All Posts Tagged With: "psychology"
If students text too much, they don’t learn independence
On any given day, sociology professor Barbara Mitchell and her 22-year-old daughter, who lives at home while attending university, will trade multiple text messages. They may be “just checking in” with each other, says Mitchell, or confirming one another’s safe arrival someplace, arranging care for the family pets or sharing humorous bits of information. “We’re very, very close. And she encourages me to text her,” says Mitchell, who teaches at Simon Fraser University. “I remember when I first got my smartphone, I was texting her a couple of times a day, and I didn’t want to come across like I’m this controlling mother who has to be in her life all the time. And she was like, ‘No, text me more!’ I was so surprised. I think it gives [kids] a sense of security.”
Mitchell’s concern is understandable; moms have long had a reputation for hovering over their children—the very word “mothering” is synonymous with “keeping tabs on.” But as Mitchell’s story shows, the parent-child paradigm is shifting, with many kids in their late teens and 20s now actively engaging in, and even initiating, frequent contact with their folks about everything from new recipes and music to relationship and academic problems. It’s a phenomenon Barbara Hofer, a psychology professor at Middlebury College in Vermont, has coined “the digital tether.” The term came to her while observing many students on their cellphones: “I was eavesdropping on these conversations and realizing that they weren’t just talking to their friends, they were talking to their parents—on the way to class, on the way to the gym, [as] they’d walk out of the dorm,” she recalls. “And texting has just added an additional layer of conversation.”
UBC psychologist “shocked” by results
Babies, just like adults, may have a mean streak, says a new study out of the University of British Columbia.
Psychology professor and lead author Kiley Hamlin found infants who were as young as nine months old favoured those who brought harm to people who were different than themselves.
She said adults, similarly, tend to like people who harm individuals who are different.
“We wanted to see if we could tell whether infants had that same kind of judgement,” said Hamlin in an interview.
“It was shocking how robust the results were.”
The study, published in the journal Psychological Science, looked at two groups of infants aged nine months and 14 months and the food they preferred — green beans or graham crackers.
What students are talking about today (January 7th)
1. The new TV season is promising for university students, according to Alexander Quon of The Sheaf student newspaper. His list of shows to watch includes Buckwild, which he calls “essentially the country version” of Jersey Shore. “Redneck culture is blowing up right now,” he writes. It certainly is, thanks mostly to Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, which returned to TLC on Sunday. Returning this Saturday on HBO Canada is Lena Dunham’s smash hit Girls, a fictional-take on 20-somethings in New York centred around Hannah, an aspiring writer and generally clueless human being. Pick up this week’s issue of Maclean’s for a behind-the-scenes on set in Brooklyn. Oh, and hockey will soon be back too.
2. What a difference a weekend makes. The talk around Idle No More shifted from Friday’s big win to Monday’s big question. On Friday, Stephen Harper agreed to meet hunger striking chief Theresa Spence and other Aboriginal Canadian leaders a week later, which will mark a month after the high-profile protest began. But this morning an external audit into Attawapiskat’s finances by Deloitte surfaced and it doesn’t look good. There hasn’t been due diligence for most of the millions given to Spence’s band by the federal government. It’s a reminder of just how complicated these relationships can be. With questions over the chief’s spending on the front page again, Paul Wells points out that NDP leader Tom Mulcair neither met Spence nor called on Stephen Harper to meet her in his open letter. That’s starting to look like a smart move. Spence, meanwhile, did gain one new ally. Paul Martin, former Liberal prime minister, met her and called an inspiration to all.
On the legacy of race researcher Philippe Rushton
Over the past couple of weeks, academics were discussing the death of Western University’s Phillipe Rushton, a professor perhaps not familiar to many of today’s students, but who was, for a little while, among the most hated men in Canada.
Until the late 1980s Rushton had been a reasonably well-respected psychologist whose work on altruism was frequently cited. But then, he published a series of papers claiming that the three main human racial groups—whites, blacks, and Asians—could be grouped according to a wide range of racial traits, including intelligence and various sexual characteristics, with whites typically falling between blacks and Asians.
Not surprisingly, many took Rushton’s theories as thinly-veiled, or, indeed, not-at-all-veiled racism. They saw his essential claim as being that blacks were inherently inferior to whites, and many called for the psychologist’s resignation. At one point, Rushton was required to teach his courses by video to prevent on-campus unrest.
New definition proposed
Canadian researchers have proposed a new definition for boredom in a paper in Perspectives on Psychological Science. Boredom matters because it may lead to overeating, alcohol abuse and on-the-job accidents. Mark Fenske explained the team’s work in a U. of Guelph news release:
“[Boredom is] an amazingly understudied area given how universal the experience is,” Fenske said.
“The fact that it’s difficult to define is, in part, why there has been so little research done. We need to have a common definition, something we all can agree on, of what boredom is.”
Study looked at aggression, likeability, social withdrawal
Childhood classmates may be better able to predict grown-up personality traits like aggression, likeability and social withdrawal than children themselves, according to a study from Concordia’s Centre for Research in Human Development. The study was conducted by Lisa Serbin of the Department of Psychology and Alexa Martin-Storey, a recent graduate, with data from a project that first evaluated Montreal grade-school children in 1976 using peer and self-evaluations. From Concordia University’s Cléa Desjardins:
Over the next 20 years, these children were closely followed as researchers used the exhaustive longitudinal study to track their progress into adulthood. A follow-up survey was conducted between 1999 and 2003 with nearly 700 of the participants from the initial study. The survey included measurement of adult personality traits, such as levels of neuroticism, extroversion, openness, agreeableness and conscientiousness.
Researcher offers four tips for worried students
Students are more likely to procrastinate when they feel others expect them to be perfect, according to research from York University psychologist and Canada Research Chair Gordon Flett. His work will be published in the Journal of Rational-Emotive and Cognitive-Behavior Therapy.
[Flett] found related patterns of negative ruminations among procrastinators focused on perfectionism, fear of failure and guilt. These negative thought patterns contributed to an increased stress level in students and delay in accomplishing tasks, findings that are similar to a previous study by the same research team showing that perfectionistic professors produce fewer published articles. So how can students move past the negativity and become high achievers?
Study shows they’re less likely to hurt relatives, not more
Researchers from Queen’s, McMaster, Lethbridge and Saskatchewan are challenging the commonly held belief that psychopaths suffer from a mental disorder. Their new study is published in Frontiers of Psychology. From Queen’s University:
Historically, psychopaths – people who are uncaring about others, extreme risk-takers, and often commit strings of violent crimes – were thought to be mentally disordered.
However, a study led by Queen’s University postdoctoral fellow Daniel Krupp supports more recent thinking, from the perspective of evolutionary psychology, that psychopaths may not be disordered after all. Rather, psychopathy may have evolved to exploit others.
Subject rankings for psychology, law, economics…
Here are the top five highest ranked universities in the QS World University Rankings by Subject and the rankings of all Canadian schools for arts, humanities, and business. For science, engineering, and health disciplines click here. For the full rankings, visit TopUniversities.com.
1. Harvard University (United States)
2. University of California, Berkeley (UCB) (United States)
3. University of Oxford (United Kingdom)
4. London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) (United Kingdom)
5. University of Chicago (United States)
16. University of Toronto
33. McGill University
40. University of British Columbia
45. Queen’s University
51-100. Université de Montréal, University of Alberta
101-150. McMaster University, Western University, Université du Québec, University of Waterloo, York University
151-200. Carleton University, Concordia University, Dalhousie University, Laval University, Simon Fraser University, University of Calgary, University of Ottawa, University of Victoria
The debate over whether to put more lectures online
When Allison Torbiak sat down in her ﬁrst-year psychology class at the University of Manitoba two Septembers ago, she was surprised to hear the woman at the front of the room announce that their Monday and Friday lectures would be replaced by online recordings of two professors talking over lecture slides. The class would meet only once per week, on Wednesdays, for a seminar led by this woman, a graduate student—and not a professor. While many of her almost 200 classmates seemed excited, Torbiak says she was disappointed. “I was looking forward to the big auditorium with lots of kids.” She wondered, “How will I stay motivated without a real live professor?”
Psychologist proves that even adults can learn to play guitar
Like a lot of academics in his field, New York University psychology professor Gary Marcus believed the brain acquires certain skills such as language during early critical periods and, after that, the window of opportunity shuts. Children immersed in a new language learn more quickly than adults, according to some studies, but Marcus was beginning to have some doubts about the “critical period” theory.
In his new book, Guitar Zero: the New Musician and the Science of Learning, he decided to test whether an adult with clumsy fingers and no sense of rhythm like himself could pick up the guitar at age 38.
No snacks? No professor.
A professor at Sacramento State University in California walked out of his first-year psychology class Thursday because his students didn’t bring any snacks, reports the Sacramento Bee.
Some students were upset about missing their last lab before their midterm exam and complained.
But Prof. George Parrott said students were warned in the course handout that “Not having a snack = no Dr. Parrott or TAs. Now you are responsible for your own lab assignment.”
Parott told The Bee that the snack obligation is his way of encouraging students to work collectively, because they must collaborate on what to bring.
“Having these goodies in the class breaks down some of the formality and some of the rigidity in the class,” he added. Parrot, who is semi-retired, said he has required snacks in class for 39 years.
Thesis experiment to examine brain waves
A student pursing her master’s degree in pschology is on a mission to prove psychic activity exits, reports The Sudbury Star.
Mandy Scott, a student at Laurentian University, says she plans, among other things, to measure changes in brain activity during supposed psychic episodes.
“Psychic functioning is the ability to perceive and describe targets, which could be people, places, events, situations, anything that’s hidden from you at a distance of space in time,” Scott explained to the newspaper.
Although she is sometimes criticized for her choice of study, she asserts that, “psychic function is real and we need help in pinpointing how it works.”
The study will include three groups. One will be the control. A second will be taught psychic techniques. The third will consist of “experienced psychics.” Each group will be asked to describe a photo inside an envelope. The question is, will the psychic groups do better? Each participant will also be given six EEG scans to look for changes in brain wave activity.
It’s coming in 2015. So write it now.
Although I’m feeling more and more nervous as the Medical Colleges Admission Test (MCAT) looms closer, a part of me is glad that I’ll be writing it soon.
Not just because I’ll be glad to get it over with, like ripping the band-aid off as quickly as possible. There’s an even bigger reason: even though the MCAT already covers biological sciences, physical sciences, verbal reasoning and writing, it’s about to become even more comprehensive.
For the first time in nearly 25 years, the MCAT is undergoing a revision.
Although the MCAT has gone through four major revisions in the past, it has supposedly been unable to “consistently predict personal and professional characteristics.” Meaning, although it can test someone’s knowledge of organic chemistry, it can’t evaluate their bedside manner.
The Association of American Medical Colleges recently released preliminary recommendations for the new test, such as lengthening the exam by 90 minutes and including questions on disciplines such as sociology and psychology. According to the article in the New York Times, questions about how “someone living in a particular demographic situation… might perceive and interact with others” could test analytical and reasoning skills in areas such as ethics, philosophy and cross-cultural studies.
In other words, by adding additional material, the new test will require additional studying. So try to write the MCAT before 2015, when the changes come into effect.
-Photo courtesy of gadl
What’s difficult for parents to sort out is what is normal behaviour and what’s cause for real concern
Teenagers seem to be hard-wired to take risks. Scientists who study the adolescent brain are finding that experimentation is a natural part of these years, even though some risks can have serious consequences. Among those aged 10 to 24, three-quarters of all deaths are from preventable causes, like motor vehicle accidents and suicide, according to the most recent U.S. Youth Risk Behavior Survey. It can be hard for parents to recognize the difference between “normal adolescent behaviour,” like experimenting with drugs and sex, and what’s cause for real concern, says Dr. Blaise Aguirre, an instructor in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.
Today’s teens are “stressed out,” Aguirre says, and it’s taking a toll. Over the last five years, there’s been a steady increase in the number of anti-depressants prescribed to Canadian teens, according to IMS Brogan, a health information and consulting company. “One in five teenagers, and one in four Ivy League students, are now self-injuring,” or cutting themselves, often in moments of emotional distress, Aguirre says. There’s evidence eating disorders are on the rise, too.
Aguirre is medical director of 3East at the Harvard-affiliated McLean Hospital, a specialized program for teens and young adults with borderline personality disorder, which is characterized by black-and-white thinking, fears of abandonment, chaotic relationships and impulsivity. Two of his colleagues, Dr. Esther Dechant, medical director of McLean’s Klarman Eating Disorders Center, and Michael Hollander, director of 3East’s day hospital and an expert in self-injury, will be in Toronto on April 7 to speak about their work as part of the Scienta Health Series.
Teens are naturally risk-takers. Last year, Stephanie Burnett of University College London’s Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience published a study in which 86 boys and men (ages 9 to 35) played computer games, and she measured their response. Teenagers “chose risky options more,” she says, and got the biggest emotional charge when a risky choice produced a surprising win. The most risk-taking, she found, was among 14-year-olds. In another recent study, Temple University psychologists Jason Chein and Laurence Steinberg measured the brain activity of teens as they played a simulated driving game. When teens were with friends, they took more risks—and they were more sensitive to potential rewards of risks than when they were alone.
Teens are more driven by thrill-seeking and reward, it seems, because of how our brain changes as we age. In childhood, what Chein calls the brain’s “reward processing system” (which is involved in emotion) and its “cognitive control system” (which holds impulses in check, and allows for reasoned decisions) are immature. In early adolescence, the reward processing system undergoes rapid change—but the cognitive control system isn’t fully mature until our mid-twenties.
Teens are also vulnerable to information overload. Angelika Dimoka, director of the Center for Neural Decision Making at Temple University’s Fox School of Business, has looked at the impact of this on adult brains, using functional magnetic resonance imaging. As her subjects received more and more information to process, she found, activity jumped in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, which is involved in decision-making. This area “reaches a plateau,” she says, “and then temporarily stops functioning.” Teens are plugged into any number of devices, often even more so than adults, and they’re “taxing a system that isn’t fully developed,” Aguirre says. “No wonder some are unable to handle it,” and find themselves overwhelmed.
Information overload isn’t the only source of stress. “There’s been a shift in what we think of as a beautiful body,” says Dechant, from curvy Marilyn Monroe to today’s models, who are “size zero or double zero.” Rates of bulimia seem to be increasing, and anorexia is spreading from what was traditionally “the upper middle class, to all walks of society,” she says. Alarmingly, more teens seem to be cutting themselves. “It looks like it’s starting earlier and earlier,” Hollander says. Cutting is rarely a suicidal act, he notes, but those who commit suicide often have a history of self-injury. Parents need to talk about it with their teens in a “neutral way, which isn’t easy,” he says, “and access some help.”
Aguirre uses mindfulness, derived from Buddhist meditation practice, as part of his treatment for patients. Studies have shown that mindfulness-based meditation can reduce anxiety, improve attention and reduce the emotional impact of pain. “It’s about slowing down the brain, and focusing on the here and now,” Aguirre says. A few slower moments each day sounds like something most teenagers, whose brains are programmed to take risks, could benefit from.
The Harvard team will speak in Toronto on April 7, as part of the Scienta Health lecture series:
Northwestern prof un-apologizes in public apology statement about live sex show
What’s the point of an apology if you don’t really mean it?
Last month, a professor in the United States has become the topic of controversy after he invited students in his psychology class to watch two people engage in a live sex act. The event occurred outside of regular class time and was completely voluntary for both the students that attended and the couple who demonstrated in front of them.
Almost two weeks later, the Northwestern University human sexuality professor, John Michael Bailey, released a statement apologizing for holding the session and to anyone he offended through his actions.
“I regret the effect this has had on Northwestern University’s reputation and I regret upsetting so many people in this particular manner,” Bailey said.
But then, in the same statement, Bailey went on to criticize those same offended people he had just apologized to, as well as the controversy the incident has caused.
“During a time of financial crisis, war, and global warming, this story has been a top news story for more than two days. That this is so reveals a stark difference in opinion between people like me, who see absolutely no moral harm in what happened, and those who believe that it was profoundly wrong,” the statement continues.
Whatever you think about the ethics of staging a live sex show for your psychology class, practically un-apologizing while you’re apologizing doesn’t make much sense to me. If Bailey doesn’t actually think he did anything wrong, which is clear from his statement, then why go through the motions of apologizing? All his statement does is further incense anyone who was offended, as they no doubt feel that Bailey spat in their faces.
His fake apology also undermines any dignity the man maintains in the eyes of his supporters. If I didn’t have a problem with his live sex show, I would want to see him standing by his actions rather than bending to public pressure.
The first thing you need is a new ‘spiral of success,’ explains this Calgary expert
People confess to procrastination and then laugh it off, like the 900,000 members of the Facebook group, “I was doing homework then I ended up on Facebook.” For many, though, procrastination isn’t funny. Look at the poet Samuel Coleridge, writes Piers Steel, the Calgary professor who’s becoming known internationally for his insights on procrastination, in his new book The Procrastination Equation: How to Stop Putting Things off and Start Getting Stuff Done. The poet spent 25 years writing the poem Kubla Khan. His excuses were legendary. For other people, Steel writes, the pain of procrastination “is about diets postponed, late-night scrambles to finish projects and disappointed looks from the people who depend on you.”
The good news is that techniques for treating procrastination exist. “They are scientifically proven. It’s not a question of will they work. They’re vetted,” Steel tells Maclean’s. “I was one of the first guinea pigs for this.”
Steel knows that procrastination is not the by-product of perfectionism, as it was once believed. The theory that “we delay because we are perfectionists anxious about living up to sky-high standards” feels good, he writes, but doesn’t pan out. “Neat, orderly and efficient perfectionists don’t tend to dilly-dally.” Laziness isn’t the problem either, he says. The truly lazy person thinks, “I don’t want to do this. You can force me to do it but I have no desire to do it.” The procrastinator, on the other hand, wants to do the work, “yet finds when the moment of action comes, they keep putting it off.”
To treat procrastination, it helps to know that impulsiveness or “wanting it all now” is the main source of it, he writes: “Showing self-control or delaying gratification is difficult for those of us who are impulsive. We just don’t have much ability to endure short-term pain for long-term gain.”
Past failures and “learned helplessness” also lead to procrastination. Steel gives the example in the book of Eddie, an underperforming salesman. “After a series of attempts that all resulted in failure, Eddie began to expect failure even before he started.” The problem is, “if you start believing your goals aren’t achievable, you stop effectively pursing them.”
To combat the problem, create a new “spiral of success,” he suggests. “If you can’t run a mile, then run a block. Stop when you’ve done that and the next time try two blocks. Nobody has to know about your small successes; keep them as your own happy little secret.” Steel writes that “personal stories of triumph can bolster people’s spirits for years. ‘I did it!’ translates into ‘I can do it.’ ”
Still, don’t be overly confident, he warns. The overconfident “tend to discount problems,” often underestimating how long a task will take. “As Freud puts it, we need to activate the reality principle. This entails imagining what could go wrong and how you would prevent or mitigate potential pitfalls.”
It’s wise to anticipate temptation. “If you can anticipate powerful temptations, you can act in advance to ward them off.” Steel gives the example of Ulysses from Homer’s Odyssey. The goddess Circe warns Ulysses to guard against the lure of the Sirens. If his men hear the singing of the Sirens, these beautiful naked women will distract them and the men will become enthralled, and blissfully starve to death. Circe tells Ulysses to fill his men’s ears with wax to make them deaf. It works and he sails safely past temptation.
For solutions to modern temptations such as sleeping in, Steel cites such gizmos as an alarm clock called SnuzNLuz. “Every time you press the snooze button, it donates 10 or more dollars to your most detested charity; a little extra sleep comes at the cost of you assisting groups that represent the antithesis of your political position, sexual orientation or environmental stance.”
“Quick tip,” he tells Maclean’s. “If you want to address procrastination, find out when your power hours are, when your circadian rhythm pops, and try to reserve your hardest work for then. For most people that’s 10 to 2. A lot of people use that time for meetings and emails, and that’s sad, really. That’s when you could’ve got most of your entire day done.”
Critics call acceptance of research ‘pure craziness’
A respected psychology journal is publishing a study that supports the existence of extrasensory perception, or the ability to see the future. The paper, to be published by the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, is authored by respected Cornell psychologist Daryl J. Bem.
Bem’s study consisted of a series of nine tests, and included a total of 1,000 students, that purport to show the ability of participants to predict random events.
In one instance, subjects were asked to identify whether a picture had flashed behind a covered computer screen. The subjects were presented with a computer covered by two curtains. Behind one curtain would be a photo and behind the other, nothing. The picture would then appear randomly behind either curtain but only after the participant guessed which one. While the participants were able to accurately identify erotic photos at a rate of 53 per cent to 50 per cent, “They did not do better than chance on negative or neutral photos,” the New York Times reported.
“What I showed was that unselected subjects could sense the erotic photos,” Bem told the paper. “But my guess is that if you use more talented people, who are better at this, they could find any of the photos.”
Charles Judd, the journal’s editor, said the article had gone through the normal peer review process with four “trusted” psychologists offering their comments.
Other academics are appalled. “It’s craziness, pure craziness. I can’t believe a major journal is allowing this work in,” University of Oregon psychologist, and noted critic of ESP research, Ray Hyman said. A rebuttal by University of Amsterdam psychologist Eric-Jan Wagenmakers will appear in the same issue as the original paper. In an email to the Times, Wagenmakers argued that “such a hypothesis probably constitutes an extraordinary claim, and it should undergo more scrutiny before it is allowed to enter the field.”
Read the full story here.
Remember when choice and flexibility were good things?
With Nova Scotia’s O’Neill report in the books, and a similar report just released in Ontario, specialization is the new watchword for Canadian universities. Thus Bonnie Patterson, President of the Council of Ontario Universities: “the funding realities mean we’re going to have to build on the differences that already exist.”
Setting aside the question that the so-called funding realities are really funding decisions, the emphasis on specialization is troubling from the point of view of quality higher education.
Of course, some specialization is inevitable, or at least practical. Not every university can have a medical school, and a law school, and a major in South American Urban Geography. Fine. But I worry when I hear people like Harvey Weingarten, President of the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario say things like this: “If Ryerson were to say its priority is undergraduate programs that graduate the next wave of entrepreneurs, for example, it might be that the U of T wouldn’t have a program exactly like that.”
Setting aside the fact that if Ontario really wanted to save money it could eliminate a few of these education councils, Weingarten’s comments hint that specialization is all about output. If Ontario needs graduates in various areas, the implication runs, it doesn’t need every school to fulfill that need. Put another way, if a student wants program x, she only needs one school to offer it and she can go there.
But the underlying assumption is that a university education is designed only, or mainly, as an economic investment. Universities are understood like factories, turning out useful products and thus should be specialized so as to be more efficient.
Setting aside the fact that it is inherently repugnant to think of people as products (the report calls for graduates who, like iPods should be “highly valued and competitive” [p.15]), the specialization perspective assumes that students know what they want to study when they go to university and will stick to that field of study all the way through. Anyone who teaches at a university knows that these assumptions are actually false, and idealists like me see them as deeply troubling.
For one thing, circumstances mean that students are not infinitely mobile. A student in Sudbury may not feasibly be able to move to Windsor to study. Consequently, specialization means limiting choices. The report claims that “differentiation” will mean more variety of programs overall (p. 6) but later reveals that claim to be false by insisting that universities must work with their existing programs (p.10). In other words, the Kingston girl who might have been a world-class artist may end up toiling as an accountant because Fine Arts was only available at Western, not Queen’s. Such things may happen even now, but they become more likely the more specialized institutions become.
A psychologist advises parents on what to say and what not to say
If your adult child is still hanging around the house jobless after graduating, you’re not alone in feeling frustrated. But here’s a tale of hope from psychologist Brad Sachs, taken from his new book Emptying the Nest: Launching Your Young Adult Child Toward Success. Years ago, Sachs treated a young man he calls Richie, who performed abysmally at school. “How he ultimately graduated, I will never know.” Richie’s only interests were video games and electric guitar. After high school, he lived with his parents, unemployed. “He started a rock band but couldn’t get it off the ground, possibly because the band members were smoking too much pot,” writes Sachs.
Richie was 20 when his parents contacted Sachs, who “helped Richie understand how his behaviour was actually eliciting the parental nagging he so detested, and helped the parents to see that many of their efforts to motivate him, despite being well-intentioned, were backfiring.” A few years back, Sachs heard from Richie, who emailed: “I wanted to happily let you know I am now a millionaire.” Turns out Richie found a way to harness his passion for video games and guitar. He went on to be one of the designers of the video game Guitar Hero.
“The point of this story is not that the ultimate goal of human development is to strike it rich, nor that everyone is destined to be rewarded abundantly for following their passion,” writes Sachs. “My point is simply that it’s unwise to give up on young adults no matter how maddeningly uneven their development trajectory may be, and that the more empathy, patience and understanding we are able to summon on their behalf, the greater the likelihood they will eventually find ways to forge ahead with their life in positive ways.”
Parents often ask Sachs: how do I motivate my child? “But the reality is you can’t motivate anyone to do anything,” he writes. Parents who plead with children, “ ‘Just do it for me’ where the ‘it’ could be anything from getting sober to finding a mate,” almost guarantee that the goal is not going to be achieved, he writes. His advice is to encourage autonomy. “Parents must ‘contract’ themselves, condense their presence so that their child has space in which to grow and think more independently.” For example, “You may believe that your 20-year-old daughter’s pot-smoking is keeping her stuck, but until she is able to contemplate this possibility, not only will her self-destructive behaviour continue, but you will become increasingly estranged from each other.” Parents must “stand to the side,” he writes. “Your dialogue with her needs to be designed not as an evangelical sermon designed to convert her to your way of thinking, but as a series of conversations structured to attract her curiosity about why she does what she does, so that changes take root.”
You can avoid ﬁghts by bringing in an “authority figure,” he suggests. Say your son wants to buy a truck. Instead of saying, “How do you think you’re going to be able to afford a truck loan?” try, “I’m not sure how easy it is to get truck loans these days but why don’t you head over to our bank and talk to someone over there to get the latest information and rates? If you’d like, I’ll go with you.”
Sachs also warns that too much praise can be un-motivating. He gives the example of the daughter who finally completes her college application forms. “Once you confer your own celebratory assessment of an accomplishment, it might take away from her own celebration, making it feel more like a feather in your own cap than hers, prompting her to take fewer steps, and even some steps backwards.” When she completes a task, say, “I’ve seen you working hard to get these applications completed by deadline. How’s it feel now that you’ve taken care of them?”
Finally, if your adult-child appears unmotivated to move out, Sachs hypothesizes you could be broadcasting mixed messages. “Many parents expend great efforts trying to appear young, hip, and fashionable. Surely, adolescents must observe this and wonder what the appeal of adulthood could possibly be if adults themselves are backing away from maturity and trying to look, sound and behave like their own children.”
Image: Getty Images/ iStock/ Photo Illustration by Taylor Shute