Helicopter Parents damage their kids

The furore over Brock Turner, the Stanford University student who was imprisoned for 6 months after sexually assaulting a woman who was too drunk to know what she was doing, has not only raised the issue of leniency for sports stars (sentenced by a judge with sports credentials) but also the influence of parents.

His father wrote the court arguing that a prison sentence was “a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action“.

A former dean at the university, Julie Lythcott-Haims, said that it was consistent with a phenomenon she had witnesses developing at the university: helicopter parents.

During her tenure she said parents e-mailed professors to complain about their children’s grades, intervened in dormitory disputes, and refused to let their children grow up and take respocibility for their lives.

The father’s statement seems to me to be siding with his son at all costs, unable to see that his son has committed a horrendous wrong” she said when speaking at the Times Cheltenham Science Festival.

He must always love his son but the most loving thing to do is to let the son know that you are loved but your behaviour was reprehensible and you need to accept the consequences of your actions

51VjT9u8jlL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_Lythcott-Haims has written a book based on her ten year’s experience as dean of freshmen at the university: “How to Raise an Adult – break free of the over-parenting trap and prepare your kid for success”

She writes about the trend for students to be rendered “existentially impotent” by the over involvement off their parents. She says “Over the years I saw more and more students who didn’t seem terribly familiar with their own selves.

What’s to become of a generation that’s been mollycoddled, overprotected, and had their hands held for too long? Will they ever be able to seize the mantle of adulthood? Will they ever become that next generation of leaders we’re going to need them to be? Linguistically parents say “we’re on the football team. We’re going to university”. Their sense of ego is now intertwined with the student

This father defending his son over a sex crime was just an extreme example of the same trend she thought. She went on to say: “The father rising to the defence as if that is the job of the parents is misguided. The job of the parent is to make sure our children know how to behave properly in the world”.

This is the most sensible thing I’ve heard coming from someone from the university sector for a long time. At the moment it all seems to be about safeguarding, safe spaces and no-platform policies.

Is this because of parents defending their kids rights to be pampered? Is it because young people are more narcissistic than ever with their pre-occupation with social media and lack empathy, a key part of emotional intelligence?

I’ve posted before about helicopter parents being bad for kids and how overparenting makes children less resilient.

Raising an emotionally intelligent child

UnknownWhen I came across a reference to this book in the Times Magazine last week I realised I hadn’t posted about emotional intelligence for a while, even though it was one of the earliest topics I wanted to include.

It was only a short column but it made several good points based on John Gottman’s book.

Most people are now aware of emotional intelligence and how it can be developed throughout your life (unlike IQ which is relatively static).

It comprises a number of key skills or competences (depending on which model you follow) but the generic model is four interlinked quadrants which are about:

  1. EImatrixSelf-awareness (knowing how you are feeling)
  2. Awareness of others (including empathy)
  3. Controlling your emotions (self-control)
  4. Managing relationships (social skills)


Gottman suggests parents or carers should:

  1. Listen with empathy Pay close attention to when your child is saying what he feels and mirror it back. Check you have understood and use examples from your own experience to show you have understood.
  2. Help the child to name feelings Encourage your child to build an emotional vocabulary by giving him labels for his feelings. Let him know this is normal to have different feelings about things.
  3. Validate their child’s emotions Don’t say there’s “no need to be upset” when your child gets mad. Acknowledge how natural it is.
  4. Turn tantrums into teaching tools When a child gets upset about something that is going to happen help them prepare for it. Talk to him about why he is scared, what he can expect and why he has to do it.
  5. Use conflict to teach problem-solving When your child is arguing or fighting with another child make it clear there are limits then guide him to a solution. “What else can you do when you get mad?” Guide him some options if necessary. Children need to know it’s OK to be angry but not to hurt people because of that.
  6. Set an example by staying calm Don’t get verbally harsh when you’re angry. You could say “It upsets me when you do that” rather than “You drive me mad!” The child needs to understand it’s his behaviour that upsets you not him. Excessive criticism can undermine a child’s self-confidence.
  7. Stay in touch with their own feelings Don’t ignore your own negative emotions in order to spare your child’s feelings. Hiding your real feelings will confuse your child. Acknowledge that you’re displeased without acting upset to show your child that even difficult feelings can be managed.

Many of these suggestions are based on your being a good role model for your children. 

See earlier posts on emotional intelligence 

Nurseries can damage your Child’s Health

mother_and_daughter_playing_500_wht_7023I wasn’t aware that there had been a parliamentary inquiry into the care of young children but there has, and its the findings are quite scary.

It found that babies who spend long periods in nurseries with poorly qualified staff can suffer lifelong mental damage.

Andrea Leadsom, a Tory MP who led the cross-party investigation, said “leaving infants in the hands of “young unskilled girls” during the most critical period of their brain development could have serious consequences….. Very often the least qualified staff are looking after the youngest children.”

She says the very young girls who are less well trained won’t realise the importance of eye contact, mimicking their expressions and telling the child it is loved, to brain development.

Research shows that experiences during the first two years are critical for future prospects. This is because the pre-frontal cortex develops most rapidly during that time and that’s the area of the brain which influences emotional well-being and the ability to form relationships. So the bonding between the baby and its carers is crucial in the first few years.

If the baby comes from a stable, happy family and is not in nursery all day then it’s not a problem. But if the family life is more chaotic and the baby is cared for a by a range of inexperienced, poorly trained or insensitive staff who only meet basic feeding and changing needs – then there could be devastating consequences says Leadsom who went as far as to say “Sociopaths are not born; they are made”. She is presumably referring to a sociopath’s inability to empathise with people.

In her report she asks the government to shift funding from older children to younger ones and especially under-twos.

Her views were echoed by the chief executive of 4Children who said  “Pregnancy-till-two is an age that is.. absolutely crucial in all aspects of child development”.

Unfortunately the Sure Start programme has been drastically cut back under the government’s austerity measures with over 500 closures and many centres offering reduced services.

I’m sure there are many nurseries which offer good quality care with well-trained staff but it sounds as if there are many who don’t.

Too Shy Shy

turtle_in_shell_1600_wht_5833In these days of texting, sexting and Facebook, and endless reality shows, it’s hard to believe anyone could still be shy.

But 60% of Brits say they have suffered from shyness to some degree at some point in their lives according to the London Shyness Centre.

Even 40-50% of Americans say they’re shy, which might come as a surprise as we tend to think of Americans as outgoing. People in Taiwan and Japan score far higher on shyness whereas Israeli children are considered the most confident in the world with only 37% reported as shy.

Shyness, timidity, bashfulness; being called a shrinking violet or wallflower. The Encyclopaedia of Mental Health defines shyness as “discomfort and/or inhibition in interpersonal situations  … a form of excessive self-focus”. Dr Lynne Henderson at California’s Shyness Clinic adds that chronic shyness is also “a pre-occupation with your thoughts, feelings and physical reactions”.

If you are shy you are less sure of yourself, more reserved and cautious, and worry about how other people see you and as a result may be more likely to want to fit in rather than be rejected. At the extremes of shyness are people with social phobia who suffer a great deal of anxiety and unhappiness and these make up 2-5% of the UK population.

Psychotherapist Linda Crawford, director of The London Shyness Centre, says; “Shyness is the hidden emotion of our times”.

So is shyness something you are born with or do you learn to be shy?

A Harvard University report in 2003 said shyness had its physical roots in the amygdala, the part of the brain responsible for emotions including fear and the fight or flight reaction. That theory is now disputed and the consensus is that’s it’s a combination of genes, development and the environment.

Even if children aren’t born with a disposition to shyness parents can make them feel shy if they don’t create a secure attachment with the child ie make the child feel safe. So poor parenting can influence a child’s disposition as can bullying, frequent criticism, a dominant sibling, family conflict, sexual abuse, stress at school, and bereavement or other traumatic events.

Children look to their parents as role models and if parents are socially at ease with strangers, friendly and outgoing, then their children can follow their example. If your parents are shy then you may also grow up as a shy person. Coaching a child out of shyness requires empathy and tact – not just throwing your children in at the deep end, which can be quite traumatic.

Research by  the Child Development Laboratory  at the University of Maryland showed that confident parenting could overcome a child’s predisposition to shyness. They also found that children who are consistently shy when growing up are more likely to possess a gene associated with stress sensitivity and have stressed out parents.

Other scientists don’t accept that children are born shy. For example Dr Bernardo Carducci, director of the Shyness Research Institute at Indiana University says shyness has three components: excessive self-consciousness, excessive negative self-evaluation, and excessive negative self-preoccupation, all of which involve a sense of self. As babies aren’t born with a sense of self , and it doesn’t develop until around 18 months of age, it follows that children can’t be born shy.

Carducci does concede however that about 1 in 5 children are born with an oversensitivity to sensory stimuli such as loud noises and probably have close relatives who were shy as children. These children have been later observed  to be fearful of strangers and are happier playing on their own.

He says there are three types of shyness: Publicly shy people who are distressed in social situations; Privately shy people who may not appear shy but who have internal and muscle tension and increased heart rate; and Socially anxious shy people who turn social fears inward and obsess about things such as what they are wearing.

Other categories of shyness include: the love shy – usually men, who find it difficult to relate to the opposite sex; and shy extraverts, people who are can behave in an outgoing way in familiar situations but are shy otherwise;

Experts Lynne Henderson and Philip Zimbardo, at California’s  Shyness Institute, think that shyness has reached  epidemic proportions due to a fragmented society. The internet and social media may be exacerbating the situation as people don’t need to talk face-to-face anymore.

Not all psychologists agree that shyness is an illness, but just an outcome of being sensitive to people and situations and which has certain benefits. For example shy people are often  empathic, attentive and patient. Research at the University of Sussex suggests that we have gone too far making shyness into a disorder. Society now seems to expect that everyone should be gregarious.

Dr Susan Scott, a sociologist and the lead researcher, says; “shyness has become an unhealthy state of mind for individuals living in contemporary Western societies. The increasing medicalisation of shyness suggests that bashful modesty and reserve are no longer so acceptable and that to succeed we  must be vocal, assertive, and capable of gregariously participating in social life. As shyness becomes less socially acceptable, the shyest people are finding that their identities are being recast in biomedical terms and subject to psychiatric treatment”.

She also says that shy people are increasingly being directed towards talking therapies where they are taught that quietness, passivity, and withdrawal from social situations will not do and these behaviours must be unlearnt.

So by defining what is acceptable behaviour in our society, for example gregariousness, we label people who don’t fit those norms as different or worse rather than accepting that there is a wide spectrum of behaviour, all of which is normal. And that’s when we begin to sow the seeds of bullying and scapegoating.

And once we start labelling shyness as an illness pharmaceutical companies rub their hands. A drug called Cipralex was licensed in 2001 as a miracle cure for social phobia. It is prescribed to teenagers even though it is unlicensed for use with children. Side effects include blurred vision, diarrhoea, headache, nausea and indigestion among other things. In 2004 the UK regulatory agency for drugs stated that the risks outweighed the benefits but doctors can still prescribe it if cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) has failed.

However last year the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) approved computer-aided cognitive behaviour therapy (CCBT), a technology-based counselling programme  designed by a cognitive behaviour therapist, Professor Isaac Marks, and Stuart Toole, an IT specialist. It’s an 8-week programme called “FearFighter” comprising a series of graded exercises delivered over the internet and available via GPs..

One of the designers Toole says “It won’t change an introvert into an extravert but will make a shy person feel happier with himself and able to carry out everyday tasks in life without great concern”.

Unfortunately Toole is not a psychologist and has made the mistake of confusing shyness with introversion.

200px-QuietBookCover-1Of course some introverts are shy but not necessarily.  Susan Cain, best-selling author of “Quiet: the power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking” (2012),  says “shyness is a fear of social disapproval or humiliation while introversion is a preference for environments that are not overstimulating”. She says shyness is inherently painful, introversion isn’t.

booksMarti Olsen Laney said something similar in her book a decade earlier “The Introvert Advantage: How to thrive in an extrovert world”.

She said shyness is “social anxiety, an extreme self-consciousness when one is around people.” “It is a fear of what others think about you”.

So shyness is not who you are, a personality trait like introversion, but what you think other people think you are.

Introverts are nor scared of social situations, they just prefer being on their own.

If you are socially shy, for example at parties, try these tips

If you want to learn more about social anxiety go to this web-site: http://www.social-anxiety.org.uk/

If you want to hear Susan Cain talk about her childhood experiences as an introvert go to: http://youtu.be/c0KYU2j0TM4

Yawning = Loving You

Yawn contagion is a well-known phenomenon, for example in meetings, but Italian researchers have discovered that the closer you are to someone the more quickly your yawn will follow theirs.

For example in married couples yawns tended to follow in less than a minute. (Slight doubt here for me – how do you know your partner is not actually bored?)

So to be on the safe side if your beloved yawns make sure you do the same ASAP! And if you yawn and your partner doesn’t follow suit, uh-uh!

Italian researchers believe yawning is related to empathy, something others have also suggested, which is a key component of emotional Intelligence.

What sex is your brain?

What sex is your brain? Ever wondered what sex your brain is?

Try these  6 short tests and get a report comparing you to others.

The tests include a test of empathy ie assessing NVC through facial expressions.

If you are wondering what might influence your brain sex watch these linked YouTube videos on the influence of testosterone on your developing brain and the effect it can have on your work performance. http … Read More

via EI 4u

What doesn’t kill you makes you

The news that Ed Balls is using his wife’s name for his kids so that they don’t get bullied is perhaps understandable.

Of course he had a reputation as a bit of a bully himself as one of Gordon Brown’s enforcers and he may have been bullied himself as a child (bullies often were).

He says he only used his “challenging behaviour” with people he knew could stick up for themselves – like Gordon Brown (who has a bit of a reputation in that direction himself) and Tony Blair – and denies he treats people as badly as he was treated.

But is he really doing them any favours? Could a little adversity help you to become better adjusted as an adult?

Studies at the University of California have shown that when children respond to hostility or bullying, whether face-to-face or on-line, in kind they are liked more and earn more respect from their classmates and teachers according to a report in The Times.

Whilst not pleasant experiences the children remembered them more vividly than friendly events. Trying to placate your enemy doesn’t seem to pay whereas giving as good as you got earned higher ratings for maturity and social competence.

No-one is saying it is a good thing to have a lot of people hostile to you, and children no-one disliked were the best adjusted, but the research suggests that rather than ignoring bullies or people who dislike you, or trying to placate them, or even being completely unaware of them, it is better to confront them.

Similar results have been found by researchers at Strathclyde University. Children who are good at standing up to bullies, whether for themselves or others, are better at resolving problems without conflict, are more emotionally literate, and better at taking other people’s perspective.

In other words they display the emotional intelligence skills of self-awareness, self-control, empathy, and managing relationships.

Updated from post originally on EI 4u May 2010

Emotional Intelligence and empathy

Emotional Intelligence and empathy In an earlier post about Emotional Intelligence and marshmallows I referred to the findings of a Demos think-tank report which reported on an increase in social mobility between the end of WW2 and the 1970s followed by a period of stagnation up to 2000.

Amongst the three traits that were most important for children to improve their social lot was empathy – the ability to be sensitive to other people, to read their emotions and understand non-verb … Read More

via EI 4u with permission

It doesn’t mean they are bored

if they are yawning. They could be showing empathy with you.

Researchers have found that very young children and those with autism don’t contagiously yawn.

They tested 120 typically developing 1 – 6 year olds and 30  6 – 15 year-olds with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) to see if they would yawn in response to seeing other people yawn. (Child Development Vol 81 No 5).

About 50% of adults yawn contagiously but in this study only typically developing children aged 4 and older reliably yawned when they watched others yawn. And across all ages the children with autism were less likely to yawn compared to their same-age peers.

The researchers believe that contagious yawning might reflect empathetic feelings and that very young children and children with ASD experience these feelings less than older or typically developing children.