Forced Apologies

 Posted by on 20 December 2012 at 3:00 pm  Children, Ethics, Forgiveness, Honesty, Parenting
Dec 202012

I hate the practice of forcing children to apologize. The wrongdoing child is required to lie by apologizing when he’s not sorry. Plus, the wronged child is required to pretend to believe that usually-obvious lie.

Yet such dishonesty is not the only problem with forced apologies. Children forced to apologize don’t have the opportunity to work out their problems for themselves — and to learn the consequences of doing so well or poorly.

So, I have to admire little Liam, who stuck to his guns and refused to offer a false apology.

(Via 22 Words)

Dec 122012

Family meetings are an excellent way for people to smooth the rough edges of life together. And I love Rachel Miner’s suggestion of each person talking about a mistake they made and what they learned from it too:

We start our family meetings with compliments. Each person gives each of the other family members a compliment. Not only does this help us focus on the positive, it also helps us recall times during the week when we admired each other. About six months ago, I was thinking about the growth vs. fixed mentality* and decided to add one more thing to this intro, a mistake. So, each person also shares a mistake that they’ve made during the week and what they’ve learned from that experience. The goal here is to make mistakes OK and recognize them as part of the learning process. I want my kiddo especially to see how common it is for grown ups to make mistakes and how the important thing is how we respond to those opportunities.

It’s crucial for kids to learn that people of all ages make mistakes routinely — and that the sensible response is to recognize and correct those errors. Absent explicit training in that process, kids learn to “manage” their mistakes by dishonesty — meaning, by denying their mistakes, concealing their mistakes, ignoring their mistakes, and rationalizing their mistakes. That’s disastrous, not just for a person’s life but also for his character.

If you’re interested in more, I published a paper on this very topic in the Journal of Value Inquiry back in 2004: False Excuses: Honesty, Wrongdoing, and Moral Growth.

Spanking Teaches Obedience

 Posted by on 6 December 2012 at 12:00 pm  Character, Children, Ethics, Parenting
Dec 062012

In my June 24th episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, I answered a question on whether the corporal punishment of children is ever justified. Two weeks later, I was stunned and thrilled and blown away and elated to receive this email from a total stranger who found Philosophy in Action via the Stitcher App. Here, see for yourself (with his permission).

Dr. Hsieh -

I recently discovered your podcasts when I subscribed to Stitcher and the app suggested it as something I might like. The app was correct.

The first podcast I heard was the one in which you discussed corporal punishment of children.

I was raised by parents who scolded, yelled, punished and frequently spanked me repeatedly with a belt. Until now, I had prided myself that when I spanked either of my twins I did so only once with my open hand and only when they were “out of control” – but if truth be told I have also noticed that I only spanked them when I was frustrated and angry at their behavior as well.

You really made me think when you asked the question, “What are you teaching your kids when you hit them?’ But you made my jaw drop when you matter-of-factly stated, “Obedience is not a virtue.”

It was a simple yet grand statement that I instantly realized was TRUE. It was grand because I had never thought of it before.

I have, in fact, been trying to teach my children to be obedient. Obedient to me to be sure, but obedient nonetheless. Since hearing it, your statement has been ringing in my head like a bell and I’ve realized that obedient may be that last thing I want my children to be – and that includes being obedient to me.

I want them to be strong, intelligent, confident and self-directed. I want them to question everything and take no statement for granted. I want them to internalized a father who loves them and values and respects them as rational beings.

So, a day or so after I heard your podcast I sat down with my 4 years old son and daughter after giving them breakfast and I told them that I had decided that spanking them was wrong and that I would not do it anymore. Their eyes lit up at hearing this and something changed in our relationship at that moment. I also hit upon, quite by accident, the principal argument and rationale that I have since used over and over again to convince them to cooperate with me. I asked them to help me.

Children generally love to help their parents and I now regularly ask them to help me get them ready for school, or ready for bed. I ask them to help us get things done so we can do other things. There are still times when they are willful and uncooperative and I get frustrated and angry, but I’ve kept my promise to not spank them and instead I tell them honestly how I feel and I usually refuse to help them with some trivial request that they’ve made pointing out that they didn’t help me when I asked them to.

Now, I find their willful episodes becoming less and less of a problem – much less than when I would spank them for it. Instead, they seem to be learning that kindness and cooperation beget kindness and cooperation.

I thought that you might like to know that all this has come from you saying to me, “Obedience is not a virtue.”

I thank you for that truth.

- Christopher J. Wieczorek, PE

Wow, just wow. My hearty admiration and congratulations to Christopher. He’s quite a man — and quite a father.

If you missed that episode on spanking children, have a listen:

Also, if you’re interested in taking your parenting to the next level, I interviewed Jenn Casey and Kelly Elmore on “Parenting without Punishment” on the next Wednesday. That’s here:

Happy Mother’s Day!

 Posted by on 13 May 2012 at 1:00 pm  Funny, Parenting
May 132012

(Click to enlarge. Via George Takei.)

Apr 122012

In Sunday’s Philosophy in Action Webcast, I discussed public breastfeeding. The question was:

Is breastfeeding children in public wrong? My wife and I want to have kids, and one question we have concerns public breastfeeding. Is it immodest or improper to breastfeed in public? Should stores permit or forbid it on their premises? Should public breastfeeding be restricted or banned by law as indecent?

My answer, in brief:

People ought to support public breastfeeding, even if they prefer not to look at it. It’s not a sexual act, and mothers should be able to feed their babies when they’re out and about.

Here’s the video of my full answer:

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Two Book Reviews: Kids and Paleo

 Posted by on 10 March 2012 at 1:00 pm  Food, Health, Parenting, Reviews
Mar 102012

Not too long ago, I received two books aimed at paleo kids and their parents to review. (Disclosure mandated by the turds at the FTC: These books were given to me for free as review copies.)

Alas, I disliked Paleo Pals: Jimmy and the Carrot Rocket Ship. However, I loved Eat Like a Dinosaur. Let me explain why.

Paleo Pals: Jimmy and the Carrot Rocket Ship by Sarah Fragoso of Everyday Paleo

As you’ve probably gathered from the name, this book is a children’s story on eating paleo. I wanted to like it, but I don’t think that it does much to explain to kids what’s good about eating paleo or bad about eating the Standard American Diet. Also, I didn’t find the story compelling in itself: too much came across as propaganda, and I didn’t like that.

The two basic claims of the book about paleo are (1) that industrial food production is scarybad and farm-produced foods are goodygood and (2) that eating paleo makes you feel better, mentally and physically.

I strongly disagree with the first claim against industrial foods, and frankly, that’s not what paleo is (or should be) about. Farms can and do produce unhealthy SAD foods, and factories can produce healthy paleo foods. Similarly, “processed” foods are not inherently bad, as some people seem to think. All fermented foods — like kombucha, kefir, and sauerkraut — are “processed” foods. Anything cooked is “processed.” That some food is processed — or even processed in large batches under strict conditions (i.e. industrially) — reveals little about its nutritional value. Instead, what matters is the original quality of the ingredients, and then whether the processing enhances or degrades the nutritional value of the food.

While I’m not a fan of many foods sold in America today, the fact is that industrial production is huge benefit to everyone, particularly in terms of safety and cost. Every paleo-eater depends on the industrial food system in order to eat paleo. As much as I want to see changes — including the end of all government meddling — that doesn’t justify condemning industry. I’ll just vote with my wallet.

The second major argument for paleo in the book is that eating paleo makes you feel better, mentally and physically. I agree with that, but again, the book was mostly just asserting that, rather than allowing it to emerge from the story. So it seemed like propaganda.

If you’re a paleo-eating parent, I’d recommend reading how Kelly Elmore and her daughter eat, as described in this post: My Paleo Kid. And if you have any problems or challenges, ask on the PaleoParents e-mail list.

Personally, I’d not be willing to read a child this book, purely due to to its explicit anti-industry message and seeming propagandizing.

Addendum: I’m a person with strong opinions and a blunt style, and I like that about me.  However, I tend to err in the direction of “bull in a china shop,” and that can be misunderstood by more gentle people.  Here, I don’t want my review to be taken as any kind of personal attack or global criticism of Sarah Fragoso.  I didn’t like this book, and I stand by that judgment.  Nonetheless, I respect Sarah Fragoso and her work with Everyday Paleo. I’ve never met Sarah, but her blog is awesome, and I’m more than happy to recommend it to everyone, particularly parents.  And if you found value in this book — if it helps you explain paleo to your kids and grandkids — that’s fine by me… and you’re welcome to say so in the comments.

Eat Like a Dinosaur by The Paleo Parents

I love this book! It’s a kid-friendly paleo cookbook, with over 100 gluten-free, dairy-free, legume-free recipes for kids and adults to enjoy. Every recipe has a good picture, simple instructions, and a handy icon for what kids can do. (Obviously, what kids can do will depend on their age and skills.)

Kids could easily review the recipes to decide what to cook, review and assemble the ingredients, and then do much of the cooking. It would be a great first cookbook for kids to work through, and after much cooking from it, they could easily graduate into regular adult cookbooks.

I loved the cooking that I did as a child. I only wish that I’d done more nuts-and-bolts cooking of meat and vegetables, rather than so much baking and desserts. I’d strongly encourage paleo parents to teach their children to cook… and then let the kids do the cooking!

Rick Santorum on Pregnant Rape Victims

 Posted by on 31 January 2012 at 8:00 am  Abortion, Election, Ethics, Parenting, Rick Santorum
Jan 312012

Rick Santorum says that pregnant rape victims should “accept the gift of human life” and “make the best out of a bad situation.” And yes, that’s what every advocate of “personhood for zygotes” must say.

As Ari and I said in The Assault on Abortion Rights Undermines All Our Liberties:

In [a] 2004 survey, around 1.5 percent of women who got an abortion cited rape or incest as the cause of the pregnancy. Forcing a woman to carry an unwanted fetus to term when the pregnancy was caused by a sexual assault victimizes her yet again. Even if she gives up the child for adoption, she must live with the ever-present physical reminder of her assault for the duration of her pregnancy. Moreover, the woman might feel a torturous conflict over the born child: she might desperately want to raise her own child, but abhor the thought of raising the child of her rapist.

That last point, I think, is particularly important.

Fatherless Children and Welfare

 Posted by on 2 January 2012 at 10:00 am  Ethics, Parenting, Responsibility, Welfare
Jan 022012

Oy, this article — Fathers disappear from households across America — pushed a few buttons for me. It begins:

Nicole Hawkins’ three daughters have matching glittery boots, but none has the same father. Each has uniquely colored ties in her hair, but none has a dad present in her life.

As another single mother on Sumner Road decked her row-house stoop with Christmas lights and a plastic Santa, Ms. Hawkins recalled that her middle child’s father has never spent a holiday or birthday with her. In her neighborhood in Southeast Washington, 1 in 10 children live with both parents, and 84 percent live with only their mother.

In every state, the portion of families where children have two parents, rather than one, has dropped significantly over the past decade. Even as the country added 160,000 families with children, the number of two-parent households decreased by 1.2 million. Fifteen million U.S. children, or 1 in 3, live without a father, and nearly 5 million live without a mother. In 1960, just 11 percent of American children lived in homes without fathers.

It’s tragic that any child is abandoned by either mother or father, as happens far too often these days. Here’s the bit that irritated me, starting with a bit more backstory on Ms. Hawkins and her children.

Ms. Hawkins, the mother of three, lives with her youngest child’s father but considers herself a single parent.

“When he’s home, he’s watching TV; it’s his time. I get no help. Financially, he’s been a good provider,” she said, even for the children who aren’t his. But “as far as being involved in activities, not so much.”

Her relationship with her eldest child’s father ended over his refusal to support their offspring, and her second child’s father is in prison.

“My oldest was raised by both parents, so it’s just selfish,” she said, but “my middle one, he wasn’t raised by either parent, so he doesn’t know how.”

“We need more fatherhood initiatives,” she said, pointing to government- and nonprofit-funded programs at churches, prisons and community centers, such as those offered by Mr. DiCaro’s group, “so they can see what they’re missing.”

Basically, the woman who bore three kids by three different men — none willing to be a decent father. And now wants others to fix her problems. That’s absurd. This woman has made a mess for herself and her children by bearing children indiscriminately. She needs to take responsibility for her life and her womb — and be more choosy about the men that she makes into fathers.

What’s so tragic here is that this woman’s children — and so many others — are the victims of the unthinking actions of their parents. Alas, the impulse to “do something” via welfare programs is often the most dangerous and destructive to children at risk. Such programs encourage even more irresponsible behavior on the part of adults, and thereby result in the creation of even more children at risk. The alarming numbers cited at the beginning of the article are evidence of that.

That’s been, I think, one of the worse tragedies of the welfare state. In the name of helping children in the past, we’ve created far worse circumstances for children today.

Oct 142011

In Sunday’s Rationally Selfish Webcast, I discussed teaching young people to use credit cards wisely. The question was:

How can young adults learn to use credit cards responsibly? Some young adults (usually college students) seem to make terrible financial decisions, often getting themselves into serious and overwhelming credit card debt. Others seem to handle their new financial responsibilities just fine. How would you recommend that parents teach their teenage children to use credit cards wisely? What advice would you give to young people headed to college about managing their finances well?

Here’s the video of my answer:

If you enjoy the video, please “like” it on YouTube and share it with friends in e-mail and social media! Also, all my webcast and other videos can be found on my YouTube channel.

Jun 292011

In Sunday’s Rationally Selfish Webcast, I answered the following question about kids and guns:

Should people give up their guns when they have kids? Many people think that having guns in the house with kids is terribly risky, if not child endangerment. They say that the kids might get to the guns, even if locked away, and injure or even kill themselves in an accidental discharge. Is that right? If parents choose to keep their guns in the house, what should they do to minimize the risk of injury?

Here’s my answer, now posted to YouTube:

In essence: Don’t try to kid-proof guns, but instead, gun-proof your kids by training them in the principles of gun safety.

Links mentioned in the webcast include:

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