News Analysis

News: Children (Supplement)


Don’t let children call the shots, psychologist says (970406)

Child Abuse May be Underestimated (970709)

Mental Stimulation Needed in First Three Years of Life for Optimum Development (980608)

Study: Rules improve parent-child relationship (CNN, 010221)

Top court upholds spanking law (National Post, 040130)

High court backs right to spank (National Post, 040131)

The Fear of the Lord is Key to Keeping Children in Church, says Evangelist (Christian Post, 050315)

Too Much TV Can Make Kids Bullies (Foxnews, 050404)

Ten minutes with the author (, 050414)

Mothers alliance decries challenge of pop culture (Washington Times, 050503)

Should Parents Be Licensed? An Ominous New Debate (Christian Post, 050503)

Faith of our fathers (, 050610)

Father Is the Best (, 050617)

Dad, we need you (, 050617)

Have Children Forgotten How to Play Outdoors? (Christian Post, 050825)

Tools in the daily battle (, 050913)

Courts hit parents with triple whammy (, 051219)

Media Messages Harm Child, Teen Health (Foxnews, 060403)

Superkid Stress: Poll Shows Parents Fret Over Toddlers Success (Foxnews, 060814)

10 Signs You’re a Micromanaging Parent (Foxnews, 060410)

Parental rights: Are they in jeopardy? (WorldNetDaily, 061005)

Why Boys Are So Different (Focus on the Family, 061006)

New Survey Refutes Claim that Taking Kids to Church is Harmful (Christian Post, 071114)

Survey: Many Christian Parents Choose to Satisfy Children Over God (Christian Post, 071120)

Instilling Values in your Kids: Part 1 (, 071120)

Instilling Values in your Kids: Part 2 (, 071127)

Study: Spirituality, Not Religious Practice, Makes Children Happier (Christian Post, 090115)

Why Require Unregenerate Children to Act Like They’re Good? (Christian Post, 091210)

Massachusetts Girl Hospitalized After Months of Bullying (Foxnews, 100415)

Dobson tips hat to American Heritage Girls: It’s for ‘parents who want daughters in a traditional Christian-based program’ (WorldNetDaily, 100415)

Children and Finances (, 100517)

Young families leaving cities for suburbs: report (National Post, 100608)





Don’t let children call the shots, psychologist says (970406)


Parents urged to wear the pants in the family


Joanne Laucius, The Ottawa Citizen


Because I said so. Tough. Yes, I am the boss of you.


They’re three of the 10 lines every parent should have in his or her repertoire, says Ottawa-area psychologist Maggie Mamen, a declaration that got her a standing ovation at a conference for parents and caregivers on Saturday.


Children are too often allowed to be in charge, said Ms. Mamen in the keynote speech at the annual one-day conference of the Ottawa Valley Co-operative Preschool Association.


Families aren’t democracies, they’re benevolent dictatorships, she told the packed auditorium at Sir Robert Borden High School. “I’ve seen families where six-month-olds were on the throne.”


Ms. Mamen’s message is outlined in Who’s in Charge? A Guide to Family Management, a book that has only been out for two days and has already sold about half the 2,000 copies.


Her publisher plans to release a second printing in June. Sales of 5,000 or more will land the book in the league of Canadian bestsellers. There are even plans to distribute the book in the U.S.


Ms. Mamen offered the manuscript to Creative Bound Inc., a Carp publisher of adult non-fiction. Creative Bound president Gail Baird said the book’s common-sense message was one that had to be heard.


Ms. Mamen says it’s vital for parents to establish the difference between parents and children. And to take the responsibility for making hard decisions and to take the heat when children don’t like those decisions.


Saturday’s audience of parents, early-childhood educators and caregivers, mostly women, shouted with laughter during Ms. Mamen’s talk, which featured slides of her own three children, whom she calls Miss Perfect, Miss Greenpeace and Mr. Happy.


“Parenting is the one job that makes me feel the least competent,” said Ms. Mamen, who has worked at Carleton University, Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario and the Carleton Board of Education. She is now in private practice.


Ms. Mamen sees families as small companies with parents as management and children as trainees. Management is responsible for major decisions and needs to be prepared to deal with anger as the result of unpopular decisions.


Parents get caught in extended negotiations with children over things that are not negotiable. “Do you want to go to bed now?” gives the child the impression there’s room for negotiation.


“Look back at the structure of your company and see who’s in charge.”


She adds that parents don’t have to feel guilty about the occasional flashes of intense rage they feel toward their children. “I have the instinct to flatten them against the wall, sometimes.”


As for maternal instinct, she says some people have it and some people don’t.


“Overwhelming relief” is how mother of three Lorraine Hendry describes her reaction to Ms. Mamen’s philosophy. “Parents are under a lot of stress with jobs, the economy and behavioural problems. It’s a tough job.”


Maggie Mamen’s Top Ten lines for parents


10. Who said life was fair?


9. If you want an answer now, it’s no.


8. Which part of the word ‘no’ don’t you understand?


7. But we’re not everyone else’s parents.


6. I’m your mommy, that’s why.


5. That’s not the issue.


4. Tough.


3. Good for you! (when child declares intention to get navel pierced)


2. Because I said so.


1. Yes, I am the boss of you.




Child Abuse May be Underestimated (970709)


CHICAGO — Nearly one out of three males reported being physically abused as boys and one out of eight girls was sexually abused, a Canadian study said Tuesday, suggesting official assessments underestimate the problem.


Based on written questionnaires filled out in 1990 by nearly 10,000 Ontario residents older than 14, 31% of males and 21% of females reported being physically abused as children. Sexual abuse was reported by 13% of females and 4% of males.


Physical abuse was most commonly meted out by the child’s natural father, with the natural mother the next most likely culprit, the study found. Sexual abuse was most often committed by “some other person,” or by another relative.


Study author Harriet MacMillan of McMaster University and Hamilton Health Sciences Corp. in Hamilton, Ontario, wrote that the results of the largest general population survey on child abuse to date indicated rates of abuse had been underplayed by child protection agencies and other government bodies.


“Official reports generally underestimate the magnitude of the problem because of factors that inhibit disclosure, such as social stigma and fear of consequences, as well as failure by professionals to recognize and report child maltreatment,” she wrote.


The survey found that rates of physical abuse in males were higher in families where the parent providing financial support had not completed secondary school. The association with parent education levels was not seen for female victims of physical abuse, although the rate was higher for girls living in rural areas. The study showed no link between sexual abuse and the education level of the parents.


The researchers concluded that additional efforts should be directed toward the treatment of both physical and sexual abuse. They noted that literature on the subject was focused on sexual abuse.


“Any strategy aimed at reducing the burden of suffering associated with either physical or sexual abuse will require a combination of preventitive and treatment approaches,” MacMillan wrote. “Since many cases of abuse do not come to the recognition of official agencies, policies aimed at reducing this problem must be targeted at the community level.”




Mental Stimulation Needed in First Three Years of Life for Optimum Development (980608)


FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — The first three years of life are the optimum time for a child’s emotional and intellectual development, says Dr. Roni Leiderman.


“Your baby is born ready to learn,” she says. “How much your baby learns depends on you.”


Leiderman, director of the Family Center at Nova Southeastern University, says that the neurons in a baby’s brain are fully developed at birth. What changes is the brain’s structure, in response to experience. Studies have shown that babies who lack stimulation during the first 18 months of life have brains that are 20-30% smaller than those who have been stimulated by interaction with their parents.


“The impact of environment on brain development is dramatic. Brain research has shown us that proper stimulation during those first three years helps children’s brains reach their fullest potential,” she says.


She suggests several ways to help baby achieve:


— Hold, rock, talk to, play with and love your baby from birth.


— Be sure your baby is safe, nurtured and stimulated whether at home or in child care.


— Notice what interests your baby. It might be something new to look at or listen to. It could be something fun to hold and play with. Help your baby explore these interests.


“It’s important for parents to learn their child’s cues. If your child is starting to develop motor skills such as learning to crawl, then complement that development with activities which allow the baby to do more crawling.”


— During the first year, sing to your baby. Play music. Show pictures to him or her. Carry on babbling conversations. Classical music, nursery rhymes and lullabies will stimulate a baby, Leiderman says.


— Introduce games, activities and toys that allow your baby to build on his or her special interests. During the second and third years, read books, share nursery rhymes and talk with your baby.


— Encourage the child to pretend and to create. “Play stimulates children and helps develop their motor skills,” Leiderman says. “You can help them pretend and create by providing props and toys, such as building blocks or train sets.”


— Give your child opportunities to play with other children the same age or older.




Study: Rules improve parent-child relationship (CNN, 010221)


WASHINGTON (CNN) — Teens whose parents have established rules in the house have better relationships with their parents and a substantially lower risk of smoking, drinking, and using illegal drugs than the typical teen, a new study shows.


The study was released Wednesday by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse. The findings were part of its sixth annual national teen substance abuse survey.


The study evaluated a “hands-on” approach versus a “hands-off” approach, and found that only one in four teens lives with “hands-on” parents, but those teens are at one-quarter the risk for drug abuse than those living in “hands-off” households.


Teens living in “hands-on” households have parents who consistently take 10 or more of the following 12 actions:


·         Monitor what their teens watch on TV

·         Monitor what their teens do on the Internet

·         Put restrictions on the CDs they buy

·         Know where their teens are after school and on weekends

·         Are told the truth by their teens about where they really are going

·         Are “very aware” of their teens academic performance

·         Impose a curfew

·         Make clear they would be “extremely upset” if their teen used pot

·         Eat dinner with their teens six or seven nights a week

·         Turn off the TV during dinner

·         Assign their teen regular chores, and

·         Have an adult present when the teens return home from school


The survey found that despite conventional wisdom that many teens don’t want their parents to establish rules and expectations, 47% of teens living in “hands-on” households reported having an excellent relationship with their fathers and 57% reported and excellent relationship with their mothers.


Only 13% of teens with “hands-off” parents reported an excellent relationship with their fathers and 24% reported an excellent relationship with their mothers.


“Moms and dads should be parents to their children, not pals,” said CASA’s president, former U.S. Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare Joseph A. Califano Jr. “Mothers and fathers who are parents rather than pals can greatly reduce the risk of their children smoking, drinking and using drugs.”


For the sixth straight year, teens said drugs were their greatest concern. Teens said it is easier to buy marijuana than cigarettes. According to the survey, fewer teens said they expected to “never try” an illegal drug.


Asked what their biggest concern was, CASA reported, 31% of teens said, “drugs can ruin you life and cause harm.” Seventeen percent said “I feel pressure to use drugs.”


This year’s survey was also the first to ask teens about their proximity to Ecstasy. Of surveyed teens, 28% said they know a friend or classmate who has used the drug. Ten percent said they had been to a rave and said Ecstasy was available 70% of the time.


The survey looked at 1,000 American teens, 526 girls and 474 boys between the age of 12 and 17.




Top court upholds spanking law (National Post, 040130)


Corporal punishment should be legally acceptable and must involve only “minor corrective force of a transitory and trifling nature.”


OTTAWA —The Supreme Court of Canada has upheld the so-called spanking law that allows parents to use physical force to discipline children, but has set legal guidelines aimed at ensuring reasonable limits.


In a 6-3 judgment Friday, the court rejected claims that the legislation, first enacted more than a century ago, should be struck down as a violation of children’s rights.


The ruling offered guidance, however, to help lower-court judges draw the line between acceptable and unacceptable force.


The court indicated, for example, that it would not be reasonable to resort to corporal punishment for children under age two or for teenagers.


Nor would it be reasonable to use implements like rulers or belts, or to strike a child on the face or head.


The general rule, set out by Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, is that corporal punishment is legally acceptable only if it involves “minor corrective force of a transitory and trifling nature.”


The court also drew a distinction between the roles of parent and teacher, revising legal doctrine that had often lumped the two together.


The weight of expert evidence and current social thinking is that “corporal punishment by teachers is unacceptable,” wrote McLachlin.


That was a new judicial reading of Section 43 of the Criminal Code, the current version of a federal law that has been on the books in one form or other since 1892.


It provides that neither parents nor teachers can be found guilty of assault for physically correcting a child, as long as the force used is “reasonable in the circumstances.”


McLachlin concluded the proper interpretation of the law is that teachers can use limited “coercive force” to restrain unruly students — for example, to remove them from a classroom or break up a fight — but can’t hit them as a punishment.


The law had been challenged by the Canadian Foundation for Children, Youth and the Law, a Toronto-based children’s advocacy group.


The foundation denounced Section 43 as discriminatory, an infringement of children’s right to security of the person and a legal endorsement of cruel and unusual punishment.


“We’re obviously disappointed,” said Cheryl Milne, a lawyer for the foundation. “We were hoping that they would strike down the section.”


She took solace, however, in the new guidelines issued by the Supreme Court that set strict limits on the use of force. “It’s a better judgment than the courts below, so we have gained some ground.”


Michael Martens of Focus on the Family, one of several conservative lobby groups that defended the spanking law, welcomed the judgment as a victory for parental autonomy.


“We are extremely encouraged,” said Martens. “We believe the courts have affirmed that the best atmosphere for raising children is with their parents ... and that spanking is clearly not abuse.”


Roslyn Levine, a lawyer for the federal Justice Department, called the decision a balance between the rights of children and parents and was especially happy with the guidance offered to lower-court judges.


“It will create a national standard,” said Levine. “We now have very clear guidelines.... It tells parents where the boundaries are.”


The courts have wrestled for years with the problem of how to define the “reasonable” force permitted under Section 43.


Many parents have been convicted of assault for going beyond what a judge deemed reasonable. But others have been acquitted for beating children, including older adolescents, with a wide variety of implements that left bruises or caused other injuries.


Levine said the Supreme Court decision has drawn clear lines and will ensure greater consistency in future. “That’s what the federal government was looking for in this case.”




High court backs right to spank (National Post, 040131)


Parents can strike children only if they use ‘minor corrective force’ of ‘a trifling nature’


OTTAWA—The Supreme Court yesterday upheld the right of parents to spank their children but imposed specific limits on the practice.


By a 6-3 margin, the court upheld the 112-year-old Criminal Code defence — known widely as the “spanking law” — that allows parents and teachers to use “reasonable” force “by way of correction.”


The judges, acknowledging that lower courts across the country have been all over the map in interpreting the law, devoted much of their judgment to defining what is reasonable.


The general rule is that parents and teachers should escape criminal sanctions if they use “only minor corrective force of a transitory and trifling nature,” concluded Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin.


Corporal punishment of children under two and of teenagers is banned, the court said. Parents cannot use any objects while disciplining their kids. Punishment must be administered with an open hand and blows or slaps to the head are prohibited. The force cannot cause harm, be degrading or cruel, or administered out of anger. And the gravity of a child’s precipitating behaviour is irrelevant.


The court issued more restrictive guidelines for teachers, only allowing them to use force to restrain a student — such as when breaking up a fight. They can never use corporal punishment.


“The prudent parent or teacher will refrain from conduct that approaches those boundaries, while law enforcement officers and judges will proceed with them in mind,” Justice McLachlin wrote.


Focus on the Family, a conservative lobby group that intervened in the case, said it was relieved that the judges did not eliminate parental autonomy. “The Supreme Court has affirmed that parents are the best judge to decide what is best for their children,” said spokesman Michael Martens.


The court rejected an appeal from the Canadian Foundation for Children, Youth, and the Law to completely abolish Section 43 of the Criminal Code on the grounds that it violates the constitutional rights of children.


“While children need a safe environment, they also depend on parents and teachers for guidance and discipline,” Justice McLachlin wrote.


“The force permitted is limited and must be set against the reality of a child’s mother or father being charged and pulled into the criminal justice system ... or a teacher to be detained pending bail.”


It is estimated more than 50% of Canadian parents have used some form of physical discipline on their children, according to a legal brief filed in the case.


Justice McLachlin warned that repealing the section entirely would intrude too deeply into the autonomy of Canadian families.


“The reality is that without Section 43, Canada’s broad assault law would criminalize force falling far short of what we think is corporal punishment, like placing an unwilling child in a chair for a five-minute time-out.”


First included in the Criminal Code in 1892, the section originally allowed the use of corrective force against wives, employees and prisoners, as well as children.


The court adopted expert evidence concluding there is no benefit and it is even harmful to use physical force on children under two and on teenagers.


The court also determined that “corporal punishment using objects, such as rulers or belts, is physically and emotionally harmful.”


Teachers, who have the same protection from charges of assault as parents under the Criminal Code, should be more restricted, the court said.


“Contemporary social consensus is that, while teachers may sometimes use corrective force to remove children from classrooms or secure compliance with instructions, the use of corporal punishment by teachers is not acceptable.”


Dissenting justices Louise Arbour and Marie Deschamps would have struck down the federal law as a violation of the constitutional rights of children. Furthermore, Justice Arbour wrote, the section is so vaguely crafted that “Canadian courts have been unable to articulate a legal framework” for the section, despite past attempts.


Justice Arbour listed several unacceptable assaults in which adults have been acquitted by invoking the section, including the case of an eight-year-old boy who was kicked and beaten by his father for spilling sunflower seeds on the floor and a 15-year-old boy who was knocked down by his father’s punch.


Justice Ian Binnie, in a separate dissent, agreed with the majority that the law should be upheld for parents, but that teachers should not be given the same leeway.


The Canadian Teachers Federation praised the majority for retaining protection for educators.


President Terry Price said she expects that a limited number of school boards that still have corporal punishment policies on their books and allow straps in their schools will now remove them.


Federal lawyer Roslyn Levine praised the court for setting parameters, saying the ruling “tells parents where the boundaries are.”


The government stresses that using force against children should be discouraged and Health Canada’s published position is “it is never OK to spank children; it is a bad idea and it doesn’t work.”


Peter Dudding, executive director of the Child Welfare League, said the Supreme Court failed to force Canada to live up to its international treaty obligations to protect children.


“The court has tried to find a middle ground in all this, but the message is that children are still at risk in Canada,” he said.




The Fear of the Lord is Key to Keeping Children in Church, says Evangelist (Christian Post, 050315)


In his new book, the famous evangelist and author, Ray Comfort, introduces the key to guiding children to a path of salvation.


In “How to Bring Your Children to Christ and Keep Them There” (Genesis Publishing Group, 2005), Comfort presents important biblical principles that can be implemented to help prevent children from falling away from their faith.


According to Agape Press (AP), Comfort believes too many people in the church think all that is necessary for any child to be saved is merely to ask Christ into his or her heart.


“The correct way to bring a child to Christ and keep him there, by God’s grace, is to teach them the Commandments,” he says.


“And the reason for this is that, when they hit their teenage years and sin begins to rise in their hearts — specifically sexual sin — they will know that God condemns adultery, fornication, but it also considers lust to be adultery of the heart. So it brings the knowledge of sin.”


Comfort, who also leads several interdenominational ministries such as Living Waters Ministry and the Way of the Master, emphasizes the teaching of fearing the Lord.


“It is extremely important to instill the fear of the Lord in the hearts of children,” says the author. “In this way, adults can help to ensure that young people “have a reverence for God, and they do everything in the light of His frown or His smile.”


In his book, which is subtitled Avoiding the Tragedy of False Conversion, he asserts God’s law to be the basis for true conversion that follows biblical repentance — one’s recognition of sin (violation of God’s law) and a sincere understanding of God’s grace and mercy .


“People think the fear of the Lord is something that you should shun,” says the evangelist. “And this is because modern evangelism and popular preachers stay away from words like the fear of God, hell, Judgment Day, repentance, and all this sort of stuff because they don’t want to make people feel guilty.”


Guilt and fear, if presented in a biblical and complete manner, are regarded by Comfort as “appropriate responses to the gospel.”


“To come to Christ, you have to feel guilty, because we are guilty,” Comfort explains. “And the Bible says, ‘the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.’ And, in fact, Jesus said, ‘Fear not him who has power to kill your body and afterwards can do no more.’ The Bible says it is ‘a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.’”


The Barna Research Group statistics show alarming results that 88% of children raised in evangelical homes leave church at the age of 18, never to return. [Kwing Hung: ??]


Comfort believes fewer young people will fall away if they are given a firm scriptural foundation for their genuine conversion to faith in Christ from the beginning.




Too Much TV Can Make Kids Bullies (Foxnews, 050404)


The more television a 4-year-old watches, the more likely he or she will become a bully in grade school, according to a new study.


“We have added bullying to the list of potential negative consequences of excessive television viewing along with obesity, inattention, and other types of aggression,” the researchers write.


Frederick J. Zimmerman, PhD, of the University of Washington, Seattle, and colleagues analyzed surveys of 1,266 4-year-olds enrolled in the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth. The researchers found that toddlers who watch more TV than average were 25% more likely to be called a bully by their mother.


The team looked at three potential predictors of bullying: parental emotional support (spanking, family mealtime, parent-child communication); early stimulation activities (recreational outings, reading, playtime); and the amount of TV watching, based on parental reports. Previous research shows that these three factors play a role in the development of bullies.


Bullying behaviors of kids aged 6 through 11 were also evaluated, with bullying determined by the mother’s characterization of the child.


Thirteen percent of moms said their child was a bully.


However, the risk of bullying can be prevented. The study found that 4-year-olds who receive early emotional support and have a stimulating home environment are less likely to turn into grade-school bullies.


Until now, there has been little research examining the early home environment and the risk of bullying. Researchers say that bullying may stem from a lack of stimulation and emotional support at home. They say however, that steps can be taken to potentially prevent this type of aggressive behavior.


The current study shows that toddlers whose parents bestow early emotional support and stimulation reap “substantial protective effects.”


The study is found in the April issue of Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.




Ten minutes with the author (, 050414)


Laura Hirschfeld Hollis


Interview with Rebecca Hagelin, columnist and author of the just-released book, Home Invasion: Protecting Your Family In a Culture That’s Stark Raving Mad.


Laura Hirschfeld Hollis:  Rebecca, what prompted you to write this book?  Was there one catalyzing experience?  Or more of a series of events or realizations?


Rebecca Hagelin: For nearly 4 years, I’ve written a column for and called “Heart Beat,” in which I examine social issues through the eyes of a mother. I’ve received tens of thousands of emails over the years from parents who feel helpless in fighting the plethora of cultural sewage that is swamping them and their children. I wanted to validate their concerns, and give them real help about how to take back their homes and protect their children.


LHH:  What did you think was the unique or distinctive voice that you could bring to the current national conversation about culture, parenthood, etc.?


RH:  I’ve worked on family policy issues for some twenty years and I’ve seen how intense the battle is to preserve the family and forces that are allied against traditional values. But I’m also a mother of three, and I struggle with many of the same day-to-day challenges as other moms all across the country. I guess you could say that my battles in Washington have made me realize that most of the answers to family problems lie in the hands of each of us—of moms and dads—and that if we don’t use our amazing influence over our children, we will lose them. Acts of Congress are important, but it doesn’t take an act of Congress to build character in a child. It takes a loving committed parent.


LHH:  Based on your in-depth descriptions in the book, much of your perspective is formed in your Christian upbringing.  Are there principles in the book that you believe would resonate with parents of all faiths, or even parents who view themselves as atheists, agnostics, or questioning?  If so, what are those principles?  How do you try to reach those audiences?


RH:  My faith isn’t a part of my life—it is my life. Common to all men, women and children is the longing inside of us for purpose and meaning. The greatest message in the history of the world is that God loves each and every one of us, and that we have intrinsic value in His eyes. The two greatest commandments, “Love God with all your heart; and love your neighbor as yourself” are not just tenants of Christian faith. They are eternal truths that work for individuals and society as a whole.


LHH:  If you could distill the entire book down into a one-sentence (or one phrase) message, what would it be?


RH: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”


LHH:  What, in your view, is the single biggest threat to the family today?


RH:  The single biggest threat to today’s families is the destruction of the family unit itself. Every single civil society that has flourished has been based on a solid family unit. Our culture has been dismantling the family unit bit by bit over the last 30 years and destroying the individuals in it. In this decade, the culture is after our kids.


LHH:  What do you think is the single most important thing that parents can do to raise healthy children/preserve their innocence/maintain the integrity of the family?


RH:  Parents must pass on to their children an understanding that they are loved by God and are of high value to Him. A child that understands his intrinsic worth is a child that can develop into his full potential.


LHH:  One of the things I remarked upon in your book is that, although you identify cultural sources of content you disapprove of, you lay the responsibility for healthy families and children at the feet of parents (rather than simply blaming faceless corporate conglomerates or coming up with conspiracy theories).  What is the most frustrating trend you have noticed in parents today in that respect?


RH:  There are actually three disturbing trends I see in today’s parents. 1. Many of us seem to be just too overwhelmed or tired to fight the culture 2. Others seem to be too self-absorbed and distracted to know what’s going on. And the third most disturbing trend is that many parents who feel uncomfortable with the culture just don’t have the guts to stand up to it. In other words, many parents never learned how to deal with peer pressure themselves, so how on earth are they ever going to teach their kids to deal with it?


LHH:  How long did it take you to write the book?


RH:  It took me 17 years of parenting to write the book! I’ve been writing it in my head for years! But to actually put it all together only took 2 months. I had a framework for much of what I wanted to say in the columns I’ve written over the last 4 years, so it was a matter of expanding and building on the ideas I’ve been concerned with for a long time.


LHH:  There is a general sense that the preteen and teenager years must, of necessity, be filled with conflict, hostility and frustration.  Many parents dread that aspect of childrearing—and even throw up their hands and abdicate parental responsibilities in the face of what they view as insurmountable pressures from our culture.  As the parent of three teenagers, what do you think are the most important things parents can do to foster the right kind of independence, while preserving the right amount of control?


RH: That is a defeatist attitude that sells our children short of what should be glorious years of adolescence to say that it is a time for their worst. Of course the teen years are filled with raging hormones and challenges! But it doesn’t have to be a negative! As our kids begin to develop into adults, it can be amazingly joyous if you understand the process as the beautiful miracle it is. At the very core of success is to ensure that your children know they are loved deeply, have a high value, and also that they have always understood the difference between good and evil.


LHH:  This is my personal opinion—and I’d like your comment.  I now tell my friends the following:  “I view televisions and computers in other people’s homes the way some people view guns in other people’s homes.  Do I object to you having them?  No.  But I will not allow my children to be in your home if they have access to those things unsupervised by you, or supervised in a way of which I disapprove.”  Would you agree?


RH:  My goodness, your analogy is brilliant! Technology offers us incredible opportunities and places immense information and even the world at our feet. But it can also be misused, and when it is—can be inaudibly degrading. We must take the good technology can do for us and separate it from the poison.


Laura Hirschfeld Hollis describes herself as a pro-life Libertarian. She received her B.A. and law degree from the University of Notre Dame. She is Associate Director of the Academy for Entrepreneurial Leadership at the University of Illinois, where she also teaches introductory courses in entrepreneurship and in law.  She recently reviewed Home Invasion for




Mothers alliance decries challenge of pop culture (Washington Times, 050503)


Most mothers, regardless of whether they work or stay at home, are dedicated to their children but fear popular culture is undermining their efforts to raise children with “positive values,” according to a new study of more than 2,000 mothers.


Among mothers’ top goals: reduce family violence, promote healthy marriages and find ways to help mothers spend more time with their families.


Mothers’ voices need to be heard, said Martha Farrell Erickson, lead researcher of the study, which was released yesterday by the Institute for American Values (IAV) in New York.


“Lots of people have been talking about mothers, but very few have been listening to mothers — especially mothers from many walks of life,” said Mrs. Erickson, a scholar at the Children, Youth and Family Consortium at the University of Minnesota.


Mothers are passionate about their children and their roles as mothers, but they also agree that childhood “is not a protected time,” said Enola G. Aird, director of the IAV’s Motherhood Project.


Ninety-five percent of mothers say they wish “American culture made it easier to instill positive values in children,” she noted.


The IAV study was conducted earlier this year and included a telephone survey of 2,009 mothers plus interviews with groups of mothers. The mothers, all of whom had minor children, represented a broad range of economic, and educational levels and family types. Researchers with the University of Connecticut participated in the survey.


Despite the mothers’ diversity, they often agreed on core values: More than 90% said their love for their children was “unlike any other love” they’ve experienced, and 81% said being a mother is “the most important thing I do.” Another 83% strongly agreed that their care of their children is so unique that “no one else can replace it.”


The study also found that most mothers felt besieged by financial worries and “negative influences” in the American culture.


Most of the mothers worked — 41% full time and 21% part time. But the strongest preferences either were to work part time or from home. Only 16% of mothers said full-time work was “ideal.”


The study found “no significant evidence” to support what the popular media sometimes refer to as the “mommy wars,” in which mothers in the work force are at odds with mothers who stay home. But it found a strong indication that most mothers worry about materialism — 88% agreed that “money has too much control over our lives.”


American popular culture — particularly entertainment and advertising — also concerned mothers. More than 80% agreed that society as a whole should do more to protect children from “adult” aspects of the world.


Other solutions included elevating more mothers to positions of power and working with fathers to tackle social problems.


Separately, another survey of more than 1,000 mothers came to similar conclusions.


American mothers are satisfied with their lives, content with the choices they make and think they are doing a good job as mothers, said the “Voice of Mom” report card, issued yesterday by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research.


“That said, moms need and want help,” the firm said. Mothers “do not believe the nation as a whole gives them the support they need” and are “fairly critical” of the direction of the country, both economically and morally.




Should Parents Be Licensed? An Ominous New Debate (Christian Post, 050503)


The last century has witnessed some of the most divisive and confrontational debates in human history—and many of these have focused on the institution of the family. Arguments over marriage, sexuality, reproduction, and justice have placed a giant question mark over the family, subjecting civilization’s most basic institution to both social transformation and cultural subversion.


Now, two generations after the contraceptive revolution, the very right of parents to bear and raise children is under renewed attack. The implications of this debate will range far beyond the question of parental fitness. Inevitably, the real issue is whether the state can or should exert a totalitarian power and influence over the reproductive decisions of its citizens.


The opening salvo in the debate over licensing parents was fired by philosopher Hugh LaFollette, whose 1980 volume, Licensing Parents, set the agenda for formal debate. Published by Princeton University Press, LaFollette’s book was ahead of its time. Now, a quarter century later, the debate is almost certain to be renewed.


Evidence of this comes in the form of Should Parents Be Licensed? Debating the Issues, edited by Peg Tittle. An ethicist and philosopher, Tittle introduces a lively and interesting series of essays. “Would-be teachers are generally required to study full-time for at least eight months before the state will allow them the responsibility of educating children for six hours a day once they become six years of age. Many would say we have set the bar too low. And yet we haven’t even set the bar as high—in fact we haven’t set a bar at all—for parents,” she asserts.


Clearly, Tittle believes that parents should be required to gain a license in order to bear and raise children. She argues that today’s society pays insufficient attention to the needs of children, and fails children specifically by failing to require a minimum standard of expertise from their parents.


As Tittle sees it, “having children is not always a good thing.” Indeed, she believes that some forms of parenting are simply “immoral.” While she obviously has clear cases of parental neglect in mind, she also implies that her understanding of “moral” parenting is tied to a radical liberalism that would see conservative parents—especially conservative Christian parents—as dangerous or unfit.


As she explains, “Licensing would also emphatically underscore the immorality of various kinds of parenting, and penalties for parenting without a license or for somehow ‘violating’ the license might act to deter people from such parenting.” Most of the essays in this volume imply that the coercive power of the state must be employed in the licensing process. “To license parents is not just to say that some parenting is immoral,” Tittle acknowledges; “rather, it is to go one step further and say that some parenting should be illegal, presumably, but not necessarily, because it is immoral.”


While the very question of licensing parents seems like the rerun of a bad movie from the 1960s, the issue has emerged again in connection with the use of new reproductive technologies. Questions of access to these technologies, and questions about the morality of reproductive decisions, implies that these questions could—and some would argue should—be pushed back to “natural” forms of reproduction as well.


LaFollette’s essay remains the touchstone of the movement to require licensing for parents. “Our society normally regulates a certain range of activities; it is illegal to perform these activities unless one has received prior permission to do so,” LaFollette explains. “We require automobile operators to have licenses. We forbid people from practicing medicine, law, pharmacy, or psychiatry unless they have satisfied certain licensing requirements.” Thus, “any activity that is potentially harmful to others and requires certain demonstrated competence for its safe performance, is subject to regulation—that is, it is theoretically desirable that we regulate it.”


LaFollette sees parenting as “an activity potentially very harmful to children.” He points to instances of parental abuse or neglect and argues that the prevention of such abuse would alone justify a licensing requirement for parents. Added to this, LaFollette argues that some persons lack a minimal competence for parenting. Licensing of parents should be required, “not because state intrusion is inherently judicious and efficacious, but simply because it seems to be the best way to prevent children from being reared by incompetent parents.”


Why would this idea be met with resistance? “I suspect the answer is found in a long-held, deeply ingrained attitude toward children, repeatedly reaffirmed in recent court decisions, and present, at least to some degree, in almost all of us,” LaFollette suggests. “The belief is that parents own, or at least have natural sovereignty over, their children. It does not matter precisely how this belief is described, since on both views parents legitimately exercise extensive and virtually unlimited control over their children. Others can properly interfere with or criticize parental decisions only in unusual and tightly prescribed circumstances—for example, when parents severely and repeatedly abuse their children. In all other cases, the parents reign supreme.”


This assertion of parental rights and parental authority is both concise and accurate. Indeed, belief in parental sovereignty over children has been one of the most important means by which the state has acknowledged the primacy of the family, and thus the limits of its own power.


LaFollette rejects this claim out of hand. “This belief is abhorrent and needs to be supplanted with a more child-centered view,” he boldly asserts.


Some have taken this argument even further. Margaret Battin, addressing the issue of population control, has suggested that the state might require all persons to use “automatic reversible contraception” that could be reversed only by the authority of the state. The state would allow only those persons it deems qualified for parenting to breed, bear, and raise offspring.


All this leads to a fascinating collision of the claims put forth by various moral philosophers, all working from a basically secular worldview. The idea that the state should require parents to be licensed in order to reproduce flies into direct conflict with Professor John Robertson’s assertion that all persons possess a basic right to “procreative liberty.” Robertson, who teaches at the University of Texas, would extend this right of procreative liberty to virtually unrestricted access to reproductive technologies and eugenic mechanisms.


The idea that some decisions to procreate could be characterized as “immoral” requires explanation and elaboration. Some of the contributors to this volume argue that genetic screening should be used in order to prevent “immoral” births from taking place—births of those deemed unworthy in terms of genetic disease or other defects. Others would extend such concerns to matters of economic viability, arguing that parents should not be allowed to have more children than they can afford. Edgar R. Chasteen, for many years Professor of Sociology and Anthropology at William Jewell College, acknowledges that this would mean limiting the rights of parents. “Laws have been passed that severely restrict the rights of parents over their own children,” he notes. “Compulsory school attendance laws, health laws, delinquency laws, housing laws—all have translated parental rights into privileges. The next logical extension of this process is to make it a privilege to have children. Such laws would serve not only to defuse the population bomb, but also to protect firstborn children against the too prolific reproduction of their parents.”


Roger McIntire, Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the University of Maryland, calls for a complete reconsideration of “the currently sacred ‘right to parent’.” Noting that adoption agencies screen potential parents, he argues that the state should extend this same process to all prospective parents. “Screening and selecting potential parents by no means guarantees that they will in fact be good parents. Yet today we have almost no means of ensuring proper child-rearing methods. The indiscriminate ‘right to parent’ enables everyone, however ill-equipped, to practice any parental behavior they please.” Similarly, Jack Westman, for many years Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin Medical School, suggests that parents should be licensed at different stages of a child’s life. The requirement of a license would “provide a basis for eligibility for governmental financial aid and supportive services in order to ensure that public funding supports competent and not incompetent parenting.” The requirement of a license “would designate parenthood as a privilege for which one is qualified rather than as a right that accompanies the event of childbirth. It would define parenthood realistically as a relationship rather than as a biologically determined state.”


Make no mistake. These calls for parents to be licensed, radical as they may seem, are the logical extension of other arguments that are now taken for granted in many circles. The natural family is under sustained attack from advocates of sexual revolution and agents of state power.


While all morally sensitive persons should be concerned about cases of parental neglect and abuse, the real agenda behind this movement is the replacement of parental authority with the authority of the state. In reality, the right to procreate remains one of the most significant checks against the otherwise unrestrained power of the state.


The family has already been stripped of many of its responsibilities and protections. Parents are now threatened by state intrusion and bureaucratic interference. An army of social workers, educational bureaucrats, and therapeutic specialists insist that they know best and that children should be nurtured, disciplined, instructed, and socialized in accordance with their own worldviews. The idea of requiring a license in order to bear children strikes at the very heart of what it means to be human, and what it means to be part of the human family. Watch this debate closely, for it is gaining steam.




R. Albert Mohler, Jr. is president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.




Faith of our fathers (, 050610)


Rebecca Hagelin


Should we fear a man who prays?


Some liberals think that we should. They’re apparently comfortable, to judge from Father’s Day advertisements, with men who fish, golf, repair things and fix hamburgers on the grill. But one who goes to church every week, or who prays daily with his children, is viewed with suspicion, if not downright hostility.


W. Bradford Wilcox, a sociologist at the University of Virginia and author of “Soft Patriarchs, New Men: How Christianity Shapes Fathers and Husbands,” made this point in a paper recently published by The Heritage Foundation. Some feminists and journalists believe that religion, especially Evangelicalism, is “a key factor in stalling the gender revolution at home,” Wilcox noted.


“In 1998, in the wake of the Southern Baptist convention, journalists Steve and Cokie Roberts claimed that the conservative Protestant gender ideology ‘can clearly lead to abuse both physical and emotional,’ Wilcox said. “John Gottmann, who is one of the leading psychologists of the family at the University of Washington, has argued that the religious right is pushing ‘fathers toward authoritarian parenting in child-rearing.’”


And those are the more moderate charges. Listen to groups such as the National Organization for Women (NOW) take on Promise Keepers, for example, and you’ll hear more hysterical charges. “This organization breeds bigots,” NOW’s Web site says. “Underneath the façade of Christian religion are the workings of the radical religious right, mobilizing men against the rights of women, lesbians, and gays.


Let’s remember they blame women’s equality for society’s ills.” Their agenda is one of “submission, racism and homophobia.”


Professor Wilcox, on the other hand, has taken a cool-headed look at the data — and found that it makes a strong case for religion as a positive force for families. Indeed, religion is a primary predictor of how men approach the world, fatherhood, household labor and marriage — more than education, location or other factors. (Note: Although his work focuses on Protestants, Wilcox says similar patterns exist for traditional Catholics and Orthodox Jews.)


Wilcox’s book focuses on two concepts: familism — the idea that family is society’s paramount institution and individuals have responsibilities to their family members — and gender traditionalism — the idea that men should be the primary breadwinners.


Using data from the National Survey of Families and Households, he found that belief in both concepts is significantly higher (between 20 and 30%age points) among active Evangelical family men than among men with no religious affiliation.


We also see religion’s beneficial effect when it comes to fatherhood. Church-going fathers are more involved with their children “They’re more affectionate, and they’re stricter with their kids,” Wilcox says. “We can see, for instance, in youth-related activities that active Evangelical dads spend about 3.5 hours more per week compared to unaffiliated dads.”


Do these religious fathers do more housework than non-religious fathers? No, but the difference isn’t that great. And, Wilcox notes, “wives of active Evangelical Protestants report higher levels of appreciation for their housework … whereas wives of unaffiliated men report comparative low levels of appreciation.” Interesting, the wives of active Evangelical Protestants also report the lowest level of domestic violence (2.8% versus 3.2%).


Religion, in short, is a powerful influence for good within families, but why? Wilcox cites four reasons: For one thing, it provides key “family-oriented rituals,” such as baptisms, that give fatherhood a religious character. Second, churches host activities that allow men to spend time with their families. Third, churches are often home to social networks that lend support at crucial times. Last, but certainly not least, is spirituality. As Wilcox puts it:


“There’s a sense that God is a part of their lives and gives emotional security to them. This is important because one of the key factors leading to marital problems and problems with parenting is stress. Things like unemployment, especially for men, or a death in the family can lead to poor parenting or poor marriage behaviors for men. If men can offer these problems up to God, God can provide them with a sense of security and direction in terms of how to deal with these things in a productive way.”


Amen. As I write in my book Home Invasion, fathers should add tangible spiritual elements to family life. This means taking your family to church, of course, because being active in a congregation grounds you in faith. But it also means bringing spirituality into your home. Play spiritual music. Incorporate grace into mealtimes. Institute regular family prayer and study. Talk about what you believe, why you believe it, and how it applies to your daily lives.


Dads, you know you can expect some nice gifts from your families when Father’s Day arrives on the 19th. And from homemade artwork to the inevitable tie, they will be things you treasure. But nothing compares to what you can give them all year long — the gift of faith.




Father Is the Best (, 050617)


Rich Lowry


Dad is countercultural. If he is responsible, loving, and married, he might seem boring and a constant provocation to his eye-rolling teenage children, but he stands at the ramparts of a movement to save the country from the most destructive trend of the past 30 years: father absence.


The proportion of out-of-wedlock births rose 600% from 1960 to 2000, and the divorce rate more than doubled between 1965 and 1980. Roughly 24 million children now live in homes where the biological father is absent — about one out of every three children. This is a social disaster. Children need their fathers, and they need them in the home, which, as a practical matter, means their fathers have to be married to their mothers.


This is a thoroughly commonsensical notion, but so retrograde that almost no one dared utter it for a couple of decades. Not anymore. Even left-leaning intellectuals like Isabel Sawhill of The Brookings Institution and Bill Galston of the University of Maryland are forthright supporters of intact married families. But much of the Left still can’t muster enthusiasm for fathers as anything other than the men who should, if circumstances warrant, be forced to make child-support payments.


The evidence for the importance of traditional fatherhood is overwhelming. “Children who grow up in father-absent homes are more likely to suffer from child abuse, poverty, low academic achievement, drug use, emotional and behavioral problems, and suicide,” according to a report from the influential National Fatherhood Initiative (from which most of the data in this column is drawn).


As anyone who has ever had a father — i.e., all of us — should know, a father’s love is irreplaceable. Research shows that withdrawal of love by either the father or mother is equally important in predicting a child’s well-being. So much for only mothers being the “nurturing ones.” And nothing so endangers a child’s reliably receiving the love of a father than family breakup.


Twenty years after a divorce, one-quarter of girls and less than a third of boys say they are close with their fathers. In contrast, 70% of children of intact families say they have close relationships with their fathers. Half of children living without their fathers have never been in their fathers’ homes. In one study, only 27% of children older than 4 saw their nonresident father at least once a week in the past year, and 31% had no contact whatsoever.


The rates of out-of-wedlock births and divorce have leveled off recently. But cohabitation — no substitute for marriage — has continued to climb. Children of cohabiting parents are closer in their indicators of well-being to the children of single parents than they are to children of two-parent families. Three-quarters of cohabiting parents split up before their children reach age 16.


So, promoting involved fatherhood means promoting marriage. That will require a broad-based effort of government and the private sector. Roughly half of unmarried mothers are living together with the father at the time of the child’s birth, and another one-third are still romantically involved with him. The trick is to convert these relationships into marriage, which the Bush administration wants to attempt by including marriage-promotion measures in a new round of welfare reform. As welfare guru Robert Rector of The Heritage Foundation argues, two-thirds of black children are born out of wedlock — but it can’t be that two-thirds of black men are, as critics of the Bush proposal sometimes suggest, “un-marriageable.”


Middle-income couples are obviously part of the equation too. The culture should be attempting to reach them with the message that all marriages have problems and usually they are soluble. An activist named Mike McManus has been promoting pre-marriage counseling through churches for young couples. A public-interested philanthropist could do worse than pouring resources into an expanded version of his “Marriage Savers” program.


In the meantime, give dear old traditional dad his due. He might not be cool, but he’s important. We need more of him.




Dad, we need you (, 050617)


Rebecca Hagelin


Dad, we need you.


It’s a simple message, but one rarely heard in today’s culture.  The sad reality is that we live in a society where the message to fathers is, “You’re irrelevant. You’re useless. You are a loser.”  Just flip on the television: commercials and sitcoms portray fathers as wimpy and ignorant.  Men are depicted as lazy, uninvolved, unwanted, and/or impotent.


Dads, I’ve got news. Your family needs you. Society needs you.  Your sons and daughters need you.  Good dads have been the backbone of strong families, the secret behind happy children, and the zing in the step of satisfied wives throughout history.


So dear dads, this Father’s Day, I honor all of you who have rejected the messages of a crazy culture that seeks to devalue you. I applaud those of you who, despite the hysterical screams of raging feminists, still open the doors for women.  I extol men who protect your daughters and sons from those who seek to rob them of their innocence and their best futures. Thank you for your strong character, your courage, and for standing up for truth.


Along with the honor of being a father comes tremendous responsibility.  In my newly released book, “Home Invasion: Protecting Your Family in a Culture That’s Gone Stark Raving Mad”, I dedicate an entire chapter to Dads, outlining a half a dozen virtues that are particularly important for fathers to model for their families.  Included in my list are reverence, commitment, honesty, pleasantness and respect, fitness and communication.  I’ve excerpted below the section on reverence:


Your child is more likely to be exposed to diphtheria than to any display of sincere reverence outside of church. Nothing in today’s secular and godless society is recognized as sacred or holy. The concept of God, even the word itself (except used in profanity), is foreign to any kid that does not get it at home. Fathers, the impact you have on your own child if you are a man of faith will be immeasurable. In Chapter Four, I shared a personal story of my own father’s faith that has served to guide me throughout my life. If you think long enough, you too probably have a vivid memory of your own father’s faith—or sadly, his lack thereof—that still lives with you. Both images are powerful; one is a powerful force for good in our kids’ lives, and the other, a powerful force for destruction.


Start by examining your own faith and deciding in what you believe. Once you have, practice living your faith in front of and with your children.


It’s up to dads to eliminate the profane and irreverent form your home. This includes not only television programming and music that transmit the wrong messages but also your own language, and the books and magazines you read.


If you are truly going to fight the culture and raise children who will stand up for what is right, you must teach your sons and daughters that certain language and images are not acceptable.


I never—even once—heard my father utter a curse word. And my kids have never heard my husband utter one. Guess what? Even though I have three teenagers, I’ve never heard any of them curse either. The power of example cannot be overstated.


As far as magazines are concerned, let me blunt. If you’re into girly magazines, throw them away. I once knew a woman whose husband was consumed by pornography. His wife knew it-and he knew she knew—but he didn’t care. He was actually shocked when they got divorced and his wife explained, “Having all these magazines was like having a mistress in our bedroom.” How heartbreaking.


Dads, when boys see their fathers reading girly magazines, they develop a warped view of women. When girls see their fathers reading girly magazines, they develop a warped view of themselves. What good father would intentionally implant these distorted messages in his children’s minds?


In addition to having your own spiritual life in order, you dads need to add tangible spiritual elements to the family’s life. Take your family to church. Being active in a congregation will ground all of you in faith; it will also help you identify others in your area that are likely to share your values. If you don’t go regularly, why don’t you commit to doing so? It’s important that your family identify with a body and has a place of faith to call its own.


Bring spirituality into your home. This is easy to do. Include some spiritual music in the play list of background music that’s on your home stereo. Incorporate grace into mealtimes. Better yet, institute regular family prayer and study. Many good study guides are available through religious publishers. Discussion of what you believe, why you believe it, and how it applies to your daily life enrich these opportunities for family sharing.


The foundation of the character we all desire for our children is laid at an early age within the sheltered environment of the home. Dads, a lot is riding on your shoulders, and little eyes are always watching. Go ahead, be the dad of your child’s dreams. You will be loved for it.




Have Children Forgotten How to Play Outdoors? (Christian Post, 050825)


Author Richard Louv believes that America’s children are now suffering from a syndrome he identifies as “nature-deficit disorder.” In his new book, Last Child in the Woods, Louv suggests that the current generation of American children knows the Discovery Channel better than their own backyards—and that this loss of contact with nature leads to impoverished lives and stunted imagination.


Louv begins by recounting an anecdote involving his son, Matthew. When the boy was about ten years of age, he asked his father: “Dad, how come it was more fun when you were a kid?” The boy was honestly reflecting on his knowledge of his father’s boyhood. Richard Louv, like most of us who came of age in his generation, spent most of our playing time outdoors, building forts in the woods, exploring every nook and cranny of our yards, and participating in activities that centered in child-organized outdoor fun. Louv reflects, “Americans around my age, baby boomers or older, enjoyed a kind of free, natural play that seems, in the era of kid pagers, instant messaging, and Nintendo, like a quaint artifact.”


Louv argues that this represents nothing less than a sudden shift in the way Americans live, raise their children, and engage the natural world. “Within the space of a few decades, the way children understand and experience nature has changed radically. The polarity of the relationship has reversed. Today, kids are aware of the global threats to the environment—but their physical contact, their intimacy with nature, is fading. That’s exactly the opposite of how it was when I was a child.”


Looking back, Louv remembers holding to a rather simplistic view of his environment. “As a boy, I was unaware that my woods were ecologically connected with any other forest. No one in the 1950s talked about acid rain or holes in the ozone layer or global warming. But I knew my woods and my field; I knew every bend in the creek and dip in the beaten dirt path. I wandered those woods even in my dreams.” The situation is far different now. As Louv reflects, “A kid today can likely tell you about the Amazon rainforest—but not about the last time he or she explored the woods in solitude, or lay in a field listening to the wind and watching the clouds move.”


In this book, Richard Louv is articulating what many of us have been thinking. I recognize that my own boyhood is far removed from that of my son. It seems as if the world has been drastically changed. I grew up in neighborhoods that were typically suburban. Nevertheless, the woods were always nearby. For me, the “woods” included untamed tracts of land that were awaiting future suburban development. Nevertheless, this land was filled with trees, swamps, creeks, snakes, crawdads, and all the creeping and crawling things that used to call boys out into the woods.


Louv understands that this transformation of the way we encounter nature extends even to activities that are supposedly focused on nature itself. “Not that long ago, summer camp was a place where you camped, hiked in the woods, learned about plants and animals, or told firelight stories about ghosts or mountain lions,” Louv recalls. “As likely as not today, ‘summer camp’ is a weight-loss camp, or a computer camp. For a new generation, nature is more abstraction than reality. Increasingly, nature is something to watch, to consume, to wear—to ignore.”


In reality, many children have almost no contact with nature. They play indoors, focusing on electronic screens that produce an artificial experience. They are surrounded by creature comforts and watched over by anxious parents who are afraid that violent criminals are lurking behind every green tree. “Our society is teaching young people to avoid direct experience in nature,” Louv observes. “That lesson is delivered in schools, families, even organizations devoted to the outdoors, and codified into the legal and regulatory structures of many of our communities.”


The larger cultural context is part of the problem. Louv notes that the academic world now seems far more interested in theoretical disciplines than in subjects like natural history and zoology. Beyond this, the biotechnology revolution threatens to blur the lines between humans and other animals—and the line between humans and machines.


Is contact with nature necessary for healthy childhood? Louv is absolutely confident that children have a deep need for contact with the natural world and its wonders. “Unlike television, nature does not steal time; it amplifies it,” Louv insists. In his view, “whatever shape nature takes, it offers each child an older, larger world separate from parents.” The natural world offers children an opportunity to think, dream, touch, and play out fantasies about how he or she imagines the world. Nature brings a capacity for wonder and a connection with something real that is endlessly fascinating and largely outside human control.


Louv tells of interviewing thousands of children in the course of previous research. At one point, he received this candid comment from a fourth-grade boy in San Diego: “I like to play indoors better, ‘cause that’s where all the electrical outlets are.”


In the experience of all too many children, the electrical outlets are the determining reality. We have allowed our children to be so seduced by entertainment and information technologies that many believe that without electricity, experience is virtually impossible.


As one mom noted, children now spend much of their time watching. “We’ve become a more sedentary society,” she observes. “When I was a kid growing up in Detroit, we were always outdoors. The kids who stayed indoors were the odd ones. We didn’t have any huge wide-open spaces, but we were always outdoors on the streets—in the vacant lots, jumping rope, or playing baseball or hopscotch. We were out there playing even after we got older.”


Many of today’s children show little inclination to go outdoors at all. Louv describes the environment as experienced by many American children as the “third frontier”—an environment that is characterized by increasing distance from nature, an intellectualized understanding of the animal world, and a disconnection in the human consciousness between food and its origins.


That last point is of particular interest. Louv observes that many children have little knowledge of how food is produced. Lacking any experience with farming, livestock, and the food chain, these children simply assume that food is produced by something like a factory process. Young people may join animal rights groups without knowing anything about the actual animals involved. Louv argues that many college students become vegetarians without understanding that vegetables and vegetable byproducts are not manufactured indoors.


Richard Louv is a keen observer—watching our culture and taking careful note of how nature has become an abstraction for many of us. Why are so many Americans putting television and video screens in their vehicles? Louv observes: “The highway’s edges may not be postcard perfect. But for a century, children’s early understanding of how cities and nature fit together was gained from the backseat: the empty farmhouse at the edge of the subdivision; the variety of architecture, here and there; the woods and fields and water beyond the seamy edges—all that was and still is available to the eye. This was the landscape that we watched as children. It was our drive-by movie.”


These days, many parents allow kids to start the DVD player as soon as the car hits the interstate.


Interestingly, Louv also points to the epidemic of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder [ADHD], suggesting that a lack of contact with nature may be, at least in part, a cause for the attention deficit and disconnectedness experienced by many young children—especially young boys. He suggests that a “nature-deficit disorder” may be behind the phenomenon now routinely diagnosed as ADHD. Louv goes so far as to suggest that a dose of real contact with the natural world may be more powerful than Ritalin in helping children to overcome patterns of hyperactivity and distraction. The same prescription would likely help parents as well.


Richard Louv is a champion of nature, and Last Child in the Woods is a powerful call for human beings to reconnect with the natural world. It would do us all a world of good to take a walk in the woods, to play outdoors, and to remember that the world is filled with a variety of flora and fauna that defies the imagination and thrills the senses.


Last Child in the Woods is a fascinating book, though at times, Louv leans toward a form of nature mysticism. Nevertheless, Christians will read this book to great profit, remembering that the biblical worldview presents an affirmation of the goodness of creation. After all, Christians know that every atom and molecule of creation testifies of the glory of God.


This is our Father’s world, and we would do well to receive this world and enjoy it, while giving praise and glory to God for the beauty and bounty it contains. We understand that nature is not an end to itself, and we affirm that the creation exists as the theater of God’s glory for the drama of redemption. All this should help Christians to remember that we honor God most faithfully when we receive His good gifts most gratefully.


Christians should take the lead in reconnecting with nature and disconnecting from machines. Taking the kids for a long walk in the woods would be a great start.




R. Albert Mohler, Jr. is president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.




Tools in the daily battle (, 050913)


Rebecca Hagelin


It isn’t hard to convince most parents to enlist in the daily battle for the hearts and minds of their children — the evidence of cultural rot is all around. But many lack the practical tools they need to assure victory.


For those who doubt that we are, indeed, at war over our children, consider: They are the most marketed-to generation of kids in world history. They spend an estimated $150 billion to $200 billion a year on everything from music to clothes to high-tech gadgets. They enjoy more affluence and more toys than any generation before them. Yet they also suffer from depression, fractured families and self-absorption.


Mass marketers know how to get our teens to spend money: Feed their raging hormones and emotional roller coasters with adrenaline-pumping, non-stop messages of sex, violence and rebellion. So how do you shield them from the onslaught while instilling your own values?


The best place to start is your own home. In many cases, the American home has become a septic tank. Teens at school may share the Web addresses for pornographic sites, or dish about the wildest sex scenes on television, or recommend the latest violent video game, but it’s often in the privacy of their own bedrooms that they consume hour upon hour of sludge that is perverting their views of sexuality, relationships and life in general.

I believe that modern technology can be the great liberator of the American family, allowing more parents to work

at home. It also places the wonders of the world at our child’s fingertips, providing them with endless educational opportunities. But the Internet, cable television, etc., also can bring a lot of harmful images and messages into our homes. It’s up to parents to be pro-active and smart about making the most of the good and throwing out the bad.


Fortunately, it doesn’t take an act of Congress to reclaim your home. Here are three highly effective tools to keep your home from being pumped full of cultural sewage:


• If you have Internet access, get a filter. According to a study by the London School of Economics, nine out of 10 children ages eight to 16 who go online have viewed porn Web sites, usually while looking up information for homework assignments. Why make your kids vulnerable to perverts? Downloading a filter takes only a few keystrokes. My family uses the awesome filter from For about $50 a year, my children are protected 24/7 from online smut. The filter has a pass-code override for parents in case a site is mistakenly blocked, and users receive a weekly e-mail listing sites folks attempted to visit while in your home. (Sadly, I found the report particularly useful after a teenaged visitor spent a few days with our family this summer. It revealed that he had tried several times to visit hard-core porn sites late at night. I’ll be visiting the mother of this boy soon and have the difficult task of telling her what her son is up to.) I’ve used the Bsafe Online filter for three years and deeply appreciate those who developed this invaluable protection for my children.


• If you have cable television, you know there are some terrific programs and stations out there, but you also know there’s plenty of garbage. So how to enjoy good programs without being tormented by the others?  It’s easy — get parental controls.  And the best part is that most subscribers can get them for free. A few months ago the National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA) launched an initiative in which their affiliates will provide free parental controls to customers who request them. Since the NCTA represents some 90% of cable providers, chances are you’re eligible. Just log on to, and you’ll find out how to contact your local cable provider and obtain the equipment and monthly service for no charge. I have the controls on my digital-cable access and love being able to block programming based on rating, channel or other criteria.


• A third great site — and also free service — is where you can read excellent movie reviews. Don’t base your decisions solely on a ratings system or on the catchy descriptions in ads or on the backs of video rental boxes. provides in-depth reviews of content and messages so you can make more informed decisions about your movie choices. Using the service has helped me make wise choices for my kids on more occasions than I can count.


Of course, there are many other valuable resources (I included 38 pages of resources in my book, Home Invasion), and parents must understand that no system is foolproof. You are the best filter your kids could possibly have. But the above three Web sites can go a long way toward helping you protect your family from those whose values are not your own.




Courts hit parents with triple whammy (, 051219)


by Phyllis Schlafly


Federal judges have just hit parents with a triple whammy. Two appellate courts held that parents have no right to stop offensive, privacy-invading interrogation of their own children in public schools. In a third case, the U.S. Supreme Court indicated that it is not going to do anything to protect parental rights concerning schools.


It has become clear that many courts have adopted the notion that a village—in these cases, schools—should raise children. Judges prefer to side with schools and against parents.


When a New Jersey mother was horrified to learn that her daughter and classmates had been asked how many times they had tried to kill themselves, she filed suit to protect the rights of parents and pupils. She won on the first appeal to the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in C.N. v. Ridgewood Board of Education, but the school was relentless in litigation to assert its primary authority and the court finally ruled in favor of the school.


At issue was a 156-question survey called “Profiles of Student Life: Attitudes and Behaviors,” which probed students about their personal lives and activities. The survey included questions about sex, drugs, suicide, incriminating behavior, spirituality, tolerance and other personal matters.


Questions 92-93 in this survey given to Ridgewood children asked “how many times” they “had used cocaine” in their lives, or during the last 12 months, and the answer choices were 0, 1, 2, 3-5, 6-9, 10-19, 20-39, and 40+. This gave students the false impression that casual use of cocaine is common and acceptable.


Misleading questions can have a powerful effect. Our legal system recognizes this by providing dozens of reasons for lawyers to object to questions in court in order to protect their witnesses from having to answer improper questions.


Children lack the maturity to tell the difference between questions they should or should not answer. Children are trained in school that they must answer questions or face discipline or a poor grade.


Ask an adult when he stopped beating his wife and expect to be told to get lost. Ask a child in the classroom how often he takes drugs or has sex, and the child will think he ought to answer.


But judges who routinely uphold lawyers’ objections to improper questions in court think it is OK to ask offensive questions of children in school. In the Ridgewood decision, the court agreed with the parents that the students’ participation in the survey might have been mandatory, and conceded that the leading questions could be suggestive to students, but nevertheless ruled that parents’ and pupils’ rights were not violated.


The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals went further, marking the school door as the line where parents’ rights end and the “village” takes over. In Fields v. Palmdale School District in November, the judges ruled that the right of parents “does not extend beyond the threshold of the school door.”


Just last term, the U.S. Supreme Court devoted time and energy to a silly lawsuit over the replacement of a male teacher as coach of a girls basketball team. When a teacher has a complaint, the Supreme Court springs to attention; but when a parent has a complaint about indoctrination of his or her child, the high court doesn’t even want to hear about it.


In the same 30 days as the Ridgewood and Palmdale cases, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to review another parental rights case in Crowley v. McKinney. The high court is spending its time this term on a slew of cases about prisoners’ rights (even about the alleged right of prisoners to read pornographic magazines) rather than hear a single case about parents’ rights to raise their children.


In Crowley v. McKinney, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the parent, saying that the school has a constitutional right of “the autonomy of educational institutions.” The parent had appealed to the Supreme Court to recognize the “settled law” of Pierce v. Society of Sisters, which in 1925 recognized the constitutional right of parents to control the education of their own children.


Even though recognizing the Supreme Court’s holding in Pierce that “Oregon’s project of forcing all children to attend public schools implied a hostility to private education that had no footing in American traditions or educational policy,” the 7th Circuit ignored its application to the current case. Does forcing children to answer questions about sex, drugs and suicide have a “footing in American traditions”? Of course not.


It hasn’t grabbed the attention of the Supreme Court that the 3rd, 7th and 9th circuit courts have ignored the settled law of Pierce. You can bet the high court would take a case that requires testing schoolchildren for use of illegal drugs, yet the Supreme Court refuses to face the issue of requiring schoolchildren to participate in classroom surveys that suggests doing drugs is normal behavior.


Teachers are not required to answer these intrusive questions, so why are children? Evidently, parents are the only ones who do not benefit from equal protection of the law.




Media Messages Harm Child, Teen Health (Foxnews, 060403)


Too-Soon Sex, Obesity, Violence, Isolation Linked to Screen Time, Media Content


By Daniel DeNoon, WebMD Medical News


April 3, 2006 — TV, movies, video games, and Internet use — and inappropriate programs and ads — hurt children’s health.


That hurt begins early in the preschool years. It continues through adolescence, according to a wide-ranging series of studies in the April issue of Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine.


It doesn’t have to be this way. The power of the media can be a positive force. But the 15 new studies link media exposure to too-early sexual initiation, obesity, social isolation, and aggression.


It’s a “major public health issue,” Archives editors Dimitri A. Christakis, MD, MPH, and Frederick J. Zimmerman, PhD, University of Washington, Seattle, say in a news release. They note that electronic media “are among the most profound influences on children in this country” and that “this intersects with many other issues that are critically important to child health, including violence, obesity, tobacco/alcohol use, and risky sexual behaviors.”


WebMD took a closer look at three of the new studies.


TV and First Sex in Young Teens


We hear about the sexual content of television. But there have been surprisingly few scientific studies of the effect of television on kids’ sexual behavior, says M. Bruce Edmonson, MD, MPH, professor of pediatrics at the University of Wisconsin in Madison.


Edmonson’s research team looked at detailed information gathered in a national survey of adolescents. Each teen was interviewed two times, one year apart. The researchers looked at data on some 4,800 teens who were younger than 16 and who said they’d never had sexual intercourse.


At the second interview, about 15% of the teens said they’d started having sex. That’s not surprising, Edmonson says, as that’s about the national average. But other factors influenced the decision of these young teens to have sex. A major factor: TV.


TV and the Role of Parents


Overall, those who watched more than two hours of television a day were 35% more likely to have had sex. But this much television had much greater effects on some kids.


When the researchers looked at kids who said their parents strongly disapproved of them having sex, those who watched more than two hours of television a day were 70% more likely to have sex. And if sex-disapproving parents didn’t monitor their teens’ TV viewing, more than two hours a day of TV upped a teen’s odds of sexual initiation by 250%.


“Ironically, among kids whose parents strongly disapprove of them having sex, there is a mixed message,” Edmonson tells WebMD. “Parents try to tell kids they don’t approve, but TV gives them other messages. And by the time kids get to be teens, parents often give up on monitoring the programs they watch.”


By the time children are in their teens, it may be too late to begin restricting the kinds of TV they can watch, Edmonson says.


“There are different ways to attack this problem,” Edmonson says. “One way is for parents to get a little more aggressive about how much TV their kids watch — probably at an earlier age, so that issue of parental control is resolved before the child is too old and the parents just give up.”


Will this really help? Edmonson says he isn’t sure — but he’s trying to find out.


“We don’t really know if parents can monitor their kids’ media exposure, even if they try,” he says. “So that is the next phase of our research: to find out what parents should do and how they can do it. We don’t know yet.”


Edmonson warns against using the current study to make broad statements about the sexual content of television programs. Kids, he notes, are exposed to sex in all kinds of ways — not only in television programs and television ads, but also through the Internet, video games, and old-fashioned print media.


“We cannot stamp all that out,” he says. “But we are going to try to understand what obstacles parents face when they try to regulate what kids watch.”


A Lonely Spiral of Aggression


Kids who watch a lot of violence on TV may get sucked into a vortex of angry isolation, finds David S. Bickham, PhD, of Harvard’s Center on Media and Child Health.


Bickham’s data comes from detailed logs filled out by the parents of more than 3,500 children aged 6 to 12.


The findings reveal interesting patterns:


* The more time kids spend watching violent TV programs, the less time they spend with their friends. This isn’t true for nonviolent programs.


* The more time kids spend watching TV with friends, the more time they spend doing other things with their friends.


What does it mean? Bickham thinks that TV viewing is something kids do with their friends. Violent TV programs are known to make kids more aggressive. When kids watch violent TV by themselves, their aggressive behavior makes it harder for them to have friends. So what do they do? They watch more TV — becoming even more socially isolated, and even angrier.


“It says something when children choose to fill time with violent media,” Bickham tells WebMD. “And we do know that more aggressive kids watch more violent TV. Because of the way we know violent TV affects kids, the best explanation is cyclical. The kid is angry and is drawn to these violent, stimulating shows, becomes more aggressive, and, because of that aggression, becomes more isolated and watches more TV.”


This, Bickham says, may be where many bullies are born.


“Here we have violent, isolated kids, stewing and waiting for a moment to become aggressive,” he says. “These are kids who are likely to become bullies, or be victims of bullies because they are isolated, and waiting for a moment when they can lash out.”


It’s a wake-up call for parents to monitor not just how much TV their kids watch, but what kinds of programs they watch, and with whom.


“Good, educational TV can be very positive,” Bickham says. “This is not a death knell for TV. It is about what, specifically, children are watching. If we teach them violence, they are going to learn violence.”


TV: A Bad Babysitter


Very young kids aren’t immune to the negative effects of TV, finds pediatrician Julie C. Lumeng, MD, of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.


Lumeng led a team that looked at more than 1,000 preschool kids enrolled in a U.S. study.


Her main finding: 3-year-olds were three times more likely to be overweight if they spent two or more hours a day in a room with a TV on.


“People say, “Oh, but my child watches educational programs. But we found the content of TV was not related,” Lumeng tells WebMD. “You could be an upper-income family, with lots of educational toys in the room, watching educational videos. And your child is still at 3 times higher risk of overweight than kids who do not watch TV.”


What’s happening? Obviously, kids in a room with the TV on aren’t outside getting more exercise. But they’re also seeing TV ads. And TV ads on children’s programming tend to sell high-calorie junk foods.


“It is not just absence of exercise, but TV commercials,” Lumeng says. “Past studies have shown that the content of children’s TV commercials is overwhelmingly about junk food. And if you show kids commercials, they ask for the junk food. So it may be the TV, even at this early age, is shaping their food preferences.”


It’s easy to say that parents should follow the advice of the American Association of Pediatrics: Don’t let kids watch more than two hours of television a day. But that isn’t easy.


“For a parent it is a struggle. When the TV is off, kids need more guidance and attention,” Lumeng says. “Parents use TV as a babysitter. A lot of America’s 3- and 4-year-olds are home watching TV. Maybe we need preschool programs to get the kids out of the house and exposed to less television.”




Superkid Stress: Poll Shows Parents Fret Over Toddlers Success (Foxnews, 060814)


Today’s parents are stressed out about their children’s academic success and believe starting early is the key to achievement, according to a new poll.


In fact, 54% of parents of children aged 2 to 5 said they had anxiety about their child’s academic performance and 38% felt that their child was in competition with other kids. The new findings come from a telephone poll of about 1,000 parents of children aged 2 to 11 conducted in July 2006 by the National Parent and Teachers Association (PTA) in New York City, and the Public Broadcast Service (PBS) Parents.


More than 90% of all parents polled said that they believe that starting early to prepare their children for academic success is key. When the findings were broken down by income status, low-income families had significantly greater concerns about education and were three times more likely to think that they are not as able to help their child prepare for school as their richer counterparts.


Making Priorities


“Parents need to be very careful about how they pick their priorities in attempting to raise successful kids,” warns Michael J. Bradley, PhD, a clinical psychologist from Feasterville, Pa., and the author of several books including Yes,Your Teen is Crazy! Loving Your Kid without Losing Your Mind. “Our goal is not to raise an Ivy League student, our goal is to raise the future parents of our grandchildren.”


Close to 80% of all parents polled said that they think parents today do overschedule their children with extracurricular activities, but only one in eight think their own child is overscheduled. What’s more, two of three parents are satisfied with their child’s schedule.


“You have to decide what success means for your child,” Bradley tells WebMD. “For your neighbors’ kids, maybe it is six activities a day,” he tells WebMD. “Sometimes you have to get your blinders on.”


Structured vs. Unstructured Activities


Many parents often feel that structured activities — whether swimming or ballet — are the key to success, but the science says otherwise, he says. The learning that comes from unstructured activities may exceed the type of learning that children get from structured activities.


In Bradley’s list of the top five priorities for children, such activities are the least important.


“Don’t make the assumption that all kids should be in as many activities as possible,” he says.


Grades, too, rank low on his list. “If we go to war with our kids over grades and push them too far, it can be a battle won, but a war lost.” More important than activities and grades are your child’s heart, character, relationships, and his or her sense of identity.


Being a Role Model


“In the game of parenting, it’s not about the length of his hair, it’s about his heart,” Bradley says.


Set good examples, he says. “If you want a kid to be caring and compassionate, what are you showing them?”


Darrel Andrews, a motivational speaker and father of three kids in Bear, Del., agrees. He said that the best way to raise successful children is to be a good role model. “Before kids started to idolize actors and entertainers, they were walking around in our shoes,” he says.


“Your children need to see you as an example of the educational values you expect from them,” he says. In the poll, 88% of parents trust that their kids will get a good education, but 95% reported feeling responsible for continuing their child’s education at home. Make sure your kids see you reading books and newspapers, Andrews suggests. “Set the bar high.”




10 Signs You’re a Micromanaging Parent (Foxnews, 060410)


Child development experts explain why parental involvement sometimes goes too far.


You are a parent of the new millennium — caring, involved, and determined to help your child succeed. But there are times when your involvement could do more harm than good.


“Micromanagement goes against natural development,” says clinical psychologist and author Marc Nemiroff, PhD. “It takes away the child’s experience and [impedes] his learning how to handle himself in the world. Part of the job of the parent is not to do everything for the child, but to help him do things more and more independently.”


Gail Tanner, a third grade math teacher in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., agrees. “Kids don’t develop the skills they need to weather the rough spots in life if their parents never let them practice those skills.”


With that in mind, WebMD asked child development and parenting experts to identify 10 signs you may be micromanaging your child.


1. You constantly interfere during play dates.


“One of the telltale signs of micromanagement,” Nemiroff tells WebMD, “is during a play date when the parent steps in immediately” at the first sign of conflict. “The danger is the child doesn’t learn to be on his own in the world, to manage the conflicts that may arise.”


As long as safety isn’t an issue, parents should wait a few minutes before stepping in, says Benjamin Siegel, MD, a professor of pediatrics at Boston University School of Medicine. “You have to intervene if kids are getting hurt,” he tells WebMD, “but oftentimes they work it out themselves.” If you do have to step in, try to be an arbitrator rather than coming up with a solution for the children.


2. You obsess over what your child eats.


Many parents are overly concerned about what their children eat, Nemiroff says. “If a child is truly not eating enough and losing weight, that’s worth discussing with your pediatrician. But when you have a picky eater [who gets] sufficient protein, does it really matter?”


Arguing over food can set up an unhealthy power struggle, says Ruth A. Peters, PhD, a clinical psychologist and author of the parenting manual, Laying Down the Law. Peters cautions parents against becoming “control freaks” at meal time. “If the kid wants last night’s pizza for breakfast, that’s OK. If the kid won’t try a new food, so what? It’s OK to go along with the kid’s quirks.”


Clothing and Homework


3. You clash with your child over clothing.


Peters says parents should think about what’s important before arguing over clothes. “What’s important is safety, academics, and values,” she tells WebMD. “Pretty much anything short of that, you can begin to let go.” She recommends allowing children to “dress to fit in at their school, even if you think it’s dumb-looking. See it from their point of view, not always from your point of view.”


4. You interfere with your child’s homework.


Nemiroff says micromanaging homework time may be appropriate for children with certain learning disabilities, but not for the average student. “By second or third grade in a non-LD [learning disabled] child, the parent should have very little to do with homework, unless the child says, ‘Can you help me understand this problem?’ Once you clarify, you back away.” Parents who provide too much help with homework don’t give their children a chance to figure things out themselves, he says.


Tanner, the third grade teacher, recalls an intelligent student who was “not very confident in his ability to do things well. It didn’t take long to figure out why. His mom, a doctor, would do his projects for him ‘because he didn’t do them right.’ And he was more than happy to let her.” Tanner stresses that it’s fine to help when a child asks, but “if more than one teacher has hinted that you may be doing too much, then it’s probably time to listen.”


School and Sports


5. You argue with your child’s teacher over grades.


“Grades are between the kid and the teacher,” says Siegel, the pediatrician. Parents should “ask what their children are learning, show interest, praise them for their accomplishments, but don’t try to take over the teacher’s role.”


Tanner says parents who intervene every time their child brings home something less than an “A” create several problems:


* The child develops the unrealistic idea that he is always entitled to an “A.”

* The child never learns to advocate for himself.

* The child believes his parents will always fix everything that goes wrong.


“The goal of getting an ‘A’ is not nearly as important as developing the skills to be independent, capable, thinking adults,” Tanner tells WebMD. “Children need to be allowed to make mistakes and learn from them. They need to struggle through difficult tasks and learn to persevere.”


6. You argue with your child’s coach over plays.


“Attending soccer games is very important,” Nemiroff says. “After every game, say you’re proud. But that’s it. Be encouraging without getting worked up over the details of the game.” He says you’ve crossed the line “when you ask the coach, ‘How much did you play my child and for how long?’”


7. You regularly call your child during school.


All our experts agree that calling your kids or text-messaging them at school is inappropriate. “That’s the parent inserting himself in the child’s day and it is unnecessary,” Nemiroff says.


Siegel says this habit can be especially troubling for teenagers. “If an adolescent feels their parent is always checking up on them, it gets them furious and angry. It doesn’t let them explore their autonomy.” If you need to communicate with your child during the day, agree on a predetermined check-in time — preferably after school lets out.


8. You demand a “play by play” of your child’s day.


There’s a difference between asking your child about his or her day and “becoming the district attorney,” Nemiroff says. Unless you suspect drugs or another serious problem, there’s no need to press a child for every detail of every hour of the day.


Privacy and Pressure


9. You spy on your child.


Spying can take many different forms, from snooping on your teen’s blog to searching your child’s room without probable cause. “Searching your child’s room is a miserable idea unless you suspect drugs,” Nemiroff cautions. If you’re only concerned about the mess, “Close the door. It’s not that important.”


One thing that doesn’t constitute spying, Nemiroff says, is checking out the live video stream from your toddler’s day care center. “If you’re looking on the web site to get a feel for what are they up to, that’s not micromanaging — that’s keeping an eye from a distance and letting the child have his own experience.”


10. You have already picked a college for your toddler.


Nemiroff says he has seen parents choose a preschool based on the college they hope their child will attend 15 years in the future. “How can you possibly know where the child will belong, what type of academic personality he will have?” He recommends parents focus on the present and choose a preschool “that is appropriate for the child’s needs now.”


Siegel says parents who feel “intense pressure to have kids come out perfect and get the right grades and get into the right college” may be bringing home the workplace culture. He says the goal of child rearing should not be to create “a commodity or product to be marketed to colleges,” but to bring up kids who are sensitive, creative, and confident.


Breaking the Habit


If you think you may be micromanaging your child, Peters says you should break the habit “like any bad habit — start little.” Begin backing off in areas of little consequence — for example, allowing your child to decide whether or not to make the bed each morning. “If you’re not micromanaging about little things, your kid will take you more seriously about the things that really matter,” she says.


Whenever you’re tempted to micromanage, Tanner suggests analyzing your reasons for stepping in. Will it help the child become more independent and develop essential life skills? “If the answer is no, then maybe the parent needs to step back and let their child try on their own.”




Parental rights: Are they in jeopardy? (WorldNetDaily, 061005)


The new term of the Supreme Court opens with a less-than-scintillating lineup of cases for the first two weeks of oral argument. Should immigration authorities use state or federal standards for drug abuse convictions? Does the holder of a patent have to wait until a complete breach of contract has occurred before filing suit? What is the correct statute of limitations for filing claims for leases when a federal agency is the lessor?


The case with the most human interest comes from the notorious Ninth Circuit. It seems that the court from our left-most coast decided to overturn a state murder conviction because three family members of the victim wore buttons to the courtroom that had a photo of the victim. One can only wish that the Supreme Court would issue its first three-word opinion in response: “You idiots! Reversed.”


Perhaps it is appropriate to use this period of relative lull at the beginning of the term to focus on something far more important than particular cases and individual decisions. American citizens need to pay a great deal more attention to the development of Supreme Court theories and doctrines than is often the case.


A recent article in the American Journal of International Law tells this story:


In the keynote address to the 2003 annual meeting of the American Society of International Law, Justice Stephen Breyer declared that “comparative analysis emphatically is relevant to the task of interpreting constitutions and enforcing human rights.” Justice Breyer concluded that nothing could be “more exciting for an academic, practitioner, or judge than the global legal enterprise that is now upon us.” In a room filled with international lawyers and academics, he received a home court standing ovation.


Breyer’s use of the term “comparative analysis” means that the Supreme Court should use international law sources to help interpret American law, including the U.S. Constitution. The late Chief Justice Rehnquist said it even more directly: “Now that constitutional law is solidly grounded in so many countries, it is time that the United States courts begin looking to the decisions of other constitutional courts to aid in their own deliberative process.”


There is no doubt that the Court has already begun this process. In the 2003 decision of Lawrence v. Texas, the Court used international political and legal developments to invent a constitutional right to commit homosexual sodomy. Since this right was “found” in the 14th Amendment, one has to wonder if the Supreme Court was tacitly embracing a theory that post-Civil War lawmakers engaged in time travel so that they could be guided by the political opinions of modern western Europeans as they penned the words to the Amendment. Correct constitutional analysis asks the question: “What did these words mean to the people who wrote and ratified this provision of the Constitution?” Modern European thought is utterly irrelevant to such an approach.


Similarly, international law was used to interpret the Eighth Amendment in the 2005 decision of the Supreme Court declaring that it was unconstitutional to impose the death penalty on a juvenile murderer. The U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child – a treaty that has never been ratified by the United States – was employed to protect the rights of a 17 year-old thrill murderer who threw an elderly woman off a bridge.


A decision last month by the European Court of Human Rights shows us what is in store if our Supreme Court continues on this path of using international sources to interpret our constitutional protections of human rights.


Germany banned homeschooling. Christian homeschooling families who faced criminal prosecutions, jail sentences and removal of their children by social services agencies raised religious freedom and parental rights claims in defense of their right to homeschool their children. Declaring that “pluralism in education” is “essential for the preservation of the ‘democratic society,’” the European high court declared that “in view of the power of the modern State, it is above all through State teaching that this aim must be realized.”


Even though the decision was addressing a home education case, no one should miss its bigger meaning. The state has the power to demand attendance at government schools so that children may receive indoctrination in today’s theories of pluralism.


Will this European decision be followed in the United States? The Supreme Court has declared parental rights to be a fundamental right, but it’s an open question whether the Supreme Court will follow its own precedents or the decisions of modern Europe. In both the death penalty case and the homosexual sodomy case, the Court used international law to overturn its own precedents.


And it must be remembered that parents’ rights are protected because the Supreme Court found such rights to be implied in the text of the 14th Amendment. Because parental rights are not listed in the specific text of the Constitution, Justice Scalia – who is no fan of international law – voted against judicial protection of parental rights.


If parental rights are going to survive as a viable legal theory for the rest of this century, it is going to be necessary to place a specific provision into the text of the Constitution. We must give conservatives like Scalia a text to rely on in order to stop the internationalists from using European law to erode our liberty to educate our children outside the orb of state efforts to indoctrinate them in pluralism.




Why Boys Are So Different (Focus on the Family, 061006)


How Boys Are Wired Differently


Over the past 15 years, numerous scientific studies have conclusively proven that boys are “hardwired” differently than girls.


1. Magnetic resonance imaging and PET scans reveal unique neurological processes in male and female brains. A boy’s brain “lights up” differently than a girl’s brain. These differences start long before birth.




2. Up until six or seven weeks after conception, all embryos are technically “female.” At that point, testosterone bathes the embryos that have inherited a “Y” (male) chromosome. This hormonal bath alters the brain’s structure in many ways and changes its color. The connections between the two hemispheres of the brain are actually damaged. As a result, boys have a harder time integrating and articulating what they know, feel and believe.


3. At puberty, testosterone floods a boy’s body again and over the course of time physically transforms him into a man. What many people don’t realize is that testosterone continues to influence a man’s every thought and action. Dr. James Dobson says, “What estrogen is to females, testosterone is to males.” Men and women have both hormones, but in wildly disproportionate amounts. These differing hormone levels continue to affect us throughout life.


4. Our actions and roles in life can elevate or depress our hormonal levels. For example, studies have shown that testosterone levels rise in athletes before they compete. But the reverse is even more evident: Hormone levels determine our actions. Testosterone in particular drives the masculine interest in car racing, professional football, hockey, guns, prize fighting, etc. Many woman enjoy these activities too, but far fewer are preoccupied, or obsessed, with them.




5. Boys and girls, and men and women, also have differing amounts of the hormone serotonin. If testosterone is the gasoline that powers the brain, serotonin slows the speed and helps one steer. Typically, females have more serotonin than males do. A lack of serotonin can cause boys and men to be more aggressive, violent, depressed or suicidal.




6. The amygdala is an almond-sized portion of the brain that functions as an “emotional computer.” It’s the portion of the brain that remembers fearful experiences and reacts to new situations. It reacts — it doesn’t think or reason. Add low levels of serotonin and high levels of testosterone to the mix, and it’s a recipe for trouble. Not surprisingly, the amygdala is larger in males than in females.


— Dr. James C. Dobson




New Survey Refutes Claim that Taking Kids to Church is Harmful (Christian Post, 071114)


Most Americans, even those who no longer attend religious services, say their childhood experiences of attending worship has had a positive impact on them, a new study showed.


The latest Ellison Research study, released Tuesday, found that 66% of Americans believe their religious attendance before age 18 gave them a good moral foundation and 62% say it’s something they are glad they did. Even among those who have currently abandoned regular worship attendance (once a month or more), a majority says childhood attendance has been more positive than negative.


Fifty-six percent of Americans who no longer attend services say their attendance as a child has had a positive influence on their life; 55% feel their childhood attendance gave them a good moral foundation; 51% say they are glad they attended as a child; 48% say it gave them important religious knowledge; 35% believe it helped them grow spiritually; 34% feel it helped them prepare for life as an adult; and 27% say it deepened their spiritual faith.


On the negative side, 31% of adults currently not attending services say their childhood attendance turned them off to organized religion; 24% believe that past experience is not relevant to their life today; and 13% believe it sent them down a different spiritual path than the one they were on at that time.


Ron Sellers, president of Ellison Research, noted that these findings should refute claims that having children attend religious services will negatively impact them.


“There have long been claims from some in the atheist community that taking children to religious services is harmful to their development,” Sellers said. “According to the vast majority of adults who have themselves been through the experience, this is simply not true. Only about one out of every seventeen people who attended religious services at some point during their childhood feel this had a negative influence on their lives and no longer attend services. At the same time, almost three out of four believe it had a positive influence on their lives, whether or not they still attend. Today’s adults are, by and large, glad they attended worship services at some point during their childhood.”


The negative perception was more likely among those who have stopped attending services regularly.


Only 9% of adults who currently attend worship say childhood attendance turned them off on organized religion and 19% of all surveyed adults say the same. Fifteen percent of all adults say it is not relevant to their life today and 13% feel it helped send them down a different spiritual path than the one they were taking at that time.


The vast majority of Americans have attended religious worship services regularly at some point in their lives. Only 7% have not had any point in their lives when they regularly attended. Currently, 51% of adults say they attend religious worship services of some kind once a month or more.


However, attending worship services as a child is becoming less common, according to the study. Among Americans who do not regularly attend worship services today, 24% of those under age 35 also did not attend as a child, compared to 13% of people age 35 to 54 and 9% of those 55 or older.


Still, most Americans who look back on their childhood attendance view it in a positive way. Fifty-seven percent of all adults believe it gave them important religious knowledge; 50% believe it helped them grow spiritually; 47% feel it helped them prepare for life as an adult; and 44% say it deepened their spiritual faith.


Attitudes about childhood religious involvement vary substantially according to whether the person is still regularly attending services, the study revealed.


Seventy-eight percent of those who currently attend religious services feel their childhood attendance has made them more interested in religion as an adult compared to 30% of adults who do not currently attend services. Also, only 8% of those who currently regularly attend say childhood religious involvement decreased their interest in religion as an adult compared to 30% of adults who do not currently attend services regularly.


Only 8% of all adults and 13% of adults currently not attending services said childhood attendance has had a negative influence on their life. Also, 18% of all adults and 30% of those who have stopped attending services feel it has had no real influence.


Sellers noted that the survey findings should have some influence on parents.


“Today’s adults are over twenty times more likely to feel attending worship services in childhood had a highly positive influence on them than to say this had a highly negative influence on them – twenty times,” he stressed. “Even adults who no longer are involved in religious attendance are seven times more likely to cite childhood religious attendance as a highly positive influence on their lives than as a highly negative influence. Clearly, most adults believe the reward far outweighs the risk when it comes to childhood religious involvement.”


The study was conducted by Ellison Research, a marketing research company located in Phoenix, among a representative sample of 1,007 American adults. The sample was balanced by gender, age, income, race, and geography.




Survey: Many Christian Parents Choose to Satisfy Children Over God (Christian Post, 071120)


Despite concern over the negative influence of media on young people, Christian parents are likely to spend more than $1 billion on media products this Christmas season, a new survey showed.


Seventy-eight percent of Christian parents had purchased DVDs of movies and TV programs in the past year for their teenagers and 87% had purchased DVDs for their children under 13, the latest Barna Group study found. Yet 26% of them did not feel comfortable with the DVD products they purchased.


About six out of 10 parents bought music CDs for their teen children but one out of every three of them had concerns about the content. Also, slightly more than half of all Christian parents had purchased video games for their children yet nearly half (46%) of parents of teens admitted to concerns about the content of those games.


Christian parents who were generally the least comfortable with the content of the media products purchased were non-whites and parents involved in a house church, according to the survey, which was released Monday. Those most comfortable were single parents, mothers and parents least active in practicing their faith. Moreover, the study found that the more media consumed by the parent, the more comfortable they were with all forms of media they bought for their children.


The survey results come at a time when prominent youth leader Ron Luce of Teen Mania says for the first time in American history, youth are saturated with media influence.


And media culture today is more sexualized – with point and click pornography – and more violent than ever.


The Parents Television Council (PTC), a non-profit organization that focuses on family-friendly television programming, reported earlier this year that television violence has increased 75% since 1998 and that the increase may pose a threat to children who may mimic what they see.


“Millions of Christian parents want to appear to be relevant in their children’s eyes, and to provide gifts that fit within the mainstream of postmodern society,” George Barna, lead researcher of the latest study, noted. “The problem is that many of the entertainment products that meet those criteria conflict with the moral precepts of the Christian faith. Parents have to make a choice as to what is more important: pleasing their kids’ taste and sensibilities, or satisfying God’s standards as defined in the Bible. When the decision made is to keep their children happy, the Christian parent is often left with a pit in their stomach.”


Among other media purchases that Christian parents had purchased for their children were magazines (51%), with 31% saying they were not very comfortable with the content. Thirty-nine percent bought their teens computer software although 24% were not comfortable with the software.


Researcher Barna noted that selecting appropriate Christmas gifts is “a microcosm of the spiritual tension millions of Christian adults wrestle with.”


“Many Christian parents are striving to serve two conflicting masters: society and God. They refuse to believe that they cannot satisfy both,” he said. “Sadly, this Christmas season will produce enormous stress for numerous Christian parents who don’t want to disappoint either God or their children, but whose ultimate choices will disappoint both God and themselves, while providing gifts that are not in the best interests of their children. For Christians, the Christmas season should be a time of celebration and appreciation of the life of Jesus Christ. Instead, that joy is being minimized by the pressure and confusion introduced by our focus on material consumption and fulfillment.”


The Barna report is based on a nationwide survey on 601 Christian adults who were the parents of children between the ages of 2 and 18.




Instilling Values in your Kids: Part 1 (, 071120)


By Carrie Schwab Pomerantz


A friend of mine, the mother of a 10-year-old, recently asked me for advice. “My husband and I have started to give our daughter an allowance,” she said. “But frankly, I don’t know how to teach her what money really means. What does she need to know? And what should I do?”


As we talked (and, needless to say, I was full of advice on this topic), I realized she wasn’t asking about the nuts and bolts of personal finance, though that is a subject that everyone needs to master. She was asking me about money in the larger sense, or how to teach her daughter what used to be called “the value of a dollar.”


In this two-part article, I discuss ways you can instill good financial values in your children. Part I is about spending, saving and working, while part II is about charity and philanthropy. The reality is that they’re not going to learn this stuff in school; it’s up to you. Be prepared to give them experience with money as they grow up. And remember that you’re setting an example for them every day.




My friend was on the right track when she started giving her daughter an allowance—every kid needs hands-on experience with money—but she needs to go a bit further. She should make it clear what her daughter is expected to do with her weekly pocket money, which at that age boils down to two things: discretionary purchases and saving.


Saving for the future comes first, and the earlier the habit starts, the stronger it becomes. Encourage your child to save 10% to 20% of his or her allowance; you might even offer an incentive to encourage the habit. Some parents offer to match, dollar for dollar, whatever portion of the allowance a child saves. If your kids are very little or the amounts are trivial, a piggy bank is fine; however, once a child has, say, $100, open a savings account at your bank. Let the child make the deposit and see the amounts add up with interest.


As for spending, let your children be consumers, using it as a learning experience. Teach them to distinguish between needs and wants. Make them save for something that allowance for a week won’t cover. And don’t be afraid to let them make mistakes. When they’re using their own money, most kids learn quickly about being good (albeit small-scale) shoppers.


As your kids get older, their allowances as well as their spending responsibilities should grow. They should be paying when they go to the movies with their friends or go out for a special treat. When they enter the teen years, help them learn to budget their money and encourage them to save for bigger-ticket purchases. This is, after all, exactly the skills they’ll need when they become adults.


Should kids work for their allowance? My own view is that chores around the house are part of life, and that the allowance is a child’s share of the family income. I never explicitly linked the two with my three children.




Giving your kid an allowance and encouraging him or her to learn to save and spend well is an important step toward adult financial realities. But they’re also absorbing lessons from you every day. You are their most powerful role model, so be mindful of the example you set. And, whenever possible, explain what you’re doing and why (using age-appropriate discretion):


—Teach them to be prudent consumers by comparison shopping and to understand advertising and promotion.


—Point out your own savings, investing goals and strategies. As your kids get older or start earning money on their own, open Roth IRAs or custodial accounts to give them some hands-on experience with investing.


—Use April as an opportunity to talk about taxes, to teach them about our responsibility as citizens, and that gross earnings and take-home pay are very different.


—Help them understand the role of credit cards: Their benefits (ease of use, consumer protection, etc.) and their many dangers (the spiraling cost of revolving debt, expensive fees for missed payments, etc.).




I also think it’s invaluable when kids get a taste of work during their teenage years. As long as the job doesn’t interfere with school, there’s no better way to learn about the value of a dollar than earning one. And jobs teach kids about the fundamentals of the real world; the importance of responsibility, teamwork and putting forth your best effort.


I realize that most teenage jobs aren’t fulfilling in the way that careers are, and you definitely want your child to find an endeavor they can feel passionate about. Another part of preparing them for the adult working world is to expose them to different jobs and professions. Recognize their interests and, if possible, find ways to educate them about related jobs. For example, teens can do informational interviews with friends who are working in a particular field; older teens and college students can often find internships in companies that interest them. It’s not always possible to use Robert Frost’s phrase, “to unite my avocation and my vocation,” but it’s certainly worth trying.


Money isn’t the only thing, but preparing our kids to deal with it and respect it is a vital mandate for parents. Accept that mandate and set a good example. Your kids will profit in a way that money can’t buy.




Instilling Values in your Kids: Part 2 (, 071127)


By Carrie Schwab Pomerantz


Last week, I talked about ways to give your children practical experience with money—spending it , saving it and earning it—with an eye toward providing them with a foundation of good financial values that will prepare them to be financially responsible adults. These values aren’t entirely about personal gain; I certainly believe that we would do well to instill in our children a sense of generosity and help them learn about our collective responsibility to help others.


Naturally, this idea resonates at this time of year, during the holidays, when many of us take the time to appreciate our good fortune and to give something back. By all means give generously; however, remember that the social and cultural institutions that we support through private charity need resources all year long.


As I wrote in the last column, you are the most influential role model your children will ever have (though you may doubt that fact during their teenage years). Your example sets the tone: If you are charitable with your time and money, the chances are excellent that your children will follow suit. Here are some ideas you might pursue with your own family as part of taking a more active role in instilling the urge to be generous in your children:—Tell your kids what you do for others.


If you do give to charity, let your kids know what you’re doing and why. Teach them about the purpose of nonprofits and how they rely on donations and volunteers to fulfill their mission. You might want to teach the habit of giving by encouraging them to earmark some portion of their allowance for a charitable cause. You could even give them an extra dollar a week with the understanding that it will go to the charity of their choice.


—Help them find a cause or a group that reflects their interests or passions. It’s most rewarding when you give to a group that speaks to you in some way, so encourage your children to find an organization or cause they can believe in. You might be surprised by their concerns. A few years ago, one of my sons announced he wanted to make a donation to the American Cancer Society.—Pick a family charity.


One approach to introducing the tradition of charity is to let your kids help choose a recipient for the entire family to give to. Hold a family meeting to solicit ideas about how to divvy up your family’s philanthropic budget. In addition to teaching your child the importance of being generous, the process of selecting a charity can give your family a greater sense of purpose. Ultimately, it can bring a family closer together.


—Create a charitable gift account.


If you have the means to do so, consider setting up a charitable gift account that will pave the way for years—and perhaps even generations—of giving. It’s simple to do and less expensive than you might think. Once the account is established, involve your children in the decision making.


—Encourage them to volunteer their time.


Money is obviously essential to every nonprofit organization, but time is often just as valuable. Donate your time, and urge your children to join you or find a group that needs their help. It’s easier than ever for kids to find a local group that can use their energy. Schools, religious organizations and other groups offer plenty of opportunities for kids to help their community.


I know a family that regularly helps in a San Francisco soup kitchen, and they’ve done so since their children were quite young. Their children have experienced firsthand the satisfaction of helping others, and they can see with their own eyes the needs in our society.


—Recycle toys, books and clothes.


Kids can also learn about selflessness simply by rounding up their old toys, games, books and clothes for Goodwill, the Salvation Army and similar charities. As your kids grow up, talk with them about issues like poverty and homelessness that remain stubbornly part of contemporary life.


I believe it’s important for children to understand that the world is not always an equitable place—and that they can play a role in addressing these problems. If they realize that you’re concerned, they’re more likely to take these issues seriously and, ultimately, to act on them.


Whatever cause you choose, and whatever way you decide to pursue it, assist your children in understanding how their efforts are making a difference. As a family, participate in an event like the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. Take your children to a cultural institution that relies on charitable support. Stay up to date on a group’s progress and mission. Help them experience the role these organizations play in our civic and cultural life. And remind them that giving can be an immensely satisfying experience; it may be cliche to say so, but I’m always struck by the truth of the idea that “I get more than I give.”


We live in a relatively affluent society during a relatively prosperous era, yet it doesn’t take much digging to see the reality of economic struggle and inequality. The need for charity and philanthropy will never go away, and as a parent, you’re in an ideal spot to build a culture and tradition of giving in your family. Ideally, it’s a tradition that will be replicated for generations to come.




Study: Spirituality, Not Religious Practice, Makes Children Happier (Christian Post, 090115)


Children who are more spiritual tend to be happier, according to a recently published study.


Children who are more religious, however, aren’t necessarily happier, reported the team of researchers behind the study.


“Our finding of a strong relation between happiness and spirituality in children, but not between happiness and frequency of religious practice, suggests that spirituality and religious practice can be empirically separated,” claimed the researchers led by Mark Holder from the University of British Columbia in Canada.


“This separation supports the idea that these constructs are independent and indicates that research should consider them separately,” they added.


For years, the relation between well-being and religiousness and spirituality has been observed in various age groups. However, while research has been conducted on the relation between happiness and spirituality and religiousness in adults and adolescents, this relation has not been well-studied in children.


To investigate this relation in children, Holder’s team of researchers went to 761 children from four public schools and 2 private schools. Each student, aged 8-12, was given packets containing information letters, consent forms, and questionnaires for their parents. Of the 761 packets distributed, only 476 returned – 359 of which included parental consent for their child’s participation. And of the 359 positive consents, 320 children assented on test day.


For the study, the 320 remaining children were each given six questionnaires assessing their happiness, spirituality, religiousness, and temperament. Parents were also administered a questionnaire.


What researchers found after all the data was collected was that the frequency of religious practice – i.e., how often the children attended a place of worship and how often they prayed or meditated – was not significantly correlated with any of the four measures of happiness.


There was, however, a strong relation between happiness and spirituality in children.


“In the case of children, it seems that spirituality, but not religious practice, contributes to their happiness,” the researchers reported.


The results came as a bit of a surprise for the team of researchers as past studies have reported a relation between spirituality and religiousness, and happiness and subjective well-being that increases with age for adults.


“[I]t is somewhat surprising that the relation between happiness and spirituality reported in the present study with children was stronger than that typically reported in adults,” the researchers reported.


Assuming that spirituality enhances happiness by increasing personal meaning, the researchers suggested that strategies aimed at enhancing personal meaning in children’s lives may promote happiness.


“Future studies could have children engage in activities that might promote personal meaning,” they suggested.


“For example, children might volunteer to help others or record their contributions to the community in a journal. Then changes in happiness and personal meaning before and after these activities could be compared,” the researchers stated.


“If personal meaning is critical to happiness, one might see that these activities particularly enhanced happiness for those children who showed increases in personal meaning,” they concluded.


For the study, spirituality was considered as referring to an inner belief system that a person relies on for strength and comfort whereas religiousness refers to institutional religious rituals, practices, and beliefs.


Children aged 8 to 12 years were selected because they are old enough to identify and employ emotions, including happiness, in multifaceted social arenas.




Why Require Unregenerate Children to Act Like They’re Good? (Christian Post, 091210)

By John Piper


If mere external conformity to God’s commands (like don’t lie, don’t steal, don’t kill) is hypocritical and spiritually defective, then why should parents require obedience from their unregenerate children?


Won’t this simply confirm them in unspiritual religious conformity, hypocritical patterns of life, and legalistic moralism?


Here are at least three reasons why Christian parents should require their small children (regenerate or unregenerate) to behave in ways that conform externally to God’s revealed will.


I say “small children” because as a child gets older, there are certain external conformities to God’s revealed will that should be required and others that should not. It seems to me, for example, while parents should require drug-free, respectful decency from a 15-year-old, it would do little good to require an unbelieving and indifferent 15-year-old to read his Bible every day. But it would be wise to require that of a 6-year-old, while doing all we can to help him enjoy it and see the benefit in it.


So the following points are reasons why we should require smaller children to behave in ways that conform at least externally to God’s word.


1) For children, external, unspiritual conformity to God’s commanded patterns of behavior is better than external, unspiritual non-conformity to those patterns of behavior.


A respectful and mannerly 5-year-old unbeliever is better for the world than a more authentic defiant, disrespectful, ill-mannered, unbelieving bully. The family, the friendships, the church, and the world in general will be thankful for parents that restrain the egocentric impulses of their children and confirm in them every impulse toward courtesy and kindness and respect.


2) Requiring obedience from children in conformity with God’s will confronts them with the meaning of sin in relation to God, the nature of their own depravity, and their need for inner transformation by the power of grace through the gospel of Christ.


There comes a point where the “law” dawns on the child. That is, he realizes that God (not just his parents) requires a certain way of life from him and that he does not like some of it, and that he cannot do all of it.


At this crisis moment, the good news of Christ’s dying for our sins becomes all important. Will the child settle into a moralistic effort the rest of his life, trying to win the acceptance and love of God? Or will he hear and believe that God’s acceptance and forgiveness and love are free gifts-and receive this God in Christ as the supreme treasure of his life?


The child will have a hard time grasping the meaning of the cross if parents have not required of him behaviors, some of which he dislikes, and none of which he can do perfectly.


Christ lived and died to provide for us the righteousness we need (but cannot perform) and to endure for us the punishment we deserve (but cannot endure). If parents do not require external righteousness and apply measures of punishment, the categories of the cross will be difficult for a child to grasp.


3) The marks of devotion, civility, and manners (“please,” “thank you,” and good eye contact) are habits that, God willing, are filled later with grace and become more helpful ways of blessing others and expressing a humble heart.


No parents have the luxury of teaching their child nothing while they wait for his regeneration. If we are not requiring obedience, we are confirming defiance. If we are not inculcating manners, we are training in boorishness. If we are not developing the disciplines of prayer and Bible-listening, we solidifying the sense that prayerlessness and Biblelessness are normal.


Inculcated good habits may later become formalistic legalism. Inculcated insolence, rudeness, irreligion will likely become worldly decadence. But by God’s grace, and saturated with prayer, good habits may be filled with the life of the Spirit by faith. But the patterns of insolence and rudeness and irreligion will be hard to undo.


Caution. Here we are only answering one question: Why should parents require submissive behaviors of children when they may be unregenerate rebels at heart? Of course that is not all Christian parents should do.


* Let there be much spontaneous celebration verbally of every hopeful sign of life and goodness in our children.

* Let us forgive them often and be longsuffering.

* Let us serve them and not use them.

* Let us lavish them with joyful participation in their interests.

* Let us model for them the joy of knowing and submitting to the Lord Jesus.

* Let us apologize often when we fall short of our own Father’s requirements.

* Let us pray for them without ceasing.

* Let us saturate them with the word of God from the moment they are in the womb (the uterus is not sound proof).

* Let us involve them in happy ministry experiences and show them it is more blessed to give than to receive.

* Let them see us sing to the King.

* Let us teach them relentlessly the meaning of the gospel in the hope that God will open their eyes and make them alive. It happens through the gospel (1 Peter 1:22-25).


Still seeking to grow in my role as a father (of our family and our church).




Massachusetts Girl Hospitalized After Months of Bullying (Foxnews, 100415)


A Massachusetts eighth grader has been hospitalized with emotional distress after months of bullying, reports, becoming the latest case of a student pushed to the edge by classmates.


The Massachusetts girl’s mother told that the bullying took place at a Foxboro middle school. The mother said it came to a head during her daughter’s birthday party, when she received threatening phone calls, one of them calling her a “whore.”


Police say they are now looking into this as a criminal harassment investigation.


This latest incident comes after a Massachusetts teenager committed suicide after she was bullied at school, leading to charges against the students accused of bullying her.




Dobson tips hat to American Heritage Girls: It’s for ‘parents who want daughters in a traditional Christian-based program’ (WorldNetDaily, 100415)


James Dobson, the child psychologist and parenting expert who founded Focus on the Family’s massive ministry, has given a hat tip to the American Heritage Girls.


“I recommend American Heritage Girls enthusiastically to parents who want their daughters involved in a traditional Christian-based program that will reinforce what they are trying to teach at home,” he says in his new book “Bringing Up Girls.”


American Heritage Girls is the premier faith-based national character development and leadership group for young women.


“Bringing Up Girls” is a companion book to “Bringing Up Boys,” published earlier by Dobson.


As the only all-girls organization to be affiliated with the Boys Scouts of America, American Heritage Girls offers advice through its programming to enrich the lives of girls through a diverse range of badge activities, community service projects, camping and more.


“We are proud to be recognized by Dr. Dobson and we encourage parents everywhere to commit to their daughter’s future by reading this book and helping build women of integrity through service to God, family, community and country,” said Patti Garibay, founder of American Heritage Girls, Inc.


The group was launched in 1995 in Cincinnati and has grown from 10 troops with 100 members to locations in 37 states and four countries serving more than 10,000 members.


Dobson’s “Bringing Up Boys” has been a runaway hit, selling 2 million-plus copies. His sequel is intended to provide answers to parents raising daughters in today’s world.


It addresses questions including:


* Are girls really fundamentally different from boys? If so, should they be treated differently?


* Whoever said that girls are “sugar and spice and everything nice” never met my teenager. What can I do?


* My adolescent daughter seems to be on an emotional roller coaster. One minute she’s giddy with excitement; the next she’s moody and withdrawn. Is this normal?


* As a mom, I so badly want to be “best friends” with my daughter. Why isn’t it working out the way I dreamed?


* How does a dad’s role in his daughter’s life influence her character and decisions – including her eventual choice of a husband?


* How can grandparents contribute to raising a healthy granddaughter?


* What’s the best way to educate girls?


Dobson was on the faculty of the University of Southern California School of Medicine for 14 years and holds a Ph.D. in child development from the university.


He also was on the task force that summarized the White House Conferences on Families and was appointed by President Reagan to the National Advisory Commission to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.




Children and Finances (, 100517)

by Rebecca Hagelin


In a recent survey on personal finances, only 27% of parents surveyed said they feel well informed about managing household finances. Fewer than half believe they are good role models for their children regarding saving and spending.


Yet, 94% of students say their parents are their primary teachers on financial matters.


Oops. We have a problem. We’ve totally messed up our finances, and no one is teaching our children how to unravel it.


Our national debt is unsustainable. Our government is promising programs and services that it can’t possibly deliver, but that will bankrupt our children in trying. Add that to the reality that today’s teenagers haven’t the slightest clue about how to manage their personal finances, and you realize that the future of America’s economy is not just bleak, but headed for a melt down.


The economic problems we face are obvious. The question is: What are we going to do about them? While a strong alliance of policy experts and Tea Party activists around the nation join hands to try and reverse out-of-control government spending, we also need to be educating the younger generation about how to be personally fiscally responsible.


A good first step is to teach children and teens how to handle their money, rather than allowing their money to handle them.


Helping them understand how to be wise stewards is a gift that can free them from the emptiness that comes with materialism, the depression that comes with debt, and replace them with the peace that comes with financial stability and the fulfillment that comes with philanthropy.


The Bible addresses economic issues with surprising frequency. As a matter of fact, as Crown Financial Ministries points out, there are 2.350 verses on money and stewardship, making it “second to the subject of love as the most discussed subject in the Bible. In fact, two-thirds of the parables Jesus taught are about money, possessions, and stewardship.”


Regardless of your faith, the wisdom of this all-time best seller is undeniable - and incredibly applicable to our world today. Here are a few examples of profound principles you and your children can start memorizing - and putting in to action - right away:


- “The wise man saves for the future, but the foolish man spends whatever he gets.” (Proverbs 21:20)


- “The wicked borrow and never repay but the godly are generous givers.” (Psalm 37:21)


- “The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower becomes the lender’s slave.” (Proverbs 22:7)


-”A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children.” (Proverbs 13:22)


-”Steady plodding brings prosperity.” (Proverbs 21:5)


One of the very best resources to use in teaching your children how to practice the principles above comes from Crown Ministries at . Entitled, Discovering God’s Way of Handling Money Teen Study, this 10 week study guide “is designed to practically help teens create habits that will set them on a lifelong journey of handling money responsibly.” If you need personal help to get your own finances in order Crown also offers free local counseling for you with what they call a Money Map Coach.


And then there is the great Dave Ramsey - noted author, radio host and “all around” genius on finances. Dave has a fabulous website filled with great tips, and he also offers one of the most life-changing programs for teens I’ve ever seen. It’s called, Generation Change, and you can order it at . Dave also offers curriculum for educators at the elementary, high school, and colleges levels. His turn-key programs are engaging and comprehensive, and will build a sound economic foundation in the lives of our young people. They are designed to be used in a school or home setting, and are exactly what we need to build hope, and financial security, into the lives of the next generation of adults.


If enough young people learn sound financial principles, perhaps they will also one day run government in a way that promotes prosperity and personal responsibility too.




Young families leaving cities for suburbs: report (National Post, 100608)


The suburbs around Canada’s largest cities are magnets for young parents in the middle of the income and education scales, while the urban cores draw those on the extremes, according to a new report from Statistics Canada.


People in the prime child-rearing age group of 25 to 44 were most likely to move out of Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver and into the surrounding suburbs between 2001 and 2006, the report says, with one in seven (14%) making that move. In contrast, just 5% in that age group made the move from the suburbs back to the city in Toronto and Montreal, and 4% did so in Vancouver.


“I think a lot of what we’re seeing in these patterns are really associated with housing costs and availability of affordable homes. I think that’s a really big factor,” says Clarence Lochhead, executive director of the Vanier Institute of the Family. “That also explains the exception of the high-income folks who have a smaller likelihood of moving because they’re more likely to be able to afford some of the costs associated with housing in the core of cities.”


Families with incomes of $100,000 or more are less likely to move to the suburbs than those in the middle of the income scale, Statistics Canada says, suggesting they place a “higher premium” on being close to downtown amenities and can buy pricier central properties.


On the other hand, the lowest-income families who bring in $20,000 or less per year were least likely of any income group to move out of the city core. The agency speculates they might not be able to buy a vehicle, which is crucial to living in the car-centric suburbs.


Family status is another big influence in where people live, and in all three cities, people who became first-time parents between 2001 and 2006 were among the most likely to leave the central municipality. In Vancouver, 27% of new parents left the city for the suburbs, while just 8% of people living alone made the same move.


Aside from housing costs, Mr. Lochhead suggests childcare may drive young families to the suburbs, where there are plenty of others like them and they’re more likely to be able to make arrangements for home-based daycare.


The propensity to move to the suburbs increases up to age 34 and then starts to wane in older age groups, the agency says, and when children are older and the family is “complete,” the odds of moving — short or long-distance — decline.


Single-parent families are the one aberration in the trend of families gravitating to the suburbs.


“What lone parents are basically facing is that the prospect of home ownership is a dim one,” Mr. Lochhead says. “Few people can actually afford the costs of home ownership and a mortgage on a single income.”


Education also exerts an influence on where people live. People with college or university bachelor’s degrees were more likely to move to the suburbs, Statistics Canada found, speculating they have more stable incomes that allow them to buy a home. However, people holding master’s degrees or doctorates tended to stick to the urban core, which the agency suggests reflects their focus on urban cultural amenities and willingness to pay more or live in “lower quality housing” to be near them.




Spanking Hits Bottom Line In Parenting Debate (, 110623)

Marybeth Hicks


For years, I have arduously avoided the one topic that most certainly will incite a reader riot. However, I find I can stay silent no longer.


The issue? Spanking.


As hard as I am trying to fulfill a promise made to myself many years ago while sitting in front of a blank computer screen fighting writer’s block (“I don’t care if I have to type pages of the phone book, I will never, ever, ever write about spanking”), the issue has been put anew into the public debate, and I simply can’t stick my head in the sand and hope it goes away.


I’m reticent, because in nearly 22 years as a mother, I’ve concluded that no topic in the realm of parenting elicits a more vehement response from opponents and proponents. This is one issue about which there is no middle of the road.


If you are against spanking, you’re likely to be in the “spanking promotes violence in society” camp. You may have painful memories of being spanked as a child that inform your opinion. Or perhaps having never been spanked yourself, you are certain it is always unnecessary.


If you oppose spanking, you’re typically an advocate for “timeouts” and other disciplinary tactics to manage unacceptable behavior in children. You’re confident kids will grow out of their childish ways in time, and anyway, you just can’t bring yourself to do it.


You make a number of good points.


If you support spanking as a disciplinary tool, you’re likely to be on the “a little smack on the bottom never hurt anyone and may keep a kid from running into the street” team. Your memories of being spanked as a child are vague, or at least not disturbing, and you certainly wouldn’t call a swat on the rear “child abuse” or “violence” or even “hitting.”


If you think spanking can be OK, that opinion might reflect a general sense that it’s the job of parents to teach children how to behave appropriately in given situations, rather than wait for kids to decide to do this on their own, and you want kids who don’t just cooperate, but who also obey.


Your points would be well taken, too.


In fact, the spanking debate reflects the wide range of tactics parents use in the course of raising their children. Ultimately, spanking is a profoundly personal decision about how best to parent one’s own children, and thus, the reason I’ve distanced myself from the discussion.


Until now.


Last week in Corpus Christi, Texas, Judge Jose Longoria sentenced Rosalina Gonzales to five years of felony probation for spanking her 2-year-old child. (Red marks on the child’s backside were noted by the paternal grandmother and reported to a doctor.)


I don’t know the full story about Ms. Gonzales’ parenting struggles. News reports say she does not have custody of the child she spanked and two other children, and is working with the state to regain custody. The judge also ordered her to take a parenting class, so perhaps she is an unskilled mother.


What bothers me, and should bother all parents, is what Judge Longoria said when he sentenced Ms. Gonzales: “You don’t spank children today. In the old days, maybe we got spanked, but there was a different quarrel. You don’t spank children.”


To be clear, corporal punishment of one’s own children is not a crime in Texas. It is a crime to use unnecessary force or to physically endanger a child, and it always is considered abuse to physically “discipline” an infant. But corporal punishment in the form of a spanking is not against the law.




Soon enough, the government should produce a parenting book so we know what will and will not be permissible in our homes. Is Judge Longoria a fan of grounding teens who stay out too late? Do “we do that” anymore? Are we allowed to closely monitor our kids’ activities via their cell phones or Facebook pages, or is that a violation of their privacy? Better check with the judge.


When a judge - or the government he represents - starts defining best practices in child-rearing, our nation is headed in a direction we do not want to go.


Debate spanking all you want, but let’s hope parents on both sides of that debate agree it is theirs to decide.