Good Reason

It's okay to be wrong. It's not okay to stay wrong.

Category: parenting (page 2 of 5)

Witty repartée

Behold: the essence of conversation.

Not the words, of course. But the mechanics are all here.

Conversations have orderly patterns that provide the structure.

  • You have to have turn taking; if two people speak at once, they can’t hear each other.
  • There’s elaboration; one person puts something on the table, and the other person expands on it.
  • And we can also see a communicative goal: these boys are getting a lot of enjoyment from their conversational play.

It’s a little surprising that people have this ability at such a young age. But maybe it shouldn’t be. Language is, after all, one of those things humans are good at doing.

Vegetarians disqualified for adoption?

Tentatively re-entering the world of the blog with this news item.

Vegetarian couple barred from adopting in Greece

A VEGETARIAN couple on the Greek island of Crete has been barred from adopting a child because of doubts about their diet, a local social welfare official said today.

The decision was taken because the would-be adoptive parents, who have gone to court to overturn it, eat no meat or fish and officials feared this regimen would be applied to the child as well.

I’m used to people wondering if I’m getting enough protein. (I am.) But do they think that a vegetarian diet is borderline abusive or something? I haven’t encountered this level of cluelessness in my travels.

But then they got an expert. Surely he’ll tell the authorities not to worry.

“It’s unreasonable not to be given the child for being vegetarian,” said Antonis Kafatos, a pediatrician and nutrition researcher.

A child needs to eat fish, seafood and dairy products among other things, without meat being essential. But if the family has no intention of imposing its diet habits on the child, I don’t see where the problem is,” he said.

I give up. I guess I can cross Greece off my list of ‘places I can get a decent vegetarian meal’. They’ll just look at me and wonder what I mean.

On second thought, I should just send Oldest Son over to Greece. He’s 16, vegetarian, and muscly. He’ll beat some sense into them.

What I tell my children about sex

Sometimes you want to talk about sex, and sometimes it is thrust upon you. Like this week, when a BYU basketball player was nixed off the team for an ‘honor code violation’, which turned out to be consensual sex with his girlfriend.

Some people are congratulating the BYU for standing up for old-fashioned values like sexual repression. It ties in neatly with a recent article by K-Lo of the National Review about her longing for a new sexual revolution, except without the sex. Others are congratulating BYU for upholding their ‘honor code‘ at great cost to themselves. Of course, the BYU ‘honor code’ has as much to do with honor as an ‘honor killing‘ does — in both cases, it’s about social control.

And that’s the real thrust of this issue: The Mormon Church (and to varying degrees, the rest of Christianity along with many other religions) claims the right to control the sexual behaviour of other adults, and for some reason these adults allow them to have that right. The church claims this right in the name of moral purity or social order, but I think it’s really because sex competes with the church. Sex makes you feel good, and this is a challenge to a church that wants to be the only source of good feelings — indeed, a church which enshrines good feelings as the highest form of evidence. So they try to take over sex by controlling the conditions under which it occurs.

Sex is normal. Critters have been bonking each other since there was bonking. But if you do something perfectly normal that the church has prohibited, and you admit that what you did was wrong, then they’ve got you. You owe them now. They hold the keys to your forgiveness, your imaginary salvation, and your entry into Fictional Heaven. But only if you hand them the right to control that most personal part of yourself.

(Especially to young Mormons: Your bishop has no right to take you behind closed doors and question you about your sexual or masturbatory habits. This is creepy behaviour. Tell him it’s private.)

I endured a Mormon upbringing, which meant that I was loaded with messages about sexual guilt from since I was about yay-high. The messages were also strangely vague. When I asked my mom about sex, she threw me a book about animal reproduction, which was confusing. Was I supposed to have sex, or amplexus? My dad’s advice was gruff, but simple: “Don’t do the Marriage Thing.” He said sex was a priesthood ordinance. (I asked him if that meant that if you got the words wrong, you had to start again? He smiled at this, despite himself.)

My advice to my boys has been different. I hope that they get all the love they could ever wish for, both in body and heart. But the pursuit of love must be conducted with responsibility.

The responsibility I’m talking about takes four forms:

Take care of your body, and those of others.
Take care of your heart, and those of others.

The first two are related:

Take care of your body, and those of others.

This means if you’re sexually active, don’t have unprotected sex. Condoms are available at my place, and the boys know where they are. They know this because recently I was looking for something in a bathroom drawer, and hollered, “I can’t find anything in this drawer for all the condoms in here! I wouldn’t mind if they disappeared!” Clumsy, but effective.

Care for your body also means that if you are sexually active, you occasionally get tested for HIV, chlamydia, and all the other nasties that are out there. Don’t be Patient X.

Take care of your heart…

Taking care of your heart could mean a lot of things. I think of it as not getting involved with people who are bad for you, either because they’re using you at your expense, they’re mean or careless with your feelings, or they’re physically or verbally abusive. Value yourself enough to not have a sexual relationship with people who are wrong for you. The cost is too high.

…and those of others.

Look out for the feelings of other people. The philosopher Martin Buber described two kinds of relationships: ‘It’ and ‘You’. This applies to sex. You can have sex because you like the person (a ‘You’ relationship), or you can have sex because you like the sex (the ‘It’). I think either’s fine, but your goals have to match those of your sex partner.

That means taking the time to DTR. Define the Relationship before having sex, and make sure you both want the same thing. If she’s having a ‘You’ experience, and you just want ‘It’, then there’s a mismatch. Best to let it go. There are lots of people that you can find ‘it’ with. Otherwise, you’re just screwing someone over, and that’s not taking care of other people’s hearts. I’m pleased to say that I’m on good terms with people in my past because I took the time to DTR.

I think this advice is much more helpful than the ‘Never Never’ advice I got as a young man. Talking about sexual responsibility instead of sexual avoidance allows that young people are likely to engage in sexual behaviour, and reduces the likelihood of negative consequences.

So my message is: When you’re ready to have a sex life, have a good one. But do so responsibly. I’m here to help, but if you don’t want to talk to me, talk to someone you trust. And I hope you have some great experiences.

One of these things

The Ottawa Citizen asks some religious folk: What should we tell our children about people who don’t believe in God?

Most of the responses are okay.

A Rabbi:

They can, and should be strong in their faith, strong in welcoming diverse faith affirmations, and welcoming to all people. That is a great message to tell.

Much the same from a Catholic priest:

Of course, tolerance, respectful investigation and openness to dialogue applies to peoples of all faiths and those who have no faith. True toleration means holding our own beliefs with conviction while acknowledging different beliefs with respect.

What is it that’s bugging me about the word ‘tolerance’ here? Wait, it’s a Buddhist to explain:

We should here contrast an appreciation of diversity and mere tolerance. Tolerance is usually a bland and biased acknowledgment extended from a presumed position of superiority and truth.


Hinduism: What’s the problem?

Hinduism has never been uncomfortable with atheism and one may be a declared atheist, like the late prime minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, and yet remain Hindu.

There’s even a humanist:

Despite the differences of what we think is above and beyond, the human web is sewn with the same thread — the needs of love, compassion, security and respect. Regardless of what some people are told to believe, atheists are an important part of this social fabric. We challenge others, and ourselves, to look outside the box. We empower people to self-reason, making choices based on their own path of truth and understanding.

Very nice. Wait, he’s still going.

As darkness casts its shadow across our life journey, we remain connected — trapped within the human condition, embracing what we love and have loved, appreciating with some regrets our life well lived, alone with our fears of the eternal abyss, facing them with the finite knowledge we possess.

Geez, that was kind of bleak. Couldn’t you have been a bit more upbeat? Or get an editor?

But at least it was better than the Muslim response, which I found extremely odd:

The best way to talk to our children on this subject is not just by words but, more important, through our own behaviour. I would rather talk “about God” and His benevolence and His many gifts rather than about people who do not believe in Him.

In other words, we affirm our own belief in God through positive activity. This would obviate the need to talk in negative terms “about people who don’t believe God.”

In other words, don’t talk about atheists at all. Just talk more about Allah so the atheism doesn’t distract them.

The church talk Rex would like to give

And what’s with all the sleeping?

Young children are especially trusting of things they’re told

From the Journal of Obvious Results: Little kids will believe anything you tell them.

In one experiment, an adult showed children a red and a yellow cup, then hid a sticker under the red one. With some children, she claimed (incorrectly) that the sticker was under the yellow cup; with other children, she placed an arrow on the yellow cup without saying anything. The children were given the chance to search under one of the cups and allowed to keep the sticker if they found it. This game was repeated eight times (with pairs of differently colored cups).

The children who saw the adult put the arrow on the incorrect cup quickly figured out that they shouldn’t believe her. But the kids who heard the adult say the sticker was under a particular cup continued to take her word for where it was. Of those 16 children, nine never once found the sticker. Even when the adult had already misled them seven times in a row, on the eighth chance, they still looked under the cup where she said the sticker was. (At the end of the study, the children were given all the stickers whether or not they’d found any of them.)

“Children have developed a specific bias to believe what they’re told,” says Jaswal. “It’s sort of a short cut to keep them from having to evaluate what people say. It’s useful because most of the time parents and caregivers tell children things that they believe to be true.”

Useful, yes, but then some of us have religious parents — good people who love us, no question — but who give us hours and hours of religious indoctrination, filling our heads with appalling rubbish. It short-circuits our logic and makes us believe things are true if the group says they’re true. Our thinking skills now subverted, we’re sitting ducks for all kinds of crazy ideas. Or as Dawkins said in ‘The God Delusion‘:

Natural selection builds child brains with a tendency to believe whatever their parents and tribal elders tell them. Such trusting obedience is valuable for survival: the analogue of steering by the moon for a moth. But the flip side of trusting obedience is slavish gullibility. The inevitable by-product is vulnerability to infection by mind viruses.

But eventually the influence of parents diminishes. Then you believe it, not because your parents keep telling you it’s true, but because you keep telling yourself it’s true. Your own mind takes over the work that your parents began. At that point, it’s very difficult to escape.

Jesus (that jerk) knew what he was talking about when he said you’d need to be like a little child to be a believer. Undeveloped reasoning skills, and complete reliance on authority figures. Yep, that sums it up.

Even now, when I think of the time I spent on superstition, I feel quite cranky. How much farther ahead I’d be now if I’d been taught (or taught myself) to reason well.

And then every once in a while, I’ll see someone who says, “Even as a little kid, I knew religion was crap.” I look on these people with a kind of awe and envy. It sure wasn’t me.

Fatherly chat

He swears he was ‘shopped. 
Actually, this conversation is heavily edited and fictionalised. But we have had chats about managing social relations online, and it’s only slightly less fraught than the sex talk.

Shared parenting is optimal

Nice to see this article about a successful co-parenting situation.

SEAN BROGAN is ”enormously proud” of what he and his ex-wife, Ayela Thilo, have achieved for their family.

Divorced for nine years, they share custody of their three children, Arielle, 17, Sienna, 13, and Oliver, 11, in a ”week on week off” arrangement.

Mr Brogan agreed with the findings of the Shared Care Parenting Arrangements study that shared custody is positive for both parental satisfaction and children’s wellbeing.

”In a funny kind of way it has given the kids a sense of stability,” he said. ”They know where they’ll be at any given time, if they’ve got something coming up they see whether they’ll be with mum or dad and talk to that person about it.”

The arrangement has also improved his relationship with Ms Thilo by increasing co-operation and joint decision-making.

”We were determined to make it work for the children,” he said. ”It has certainly healed any rift we might have had. We talk regularly, we talk about school things. Another upside is that it allows the non-custodial parent time out in their week off and time to do all the things they want to pursue.”

It’s in the news because of a recent report evaluating shared care arrangements since 2006 (PDF). At that time, a new emphasis was placed on shared parenting arrangements, rather than custody.

Among the findings of the study:

This research confirms that children‘s wellbeing is optimised under certain circumstances:

  • Parents are able to cooperate about the arrangements for the children
  • Parents have a say in making decisions about the child
  • There is relatively little conflict between the parents
  • Parents believe that each parent is paying their fair share of the costs associated with raising children.

Overall, this research paints a relatively positive picture of shared care in terms both of parental satisfaction and children‘s wellbeing. However, it remains only a relatively small minority of parents who can share the care of the children and fewer still manage to sustain it for a substantial period of time.

I’m firmly of the opinion that a good divorce between people who are genuinely concerned about their kids and who are determined to share the parenting is far less damaging for kids than an intractable, conflict-filled marriage. I may be one of the lucky ones, but this kind of arrangement has worked well for me and my boys, who are so far thriving under the care of both their loving parents.

It’s a big ask. It requires parents to work together at a time when their will to do so may be at its weakest. But perhaps knowing that this setup is good for children would help parents to muster the ability to make shared parenting work when staying married doesn’t.

Wait ’til they go with a fellatio joke.

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