Friday, July 9, 2010

Four for Friday: A Friend for Max, More on NY Mag's 'Parents Hate Parenting' Story, Tween Texting & Talkin' 'Bout Birds, Bees

Item #1: A Friend for Max?

Our Havanese-Wheaten Terrier dog Max (we affectionately call him a Mini-Wheat) recently turned one. And although he’s still a rambunctious chewing machine – he’ll gnaw on anything he can grab (like shoes, books, clothing, decapitate action figures, etc.) – I’ve started a campaign in the Picket Fence Post household which is driving The Spouse nuts: I’ve been telling him that, in my humble opinion, I think Max needs a friend.

If Max were a person, he'd very likely be considered a “people person.” Whenever another dog is around, Max is thrilled beyond belief, playful and happy. It’s not that he’s unhappy when he’s home with us or when he’s sleeping on my office floor while I work at my desk, it's just that I’ve been wondering if he’d be happier with another, similarly sized friend to pal around with.

Friends to whom I've mentioned this think I’d be crazy to add to the chaos of our house, even though the kids think it’s a great idea.

That being said, I’d love to hear from anyone of you who have two dogs. Please, give me your unvarnished, true stories about what having two hairy beasts in the house is really like.

Item #2: More on New York Mag’s ‘Parents Hate Parenting’ Cover Story

That New York Magazine story about why parents love their kids but hate contemporary child-rearing certainly hit a nerve. It’s being debated all over them there internets. (I blogged about it here.) The story’s author, Jennifer Senior, appeared this morning on MSNBC’s Morning Joe (a show to which I’m addicted, by the way) and an interesting exchange ensued. You can see the interview here.

Item #3: Tweens & Texting/Social Media

If you have children in middle school – or about to enter middle school – I believe that it’s imperative that you read this article, “Online Bullies Pull Schools Into the Fray” from the New York Times which featured middle school principals who are struggling with the in-school aftermath of vicious, sexually explicit, harassing behavior on social networks and via texting that goes on between students.

The level of vitriol and physical threats became so bad during this past school year that one principal from New Jersey sent an e-mail to parents saying, “There is absolutely NO reason for any middle school student to be part of a social networking site.”

Why? Because the kids can’t, from a developmental point of view, handle it or sufficiently foresee the consequences of their actions. “It’s easier to fight online,” one middle schooler told the Times, “because you feel more brave and in control. On Facebook you can be as mean as you want.” Because when you're called fat, slutty, cheap or stupid by a whole group of your peers, in front of all your classmates on Facebook, it hurts your feelings less, right?

If you pair this article with one I saw recently in the Boston Globe -- which cited studies which have shown that the frontal lobe, which controls judgment, isn’t fully developed until roughly age 25 -- one could make a compelling case to bolster what the Jersey principal was saying about keeping middle schoolers off of social networking and texting.

A Harvard Medical School neurologist told the Globe: “We all know what the frontal lobe does. It’s insight, judgment, inhibition, self-awareness, cause and effect, acknowledgment of cause and effect. And big surprise: It’s not done in your teen years. Hence [teens’] impulsiveness, their unpredictable behavior, their lack of ability to acknowledge and see cause and effect. . .”

So it’s no wonder that kids think that being mean on Facebook or writing a horrifically abusive text messages has no correlation to someone’s real life feelings. Call me a Luddite if you will, but I’m with the New Jersey principal on this one.

Item #4: Talkin’ Birds and Bees

Having THOSE difficult conversations with one’s children -- you know, the sex ones -- can be awkward. And you don't tend to get them over with all at once, in a single conversation. You may think that, once you’ve covered the technical, biological explanations, you’re done, but in reality, that's only just the beginning.

In my house, having THOSE conversations only spawned more questions, MANY more questions. Hence my July GateHouse News Service column about having those talks with my fifth grader twins while The Spouse fled the room in terror.

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