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Regional Child-Rearing

March 24, 2009 | 13 Comments

Post to the Host:
I am an old mother. I just had a baby girl at 36. I want her to grow up and be a good Minnesota kid but I live in southern California, although my parents grew up there and I have visited there my entire life. What is the secret Minnesota holds to raising a good kid?

Jerri and Lindsey


The risks of child-rearing are the same in Minnesota as in California, and any Minnesota parent will tell you so. I used to think winter made people more patient and kind but I don't think so anymore. I've met children raised in southern California who were beautiful children, outgoing, mannerly, warm-hearted, funny, thoughtful, and are growing up to become good people. What new parents don't understand, whether in Minnesota or California, is how time-consuming parenthood is. Kids need a lot of attention. Latchkey kids are at risk. Children of people who are happily absorbed in their own lives have a problem. It's hard to divide parenting equally between the two and usually one person carries a greater share of the load. But it takes an enormous commitment and I say that as a not very good parent. One advantage about Minnesota is that there's a large supply of uncles, aunts, and cousins. And we are a sort of cultural backwater, which maybe spares children the torture of trying to be cool. It's not really possible here so a kid may as well do the homework, shoot baskets, make the bed, wash the dishes, honor the parents, and save coolness for later.


Jerri & Lindsey,

As a Southern California native, mother
of five adults, grandmother of ten, and
pre-school teacher for 27 years, I can tell you
raising kids is much the same everywhere.
At the school where I teach, in Irvine, CA,
we have kids from many different countries--many come to us with no English whatsoever.
But, taking care of them is really no
different than any other kids.
The key to kids is giving them boundaries
so they feel safe (much like "swaddling" them
without suffocating), LISTENING to them,
giving them time to just "be," without
a lesson having to be learned, and
being responsive to their needs.
From experience I can say it's better
they are left "wanting" some things --
giving them everything makes them greedy.
Other than that, how lucky you are!
Parenthood can be the most rewarding
experience in the world.
Most of all, love your child, and especially
make sure to take time for each other.
'Nuf said...
Best wishes,
San Clemente

I grew up in SoCal, and raised kids in Utah, South Carolina, and Saudi Arabia. Being within shouting distance of family was a plus when we had it, but kids find a way to find trouble or not if they want to, wherever they are. God bless!

My father was from Anoka, and along with Uncle Dick and Uncle Don he told tales I never understood, as I was raised in California and high schooled in Oregon. My parents found out that with five boys the best way to beat bad influences is to enter into voluntary poverty. Dad went to Dental School as the oldest of us entered puberty, taking all family assets with him. We all had to work, go to school, work again, and help with the younger ones as Mom and Dad worked. This kept us too busy to be anything but useful. Not bad outcomes for each of the five, and Dad does a great job on teeth today, earning enough to pay off his student loans.

Kids are watching and judging. If you read, and read to them, they'll learn to respect reading. If the clerk at the store gives you too much change and you give it back, they'll learn about honesty. If you are kind and helpful to people, they'll learn about kindness. But if you tell them to go do their homework and then you go watch TV, if you cheat someone and brag about it, if you're sarcastic or demeaning to others, they'll get the message about what you really think is important in life. To raise good kids, don't tell them about values, show them. Live your life as you hope they'll live theirs. (Lessons I learned as a parent.)

I would like to think that when your life revolves around your children they notice. No child ever complained their parent was too caring. Caring isn't the same as controlling. Oh and if I could change one thing it would be that I wouldn't have acted as if a clean room was so important. And lastly truly believe that having a genuinely nice child is as wonderful as one who can hit a ball really far!

I am reading this all very late, but I wanted to say it was very uplifting to read these positive messages full of practical wisdom. It gives me hope that the world is not totally falling apart as the news media would often lead one to think.

Garrison, I thought your response excellant, and I was pleased to read everyone else's very good comments also. I came to full time parenting even later, at 44, and my now ten year old is such a blessing! One thing I had to do was put aside preconceived ideas of what my child and our relationship would be like, and respond to what was really happening day by day.

The risks involved in raising kids is MUCH different in Minnesota and Southern California. The culture in SoCal is much more difficult for kids. I don't think it is possible to raise kids with normal values in southern California.

Dear KramericaInc.,

It is possible to raise kids with normal
values in Southern California, even in
Orange County! How do I know? I raised
five of my own here, and have seven
grandchildren ranging from ages one to sixteen.
A couple of them went through their parent's
divorce, too! What have I seen? The thing
they have in common is a loving, caring
family. Don't you think that can happen
anywhere, even in SoCal?
I trust everyone who reads this column
understands that SoCal really isn't at
all what one sees on TV and in the movies!
Garrison, please help!
San Clemente (yes, that San Clemente!)

I've raised my kids in Minnesota and work in a school so I've seen that while most of the kids here are good, there are some real clunkers too. The difference usually has something to do with the parenting. If you'd like some advice from the parent of 3 good kids with good grades, good friends, and good behavior here goes: be involved in their school, take them to church, be clear about your values and have high expectations for behavior, talk to them, have fun with them, but be their parent, not their friend and don't be afraid to tell them "no" and hand out discipline when it's needed which isn't that often if everything else is working. I agree with Jim that having a job is good too, mine have each had jobs since before they were teenagers.

I was a latchkey child, as were many city children raised during WWII. Fathers were overseas and more than a few mothers needed to work to supplement family income. The amount of loving care given by my dedicated mother after work and during weekends, homework, chores in our apartment, and shopping expected of me along with the caring grandmother of a good friend, an active parks and recreation program and the relative safety of city streets during that time enabled me to grow up to be a responsible citizen and mother of three.

As a parent of four young children in the Bay Area, I find it very difficult to provide for my children with what I had growing up here -- a Mom at home, a Dad who made enough running a small business to provide a modest home on a decent sized lot with room to roam. Housing has become so expensive that the only way to make it here anymore is with a doctor's salary or two incomes in the household. I think this is where a lot of the problem with raising a family comes from. Children need a nurturing parent at home, ideally a Mother. If Mom and Dad are both working all day, they don't have the time and patience to give children what they need. Daycare will never compete with loving parental care at home. This makes the rural, more affordable, Lake Wobegonesque areas of the country more attractive to me, but I'm seeing this dual income phenomenon creeping up there now, too. I say, unapologetically, that our country needs to re-evaluate its priorities and reward traditional households more for the immense good they do for society in bringing up happy, responsible, well-adjusted children. Save the home and you save the country.

I grew up in Minnesota and live in Southern California ... and the kids I know from back home are STILL the coolest ones I know! Cultural backwater? I totally disagree there too. Some of the best art exhibits, plays, dance, and music I've ever seen anywhere was in the Twin Cities. AND it's the home of your own cultural show, Sir! Take credit where it is due. Like it or not, you're COOL.

I'd like to say thanks to you, Mr. Keillor, and all these commenters of various ages who point out the (politically incorrect) notion that raising kids needs someone who's mostly around to do the job. I'm a stay-at-home mom who grew up with a working mom and I'm not where I am now for no good reason. I missed my mom, lots of trouble could be gotten into with no parents around, and I'm trying to save my own kids both the troubles and the loneliness. That doesn't make me a perfect mom, or a mom who doesn't get a bit stir crazy sometimes, but it makes me a mom who's there. If my husband didn't love his job, and make a decent salary at it, well it'd be more of a toss-up as to who stayed home. It doesn't have to be the mom, but it should be someone.

I also provided day care for a time, and let me tell you the saddest thing for me was seeing those kids who just wanted to be in their own home, the only place a person can really be themselves, more of the time. I did a good job as a care provider, I think, and loved those kids, but it's just not the same.

I think kids would be better off, and have more freedom to grow up happy and independent, if they and their parents were home more often. I get the "it's too expensive in Southern California" argument, but then I say maybe you should make different choices...

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