While reading The Help by Kathryn Stockett, it quickly becomes apparent that in 1960’s Southern Mississippi, the maids, or “the help”, played an important role in the family—not only as the maid, but often also as the childcare. The maids formed a special bond with the children, especially the children who were very young or were born during the maid’s time at the household, and in a lot of cases, the children seemed to be the only reason the help stayed with the family they were working for.
The relationship between Aibileen and Mae Mobley was the one of the relationships that Stockett touched on the most, since a lot of the book was written about Aibilieen and from her point of view. It is clear from the beginning of the book that Aibileen cares for Mae Mobley a great deal more than Mae Mobley’s own mother. While Elizabeth Leefolt was often rough, abrupt, or completely neglectful of her child, Aibileen made sure to tell Mae Mobley, “You is kind. You is smart. You is important.”
Her style of child rearing was definitely a much softer approach than the one Elizabeth used. In Baumrind’s scheme of parenting styles, there are three styles: Authoritative, permissive and authoritarian. I think that the style of parenting Elizabeth uses in the book would be authoritarian parenting, whereas Aibileen uses the softer, authoritative approach.
Authoritative parenting is a child-centered approach that holds the child accountable for his or her own actions, but also encourages the child to be independent. It is a warmer approach to parenting, characterized by positive words and actions, and fair punishments with explanations as to why the child is being punished. Authoritative parents also expect the children to be more mature and to act their age.
The biggest example of Aibileen using this form of parenting is one I already listed: encouragement. She made sure to hold Mae Mobley every day, and tell her positive things that she wasn’t hearing...