We Cannot “Mold” Kids into Exactly Who We Want Them To Be

Readers — I find this little report, “Neuroscience Used and Abused in Child Rearing Policy” so interesting, for two reasons.

First, by questioning the common wisdom that kids’ brains”irreversibly ‘sculpted’ by parental care” the first three years , it alleviates some of the incredible pressure put on parents to make sure that every single second they spend with their babies (even prenatally) is optimal: stimulating, educational, enriched. That’s a lot to demand of us.

Second, it echoes a point I make in my book and lectures: That while experts purport to “help” parents by telling us exactly how to interact with our kids, actually that avalanche of advice undermines the idea that maybe, just maybe, we could be decent parents without intensive tutoring. As the authors note:

…Mothers, in particular, are told that if they are stressed while pregnant or suffer postnatal depression, they will harm their baby’s brain.

‘This dubious information is highly unlikely to alleviate stress or depression but rather more likely to increase parental anxiety,’ said Dr Macvarish. ‘Parents are also told they must cuddle, talk and sing to their babies to build better brains. But these are all things parents do, and have always done, because they love their babies.

‘Telling parents these acts of love are important because they are ‘brain-building’ inevitably raises the question of how much cuddling, talking and singing is enough? Such claims also put power in the hands of ‘parenting experts’ and ultimately risk making parenting a biologically important but emotionally joyless experience.’

The way we’re approaching parenting these days is sort of the way we approach so many other worthwhile projects. Instead of saying, “It sure would be nice to set aside some land as a park,” we are forced to do a cost-benefit analysis that shows things like, “Parkland increases the ambient oxygen level by X percent, which in turn increases worker productivity, resulting in a net gain of…blah blah blah.” Not everything needs to be quantified, justified or even examined this way. And that’s not even getting into the whole issue of how many “scientific” studies turn out to be impossible to replicate (and quite possibly wrong). – L.

Hi brain! I'm your mommy! Can I please program you exactly the way I'd like?

Hi brain, I’m your mommy! If I do everything the experts say, will you do everything that Mommy says? 

 

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53 Responses to We Cannot “Mold” Kids into Exactly Who We Want Them To Be

  1. anonymous mom April 15, 2014 at 11:02 am #

    I think early-child experience is another area where we conflate the not-ideal with the totally detrimental. Yes, if a child is severely neglected during their first three years, that has big impacts. But, outside of that, we totally overestimate these things. I know a lot of loving, kind, responsible parents. They have different philosophies about parenting and raise their children very differently, especially in the first three years (some are attachment parents who babywear and cosleep, others are into child-training and do sleep training and playpen/play blanket time, some allow no media, others let their kids watch TV quite a bit, some are constantly supervising their child, others have larger families and the little ones just kind of toddle around with the bigger ones), and you cannot tell, once the kids hit 4 or 5, who parented how. Outside of context of true abuse and neglect, I just do not believe our specific parenting choices matter nearly as much as we’d like to believe they do.

    I also think that, in the U.S., the big problem is that we do not want to address poverty. We don’t want to admit that growing up in poverty causes all sorts of problems. So, instead, we identify hundreds of factors that are correlated or associated with poverty, and try to address those. (For example, things like words spoken to a child per day are highly correlated with both socio-economic status and mother’s education level.) But, without addressing the underlying factor of poverty, these are at best band-aids. I don’t even think they are that, though. They are distractions from the real problem, and they are a way to blame the problems associated with poverty on the parenting of the poor than on many of these things being almost inevitable consequences of living in poverty. We could help children far more by taking the steps needed to lift their families out of poverty (making sure that a job paying a real living wage was available to everybody willing and able to work, providing job training or re-training to those who need it, providing support for those who are in a position where they can’t work) than by trying to deal with things that are really just symptoms of the larger problem.

  2. Charlotte McCann April 15, 2014 at 11:53 am #

    More great insights. It is really hard to just let people be people in a culture where everything has to be psychoanalyzed and categorized. Sad.

  3. Lynda April 15, 2014 at 11:53 am #

    After following your blog for awhile, I finally started listening to your book on Audible. I just got through the section on baby stimulation propaganda and other questionable expert advice, and shaking my head at how much of it I fell for… with my first kid. With my second I was having my own doubts about all the books and articles and products and classes.

    Really enjoying the book. Laughing out loud at some of your Halloween observations!

  4. Papilio April 15, 2014 at 12:24 pm #

    @Anonymous mom: Yes. I think – but what do I know about the precise current situation, I don’t live in the US – education could also help a lot. That vicious circle of poor people who live in cheap houses which are situated in poor school districts that don’t have the money to provide quality, so the students are likely to get only low wages jobs and have to live in a cheap house, etc, can’t be helpful for, what’s it called, upward social mobility.

  5. anonymous mom April 15, 2014 at 12:47 pm #

    @Papilo–To some extent, I think education is another band-aid. Extreme poverty is devastating to children. It’s devastating to their brains, their development, and their safety. (Don’t get me started on the b.s. that is the idea that “abuse knows no social boundaries.” Nonsense. Children living in poverty are MASSIVELY more likely–like nearly 10 times more likely–to be subjected to physical, sexual, and emotional abuse than children not in poverty. But, again, we can’t talk about that. Instead, we have to imagine that every middle-class family is secretly harboring an abuser, instead of admitting that if we dealt with poverty, we’d eliminate a lot of child abuse.)

    Education is good, but you can put a child in the best schools possible and, if they are living in extreme poverty, in most cases they are still just not going to do well, or the benefits will be short-lived. People thought Head Start was the solution to the educational woes of kids in poverty, but any gains the kids made are lost by the time they are in second or third grade. The solution to the problem of poverty is lifting people out of poverty. The solution to the problems caused by poverty is lifting people out of poverty. But, in the U.S. we can never admit that something is a social problem if we can pretend it’s an individual problem, so we’re going to focus on a million different initiatives to make individuals change all sorts of behaviors rather than addressing the actual problem.

  6. SOA April 15, 2014 at 12:51 pm #

    yes and no. Yes, most parents are going to do the right thing and figure out without being told what to do. But, you do have some parents out there that want to do the right thing and be loving and engaging, but just for whatever reason don’t understand how to do it right. So I do believe there is a need and a market for parenting books and magazines and classes, etc.

    To me, parenting is just like anything else, it never hurts to be more educated about it as long as it is done in the right way. If anything becoming more educated about it if it comes from the right sources, will allow you to relax and be able to be more free range.

  7. Puzzled April 15, 2014 at 12:56 pm #

    I think education is not helpful at all. Learning – yes. Education – no. What we tend to mean by education is credentials, ability to rise up in the hierarchy – but the economy can only possibly utilize a certain percentage of the population in certain roles. You just can’t bring all the people up to a high level in the hierarchy, that’s not how hierarchies work.

    What’s needed is large-scale change. We need a less hierarchial society and economy.

    This was driven home to me on a recent visit to Santa Maria Tehipana, a tiny village in Mexico, 8 hours from a city (although it was the only place I managed, in my life, to find a primary care doc without a wait, at 10pm, for $25.) The organization I went with was focused on education, but the people know how to do their job quite well. All education does is get them to move to the city, become lawyers, etc. Then who grows the food? We need to make farming something that pays enough to feed a family on, not get less farmers. That means, for instance, not having a coffee grower have their prices dictated by Walmart, while Walmart is subsidized and protected by US policies.

  8. anonymous mom April 15, 2014 at 1:08 pm #

    @Puzzled, yes. One thing we need to just admit and accept is that not everybody is going to be a doctor, lawyer, or engineer. First of all, that would be totally undesirable, since we want and need people to grow our food and check out our groceries and clean our hotels and all of the labor that we rely on every day but overlook or dismiss. For another, it’s just not possible. There are many people who, no matter how much education you give them, are not cut out to be doctors, lawyers, or engineers–and that’s okay!

  9. Warren April 15, 2014 at 1:08 pm #

    Parenting went from on the job learning to being overly informed, overly read people that refer to manuals. You are parenting, not recalibrating a machine.

    I can remember numerous times being asked “How did you know you were ready for kids?”. I always told them “No matter what you are never ready.”. Instincts, that gut feeling is always the best way to go.

    The thing is, though having three children, I never raised a single child. I have raised one adult, and am in the process of raising two more adults. They are already kids, so how can I raise kids. But we do raise adults.

    Like our family doctor and I agree, unless you have kids, we do not care what degrees or education you have……you are not qualified to give parenting advice. And it is amazing how many authors fall into that category.

  10. Puzzled April 15, 2014 at 1:18 pm #

    Anon mom – yes, it’s ok – but we need to make it ok by making sure that those jobs allow a person to actually live and support a family. We also need, I think, to change what ‘live and support a family’ mean. Hint – 300+ channels on an HDTV are not part of the definition.

  11. lollipoplover April 15, 2014 at 1:19 pm #

    There’s a fine line to walk between mothering and smothering. There is truly information overload out there for parents on what’s best to do when often it’s what comes naturally. Love them. Get to know them and find out how they tick. But more isn’t always better. My mother always said “Don’t try and make a happy baby happier” and she was so right. Singing a lullaby is free (all of my kids loved You are My Sunshine and after a few rounds were usually zonked out) and going to classes designed to sell techniques and gizmos just wasn’t for us.

  12. anonymous mom April 15, 2014 at 1:27 pm #

    @Puzzled, absolutely. I mean, if you enjoy eating at restaurants, why wouldn’t you want the people working there to make a real living wage? I think that a person working full-time doing anything should be able to bring in enough money to provide basic needs for a family.

    I’m just saying, as I think you were, that it’s not realistic or even ideal to make “getting educated” the way out of poverty. You get people out of poverty by respecting the work that working poor are already doing by paying them a living wage for it, and by creating jobs so that people who are willing and able to work can do so.

  13. Brad Warbiany April 15, 2014 at 1:56 pm #

    I do think the developing brain, prenatally and postnatally, is something that we just don’t quite understand.

    What I know as a father of an autistic son (and two neurotypical kids as well), and watching the rapidly-increasing prevalence of autism in general, is that *something* is going on. There’s clearly some genetic basis, as it tends to run in families, but I don’t know that this explains it all.

    I would not be shocked one tiny bit if it’s also strongly related to something prenatal that can be easily avoided by the mother. I just don’t think we have any idea what that thing is yet.

    I completely agree with you that parents and mothers are stressing about all this stuff WAY too much. And once you start listing things that might be at fault, you end up having parents trying to avoid life in order to ensure that their kids are perfect, when all of human history suggests that pregnant women were probably much more active in the past before all of the rules of what they must and mustn’t do.

    But I want to know what it is that can induce problems in prenatal and postnatal kids’ brains. Because if it’s something that IS within our control, we’re doing a disservice to all these future children in society by not figuring it out.

  14. lollipoplover April 15, 2014 at 2:42 pm #

    “I would not be shocked one tiny bit if it’s also strongly related to something prenatal that can be easily avoided by the mother.”

    I wouldn’t be shocked if it’s something related pre-conception that can easily be avoided by the father. I think there was a link between paternal age and autism. Should older men not conceive children with younger wives? There’s plenty of blame to go around for both sexes. Why is it only focused on mothers?

  15. anonymous mom April 15, 2014 at 2:44 pm #

    I would be very surprised if there were a simple, easily-avoidable cause of autism.

  16. Brad Warbiany April 15, 2014 at 3:29 pm #

    lollipoplover,

    At the link, there was at least one study suggesting that paternal age is correlated (and another study suggesting maternal age). Apparently as men age, the number of genetic mutations they’ve undergone increases, and the likelihood of autism in offspring increases. This is a complicated thing, and there are pretty much studies that show just about everything is “correlated” with autism if you look hard enough for them!

    Please note that I’m not trying to place blame. We don’t know what the cause is. Even if we find out the cause down the road and it was something that my wife or I were responsible for, there’s no blame to be placed because we can’t be faulted for something we didn’t know about at the time. When I say “easily avoidable” it could be something that we think today is completely benign or even beneficial. Life and human biology is full of unintended consequences!

    Believe me, if anyone is looking at the blame in our house, they’re pretty much looking squarely at me anyway. I’m most likely an undiagnosed Aspie myself, so if there’s a side of the family from which he got the genetic component, I’m pretty sure it’s my side. I view most things in a forward-looking way, so for my OWN child, I’m more concerned about making sure he has all the support, therapies, and other things he needs rather than trying to figure out what caused it. We’re not having any more children, and my youngest is most assuredly neurotypical, so there’s no point in looking in the rear view for ourselves.

    But I’m an engineer. I want to find root cause for things. And having a son with autism has piqued my interest on this particular thing to figure out root cause. There have been studies done showing differential brain structure between autistic and neurotypical people. That could be genetic, it could be environmental, or it could be blind chance. I think there are likely elements of all three.

    However, I don’t see any reason to think that the genetics or blind chance would be changing at the rate in which we see the increase, so I have to think there’s a likelihood of an environmental “trigger” that some children are more susceptible to than others, and that trigger would be something that’s been increasing over the past several decades. And if it’s environmental, it could VERY easily impact both prenatally and postnatally. BTW environment doesn’t only implicate the mother anyway, even prenatally, as there are numerous ways in which the father is impacting the environment that the woman and baby live in. But the prenatal environment is, at the very least, mostly the mother’s influence.

    My point is that we shouldn’t discount the fact that prenatal environment *CAN* have significant effects on a child… It’s one of the reason women don’t smoke or drink during pregnancy any more. I also think that women are cajoled into worrying too much about this stuff based on a lack of strong science, which is Lenore’s point. I don’t disagree with that. But I spoke up because there’s a chance that something that we’re doing is damaging these developing brains, and I do think we need to spend some time and research figuring out what it is and stopping it.

  17. Havva April 15, 2014 at 4:38 pm #

    The quote from the authors pretty much sums up the first year of my and my daughter’s life together.

    The pressure not to damage her, by any little failure to act right, was immense and constant. And made me believe I had no right to do try different things, or do things that were known to work but weren’t ‘right.’ I was constantly exhausted. Odd little example of the fall out:

    The hospital gave me a ‘fun’ little magazine of ‘brain building’ games to play with your infant. That magazine lived on my mental checklist of ways I was a horrible failure of a mother. Because I knew a loving mother just did those thing, and I was too exhausted from trying to do everything right (particularly solving every cry) that I just couldn’t play.

    When I finally realized that ‘parenting’ advice was selling fears, not solutions. I quit trying to do it right, and just tried to make things work. Suddenly my daughter quit being this bundle of mystery to me. Some months later I opened back up that ‘fun’ little magazine. Trying to be perfect I could maybe do a few minutes of it a week. But as a happy (imperfect, well rested) mother just playing with her toddler (not trying to meet developmental needs), I would hit a good half dozen of them back-to-back-to-back without thinking about it.

    By my estimate what new moms need, more than anything, is sleep. Followed by, the knowledge that babies are pretty resilient (mine seems to have thrived despite a year with a broken mother).

  18. lollipoplover April 15, 2014 at 5:41 pm #

    My kids aren’t babies anymore so I no longer have the guilt or anxiety associated with creating this perfect human. But this study related to school age kids follows some of the same ideas:

    http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/04/12/parental-involvement-is-overrated/?_php=true&_type=blogs&smid=fb-nytimes&WT.z_sma=OP_PII_20140415&bicmp=AD&bicmlukp=WT.mc_id&bicmst=1388552400000&bicmet=1420088400000&_r=2&

  19. hineata April 15, 2014 at 8:37 pm #

    ‘We cannot mold children into exactly who we want them to be…’

    but we can bleeping well try, LOL!

    Seriously, so true. I too fell for some of the hype for the first year with my first kid, a fall-out from being a uni-educated mum, I think – too used to book learning :-). Also being associated with Asian families and Tiger Mums. I have come to think, though, that a big part of the relative success of Asian children in Western schools comes down to the fact that generally the Asian immigrants we have are well-educated and generally highly intelligent, because it has been traditionally difficult for Asian people to emigrate to our countries. Even the refugees we got coming to New Zealand after Mao were the intelligentsia. Unlike, in NZ anyway, we Pakeha and Maori people – the Maori got themselves here, and generally any Pakeha who wanted to come could get out here on assisted passages. So not such a select group, LOL!

    Not sure how I got onto that, but anyway, am glad we can go back to generally looking after, and watching our kids develop the way they’re going to.

    On a personal note, my brightest, most multi-talented child, is the baby, the one who got the least attention. From that one could surmise that the secret to success really is to leave the kid to their own devices as much as possible :-)

  20. Reziac April 15, 2014 at 10:42 pm #

    We get the same nonsense in dogs: If you don’t do exactly thus-and-such at or by a particular age, the puppy will be irreparably harmed, and if the puppy experiences certain trauma at certain ages, it will be irreparably ruined, yadda yadda.

    Well, let me tell you from the perspective of a professional dog trainer with 45 years and several thousand dogs worth of experience: This is BS. Worse, it’s destructive BS that is leading us to a world filled with special snowflakes *who are incapable of being anything else*.

    Dogs vary as much as children do, develop at different rates, and have different capabilities. But overwhelmingly, normal dogs (as opposed to Special Snowflakes) can cope with a vast range of training schedules per age, or even their near-absence. And only abnormal dogs fail to recover from psychological trauma (normal puppies recover in only about 3 days, and normal adults in about a month, provided the owner doesn’t reinforce the trauma by making a production of it — much as some parents do with a toddler’s every bump and bruise).

    We have the same “baby stimulation propaganda” being applied to dogs, too. But having raised over 2000 puppies and by every which method, I can attest that it does very damned little (and may even be sub-optimal). As anonymous mom says, “early-child experience is another area where we conflate the not-ideal with the totally detrimental.” You got it!

    And my experience tells me it’s best to just be ordinary and normal, and to follow your instincts. Most people have pretty good instincts about kids (and dogs), when not being bombarded by contradictory propaganda until they’re totally confused.

    [But such confusion is why when I give get-that-outlaw-under-control lessons, the first thing I have to do is depropagandize the owner; otherwise it’s wasted effort.]

  21. Reziac April 15, 2014 at 10:48 pm #

    Brad says: “there was at least one study suggesting that paternal age is correlated (and another study suggesting maternal age). Apparently as men age, the number of genetic mutations they’ve undergone increases, and the likelihood of autism in offspring increases.”

    Actually, the next word on the subject is that the study on paternal age vs autism has been discredited, and was simply a case of bad statistics being massaged to display a desired correlation.

  22. Breanna April 15, 2014 at 11:08 pm #

    I’m a new mother with a little 5 month old baby. I’ve been reading parenting stuff for years, including this site. I think I have a pretty balanced view. However, I’m a naturally quiet and introverted person and if a few hours go by in silence, or if I get absorbed in cleaning the kitchen and leave my baby playing nearby on a blanket I find myself thinking “oh no! He will be like those sad little orphanage babies!” which is patently absurd. Even trying to inoculate myself with this site, I can’t avoid those thought patterns.

  23. anonymous mom April 16, 2014 at 9:39 am #

    @Breanna, my first was a VERY demanding and difficult baby. He was pretty much unhappy unless he was being held. We bought pretty much every baby-containing contraption out there, and he didn’t take to any of them.

    So, when I had my second, I put her in the swing one day, thinking she’d hate it. She loved it. I can’t tell you how many times I put her in the swing so I could do something like cooking a meal or do a workout or take a shower, and then find myself, an hour or two later, having a panicked moment where I couldn’t remember where she was, only to find her completely happy and content (or maybe asleep) in her swing. She was so quiet that I’d completely forget she was even in the swing. She is four now and she is very friendly and verbal and happy, so I don’t think I did her too much harm. ;)

  24. lollipoplover April 16, 2014 at 10:51 am #

    @Breanna-
    Congratulations!
    Every baby is unique. My oldest sounds a bit like your baby and I had the same feelings of “I should be doing more” when he was perfectly happy. We called him little Buddha (he never crawled) and Ferdinand the bull because he would just sit there quietly and play with a ball or blocks. He still amuses himself for hours with ball games with friends and woodworking projects at age 12. Go figure.

  25. DirtyHooker April 16, 2014 at 11:43 am #

    Breanna: I have a similar “problem” with my baby. She’s 14 months old, and I’ve read so much about how parents need to talk to their babies constantly. I try, but the constant word vomit of self-narrating my day is maddening.

  26. Jenny Islander April 16, 2014 at 1:29 pm #

    @DirtyHooker: Check the baby’s gaze. Is she looking at something, then at you, then back at the thing? If she’s an older baby, is she making her information-please noise? Then it’s time for you to talk. Otherwise you don’t have to.

    @Puzzled: People like to rag on the poor for having tons of cable channels (bundled with phone service so it’s not like you can save money by crossing some off) or cell phones (which are cheaper than landlines almost everywhere these days) or cars (with no transportation, how do you get to work?!) or nice clothes (because rags are de rigeur for the poor I guess) or nice hair (because you can totes get a job looking like a hobo) blah blah blah blah BLAH. It’s just another band-aid on the axe wound. “Don’t have hardly any money? Then you should live on lentils, beans, and tears, sleep on used air mattresses, and put every single penny that doesn’t go into just keeping you alive into your ~bootstraps!~”

    Bat puckey.

    Here’s how we cure poverty.

    1. Adjust minimum wage to what it used to be, the minimum necessary to keep one adult with one job living in safety and dignity, with a little bit to put by for rainy days. When I was a kid, a minimum-wage job would rent a hole-in-the-wall apartment with working locks and clean drinking water, AND pay for clothes and grooming that would not mark you as shabby-poor and therefore socially undesirable, AND clean those clothes, AND get you to and from work, AND feed you whenever you were hungry, AND get you a radio or newspaper so you could stay informed, AND pay for basic phone service (if only the pay phone on the corner) so you could network with friends and relations, AND let you do a little something fun on the weekend if it was nothing more than a movie ticket and a bottle of cheap wine, AND let you put a little bit away for rainy days. That was zero. Now it takes two minimum-wage jobs just to get to zero. Minimum wage stopped keeping pace with inflation decades ago. This needs to change. If PACs squawk that not everybody can pay minimum wage and so many poor jobs creators are going to go out of business WAAAAAA, set a minimum employee pool size above which the new minimum wage must be paid without exception, and make Wal-Mart stop forcing its employees to rely on government aid just to survive!

    2. Re-regulate the banks and open more opportunities to credit unions, so there is once again somewhere for people to put a little bit away when they can’t put away more than a little bit.

    3. You’ll note that medical care wasn’t in the list in item 1. Yeah, the basic plan was “don’t get sick and hope nobody runs you over.” That was stupid then and it’s doubly stupid now. The ACA doesn’t go nearly far enough. Gradually broaden the age and income restrictions for Medicare until everybody can get in. And while we’re at it let’s make all immunizations free for all people, because restricting immunity to epidemic disease to the comfortably well off is triply stupid.

    4. Restart the federal jobs programs that kept people fed and hopeful during the Great Depression. Our infrastructure is a disgrace. It needs to be fixed. Hire currently unemployed people to fix it. Pay them the going rate for whatever they’re doing, from lollipop-holding to bridge design, and watch them spend that money in local economies all over the country.

    That isn’t everything, but it’s a start.

  27. SOA April 16, 2014 at 3:29 pm #

    Warren: Wrong. Working with kids day in and day out makes you more than qualified to give child care advice. I worked in a daycare and spent all day long with kids every day. I knew quite a bit and my advice was usually spot on. When I had kids, not that much changed. Sure, I found a couple things were harder than I thought or different than I thought, but a lot of my advice and ideals back then still held true once I became a parent. You don’t have to push a kid out of your vagina to understand kids and know how to care for them well.

    That is insulting to every pediatrician, teacher, daycare worker, nanny, child psychologist, babysitter, etc who takes care of kids day in and day out to act like they don’t know a damn thing just because they are not a parent themselves.

  28. Warren April 16, 2014 at 5:31 pm #

    Dolly,
    Only going to grace you with one response, as I tire quickly of your stupidity.

    All those professions are great, and I am sure they do a great job at them. But at the end of their shift, they go home. Parents do not do that.

    That just goes to show just how insane you really are. Being nanny, teacher, pediatrician, a whatever ever does not mean you know what it takes to be a parent. And by how you describe what you do, you have no idea of what it takes to be a parent.

    By the way, your neighbours filed for that restaining order yet?

  29. hineata April 16, 2014 at 5:59 pm #

    @SOA – sorry, while I certainly think that Warren’s reply to you was totally rude and uncalled for, I must disagree that just working with kids gives you a real insight into parenting. I worked with kids for years before having my first, both in unpaid and lowly-paid positions as a teen and as a teacher, usually in primary schools but sometimes in daycare. One example of my pre-parent ignorance – while I was pregnant with Boy, I was working at a private school in town, and one mum consistently appeared late with her five-year old whenever her husband was out of town on business, as she had a nine month old as an ‘excuse’. I was always polite to her about this, but secretly looked down my nose – here I was managing 25 ‘infants’, and she couldn’t manage two. OMGosh, was I in for a rude shock when I had Boy! It was much harder to manage one wee baby first time round than to handle a full class.

    I have yet to meet a teacher with kids who doesn’t admit to the same. We all think we know what we’re doing until we have them. My doctor for that matter, and all of El Sicko’s that have kids have said the same thing. The only way to understand what it is to be a parent is to be a parent, Whether you ‘pushed a kid out your vagina’, or adopted, or fostered long-term…..

  30. SOA April 16, 2014 at 6:18 pm #

    Except I am a parent and I don’t agree. I was not 100% right about every little thing but in general, yes, I was very often right before I had kids. Maybe that is not how everyone is, but it certainly is how I was.

    So that is why I will never automatically discount someone’s advice about children just because they are not a parent themselves. I look into what experiences with children they do have and process the advice and decide what I think about it. I don’t automatically tune it out just because they are not a parent.

  31. Donna April 16, 2014 at 7:01 pm #

    Dolly,

    Since it is abundantly clear from your comments that you believe that you are right about everything, I have no doubt that you also think you were the perfect parent before you had kids too. I’m actually shocked that you are willing to admit that you weren’t 100% right.

    While I would don’t automatically discount the advise of someone with experience with MY CHILD but no children of their own, I do view it as the advise of a non-parent. All in all, I am far more likely to take the advise of a friend whose parenting I admire than my child’s teacher, who is a great teacher but also very young and not a parent. Simply put, the investment and goals are simply very different between parents and teachers, doctors, nannies, etc.

  32. Papilio April 16, 2014 at 7:30 pm #

    It won’t let me post my comments >:(

  33. Papilio April 16, 2014 at 7:34 pm #

    Okay that worked, now step 2…

    What I wanted to say ever since last night (your afternoon), is that education is indeed not the whole solution, but as it apparently is now, poor neighborhoods’ children get poor education and rich neighborhoods’ kids get rich education. That system keeps people in the same circles, for generations. Of course not everyone can become a doctor, but children with the same talents should at least have the same chance of becoming one, regardless of their background.

  34. Papilio April 16, 2014 at 7:34 pm #

    YES! FINALLY!

  35. hineata April 16, 2014 at 7:43 pm #

    Yes, Donna, that! :-)

    I hope, Dolly, you are not as intense in person as you come across in your writings. I think even Warren would possibly be slightly easier to handle in person, as one can put his general manner down to not having had a lot of exposure to life outside of his limited sphere. You, however, are college-educated, and one would hope therefore someone who has been exposed to a range of different thoughts, ideas and experiences. You still seem to think that you are right a huge proportion of the time. Frankly I find that odd, for an educated person.

  36. hineata April 16, 2014 at 7:47 pm #

    Still, it takes all types, I guess…

    Back to the actual issue at hand, I would love it if we actually could find a way to pre-programme our kids – it would make these teen years so much easier :-).

    I would be willing to stump up a few dollars for the grant. Crowdfunding, anyone? :-)

  37. SOA April 16, 2014 at 8:29 pm #

    Hineata: Because I am educated, the straight A’s tend me to believe I am always right. ;) Since you can’t get straight A’s and not be right.

    It is an individual person thing. Maybe you did not know a lot about kids before having them, but you are not me. I actually did already know a crap ton and had hours and hours and hours and hours of child care experience along with child development and education and care classes. So, I would have to be pretty freaking stupid to NOT know a lot about kids after going through all that hands on experience and education.

  38. Donna April 16, 2014 at 8:35 pm #

    “But, in the U.S. we can never admit that something is a social problem if we can pretend it’s an individual problem, so we’re going to focus on a million different initiatives to make individuals change all sorts of behaviors rather than addressing the actual problem.”

    The only way to end poverty is to change individual behavior. It is all well and good to say that we need to create jobs that pay a living wage. I agree totally and I am definitely not saying that that isn’t part of the solution. But the working poor are just a small subset of those living in poverty and a very small subset of those living in extreme poverty.

    But while we are creating those jobs, we have to address the extremely unhealthy thought-processes, behavior structure and poor choices that form the cycle of poverty. We could create a 6 figure job for every single person living in poverty and we would still have a huge poverty problem in this country because the self-defeating behaviors in that population would still exist.

    What we have to do is stop blaming the individuals for the self-defeating behaviors and thought processes that keep them in poverty. Those behaviors are a product of generations of the cycle of poverty and not laziness or stupidity. They think the way they think and make the choices that they make because that is what they were taught and that is what it takes to survive in their world.

    And education has a large part to play. It isn’t about everyone needing to be a doctor or lawyer or even go to college. Everyone does need to know how to read, write, do math, work a computer beyond an elementary school level. You can’t be a successful plumber, cashier, doctor or lawyer without having a decent, basic education. And, many living in poverty absolutely could be doctors and lawyers if they had a different life.

    What you can’t do is throw Head Start, or even the world’s best education, at people who live in an environment that, not only doesn’t place education in high regard, but actively discourages education and expect it to do anything positive.

  39. Donna April 16, 2014 at 8:59 pm #

    Dolly, if you have truly learned so little in your 6/7 years as a parent, you would actually be the last person I would want to take parenting advise from.

    Heck, I can’t think of a single thing that I’ve been doing for 6-7 years that I don’t consider myself in a FAR FAR FAR FAR better place to give advise about now than I was in the 6-7 previous years, no matter how much I thought I knew back then.

  40. Warren April 16, 2014 at 9:29 pm #

    Straight A’s means never being wrong? Since one only need attain a score of 80% to get an A, then logic dictates that one can be wrong 20% of the time, and still get straight A’s.

  41. Donna April 16, 2014 at 9:47 pm #

    Warren – An A was always 90ish at the schools I attended. I’ve never heard of an 80 being an A in the US. It may be in some places but is definitely not universal. Same point, just different numbers.

  42. hineata April 16, 2014 at 9:53 pm #

    @Dolly, I am also ‘educated’, in the Western sense. I’m on my third tertiary qualification (actually, the fourth, but the last two run into each other). I also have, in case you missed it, extensive experience with children. Straight A’s, as I assume you were being funny about, obviously don’t mean you’re always right – they mean you know how to play the education game. Good on you :-). That’s a skill set in itself :-).

    Maybe Americans are just more confident -it’s hilarious how many you see on daytime TV complaining in front of millions of people that they have low self-esteem, what gives there? – but I cannot see how you can claim that you knew enough on how to be a parent before you were one, to give useful advice. I will play the multi-racial card yet again, as I do to a vomit-filled degree, but I also have experience with a lot of people of different kinds and cultures, and it seems universal that people really learn to parent by actually parenting, not by working with other peoples’ kids.

    Maybe Americans really are different, or more likely you personally have a fairly inflated idea of your own abilities. Maybe we Kiwis, too, are blessed by the fact that regardless of our particular religious affiliations, cultural backgrounds, yada, yada, yada, we are pretty much all forced into the handful of state universities and polytechnics for tertiary education. Therefore we are cannot avoid being exposed to a wide range of viewpoints, whereas I gather in the US you can go to a ‘college’ that fosters your particular ideology…Maybe you simply haven’t had to explore other viewpoints.

    Which would be a shame, because that’s sort of the point of higher education.

  43. Reziac April 16, 2014 at 10:07 pm #

    Jenny Islander says, “Restart the federal jobs programs that kept people fed and hopeful during the Great Depression.”

    Er… actually, the more-sane economists now agree that gov’t programs such as this prolonged and deepened, and perhaps entirely CREATED the Great Depression.

    And for every dollar you raise the minimum wage, 500,000 people lose their jobs, and the percentage of unemployed young men goes up a few more percent.

    As to whether you can know anything about parenting without being a parent … maybe not everything. But parents can be too close to the situation, thus have no perspective… isn’t that the issue we’re here to decry in the first place??

  44. Jenny Islander April 16, 2014 at 10:14 pm #

    @Reziac: So some of us can have jobs only if the rest of us have our lives materially shortened by not being able to afford food, shelter, and medical care?

    I have words to describe that, but I think they might get my post deleted. Also, it’s really weird how so many countries have figured out how to do it without the dire consequences predicted for our country. Gosh, we’re just that exceptional and special?

  45. Donna April 16, 2014 at 10:34 pm #

    hineata – Dolly is definitely not all Americans. I’ve never met a teacher with children who didn’t think there was still a huge learning curve for that first kid … and generally every kid after that as each one is totally different.

    I did have a bit of an exchange of words on Facebook with a teacher, who is a wonderful teacher but doesn’t have children, over the many comments about how much we NEEDED a drink by the end of our snow days a couple months ago. As a non-parent (and one who wanted kids but never had any), she could not understand why we were bemoaning all this additional time with our children. Despite all her “knowing about kids,” she absolutely could not understand that an unplanned week off school (and work) with cooped up kids who bored of the snow around day 2 is just not as filled with non-stop warm and fuzzy moments of parent/child magic as her fantasies would have her believe.

  46. hineata April 16, 2014 at 10:51 pm #

    @Donna – Lawdy, I am virtually a teetotaler, and I feel like grabbing a drink right now, just reading that :-)

  47. SOA April 17, 2014 at 1:43 am #

    Donna: I would cut that woman some slack since it sounds like she might have infertility since she wanted kids but did not have them. People like that have a hard time hearing people complain about stuff like playing in the snow with their kids because they want so despeately just to be able to do something like that with their own children but they can’t have any.

    Much like I often have low patience with hearing parents with really easy typical kids complain about how hard things are when I have a special need child. Everyone needs to vent but its a know your audience type thing. Sometimes you gotta think about just who you are venting to and if it will be well recieved or not.

    If it bothered her so much she should have just hid your posts instead of getting into it with you.

    I actually thank God every day I did have that knowledge of child development. Because if I was the average parent I may not have noticed my son was not developing normally and would not have acted as quickly as I did and gotten him evaluated and got him services as quickly as I did. Same for when my other son had a food allergic reaction. Good thing I was read up on how to handle those before it actually happened and knew exactly what to do. I was the one that knew my son was delayed before his pediatrician picked up on it.

    I have obviously improved and picked up on stuff and can put stuff in perspective as my children have grown, but again, there were not a lot of surprises. I had already potty trained for example multiple kids before I had kids of my own so I knew exactly how to do it. I knew what to expect. I knew how it would go down. But apparently unless you potty train your own kids, the fact that you potty trained 12 kids means nothing?! Yeah, that makes no logical sense.

  48. Puzzled April 17, 2014 at 2:38 am #

    Jenny, no, I’m not ragging on anyone by pointing out that our expected standard of living is too high. Here’s the issue – we want everyone to be able to live in some degree of comfort and be able to support their families while working in chosen, productive employment. In order to do that, equalization needs to happen. We can make some of it up in increased production, but we have a large class in this country consuming far more than its share, and we need to accept that restoring economic justice will hurt for many. We need to lower the expectations of what a ‘full life’ means – or at least adjust them and adjust our priorities as a society. Similarly, this isn’t just a domestic problem. Americans are much richer than we should be because we, through our monetary and foreign policy together, steal large amounts from the rest of the world. If we want to also eliminate sweatshops and stop draining other countries of their wealth, Americans will need to accept an even lower expectation set.

    That said, I disagree with all of your recommendations except #2, for mostly the reasons Reziac said. On #2, I support it because it counteracts the massive government regulation supporting and helping banks and locking other means of capital access out of the market, but ideally, I’d like to eliminate the government supports for banks in the first place, as well as the cartel formed by the 20 largest banks to secure their ability to inflate at will.

    But I think you are wrong in the conclusion you draw from Reziac’s post. We don’t need people living poor – it’s just that we need to reform in ways that make economic sense. It’s just silly to attack what are systemic, fundamental problems at the surface level. The economy is too much of an interconnected system for that. The New Deal, for all the credit it gets today, was attacked at the time as a conservative program, and I think it was – which is precisely why it prolonged the depression. It took 14 years for production to finally overtake the costs of papering over misallocation of resources instead of reallocating them properly. It was conservative because it allowed a basic, unjust system of large corporations and privileged banks to continue, and tossed enough breadcrumbs, as our welfare system continues to do today, to prevent riots and real reform.

    Here’s a program for fixing the underlying problems:
    1. Legalize homebrewing and microbusiness by relaxing licensing regulations for home-run businesses.
    2. Eliminate corporate personhood.
    3. Eliminate all tax breaks, subsidies, and tariffs that benefit big business.
    4. Put Glass-Steagall back in place, at least temporarily.
    5. Eliminate all programs to ‘create jobs’ by spending money attracting big business to outcompete local businesses.
    6. Eliminate the federal reserve and force banks to compete on the market with other sources of credit and currency.
    7. Outlaw selling products produced through slavery.
    8. Make a firm promise of no further bailouts and no more ‘too big to fail.’
    9. Have publicly funded major medical, and phase out ‘insurance’ for routine, predictable medical costs (insurance is protection against large, unexpected costs.) Repeal the ACA and the individual mandate.
    10. Eliminate or change all laws that benefit big business and protect them from competition.

  49. hineata April 17, 2014 at 4:06 am #

    @Dolly – I see where you’re coming from to a certain extent, regarding the ‘know your audience’ thing. But I think a bit of tolerance goes a long way. For instance, the condition El Sicko has is rare and weird rather than currently life-threatening, but her ‘support group’ type thing covers ‘liver’ kids as well, and obviously many of those kids are extremely ill. I have found in general that the parents of those kids are still quite willing to chat about all our kids (actually, there are far more of ‘their’ type, as El Sicko is a one-off locally) in spite of the fact that these days she is usually wandering around in a relatively healthy condition, and their poor kids so often aren’t. I appreciate this greatly :-).

    I am sure your friend with neuro-typical kids would be happy to discuss your issues with your special needs son, if you show them the same courtesy. No child is always easy :-)

  50. Donna April 17, 2014 at 8:01 am #

    Dolly,

    It is called empathy – being able to understand lives that are not the same as yours. Something you do clearly struggle with.

    I admit that there are times that I roll my eyes at my friends who complain about being single parents while their partners are out of town for a couple days. There is a part of me that wants to say “yea, do it 365 days a year for 8 years and then you can complain.” On the other hand, I am able to step outside my life and understand that, when you are used to having help, not having it for even a few days is difficult and does require a substantial adjustment. I get that single parenthood is easier for me because my life is arranged around being a single parent while theirs isn’t. And I also know that all those friends who complain do think I am a rock star and are happy to help out when I need it. So even while I may roll my eyes at the dramatics at times, I would never say anything to them and certainly wouldn’t blast all of them in my status on Facebook.

  51. EricS April 17, 2014 at 12:17 pm #

    At SOA: I agree. But “experts” need to be more responsible. Use common sense and logic, just like everyone else. The sad reality, is that some of these so called “experts”, are just as closed minded as helicopter parents. And first and foremost, their reason for these books, videos, etc…is for profit. So the priority isn’t really for the children. As well, parents need to understand, these advice and tips, are just that. They are guidelines to reference. Not something to be taken as set in stone. Everyone has different kids with different personalities. Different lifestyles, and environment. What advice may suite one group of children, may not be good for others. People really just need to think for themselves, based on all information they come across. Keeping an open mind will allow them to find what works best for them and their children.

  52. EricS April 17, 2014 at 12:23 pm #

    @Dolly: I wouldn’t bash my single parent friends either. But being a true friend, I would tell them what they NEED to hear. I have friends like yours. Privileged growing up. Spoiled. Used to everything being done for them. You can’t have your cake and eat it to. It’s called life. And one of the things I tell them is…”is this about you, or about your son/daughter?”. “Your child, your responsibility, time to man up and be a parent to your child”. Of course they don’t like to hear that, because it’s not what they are used to. But regardless of their feelings, it’s the truth.

  53. Warren April 17, 2014 at 1:54 pm #

    Yes education is great, but nothing beats hands on experience.

    If education was all someone needed, then send the students straight from school to performing open heart surgery. Send them straight out of school to fixing your fuel injection system, or straight to wiring homes. Hell to do what I do, you need to study, do 400 hours on the job under a lic. tire tech., and then write your exam. Recertifying every 5 yrs, as well.

    There is an old saying, “He how learns by finding out, is seven fold as smart, as he who learns by being told.”.

    As for those venting about their lives, everyone needs to do it, and everyone needs to listen. Once it crosses the line into chronic complaining/whining, then as a listener we have the right to tell them to grow or shut up.