Tuesday, November 12, 2013

When Your Child Asks if It’s Ok to Bungee Jump Off One of the Highest Bridges in the World....

What irked me most about J F Boylan’s Op-Ed in the NY Times was the statement "It's impossible for me and all those other parents, not to want to shield our young from the many accidents we know are waiting for them".
So I responded to the Editor:
Intriguing how Ms. Boylan intertwines themes of parental responsibility as it pertains to thrill-seeking adventures and then love, as it pertains to her gender decision. A parent’s primary responsibilities are safety and protection; love and respect are secondary. If Ms. Boylan believes that “many accidents are waiting” for her children, then for God’s sake she should do her job as a parent and instill in them an understanding of recreation and adventure that excludes bungee jumping and sky-diving. When my adult children explore the world, I know they’ll research shark-cage diving and understand the waters are “chummed” to incite sharks into a feeding frenzy. They’ll surely have the common sense to go swimming in a different risk pool.



Monday, August 26, 2013

Good News Beats Bad When it Comes to Friends

Here’s a feel-good story to end your summer. It’s about hearing good news from friends.

“When it comes to the media, the classic rule is: Bad news sells. If it bleeds, it leads. No news is good news, and good news is no news. Wars, earthquakes, plagues, floods, fires, the more suffering and mayhem, the more coverage,” states John Tierney in the NY Times.

“But now that information is being spread and monitored in different ways, researchers are discovering new rules. By scanning people’s brains and tracking their e-mails and online posts, neuroscientists and psychologists have found that good news can spread faster and farther than disasters and sob stories.”
“The ‘if it bleeds’ rule works for mass media that just want you to tune in,” says Jonah Berger, a social psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania. “They want your eyeballs and don’t care how you’re feeling. But when you share a story with your friends and peers, you care a lot more how they react. You don’t want them to think of you as a Debbie Downer.”

On that upbeat note, I want to wish you a safe and enjoyable end of the summer!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Chores Teach Children, It's Not All About You

Sue Shellenbarger wrote an important piece in the Wall Street Journal on children and chores a while back. 

How much time each day, on average, does a 6 to 12 year old spend on household chores?

"If you guessed more than a half-hour, you're wrong. Children are spending a mere 24 minutes a day doing cleaning, laundry and other housework -- a 12% decline since 1997 and a 25% drop from 1981 levels, says Sandra Hofferth, director of the Maryland Population Research Center at the University of Maryland.

While most parents today focus mostly on teaching kids self-reliance -- keeping themselves clean, fed and botulism-free -- the benefits of learning housework run deeper. For example: After controlling for other factors, U.S. marriages tend to be more stable when men participate more in domestic tasks, says a study of 506 U.S. couples published in 2006 in the American Journal of Sociology.

Housework has unique value in instilling a habit of serving others. Analyzing data on more than 3,000 adults, Alice Rossi, a professor emerita of sociology at University of Massachusetts Amherst, found doing household chores as a child was a major, independent predictor of whether a person chose to do volunteer or other community work as an adult. Thus for parents who value service, housework is an important teaching tool.

David Jackson has consistently required his twins, 16, to help around the house, starting as toddlers when they began picking up their toys and adding harder chores, such as stocking bathrooms or mowing the lawn, at each new stage. He sees the chores as a way of teaching empathy and "stewardship -- taking care of the community assets," says the Tulsa, Okla., father. "It helps them realize the world is not all about them."

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Predicting the End to Grandparenthood?

The occasion of my 40th high school reunion, was a chance to reflect on two things: how my classmates and I have aged and how almost none of my high school friends have grandchildren. As we mingled and shared family photos, classmates were showing toddler and teen photos of their children; I alone was showing photos of my grandchildren.

Why the dichotomy?

The lack of grandchildren is explained by simple math. In delaying marriage and childbirth significantly, my generation of boomers has thought it natural to wait until 35 or even 40 to marry and start a family. Careers, freedom to travel, searching for the perfect soul-mate are some of the common reasons for delaying…settling down. With life expectancy for men at 76 and women at 81, the odds of having much meaningful time with your grandchildren are slim indeed, if your adult child follows your example and delays marriage to 35 or older. The disappearance of grand-parenting would be a great loss for American families.

There are some serious consequences to delayed childbearing in addition to missing out on grandparenthood and they are: augmented infertility, which leads to elevated multiple births, which leads to increased rates of pre-term births and C-sections.

If my high school classmate got married at age 35 and her child is waiting until 35 to have her first child, then we’re about 12 years too early to be seeing pictures of her grandchildren, because just about everyone at the reunion was 58 years old.

People are passionate about this topic. Comments from outraged readers to a column that I authored on the consequences of delayed child-bearing include: “Pushy, busy-body parents of grown children continue to nag and harass them into having children they don’t want…ever consider that spawning is not the end-all and be-all of marriage, let alone of life?” Another reader declared, “Parents need to butt out of their children’s lives and if that means they don’t get any grandchildren, so be it.”

Hmmm, do you think I touched a nerve? What did I say that produced these reactions? I said that when parents are approached by their married adult children who say they plan to delay starting a family in order to establish their careers, own a home, and have fun traveling, the parents should not keep their opinions to themselves and say, do your own thing. At the risk of seeming like meddlers, parents should warn their adult children in strong terms that there are serious consequences to the decision of delaying child-bearing.

In my book, Creating Your Perfect Family Size, I encourage couples to proceed slowly and thoughtfully with their family size decision. In short: as many or as few, as long as you think it through.

The scenario that most concerns me and repeats itself when I counsel older couples is as follows: In order to make up for lost time and because a couple has a pre-determined family size, couples who delay child bearing until age 35 or older, will have rapid-fire children that are barely 15 months apart. That’s detrimental for the Mom’s health, family well-being and most of all the parents’ marriage. A space of 2-3 years between children is most beneficial.

Seeing my grandchildren is an affirmation that my wife and I have done a pretty decent job of parenting, which is demonstrated by our adult children deciding to start their own families. I’m no expert after five years of grandfathering, but I believe that the end to grand parenting would leave an enormous black hole in our emotional universe.