Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
For Your Journal: Writing Prompt

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Do you keep a journal – or wish you could get one started? Literary Mama wants to help.

Three times a month, I’ll post a writing prompt. Open a notebook and write for 10 minutes. Don’t worry about grammar or punctuation – just write. Then let the writing simmer and your mind wander for awhile.

And who knows? Maybe you’ll discover a character for your next short story or a theme for a narrative essay. Or maybe you’ll use the idea to create a special holiday card or photo album for someone in your family. However you decide to use your journal entry, I know you’ll enjoy re-reading it months--and years--down the road.


Parenting Style vs. Family Culture

Much has been written about the styles or strategies parents use to raise children (attachment, authoritarian, authoritative, indulgent, neglectful, tiger moms, helicopter parents) but a recently-released study from the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia says that family culture--a family’s values and ideals, the story the family tells about itself, and the practices that reinforce these values and ideals--reveals a more comprehensive picture.

In The Culture of American Families, researchers identified four types of family culture: the Faithful, the Engaged Progressives, the Detached, and the American Dreamers. From the press release:

The Faithful (20 percent of American parents) adhere to a divine and timeless morality, handed down through Christianity, Judaism or Islam, giving them a strong sense of right and wrong. Understanding human nature as “basically sinful” and seeing moral decline in the larger society, including in the public schools, the Faithful seek to defend and multiply the traditional social and moral order by creating it within their homes and instilling it in their children, with support from their church community. Raising “children whose lives reflect God’s purpose” is a more important parenting goal than their children’s eventual happiness or career success.

For Engaged Progressives (21 percent of parents), morality centers around personal freedom and responsibility. Having sidelined God as morality’s author, Engaged Progressives see few moral absolutes beyond the Golden Rule. They value honesty, are skeptical about religion and are often guided morally by their own personal experience or what “feels right” to them. In turn, they feel obliged to extend moral latitude to others.

The parenting strategy of the Detached (19 percent of parents) can be summarized as: Let kids be kids and let the cards fall where they may. They are skeptical about the old certainties of the Faithful, but just as skeptical about the designs and self-assurance of Engaged Progressives.

American Dreamers (27 percent of parents) are defined by their optimism about their children’s abilities and opportunities. They believe in God and say that religion is very important in their lives, but they embrace a live-and-let-live morality when it comes to other people. They believe in speaking their mind, saying that the “greatest moral virtue” is being honest about one’s feelings and desires.

Read the rest of the press release here.
Read the executive summary here.


Journal Entry:  How does your family determine its values and morals?  What “story” do you tell?  Are you part of the Faithful, the Engaged Progressives, the Detached, or the Dreamers?


Karna Converse is a freelance writer who’s written everything from technical documentation and price proposals to newsletter articles, devotionals, personal profiles and essays. Her essays have been published in a variety of regional and national publications, including The Christian Science Monitor, Notre Dame Magazine, the Cup of Comfort and Chicken Soup anthologies, Our Iowa, and on Iowa Public Radio. She and her husband are parents to three young adults. Karna is a former blog editor, senior editor, managing editor, and editor-in-chief of Literary Mama.

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