On Failure, Torturing Children for No Apparent Reason, and "Better Get Used To It"

A great piece by Alfie Kohn:

"It isn't usually spelled out quite so bluntly, but an awful lot of parenting practices are based on the belief that the best way to get kids ready for the painful things that may happen to them later is to make sure they experience plenty of pain while they're young. I call this BGUTI (rhymes with duty), which is the acronym of Better Get Used To It."

As a kid, I distinctly remember really hating adults who told me that.

"Wash the dishes by hand? Really?" "Yep, that's just the way life is. Better Gets Used To It if you want clean plates."

Today = automatic dishwashers everywhere. (Granted, I still don't wash the dishes… it's on the schedule for next month, though, so don't worry about it.)

"Write in cursive? Learn trigonometry? How is this going to be useful for me again?" "It just is! Everyone uses cursive and performs complex trigonometry problems every day as an adult. You just Better Get Used To It..."

Today = haven't even thought about or seen cursive in ages, and type most everything on a mini-computer that fits in his pocket and has more computing power than the original space shuttle that went to the moon. Oh, and for the, oh, maybe one trigonometry problem I have a decade, Wolfram Alpha solves it for me in like two seconds.

What's so useful about Better Get Used to It again?

Chinese DIY Inventions I Want to Build

The giant motorcycle is totally my favorite. Along with the indoor slide, submarine(s), self-made aircraft (x3), six-ton three-person ball house (!), homemade protective mask, gigantic suction pipe, Lucha Libra sunblock swimming mask, foldable wheelchair/bicycle, homemade cannon, air filtration bike, Noah's Ark pod inspired by the movie '2012', bike-that-rides-on-water, egg-shaped mobile house, two homemade helicopters, solar-powered electric car, prosthetic forearms, robot butler, walking robot, and – finally – the robot rickshaw driver.

The One Kid With Rumpled Clothes and Unkempt Hair

Brian Janosch commemorates the 20th anniversary of the show that legends are made of, The Adventure of Pete & Pete:

Some time around 1993 at a Nickelodeon research center in New Jersey, Chris Viscardi and Will McRobb were forced to sit behind a sheet of mirrored glass and observe a dozen kids watch their new half-hour TV show The Adventures Of Pete And Pete. Eleven of those kids contorted their faces in such a way that the creators knew what they were thinking—"This is stupid." But one kid, with rumpled clothes and unkempt hair and food stains on his shirt, was smiling.

So priceless. Here's to rumpled kids everywhere.

Waiter Refuses to Serve Customers Who Insulted a Down-Syndrome Child

Your Sunday morning dose of awesome:

When a group of regulars insulted a special needs customer at his restaurant, waiter Michael Garcia served them a dose of bravery. "My personal feelings just took over,” said Garcia, a waiter at Laurenzo’s Prime Rib in Houston, told KTRK. “And I told this man, 'I'm sorry, I can't serve you.'"

Michael] Garcia, who has been working at Laurenzo’s for two years, was put in charge of two groups of regulars last Wednesday night.

Kim Costillo was at one of Garcia’s tables. Costillo’s son Milo, a 5-year-old with Down syndrome, has been eating at Laurenzo’s for most of his short life. He’s quite popular with the waiters, so many were coming over to say hello, Costillo told local Houston blog 29-95.com. Milo hadn’t been at the restaurant for a few weeks, so he was chatting it up about his recent birthday. “We, adults, were encouraging Milo to say hi and show off some of his new vocabulary,” Costillo wrote to 29-95. “Was he loud? Maybe a little in the moment, but honestly, the adults at our table were [three times] louder than he was.”

Some people at the restaurant didn’t share Milo’s excitement.

Costillo and her family were sitting at their table for all of 10 minutes when a group across from them got up and moved to the back of the restaurant. Their waiter Michael Garcia didn’t think too much of the move until one bit of conversation caught his attention. He heard a man in the group say, “Special needs children need to be special somewhere else.”

Senator Jay Rockefeller Calls for Video Games and Violence to be Studied

Senator Jay Rockefeller is also a nincompoop, and need only read this book – based on a $1.5 million study done by researchers at the Harvard Medical School, and by far representing the most comprehensive and conclusive look at the research about video game violence – to know that for himself.

Perhaps more sadly, the good Senator is also demonstrating a none-too-subtle prejudice toward children and young people in the process:

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller introduced a bill Tuesday that would have the National Academy of Sciences examine any link between violent video games and media, and violent acts by children, industry sources say.

Violence acts by children... not violent acts by adults, or by people of all ages? As the National Youth Rights Association points out, "Does this sound like the first step a Senator would take to ban violent video games for adults? To ban violent entertainment for all ages? Or does it sound like once again a politician is preparing to punish youth for the crimes on an adult?"

"Nation Impressed By Feats Of Very Strong Little Boy"

The Onion:

At approximately 3:45 p.m. Sunday, the pint-sized muscleman [7-year-old Michael Sartinsky] reportedly stunned the U.S. populace when he removed his T-shirt, walked confidently into his kitchen, located the 7-pound Perdue turkey his mother had just brought in from the family minivan and, without hesitating, deadlifted the frozen bird directly above his head.

An informal poll found that 78 percent of U.S. citizens were most impressed when Sartinsky stripped down to his underwear and flexed in the bathroom mirror, 10 percent noted he was unbelievably fast—having handily bested his uncle Scott in a backyard footrace last spring—and 12 percent simply responded, "Oh, my, such a strong little man!"

Also in the news: "Toddler Leaders Call For Increased Duck Visibility."

Mister Rogers to the Rescue

Maura Judkis, The Washington Post:

As America reeled from the news of the shootings at Sandy Hook, parents looked for a way to explain the unexplainable to their children. But they also needed an explanation for themselves — someone to help process the magnitude of what it means to live in a world where 20 children can be gunned down amid storybooks and crayons.

That person was — and will always be — Mister Rogers.

Judkis shares the touching story behind the reassuring quote and its accompanying photo of Mister Rogers that gained in popularity over the weekend, urging us to "look for the helpers" following the devastation of the Sandy Hook shooting. He truly is one of my heroes.

Guns or Children?

The choice is a very real one, as David Murphey of the Child Trends Research Center demonstrates:

How much are our guns worth? 1,400 child deaths per year? 10,000 children wounded annually?

It’s time we addressed the public health problem of guns. Homicide is the second-leading cause of death among 15- to 24-year-olds, and the fourth-leading cause among 5- to 14-year-olds. Overwhelmingly, guns are the weapons used in these killings. [...]

How many guns do we have in the U.S.? One estimate puts it at 270 million, or nearly four guns for every American child. [...] [T]here is little evidence that owning guns makes anyone more safe. In fact, where there are more gun-owning households, after controlling for a number of demographic factors, local homicide rates are greater.

So what will it take to loosen our grip on guns?

When Child Trends – one of the most data-driven, nonpartisan centers for research about children and families – calls out guns as an issue of public health, you know the case for it to do so is a clear one.

Guns or children; we can't protect both.

How Adults Can Best Help Kids Respond to Mass Killings and Violence

LeVar Burton:

Our children rely on us to help them define the world they live in, and at the same time they have razor sharp radar for when the truth is being hidden from them. Being honest with them, respecting when they want to talk and when they don’t, accepting their reactions as “appropriate” no matter what they are, and then returning to your family’s routine is the best we can do during these media fueled, tragedies.

Keeping in line with that last sentence, Roger Ebert similarly offered his opinion on how to minimize the emotional toll of these mass killings: just stop focusing on them, and don't reward media or news outlets who do. The fear they spread helps no one — especially not children.

Strong Towns and Playborhoods

Mike Lanza, in a conversation about new urbanism, building communities, and children's neighborhood play:

And just to say another word about empathy for kids, if you really take off your “Hey, I’m bigger than you” hat and look at the world from the view of a kid you realize, hey, they can’t drive, they’re not allowed. They have no way to get around other than to walk or bike, unless you put them in that damn car seat and they’re sitting there strapped in looking at the back of your head. So if you want them to have any semblance of a life outside of you, you have to look at the world from the point of view of, if the only option is to walk or bike, how can we make this work?

And from the perspective of a kid, if you want to convince me to go outside, it better be interesting out there. It’s really boring in most neighborhoods. We’ve got these great videogames and TV and Internet inside the house. You walk outside there’s nothing going on. Just to look at the world from a kid’s point of view is a big shift.

Let Them Eat Homework!

NPR digs into the French government's plan to ban homework across their nation – and the opposition to it:

"Poor people want homework because they know that school is very important, and the only chance — the only possibility — they have to give their children a better life is if their children succeed at school," says Emmanuel Davidenkoff, editor-in-chief of L'Etudiant, a magazine and website devoted to French school and education.

Davidenkoff says the Socialist government doesn't seem to understand the concerns of the working and middle class and in the name of equality, got it all wrong.

"Mostly, wealthy people don't want homework because when the kids are at home, they make sports or dance or music. They go to the museums, to the theater. So they have this access to culture, which is very important," he says. "In poor families, they don't have that, so the only link they have with culture and school is homework."

It really does appear that the majority of this debate – at least politically – is taking place within the framework of class equality. It's's none too disheartening to watch education get boiled down to a simple matter of economics like this, but hey, I can take solace in the fact that at least some people get it:

Basically, French school is a grind, says Peter Gumbel, author of a scathing book on the education system in France.

"There's an enormous amount of pressure, and it's no fun whatsoever. There's no sport or very little sport, very little art, very little music. Kids don't have a good time at all."

Hair Isn't Everything

I admit it: Jada Pinkett-Smith impressed the hell out of me earlier today. Facing questions and media criticism about why she had let her daughter Willow shave her head, the actress decided to write the following response on her Facebook page:

The question why I would LET Willow cut her hair. First the LET must be challenged. This is a world where women, girls are constantly reminded that they don't belong to themselves; that their bodies are not their own, nor their power or self determination. I made a promise to endow my little girl with the power to always know that her body, spirit and her mind are HER domain. Willow cut her hair because her beauty, her value, her worth is not measured by the length of her hair. It's also a statement that claims that even little girls have the RIGHT to own themselves and should not be a slave to even their mother's deepest insecurities, hopes and desires. Even little girls should not be a slave to the preconceived ideas of what a culture believes a little girl should be. More to come. Another day.

(She also wrote that on her phone. Even more impressed.)

It's a wonderful example of just how much it isn't about the shaved head, or the boy wearing a skirt, or whether kids act "well-behaved" out in public. When you think about the bigger picture – about who children really are as individuals, and the values you wish for them to grow up owning as their own – it all becomes clear: the hair is really the last thing that matters.