Back to Chapter II
A TYPOLOGY OF BOARDING HOME PARENTS
This section suggests a typology of boarding home parents that defines classes of parents who are likely to develop satisfying, versus unsatisfying, relationships with students. It also suggests strategies for matching different types of students with different types of parents within the potentially successful parent class in order to increase the probability of mutual satisfaction.
Matching different types of boarding home parents with different types of students can take advantage of the tremendous diversity of parents and students. While the shy Native child who has never before seen the city is the popular stereotype of the boarding home student, students differ substantially in prior degree of western experience, interests and goals, age, etc. Boarding home families similarly differ substantially in the types of demands that they make upon students and in the resources they offer. It is not unusual for a family to develop a highly satisfactory relationship with one type of student, but not with another type. For example, one boarding home family emphasized achievement, activity, and integration into western culture and was willing to devote a substantial amount of time and effort in assisting the student attain such goals. One of the two Eskimo girls placed in this home had spent most of her childhood in Anchorage, shared the goals of the family, and thrived both in school and in the home. The other girl, who lived in the same village, but who had a traditional orientation, spent most of her time with Native families in the city and refused to be interested in the self-improvement activities with which the parents attempted to entice her. She was dismissed by the parents as a "village woman" who was not getting anything out of the boarding home experience, and the parents were relieved when she transferred to a Native boarding home family.
Many different factors, of course, must be considered in placing individual students the particular preference of the parent and student, the reactions of different family members, the student's emotional balance, the proximity of close friends, etc. This typology attempts to suggest general dimensions that may be useful in the broad, initial classification of parents and students.
Motivational and Demographic Variables
Although boarding home parents could be classified in many different ways, popular opinion about the program classifies them primarily by their motives for taking a student. Parents who take students for material rewards such as money or household work are considered undesirable parents, while parents who take the students for altruistic reasons, such as a desire to help them, are considered desirable. The results of this exploratory work suggest that motivational criteria are not very useful in distinguishing desirable from undesirable parents, except perhaps in extreme cases, because parents with similar motives often related to the student in very different ways. Some parents who took the student primarily for the money, for example, indeed proved to be highly unsatisfactory parents who rationed food and were unwilling to adapt any of their behavior to the student's needs. Yet, other parents who took the student primarily for the money developed very good relationships. These parents felt that the students were helping them out so they should help the students out. Moreover, receiving their rewards partly in money, these parents did not expect their rewards to come primarily from the student's gratitude or acculturative change.
Similarly, some parents who took the student for altruistic reasons developed satisfying relationships, while others developed very poor relationships. Some of these parents viewed themselves as secular missionaries and placed great pressure upon the student to transform himself into their image of the model Native student. These also tended to be the parents who expected payment in gratitude rather than money. Experienced boarding home program staff in Alaska and elsewhere (see Little, 1970) are aware of the dangers of the "save the Native" syndrome, although the general community does not recognize this problem. Motivation, in short, may be a clue to the way the family will behave toward the student, but it is only one clue. Rather than focusing on the motives that are believed to give some insight into the behavior of the parent, it is more useful to classify parents by their behavior itself.
At the beginning of the project, it was thought that demographic variables, such as the social class and ethnic group of the boarding home parents, might be related to their success. A substantial research literature does suggest that middle-class child-rearing methods result in higher achievement and better mental health (reviewed in Hess, 1970). In addition, it seemed likely that Native students would be more comfortable with urban Native families, especially relatives. This exploratory project, however, provided no basis for entertaining such hypotheses, a conclusion reached also by an analysis of another similar boarding home program (Little, 1970). While some middle-class families proved to be successful boarding home parents, others placed excessive achievement pressures on students. In addition, with their distaste for sentimentality, some of these middle-class families had great difficulty in expressing warmth in the direct and straightforward way that students immediately understood. Similarly, while some students were happy with relatives or with urban Native families, others were not. Relatives might take a student because they did not want to refuse the parents, even if they did not have the room or the inclination. In addition, relatives might demand a great deal of baby sitting and other household chores from the student as kinship obligations, and the student became dissatisfied when he compared his situation to that of his friends.
The characteristics of boarding home parents that appeared to be most strongly related to the development of mutually satisfying relationships with students was their behavior in the affective and power dimensions of the relationship. The most critical aspect of boarding home parents' behavior seemed to be the ability to communicate warmth. Other research has found parental warmth to be a central dimension of parental behavior, one that is related with remarkable consistency to the achievement, mental health, and conscience development of natural children (Arkoff, 1968, pp. 350-352; Morrow & Wilson, 1961; Aronfreed, 1968, pp. 302-323). Rogers (1961) suggests that this emotional quality is the core of any type of helping relationship and the most significant factor in determining whether the relationship leads to the development and maturity of another individual.
In a cross-cultural relationship, a special problem regarding warmth occurs. The person must not only express warmth, but also must express it in a style that persons of a different cultural background can understand. Although persons from a similar cultural background may be able to receive subtle messages of warmth, persons from different cultural backgrounds may receive only broad messages. For this reason, this dimension of boarding home parents' behavior has been labeled not simply warmth, but rather "communicated warmth."
The second dimension of boarding home parents' behavior that seems central in explaining the development of mutual satisfaction is the perceived demandingness of the parent. This dimension is similar to the parental control factor, labeled "permissiveness-restrictiveness" or "democratic-authoritarian," that is usually found in analyses of child-rearing methods (Arkoff, 1968, pp. 356-363). This dimension is labeled "demandingness," rather than control, to emphasize that, in a cross-cultural relationship, boarding home parents are concerned not so much with controlling the impulses of the child as demanding conformity to different cultural notions concerning what is appropriate behavior. This dimension is labeled "perceived" demandingness, rather than merely demandingness, to stress that the way the parent expresses these demands is as important if not more important than the objective level of the demands in themselves. A student may perceive one parent who commands and orders as highly demanding, although he perceives another parent who requests or suggests precisely the same behavior as demanding very little.
These two parental dimensions suggest a typology of boarding home parents where each parent is ranked on both his degree of communicated warmth and of perceived demandingness (see Figure 2.) Thus, a family characterized by high communicated warmth and high perceived demandingness would be placed in the upper right quadrant, while a family characterized by low communicated warmth and high perceived demandingness would be placed in the upper left quadrant. Each family could be placed at different points within each quadrant, of course, to correspond to its particular degree of warmth and demandingness.
Figure 2: A Typology of Boarding Home Parents
The warmth dimension indicates a central reward that the student may receive from the boarding home parent-student relationship, while the demandingness dimension indicates a central cost. Boarding home parents who are low in warmth (Types I and II) are likely to develop unsatisfactory relationships with students because they offer few rewards. Especially unsatisfactory is the Type I, low warmth high demandingness parent who not only offers few rewards but also imposes great costs. Boarding home parents high in warmth (Types III and IV) are the potentially successful parents. However, the most successful parents are not necessarily those who impose the fewest demands (extreme Type IV) because imposing few demands may create other costs for the student, such as a feeling of guilt from lack of accomplishment or improper behavior. A moderate level of demandingness together with high warmth appear to be optimal for success.
Type I Boarding Home Parents: Low Communicated Warmth
High Perceived Demandingness
Boarding home parents in this group tended to be quite unhappy with their relationship with the student. While in many cases sensitive, generous parents who had excellent relationships with their own children, these parents had great difficulty in developing a cross-cultural relationship. They found it hard to express the open, demonstrative warmth to which Indian and Eskimo students respond. These parents also tended to have high expectations for the boarding home student, desiring to socialize him into middle-class values (which the parents honestly regarded as a way of life leading to greater happiness for the student) or desiring him to show high school achievement that would enable him to become a leader and help his people. Such demands could shred the self-esteem of a student who had neither the desire nor capabilities to fulfill the parents' goals.
One group of parents in this class tended to have a classic authoritarian personality pattern (Adorno, 1950). They tended to be extremely concerned about the issue of their authority over the student and covertly enjoyed wielding power. They usually held rigid middle-class or religious values punctuality, cleanliness, church attendance, family togetherness and admitted no cultural relativism. Disapproval of teenage sexuality tended to be an undercurrent in their thinking as well. These parents in many cases were prejudiced against Natives, but the prejudice was covert. It was often masked by protestations of positive regard for Natives who belonged to the parents' in-group, such as their church. Indeed, the excessiveness of these protestations of positive feeling toward Natives was one good way to identify such parents.
Another group of parents in this class tended to be the intellectuals. Their lack of warmth was not so much judgmental coldness, as in the authoritarian group, as it was a sophisticated reserve and embarrassment about sentimentality. Typically, they desired the student to show great interest in school work and were willing to devote much time, effort, and money to helping the student academically. Many of these people were enthusiastic boarding home parents when the program began, but withdrew in later years because the experience was so unsatisfying.
The following case studies of boarding home parents in this class concern only the authoritarian personality group. Extensive interviews were not held with parents in the other group as most had dropped out of the program. Moreover, the authoritarian personality parent is the most important to eliminate from the program since boarding home students placed in their homes were subjected to pervasive disapproval that could severely undermine their self-esteem. In addition, students in their homes tended to rebel passively by refusing to adopt even the appropriate behavior that the parents struggled to implant. Rebellion of this sort could lead to serious difficulties in an urban environment.
It is important to point out that the regular boarding home coordinators did not select the families described below for the program. They were included in the program by emergency assistants employed during a coordinator illness.
Case 1:1 Mrs. E. is an older woman with iron-gray hair who ushered the interviewer into an immaculate, carefully decorated house that looked like a page from Better Homes and Gardens. During the interview, Mrs. E. glanced nervously at the interviewer's coat, which had been put down on the couch and visibly relaxed when she was able to hang it up in the closet. Mrs. E. had been boarding home mother to a 17-year-old Indian girl who had left her moderately traditional village for the first time. Mrs. E. reported that she had put up with this spoiled, undisciplined girl for two months, but had finally gotten rid of her. She said that she was glad to offer the student advantages, but it had destroyed her house. Her own daughter developed a nervous tic in her eye, and she had ended up with a perpetually knotted stomach.
Her daughter, an only child, had been very eager to have a boarding home student for company, and they had spent a great deal of time during the preceding summer making a room attractive for her. They had redone the bedroom and a private bath. None of these things were actually necessary, Mrs. E. added, and they were expensive, but they wanted to show the student that she was welcome. However, the girl had been oblivious to all they had done. All she wanted to do was spend all her time in a broken down trailer across town with a Native family. Indeed, the girl had no appreciation for any of the advantages Mrs. E. offered. "At first," said Mrs. E. wistfully, "I was all eager to change her. I wanted her to get her teeth straightened and her hair fixed up. She could have been a very attractive girl. I kept fussing at her that whole first week."
When asked what problems she had had with the student, Mrs. E. launched into her recital with gusto. First, they could not communicate. The student would never listen to her when she was talking. Mrs. E. thought the girl hard of hearing, but then she realized that the girl did hear what she wanted to hear. For example, when the telephone rang, she jumped for it, and her friends were always calling, especially during dinner. The student also told lies to other people. She said that Mrs. E. made her clean her room from top to bottom every day, when all she had to do was pick up her clothes and make her bed. "Of course," added Mrs. E., "her ideas of cleaning and mine were rather different." Mrs. E. arranged a number of dramatic housecleaning scenes. On one occasion, with the waiting school bus providing dramatic tension and the girl's friends serving as an intent audience, Mrs. E. went to her room and said (imitating a sugary tone of voice), "Did you get your room picked up?" "Yes," replied the student. At this point Mrs. E. spied a pair of socks on the floor, pointed a threatening finger, and ordered the girl to pick them up. The girl hesitated, glared at Mrs. E., and finally submitted. Saving as much face as possible by snatching up the socks and throwing them wildly into the closet, she ran from the room.
A more sensational drama occurred over the girl's social life. Mrs. E. forbade the girl to date since she was "seventeen, but immature" and forbade her to go to the movie theater in the part of town where the bad (read Native) element hung around. Once she went to pick up the girl at a theater, even though she hated to drive at night, but the girl had gone. "I was there on the dot," explained Mrs. E., "but I couldn't find her. I thought the worst. I thought she had gone to the bad theater and went after her, but she wasn't there, either. Then I went home and accused her, but she said she had walked home. She said that she did wait, and I wasn't there. But I knew that wasn't true because I am always on time. I bawled her out and she ran to her room and cried and cried. What she really needed was a hickory stick."
Mrs. E. had met the student's mother when she came to town for medical treatment and said that she was even "more childish" than her daughter. "I told her everything her daughter had done and she just sat there and smiled. All she would say was 'Yes' and 'I don't know.' " Mrs. E. was especially irritated because the mother had taken some cast-off clothes given to the girl back to the village and neither of them had expressed any appreciation.
Mrs. E. said that she had bought the girl new clothes and a radio. But the girl did not act pleased and did not even thank her. When the student left, Mrs. E. told her that she could take these things with her because they were hers. The girl left them. Mrs. E. concluded that the girl's basic problem was that she hated all white people.
After Mrs. E. had expressed her views, the interviewer attempted to explain some of the cultural bases of the student's behavior in order to explore the effects an orientation program might have with parents of this type. Mrs. E. was interested, but said that the information would make no difference in her behavior since "the village is the village and the city is the city."
Case II: Mr. L. is a quiet, very kindly man and Mrs. L. is a large, big-bosomed woman resembling a steamship. They had been boarding home parents to an Eskimo boy who had never been out of a traditional village.
Mr. and Mrs. L. reported that they had had many problems with the boy. When he first arrived, he immediately wanted to go away. He always wanted to be with his friends or Native families. If he were home, he was either on the telephone or hiding in his room. He constantly received phone calls from girls, Mrs. L. observed with distaste, and "any Native was a girl friend."
Mr. and Mrs. L. tried and tried to talk to him and make him feel like a member of the family. They asked him about his hobbies and what he did in the village, but all he would say was that he rode a Honda.
Mrs. L. said that the real problem started when his mother came into town. She gave him a check for $109 which he had earned the previous summer. "That money was his independence," asserted Mr. L. "Then he didn't have to come home for supper anymore because he could buy it at Safeway. Before, he would come home because if he didn't, he wouldn't get any supper." "I felt as if I were running a motel," added Mrs. L., "You can't run a family like that." Mrs. L. attempted to hold the money for the boy to prevent his squandering it. "All right, I want that money," she said (imitating a stern countenance and a nasty tone of voice). "I got the money but I don't think he trusted me with it. He didn't want to put it in the bank, though."
According to Mrs. L., church was another major problem. Every Sunday morning the parents insisted that the boy go to some church, but he refused to go. "You can't raise a good Christian family with bad influences around for your own kids," she explained.
Mr. L. thought it was a shame he could not get along with the boy because he liked Natives. Many belonged to his church, and they were good people. He thought the boy's mother was "nice," adding that he was surprised she was sober when he met her.
Mr. and Mrs. L. had tried their best to make things nice for the boy. Mr. L., for example, had taken the boy moose hunting. However, the boy tried to pretend that he did not care and refused to give Mr. L. the satisfaction of showing any enjoyment. Once, Mr. L. said, they did catch sight of a moose and the boy forgot and became excited in spite of himself.
Again the interviewer's attempt to explain the bases of the boy's behavior did not suggest that an orientation program would be promising for parents of this type. Indeed, these parents seemed to want to use the information to make things harder on the student as they now had a better idea of what things mattered to him. "If it's so important for them to be with friends and relatives," concluded Mr. L., "then we should put them in a school thirty miles out of town so they could be kept in bounds."
Type II Boarding Home Parents:
Low Communicated Warmth Low Perceived Demandingness
This type of parent corresponds to the popular stereotype of the "bad" boarding home parent who has taken the student for the money, does not care about him, and lets him run wild. This exploratory project, however, did not find any parents who could be put into this category. There were parents who did not develop warm relationships with the students, but these parents also tended to place strong demands upon them (Type I parents). Since, the students in these homes often rebelled against parental directives, they possibly gave the impression that the parents allowed them to run wild.
Clearly, Type II boarding home parents would not be desirable. That no parents of this class were found may be attributable to the sensitivity of Boarding Home Program coordinators to this type of parent, whom they excluded from the program during initial interviews.
Type III Boarding Home Parents:
High Communicated Warmth Low Perceived Demandingness
The families in this category were all Natives who retained a largely village life-style while living in the city. Since they shared the cultural background of the student, they tended to express warmth in ways the students understood. Interestingly, these parents found it unnecessary to communicate warmth in the demonstrative way necessary for white parents, from whom students expected rejection and whose behavior was likely to be misinterpreted. Since they themselves did not hold strong middle-class values and had adapted their village life-style to the city, they placed few demands on the student.
While all the families in this category were Native, it is important to note that all Native families were not in this category. Indeed, many upwardly mobile Native families placed as severe demands upon the students as were made in any family studied.
In the Type III families, the students were often able to speak their own language, eat food from home, and discuss village affairs. The home atmosphere was usually one of casual disorder. Since a constant stream of neighbors and friends from the village flowed through the home, students were less likely to feel isolated and lonely. Parents' and students' values and behavioral expectations tended to be congruent. For example, these parents found it very natural that the student should want to spend all his time with his peers and not with them. Nor did they expect the student to discuss personal problems with them. Nor did they demand to know where the student was at every moment, although they sometimes professed that they did.
The primary weakness of these Type III boarding home parents, which the parents themselves recognized, was they lacked methods of controlling those students who were overly enticed by urban excitements. Like village parents, these Native boarding home parents were not accustomed to interfering with an adolescent's behavior. In addition, precisely because the student was so comfortable with them, he was more likely to do as he pleased. These parents could not use the student's awe and fear of them to control behavior as could white parents. Moreover, those students who could not control their own behavior felt ambivalent about living with these families. While they enjoyed the freedom, they felt guilt at not doing what they felt they should.
Type III boarding home parents may be successful for certain types of students. As one of these parents suggested, this type of home may provide a desirable transition for those students who have never been out of traditional villages and who indicate no propensity for behavior that could get them into trouble. These homes also may be desirable for those students who are men of 20 or older and consider partying to be a prerogative of adulthood. Students in this type of home who have western goals, however, will not receive the guidance and other benefits (those that could help them acquire the skills needed to attain their aspirations) that they might receive in more western homes, whether Native or non-Native.
Case III: Mrs. C. is an Eskimo woman married to a white man. The family lives in a section of town known as "Eskimo Village," where many Eskimo families live in inexpensive homes and maintain a largely village life style. The Eskimo student who transferred to her home is the same boy who had previously lived with Mr. and Mrs. L., the Type I parents previously described. Much of the problem behavior that the boy displayed in the former home refusing to communicate, go to church, or help with the housework changed dramatically in Mrs. C.'s home.
The interviewer arrived to find that Mrs. C., barefoot in a housecoat, had totally forgotten the appointment. Nonetheless, Mrs. C. welcomed the interviewer heartily. Since there was no place to sit down in the living room, piled with clothes, toys, and assorted junk, Mrs. C. led the interviewer into the kitchen, which was filled with an impressive accumulation of dirty dishes. Throughout the interview, Mrs. C's relatives called on the telephone, and at one point several visitors from Mrs. C's home village arrived.
Mrs. C. mentioned that she was from the same town as the student's mother and that she and the student spent a lot of time making tapes to send home. They spoke Eskimo together quite often, although her husband got mad because he did not know what they were saying. She also helped the student with English. "He forgets and puts an Eskimo word in an English sentence," Mrs. C. explained. "I used to do that, too. And sometimes you're so afraid to make a mistake you don't say anything." Occasionally, they ate Eskimo food, but usually they ate whatever was around. "I say to all my kids," said Mrs. C. cheerily, "if you don't see it, don't ask for it, because we don't got it."
Mrs. C. said that she had no problems with the student, that he minded her well. She was very critical of the former boarding home parents, Mr. and Mrs. L., because they were too strict. She thought it was ridiculous to restrict the student just because he refused to go to church. "I wake him Sunday mornings and he goes to church with me," she said, "but I don't push it on him. He'll go as long as he isn't pushed. Why he likes to go to church because there you can meet people." Mrs. C. was also shocked that Mrs. L. had physically shaken the boy for not doing housework. Mrs. C. emphasized that the boy was very good about doing housework for her. She just told them all (imitating a cheerful, matter-of-fact tone), "O.K. you guys, it's time to do the KP." Mrs. C. added that the student sometimes cleaned up the living room for her even when she said nothing about it.
Mrs. C. said that a lot of things about the boy's behavior bothered her husband but not her. For example, her husband got mad when the boy came home after 5:00 p.m. for dinner, but she realized he was out looking for a job. Also, her husband thought it was foolish to let the student go to a spook show that let out at 2:00 in the morning with his friends. Mrs. C. thought her husband's view illogical. He had done his work and he should have some fun. "Just take a cab home," she told him breezily. However, he and his friends spent all their money on popcorn and things, and he called her up at 2:00 in the morning to come and get them. She did not mind because she just loved to drive. Her husband thought she was crazy.
A few weeks later, Mrs. C. decided to separate from her husband so the student had to transfer to a different home.
Case IV: Mrs. S. is an Eskimo married to another Eskimo whom she met at boarding school. They left the village reluctantly so that her husband could get a better paying job. His job takes him back home frequently, however, so they keep up on village news and have fish, muktuk, and oil in the house. Mrs. S. is boarding home mother to two Eskimo girls. One had just transferred to her home.
When the interviewer arrived in the late evening, Mrs. S. and one student were just sitting down to a casual meal. Mrs. S. thought that the other student was at her cousin's, although she was unsure. She expected the cousin to send the girl home in a taxi.
Mrs. S. said that the student was not happy in the first home because she felt uncomfortable all the time. The parents spoke sharply to her, and she thought they disliked her. They did not eat Eskimo food, and, anyway, she was too scared to eat anything (the former boarding home parents had said that the girl ate fine). "What the kids like to eat," explained Mrs. S., "is frozen raw fish and meat." When she has none from home, she buys a frozen white fish or frozen reindeer steak, which some supermarkets carry, and they all eat it raw dipped in oil, once it defrosts enough to get a knife through it.
Mrs. S. also mentioned that the first home restricted the girl too much. The mother wanted her to stay home with the family. Mrs. S. explained that Eskimos are not used to being restricted in one area and get claustrophobic. "In the village," she emphasized, "you are always out visiting and seeing what's happening. You never stay home to have fun." Mrs. S. thought that it was very important for the Boarding Home Program to have something in town for the students every day so that students could get together and talk.
Mrs. S. considered it of the greatest importance to have fun with your friends. She was carefully planning a slumber party for all the boarding home students from her village. She agreed with her students that it was not good to have parties with white kids because then the Eskimo kids were uncomfortable and "couldn't concentrate on having fun."
Mrs. S. said that there were no rules for the students, although she wanted to know where they were and when they were coming back. She could not understand why some boarding home parents had strict bed times because students are "old enough to get to sleep whenever they want to." Mrs. S. also did not require many chores, just picking up and doing the vacuuming. If they forgot, she just told them, "I do my share and you do your share." She thought it was ridiculous for boarding home parents to get mad about chores. "No one in the village," she remarked, "would get upset just because a kid forgets to wash a pot."
Both of these boarding home students came from a village where the village community and the peer group held negative feelings toward Fairbanks, and they dropped out later in the year.
Type IV Boarding Home Parents:
High Communicated Warmth Moderate to High
The parents in this group were much more diverse in background and personality than the parents in the other classes. The parents were similar, however, in relating to the students with open demonstrativeness and great warmth. When discussing the problems that they had with the students, these parents often laughed about them, mentioned that they themselves had acted the same way as teenagers, and blamed themselves as much as they blamed the students.
These boarding home parents varied both in the type and amount of demands that they placed on the students. In some homes, achievement was emphasized, while in others parents were more concerned that students conform to middle-class notions of good manners. In some homes, students had a great deal of freedom, while in others the objective demands made on the students were as stringent as any made in the Type I homes. However, students in Type IV homes perceived a lower level of demandingness because the parents expressed their demands in ways that prevented the students from losing their sense of autonomy.
These homes tended to be casual, informal, and active. Parents and students often talked a great deal, and much informal teaching and counseling occurred. These parents often spoke about how much they enjoyed having the student with them because he was "a lot of fun." Students also spoke of these homes positively. As one said, "I like everything, absolutely everything. As a matter of fact, I love the H. family like I do my parents."
Clearly, the most successful boarding home parents lie predominantly in this class. Within this group, students can be matched with parents whose demands are congruent with the student's capabilities and desires. For example, those parents who highly value academic achievement and are willing to devote much effort to helping the student could be matched with students who are also interested in educational goals. Such matching strategies might lead to relationships that maximize mutual satisfaction and student growth. The diversity of these parents makes them difficult to identify. However, an interviewing boarding home coordinator can make a reasonably good assessment of the warmth of prospective boarding home parents by observing how the parents relate to the coordinator and to his own children. These parents' casual warmth tends to overflow into any interpersonal relationship. The coordinator could obtain some notion of the types of demands the parents would make upon the students and the way in which they would express these demands by presenting typical problem situations that occur with students in boarding homes and ask the parent how they would handle them.
Case V: Mrs. R. is a plump, relaxed woman who is an experienced boarding home parent. This year she took care of three Eskimo girls. Mrs. R. took the interviewer through a living room casually strewn with sewing materials and anthropology books (for a course which she was taking at the university, having become interested in Eskimo culture) into the kitchen. The interview was conducted informally while Mrs. R. washed dishes.
Mrs. R. emphasized how much self-confidence in the urban environment the girls had developed over the past two years. When they first came into her home, she explained, they were very quiet, but now they are outgoing. Last year she would drop one of the girls off at the library, and she would be too scared to walk in. Now the girl jumps out of the car and says, "If it's got a card catalogue, I'll be all set." Another student who used to shrivel up when the subject was even mentioned is learning to drive." The girls just take over in the house now," added Mrs. R., "If I'm late, they are the ones who start dinner."
While pointing out the ways that the students had changed, Mrs. R. was also interested in the ways they retained basically Eskimo values. "The girls take music lessons," she explained, "and two of them are very good, but the other one has no ear. However, they try to maintain the appearance of equality so they won't make her feel bad. They'll practice the same page over and over (until I could die), but they won't go ahead to the next page until she's ready, too."
Mrs. R. emphasized that she also had changed a great deal as a boarding home parent. "In the beginning I was too strict. I was scared about the whole thing and I over-reacted. When they didn't come home from school right away, I'd worry. Now I know that a friend from the village has probably come in and they're all together. Last year I'd constantly ask them where they were going and they'd just say, 'I don't know.' That was a sign that they didn't trust me. I don't get over-anxious any more, and we get along fine."
Counseling the students took a lot of Mrs. R.'s time. "They get upset about their boy friends or their parents. I just try to keep them calling home or writing home so they don't worry." Last year, Mrs. R. added, she spent a lot of time talking with them about the reasons people live differently in the city and in the village. "It's funny," she observed, "Usually, you yourself don't know why you do things the way you do. Once I was trying to explain to them why they should do their homework after school and not in the middle of the night. Then they asked me why I always went to bed early to get to the office at 8:00 in the morning, even when there was nothing special to do in the office and something very interesting to do the night before. You know, I really began to wonder about why I did things like that."
Mrs. R. said that she had few problems with the student, and, when she did, she tried to avoid restrictions because everyone just gets bad feelings. If the kids misbehaved, sometimes she ignored them or left the house. "That's what they do to me when they're angry," Mrs. R. pointed out. "Some problems," Mrs. R. noted, "were as much my fault as theirs. For example, they had to get used to a culture dependent on time. After a week of waiting dinner and getting mad about it, we went ahead and ate. After they missed dinner a few times and had to make their own, they weren't late again."
When asked about rules, Mrs. R. said she had none. "However," she added, "I do have certain expectations." For example, she expected the girls to go to church, and they went most of the time. "But we let them make their own decisions," Mrs. R. said. "We wake them up on Sundays and then they decide. Sometimes they say that they don't want to go. They're just trying to assert their independence. I was the same at their age." Mrs. R. said that she asked the girls to do very little around the house because she felt that the housework was her job and studying was the girls' job. "Last year I assigned chores," Mrs. R. explained. "When I did that, someone always had to be on the spot supervising and reprimanding. Now I just ask everyone to carry their load and share. There are no specific assignments. We just work together. If the girls forget, my three-year-old will say, 'Ladies, it's time to set the table.' They like that because they think it's cute and then I don't have to order them to do it."
Mrs. R. emphasized how important it was to use an indirect approach when approaching a sensitive subject with Eskimo students. "You joke about it or hint and eventually you get around to the point you want," she explained. "For example, the kids gained an average of twenty pounds of weight because of the plentiful food around here. I wanted to make them aware of their weight problem without embarrassing them so I made fun of myself for being overweight. Then they got more relaxed about it. Finally, I said, 'O.K. troops, this is it, I'm going on a diet.' They couldn't give up the goodies, though. Then they saw that I lost 10 pounds, and they wanted to do it, too. We all went to the supermarket and pushed baskets full of grapefruit. They were pleased as punch when they went from a size 13 to a size 10."
Mrs. R. said that she had met the father of one of the girls, and he seemed like a "responsible, loving father." However, she admitted that she just did not get around to corresponding with their parents as much as she felt she should.
Two of the girls had rated this home as "very good" and the third as "all right." All were planning to return the following year.
Case VI: Mrs. H. lives in military housing on base as her husband is an Army sergeant. They were boarding home parents to an Indian boy who had never before left a moderately traditional village. Mrs. H. welcomed the interviewer cheerily and pressed her hand warmly while apologizing for the messiness of her house.
Mrs. H. said that she had to have a lot of rules in her home because the regulations on base were very strict. "He has to observe the curfew, no walking around after 11:00," she explained, "because, if he were caught, my husband could lose a stripe and that means a loss in salary. The first night he stayed out too late with his friends, who also live on base, and we went to get him. We explained the rules and regulations to him, which he didn't know and couldn't be expected to know. We said to him, 'We love you and we are concerned about you and we care for you. You don't want father to lose a stripe.' You have to let him know that your reputation and honor is in their hands. Give them a responsibility. They don't want to embarrass you any way."
Drinking and smoking, Mrs. H. added, were taboo in her household. Two boys living with another family on base got into trouble with drinking, but she did not stop her student from associating with them. "You've got to let them know you trust them," Mrs. H. said. "You can't accuse them and point the finger at them. They're not going to do half the things they would do otherwise. Prove that you really love them by trusting them."
Mrs. H. said that she asked the student to do few chores because there were few chores to do. She did ask him to take out the garbage every day. When he forgot, she didn't say anything to embarrass him. She just docked him $.25 from his $5.00 a week allowance (double the payment provided by the Boarding Home Program). "He didn't forget the next time," she chuckled.
Mrs. H. was very critical of other boarding home families who told the students that they were short on food and was not dismayed by her student's preferences. "Here we have meat and potatoes every day, all he wants. My husband doesn't like salads either so we don't have much of that. My husband also brought home moose and he liked that a lot. At first he thought it was beef, and he was going to wrinkle up his nose."
The boarding home family and natural parents had a great deal of contact. "His parents came in twice, once on a visit and once for a funeral. We asked them questions about what they wanted us to do. For example, we asked if we could take him to our church because they have some activities there for teenagers. His father said, 'Of course.' You know, his mother embraced me when she left and told me how glad she was her son was here, and I was overwhelmed, I couldn't help shedding some tears. We write often. Now whenever he balks, I tease him, 'O.K. young man, this is orders from your parents. Let's go.' "
When asked whether the student expressed gratitude, Mrs. H. said emphatically, "Oh yes! He doesn't come right out and say anything, but when it's a Sunday and we're not home from church, he washes the dishes without being asked."
The student rated this home as "very good" and was planning to return the following year.
Footnotes, Chapter III
1ldentifying characteristics have been changed in these case studies so that families cannot be recognized. In a few instances characteristics of several families have been combined into one composite portrait,