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.
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, 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
Monday, August 26, 2013
Remember all those self-righteous pronouncements "we" were prone to make about parenthood and the things we would never do when we had kids -- until we actually had the squirts running underfoot and knew better? My sister just sent me a link to Amy Morrison's hilarious blog entry with a list of her best "aha" hypocrisy moments. Even though my sister and I are both empty nesters now, this little gem really hit home.
at 2:11 PM
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
After Monday’s bombing at the Boston Marathon, my high school senior has been anxious about venturing out too far from home. Even though she hasn’t been pouring over newspaper accounts and video footage, she’s really taken this to heart with it having hit so close to home. It’s not just empathy for the victims and anger toward the cowards who perpetrated such violence, emotions we all surely share. For teens especially, who are too old not to be touched but too young to fully process, an event like this is especially confounding and troubling. This kind of terrorism reflects a unique combination of targeted malice and randomness. While one ponders the nature of evil and hate, there’s also the realization, “That could have been me.”
My own response is to carry on – refuse to be cowed, “living well is the best revenge.” But for kids who might need some thoughtful parental intervention, “Psychology Today” offers some excellent thoughts.
at 2:29 PM
Saturday, April 13, 2013
But then it rewinds and asks “Who Are You” in this picture? As it examines the various bystander roles in the scenario – friend, roommate, bartender, stranger – it urges us to think about the assault in a different way. It doesn’t focus on why it happened, but on how it could have been prevented at several points along the way. Instead of castigating the predatory man or the young woman who gets carried away and has way too much to drink, it asks us to put ourselves in the shoes of any of several people who could have stepped in and stopped what was happening, becoming someone who helped instead of someone who just stood by. Show this to your teens….
at 8:22 AM
Wednesday, March 27, 2013
Just the description in a Joanna Weiss’s Globe editorial today brought tears to my eyes. It’s a heartwarming 25-second video called “A Needed Response” by University of Oregon sophomore Samantha Stendahl that beautifully counteracts the “rape culture” of the Steubenville, Ohio tragedy, responding to the assumption that a young girl’s victimization was simply the unfortunate by-product of underage drinking and partying, as much the victim’s fault as the perpetrators. Stendahl’s video, now up to almost a million and a half views, shows a girl sprawled on a couch and a boy with a mischievous grin saying, “Hey, bros, check who passed out on the couch. Guess what I’m going to do to her?” He then puts a pillow under her head, covers her with a blanket, places a cup of tea next to her, and gently pulls her hair out of her face before turning back to the camera to say, “Real men treat women with respect.” This brief vignette with its pithy little tag line encapsulated what I’ve been telling my two daughters since early childhood – treat people with respect, and expect to be treated in kind. It seems so simple, so commonsensical that we instill in our children the basic values of human dignity and kindness. How has that gotten so lost along the way?
at 2:39 PM