Posts Tagged ‘power struggles’

Don’t Sniff Don’t Smell: When Kids Hate On Parents

October 26, 2011

How might thinking about Gaddafi’s lurid death help us to be better parents?

Collective rage and murder wrought upon a crazed dictator pulled from a sewage drain wearing gold pants and packing a solid gold gun, while bizarre on the one hand, also illustrates an important dynamic in human consciousness:  idealization and devaluation.

Whether plotting a coup or parenting a toddler or a teen, the relationship between idealization and devaluation is infallible:  idealization masks secret devaluation; devaluation masks secret idealization.

Teens, for example, often exhibit know-it-all contempt and pseudo-independence (if they are safe enough to swagger), but they eventually tame it down and transition from rebel-with-an-allowance to worker bee in the collective hive, that is if we have a hive worth working for.

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Left Behind

May 18, 2011

I read an illuminating and provocative essay recently about how, and why, the No Child Left Behind Act has failed—and I thought it worth sharing in this space.  It happens to have been written by my older son, Nate Dolin, as a paper for his Junior year history class.  He became interested in this issue having volunteered in several public elementary school classrooms, having worked with special needs/autism spectrum children and tutoring kids who struggle in their public middle school… and having been faced with numerous inequities, subsequently found himself wondering why things are as they are.

So, if we want our kids to be encouraged to consider growing up to help, perhaps even to step up and educate, the next generation of kids… our future grand children, we are well-served to deepen our understanding of why things may be as they are.


Left Behind

The No Child Left Behind act seeks to leave no child behind in terms of academics, but the intentions of the act will never be met.  Even though President Bush claimed that the act was having a “dramatic effect” in 2008, the average white student scored 28 points higher on the reading section than the average African American student, and 26 points higher on the math section.[i]  Since the White students are obviously not inherently smarter than the African American student, what is causing the immense score gap?  Is every child in America really treated equally?  If society believes all children should have an equal opportunity for education, why are the most disadvantaged children being left behind, why is excessive testing proving to be more harmful than beneficial, why can’t the “supposed” intentions of the act be met, and why do some argue that the act was intended to benefit the economy rather than the children?

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Arrival of the Fittest—childhood evolving

June 4, 2010

A reader sent me a link to a Salon interview by Thomas Rogers of Melvin Konner about his new book The Evolution of Childhood.  A few things stood out to me; Rogers asks, “What’s the evolutionary purpose of adolescent rebellion?”

Konner replies, “In our culture, we give kids the message that at a certain point they’re going to be on their own and that involves breaking emotional ties with their parents. So it’s kind of like, ‘OK, you’re going to kick me out soon, so I’m going to reject you before you get a chance.’ But one of the big discoveries in the last decade in child development research is that there’s a lot of brain development after puberty, approximately between age 12 to 20. The brain, especially the frontal lobes of the brain, which are involved in suppressing impulses and organizing behavior in a rational and mature way, continues to develop during that time.

But now the age of puberty is two to three years younger than it used to be — it used to be 15, but now it’s about 12 and a half, or 13. We’re walking away from the evolutionary background that we had. Now the surge of testosterone that occurs in both girls and boys at that time, which facilitates aggression, is happening against the background of the less developed brain. Many psychologists are sensibly, I think, arguing that we should take this into account in criminal cases that involve teenagers and the judgments they make. They just don’t have the brain to make decisions in the same the way that an adult does.”

Rogers follows up with:  “So teenagers really are becoming more obnoxious,” to which Konner concedes, “I think it’s fair to say.”

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Dr. Livingston in my living room, I presume

May 24, 2010

An article in Sunday’s New York Times, “Families’ Every Fuss Archived and Analyzed,” looked at comprehensive research being done on middle class American (Angeleno, to be precise) families.  After hours of tape (in the school of the 1970’s PBS documentary on the Loud family more than the lurid sensationalism of “reality” TV) where families were meticulously filmed and documented for a solid week, researchers are now sharing some initial observations and drawing some preliminary conclusions.

Although I find nobility, sincerity and great humanity in this research and this article, as parents I can hardly imagine anything striking any other parent as “news.”  The study was all about dual earner families with children, and, surprise, moms do more of the domestic work.  Still, dads spend significant time with children, but spouses are together and awake less than ten percent of the time.  Moms experience stress levels drop if their partners take an interest in their day.  Dads decompress more slowly.

The big takeaway:  Overall—parenting is quite stressful.  Stop the presses!

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Running away… at four

April 13, 2010

“This is my house and if you don’t like the rules you can leave!” my dad said tersely through clenched teeth, as if he were in a board meeting with some rivalrous upstart challenging his supreme authority.  I was four.

But from the start I always had some sort of fire in my gut; maybe it was pride, maybe it was a touch of x-ray vision for other people’s B.S., or some father-transmitted issue with authority figures already coming back to bite my dad in the rear, some perhaps a touch of Cool Hand Luke go-ahead-and-hit-me, but I will get back up streak of oppositionality, but I calmly took my preschool lunch pail off the kitchen counter and walked to the big front door.  I slammed it hard and loud on the way out, and stepped free into the brilliance of a fine late spring morning.

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Politics of educational apartheid

February 18, 2010

Effective self-rule (i.e. true democracy) hinges on an educated and enlightened populace.

I learn things over my children’s shoulders as they make their way through the excellent education that I did not get in elementary and high school.  One thing I learned recently is that a policy of “enclosure” in England during the industrial revolution helped lead to the oppression of the working class; enclosure happened as the landed aristocracy increasingly boundaried, fenced and delineated the lands they owned (and land ownership was what had always separated the rich from the poor).  As peasants were denied access to pastureland, they couldn’t keep a goat, for example, and in turn couldn’t sustain themselves at the meager levels they had existed, free but poor, for centuries.  With diminishing ability to self-sustain, poor country folk were funneled to the cities, with their sprouting mills and factories, where they quickly became slaves to their wages—never making enough to get out of their indentured servitude to their new feudal lords, the bourgeoisie.

This got me thinking about how the oppression of the lower classes happens not only by design, but by side-effects of trends, such as enclosure.  Enough oppression and you have the seeds of revolution, but perhaps not every revolution has to be violent; perhaps some revolutions can happen by way of consciousness.  Perhaps some revolutions are revolutions of consciousness itself.

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Grrrrr! When mom is the Red Barron

October 30, 2009

grrrrrOkay, today I’ll give it to you straight… my mom told me that in a past life we were both WW I pilots and either she shot me down or I shot her down.  She remembers bearing down on me, guns blazing all around and then she locks on my eyes—definitely my eyes, and then as one of our deaths is imminent, the vision goes black.

Now most people would probably think this is disturbing, but I love this story.  For one, it explains a lot about my relationship with my mom.  After all, if we are here to work out karma, what better set-up than two rival flying aces living in suburban Chicago in the same house.  It’s not “Three’s Company” but it’s pretty good.

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October 8, 2009

Dance me to the end of timeWhen I was a kid I was always the shortest one in my class.  Then, finally in seventh grade there was a moment when the gym teacher had us all line up along the bleachers from tallest to shortest, because the tallest kid and the shortest kids would each be team captain.  Even though I truly was the shortest, there was another boy, Peter Wolf, who was also pretty short—and he was more popular than me, so in that moment all the other kids agreed that he was the shortest, and so I was denied my golden opportunity to break free of the Janis Ian song I was trapped in.  It’s funny how things stay with you, but I guess if you are both Peter and the Wolf there’s something powerful in that.

Around that time I took up Taekwondo, riding the bus in the snow to the little dojo where my 8th degree black-belt master would have me, the only kid in the class, spar with grown-ups.  I loved jumping over bars and doing flying kicks at the bag; the discipline and rigors were bracing and good for self-esteem.  Nature makes us tall or short, gifted in this and challenged at that, but it’s on us to learn not to take crap from anybody.

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