Tag Archives: Lifehacker

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.

~

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 Complications of Spoken Confidence

Sometime last year, I came across a speech from the 2015 Toastmasters World Champion, Mohammed Qahtani. If you have a few minutes, I really suggest you take the time to watch it. OK, let’s say you only have a couple of minutes: just watch the introduction.

**SPOILERS BELOW**

While I’m not a fan of Qahtani’s parenting style (either option), I’m going to skip over that for now, as it’s not the main reason for writing this post. I’m also going to skip over the stereotypical portrayal of scientists, again, as it’s not the main reason for writing this post (but I will say that I’ve never meant a scientist who confirms that ‘stereotypical portrayal’). The main reason for writing this post is the first few minutes of the video. The startling anecdote that Qahtani shares about smoking and diabetes. Be honest — did you believe him when he said, “the amount of people dying from diabetes is three times as many dying from smoking?” Based on the audience’s response, I suspect that there are probably — at least — some of you who didn’t know this. To be clear, it’s not my aim to make you feel bad about this. If this isn’t a piece of data you’ve been exposed to at some point in your life, you probably have little reason to know. (Unfortunately, smoking is part of my family history, so I knew Qahtani was up to something when I heard him make that statement. Oh, and if you’re curious, WHO posits that smoking is the leading cause of death where 1 in 10 adults worldwide [!] die as a result of it, whereas diabetes is ‘only’ the 7th leading cause of death in the US.)

Circling back to the video… conviction. Did you notice the conviction with which Qahtani parroted the statistics about diabetes and smoking? He said it so assuredly that it almost makes you want to believe him (or at a minimum, question whether what you thought you knew about those two pieces of statistics was true or not). When I saw him do this, it reminded me of the hundreds of articles you see published each year that advise people on how to sell themselves or their company. The infamous elevator pitch.

Invariably, when you read articles (or books!) about how to give a good elevator pitch, you’re going to find that it’s very common that one of the most important things you can do in that elevator pitch is to be confident (or passionate or some other synonym that fits nicely into the author’s acronym). Don’t get me wrong, confidence is certainly important when it comes to making your elevator pitch, but in seeing Qahtani express himself with an air of confidence, it made me wonder about the human fallibility, with regard to elevator pitches.

Sure, I suspect that for people who’s job it is to listen to elevator pitches on a constant basis will tell you that they have a finely tuned BS-detector, but what about the rest of us who haven’t spent 10,000 hours listening to elevator pitches? I bet you’re thinking that you don’t have to worry about that when it comes to your field because you’re an expert. OK. Let’s accept for a moment that you are — what about all the other fields that you haven’t achieved “expert” status in — what do you do there? Well, I suppose you/we could perfect y/our BS-detector, but I suppose there’s still the possibility that you might make a type I/II error (depending upon your perspective). That is, there’s still the possibility that you might miss the BS for what it is and it’s also possible that you might incorrectly assess something as BS when it’s actually gold!

On that note, I want to leave you with the powerful words of Dr. Maya Angelou, on words:

Attraversiamo: Creativity and Perspective

Chances are, when you leave the house or you leave the office, you take the same route home. All. The. Time. If you’re in a car, you may have to change your route because of construction or traffic, but it’s pretty much the same. If you’re walking (or walking to the bus/metro/subway/etc.), you’re probably looking to get there as quickly as you can, so you’ve learned which parking lots to cut across and which alleys are safe. That’s absolutely a great reason to continually take the same route — efficiency is useful when you’re in a hurry and who isn’t in a hurry these days? In fact, you’re probably so good at taking the same route that often times, you don’t even realize that you’ve passed 4 or 5 blocks. For those of you who drive, there’s the idea that you get in your car at home and all of a sudden, you find yourself at work, but you have no recollection of actually driving yourself to work.

I wonder… have you ever considered walking on the other side of the street?

I’ve written quite a bit trying to encourage you take a new perspective or to take a fresh perspective, but for some people, that’s a bit ethereal. So, I was trying to imagine some very tangible ways that I could suggest to illustrate the ‘power’ of taking a different perspective. While I think taking a different perspective is extremely important when it comes to making important decisions, training one’s self to realize the value of a new perspective seems like it might be helpful, too.

I want to propose an experiment. I’d like you to, the next time you leave the house (or work), walk on the other side of the street. You’ve probably walked down the same side of the street hundreds, if not thousands of times, and I predict that if you walk on the other side of the street, you’re going to see your environment from a new perspective. Now, categorically, of course you’ll have a different perspective because you’re occupying a different vector of space and time, but forget about that aspect for a second and take a chance. This is such a tiny ask — walking on the other side of the street will do little to inconvenience you during your day, but it could do wonders for you in highlighting a tangible example of how taking a different perspective could allow you to see things differently.

If you need more reasons to convince you to try this tiny experiment then consider that it could help you solve that problem you’ve been working on for the last few days. There’s some research that suggests [can’t seem to locate it at the moment] putting yourself in new environments is a way to spark one’s creativity. By making these new connections in your environment, it could spark new connections for the things that have been ‘keeping you up at night.’

All Rivers Lead to the Ocean

All rivers lead to the ocean. All roads lead to Rome. One tree, many branches. There are a number of phrases and idioms with a message that “we’re all connected” in some way. Last summer, I posted a paper (in a series of posts) I wrote that included guidance from many of the world’s religions by way of quotes on a variety of topics. A couple of weeks ago, I came across a post at Lifehacker that I wish I had the time to have written.

The author takes seven lessons from world religions and then finds evidence for those lessons in a given religion’s teachings. I should say, it’s not clear to me whether the author worked forwards (come up with a lesson and then find evidence for that lesson in the text) or backwards (read the religious texts and then conclude there are similarities), but regardless, the quotes from the religious texts do seem to show similarities.

The seven lessons:

  1. The Golden Rule
  2. Work for the happiness of others, especially the poor/unfortunate
  3. Focus on the present
  4. Aim for achievements, not money
  5. Interact with the community
  6. Take responsibility for your actions
  7. Know yourself (make up your own mind)

The author’s parting quote is a succinct piece of advice when it comes to religion:

Stay curious and keep questioning—but also don’t discount the wisdom of the ages.

~

As we get further and further connected through technology, I wonder if we’re actually become further disconnected from ourselves and each other. There are absolutely advantages to being able to reach someone with the swipe of a thumb or the click of a finger, but as a couple of the above lessons seem to indicate, that can make it harder to focus on the present or to know one’s self. If we’re always reaching out and never taking the time to look within, it can certainly make it harder to have a developed sense of self.

Reading my words or someone else’s words likely won’t convince you to “go within.” It has to be a decision you make on your own. A switch inside of you that decides… it’s time. My wish for you: that time is sooner rather than later.

You Need To Seek Out Ideas and Opinions That Are Different From Your Beliefs

[Editor’s Note: This post’s title was changed on September 16th from “if you’re a conservative, tell me which liberals you read: if you’re a liberal, tell me which conservatives you read.”]

I was born and raised in Canada and really didn’t start paying attention to politics until I moved to the US, so most of my understanding of politics comes through the lens of American politics. Watching the Democrats and the Republicans fight (bicker?) year after year starts to get intolerable. As , many American agree with this sentiment.

Part of this is a result of our to seek out opinions that confirm our own previously held beliefs. That is, if one is more liberal, they are probably more inclined to watch MSNBC and/or read the New York Times. Similarly, if one is more conservative, they are probably more inclined to watch FOX News and/or read the Wall Street Journal. There’s no “good” or “bad” here, though I would .

So, if we know that we have a tendency to seek out opinions that confirm our previously held beliefs, it would behoove us to intentionally seek out opinions that we know are counter to our own! That sounds a lot easier than it actually is — especially in today’s world of RSS, Twitter, Facebook, and personalized news.

Not to pick on Facebook, but the friends you have on Facebook, more than likely, share your political affiliation. It’s just natural for us to befriend those and even if you have a few friends from the “other side,” the news that they share on Facebook will most likely: a) get drowned out by all your other friends’ sharing news; or b) won’t be elevated to the top of your newsfeed because you tended not to click on the links provided by these friends.

While I don’t think there’s anything “wrong” with it, I do think that there’s something that we should be doing about it. If you’re a conservative, there are a critical mass of people out there who think that your opinion on issues of the day are wrong. If you’re a liberal, there are a critical mass of people out there who think that your opinion on issues of the day are wrong. What are you doing to try to understand why they think your opinion is wrong?

And yes, there are things that you can do.

Lifehacker proposed to do this:

  • Get random reading content delivered to your inbox
“The easiest, no hassle way to get a random selection of news is to have it delivered right to your inbox.”
  • Automatically get different points of view for articles you read
“When you’re browsing the news it’s easy to stick with the sites you know. Sometimes that means you’re missing an entirely different point of view.”
  • Randomize your start page
“Your browser’s home page is a great place to dump interesting and random content for your accidental and automatic discovery. Obviously you don’t want to do this on your work computer in case you get distracted, but it’s a good way to discover new things when you have the time.”

~
Head on over to the for more details and specific suggestions (for your start page). There’s one more suggestion I want to make (as it’s something that I do): Twitter. Instead of just following/reading news from people/accounts that I know are similar to my previously held beliefs, I have sought out those accounts that often discuss the issues from a perspective that is not native to me. This way, I’m able to read about the news from an entirely different perspective and from one that I may not have considered were it not for someone giving words to it.

So, I ask: if you’re a conservative, tell me who are the liberals that you read — if you’re a liberal, tell me who are the conservatives that you read.