Thursday, 7 November 2013

No Touching–a desert of affection



Have you read about this? A ban on touching (from roughhousing to holding hands, all inclusive) in an elementary school in British Columbia once again proves just how thoroughly out of touch with reality –and basic human needs—too many people working in the school system are.

In his seminal work, Touching, the Human Significance of Skin, Ashley Montague provides decades of scientific research on the benefits of touching and the strange world of what happens to human beings (and, cruelly, monkeys) in the absence of physical affection. Published in 1986, surely at least one person working in the school system, who has studied anything to do with what human offspring need to thrive, has encountered at least the foundation research?

What happens to people when they’re banned from social physical contact has been well-established . . . .

Already living without the most important people in their world, for most of their waking day, now children are not allowed to do the most human of all social activities: bond emotionally with others.

As if the behaviour problems in schools were not already bad enough, with children needing (and not getting) a strong sense of stability and security, with children needing (and not being allowed) to eat when they’re hungry or have silence when they’re overwhelmed or social contact when it’s inconvenient for the teachers, now they’re not allowed to touch a friend… at all.

What cruel world of impersonal body segregation are we working toward, here?

Hey, hang on! Isn’t school supposed to be where kids go to learn to be ‘properly socialized’?!?

Sunday, 3 November 2013

17 and 17, the Other Rule

It was pointed out to me that my last post might be misconstrued to be suggesting parents take up hover parenting (which I’ve already indicated I’m opposed to: see Hover Parent) … so I’ll shall clarify:

Giving Your All is not a virtue . . .

There are parents who for some reason think they’re required to be ‘engaging’ with the child 100% of the time the child’s awake, who haven't yet figured out what that’s going to mean to their own eating and bathing requirements.

Parenting & Adulting --all at once

Parents need to get their own work done, but they do not need to get it done while the children are in suspended animation under a desk. 

Children can do the work of their own lives –exploring, learning what adults do to live, feeling safe and happy near their parents —while moms or dads are in the same room (or an immediately adjacent room from which they can hear and frequently look in on what is happening) getting their own work done. 

A very good reason to do this is because children will probably grow up to be adults, so a couple of examples of How To Adult around them from time to time is a help.

Children Do Not Require Directors

Children have their own agendas, needs, and interests. They don't need to be told what to explore and they certainly do not need to be told how to explore things. Learning is a natural human ability and it does not require any authority to make it happen or to make it happen 'better.' 

Martyrs Do Not Make Great Parents

One of the problems Hover Parenting causes is martyrdom in parents, which isn’t fun to live or to live with. 

Martyrdom also has a nasty way of setting up the give in, give up, roll-over, roll-over, roll-over SNAP thing that happens when people concede more than they want to (for any reason) for too long. 

An example from my living room: a mom started out all the patience in the universe (while being beaten gently over the head with a book repeatedly) who freaks out and screams and throws things when the book touched her the 11,003rd time, three days later at her house. 

Which neatly brings me to my other ‘rule’

Never put up with anything for 17 seconds that you are not fully prepared to put up with for 17 years

Obviously, this takes some experiential learning, because who knows what it is that we aren’t going to be able to tolerate for three years when it only just started? But being beaten over the head by a hardboard book is pretty obviously a no-go, and it's a pretty safe bet that waiting for the toddler to get tired of the cool noise it makes is going to take a lot longer than any normal human's patience will last.

In order to be rational and to respect the others around you, don’t accept things you find unacceptable only to snap after the 115th re-run. That’s unstable, unpredictable and uses up a lot of energy that could be better spent virtually anywhere. No one can deal with that kind of chaos, least of all children who look to the adult for a stable foundation. 

And, it is completely fine to say, calmly, “I thought I was going to be able to tolerate that, but I was mistaken. It must stop now and it may not be repeated.” 

No freak-out required . . . .

The 97:400 Rule

I just made this up, so bear with me..


A lovely woman online was bemoaning her five-year-old. Trust me, I know. I’m not doddering enough yet to have forgotten five-year-olds (5yos, henceforth).

I made a comment about how parents generally believe that it’s reasonable to expect a 5yo to… well, the list was pretty long. I suggested the list was, frankly, deranged. 

“Listen*, be respectful, remember to brush teeth, get dressed when told to, eat breakfast” 

… et cetera went the complaining mom's long, long list…

5yos, I know for sure, are at least two years prior to developing the brain parts necessary to be able to cogitate concrete reality. 

While they’re walking around and talking that big vocabulary and generally looking a lot like little real humans, what they really are is real big infants, complete with magical thinking, little impulse control and no understanding of the difference between ‘mom prefers this to be true’ and ‘objective reality.’ 

They are at least two years’ off Concrete Operations, and still firmly implanted in Magical Thinking.

Parents might think it’s reasonable that these ‘mini adults’ can or will or should do . . . whatever . . . but they can’t, won’t and, in fact, should not.

So, what’s the 97:400 Rule?

Any parent with a child under, let’s call it 7 for tidiness… (could be older, is probably capable younger but don’t count on it…) any parent who thinks they can spend more than 3% of their time outside touching/hearing range of their child is probably going to spend a frightful amount of time frustrated. The rule is:
If you choose not to spend 97% of your time with your under-7 child(ren) expect to expend 400% of the energy you have available in any given day week month year dealing with the fallout of that lack of supervision
There is an alluring cultural lie, that children should* something-something-or-other… (obey, understand, ‘get it,’ follow directions, respect someone, remember the rules . . .  same very long list as above, really.)

The fact is, prior to the brain development necessary to perform concrete operations, a child does not have the capacity to ‘get it’ --about any of that list.

Any child you see anywhere who is performing those behaviours at that age has been rehearsed (possibly coerced) and is mimicking, not understanding what they seem to be doing.

That is: Shirley Temple was a great dancer for a 3yo, a pretty good dancer for an 8yo and a not-very-good dancer at 13. 

Performances can be rehearsed. Children can be coerced into performing Stupid Human Tricks. Understanding requires development. 

The 97:400 Rule

Parents can ‘get it’ that kids need near-constant supervision until they’re about seven, or . . .

. . .  they can spend about four times as much energy as they have available in any given day, week, month, year dealing with the fallout of unsupervised children.

97:400 . . . you pick.

*beware of the word ‘should’ --within traps, expectations, disappointments and frustration lie

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Digital Addiction

120739406_32681f5ff6_bIn a conversation elsewhere online, I wrote a response to a discussion about digital ‘addiction’ and whether or not being distracted (and distractible) by things like Facebook and texting was a symptom of addiction… it progressed a little to the stress caused to brains by screen flicker, which is where this begins:

I've read that research, too. I know that screen flicker is stimulating to brains, and there are, certainly a whole lot of people who don't understand the connection between their difficulty sleeping (or their chronic sleep deficit) and their daytime activity/stress levels.

But I, again, see this from a much broader perspective.

This is, to me, the fallout from a (sometimes intentionally) disconnected society. Families are split up into age groups at ever-earlier ages, now there is a movement afoot to 'make sure' all children are safely and 'correctly' cared for by moving them all into age-segregated daycares, a shift further back into infancy from the division of families created by mandatory, age-segregated public school. Some of this can be traced to child-labour laws, forcing kids out of the factories where they worked alongside their siblings and parents, some of it is intentionally-destabilizing people and making them easier to control (see Prussian army, c. 1700s) but a lot of it is ease of management for the staff --but the net effect is the same: families are fragmented at earlier and earlier ages. Does anyone know what the results of that are, for babies who are adapted to need a small handful of the same, steady people for the first 12-15 years of life to learn how to live in our complex cultures to form a stable sense of security within?

That lack of stable security is (sometimes intentionally) disrupted by the fragmentation of families, and results in insecure people: people who don't trust their instincts or their own needs, who often go for years and years without attempting to meet their needs, much less expecting to succeed at meeting them, self-loathing worriers who live in fear of being 'found out', who have no idea at all how to de-stress their own bodies or lives, who live in chronic stress, chronically overwhelmed, chronically insecure... who reach for things that make that insecurity feel further away for a while...

And then we (culturally, technologically) offer them what people have NEVER been any good at handling: abundance. An over-2959003013_b62599d8e4_babundance of choice (meaning, the stress of deciding from a 20-item menu adds to the stress of having 14 different size packages of differently-priced, different thickness and quality of toilet paper to choose from, along with 24/7 shopping online and in real life, 24/7 tv on 4000 channels, the non-stop internet and 24/7 live events and activities to do even in many very small towns...) means that, in very practical terms, there are no longer any natural limits. The sun NEVER goes down on what there is to choose from...

In fact, it's common now to run into people my age who simply do not understand 'we ran out' --at stores, restaurants, farms or system bandwidth. So accustomed we are to what looks to us like a 'never-ending supply' (sometimes of debt), it's ordinary for people to have a fit when the size they want is not available because there aren't any, they're so convinced there really are more somewhere but the annoying employee is too lazy to go get them...

The result looks like entitlement, but what it really is, I think, is just expecting there to be lots and lots of everything all the time because that's how life works, naturally, right?

But to the point of the wired world: there are no natural limits. It really simply never ends. The bottle never runs out, the well never runs dry, the opportunity to stay 'connected' at all times, for cheaper and cheaper access costs ... well, that's just the same as how people in Vietnam reacted when heroin was cheap and easier to get than food --who would turn down a hit that makes everything wonderful when without it life is pure stress 100% of the time?

If life wasn't pure stress, 100% of the time, do you think there would be as many people who has as much difficulty handling the distractions?

I don't.

Friday, 4 October 2013

Miley vs. Sinead: Immature against Unwise

I might as well jump into this, since it’s all being touted as ‘good example for kids/girls’ or ‘important lesson to understand.’

I disagree with both suggestions.

I don’t think there is any need for any further examples of an adult woman slut-shaming another in public. I don’t think once she’s done, she should be protected from any equally-insulting return volley on any topic including mental illness, certainly not from someone half their age.

I don’t think the letter is ‘good’ for anyone –not Miley, not onlookers and not Sinead.

Sinead’s position suggests that Miley is an idiotic pawn. While that might be true, with examples like Madonna and Christina Aguilera to draw upon I’d say there is at least an even chance that Miley’s a very savvy entertainer, with a much better idea what sells than Sinead seems to have.

Sinead’s position is condescending. That she chose to be condescending in a public forum has earned Miley’s public response. Should Miley have been the mature, wise one and brushed it off? If that’s the case, what explains Sinead’s reaction to Miley’s response? If that isn’t unwise and immature, I don’t have any words for it at all. Now, they’re both in the same place: unwise and immature.

Are these ‘important lessons’ to anyone? File this under Horrible Warnings.

It can be all about ‘art’ for Sinead, if Sinead wants her career in selling music to be ‘art’ instead of commerce: that is her right and her choice. She is under no obligation to earn money from her creative expression –the vast majority of people don’t. However, that does not have to be anyone else’s choice –not male or female, not at 21 or 71.

Sophia Loren has made it very clear that she is a sex symbol and is delighted and proud to not only have been that, but to remain that today. I happen to agree with her: adult women are allowed to own their sexuality, and they’re allowed (I believe) to express it any way they want to –for money or not, as they choose. Just like men can –Hello, Sean Connery! At any age.


Note to Sinead: grow up and learn to communicate with more respect.

Note to Miley: own your choices and brush off the criticism.

Note to kids and girls: It is your body. Your self-esteem is not related to what anyone else thinks about your body, and your whole self-esteem is only partly made up from what you think about your body. Make your own choices and don’t be surprised when some of them come with regrets, some immediately, some later. You have to learn what you need to learn.

Oh, and a tip for everyone: when you’ve learned what you needed to learn, in your own time and in your own way, try to remember to pass on your respect for everyone who allowed you to do that by allowing everyone else to learn in their own time and their own way, too.

Sure, give information and advice when asked, but don’t presume it’s any more welcome to your listener than it was to you at that point in your life.

If you have to pass on Sage Advice From Wiser Heads, at least be wise enough to be respectful.

Monday, 29 July 2013

Things I Want to Say to My Girls

Sometimes, I wonder if we don’t all have an innate form of ‘locked in’ syndrome… of experiencing life from the inside of our heads that feels normal to us, and we never think of sharing with other people…

Twice, recently, I’ve experienced moments of ‘oh, doesn’t everyone do/know that?’

The first was in doing some research about neurology and psychology and the effects and power of mindfulness meditation (weird direction, I’ll grant you, but you just never know what kinds of wonders you’ll find when you look…)

insulaInsula: it’s a part of your (and my) brain that is active in perceiving the body’s internal experience, and is highly attuned to empathy. It is said that people with highly-developed (that is, in neuroplasticity speak, often-used) insula are not only highly empathic with others, but highly self-aware: they can feel what’s going on in their own bodies, including their shifting moods and tension or relaxation and one of the markers for high level insula function is being aware of their on heart beating.

Cue the double-take..

Ask around a bit.

Isn’t that ordinary? Don’t you always feel your heart beating?

That was surprise number one.

The second one I stumbled upon while re-reading Dan Baker’s lovely (I highly recommend it) What Happy People Know. He refers obliquely to one of the sources of happiness in life being about choice, specifically being aware of our personal choices regarding not only our lives, but also what we’re good at and value. It reads:

Why am I so sure that’s who I am? Because that’s exactly whom I chose to be. I put tremendous effort into making these choices. I eliminated many other possibilities and poured my heart into the ones that fit me best.

Which got me thinking about the multiple talents and abilities I am aware of having (that old self-awareness thingy again) and have no intention or interest in using or developing further, or, perhaps more relevant to the title of this piece as you’ll see in a moment I hope, earning money from… For example, whenever the option to sell things (home party kinds of things) comes up, which is virtually every time I attend one and someone notices that I’m good at retaining all kinds of information and chatting up the benefits, etc… Yes, I know, but I still also know that I’m not willing to do what I know it takes to be successful in that business and I have no interest in participating in it –no, really, not even for the potential for vast amounts of money. I get it, I’m weird.

But what I just realized I’m not sure I ever told my girls –because it’s one of those ‘doesn’t everyone know this?’ – is

you don’t have to do what you’re good at just because you’re good at it

You are good at so many things, you can pick the one(s) that you want to use, not only the ones other people notice or that other people value, and certainly not all of them if you don’t wanna…

Just sayin’ … ‘cause you may not have noticed…


Friday, 26 April 2013

Addiction and Choice



Recommended reading: Addiction, a disorder of choice, by Gene M. Heyman

When we subject children to anti-drug propaganda* we may be taking for granted a few propositions that have not been established outside the ‘my pappy tol’ me so’ and ‘some dude in a pub said’ frames.

As Heyman’s thesis valiantly proves, addiction is absolutely a voluntary choice and is absolutely not a disease.

I’ll summarize the argument for the second claim first, because it’s so universally accepted today. If alcoholism, smoking, heavy drug use and oxycodone abuse were diseases, it would not be possible to ‘quit.’ Not with a change of attitude, not with rehab and not with meetings –all of which can and do end addiction in real life. More than 80% of heavy, chronic drug users quit on their own, by choice, most of them before they’re 30 (they also typically start at 18.) If the disease model made sense, then MS and diabetes could be ‘quit’ with the help of rehab or meetings, which is a ridiculous suggestion.

On to the voluntary choice aspect. Because a lot of the research on the subject tends to be done by economists, rather than mothers of 14-year-old boys, they often take it as read that people do not voluntarily choose self-destructive options. Anyone who has ever seen Jackass or its many imitators can snort at that idea. Clearly, people do, rather more often than most parents are comfortable, make choices that are not in the best interest of anyone, including themselves.

What’s going on?

It turns out that one other things economists get wrong is the frame in which the decisions are being made. Economists look at ‘market baskets’ –like a collection of possible spending choices for someone’s discretionary income, and see that overall people tend to make reasonably sensible choices: the ‘best interest’ model. Yet people have rationally pointed out that there are a great many people who are bankrupt –or being evicted for non-payment of rent, with big screen tvs and smartphones—that rather argues against the theory. The frame economists use, in Heyman’s terminology, is a global framework for decision making, and it does tend away from self-destructive and toward best interest. In drug use, this means that when someone frames the ‘will I use cocaine now?’ question in terms of ‘is this the best use of the next $150 and 4 hours of my time, considering my life goals?’ the answer is very, very different from a ‘local’ viewpoint.

The local view is ‘will I suffer through the craving now?’ In short-term decision-making, people will very often make self-destructive and even openly suicidal choices. In my post about lacking resources (Anti-Resourceful), I described one such devastating decision from my hometown. It is not irrational, from a ‘this moment’s pleasure’ standpoint, to use drugs instead of living through withdrawal.

So, to drug education

What do we tell the children, and what ‘works’ for avoiding hard core drug addiction?

As much as we don’t really believe it will work (hence the propaganda*) the answer is: The Truth.

The truth includes the fact that drugs use money, energy, resources and time in a way that does not get anyone closer to their personal goals in life. It’s uncommon knowledge, but you only get to spend this dollar, this bit of energy and this minute once.

The truth includes the fact that most people who experiment with drugs have their own very good reasons for not becoming habitual users, and it’s probably worth forty minutes of your life to figure out what yours are.

The truth includes the fact that there are many potentially-devastating side effects from most potent drugs, and in spite of the fact that the odds of ending up with any or all of them are really pretty small, without the drug use the odds are much nearer to zero.

The truth includes the fact that drug use has some real attractions that are genuinely hard to beat with anything else in the world, but none of those eradicate any of the other truths, including the fact that quitting is filled with suffering, often for a good long time.

The truth includes the fact that the majority of successful people look down on both the effects and the users of mood-altering substances particularly when the use can no longer be easily contained to non-productive hours, or when the urge to use spills out into criminal and anti-social behaviour. All people need the respect and goodwill of their friends and neighbours and while you’ll certainly be popular with your dealer/supplier and your buddy users, you will also certainly be restricting your social circle dramatically.

Do we have to get into dire threats and fictional statistics? I don’t think so. In fact, it would be ever so much better if we didn’t.


* Propaganda defined: amplified, simplified and vilified info-tainment designed to coerce underlings into believing whatever overlings have determined to be ‘best’ for them, regardless of any accuracy of statements…

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Bad News: You Won’t Find Out

In conversation with a dear friend yesterday, I premembered … (premembered is a word a friend’s kid invented, that means something like ‘later, I’m going to remember this way of explaining something I’ve kind of known for a long time’) … something about education and its inherent flaws.

I had been talking about a conversation (meta!) that I’d had earlier, in which there was discussion about how silly it is that the school system doesn’t teach people anything they really need to know: like how to be a good parent … or how to learn things for your own reasons on your own, or how to think, or be an enlightened human being. That’s when I premembered:

You usually won’t find out what it is you need to know until after you needed to know it.

This applies to most work, and most parenting.