According to an article in today's Time Magazine online, "A study being released this week by researchers from Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine and Harvard Medical School has found that 18- to 25-year-olds who smoke marijuana only recreationally showed significant abnormalities in the brain." For the study’s purposes, “recreationally” was considered a joint or two on the weekends, which many parents might not find any more alarming than casual beer drinking. But the study’s findings show that even those who smoked just one joint a week altered the density, volume, and shape of two key parts of the still developing brain—the nucleus accumbens and the amygdala. It was a small study, but if it shows this much impact on the brains of 18-25 year olds, imagine how recreational marijuana use could be effecting younger, even more vulnerable brains…
If you take it really seriously, parenthood is the most challenging job you’ll ever have. The hours are long and the pay stinks. It requires the most emotional investment and the greatest patience. And no matter how well you do it, there will always be that nagging little voice in your head wondering, “Should I have handled that differently?” But parenthood is also the most rewarding and important role you’ll ever play. And the good news is that we're all in this together...
Sunday, April 13, 2014
I’ve always bought into the idea of actions speaking louder than words and the importance of being good role models for children. But Adam Grant’s excellent piece in today’s NY Times Sunday Review, RAISING A MORAL CHILD, puts some science behind it. Two ideas really stuck with me –
“When our actions become a reflection of our character, we lean more heavily toward the moral and generous choices. Over time it can become part of us.” (So, being a good person may take a little practice, but gradually becomes ingrained…)
Then there's this positive bit of reframing: “Shame is the feeling that I am a bad person, whereas guilt is the feeling that I have done a bad thing. Shame is a negative judgment about the core self, which is devastating: Shame makes children feel small and worthless, and they respond either by lashing out at the target or escaping the situation altogether. In contrast, guilt is a negative judgment about an action, which can be repaired by good behavior.” How we talk to kids about their actions can be so potent, the difference between “I am disappointed that you lied about that” vs. “I am so disappointed that you are a liar.” And not just kids – think about how adults talk to each other.
at 3:18 PM
Monday, March 3, 2014
A decade ago, it would have been almost inconceivable for a promising college football player to “come out” as gay to his teammates, much less to the world at large just prior to the NFL draft. But University of Missouri defensive end Michael Sam’s announcement isn’t so much shocking as heartening, a sign perhaps that the culture of bias against gay people in American team athletics is waning. Sam potentially could become the first openly gay player in NFL history.
Sam’s teammates all seemed to know and be relatively comfortable with Sam’s declaration, and other teams voiced support, as did his school and many NFL players and officials. He will undoubtedly suffer repercussions from the older generation of managers and administrators – his draft stock apparently has fallen already – and he is dealing with what surely must be painful disapproval from his father. But hopefully this is mitigated by what must be enormous relief at presenting his true self to the world.
Sam’s honesty and bravery in blazing a trail along what will undoubtedly be a very bumpy road offers an ideal opportunity for talking to adolescents about the nature of personal identity and the history of bigotry.
at 2:37 PM
Tuesday, October 22, 2013
After felony charges were leveled following the suicide of 12-year-old Rebecca Ann Sedwick, “On Point with Tom Ashbrook” devoted a powerful hour of radio to the issue of cyberbullying, examining why and how it continues to happen, and how easily and quickly bullying and harassing can escalate into terrorizing and stalking. Guests question the wisdom of using criminalization as a long-term strategy for deterrence. Others bring up the empathy gap in developing teens (there are biological issues at play) and charge media with turning cruelty and pain into entertainment. (Even extraordinarily moronic shows like “Jersey Shore” and “Wipeout” glorify people being mean to each other and deaden viewers from considering just how painful some of the stunts must be.) All of this reinforces the importance of parents not just knowing what their kids are up to online, but continuing to help their children become moral human beings who have the ability, and willingness, to see another perspective, to put themselves in someone else’s shoes. The episode (you can listen to it here) could be a great parent/child conversation starter.
at 6:53 PM
Sunday, October 20, 2013
“What happens when a father, alarmed by his 13-year-old daughter's nightly workload, tries to do her homework for a week?”
Karl Taro Greenfeld’s provocative article in The Atlantic recently really hammers home the problem in this country of overcompensation in many school districts. As education in the US tries to keep up with global competition, the trend toward more homework seems to be heading us in the wrong direction. Greenfeld notes:
It turns out that there is no correlation between homework and achievement. According to a 2005 study by the Penn State professors Gerald K. LeTendre and David P. Baker, some of the countries that score higher than the U.S. on testing in the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study—Japan and Denmark, for example—give less homework, while some of those scoring lower, including Thailand and Greece, assign more. Why pile on the homework if it doesn’t make even a testable difference, and in fact may be harmful?
The irony is that some countries where the school systems are held up as models for our schools have been going in the opposite direction of the U.S., giving less homework and implementing narrower curricula built to encourage deeper understanding rather than broader coverage.
Certainly food for thought as well as ammunition for parents who want to advocate for children who are losing a large part of their precious childhoods to busywork every night. Check out the full article.
at 1:35 PM
Friday, September 6, 2013
McAfee, the online security company, just came out with a study from April examining parents’ “digital fatigue” in trying to monitor and stay on top of their children’s use of digital technology, from video games to smart phones to social media. In “Exploring the Online Disconnect between Parents & Pre-teens, Teens and Young Adults,” parents express being overwhelmed, less informed, and less tech savvy than their children, while kids frankly admit to deceiving their parents about their technology habits, from amount of usage to content. It’s an intriguing, sobering study, and The Boston Globe’s Beth Teitell hits some of the high spots in a recent article entitled “In a Digital World, Kids Gain the Upper Hand.” The message from both study and article seems to be a simple reminder -- know what your kids are up to and step up to the plate to provide guidelines and limits.
at 8:01 PM
Monday, September 2, 2013
In an interview with the Boston Globe, actress Keira Knightly talked about being drawn to imperfect faces, remembering that her mum always said “Blessed imperfections.” I love that concept, especially when it comes to validating the uniqueness of children pressed by society and their peers to “fit in.” I’ve always tried to encourage my kids to step to their own beat, accepting that the attributes that make them different are what also make them special. (This is especially helpful when you have offbeat, quirky kids, like I do.) It is tricky, helping children value qualities that set them apart, especially those that can be somewhat off-putting to kids their own age. But some of those “blessed imperfections” that are so challenging to parent (stubbornness, conviction, fierce loyalty…) are character traits that can, if properly tempered by balance and perspective, serve them brilliantly into adulthood. So I’ve tried to treasure them even as I’ve had to develop strategies to survive them…
With the beginning of each school year, kids have the opportunity to reinvent themselves
at 7:34 PM