Things to Read - Six Interesting Articles from Around the Web (on Parenting, College, Superbugs, and the Revolution)

1 (college). Advice for the class of 2011 - what would you emphasize?

2 (college). What is the purpose of college? - I'm unclear myself right now.

3. (parenting). Lori Gottlieb's article How to Land Your Kid in Therapy (Why the obsession with our kids' happiness may be dooming them to unhappy adulthoods) in the Atlantic should be required reading for all parents. According to Gottlieb, a psychotherapist, she continually sees patients in their 20s or early 30s suffering from depression and anxiety who have "'awesome' parents . . . fabulous siblings, supportive friends, an excellent education, a cool job, good health, and a nice apartment." The influx of such patients lead Gottlieb to wonder if the problems of this generation stem from the fact that rather than having neglectful parents, these adults were raised by parents who had "done too much." As summarized by Gottlieb, "[h]ere I was, seeing the flesh-and-blood results of the kind of parenting that my peers and I were trying to practice with our own kids, precisely so that they wouldn’t end up on a therapist’s couch one day. We were running ourselves ragged in a herculean effort to do right by our kids—yet what seemed like grown-up versions of them were sitting in our offices, saying they felt empty, confused, and anxious. Back in graduate school, the clinical focus had always been on how the lack of parental attunement affects the child. It never occurred to any of us to ask, what if the parents are too attuned? What happens to those kids?"

The article goes on to discuss other research on this topic. I especially found the comments of Paul Bohn, a psychiatrist at UCLA, insightful. According to Bohn, "many parents will do anything to avoid having their kids experience even mild discomfort, anxiety, or disappointment—'anything less than pleasant,' as he puts it—with the result that when, as adults, they experience the normal frustrations of life, they think something must be terribly wrong."

"Consider a toddler who’s running in the park and trips on a rock, Bohn says. Some parents swoop in immediately, pick up the toddler, and comfort her in that moment of shock, before she even starts crying. But, Bohn explains, this actually prevents her from feeling secure—not just on the playground, but in life. If you don’t let her experience that momentary confusion, give her the space to figure out what just happened (Oh, I tripped), and then briefly let her grapple with the frustration of having fallen and perhaps even try to pick herself up, she has no idea what discomfort feels like, and will have no framework for how to recover when she feels discomfort later in life. These toddlers become the college kids who text their parents with an SOS if the slightest thing goes wrong, instead of attempting to figure out how to deal with it themselves. If, on the other hand, the child trips on the rock, and the parents let her try to reorient for a second before going over to comfort her, the child learns: That was scary for a second, but I’m okay now. If something unpleasant happens, I can get through it. In many cases, Bohn says, the child recovers fine on her own—but parents never learn this, because they’re too busy protecting their kid when she doesn’t need protection."

The article goes on to quote Barry Schwartz, a social scientist at Swathmore, "We want our kids to be happy living the life we envision for them—the banker who’s happy, the surgeon who’s happy" even though those professions “might not actually make them happy.” "We’re not so happy if our kids work at Walmart but show up each day with a smile on their faces,” Schwartz says. “They’re happy, but we’re not. Even though we say what we want most for our kids is their happiness, and we’ll do everything we can to help them achieve that, it’s unclear where parental happiness ends and our children’s happiness begins.”

The article concludes with the reminder (which I really should attach to a pinboard somewhere) that "[o]ur children are not our masterpieces." A great article, I highly suggest it (thank you, Julia, for the link!)

4 (superbugs). The Rise of Superbugs in the Atlantic - "Today, nearly 70 percent of all antibiotics used in the United States are given to healthy farm animals. Drugs that can mean the difference between life and death in humans are routinely mixed into animal feed to make them grow faster and to compensate for unsanitary living conditions. It's a wasteful practice that squanders one of the most powerful tools of modern medicine." SCARY!!!

5 (the revolution). If you want to be depressed but educated, then you MUST read Chris Hedges's Endgame Strategy on why the revolution must start in America. "The game is over. We lost. The corporate state will continue its inexorable advance until two-thirds of the nation and the planet is locked into a desperate, permanent underclass. Most of us will struggle to make a living while the Blankfeins and our political elites wallow in the decadence and greed of the Forbidden City and Versailles. These elites do not have a vision. They know only one word: more. They will continue to exploit the nation, the global economy and the ecosystem. And they will use their money to hide in gated compounds when it all implodes. Do not expect them to take care of us when it starts to unravel. We will have to take care of ourselves. We will have to rapidly create small, monastic communities where we can sustain and feed ourselves. It will be up to us to keep alive the intellectual, moral and cultural values the corporate state has attempted to snuff out. It is either that or become drones and serfs in a global corporate dystopia. It is not much of a choice. But at least we still have one."

6 (parenting). How to Talk to Little Girls "Ask her what she's reading. What does she like and dislike, and why? There are no wrong answers. You're just generating an intelligent conversation that respects her brain. For older girls, ask her about current events issues: pollution, wars, school budgets slashed. What bothers her out there in the world? How would she fix it if she had a magic wand? You may get some intriguing answers. Tell her about your ideas and accomplishments and your favorite books. Model for her what a thinking woman says and does."

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