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Are Parents Today Too Needy?

October 9, 2009 | The Main Dish | 2 comments

Michael Lewis is worried that now that he isn't writing about his kids, he isn't going to pay enough attention to them. To quote Jon Stewart, this is one of the worst things I've ever heard a parent admit on national television. He then dismisses his worry with the notion that kids don't really need to be lavished with attention, anyway. Parents today are too needy, he says. They worry too much that their kids aren't going to be perfect. His solution? Back off. Many of life's problems solve themselves, he says, if you just let them be. (And kids fall into the category of life's problems.)

   
The Daily Show: Michael Lewis With Jon Stewart
 

He May Be Right
For the record, I don't agree that parents today are too needy, or that the type of parenting Lewis is advocating in this interview on The Daily Show is going to win us any awards for stellar parenting. Nor is it a surefire way to raise happy children. I do think kids develop grit and resilience when parents aren't so over-bearing, though. And I also know that a lot of unstructured play—in my house known as benign neglect and recognized as those rare moments when I'm not telling my kids exactly how to be or what to do—is good for the soul.

So shocking as his opener is, I think Lewis goes on to be insightful about how kids develop. He asserts both that it is harder to screw kids up than we may think, and also that we are screwing them up in different ways than we assume. His point is that what we as parents SAY has a much smaller effect on kids than how we ourselves ARE. "If you want to change your children, change yourself," Lewis declares. I couldn't agree more, which is why I believe that parents need to put their own oxygen mask on first. Kids model themselves after us in the darnedest ways, and we have compelling research that shows that if we want to raise happy children, we'll do well to model authentic happiness in ourselves. (The same thing is true about raising kind children, of course.)

Greed, Games, and Goodness
More evidence that Michael Lewis is not as self-absorbed as he implies: he's doing a Greater Good Science Center event for us this month. 100% of the money raised by ticket sales will benefit the GGSC and support this blog. In Greed, Games, and Goodness: A Conversation Between Michael Lewis and Dacher Keltner, Lewis and GGSC Faculty Director Keltner will be discussing the state of fatherhood and whether or not it is making women unhappy, among other things.

And your ticket is tax deductible! Lewis is donating his time, and all our costs are being underwritten by The Quality of Life Foundation. So please: if you like Half Full and you think the work that we do at the GGSC is important, bring all your friends to our event (if you live in the area), and spread the word to your Bay Area friends (even if you aren't nearby)!

» Buy your tickets now
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See Lewis Live
Buy Your Tickets Now
Friday, October 23rd, 2009
7:30 pm at the Zellerbach Playhouse
UC Berkeley campus

Join us for an evening of lively conversation between Michael Lewis and Dacher Keltner. Known for his puckish humor and inimitable commentary, Lewis—author of Liar's Poker, The Blind Side, and Home Game: An Accidental Guide to Fatherhood—will talk with Keltner about the economic meltdown, sports, and parenthood. Director of the Greater Good Science Center and author of Born to Be Good, Keltner's contrasting viewpoint is inspired by his research on happiness, compassion, and altruism. What a pair!

Tickets now on sale through Cal Performances
Click here to buy now!

$150: 6 pm gourmet reception and wine bar, premium seating & copy of signed book
$75: Premium seating & copy of signed book
$25: General admission

Michael LewisBest-selling author and journalist Michael Lewis calls it as he sees it. Lewis first made a name for himself in 1989 with the chart-topping Liar's Poker: Rising Through the Wreckage of Wall Street, which Tom Wolfe called "the funniest book on Wall Street I've ever read." In Moneyball, Michael Lewis writes about how the Oakland A's manager Billy Beane created one of the most cost-effective teams in baseball. Lewis' The Blind Side will come out as a movie starring Sandra Bullock at the end of October! Dacher KeltnerDacher Keltner is a professor of psychology and founding faculty director of the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley. Keltner's book, Born to Be Good, demonstrates that life is not destined to be "nasty, brutish, and short," but rather that we humans are hardwired to be good. Keltner has written for The New York Times Magazine and has participated on two scientific panels with the Dalai Lama; his research has been covered in TIME, Newsweek, and on the BBC, CNN, and NPR.

© 2009 Christine Carter, Ph.D.

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Hi Christine,
Michael’s interview alludes to an issue that comes up frequently with my teen-aged daughters; no one is perfect and everyone has “issues”.  Yes, parents have a responsibility, but then our kids have their own paths in life which includes pain, unhappiness and HAVING to do their choirs. As parents WE have to accept and cope with our children’s experience of pain.  By knowing pain can be an tremendous teacher, it may help to let go and have faith.  Of course, Michael’s approach is much funnier!
–Amy Honigman

Amy Honigman | 12:47 pm, October 9, 2009 | Link

 

I agree with him.  Changing ourselves is way more important than trying to change our kids.  The way that they are is, in large part, a result of imitating the way they see us.  So, I think it actually is quite easy to screw up kids if parents themselves are deeply flawed.  I suppose it all depends on the emotional maturity of the parent.

Keith Wilcox | 1:36 pm, October 12, 2009 | Link

 
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