How will our kids interpret their world? Short answer: through us.

This post originally appeared on The Washington Post in September, 2015.

We can use Google to translate words, but our family is how we learn to interpret the world. That learning process can be mundane, frightful, funny, and even a matter of life and death.

I remember one scene as if it happened yesterday. I am 5 years old. Louie, my favorite uncle, is a mailman. He is used to walking fast, despite his short, uneven legs – the consequence of a childhood bout with rickets. He lets me push the shopping cart on a breakneck grocery excursion. I stray from my task and take another shopper’s cart as we speed down the meat aisle. The incensed victim yells at my uncle to watch me more carefully. Louie, one of the kindest and funniest souls I know, feigns rage at me and whacks me about the head with the store’s advertising flyer: “Damn kid, what did I tell you? WHAT DID I TELL YOU!” as the complainant looks on in horror.

Read the full piece here.

 

Parents can track whether their college-aged kids are going to classes. They shouldn’t.

This post originally appeared on The Washington Post in August, 2015.

Parents who want their kids to succeed more than anything are now being sold a high-tech solution. Class 120 is a $199-a-year smartphone app that tracks your teenager and alerts you if the kid isn’t in her scheduled class, and, according to figures provided by the company, 4,000 subscribers are enrolled for the upcoming fall semester. For the more budget-minded parent, surveillance apps including “My Mobile Watchdog” ($44.95) and “Sygic Family Locator” ($24.99) can perform similar surveillance duties from an iPhone or Android.

Attendance is a great predictor of college grades, even more so than scores on standardized admissions tests. If grades are good predictors of graduation, and if a parent is paying for college, isn’t it a great idea for parents to track whether their young adults are in class?

In short: No. This is a terrible idea.

Read the full piece here.

5 Steps To Choosing Torture: Psychologists Breaking Bad

This post originally appeared on Psychology Today in July, 2015.

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Earlier this month, a 542-page report was released, concluding that top officials of the American Psychological Association, including its ethics director, contorted and altered the association’s ethics policies so the psychologists on the Pentagon’s payroll could use their expertise to refine and expand methods of torture. The new “ethics light” guidelines concluded that it was appropriate for psychologists to remain involved with “enhanced” interrogations, to make sure they remained “safe, legal, ethical and effective.” Kind of like having physicians preside over lynchings to ensure they are done humanely. Groucho Marx once sneered, “Those are my principles. If you don’t like them, well…I have others.” He described the APA’s position on its own “other” ethical principles.

Read the full piece here.

Life is Beautiful? We help our kids interpret moments. Some moments form our most enduring legacy.

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We can use Google to translate words, but our family is how we learn to interpret the world.   It can be mundane, frightful, funny, and even a matter of life and death.

I remember one scene as if it happened yesterday. I am 5 years old….

Read the full piece here.

Free Range Children (PODCAST)

This podcast originally aired on Takoma Radio in March, 2015.

Listen in as Dr. Dan discusses the free range parenting style in the wake of recent news reports on the subject.

Teen Spirit: Helicopter Parenting Has Crippled Many American Teenagers

Ian was sitting at his usual place during what his parents had decreed was his nightly homework time. But he had his chair turned away from his open books and calculator, and he was removing the fourth raw hot dog from the package. He gingerly placed it sideways on the family dog Walter’s muzzle and commanded him to “walk.” Ian got the idea after a liberal sampling of YouTube’s stupid pet trick videos.

Read the full piece here.

Free-Range Parenting: Easier Said Than Done, But Worth the Effort

This post originally appeared on Huffington Post in January 2015.

One afternoon last December, a brother and sister, ages 10 and 6, were walking a mile along a six lane avenue just north of Washington, DC. A concerned passerby alerted police. A patrol car soon arrived, picked the kids up and took them home, and alerted Child Protective Services, to investigate the matter. The police asked the kids’ dad for identification before releasing them and warned him of the potential dangers his kids faced walking that far unsupervised. The parents were outraged.

Read the full piece here.

8 Things Parents Can Learn About Character Building From the Movie ‘Unbroken’

This post originally appeared on Huffington Post in January 2015.

The kid started smoking at 5 and drinking at 8. He ran away over and over, fought in the streets, and robbed strangers and neighbors alike. He slashed his teachers’ tires, threw things at cops, and vandalized train tracks. Sounds like a parents’ worst nightmare, doesn’t he?

A little later, he shook hands with Adolph Hitler.

Pretty soon after that, things went downhill.

Read the full piece here.

Arrrr!… Parent Like a Pirate!

This post originally appeared on Huffington Post in November, 2014.

As any concerned citizen preparing for International Talk Like a Pirate Day, I did some preparation, reading Under the Black Flag: The Romance and the Reality of Life Among the Pirates, a history of pirates by the English naval historian David Cordingly. With 25 years of family therapy behind me, I thought: Why stop at only talking like a pirate? Why not parent like a pirate? These bands of murderous thugs can impart more guidance to today’s parents than you might think.

Read the full piece here.

When it Comes to Corporal Punishment, Just Don’t Do It

This post originally appeared on Huffington Post in October 2014.

Corporal punishment is bad, so it’s good to not do it or stop doing it. More about that later. Adrian Peterson did not impose corporal punishment. Peterson beat his 4-year-old son with a tree branch, inflicting cuts, welts and bruises over several parts of the boy’s body, including his genitals. Adrian Peterson abused his 4-year-old son.

Read the full piece here.