Being raised vs. growing up

Wednesday night on the AMU, the conversation turned to a certain individual. We had some discussion about this person, and I wanted to share something here that is relevant. It is something I’ve pondered before, and I think it applies in the particular case we discussed. I think it applies in my own case, to be perfectly honest.

mowglii feral child

Feral child Mowglii, from The Jungle Book.

There is a difference between being raised and growing up. It is possible to grow up without being raised. For example, there is a spectrum between being well raised and being feral. Now, I am not suggesting that this person or myself is feral, lol. But I do think we fall somewhere on the spectrum below the “well raised” end.

I don’t mean to suggest that “not well raised” equals “rude.” It can mean, “Lacking in the ability to discern certain social cues,” or, “Not understanding normal social boundaries.” Let’s put Liz at the “well raised” end of the scale, just for reference. I wrote to her and asked her permission to do this, which indicates that I see a boundary there. I didn’t want her to see this post without first being aware that her name appears in it. But I only knew of this boundary because of my interactions on that other site. It was not something I acquired during my childhood.

Liz has remarked a number of times that her dad gave her the best childhood anybody could ask for, and I believe her. When I listen to her talk and read her writings, it seems that she has a lot of tacit knowledge that was passed down to her from her parents, and presumably from their parents, and so on. It accumulates and passes down in a normally functioning family. In an abnormally functioning family, that kind of tacit knowledge gets easily lost to subsequent generations. They suffer for it, and they have to waste time reinventing the wheel, so to speak, regarding social interactions. They might inadvertently hurt others’ feelings, transgress normal social boundaries, and/or reveal inappropriate information. Assuming that there is a certain amount of trust with the individual, it is appropriate to discuss these situations with the individual when they happen. Without correction the person might intuit but won’t understand what is wrong. I think it is fair to say that they either acquired no boundaries while growing up, or their own boundaries were never developed and/or were transgressed as a matter of course. This might explain their problem with boundaries.

Happy Gilmore: transgressing social boundaries in the world of professional golf.

Happy Gilmore: transgressing social boundaries in the world of professional golf. Was he raised, or did he just grow up?

I like looking at human behavior through this lens. It makes allowances for correction while taking the fault off the individual for why they don’t understand these things. After correction, then the individual is more accountable, but not before, and I mean in a moral and social sense, not a legal sense. I do wonder if it is possible to develop these intuitions at an older age. If not, then it is possible that these kinds of social transgressions might continue but will hopefully diminish.

What do you think? Do you know anybody who grew up but was not raised, or at least experienced too much neglect? If they ever seem to behave inappropriately, can it be attributed to what I’m saying here?


About JJ

Just trying to find my way in this crazy world.
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17 Responses to Being raised vs. growing up

  1. TKC1101TKC1101 says:

    As a parent and a grandparent and having actually survived childhood, I tend to look at things with a far less critical eye than I used to.

    I hear the phrase ‘raised’ and think of active and passive. I do believe that helicopter parents with the best of intentions may actually be retarding the growth of their children. I have seen children prosper on benign neglect, where they became self reliant and I have seen children crushed with care.

    Children need to be raised AND grow up. Today, we believe activity is a substitute for example.

    I lost my father while still a child, but he influenced me more in his absence.

    I can see the effects of who I was at the time on both my children.

    I now get to see them interact with my grandchildren. I also get to be part of the raising and growing up as a grandparent.

    Raising and growing up is a matter of the example you set and the boundaries you provide.

  2. EThompson says:

    “I do wonder if it is possible to develop these intuitions at an older age.”

    JJ, that is the $64,000 dollar question and I would agree with Charles Murray who has claimed in nearly all of his books that kids learn behavioral norms by age three. It’s hard to change patterns after that!

    Such an interesting post and I would add one other aspect of child-raising that is critically important. Expose your kids to the world when they are young so they will be able to function in it when they become of age. It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money.

    I remember spending summers in my maternal grandmother’s Old South Georgian home with hammocks and tea time and ‘visiting hours’ as well as my extremely social paternal grandmother in Palm Beach dragging this teen-ager around to auctions and dinner parties on yachts. I loved them both along with the summer semesters in France and the extensive McJobs I was required to hold the day I turned 15 years old. And there were also the Griswold family vacations to Gettsyburg and Jamestown,

    By the time I finished college, I was open to the world and able to adapt to almost any new situation thrown my way. (I have some really ripe stories about NYC but will choose to spare you all.)

    Great post and I hope this attracts a lot of interesting comments!

  3. drlorentzdrlorentz says:

    TKC put his finger on it by emphasizing the importance of “example.” I think this is also what JJ meant by “tacit knowledge” [subtle reference to Michael Polanyi, perhaps].

    This was my experience: few overt lessons but plenty of examples from my parents. Kids don’t necessarily listen to parents’ lectures but they do keenly observe parental behavior, both to emulate and to avoid. Echoing ET’s post, exposure to a wide variety of experiences is also worthwhile, though it may not be possible for every family.

  4. DevereauxDevereaux says:

    Interesting topic. Let me add another aspect – faith.

    I am an alpha-type. I am a controller although the Marine Corps taught me to delegate – and hold feet to the fire. I was raised a warrior – probably inadvertently by my mother, but never=-the-less so. It was, therefore, surprising to see the shock in both my parents when I went off to war.

    I raised my children (my side of the equation) to be disciplined, tough, honest, hard-working. I am not sure that much love showed through. But my wife had all the love I lacked. In the end both kids grew up straight and strong. However, their relationship with me has been weak, especially my son, for a long time.

    Some of that I attribute to simple competition. I have strong beliefs and hold they are right and those who don’t see my way are simply wrong. So what they saw was I was always right; they couldn’t win an argument with me.

    Since I have come to faith, however, I have mellowed – a huge amount. I am less combative (other than with my Marine comrades, who ought to be able to take it), and less likely to argue points – especially with my kids. And there has been an improvement in our relationship.

    So it would seem you CAN teach an old dog new tricks. And trust me, while I understood boundaries and proper behavior, I could totally demolish people in “discussions”.

    • TKC1101TKC1101 says:

      One piece of advice, the essence of being an old dog who wants to be an older dog is to learn to fight when it is worth it rather than every time you feel challenged. It takes a while to get there.

      • DevereauxDevereaux says:

        For me, there was no sign I would get there before faith. Now I just choose to not get too wound up when it’s obvious the opponent won’t listen.

        My wife brought out a good alternative – ask the other person what their goal or resolution is. Let them stammer etc. Point out how well that has worked so far.

      • BrentB67BrentB67 says:

        No kidding.

    • drlorentzdrlorentz says:

      Regarding fathers vs. mothers, this quote comes to mind:
      “Don’t come to me for a self-esteem boost. That’s your mother’s job.”

      Words to live by.

      • EThompson says:

        Now that made me chuckle! My mother was a charming, somewhat self-effacing southern belle who did raise hell if my thank you notes were not quite appropriately written, but my father definitely set the standards for self-esteem and self-determination.

        In his opinion, you better have had both and he didn’t want to explain how and why a second time. The interesting thing is that he was funny and mischievous (considered the ‘third’ child), but truly led by example; he embodied the American work ethic.

  5. EThompson says:

    @drlorenz; “Kids don’t necessarily listen to parents’ lectures …”

    Highly socialized daughters who would rather die than be isolated from their ‘clique’ will listen to their parents if they are grounded and have phone privileges revoked. They also are willing to listen if Dad refuses to pay for the private college they choose to attend opposed to the perfectly excellent state school (U of Michigan in my case) which was half the cost.

    In other words, social and financial threats do work! :)

    • drlorentzdrlorentz says:

      @EThompson, well, yes, you can make them obey through threats and incentives. I’m not sure it’s quite the same as listening to absorb values, however. Agreed, incentives (positive and negative) succeed in modifying behavior.

  6. BrentB67BrentB67 says:

    I definitely grew up and was only sort of raised.

    I think my childhood could be described as semi-feral.

    Faith now plays a huge part in my life, but it came very late at tremendous cost not only to me but others.

  7. JJJJ says:

    Thanks, everybody, for your thoughtful comments on this post. I don’t have time to interact with everybody, but I wanted you to known that I read them all, and I appreciate them. Lots of good stuff here. :)

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