We always have choices

A mother asked the folks at Love and Logic if they weren’t giving kids the idea that adults are nicer than they really are. Most adults expect kids to do what they ask of them. Adults don’t give choices to kids; adults don’t chose their words carefully so as to not invite arguments. “There will be plenty of times when kids will just have to obey without a choice.” She wondered, I think, if we aren’t setting kids up for a harsh reality check.

Jedd Hefer, the Love and Logic author of the piece I’m responding to, reminded us that Love and Logic teaches sharing of power, not letting kids have all the power. He shared that we still need to set consequences and follow up with them.

Finally, he said they don’t teach blind obedience as we might steer kids wrong.

I think one of the most powerful things Love and Logic teaches is the connection between choice and consequence. It teaches parents to not make decision for kids and it teaches parents to not rescue kids from consequences. When parents get these two things right, the kids learn it too. And we always have choices.

The more I work with Love and Logic, the more I see choices everywhere. I was in charge of a toddler, not my usual area of strength (I work with teenagers and their families), who had grabbed a pair of scissors. I knew I needed to get those out of her hands. I could have physically taken them, I could have demanded them, I could have scared her, I could have condescended to her, “You don’t want to play with those, you want to give them to me and play with this nice paper weight.” I took a deep breath, reminded myself that she wasn’t in danger right at that moment and that I had time. How could I give her choices? How could I give her choices that a two-year-old would understand? I was out of my league for Love and Logic, but I had some safety in that I could physically take them if needed. I had an idea, and I decided to try it.

I rolled out my right hand and said, “Would you like to put the scissors in my right hand,” then I rolled out my other hand, “or would you like to put them in my left hand?” She looked at each of my hands one at a time–she studied them. I held my breath and said to myself: no lectures, no threats. She chose a hand and placed the scissors in it. I breathed out. I also felt really good. I did it, I used choices and it worked.

To bring this back to the woman’s question. If a boss tells you to do something, obedience is expected. But there are choices hidden in here. The most dramatic choice is outright refusal (done politely in this case). As long as you understand the consequences, you can chose to not do what the boss ordered.

I was just listening to a story of a police officer who refused to obey his superior officers’ quota system because it unethically (and I think illegally) pushes officers to make up crimes or cite citizens for bigger crimes than committed. He had to stand up to his bosses, people in uniform, people with guns, people used to having orders obeyedm in a culture that demands obedience and punishes those who don’t. He was brave to do so.

I want us teaching children that they have choices. I want them to run what they have been asked or ordered to do through an ethical filter. Ethics takes weighing, it takes thought. Ethics does not always have clean answers. On the face of it, and in my skimpy vignette, it seems obvious that the police officer should not comply with unethical orders. But he likely has other ethical obligations, such as to his future self in terms of a pension, to his family in terms of paying rent and buying food and sending kids to college. To the department to uphold the culture of loyalty and obedience, were everyone must rely on everyone else to do the job safely.

I want to give kids as much practice making these choices when the learning is cheap, when the consequences are lower.

Writing this has brought to mind times when I’ve made choices to stand up to power. I bet it has done the same to you. Maybe you have memories of being stood up to as well.

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Fat woman calls Louie out for skinnyism

Louie C.K. has a scene in his sitcom where Vanessa, a woman who wants to date him, calls Louie on the carpet for his fat-laden refusal. The Jezebel article gets it right:

While it might read like another “sad fat woman puts on a happy face to hide the pain” trope, Vanessa — in her delivery — is completely lacking in self pity. She doesn’t hate being the fat girl, but she hates what it means to other people and she hates that society has dubbed her as not being good enough to even be the girlfriend of a schlubby divorced dad in his forties.

The issue is our culture that demeans fat people; the issue is not people who are fat. To read the script and view the scene, see Jezebel.

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Ira Glass and The Gap Between Ability and Perfection

Ira Glass, producer of “This American Life,” wishes he was told early in his career that he would be frustrated by the difference between the tastefulness what he could create and his taste. His own early works stunk, and he warns that many young artists stop at this stage; stop due to the mismatch between what they do and their judgement of it.

I see this in my clients (and in myself too) all the time. Therapy is about adding new things to your life: new behaviors, new ways of thinking, new views. At first, and often for a long time, what you want to change and the change are out of whack. It takes time and it takes patience, and mostly it takes persistence. Be gentle and forgiving of yourself and your family.

Video via BoingBoing

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What you share when you log in via Facebook

It is convenient and can be safer to log into a website using your Facebook credentials. But as Yahoo! Tech shows, you share much more than your an email address and a user ID.

Facebook, Twitter, Google and other big internet companies allow you to register and log in to other web pages using your all-ready-established credentials with them. This is really convenient since you will can many fewer user ID and password combos to remember. Also, as Gizmodo.com proved, even technologically oriented blogs can have passwords stolen. Gizmodo.com’s solution was to not host passwords and instead let Facebook, with its deeper pockets and more robust security measures, verify Gizmodo’s commentors.

But look what you share with Gizmodo or any other site that uses Facebook’s authentication system (source Yahoo! Tech):


The article also has screen shots of what Twitter, LinkIn and Google+ share.

Here is what I do to protect myself. I use a disposable email service (a handy list of providers) and a password manager that generates passwords. Now, I can register for a website with an email address that I will throw away if it is compromised (I can also see who is selling my address) and password that doesn’t match any other password I use. Plus, I don’t have to remember any of these details, the password manager does this for me. With this setup, I don’t need to rely on Facebook or any other web company to log me in. I have a burner account and a system for creating, memorizing and using them.

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Do Women Feel Represented in Video Games?

Well obviously not, given the title I chose. I just read Bad Ass Girls Need Not Apply, an article about the top video games still showing women with gravity- and clothing-defying breasts. It praised the new Laura Croft Tomb Raider game as portraying the title character as still pretty but with real-world proportions. Brianna Wu, the author, shares the vitriol reviewers get when they call into the light the misogynist video-game culture. Why would a woman want to develop games, play games or professionally review them if this is how they will be treated. How will things change if they don’t?

My concern as a psychologist is that this paints an unrealistic, over-the-top, even over-the-porn-top picture of women. It leaves me with the job of coaching young men down from the self-centered edge of what to expect from women–of how even to get women to pay attention to them. Porn, and its easy internet-provided access also does not help men get their gravity-defying ideas down out of the Mt. Olympus clouds.

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Empathy Connects; Sympathy Disconnects

Empathy absorbs tons of pain; maybe not all, but lots. It also connects people. It strengthens bonds between people. Empathy helps when your child is in pain. It lets your child know that you got it–you know they are hurting.

Empathy is also great when delivering a consequence as it separates loving your child from setting the consequence, allowing you to do both. “I know you are mad at me, and since you didn’t let me know where you were, will you please sweep the front porch.” In this example, you can take care of the emotional suffering your child is experiencing while also remaining firm with the limit.

Here is a video that shows the difference between empathy and sympathy.

The Power of Empathy: Animated | Fast Company via Lifehacker.com

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Old Facebook Posts Are Now Searchable: How To Lock Down Your Privacy Settings

My favorite tech blog, Gizmodo, just posted a how-to for locking down your privacy now that old posts in Facebook are searchable. Remember that Facebook has a habit of resetting your privacy settings, so it is a good idea to look at them again.

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You need more sleep, so does your child.

The New York Times has an easy-to-read post of the dangers of insufficient sleep. It has lots of warnings that will trigger adult panic and cause your teen’s eyes to glaze over. Here are the relevant teen parts.

About learning, memory (important for test taking and studying):

Some of the most insidious effects of too little sleep involve mental processes like learning, memory, judgment and problem-solving. During sleep, new learning and memory pathways become encoded in the brain, and adequate sleep is necessary for those pathways to work optimally. People who are well rested are better able to learn a task and more likely to remember what they learned. The cognitive decline that so often accompanies aging may in part result from chronically poor sleep.

About looking good for the ladies:

Growth hormone is released during deep sleep; it … boosts muscle mass and repairs damaged cells and tissues in both children and adults.

About attention and focus:

[There is] evidence associating inadequate sleep with an erroneous diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in children. In one study, 28 percent of children with sleep problems had symptoms of the disorder, but not the disorder.

With insufficient sleep, thinking slows, it is harder to focus and pay attention, and people are more likely to make poor decisions….

About not killing people while driving:

[Insufficient sleep] can be disastrous when operating a motor vehicle or dangerous machine.

In driving tests, sleep-deprived people perform as if drunk, and no amount of caffeine or cold air can negate the ill effects.

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NSA, Prism, Phone Records and Psychological Records

This bugs me. I’m unhappy that the NSA stores and searches my phone meta-data. I don’t like that the NSA stores and searches my internet interactions. Blogger Dissent, a psychiatrist shares just a hint at what information can be pulled from meta-data without having to hear the actual conversation (His blog post). It is a bit chilling. Since he works with people with a specific diagnosis and his phone is only used for business, it would be easy for the NSA to assume those who call him are his patients and have the diagnosis he specializes in. Further, given frequency and time of day of phone calls, the NSA could also figure out when a patient is in crisis. As he says, you might be able to hide from your insurance company by paying privately, but how do you hide from the NSA.

Please be careful with what you leave on voice mail, what you write in an email. Please use my hushmail account to send information to me in a more secure manner (Find it on this page.)

Also, in the reading I’ve done about the spying, I have heard the government say repeatedly that there is no personally identifiable information in this particular system. But there is the ability to look up names attached to phone numbers in reverse phone book look up databases. The two data basis could be compared without Prism itself being able to personally identify someone.

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Striking a balance between success and failure

As those of you who have met with me know, I’m fond of the Love and Logic approach to parenting. I just read this quote from this week’s newsletter, “Remember that it’s really good for your kids to have an equal balance of success and failure.”

There are lessons for kids to learn from both success (e.g., how to be a gracious winner) and failure (e.g. that you can survive the pain). Too much of one or the other limits the practice and the overall success of your child.

I see in my practice kids who do not have enough practice with failure. Winning can become the goal achieved at all costs as the child (and perhaps parents) invest too much of the child’s identity in being a winner. This can turn into kids cheating on tests, parents doing the child’s homework or parents and kids getting into a nagging/resistance loop. To fail at a specific thing becomes failure as a person–who wouldn’t cheat if this were the premiss.

I think it is easier to see what happens to kids who fail too much. This can bring on low self-esteem, depression or a cynical jaundiced view of life. These kids can tell fake praise or overly global praise. To them it can sound like hollow cheer leading.

Is there a way out? Praise trying and persistence, praise trying something new and beginnings. Help children to evaluate their own effort and accomplishments rather than relying on others.

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