Archive for June, 2008

Our False Positive Popular Culture


It’s one of those news stories you think you didn’t hear correctly. Teen girls trying to get pregnant!

It could have happened anywhere, but the town of Gloucester, MA is now trying to figure out why the teen pregnancy rate is four times higher.

Perhaps as usual, we’re asking the wrong questions:

• We’re trying to understand why over 150 girls under the age of sixteen, which very likely means that over 150 girls, under the age of sixteen were having sex
• We scratch our heads and wonder why girls would make a pact to become pregnant
• We look to point the finger at the school, the community and the parents to see who is at fault
• We debate over the use and availability of birth control and parental notification, when we should educate both
• We question the wisdom of making is easy and fun to bring a baby to high school and park a stroller next to the lockers
• We ponder the self esteem issues of young girls that need to feel loved

We follow popular culture in a ignorant stupor as millions are paid for the first picture of Jaime Lynn Spear’s new baby. No doubt the celebrity babies (see an earlier blog on this same topic) have a lot to do with the romantic notion of having children. This is a case where a positive test result leads to a false sense of reality.

What we really need to question is why we are not outraged that so many girls under the age of sixteen are having sex.

Please don’t lecture me on the reality of life. We create our own realities, and we’re so worried about our kids’ self-esteem, that we don’t think about this reality: they are too young to be sexually active. How does that affect their self-esteem?

Parents – talk to your children and be the moral compass in their lives.

Leave a Comment

The Umpire Said ‘Play Ball’

As the baseball game between the NY Mets and the Texas Rangers began on June 14th, the umpire said the words that start the game.

He said Play Ball.

But as the rain poured down and the tarp was brought out to cover the field, it became clear that the rain wasn’t going to stop anytime soon, and the game would be cancelled.

The Texas Rangers listened to the umpire. After all, he did say to Play Ball, and play they did.

What a wonderfully spontaneous act for grown men to display. Who knows, perhaps we’ll all start to play.

Leave a Comment

How do men learn to be fathers?

How do men learn to be fathers? By the example set by their own fathers.

I was watching the new coverage of the passing of Tim Russert and was so saddened by the loss. Having also come from a blue collar background, I appreciated his sense that true wealth was simply being happy with what you have.

To the new fathers out there – remember, your sons are watching.

-Happy Father’s Day

Leave a Comment

Dumbing Down America – Part II


You might read this wondering when part 1 happened, so let me fill you in.

Part 1 happened around 1900, when we moved to the Industrial Age. Prior to that, people were farmers and craftsman, completely responsible for production of their own products, meeting with their patrons and getting unfiltered feedback. This gave them complete control and pride in their work.

Then came the factories where the wealthy few decided that it was far more important that people knew only a tiny portion of work in assembly lines as a way to expedite production. They basically wanted us to be robotic – almost dumb so things could be done exactly as they wanted. In order for that to happen, the employee was born, and in the wake of the employee, the manager would soon to follow – just to make sure the employee was performing as expected.

Jump to over 100 years later and we are desperately trying to give people incentives to care about their work. It’s simple: show them the bigger picture and have them understand how their work affects the people they work with before and after the widget hits them on the production line. Ooops! I’m too late for this, we no longer do any manufacturing in the U.S.

So why am I writing about this in a so called parenting blog? Simply because the next wave of dumbing down America is upon us. It’s called product licensing and it’s robbing our kids of any creativity they have. Look at their clothes, shoes, books, anything! Try to find a plain t-shirt, sneakers, coloring books, backpacks, or note pads. Try to get the attention of an adolescent (in fairness, that is tough anytime) but the electronic gadgets rob us of any possibility of having a discussion with them, let alone for them to have anytime to think or dream.

The next wave of dumbing down America will rob our children of the next generation of creative thinkers. That is unless we have the courage not to succumb to the pressure of the next kids show.

Think about it.

Leave a Comment

Pee Pee Targets

Pop quiz

Question: What do toilet training targets have to do with census data?

Answer: Everything.

We start early by giving our kids rewards for doing things they should do. We understood this sort of positive reinforcement encourages children to do the behaviors that we want them to do.

Ah! Therein lies the problem, the word behaviors. Are we raising children or seals?

Somewhere in this generation of parenting, we were told that giving children things to get them to do things was a good idea.

It is not. It is a terrible idea.

To make matters worse the concept of rewards for doing things you should do is creeping into all areas of our life.

School districts are rewarding children for grades by giving them monetary incentives. I was never in favor of giving kids money for good grades and now school districts are doing this.

I remember hosting a school clean up while PTO president as a way to have families connect with each other. A 4th grader, who had just swept the steps came over and told me, “I’m done, what do I get?” I replied, “The good feeling that comes with a job well done.” He was surprised that there wasn’t a ribbon or sticker or trophy.

Companies reward people for doing the job they are supposed to do. Isn’t a job an agreement to do certain tasks for a certain salary? If that is the case, then rewards only come into play when the job objectives are exceeded, not met.

More recently, the Census Bureau is looking at ways to increase the response rate, including the use of prizes as an incentive. The incentives can include winning an iPod, getting a Starbucks gift certificate or cash.

We have lost our minds. The reward for doing anything is intrinsic. The reward for your child getting good grades is about how he feels about working hard or even trying his best to get well deserved grades. The reward about peeing in the potty is that great feeling that comes with learning something new.

Whether the reward is stickers or candy or money please think about this. How and when will you wean them off the reward and simply get them to do the right thing?

After all, isn’t teaching our kids to do the right thing is a key objective of parenting?

Leave a Comment