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Friday, December 28, 2012

Fathers MIssing from families Washinton Times

Missing dads is a problem 
not only in poor 
homes Many wealthy parents 
are married to careers Comment(s) By Luke Rosiak - The Washington Times Thursday, December 27, 2012 Daniel Patrick Moynihan The inner cities, where only 1 in 10 black children live with both parents, and the wealthy suburbs, where many fathers spend more than 60 hours a week on the job, have more in common than meets the eye, family advocates and faith leaders said. They made the comments Thursday after The Washington Times published an analysis this week of U.S. census data that provoked concern for children from widely disparate camps. Welfare policies among the poor have put government in the role of the father and equated fatherhood with a monthly check, said Glenn T. Stanton, director of family formation studies at Focus on the Family in Colorado Springs. This has left many fathers free to walk away from their children knowing they will not starve thanks to programs that provide cash assistance to single mothers in proportion with the number of children they have, he said. For fathers who are physically present, it sends a message that a few hundred dollars is a sufficient role. "I think it would be difficult to overstate the significance of a welfare check replacing a marriage," though a committed relationship between a man and a woman — even if the man provides only the same modest income that welfare payments would — "rivals maybe a college education as a path" to upward mobility, Mr. Stanton said. But if single mothers on welfare are married to the government, others said, the frantic and competitive lives of many men in the upper-middle class have wedded them to their jobs and relegated fatherhood to a role more centered on financial support than emotional guidance. "I don't strictly believe it's an inner-city deal," said Hugh Cunningham, pastor of the Sojourn Church in the Dallas suburbs. "A lot of suburban men are married to their work. What they bring home is leftovers." Although those wounds may be hidden under better clothing, the lack of two emotionally available parents crosses cultural and demographic lines. "I don't think there's anyone who hasn't been shaped either by a father's affirmations or the wound of their absence," Mr. Cunningham said. "There isn't a whole lot of a difference between so-called Christian families and secular families when it comes to unsuccessful families or families that malfunction." No matter how much money is poured into entitlement programs — or how much a father makes — "you spell love T-I-M-E," which is something the government cannot provide, said Joel Garcia of Latino Townhall, a Las Vegas-based charity whose mission is to provide education, mentoring and coaching to Hispanic youths. "A dad is much more than an on-time, reliable paycheck. He's a human who contributes in very unique ways, and it's also the relationship between the father and the mother," Mr. Stanton said. Moynihan revisited The Times' in-depth analysis of millions of data points, which attracted thousands of comments online and requests for data and maps from community nonprofits, found that the rates of two-parent households have decreased markedly in every state over the past decade, especially in the South, a traditional bastion of purported family values. It found that 32 percent of white families with children below the poverty line have two parents, while the rate was 41 percent for Hispanics and 12 percent for poor blacks. But the problem is concentrated among blacks regardless of economic status. Most black children above the poverty line also live with only one parent, compared with 22 percent of whites. That reality has academics revisiting a nearly 50-year-old report that explored the impact of government assistance and family situations on the black community. The 1965 report by Daniel Patrick Moynihan — at the time an assistant secretary in the Labor Department, who would later become a Democratic senator from New York — examined why rates of government dependence increased among blacks even as employment opportunities widened and brought a backlash from members of his own party. In the ensuing decades, policies focused on propping up single mothers economically rather than addressing fatherlessness, with programs including Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, food stamps and the Women, Infants and Children food program all geared toward single women, especially those with multiple children. "We said, 'How do we build the resources for single mothers to be able to compensate for absent fathers, instead of equipping families to remain intact?'" said Kenneth Braswell Sr., director of Fathers Inc. in Albany, N.Y. "We ignored the core of the Moynihan report, which was pay attention to the black father, because that guy is the one that's going to determine the outcome." Fifty years and few answers An analysis looking back on the report found that many factors tied to the presence of male role models among poor blacks have only worsened. The Urban Institute and Mr. Braswell's group, in preparation for a Feb. 22 event, found that the percent of black women who are married declined from 53 percent to 25 percent over the past half-century, compared with a drop from 65 percent to 52 percent for white women and a 67 percent to 43 percent drop for Hispanics. "Now you have an increased number of black researchers who are saying 'Whoa, this guy was on point. I may not like the way he went about it, but in terms of his numbers, they can't be disputed,'" Mr. Braswell said. Black men were 5 percent more likely to be working than black women in 2011, the groups said, and black women were more likely to hold jobs than white women for most of the past decade. Last year, that number was about equal. "What we did in 1965 is misdiagnose the issue. It's like catching a cold and saying the issue is you have a runny nose," he said. "That's just a symptom. We went right at healing the runny nose, and the bacteria were popping up all over: guys having children by multiple women, not feeling obligated to stick around." The Moynihan report did not provide a prescription. "He said, 'Here's the data, it's now your job to figure out where to go with this,'" Mr. Braswell said. Even with nearly 50 years to reflect on the findings, solutions are not clear-cut. "We're also not going to provide any recommendations" this month, he said. To Mr. Cunningham, the pastor, a clue is provided by a half-century of money-intensive government payments that accompanied only the further decline of families. "The government doesn't have the power to fill" the role of parental guidance and love, he said. "We'll throw money at it, but it's not a money problem," he said. Tight budgetary times could provide an impetus. "I think there's phenomenal hope because I don't have an expectation that the government can do it; they're running out of money themselves. The feds are going to drop it down to the state and they'll drop it down to the local level, and then the communities will have to rise up." Churches, community groups and neighborhood volunteers with youngsters' ears will do the grunt work, he said, engaging in non-monetary substitutes for parenting such as the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. The incentive to act is there, Mr. Braswell said. "If it was a travesty in 1965, what is it now?" © Copyright 2012 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission. Read more: Follow us: @washtimes on Twitter

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Discipling your children

The Wall Street Journal HEALTH & WELLNESS December 24, 2012, 12:23 p.m. ET Smarter Ways to Discipline Children Research Suggests Which Strategies Really Get Children to Behave; How Timeouts Can Work Better By ANDREA PETERSEN When it comes to disciplining her generally well-behaved kids, Heather Henderson has tried all the popular tricks. She's tried taking toys away. (Her boys, ages 4 and 6, never miss them.) She's tried calm explanations about why a particular behavior—like hitting your brother—is wrong. (It doesn't seem to sink in.) And she's tried timeouts. "The older one will scream and yell and bang on walls. He just loses it," says the 41-year-old stay-at-home mother in Syracuse, N.Y. Mike Right What can be more effective are techniques that psychologists often use with the most difficult kids, including children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and oppositional defiant disorder. Approaches, with names like "parent management training" and "parent-child interaction therapy," are backed up by hundreds of research studies and they work on typical kids, too. But while some of the approaches' components find their way into popular advice books, the tactics remain little known among the general public. The general strategy is this: Instead of just focusing on what happens when a child acts out, parents should first decide what behaviors they want to see in their kids (cleaning their room, getting ready for school on time, playing nicely with a sibling). Then they praise those behaviors when they see them. "You start praising them and it increases the frequency of good behavior," says Timothy Verduin, clinical assistant professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at the Child Study Center at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York. This sounds simple, but in real life can be tough. People's brains have a "negativity bias," says Alan E. Kazdin, a professor of psychology and child psychiatry at Yale University and director of the Yale Parenting Center. We pay more attention to when kids misbehave than when they act like angels. Dr. Kazdin recommends at least three or four instances of praise for good behavior for every timeout a kid gets. For young children, praise needs to be effusive and include a hug or some other physical affection, he says. image image Jason Greene for The Wall Street Journal Heather Henderson of Syracuse, N.Y., plays Legos with son Archer, 6. She has tried various tactics to discipline her sons but 'we're always at a loss.' According to parent management training, when a child does mess up, parents should use mild negative consequences (a short timeout or a verbal reprimand without shouting). Giving a child consequences runs counter to some popular advice that parents should only praise their kids. But reprimands and negative nonverbal responses like stern looks, timeouts and taking away privileges led to greater compliance by kids according to a review article published this month in the journal Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review. "There's a lot of fear around punishment out there," says Daniela J. Owen, a clinical psychologist at the San Francisco Bay area Center for Cognitive Therapy in Oakland, Calif. and the lead author of the study. "Children benefit from boundaries and limits." The study found that praise and positive nonverbal responses like hugs and rewards like ice cream or stickers, however, didn't lead to greater compliance in the short term. "If your child is cleaning up and he puts a block in the box and you say 'great job,' it doesn't mean the child is likely to put another block in the box," says Dr. Owen. But in the long run, regular praise does make a child more likely to comply, possibly because the consistent praise strengthens the parent-child relationship overall, Dr. Owen says. The article reviewed 41 studies looking at discipline strategies and child compliance. Parents who look for discipline guidance often find conflicting advice from the avalanche of books and mommy blogs and the growing number of so-called parent coaches. (In 2011, 3,520 parenting books were published or distributed in the U.S., up from 2,774 in 2007, according to Bowker Books In Print database.) "Many of the things that are recommended we know now to be wrong," says Dr. Kazdin, a leading expert on parent management training. "It is the equivalent of telling people to smoke a lot for their health." image image Jason Greene for The Wall Street Journal Heather and Jay Henderson with their two boys, Archer, 6, and Heath, 4, spend time together at their home in Syracuse, N.Y. Parents often torpedo their discipline efforts by giving vague, conditional commands and not giving kids enough time to comply with them, says Dr. Verduin, who practices parent-child interaction therapy. When crossing the street, "A bad command would be, 'be careful.' A good command would be 'hold my hand,' " he says. He also instructs parents to count to five to themselves after giving a child a directive, like, for example, "Put on your coat." "Most parents wait a second or two," he says, before making another command, which can easily devolve into yelling and threats. The techniques are applicable to all ages, but psychologists note that starting early is better. Once kids hit about 10 or 11, discipline gets a lot harder. "Parents don't have as much leverage" with tweens and teens, says Dr. Verduin. "Kids don't care as much what the parents think about them." Some parents try and reason with young children, which Dr. Kazdin says is bound to fail to change a kid's behavior. Reason doesn't change behavior, which is why stop-smoking messages don't usually work, Dr. Kazdin says. Overly harsh punishments also fail. "One of the side effects of punishment is noncompliance and aggression," he says. Spanking, in particular, has been linked to aggressive behavior in kids and anger problems and increased marital conflict later on in adulthood. Still, 26% of parents "often" or "sometimes" spank their 19-to-35-month-old children, according to a 2004 study in the journal Pediatrics, which analyzed survey data collected by the federal government from 2,068 parents of young children. At the Yale Parenting Center, psychologists have found that getting kids to "practice" temper tantrums can lessen their frequency and intensity. Dr. Kazdin recommends that parents have their kids "practice" once or twice a day. Gradually, ask the child to delete certain unwanted behaviors from the tantrum, like kicking or screaming. Then effusively praise those diluted tantrums. Soon, for most children, "the real tantrums start to change," he says. "From one to three weeks, they are kind of over." As for whining, Dr. Kazin recommends whining right along with your child. "It changes the stimulus. You will likely end up laughing," he says. Researchers noted that not every technique is effective for every child. Some parents find other creative solutions that work for their kids. Karen Pesapane has found yelling "pillow fight," when her two kids are arguing can put a halt to the bickering. "Their sour attitudes change almost immediately into silliness and I inevitably become their favorite target," said Ms. Pesapane, a 34-year-old from Silver Spring, Md., who works in fundraising for a nonprofit and has a daughter 10, and a son, 6. Dayna Even has found spending one hour a day fully focused on her 6-year-old son, Maximilian, means "he's less likely to act out, he's more likely to play independently and less likely to interrupt adults," says the 51-year-old writer and tutor in Kailua, Hawaii. Parents need to take a child's age into account. Benjamin Siegel, professor of pediatrics at the Boston University School of Medicine notes that it isn't until about age 3 that children can really start to understand and follow rules. Dr. Siegel is the chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics' committee that is currently reworking the organization's guidelines on discipline, last updated in 1998. Write to Andrea Petersen at