How To Make Yourself and Your Kids Miserable: Helicopter Parenting

Evidently, helicopter parenting is all the rage. And the results are visible beyond the playground, all the way up to the nation’s most prestigious universities.

Perhaps this shouldn’t be a surprise, we have subtly and perhaps unknowingly shifted the meaning of family. Historically, families have been viewed as the context for teaching character and establishing our most important relationships.  More and more families are seen as a means to establishing financial success.

“Julie Lythcott-Haims noticed a disturbing trend during her decade as a dean of freshmen at Stanford University. Incoming students were brilliant and accomplished and virtually flawless, on paper. But with each year, more of them seemed incapable of taking care of themselves.  (emphasis added)

“At the same time, parents were becoming more and more involved in their children’s lives. They talked to their children multiple times a day and swooped in to personally intervene anytime something difficult happened.

“From her position at one of the world’s most prestigious schools, Lythcott-Haims came to believe that mothers and fathers in affluent communities have been hobbling their children by trying so hard to make sure they succeed, and by working so diligently to protect them from disappointment and failure and hardship.”

Source: Ex-Stanford dean explains why helicopter parenting is ruining a generation | Fresno Bee

Helping People Learn By Letting Them Fail Is Essential – 6 Recommendations To Fail Well

randy pausch

Here is a great (and brief) article on the importance of failure in developing character, growing businesses, and helping people have a good life.  It turns out that trying to spare people (ourselves, our children, our employees, etc) from experiencing the pain of failure is bad in the long run.  Why? We can’t gain deep wisdom without the process of learning from our failures.  This is a list from the article at Forbes.com of ways to help people fail in a way that is positive for them and the organization.

“Here are some ways to increase employees’ comfort with the risk of failure, and to be resilient when it happens:

  1. Share past stories of struggle. Everyone’s been there.
  2. Practice recovery so people aren’t paralyzed by failure. When I was coaching sports, we didn’t just diagram plays. We always developed a Plan B. That’s why great organizations scenario-plan. It helps people think of struggle as part of the process.
  3. Help people around you think like long-term investors in their own ideas and their own careers. The aim shouldn’t be to try to have one uninterrupted string of successes, but rather to have a portfolio of some winners and, yes, some losers.
  4. If someone is struggling, your job is to figure out how to get them on the right path. The real job of a manager is to help people learn from failure and move forward.
  5. Champion failure that turns to innovation. Find examples where ordinary failure has led to extraordinary opportunity.
  6. Encourage failing fast. Sometimes we recognize that something is failing, and our instinct tells us to push harder to make it succeed. Knowing when to pull the plug is always difficult but is necessary.”

Source: Helping People Learn By Letting Them Fail Is Essential – Forbes

30 Questions to Ask Your Kid Instead of “How Was Your Day?”

My friend Katie shared this article with me. It is simple but still good. It might not seem like a big deal at first. But these discussions about how to do something simple, like talk with your kids, are important because it is easy to try,  and fail. Try again, fail again. And then give up. Sometimes perseverance combined with a little wisdom can win the day.

Mark it down, having lots of conversations with your kids should be at the very top of your priority list.  This might be the key (in broad terms) to raising your kids. It is not a silver bullet, but it is probably the next best thing.  Talk to them about everything. Mingle it with love, grace and truth. Sadly, most of us are looking for something more expensive, and more exotic, more worthy of social media. But the best things in life often seem ordinary.  Your kids don’t need more activities, and more technology. They need more time with you. The Bible is clear on this in Deuteronomy 6:4-9, which basically says we are to be talking with our kids all the time (and especially talking to them about God).

Sadly, many of us give people in lab coats more weight than scripture.  But in this regard, they have come to similar conclusions.  Talking with your children is good for them (and for you!).  It will help them build relationships, grow in emotional intelligence (and this article too), develop language skills,  improve school performance, etc.

By the way, you need to build a conversational relationship with your kids before major problems enter your household, and they will.  This means you need to do this before the teen years arrive. And you need to maintain this relationship during the teen years. If you regularly talk to your kids– all the time– then when they fail a test, get in a fight, crash the car, try out drugs, look at porn, (and fill in whatever other parenting nightmares you have) then you already have a well worn pathway to help shepherd them through the problems they are facing.

And yet…. talking with our children can be hard work. It can be draining to push for a conversation when they don’t want to talk.

Well, don’t give up… Try some of these. It is a silly list, but fun. There is much more to be said.

This one was one of my favorites:

“8. Which one of your teachers would survive a zombie apocalypse? Why?”

Source: 30 Questions to Ask Your Kid Instead of “How Was Your Day?”

Vox: Where Philosophy Goes To Die

 

Crimes Against Philosophy

Trigger Warning: LOGIC

In this article (which you should read) philosophy professor Shaun Rieley takes Vox (a typically liberal publication) to task for its decision NOT publish an article by a prominent philosopher Torbjorn Tannsjo from Stockholm University.  Evidently the editors of Vox asked Tannsjo to contribute a piece for their magazine, but later decided not to publish it. What concerns Rieley, is not that Vox decided not to publish because they disagreed with the article, because they didn’t, but that they killed the piece because of the uncomfortable implications that might arrive from it.  That troublesome need for coherence…

Tannsjo argued that humans in general have a moral duty to reproduce offspring.  He arrives at this conclusion using some tight logical conclusions from utilitarian ethics.  The average person might think it is silly, but evidently his position is respected by professional philosophers and hard to evade.

All fine and good.   What is remarkable to me is that the editors at Vox don’t seem to disagree with Tannsjo, at least in general terms.  What bothers them is the idea that some conservative people might read the article and arrive at conclusions that are at odds with the editorial mission at Vox. They might use the ideas in the article to support a pro-life agenda.  It might become clear that Vox’s prochoice position is in conflict with their other values.

Rieley writes,

“In other words, it’s not so much that Tannsjo’s argument was wrong, so much as it could potentially be interpreted as giving aid to those who hold “wrong” (read: “conservative”) opinions on abortion and birth control.”

Now Vox has the right to publish whatever they like.  But what should concern everyone is that these kinds of ideological parlor tricks are happening more often.  The pattern of squashing dissent, or turning a blind eye seems to be happening more frequently in places where liberal thinkers run the show.  In my opinion, this is not intellectually honest. I have more respect anyone that acknowledges and attempts to wrestle through difficult questions  rather than toss them into the closet.

But instead we see the easy path of intellectual conformity.  We see a move to ignore or suppress facts and discussion that might disagree with the reigning wisdom.  It seems that Vox doesn’t trust people to think for themselves. They have to protect their dogma from any threats, even when those threats come from truth and reason.

Rieley continues,

“Philosophy proceeds by engaging with those various points of view, sometimes to defend what is being attacked, and sometimes to attack what is being defended. Indeed, this is how philosophy has proceeded since the time of Socrates. Without this back-and-forth, philosophy becomes all but impossible.

“Leiter laments that so few are interested in reasoning. This is true. It is much easier to retreat into the comfort of one’s own unexamined assumptions than it is to challenge them by thinking through difficult arguments that one finds disagreeable, and either assent to them, or learn to refute them.

“Nevertheless, free citizens of a republic are obligated to do the hard work of philosophical engagement. Liberty is hard work in this sense, but if liberty is to be sustained, this work is necessary. Unfortunately, by rejecting the piece, Vox has missed an opportunity to participate in the important task of facilitating this engagement.”

Source: Vox: Where Philosophy Goes To Die

“Want the best for your child, not for your child to be the best”

%22Want the Best for your child, Don't want

Our children and young adults are facing a lot of pressure to succeed. GPA. AP courses. College admissions. This observation is coming from those that watch our kids, and it is coming more frequently.  We all want our children to succeed and have bought into the American narrative that the only way for this to happen is for them to earn degrees from prestigious schools. This has a number of untoward effects.  One is huge student debt. Another is a disdain for the trades. We just don’t look at plumbers and welders and think “success.”

Perhaps the most troubling of these effects is the mental and emotional pressure it places on our young adult children. We impose our own aspirations on them, at times even denying them of normal elements of childhood play.  The pressures can be too much for many to carry, and the overall effects are not good.  At the extreme end of the spectrum It seems that more teenagers are deciding to jump in front of trains.

Frank Bruni writes about the suicide rates among teenagers in places like Palo Alto and the Washington DC suburbs.  They are higher there than other places.  And as researchers look for causes they find that the high pressure world of adult competition is trickling onto our children and contributing to a life of anxiety and despair.

Some of this reveals the irony of wealth and success.  Having all that one could want in this world may be one of the worst things that could happen.

Bruni writes,

“Adam Strassberg, a psychiatrist and the father of two Palo Alto teenagers, wrote that while many Palo Alto parents are “wealthy and secure beyond imagining,” they’re consumed by fear of losing that perch or failing to bequeath it to their kids. “Maintaining and advancing insidiously high educational standards in our children is a way to soothe this anxiety,” he said.”

Strasbourg offers some wise advice,

“Want the best for your child, not for your child to be the best.”

Best, Brightest — and Saddest? – The New York Times.

When Father Is A Monster: Stalin’s Daughter

Joseph Stalin was a monster who often treated his friends worse than his enemies. What was it like to be his daughter? Horrible.

Here are some snippets from a NYT review of a new biography on Stalin’s Daughter. It looks fascinating, but at over 600 pages, only serious history lovers will read it. But it looks fascinating.

 

“But as she [Stalin’s daughter] gets older, she starts seeing and hearing more, and sinister shadows creep into the light, dimming it little by little. The aunts and uncles begin to vanish one by one. Her grandmother says: “Where is your soul? You will know when it aches.” Her mother draws a little square over the child’s heart with her finger and tells the girl, “That is where you must bury your secrets”; then, before the girl’s seventh birthday, she shoots herself in her own heart with a Mauser pistol. The little girl’s world is shattered, never to be the same. Troubled and lonely, she will spend decades trying to escape the horror of her past, the terrible weight of history. “You can’t regret your fate,” she will say later, “though I do regret my mother didn’t marry a carpenter.” She is Svetlana, her father is Joseph Stalin, and her extraordinary story is the subject of “Stalin’s Daughter,” Rosemary Sullivan’s thoughtful new biography.

“In 1967, 14 years after Stalin’s death, Svetlana Alliluyeva created an international scandal by defecting to the United States, only to return to the Soviet Union in 1984, then run away again in 1986, each escape taut with cloak-and-dagger suspense worthy of any spy thriller. She fell in love disastrously and often, had three children from three of her four failed marriages, published several books, made a million dollars, lost a million dollars, moved from home to home with the restlessness of a nomad, abandoning the past again and again, driven by eternal disquiet, “always leaving things all over the globe,” in the words of her younger daughter, Olga, before dying nearly destitute in Wisconsin, at the age of 85, under the anonymous name of Lana Peters. Olga scattered her ashes in the Pacific Ocean. The historical context of Alliluyeva’s unsettled life, the immense monstrosity of Stalin forever looming behind her, makes her story impossibly haunting and equally impossible to put down.”

via ‘Stalin’s Daughter,’ by Rosemary Sullivan – The New York Times.

How does divorce affect children?

In doing some research to preach on marriage and divorce recently I have been simply overwhelmed by the mountain of evidence that shows that divorce is one of the worst things that can happen to a child. In many ways we are destroying our own future through the selfishness of divorce.