and predictability of the<br />

Fellowship level while relaxing some of the rules to allow for individual differences.<br />

When children near puberty, they gain the capacity to develop a greater sense of<br />

self. They become interested in exploring, developing, and understanding their own<br />

unique qualities, talents, and identity. If the environment does not support a child in<br />

developing a sense of self, the process may be delayed. Some children do not start the<br />

process until their late teens. For others, it may be delayed until they are in a different<br />

environment--perhaps when they are living on their own while in college or later in life.<br />

Some people never develop a strong sense of self.<br />

In any case, to gain the gift of Individuality, a child or adult requires access to a<br />

private space and private time in which they can set aside the expectations placed on<br />

them by their family, friends, and community and explore their own thoughts and<br />

inclinations. Such explorations are not allowed in a Fellowship environment, where<br />

privacy and deviance are considered dangerous, and everyone is under the watchful<br />

eyes of others. For a young teen, it requires parents who are willing to grant her a<br />

private space and private time and trust her enough to not intrude upon it.<br />

The process of self-exploration may take many different forms. Often a good<br />

deal of creativity and self-reflection are involved. It may take time--several months or<br />

several years--during which parents' patience may be tested. Eventually, the child will<br />

emerge from her isolation with a new sense of her own identity, desires, interests, and<br />

perhaps talents. Some of these may remain part of her inner life which she may only<br />

share with close friends and partners. Nonetheless, her sense of self will inform and


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 88<br />

influence her decisions and interactions with her family and community in a way that<br />

furthers her own happiness to a degree not possible at lower levels.<br />

Life in an Individuality World<br />

In a community at the Individuality level, people live two lives. They have a public<br />

life, in which they project an image of respectability and strive for success, and a private<br />

life where they pursue interests and hobbies that might not be valued by the community<br />

but are sources of personal fulfillment.<br />

If you were raised at the Individuality level, your parents set certain expectations<br />

you had to meet. You had to look respectable and be polite and law-abiding in public.<br />

You may have been expected to participate in a religious congregation or contribute to<br />

community service projects. You may have been expected to achieve respectable<br />

grades in school and success in extracurricular activities such as athletics or the arts.<br />

However, you probably had more freedom of choice in how you met your parents'<br />

expectations than children at the Fellowship level. For instance, rather than telling you<br />

exactly how and when you would do homework, your parents may have required you to<br />

earn a certain minimum grade average in school, but then left it up to you to figure out<br />

how to achieve this standard. You may have been able to decide how and when to<br />

study, whether to study with classmates or by yourself, and what methods of studying<br />

worked best for you. This was their way of allowing some room for your own<br />

individuality.<br />

Your parents probably let you have private spaces where you had a degree of<br />

freedom. You may have been allowed to choose what books you read or what extracurricular<br />

activities you participated in. You may have had a private bedroom which no<br />

one could enter without your permission. You may have had more choice regarding


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 89<br />

your clothes, hairstyle, or other aspects of your appearance--so long as you adhered to<br />

convention in formal situations. Provided you stayed safe and didn't hurt anyone, you<br />

could pursue your own hobbies and interests in private for the sake of your own<br />

enjoyment rather than social approval. You may have been allowed to develop your<br />

own opinions and express them in confidential conversations with friends and family. As<br />

a teenager, you were more likely to be allowed to attend unchaperoned parties or go on<br />

dates--provided you met certain expectations such as not breaking the law, skipping<br />

school, or getting pregnant.<br />

Impulse Control<br />

Having a private space where you could develop a sense of self will have made<br />

you far more aware of your own preferences, values, and opinions than people who<br />

grew up in a Fellowship home. This awareness makes you better able to resist certain<br />

impulses.<br />

For instance, you are less likely to be seduced or influenced to act contrary to<br />

your own desires. When someone, even an authority figure, presents you with a<br />

persuasive offer, invitation, or request, you can compare it to your own desires and<br />

beliefs to see how well it aligns. You can say "no" to offers that go against your values<br />

and priorities. You are better at resisting sales pitches, grifters, or sexual propositions<br />

that are not in your best interest.<br />

You are also better at recognizing opportunities that align with your interests and<br />

values--opportunities that are worth taking advantage of. You don't need authorities to<br />

tell you what choices you should make. You can decide on your own. You can guide<br />

your life in a direction that promises greater happiness.<br />

Individuality families and communities recognize that people need to make


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important decisions for themselves if they are to be happy with the results. They usually<br />

grant young people more freedom to choose a career that interests them and decide for<br />

themselves whether and who to marry.<br />

Being raised with a separation between private and public spaces has likely<br />

given you a more complex understanding of your impulses. You know you should not<br />

give in to certain impulses in public, because that would invite disapproval or other<br />

negative consequences, and some impulses you should never give in to. However,<br />

some impulses may be unacceptable in public but fine to indulge in private. When an<br />

impulse arises, in addition to asking yourself, "Would following this impulse break the<br />

rules?" you have to ask questions like, "Could this impulse be acceptable in this<br />

situation? Is this an impulse I would like to indulge, provided I can do so in private? How<br />

certain am I that what I do will remain private?"<br />

Empathy<br />

At the Fellowship level, people's empathy took a big step forward when they<br />

learned to see others not simply as good or bad, allies or enemies, but as people who<br />

have both good and bad in them. As we mentioned, this is partly the result of fighting<br />

their own battle between reason and impulses.<br />

At the Individuality level, empathy becomes even more complex as people<br />

struggle to balance public respectability with private fulfillment. People become<br />

interested in other people's experiences in dealing with this challenge and develop<br />

empathy for those having difficulty. Because people value their private pursuits and<br />

idiosyncrasies, they become more tolerant of other people's differences. If someone is<br />

polite and law-abiding in public, you can allow them to have their own unique beliefs,<br />

interests, and hobbies. You can tolerate their differences, just as you hope they will be


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 91<br />

tolerant of yours. People who are different are not as scary as they seem in a<br />

Fellowship community. You can have friends who come from different ethnic<br />

backgrounds, belong to different religions, or have different political views, because<br />

your sense of safety doesn't require everyone around you to share your beliefs.<br />

At the same time, parents develop more empathy for their children at the<br />

Individuality level. Rather than see children as clay to be molded into an ideal form,<br />

parents consider their children to be individuals with their own innate talents and<br />

potential. They start to love who their children are as much as what they are trying to<br />

encourage them to become. When children know their parents love them for who they<br />

are, they feel safer with them, which leads to better relationships between parents and<br />

children. And better relationships often produce better behavior with less need for<br />

punishment and reward.<br />

Reason<br />

Being raised at the Individuality level, where the rules can be different in the<br />

public and private spheres, helps you develop critical thinking skills. At the Fellowship<br />

level, people tend to interpret the rules literally and apply them uniformly. Individual<br />

interpretation would be considered dangerous because it might lead to the rules being<br />

watered down. But to someone raised at the Individuality level, it seems obvious that<br />

every person and situation are different. Rules must be adjusted to fit the context.<br />

If you were raised in an Individuality home, you likely have a more nuanced<br />

understanding of the rules. You may distinguish between the rules as they are written<br />

and the intent behind the rules. In secular terms, you may recognize that "the spirit of<br />

the law" can be at odds with "the letter of the law."<br />

In a religious context, people at the Fellowship level tend to interpret scripture as


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 92<br />

literally and uncritically as possible. Scripture is the word of God and should not be<br />

subject to human interpretation, which might sully it. At the Individuality level, you are<br />

more likely to think critically about scripture and theology. The principles underlying the<br />

rules may be more important than the rules themselves. You may recognize that some<br />

of the rules, though well-meaning when they were written, are outdated. There may be<br />

occasions when doing the right thing may mean breaking or reinterpreting the rules.<br />

Your ability to think critically helps you in other areas of life as well. It helps you<br />

rethink and improve upon your own assumptions and priorities. It makes you more<br />

aware of bias in politics or the media. It helps you achieve a more accurate<br />

understanding of any subject you study or any field of endeavor. You are more likely to<br />

become a leader in a field if you can think critically about it and perhaps find creative<br />

ways to advance it.<br />

Morality<br />

At the Fellowship level, the moral code evolved to be:<br />

1. Do not kill, except to protect the lives of children or in self-defense.<br />

2. Do not abandon your children or fail to provide for them.<br />

3. Value all members of your family for the role they play and respect them as is<br />

proper for your relationship.<br />

4. Treat everyone in your community according to the rules, and when you break<br />

the rules ask for forgiveness or offer to make amends.<br />

At the Individuality level, people find this moral code inadequate because it<br />

makes no allowances for individual interpretation or circumstances. They add a fifth<br />

component that shifts the moral code to a new level of complexity:<br />

5. When in doubt, follow your conscience.


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 93<br />

Being raised at the Individuality level means you have more resources to deal<br />

with situations where the moral choice is unclear. You may find different ways you could<br />

apply the rules to a particular situation. You may find some situations in which the rules<br />

contradict each other, or do not offer clear instruction. As mentioned above, you may<br />

find situations where following the letter of the law would violate the spirit of the law.<br />

At the Survival, Provision, or Structured Family level, moral dilemmas are<br />

resolved by consulting someone with power and having them decide. At the Fellowship<br />

level, the authority might be the written rules, or authorities on the rules (judges, clergy,<br />

or elders). However, at the Individuality level the highest authority is your own<br />

conscience. You must act in ways that leave you with the least amount of regret--that do<br />

the least amount of harm. This requires assuming more personal responsibility, but it<br />

can lead to better outcomes.<br />

Unstable Individuality<br />

Raising your children in an Individuality environment gives them many<br />

advantages. However, as with all the levels, Individuality environments may be more or<br />

less stable. If you were raised in an unstable environment, your parents' desire to<br />

nurture your individuality may have been more aspiration than actual.<br />

Your parents may have wanted you to have the privacy in which to develop a<br />

sense of self but were not brave enough to provide it. They may have violated your<br />

privacy to assuage their anxiety and to make sure your thoughts and beliefs were not<br />

becoming further from the social norms than they could tolerate. Giving children privacy<br />

has become challenging in the Internet era because the online world often blurs the<br />

boundaries between private and public space. Parents worry about their children being<br />

taken advantage of online, which makes it harder to give children privacy in their online


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activities.<br />

Similarly, while your parents may have wanted to give you the freedom to<br />

express yourself as an individual, some forms expression may have been beyond their<br />

ability to tolerate (e.g., clothing, hairstyle, body modifications, music, beliefs). They may<br />

have been worried the community would condemn your entire family if you did not<br />

conform to certain norms in public.<br />

Your parents may have believed in tolerating people of other cultures, religions,<br />

etc., and wanted you to have such tolerance. However, their tolerance may have failed<br />

them in certain situations. For instance, the tolerance of many parents fails when they<br />

see a boy from a different background flirting with their teenage daughter--no matter<br />

how respectable the other family might be.<br />

A classic film that illustrates this challenge is, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner.<br />

Released in 1967, the story concerns a young, white, upper-class woman who has<br />

invited her fiancée to meet her parents for the first time. The prospective groom has all<br />

the markings of social respectability. He is a physician, a professor of medicine. He<br />

speaks and dresses well. He has no obvious vices. The only "problem" from the<br />

parents' perspective is that the young man is African American, and the parents are not<br />

sure their community will tolerate the mixed marriage. The French film La Cage aux<br />

Folles and its American remake The Birdcage are similar stories in which the groom's<br />

parents are a same sex couple, and the groom is worried this will be intolerable to his<br />

future in-laws.<br />

Another challenge at the unstable stage of Individuality is that your parents may<br />

have set expectations for you that seemed too high--such as getting perfect grades or<br />

winning trophies and scholarships. Their demands may have stemmed from their<br />

anxiety about looking respectable. They may have felt they would look like bad parents


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 95<br />

if you didn't overachieve, especially when other parents were bragging about their<br />

children's accomplishments. This same anxiety may have caused them to intervene too<br />

much in your private space. Rather than give you room to figure out how to meet their<br />

expectations, they may have tried to micromanage you. In turn, you may have felt your<br />

parents didn't trust you or feel you were capable or smart enough to figure things out on<br />

your own.<br />

Your parents may have bragged about your achievements--exaggerating them in<br />

ways that made you feel your public image was phony. Alternatively, you may have had<br />

parents who failed to set clear expectations, which made it difficult for you to satisfy<br />

them. Or they may even have set their expectations too low, again suggesting that they<br />

felt you were not capable of succeeding at a higher level.<br />

A common side effect of growing up at an unstable Individuality stage is being<br />

left with the feeling nothing you do will ever be good enough--either for your parents or<br />

the world. You may feel deep shame whenever you fail to achieve a purpose, or guilt if<br />

you do something that disappoints your parents. You may feel a disconnect between<br />

your public persona and your authentic self--as though you are living a lie. Such feelings<br />

can make it hard to experience happiness and satisfaction in your life. Ironically, they<br />

may in turn cause you to set unrealistic expectations for your own children. You may<br />

want them to achieve what you didn't.<br />

If you were raised in an unstable Individuality environment, your biggest<br />

challenge as a parent will be to raise your own children in a more stable environment.<br />

Part of this work will require learning how to manage your own anxieties and other<br />

emotions mentioned above so you do not instill them in your children. You will want to<br />

encourage them to achieve public success without making them fear failure. You will<br />

want to set expectations, while giving them the freedom to discover what works best for


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them. You will want to give them private spaces where they can develop their sense of<br />

self and trust they will be safe in doing so. Figuring out the right balance will require<br />

much effort.<br />

If you are fortunate to have grown up in a stable Individuality home, or if you<br />

succeed in your efforts to create one for your children, they will grow up better equipped<br />

to achieve respectability and success in the world. They will have a strong sense of their<br />

own identify, and a fulfilling private life. They will be well equipped to think for<br />

themselves and make good choices. They will become adults who can cooperate and<br />

work with people of diverse backgrounds and different perspectives and opinions. And<br />

they will be able to pass on these qualities to their own children.


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 97<br />

Chapter 7: Inclusion<br />

Children who are raised in a stable Individuality environment receive many gifts<br />

that are taken for granted. Their lives are safe. They have a strong connection with one<br />

or more parents who provide for their needs. They are valued members of their family.<br />

Their home and community are orderly, thanks to a common set of beliefs and rules that<br />

are fair. They enjoy success and respectability in their public life while also having a<br />

strong sense of self and a fulfilling private life.<br />

We know children can receive one more gift, though it happens rarely. The age<br />

at which children are ready to receive this gift varies, though generally it will not occur<br />

before adolescence, after they have spent some time developing their Individuality in<br />

private. At some point, a teenager or young adult may be ready to express in the public<br />

sphere the unique interests, talents, and aspects of themselves they nurtured in private.<br />

Public expression of their uniqueness might become the foundation of a career or<br />

vocation. It will be a determining factor in how they interact with their community and the<br />

lifestyle they create for themselves as adults. However, to express their unique<br />

identities in public, teens and young adults need a supportive environment. They need a<br />

family and a community that celebrates individuality and views their expressions of<br />

individuality as valuable contributions.


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 98<br />

At each of the lower levels, much of a person's individuality must be suppressed<br />

or concealed to some degree so they feel safe in their interactions with others. At each<br />

new level, people gain more security and more freedom to express themselves. At this<br />

sixth level, which we call Inclusion, people stop seeing other people's individuality as a<br />

threat to be contained and more of an asset to be developed. Everyone has the<br />

freedom to express their individuality in public and in a broader array of social<br />

situations. Because everyone in the community feels free to express themselves, the<br />

level of happiness and success increases as well. The inclusion of all voices and<br />

perspectives helps the community to find better solutions and innovations.<br />

Not many people grow up in a stable Inclusion environment. However, a few<br />

families and small communities have managed to create an unstable Inclusion<br />

environment. Generally, the transition to Inclusion begins after families have achieved a<br />

stable Individuality level and a new generation becomes aware of and dissatisfied with<br />

its limitations. So let us first look why this occurs.<br />

The Shortcomings of Individuality<br />

As we noted earlier, in an Individuality environment, people's lives are divided<br />

between a public life and a private life. In their public lives, people work to achieve and<br />

maintain a level of respectability and success. In their private lives, people pursue<br />

idiosyncratic interests or hobbies for the sake of their personal fulfillment. At the<br />

unstable stage of Individuality, people are glad to have private spaces, since these are<br />

not allowed at the Fellowship level. However, after a community is stable at the<br />

Individuality level for a generation or more, the trade-offs between these two spheres<br />

become problematic.<br />

In an Individuality community, people must work hard to achieve or maintain


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respectability in the public sphere. Respectability requires the accumulation and<br />

possession of a long list of accomplishments. These accomplishments can include<br />

qualifications, possessions, positions, titles, money, memberships, career milestones,<br />

real estate, popularity, awards, attending or hosting the right events, and various<br />

lifestyle trappings. You must maintain a web of social connections with other<br />

respectable people. You must have a successful career, make as much money as you<br />

can, dress well, speak well, maintain a respectable dwelling in a good neighborhood,<br />

protect your reputation, and stay out of trouble. You must do your civic and patriotic<br />

duties. You must project an image through your appearance and behavior that tells the<br />

world you are respectable. In addition, there is always a higher level of respectability<br />

you should be striving for. The process of becoming and staying respectable never<br />

ends, which creates considerable stress.<br />

At the same time, you must put a lot of energy into making sure your private life<br />

never becomes public. Your private life is where you pursue interests or express<br />

aspects of yourself that would damage your respectability if they were made public. You<br />

must keep these things concealed from important people who might judge you, such as<br />

your teachers, your employer, your colleagues, your neighbors, your parents, and<br />

perhaps even your spouse and children. As the comedian, Jennifer Saunders, once<br />

noted, "Everybody's a nobody in a bikini." Exposure of your private life can undermine<br />

the public respectability you have worked hard to earn.<br />

In contrast, the activities and interests you pursue in private are far less stressful.<br />

Your private life is the place you go to "let down your guard" and "be yourself." It is<br />

where you can be authentic. You can do things in private that provide personal<br />

fulfillment, including activities that would be considered worthless, childish,<br />

unproductive, or even shameful in the public sphere. In private, you can stop caring


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about what is socially acceptable. You don't have to meet anyone's expectations. You<br />

are free from being judged. You can "relax and unwind." Relaxation makes your private<br />

activities fun.<br />

The trade-off between one's public and private life seems reasonable to people<br />

still working to achieve stability at the Individuality level, and to those who feel they have<br />

found a good balance between their public and private lives. But for others, the cost of<br />

public respectability seems too high. They may resent the effort and stress that comes<br />

with meeting the demands of the public sphere. They may find it hard to convince<br />

themselves they should, for example...<br />

* Work at a job they hate for forty hours a week (or perhaps 60-80 hours) in return<br />

for an occasional day off they can devote to recreation, hobbies, friends, or<br />

family.<br />

* Work hard all year in return for a short vacation somewhere no one knows them,<br />

where they can be themselves.<br />

* Build and maintain a web of superficial social connections for the sake of<br />

advancement, while struggling to find time for more meaningful and enjoyable<br />

relationships.<br />

* Pursue a career they find unsatisfying for thirty to forty years, in return for a<br />

comfortable retirement in which they can finally do the things they wanted to do<br />

since they were young.<br />

Many people feel the effort they make to achieve respectability does not bring<br />

enough of the promised rewards. By the time some people retire, their declining health<br />

prevents them from pursuing the dreams they postponed for so long. Others find striving<br />

for public success leaves them with too little time for a private life. They may feel the<br />

effort to cultivate superficial relationships makes it harder to develop close friendships


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and romance. They wish they could turn their hobby into their career or exchange their<br />

high-pressure job for one less demanding... but the potential for failure and loss of<br />

status holds them back.<br />

Some children who were raised at the Individuality level look at their parents and<br />

wonder why they are so obsessed with appearances. They may criticize their parents'<br />

public identities as phony and insincere, and resent being asked to put on a false<br />

persona of their own. They may find it unfair that their parents' careers leave them with<br />

little time to spend with family.<br />

In turn, some parents at the Individuality level wish their children could live a<br />

better life than the one they're leading--a life in which they don't have to pretend to be<br />

someone they're not in public or spend so much time on meaningless activities. They<br />

wish their children could find a vocation that combines public respectability and personal<br />

fulfillment. These desires are what lead to the creation of the Inclusion level.<br />

The Gift of Inclusion<br />

At the Inclusion level, the separation between public and private space weakens.<br />

The demands of respectability become less onerous. People seek careers that offer<br />

them personal fulfillment as well as status and financial rewards. The public sphere<br />

becomes more tolerant and even welcoming of idiosyncrasies that previously had to be<br />

confined to the private sphere.<br />

We must be careful to point out that, at present, we know of no community that<br />

has achieved a stable Inclusion level, so we cannot say exactly what one might look<br />

like. However, we can point to plenty of isolated unstable examples. Some alternative<br />

schools, after-school programs, or children's camps aim to create brief or limited<br />

Inclusion environments as bubbles within a larger community where the dominant level


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is Individuality or lower. Adults can get a similar taste of the Inclusion level by<br />

participating in personal growth retreats that operate on the Inclusion level. Some adults<br />

manage to turn their passion into a career or created an alternative lifestyle they find<br />

more meaningful than the pursuit of public respectability. Other bubbles include small<br />

communities, neighborhoods, or milieux--for example subcultures, support groups, or<br />

social movements. Some parents succeed in creating a home environment for their<br />

children at the Inclusion level. However, none of these examples are very large, stable,<br />

or long-lasting. How successful they are at delivering the gift of Inclusion and the<br />

specific strategies they employ vary considerably. Nonetheless, by studying these<br />

examples, we can get some general ideas about what the Inclusion level may look like<br />

once a stable version appears.<br />

Here are a few things we know about children who were raised in a more<br />

Inclusive environment:<br />

An Inclusion Upbringing<br />

If you were raised at the Inclusion level, your parents will have taken an interest<br />

in your unique propensities and talents far beyond parents at the Individuality level. In<br />

an Individuality home, parents generally see their children's interests as "hobbies,"<br />

things that might be fun to pursue in private, but not something to take seriously.<br />

Serious things include good grades in school, winning scholarships, a professional<br />

career, public accolades, marrying into a respectable family, or buying a home in a good<br />

neighborhood. Parents at the Individuality level want their children to put such<br />

achievements ahead of personal hobbies or interests.<br />

But if you were raised at the Inclusion level, your parents will have seen your<br />

personal interests and talents as things that could lead to public success as well as a


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 103<br />

happier life in general. Rather than pushing you towards particular subjects in school, or<br />

particular extra-curricular activities, they likely tried to find out what you were interested<br />

in and where your talents lay. They let you choose your own activities and tried to give<br />

you resources and opportunities to nurture your talents. They will have encouraged you<br />

to set your own goals and supported you in achieving them. They wanted you to find a<br />

way to incorporate your unique gifts into your public life. They hoped that having less<br />

separation between your public and private activities would help your life to be both<br />

publicly respectable and personally meaningful.<br />

Impulse Control<br />

At the Individuality level, people's decision to resist or give in to impulses<br />

depends on the situation. In a private space, people are free to follow many impulses<br />

that they could not in a public space.<br />

Being raised at the Inclusive level will have given you an even more complex<br />

approach to impulse control. On the one hand, you have far less need for privacy, less<br />

need to protect your authentic self from the judgment of society. You are less likely to<br />

value decorum or formality. Unless you are in an unsafe environment, you feel free to<br />

give in to many impulses and express yourself authentically. You might even take<br />

offense at the suggestion that you should restrain or hide your true self in public. On the<br />

other hand, you appreciate the need to make situations safe for those around you, so<br />

you will resist certain impulses depending on who is present. You want everyone in your<br />

environment to feel safe enough to participate and express themselves authentically,<br />

just as you want a safe environment in which to express yourself.<br />

Empathy


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At the Individuality level, people develop the capacity to tolerate different people--<br />

that is, people not part of their community, who may have a different religion, culture,<br />

ethnicity, gender identity, etc. At least, they tolerate differences enough to engage<br />

socially and professionally with outsiders to their social group. This is a step forward<br />

from the Fellowship level, where people are intolerant of outsiders.<br />

At the Inclusion level, empathy takes another step forward. Differences are not<br />

just tolerated, they are embraced and celebrated. Being raised at Inclusion means you<br />

understand that your individuality--your unique talents, qualities, and perspective--<br />

enable you to make a unique and valued contribution to the world. This understanding<br />

implies that every other person has a valuable perspective, talents, and qualities that<br />

should be shared with the world as well. Individuality should not be confined to private<br />

spaces. You are more likely to be interested in discovering other people's unique<br />

qualities and perspectives, because those are resources that can help solve problems<br />

and serve the needs of all. The Inclusion level sees diversity as a strength. Rather than<br />

just tolerate people's differences, you want to discover and celebrate them.<br />

Reason<br />

At the Fellowship level, people believe children should be treated the same, so<br />

solutions that appear rational at this level are often based on the idea of equality or<br />

uniformity. Resources and opportunities should be made available to every child<br />

equally. Some children will excel in certain areas while others will fail, but they all<br />

deserve an equal chance to do well.<br />

On the other hand, people raised at the Individuality level recognize that,<br />

because children are all different, they need different types of opportunities and<br />

challenges. An opportunity designed for the average child is like a shoe made for an


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 105<br />

average foot--a poor fit for nearly everyone. Reason dictates that children with<br />

unavoidable challenges that could prevent them from meeting expectations for their age<br />

group should receive accommodations. Accommodations can include a wide range of<br />

assistive technologies--such as eyeglasses, hearing aids, specialized tools for writing<br />

and reading, or ergonomic desks. They include designing schools so children in<br />

wheelchairs can move around and reach everything they need. Some children may<br />

need special tutoring or counseling. Accommodations should not take away an<br />

academic challenge, but it should give all children a fair chance to succeed.<br />

However, at the Inclusion level, people believe that labeling certain children as<br />

"challenged" or "disabled," and then giving them accommodations so they can meet the<br />

challenges is trying to solve the wrong problem. The problem isn't that certain children<br />

are inadequate and need accommodations. The problem is that the challenges have<br />

been badly designed. A system with built-in barriers that exclude some people or cause<br />

them to need accommodation will seem irrational to people raised at the Inclusion level.<br />

To them, it makes more sense to design resources and opportunities to be accessible to<br />

everyone, regardless of their individual differences. In other words, systems should be<br />

inherently inclusive.<br />

[Illustration: A GROUP OF CHILDREN TRYING TO PEER OVER A WOODEN<br />

FENCE TO WATCH A BASEBALL GAME. IN THE FIRST CASE (FELLOWSHIP),<br />

EVERY CHILD HAS EQUAL ACCESS--A SPOT ALONG THE FENCE--BUT ONLY<br />

SOME CHILDREN ARE TALL ENOUGH TO SEE OVER IT. IN THE SECOND CASE<br />

(INDIVIDUALITY), CRATES ARE PROVIDED SO SHORTER CHILDREN CAN STAND<br />

ON THEM AND SEE OVER THE FENCE. IN THE THIRD CASE (INCLUSION) THE<br />

FENCE IS MADE OF CHAIN-LINK, WHICH DOESN'T OBSTRUCT ANYONE'S VIEW<br />

OF THE GAME, NO MATTER THEIR HEIGHT.]


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Let's say you want to create a fitness program for children. At the Fellowship<br />

level, you might design a calisthenics routine that every child is supposed to do the<br />

same way. Of course, some children will be better at it than others, but provided every<br />

child does her best in the time allotted, that's acceptable. At the Individuality level, you<br />

might introduce modified versions of each exercise in the routine, so children who are<br />

not naturally athletic can do the modified versions and still benefit from the program.<br />

You might also have more difficult versions of the exercises to give exceptionally<br />

athletic children the extra challenge they need. At the Inclusion level, you might replace<br />

the routine with a different type of exercise, such as dancing, in which all children can<br />

participate, while also creating an opportunity for individual expression. The Inclusion<br />

level does not eliminate competition and the pursuit of excellence. There will still be<br />

sports teams and dance troupes for the exceptionally athletic. But as far as possible, the<br />

Inclusion level will lack barriers that would prevent children from participating in these<br />

activities to the extent of their ability.<br />

Inclusion takes a more complex approach to finding solutions, because it takes<br />

more issues into consideration, but it produces happier results.<br />

Morality<br />

At the Individuality level, the moral code evolves to be:<br />

1. Do not kill, except to protect the lives of children or in self-defense.<br />

2. Do not abandon your children or fail to provide for them.<br />

3. Value all members of your family for the role they play and respect them as is<br />

proper for your relationship.<br />

4. Treat everyone in your community according to the rules, and when you break<br />

the rules ask for forgiveness or offer to make amends.


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 107<br />

5. When in doubt, follow your conscience.<br />

At the Inclusion level, the moral code becomes more complex with the addition of<br />

a new guideline:<br />

6. Include everyone; exclude none.<br />

Morality at the Fellowship level is concerned with treating everyone within your<br />

community the same, according to the same set of rules. Everyone has equal rights,<br />

protections, and obligations. However, the rules do not apply to those outside your<br />

group who are not bound by the same set of rules and so cannot be trusted.<br />

At the Individuality level, the rules are more flexible, allowing society to be more<br />

tolerant. People of different ethnicities, cultural backgrounds, genders, or religions can<br />

live and work side by side. Though there may be a dominant cultural group, many<br />

different voices can be accommodated in the public sphere--in politics, business,<br />

academia, and even religion. Individuality communities develop principles of good<br />

manners to prevent friction among people from different groups. For instance, it may be<br />

understood that one does not discuss politics or religion at social gatherings or ask<br />

people about their gender or sexual preferences. Such topics may only be discussed in<br />

private, with people you trust.<br />

In contrast, an Inclusive environment tries to include all perspectives and all<br />

voices. No one is excluded or marginalized. Everyone is encouraged to speak up and<br />

contribute. The community embraces of all manner of differences. The one limitation is<br />

that no one can behave in a way that intimidates others or makes them feel unsafe to<br />

express themselves.<br />

Inclusive morality may one day be easy to follow for those raised in a stable<br />

Inclusion community, but it is difficult at the unstable stage. Sometimes it seems that, for<br />

certain people to be seen and heard, other voices must be silenced. Finding the right


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 108<br />

balance so that everyone has the freedom and opportunity to express their perspective<br />

without feeling intimidated or disrespected, and without intimidating or disrespecting<br />

others, can be challenging. Some people will find it hard to embrace or celebrate<br />

perspectives different from their own.<br />

If a child is fortunate to be part of a community at the unstable Inclusion level, it<br />

will likely be a niche within the broad community. Fortunately, inclusive groups have a<br />

competitive advantage. Because they include many perspectives, inclusive groups can<br />

often make better informed decisions. The intellectual resources of all members can be<br />

better used to further the group's interests. Inclusive groups can find opportunities and<br />

solutions to create success and happiness that would be missed at other levels.<br />

In an Inclusive community, people take for granted that their career should be<br />

personally fulfilling, align with their values, and serve others. There will often be an<br />

erasure of the boundaries between work, home, and recreation. Inclusive workplaces<br />

tend to look more like private homes. Inclusive homes tend to double as workplaces.<br />

Jobs are designed to be both productive and enjoyable--and because they are<br />

enjoyable, they are often more productive. People feel free to share their inner<br />

experiences and perceptions and invite others to do the same. Authenticity becomes<br />

valued and people who put on a false front or a veneer of respectability may seem less<br />

trustworthy.<br />

If you succeed in raising your children in an Inclusive environment, even if only at<br />

the unstable stage, you will have equipped them to lead a life that most people only<br />

dream of--a life of considerable success, freedom, meaning, and happiness.


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 109<br />

Chapter 8: Tips on Self-Assessment<br />

After doing the self-assessment, you may feel that different parts or aspects of<br />

your childhood or your current worldview seem to correspond to different levels. There<br />

are reasons for this.<br />

Most people have some experience with multiple levels before they become<br />

adults. This experience comes from different sources:<br />

a. Community exposure. In childhood, you were exposed not only to your home<br />

environment, but also to the environment of your community. The dominant level of your<br />

community may have been higher or lower than your home. Subgroups or environments<br />

within the community may have been operating at a range of levels. Interacting with<br />

these groups may have given you an outsider's experience of other levels.<br />

b. Intellectual exposure. You may have been exposed to books, articles,<br />

literature, movies, or other media that reflect a worldview higher or lower than that of<br />

your upbringing or your community. Thanks to electronic and broadcast media this is<br />

extremely common.<br />

c. Isolated incidents. You may have had brief events in your childhood that<br />

exposed you to life at other levels and impacted your life in positive or negative ways.<br />

For instance, above the Survival level, everyone grows up in an environment


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 110<br />

where physical safety is normal. However, let's say as a child you grew up in an<br />

Individuality environment, but one day when you were in in the fourth grade someone<br />

entered your school and started shooting your classmates. That incident will have<br />

exposed you to a threat typical of an unstable Survival environment. Because the<br />

experience was scary and outside your normal reality, you will likely experience it as<br />

traumatic. Similarly, an event in which you got lost at a shopping mall and couldn't find<br />

your parents could be a Provision level trauma. A one-time incident of sexual assault by<br />

a family member would likely be a Structured Family level trauma.<br />

If you imagine your psyche as a multi-story building, an isolated trauma equates<br />

to a pillar being knocked out on one of your lower levels. It won't destroy the higher<br />

levels of your psyche, but it adds instability on the level where it occurs, and each level<br />

above. You may live your life at the higher level much of the time, but occasionally you<br />

will stumble upon something (a bad interaction with someone, a stressful experience,<br />

etc.) that will send you plunging down to that unstable lower level. You may become<br />

upset or behave in ways that might be appropriate to the lower level but are outside<br />

your normal behavior.<br />

Of course, isolated incidents aren't all negative. An occasion in which a stranger<br />

helped you unexpectedly could have given you an experience of a higher level that<br />

made a profound and positive impression on you. It may have made you aspire to reach<br />

a higher level as an adult.<br />

d. Sustained events or relationships. You may also have experienced longer<br />

periods--perhaps weeks or months--when you were immersed in an environment<br />

different from your normal one. You may have been sent to boarding school or summer<br />

camp or you may have gone to live with extended family for a time. You may have had<br />

a long-term relationship with one guardian who interacted with you on a different level


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 111<br />

than everyone else.<br />

As with single events, sustained events and relationships can be positive or<br />

negative. The negative events create instability on lower levels of your psyche. The<br />

positive events can lay the foundation for the next higher level--giving you a sense of<br />

how life could be better.<br />

All these experiences can influence how you see the world and behave as a<br />

parent. But the strongest influence will always be the normal environment you lived in<br />

as a child, the one that established your conscious and unconscious understanding of<br />

the world. Single and sustained events are extraordinary. They are departures from<br />

your normal environment, so they do not determine your sense of normalcy.<br />

If you are still uncertain, below are a couple of other ways to help you identify the<br />

level you were raised at:<br />

How do you feel about other levels?<br />

Generally, the level you were raised at will feel normal. It will feel like how the<br />

world really works, the world as you know it. Levels above or below yours will evoke<br />

other feelings in you as follows...<br />

a) One level below yours will feel like a terrible but credible threat.<br />

For instance, if you were raised at the level of Individuality, you probably have an<br />

instinctive dislike of communities at the Fellowship level that pressure their members<br />

conform and forbid the questioning of beliefs. You may hate the idea of electronic<br />

surveillance, or any invasion of privacy. You believe society must be on guard against<br />

authoritarian leaders who try to bully others and tell them what to think and believe. This<br />

is a real danger.<br />

On the other hand, if you were raised at the Structured Family level, you are


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 112<br />

likely appalled by life at the Provision level where people put their selfish desires ahead<br />

of their family. It is scary to think how parents at the Provision level abandon their<br />

children--and how grown children abandon their elders. These are terrible practices.<br />

While you are thankful not to be part of such a family, you understand the danger of<br />

slipping back to that level. You must impress upon your children how fortunate they are<br />

to have proper parents and how they must strive to keep up the family traditions.<br />

b) Two or more levels below yours will seem even worse, but less like an<br />

immediate or plausible threat.<br />

To someone raised at the Individuality level, the killing, abandoning, or abuse of<br />

children that takes place at the lower three levels, seems horrific, but also unlikely to<br />

happen in their own community. Like the world of The Game of Thrones or ancient<br />

Egypt, such an environment may feel far removed from normal life. Though you know<br />

such environments existed in the past or exist in distant communities today, you might<br />

find it hard to imagine that anyone in your community could treat a child so badly.<br />

Similarly, if you were raised at the Inclusion level, the idea of a Fellowship<br />

community where conformity is enforced and deviant opinions and behavior are<br />

forbidden may seem terrible, but also unlikely. You can't imagine people would put up<br />

with such a situation.<br />

A. S. Neil, a pioneer in progressive education (who we'll mention again later),<br />

relates an anecdote about how children in the 1950s at his school, Summerhill (an<br />

Inclusion environment), once reacted to a story about finding themselves with a<br />

Fellowship-style headmaster:<br />

On alternate Sunday nights, I tell the younger children a story about their<br />

own adventures. I have done it for years. I have taken them to Darkest Africa,<br />

under the sea, and over the clouds. Some time ago, I made myself die.


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 113<br />

Summerhill was taken over by a strict man called Muggins. He made lessons<br />

compulsory. If you even said Dash, you got caned. I pictured how they all meekly<br />

obeyed his orders.<br />

Those three- to eight-year-olds got furious with me. "We didn't. We all ran<br />

away. We killed him with a hammer. Think we would stand a man like that?"<br />

In the end, I found I could satisfy them only by coming to life again and<br />

kicking Mr. Muggins out the front door. These were mostly small children who<br />

had never known a strict school and their reaction of fury was spontaneous and<br />

natural. 3<br />

c) One level above yours will look desirable, but a bit optimistic. You may have<br />

some difficulty imagining how such an environment could be achieved, but it won't seem<br />

impossible.<br />

For instance, if you were raised at the Provision level, you might see the appeal<br />

of being part of a Structured Family, where everyone has an important role to play and<br />

where you can rely on your family to stand by you.<br />

If you were raised at the Fellowship level, you might see the appeal of a<br />

community based on Individuality, where people tolerate differences of opinion and you<br />

could pursue your own interests in private without threatening the social order. It may be<br />

outside your experience, but it doesn't seem impossible.<br />

d) Two levels above yours will seem completely implausible. Only a naive person<br />

would think such an environment could work in real life. Even if people at that level<br />

seem happy, you will have a hard time imagining your community functioning that way.<br />

3 Neill, AS., Summerhill: A Radical Approach to Child Rearing<br />

(New York: Hart Publishing, 1960,


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 114<br />

It would go against your understanding of human nature. The word "utopia," in the<br />

sense of a "good but impossible place," describes how a community two levels higher<br />

probably looks to you.<br />

For instance, if you were raised in a Survival environment, you would have a<br />

hard time imagining how a Structured Family could work. The idea that parents would<br />

set aside their own immediate desires for the sake of future generations, or that children<br />

would set aside their self-interest to care for their elders seems insane. People need to<br />

protect themselves in the here and now. Anyone who doesn't won't live very long<br />

anyway. You can't worry about the future or stick your neck out for others. Besides, you<br />

know from experience that family members are as likely to kill you as strangers.<br />

If you were raised at the level of Fellowship, the idea of living in an Inclusion level<br />

community that celebrates non-conformity, where people can behave however they<br />

want and profess the most outrageous and unorthodox opinions, seems like anarchy.<br />

You would worry that such a loosening of the rules would allow all the evils of the lower<br />

levels to assert themselves, resulting in the downfall of the community.<br />

The six levels are eighteen stages.<br />

Taken together, the levels resemble a six-story building. Each level is one story,<br />

and each level is built on the one below. When the Survival level has been built to the<br />

point of stability, the Provision level can be built on top of it. Once the Provision level is<br />

stable, the Structured Family level can be built. Building each new level takes time--<br />

sometimes generations. If you were raised at a level that was not yet stable, you may<br />

only have a partial hold on the gift of that level.<br />

In our previous descriptions of the levels, we noted that each one can be at a<br />

stable or unstable stage. In fact, you may find it helpful to think of each level having


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 115<br />

three stages of completion that look like this...<br />

a) Platform<br />

The platform stage is the most unstable stage of a level. To be raised at it means<br />

that your parents gave you the gifts of all the levels below, but the current level was<br />

mostly aspirational. It's as though the plans for your level had been drawn up, and<br />

maybe some of the framing was in place, but the walls were not yet built. They knew<br />

what they wanted to do, but not how to do it. Consequently, they made many mistakes<br />

and failed you in some ways.<br />

Nonetheless, you received the gift of that level, even if only in a rudimentary way.<br />

If you didn't have the gift at all, you would not be aware that your parents could have<br />

done better.<br />

b) Construction<br />

Once the work of building a new level has begun in earnest, we can say it is<br />

under construction. At this stage, your parents knew what they should do to give you the<br />

gift of your level, and they were trying, but they couldn't do it consistently. There were<br />

gaps in their application. It's as though the walls of your level were built, but the doors,<br />

windows, and roof had not been installed.<br />

Nonetheless, you still received the gift of your level more solidly than children at<br />

the Platform Stage.<br />

c) Stable<br />

To be raised at the stable stage means that your parents created an environment<br />

that consistently gave you the gift of your level, as well as the gifts of all lower levels.


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 116<br />

They had mastered the challenges of parenting at your level. All the walls, windows,<br />

and doors were finished, and the roof was put on.<br />

You may find it helpful to pinpoint which stage you were raised at by finding the<br />

statement on this list that best matches your experience...<br />

Survival<br />

1. Platform: As a child, I constantly feared for my life. Adults, including my own<br />

parents, were dangerous.<br />

2. Under Construction: My parents tried to protect me from adults who could kill<br />

me (including themselves), but they didn't always do the best job and I'm lucky I<br />

survived.<br />

3. Stable: I knew other children were killed by adults, including their own parents,<br />

but at least I was safe with my parents who protected me.<br />

Provision<br />

4. Platform: I grew up with one or more parents absent, my caregivers were<br />

neglectful, or I was severely deprived in other ways.<br />

5. Under Construction: My parents tried not to abandon me and worked to<br />

provide me with the necessities, but they weren't entirely successful and sometimes I<br />

was neglected or deprived.<br />

6. Stable: I was aware of other children who were severely deprived or whose<br />

parents abandoned them, but my parents stuck with me and made sure I didn't go<br />

without.<br />

Structured Family


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 117<br />

7. Platform: My parents failed to be proper parents. They didn't treat me with the<br />

respect I should have had as a valued member of the family.<br />

8. Under Construction: My parents tried hard to be proper parents and to fulfill<br />

their roles honorably. But they weren't consistent and did not always respect me as a<br />

valued member of the family.<br />

9. Stable: I was aware of other families where children were mistreated, but my<br />

parents fulfilled their role as parents honorably and respected me as a valued member<br />

of the family.<br />

Fellowship<br />

10. Platform: My parents taught me right from wrong, and that the rules should<br />

apply to everyone, but they often broke the rules themselves. The rules were often not<br />

clear, enforced, or followed in our home.<br />

11. Under Construction: My parents taught me right from wrong and that the<br />

rules should apply to everyone, but they didn't follow or enforce them consistently.<br />

12. Stable: I knew of families that did immoral, unethical, or unfair things, but my<br />

parents taught me right from wrong and that the rules should apply to everyone. They<br />

made sure I followed the rules, and they set a good example by following the rules<br />

consistently themselves.<br />

Individuality<br />

13. Platform: My parents wanted me to meet their expectations, be successful,<br />

and look respectable in public, but I was never certain what they expected of me or how<br />

I was supposed to act. They said I had a right to privacy and my own thoughts and<br />

opinions, but in practice they didn't tolerate my individuality or respect my privacy.


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 118<br />

Often, they told me what I was supposed to think and believe.<br />

14. Under Construction: My parents wanted me to meet their expectations, be<br />

successful, and look respectable in public, but I wasn't always certain what was<br />

expected of me. My parents said I had a right to my individuality and my privacy. But<br />

sometimes they invaded my privacy or wouldn't tolerate my individuality, even at home.<br />

15. Stable: I knew children whose parents didn't care if they were successful, or<br />

looked respectable, and some who never were allowed any privacy or freedom. But my<br />

parents were different. They insisted I meet their expectations, be successful, and look<br />

respectable in public. In return they tolerated my individuality in private. I was allowed to<br />

pursue my own interests and have my own opinions. They respected my privacy.<br />

Inclusion<br />

16. Platform: My parents supported me in expressing myself, pursuing my own<br />

interests, and setting my own goals, provided I made choices they could approve of.<br />

They were more concerned about appearances and success than what would make me<br />

happy.<br />

17. Under Construction: My parents tried to encourage me to express myself,<br />

pursue my own interests, set my own goals, and make space for others to do the same.<br />

But their tolerance had limits and not all differences were celebrated.<br />

18. Stable: I knew of children whose parents set a lot of expectations for them<br />

rather than let them be themselves. But my parents were my greatest supporters and<br />

cheerleaders. They encouraged me to express myself, pursue my own interests, set my<br />

own goals, and make space for others to do the same.<br />

Co-Parenting


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 119<br />

If you have a spouse or someone else you co-parent with, they will have a big<br />

influence on the environment your children grow up in. For this reason, you should have<br />

your spouse or parenting partner do their own separate assessment.<br />

Often people unconsciously choose partners who were raised at the same level,<br />

with a similar sense of what a "normal" childhood should be. Similar upbringings can be<br />

one reason partners find each other compatible. For other couples, this is not the case.<br />

As we will see later, if your partner was raised at a different level you may need to do<br />

some negotiation over parenting practices.<br />

Honesty<br />

Many people idealize their own upbringing and parents. They focus on the good<br />

parts and ignore the worst, sometimes because the worst is too painful to think about.<br />

Bear in mind that, when you're looking at families operating on a level lower than your<br />

own, you will see things happening within them that seem terrible. But people who grow<br />

up in that environment often don't get upset about those things, because they see them<br />

as normal and therefore inconsequential. Similarly, if you describe your childhood<br />

environment to someone who was raised at a higher level, they may see some aspects<br />

of it as terrible--including things you don't feel upset about at all. Only when your own<br />

psyche starts shifting to a higher level will you realize that parts of your childhood could<br />

have been better.<br />

Many people are reluctant to admit that they were raised at a lower level than<br />

their friends, colleagues, or neighbors--even to themselves. They pretend their past was<br />

better than it was. Similarly, most people want to be regarded as good parents. They<br />

don't want other people thinking they are raising their children at a low level. They may<br />

pretend to themselves and others that their family environment is at a higher level or


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 120<br />

stage than it is.<br />

Some parents will attempt to create an environment for their children at a level<br />

higher than their own upbringing or understanding. In most cases this won't work. How<br />

you parent depends on instincts and impulses that are outside of your conscious control<br />

and correspond to the actual level of your upbringing or psychic development. In this<br />

book, we will show you how to take your family environment to a higher level. But you<br />

must understand that this process takes serious work. If you try to skip a stage or a<br />

level, or take a superficial approach, you will unintentionally drag the environment down<br />

to the lowest stage where you have stability--and that will be the level of your children's<br />

upbringing.<br />

The best approach is to be honest with yourself when taking the assessment. If<br />

you don't acknowledge where you are, you can't move forward. Once you know what<br />

level your psyche is at, you can make and execute a plan to stabilize yourself and your<br />

family at that level. After you family is stable on your own level, you can begin building<br />

the next level.<br />

Never be ashamed of your upbringing.<br />

You may be tempted to compare yourself to others, and in doing so feel either<br />

pride or shame about your upbringing. We urge you to set these feelings aside. To be<br />

raised at a lower level than those around you is no more a failing on your part than the<br />

genetics you inherited from your parents. No one can choose their parents or their<br />

childhood environment, but you can choose what to do as an adult.<br />

Even if you grew up in a Survival level environment, what matters is that you<br />

survived it, either because of or despite your parents. Survival is a valuable gift, and it<br />

has given you the opportunity to become a better parent to your children.


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 121<br />

At the same time, no one can claim to have had a perfect upbringing. The<br />

highest form of parenting humans have invented to date remains a work in progress. No<br />

matter what level you were raised at, you can still do much to give your children a better<br />

upbringing than the one you received. What matters is not where you start from, but<br />

how far you go from that point.<br />

With the above considerations, you may not want to share the results of your<br />

assessment with anyone who might judge you harshly. Neither brag nor look for<br />

sympathy. Simply use the results to guide your efforts in becoming a better parent.


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 122<br />

Part Two<br />

Parenting Within a Community


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 123<br />

Chapter 9: Passing on the Gifts You Received<br />

By this point, you should have a good sense of what level of upbringing you<br />

experienced, the gifts you received, and how stable your level was. All things being<br />

equal, you will likely give your children an upbringing like your own. However, this does<br />

not always happen. You should consciously strive to give your children all the gifts you<br />

can offer them.<br />

When you set about choosing and creating an environment for your children to<br />

grow up in, you should follow two main guidelines.<br />

1. Pass on the gifts you received.<br />

If the only thing your parents did for you was keep you alive, you must do the<br />

same for your children. If your parents stuck by you and provided you with food, clothes,<br />

and a home with them, make sure you give those things to your children. If you grew up<br />

as part of a family where everyone was valued, had a role, and earned respect by<br />

putting the family's needs ahead of their own, teach your children those same values. If<br />

your parents also taught you rules of behavior and raised you as part of a cohesive<br />

community, provide the same for your children. If your parents also gave you private<br />

spaces where you had the freedom to express your individual thoughts and interests,


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 124<br />

give such private spaces to your children. And if your parents also encouraged you to<br />

express your uniqueness and seek fulfillment in your public life, then do the same for<br />

your children.<br />

All this sound may sound easy and straightforward. Yet sometimes the<br />

circumstances of your life can interfere with your intentions. Misfortune can lead to<br />

crises that create stress and trauma in a family. When this happens, the environment in<br />

a home can regress to a lower level in the effort to deal with what the parents hope is a<br />

temporary challenge. For example, you may be raising your children in an Individuality<br />

environment, but if you lose your job, develop a debilitating illness, or separate from<br />

your spouse, your children's environment might drop to an unstable Provision level, due<br />

to the insecurity, fear, anger, and distress this crisis creates.<br />

The consequences a crisis will have on your children's developing psyches<br />

depends on their age, the intensity of the crisis, and how long it persists. If your son is a<br />

newborn when the crisis arises, and the instability lasts several years, his sense of<br />

normal may be established during the crisis. He could receive a Provision level<br />

upbringing with none of the gifts of higher levels. On the other hand, if your daughter is<br />

old enough when the crisis hits to have already established an understanding of the<br />

world based on Individuality, the crisis will create some instability in her psyche on the<br />

Provision level and the levels above. But she will still have the gifts of those levels. By<br />

doing some renovation work on her own or with the help of a therapist, your daughter<br />

could overcome the effects of the crisis more easily than your son.<br />

As a parent, you should make every effort to shield young children from the<br />

insecurity generated by a crisis and to end the crisis as quickly as possible. The better<br />

you can accomplish this, the fewer lasting effects your children will experience. Once<br />

you have resolved the crisis and restored the family's security, the children can receive


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 125<br />

the gifts of the higher levels.<br />

A fictional (and exaggerated) example of how such shielding can work is shown<br />

in the film, Life is Beautiful. In this story, a father and son are sent to a concentration<br />

camp in Italy during World War II. The environment is at an unstable Survival level<br />

where there is a good chance they will be killed. However, the father strives to shield his<br />

son from the fear this situation would otherwise generate by spinning an elaborate lie<br />

that says their situation is all make-believe, part of an elaborate game they are playing<br />

with other people. Even though the father is eventually killed, he manages to protect his<br />

son both physically and mentally until the day the camp is liberated and the son rejoins<br />

his mother. The film makes the point that a child's interpretation of her environment can<br />

be more important than the actual conditions. If a child has at least one parent who can<br />

offer reassurance and teach her to see a bad situation in a way that is less scary, much<br />

of the harm can be reduced.<br />

In the following pages, we will offer some suggestions for how to strengthen your<br />

children's environment, so they better receive the gifts of your level.<br />

2. Pave the path to higher levels; block the path down.<br />

Expose your children to higher levels as much as possible. You may be unable to<br />

give them gifts you do not possess yourself, but exposing them to a world where other<br />

gifts exist will help them function in that world as adults, a world where the opportunities<br />

for prosperity and happiness are greater because cooperation is greater. Moreover,<br />

helping your children to integrate into a higher level creates the possibility that they--and<br />

even more likely, your grandchildren--will receive the gifts of that level.<br />

At the same time, you should limit your children's exposure to environments<br />

operating at lower levels. Most people do this instinctively because they are repulsed by


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 126<br />

levels below their own. However, if you have had unpleasant or traumatic experiences<br />

of lower levels, you can sometimes unthinkingly make choices that recreate these<br />

experiences for your own children. In later chapters, we will show you how to overcome<br />

this tendency.<br />

However, before you can decide whether and how much to expose your children<br />

to a particular community, you need to identify what level the community is operating<br />

on. Let's now assess the community you currently live in.


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Chapter 10: Assessing Your Child's Community<br />

Your child's community includes everyone she regularly interacts with, the adults<br />

and children who are part of or involved in her neighborhood, school, religious<br />

congregation, clubs, sports teams, extracurricular activities, and other organizations.<br />

The community also includes your child's extended family--grandparents, uncles, aunts,<br />

and cousins. As your child grows, her community will have a growing influence on her.<br />

The households in your child's community may operate at a variety of levels--<br />

maybe all six of them. However, one level will usually dominate. Either most households<br />

will operate at that level, or it will be the level that has the most social approval.<br />

Expressing the concerns of the dominant level in any gathering of parents will get heads<br />

nodding. The dominant level in your community may be higher, lower, or the same level<br />

as your upbringing or the environment you are trying to create in your home. Knowing<br />

your community's level will help you decide how to manage your child's exposure to it.<br />

General Impression: Higher or Lower?<br />

You can form a general impression of your child's community when you socialize<br />

with other parents. Listen to their concerns about parenting. Watch how they interact<br />

with their children.


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If you find it easy to discuss your parenting concerns and methods with other<br />

parents, because they see things much the same way, chances are the dominant level<br />

in your community matches the one you were raised at. If you feel uncomfortable talking<br />

about parenting with other parents, because their concerns differ from yours, the<br />

community may be at a different level than your upbringing. Your emotional response to<br />

other people's parenting style can help you determine whether the community level is<br />

higher or lower than yours.<br />

After you've had some time to listen to and interact with other parents in<br />

community, notice if you feel...<br />

* Appalled at the way most parents in the community are raising their children.<br />

* Angry when you see how most parents in the community treat their children.<br />

* Worried that the way parents in your community raise children is harmful.<br />

* Uncomfortable having your children visit other families without you there to<br />

protect them.<br />

If so, the dominant level in your community is probably lower than the one you were<br />

raised at.<br />

On the other hand, if the dominant level in your community is higher than the one<br />

you were raised it, you may notice that most other parents...<br />

* Easily handle parenting issues you find challenging.<br />

* Have concerns about aspects of their children's welfare that your parents would<br />

not have understood.<br />

* Have much friendlier relationships with their children than you did with your<br />

parents.<br />

At the same time, you may notice that most children in the community seem less fearful<br />

of their parents than you were as a child. They may seem unusually confident, nice,


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 129<br />

happy, or accomplished.<br />

Assessment<br />

The following questions will give you a more accurate sense of whether the<br />

dominant level and stage of your child's community is higher, lower, or the same as your<br />

own upbringing. The better you know the community, the easier it will be to answer<br />

these questions. Note that each of the levels looks a little different depending on your<br />

personal perspective. Feel free to skip to the questions meant for your level. You can<br />

ignore the rest or read them for interest.<br />

If you were raised at the Survival level, does it seem like many parents in your<br />

community...<br />

1a. Are a danger to their children or lack the ability to protect their children from<br />

being killed by others? Are many children killed before reaching adulthood? Do<br />

parents often threaten to kill their children or convince their children that adults<br />

could kill them? Y/N (Survival, platform stage)<br />

1b. Are making a concerted effort to protect children from being killed or the fear<br />

of being killed? Do they worry they could kill their children in a fit of rage? Do<br />

their children sometimes worry they could be killed? Y/N (Survival, construction<br />

stage)<br />

1c. Are concerned and diligent about safeguarding their children's lives, so the<br />

children grow up knowing their lives are safe, even though children in other<br />

families are often killed? Y/N (Survival, stable)<br />

2. Do not worry about children being killed by adults? Would they be surprised to<br />

meet a child who genuinely feared being killed? Y/N (above Survival)


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If you were raised at the Provision level, does it seem like many parents in the<br />

community...<br />

1. Are a danger to the lives of children? Y/N (Survival)<br />

2a. Die or abandon their children before they are grown? Are many children<br />

severely deprived? Do parents threaten to abandon their children or to deprive<br />

them of the necessities of life? Y/N (Provision, platform stage)<br />

2b. Struggle to stay with their children and provide them with necessities of life?<br />

Do they believe they could abandon their children or fail to provide for them? Do<br />

the children grow up with a fear of abandonment or severe deprivation? Y/N<br />

(Provision, construction stage)<br />

2c. Are concerned and diligent about keeping their children with them and<br />

providing children with the necessities of life, so the children feel safe from the<br />

severe deprivation or abandonment other children experience? Y/N (Provision,<br />

stable)<br />

3. Find it easy to keep their children with them and provide for them? Would they<br />

be surprised to meet a child who genuinely feared her parent(s) would abandon<br />

her or let her suffer severe deprivation? Y/N (above Provision)<br />

If you were raised at the Structured Family level, does it seem like many parents<br />

in the community...<br />

1. Are a danger to the lives of children? Y/N (Survival)<br />

2. Abandon their children or let them suffer severe deprivation? Y/N (Provision)<br />

3a. Do not value their children? Do they mistreat them? Do they fail to teach<br />

them to play an important role in their family? Do they fail to conduct themselves


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honorably as mothers and fathers should? Do they disrespect family members?<br />

Y/N (Structured Family, platform)<br />

3b. Are inconsistent when it comes to valuing their children and teaching them<br />

their proper roles in the family? Do they struggle to fulfill their roles as parents?<br />

Do the children fear their parents' mood swings? Y/N (Structured Family,<br />

construction)<br />

3c. Are concerned and diligent about valuing their children and teaching them<br />

their proper role in the family? Do they conduct themselves as proper mothers<br />

and fathers? Do their children grow up feeling safe from the mistreatment and<br />

disrespect other children experience? Y/N (Structured Family, stable)<br />

4. Find it easy to maintain strong, healthy families? Would they be surprised to<br />

meet a child who genuinely feared being mistreated by her parents or felt she<br />

was not a valued member of her family? Y/N (above Structured Family)<br />

If you were raised at the Fellowship level, does it seem like many parents in the<br />

community...<br />

1. Are a danger to the lives of children? Y/N (Survival)<br />

2. Abandon their children or let them suffer severe deprivation? Y/N (Provision)<br />

3. Emotionally, physically, or sexually abuse their children? Y/N (Structured<br />

Family)<br />

4a. Fail to teach their children rules of behavior that apply to everyone? Do they<br />

break the rules themselves or not enforce them? Do they leave their children<br />

unsupervised? Do their children lack structure to their lives and constantly<br />

misbehave? Y/N (Fellowship, platform stage)<br />

4b. Struggle to teach children rules of behavior that apply to everyone? Is it hard


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for parents to follow the rules themselves or enforce them consistently? Do they<br />

believe their children will misbehave when unsupervised? Do the children<br />

complain their parents' decisions are unfair or that their parents often change the<br />

rules arbitrarily? Do the children's lives lack structure? Is their children's behavior<br />

inconsistent? Y/N (Fellowship, construction stage)<br />

4c. Are concerned and diligent about teaching children rules of behavior that<br />

apply to everyone? Do parents follow the rules themselves? Do they enforce the<br />

rules impartially and consistently? Do they supervise children and structure their<br />

lives to a high degree? Are the children well-behaved? Can children work within<br />

the rules to enjoy a safe and predictable life? Y/N (Fellowship, stable)<br />

5. Find it easy to get their children to behave well? Would they be surprised if<br />

their children misbehaved when unsupervised? Y/N (above Fellowship)<br />

If your upbringing was at Individuality, does it seem like many parents in the<br />

community...<br />

1. Are a danger to the lives of children? Y/N (Survival)<br />

2. Abandon their children or let them suffer severe deprivation? Y/N (Provision)<br />

3. Emotionally, physically, or sexually abuse their children? Y/N (Structured<br />

Family)<br />

4. Are overly strict, controlling, or intrusive with their children, to the point of<br />

denying them the right to their own opinions, privacy, or time to pursue their own<br />

interests? Y/N (Fellowship)<br />

5a. Fail to teach their children to comport themselves well in public, to dress<br />

properly or to otherwise meet their social obligations? Do they fail to set<br />

expectations for their children's success in school and other activities? Do they


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 133<br />

not give their children enough privacy or freedom to pursue their own interests?<br />

Y/N (Individuality, platform stage)<br />

5b. Struggle to teach their children to comport themselves well in public, to dress<br />

properly, and to otherwise meet their social obligations? Are they unclear or<br />

inconsistent in their expectations for their children's success in school or other<br />

activities? Do they sometimes encourage their children to find their own way to<br />

meet expectations, but then intervene and start telling their children exactly what<br />

to do? Do they encourage their children to have opinions, but disapprove if their<br />

opinions are unconventional? Do they worry about looking like bad parents if<br />

their children don't follow social conventions, or receive accolades? Do they<br />

sometimes invade their children's privacy or rescind their freedom? Do children<br />

complain about not understanding what's expected of them? Y/N (Individuality,<br />

construction stage)<br />

5c. Teach children to comport themselves well in public, to dress properly, and to<br />

otherwise meet their social obligations? Do they set clear expectations for their<br />

children's success in school and other activities? Do they give their children the<br />

privacy and freedom to pursue their own interests and find their own way to meet<br />

expectations? Do they tolerate their children's individuality? Do the children meet<br />

their parents’ expectations? Y/N (Individuality, stable)<br />

6. Encourage their children to set and pursue their own goals? Do they<br />

encourage their children to express their individuality, even in public? Would they<br />

be surprised if they met a child who was afraid of not meeting her parents’<br />

expectations? Y/N (Inclusion)<br />

If your upbringing was at Inclusion, does it seem like many parents in the


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community...<br />

1. Are a danger to the lives of children? Y/N (Survival)<br />

2. Abandon their children or let them suffer severe deprivation? Y/N (Provision)<br />

3. Emotionally, physically, or sexually abuse their children? Y/N (Structured<br />

Family)<br />

4. Are overly strict and intrusive with their children, to the point of not letting them<br />

have any independent thoughts, privacy, or freedom to pursue individual<br />

interests? Y/N (Fellowship)<br />

5. Worry too much about appearances, success, and respectability? Are they<br />

concerned more with their children's achievements than their happiness? Do they<br />

keep their passions, hobbies, or opinions separate from their work or public life?<br />

Y/N (Individuality)<br />

6. Encourage their children to develop their own interests and talents, express<br />

their authentic selves in public, and pursue vocations they find personally<br />

meaningful? (Inclusion)<br />

Assuming you now have a good sense of the dominant level of your child's<br />

community, we will next discuss how to manage your child's exposure to that<br />

community.


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Chapter 11: Negotiating Home and Community Differences<br />

When you understand the level you were raised at and the dominant level of your<br />

community, you can decide the degree to which your child will benefit from interacting<br />

with other families in the community, or whether you need to protect your child from<br />

exposure to the community.<br />

Most communities contain families operating at a range of levels, so in all cases<br />

you will want to know the parents of your children's friends so you can feel safe letting<br />

your children visit them.<br />

Here are the guidelines:<br />

When the Community Environment is at a Lower Level<br />

If the dominant level of your child's community is one level down from their home<br />

environment, you may have some challenges, but they can often be negotiated. You will<br />

share some concerns with other parents in the community, but you will also have<br />

concerns they do not. To form supportive relationships with other parents, you will need<br />

to look for those who are operating on your level or higher. There will probably be a few.<br />

At the same time, you may be a good resource for parents at the dominant level, since<br />

you are likely to have an easier time coping with parenting issues they are struggling


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with.<br />

As your children grow and get involved in the community, you may have to teach<br />

them how to interact with families who have different parenting practices. You may have<br />

to explain that "your friend's parents do things a certain way in their house, but we do<br />

things differently in ours." They may have to learn to adjust their expectations when they<br />

visit other households in the neighborhood or participate in activities with other children.<br />

You may also need to counterbalance the exposure your child has to lower levels<br />

by giving her experiences at the same level as her home environment and higher levels.<br />

If the dominant level of your child's community is two or more levels below her<br />

home environment, you have a more serious challenge. Experiences two levels below a<br />

child's home environment can be scary or upsetting for children. Too much experience<br />

on that level can undermine the gifts you are trying to pass on.<br />

If this is your situation, you basically have three choices. You can...<br />

a) Make your home into a bubble (or perhaps a walled fortress) to insulate your<br />

child from the community. Inside the bubble, create the environment you want your child<br />

to experience.<br />

Do not let your child interact too much with families operating two or more levels<br />

down from yours, especially if you or someone you trust is not present to supervise.<br />

Bullying and various forms of abuse often occur at lower levels. If other parents are at<br />

your level or higher, you may join with them in creating an expanded bubble within the<br />

community that includes all such families. Interacting with these families will give your<br />

child the opportunity to make friends with children being raised in a similar environment,<br />

which will reinforce the gifts you want your child to receive.<br />

As your children age, you will want to teach them skills they need to protect<br />

themselves when interacting with people in their community. They must understand that


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the outside world works differently than home. If the dominant level of the community is<br />

below the stable Fellowship level, children should be cautious in trusting adults outside<br />

their own family, apart from police or other authorities (and not always then).<br />

We should note that life in a bubble is often the option chosen by expatriates or<br />

members of the military or diplomatic services of developed countries who have moved<br />

their families to a less developed part of the world where they are posted.<br />

b) Become a social reformer.<br />

If you have the resources, you may become a community organizer or activist<br />

and help your community elevate to a higher level or at least more stable stage of its<br />

current level. This is a difficult task, and you will need as many allies in the process as<br />

you can find to make it happen. If you are lucky, there will already be organizations<br />

working toward this goal that you can work with, including religious groups, charities,<br />

government agencies, non-profits, and other families who are also operating above the<br />

dominant level. In a sense, you will be trying to expand the bubble to encompass a<br />

greater portion of the community until it becomes the dominant culture.<br />

Be warned that changing the dominant level of a community can take decades if<br />

not generations--much longer than the time it takes for your child to grow up. If you<br />

choose this option, you may still need to raise your child within an expanded bubble<br />

until the community successfully shifts to a higher level.<br />

c) Move to a better community.<br />

Given the challenges of the first two options, your best choice may be to move to<br />

a different community where the dominant level is higher.<br />

Moving to a higher-level community within your current city, state, or nation can<br />

give your children more opportunities and help them toward a happier and more<br />

prosperous life. If you live in a city, you may already have a sense of which


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 138<br />

neighborhoods are operating at a higher level. If you don't, you can find out by asking<br />

around. When looking for a good neighborhood, clues include...<br />

* Socio-economic class. Childhood environments correlate to some extent with<br />

economic prosperity. People raised at higher levels generally have a greater capacity<br />

for cooperation, leadership, and initiative. As a result, people in higher level<br />

communities tend to be more educated and have higher incomes.<br />

Of course, the correlation is not perfect. Some Structured Families are quite<br />

wealthy. Some socially gifted and educated people are economically insecure.<br />

However, the stress generated by economic insecurity (a Provision level threat) is one<br />

of the factors that make it more difficult for families to advance to a higher level. As a<br />

result, middle-class neighborhoods generally have higher level environments than<br />

working class neighborhoods.<br />

* Community engagement. Even if a neighborhood is poorer than surrounding<br />

areas, strong community engagement can be a sign of a higher dominant level since it<br />

speaks to greater cooperation among neighbors. Look for neighborhoods where more<br />

residents participate in community events, festivals, clubs, art projects, beautification<br />

projects, charities, local politics, community service organizations, outreach programs,<br />

school boards, etc.<br />

* Safety. A low crime rate can be a sign that the dominant level is at the stable<br />

Fellowship stage or higher, since "law and order" becomes a priority at the Fellowship<br />

level. (Note that safety also means a low level of violence perpetrated by police.) A low<br />

level of government corruption and a high level of ethical business behavior can be<br />

similar indicators.<br />

* Good schools. We will discuss choosing a school for your child separately, but<br />

in many cities the opportunity to send your child to a good school requires you to live in


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 139<br />

a good neighborhood. Again, this often correlates with a middle-class or higher<br />

community, since economically secure, well-educated parents tend to have the means<br />

and the motivation to improve schools in their neighborhood.<br />

If you can, consider moving to the highest-level community you can afford--even<br />

if it is at a level above your own. Your children will benefit from being raised in such an<br />

environment. Living in the cheapest home in a good neighborhood can be better than<br />

buying the most expensive home in a bad neighborhood.<br />

If you grew up in a part of the world where the dominant culture of the entire<br />

country operates at a low level, it may be worthwhile to emigrate to a country with a<br />

higher-level environment.<br />

When the Community Environment is at a Higher Level<br />

You may find the dominant level of your child's community is at a level above<br />

their home environment. One reason could be that misfortune or trauma, either yours or<br />

your parents', resulted in the family regressing to a lower level than that your ancestors<br />

or your community. You may have been denied a gift in childhood you might otherwise<br />

have received. Personal tragedy might have caused your psyche to regress. Since you<br />

cannot pass on a gift you do not possess, you will likely create a home environment for<br />

your child at the lower level.<br />

However, you may also be aware that your community's dominant level offers<br />

certain advantages, even if you don't know how to create such an environment at home.<br />

Your task will therefore be to:<br />

a. Pass on the gifts you have.<br />

b. Seek out opportunities for your children to interact with children from other<br />

families in the community, so they get exposed to the higher level.


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 140<br />

c. Try as much as possible to follow the parenting practices of the community's<br />

dominant level and to raise the level of your home.<br />

You may find this last item difficult. You may need the help of support groups or<br />

counselors, and you may fail often. But if you want to give your children the best chance<br />

in life, you must try.<br />

Fortunately, children will adapt to their environment. Even though their sense of<br />

"normal" will be established at home, exposure to families operating at a higher level will<br />

help them learn how to function in that environment. It will help them become more<br />

successful and prosperous as adults and make it more likely they will try to raise their<br />

children at a higher level.<br />

Sometimes the dominant level of your child's community will be two or more<br />

levels above their home. This is most often true for families who have emigrated from a<br />

less developed part of the world to a developed nation. As a parent, you may have a<br />

difficult time adjusting to this higher-level environment and you may experience much<br />

anxiety. Many of the rules and practices your parents followed will be disapproved of.<br />

You may have a hard time understanding why and how this new community functions.<br />

You may face a lot of pressure to do things differently in your home to meet the<br />

standards of the community.<br />

One source of help will be others from your country who emigrated before you.<br />

They can offer you advice on adapting to the new community. There may already be a<br />

club, church, or newcomers’ organization you can join. You may also find government<br />

agencies or community service groups dedicated to helping immigrant families adjust.<br />

Of course, you don't have to change countries to find yourself in a community<br />

operating two levels higher than the one you grew up in. Communities in every country<br />

operate at a range of levels. Sometimes parents who are successful in their careers will


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 141<br />

move to much better neighborhoods than the one they grew up in. Moving to a<br />

community two levels higher can feel like moving to a new country. You may have to<br />

adjust to a different way of doing things to get the approval of your neighbors.<br />

Perhaps you were raised at the Fellowship level in a religious community that<br />

saw certain beliefs or lifestyles as morally wrong. Yet you find yourself in an Inclusion<br />

community where these lifestyles are practised openly or even celebrated. If those<br />

practising this lifestyle are friendly, polite, treat others well, and are generally good<br />

neighbors, you may have to adjust your own beliefs to tolerate the situation. Such an<br />

adjustment would be taking yourself one step closer towards the Individuality level--<br />

which may be the best compromise.<br />

Most likely you will find it impossible to change your home environment to be in<br />

line with a community two levels higher. That is all right. But you should encourage your<br />

children to participate in the community so they will come to understand how it<br />

functions. The better they adapt, the more likely they are to be successful as adults and<br />

the more help they will be to you when they are older.<br />

When the Community and Home Environments are at the Same Level<br />

You will have an easier time as a parent when your home environment and the<br />

community environment are similar. In that scenario, you and your children will<br />

instinctively understand how the world works. Other parents will have the same<br />

concerns you do, and struggle with the same issues. Nonetheless, we will review the<br />

basics...<br />

1. Survival<br />

In developed countries, it is rare for your child's community and home to both be


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at the Survival level. Nonetheless, we will start with this situation because it can be<br />

found in many parts of the world, even though it is the worst-case scenario.<br />

Your priority when raising children in a Survival level community will be to protect<br />

them from dangerous people in the community. Usually, the best thing you can do is<br />

move your family to a safer, higher-level community. If this is not possible, you will need<br />

to make your home into something akin to a fortress. Make sure your children are well<br />

protected when outside the home. If possible, band together with trustworthy adults to<br />

protect all the children in your group.<br />

Inside the home, create a safe environment for your children.<br />

2. Provision<br />

If your children's community and home both operate at the Provision level, you<br />

can feel safer in letting your children interact with other families in the community, since<br />

you know adults will protect the lives of children.<br />

Of course, not every family in your community will be operating at the stable<br />

Provision level. Some will be higher or lower. Some will only be at the platform stage of<br />

Provision, some will be under construction. It's a good idea to get to know your<br />

neighbors and the parents of your children's friends, to get a sense who is safe and who<br />

may not be. However, most parents in the community will be aspiring to raise their<br />

children at a stable Provision level. You will likely find opportunities to connect with<br />

other parents and form supportive alliances.<br />

One challenge your children may face in a Provision level community is a lack of<br />

strong, permanent connections. In a Provision community, relationships come and go.<br />

Divorces or separations are common. Living arrangements can change frequently.<br />

Financial instability or poverty can also be a concern in an unstable Provision


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community. Employment can be precarious. Money may ebb and flow. Efforts to create<br />

stability in the community, for instance by sharing, pooling resources among neighbors,<br />

or charitable programs should be supported.<br />

If you have a hard time providing a stable and adequate home for your children,<br />

additional problems can arise. In most developed nations, if parents fail to provide for<br />

their children, the authorities take children away from their parents and place them in<br />

foster care. Parents may have a hard time regaining custody of their children after it's<br />

been lost. If you believe you might lose your children in this way, you may prefer to<br />

make your own arrangements before this happens. If your children's grandparents or<br />

other relatives can provide a home for your children at the stable Provision stage or<br />

higher, that may be a better option. It may even make sense for the grandparents to<br />

have legal custody of your children.<br />

Children whose parents work in the military or diplomatic services often face a<br />

different sort of Provision level challenge. Because these professions require parents to<br />

move to different parts of the world, sometimes without their families, the children can<br />

experience instability in their external environment. The bonds children form with people<br />

and places may be broken or disrupted with each move. It can also be hard for children<br />

to feel a secure connection with a parent who is often absent for months at a time. And<br />

such absences can strain marriages too.<br />

Military and diplomatic organizations are familiar with the stress the lifestyle<br />

places on families. Usually, they try to compensate by providing support, including<br />

opportunities for parents and children to build and maintain social networks. The<br />

effectiveness of these programs varies and may depend to some extent on the home<br />

environment of the families involved. The higher the level of your home and those of<br />

other families, the easier it may be for everyone to form and maintain social connections


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 144<br />

despite frequent relocations.<br />

If your work takes you away from your children for lengthy periods, you should<br />

look for ways to provide your children with a stronger sense of stability and connection.<br />

You children need to know that you will always be there for them, that they will always<br />

have a home. Use video chat services to communicate with your children when you are<br />

overseas. Encourage them to stay in touch with friends at former schools via social<br />

media. Try to limit the number of times your children must move houses or change<br />

schools. Perhaps send them to the same summer camp each year, or on regular visits<br />

to relatives so that these places become a stable part of your child's world.<br />

Sometimes children can compensate for an unstable home life by forming longterm<br />

relationships with other trustworthy adults in their community. These may include<br />

members of their extended family, teachers, coaches, parents of friends, community<br />

leaders, or clergy. Of course, you must make sure such role models are trustworthy.<br />

3. Structured Family<br />

If your children's community and their home both operate at the Structured<br />

Family level, you can expect that in other families, as with yours, parents will be trying to<br />

fulfill their roles honorably. At the Structured Family level, children will spend most of<br />

their free time with family, including their extended family. However, many Structured<br />

Family communities value hospitality, so you may feel safer sending your child on<br />

sleepovers at friend's houses than you would in an unstable Provision level community.<br />

Of course, the roles family members play will vary within each family. You will<br />

need to teach your children that when they visit other families, they should pay attention<br />

to what each person's role in the family is and adapt.


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 145<br />

4. Fellowship<br />

If your children's community and home both operate at the Fellowship level, then<br />

involvement in the community will be important. If your family belongs to a religious<br />

congregation, you will want your child to attend regular services and lessons, so they<br />

learn the rules and proper behavior. Alternatively, your family may be part of a secular<br />

community that has a particular philosophy or set of rules, as well as activities and<br />

events that you attend regularly.<br />

Either way, being involved in a community with other families is important at the<br />

Fellowship level. You will want to encourage your children to interact and make friends<br />

with children from other families who belong to the same congregation and are taught to<br />

follow the same rules. Knowing that everyone in the community is trying to follow the<br />

same set of rules all the time means you can feel safer letting your children spend time<br />

with other families. Naturally, you will teach your children the importance of following the<br />

rules when they are visiting friends.<br />

We should note that while you will encourage your children to interact with other<br />

families within your group, you may not feel safe letting them interact too much with<br />

families of other religions, ethnicities, cultural backgrounds, or any other persuasion that<br />

goes against the teachings of your community. Outside influences can detract from your<br />

efforts to help your children become ideal members of your community.<br />

5. Individuality<br />

If your children's community and home both operate at the Individuality level,<br />

they can safely visit the homes of friends and you can build supportive relationships with<br />

other parents. Of course, you will teach your children to demonstrate their best, polite<br />

behavior when visiting other families and when guests come to your home.


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 146<br />

One difference from the Fellowship level is that you can feel safer letting your<br />

children make friends with children from families that belong to different religions,<br />

ethnicities, or cultural backgrounds--provided these families are also at the Individuality<br />

level. Experiencing and learning to tolerate other points of view will help your children<br />

become more successful adults.<br />

6. Inclusion<br />

Few communities function at the Inclusion level, but if you are fortunate enough<br />

to fine one, you can feel safe letting your children interact with other families. Inclusion<br />

communities often resemble a big, happy family where everyone feels safe to be<br />

themselves, everyone is looked after, and individual differences are celebrated.


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Chapter 12: School as an Ally<br />

Children spend between 800 and 1,000 hours each year in school, depending on<br />

the country they are raised in. The school environment is second only to the home in<br />

terms of its influence on children's developing psyches. A good school can help children<br />

receive the gifts you are trying to bestow on them, as well as expose them to higher<br />

levels. A bad school can make parenting harder.<br />

Depending on where you live and your income level, you may have a lot of<br />

choice or none regarding what school to send your child to. You may find a variety of<br />

educational philosophies and methods are used by different schools and even different<br />

teachers within the same school. If you have a choice of schools or teachers, the most<br />

important guideline is that the school or class environment should operate at a level<br />

equal to or higher than your child's home environment. For instance, if you are raising<br />

your child at the Individuality or Inclusion level, you should probably avoid sending her<br />

to a Fellowship school.<br />

Though schools will not identify themselves by the labels we use for the different<br />

levels, you can easily tell what level a school operates on.<br />

Fellowship Schools


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Public education, which is offered in most developed nations, came into<br />

existence in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth centuries as a Fellowship<br />

level institution. What most people picture when they hear the word "school" is a<br />

Fellowship school. Education below the Fellowship level is more likely to take the form<br />

of home schooling, apprenticeships, or private tutors. A Fellowship school has two main<br />

goals:<br />

1. Standardized education.<br />

Fellowship schools are based on the idea that every child who attends school<br />

should receive the same standard education--a basic set of skills that will equip them to<br />

do the most common types of jobs. Though a variety of subjects are taught, the core<br />

focus at the elementary level has traditionally been on literacy and numeracy--the<br />

clerical skills needed to run a small business or family farm, work in an office, or prepare<br />

for academic studies at college. Specialized jobs, such as trades or professions require<br />

apprenticeships or advanced degrees, but Fellowship schools give everyone an equal<br />

foundation.<br />

Educators continuously revise the standard curriculum to include other skills and<br />

subjects as they are deemed important within the community (e.g., computer literacy,<br />

science, civics, and the arts) while removing others that seem no longer important (e.g.,<br />

cursive writing). But the intent is always the same: to mold children into standard<br />

employable members of a Fellowship community.<br />

2. Well behaved citizens.<br />

Though not widely acknowledged, education is not the only or even most<br />

important goal of a Fellowship school. The primary goal of a Fellowship school is to train<br />

children to follow a common set of rules. If you attended a Fellowship level school, you<br />

will be quite familiar with the rules you had to follow, but here are some of the typical


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ones:<br />

* Be at school on time.<br />

* Follow the schedule.<br />

* Don't speak out of turn; raise your hand and wait for the teacher to call on you.<br />

* Don't distract your neighbor.<br />

* Stay in your seat.<br />

* Don't leave the classroom without permission.<br />

* Do the work the teacher assigns you and nothing else while in class.<br />

* Don't run in the halls.<br />

* Don't fight on the playground.<br />

* Don't damage school property.<br />

* Don't cut ahead of others in line.<br />

A Fellowship school strives to teach children to follow a set of rules instead of<br />

their own impulses, often through a system of punishments and (to a lesser extent)<br />

rewards. By the time children have spent eight to twelve years in a Fellowship school, it<br />

will be second nature to most children to obey and work within the rules--a trait which<br />

makes them better able to function in a Fellowship level workplace or community.<br />

At the Fellowship level, people regard children as soft clay that, through<br />

discipline and rules, should be molded and hardened into a functional member of<br />

society. In the 1970s, some education critics started to use the term "factory model<br />

schools" to refer to Fellowship schools. In this analogy, children enter the school system<br />

as "raw materials" at age four or five and are refined (educated and trained) as they<br />

progress through each stage (grade) of the process until they graduate as finished<br />

products. Standard classrooms in the early twentieth century consisted of rows of<br />

separate desks, one for each child, and a teacher's desk at the front, a layout similar to


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 150<br />

many offices and factories of that era. This design continues to be used in Fellowship<br />

schools today.<br />

For those who find such analogies distasteful, we should point out that critics are<br />

often looking at Fellowship schools from an Individuality or Inclusion perspective that<br />

misses the value these schools offer. For communities operating below the stable<br />

Fellowship stage, Fellowship schools offer many children an environment that is more<br />

safe, orderly, and predictable than what they experience at home. Learning to function<br />

in such an environment and to interact with others according to a set of rules is a<br />

powerful gift that many children need to lead better lives as part of a community.<br />

When you are looking for an appropriate school for your children, certain traits<br />

can be used to identify Fellowship schools, regardless of the school's stated educational<br />

philosophy or aims:<br />

* Conformity. Many Fellowship schools require students to wear a standard<br />

uniform, which makes all students look the same and therefore equal. Often Fellowship<br />

schools cater to families of a particular religion, a niche culture (e.g., military schools),<br />

or a social class. Students in Fellowship schools tend to be homogeneous in terms of<br />

culture, ethnicity, economic class, or sex. Separate schools for boys and girls are<br />

common. In some societies, education may be denied to certain segments of the<br />

population (e.g., girls, lower classes, or those of other religions). Fellowship schools are<br />

often founded with the specific goal of indoctrinating students into a particular culture<br />

and making them into ideal members of a specific community.<br />

* Constant supervision. Teachers must remain in the classroom at all times to<br />

supervise students, even at senior secondary grades. Teachers keep a close eye on<br />

students and teach them they cannot get away with rule breaking. Teachers may strive<br />

to give students the impression that they "have eyes on the back of their head."


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* Quiet and order. In a Fellowship school, the highest praise someone can give a<br />

teacher is to say their classroom is "so quiet you can hear a pin drop." Quiet classrooms<br />

indicate the teachers have excellent control of their students and the students are<br />

focused on their work. Disorderly behavior is discouraged everywhere on school<br />

grounds. Classrooms look neat and organized. Students sit at the same desk each day<br />

and may be seated in alphabetical order or otherwise assigned a seat by the teacher.<br />

* Focus. A Fellowship school trains students to stay engaged with the tasks<br />

assigned to them, and to put aside their impulses to do other things. To reduce the risk<br />

of following impulses, students are kept busy. If they finish their work earlier than<br />

expected, the teacher will give them given extra work rather than free time.<br />

* Repetitive skill practice. Spending time practising skills is more important than<br />

the actual level of proficiency a child attains. Teachers understand that some children<br />

will master skills faster and better than others, depending on their natural talent. What<br />

matters is that students stay on task as much as possible and do their best.<br />

* Homework. Assigning nightly homework keeps students so busy with<br />

schoolwork they have little free time in which to follow their own impulses. Unstructured<br />

play time is considered frivolous or even dangerous. (Who knows what children will get<br />

up to if left to their own devices?)<br />

* Rote Learning. Classes emphasize the memorization and regurgitation of<br />

information. Students may be asked to memorize multiplication tables, the spelling of<br />

words, historical dates and speeches, morally uplifting poetry, the classification of<br />

biological species, or other information by heart. Memorization keeps children's minds<br />

occupied with good or valuable thoughts and draws their attention away from bad<br />

thoughts and impulses. Copying information word for word from a textbook, board, or as<br />

dictated by the teacher serves a similar purpose. Teachers instruct students to have the


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correct opinions and interpretations of facts, while discouraging them from espousing<br />

deviant opinions.<br />

* Curriculum is set by the school or higher authority. In Fellowship schools,<br />

students must learn what the school believes they should learn, when they should learn<br />

it, and all students receive the same lessons. Students cannot opt to study a different<br />

subject or topic than the one assigned. A student cannot study material above their<br />

grade level, even if they are capable of doing so. Failing to obtain a passing grade can<br />

result in a student being held back a year. Being held back is a severe punishment<br />

which can create instability on the Provision level of a child’s psyche by separating her<br />

from her friends and on the Structured Family level by taking her out of her established<br />

role and putting her into one of lower status.<br />

* Textbooks. Standard textbooks for each subject are common. All students read<br />

and study the same approved books and progress through them at the same pace.<br />

* Fear of teachers and administrators. Fellowship schools follow an authoritarian<br />

model for relationships between students and staff, which uses punishment to make<br />

students afraid to break the rules, disobey, or disrespect authority. Teachers are strict<br />

and avoid being overly friendly or familiar with students.<br />

John Patrick Shanley's screenplay for the film Doubt includes a scene that<br />

illustrates how the fear of rule-breaking is a valuable component of Fellowship schools.<br />

The story takes place in a Catholic school in the Bronx in 1964, a typical Fellowship<br />

environment, where the principal, Sister Aloysius, suspects a priest of sexually abusing<br />

one of the children. In the scene, a young, naive teacher, Sister James, is concerned<br />

that Sister Aloysius may be jumping to the wrong conclusion:<br />

SISTER JAMES: You just don't like him! You don't like it that he uses a ballpoint<br />

pen. You don't like it that he takes three lumps of sugar in his tea. You don't like it


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that he likes FROSTY THE SNOWMAN. And you're letting that convince you of<br />

something terrible, just terrible! Well, I like FROSTY THE SNOWMAN! I think it<br />

would be nice if this school weren't run like a jail! And I think it's a good thing I<br />

love to teach History and that I might inspire my students to love it, too! And if<br />

you judge that to mean that I'm not fit to be a teacher, then so be it!<br />

SISTER ALOYSIUS: Sit down... You honestly find the students in his school to<br />

be treated like inmates in a prison?<br />

SISTER JAMES: No. Actually, they all seem fairly happy. But they're all uniformly<br />

terrified of you!<br />

SISTER ALOYSIUS: Yes. That's how it works.<br />

Though Sister Aloysius' suspicions about the priest cannot be proven, his later<br />

behavior suggests they are well founded. He is likely guilty of child molestation. Being a<br />

strict enforcer of rules and distrustful of idiosyncrasies not only helps Sister Aloysius<br />

protect the students from the priest, but it also makes the school a happier environment.<br />

In a Fellowship school, everyone needs to be afraid of nonconformity, students and staff<br />

alike. Of course, the same degree of strictness is not required in higher level<br />

environments, such as Individuality Schools.<br />

Individuality Schools<br />

In countries or communities where the dominant level is Individuality, schools<br />

tend to operate on an Individuality level as well. While Individuality schools share many<br />

of the characteristics of Fellowship schools, such as order and rules, there are important<br />

differences. Regardless of their stated educational philosophy or aims, Individuality<br />

schools feature two main traits:<br />

1. Tolerance.


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Individuality schools cater to a more diverse group of students. Boys and girls<br />

attend classes together, and the students usually represent a variety of religions,<br />

cultures, economic classes, and ethnicities. Exposure to different opinions and cultures<br />

is considered to have educational value as it develops children's ability to empathize<br />

and cooperate with a wider range of people.<br />

2. Allowance for differences.<br />

A key trait of an Individuality level environment is that children are regarded not<br />

as formless clay to be molded but as individuals with differing innate abilities who may<br />

need to take different paths to achieve success. The allowance for differences affects<br />

the curriculum in several ways:<br />

* Choice. Children have more choices in an Individuality school. They may be<br />

allowed to choose where to sit in a classroom rather than be assigned a seat. Rather<br />

than wear uniforms, they may be asked to follow a dress code that allows for a degree<br />

of self-expression. They may be allowed to choose from several topics for an essay or<br />

project, rather than having the teacher choose for them. They may be given options<br />

regarding how to demonstrate their understanding or mastery of a topic.<br />

* Goal-based learning. Individuality schools try to avoid rote learning and<br />

memorization. Instead, they may set learning outcomes (skills to be mastered,<br />

understanding to be gained, or standards to be met). Teachers may use a variety of<br />

teaching and evaluation methods to assess whether students achieve the outcomes.<br />

Lessons and assignments may be modified to accommodate students with different<br />

learning styles and capabilities. In older grades, students may be allowed to develop<br />

their own approaches to studying.<br />

* Less reliance on textbooks. Standard textbooks may be used in certain subjects<br />

and at lower grade levels, but in most classes students are asked to consult and


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 155<br />

compare a variety of sources and to develop their own opinions.<br />

* Project-based learning. Rather than repetitive skill practice, students may be<br />

encouraged to develop skills by applying them in the completion of projects. Students<br />

may be allowed to work independently on projects or in small groups. Often homework<br />

will consist of completing an independent study or group project. To some extent,<br />

students may teach themselves or each other.<br />

A well-known example of Individuality level teaching is a science fair. In this<br />

exercise, the teacher sets the broad subject (science) and the standards the projects<br />

must meet. Students (or sometimes small groups of students) choose their own specific<br />

topic. They research, design, and complete their project independently, and then<br />

present the results. Students may be graded by the quality of their project's design and<br />

execution, their presentation skills, and their grasp of the subject matter.<br />

* Testing. Measuring outcomes is more important in Individuality schools than in<br />

Fellowship schools. Tests allow teachers to determine how well students are learning,<br />

while giving students more control over their time and more freedom to pursue<br />

individual study methods. It also frees teachers from the need to closely supervise<br />

students.<br />

For instance, imagine an instrumental music class where the students must<br />

master a certain skill or piece of music each week. Every Friday they must pass a test<br />

to prove they met that week's requirement. On other days, the teacher would be<br />

available to help students prepare for the test, but students would be allowed to leave<br />

the classroom and practise their instruments anywhere on the school grounds where<br />

they wouldn't disturb others. In this arrangement, the weekly tests let the teacher keep<br />

track of how well the students are learning without closely monitoring them. Students<br />

who fall behind can be given help in the classroom until they improve. Meanwhile, other


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 156<br />

students can enjoy the freedom to practise where and how they like.<br />

* Critical thinking and problem solving. Rather than be given information to<br />

memorize, students in Individuality schools are encouraged to ask questions, think<br />

through problems and derive conclusions on their own. At higher grades, essays and<br />

essay-type questions on tests challenge students to reflect on a topic and derive their<br />

own opinion based on evidence, rather than regurgitate information given to them. At all<br />

grade levels, teachers encourage children to understand information rather than simply<br />

memorize it.<br />

* Engagement with other students. In Individuality schools, teachers may make<br />

greater use of class discussions (perhaps using the Socratic method) and small group<br />

discussions to encourage students to think about the subjects they are learning and<br />

respect the opinions of others. Teachers may foster warmer relationships with and<br />

among students to encourage them to participate in discussions. An effective lesson is<br />

one in which the students are interested and actively engaged with the subject matter. A<br />

lesson in which many students remain quiet or seem disengaged is considered less<br />

successful. Classes therefore tend to be noisier than in Fellowship schools.<br />

Inclusion Schools<br />

Just as stable Inclusion level communities have yet to be created, no stable<br />

Inclusion level school system exists yet. Some efforts have been made over the past<br />

century or so to create "alternative" or "experimental" schools that, to varying degrees,<br />

feature some of the traits we would expect to see in an Inclusion school. Be aware,<br />

however, that not all alternative schools are Inclusion schools. Some are Fellowship<br />

schools; others are Individuality schools. You need to learn about the priorities and<br />

practices of a school to tell what level it operates on.


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Two key traits separate Inclusion schools from others:<br />

1. Child-centered education.<br />

Inclusion schools are less concerned with making children fit into a mold or<br />

steering them toward particular goals or outcomes. Both these approaches, found at the<br />

Fellowship and Individuality levels respectively, aim to make the child meet<br />

requirements set by adults (including parents, teachers, the school system, and<br />

society). At the Inclusion level, this dynamic is reversed. The school's purpose is instead<br />

to serve the needs and interests of the child.<br />

At the Inclusion level, children are believed to have the innate ability to figure out<br />

their own interests, set goals, and hone their own talents. An Inclusion school gives<br />

children opportunities to discover their own interests and then offers them the lessons<br />

and resources they need to pursue those interests.<br />

2. Inclusivity.<br />

Like Individuality schools, Inclusion schools are open to students of all<br />

backgrounds, abilities, etc. Most will make a special effort to include and accommodate<br />

children with special needs. However, Inclusive schools also practise a different form of<br />

inclusivity.<br />

We have noted that Fellowship schools train children to ignore their impulses and<br />

follow the rules. This is because impulses are considered dangerous at the Fellowship<br />

level, something that must be excluded. At the Individuality level, one's impulses are not<br />

necessarily dangerous, but they may be improper, impolite, or inappropriate. They<br />

detract from the image of respectability one must put forward in public. Individuality<br />

schools therefore train students to exclude their impulses from the public sphere and<br />

confine them to private spaces.<br />

In an Inclusion school, children have much more freedom to express themselves


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and follow their impulses. Educators believe children's self-expression should be<br />

included in the public or social sphere. An Inclusion school gives students opportunities<br />

to share their opinions, feelings, and perspectives freely. They can do what they want to<br />

a much greater extent than in other schools. Of course, this freedom of expression still<br />

takes place within a framework of rules and tolerance inherited from Fellowship and<br />

Individuality schooling. However, the rules are more flexible and complex. One<br />

important restriction on behavior in an Inclusion school is that no one can make others<br />

feel unsafe or unable to express and follow their impulses. Naturally, determining the<br />

boundaries of acceptable behavior takes a lot of negotiation and empathy, so an<br />

Inclusive school must provide regular opportunities and mechanisms for this to take<br />

place.<br />

A few specific traits are common among Inclusion schools. Bear in mind that not<br />

every Inclusion school will feature all these traits:<br />

* A holistic view of childhood. Inclusion schools believe that a healthy childhood<br />

requires a balance between lessons, family life, exploration of the natural world, private<br />

time, and play. Inclusion schools value children's natural desire to play, regarding it as<br />

essential to their physical, social, and psychological development. Some Inclusion<br />

schools use play-based learning as a teaching method. Others allow children more time<br />

for free play outside of class.<br />

* Non-authoritarian. Some Inclusion schools focus on creating a school<br />

community based on equality between children and adults. They may allow children to<br />

influence how the school is run in an informal way. Or they may allow students to vote<br />

democratically on matters that in other schools would be up to the teacher or the<br />

administration. Teachers and staff in Inclusion schools may be respected for their<br />

knowledge and skills but are not given the elevated status they would have in a


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Fellowship or Individuality school.<br />

* Community Circles/Meetings. Inclusion schools may have regular meetings<br />

where a class or perhaps the entire school community sits down together as equals and<br />

speaks about what is on their minds. Everyone is invited to share their perspective<br />

frankly and honestly. Everyone is encouraged to be seen and heard without fear of<br />

negative judgment or backlash. Sometimes these sessions are used to resolve conflicts<br />

or problems. Sometimes they are opportunities to process the group's experience of<br />

lessons, activities, or events. Sometimes they are used to find out how everyone is<br />

feeling in general or about specific issues. And sometimes they are used to make<br />

decisions about school policy. The meetings may be led or facilitated by students or<br />

adults in a non-authoritarian way.<br />

* Flexible environments. Inclusion schools seldom have students sitting at rows<br />

of desks. Instead, seating may be quite flexible and varied depending on the activity.<br />

Some spaces may be designated for groupwork and others for independent study or<br />

teacher-led lessons. Some spaces may be quiet zones while others are intended for<br />

noisy interaction. There may be a greater variety of furniture, including straight-backed<br />

chairs, desks and tables, upholstered chairs, sofas, throw pillows, mats, and open<br />

spaces. Sometimes children will be invited to create their own spaces. The classroom<br />

layout may change many times throughout the school year. However, while classrooms<br />

may appear chaotic, a great deal of thought and planning goes into their design.<br />

* Emphasis on the arts. In Inclusion schools, the arts are believed to benefit<br />

children's physical, social, and intellectual development, much in the way play does. Art<br />

may be incorporated into the curriculum as a way for children to broaden their<br />

understanding or demonstrate their mastery of academic subjects. It may also be used<br />

as a vehicle for self-expression and self-exploration, to nurture creativity, or for


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enjoyment.<br />

* Self-paced learning. Some Inclusion schools reject the rigid schedules and agebased<br />

grades found in other school systems, preferring to let students work on subjects<br />

that interest them for as long as they are interested. Some Inclusion schools make<br />

formal lessons optional, with many students teaching themselves or learning from other<br />

students. Others feature longer class times, so children can explore a topic fully in one<br />

lesson, rather that interrupt the experience by spreading it over several lessons. In<br />

some Inclusion schools, students don't have to progress through subjects at the same<br />

pace as others in their age group. If a student gets enthusiastic about one subject<br />

(which sometimes happens) and wants to study it exclusively, perhaps completing two<br />

or three grade levels of that subject in one year, they can. If it means the student falls<br />

behind in other subjects, that's fine. They can catch up on those subjects another year,<br />

if they choose.<br />

* Non-traditional evaluation. Methods of evaluating student progress vary a lot<br />

among Inclusion schools, with many believing that formal tests are of little or even<br />

negative value. Some Inclusion schools reside in areas where students must pass<br />

government-mandated exams to receive a diploma and qualify for employment or<br />

college. Where such requirements don't exist, Inclusion schools may rely on alternative<br />

forms of evaluation, such as self-evaluation, informal teacher evaluation, peer<br />

evaluation, evaluation by outside experts, or no evaluation at all.<br />

Among the various efforts to create Inclusion schools, the two best known<br />

models were developed in the early twentieth century and are still in use today. Neither<br />

of them is a perfect example of what education should be at the Inclusion level, as that<br />

may be yet to be developed. They have nonetheless blazed a trail in that direction. They<br />

are:


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1. Montessori schools. Developed by Maria Montessori in the early twentieth<br />

century, Montessori schools pioneered the use of play-based learning. Montessori<br />

classrooms are designed to encourage children to learn by freely exploring activities,<br />

materials, and an environment appropriate for their age level. Though the Montessori<br />

system was designed for all ages of children, including high school, most Montessori<br />

schools today cater only to younger children, from pre-school to primary age. This may<br />

be because most parents, themselves graduates of more conventional schools, have<br />

some anxiety about the effectiveness of play-based learning in higher grades and<br />

choose to send their children to more conventional schools as they get older.<br />

2. Democratic schools. Probably the most famous Democratic school is<br />

Summerhill School in the UK. Summerhill is a boarding school founded by Alexander<br />

Neill in 1921 and still in operation. Neill's philosophy of education prioritizes serving the<br />

natural needs and inclinations of children, rather than making children conform to the<br />

desires of adults. The school has demonstrated over its history that children's natural<br />

inclinations include the desire to learn about the world and master skills that will help<br />

them become happy, well-rounded, and productive adults.<br />

Neill did not pioneer new teaching methods. Rather his innovations pertain to the<br />

structure and governance of the school environment. Probably the most controversial<br />

aspect of Summerhill is that students are not required to attend classes and only do so<br />

if and when they want to learn. (Most students at Summerhill choose to attend regular<br />

lessons out of interest.) Summerhill offers formal classes in a variety of subjects, usually<br />

in the mornings, leaving much of the afternoons for free play. Often students teach<br />

themselves subjects that interest them. Otherwise, students are free to do what they<br />

like, provided they do not trespass on the rights of others.<br />

While Summerhill lacks many of the rules common in Fellowship schools, it is


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very much a rules-based environment. The difference is that the rules at Summerhill are<br />

not imposed by teachers or administrators but voted into effect democratically by the<br />

entire school community. Summerhill has regular meetings attended by all students and<br />

teachers. At these meetings, rules are proposed, amended, or rescinded, and<br />

infractions of rules or other problems in the school are dealt with. Decisions at the<br />

meetings are made by vote, and the vote of the youngest student counts the same as<br />

that of a teacher or the principal. Usually, the meetings are chaired by an older student.<br />

In the US, the best-known Democratic school is the Sudbury Valley School,<br />

founded in 1968 and influenced strongly by Summerhill. Throughout the world, some 60<br />

schools are based on the Sudbury model. Sudbury schools have a democratic system<br />

similar to Summerhill’s but offer fewer formal lessons. Sometimes lessons or<br />

apprenticeships are made available only on request. For the most part, students teach<br />

themselves or learn from their peers.<br />

While Inclusion schools may sound anarchic, especially from a Fellowship<br />

perspective, they are built on a foundation that includes the gifts of the levels below<br />

them. At Summerhill, students certainly survive and have their needs provided for.<br />

Adults occupy formal roles, such as teacher, house parent, or cook, and older students<br />

may take on responsible roles such as Ombudsman, Chair of a meeting, or various ruleenforcement<br />

positions. Many incidents have been documented where the students put<br />

the long-term interests of the school ahead of their own immediate desires, much like<br />

people do in a Structured Family. We noted that Summerhill has many rules that create<br />

order and safety. And students are granted the gifts of Individuality, including the right to<br />

privacy and to pursue their own interests. The difference is that Inclusion schools give<br />

children more freedom and encouragement to express themselves openly. They provide<br />

a structure so children can have their individual needs, desires, and ideas incorporated


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into the community environment.<br />

We should note that some teachers in public education use Inclusion-based<br />

teaching methods in their classrooms and some school boards have endorsed them in<br />

certain programs and contexts. The Ministry of Education in Ontario, Canada, for<br />

example supports play-based learning in kindergarten and primary grades. However,<br />

the use of Inclusion methods in classrooms is inconsistent and depends a great deal on<br />

teacher training and the culture of the community.<br />

One of the world's top-rated school systems is that of Finland, where 93% of<br />

students earn a high school diploma and 66% go on to post-secondary education.<br />

Finland's school system incorporates several Inclusion approaches. Students in Finland<br />

do not start school until age seven, after which they experience shorter school days with<br />

plenty of breaks and low amounts of homework. The school year consists of 190 days<br />

of instruction, fewer than in many other countries. The reduced time spent on<br />

schoolwork gives children more time for play and family life. Evaluation is largely<br />

informal, with no standardized tests. Teaching methods are quite varied, with the aim of<br />

helping each child discover the approach to learning that works best for her. All students<br />

are assumed to have some special needs and are given individualized support.<br />

Classroom design is quite flexible, with some newer schools moving away from the<br />

traditional layout of classrooms and corridors toward highly flexible, open spaces.<br />

Classes are inclusive, with no separation of students by ability or other criteria. One of<br />

the key purposes of education in Finland is to reduce inequality in society.<br />

If you want your children to have more of an Inclusion level education, you may<br />

need to do some investigation to see what opportunities may be available in your area.<br />

However, we should note that Inclusion schooling is difficult to find in many areas.<br />

If you cannot find an Inclusion school for your children, another way to have them


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experience an Inclusion environment is to send them to a summer camp that operates<br />

on this level. Again, you will need to do some research, but many arts, environmental,<br />

and experiential-based camps incorporate Inclusion approaches.<br />

School as a Source of Stability<br />

For some children, changing schools can be challenging because it severs the<br />

relationships they have built with friends and teachers, creating instability on the<br />

Provision level. Children who have already experienced Provision level instability,<br />

perhaps due to the loss of a parent through separation or death, may find it especially<br />

upsetting to change schools. Of course, sometimes changing schools cannot be<br />

avoided, such as when parents need to relocate the family for reasons of employment.<br />

Some careers, such as the military, require frequent relocation. Where possible, parents<br />

should try to mitigate any upset associated with moving. For instance, children can be<br />

encouraged to maintain relationships with friends in their former school through social<br />

media.<br />

Some parents may attempt to spare their children the emotional upset of<br />

changing schools by sending them to a boarding school, particularly if the parents know<br />

they will be moving several times while the children are young. In such cases, a<br />

boarding school environment could provide more stability than the family home.<br />

However, boarding school is not an ideal solution since it separates children from their<br />

parents for long periods, which can also create instability on the Provision level.<br />

If you grew up in an unstable Provision home and you want to create more<br />

stability for your own children, another option to consider would be sending your child to<br />

a Waldorf or Steiner school. The Waldorf system of education was founded in Europe<br />

by Rudolf Steiner in 1919 and has spread to other parts of the world. It bears some


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similarities to Inclusion schools, particularly in its emphasis on arts education. One<br />

highlight of this system is that it tries to provide children with the same teacher every<br />

year, from the first grade until they graduate high school. Not all Waldorf schools have<br />

succeeded in following this practice, since it requires a strong, long-term commitment<br />

from both families and teachers. However, when a child has the same teacher for many<br />

years, the teacher becomes a fixed presence in the child's life that can mitigate some of<br />

the instability they may have at home. At the same time, teachers come to know their<br />

students very well and can learn to address their needs better.<br />

We should note that Finland's education system takes a similar approach in that<br />

it tries to provide students with the same teacher each year for the first six years of<br />

school. Of course, this only benefits families living in Finland.


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Chapter 13: A Note on Unstable Schools<br />

Our understanding of the levels and their gifts gives parents a new way to<br />

evaluate schools. Parents and governments generally judge school quality by criteria<br />

such as how well the students perform on standardized tests, what percentage of<br />

students proceed to post-secondary education, or even their lifetime earnings. Some<br />

parents also look at criteria such as how happy their children are in their school, how<br />

much support is offered for their children's special needs, what subjects are taught, or<br />

how appealing they find the school's educational philosophy.<br />

We suggest a better way to evaluate a school is to ask:<br />

1. What level is the school operating at?<br />

2. How stable is the school's environment?<br />

3. How well does the school deliver the gifts of lower levels?<br />

The first two questions are important because a school cannot deliver any gifts<br />

above its level. Also, the definition of a stable school environment will be different<br />

depending on its level.<br />

A Fellowship school can be considered stable if it is orderly--if standardized<br />

lessons are being delivered according to a set plan, if most students conform to the<br />

rules, and if students stay on task most of the time. Signs of an unstable Fellowship


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school would include things like:<br />

* The lack of an organized, standard curriculum.<br />

* Failure of classes to adhere to a fixed schedule.<br />

* Poor supervision of students.<br />

* Students off-task for much of class time.<br />

* Rampant rule breaking.<br />

* Favoritism towards certain students or groups.<br />

For an Individuality school to be stable, there should be a high level of tolerance<br />

and accommodation for individual differences, and strong extracurricular programming<br />

where students of different backgrounds can cooperate and form friendships. Students<br />

must generally meet expectations (e.g., do well on exams) regardless of individual<br />

differences. Signs of an unstable Individuality school might include:<br />

* Little interaction among students of different sexes, ethnic groups, economic<br />

classes, or abilities (which may be due to segregation of schools or classes,<br />

hostility among groups, or a lack of extra-curricular activities).<br />

* Unclear expectations for students.<br />

* Students lacking choices in terms of electives, assignments, or projects.<br />

* Failure of teachers to modify lessons to accommodate students' individual<br />

needs.<br />

* Lessons or facilities inaccessible to children with special needs.<br />

* Low student engagement in lessons.<br />

* Intolerance of diverse opinions.<br />

* Many students feeling they do not fit in.<br />

* Archaic or rigid rules that disrespect individuality.<br />

In a stable Inclusion school, child-centered learning would be the basis of all


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lessons. An Inclusion school would also encourage students to express their individual<br />

perspectives and strive to make school policy reflect those perspectives. Some signs of<br />

an unstable Inclusive school would be:<br />

* Rules and educational goals being set exclusively by adults.<br />

* Adult staff members dominating or manipulating community meetings to get the<br />

outcomes they want while excluding student voices and opinions.<br />

* No encouragement of students to pursue their own interests.<br />

* Little opportunity for student self-expression.<br />

* Students not engaged in activities they find interesting or meaningful.<br />

* Students feeling like they have no voice or ability to have their concerns<br />

addressed.<br />

No matter how well intentioned, a school cannot achieve stability and deliver the<br />

gifts of its level unless it is built upon the gift of the level below it. A Fellowship school<br />

cannot persuade children to follow the rules unless respect for authority (a feature of<br />

Structured Families) is well established. An Individuality school cannot adjust or soften<br />

the rules to tolerate individual differences if there is no respect for rules. An Inclusion<br />

school cannot give students the freedom to express themselves without an established<br />

respect for individual differences.<br />

Challenges of Newer Schools<br />

For anyone involved with starting a school or considering sending their children<br />

to a newly opened school, awareness of the levels has important implications. Each<br />

level has its own methods of creating a stable environment and different ideas of what a<br />

good environment would look like. If you are part of a group attempting to create an<br />

Inclusion school, and your initial class of students come from Inclusion level homes, the


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establishment of the school environment will be much easier. On the other hand, if most<br />

students come from Individuality or Fellowship homes, staff will have to make much<br />

more effort in the beginning to establish a culture of Inclusion. Even if the staff are well<br />

trained and comfortable with an Inclusion environment, they will be outnumbered by the<br />

students. The process of creating an Inclusion environment may take weeks or even<br />

months of consistent effort. As problems arise, the danger is that the staff may find<br />

themselves adjusting to the students and inadvertently replicating the level of the<br />

students' home environment. Motivating the students to adjust to the environment the<br />

staff are trying to create requires more effort and patience. Similar considerations must<br />

be made if one is establishing an Individuality school to serve a community that is at the<br />

Fellowship level.<br />

A similar phenomenon happens with children's camps or after-school programs<br />

that try to give children an experience of an Inclusion environment. A lot of time must be<br />

spent at the beginning to establish the environment--maybe as much as half the time<br />

allotted for the program. After this groundwork has been laid (and assuming it is laid<br />

successfully), the rate at which children receive the benefits of the program accelerates<br />

rapidly. Everyone involved, including parents, must be patient and give the process time<br />

to work.<br />

All this is to say that, if you are considering sending your child to a higher-level<br />

school or other program, the longer it has been in operation, the more established the<br />

environment will be and the easier it will be for the school to take in new students who<br />

have not yet been acclimatized.<br />

School Trauma<br />

A more challenging situation would be a school where the gifts of the lower three


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levels have been undermined or weakened by trauma. For our purposes, a "trauma" is<br />

an upsetting experience two or more levels below what you have been raised to see as<br />

"normal." For instance, a student raised at the Structured Family level or higher who<br />

fears for her physical safety while at school is experiencing a Survival level trauma.<br />

Between 2009 and 2019 there were 528 school shootings in the US. Obviously,<br />

these crimes were traumatic incidents for the students and staff who survived them. But<br />

their effect is much broader. Children in other schools around the world may be<br />

traumatized from hearing vivid accounts of school shootings in the news or participating<br />

in "active shooter" or "code red" drills to the extent that they become afraid a shooting<br />

could happen in their own school.<br />

A child being abducted from school would be a Provision level trauma since it<br />

involves taking a child away from her caregivers. Such a threat is traumatic both for the<br />

child who is abducted and for other children in the school who are made to feel unsafe<br />

as a result. News reports of abductions and "lock-down" drills intended to prepare for<br />

such events may create a similar environment of fear.<br />

Our purpose here is not to prescribe crime prevention policies, but to emphasize<br />

the need to make children feel safe in school. An atmosphere of fear will undermine the<br />

gifts the school would otherwise deliver. Traumatic experiences like shootings and<br />

abductions involve threats children are incapable of solving. A child who comes to<br />

believe that someone could enter her school and start shooting her friends, a situation<br />

which she would want to stop or prevent but probably can't, can be overwhelmed by a<br />

feeling of powerlessness--whether the threat is real or imagined. The situation can be<br />

as bad or worse for schools where a threat of abuse comes from staff. Procedures and<br />

rules that keep children safe at school are important, but safety drills should be done in<br />

a way that makes children feel confident the adults will keep them safe, not in a way


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that scares them. Children should have minimal exposure to scary news stories.<br />

Parents and teachers should discuss the news with children in ways that make children<br />

feel confident that they are protected.


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Chapter 14: Religion as an Ally<br />

Next to home and school, religion offers another major social environment that<br />

can have a strong influence on children. If you choose to raise your children as<br />

members of a religious congregation, your choice of congregation matters a great deal.<br />

Your child's religious environment can help or hinder your efforts to give her the gifts of<br />

her home environment. It will help shape your child's understanding of the world and<br />

what is "normal."<br />

Non-participation in religion or participation in secular alternatives to religion are<br />

also options. Some Humanist, atheist, or non-religious organizations provide families<br />

with some of the benefits that come from belonging to a religious community, without<br />

the theology. But assuming you want religion to be part of your child's life, you will want<br />

to participate in a religious community that is appropriate for your family. As with<br />

schools, the guideline is that you want your children exposed to a religious community<br />

where the environment is at a level equal to or higher than their home, so it will support<br />

the gifts you are trying to bestow and prepare them to cope in a higher-level<br />

environment. The difference between school and religion is that the entire family<br />

participates in religion--parents and children alike. You should belong to a group that<br />

offers everyone the support they need.<br />

While many people feel attachment to the religious community they were raised


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in, especially if their extended family are still members, that's not always an option. You<br />

may no longer live in the community where you grew up, or you may have reasons for<br />

wanting a different group. Fortunately, most areas are home to a variety of religious<br />

congregations open to new members. When choosing a congregation for your family,<br />

you may want to take a little time to learn about the different groups in your area to find<br />

a good fit.<br />

Please note that we are not here to say which religions may be "better" or<br />

"worse" or whose beliefs are "right" or "wrong." Our concern here is with helping you<br />

expose your children to a good environment that supports your goals as a parent. All<br />

major religions have denominations and sects that operate on different levels. Even<br />

within a particular sect, there can be variation among individual congregations. And<br />

when you step outside the major religions, the variety of religious or "spiritual" groups is<br />

even greater, including both traditional and newly emerging groups. If you already<br />

subscribe to a particular religion, or know which religion you are drawn to, you still must<br />

find a congregation at the right level for your family. If you have no religion at present,<br />

you have the additional task of finding one you feel inspired to commit to.<br />

You should also be aware that the best religious group for your family may not be<br />

the one operating at the highest level. The right group is the one that gives your family<br />

the support it needs. If you were raised at the platform or construction stage of any<br />

level, your priority will be to give your children a more stable version of that level.<br />

Exposure to higher levels can be beneficial, but it should not be your main concern.<br />

Until your family achieves stability on your current level, you cannot realistically shift to a<br />

higher level. With that in mind, let's start by considering some of the types of support<br />

religions typically offer families.<br />

All organized religions operate at the Structured Family level or higher. Below


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that level, institutions and long-lasting groups do not tend to form. People may have<br />

superstitions, mythologies, and traditions. They may have beliefs about gods,<br />

spirituality, or the supernatural, but no organized religions. Only at the Structured Family<br />

level do people conceive of institutions that will persist over multiple generations or<br />

whose origin dates to the dawn of time.<br />

Even if your home environment operates at the Provision or stable Survival level,<br />

you will get a lot of support from participating in a religious community. All good religions<br />

strive to create communities that are safe for children. (Never be part of a group that<br />

doesn't.) Many religious groups will operate charities or other programs to help parents<br />

provide for their children, especially in communities where government income supports<br />

are inadequate. They will also encourage and support parents in maintaining lifelong<br />

commitments to their spouses and their children.<br />

Some religious groups create stability on the Survival and Provision levels<br />

through various forms of communal living. For instance, they may run an orphanage<br />

where parents who feel unable to protect or provide for their children may place them<br />

into the care of adults who can. Separating a child from its parents may create instability<br />

on the Provision level of the child's psyche, but for some children it is the best option<br />

and offers an alternative to state-run foster care. Some unmarried adults may seek the<br />

Provision level stability that comes from living and working full-time within a communal<br />

religious group (for instance, as a monk or nun). Some religious groups invite whole<br />

families to live and work communally. Parents who are struggling may find communal<br />

living benefits the family by keeping them together and providing a roof over their head<br />

and food on the table. Bear in mind with all these options, you should be committed to<br />

the religion and its beliefs. Communal living should not be entered into lightly, as it can<br />

require giving up many freedoms and opportunities.


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Structured Family Religions<br />

Religions at the Structured Family level often begin as personality cults. They are<br />

based upon a living person (a prophet, guru, avatar, saint, spiritual master, pastor, or<br />

teacher) who is possessed of divine wisdom or other superior qualities. The<br />

congregation consists of people who are inspired by the founder's actions or personality<br />

and want to follow in their footsteps, much in the way a child should emulate and<br />

respect the matriarch or patriarch of their family.<br />

In the early stage, these groups generally lack a formal priesthood and have no<br />

authority higher than the founder. If religious services are held, they likely consist of<br />

gatherings where the founder shares his or her wisdom. In some cases, there may be<br />

no formal teaching and the founder may simply lead by example. The advantage of<br />

belonging to such a group is that you have a living model of the wisdom and behavior<br />

you want to emulate in your own life.<br />

One downside to early-stage religions is that members are highly dependent on<br />

the founder, and founders do not stick around forever. Once the founder leaves or dies,<br />

the followers are cut off from the role model they have come to rely on. Usually, the<br />

group will try to record the founder's teachings. Before leaving, the founder may also<br />

appoint successors. However, it may be more challenging for people to live up to the<br />

example set by the founder once he or she is gone.<br />

In a Structured Family religion whose founder has departed, there may be a<br />

great emphasis on rituals that reenact things the founder did or taught in their life.<br />

These rituals may help people feel closer to the founder and provide a way to<br />

understand the example they are to follow. Stories of the founder's life may be<br />

recounted so people can continue to learn to emulate them. Most likely clergy will have


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the task of studying the stories and teachings of the founder and explaining or<br />

interpreting them to the congregation. Clergy should also strive to set an example of<br />

good behavior, much as the founder did.<br />

If your upbringing was in a Structured Family environment, you can expect most<br />

religions will offer guidance on how to build a stronger family and thus stabilize a<br />

Structured Family home. They may offer men advice on how to fulfill their roles as<br />

husbands and fathers. They may offer women advice on how to fulfill their roles as<br />

wives and mothers. They may teach children the importance of respecting their parents<br />

and elders, and teach parents the importance of cherishing their children. While some<br />

traditional religions may speak about family roles in ways that may seem outdated, a<br />

good pastor will help you understand how the teachings apply to the realities families<br />

face in today's world.<br />

If you are the head of a household at the Structured Family level, you should<br />

insist your family attend religious services where they can hear the stories about the<br />

founder's life and the lessons she taught about how to live and interact with others.<br />

Participating in the rituals will help everyone feel closer to the founder and remind them<br />

to follow the founder's example.<br />

When it comes to your leadership of your family, you should try to emulate the<br />

example set by the founder. We should note that the central figures of some traditional<br />

religions can be moody. If you are a follower of a Judeo-Christian religion, for example,<br />

you should try to be like Jehovah when he was in a good mood, when his followers<br />

could have no better ally. When you look to the founder or central figures of your<br />

religion for examples of how to treat your family, pay attention to times when they<br />

showed kindness and wisdom. Those are the examples you should try to follow.<br />

As you strive to emulate the best qualities of the founder, other members of your


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family should support your efforts by paying you the respect you deserve. Everyone in<br />

the family should try to emulate the founder's wisdom and example in terms of family<br />

roles and relationships. You may want to consult with clergy to gain clarity on the<br />

teachings. By taking these steps, you can become a benevolent leader of your family.<br />

You can establish a degree of order and predictability in the home which will give your<br />

children an understanding of their place and a sense of security.<br />

Of course, not all religious groups at the Structured Family level are equally<br />

good. A lot depends on those in charge. You want to be part of a group where the<br />

leaders are morally strong as well as wise. They must strive to meet the standard set by<br />

the founder. If the leaders of the group are not capable of this, you may need to look for<br />

a different group.<br />

Fellowship Religions<br />

The big difference between Fellowship Religions and Structured Family religions<br />

is that Fellowship religions are governed by rules rather than personalities. The founder<br />

of the religion will be revered for having taught the rules, and people will respect<br />

authorities in a Fellowship religion. However, the way to be a good member of the<br />

religion is to follow the rules. The job of clergy is to motivate everyone to follow the<br />

rules. In this regard, Fellowship groups work like a Fellowship household, where parents<br />

establish a set of rules, but children and parents alike are obliged to follow the rules.<br />

A good Fellowship will regard clergy and lay members as equally subservient to<br />

the rules. The clergy are respected for their knowledge and leadership, but everyone<br />

understands that clergy can be as prone to error and human weakness as anyone else.<br />

If clergy break the rules, they are held to account just any other member would be.<br />

Some Fellowship groups reject the idea of having clergy altogether, because they don't


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believe any member of the religion should have special status. Rather than have<br />

professional clergy lead services, these groups may let adult members take turns<br />

leading. Other groups may have no one lead services, preferring to give every member<br />

the right to contribute to a service as they are moved to do so.<br />

Fellowship Religions are good choices for parents attempting to raise their<br />

children at a more stable stage of the Fellowship level. A Fellowship religious group will<br />

help you embrace a set of rules for life. Parents should apply these rules within their<br />

households to the best of their ability, creating an orderly, predictable environment<br />

where children understand the rules and the consequences of breaking them, and can<br />

trust their parents to follow the rules as well. The result is a safe community where<br />

everyone’s behavior is predictable. This makes it easier to trust and cooperate with<br />

others.<br />

If you have emigrated to a new country, joining a Fellowship religious group can<br />

be a good way to learn the rules of the society you are now a part of. Often religious<br />

groups have programs designed to help newcomers acclimatize. They can help you<br />

make friends and contacts within the community.<br />

In addition to teaching the rules, Fellowship religions will help members abstain<br />

from giving in to bad impulses. For adults, they may offer daily services, support groups,<br />

charitable work, classes, or social activities you can participate in. For children, there<br />

may be clubs, religious schools, or summer camps. When your family members spend<br />

their spare time participating in good activities, they will have fewer opportunities to give<br />

in to bad impulses.<br />

Most Fellowship religions encourage members to focus their minds on positive<br />

thoughts through practices such as prayer, reading religious literature, listening to<br />

religious music or videos, positive thinking, affirmations, or chanting. Some groups also


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teach meditation, thought-stopping, or mindfulness as ways to resist bad impulses.<br />

Every group has its own practices, but their purpose is always the same: to help<br />

members refrain from giving in to bad impulses so they can make a better life and<br />

create a safe, predictable environment for children to grow up in.<br />

Fellowships have little tolerance for rule-breaking, deviant ideas, or nonconformity,<br />

as these are considered ways of giving in to bad impulses. Fortunately,<br />

Fellowship groups acknowledge that human beings are prone to failure. They have<br />

mechanisms whereby members who have erred can seek forgiveness and redemption.<br />

Most major religions have sects or branches that operate at the Fellowship level.<br />

One word that is often used to describe these groups is "fundamentalist."<br />

Fundamentalism is usually defined as a form of religious thinking that emphasizes strict<br />

adherence to a set of rules and beliefs. A fundamentalist group will favor a literal<br />

interpretation of scripture, with no allowance for individual interpretation. This strictness<br />

helps keep the beliefs and practices pure over time--that is, unchanged by human<br />

weakness or error.<br />

You fill find that within one religion there may be many fundamentalist sects with<br />

different beliefs, rules, and practices. Anabaptist groups have different rules than<br />

Southern Baptist groups, even though they are both Christian. On the other hand, within<br />

a given sect, most groups or congregations will be quite similar, almost like franchises.<br />

Of course, not all groups that claim to be fundamentalist are operating at a stable<br />

Fellowship level. You can tell how stable a Fellowship group is by the level of hypocrisy.<br />

The greater the hypocrisy, the lower the stability. Look for signs that the rules are not<br />

being applied equally to everyone, that certain people are given exemptions from the<br />

rules or have a different, more advantageous set of rules applied to them.<br />

For example, the notion that wealthier or more powerful people are "better" in the


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 180<br />

eyes of God and therefore deserve privileges is a concept that belongs to the Structured<br />

Family level where there is a hierarchy and the strong rule the weak. In a stable<br />

Fellowship religion, everyone is equal in the eyes of God. Everyone is equally fallible,<br />

regardless of wealth, power, or rank. If a religious group teaches that everyone is equal,<br />

but then gives special status or privilege to certain people--for instance, if it claims that<br />

wealthier people are more spiritual or that wealth is a reward for faith and therefore rich<br />

people must have greater faith--then the group is not a stable Fellowship. Nor can a<br />

group be called a stable Fellowship if it affords too much status or authority to a<br />

charismatic preacher.<br />

If a group has rules to ensure equality, but the group is breaking those rules, then<br />

it is an unstable or corrupt Fellowship. It may only be operating at the platform stage. If<br />

equality is not part of the group’s rules, or if the group believes in inequality, then the<br />

group is operating on the Structured Family level. Either way, such a group will teach<br />

children by example that the rules are unfair, and some people are above the rules--the<br />

opposite of the lesson you want children to learn at the Fellowship level.<br />

If you are attempting to raise your children at the Fellowship level, you should be<br />

part of a group that follows its own rules and treats everyone as equals, because that<br />

will set a better example.<br />

Individuality Religions<br />

Individuality level religious groups will revere their founders, like Structured<br />

Family groups, and they will follow a set of rules that apply to everyone, like Fellowship<br />

level groups. But an important change happens at the Individuality level.<br />

For an Individuality group, genuine faith requires more than adherence to a set of<br />

rules taught by someone else. Scripture and clergy can guide you, but individuals must


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 181<br />

take their own journey to faith. Everyone must be guided by their own conscience and<br />

find their own understanding of the mysteries that religion tries to shine a light on.<br />

To put it another way, while Fellowship groups insist that all members have the<br />

same beliefs and the same interpretation of scripture, Individuality groups allow a<br />

degree of individual interpretation. They may encourage everyone to look at scripture<br />

critically and see it in the context of when it was written and the intent of its authors.<br />

Individuality groups will see parts of scripture as allegorical or metaphorical--and find<br />

deeper layers of meaning as a result. Individuality groups believe that true morality<br />

requires following one's own conscience, even if it goes against a literal interpretation of<br />

the rules.<br />

If your family belongs to an Individuality religious group, you may sometimes<br />

disagree with the doctrine or the clergy's interpretation of scripture. You may recognize<br />

situations in which following the rules literally may violate the spirit of the teachings. You<br />

may have doubts about aspects of scripture itself. That is acceptable. You can still be<br />

part of the community. Provided you attend services regularly, dress respectfully, be<br />

polite, participate in charitable projects, and attend social events--you are free to<br />

entertain doubts or your own personal ideas in private. You can follow the dictates of<br />

your own conscience and still be on good terms with your religion.<br />

When Eric was young, he attended church regularly with his mother. As with<br />

many Christian churches, part of the service included going up to the altar to receive the<br />

sacrament of Holy Communion. One Sunday, his mother didn't join the rest of the<br />

congregation for this part of the service. Afterward, Eric asked his mother why she<br />

made this choice, and she explained that "I didn't feel prepared in my mind." Her<br />

response illustrates the difference between Individuality and Fellowship religious<br />

practices. At the Fellowship level, you follow the rules and do what everyone else does.


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 182<br />

Your personal thoughts and feelings must be set aside for the sake of conformity. At the<br />

Individuality level, your feelings matter. Your private, inner relationship with God may be<br />

more important than your external behavior.<br />

More importantly, as a parent you can let your children know privately about<br />

areas where you disagree with religious doctrine or the clergy. You want to set a good<br />

example to them of moral behavior--behavior based on kindness and compassion. And<br />

you want to teach your children respectable behavior. However, by pointing out that<br />

clergy are not perfect, you can impress on them the value of thinking for oneself. By<br />

letting them know that following one's own conscience can be more valuable than a<br />

literal interpretation of the rules, you can encourage your children to develop their own<br />

inner path to faith, while still meeting meet their external obligations.<br />

Religious groups at the Individuality level are a good choice for parents who are<br />

raising their children in an Individuality home. Children's religious education in such<br />

groups will involve much more self-reflection and critical discussion about matters of<br />

morality and faith. This helps children develop the ability to think for themselves,<br />

develop a stronger sense of self, and make a deeper commitment to moral behavior.<br />

Individuality groups are more tolerant of diversity than Fellowship groups.<br />

Members of an Individuality group may have diverse backgrounds, political views, or<br />

positions on social issues. Many issues can be considered a matter of personal<br />

conscience, unlike in a Fellowship group where there can only be one right opinion.<br />

Religious groups at the Individuality level can be found within all the world's<br />

major religions. They tend to be those that have a stronger respect for scholarship.<br />

Clergy in these groups are usually required to earn a college degree, in addition to<br />

completing a training program in pastoral work. They may be encouraged to get<br />

advanced training in theology or some other field that can be helpful in their vocation,


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 183<br />

such as counseling, the social sciences, or the humanities. More education gives clergy<br />

the ability to think critically. It helps them be aware of different perspectives and<br />

approaches to theology and morality. Within certain religions, such as Christianity, an<br />

educated clergy often distinguishes Individuality from Fellowship sects, where lay or<br />

self-taught clergy are more common. Clergy with honorary degrees, for example, are<br />

more common in Fundamentalist groups.<br />

As with Fellowship groups, a religious congregation operating at the Individuality<br />

level will try to cater to families at all levels. This can lead to a degree of instability. For<br />

instance, if families operating at a lower level have a strong voice, the group may<br />

struggle to create an atmosphere where everyone's right to hold private opinions is<br />

respected. Sometimes a preacher or a group of lay people may be too intrusive in<br />

attempting to force their opinion on everyone in the group. Sometimes groups will care<br />

so much about the appearance of respectability that they become less tolerant of<br />

diversity.<br />

If you discover that your chosen group is intolerant of diverse opinions or less<br />

respectful of individual conscience, it may only be at the platform stage of the<br />

Individuality level--or it may be a Fellowship level group, despite its stated doctrine. In<br />

that case, you may wish to look for a different group that does a better job creating an<br />

Individuality level environment.<br />

Inclusion Religions<br />

As always, our discussion of the Inclusion level is hampered by the fact that it is<br />

still a work in progress. There have been many attempts to create more inclusive<br />

religious groups, and you may find such a group in your area if you shop around.<br />

However, they are rare. Inclusive religions are outside the "mainstream." We can


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 184<br />

however point to some trailblazing efforts in this area.<br />

One such effort has been the attempt to break down the barriers separating the<br />

world's major religions and create an approach to faith that draws upon a variety of<br />

traditions, including both Eastern and Western. Unitarian Universalism and the Unity<br />

churches are examples of groups that take this approach. In areas where such groups<br />

do not exist, parents attempting to raise their children at the Inclusion level may expose<br />

them to a variety of religions and philosophies so they can develop respect for all<br />

traditions and find their own personal approach to faith.<br />

Other efforts have been made to break down the divide between science and<br />

religion. The Templeton Foundation, founded by the mutual fund manager, John<br />

Templeton, is one organization that funds research in this area. And many newer<br />

spiritual or religious groups incorporate ideas taken from science into their theology.<br />

If you are considering having your family join an Inclusion level religious or<br />

spiritual group, it should meet a few criteria. First, the group must include the gifts of<br />

lower levels. It must feature respect for religious founders and authorities. It must strive<br />

to create an orderly community based on moral and ethical rules that apply to everyone.<br />

And it must encourage self-reflection and freedom of conscience.<br />

Second, the group should be inclusive. It must actively encourage its members to<br />

share their perspectives and incorporate those perspectives into the group's culture and<br />

practices. When the group assembles, everyone should be invited to be seen and<br />

listened to. The group should be welcoming to people of all cultures, genders, classes,<br />

abilities, ethnicities, etc. It may draw inspiration from a wide range of scholarly<br />

endeavors such as science, philosophy, theology, and the social sciences. Agnostic and<br />

atheistic perspectives should not be excluded either. Everyone should feel free to<br />

express their individuality and their unique perspectives openly. Differences should be


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 185<br />

celebrated. At the same time, incorporating knowledge from many disciplines may<br />

require appropriate filters to exclude disinformation, misinformation, and<br />

unsubstantiated theories.<br />

Third, the group will need to operate with a more inclusive sense of morality.<br />

While the moral imperative developed in Fellowship and Individuality groups will be<br />

retained, Inclusion groups will create an atmosphere where everyone feels safe to<br />

express their individuality without censure or negative judgment. Intolerance and<br />

intimidation cannot be allowed, and the group will focus more on serving each member<br />

in the way that is best for them rather than trying to make all members conform to a<br />

particular model of behavior.


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 186<br />

Chapter 15: Other Community Organizations<br />

In many places religious groups function as cornerstones of community life and<br />

support families in developing and passing on the gifts of their level to the next<br />

generation, but they seldom work alone. In most communities, and certainly in the<br />

developed world, other institutions and groups offer programs for families and children<br />

that serve the same purpose. They include a wide range of charities, social movements,<br />

community service organizations, government programs, educational organizations, and<br />

clubs. Some are for-profit, some are non-profit, and some are subsidized by<br />

government. Although many of these groups were founded on a particular philosophy or<br />

set of values, they often don't require the families they serve to share the philosophy or<br />

even learn about it. This makes them a good option for families who are not interested<br />

in participating in organized religion.<br />

At the first three levels, families need help keeping their children safe (Survival),<br />

providing them with the necessities of life (Provision), and making sure children are<br />

treated as valued members of their family (Structured Family). The last of these<br />

includes making sure children are safe from physical, sexual, or emotional abuse.<br />

In developed countries, a wide variety of government programs and charities<br />

exist to help families stabilize these first three levels. They include emergency services,


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 187<br />

social safety nets, child protective services, foster homes, domestic abuse shelters,<br />

marriage counseling, food banks, addiction treatment programs, parenting support<br />

groups, healthcare, crisis centers, employment services, and many more. In some<br />

countries, private insurance plans may supplement or take the place of government<br />

programs and charities to create stability on the Provision level.<br />

Sometimes parents are reluctant to accept help, even when it is available free of<br />

charge. This may be due to pride or a stigma attached to taking charity. Such an<br />

attitude is unacceptable. If you or your children need or would benefit from help offered<br />

on any of these levels, you should take advantage of it, even if you expect your situation<br />

will improve down the road. Children's needs cannot wait. Their present welfare must<br />

come before any other consideration.<br />

Other programs are designed to help deliver the gifts of higher levels--not just to<br />

keep children physically safe and fed, but to give them valuable skills and develop their<br />

capacity to lead happier lives as adults. These programs can benefit children of all<br />

levels, but they will most likely be seen as essential to parents raising their children at<br />

the Fellowship, Individuality, or Inclusion levels. As with schools and religious groups,<br />

finding out what level an organization operates at will help you decide if it is a good fit<br />

for your children. As always, you should look for organizations that operate at a level<br />

equal to or higher than the one you were raised at.<br />

While you will not find too many children's organizations operating below the<br />

Fellowship Level, some older organizations have retained policies leftover from when<br />

the Structured Family level was dominant. For instance, it was once common to have<br />

separate programs for girls and boys, because of the different roles the sexes were<br />

expected to play in families. A girls-only group like Brownies might have spent time<br />

teaching a skill like sewing while a boys-only group like Cub Scouts might have


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 188<br />

emphasized team sports. However, these policies have been disappearing now that the<br />

Individuality level has become dominant and effort is being made toward Inclusion.<br />

Children today can participate in a much wider range of activities with fewer<br />

presumptions about sex and gender roles.<br />

That said, plenty of organizations provide children's programs at the Fellowship<br />

level. You can recognize them because of their emphasis on molding children through<br />

discipline and conformity. Such organizations may include those offering military<br />

training, team sports, martial arts, dance, marching band, or choir. Putting children into<br />

uniforms is typical of an organization that values conformity. Fellowship organizations<br />

may cater to children of one sex, religion, or ethnicity. A stronger indicator is if the<br />

organization trains children to hold a particular set of values or to follow certain rules of<br />

behavior in all areas of their lives, including home and school. These programs can be<br />

quite beneficial to children of families working towards a more stable Fellowship level.<br />

They help children develop self-discipline, respect for leaders, and the ability to follow<br />

the rules in every situation.<br />

By contrast, an Individuality level organization is not so concerned with uniformity<br />

or governing all aspects of children's lives. Children will be expected to meet certain<br />

expectations while participating in the organization's programs, but their privacy will be<br />

respected. For instance, if youth participate in a community theater group, they may be<br />

expected to attend rehearsals, arrive on time, learn their lines, follow the director's<br />

instructions, be polite to other cast members, and treat props and costumes with<br />

respect, because these requirements help meet the goal of mounting a successful<br />

production. But if the organization is operating at the Individuality level, it will not<br />

explicitly teach youth how to behave outside the theater. Nor will the organization care<br />

what religion or philosophy the youth believe in.


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 189<br />

Letting your children participate in Individuality organizations will support your<br />

effort to help them develop a sense of their own individuality. It will expose them to a<br />

less intrusive environment, separate from home and school, where they can pursue<br />

personal interests--interests which they may choose not to tell their classmates or<br />

teachers about. Children who join such groups get a break from any pressure to<br />

conform they may face in other environments. They gain opportunities to make friends<br />

with peers who share a common interest, even if they go to different schools, live in<br />

different neighborhoods, or have different backgrounds. Pursuing personal interests<br />

helps them build a private life. It helps them develop a stronger sense of their own<br />

identity and priorities, which will help them navigate through life as adults.<br />

As we mentioned earlier, a growing number of organizations offer programs for<br />

children at the Inclusion level. Many more Inclusion level summer camps and afterschool<br />

programs exist than Inclusion level schools. This may be because parents at the<br />

Individuality level see conventional schooling as an important path to public<br />

respectability--and therefore more serious. After-school or summer programs are more<br />

often seen as ways for children to pursue private interests. They are programs children<br />

can participate in for enjoyment rather than accolades. And honestly, even when they<br />

are educational, children usually find Inclusion level programs quite enjoyable.<br />

Inclusion level children's programing differs from the Individuality level in that it<br />

creates more opportunities for children to express their unique perspectives and<br />

participate more fully in the programming, to the point of sharing ownership. For<br />

instance, programs may be advertised as having a particular subject matter, goals, or<br />

activities, in order to preselect participants. But at the beginning of the program, the<br />

adult leaders may ask the children what they want from the program and modify the<br />

goals to meet the children's interests. Rather than imposing a set of rules, they may ask


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 190<br />

the children to help write a list of rules to help the program be more successful. By<br />

sharing in the design of the program, children gain a sense of ownership that makes<br />

them more eager to participate. It helps them feel secure enough to express themselves<br />

in other ways, giving them confidence and skills in leadership and communication.<br />

Each time the group meets, leaders may facilitate opportunities for everyone to<br />

share their thoughts and feelings in a non-judgmental atmosphere. These discussions<br />

may be used to fine-tune the activities to the group's needs, help children develop their<br />

sense of self by reflecting on their experiences, deepen the learning process, and<br />

encourage children to develop empathy for others.<br />

Children's programming at the Inclusion level often includes a variety of noncompetitive<br />

games and arts activities--even when they are not the main subject being<br />

taught. Non-competitive games and arts allow children to explore and express their<br />

individuality without the pressure to "win" or the fear of losing. They help children learn<br />

to work cooperatively with others in ways that are both fun and productive. Leaders will<br />

choose activities that everyone in the group can participate in regardless of ability. They<br />

will create an atmosphere where everyone feels accepted, and that their contributions<br />

are valued.<br />

When you expose your children to an Inclusion level environment, you give them<br />

the opportunity to gain strong interpersonal skills that will help them become more<br />

successful adults. They will learn how to communicate and cooperate with others, form<br />

better relationships, and make use of their unique talents and creativity.


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 191<br />

Part Three<br />

Creating a Home Environment


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 192<br />

Chapter 16: One Reason You Can't Parent Above Your Level<br />

As a parent, you want to create the best home environment for your children you<br />

can. You want your children to have an upbringing that will help them lead happier and<br />

more successful lives as adults. You may also want to be thought of as a good parent<br />

by your friends, spouse, extended family, and community.<br />

Before we get into the specifics about how to create a good environment for your<br />

children, we must acknowledge some of the biggest challenges you face. One of these<br />

challenges is time. As John Lennon said, "Life is what happens to you while you're busy<br />

making other plans." The eighteen years it takes for your children to become adults can<br />

be over before you realize it. Moreover, research in child development shows that the<br />

first few years in children's lives are the most important. During that time, the basic<br />

architecture of children's brains forms, and their environment plays a huge role in<br />

shaping that architecture. How well children's needs are met in those early years, the<br />

quality of connection they have with parents, the types of stimuli they encounter, and<br />

how safe they feel to explore their world and express themselves--all these factors<br />

influence their intelligence, behavior, and psychological health later in life.<br />

Adding to the challenge is that all parents start out as amateurs. Parenting is a<br />

skill that is difficult to learn except by doing. Some parents try to learn about effective


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 193<br />

parenting methods from the moment they conceive, some even earlier. They may read<br />

books and articles on parenting and child development. They may take courses or get<br />

advice from other parents and family members. But all the advice you gather may fly out<br />

the window when you are faced with real-life parenting challenges. How you handle<br />

difficult situations may depend far more on your instincts or your impulses in the<br />

moment than your best intentions. You may have to raise several children before you<br />

feel competent and at ease as a parent, and by then your children will be too old to get<br />

the full benefit of your expertise.<br />

In addition, to create an environment at a particular level for your child, your own<br />

psyche must first be stable on that level. You must be comfortable in that environment<br />

and see it as normal before you can make it normal for your child. Let's go into more<br />

detail on this.<br />

At each of the six levels, a child or an adult must emphasize certain aspects of<br />

themselves to adapt to their home environment. As one moves up the levels, people<br />

feel more secure and can indulge in greater degrees of self-expression and selfdetermination.<br />

However, if you are trying to create the kind of environment for your child<br />

that you never learned to feel safe in, you will feel a lot of anxiety. Your upbringing has<br />

not prepared you for the forms of interaction possible at higher levels. You won't feel<br />

comfortable letting your child experience them and you won't feel comfortable in such<br />

an environment yourself. As a result, you will feel pulled to behave in ways that make<br />

the environment more in line with the one you grew up in than one you are trying to<br />

create.<br />

For instance, let's say you grew up in an unstable Provision home. Once your<br />

babies become toddlers, they may become interested in understanding everyone's role<br />

in the family. They are ready for a Structured Family environment. If you and your


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 194<br />

spouse want to create a Structured Family, you will need to dedicate yourself to fulfilling<br />

a formal role in the family. Can you develop the discipline to do what your role requires<br />

and not step outside your role? Can you trust your spouse to do the same? Can you<br />

handle having the family dependent on you and being dependent on them? What<br />

happens when adversity arises? Will your spouse abandon you? Can you resist the<br />

urge to walk out the door? Can you survive on your own? Your Provision upbringing has<br />

not prepared you for such interdependency, and it will generate a lot of anxiety.<br />

Sometimes, the only way you can cope with your anxiety over fulfilling your role<br />

may be to go "on strike" and refuse to meet your commitments. Your spouse may do<br />

the same, for similar reasons. The more often this happens, the less stable your child's<br />

environment will be on the Structured Family level. Despite your best efforts, the home<br />

environment may end up staying at the Provision level.<br />

On the other hand, let's say you grew up in an unstable Structured Family home,<br />

but as your children get older they become interested in knowing the rules, so they can<br />

feel their lives are predictable and can make plans. Perhaps you and your spouse also<br />

receive some parenting advice that says children can benefit from fair and consistent<br />

rules, so you attempt to create a Fellowship home. Trouble is, your Structured Family<br />

upbringing taught you that the strong make the rules and the weak must follow them. If,<br />

as a parent, you also must follow the rules, does that make you weak? Does it<br />

represent a loss of status? In a Structured Family, your role as an adult and parent<br />

entitles you to respect from your spouse and children. It is your source of security. You<br />

may fear that transitioning to a Fellowship environment will make parents subservient to<br />

children. If you must follow the rules, would that make you vulnerable to disrespect?<br />

The anxiety you may feel in a Fellowship home may give you a strong urge to<br />

break the rules, as a way to reassert your power and demand respect. Your spouse


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 195<br />

may have similar urges. The more you give in to such urges, the less stable your child's<br />

environment will be on the Fellowship level. You may end up creating a Structured<br />

Family environment after all.<br />

If you were raised in a Fellowship home, you may face a challenge when your<br />

child becomes a young teenager and wants some private space where she can pursue<br />

her own interests. You may be living in a community that considers it proper for teens to<br />

develop their Individuality. Nonetheless, you may have a lot of anxiety around allowing<br />

your teen such freedom. Your Fellowship upbringing taught you that individuality is<br />

dangerous. You may fear that your child could embrace different ideas or engage in<br />

activities you don't approve of. You know the kind of impulses you and your peers might<br />

have indulged when they were young, had they not been in an environment with strict<br />

rules and constant supervision. What if your teen has similar impulses? Your anxiety<br />

may make it difficult to refrain from invading her private space--reading her diary,<br />

eavesdropping on her conversations, spying on her activities. Can you resist the urge to<br />

judge her, to make sure she has the right opinions and beliefs? Do you feel a need to<br />

control what she does in her private space? Do you believe taking such actions would<br />

be in your child's best interest? If so, you may be keeping your teen's environment at<br />

the Fellowship level where she may never develop a strong sense of self.<br />

If you were raised in an Individuality environment, you may have a lot of anxiety if<br />

your older teen wants an Inclusion environment in which she can express her<br />

individuality in public. Public expression might be celebrated in an Inclusion community,<br />

but your family probably doesn't live in an Inclusion community. You may feel that<br />

certain types of self-expression and activities are only acceptable in private. You don't<br />

want her to harm her public image or the image of your family.<br />

For example, Eric knows a couple who, when their daughter was an older teen,


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 196<br />

started a Facebook page dedicated to chronicling her menstrual cycle in detail. The<br />

page was popular among her friends but provoked a lot of anxiety in her parents who<br />

had been raised in Individuality homes. To them, such intimate information did not<br />

belong on a public forum. Later, while in college, the daughter started acquiring tattoos,<br />

as did many of her peers. Some of these tattoos were not always hidden under clothing.<br />

Again, this was a form of public self-expression which would be acceptable in an<br />

Inclusion environment. But her parents worried that too many tattoos might make it<br />

harder for their daughter to project an image of herself as a respectable person. They<br />

might restrict her marriage, social, or career opportunities. Eventually, it became too<br />

much for them and they persuaded her to stop acquiring new tattoos by threatening to<br />

cut off her financial support.<br />

So far, we have been discussing the challenges of creating an environment for<br />

your child one level above the one you were raised in. Some parents feel pressure to do<br />

more than that. For instance, they may have been raised in a Structured Family home<br />

but find themselves living in a community where parents are expected to raise their<br />

children in an Individuality or even Inclusion environment.<br />

To shift your home environment two or more levels higher is not a reasonable<br />

goal. It would be like trying to put a fourth story on a building before the third story is<br />

built. You can't build a level until the one below is stable. Apart from the additional<br />

anxiety such a shift will cause, most people cannot understand how an environment two<br />

levels up could function. Their instincts, their understanding of human nature, their<br />

common sense that formed in their childhood environment, will be the wrong tools for<br />

such an endeavor. Before you can build an environment two levels up, you would need<br />

to spend a lot of time and effort on Part Four of this book, healing your traumas,<br />

retraining your instincts, learning to feel more secure, gaining a new understanding of


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 197<br />

human nature, and becoming happier and more fulfilled. Only after you have built the<br />

new level in your own psyche will you be comfortable creating such an environment for<br />

your child.<br />

Your first step must be to figure out the limits of your comfort. If your history has<br />

made you stable on the Survival and Provision levels, you may be comfortable providing<br />

your child with the necessities of life, but little else. If you are stable on the Structured<br />

Family level, you will be comfortable fulfilling your role as parent and teaching your child<br />

her role in the family, but you won't be comfortable with rules or individuality. If you are<br />

stable on the Fellowship level, you can provide your school-age child with a rule-based<br />

environment, but you won't be comfortable with expressions of individuality. If you are<br />

stable on the Individuality level, you can support your young teen in developing her<br />

sense of self, but only in private. Only if you are one of the rare parents who is stable on<br />

the Inclusion level, will you be equipped to support your young adult in expressing her<br />

unique identity and making a unique contribution in public.<br />

Fortunately, when you know which level you are at today, you may have time to<br />

stabilize that level or even start building the next before your child is ready to<br />

experience it. The following chapters will give some tips stabilizing on each level. At the<br />

same time, Part Four of this book will show you how to create greater stability in your<br />

own psyche and take yourself to a higher level. Once you do this, you can create a<br />

higher-level environment for your child when she is ready for it.<br />

Don't worry if you reach your limit and cannot offer your child every level. Virtually<br />

every parent in history has been in that situation. Depending on their starting point, most<br />

parents would need exceptional dedication to move their family all the way up to<br />

Inclusion before their children reach adulthood. Fortunately, even a small increase in<br />

the stability of your home will make a big difference in your children’s lives and your


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 198<br />

own. The more time you spend on Part Four, the happier and more fulfilled your family<br />

will be. If your children are grown and have children of their own, doing this work will<br />

help you be a better grandparent and a better resource to the new generation.


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Chapter 17: Building a Survival Home<br />

Children need their environment to be stable on the Survival level from the<br />

moment they are born and forever after. Physical safety is required for a child to<br />

experience any other gifts or pursue any other priorities.<br />

Most readers will find it easy to create a stable Survival level environment for<br />

their children. A few parents are a danger to their children. Some children may be born<br />

into dangerous environments or with life threatening medical conditions. Parents<br />

struggling with such challenges are unlikely to read this book. When your primary<br />

concern as a parent is keeping your children alive, you don't have the luxury of worrying<br />

about the finer points of parenting.<br />

For parents who were raised at Structured Family or higher level, life at the<br />

Survival level is difficult to comprehend. Some of our advice here may be so obvious it<br />

may not seem worth stating. Nonetheless, for the sake of completeness and for the<br />

benefit of readers who may know parents struggling to raise children at the Survival<br />

level, we'll consider three scenarios in which a child may experience an unstable<br />

Survival environment.<br />

1. When a Parent is a Threat


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We'll start with the worst-case scenario: one in which you, as a parent, are a<br />

danger to your child. Perhaps you were raised in an unstable Survival home where your<br />

parents were a threat to you, or perhaps you have significant experiences with being in<br />

unstable Survival environments that left you traumatized. Even though you are now<br />

raising your child in a safe community, you may have trouble with anger management.<br />

The experience of living with constant fear may have given you heightened survival<br />

instincts. These instincts may have served you in a dangerous environment but are<br />

inappropriate now the threat is gone. You may tend to behave in ways that others find<br />

irrational and paranoid. You may perceive threats where none exist. You may overreact<br />

to sudden movements or noises. Slight provocations may put you into a blind rage and<br />

make you lash out with physical violence--even against your own spouse or children.<br />

These tendencies may be heightened when you use alcohol or other recreational drugs.<br />

Most advanced countries have government services that intervene to protect<br />

children from parents who may be a danger to them. These services have different<br />

names, depending on where you live, such as Child Protective Services (US) or<br />

Children's Aid Societies (Canada). In the UK, local authorities are tasked with protecting<br />

children. In Australia, it is the responsibility of the Dept. Of Social Services. Where<br />

government services are inadequate, charities or religious organizations may try to fill<br />

the gaps. Many communities have shelters for victims of domestic violence and their<br />

children. The more such services exist, the safer the community is, for not just children<br />

but everyone.<br />

If you are considering having children and you believe you may be a danger to<br />

them, you should get help as soon as possible. Participate in anger management<br />

training or get psychotherapy that focuses on healing trauma. Take parenting classes,<br />

so you can learn about normal child behavior and how to cope with it. Some people


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 201<br />

raised at the Survival level may choose not to have children.<br />

If you have a newborn baby, pay attention to how you react when she cries. For<br />

some parents, the sound of a baby crying is a helpful notification that it's time for the<br />

baby to be fed or changed, or that the baby wants the reassurance of being cuddled to<br />

sleep by a parent. Other parents find that the sound of crying makes them feel anxious,<br />

irritated, or upset. This may be true if the parent's own childhood experiences cause<br />

them to associate the sound of a baby crying with scary situations--such as Survival<br />

level threats.<br />

Some babies also cry more than others. When excessive crying is accompanied<br />

by other symptoms, it can indicate a baby is ill and should be taken to a doctor. Other<br />

babies suffer from infantile colic, which is excessive crying with no discernible cause.<br />

The combination of a colicky baby and a parent for whom the sound of crying triggers<br />

feelings of fear, anger, or frustration can be dangerous. Shaken baby syndrome, or<br />

worse, can result when a parent loses control and injures her child.<br />

If you believe you could lose control, remove yourself from the baby. Perhaps<br />

your spouse or another adult can watch the baby while you go for a walk or to another<br />

part of the house until the crying stops and you can calm down. Sometimes friends,<br />

neighbors, relatives, or social services can provide you with a parental respite.<br />

Another practice that may help is a form of extinction sleep training developed by<br />

Dr. Richard Ferber. Ferberization, as it is sometimes called, is a process whereby a<br />

parent puts a child safely to bed and then leaves the room, even if the child is awake<br />

and crying. The parent will return within three minutes to check on the child, but not pick<br />

her up. The parent will gradually increase the amount of time before she returns to five<br />

minutes, then ten minutes, etc. until the child is asleep. The process is repeated over<br />

many nights until the baby learns to stop crying and fall asleep on her own.


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We would not recommend Ferberization for most children, particularly infants<br />

who are prone to vomiting. Being "Ferberized" can give babies the feeling of being<br />

abandoned, creating instability on the Provision level. For most babies, soothing<br />

physical contact with a parent is a better tool to help them learn to calm themselves.<br />

However, Ferberization may be useful for parents with a history of exposure to unstable<br />

Survival environments. If the baby learns to fall asleep with fewer tears, the stress level<br />

of the home may be reduced, and the baby's safety may be increased.<br />

If you have children and you know you have anger issues, it may be best for you<br />

to avoid spending time alone with them until you have worked through those issues. If<br />

your spouse doesn't have such difficulties, he or she should be your child's primary<br />

caregiver. Alternatively, it may make sense to let your children live with relatives or<br />

other people who can give them a safer home environment. Many countries have safehaven<br />

laws or safe surrender sites that allow parents to give up their babies for adoption<br />

without much trouble. Orphanages and foster care are also services that can protect<br />

children from unsafe parents. While giving up your child may be a drastic and heartbreaking<br />

measure, ensuring the child's survival must be the priority.<br />

2. When the Community is a Threat<br />

Let's assume you are not a threat to your children, but you are raising them in a<br />

community at an unstable Survival level--a community in which many children are killed<br />

before they reach adulthood due to war, crime, abuse, or civil unrest. In this case, your<br />

primary job as a parent is protect your children from the threats in the community.<br />

Usually, the best course of action is to move your family to a safe community or a<br />

safe part of the world. Find somewhere to live where violence is rare. You want to raise<br />

your children where there is good infrastructure such as emergency services, a


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 203<br />

neighborhood watch, healthcare, safe schools, and effective social services. If the<br />

streets and playgrounds are not beautiful, they should at least be safe for children.<br />

If you cannot to move to a safe community, you may be able to join with other<br />

parents in your community to create institutions and systems that improve the safety of<br />

children. Religious organizations, charities, or non-governmental organizations may<br />

offer training and resources to help parents with this task. This option requires parents<br />

to commit more of their personal time, effort, and resources but may be very worthwhile.<br />

If you can neither relocate nor improve the safety of your community, the final<br />

option is to turn your home into the equivalent of a fortress with fences, gates, security<br />

systems, or guards, that can protect your children from threats coming from the outside<br />

world. This option requires the largest commitment of personal resources. For this<br />

reason, it is usually available only to wealthier parents.<br />

3. When the Threat is Imaginary<br />

A third possibility is that neither you nor the community are a threat to your<br />

children, but you grew up in a scary environment that still haunts you today. Perhaps as<br />

a child you felt safe with your family, but the community you lived in was at an unstable<br />

Survival level. Perhaps a civil war, unrest, or terrorist acts were taking place around<br />

you, so your family had to be constantly on guard. Now that you are grown and raising<br />

your children in a safe community, your experience as a child may give you a strong<br />

compulsion to protect them from threats that are not present. In doing so, you may<br />

burden your children with unnecessary fear. You may teach them that the world is<br />

dangerous, and they cannot trust anyone. You may establish many rules designed to<br />

protect them from imagined threats and make them terrified of breaking those rules.<br />

You will create an unstable Survival environment for your children in which they live in a


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 204<br />

constant state of fear. It is like the environment you grew up in, except that the threats<br />

are only imagined.<br />

If you feel compelled to teach your children the world is scary, you can easily<br />

become the biggest source of fear they experience. In effect, you become the monster<br />

to teach them to be afraid. That might be justifiable, if the environment really were as<br />

dangerous as the one you grew up in. But if the environment is safe, burdening children<br />

with unnecessary fear can have negative consequences. Your children may not enjoy<br />

the opportunities or benefits other children in your community do, many of which require<br />

feeling free and secure enough to connect with others. If your children are always afraid<br />

of you, they won't bond well with you. They may grow up to be adults who have difficulty<br />

forming trusting relationships with anyone, and they may miss out on the happiness that<br />

comes from human connection, as well as higher-level gifts.<br />

Of course, you want to make sure your children's environment is safe. But once<br />

that is achieved, you should do the inner work described in Part Four or seek<br />

counseling that can help you overcome your own anxieties and gain a more realistic<br />

understanding of the world your children are living in. This will prepare you to begin<br />

creating a Provision level environment for your children.<br />

If you succeed in giving your children a home in which they feel safe, they will<br />

grow into adults who can provide a safe environment for their own children.


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Chapter 18: Building a Provision Home<br />

As with Survival, babies need stability on the Provision level from the moment<br />

they are born. They need to be safe, to be kept warm and fed, to have their hygiene<br />

needs met, and to have a calming connection with an adult caregiver. Children's need<br />

for Provision will change over time, but it never goes away. Your task as a parent is to<br />

provide for your children consistently until they become self-supporting adults. You want<br />

them to know they will always have a home with you, and you will make sure they have<br />

the necessities of life. You must also make sure they get a good education or training so<br />

they can support themselves as adults. You don't have to be the perfect parent, but you<br />

do have to be a good provider.<br />

Some of the advice we give here will be obvious to many readers. Yet parents<br />

who were raised in an unstable Provision environment themselves can struggle with<br />

these issues. We will start with the basics.<br />

Provision Through Financial Stability<br />

To provide your children with the necessities of life in a consistent manner, you<br />

need a steady family income. Children don't need a lavish standard of living, but they do<br />

need one that is adequate and dependable. While our purpose here is not to advocate


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 206<br />

for any socio-economic policies, we will point out that unionized jobs usually offer more<br />

job security than, for example, working in the gig economy. Certain industries and<br />

professions have a lower job turnover rate than others. Working for a large company<br />

can be more secure than a small business. You must consider these issues when you<br />

are planning to start a family.<br />

Being self-employed or owning a small family business can work for or against<br />

you in terms of economic security. On the one hand, you can't get fired from a business<br />

you own. On the other hand, your income will depend on your continued health and<br />

your ability to find a steady stream of clients and customers. Your business may be<br />

vulnerable to changes in the economy and the arrival of new competition. New<br />

businesses are particularly prone to failure.<br />

Your income can vary more in certain professions than others. If you are a freelancer,<br />

self-employed, or a small business owner, you may need to be skilled at income<br />

smoothing to be a successful provider to your children. This has traditionally been an<br />

important skill for family farms that receive the bulk of their annual income shortly after<br />

harvest. The farmer must then budget carefully so that the money covers the family's<br />

expenses until the next harvest, with room to spare in case of an unexpected disaster,<br />

such as crop failure. With freelance or seasonal work, your income may oscillate<br />

between "feast or famine." You may have dry spells when no money is coming in or<br />

you're short of clients. When you receive a big payment, you need to make it last until<br />

the next one. You may benefit from developing multiple income streams so there is<br />

always some money coming in.<br />

One tool that can help you achieve greater security at the Provision level is<br />

insurance. Insurance is designed to protect you and your family from financial<br />

misfortune. Many types of insurance policies exist, each one offering protection against


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 207<br />

a different type of disaster--death, disability, illness, house fires, car crashes, business<br />

failure, crop failure, crime, etc. In developed countries, you are required by law to have<br />

certain types of insurance.<br />

If your income is low, purchasing insurance against all significant risks may seem<br />

too costly. Many people struggling with Provision issues forego some types of insurance<br />

to save money. Young people in good health often forego life, medical, or disability<br />

insurance. However, this is a risky practice in countries like the United States, where a<br />

major illness or accident can create a financial crisis. If possible, you should have<br />

insurance against all events that could put your children's provision in jeopardy.<br />

In most developed countries, government programs function as insurance<br />

policies to protect those who have not achieved financial security on their own.<br />

Depending on where you live, these may include universal healthcare, unemployment<br />

and disability insurance, veteran benefits, welfare, subsidized housing, minimum wages,<br />

child benefit programs, student loans, pension programs for senior citizens, etc. In<br />

areas where the social safety net is weak, charities run by either religious groups or<br />

non-profit organizations often try to fill in the gaps. All these programs are beneficial<br />

because they improve families' stability on the Provision level and prevent children from<br />

growing up deprived.<br />

Some countries have begun experimenting with guaranteed minimum income<br />

programs that provide everyone with a fixed amount of money each month, whether<br />

they are employed or not. Evidence from trials of such programs suggests that giving<br />

people a guaranteed minimum income does not significantly decrease their incentive to<br />

work, but it does provide them with many benefits. It improves their health, reduces<br />

stress, and gives them the stability they need to apply for work, train for a better job, or<br />

start a business. Perhaps the biggest benefit is that it helps them provide for their


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 208<br />

children consistently, regardless what misfortune befalls them.<br />

Provision Through Relationship and Connection<br />

In addition to financial stability, a child needs a steady relationship with one or<br />

more adult caregivers. As an infant, a child needs to be cuddled often by adults so she<br />

can learn calm herself. A toddler needs attention from a parent who can help her learn<br />

to manage her emotions and restrain her impulses. Abandonment or rejection by one or<br />

more parents creates Provision level instability in a child's psyche, as does living with<br />

the constant fear of abandonment.<br />

Attachment theory is a subject in psychology that looks at how babies and<br />

toddlers develop healthy relationships with their parents. When children develop secure<br />

attachments to one or more adults, who they know will consistently meet their needs,<br />

they develop confidence in exploring their world. As they grow, they become more<br />

outgoing, more engaged with peers and the world around them. They become adults<br />

who can form and maintain healthy and close relationships with friends and partners. If<br />

a parent is abusive or emotionally unavailable (as in depression or addiction), or if a<br />

parent abandons her child, the child will be prone to anxiety or dissociative symptoms.<br />

She may grow up to be fearful of the world and have a harder time forming close<br />

connections as adults.<br />

If you grew up in an unstable Provision level home, you may have some of these<br />

issues yourself. People with this background go one of two ways. Either they have a<br />

hard time maintaining committed relationships--avoiding, abandoning, or sabotaging<br />

them--or their anxiety causes them to be a doormat. They are so desperate to maintain<br />

relationships that they let themselves be mistreated.<br />

If you come from a Provision level background and want to do better for your


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children, your first objective must be to make them feel that you will always be there for<br />

them. You must never abandon your child. She must always have a home with you, and<br />

you must remain present in her life. Give her your attention and help when she needs it.<br />

If you grew up in an unstable Provision home, staying connected with your child<br />

won't always be easy. Young children have a lot of needs and raising them can be<br />

exhausting work. Balancing the tasks of parenting and earning a living can be stressful.<br />

If you have a spouse or partner, it can be hard to maintain that partnership while<br />

parenting. Marriage and relationship counseling may be worthwhile and should begin<br />

sooner rather than later. If you separate or divorce from your child's other parent, make<br />

sure your child maintains her connection with both of you. Joint custody or co-parenting<br />

may have organizational and financial challenges, yet it benefits children greatly to<br />

know they are not losing a parent.<br />

For example, a colleague of Eric went through a separation and divorce when his<br />

daughter was four years old. He and his ex-wife continued to live in the same<br />

neighborhood, and they continued to share the parenting of their daughter. The<br />

daughter had a bedroom in both homes and would alternate between them. This was a<br />

good arrangement, because the daughter continued to have a strong connection with<br />

both parents.<br />

Ten years later, the father was living with another woman who had become close<br />

to his daughter. The father and his girlfriend decided to split up. They were concerned<br />

about how to tell the daughter in a way that would upset her as little as possible.<br />

However, when the father eventually told his daughter that he and his girlfriend were<br />

breaking up, the daughter did not seem upset at all, despite her close relationship with<br />

the girlfriend. He asked her why. She responded that she assumed his soon-to-be exgirlfriend<br />

would remain part of her life. As far as she was concerned, the breakup didn't


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change anything for her. The daughter was "well-attached," as psychologists term it.<br />

She felt secure in her relationship to her mother, her father, and to her father's soon-tobe<br />

former girlfriend.<br />

Assuming you and your spouse stay together, you must make sure your children<br />

feel secure in their relationship with you. Cuddle them when they are babies. Let them<br />

sleep in the same bed with you if it helps them fall asleep easier (provided there's no<br />

risk an adult might roll on top of them). Hug young children when they need<br />

reassurance. Eat meals together as a family. Make time to play with your children and<br />

teach them useful skills. Avoid arguing with your partner if the children can hear<br />

(arguments between parents can make children afraid a separation is coming). Pick<br />

children up on time from school or other activities. Be reliable. And make being with<br />

your children your top priority when it matters.<br />

Prioritizing Children<br />

Regarding that last point, a child’s security on the Provision level can be<br />

strengthened or weakened by her sense of how important she is to her parents.<br />

For example, Eric came to know a Mexican family in which the mother (a single<br />

parent) made extraordinary sacrifices in the hope of providing her children with a better<br />

life. She had been a qualified accountant, but she left that profession because she<br />

wanted her children to go to school in the United States.<br />

The family did not emigrate to the United States. They lived in Mexico near the<br />

border. Every morning, the mother would get her children up very early and pack them<br />

into a van, along with two other families who were doing the same. They would endure<br />

a long, slow-moving line to cross the border into the United States, where she had<br />

enrolled her children in school. The mother got a job in the school cafeteria so she could


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be close to her children and earn the money to pay for their school fees and the<br />

necessities of life. Each day, after the children finished their extra-curricular activities,<br />

they would endure another lengthy border crossing to return home just in time to go to<br />

bed. The children did their homework in the van. The family followed this routine until<br />

the children graduated. During those years the mother sacrificed both “quality” family<br />

time with her children and other aspects of her life so her children could have greater<br />

opportunities.<br />

Similarly, one often sees low-income families in which the parents spend very<br />

little time with their children. They may be single-parent families, or families in which<br />

both parents work long hours, perhaps at more than one job each. Teenagers may<br />

come home from school to an empty home because their parents work late. They may<br />

not see their parents much on weekends either because the parents work weekend<br />

shifts. In some families, one parent will spend many months of the year away from<br />

home, living in deplorable or dangerous conditions to earn money which they send back<br />

to their spouse. This has traditionally been true for sailors, soldiers, migrant farm<br />

workers, or workers in the natural resource industries.<br />

Sometimes a single parent has financial difficulties that make it hard for her to<br />

provide a home for her children. She may conclude her best option is to move in with<br />

relatives. Even if the environment in that home is only at an unstable Structured Family<br />

level, even if it might be considered abusive in some ways, it may be better than having<br />

the children grow up deprived.<br />

On the surface, children in these families appear to be growing up in an unstable<br />

Provision environment. Their standard of living is low, and the children spend little time<br />

with their parents. However, if the children's needs are adequately met, and if the<br />

children know their parents care about them, put their needs first, and are doing their


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 212<br />

best to provide for them, we would say they are experiencing a stable Provision<br />

environment.<br />

On the other hand, one sometimes sees families where both parents work long<br />

hours at high paying jobs. These families enjoy a high level of material comfort. The<br />

children are well provided for, have every toy imaginable, and are sent to expensive day<br />

care, summer camps, or after school programs. They may even attend boarding<br />

schools and not see their parents for much of the year.<br />

Unlike with low-income families, the parents of such high-income families are not<br />

working long hours out of necessity. In many cases, one parent could choose to quit<br />

work and stay home with the children and the children would be just as well provided<br />

for. Instead, the parents seem to work long hours mainly to fulfill their own desire for<br />

status, material luxuries, or to keep up with their peers. Connecting and spending time<br />

with their children is less of a priority. Children, and especially teenagers, are often<br />

smart enough to figure this out. When children feel their parents don't really care about<br />

them, they can experience insecurity and instability on the Provision level, even though<br />

they have all the advantages money can buy.<br />

To raise your children in a stable Provision environment, you must make them<br />

your top priority. That may mean sacrificing your own desires to provide for their<br />

material needs and to maintain a strong connection with them. If you can do this, they<br />

will grow up feeling secure in the world and able to form solid relationships of their own.<br />

You don't have to be your children's best friend. You don't have to be overly affectionate<br />

or spoil them (though you can do a little of this). But if they grow up knowing you are<br />

always there, always dependable, and always put their needs first, they will become<br />

adults who can form good relationships with colleagues, friends, partners, a spouse,<br />

and eventually your grandchildren.


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 213


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 214<br />

Chapter 19: Building a Structured Family Home<br />

Once a baby is old enough to become mobile and explore her home, parents<br />

must teach her boundaries so she stays safe. At that stage she is also ready to<br />

understand how she fits into the family, and what roles adults and other children play. In<br />

particular, she is ready to understand who has the power. Who makes decisions and<br />

sets boundaries for her? Who should she turn to when she has needs to be met? Who<br />

must she not anger? What is her place compared to her siblings?<br />

If you were raised in a Fellowship home, you may have some discomfort with the<br />

idea of creating a Structured Family environment for your toddler. Your upbringing gave<br />

you a fundamental sense of fairness, and Structured Family homes are fundamentally<br />

unfair.<br />

When we say Structured Families are unfair, we don't mean the kind of<br />

unfairness that happens in an unstable Provision home, where children's needs are met<br />

in an inconsistent and uneven manner. Structured Families are based on unfairness in<br />

the sense that, since adults are older, stronger, and wiser than children, adults have all<br />

the power and make all the rules. Moreover, adults can change, interpret, and<br />

reinterpret those rules on a whim.<br />

In a Fellowship home, if a parent tells a nine-year-old child to do something and


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 215<br />

the child asks, "Why do I have to?", the parent might explain, "Because that is the rule<br />

in this house." If the child knows the rules in their home are consistently enforced and<br />

apply to everyone fairly, that may be a sufficient explanation to get the child to comply.<br />

In a Structured Family however, the answer to the question "Why do I have to?" is<br />

"Because I say so." Or, more precisely, "Because if you don't comply, I will punish you."<br />

If you were raised in a Fellowship home or higher, you should create a<br />

Fellowship environment for your own children once they are old enough to appreciate<br />

the concept of a rule-based environment. However, until your child reaches that age<br />

(which on average is six years or older), the concept of a rule-based environment will be<br />

too abstract for her to understand. To a three-year-old, the statement, "Because that is<br />

the rule," either means the same as "Because if you don't comply I will punish you," or it<br />

means nothing at all. The most she can understand is that she must do what the<br />

powerful person (her adult caregiver) tells her, or she will regret it. You will find praise or<br />

mild punishment are more effective tools to get young children to obey than a<br />

discussion of the rules or moral philosophy.<br />

Teaching children to respect you is in their best interest. If you tell your threeyear-old,<br />

"Don't touch the stove," she needs to do what you tell her, otherwise she could<br />

come to harm. When she's nine, you can teach her the rules of using a stove safely, but<br />

at three it's enough for her to understand that touching the stove will lead to<br />

punishment. The more obedient your child is, the easier it will be to protect her from<br />

danger. You will also want to teach your children to respect other older members of the<br />

family, such as their grandparents, aunts, and uncles, who may at times have the<br />

responsibility of looking out for them.<br />

The reciprocal relationship between respect, protection, and caring forms the<br />

basis of many relationships in a Structured Family. For instance, a son may have a duty


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 216<br />

to respect his father. In return, the father has a duty to protect his son and help him<br />

succeed in the world. A first-born son may be entitled to respect from his younger<br />

brother. In return, he may be obliged to look after his younger brother and protect him<br />

from bullies at school.<br />

In addition to establishing a hierarchy of power (with parents at the top), you<br />

should encourage your young children to see you as a role model. Toddlers know they<br />

are growing and can do more than they used to. They will be interested in knowing what<br />

their role will be when they are fully grown. Let your children watch you doing various<br />

chores around the home. If possible, let them see you working at the family business.<br />

When they are old enough, have them participate in "take your child to work" days.<br />

Alternatively, you might take your children to see other adults working at various jobs in<br />

the community. Observing adults performing roles in the family and the community<br />

makes children aspire to perform similar roles when they are older.<br />

Encourage your children help you with various tasks around the home to the<br />

extent of their ability. Let them help you cook meals, tend the garden, decorate for<br />

holidays, perform home maintenance and cleaning, etc. When they are young, they may<br />

only do simple tasks or pretend to do some of the tasks you do. The older they get, the<br />

more able they are to make a real contribution and the more responsibility they can take<br />

on. When they are ready, encourage them to take on regular chores in exchange for<br />

rewards, which could take the form of money, privileges, praise, or simply having fun<br />

while they help you. Giving a child a pet to look after can be a good way to teach her<br />

responsibility. Once she is old enough, have her help with the family business or<br />

encourage her volunteer or to take a part-time job in the community. You want her to<br />

experience contributing as a normal and fulfilling part of her life.<br />

We should note that the roles for family members may be defined differently in


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 217<br />

each Structured Family, though families in the same community or culture will share<br />

similarities. In many traditional Structured Families, roles are demarcated by sex as well<br />

as age. Fathers and mothers have different but equally important roles. Boys have<br />

chores, activities, and skills to learn that will prepare them to become men and fathers.<br />

Girls have chores, activities, and skills to learn that will prepare them to become women<br />

and mothers. First-born sons have a special role to play, as do second-born and<br />

younger sons. First-born daughters have a special role, as do second-born and younger<br />

daughters. Aunts, uncles, and grandparents have roles to play as well.<br />

When Structured Family was the dominant level in Germany, women's roles were<br />

loosely defined by three spheres of activity expressed as "Kinder, Küche, Kirche," which<br />

translates as "children, kitchen, and church." Among the landed gentry in nineteenth<br />

century England, male roles were often defined by birth order. The eldest son's role was<br />

to inherit and run the estate and perhaps enter politics. The second son was expected<br />

to pursue a career in the army. The third son would study and practise law, while the<br />

fourth son became a clergyman. In parts of China, Confucianism attempts to define<br />

roles and relationships among family members. And other societies have their own<br />

ways of defining family roles.<br />

When a community operates at the Structured Family level or lower, being part of<br />

a Structured Family gives children a big advantage. Families are stronger when each<br />

person develops and contributes expertise within a particular role, which makes it easier<br />

for families to provide for themselves. Only in higher level communities can non-family<br />

members be considered as trustworthy as family. The essential skills of family members<br />

are different for each Structured Family but may include both domestic skills and skills<br />

related to the family business. Some families consider it advantageous to have a doctor,<br />

lawyer, auto mechanic, accountant, or various other professionals and tradespeople in


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 218<br />

the family. If an important skill is missing, it can sometimes be obtained through<br />

marriage.<br />

In today's world, many families have rejected traditional male and female roles.<br />

Some of these families are founded by same-sex couples and may operate at the<br />

Individuality or Inclusion levels. Regardless, when the children are young, any family<br />

above the Provision level will need to create stability on the Structured Family level<br />

which includes establishing roles and hierarchy. Even when gender is not what defines<br />

a person's role, children should still look to their parents as role models who must be<br />

obeyed.<br />

In the Western world, Structured Families, with their strictly defined roles and<br />

distrust of outsiders, may seem antiquated due to Individuality becoming the dominant<br />

level. However, many practices and benefits of Structured Families are retained at<br />

higher levels, including a strong commitment to the family's success, committed<br />

relationships that last a lifetime, the division of labor, and the use of family as a support<br />

system. These benefits make Structured Families more successful and prosperous on<br />

average than Provision level families.<br />

Starting at the Platform Stage<br />

If you were raised in a Provision level home, you may have no sense of how a<br />

Structured Family is supposed to work. All you may know is that some families in your<br />

community seem to be doing better than others. If you pay attention, you may see that<br />

members of Structured Families show loyalty to each other and put their family's needs<br />

ahead of their individual desires. You may notice how they nurture their children and<br />

train them to take on roles as they get older, that elders in those families are more<br />

respected, and that children are more valued.


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 219<br />

Every successful Structured Family will have a code that establishes the duties<br />

and responsibilities of its members. If your family does not have such a code, you must<br />

build one. Look at successful families in your community for inspiration. What is their<br />

family code? How do they work together? What role does each person play? How do<br />

they respect each other? If you have an opportunity to ask them for advice, do so. You<br />

may also turn to religious scripture or philosophy to find advice and examples of the<br />

roles people should play in a good family or how different family members should be<br />

treated. Other role models may be found in history or fiction. For instance, multigenerational<br />

family sagas are a type of fiction that revolves around Structured Families.<br />

They may not provide the best examples of good behavior (which is what makes such<br />

stories interesting), but if you look past the drama, you will find many clues as to how<br />

these families work and what makes them successful.<br />

In training your children to occupy appropriate roles in your family, you have two<br />

main tools. First, you and your spouse should strive to be good role models to your<br />

children. Treat each other with respect. Be faithful and committed to each other.<br />

Demonstrate your willingness to set aside selfish desires and work for the benefit of the<br />

whole family. Let your children know they are valued. Children instinctively look up to<br />

their parents and will follow your example when they are grown.<br />

Second, use a combination of punishment and reward to train your children.<br />

Praise them or reward them when they try to fulfill their role and when they put the<br />

family's needs ahead of their own desires. Punish or chastise them when they<br />

misbehave, but try not to over-punish. Try to give them five times as much praise and<br />

rewards as you do punishment. This will make them want to please you as much as<br />

possible.<br />

We should note that the process of building a Structured Family is more difficult if


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 220<br />

you are living in a community where the dominant level is Provision or Survival. This<br />

less likely in developed countries, but common in the rest of the world. In such a<br />

community, it will feel as though the world is constantly trying to undermine your efforts.<br />

There will be many temptations for everyone in the family to abandon or violate their<br />

proper roles. You may need to create a strong boundary between your family and the<br />

rest of the community. This may be an actual physical boundary, such as a wall or fence<br />

protecting your family home, or it may mean that your family code stipulates keeping<br />

your distance from outsiders. You may have a different code for how you behave in the<br />

outside world than you do among family. Family should be treated with far more respect<br />

than outsiders. Relationships in a Survival or Provision community may be temporary<br />

and cutthroat. Your ally today may be your enemy tomorrow and vice versa. But family<br />

must be forever.<br />

Construction<br />

If your family is in the construction phase, you were likely raised with an<br />

understanding of what roles people should play in the family. Your family probably had a<br />

code that was established by earlier generations and helped your family be strong in the<br />

past.<br />

At the same time, you are aware that your family is not as stable as it should be.<br />

The current generation may be failing to live up to the code. Certain members may not<br />

be fulfilling their role honorably, which makes others feel they can do the same. Some<br />

members may not be receiving the respect they are due. People who feel disrespected<br />

may in turn disrespect others. As a result, cooperation within the family is not as strong<br />

as it should be.<br />

Another problem that can arise at the construction stage is that the boundaries


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 221<br />

between roles are being disrespected. In a stable Structured Family, everyone should<br />

fulfill their own role and not be asked to take on other people's roles except under<br />

exceptional circumstances.<br />

In a case where the family breadwinner loses their job, restoring the family<br />

income is that person's role. What he or she should not do is burden the children with<br />

his worries about the situation. Children must be shielded from problems they cannot<br />

solve--problems that are outside their role. At most, the parent can tell older children to<br />

find part-time work to help the family until the crisis is resolved. Otherwise, the parent's<br />

role is to reassure the children that all will be well while working to solve the problem.<br />

The same is true for problems such as marital infidelity or a parent struggling with<br />

addictions. Children need the reassurance that their parents will fulfill their roles. They<br />

should not be made to worry about adult problems they cannot solve. When a parent<br />

needs advice or emotional support, she should not seek it from her children. Instead,<br />

she should turn to appropriate sources, such as her own parents, grandparents, aunts,<br />

uncles, or siblings. If they are not available or helpful, she should consult other<br />

appropriate adults such as counselors, clergy, or friends. Children should only be<br />

concerned about problems appropriate to their role as children.<br />

Of course, situations may arise that you can't shield children from. Sometimes a<br />

parent abandons the family, dies, or suffers from a debilitating injury or illness that<br />

makes them unable to fulfill their role. This creates a hole in the family structure. It may<br />

undermine the family's stability on the Provision level and make it harder to build a<br />

stable Structured Family.<br />

Sometimes an older child will take over the role of an absent parent for the sake<br />

of the younger children or become the caregiver for a disabled parent. However, taking<br />

on an adult role can be very stressful for a child. It prevents her from fulfilling her own


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 222<br />

proper role. Her relationship with siblings can be permanently altered. Some evidence<br />

suggests that such children can have health and relationship difficulties for the rest of<br />

their life. 4<br />

If possible, another adult should take over the role left vacant by an absent<br />

parent. Sometimes a grandparent, uncle, or aunt will volunteer to step into the role.<br />

Perhaps the family can hire a nanny to look after the children if one parent has died or<br />

become incapacitated. In other cases, the remaining parent may have to be both father<br />

and mother to the children. A widow or widower with children may consider looking for a<br />

new spouse who can take on the role of the former, assuming the culture allows for<br />

second marriages. However, finding a new spouse willing to take on a pre-existing<br />

family may be difficult.<br />

Setting aside the issue of tragedy, let's assume you are trying to shift your home<br />

to a more stable Structured Family environment. The task will be easier if you are the<br />

head of the family. If not, you may have to get the support of whoever is the head of the<br />

family. You may want to engage the services of a professional facilitator or family<br />

therapist. Either way, you will need to bring the family together to build a consensus on<br />

how to improve the family structure going forward. Here is the procedure...<br />

Step 1: Review the Family Code.<br />

Have a family discussion in which you ask the following questions. In this<br />

discussion, everyone regardless of their age needs to feel safe enough to speak freely<br />

4 Lamothe, Cindy, "When kids have to parent their siblings it<br />

affects them for life," The Atlantic, Oct. 26, 2017,<br />

https://www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2017/10/when-kidshave-to-parent-their-siblings-it-affects-them-for-life/543975/


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 223<br />

and to listen to what others say.<br />

1. What are the elements that make up the code of our family? What are the<br />

roles each member of the family is supposed to play? You may want to make a map or<br />

chart that shows everyone's proper role and duties according to their sex, age, birth<br />

order, or marital status. Along with this, you may note what relationships are supposed<br />

to be like between family members and the various types of respect each person is due<br />

because of their role.<br />

2. Where is the code being broken? How are people losing dignity or being<br />

disrespected? Who is failing to fulfill their role? Who is not doing right by others or the<br />

family? In this discussion, there may be many places where blame can be laid. It can be<br />

challenging for some family members to take responsibility for their failings. Often older<br />

or more powerful family members are inclined to put blame on younger, weaker<br />

members rather than themselves. Admitting failure may be perceived as breaking their<br />

role. For this reason, everyone should be encouraged to see this as a problem the<br />

whole family shares, rather than an attempt to find a scapegoat.<br />

Step 2: If the family was stronger in the past, recover what has been forgotten.<br />

Once the problems have been identified, the next step will be to consider if things<br />

were better in previous generations. If so, you will want to restore the family code to its<br />

former effectiveness. Everyone should ponder the following question: What parts of the<br />

family code were good and effective once but have been forgotten or neglected in<br />

recent years?<br />

Everyone should be invited to imagine what things were like when the code was<br />

being followed properly--when people fulfilled their roles and everyone in the family<br />

received the respect and dignity they deserved. In this discussion, different people may


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 224<br />

remember different parts of the code that were abandoned. The goal of the<br />

conversation is to gain a complete and clear sense of the code and what aspects need<br />

to be restored.<br />

Step 3: Make a plan.<br />

Once everyone agrees what parts of the family code need to be restored, the<br />

final step is to make a plan to restore them. Everyone should see this as an opportunity<br />

to improve relationships and strengthen the family. Everyone needs to know what they<br />

must do to better fulfill their role. The plan should include a way to give help and support<br />

to those who need it. Everyone may need encouragement from the rest of the family to<br />

make the needed changes. Start with small changes and when they become habits add<br />

more until the code is being followed well and the family is happier and more<br />

successful.<br />

Step 4: What if the code no longer works?<br />

Some families may be suffering from a code that worked well when it was<br />

created but does not fit with the world they are living in at present. This is often true with<br />

families who emigrate to a new community with different laws and customs. It is<br />

especially true if the new community operates at a higher level. Often the younger<br />

people--those who have grown up in the new community--will perceive the<br />

shortcomings of the family code and may become frustrated when their elders insist<br />

they follow it.<br />

If you are one of the younger people, you must recognize that families cannot<br />

instantly switch to a higher level to match a new community. Such a change often takes<br />

several generations. However, it may be possible to adjust the family code in ways that


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 225<br />

make the family stronger in the new situation.<br />

The procedure will be like the one above, except that in Step 2, instead of<br />

focusing on restoring the code, the question to ask is: Are there ways we could modify<br />

or improve the code to help our family become more successful? In some cases, things<br />

that were traditionally done in the old country may be illegal in the new country.<br />

Continuing with these traditions could get family members into trouble with the law. Or<br />

there may be traditional practices that are frowned upon in the new country. Either way,<br />

the family will be in a better position to succeed if these practices are updated.<br />

To take an example, imagine a family coming from a community where the<br />

traditional role for girls was to spend their days at home doing household chores. If the<br />

family moves to a country where girls are expected to go to school each day, the<br />

traditional roles may need to be adjusted. Perhaps the family can use some laborsaving<br />

technologies, services, or practices that free up time so the girls can attend<br />

school. Or perhaps the responsibility for doing chores needs to be redistributed among<br />

family members. The code may need to be changed so that doing well in school and<br />

using their education to help the family becomes part of the role girls play.<br />

Similarly, perhaps the role of boys in the old country included doing chores on<br />

the farm, but now the family lives in a city where boys can't fulfill that role. The boys may<br />

need to be given different chores so they can continue to make a valuable contribution--<br />

and so they can feel proud of their contribution. Perhaps there are skills that would help<br />

the family thrive in the new community. The code may be changed so that learning<br />

these skills becomes part of the role boys play.<br />

You will know you have built a stable Structured Family when the family is<br />

prosperous, everyone feels they are making a valuable contribution, and everyone<br />

receives respect from the rest of the family.


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 226


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 227<br />

Chapter 20: Building a Fellowship Home<br />

Let's assume a child is born into an environment where her needs on the Survival<br />

and Provision levels are met. Moreover, she has parents who value her and give her<br />

place in the family hierarchy. She learns to respect her elders, and her elders serve as<br />

protectors and role models who she can aspire to be like when older.<br />

At a certain point, generally after a child starts school but before the onset of<br />

puberty, she will develop the capacity to go beyond just doing what she is told. She will<br />

seek to understand her environment in a more complex way. She will want to know why<br />

her parents tell her to do certain things and forbid her from doing other things. She may<br />

ask a lot of "why" questions as part of her process of figuring out how the world works<br />

and the logic behind her parents' decisions and demands. During this period, she is<br />

developing new faculty within her psyche--the ability to create mental models of the<br />

world and use those models to predict the consequences of her actions and decisions.<br />

The better a child understands the rationale behind her parents demands and<br />

decisions, the better she can predict whether something she wants to do will earn<br />

praise, punishment, or indifference. At first, she won't be very good at predicting her<br />

parents' reactions. She may simply do things on impulse. How her parents respond to<br />

what she does will then make an impression on her. As she gains experience, she will


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 228<br />

try to figure out the rules and her ability to predict her parents' reactions will increase.<br />

She will also discover how free she is--how many things she can do without getting her<br />

parents angry. As a child comes to know her limits, she also learns that, by working<br />

within those limits, she can make plans, and accomplish goals she sets for herself. In<br />

other words, she will develop more of what sociologists call agency, the ability to act<br />

independently and make free choices. Agency is a great source of happiness and<br />

success for individuals of any age, and developing it as a child prepares a person to<br />

lead a happier life as an adult.<br />

If a child's environment operates at the Structured Family level or lower, she will<br />

experience a good deal of frustration at this age. While she is gaining the ability and<br />

desire to exercise agency, her parents may prevent her from doing so. Parents in a<br />

Structured Family often act on irrational impulses, which makes it difficult for a child to<br />

predict her parents’ behavior. Something a child is allowed to do one day may be<br />

forbidden the next, and vice versa. Something that brings praise one day will result in<br />

punishment another day. Her parents may make decisions and later change their<br />

minds, grant privileges and then take them away.<br />

As a parent raised in a Structured Family, you may also find this phase of a<br />

child's life frustrating. You may not like it when your child tries to predict your decisions<br />

or gets upset when you change your mind. You may feel it's not a child's place to hold<br />

you accountable. Your child's role is simply to do what you tell her, when you tell her.<br />

You don't know what decision you will make tomorrow, because you don't know how<br />

you will feel tomorrow, and your child needs to understand that and respect you.<br />

A child raised in a Structured Family may be stymied in her effort to understand<br />

her world in a way that makes it predictable. She may conclude that the world is<br />

unpredictable, and that it really doesn't matter what actions she takes, because most


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 229<br />

actions have an equal chance of resulting in punishment, depending on her parents'<br />

mood. She may grow up to be an adult with little capacity for agency, or who acts on<br />

impulses regardless of the potential consequences. A child who grows up in a<br />

Structured Family home may give up on the idea of pursuing her own goals and<br />

dreams. She may never develop the self-discipline needed to see long-term plans<br />

through to completion. Instead, she may limit herself to participating in the family's longterm<br />

goals. She may conclude that only powerful people (like her parents) get to do<br />

what they want. As an adult, she may pursue power and dominance so she can be free<br />

to act on her impulses without fear of punishment.<br />

On the other hand, if a child is raised in a Fellowship environment with consistent<br />

structure and rules, she will come to understand the rules of that environment and feel<br />

secure within them. She will learn she can trust the rules to provide her with both clear<br />

limits and the freedom to act and make plans within those limits. This will help her<br />

develop the capacity for agency.<br />

To take a small example, Eric had a client who was in the process of forming a<br />

family with a man who had custody of an eleven-year-old daughter from a previous<br />

marriage. Eric's client loved this man and his daughter, but there was there was one<br />

problem.<br />

The daughter had a cell phone and was constantly begging to be allowed to<br />

spend more time on it. The father, on the other hand, thought his daughter was using<br />

her phone too much and was constantly threatening to take the phone away. Every day<br />

there would be loud arguments in the home between the father and daughter over how<br />

much time she would be allowed on her phone. Eric's client felt she could not stand<br />

living in a home where there was constant drama over what to her was a trivial issue.<br />

Eric pointed out that, as an executive in a big company, his client had a lot of


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 230<br />

experience creating procedures for employees that minimized stress and conflict. He<br />

suggested she use her skills to work out a set of rules for the household that would end<br />

the fighting.<br />

The woman took Eric's advice, sat down with the father and his daughter, and got<br />

them to agree to follow some rules that seemed fair to everyone. The daughter would<br />

be allowed a fixed number of minutes on her cell phone each day, but if she went<br />

overtime or asked for more time, she would lose her phone time the following day. As<br />

for the father, he was not allowed to take away his daughter's phone or threaten to take<br />

it away, provided she followed the rules.<br />

Naturally, it took several weeks for this new rule-based environment to become<br />

established. However, the results were excellent. The daughter enjoyed the security<br />

and freedom of knowing she could use her cell phone every day, as long as she stayed<br />

within her time limit. The father, on the other hand, was satisfied there was an<br />

acceptable restriction on his daughter’s phone time and was happy she stopped<br />

pestering him for more. As for Eric's client, she was glad to see the fighting stop and the<br />

home become an environment she could enjoy living in.<br />

The incident illustrates the advantage of creating a rule-based environment.<br />

When everyone agrees to the rules, conflicts diminish and everyone can enjoy greater<br />

freedom and security. Of course, for everyone to stay in agreement with the rules, the<br />

rules must be fair. They must be followed consistently, and they must apply to<br />

everyone. In the example above, if the father had refused to follow the rules and<br />

continued to threaten to take his daughter's phone away, his daughter would have not<br />

felt secure in her phone privileges. She would have lost her incentive to follow the rules<br />

and the fighting would have continued.<br />

In a Structured Family, the parents might have chosen to impose harsher


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 231<br />

punishments until the daughter complied with their demands, and those demands might<br />

have been different each day. But, as we said above, that approach comes with a cost.<br />

It would prevent the daughter from developing her ability to exercise agency, which<br />

would have made it harder for her to be happy and successful both as a child and an<br />

adult.<br />

Establishing Rules<br />

If you, as a parent, were raised in a home that was stable on the Fellowship<br />

level, you will have a much easier time establishing a set of rules for your home that are<br />

fair, consistent, and provide a sense of both security and freedom for your child. Most<br />

likely, the rewards and punishments you gave your child when she was a toddler were<br />

based on a set of rules that you consciously or unconsciously had in mind. There was a<br />

method behind your actions and decisions, even when your child was too young to<br />

understand them.<br />

When your child starts asking why she must do or not do certain things, you will<br />

have ready answers. You will teach your child the rules and what punishments and<br />

rewards she can expect as she becomes ready to learn them. And you will set an<br />

example of following the rules through your own behavior. In this way, you can help<br />

your child build her own mental model of how her world works so she can predict how<br />

you will react to things she does and learn to keep herself safe by staying within the<br />

rules. She will also develop a sense of her own freedoms and rights.<br />

Most likely, the rules you teach your child will align with the rules of your<br />

community. As she learns to follow the rules, she will be well equipped to interact with<br />

children from other families who she meets at school or other community gatherings.<br />

Knowing the rules will give your child the ability to make plans with the


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 232<br />

confidence that her plans won't be derailed by chaotic events. For example, you may<br />

choose to give your child a weekly allowance, which she can spend however she likes.<br />

This has traditionally been a good practice in Fellowship homes, because it means<br />

children don't have to continually ask their parents to buy them small treats. It gives<br />

them the freedom to choose what to buy, while also limiting their spending. (Of course,<br />

this system only works if your child has regular opportunities to visit a store or shop<br />

online.) Along with this, there must be a rule that your child's money belongs to her.<br />

Neither her parents nor her older siblings can take it away from her arbitrarily. With such<br />

rules in place, your child may choose to save her money to buy something expensive.<br />

This helps her develop the discipline to set long-term goals and achieve them, which is<br />

a valuable life skill.<br />

If you were raised in an unstable Fellowship home, you probably have a sense of<br />

what rules children need to learn and could list some of them off the top of your head.<br />

However, it may be worthwhile to spend some time thinking about what rules your<br />

parents set for you that were good, which ones were unfair or not so good, and what<br />

rules perhaps should have been in place that weren't. You may also want to think about<br />

whether your family's current lifestyle requires somewhat different rules. You may want<br />

to consult sources such as religion, the law, medical science, and psychology for advice<br />

on creating good rules for your children. The rules may fall into categories such as:<br />

* Safety (e.g., "Look both ways before you cross the street. Don't accept rides<br />

from strangers.").<br />

* Health (e.g., "Brush your teeth after each meal. Be in bed by a set time each<br />

night.").<br />

* Life Skills (e.g., "Do your chores to earn screen time. Finish your homework<br />

before play.").


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 233<br />

* Social Skills/Morals (e.g., "Share. Say 'Please' and 'Thank you.' Don't hit<br />

people. Tell the truth.").<br />

Naturally, the rules need to be appropriate to the age of each child. Younger<br />

children may have less ability to follow rules and a greater need for rules to keep them<br />

safe. You can teach your first-born child the appropriate rules when she becomes<br />

capable of following them. By the time other children come along, the ruleset will be well<br />

established in the family. Some rules, such as bedtimes, may change as children get<br />

older, but there should still be a clear rule about this (e.g., perhaps a child's bedtime<br />

increases by a set amount after each birthday).<br />

Parents also need rules to help them be good parents. Some families and<br />

cultures have traditional rules that are worth preserving. Examples of these include,<br />

"Meet children's needs before the desires of adults," "A crying baby should be picked up<br />

and soothed," and "Never punish a child when you're angry. Calm down first." Additional<br />

rules can be decided on by parents or the whole family, as in the above example<br />

regarding cell phone use.<br />

Some Tips for Creating Rules<br />

The rules you create for your household need to be easy to understand and<br />

follow. They should be:<br />

1. Concrete, not vague. It should be clear to everyone whether a rule has been<br />

followed. For instance, a rule like "tidy up after yourself," can be interpreted different<br />

ways. It is better to have specific rules like, "put the game back in its box when you've<br />

finished playing" or "put all dirty clothes in the hamper after you take them off."<br />

2. About specific behaviors, not feelings or attitudes. "Don't have an attitude,"<br />

would be a poor rule because you can't know what someone is thinking or feeling, so


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 234<br />

you can't tell if the rule being followed. A better rule would be "Don't slam doors."<br />

Similarly, a rule like "Be grateful when someone gives you something," is too vague. A<br />

better rule would be, "When someone gives you something, look them in the eye and<br />

say, 'thank you' in a quiet voice."<br />

3. Introduced one at a time. It's best to introduce one new rule and make sure it<br />

is well established before you introduce the next. Children can be overwhelmed by too<br />

many new rules at once.<br />

4. Fair. Fairness is a complex concept to define, but most children and adults can<br />

spot certain types of unfairness that should be avoided when making rules. For<br />

instance, making a rule for someone that is impossible for them to follow is unfair. A rule<br />

might also be unfair if the burden of following it outweighs its benefits. A rule that gives<br />

one child more rights or privileges than another who is close in age would be unfair.<br />

Also, a degree of reciprocity can help the rules of a home seem fairer. For instance,<br />

parents will forbid their children from doing many things. Children, in turn, may want a<br />

rule like, "Parents aren't allowed to yell." A set of rules that addresses both parents and<br />

children's concerns feels fairer.<br />

Enforcement of Rules<br />

Children at this age usually like rules and routines because it gives them the<br />

security of knowing how the world works. This is especially true for children just getting<br />

out of the toddler stage. Getting young children to follow rules may be as simple as<br />

telling them what the rules are and reminding them when necessary until following the<br />

rules becomes a habit. With older children, you can explain to them the reasons for the<br />

rules. The more they see that the rules make sense and are fair, the more willing they<br />

will be to follow them.


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 235<br />

Using punishments and rewards to get children to obey the rules may be<br />

necessary, especially when a child has a strong impulse to do something that breaks<br />

the rules. But as always, rewards for good behavior (which can be as simple as praise)<br />

should be given more often than punishments for bad behavior. Try to give five rewards<br />

for every punishment. Also, try to be consistent when enforcing the rules, so your child<br />

can predict what will happen and learn that she can avoid punishment by staying within<br />

the rules.<br />

The biggest challenge for parents who were raised at anything below a stable<br />

Fellowship level is to follow the rules themselves. Children will look to their parents as<br />

role models. They will notice how often you follow or break the rules and use your<br />

example to guide their own behavior. For example, if you teach your children that they<br />

should answer when spoken to, and then they see you ignoring your spouse's attempts<br />

to get your attention, this may confuse them. They may conclude that rules don't apply<br />

to powerful people, which is the opposite of the lesson you want them to learn. At the<br />

Fellowship level, children need to see that the rules apply to everyone, so parents need<br />

to set a good example.<br />

If you want your child to apologize when she does something wrong to someone,<br />

then you should apologize when you do something wrong to her. This will not only teach<br />

her the value of forgiveness, it will show her that no one is above the rules. The lesson<br />

will be reinforced if she sees you and your spouse apologize to each other for breaking<br />

rules.<br />

Make sure you are consistent in the way you administer punishments. Let's say<br />

you make a rule that says, if a child does a certain action, she will receive a certain<br />

punishment. But on the day she breaks the rule, you are in a bad mood or for some<br />

reason the infraction angers you. If you give in to the impulse to lash out and punish her


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 236<br />

worse than the rule dictates, you are teaching her that the world is chaotic and the rules<br />

offer no protection. If you find yourself becoming upset with your child, take some time<br />

to calm down and reflect before you administer punishment. Make sure the child<br />

understands what she did wrong and can see that the rules are being fairly applied.<br />

Make sure the punishment teaches the lesson without being excessive.<br />

In the same manner, try not to invent or change rules arbitrarily. Such actions<br />

can undermine the gift of a Fellowship upbringing by showing the child that she doesn't<br />

understand how her world works. If she can't predict what will happen based on the<br />

rules, then the rules are not rules, and following them will not keep her safe.<br />

Again, there may be somewhat different rules for older children than their<br />

younger siblings, because children of different ages have different needs and<br />

capabilities. To make the rules fair, you may need to make clear to the younger children<br />

that, when they are older, they will receive the same privileges their older siblings<br />

currently enjoy. Being born first or second doesn't mean a child has more or fewer rights<br />

than her sibling.<br />

To take another example, let's say you establish with your first child that breaking<br />

a certain rule results in punishment. But by the time your second child comes along, you<br />

have changed your mind and decided the rule was too harsh or unnecessary, so the<br />

second child gets away with doing things the first child was not allowed to do or even<br />

punished for. The first child may feel this is unfair. If you don't address her feelings, she<br />

may conclude that the rules do not apply to everyone as promised. Worse, she may feel<br />

you are upending the hierarchy by giving her younger sibling more power (the ability to<br />

get away with something). She may feel you are assigning her a lower status than the<br />

baby. Of course, as your parenting experience grows, you may see the need to revise<br />

or rescind rules. But when this happens, you may need to find a way to apologize or


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 237<br />

make it up to the first child.<br />

Community<br />

To raise your children at the Fellowship level, your family needs to be part of a<br />

community, a Fellowship of families who share the same beliefs and rules. Usually this<br />

will be a religious congregation, but you may also choose to join secular groups, cultural<br />

fellowships, school communities, social movements, and many other groups that can<br />

function as Fellowships. A neighborhood or town in which everyone knows each other<br />

can function as a Fellowship community. What matters is that a Fellowship aims to<br />

create a safe environment in which to raise children, one that is governed by fair rules<br />

and good values.<br />

One challenge you may face is that people outside your Fellowship may have<br />

different beliefs and values. They may also want to raise their children well, but their<br />

approach may be different. The language they use to express their values and the rules<br />

they follow may be different. As a parent, you want your child to see that the rules are<br />

consistent. You may worry that your child will get confused if she is exposed to families<br />

who are part of a different Fellowship and operate under a different set of rules. What if<br />

she concludes the rules are arbitrary or that people have the freedom to create their<br />

own rules? If the rules aren't the same everywhere, will she be more tempted to break<br />

the rules? Will exposure to people with different beliefs undermine your child's faith in<br />

the beliefs your community shares? The greatest challenge people face in a Fellowship<br />

environment is to make themselves follow the rules in all situations, rather than act on<br />

their impulses. Too much exposure to other Fellowships may not be good for your<br />

children.<br />

You will need to strike the right balance between the time your child spends


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 238<br />

interacting with people outside your Fellowship, where her beliefs may be challenged,<br />

and the time she spends interacting with members of her Fellowship, who can reinforce<br />

her beliefs. You may choose to send your children to a school or camp operated by your<br />

Fellowship, where she can learn good values. But you may also want her to have some<br />

experiences outside her Fellowship, so she can learn how to thrive in the world and<br />

resist temptations as an adult.<br />

When Parents Were Raised at a Higher Level<br />

If you, as a parent, were raised in an Individuality home, you may have a<br />

particular challenge during this period when your child needs a Fellowship environment.<br />

Adults raised at the Individuality level often have an instinctive dislike of Fellowship<br />

environments, with their rigid rules, intrusiveness, and intolerance of individuality. You<br />

may not feel comfortable setting up an environment based on rules, with a high degree<br />

of order and consistency. You may feel it is more important to give your child an<br />

environment where she can develop her individuality as soon as possible. You may<br />

want to assure her that the rules are flexible and that it's okay if she doesn't follow the<br />

same strict rules at home as you want her to in public. You may want her to know that<br />

the spirit of the rules, the intention behind them, matters more than the literal meaning<br />

of the rules.<br />

The problem is, to a child at this age, the idea that the rules are flexible and don't<br />

have to be followed exactly means "there are no rules." And if there are no rules, she<br />

will have a hard time knowing how to follow the rules. She won't experience the security<br />

that a rule-based environment provides. When the rules are "flexible," she may be<br />

unable to predict whether something she wants to do will get her praised or punished.<br />

She may do something that breaks a rule, because she thinks you meant the rules don't


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 239<br />

have to be followed and then be upset when you punish her for it. The punishment won't<br />

feel fair.<br />

At this age, your child may not understand the differences between public and<br />

private spaces. She may behave in public in ways you allow her to behave at home and<br />

get punished for doing so. She may do something that obeys the rule, but violates the<br />

spirit of the rule, and get in trouble for it. These events will be confusing and upsetting<br />

for her. The result will be that the child experiences an environment much closer to the<br />

unpredictability of the Structured Family level than the Individuality level--the opposite of<br />

your intent and what she needs.<br />

Of course, rules can make allowances for some individual differences. For<br />

instance, if a school has a rule that children in wheelchairs are allowed to use the staff<br />

elevator, but other children must use the stairs, most children will see that is fair. On the<br />

other hand, if a rule says children in wheelchairs get ice cream, but other children do<br />

not, most children will see that as unfair. A more difficult scenario is if children with<br />

ADHD are allowed to use fidget spinners or exercise bikes in a classroom to help them<br />

focus better. Many children without ADHD enjoy playing with such tools and might feel it<br />

unfair if the rules don’t allow them an occasional turn. In all cases, rules must pass the<br />

test of fairness and they must be clearly spelled out.<br />

However, provided the rules are clear and fair, most children in their early school<br />

years thrive in a Fellowship environment. They may not yet understand or desire the<br />

features of an Individuality environment. That will come later. But they love knowing the<br />

rules and having freedom to exercise agency within the safe space the rules create.<br />

Later, when they are teenagers or pre-teens, they may want a refuge from adult<br />

supervision in which to explore their individuality, but at this age children usually like<br />

being supervised by adults who keep things orderly. They don't have a problem with


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 240<br />

parental intrusiveness. They like seeing that their world is predictable, because that<br />

means they can understand it. Experiencing a rules-based environment during this time<br />

of a child's life will give her a sense of security and agency that will prepare her to<br />

develop her individuality when she is older.<br />

Shifting Power<br />

You will notice that a big difference between the Fellowship level and the lower<br />

levels is that, at the Fellowship level, parents give up a little of their authority. The rules<br />

become the authority in many cases, and children have more rights than they do in<br />

lower-level environments. Parents are still in charge. They still set and enforce the rules,<br />

but they are not tyrants.<br />

If you were raised in a Fellowship home at the platform stage, your parents<br />

probably had a hard time setting, enforcing, and following the rules. The rules in your<br />

home may not have been well thought out. They may have been vague, inconsistent,<br />

too harsh, or too lenient. Your parents may have broken rules or applied them unfairly.<br />

You or some of your siblings may have gotten away with things that others were<br />

punished for, or perhaps not been rewarded as much as others.<br />

Sometimes the experience of growing up at the platform stage can make you<br />

determined to be a better parent. If you were treated unfairly as a child, you may<br />

appreciate the importance of being fair with your own children. Regardless, it may still<br />

be struggle for you to keep your impulses in check and follow the rules. If your parents<br />

did not set a great example of self-discipline, you may not have learned this skill<br />

yourself. You may need time and practice to get good at following and enforcing rules.<br />

You may have to go through a process of fine-tuning the rules, especially if they are out<br />

of step with the community you are living in (this often happens with families who have


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 241<br />

immigrated). You may have to work hard to control your own urges to break the rules.<br />

You may have to resist being too strict or too lenient with your child. You may have to<br />

apologize when you fail. It may help if you have a partner who can support you in this,<br />

or if you join a support group for parents working on the same issues.<br />

If you can teach your children a good set of rules at this age, enforce them fairly<br />

consistently, and set a reasonably good example with your own behavior, you will<br />

create an environment that is at least at the construction phase of the Fellowship level.<br />

Your children will grow up knowing right from wrong, good behavior from bad behavior,<br />

responsibility from irresponsibility. They will be happier and more secure, with the ability<br />

to make long-term plans and a stronger sense of agency. This will prepare them to be<br />

good members of the community, good co-workers, and good parents themselves.


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 242<br />

Chapter 21: Building an Individuality Home<br />

If a child is raised in a Fellowship environment, one that consistently meets her<br />

needs on the Survival, Provision, and Structured Family levels, as well as being<br />

governed by a set of rules that make it orderly and predictable, she will enjoy a level of<br />

security and freedom far above what children have experienced on average both<br />

historically and globally. Nonetheless, as your child matures and enters puberty, you<br />

may discover that she becomes less satisfied living in a Fellowship environment.<br />

Formerly, she may have derived her sense of identity from the groups she belongs to--<br />

her family, her school, her religious congregation, or her community. Now, as she<br />

begins a new era of her life, she may desire to develop a stronger sense of her identity<br />

as someone who, while still part of these groups, is also a unique individual with her<br />

own desires, feelings, traits, and opinions. While formerly she may have enjoyed living<br />

in an environment based on rules and order, now she may also desire a private space<br />

in which she can make her own rules and create her own order.<br />

As with the previous levels, a child cannot move into this next stage of<br />

development if her environment does not support it. If her parents and her community<br />

operate on the Fellowship level, a child seeking to develop her individuality may<br />

experience a lot of conflict. Fellowship communities generally do not tolerate ideas and


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 243<br />

behaviors that deviate far from the established rules. Moreover, parents at the<br />

Fellowship level consider it their job to mold their child's beliefs and behavior into<br />

conformity with the group and to enforce rules by supervising her to the point of<br />

intrusiveness. This style of parenting may continue until the child is at least eighteen<br />

and perhaps much older than that. When a child reaches the age where she wants to<br />

explore her individuality, Fellowship parents may see this as a threat to their effort to<br />

determine the kind of person their child grows up to be. They may see her expressions<br />

of individuality as something to be curtailed. A lot of arguments between parents and<br />

children can happen at this age as parents try to maintain control over their child.<br />

Bear in mind not every child has an equal desire to develop her individuality.<br />

Some children find enough fulfillment through their identity as a member of their<br />

Fellowship and may never desire to move beyond this level. Some children may prefer<br />

the certainty provided by a rule-based environment to the uncertainty that comes with of<br />

self-exploration. They may be uncomfortable with the greater personal responsibility<br />

that comes with Individuality and making their own rules. Other children may experience<br />

internal conflict between their desire to explore their individuality and their desire to<br />

please their parents and remain part of the Fellowships they have enjoyed. They may<br />

feel guilt or shame over the fact that some of their emerging feelings and thoughts are<br />

out line with what their parents or their community expect from them. In either case,<br />

some children will try to avoid external conflict with their parents. They may suppress or<br />

decline to explore their individuality.<br />

As a result, some children raised in Fellowship homes never develop a strong<br />

sense of self. For their entire lives, their identity may be derived exclusively from the<br />

groups they belong to--their family, their co-workers, and their community. To feel<br />

secure and okay with themselves, they strive to conform with the rules of those groups.


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 244<br />

A minority of children raised in Fellowship homes develop a sense of self when<br />

they are much older. A child might postpone exploring her individuality until she is in an<br />

environment that offers her greater freedom--perhaps while in college--and before she<br />

has shouldered a lot of adult responsibilities. Some young adults choose to spend<br />

months or even years traveling or in living arrangements where they are free from family<br />

responsibilities and can explore their interests with as few potential consequences as<br />

possible.<br />

Sometimes a young person will do everything her parents expect of her. She<br />

may get an education, establish a good career, marry the right person, and have<br />

children. Then, many years later, she may experience a setback such as a divorce, loss<br />

of employment, physical or mental illness, a "mid-life crisis," or some other disruption in<br />

her life that prompts her to reexamine the beliefs she was taught. Her disappointment<br />

with her life may weaken her attachment to the rules she grew up with. She may decide<br />

the rules didn't work for her. Being an adult at this point, she can find opportunities to<br />

explore her thoughts and feelings in new ways without risking or caring about the<br />

disapproval of her parents or her social circles. Such explorations may lead her to a<br />

new sense of identity and a revised set of priorities.<br />

On the other hand, if a child is raised by parents who themselves were raised in<br />

an Individuality home or have a strong sense of self, they are likely to support her in<br />

developing her individuality earlier in life, when she is still living in the safety of the<br />

family home. This sense of self will prepare her to make better choices as she moves<br />

into adulthood. She can say "yes" to options that align with her preferences and "no" to<br />

options that do not. She will be less likely to make choices she will later regret and more<br />

likely to take advantage of opportunities that lead her to a happy and successful life.


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 245<br />

The Moratorium<br />

One of the best ways a parent can support a pre-teen or older child who is ready<br />

to begin exploring her individuality is to give her the freedom to have what psychologist<br />

Erik Erickson calls a "moratorium." Let us explain why this is so important.<br />

In a Fellowship environment, rules define which beliefs, behaviors, and feelings<br />

are acceptable and which are not. Parents teach children the rules in their home and<br />

enforce them through rewards and punishments. Communities will also have overt rules<br />

and ways of enforcing them.<br />

In addition, groups have rules that may not be openly discussed but are<br />

nonetheless enforced through various feedback mechanisms. For example, in any<br />

social setting, most adults can tell if they have made a faux pas (said or done something<br />

that breaks a rule) by the negative reactions of the people around them. These<br />

reactions can take different forms, some of which are quite subtle. Similarly, people will<br />

react positively when someone says or does something the group approves of.<br />

Compliments, praise, and other positive signals are used to shape people's behavior<br />

within groups as much as criticism, derision, or rejection. When a person enters a social<br />

group that is new to her, she can discover the rules of the group and learn to conform<br />

by paying attention to the social cues being given off all around her.<br />

Children, just like adults, learn to conform to the rules of any group by following<br />

social cues. At the age when they are entering puberty, children's emerging desire to<br />

explore and express their individuality often conflicts with their need to be "members in<br />

good standing" of various groups. Some of these groups are governed by their elders,<br />

such as family, school, religion, or sports teams. Children and teens will also form peer<br />

groups not governed by adults that may allow some different forms of expression.<br />

Regardless, adolescent peer groups are still groups. Like any Fellowship, they create


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 246<br />

rules about what opinions, styles of dress, behaviors, or activities deserve approval or<br />

disapproval. Teens often feel more pressure to conform with the rules of their peer<br />

group than to the rules of adult-governed groups.<br />

While all social groups need to establish and enforce rules, rules also limit the<br />

members' ability to explore or express their individuality. A child who is constantly in one<br />

social setting or another must stay focused on maintaining the approval of her group. In<br />

a Fellowship home, she cannot disobey or contradict her parents without being<br />

punished or chastised. At school, she must follow the rules and earn the approval of<br />

teachers. While in a group of her peers, she must make her opinions, interests, or<br />

preferences conform to what her group will approve or risk being shunned. A child<br />

whose deviant behavior causes her to be rejected by her friends can experience<br />

insecurity, unworthiness, guilt, or shame. Conformity can take so much effort and<br />

attention that children may have little opportunity to discover their individuality, let alone<br />

express it.<br />

To develop and express her individuality, a child must separate herself from all<br />

social groups, at least for some of the time. She needs to escape from the cues that<br />

would otherwise influence her actions and opinions. In a private space, where she has<br />

only her own feelings and thoughts to listen to, she can pursue her own interests. She<br />

can stop worrying what other people think and start discovering what she thinks.<br />

A moratorium is a retreat into a private space away from social influences and<br />

demands. Obviously, a child living under the care of her parents cannot be a hermit. But<br />

to develop her sense of self, a child needs opportunities to withdraw to a private space.<br />

For instance, she might spend an hour each evening in her room, after she's done her<br />

homework (or after her parents think she is asleep), immersed in new thoughts or<br />

hobbies. Or she might confine herself to her room on weekend mornings and ask not to


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 247<br />

be disturbed. She might start spending less time in the family room and more time by<br />

herself in another part of the house. She might spend free periods at school in a private<br />

corner of the library rather than hanging out with friends. She might take up solitary<br />

activities such as reading, writing, music, art, or crafts. At any rate, she will enjoy finding<br />

some private spaces where the only voices she hears are her own feelings, thoughts,<br />

and impulses--where she can do what she wants and express herself without anyone<br />

commenting.<br />

As a parent, you may notice when your child enters this period of her<br />

development because she will be less interested in participating in social activities she<br />

used to enjoy. You may have no idea what she does when she is alone, because she<br />

won't tell you. She may resent adult supervision and want to spend less time with<br />

siblings. She may grow less willing to talk with her parents, because such conversations<br />

are full of the social cues she is trying to avoid.<br />

As a parent, you can support your child in creating her moratorium by respecting<br />

her privacy and not intruding upon her private times and spaces. If possible, arrange for<br />

her to have her own bedroom in which no one is allowed without her permission. She<br />

may start to develop new interests during this period and ask for things to help her<br />

indulge those interests. As long her interests are not dangerous to herself or others, let<br />

her have what she needs to pursue them. Try not to question her about what she is<br />

doing. She may not want to talk about it, and for good reason.<br />

In some respects, a moratorium resembles a process of building a "secret<br />

garden" where a child's individuality can be born and nurtured. In the beginning, the<br />

garden may be nothing--just a walled off space. But over time, as the child cultivates<br />

and nourishes the interests that come from within, letting them take root in this private<br />

space, they may grow into something remarkable and unexpected. The child may


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 248<br />

emerge from this period with new skills, a new sense of purpose, or new confidence in<br />

herself.<br />

Secrecy is important when creating such a garden. If parents, siblings, friends, or<br />

others intrude upon the garden while it is still in the formative stages, their reactions will<br />

be social cues that can crush the fragile seedlings being nurtured there. It does not<br />

matter whether people's reactions are positive or negative. Any opinion or reaction from<br />

someone else can contaminate the project, because these reactions will contain social<br />

cues that can influence the behavior of the person who receives them. A secret garden<br />

only has value when it can grow with no outside influences. It must be entirely the<br />

child's creation, based on her own feelings. No one else should interfere. Parents must<br />

exercise patience and respect their child's privacy. They must not comment on her<br />

activities or question her about them. The moratorium may last a few months or a few<br />

years. The length will vary for each child. Regardless, it will be time well spent.<br />

As the child continues her private activities, she will be building a stronger sense<br />

of self. She will be learning about her own preferences and values, about who she is as<br />

a person. Eventually, the child may decide to show her parents or selected friends the<br />

garden she has been cultivating. She may have creations (including her newly<br />

discovered authentic self) to reveal. But she should only reveal them when she feels her<br />

creations are strong enough to withstand other people's opinions without being crushed<br />

or altered. She should not be made to reveal her creations. If she doesn't feel ready to<br />

share them with her parents, then her parents must accept that. She may change her<br />

mind later, or she might not. Perhaps her garden will always remain secret, and that's<br />

okay.<br />

The stronger a child's sense of self becomes during the moratorium, the better it<br />

will guide her decision-making as she moves into adulthood. The child will emerge with


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 249<br />

what psychologists call an "internal locus of control." She will know who she is and be<br />

prepared to exercise a higher level of agency than children do at the Fellowship level.<br />

She will be equipped to balance her individual preferences and needs with the demands<br />

of her family and community. She will be more in control of her life.<br />

Other Ways to Nurture Your Child's Individuality<br />

In addition to supporting your child's moratorium when she wants one, you can<br />

take several measures when she is younger that will prepare her to acquire a sense of<br />

self. Note that these measures are not intended to undermine the rule-based<br />

environment younger children need, but simply to include a little more Individuality<br />

within that environment...<br />

1. Let children make choices.<br />

As a parent, you will make many decisions for the good of your family, beginning<br />

even before your first child is born. And you will continue making important decisions<br />

until your children are grown. However, you should look for opportunities to let your<br />

children make choices that are appropriate for their age and do not violate any of the<br />

rules you feel are important. Some examples...<br />

* You make a rule that your three-year-old son must put on clean clothes each<br />

day, but on most days you let him decide what color shirt to wear.<br />

* You decide your nine-year-old daughter needs a new backpack for school, but<br />

out of the ones you find acceptable, you let her choose the one she likes best.<br />

* You want your children to participate in after-school activities, but you let them<br />

choose whether to take soccer, ballet, science camp, or piano.<br />

* You take your children to the library regularly, because you want to encourage


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 250<br />

them to read, but you let them choose their own books.<br />

The older your children get, the more choices they will want to make, and the<br />

more choice you can allow them. You should resist the urge to limit their choices too<br />

narrowly, except for reasons of safety. Making choices helps children develop a sense<br />

of their own preferences. Sometimes they may make choices you wouldn't, and that's<br />

fine if it doesn't break the rules. Sometimes they will make choices they regret, and that<br />

is a learning experience that will help them make better choices next time.<br />

2. Let children have time and space to themselves.<br />

As with choices, the amount of privacy children get will depend on their age.<br />

Once children are toilet-trained and can take their own baths safely, they deserve<br />

bathroom privacy. If possible, children old enough to be in school (and certainly once<br />

they are teenagers) should have their own room.<br />

While small children need to be supervised by adults to ensure their safety, older<br />

children can enjoy safe spaces where they can play or pursue their own interests with<br />

less supervision. Safe spaces can include their bedroom, a wreck room, a playhouse, or<br />

a fenced-in backyard. Teenagers can enjoy more freedom to stay home while their<br />

parents are out or go places on their own.<br />

Books and after-school programs are also ways for children to pursue private<br />

interests. Books are a safe way for children to enter a world of thought separate from<br />

their daily lives. An after-school program can be something a child does that her school<br />

friends do not, an opportunity to participate in a group that shares a special interest that<br />

others don't. Other safe spaces for children can include diaries, sketch books,<br />

backpacks, school lockers, closets, electronic devices that record data, or other storage<br />

areas where they can keep or make things no one else can see.


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 251<br />

In addition to safe spaces where they can enjoy freedom from surveillance, you<br />

can give children time to themselves. In a Fellowship home, children are often kept so<br />

busy with school, after-school activities, homework, and chores that they have little time<br />

to do what they want. This can keep children from getting into mischief in an<br />

environment where impulse control is a challenge. But in an Individuality home, you<br />

want to allow your children some freedom each day to pursue their own interests.<br />

Naturally, the amount of unstructured time a child wants will vary with her age and<br />

personality. Young children may not want as much free time. Teens going through a<br />

moratorium may want an hour or more every day.<br />

Studies have shown that nightly homework does very little to improve the<br />

academic performance of young children, but it can deprive them of precious time they<br />

could spend with family, friends, in outdoor activities, or pursuing their own interests.<br />

Some evidence suggests that shorter school hours are better for children than longer<br />

ones--because it gives them time for other experiences. In an Individuality home,<br />

children may need to find a healthy balance among the different ways of spending time,<br />

one that they find enjoyable rather than stressful.<br />

Children often benefit from being given more unstructured time than they initially<br />

want. A child used to having all her time structured by adults might get bored when she<br />

is first given free time. But boredom does not last. A child with nothing to do will<br />

eventually think of something to do that interests her, and that will contribute to her<br />

developing sense of self.<br />

3. Restrict children's access to social media.<br />

Many parents worry about how to regulate their children's Internet activity. On the<br />

one hand, the Internet has become a primary educational tool. It also gives children an


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opportunity to explore their own interests. Reading a variety of topics and opinions gives<br />

them fodder for developing their own interests and beliefs. Connecting online with<br />

others that share their feelings and interests can support them in building a group<br />

identity. On the other hand, things posted on social media can be too public. The<br />

Internet can expose children in ways that are unsafe. Misinformation is a serious<br />

problem as well. All children need to be taught how to protect themselves in the online<br />

world.<br />

In a Fellowship home, the task of regulating children's online activity is easier.<br />

You simply don't allow children privacy. You check your child's browsing history, read<br />

her social media posts, demand she share all her passwords, insist she only visits<br />

websites you approve of, etc. These practices help keep your child safe.<br />

At the Individuality level, an older child who is discovering her preferences and<br />

interests may need the freedom and privacy to visit a website and explore a topic she is<br />

curious about. Maybe it will interest her; maybe it won't. If she sees something once,<br />

she may not want to tell her parents and get a lengthy lecture or discussion about it,<br />

especially if she has already decided it's not for her. On the other hand, she may<br />

discover a topic she wants to explore further and doesn't want to hear her parents'<br />

views on it until she has settled on her own opinion. As we said above, other people's<br />

opinions can interfere with a teenager's process of developing a sense of self.<br />

Parents also need to be aware that too much time spent participating in social<br />

media can interfere with a child's ability to develop a sense of self. A child cannot<br />

benefit from the moratorium experience if she uses her “private” time to participate in<br />

online conversations. Social media, like real life socializing, provides cues that influence<br />

people to think and behave in approved ways. A child may worry about the number of<br />

"likes," "dislikes," or "followers," she gets, or the kinds of comments her friends make


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 253<br />

about things she posts. When she's focused on other people's opinions and approval,<br />

she can't develop her own opinions and her own self-approval. For a moratorium to<br />

work, a child must have time away from social media as well as in-person socializing.<br />

Parents can support a child's developing sense of self by limiting the amount of time she<br />

spends communicating with friends via a cell phone or other devices.<br />

4. Practise tolerance.<br />

Fellowships use intolerance to maintain group cohesion. Everyone within the<br />

group must conform to certain norms. Anyone who doesn't is a threat who must either<br />

be made to conform or excluded.<br />

At the Individuality level, people tolerate individual differences, provided they do<br />

not violate certain rules in public. A neighborhood may be composed of families with<br />

many different cultural backgrounds. They may practise a variety of religions or have<br />

different political affiliations. But if people are good neighbors who respect each other's<br />

right to individual opinions, affiliations, boundaries, and practices, peaceful coexistence<br />

should be the norm. Everyone should be free to express their individuality in their<br />

private life while behaving in a respectable way in public. Keeping one’s idiosyncrasies<br />

private makes them easier for their neighbors to tolerate.<br />

As a parent in an Individuality home, you will teach your children to be polite and<br />

well behaved in public. You want them to dress in a respectable fashion at school,<br />

church, or important social functions. At the same time, you want to teach your children<br />

to be tolerant of people from different backgrounds or persuasions. You can say, "We<br />

believe X, but the people next door believe Y, and that's okay. We can still be good<br />

friends and neighbors." When parents demonstrate tolerance of those who are different,<br />

children learn that their own individuality is acceptable. You may want to create


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 254<br />

opportunities for your children to interact with children from families of different<br />

backgrounds. This will help your children to become more tolerant and better equipped<br />

as adults to succeed in a diverse community.<br />

Within the family, you must be willing to tolerate your children's individuality,<br />

provided it doesn't break the rules. Let them feel safe to have their own interests, tastes,<br />

and preferences, especially as they get older. Teach them that individual differences are<br />

not a threat when people treat each other with courtesy and tolerance.<br />

4. Distinguish between Private and Public Settings<br />

In an Individuality environment, children must learn to behave differently<br />

depending on whether they are in a public or a private space. One challenge with the<br />

Internet is that certain activities, like reading webpages, feel like private experiences,<br />

much like reading a book. A child can easily forget (or be unaware) that her browsing<br />

history is not as confidential as she assumes. Other online activities, such as on social<br />

media, are anything but private. You need to teach your children to be aware that<br />

anything they post or transmit over the Internet is public and often difficult to erase.<br />

Certain types of posts--such as political opinions or sexting--can have a negative effect<br />

on their lives years later. At the Individuality level, children must learn to distinguish<br />

between public and private spaces and to make sure they present themselves in a<br />

respectable way in public spaces. Just as you must teach your child to be wary of<br />

strangers, you must teach them to keep themselves safe from strangers online. You<br />

must educate your child about the risks of online activity and establish rules for safe<br />

Internet use.<br />

Another common issue for parents at the Individuality level is that children of high<br />

school and college age tend to develop new styles of appearance and other cultural


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affectations that distinguish their generation from that of their parents. Parents at the<br />

Individuality level can tolerate some of their children's non-conformist fashion choices,<br />

such as hair and clothing styles (certainly better than parents at the Fellowship level).<br />

They can comfort themselves with the thought that their daughter can have an<br />

unconventional look while she's in college and then switch to a more respectable style<br />

of dress when she starts her career. College, in this case, would be seen as more of a<br />

private setting than a workplace.<br />

Some parents have difficulty tolerating permanent fashion choices, such as body<br />

modifications. An example in recent decades is the practice of getting multiple tattoos in<br />

visible places such as on the arms or face. When tattoos cannot be hidden under<br />

clothing, parents may worry that they detract from the image of respectability a young<br />

person should project in an Individuality community. A young person may need to<br />

cultivate a professional appearance to find respectable employment, so parents will<br />

discourage these and other body modifications. Of course, this would not be a problem<br />

in an Inclusion community--provided one is lucky enough to live and work in one. Also,<br />

over time fashion choices that seem outlandish initially can become more respectable.<br />

Parents can also find their tolerance tested when their children embrace nonmainstream<br />

political, religious, or other views. Some parents find it challenging to have<br />

a child reveal herself publicly as a member of the LGBTQ+ community. They may<br />

struggle with the boundary between what should be tolerated and expressed in public<br />

and what should not.<br />

At the Individuality level, many types of public and private spaces exist. In the<br />

above example regarding fashion, we noted that a college can be considered a private<br />

setting for students when compared to a professional work environment. On the other<br />

hand, a college is a public setting when compared to a private home. Within a home, a


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 256<br />

family room is a public setting when compared to a bedroom or bathroom. Within a<br />

college, a classroom, club, or dormitory, is a private setting compared to the entire<br />

campus. And of course, while a college is a relatively private space for students, it is a<br />

public work environment for professors and other staff.<br />

When you raise children at the Individuality level, you teach them to be aware of<br />

their environment and how public or private the setting is. Every setting has unwritten<br />

rules about what behaviors are tolerable. Children as well as adults must change the<br />

way they express themselves so they appear respectable in every setting.<br />

Styles of dress that children might wear at home or at the beach may be<br />

considered inappropriate at school or at a wedding. A child's boisterous behavior might<br />

be fine in their own backyard or playroom, but it would be improper in a store. Young<br />

adults may dress in a casual or flamboyant style when meeting friends or going to clubs<br />

on a Saturday night (part of their private life), so long as they can switch to more<br />

conventional attire for a public setting such as work. The "man bun" is an example of a<br />

fashion that arose so men could "let their hair down" on weekends but appear more<br />

formally dressed on workdays, something many women's hair and makeup styles also<br />

achieve. In some communities, people believe it's proper to dress more formally when<br />

traveling to a different city, as though their hometown is a private space by comparison.<br />

Children and young people must also learn to modify their style of speech in an<br />

Individuality community in accordance with how public the setting is. It might be<br />

acceptable for a teenager to swear when among friends, but not in front of their<br />

grandparents or teachers. A person may speak more formally at work or at a religious<br />

service than at home. Among adults, it may be customary to avoid discussing politics or<br />

religion at social gatherings where people of many different persuasions may be<br />

present--in order to avoid unpleasant conflicts. Of course, it might be perfectly


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 257<br />

acceptable to discuss such matters in a circle of close friends, or in a situation where<br />

everyone present belongs to the same religion or shares the same political outlook.<br />

As a parent at the Individuality level, you will teach your children to alter their<br />

behavior to suit the space they are in. You will instill in them a need to look respectable<br />

in situations that are relatively public. In turn, this will give them the freedom to be less<br />

formal in private situations, something which often does not exist in Fellowship homes.<br />

5. Set expectations.<br />

In a Fellowship home, adults make sure children do what they need to do<br />

(homework, chores, etc.) by supervising them and scheduling their time. Children are<br />

told what to do, how to do it, and when. Parents generally teach children there is only<br />

one right way to do something.<br />

As a parent creating an Individuality home, you want your children to earn<br />

respectable public accolades. You may want them to get good grades in school, excel<br />

in sports or the arts, and win awards or other forms of recognition. At the same time,<br />

you know that every child has unique talents and challenges. You know that<br />

approaches that help one child excel will not work for another, so you want your child to<br />

discover the approaches work best for her. The way to accomplish these objectives is to<br />

set expectations for your child--standards you want her to achieve--but let her find a<br />

way to meet those expectations that works best for her. You set the goal. She finds her<br />

path.<br />

For instance, you may tell your children what grade average level you expect<br />

them to maintain in school. You may give them chores they must do at home. You may<br />

let them know you expect them to win athletic awards. But then you let them figure out<br />

how to meet your expectations.


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 258<br />

When setting expectations, try not to make them too low or too high. Low<br />

expectations convey the message that you do not think much of your child's abilities.<br />

They can encourage your child not to try hard. On the other hand, expectations that are<br />

too high for your child to reasonably achieve set her up for constant failure. She may<br />

grow up believing nothing she does will ever be good enough or that she can never win<br />

your approval. In either case, poor expectations can be damaging to a child's selfesteem.<br />

Good expectations should provide enough of a challenge that a child can feel<br />

proud when she succeeds, but they should not be unreasonable.<br />

Once your expectations have been established and your child is motivated, you<br />

can give her some private space in which to figure out how to meet them. This space<br />

can be psychological as much as physical. For instance, she may need to practice a<br />

skill without supervision, so she can feel free to make mistakes, as part of the process<br />

of mastery. Or she may need the freedom to figure out what time of day works best for<br />

doing homework, and what sort of study habits get good results for her. Of course,<br />

younger children may need more help than older children, and some children have<br />

special needs that must be provided for.<br />

6. Combine Discipline with Empathy<br />

Though the system of punishments and rewards established at the Fellowship<br />

level may largely continue at the Individuality level, there is a change in how it is<br />

applied. At the Individuality level, discipline is not just about making the child conform to<br />

the rules. It is also a matter of teaching the child to negotiate between her inner self and<br />

the outer world in a way that preserves the inner self. You must also talk to your child<br />

and try to understand why she did what she did. You must try to understand and<br />

validate the child's perspective and communicate that it is all right for her to have her


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 259<br />

own private thoughts and feelings, provided she behaves appropriately with others. You<br />

might still administer the punishment, or it may be enough to help the child see that her<br />

actions were wrong. If the child feels genuine remorse and a desire to make amends,<br />

that may ensure the behavior will not be repeated.<br />

If you do your job well and succeed in raising your child in an Individuality<br />

environment, she will enter adulthood with a strong sense of her own identity. She will<br />

have an accurate appreciation of her strengths and weaknesses. She will know her likes<br />

and dislikes and can build a life she finds fulfilling. She will have the ability to work with<br />

people of different backgrounds. And she will have the self-esteem to accomplish her<br />

goals.


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 260<br />

Chapter 22: Building an Inclusion Home<br />

If your child receives the gifts of the first five levels, she will have grown up in an<br />

environment where she was safe, provided for, and a valued member of her family. Her<br />

environment and community will have been orderly and predictable because it will have<br />

been based on consistent rules. Moreover, she will have spent time in private spaces<br />

developing a strong sense of self. She will have developed a unique set of skills,<br />

qualities, and preferences through her private hobbies and explorations. She will know<br />

what she finds personally fulfilling and meaningful.<br />

At some point, usually when a child is in her teenage years or older, she will be<br />

ready to take the unique self she has developed in private and bring it out into the world.<br />

She will want to contribute to society in a way that aligns with her preferences and<br />

expresses her unique qualities. If we think of the world as a tapestry, the level of<br />

Inclusion is one where each person is an individual thread within that tapestry. Each<br />

thread is distinct and visible, with its own hue and shape. Each one makes a unique<br />

contribution to the tapestry. And the tapestry is more beautiful because of the<br />

contribution every thread makes to the whole.<br />

In less metaphorical terms, a child who reaches the Inclusion level may be ready<br />

to create a meaningful life for herself that also contributes to her society. This may


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 261<br />

involve building a career or lifestyle based her unique perspective, preferences,<br />

interests, and talents. It may, but not necessarily, mean a life that revolves around<br />

innovations in business, art, service, scholarship, or other fields. Often, it will mean a life<br />

that no one could have predicted, but one that is deeply fulfilling to the child and<br />

beneficial to those around her. Unlike what happens at the Structured Family or<br />

Fellowship level, she will not simply live the life her family or her community expect of<br />

her. Unlike what happens at the Individuality level, she will not have to find fulfillment<br />

only in her private life. At the Inclusion level, she will seek fulfillment in her public life.<br />

She will enjoy the freedom of creating the life she wants and expressing her unique self<br />

in ways that also make the world richer.<br />

To have the best chance of creating such a life, a young person needs all the<br />

gifts of the earlier levels. She cannot express her unique self if she does not possess a<br />

strong sense of her own identity, something that is developed at the Individuality level.<br />

She cannot feel safe to express herself in the world if her community lacks the order<br />

and rules established at the Fellowship level and the tolerance established at the<br />

Individuality level. Nor can she express herself freely if her primary concern must be<br />

conforming to the group (Fellowship), pleasing her parents, fulfilling her assigned role<br />

(Structured Family), meeting her basic material needs (Provision), or avoiding threats to<br />

her person (Survival).<br />

Beyond these gifts, a person needs something more to construct a uniquely<br />

fulfilling life on the Inclusion level. She needs to be part of an Inclusion community,<br />

where everyone feels safe to express their uniqueness openly without fear of<br />

condemnation, where everyone's voice is heard, valued, and included in the culture.<br />

She needs to be part of a community that gives everyone the support they need to<br />

express their uniqueness and contribute to the lives of others in the way that best


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 262<br />

supports them.<br />

As far as we know, no stable Inclusion communities exist, though isolated<br />

pockets of Inclusion exist (schools, camps, workshops, retreats). Some communities<br />

have at least made it to the platform stage of Inclusion, and many believe an Inclusive<br />

world will be the next stage of humanity's social evolution. A young person today has<br />

more opportunities to live and work in an Inclusive community, however unstable, than<br />

ever before.<br />

Naturally, a young adult will have a much greater chance of creating a uniquely<br />

fulfilling life if she has been raised in an Inclusive home, one in which each person's<br />

individuality was celebrated, all voices were included, and there was room for all types<br />

of individual expression. Growing up in a home where children feel safe to express<br />

themselves makes it easier for them to feel safe expressing themselves in the<br />

community as adults. Of course, there will be some limits on self-expression, especially<br />

if the community does not operate on a stable Inclusion level. To the degree to which a<br />

child feels expressing herself invites condemnation or rejection from friends or family,<br />

she will keep parts of herself private in order to stay safe. She will make her public<br />

persona align with her community, and so remain at the Individuality level.<br />

At the same time, to parents raised at a Fellowship or unstable Individuality level,<br />

the concept of an Inclusion home will raise some anxiety. At every level, people worry<br />

that creating the next higher level, with its accompanying increase in personal freedom,<br />

will risk reverting to the previous level. Someone raised at the Structured Family level<br />

may fear that greater personal freedom will lead to families falling apart--a return to the<br />

Provision level. Someone raised at the Fellowship level may fear that greater freedom<br />

will mean the strong will be free to abuse the weak--a return to the Structured Family<br />

level. Someone raised at the Individuality level may fear that greater freedom will mean


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 263<br />

an end to tolerance. But this is not the case. As families and societies move up the<br />

levels, they experience more personal freedom without losing the benefits of the levels<br />

that came before. The safety that comes from rules and tolerance that were hard won at<br />

the Fellowship and Individuality levels are what make people safe enough to express<br />

themselves in private. An Inclusive community will extend that safety more deeply into<br />

the public sphere, so that people can express their authentic selves without fear of<br />

being ridiculed, bullied, assaulted, or shunned. Naturally, the safety and freedom of an<br />

Inclusive community must apply to everyone, so everyone must adjust their selfexpression<br />

so they do not make others feel unsafe.<br />

Assuming you want your child to experience the happiness and fulfillment that an<br />

Inclusion level upbringing supports, here are some ways to create an Inclusive<br />

environment in your home...<br />

1. Let your child choose her own goals.<br />

When your child is at the Individuality stage of her development, generally when<br />

she is around middle-school age, you will be setting expectations for her. You will want<br />

her to achieve the kinds of successes and accolades that bring public respectability.<br />

However, as your child gets older and starts developing more of a sense of self,<br />

she will start to set her own goals. Some children in their pre-teen years start having big<br />

dreams about the career or lifestyle they want to have as adults. Other children may<br />

take longer to decide what they want to do with their life. They may not have big dreams<br />

until senior high school or even well into adulthood. Your child may have goals you<br />

would never have imagined her wanting, goals completely different from the ones you<br />

had when you were younger. That's okay. She's not living your life. She's living her life.<br />

What matters is that your child finds goals that are meaningful to her. If, when she was


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 264<br />

at the Individuality level, she learned how to meet the expectations you set for her, she<br />

can later use those same skills to pursue her own goals.<br />

2. Support your child in achieving her own goals.<br />

Whatever dreams your child chooses, provided she finds them fulfilling and has<br />

the determination to pursue them, your job as a parent will be to support her efforts.<br />

This may mean letting her choose the courses and extracurricular activities in high<br />

school that interest her, even if they are not ones you would choose for her. It may<br />

mean sending her to the college program of her choice, even if you don't understand the<br />

appeal or fear it is impractical. It may mean allowing her to skip college so she can<br />

pursue a different type of opportunity or experience. It may mean letting her live at<br />

home longer so she can pursue a goal in relative security. It may mean offering her<br />

other types of help, such as putting her in contact with mentors, helping her get access<br />

to various types of support or accommodations, or helping her get alternative forms of<br />

training.<br />

If you offer your child guidance, advice, or opportunities, resist the urge to tell her<br />

what to do or steer her in a direction you want her to take. Give her options, but let her<br />

choose which options and opportunities to take advantage of. Sometimes, young people<br />

must try several things and have different types of experiences before they settle on the<br />

path that is most fulfilling for them. Some people change career paths frequently, finding<br />

it more fulfilling to always be facing new challenges. Others may be content to find one<br />

thing and stick with it. You must trust your children to manage their own lives.<br />

The above assumes you have a child who has moved through each level in order<br />

during her childhood until, as a young adult, she reaches to the Inclusion level.


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 265<br />

However, if you yourself were raised at the Inclusion level, or have achieved it as an<br />

adult, you can prepare your child for this part of her life by incorporating some Inclusion<br />

strategies into your parenting when she is younger. Note that you cannot omit any of the<br />

earlier levels. You still must give your child the gifts of each level when she is at the<br />

appropriate stage of her development. You can't, for instance, neglect creating a rulesbased<br />

environment any more than you can neglect providing your child with adequate<br />

food and housing and expect her to gain the benefits of Inclusion.<br />

With that caveat, here are a few ways to make your home more inclusive:<br />

Be an authentic parent.<br />

In lower-level environments, parents must often present a false persona to their<br />

children and teach children to construct one of their own. In a Structured Family, that<br />

persona is their role and the power it gives them. Everyone must hide aspects of<br />

themselves that do not fit with their role and might invite disrespect.<br />

In a Fellowship home, parents are authoritarians. They must assume a veneer of<br />

impartiality as they arbitrate rules and dispense punishment. They must hide their flaws<br />

and weaknesses so children can feel confident in their parents' strength and authority.<br />

And parents must model good behavior and morality for their children--so any lapses<br />

must be concealed.<br />

In some respects, an Individuality home is a private space where parents can<br />

express opinions, feelings, and interests they would not show in public. Yet parents<br />

must still hide some aspects of themselves. They will share things with their spouse or<br />

close friends they would not share with their children. This practice helps teach children<br />

to build a respectable social persona and relegate aspects of themselves to private<br />

spaces.


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 266<br />

In an Inclusion home, everyone enjoys greater freedom to be themselves.<br />

Parents still have power and authority. They teach children about rules and social<br />

expectations. They protect children from adult stresses and conflicts. But they have less<br />

of a need to appear strong, authoritative, or respectable all the time. They have less<br />

need to hide aspects of themselves. Sometimes, parents will share their flaws and<br />

weaknesses if it will help their child to know it's all right not to be perfect. They may<br />

share their feelings so their child can see others feel the same way they do about<br />

certain situations.<br />

When parenting your child, you must often consider questions like, "Will it benefit<br />

my child to see, hear, or know about this part of myself or my genuine thoughts and<br />

feelings? Will it offer her reassurance and make her feel safer? Will it help her to<br />

appreciate her own uniqueness more?" If the answer is "yes," then you will share<br />

aspects of yourself that might be kept secret at lower levels.<br />

For a parent to be authentic at the Inclusion level requires more thoughtfulness--<br />

more impulse-control, self-awareness, and empathy. It should not be done carelessly<br />

(i.e., not in ways that make children feel less safe). However, seeing their parents<br />

express their authentic selves shows children that they can express themselves too.<br />

Support each child's special needs.<br />

At the Fellowship level, all children must follow the same rules, with perhaps a<br />

few allowances for age and gender. This practice is based on the idea of sameness--<br />

that children of the same age are all the same, that all girls are the same, all boys are<br />

the same, etc. This principle has the advantage of making the environment fairer than in<br />

a Structured Family, where the strong make the rules for the weak while exempting<br />

themselves from the rules. However, one drawback to having the same rules for


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 267<br />

everyone is that the rules are also a little unfair to everyone since they make no<br />

allowance for individual differences.<br />

At the Individuality level, people recognize individual differences. While parents<br />

set high expectations for their children, they know that some children will have a harder<br />

time meeting those expectations and may need extra help or accommodation.<br />

In an Inclusive home, individual differences are viewed even more positively. The<br />

rules and expectations are modified for each person to accord with their individual<br />

differences. Adjustments that give each child the support they need or remove barriers<br />

that impede some children's success are ways to nurture everyone's unique talents.<br />

Giving everyone what they need to succeed creates a higher level of fairness. It<br />

promotes everyone's happiness and success.<br />

In tailoring rules and expectations for each child, parents need to avoid situations<br />

where children with obvious challenges get a lot of support and adjustments while those<br />

who seem to be doing fine have their needs ignored. For instance, at the Individuality<br />

level, children who struggle with school may receive academic support to help them<br />

meet expectations. Meanwhile, children who exceed expectations on their own (those<br />

who are academically gifted) may not get any adjustments or support because teachers<br />

and parents will conclude they don’t need help. Similarly, a child who seems to be<br />

"average" may have needs that go unmet in a family where her siblings are exceptional<br />

and command most of the attention.<br />

At the Inclusion level, parents know that all children are unique. Every child has<br />

special needs and requires adjustments to reach her potential and make a unique<br />

contribution to the community. Academically gifted children need support to fulfill their<br />

potential as much as academically challenged children. Naturally athletic children need<br />

different types of support and challenges than those who are not. Children on the high


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 268<br />

functioning end of the autism spectrum may need support just as much as low<br />

functioning or neurotypical children. The same is true for all disabilities or abilities.<br />

Tailoring the supports to fit each child can be a complex task for parents, and even<br />

more so for teachers who work in integrated classrooms. But when everyone (including<br />

parents) has their needs met, the environment will be happier and the children will grow<br />

up to be more successful.<br />

Celebrate uniqueness.<br />

At the Individuality level, people tolerate each other's idiosyncrasies, so long as<br />

they behave well in public. Activities or interests that might be seen as low value or less<br />

respectable in the public sphere may only be pursued in the private sphere where they<br />

are less visible. For instance, a person might enjoy a hobby or interest she shares with<br />

a small circle of fellow enthusiasts, but she might not want to make it part of her public<br />

persona. She might not tell her boss about her hobby or include it on her professional<br />

profile. Similarly, a child's after-school interests and hobbies are often seen as part of<br />

her private life, especially if they have little potential for earning awards or scholarships.<br />

At the Inclusion level, the public and private spheres are less segregated. If a<br />

child's home and school both feature Inclusion environments, she may not have to<br />

change her behavior much when going from one to the other. In either environment, she<br />

will enjoy the freedom to pursue her own interests and contribute to those around her.<br />

If a child lives in an Inclusion community as an adult, the activities she finds<br />

meaningful and those that generate income will likely be one and the same. Of course,<br />

there will be many variations on that ideal. Some people may become better known for<br />

their volunteer work than what they do to earn a living. Some people may make as<br />

much or more money from their hobby than their supposed profession. Some may have


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 269<br />

freelance or part-time income streams which they consider to be their real career in<br />

addition to a regular job. And for some, there may be little separation between home<br />

and workplace. They may work at home or in workplaces that resemble private homes.<br />

Either way, an Inclusive upbringing will prepare children to lead a life where there is less<br />

distinction between work, vocation, and recreation--between activities that are<br />

meaningful and relaxing and those that pay.<br />

In an Inclusion home, a child's unique interests and talents are nurtured and<br />

supported, whether they are pursued in school or after school, whether they could lead<br />

to careers, scholarships, public recognition, or not. As a parent, you should get to know<br />

and understand your child well. Notice when their unique interests, perspectives, and<br />

talents appear. Celebrate and nurture your child's uniqueness. Encourage them to<br />

express it. Find ways to incorporate it into the family. Don't worry what any particular<br />

interest may or may not lead to in the future. Children may pursue other interests down<br />

the road. Help your children see their uniqueness as valuable and develop confidence<br />

in sharing it with others. If children have the opportunity to do things they find personally<br />

meaningful--pursue an interest, develop a talent, contribute to a cause, or just engage in<br />

fun activities--they will develop a stronger sense of self that will help them succeed in<br />

any endeavor.<br />

Chapter 23: When Parents Are Raised at Different Levels


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 270<br />

Most often, adults are attracted to partners with whom they share a similar<br />

upbringing, whose childhood environment was at the same level. When that is the case,<br />

cooperation between parents is easier. They will have a similar understanding of<br />

parenting, childhood, and the world. They will have similar priorities and expectations.<br />

However, the process of choosing a partner or spouse involves many factors<br />

besides the dominant level of their upbringing. Sometimes two people will form a longterm<br />

relationship despite being raised at different levels. In some cases, one or both<br />

people as children had experiences the predisposed them to be attracted to someone<br />

raised at a different level. For instance, a person might have been raised in a stable<br />

Fellowship home but found they enjoyed hanging out with friends in school who were<br />

raised in Individuality homes. Such a person might aspire to an Individuality life and<br />

seek out a partner who represents that aspiration. Another person might have been<br />

raised in an Individuality home but experienced trauma on the Provision level when their<br />

parents went through a drawn out and unpleasant separation. That person might be<br />

drawn to a partner who they feel is unlikely to end their relationship--someone who<br />

perhaps also has instability on the Provision level. And sometimes two people will enter<br />

a long-term relationship for reasons unrelated to the level of their upbringing.<br />

Regardless the reasons two people form a relationship, each person's sense of<br />

normal will be determined by the level they were raised at. Parents are raised at<br />

different levels will have a different sense of what a normal childhood should be like and<br />

what their priorities as parents should be. They may not be aware of how differently<br />

their partner sees things until a child enters the family and those priorities come into<br />

conflict. And some conflicts may not arise until the children are older.<br />

Here are some common ways parents of different levels can clash...


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 271<br />

* One parent feels it's important for children to have consistency and routine, and<br />

that means parents must follow the rules as well. The other parent feels that, as<br />

an adult, she should not have to follow rules in her own home.<br />

* One parent feels it's inappropriate for children to question things their parents<br />

tell them. The other wants to have philosophical discussions at the dinner table in<br />

which the children are free to speak their minds and challenge ideas.<br />

* One parent feels children should be assigned chores according to their gender,<br />

because learning these jobs will help them fulfill their roles in the family when<br />

they become adult men or women. The other parent feels the whole family<br />

should work together to do chores, males and females alike--or that children<br />

should be allowed to choose what chores they will do, perhaps with some<br />

negotiation regarding chores no one or everyone prefers.<br />

* One parent wants the children to participate in a particular extra-curricular<br />

activity--maybe an activity she enjoyed as a child. She feels it's important to pass<br />

on the tradition or use the shared activity to bond with her children. The other<br />

parent wants the children to choose their own extra-curricular activities, so they<br />

can explore and develop their individual interests and talents.<br />

* One parent thinks it's okay for teenagers to experiment with unconventional<br />

clothing or hairstyles, to fit in with their friends or express their own identity. The<br />

other parent worries that this will cost the child the approval of grandparents,<br />

teachers, or other members of the community.<br />

* One parent thinks children should learn about sexuality and gender issues in<br />

school, so they can become more accepting of others and understand<br />

themselves. The other parent thinks this would be a harmful invitation to deviant<br />

behavior.


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 272<br />

* One partner thinks reading children's social media posts would be an<br />

inappropriate invasion of their privacy. The other thinks that not reading them<br />

would be irresponsible and fears it would make the children vulnerable to online<br />

predators, bullying, harassment, or bad influences.<br />

The 2002 film "Bend it Like Beckham," contains a humorous depiction of parents<br />

with different perspectives. The story concerns a teenage girl from an Indian family<br />

living in the UK who wants to play soccer. Her mother, who operates from a Structured<br />

Family level wants her daughter to fulfill a more traditional female role which involves<br />

becoming a wife and homemaker. She says things like, "Who will want a daughter-inlaw<br />

who can kick a football all day but can't make round chapattis?" and "No boy's<br />

gonna go out with a girl who's got bigger muscles than him!" The girl's father, on the<br />

other hand, offers more of an Individuality perspective. At one point, he tells the mother,<br />

"Why don't you get off her flamin' back? If she'd rather play football than chase boys,<br />

frankly I'm over the moon about that."<br />

If you find yourself having conflict with your partner over parenting issues, both of<br />

you should take the self-assessment quiz and figure out what kind of environments you<br />

were raised in. If it turns out your partner was raised in a different environment, that may<br />

explain why he has different concerns than you and why he doesn't understand your<br />

concerns.<br />

If you are the parent who was raised at the higher level, you must recognize two<br />

things about your partner. First, he was raised in an environment that was less safe.<br />

This will have left him with a belief that the world is more dangerous than the one you<br />

grew up in--whether this was true or just a reflection of his parents' anxieties. He may<br />

want to keep your children safe from threats that may not seem real to you. Granting<br />

children freedom can seem quite dangerous to parents who were raised in an unsafe


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 273<br />

environment. He may want to make the children afraid of doing things that would have<br />

been dangerous for him to do as a child (such as not being sufficiently deferential to<br />

adults). He may believe that teaching the children to behave in certain ways will keep<br />

them safe.<br />

Second, he may seem to be unconcerned with some of the long-term, big picture<br />

goals and concerns that are important to you. He may not see the value or purpose<br />

behind certain ways you want to do things and may resist your efforts to get his<br />

cooperation in making the home the most nurturing environment it can be.<br />

If you are the parent who was raised at a lower level, you may see your partner's<br />

approach to parenting as excessively rigid, permissive, or indulgent (depending on the<br />

levels involved). You may feel he wants to give your children too many or too few rights<br />

and freedoms and not enough discipline or choice. At the same time, you may feel your<br />

partner is overly controlling, that he keeps insisting that you do things in ways you do<br />

not see as valuable or important. He may have a lot of "shoulds." The reason is that he<br />

grew up in a safer environment than you did, where he didn't have to worry about as<br />

many threats. This freed him to receive additional gifts which the higher level had to<br />

offer. Your partner's "shoulds" may be related to his effort to pass on those gifts to your<br />

children.<br />

Rest assured, partners of different levels can make the household work for<br />

themselves and their children. Here's what to do in this situation:<br />

First, understand that, at least in the beginning, the dominant level in your<br />

household will most likely be the lower of the two--whether yours or your partner's. This<br />

happens because anxieties stemming from the lower level will continually arise and<br />

undermine any effort to create the higher level. If your partner does not feel comfortable<br />

with the higher level you want to create, he won't be cooperative. Moreover, in any


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 274<br />

conflict between two partners where one is coming from a place of anxiety, the anxious<br />

partner will usually get their way. Anxiety always trumps reason. Addressing the anxious<br />

partner's concerns so he can calm down will feel more urgent and important.<br />

Second, and despite above paragraph, the best thing you can do for your<br />

children is to make the higher level dominant, so they receive the additional gifts of<br />

security, freedom, and happiness it offers. Building a higher-level environment takes<br />

effort and patience, but it will benefit everyone in the family--including your partner.<br />

Negotiating Differences in Levels<br />

There are two main methods for parents to negotiate differences in their<br />

parenting styles that result from different upbringings. The first is faster and easier, but a<br />

bit superficial. The second takes more time but is deep and thorough. It's best to do<br />

both. We'll cover the quick and easy method first, because this is the one to start with if<br />

you already have children and want to give them a better environment while they are<br />

young enough to get the most benefit from it. In Part Four of this book, we'll cover the<br />

deep and thorough method.<br />

During this process, the parent with the higher-level upbringing must help her<br />

partner learn new ways of doing things. If this is you, you must exercise patience.<br />

Understand that your partner's concerns are deeply embedded in his psyche. Even if he<br />

wants to gain the gifts of the higher level for himself as well as your children, it may take<br />

him years of effort. Insisting your partner do things your way can feel to him as though<br />

he's being asked to speak a foreign language he has no training in. He needs time to<br />

learn your level before he can become fluent in it.<br />

In the short-term, don't dismiss your partner's feelings. When his anxieties arise,<br />

don't tell him he is overreacting, or concerned about nothing, or crazy. His anxieties are


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 275<br />

as real to him as the ground he walks on and cannot be conquered through willpower or<br />

reason. All you can do is encourage him to "act as if" your way of seeing the world<br />

might be real and see what happens. Gradually, he may come to realize that his<br />

anxieties are unfounded and see the value of your approach.<br />

If you are the partner with the lower-level upbringing, you may be frustrated when<br />

your partner does not seem to appreciate your concerns. In turn, you may have a hard<br />

time understanding his perspective. His way may seem too permissive or rigid. He may<br />

seem oblivious to certain risks and too concerned about things that don't make sense to<br />

you. The way he wants to parent may feel unnatural or idealistic. You may not see the<br />

potential benefit. Nonetheless, try to understand that the higher level offers gifts that will<br />

help your children lead happier and more successful lives. Give your partner's approach<br />

the benefit of the doubt, where possible. Try to see it as an interesting experiment, even<br />

if it doesn't make sense at first. It may take years of practice before you appreciate the<br />

benefits the higher level offers everyone in the family--and especially your children.<br />

Assuming you and your partner have taken the assessment and identified your<br />

levels, the partner who was raised at the higher level should make a list of parenting<br />

behaviors she feels both parents should do. The list should be of behaviors only. It<br />

should not include ideas, beliefs, principles, or attitudes. Items on the list should be<br />

ranked in order of importance.<br />

Once the list is finished, the partner who was raised at the lower level should look<br />

over the list and see how many of the behaviors she thinks she could tolerate doing.<br />

The behaviors on these lists should not be physically demanding or take a lot of time,<br />

but they may be psychologically difficult. If you are the one raised at the lower level,<br />

don't agree to do all the behaviors at once. Start with the two or three that seem the<br />

easiest for you to tolerate, even if you don't understand why you should do them.


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 276<br />

The next step is for both partners to practise doing the two or three behaviors the<br />

lower-level partner has chosen until they become habits. If you are the lower-level<br />

partner, the behaviors will likely feel unnatural at first. You may feel some anxiety or<br />

resistance to doing them. At first, may just have to take a leap of faith. Pretend they<br />

don't feel unnatural and just do them anyway. Over time, you will get more comfortable<br />

with them.<br />

During this process, the partner at the higher level needs to lavish praise on her<br />

partner every time he does the behavior. If you must point out when your partner fails to<br />

do the behavior, make sure you praise your partner for doing things right five times<br />

more than you criticize him for doing things wrong. This ratio is important. Your partner<br />

is trying to do something difficult and needs your support. If you give too much criticism<br />

and not enough praise, he will likely give up.<br />

Once the first two or three behaviors from the list have become habits, you can<br />

gradually add in the other behaviors, with the higher-level parent continuing to support<br />

her partner's efforts.<br />

By following this process, parents can eliminate most of the worst behaviors<br />

associated with the lower level and shift the environment to a higher, more stable level.<br />

The process can take several years and will result in the children receiving the gifts of<br />

the higher level which they could not have otherwise.<br />

The deep and thorough method for resolving differences in parenting approaches<br />

involves both parents doing the inner work required to resolve the anxieties created by<br />

their upbringing, healing the most painful experiences of their past, and learning new<br />

ways to relate to people at home and in the world. This process will lead to both parents<br />

moving to a more stable or higher level where they possess more of the gifts and are<br />

well equipped to pass them on to their children. The method for doing this inner work


will be the subject of Part Four.<br />

Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 277


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 278<br />

Chapter 24: Gender Issues<br />

One sign the developed world (and the world in general) is in the process of<br />

moving toward an Inclusive environment is the increasing acceptance of a greater<br />

variety of human genders and expressions of sexuality. 5 For parents who identify as<br />

members or allies of the LGBTQ+ spectrum--that is lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender,<br />

two-spirit, queer/questioning, asexual, and other categories--this is a welcome<br />

development. Other parents, particularly those who come from more traditional<br />

communities may worry about how to make the right choices as parents should they<br />

find themselves in certain situations.<br />

For example, 1.7% of babies on average are born with an anatomy (visible or<br />

not) that cannot be classified as male or female. These babies are often referred to as<br />

5 To clarify, gender and sexuality have several dimensions that<br />

require different terminology. Here, we will use the word "sex"<br />

to describe a person's anatomical features that can be used to<br />

identify them as physically male, female, or intersex. "Gender"<br />

refers to a person's identity--whether they see themselves as<br />

male, female, or non-binary (not strictly male or female).<br />

"Sexual preference" describes who a person tends to feel sexual<br />

attraction for, which can include men, women, both, or perhaps<br />

neither. Each of these three dimensions has many variations, not<br />

all of which are well defined, and in recent years the number of<br />

categories and terms to describe them has expanded considerably.


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 279<br />

intersex. Common practice historically has been for parents of an intersex baby to<br />

decide whether the child appears to be more male or female and raise it accordingly. In<br />

the twentieth century, it became possible to use surgery and hormones to make an<br />

intersex child's anatomy conform better to their assigned sex. Today, such practices are<br />

being challenged and it is becoming more common to refrain from medical intervention<br />

until the child is old enough to choose for themselves.<br />

Another situation parents encounter is to have an older child who expresses a<br />

non-heterosexual preference or a non-cisgender identity (that is, they feel their gender<br />

identity does not match the identity traditionally associated with their sex). For some<br />

parents, especially those in more traditional cultures, this situation can be problematic.<br />

Before we give advice, let's briefly consider how different levels of environments<br />

have traditionally allowed or disallowed individuals to express their sexuality and<br />

gender.<br />

Survival & Provision<br />

In a Survival level environment, the challenge of staying alive takes priority over<br />

all other considerations. If you are raised in such an environment, you learn to survive<br />

by pleasing certain adults so they will protect you from others who would kill you. If you<br />

survive to adulthood, you will continue to forge unequal alliances as a survival tactic. In<br />

situations where you are the most powerful person in the room, you make yourself safe<br />

by dominating others, so they won't dare try to kill you. If you are not the most powerful,<br />

you protect yourself by pleasing whoever is the most powerful person. Sexuality at this<br />

level is commonly used to assert dominance or express submission.<br />

Life is similar in a Provision level environment, except the biggest concern for a<br />

child is to have a source of provision--an adult who will give them food, clothing, shelter,


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 280<br />

and human connection. In adult life, sexuality is used as a tool to forge or renew a<br />

relationship with someone who can provide you with a sense of connection or fulfill your<br />

immediate material needs. If someone is willing to pay your bills, or cook and clean for<br />

you, and satisfy you in the bedroom, what more can you ask?<br />

At either of these levels, an individual identity is a luxury people cannot afford.<br />

Children and most adults lack the freedom to develop a strong, fixed sense of their own<br />

opinions and feelings. They cannot afford to have preferences. If they are not powerful,<br />

their personality must be fluid so they can change themselves to earn the protection of<br />

those more powerful than they are--people whose moods and opinions may also<br />

change rapidly. When in the company of people weaker than them, they will assume the<br />

role of the dominator to stay safe. Either way, they are constantly on guard and cannot<br />

afford the self-exploration that would lead to a sense of self.<br />

The Monty Python film, The Life of Brian, offers a humorous portrayal (from an<br />

Individuality perspective) of how people raised in Survival or Provision environments<br />

tend to behave. In the film, a young man named Brian is mistaken for the Messiah, a<br />

very powerful person. A crowd of people gather outside his home, eager to win his<br />

approval:<br />

BRIAN: Look. You've got it all wrong. You don't need to follow me. You don't<br />

need to follow anybody! You've got to think for yourselves. You're all individuals!<br />

FOLLOWERS (in unison): Yes, we're all individuals!<br />

BRIAN: You're all different!<br />

FOLLOWERS: Yes, we are all different! ...<br />

BRIAN: You've all got to work it out for yourselves!<br />

FOLLOWERS: Yes! We've got to work it out for ourselves!<br />

Brian cannot make himself understood by his followers. They will agree with


Wolterstorff; Strathy / BETTER PARENTS / 281<br />

whatever he tells them, because of his perceived power, but they dare not think for<br />

themselves or form their own opinion. To people raised at Survival or Provision,<br />

pleasing the powerful is the only way to feel safe. They unconsciously believe their life<br />

depends on it.<br />

The need to appease the powerful means exploitation is normal in lower-level<br />

environments, and that applies to sexuality and gender as well. What an advanced<br />

society terms the sexual abuse of children and adults is rampant in societies where the<br />

dominant environment is Survival or Provision. People have no more scope to develop<br />

a sense of their own sexual preferences or gender than any other aspect of their<br />

individuality. The concept of individuality itself is frightening, because to have your own<br />

preferences runs the risk of displeasing a powerful person, with the result that they kill<br />

or abandon you.<br />

Of course, a powerful person in a Survival or Provision level environment may<br />

engage in any form of sexual activity they wish, often in exchange for protection<br />

(survival) or money (provision) with partners who are less powerful.<br />

Structured Family<br />

Structured Family is the first level where a person's sex matters, but in very<br />