Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Lost (& Final) Basement Tape; Video #12

Actually filmed in the basement, this is the last of 12 videos that I filmed for promotion of my book, Creating Your Perfect Family Size. In all 12 videos, I altered the scenery and followed the directions of Noah, my son-in-law. He was specific: "Pops, if you want these videos to be watched, you can't just be gimmicky; you have to have content." And that is what I attempted to do with each promo. This last video urges couples not to be haphazard about their family size decisions....and I remind parents....As Many or as Few, as Long as You Think it Through! Thanks for watching these videos :)

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Can Philharmonic-Bound Infants Sense Rhythm?

When my son-in-law Noah encouraged me to start this blog he insisted, “Pops, it has to be fun for you!” So in his honor and in honor of Blog post number 150, I picked a topic that makes life fun….Music. A study described by Liz Szabo in USA Today reveals just how early infants may have a sense of rhythm. How old? “Brain scans show that these 2 and 3 day olds could perceive musical patterns and even take note when a drummer missed a beat.”

Co-Author Henkjan Honing of the University of Amsterdam explained, “The new results suggest that rhythm could be an innate ability, hard-wired into the human brain.” He added, “It’s possible that babies are born with a musical sense because it helps communication.” You can read this interesting article by clicking here.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Dinner Time, Shminner Time, as Long as You Connect With Your Children

A recent NY Times Op-Ed pointed out that the benefits of family dinners aren’t as strong or as lasting as previous studies suggest. Authors Meier and Musick, who published their research in the well-respected Journal of Marriage and the Family, thankfully stopped short of claiming that family dinners don’t affect family well-being at all. The benefits might not be as strong as previously thought…..but there are still benefits! It’s our old friend “causality” that wrecks the party. Everyone’s having a grand old time until a researcher comes along and tries to PROVE that something CAUSES something else. That’s when the lifeguard blows the whistle and yells, everyone out of the pool (can you tell this is a summer-time Blog Post?). You can read the Op-Ed (click here) and judge for yourself or just rely on my Cliff Notes below, since it’s dinner time soon and I recommend that you turn off all electronic items and go enjoy dinner together with your family. KEY: “Given that eating is universal and routine, family meals offer a natural opportunity for parental influence: there are few other contexts in family life that provide a regular window of focused time together.” “If you aren’t able to make the family meal happen on a regular basis, don’t beat yourself up: just find another way to connect with your kids.”

Friday, June 29, 2012

How Can Over-Protective Parenting Cause an Injury?

On a playground slide….that’s how. “Orthopedic specialists say they treat a number of toddlers and young children each year with broken legs as a result of riding down the slide on a parent’s lap.” In Tara Parker-Pope’s piece on this surprising risk, she quotes Jed Dickman, whose 18 month old toddler’s sneaker got caught on the side of the slide, resulting in a fractured tibia. “My wife was just trying to keep Hannah extra safe and make sure she didn’t fall; she felt very guilty about it.”

What’s the upshot?

This may be one of those counter intuitive situations when a child is actually safer by herself. During the summer, have fun and be safe!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

NewsFlash: Women Enjoy Child Care Tasks More than Men

In case you haven't read a thousand articles/studies on child care, read one more. Tara Parker-Pope (always excellent) makes several important points in her recent NY Times Magazine essay:

1. On 16 out of 25 child-care tasks like changing diapers, women report higher levels of enjoyment than men.
2. Women are far more likely to take advantage of family-leave benefits than men.
3. Men have more than doubled the time they spend on child care since 1985. Yet women still spend twice as much time with the children as men (surprise, surprise).

How about surveying fathers on the child-care-enjoyment-gender differences and asking.....Aren't you lazy because you married the greatest woman in the world who also happens to be the Mother of all Mothers? Therefore mothers...your diligence increases our laziness. I don't have to worry about repercussions; my wife is way too busy to ever read this blog.

In honor of my birthday blog post, I want to thank both of my parents (in heaven) for having taken such great care of me and.....doing it with a smile!

Friday, March 09, 2012

Marital-Passion Time-Capsule for Chinese Couples

Sometimes you read about an idea, and something just strikes you. Such as.....Can a love letter written in the height of marital bliss save a marriage down the road?

The Chinese government hopes so and started a national campaign on it in hopes of stemming the country's rising divorce rates. With the "China Post" program, newlywed couples can drop off sealed letters to each other in a state-run post office, and the government will deliver the letters back to them 7 years after their wedding day.

Why 7 years? Reminding couples at the seven-year-itch mark of why they fell in love in the first place, would be the extra spark needed to stay together, and away from Divorce Court.

After some three decades of counseling couples, I would say....NO, a mere letter won't "save" a marriage way down the road. But the idea isn't totally off-base because one thing that we use early in marital therapy, is getting both parties to describe (in some detail) what life was like "back in the day" when their marriage was flying high. It's important to consider what has changed, and when, and why it changed, in hopes of slowly rekindling some of that early passion with talk therapy.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Family: Does Size Matter?

Welcome to the first Family Size Blog Carnival!

This post was written for inclusion in the Family Size Blog Carnival hosted by Kerry at City Kids Homeschooling and Patti at Jazzy Mama. Today our participants share their decisions on family size and whether or not to grow their families. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


One of the most important questions I ask couples who see me for marital therapy is how many children they plan on having. I ask it because I worry that if they have problems with their marriage or children the last thing they need now is more children. I firmly believe that incorrect family-size decisions are contributing to the astronomical divorce rate in this country.

During the last forty years, a multitude of social science researchers have shown a strong correlation between children and marital satisfaction. It is, by definition, a negative correlation: with the arrival of each child, marital satisfaction decreases. If marital satisfaction continues to decline, couples may end up with the perfect family size but will have a perfectly lousy marriage. Their perfect family won’t remain that way if problems related to the number of children end their marriage.

Here is my contribution to the research on family size: I studied the responses of two groups of individuals in two New Jersey counties who responded to an anonymous survey. Half of the respondents were therapists by design. I listed biased statements, such as “children from small families tend to be more intelligent.” I hypothesized that gender, level of education, religion, or income level of the respondent might have something to do with how they answered the questions in the survey. I was wrong. The most significant characteristics of the respondents are:
  1. The number of children a respondent currently.
  2. The number of children in a respondent’s family of origin.
For much of my professional career, I have heard many young couples make seemingly innocuous statements such as, “I grew up in a home with three children, so we’re going to have three kids.” Can you please explain that reasoning to me? My own research has shown that on average, people tend to have the same number of children as their family of origin. Yet, I still consider it a poor reason to have another child.

Before marriage, couples need to be of one mind in only one aspect of the family-size decision and that is that they both desire to have at least one child. Deciding the total number of children you want at the start of your relationship is a waste of your time. Deliberating the ideal number of children in a family is also a waste of your time. Deciding if you are both now ready to have a child or have another child is the best use of your time. And what’s the perfect number of children? My response: as many or as few, as long as you think it through.

I plead with couples: Don’t be coerced or guilted into having another child. The only good reason to have another child is that you both truly love the child you have, you love being parents, and regardless of gender, you both want another child.


Visit City Kids Homeschooling and Jazzy Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Family Size Blog Carnival!

Please take some time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants below:

  • The Perfect Family The family at Living Peacefully With Children isn't perfect, but the size is just right for least for now.

  • Family Size Carnival Zoie at TouchstoneZ discusses how she loves the extremes of being happily child-free for life to being a mom of several. And on knowing when her family is just the right size.

  • Is Adoption for Me? Christine at African Babies Don't Cry shares why she would consider adoption as the socially responsible way to have a large family.

  • Getting Used to Having Kids Lauren at Hobo Mama went from "probably one, maybe two" to wanting a handful, but not without some major struggles and soul searching along the way.

  • Magic Number For a while, Phoebe at Little Tinker Tales has wondered what the magic number will be for their family, but now thinks she's finally settled on an answer.

  • How Did You Get That Size Jorje explains how she "chose" her family size and why they aren't planning to grow again on Momma

  • Family Size On A Per Kid Basis Sarah at Parenting God's Children shares how plans change as families grow.

  • More Babies: How, When, Why Joella at Fine and Fair writes to her daughter about when, how, and why she might get a sibling.

  • Family Size Kelly at Becoming Crunchy shares how she has no idea what size her family will end up being; though she used to be sure, a few factors have recently come up to change everything.

  • Thy Will Be Done CatholicMommy hasn't decided how many children she'll have. And she never will. Because, you know, she's Catholic.

  • Sanity and Health Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment talks about sanity and health considerations when deciding on her family's size.

  • Love Comes In All Sizes Melissa at Mothers of Change shares her family's journey to becoming a family of six!

  • Family Size Liz at Homeschooling in Buffalo discusses how this carnival occurs less than two weeks after "closing up shop" by way of vasectomy.

  • Family Size Blog Carnival Billy, a single mother by choice, writes about the size of her family at My Pathway to Motherhood.

  • Creating Your Perfect Family Size Dr. Alan Singer shares insights from his new book, Creating Your Perfect Family Size.

  • Our Family Size You might not be surprised to learn that Patti at Jazzy Mama can't find any reasons NOT to have more babies.

  • Economics of Family Size Kerry at City Kids Homeschooling uses an economic cost-benefit analysis to determine her family's optimal size.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Ferris_Wheel Relationship Can Doom Your Marriage

Do the ups and downs of your marriage feel like an amusement park ride?
Does this unending relationship cycle ring a bell: Trouble Begins > Meltdown > Silent Treatment > Cooling Off > Conversation Restarts > Back to So-Called “Normal”.

When I counsel couples who fit this profile, I label the pattern: a Ferris_Wheel Relationship. The biggest problem is that a seemingly benign cyclical pattern may, in fact, be on the precipice of a disaster. After the silent treatment, nothing substantial ever changes and most couples simply resume their lives in order to achieve a modicum of normalcy. In this column, I will describe the biggest danger that I see with this quite non-amusing ride and provide four steps for couples to utilize in remedying this type of relationship.

The Cycle
The Ferris_Wheel Relationship is no stranger in my three decades of counseling couples. An outsider might observe the ups and downs and quip….no relationship is perfect; if they stayed together for all these years, then it must work for them. But that is simply not true and this uninterrupted pattern of ups and downs can be catastrophic to a marriage. The main reason is that one spouse, feeling trapped by the cycle, often secretly plans an exit strategy from the Ferris wheel. Benchmarks in life that motivate spouses to plan their exit include: the transition to empty nesting and stay-at-home Moms who return to the workplace.

Don’t be complacent and think: what comes down will always go up. When the surprised spouse (often the husband) hears “I want out”, he may scramble (trying to use marriage counseling) to repair the damage done but it is often too little and too late. Researchers have shown that two thirds of divorcing couples do not receive even one hour of counseling.

The Repair Strategy
What should couples do if their relationship is spinning like a Ferris_Wheel? And when is the best time in the cycle to strive for a change? The Ferris_Wheel analogy provides these answers. When you’re on top of the ride (for obvious reasons) no one exits or enters. But alas, when you are on the bottom, that’s your opportunity. It’s a win-win strategy because things can’t get any worse.

Unlike a Ferris_Wheel, where you discharge and admit passengers, in a relationship, you have the chance to discharge some harmful habits and welcome aboard some constructive ones. Please heed this warning: when you hit bottom… must change something! No one seeks out a marriage therapist when you’re riding on top of the world, because who wants to dredge up painful feelings? People don’t do much soul-searching or self-improvement when things are just peachy.

Each time the Ferris_Wheel spins around and nothing changes is a missed opportunity. You never know how many chances you’ll get before your spouse takes action to free him/herself from the unrelenting ups and downs of the spinning wheel. One of the techniques I utilize in therapy sessions with these couples is the Marital Dyad Exercise. Each spouse lists what they like about themselves and don’t want to change and what they don’t like and do want to change. They then do it for their spouse. Predictably, the longest lists are…..things that I like about me and don’t want to change and things I don’t like about my spouse that I want him/her to change. Does it surprise you that we tend to be so self-absorbed?

When I advocate that rock bottom is the ideal time for changing something, I am recommending that you pick something you like about yourself and don’t want to change but your spouse doesn’t like and wants you to change……and start the conversation with each other. There is no fast track solution for couples who have circled in the Ferris_Wheel for years. Round and round they go….often not realizing that they have an ominous problem, but also the potential to improve their relationship. Take baby steps at first; large swings of the pendulum are too short-lived and ineffective. Seize the moment at rock bottom to try something different. Do it for your own mental and physical health; for the health of your relationship, and if you have children, especially for them.

Four Steps to Remedy the Ferris_Wheel Relationship
1. Identify this unending relationship cycle and recognize its potential harm.
2. Formulate a repair strategy instead of an escape plan.
3. Get a marriage-friendly therapist involved early on. Two thirds of divorcing couples did not receive even one hour of marital counseling.
4. When you’re at the lowest point and hit rock bottom…CHANGE SOMETHING. Discharge one bad habit and bring one good habit on board.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Insensitive Research ? Video #11

Research is If it's valid and reliable, it should be quotable....right? Does it also need to be "sensitive" to its readership?

The diversity of the new American family means that less than half of U.S. families are now headed by a married couple. I was shocked when my publisher required me to remove this irrefutable research finding: "The best environment in which to raise children is two biological parents in a low conflict marriage."

He felt that since most American families are no longer headed by married couples, I needed to be sensitive to the family size needs of the majority of my potential readers. And so I removed that research finding from the final draft of Creating Your Perfect Family Size.