Thursday, March 13, 2008

Book Review in Honor of Purim: No!

I recently finished reading a book called No! Why Kids of All Ages Need to Hear It and Ways Parents Can Say It by David Walsch PhD. With Purim a week away, Orthodox media from papers to blogs to list serves are buzzing about the dangers of drinking and intoxication, especially amongst teenagers. I think the uninhibited and danger use of alcohol amongst many teenage boys on Purim is part of a larger problem, the inability for parents to say "No!" to their children. But it is not just the parents, it is the inability of an entire community to say "No!" and set appropriate limits, which is ironic given the number of things that the klal can say "No!" to.*

Long time readers know just how important I think saying "No!" is. So, when I found out there is an entire book dedicated to the concept of "No!," I decided a trip to the library was in short order. This book introduces some basic science of the brain which gives a new dimension to understanding child development and the importance of setting and enforcing limits, with an emphasis on building relationships with your children. The book explains just how vital limits are for raising disciplined, productive adults. Each chapter has a yes/no checklist, some dos and don'ts, and practical advise which helps sum of the information presented in each chapter. The book is an easy read and the author does not get bogged down in scientific terms or psychological jargon. The book is much more of a warm chat over a cup of tea.

The chapters are as follows with some brief notes on the chapter in green:
1. No: Why Kids Need It (Looks at changes in culture, the potential economic impact of low expectations and swollen expectations, and more).
2. Saying No is a Yes Culture (Looks at the challenges from media and advertising in an "instant gratification" culture. Looks at the shrinking attention span as it relates to a culture where children are conditioned to expect instant rewards, be entertained, no have to suffer discomfort, etc. Talks about the important of frustration, pain, and discomfort for building positive character traits).
3. No and the Brain (A short science lesson on brain development, experience and wiring the brain, windows of opportunity and windows of sensitivity).
4. Self-Esteem: Kids Need the Real Thing (An important chapter in my opinion. The self-esteem movement of the 1980's and 1990's has definitely made its way into the frum community and seems to be here to roost. This subject deserves its own treatment in a future post. This chapter looks at self-esteem myths and the importance of attaining the real thing and how to foster it).
5. Styles of Parenting (Husband and Wife working together, building strong emotional connections with children, helping children take charge of their life, staying out of endless negotiations with children).
6. A Baby's First Year: A Time to Connect (Importance of connection and security, Warning against electronic baby media).
7. Toddlers and Preschoolers: Limits and Consequences (Big changes, offering choices, helping children balances their will with the needs of others, consistency, attention getters, impulse control) .
8. Catching Kids Being Good: The Middle Years (Getting out of a Rut, Saying No in other ways, Traps to avoid: doing things for kids they can do themselves, put-downs, overprotection).
9. The Teenage Years: Loosen but Don't Let Go (Teenage Brain under construction, Helping kids put on the breaks, "Neurons that fire together wire together," Importance of Parental Unity or "It Takes a Village to Say No," Chemical Substances an the Teenage Brain).
10. Wired Differently: Special-Needs Children and No
11. Practical Questions about No (Different Ways to Say No, handling tantrums and the importance of not rewarding them, handling defiance, behavior contracts for issues beyond the pale).
12. Taming the Gimmes (Branding, media messages, "Share, Save, Spend" Plan, Thank Yous, high entitlement/low appreciation, allowances should be tied to chores).
13. Raising Media Wise Kids
14. No is Not a Destination; No Is the Road to Yes

Back to the subject of Purim. The Book No! references a study in the footnotes to back up the assertion that "Teen brains are more sensitive to the effects of chemical substances." The study's title is "Age Dependent Inhibition of Long-term Potentiation by Ethanol in Immature vs. Mature Hippocampus," in the Alcohol Clinical Experimental Research 19:1480-1485 (1995) by H. Swartzwelder, W. Wilson, and M. Tayyeb. I found this information online that quotes from this study. The very short of the complicated long is that brain development continues until the mid-20's and that the teenage brain has various growth spurs and is not fully developed as previously believed and is therefore vulnerable to chemicals. Alcohol affects the teenager differently than it affects the adult. Teenager's motor coordination is less affected than adults, but their short term memory and learning is more negatively impacted. Decreased affect on motor coordination allows teenagers to drink more and develop higher BAC levels than adults. Research such as this should be must reads for frum parents of teenagers.

The countdown to Purim is on. Time to figure out how the most effective way to set and enforce limits during the balagan that is Purim in some communities.

*See ProfK's Pre-Purim Rant "Take Cover" where she takes a look at the women's responsibility in this whole mess and tells the wives and mothers that this is one of the battles to fight in a marriage.


Anonymous said...

Parents should say NO, but that NO has to come with an explanation. Otherwise, children will grow up without knowing why they can't do certain things and attempt to do them at the first apportunity.

Lion of Zion said...

i need to go to sleep, but i definitely need to come back and read this.

shabbat shalom

ProfK said...

Thanks Sefardi Lady for the link. Maybe this year the simcha of Purim won't be marred by alcohol related tsurot. One can hope.

RaggedyMom said...

Like Lion of Zion, I want to come back and read this more carefully, and jump over to ProfK too.

This (among a few others) remains one of the more important, relevant, and necessary blogs out there. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I don't know what your shul is like, but, in some shuls, kids and teenagers are pretty much left to their own devices during services. The results, in damage to the building and occasionally to each other, not to mention failure to daven, are not pretty. The parents of the worst offenders have typically spoiled them rotten and do not keep an eye on them. No toothless intervention by clergy, hall monitors, passers-by, etc., can do much good at that stage. And the above is not during Purim, so you can imagine what the same brats might attempt on Purim, with access to alcohol.

Orthonomics said...

Anony-You have actually just touched a nerve. The amount of property damage and just pure nuissance inflicted by Orthodox kids is just unexcusable.

I need to calm down, but your comment will end up being a starting point for a discussion sometime very soon. But, I've got to calm down.

Anonymous said...

I wanted to post to the last article as I am also a frum home schooling mom, but I think enough was said. To this topic I would like to add that the responsibility for children during shul services, Purim or other wise is the parent’s job. It is a pity that so many parents abdicate the power to say no. They just kind of hope for the best and they assume their children will do the right thing but they do not take the time to actually teach them what the right thing is. The reason why I am writing today is because I just brought my 9year old son from his friend’s birthday party (I do let him socialize with same age kidsJ). Unbeknownst to me they were going to watch a movie; there were ten other boys present. Now my kids do watch some movies and videos that we approve and we stay away from violence and such. When the movie started my son got up and went to the parent in charge and said I do not think this movie is appropriate for me to watch, it is too violent and I just do not want to watch it. At that point the other boys started to heckle my son for being a baby and so on, well you can just imagine, the boys are after all a products of a Modern Orthodox day school. My son turned around and explained to the boys that he just does not feel comfortable watching it and that was that. When I came to pick him up the parents right away told me about it and how impressed they were and how maturely he handled the other boys. They just could not believe it. I am very proud of my son that he could stand his ground and not cave in under peer pressure and at the same time I wish this would happen way more often than it does. I wish it were not rare and so surprising. I wish that parents would take the power to parent back and stop hoping for the best. May Hashem give us all the clarity we need to do the right thing for our children and ourselves.