Archive for the ‘parenting’ Category

Teach Your Children Well

February 26, 2015

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I’m not going to link to every reported instance of college or high school partying getting out of hand. Nor am I going to link to the number of emergency room visits that occur every weekend due to alcohol poisoning or drug overdoses; nor every instance of campus sexual abuse. In almost every adolescent community a brilliant and talented student has to be rushed to the hospital each weekend. Or a young woman comes to my office feeling confused and violated by an unwanted sexual experience that arose out of too much alcohol, or having been “roofied.” Pre-gaming and tailgate parties occur openly in our culture. Americans abroad are known for their wild partying.

Recently a private university sent twelve kids to the hospital, two critically ill due to the effects of bad “molly.” The four student dealers were among the school’s brightest students. I’m not going to link to this particular incident or any other because it is too easy to blame individual students or the institutions or the families.

Let’s be clear: I am not advocating prohibition or demonizing the responsible use of drugs and alcohol.

Rather, I’m suggesting that along with a national conversation about campus sexual abuse, it’s also time for a national conversation about how getting wasted has become commonplace for kids as young as thirteen and fourteen. Sexual and alcohol abuse are, after all, related events.  Is it time to start setting some limits on the youthful narcissism and entitlement that makes excessive alcohol use and hook-up sexuality more rewarding than the development of good character?  In ways no one intends, do we not reinforce adolescent substance misuse? Do we cultivate the culture of getting wasted over the development of sober social skills? Consider what I have observed in my work as a psychologist:

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The Mothers of Diversity

December 2, 2013

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We live in a kaleidoscopic time. Social diversity accompanies globalization and technologization.  We seek shelter with similar others only to encounter difference in every excursion. The tension between diversity and unity has never been greater.  We are unique, equal, and still one humanity.  Building diverse togetherness entails intricate stitch work – small threads of different colors creating a whole cloth. Mothering – as practiced by women, men, artists, educators, scientists and healers of all kinds – can expertly thread that needle.  (more…)

Binge Sex: How Kids Learn About Rape

October 22, 2013

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Is there an epidemic of binge sex?  Is there a week that goes by without a story about teens or young adults drinking way too much who end up in an encounter of unwanted sexual contact and rape?

In response to the recent onslaught of these stories Emily Yoffe’s post urged women to stop drinking. That provoked a reply from Soraya Chemaly who said that the males need to be told to stop binging and raping.  As a psychologist in private practice my experience suggests that Yoffe and Chemaly both have points. Yet blaming the kids doesn’t get to the source of this problem. Nor does the finger need to be wagged at parents or schools. Rather, it’s the people making lots of money off of binge sex who most warrant the scolding.

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The Fallacy of Isolation

January 21, 2011

 

by Matthew Saville

Is Jared Loughner a lone isolated individual suffering from schizophrenia, or another severe psychiatric disorder? Is there a correct and superior way to be a mother, whether it be Chinese or otherwise? While the Jared Loughner’s presumed killings and Amy Chua’s publicity piece in the WSJ have nothing in common, many of the discussions about Loughner’s mental illness and Chua’s mothering derive from a belief that how one becomes a person, any kind of person, is separate from both the physical and relational environment.

Anthropological and psychological data support the opposite notion. Humans are embedded in the spaces and places known as home.  The forces involved in mental illness involve an interaction between neurobiology, relationships and environments.  Mothering involves teaching children how to navigate that interaction.  Loughner’s  neurobiological stress organized itself through the symbols of the culture to which he was exposed. And there is no one way to be a good mother because the variables differ across landscapes.  Here are some examples: (more…)

Family Life and Sustainability

June 29, 2010

Social change takes place through individual and familial transformations. See this article in The Jewish Week for a personal reflection on what sustainability can look like at home.

Chronic Leaks and Slow Burns: The Impact of Bureaucracy on Teens

May 20, 2010

“After all the test preps, and all the focus on getting things just so you can get into college, I feel like an empty shell. There is no me, and the person who ends up succeeding and getting all that stuff isn’t me at all.” KF, 17 year old NYC teen.

As BP finally siphons some of the oil from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, it will most likely fade from public attention.  The same can be said for forest fires. Crown fires that spread rapidly from treetop to treetop attract attention and frenzied intervention. Fires that smolder beneath thick layers of fallen leaves can burn undetected and destructively for many acres before anyone notices. The mind gradually assimilates most long term chronic events, and it can even seem as if they no longer impact our lives.  Humans have an ability to get used to almost anything, a trait that is adaptive in the short-term and destructive in the long term.  The mind numbing defenses of repression and dissociation are the cultural equivalent of bureaucratization, processes meant to dissipate and nullify the possible emotional tension of group behavior.

David Brooks recently expressed the feeling that Elena Kagan was too perfunctory, too organized around success, not inspired or even inspirational. While Brooks is wrong about her, I believe he might be on to something very important.  What he is describing is the gradual dulling of individual expression and intellectual risk-taking brought on by the culture’s emphasis on an overly bureaucratic, professional and strategic presentation of self. Ask any teen in high school, like the young woman I once met who was interested in a certain 9/11 project for her college resume. Teens will tell you how the continued emphasis on the externals of success and the neglect of powerful socio-cultural values gradually wears them down.

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Hooking Up Isn’t Green

April 18, 2010

A few years ago, a young woman winced as she described yet another evening of binge drinking, and the guy she thought she remembered having sex with in the bar parking lot.  Her long wavy hair framed bright eyes that seemed to catch every change in light. Her arms, long and graceful, sat folded upon her chest.  She had graduated at the top of her class at an Ivy-League college, and was now a young professional in Manhattan.  Still, she spent most evenings out at bars, and her social life consisted of brief sexual encounters with people she either just met or barely knew. I once suggested to her that she try going to dinner with a romantic interest.

“Are you crazy?” she admonished. “Have dinner with someone I don’t know? I would never do that “.

That was my introduction to what is know commonly known as hooking up.  Since then I have discovered that it is the common form of socializing in high schools and on college campuses.  Denise Ann Evans made a movie about it. Tom Wolfe has written about it. The behavior is an implicit aspect of most reality TV.  Yet, while limited media attention views the phenomena with some degree of fascinated voyeurism, very few remark on the fact that these young people are simply enacting everything they have been taught. What else might be expected from young people raised on commercials, treated as consumers from the  time they were toddlers and flooded with imagery of the earth being violated for the sake of materialistic consumption?

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Parenting Dilemma #2

February 8, 2010

One of the most common difficulties in homes with school age children is dealing with homework.  An adolescent male, a junior in high school, slept no more than 12 hours one week due to mid-terms.  Parents consulted with me because their child had smashed several glasses due to homework frustration.  A young middle school student avoided going to classes because she was having trouble completing assignments due to procrastination. Even for kids who have no learning or executive function complexities, homework has become the crucible for self-worth as children labor over hours of assignments.  While the debate about excessive homework has been conducted in this country for many generations, I suspect that the issue with homework isn’t that there is too much of it (although it can appear that way).  Rather, I have observed that most kids aren’t engaged enough with generative activities. Children, and especially adolescents, aren’t devoting enough non-competitive time to their bodies, to creative pursuits, or to spending time outside. There is no balancing of the cognitive discipline necessary to intellectual growth with other developmental needs that are emotional, physical and what I call expansionary.  A social organization that is out of synch with its own ecology creates children who are out of touch with their own ecosystems. This leads to the massive homework meltdown. One way out of this is to change the way teachers, educators and principals think, like this. Another way is to practice the “more is less” approach to managing kids’ after school hours. (more…)

Parenting Dilemma #1: Time

November 17, 2009

The night before last my daughter scolded me for working late.

“Don’t you know that I need you at night?” she cried, wiping her wet eyes against my blouse.

I did, in fact, know. Many mothers talk about their presence in the home, especially in the evening, as crucial to the functioning of the household.  This is not because dads don’t parent as well. My husband is a bread baking, laundry doing, practicing instruments with the kids, dishwasher emptier.  There is just something about mommy that holds everything together. It’s not as if they spend time talking with me. Often, I’m just there in the kitchen making some food, reading a book, or doing some professional paperwork on the computer. Sometimes being a mom feels like nothing more than being a regulating mechanism. I’ve heard moms talk about themselves as real life thermometers, quietly tuning in to the minutiae of their kids internal states and providing just the right degree of emotional contact to keep everyone’s emotional temperature in optimal range.  I’ve also heard moms wonder where they can possibly find the time. (more…)


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