With so much confusing and even misleading information about vaccine safety available on the Internet, it’s no surprise that parents are influenced by their friends’ attitudes when it comes to immunizing their kids.
At her son’s preschool near Seattle, Robin Haight is a foot soldier in the vaccine wars. She arranged for a pediatrician to speak about vaccines at the home of a school parent. She put up posters — she calls them “gentle propaganda” — that touted the importance of immunization in stopping the spread of disease. Her husband helped create a spreadsheet to track which children at the school are missing which vaccinations.
Some parents have said that Haight’s provaccination message has no place at preschool, that it’s disrespectful and patronizing, that the decision to vaccinate a child is nobody else’s business. One mother got so emotional that she broke out in hives. But Haight thinks a conversation is critical, and the latest research published in the journal Pediatrics backs her up.
“I’m just trying to let people know that if you don’t vaccinate your children, it might affect other children’s health,” says Haight. “It directly affects a community of young children. How do we not talk about this?”
From our neighbors up north:
Ten-month old Connor McConnell, right, and his three-year-old brother Jayden are shown in a an undated photo taken from a Facebook tribute page. The two young children were found dead, apparently drowned in a bathtub, just weeks after their father told a judge his estranged wife was threatening to take them and move to Australia.
Court was told McConnell had a long history of suicide attempts that began after she was impregnated by her father when she was 15.
She had been charged with second-degree murder in the drownings, but the charges were downgraded.
Read more: edmonton.ctvnews.ca
The Obama administration is formulating a broader strategy for gun control as it looks to reduce U.S. gun violence, those privy to the discussions say.
Rather than just pursuing the reinstatement of the ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, a White House working group led by Vice President Joe Biden is looking at a multi-prong approach that would include universal background checks for gun purchasers, creation of a national database to track guns, strengthening of mental health checks, and tougher penalties for carrying guns near schools or giving them to minors, sources told The Washington Post.
The newspaper reported Saturday the administration also is coming up with a battle plan to defuse the National Rifle Association’s expected counter-attack. One source told the Post that could include recruiting Walmart and other gun retailers to support measures that would benefit their businesses.
“They are very clearly committed to looking at this issue comprehensively,” said Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, who has been in on discussions where there has been “a deeper exploration than just the assault-weapons ban.”
President Obama created the working group last month after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., that left 26 people dead, mostly young children.
The Post said leaders of various interest groups have discussed options for a wider approach with Biden and other top administration officials.
“Simply coming up with one or two aspects of it really falls short of the magnitude of the gun issue in the country,” said Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum who was among the law enforcement leaders who met with the White House group.
Read more: upi.com
A foiled attempt to murder a police officer in Northern Ireland was carried out by dissident republicans who could also have killed his family, police said.
The Belfast-based Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) constable was about to take his wife and two young children out for Sunday lunch yesterday when he checked under his car outside his house in the city and discovered a viable device.
Assistant Chief Constable George Hamilton said: “If that officer had not checked under his car we would have been looking at a murder or multiple murders.”
Stormont Justice Minister David Ford condemned those responsible.
“Fortunately, due to the officer’s commendable vigilance, the attempt on his life was not successful,” he said.
Mass shootings have been increasing even as more NRA members are openly and concealed carrying and even while there are more legal guns on the street than ever before. Something must be wrong with Wayne LaPierre’s “Good guys with guns” hypothesis.
The gut-wrenching shock of the attack at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14 wasn’t just due to the 20 unthinkably young victims. It was also due to the realization that this specific, painfully familiar nightmare was unfolding yet again.
As the scope of the massacre in Newtown became clear, some news accounts suggested that mass shootings in the United States have not increased, based on a broad definition of them. But in fact 2012 has been unprecedented for a particular kind of horror that’s been on the rise in recent years, from Virginia Tech to Tucson to Aurora to Oak Creek to Newtown. There have been at least 62 such mass shootings in the last three decades, attacks in which the killer took the lives of four or more people (the FBI’s baseline for mass murder) in a public place—a school, a workplace, a mall, a religious building. Seven of them have occurred this year alone.
Along with three other similar though less lethal rampages—at a Portland shopping mall, a Milwaukee spa, and a Cleveland high school—2012 has been the worst year for these events in modern US history, with 151 victims injured and killed. More than a quarter of them were young children and teenagers.
The National Rifle Association and its allies would have us believe that the solution to this epidemic, itself but a sliver of America’s overall gun violence, is to put firearms in the hands of as many citizens as possible. “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” declared the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre in a press conference a week after Newtown, the same day bells tolled at the National Cathedral and the devastated town mourned its 28 dead. (That day a gunman in Pennsylvania also murdered three people and wounded a state trooper shortly before LaPierre gave his remarks.) LaPierre explained that it was a travesty for a school principal to face evil unarmed, and he called for gun-wielding security officers to be deployed in every school in America.
As many commentators noted, it was particularly callous of the NRA to double down on its long-standing proposal to fight gun violence with more guns while parents in Newtown were burying their first graders.
On one of my visits to New Guinea, I met a young man named Enu, whose life story struck me then as remarkable. Enu had grown up in an area where child-rearing was extremely repressive, and where children were heavily burdened by obligations and by feelings of guilt. By the time he was 5 years old, Enu decided that he had had enough of that lifestyle. He left his parents and most of his relatives and moved to another tribe and village, where he had relatives willing to take care of him. There, Enu found himself in an adoptive society with laissez-faire child-rearing practices at the opposite extreme from his natal society’s practices. Young children were considered to have responsibility for their own actions, and were allowed to do pretty much as they pleased. For example, if a baby was playing next to a fire, adults did not intervene. As a result, many adults in that society had burn scars, which were legacies of their behavior as infants.
How We Hold Them: Constant contact between caregiver and baby may contribute to the child’s improved neuromotor development. (Photos: Eyecandy Images-Alamy (left); Eric Lafforgue / Gamma Rapho-Getty Images)
Both of those styles of child-rearing would be rejected with horror in Western industrial societies today. But the laissez-faire style of Enu’s adoptive society is not unusual by the standards of the world’s hunter-gatherer societies, many of which consider young children to be autonomous individuals whose desires should not be thwarted, and who are allowed to play with dangerous objects such as sharp knives, hot pots, and fires.
I find myself thinking a lot about the New Guinea people with whom I have been working for the last 49 years, and about the comments of Westerners who have lived for years in hunter-gatherer societies and watched children grow up there. Other Westerners and I are struck by the emotional security, self-confidence, curiosity, and autonomy of members of small-scale societies, not only as adults but already as children. We see that people in small-scale societies spend far more time talking to each other than we do, and they spend no time at all on passive entertainment supplied by outsiders, such as television, videogames, and books. We are struck by the precocious development of social skills in their children. These are qualities that most of us admire, and would like to see in our own children, but we discourage development of those qualities by ranking and grading our children and constantly telling them what to do. The adolescent identity crises that plague American teenagers aren’t an issue for hunter-gatherer children. The Westerners who have lived with hunter-gatherers and other small-scale societies speculate that these admirable qualities develop because of the way in which their children are brought up: namely, with constant security and stimulation, as a result of the long nursing period, sleeping near parents for several years, far more social models available to children through allo-parenting, far more social stimulation through constant physical contact and proximity of caretakers, instant caretaker responses to a child’s crying, and the minimal amount of physical punishment.
Keep Them Close
In modern industrial societies today, we follow the rabbit-antelope pattern: the mother or someone else occasionally picks up and holds the infant in order to feed it or play with it, but does not carry the infant constantly; the infant spends much or most of the time during the day in a crib or playpen; and at night the infant sleeps by itself, usually in a separate room from the parents. However, we probably continued to follow our ancestral ape-monkey model throughout almost all of human history, until within the last few thousand years. Studies of modern hunter-gatherers show that an infant is held almost constantly throughout the day, either by the mother or by someone else. When the mother is walking, the infant is held in carrying devices, such as the slings of the !Kung, string bags in New Guinea, and cradle boards in the north temperate zones. Most hunter-gatherers, especially in mild climates, have constant skin-to-skin contact between the infant and its caregiver. In every known society of human hunter-gatherers and of higher primates, mother and infant sleep immediately nearby, usually in the same bed or on the same mat. A cross-cultural sample of 90 traditional human societies identified not a single one with mother and infant sleeping in separate rooms: that current Western practice is a recent invention responsible for the struggles at putting kids to bed that torment modern Western parents. American pediatricians now recommend not having an infant sleep in the same bed with its parents, because of occasional cases of the infant ending up crushed or else overheating; but virtually all infants in human history until the last few thousand years did sleep in the same bed with the mother and usually also with the father, without widespread reports of the dire consequences feared by pediatricians. That may be because hunter-gatherers sleep on the hard ground or on hard mats; a parent is more likely to roll over onto an infant in our modern soft beds.
PHRASES like “tiger mom” and “helicopter parent” have made their way into everyday language. But does overparenting hurt, or help?
While parents who are clearly and embarrassingly inappropriate come in for ridicule, many of us find ourselves drawn to the idea that with just a bit more parental elbow grease, we might turn out children with great talents and assured futures. Is there really anything wrong with a kind of “overparenting lite”?
Parental involvement has a long and rich history of being studied. Decades of studies, many of them by Diana Baumrind, a clinical and developmental psychologist at the University of California, Berkeley, have found that the optimal parent is one who is involved and responsive, who sets high expectations but respects her child’s autonomy. These “authoritative parents” appear to hit the sweet spot of parental involvement and generally raise children who do better academically, psychologically and socially than children whose parents are either permissive and less involved, or controlling and more involved. Why is this particular parenting style so successful, and what does it tell us about overparenting?
For one thing, authoritative parents actually help cultivate motivation in their children. Carol Dweck, a social and developmental psychologist at Stanford University, has done research that indicates why authoritative parents raise more motivated, and thus more successful, children.
In a typical experiment, Dr. Dweck takes young children into a room and asks them to solve a simple puzzle. Most do so with little difficulty. But then Dr. Dweck tells some, but not all, of the kids how very bright and capable they are. As it turns out, the children who are not told they’re smart are more motivated to tackle increasingly difficult puzzles. They also exhibit higher levels of confidence and show greater overall progress in puzzle-solving.
This may seem counterintuitive, but praising children’s talents and abilities seems to rattle their confidence. Tackling more difficult puzzles carries the risk of losing one’s status as “smart” and deprives kids of the thrill of choosing to work simply for its own sake, regardless of outcomes. Dr. Dweck’s work aligns nicely with that of Dr. Baumrind, who also found that reasonably supporting a child’s autonomy and limiting interference results in better academic and emotional outcomes.
Some of my most effective years as a teacher were very early in my career. Although I had no experience in the classroom and was new to my subject matter, I had the advantage of being close in age to the freshmen college students I was teaching. Their interests, hopes, dreams, and anxieties were close to my own. I could tailor my teaching to connect to their most important concerns—these were mine as well. During my first year as a teacher, when I was 26, I wrote a sample essay for my expository writing class about what it felt like to go home for Thanksgiving. I would never presume to do this now. But at the time, I didn’t think twice, and the essay got a good response. Some of the subsequent essays I received from students were better than my own.
When I married and had children, my effectiveness as a teacher dropped precipitously. Although college kids still like the Berenstain Bears books and Jolly Ranchers, they like them in a different way than do 6-year-olds (the nostalgia of young adults was a topic of an earlier column). As my attention shifted to my young children, I lost touch with my adolescent self. At the same time, the experience of adolescence also began to change, if not fundamentally, then superficially. My students dressed differently and listened to different music than I did at their age. They had also begun to relate to technology, while I was still, at the time, technologically ignorant. In short, I didn’t have the references they did. And so my teaching for a period of more than a decade was not what it had been. I found myself “pushing” students—expending a great deal of effort to achieve a result that should come with more ease and joy.
But a curious thing happened about 10 years ago, when my children entered high school. I began to relate better to my students. Once again, I could understand their allusions, their emotional yearning, their stubbornnesses and disinclinations. But unlike my earlier connection to them as equals, I now understood them in my capacity as a parent. I was bemused and indulgent, and, when necessary, firm. And because I knew them second-hand through my children, I was not sucked into their adolescent drama. I didn’t take their behavior personally, which may be one of the most difficult but crucial elements in good teaching. It doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have expectations or be tough; it’s just that you shouldn’t see a student’s failure to, say, get to class on time, do homework, or proofread work as a personal affront. Teachers can inspire students to please them, but only up to a point.
Walk into any preschool and you’ll find toddling superheroes battling imaginary monsters. We take it for granted that young children play and, especially, pretend. Why do they spend so much time in fantasy worlds?
People have suspected that play helps children learn, but until recently there was little research that showed this or explained why it might be true. In my lab at the University of California at Berkeley, we’ve been trying to explain how very young children can learn so much so quickly, and we’ve developed a new scientific approach to children’s learning.
Where does pretending come in? It relates to what philosophers call “counterfactual” thinking, like Einstein wondering what would happen if a train went at the speed of light.
In one study, my student Daphna Buchsbaum introduced 3- and 4-year-olds to a stuffed monkey and a musical toy and told them, “It’s Monkey’s birthday, and this is a birthday machine we can use to sing to Monkey. It plays “Happy Birthday” when you put a zando” (a funny-looking object) “on it like this.” Then she held up a different object and explained that it wasn’t a zando and therefore wouldn’t make the music play. Then she asked some tricky counterfactual questions: “If this zando wasn’t a zando, would the machine play music or not?” What if the non-zando was a zando? About half the 3-year-olds answered correctly.
Shortly after midnight on June 10, 1912—one hundred years ago this week—a stranger hefting an ax lifted the latch on the back door of a two-story timber house in the little Iowa town of Villisca. The door was not locked—crime was not the sort of thing you worried about in a modestly prosperous Midwest settlement of no more than 2,000 people, all known to one another by sight—and the visitor was able to slip inside silently and close the door behind him. Then, according to a reconstruction attempted by the town coroner next day, he took an oil lamp from a dresser, removed the chimney and placed it out of the way under a chair, bent the wick in two to minimize the flame, lit the lamp, and turned it down so low it cast only the faintest glimmer in the sleeping house.
Still carrying the ax, the stranger walked past one room in which two girls, ages 12 and 9, lay sleeping, and slipped up the narrow wooden stairs that led to two other bedrooms. He ignored one, in which four more young children were sleeping, and crept into the room in which 43-year-old Joe Moore lay next to his wife, Sarah. Raising the ax high above his head—so high it gouged the ceiling—the man brought the flat of the blade down on the back of Joe Moore’s head, crushing his skull and probably killing him instantly. Then he struck Sarah a blow before she had time to wake or register his presence.