Payh Blog
andrew-1200x800
May 08, 2015

Are you a Super Mom?


Do you believe in Spiderman or Superman?  If you do, maybe you should disregard this post and video.  Supermom falls under the same category.
The expectations are high.  We are expected to have:

  • Meals prepared to perfection, warm, and table set
  • Kids up, dressed, fed, and family devotion and prayer said together before dropping the kids at school (first car in line, NEVER tardy)
  • Everyone picked up after school with a smile on our face while asking well-prepared questions that provoke our children to spill out all the wonderful details about their day
  • Healthy after school snacks, always
  • Playtime
  • Homework time
  • The whole family around the dinner table, eating a home cooked meal and sharing stories about our day
  • Nightly devotions and prayer, every child tucked in with plenty of time to spare for laundry, dishes, cleaning out book bags, and preparing lunches

Who sets these expectations?  We do.  That’s right, we do.  We do it to ourselves.  We set expectations only a super mom with super powers could meet.
Why? We expect ourselves to be perfect and never fail.  This will never be achieved.  No one is perfect, and God gives us much grace in our imperfect moments.
Who created this picture of Super Mom?  The world has.  Super Mom is a make-believe character.
Take the advice of this real mom in this video, Let Supermom go (psst…she doesn’t exist anyway).  Be a real mom— a mom that your kids can relate to, have conversations with, and see Christ in.  Be real and enjoy every moment.


  • Share Link:
Payh Blog
Christian-Home-and-School-Magazine
May 08, 2015

Christian Home & School Magazine

Follow the attached link to read the article “Good Decisions Start with Healthy Identities”.
 


  • Share Link:
Payh Blog
African American Boy Hiding Eyes
May 05, 2015

Kids and Eye Contact

What’s up with kids and eye contact today? Are kids becoming interpersonally 1. less comfortable and 2. less adept  as a result of the computer age? Bruce Feiler (New York Times) raises some worrisome concerns in this recent piece. It should make all parents of growing children (and adolescents) sit up and take notice.
He starts out with the importance of eye contact, and how it seems to be harder for kids than it used to be. I will never forget an experience I had maybe ten years ago at the Verizon store getting a new cell phone. The twenty-something clerks barely looked at me during our transaction. It was weird and actually disturbing for me, but seemed like business-as-usual for them.

Eye Contact and Attachment

Children come into the world wired to look at human faces. We know this from research on the infant gaze:  babies stare longer at drawings with eyes, nose and mouth in the expected places than at drawings in which the features are scrambled or upside down. They like to look at faces, and interaction begins very early. The cumulation of experience then determines whether involvement with people becomes familiar, rewarding, and sought-after. Or unfamiliar, unrewarding, and avoided.
This set of experiences, which begins very early and continues as humans develop, is of profound significance to the child’s life, health, and happiness. It forms the basis for relationships of all kinds—with parents, with siblings, with friends, with schoolmates and teammates—not to mention with romantic and work relationships. Virtually all relationships depend on it. We decide whether people are a source of satisfaction in life. And we develop an ability to read others—and ourselves—through our interactions with fellow human beings.
A clue that all is not well is a lack of animation in a young person coupled with a lack of interest in people around him. When a computer game interests a child more than people do, something is amiss. One of the most troubling signs in children today is a kind of blankness of expression and an unwillingness to communicate. And it is not uncommon.
We develop a capacity for enjoyment. For humor. For understanding. For empathy. Or we don’t. We all meet people in whom something is missing. The ability to attach to others can be severely impaired, or impaired in part. I always think of the saying, “The lights are on, but there’s nobody home as deeply descriptive of this problem.
And even people who seem quite normal can have it upon closer examination. Ron Reagan Jr. once said very tellingly of his father that, while his dad was always glad to see him and spend time with him, he wasn’t sure if his dad thought about him when they were apart. Ronald Reagan could read people well, or he could never have achieved the level of career and marital success that he had. He seemed to have limitations with attachment.

Eye Contact and Interpersonal IQ

Some people have serious trouble reading people. This can result from the way the brain is wired from the beginning. Those on the autistic spectrum show impairment with this from a young age, and need help to develop some capacity to notice and translate what they see on people’s faces. Others are lucky to be born with this capacity intact, but it withers from lack of use. We are seeing youngsters who have impairment with both the understanding of social cues and with attachment.
As a psychologist and as a family therapist, I am not alone in my alarm about the effects of ubiquitous use of computers. It is bad enough with adults, but it is disastrous with kids. These are critical periods for children and adolescent to develop these capacities, and there is no do-over.
While thinking about this topic for today’s post, I came across an interesting piece on eye contact by dogs! It turns out that dogs can have a pretty amazing ability to seek and maintain eye contact with their owners, and that this is a powerful source of well-being for both. (They are not called man’s best friend for nothing.) And this is not just common knowledge. Oxytocin, a bonding neurochemical, has been found at increased levels with such dog and owner pairs. And this doesn’t happen with every dog. By our own actions, we actually train our dogs (as well as our kids) to want to look at us, or not!

Parent As Guides and Gatekeepers

I’ve always thought that a big risk factor for child well-being is lack of parent availability. Parents need to be on-site, at home, spending at least some time with their kids. And I’m not sure going to all their school and team events qualifies. Or enrolling them in so many lessons, sports, and activities.
In fact, maybe less time running around with and for kids might just restore busy parents with the energy to be more involved at home. There are lots of things parents think are required (ex. elaborate birthday parties) that are actually quite expendable. And other things that seem inconsequential that are not inconsequential at all.
One irony of this inverse finding between screen time and social adjustment is that children from more affluent families may be at higher risk. I bet that the larger the family income, the more likely kids are to have personal computers, games, and smart phones, and at younger ages.
The acquisition, use (and overuse) of these accoutrements may actually be impoverishing a child’s life and development! Such children are in reality poor little rich kids. Here’s the irony: they have parents who stop at nothing to give their child every advantage in life. We know that poor kids benefit from Head Start. Maybe rich kids also need the head start that comes from parents firmly saying No or Later to personal computers.
My hairdresser is an anomaly among her peers who are mothers. She will not let her children have cell phones of any kind until they are 14. That’s right: 14. And she has stuck to it. It has saved her both money and worry about her kids. It helps her know more about what they are doing and with whom.  Now she has an unusual amount of backbone, and is not unnerved when her kids complain. Some parents compromise and get their kids basic cell phones but draw the line at smart phones. But parents who are unafraid of their kids are becoming more and more rare today—any therapist will tell you this.
There are people who are not concerned that much about this issue. They don’t see what the fuss is all about. Some of them say we can’t put the genie of technology back in the bottle, and of course they are right. It has benefitted us in untold ways. It is limiting screen time and the use of technology that I am advocating. While there may be a few kids who will curtail it themselves, in most situations it is up to the parents.
There are also those who will point out that some computer use by kids, like texting, is social in nature. And therefore just fine. The problem with texting is that many youngsters are relying on it as a primary vehicle for social communication. The far richer face-to-face contact, and also voice-to-voice, has sadly become secondary.
In my work as a therapist, I have always preferred voicemail for messages from current and potential patients to a message taken by a secretary or an email. Hearing a person’s voice gives me way more information. Ditto with face-to-face rather than screen; therapy by Skype has its limitations. But mark my word, in our fast-paced world, it will become more common. It already has.
Texting lends itself to short, factual communication and staying in touch. But it does a poor and sometimes confusing job of transmitting that which is important or emotional. So does email. Both can be opaque and subject to misunderstanding. They can leave people not quite knowing what is going on and where things stand. (Come to think of it, they may be the first choice of people with attachment problems!)
Kids need to get outside and out of their houses and with their own cohort, playing when they are young and horsing around or doing things together when they are older. They need to do their own thing without adults around all the time. They have to figure out the laws of the jungle and how people tick, and this is not something computers can teach them. It is face-to-face that they develop real social competence and facility. And the payoff is immeasurable, in their childhoods and in their later lives.


  • Share Link:
Payh Blog
Man walking in a dark surreal forest with fog
May 01, 2015

Be a better parent – It’s never too late

Do you want to be a better parent? If you see where your problems lie, please do not be discouraged. I know the tendency is to think, “I see where I have been a terrible parent. My teenager is a mess, and the situation is hopeless.” No, it is not hopeless. That, if anything, is the underlying message of the Paul Anderson Youth Home (PAYH): hope! At the PAYH, we take troubled young men in whom wrong seeds have been planted. By applying God’s principles to them even at this seemingly “late stage,” we see miracles every day. We see “miraculous transformations! We see first-hand God’s grace, His forgiveness, and His way of healing wounds and restoring parents to their child and child to their parents. As promised in Joel 2:25a, “God will restore the years the locusts have stolen.
*Devon’s father was at the end of his rope when he called and begged us to take his son, who was in deep trouble. A wealthy West Coast businessman, he was monetarily able to give his son anything he needed. Two years earlier, Devon was kicked out of public high school for dealing drugs, after which time his father placed him in a well-known drug rehabilitation program. He came back home and soon returned to his old friends and his old behavior. He ended up in a military school and another boarding school before coming to us…each time either expelled or dismissed because of his anger and his refusal to obey the rules.
He did not want to come to the PAYH, but he had no choice. It was either here or jail. Devon was like a lot of our young men. He was angry, manipulative, and mouthy, and he had never been given consistent discipline. He had grown up without clear-cut, set boundaries. He learned, therefore, how to manipulate his mother and father to get what he wanted. He thought he had it made, but he was filled with anger. It is my belief that a child’s internal need for direction and boundaries is all tied up with his understanding of “love.” When the parent says “No!” something inside that child feels secure and loved. When discipline is missing, and a child is empowered to do whatever he wants an inner rage begins to form.
This rage was certainly true in Devon’s case. Of course, the fact that his father left his mother for another woman did not help the situation. There was an unconscious barometer inside Devon that longed for someone to always be there for him. Here at the PAYH, he would have temper tantrums, and we would deal with them each time. His behavior is not acceptable! He was made to pay the consequences of his behavior and we were consistently tougher on him than anyone had ever been in his life.
I will never forget the day I was sitting in my den and heard shouting outside. I opened the door to see what was going on and out in the yard stood Devon and Eddie Burris. Eddie’s stature is rather intimidating, though at heart, he is a gentle giant. Well over 300 pounds, his voice is as large as he is. I could hear him sternly say, “Devon, come here!” Devon kept backing away, knowing all too well his behavior had gotten him in trouble. However, he resisted Eddie, “No! I’m not coming over there.” Eddie replied, “Devon, come here!” This went on and on. Devon resisted, but Eddie stood his ground. Finally, Devon weakened and made his way toward Eddie. Suddenly, his anger melted, and he fell into Eddie’s strong arms… and Eddie held him for a long time while he cried.
A young man like Devon desperately needs a strong father who will love him, affirm his worth, and hold him accountable whenever he falls. Devon soon began to flourish here at the PAYH and became a real leader among the guys. His father saw such positive change in his son that he began to examine his own life. I will always treasure seeing them truly embrace each other for the first time in their lives with sincere love and genuine forgiveness.

*Name has been changed

Have you found yourself in the same place as Devon’s family? We are here to help! Contact our admissions team today if you need help for your family.


  • Share Link:
Payh Blog
Family Playing Board Game At Home
May 01, 2015

Hands on or hands off parent? Does it matter?

Protecting your child from harm is the most important duty you will face during the teenage years. Research from Columbia University reveals that parents who exert their parental authority by taking a “hands-on approach to raising their children not only have a better relationship with their children, but also reduce their child’s risk of harming themselves with drugs and alcohol.
The following twelve parental characteristics are associated with decreased risk for substance abuse among teens:

  1. Parents who expect to be told where their teenager is going in the evenings and on the weekends
  2. Parents who make it clear that they would be very upset if their teen tried marijuana
  3. Parents who always know where their child is after school, evenings, and weekends
  4. Parents who monitor what the teen is watching on TV
  5. Parents who restrict the kind of music their teen can purchase
  6. Parents who are very aware of how their teenager is doing in school
  7. Parents who monitor internet usage
  8. Families who have dinner together 6-7 times per week
  9. Teenagers who have a weekend curfew
  10. Adults who are home when a teenager returns from school
  11. Teens who are responsible for regular chores
  12. Families whose TV is not on during dinner

Hands on Parents are those who consistently achieve at least 10 of the 12 actions described above. Unfortunately, only about one quarter of teens live with “hands-on” parents.
“Hands-off parents consistently fail to set rules and monitor their teen’s behavior. Of the 12 actions described above, these type of parents routinely achieve five or less. Consequently, their children are more likely to engage in high-risk behaviors. In truth, teenagers need their parents to establish rules and expectations. It’s one of the ways they feel loved and protected. In sharp contrast to contemporary thinking about child-rearing, children with hands on parents seldom rebel or pull away. On the contrary, the research confirms that “hands-on” parents are much more likely to have an excellent relationship with their teens than permissive parents.
It’s never too late to become a “Hands on Parent.


  • Share Link:
Payh Blog
Chris-1200x800
Apr 23, 2015

Meaningful Conversations with Your Children

Whenever I write a parenting article, I am reminded of how little I have it all together.  I am writing this article on the heels of one of my poorer parenting moments at the dinner table with family around.  I do so love exposing my flaws to all.  So, today it is particularly convicting to be thinking through advice I would give on how to talk to your child in a meaningful way.
I don’t always do this well.  I fail too often.  Can you relate?  Thank God for Grace.  God, in His grace, is for you and me too.  This means He is for us and our children, despite our own failures.
Mine are varied and unique to me.  I am louder than I would like to be and so what sounds to others like I am yelling is simply my normal tone of voice (I blame my parents)!  Nor have I ever been accused of being simple when I communicate or write.  I really wish I could be more like Ernest Hemingway with my precision and conciseness with words.  But Hemingway I am not.  This means that when I talk, I tend to be a bit wordy as well.  It is certainly not my favorite trait in myself.  I have a host of these issues that I bring into my relationships with others and particularly my children.
Like all of us, I am a work in progress as a husband, father, son, employee, and employer.  So, with that in mind, I want to challenge us all, myself included, with 10 points of advice on how to speak, listen, and engage with your children in a meaningful way.

  1. Be involved every day – Life gives us plenty of opportunities to talk with our children.  From the news, to school events, to a TV show, to what we see around town, being involved is sometimes as simple as asking your children what they think.  Granted, a 6-year-old has a far different impression of the world around them than a 14-year-old, but that does not mean it is any less unique or poignant.  There is much to be learned from all ages, so be involved by simply asking them what they think.
  2. Be varied – From the topic you cover to the words that you use, it’s important to speak at their level of language, experience, and understanding.  Every teaching point cannot start with, “Well, when I was a child… nor can the only location for shepherding your child be at the dinner table.  Be as varied as life and circumstances are.
  3. Be brief – That doesn’t mean spending only a brief amount of time teaching your children.  It means you are deliberately giving them a bite-sized perspective rather than a longer narrative that is harder for them to follow.
  4. Be willing to talk about anything – Talk openly about money, sex, your past (yes, even the mistakes you made).  This does not mean that you have to provide a full-blown explanation of all the bad choices you made, but you have to be someone that they can relate to.  Knowing you have made bad choices makes you nothing more than a human they can connect with.  So don’t shy away from topics that maybe your parents didn’t talk about or mistakes you made.
  5. Be early – One of the things we see with youth today is that they are confronted with issues far earlier in life than we were.  This creates a gap in our mind of when we should talk about the reality of drugs, sexually transmitted diseases, bullying, and any number of other difficult issues.  While you must consider age-appropriate topics, as a parent it is critical that you act as the teacher earlier than society will.
  6. Be first when necessary – Your child is not always going to start the conversation.  It would be really convenient if it was always an “ask and respond scenario.  That, however, is not reality. While occasionally they may initiate the conversation, the reality is, sometimes you need to drive the discussion.
  7. Be a listener – There are times they need to vent.  There are times they need to simply talk it through.  Listening carefully helps you understand what they are really after.  You cannot listen when you are reading a book, staring at the TV, or glued to a piece of technology.  In fact, if you are trying to multitask when your children are talking to you, you are telling them they are not important enough to gain your undivided attention. Give them all of your focus.  This is one of the ways you can relay their importance.
  8. Be patient – This can be incredibly hard at times.  Sometimes we are so prone to jump in when there are awkward pauses or instruct when our only role was to listen.  At least I struggle with this.  Being patient doesn’t just mean to persevere.  Being patient implies you give them time to work through to the answer themselves.  Our role as parents is not simply to solve the problem for them, unless we want them to always depend on us for the answer.  Sometimes, they simply need to be heard.
  9. Be there to provide moral guidance – There are the golden moments we get to answer questions and guide. This is not time for them to figure it out on their own.  They want to know your beliefs, not how you would handle a situation.  Telling them what you think doesn’t mean they can’t or won’t think for themselves.
  10. Be persistent – Conversations on certain topics like sex, poverty, drugs, politics, and beliefs are not one time events.  They cannot possibly be covered in a single conversation.  Besides that, we only remember 5-10% of what we hear, so go over it repeatedly.  Do not lecture.  Ask questions.  Listen to their answers to make sure they understand.

 
In partnership with you for the family,
Drew


  • Share Link:
Payh Blog
male and female children playing hide and seek
Apr 14, 2015

Meaningful Ways to Talk to Your Kids

 
 

Talk to your children in a meaningful way!  Here are a few tips on how to get started.


  • Share Link:
Payh Blog
bigstock-Daughter-looking-a-phone-and-i-597144
Mar 30, 2015

What To Expect When You’re Expecting Adolescents

The New York Times Magazine ran a long piece on raising adolescents recently, entitled “Raising Teenagers: The Mother of All Problems. It was written by Oxford-educated writer Rachel Cusk, whose colleagues and acquaintances grimace when she tells them her daughters are 16 and 14. It paints an alternately dispiriting and disturbing picture of this stage of life.
Here are some quotes from this Mom’s experience. “The laptop has replaced me as the navigator of our lives. “Her temperature is always high. “My daughter’s friends encounter me with barely a word of greeting. Perhaps most disturbing is the scene after her daughters’ friends come over: “The kitchen is strewn with dirty plates and half-eaten food and empty wrappers; the bathroom is a swamp of wet towels, capsized bottles, crumpled tissues smeared with makeup… I tidy up, slowly.
In my northwest DC psychology practice, I heard complaints just like this.  They don’t exist only in England. The Times editorial staff must know that it has a critical mass of  readers who will either identify and commiserate with this mother, or protest loudly. And they did (be sure to see Comments).
Read full article


  • Share Link:
Payh Blog
Basketball Tournament
Mar 24, 2015

Parentology – The Sweet Sixteen

In trying to think of a clever title to match a topic gaining media attention, it hit me: Hey, it’s NCAA tournament time, why not Parentology!  After all, people all over are predicting and filling out their brackets (bracketology).  They are studying match-ups and quickly making decisions of who will beat who.  So, with a great pop cultural tie-in that seemed clever enough, I knew a Google search was necessary.  I have moments of creativity, but certainly I’m not the first person to use that term.  Turns out, Dalton Conley, a sociologist from New York University, wrote a book called Parentology: Everything You Wanted to Know About the Science of Raising Children but Were Too Exhausted to Ask.
That’s quite a title.  Everything you wanted to know?  There is a lot I want to know and a lot I don’t do right.  Through countless studies, research has seemed to point out numerous tactics for raising healthy adjusted children. But what are these tactics or this advice really pointing us towards? Good grades, athletic performance, success amongst peers, and financial success?  Are our tactics really helping our children answer the fundamental question, “Who am I?
Is what we do more important than how we feel about ourselves?  Do our achievements give us a sense of security and self-worth?  And if we are trying these various tactics to achieve these goals, how do we know which one is going to work in the long run?
So in honor of the Sweet Sixteen, here are 16 areas (among many others) that parents are concerned about regarding child-rearing and development.  Fair warning:  This may feel a bit overwhelming as they range from babies to teenagers, feeding schedules to naming, and most of all, self-control. (The following are not an endorsement but intended to make a point.)

  1. Secure Attachment
  2. On-demand vs. scheduled nursing
  3. How babies should sleep
  4. Timing of potty training
  5. Using board games to teach math
  6. Using playtime to improve memory and stimulate growth of the cerebral cortex
  7. The anthropology of sleep
  8. How family life affects peer relationships
  9. When to begin formal schooling
  10. Reward systems for self-control
  11. Praising children in the right way
  12. Authoritative parenting vs. permissive parenting
  13. Cause and effect parenting
  14. The Mozart Effect – increasing intelligence by listening to Mozart
  15. The effects of video games on school achievement
  16. The mental benefits of exercise

I understand why Dalton Conley used the phrase “were too exhausted to ask in the by-line of his title; parenting is overwhelming. After all, how am I to know if I should helicopter, free range, nurse (I can’t), or if I even gave them the right name to ensure they have impulse control?  If I let my children sleep in the bed with us, will they learn how to quiet themselves down and have control later in life?  How much impact will their birth order play on their psychological development (this seems a bit ex post facto, doesn’t it)?
I could have gone on with that list and easily filled out an entire bracket of 64+ tactics and perspectives.  It’s not that there are not valid and meaningful perspectives in all those noted above.  Tactics are tactics for a reason; they give us a basis to approach something.  But all of this can seem overwhelming, and it is.  Sometimes, too much information is simply that…too much. And with all the background noise and various opinions, we miss the real goal which is to give our children a sense of their own uniqueness and self-worth.  That is a process of discovery for the child and the parent that is made up of many decisions along the way.
We make countless decisions every day, largely out of habit/routine, from what we are going to wear to which hand we write with (right for 90% of us).  However, there are times, instances, and circumstances when we simply don’t choose anything.  It can be due to stress, the value we placed on a decision, knowing where to start, or simply because we have too many options.   There is actually a term for this called “Analysis Paralysis.  That means that we have over-thought a situation so much that a decision never takes place.  We are frozen.  And that is the worst decision when it comes to parenting.
There is no one parenting tactic you are going to do perfectly that will ensure the output of a “straight A–student who is popular and athletic.  No matter the amount of research you pursue to achieve your parenting definition of success, one thing has to be clear: You have to be honest enough to admit that these are our societal metrics of success and our parenting merit badges.  But badges are all they are.  Sure, we want our children to be socially adjusted and experience success.  But most of all, we should strive to give them a sense of security which comes from their identity.
That is the solution—to recognize the most important thing you can do is to help your children feel confident in their identity and not place too much emphasis on external and artificial, or at the least exaggerated, societal badges.
Identity is a question of security.  We love our children because they are a gift to us and because they are a part of us, but also because we are a part of them. We were made to be in relationship with each other. They are our family, and family is a picture of heavenly community. We need to understand that our identity is found in God the Father. We are His beloved children, and He has called us to steward well the gifts of our children, which He has given us.
That’s the ultimate goal and victory found within parentology.  Good luck!  Choose well!
 
 


  • Share Link:
Payh Blog
bigstock-You-29664413-img
Mar 03, 2015

Epigenetics 1; Nature Versus Nurture 0

Is it nature or nurture that determines development?  Psychologists have known for some time now that this question is too binary and simplistic.  The effects of genetic inheritance and environment are complex and interrelated.  One can affect the other, and set off a chain of effects.  In this Wall Street Journal column, Alison Gopnik looks at what is known as epigenetics. What causes certain genes to be expressed or turned off, and what affects the way genetic endowment is expressed? She cites recent human and animal research that demonstrates just how complex human behavior and functioning really are.
The first time I came across the term epigenetics was in Erik Erikson’s 1968 bookIdentity:  Youth and Crisis.  He thought that psychosocial development proceeded according to what he called epigenetic principal, in which biology, environment, and culture interact.  Erikson noted that the children either thrived or failed to do so as they moved through different stages of development.  Progress was determined at least in part by the person’s success or lack of success in the previous stages.

Rich Environments Increase IQ

In this piece, two findings that are not commonly known stand out. One is that average IQ scores in the recent past have been increasing at the fairly dramatic rate of  3 points per decade! She notes that this change is keeping test designers busy, since harder questions must be added to keep average IQ at 100.  To be valid, these tests must cover the full range of intelligence which necessitates some questions that would stump the vast majority of us.
Her explanation for this rise makes sense.  We live in an information age in which a huge amount of interesting (and to be honest, sometimes really boring) information is at our fingertips.  Those with curiosity can learn so much more in a day or year than was possible one hundred years ago.  After all, our forebears did not have any book at easy access, much less the Internet, newspapers, e-readers, and smart phones.  Computers put the answer to many questions we formerly had to “look up at our fingertips.  We really can Google almost anything!
Now in all fairness, it needs to be noted that intelligence scores and sensibility are two different things.  We know any awful lot today, but may think less deeply than our forebears did.  Too many distractions.  Most people have a lot less reflective and contemplative time.  There are so many distractions:  celebrity gossip! sports trivia! bad plastic surgery!  The list goes on.

Poor Environments Decrease IQ

The other extremely interesting finding concerns the difference between rich and poor environments.  Genetics were far more predictive of intellectual functioning in poor environments; in rich ones, children were able to make gains regardless of the kind of parent (attentive or inattentive) they were born to.  This tells us that environment matters a great deal.   While children are not all “created equalgenetically, enriched environments  tend to benefit all, and average environments give people a fighting chance.  A poor one makes improving one’s functioning hard, indeed.  This tells us that decent levels of education, nutrition, and opportunity during childhood can have real effects.
Gopnik discusses how epigenetic effects involve nurture reshaping nature.  What about the effects in which nature reshapes nurture?  It works both ways.  For example, the temperament and emotional functioning of a parent can affect the way he or she nurtures. We know that depression in a parent can depress functioning in a child, and that the younger the child the stronger the impact, since the parent constitutes such a large part of  the small child’s environment.
We need to address biological (i.e. nature) problems when they arise and treat them; we also need to support (and therefore nurture) parents in their demanding job.  We need adequate healthcare for everyone and stronger support  networks around families.  And the more people who love a child, the better. We make up for one another’s lacks and glitches.  It really does take a village to raise a child to full health and well-being.
The child’s temperament and emotional functioning also affect the parent’s well-being, and in turn the quality of the parent’s nurturing behavior.  So the chain goes on and on.  In fortunate situations, the loop improves and both parent and child have potential to thrive.  In “the average expectable environment, both can do well.  But in poor  and multi-problem environments, there is potential for deterioration.  Many chronic social problems get their beginning in just these situations.
Laissez-faire social policy makes sense if most homes, schools, and neighborhoods for children are average or above.  But it is a prescription for disaster in deprived and troubled situations.  Kids’ whole lives can be ruined from very young ages if nothing in a compromised setting changes.  But it’s not only the child who is affected. Our society as a whole pays, also, for the effects of  job, marital, family, substance, medical and psychological problems. These findings  can prompt our governments, towns, and churches devise plans of action to raise all boats.


  • Share Link:
Get Involved Background Image

Get Involved

This ministry has endured for almost 60 years because God has blessed us with faithful partners. Through friends like you, He ensures that we have the help we need to accomplish our mission. Click the button below to learn more, whether you’re interested in volunteering, making a one-time gift, or becoming a monthly contributor.