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The Big Answer


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Working Families

a book by Diane Ehrensaft

(our site's book review)

Focused around a major factor in the huge shift in the dynamics of work and parenthood—the rise of dual-income families—this groundbreaking volume provides a highly informative view of how families are managing work and family in the United States.

Ehrensaft says that: “the diagnosis of attention deficit disorder has spread like wildfire in this country over the past ten years—it is the one syndrome that takes parents off the hook by clearly attributing their child's behavioral problems to a neurological disorder rather than a parenting disaster.” Of course, this bold step by Big Pharma to get as many kids’ parents as possible buying expensive drugs to put even more wealth in the hands of drug companies is enough to make anyone cynical. No one except Peter R. Breggin of Reclaiming Our Children fame seems willing to step up and confront the madness of drugging our children senseless.

Big Pharma spreading 'good health via medicine' across the land
Big Pharma spreading "good health via medicine" across the land


This is your child's brain. This is your child's brain on Big Pharma's drugs. Any questions? No one seems willing to step up and confront the madness of drugging our children senseless
This is your child's brain. This is your child's brain on Big Pharma's drugs. Any questions? No one seems willing to step up and confront the madness of drugging our children senseless

Monitoring the controversial nature/nurture debate and the family-alone-in-childcare vs. the need-for-social-support-networks-in-childcare debate, Ehrensaft brings up the “it takes a village to raise a child” point which Hillary Clinton popularized via her book of that name. She comes down on the side of “village” of course, as all sociologists do, since few families have sufficient resources for adequate childcare, since both parents work in most families.

Ehrensaft says that: “If Hillary Rodham Clinton (1996) was correct that it takes a village to raise a child, the only village available to most American parents is the miniature one at their own street address.” There's little government help for families and not much good childcare available either.

Hillary Rodham Clinton: 'it takes a village to raise a child'
Hillary Rodham Clinton: 'it takes a village to raise a child'

In 1996 Bob Dole said in the 1996 presidential campaign that it “doesn’t take a village—it takes a family,” and this became a right-wing mantra ridiculing all tendencies towards socialism, and left-wing, liberal, government-spending-loving collectivism, and it was intended to bring to the surface all Americans’ belief in family, individualism, heroic self-sufficiency as well as their nostalgia for 1950s paternalistic families. It didn't work—so we ended up remembering Mr. Dole for his erectile dysfunction ads instead, not his snappy quips. Too many people have seen the hopelessness of families alone trying to fill all needs of all members all alone and isolated—even in 1996. Today (2014) this is even more true.

Republicans keep unsuccessfully trying to wean citizens off social programs they end up dependent on, by citing that Americans are heroic individualists, but we all know it's not true
Republicans keep unsuccessfully trying to wean citizens off social programs they end up dependent on, by citing that Americans are heroic individualists, but we all know it's not true

Ehrensaft coined the term kinderdult to mean half baby, half miniature adult to describe the dual identity that she believes characterizes many of today's children. Overvalued and overindulged, yet granted freedoms far beyond their ability to handle, these children "face many risks and shoulder heavy psychological burdens," including self-centeredness, aggression and chronic anxiety. To integrate this troubling double-exposure and give childhood back to these kids, the author urges parents to offer their children more time and less pressure to be "perfect." Both parents work to make ends meet, parents get guilty for not being with their kids enough, parents spoil kids—this is what it all boils down to.

Parents often feel a sense of community, accomplishment, and contentment where they work, but at home it is chaos, a rush to get housework done, and lots of complaints that parents address all too often with materialistic bribes.

Kids that get scant attention have lots of complaints that parents address all too often with materialistic bribes
Kids that get scant attention have lots of complaints that parents address all too often with materialistic bribes

Even more guilt arises when they look at how they're aware that they really don’t know that much about parenting, so they just “wing it.” They don’t have the time to study this complex subject these days, but this brings up the question of why they didn’t study the subject as soon as the wife became pregnant for the first time so they could hit the ground running once they had a kid. Or even make it part of the acknowledged responsibility they shared once they got married and decided to procreate. But no, most people don't study up on parenting when the wife gets pregnant—they just follow the foolish strategy of "doing what comes naturally." One has only to examine the social dysfunction statistics to see how poorly this deterministic catch-as-catch-can strategy works!

The answer to why they didn’t study the subject for most parents is that they decided to just do what comes naturally like their parents did with them, and they turned out okay—right? Unfortunately, for most aspects of parenting, doing what comes naturally is a bad strategy, as all parenting experts know.

Most people don't study up on parenting when the wife gets pregnant—they just follow the foolish strategy of 'doing what comes naturally'
Most people don't study up on parenting when the wife gets pregnant—they just follow the foolish strategy of 'doing what comes naturally'

The problem is that this “natural” strategy taints the parenting seriously, since with this strategy parents will inevitably make the same mistakes with their kids as their parents made with them. This is so because all the past pain of unfilled childhood needs will come rushing to the surface to corrupt the parent-child relationship once a baby refuses to let anyone sleep, preferring instead to cry, need, wet, soil, and scream.

As you can see, what comes “naturally” will be anger and frustration and desire to punish this “misbehavior.” Why in God’s name didn’t anyone warn parents what it was going to be like? Oh yeah—that would require that parents had the wisdom to study up on parenting where they'd get exactly that warning, and a whole lot more.

Why in God’s name aren't all parents warned about what it was REALLY going to be like?
Why in God’s name aren't all parents warned about what it was REALLY going to be like?

The author tells us that it is not necessary for parents to work the long hours that they do. But to give parents more time with their kids would require shifts in workplace demands and government policies and increases in family support services. She also favors shorter workweeks, flextime, job-sharing, more men helping with childcare, and onsite daycare facilities as other ways to alleviate the time dearth. See also: Making Care Work: Employed Mothers in the New Childcare Market.

Since the current American family and work scenes, because of the weak economy, are not going to get the succor they need from workplaces, government, or family support services, we owe it to ourselves to ask: Okay, there's no help in sight, how do we help ourselves? The answer, at first, is to use babysitting co-ops to alleviate some of these issues. After all, if poorer families need 1/5 of their income for childcare, won't it give them more time with their kids if they get free childcare by being in a co-op?

But only MCs (microcommunities) can get anywhere near a total solution to the optimal childcare we all want for our kids. See Why Register for an MC?.

Registering for MC search and match
Registering for MC search and match