Creating courageous daughters and sensitive sons

courageous daughters

Not too long ago, I was scrolling through facebook, and I came upon a video that made me smile. It exemplified positive parenting in a way that just had to be shared. Our world will be better if we have more courageous daughters and sensitive sons. I am hoping this article will make the case that gender-free parenting is a noble and wonderful goal.

When my wife was pregnant with our first child, I remember discussing a belief that we both had; namely, we wanted to raise our children the same, regardless of gender. We noticed that the gender roles that our society proscribes restrict the freedom that people have to be authentic. Sons are taught to “be tough,” and “be a man.”  Meanwhile, daughters are taught to focus their energies on being nice, making others happy, learning how to listen and communicate with others.

These narrow behavioral scripts can leave children with incomplete skills for success. We wanted our children to be both brave and socially competent. The purpose of this article is to discuss research which examines the effect of raising children inside strict gender roles, and then encourages you to create courageous daughters and sensitive sons.

I contacted the father in the video, and asked him if I could have permission to show some videos and pictures of him interacting with his daughter. Here’s a video that expertly demonstrates some of the principles I want to teach on this site:

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Why the Fonz wants you to read to your child

Read to your child

The reasons to read to your child are numerous. That’s why Henry Winkler (aka The Fonz) has put his name behind the National Literacy Trust. When you read to your child, you show him that he is important enough to give him your undivided attention. This can build his self-esteem, and give him tools for fighting back disappointment in the future. You model the importance of reading. When you read to your child, you have multiple opportunities to reward and praise her for her questions, comments, and observations. This can strengthen your relationship, and build connections that make her more likely to go to you when she needs advice. Finally, when you read to your child, your child learns how those little squiggles on the pages represent specific sounds. Reading is the foundation for academic success.

I am delighted to introduce Mrs. Amy Ludwig, a personal friend, to this site. Amy has a Master’s in Education, and is a fantastic mother. When I decided that I needed an article about why you should read to your child, I immediately thought of Amy. I hope you enjoy her thoughts and stories, and it inspires you to take time out of your busy schedule to read to your child even more than you already do.

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The imago: How our past can influence our choices

the imago is real

A large body of research shows that the home environment, particularly the quality of the relationship between the primary caregivers in the home, has a powerful influence on how we grow up. As children, we watch our parents closely, looking for clues about how adults are supposed to act. We pick up on signals about what a man is supposed to look like, what a woman is supposed to look like, and how a man and a woman are supposed to interact with one another. According to some psychoanalysts, those screenshots we take about how romantic relationships are supposed to play out create an unconscious image in our minds, called the imago.

Unless you’re a hermit, you are going to enter into relationships with others. Some of those relationships will be romantic. Romantic relationships, because they entail so much vulnerability, carry with them the potential for self-growth, but also the potential for great emotional harm. Whenever we open ourselves up to someone, we take a risk that that opening will be abused. On the other side, if we open up to someone, and they return the favor, what joy there is in being truly open and available to someone else!

What is the imago?

Our ability to open up like that, and the people we tend to attract, are heavily influenced by this imago. Essentially, the imago is a representation of our parents that forms the basis for how we have learned a relationship is supposed to look. If our parents spoke kindly and respectfully to one another, at an unconscious level, we find ourselves attracted to people whom our “antennae” pick up as being the kind of people who are kind and respectful.

[for an excellent guide to the imago and how to use it to improve your existing relationship, I highly recommend this book]

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A case study on punishment: How it encourages “cheating”

case study on punishment
I don’t envy the job of lunchroom aide, that’s for sure!

This morning, I was talking with my son about the school year he just completed. We started talking about his teachers, and he mentioned a man who worked as a lunchroom aide. I think that what he told me about this man’s way of handling discipline in the lunchroom is a good case study on punishment, and how it encourages “cheating.”

I want to begin by reiterating the caption under the picture above. I imagine that keeping a large group of children quiet is quite difficult. I also know from research that the typical school day is one that places demands on children that are unrealistic even for adults. Imagine yourself having to sit in various hard-chaired desks for up to 90 minutes at a time, listening attentively to a teacher the entire time, across 7 hour span. (I know you can do it, because you did when you were younger.)

No talking when others are talking. No joking around. Pay attention – don’t look out the window. Teacher may call on you at any moment, and test you on some fact that s/he just introduced, to see if you are engaged. Even for adults, the average attention span is about 10 minutes. After that, our brains just automatically go elsewhere. It’s happened to you, I know it. Think about the last meeting you were in, and how many times your eyes were on the speaker, but your mind was on the cheesecake you had at home, or your shopping list, or the fight you had with your friend last night. Continue reading “A case study on punishment: How it encourages “cheating””