Archives for November, 2011
I’ve recently started listening to audio books. The idea never appealed to me much because I’ve never liked being read to. Reading is a solitary experience for me and being read to always seemed a little icky, though I couldn’t tell you why. Certainly being read to has a venerable history. At one time, all writing was meant to be read aloud, since few people could read. And reading aloud was family entertainment in the pre-radio, pre-TV days. And, of course, reading to children is both cozy and the first step towards their literacy. So it's not like listening to books is anything new. But downloadable audio books are increasingly popular (though the growing popularity of ebooks is the headline news in publishing.) Fans of audio books even have their own magazine. The first audio book I listened to was Bossypants, which is read by Tina Fey herself. Now I’m listening to Never Let Me Go, by Kazua Ishiguro, which is beautifully read by Rosalyn Landor, who strikes a tone as wistful as the book and conveys changes of character with just the slightest change in her voice. Narration, I realize, is an art form unto itself. But I’m still not sure how I feel about the audio book. It might be seducing me, but I worry about whether I’m having the experience of the book the author originally intended. Do we lose something of a novel when we don’t see the words spelled out in front of us? Is the medium integral to the message?
“When does trying to protect them become overly restricting? Is there a happy balance?” A reader posed that question about raising kids earlier this week and it’s a good one. We recognize a helicopter parent when we see one, especially by the time their kids are teenagers. But how about when they’re younger? Are there red flags in parenting style that might mark the beginning of overprotective parenting? What is overprotective? How is it measured? My disclaimer here: I have no children, my parents were pretty laissez-faire. I’m just throwing all this out there. You tell me if it makes sense. I looked at a number of studies that mention overprotection and found that frequently, overprotection is assessed by the protected. In other words, researchers ask children if they feel their parents are overprotective; or they ask people who have had strokes if their caregivers are overprotective.
It’s Anti-Bullying Week and this year’s theme is Stop and Think—Words Can Hurt. Interestingly, for all our focus on how to stop kids from bullying each other, we have precious little research addressing what parenting styles are likely to produce bullies. Because, let’s face it, if your nine-year-old child is a bully, chances are very good you and/or the child’s other parent can take credit.
A friend told me that one word guaranteed to infuriate his teenage daughter during any disagreement is “relax.” Riders on New York City’s subways were for years irritated by the phrase “Please be patient” at the end of announcements about subway delays. And the quickest way to get a rise out of me is to tell me, “Don’t be ridiculous.” Oooh, that burns me up. What makes phrases like these so incendiary? Some phrases are guaranteed to turn a disagreement into a fight, or make a benign situation toxic. They're not blatantly insulting, so why are they so irritating?
Much has been made in recent years of research indicating that willpower is an exhaustible resource. This research suggests that if we exercise self control for a few hours to resist Facebook and do our work, for example, we will have a hard time resisting that oh-really-I-shouldn’t brownie sundae. There’s a whole book based on this research: Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength is by one of the leaders in this research, Roy Baumeister. (With science writer John Tierney, because believe me, not all psychologists can write.) But here’s an interesting article in an open source journal pointing out how research on willpower has mostly been done on youngsters.