Druging Our Kids Day and Night?

107_0722Pediatricians are worried because some parents use Melatonin to help their children get to sleep at night. (The Wall Street Journal, Sunday, June 30, 2013:  a magic sleeping pill for children? By Jennifer. Breheny Wallace).That’s all we need: kids drugged at night by their parents and then turned over to electronic games during the day where they may also become addicted.

In a small number of cases, when a physician recommends this regimen ,use of melatonin or other sleep aids may be indicated for short period of time. But for most kids good sleep habits come from a good family habits. As I pointed out in The Digital Pandemic, Children love structure and that means regular bedtimes and regular meal times. Regular study times need to be included, because otherwise the child may be anxious or stressed about school.

I am amazed at the number of children I see out late at night at baseball games, restaurants and community recreation events. They are over-tired and over-stimulated because it’s way past a reasonable bedtime and they are excited to be included in adult activities .

Most parents realize that their children need this structure but are so unstructured themselves that they can’t follow through. This gets back to narcissism and the  need to have pleasure at each and every moment without contemplating the big picture.

Parents mean well and love their children, but they are often encouraged to be “flexible” and to disregard the structure that helped them grow up in a physically and mentally healthy manner. It’s no wonder children dive into electronic games. The games provide some degree of structure, meaning, and control. Kids are able to impose the kind of control their parents should be imposing and the kids relish it .

Suggestion: unless insomnia is a serious and chronic malady that requires treatment by a physician, administration of sleeping aids to kids may be a big mistake .



Zombie Talk: Night of the Living Dead

101_0126Zombies? Sounds like a B-grade horror movie doesn’t it? But critics like World War Z. Zombies from another world or home grown? In Iain McGIilchrist’s book, The Master and His Emissary (The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World), McGilchrist warns that our culture is moving toward a left-brain view of the world that is disconnected and mechanical. It slices and dices people into abstract categories and ignores the creative and humorous attributes of the right side of the brain. I’m inclined to agree. Before you assign me to the paranoia sector of people over 50, let’s look at a few examples of left-brain, robotic communications . . . .

To read the full article in Psychology Today Magazine Blog, click on link below.




Is it the immigrants or us?

102_0295Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush got a lukewarm response from conservatives when he said that immigrants are more fertile and are needed to keep America’s population young and to sustain a healthy economy. Immigrants created far more businesses than native born Americans over the past 20 years, he said.

I think he’s right. From what I’ve seen, immigrants from south of the border bring family values , work hard, and even send monies back to their families in Mexico . I was watching city employees work on a water pipe in the street a few months ago and it just so happened that immigrant laborers were working for a private company on the adjacent park. The immigrants seem to be working at twice the speed of our city employees .

Bush’s talk was about Social Security and how these young immigrants will not drain from Social Security and will continue to make payments to Social Security to support holder native born Americans .

When I look at what these immigrants are doing and how much they appreciate our country , it makes me think that perhaps problem is not with them, but with us. Are we losing our way as we give up higher values and become a narcissistic society mesmerized by shock value and instant happiness ?

When we returned from a recent trip to Cambodia and Vietnam and arrived at the Los Angeles airport we were stunned at the coarseness of the television entertainment and the language and dress  of our fellow citizens. Perhaps we’re becoming snobs or reflecting generational differences, but the slow deterioration of societal values doesn’t seem to be so slow anymore.

As the cartoon character Pogo used to say, with relish: “We have met the enemy – – and he are us.”


Common Core: Another in a Long Line of Reform Failures?

Vietnam Oceania 068I certainly hope the new Common Core school reform works as planned, but I have seen these school reforms come and go and I see trouble ahead for this one. It seems to be based on the concept that everyone can be prepared to attend college and that setting up these standardized instructional goals and tests will improve American student performance compared to other countries.

I don’t know what happened to the concept of IQ, but I suspect it fell by the wayside under the so-called fairness doctrine. That doctrine says that everyone is equal and to be fair, life’s outcome must be the same for everyone. I doubt that more than 50% or 60% of high school students are equipped to complete college in four years — at least the college that existed prior to five-and-six-year completion rates, heavy remedial instruction, and grade inflation.

What about the  40 -50% not qualified for college?  Are they stupid, unmotivated, or just unprepared? In the old scientific days the cutoff for colleges attendance was an IQ of 110, which is the 75th percentile. Only the top 25% were considered capable of college. No, those below that level are not stupid and may be brighter in some ways than some of those with higher IQ scores. More street-wise and more creative. It’s just that IQ scores are somewhat biased in the direction of abstract verbal reasoning which is mediated by the left side of the brain.There are many students who are bright, but don’t have the abstract verbal ability needed for academic learning, which is the forte of most colleges, especially selective ones .

In addition to native ability, children need parental motivation (even a good push), good nutrition, and a culture that supports education as an important and perhaps the most important quality for getting along in life .

The new core curriculum seems to be geared to the verbal, abstract reasoning side of the brain and will make the higher IQ kids even better prepared. The majority of students may have a tougher time and dropout rates may increase. Wealthy parents will employ tutors to make sure their children handle these more rigorous assignments — while other children may be left behind .

I believe the people behind the core curriculum are well-meaning and I have no argument against a national curriculum. Some oppostition is  based on fear of government intrusion and states rights. I’m not. If the states don’t want the curriculum they can reject it, although this will cost them some federal money .

While our school system needs lots of help and better teachers, it’s worthwhile to remember that we are a diverse country with many immigrants and uneven “playing fields.” Children in other countries have a more similar cultural background. Comparing our kid’s test scores with their kids scores is like comparing apples and oranges.

I truly do wish them well, but doubt we will ever see significant improvement by just rearranging the deck chairs on a troubled vessel.



Social Security Broke! Where Did the Gold Go?

Vietnam Oceania 077A gang must have broken into the Social Security vaults, because the vaults are empty. No, this is not breaking news. The fact is that we have no money in the Social Security vaults and that current Social Security payments come from current employees. So, it’s not putting away savings for the future, as we do privately. The Social Security system is merely a transfer system. And it looks like that system cannot be sustained for too many more years without reform.

This is another good reason for finding a way to allow immigrants to enter the United States. These good people are young and their employment taxes will help support our system. They don’t have older parents who need support and yet they pay full taxes. This is why the president and the two political parties need to avoid playing politics and get an immigration reform bill passed — and soon.

No,the Mafia hasn’t stolen all the gold from our Social Security bank, because it wasn’t there to begin with.



Still Sleeping With Your Teddy Bear? Shame, Shame!

IMGP2949Do you still sleep with your teddy bear, or do you know where that cuddly creature of comfort is stashed, maybe in the attic or the garage? If so, do you worry about your mental health or perhaps have concluded that you’re still pretty immature?

Retaining some attachment to an early comforter is perfectly natural and nothing to  worry about unless you prefer it exclusively to people. I recall some research in London, England, where an interviewer asked shoppers if they still had their childhood stuffed animal or knew of its whereabouts. I don’t recall exactly, but I believe about 30 to 40% of these adults knew exactly where their stuffed animal was, and some still had it in their bedroom or near their bed.

A young relative of ours is a junior in college and still keeps her comforter nearby. In fact, she has two such comforters because when she was about four years old, she lost her Raggedy Ann doll, which she had named Tuby and had to replace it with another stuffed animal, which she named “Tuby Other.” She recently asked her grandmother to do a little needlework on Tuby and Tuby Other because they were now held together with a few tired threads. But she wanted no change in their characteristics. Heavens, no! Just a minimal repair job.

I think this enjoyment of childhood security, and the desire to keep these companions, gives some support to Freudians and developmental psychologists who believe the chidhood environment can have a significant impact on adults — and that we’re not entirely driven by genes and technology, as some would have us believe.

So, go ahead. Satisfy your dependency needs with your stuffed animal or your memories of your stuffed animal. Remember how soft he/she was —  and that wonderful odor of safety and love?