Analysis of Rex & Rosemary’s Parenting in The Glass Castle

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In her memoir, “The Glass Castle,” Jeannette Walls recounts her unconventional childhood and the parenting style of her parents, Rex and Rosemary. The Walls’ parenting approach involved minimal rules and frequent traveling, which helped their children become more independent, but also exposed them to risks and instability. One example of their parenting style was leaving Jeannette, at three years old, unattended near a fire, resulting in burns. Rex also believed that the witch doctor was better equipped to treat his daughter than the hospital, and broke her out of the hospital against medical advice. While some people may view their parenting style as free-spirited and liberating, others argue that it lacked proper care and concern for their children’s safety and well-being. The Walls’ parenting style can be compared to modern-day parenting styles, which tend to be stricter and more focused on safety and discipline. Despite their flaws, the Walls’ parenting approach helped Jeannette and her siblings become resilient and independent, preparing them for the challenges of life.
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Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • The Portrayal of Bad Parenting in The Glass Castle
  • Frequent Traveling as an Example of Bad Parenting
  • Conclusion


“We cannot protect our children from life. Therefore, it is essential that we prepare them for it” (Dreikurs, n.d.). This quote heavily connects to how Jeannette Walls’ parents raised her and her siblings. Jeannette Walls is the author of her Memoir, The Glass Castle. Her parents, Rex and Rosemary, were not the greatest role models to help her grow up into the woman she turned out to be. Rex and Rosemary had unique parenting styles, although often seemed as if they did not care or worry about their children. They never had many rules in the family, which meant the children could do whatever they wanted. Today, some people may believe that that’s not the right way to raise children, but others may argue that it taught Jeannette and her siblings to become more independent and grow up. Therefore, in The Glass Castle, Rex and Rosemary’s parenting can be compared to many different and similar parenting styles today.

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The Portrayal of Bad Parenting in The Glass Castle

At the beginning of The Glass Castle, Jeannette describes her earliest memory of an incident with the fire and how her parents dealt with it. First of all, Jeannette was only three years old when she was left unattended in a dangerous situation. Already, that shows poor character from the parents. Children, especially that young, should always be under the supervision of a parent or adult, most importantly when around a fire or other hazard. Secondly, Jeannette’s parents showed bad parenting once she was at the hospital after she got burned. Rex was not happy about Jeannette being there and truly believed that the witch doctor was the better option. “Your mother should have taken you to that witch doctor the day you got burned,” Dad said, “not to these heads­-up-their-­asses med school quacks” (Walls 13). Him saying that probably did not affect Jeannette much, but it showed that he would have rather risked her life with the witch doctor than the hospital. Furthermore, instead of letting the hospital help Jeannette and have her stay to fully recover, Rex decides to do things his way. “ ...when I had been at the hospital for about six weeks, Dad appeared alone in the doorway of my room. He told me we were going to check out, Rex Walls–style” (Walls 14). Rex not being patient and breaking Jeannette out from the hospital displays awfully bad parenting and more parents today would strongly disagree with Rex than agree. It represents how irrational Rex’s actions can be and shows bad character on his side. It could also appear as if Rex does not care or worry about his daughter enough to set his beliefs and dislike towards the hospital aside and let her receive the help and recovery she needs. Overall, Rex and Rosemary’s parenting lacks the worry and caring that parents tend to show nowadays.

Frequent Traveling as an Example of Bad Parenting

Another example comparing Rex and Rosemary’s parenting to the modern world is their frequent traveling. This is a debatable subject because some people can see it as a positive effect on Jeannette and the children, while others disagree. On the positive side, traveling creates opportunities for the kids to explore, adapt, and meet new people. Moreover, Jeannette’s parents managed to make every abrupt move to seem like an exciting journey to someplace new. 'We're off on another adventure, Jeannettie­kins. Isn't this wonderful?' her mother would say (Walls 93). Although they often had to awaken mid-sleep to quickly pack as few things as possible, it taught them to prioritize what they needed versus what they wanted to take. Along with other good lessons traveling taught the children, there are also negative views on the topic. For example, traveling so often can also be harmful during childhood. “Moving to a new home in childhood can impede school performance, social skills, and behavior, a new study finds, and the negative effects accumulate such that children who move multiple times are at greater risk… This is concerning given that many families, particularly low-income families, are frequently on the move” (Levine Coley and Kull, n.d.). Furthermore, the Walls are considered a low-income family and they do happen to relocate often. Although, the major issue is Rex losing his job or legal problems like not paying bills, for instance. Besides showing bad character, that again demonstrates unhealthy parenting and can affect the children deeply. The effect of relocating can be quite stressful and worrisome, particularly for young children who do not always understand what is going on around them. A sudden change like that can overwhelm a child and build up anxiety and/or lead up to other mental health disturbances.


So, how does Rex and Rosemary’s parenting relate/differ to parenting styles today? Well, after reading The Glass Castle, we saw what kinds of parents Rex and Rosemary are. Rex is an alcoholic who gets in trouble with the law by not paying bills or losing jobs and causes the family to move around a lot. Rosemary is a self-centered woman who seems to care about her painting and art more than she worries about her children. Both parents show a similar parenting style, they’re quite lenient and let their kids have lots of freedom. Most parents today would disagree with this sort of parenting. Modern parenting styles tend to be stricter, mainly because of how technology has developed. Parents tend to think technology affects kids negatively, that children are getting addicted and sucked in. From Rosemary’s perspective, she believes that luxuries are unnecessary for living, that one can survive on the basic simplicities of life. On the other hand, Rex believes that kids should be more independent and learn hard lessons while they’re young so things are easier for them in the future. Although Rex and Rosemary’s parenting can seem unacceptable at times, in some scenarios it benefits the children. Therefore the thoughts on how Rex and Rosemary’s parenting compares to other styles of parenting techniques contradict depending on the topic at hand and the differential perspectives brought into the debate.

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