Through the Prism

After passing through the prism, each refraction contains some pure essence of the light, but only an incomplete part. We will always experience some aspect of reality, of the Truth, but only from our perspectives as they are colored by who and where we are. Others will know a different color and none will see the whole, complete light. These are my musings from my particular refraction.


Not Just for Kids

I'm drawn to both academic study and succinct storytelling. Sometimes they say the same things in very complimentary ways. So first review this short post from a couple of weeks ago, then the conclusion below from NurtureShock, an excellent book I recommend for all parents and educators.

The second assumption to drop, as illustrated in Froh's story, is that positive traits necessarily oppose and ward off negative behavior in children. To name this bias, let's call it the Fallacy of the Good/Bad Dichotomy.

The tendency to categorize things as either good for children or bad for children pervades our society. We tend to think that good behavior, positive emotions, and good outcomes are a package deal: together, the good things will protect a child from all the bad behaviors and negative emotions, such as stealing, feeling bored or distressed, excluding others, early sexual activity, and succumbing to peer pressure.

When Ashley and I first began this book, we wrote out a wish list of Supertraits we wanted for kids--gratitude, honesty, empathy, fairness. If we could sufficiently arm children with Supertraits such as these, we hoped that problems would bounce off them just as easily as bullets bounced off Superman.

Then Victoria Talwar taught us that a child's dishonesty was a sign of intelligence and social savvy. Nancy Darling explained how teens' deception was almost a necessary part of developing one's adolescent identity. Laurie Kramer's research showed us how blind devotion to fairness can derail sibling relationships. Patricia Hawley and Antonius Cillessen revealed how empathy may be evil's best tool: the popular kids are the ones who are the best at reading their friends--and using that perception for their gain. And of course, there was that study about imprisoned felons having higher emotional intelligence than the population as a whole.

It isn't as if we've now abandonded our desire for children to acquire honesty and other virtues. (And we're still telling kids to "play nice" and say thank you.) But we no longer think of them as Supertraits--moral Kevlar.

The researchers are concluding that the good stuff and the bad stuff are not opposite ends of a single spectrum. Instead, they are each their own spectrum. They are what's termed orthogonal--mutually independent.

Because of this, kids can seem to be walking contradictions. A child can run high in positive emotions
and high in negative emotions--so the fact that a teen can be happy about a new boyfriend won't negate her stress over school. There can be wild disconnects between children's stated opinions and their actions. Kids can know that fruit tastes good and that it's good for them--but that doesn't mean kids will eat any more apples.

And many factors in their lives--such as sibling interactions, peer pressure, marital conflict, or even gratitude--can be both a good influence
and a bad influence.

Despite these contradictions, the goal of having a deeper understanding of children is not futile. In fact, it's by studying these apparent contradictions very closely that deeper understanding emerges.


At 6/08/2010 2:51 AM, Blogger Mr Lonely said...

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