Tag Archives: Expectations

Do Kids Move Back in with Parents Because They’re Trained to be Helpless: Parenting Without Borders, Part 10

In the Introduction, we broached the idea that the way other cultures parent might be more “right” than the way that the culture in North America parents, as discussed in the book Parenting Without Borders. In Part 1, we looked at some of the different cultural thoughts around sleep. There was also that stunning example of how it’s normal for babies in Scandinavia to be found taking a nap on the terrace in the dead of winter! In Part 2, we explored “stuff” and how having more of it might not be best for our children. In Part 3, we looked at how different cultures relate to food in the context of parenting. In Part 4, we looked at how saying “good job” to our little ones might not have the effect we think it does. In Part 5, we talked about the virtues of allowing our little ones the space to work through problems on their own. In Part 6, we examined the importance of unstructured “play.”In Part 7 and Part 8, we explored what education is like in East Asia and Finland. In Part 9, we looked at cultural notions of kindness in raising kids. In Part 10, we’ll explore the possibility that parenting might be fostering a sense of helplessness in children today.

Yes, the title of this post is a tad clickbait-y, but after reading the final chapter in Gross-Loh’s Parenting Without Borders, I can’t help but think that the reams of university students who’ve landed in their parents’ basements upon receiving their diplomas has something to do with the way they’ve been reared. Of course, there are many other factors at play (including things like the economy and recessions, etc.), but I don’t think that this ideas is too fantastical.

Remember the anecdote from Part 9: “In 1970, the primary goal stated by most college freshmen was to develop a meaningful life philosophy; in 2005, it was to become comfortably rich.” Well, there’s also a big difference in the way that kids are treated at home (even within a given country).

In 1950, an eleven-year-old growing up in a one-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn was responsible for waking up on time, making his own breakfast, and getting himself out the door. […] He also did the family shopping: going to a corner grocer to buy bread or rolls, or to pick up milk.

Contrast that with today’s America:

“I pretty much do all the chores in the house,” [says a mother of three pre-teens aged nine, eleven, and twelve].

According to the author of The Anthropology of Childhood, it’s “absolutely universal” for children to want to help adults in their communities. We think that sheltering kids from work will help them succeed in all those extracurriculars and allow them more time to complete all that homework. The issue here is that while kids want to help, we’re unintentionally squashing that motivation.

When we ignore our children’s eagerness to participate when they are younger, they internalize the idea that contributing is unimportant and they are helpless. They also begin to expect that things will be done for them.

This shouldn’t come as news to anyone who’s read the work of pediatrician Dr. Spock:

Chores, even if not perfectly done, help children gain good self-esteem and make them feel like they are contributing to the family.

And isn’t that what most people want for their kids, anyways? A well-developed sense of self-esteem and a healthy desire to contribute to the world around them? Simply asking children to do chores isn’t enough — it needs to be part of our expectations (or boundaries?). They key here is not necessarily that kids are learning how to contribute to the home, but that they’re learning to feel responsible for themselves. This fosters a sense of self-reliance, so that when they’re older, they know that they’ll be able to figure things out and maybe more importantly, that they’re responsible for figuring things out for themselves.

To illustrate the contrast in cultures, Gross-Loh shares a stunning example of a five-year-old in Japan [Emphasis Added]:

[They] prepare an entire meal for their parents at school and had them do everything by themselves, from paring the potatoes to cutting the meat and carrots for the stew with chef’s knives. Because the social expectation in Japan was that children were capable of acting responsibly and doing chores, the kids had daily practice in helping out at school. Our kids were getting clear and frequent messages about how highly and valued it was to be helpful, self-reliant, and responsible from just about everyone — teachers, friends’ parents, and even from their own friends.

How many parents in North America do you think would let their five-year-olds use a paring knife, much less a chef’s knife? Another poignant quote from the chapter: “When people talk only about what they’re protecting their kids from, they’re not thinking about what they’re depriving them of.” If we don’t give our little ones the chance to fail, how will they learn to succeed?

Brief related tangent — I came across a delightful article recently where a father’s daily question to his kids was, “What did you fail at today?” The idea behind it being that failure is a necessary part of growth.

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Building on some of the points on autonomy and self-reliance in this chapter, Gross-Loh also explained the way we ask our children to do things matters. Think about how you like to be asked to do something. If someone is off-handedly demanding your attention while you (and they) are engaged in other tasks, are you interested in complying? Probably not. Now imagine you’re a 5-year old. Do you think you’d be more or less likely to comply?

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The Top Ways For Avoiding Cognitive Biases: List of Biases in Judgment and Decision-Making, Part 17

Last Monday I wrote that my cognitive bias series had come to an end. However, several of you emailed me asking for a more concise summary (as you’ll recall, the last post was over 3000 words). So, I thought I’d aggregate the most frequent suggestions of ways for avoiding cognitive biases. It’s in the same vein as a post in this series I don’t often link to: WRAP — An Acronym from Decisive.

Today, I’ve gone back through the post I wrote last week and categorized the different ways for avoiding the cognitive biases that I’ve listed. I’ll list the ways in descending order of their most frequent occurrence on the lists, along with the biases that they helped to counteract:

Alternatives (6): Sunk Cost Fallacy, Endowment Effect, Planning Fallacy, Framing Effect, Confirmation BiasThe Contrast Effect

Assumptions (5): Sunk Cost Fallacy, Framing Effect, Overconfidence Effect, Halo Effect, Functional Fixedness,

Data (5): Planning FallacyGambler’s Fallacy, Primacy/Recency Effect(s), Status Quo BiasThe Contrast Effect

Empathy (3): Endowment Effect, Framing Effect, Fundamental Attribution Error,

Big Picture (3): Loss Aversion, Fundamental Attribution ErrorThe Contrast Effect

Emotional (2): Loss Aversion, Endowment Effect,

Self-Awareness (2): Overconfidence Effect, Hindsight Bias,

Expectations (1): Loss Aversion,

As you might expect, assumptions plays a big part in our decision-making, so naturally, uncovering our assumptions (or recognizing them) is an important way for avoiding the traps of cognitive biases in decision-making. Similarly, it’s important to consider and/or develop alternatives. On an important related note, one of the most important things you’ll learn about negotiating is BATNA. This stands for: the Best Alternative to a Negotiation Agreement. Alternative. It’s also not surprising to see the frequency with which “data” appears, too. Data are a really important part of making a “cognitive bias”-free decision. I’ve written about the virtues of empathy, so I won’t review it.

Lastly, I wanted to highlight that “big picture” appeared on this list a couple of times. I was surprised that it only appeared a couple of times, but that could be a result of the way I was thinking (or my biases!) when I was writing these series. For instance, two of the categories here on this site are Perspective and Fresh Perspective. Meaning, I think it’s really important that we learn how to view things from a wider scope. “Big Picture” probably coud have fallen under “Alternatives,” but I believe there’s an important distinction. With alternatives, it’s still possible to only be considering things from a micro-level, but with the big picture, there’s a necessity for seeing things from the macro-level.

PS: Happy Canada Day!

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If you liked this paper/series, you might want to check out some of the other papers/series I’ve posted.

If You Want to Be Happy, Tame Your Expectations

I wanted to finish 2012 with what I think is my biggest “insight.” That is, the thing that I felt taught me the most about myself and other people. As you know, if you follow me on Twitter  Facebook, or read what I write about here (follow button on the right-hand side!), I like to learn. I think that learning doesn’t end once you leave school (whether we like it or not) and I think that learning about ourselves never ends.

I’ve certainly came across quite a few techniques, perspectives, and ways for being in the world and handling stress. In particular, I think that Byron Katie‘s The Work can be quite powerful. While I’ve never attended one of her seminars, watching the videos of people “doing The Work” can have its own cathartic experience.

I’ve noticed that one of the revelations I’ve come to this year is very similar to what Katie has said, but I still feel it to be slightly different. It’s the idea that our expectations about the world are what cause us stress, unhappiness, and you name it. I’m speaking very abstractly, so let me give you a concrete example.

Let’s say I’m having a problem with a coworker. Let’s say that coworker does something that I don’t like. Why does this upset me? Without getting into any psychological underpinnings and staying right at the surface, it’s simply about my expectations of what that coworker should (or shouldn’t) be doing that’s causing me trouble. How? Well, assuming you believe that each human being is entitled to their own autonomy, they have free will to do as they please (within the law, I suppose). If the person is acting in a way that displeases me, it’s probably because I expect them to be acting in some other way — and they aren’t. Again, still kind of abstract, so let’s make it really concrete.

Let’s say that this coworker (by the way, this example works for family, friends, spouses, pets, pretty much anything), has a particular way of answering a question with a question. And let’s say that I find this really annoying (in fact, I’d find it intriguing, but let’s go with annoying, for now). Every time I see this coworker, I’m going to remember that this coworker asks me questions whenever I ask them questions — so it’s going to make me unhappy, just seeing this person! If I happen to need to ask them something and they ask me a question back, I might begin to feel angry. Why am I feeling angry? Simply because my expectations are that this coworker should not ask me questions when I ask them questions. Should this really matter? No! This coworker can ask me questions when I ask them questions — they’re certainly allowed to do that.

Let’s try another example for which I’m sure we can all relate: traffic. Have you ever been sitting in traffic, late for something? I know I have. While sitting in this traffic, do you ever notice that sometimes people will try to “jump the line?” Does that bother you? If I’m being honest, this has certainly bothered me at times. Why should this bother me (or you)? Well, we expect that people will be kind and wait their turn right. We expect… Oh boy — there it is again! Expectations! If I didn’t have expectations that people wouldn’t try to jump the line, this wouldn’t make me upset. I might think, ‘Oh, maybe they’re in a really big hurry. Maybe someone they know is in trouble and they’re trying to go save them.’ It’s really impossible to know why someone would try to jump the line in traffic, so far be it from me to expect something from them in the way that they behave to the other drivers.

So, if I had to choose one thing to offer you from 2012, moving into 2013, it would be your expectations. Notice when you get upset/angry about something and try to discern what it is that you’re expecting should be happening in that situation. If you want to take it a step beyond, try to tame that expectations. Though, for starters, I think it’s important to notice what it is that you’re expecting in a situation. From here, you’ll certainly be well on your way to determining the root of your unhappiness.