The Impact Of Bad Parenting On Child Development In The Glass Castle

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In the book, The Glass Castle, Jeannette Walls talks about her unusual childhood of constant poverty and the chaos and confusion of her dysfunctional parents and their nomadic lifestyle. What is so cool about Jeanette’s story is that although Jeanette’s parents were irresponsible, neglectful and careless, they somehow instilled in their children good qualities and raised well-adjusted adults. Throughout the book you can see how Jeanette and her siblings develop through individual, social, and cultural factors.

Individual factors are when a person does something on their own by either practicing, getting information, or asking questions. Jeannette shows development through individual factors along with her siblings by taking action for themselves and doing things on their own. Jeannette and her siblings learned from a very young age to depend on each other for their most basic needs because both of their parents were self-absorbed and distracted by their own interest. Jeanette’s father, Rex, was an alcoholic and her mother, Rose-Mary, was always focused on her own hobbies; painting, reading and writing. Even though both of her parents neglected them often, they did love their children and the children loved them even through day to day struggles with poverty.

Social factors are basically guided interactions and relationships for other people. I would have thought that in Jeannette’s case that she would have turned out just like her parents but that’s not what happened. Jeannette and her siblings strived to be better than their parents and tried to help them be better too. The kids adapted to their environment and circumstances of having dysfunctional parents by changing roles with them. The children joined together to help their parents earn money and try to become functional to them and society. This reversal of roles shows when the children forced their mother to take on a teaching position. When the principal was about to fire her, because she was consistently unreliable, the kids took it upon themselves to make sure their mother could manage to stay employed. Jeannette was basically waking her mother up, feeding, dressing and finding a her a ride to and from school. She cleaned her classroom and created lesson plans for her as well. Ironically, by being unproductive, Rose-Mary provided Jeannette with the hands-on experience of what was needed to be an employable, successful adult.

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Rex and Rose Mary’s persistent permissive attitude towards the Jeannette and her siblings’ basic needs for safety and age appropriate expectations shows itself from when Jeannette was young. When she was three, Jeanette was badly burned while cooking hotdogs and when she was asked by the nurse why she was cooking hotdogs by herself, Jeanette said that “Mom says I’m mature and lets me cook for myself a lot.” (Walls 18) It’s obvious that at the young age of three, Jeanette knew that if she was hungry, she would need to learn to be independent and make her own food. This would be another way that she developed through individual factors. Growing up, Jeannette learned to embrace her parents neglect, and became strong because of it. While Jeanette was young, Rex taught her how to swim by literally letting her struggle until she was close to drowning then stated, “If you don’t want to sink you better figure out how to swim.” (Walls 66) This shows that Rex and Rose Mary’s reckless parenting technique taught their children to support themselves because they didn’t really have any other choice but to survive.

Lastly, regardless of Rex and Rose’s inability to keep a job or stay in one location without having to leave, they did teach their children the importance of education and many other important things. This is one way that Jeannette developed through cultural factors. Many cultures believe learning and educations is very important. Jeannette and her family believe that education is important. The joy of learning is what held the Walls family together. They would read together and bond over learning. “after dinner, the whole family was stretched out on the benches and the floor of the depot and read with the dictionary in the middle of the room so we could look up words we didn’t know.” (Walls 56-57) Sharing knowledge was how Rex and Rose Mary best expressed their genuine love towards their children. Rex, when sober, taught his children geometry, physics, astronomy and how to convert their math homework into binary numbers. Rose, a teacher herself, taught her children to value literature. In third grade, Jeanette and her siblings were recognized for their love of literature and were all placed in a gifted reading class. Rex and Rose Mary loved their children and expressed their love by sharing with them the joy of learning. Because this was basically their best way to show they cared, it drove their kids to strive to become successful and different from them.

In conclusion, Jeanette’s parents may have had a ton of flaws and bad examples, but when it came down to how Jeannette was brought up, she learned to be tough, independent, and educated. It was her parent’s love and neglect that drove her to become a successful person.

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