Over Parenting

Parents, grandparents, and guardians of infants and young children cannot dedicate themselves enough to children’s well-being. Especially during the first ten years of life, every hour spent conversing with children; playing with them; helping them learn to enjoy sports, arts, and school tends to pay positive dividends later when they blossom into respectful, thoughtful, kind, independent, self-confident young adults.

But I’m not sure how to square that hypothesis with the fact that an increasing number of adolescents are suffering in silence with not just anxiety disorders and depression, but suicide, because many loving parents, grandparents, and guardians invest time and energy in those same silent sufferers.

As many are quick to point out, one thing that’s different these days is the pervasive influence of social media. The most shocking related statistic I learned lately is that 40 percent of teens say they use a device within five minutes of going to sleep, 36 percent admit to waking up to check a device, and 32 percent say they use a device within five minutes of waking up.

For parents the numbers are 26, 23, and 23.

If tonight Steve Kerr tweets that I’m needed in Golden State’s backcourt, or the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences tweets that I’ve won the Nobel Peace Prize, I’m sorry, I’m not waking up. I know, sleeping straight through the night, how old fashion can I get?

To point to social media as the single most important variable is too simplistic. When it comes to something as complex as parenting and adolescent development, differences over time have to be multi-causal. So what else might explain what’s different today? Or to ask the same question differently, when it comes to raising relatively happy and mentally healthy young adults, what did my parents’ generation tend to get more correct?

I think the answer lies in one thing I notice about parenting today. Many super involved parents of young children seem wholly unable to disengage from their children’s lives as they move through adolescence into adulthood. More simply, compared to their parents, they stay way too involved, way too long. Having dedicated themselves so much early on, it’s as if they can’t help themselves. But somewhere between ages ten and twenty, parent involvement reaches a point of diminishing returns.

Many modern parents don’t realize that too much involvement can convey a lack of trust in young people’s abilities to learn from their mistakes and gradually become independent. Just yesterday, after some unsolicited advice, Youngest, who is building a photography business said to me, “And dad, I’m going to make mistakes because I’m new at this.”

I believe over parenting is contributing to an unhealthy, prolonged, co-dependence between parents and children. I have no idea how to restore some semblance of balance.

How about you?

Weekend Assorted Links

1. Tour du Rwanda? Click on the “continue reading” link to be transported to Central Africa.

2. My mom, who died four years ago today, liked to say, “Variety is the spice of life.” Apparently, not everyone agrees. Related, dad was a serious PB&J guy.

3. As Students Struggle With Stress and Depression, Colleges Act as Counselors. One reason tuition continues to rise much faster than inflation.

4. Is this the answer to my terrible, no good, awful commute?

5. I know some Specific Northwest Pressing Pausers who make regular trips to the Swamp. Instead of exacerbating climate change, maybe they should consider this.

6. Why some parents pay bribes to get their kids into more selective colleges.

How To Tilt An Election

Get Taylor Swift’s endorsement. Or follow Alison Byrnes’s lead and get on a bus.

Or write a funny, substantive, and convincing story about one voter’s decision making in the broader context of the state of Montana.

Sometimes I come across writers who I immediately want to know and count among my friends. Like Sarah Vowell.

Check out her story of her Republican dad deciding to vote for a Democrat.

Did Hell Freeze Over? My Republican Dad is Voting for a Democrat

Fav phrase:

“. . . those hippies in Missoula will occasionally waste an entire afternoon outdoors without killing any food.”

Of Moods and Madness

One in five Americans are affected my mental illness in a given year.

I knew nothing about mental illness until ten years ago. I’m still skiing on the beginner slopes, but thanks to Kay Redfield Jamison, I am making up for being late to the game.

Her “memoir of moods and madness”, Unquiet Mind, is incredibly illuminating and highly recommended. In addition to being a preeminent scientist, Jamison writes exceedingly well. Of her memoir, Oliver Sacks wrote, “It stands alone in the literature of manic-depression for its bravery, brilliance and beauty.”

A few take-aways.

  • No one chooses bipolar illness, it’s inherited. It’s also treatable with a combination of medication (typically lithium) and psychotherapy. Things do not turn out well for patients who choose not to take lithium. In Jamison’s case, small doses worked better than medium ones.
  • With a combo of meds and psychotherapy, people with bipolar disorder live life as fully and “successfully” as any other cross-section of people. Jamison has done okay.
  • Jamison enjoys numerous, positive friendships. Being mentally ill doesn’t have to limit one interpersonally.
  • Jamison was fortunate to be surrounded by highly educated  and caring scientists who were, with one notable exception, incredibly supportive of her upon learning of her condition.

Jamison’s colleagues and friends, with their unconditional positive regard for her, provide a model for the rest of us to help acquaintances, friends, and family with bipolar and other mental illnesses thrive.

 

 

We Should All Be Students of Mental Health

Outstanding week-long series on mental health from ESPN. It doesn’t matter whether you like basketball or not. Super informative. One story a day, through Friday.

Monday—The courageous fight to fix the NBA’s mental health problem.

Tuesday—When making the NBA isn’t a cure-all: Mental health and black athletes. Powerful story of what it’s like to grow up in poor, all black, high crime hoods and how that can make good mental health especially challenging.

Wednesday—To medicate or not? The thorny mental health issue in the NBA. Medication can help reduce the symptoms of OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder), but they also reduce one’s competitive edge. Shane Larkin’s story.

 

I Was Wrong

No, not about how to properly load the dishwasher, I’m very right about that.

I was wrong about the merits of Positive Psychology, a newish subfield of psychology dedicated to the study of happiness or “subjective well-being”. When I read the literature, I believed it was based upon solid social science. Ruth Whippman taught me otherwise.

As referenced in Michael Schien’s subtly titled Forbes piece, “Positive Psychology is Garbage”, Barbara Ehrenreich does the same in her book Bright-Sided: How Positive Thinking Is Undermining America.

Writing in Forbes, Schien explains Seligman’s success, the pseudo-intellectual founder of the movement:

“When describing his concepts, Seligman uses big words about statistics, mathematical equations, and empirical data. For most of us, this serves as the equivalent of a doctor’s white coat—it seems authoritative, so we don’t question it.”

Guilty as charged. Later, he adds:

“It’s a lesson you would do well to follow. When trying to get people to pay you for your ideas, present them in terms that have the whiff of science whenever possible. Equations. Data. Statistical analysis. Remember, it’s not that the science itself actually matters, it’s the appearance of science that counts.”

I’m left believing happiness is partly the result of being born to happy parents. Other things that tip the balance from despair to joy include a good night’s sleep, a few close friends, healthy food, sunshine, art, physical activity, and socially redeeming work.

But without equations, data, and statistical analysis, I don’t expect anyone to pay my list any attention.