The parenting style that the Wall’s use on their kids is very different from what other parents use on kids. Jeanette’s mother Rose Mary is not motivated to do a lot of stuff for her kids. Rose Mary is supposed to play the role of caring for the kids and watching over them while the father is at work. The father, Rex Walls, is supposed to provide for the family such as, bring home money and food for the kids to survive. Throughout the book the parents, Rose Mary and Rex, often do not pay attention to their kids and are not responsible in looking after them.
This issue causes the Walls’ kids to work for what they needed and how to be more independent in life. The Walls’ unique parenting style alternated between using their children and a hands-off approach, which made the kids self-reliant and they obtained their own idea of what the “American dream” actually was. The parenting style the Walls use comes from the expectations that are not met while living under their gender roles. The father of a household is supposed to set an example for their kids and be the breadwinner for the family, and the mother is assumed to live under the father’s rules of the house.
The reason Rex and Rosemary cannot live up to these standards is because they are living poverty. Rex is not able to keep a steady job because he gets tired of working and finds a reason to quit or get fired (Walls 67).
This causes Walls to not have food to eat or a lot of clothes to wear. Since the kids do not have much to eat, they find odd jobs around the different towns they are in order to feed themselves. When Rosemary gets a job teaching, Rex goes to the bank with her to get all of the money she has earned (Walls 77).
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This is an example of how Rex wants to be the breadwinner, but he is unable to because of his job situation.
This situation causes Rex to feel ashamed of himself because Rosemary is the only person earning money. When the children do not have money because of Rex being selfish, this causes them to be self-reliant in finding other ways to eat. Another parenting style the Walls used was the “sink or swim method” (Walls 65).
Rex believed once there is a situation and you need to get out of it you could either sink in the problems or swim and be successful. Since Jeannette did not know how to swim, Rex taught her the hard way and pulled her in the hot pot then she learned how to swim.
Rex wanted to teach Jeannette this way because in the past Jeannette would “sink” into her problems. Now Jeannette could “swim’ out of the situation and find a solution to survive. Another example of this would be when Jeannette was three and it was her first memory, she would cook food on the grill without adult supervision (Walls 9).
She ended up burning herself while cooking, this taught her the hard way to be more careful when she was cooking. It was a tough lesson that Jeannette did not know before but after the incident she would be cautious when she was by herself.
These examples of the Walls parenting method stuck with Jeannette all through out her life. If there were a problem going on she would find a way to get out of and not end up with a bigger problem and that taught Jeannette to be self-reliant and not depend on others. Many people argue that the Walls’ parenting style made the children dependent on other people and not self-sufficient. The parenting style did not work on Maureen the youngest of the Walls’ children. She is always depends on her friends to get her food, and stays with her friends because their was is nicer and warm (Walls 173).
Maureen’s way of getting to the American dream is to rely on others, which started off at a young age. Jeannette and Lori depended on other people to hire them for odd jobs. The kids were also dependent on society when they would dig for half eaten food and bottle caps in the dumpster. Although the claim is valid, it suffers from a flaw in its reasoning. It is true that they had to depend other people for odd jobs, but they were self-reliant in going around to find jobs. They also were self-reliant in when they when dumpster diving for food.
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They did not want to go in the dumpster and find food, they needed to in order to feed themselves. This goes back to the sink or swim method that Rex instilled in the kids. They could have “sunk” and not eaten, but instead they “swam” and found a way to not starve. One of the reasons Maureen turned out the way she did is because she was not born yet when the older siblings were learning their lessons. When Maureen was old enough to understand anything, Rex was always drunk and never with the family so he never had a strong connection with Maureen.
This is what caused Maureen to be reliant on others and not reliant on herself. In conclusion, the Walls’ parenting style differed from other households. Their parenting style taught their children how to be self-reliant and not depend on others for help. The major reason why the children were independent is because of Rex and the family’s financial situation. The financial situation of the family caused the kids to find their own food and not rely on the parents to always have food for them to eat.
The “sink or swim” method really stuck with the Walls’ children the most. This method taught the children to not “sink” and fail at what they are trying to achieve, but to “swim” or flourish with the situation they are given. Another reason this method stuck with the children is because it taught the kids the hard way, such as if they hurt themselves, then they would not make that mistake later on in life. These are the reasons the children gained their own knowledge of what self-reliance was and what the American dream was.