The Unseen Bug In Our Parenting Culture

Where would the cat fit?

Where would the cat fit?

Over the last thousand years or so we developed parenting traditions suited for their times. If you look closely, these traditions served our societies well in days gone by, and some still do.

Many of them however, no longer have a place in modern society. We need to ‘upgrade’ those traditions. After all, parenting is the means by which society passes its way of life to future generations. For something as important as that, we cannot afford to let it become outmoded.

In my experience, outmoded parenting practices is the unseen ‘bug’ in our cultures. They create untold mischief as families try to raise their children.

It’s time for a “reboot.”

Join us on Blogtalk Radio at 1:00 p.m. EDT on Friday, May 24th as we discuss this most important topic for raising children in the information age.

Here is one example: Discipline

It is helpful to acknowledge that the parent-child relationship is like all other relationships.

We enhance all relationships through bonding experiences and skillful communication. We also damage them through negative communication or painful experiences.

Most of us can relate to this easily. It simply makes sense.  No one goes around “making friends and influencing people” by talking down to them or hitting them. Right? However, that  bug in our culture programs us to approach children in a totally different way.  In fact, we throw what we know is wise completely through the window.  The bug says to us, “children are “less than equals. We must talk to them and treat them as such.”

So we “discipline” them with negative communication.. and painful experiences.


This insistence on what I call a “subservient mindset” is a problem. It can influence you to preach one thing and practice something else. Take TLP’s 30-day challenge  for step-by-step action plans you can use to repair or maintain almost any parent-child relationship.

So log in to the radio program for more.. then lets start the discussion.We can do that using the comments below, or on Google+ or on our Facebook page.

How To Make Parenting Simple

brainpower is universal

Power to transcend

The most horrific nightmare is where something goes really REALLY wrong and your child dies.

The only time you dreamed it, you didn’t sleep much. You woke up sweating, and it disturbed you to your core. You still shiver down your spine thinking about it.

Why does it unsettle you so? It’s just a stupid nightmare, isn’t it?

You feel your head hanging. Eyes closed, you breathe through your open mouth, and allow your thoughts to rest a while on your boy.  That’s my flesh and blood. God … I love him.  

You already sense the answer. Things aren’t right between you. The nightmare feels like a dark warning. It disturbs you with that nauseous, panicky feeling that lingers too long in the back of your mind.

You let your mind go there; you sense what you have to do, but you’re always trying. It never quite works out how you want it, and time is never enough. It’s frustrating.« Continue »

What They Never Taught Us About Intelligence And Success

hard road to success“I only want to help my children to go further than I did.”

I bet you used to hear that from parents as often as I did while growing up.  I bet that now, you know how they felt.

You send them to school, monitor their progress, and guide them as best you can. But there are lots of highly educated folks in the world still struggling.

You try your best to discipline them.. to teach them the value of hard work, and living right. You know that this gives them a better chance in life. But the world’s hardest workers remain poor. They never get to reap the benefits of their labor.

And when things take a turn for the worse in your own life… a bad economy… a relationship that’s not working the way it should.. a position on the job you deserved that was given to someone else… it’s really tough sometimes.  And so many things are beyond your control, no matter what you do, it might still be even harder for your children.

Well here’s the thing. It doesn’t have to be that way.  There might be a way to give them a better shot.

« Continue »


hazing binge bluesThis is the second post from Robert Cialdini’s fifth edition (2009) of  ”Influence.” Test your knowledge of state-of-the art research on parenting methods while having some fun discussing and sharing with the Life-Parent community.

“All this has important implications for rearing children. It suggests that we should never heavily bribe or threaten our children to do the things we want them truly to believe in. Such pressures will probably produce temporary compliance with our wishes. However, if we want more than just that, if we want our children to believe in the correctness of what they have done, if we want them to continue to perform the desired behavior when we are not present to apply  those outside pressures, then we must somehow arrange for them to accept inner-responsibility for the actions we want them to take. An experiment by Jonathan Freedman (1965) gives us some hints about what to do and what not to do in this regard.

Freedman wanted to see if he could prevent second-to-fourth-grade boys from playing with a fascinating toy,  just because he had said that it was wrong to do so some six weeks  earlier. Anyone familiar with seven- to nine-year-old boys must realize the enormity of the task, but Freedman had a plan. If he could first get the boys to convince themselves that it was wrong to play with the forbidden  toy, perhaps that belief would keep them from playing with it thereafter. The difficulty was making the boys believe that it was wrong to amuse themselves with the toy–an extremely expensive, battery-controlled robot.

Freedman knew it would be easy enough to have a boy obey temporarily. All he had to do was threaten the boy with severe consequences should he be caught playing with the toy. As long as he was nearby to deal out stiff punishment, Freedman figured that few boys would risk operating the robot. He was right. After showing a boy an array  of five toys and warning him,”it is wrong to play  with the robot. if you play with the robot,I’ll be very angry and will have to do something about it,” Freedman left the room for a few minutes. During that time, the boy was observed secretly through a one-way mirror. Freedman tried this threat procedure on 22 different boys, and 21 of them never touched the robot while he was gone.

So a strong threat was successful while the boys thought they might be caught and punished. Of course, Freedman had already guessed that. He was really interested in the effectiveness of the threat in guiding the boys’ behavior later on, when he was no longer around. To find out what would  happen then, he sent a young woman back to the boys’ school about six weeks after he had been there. She took the boys out of the class one at a time to participate in an experiment. Without ever mentioning any connection with Freedman, she escorted each boy back to the room containing the five toys and gave him a drawing test. While she was scoring the test, she told the boy that he was free to play with any toy in the room. Of course, almost all of the boys played with a toy. The interesting result was that, of the boys who played with a toy, 77% chose to play with the robot that had been forbidden to them earlier. Freedman’s severe threat, which had been so successful six weeks before, was almost totally unsuccessful when he was no longer able to back it up with punishment.

However, Freedman wasn’t finished yet. He changed his procedure slightly with a second sample of boys. These boys, too, were initially shown the array of five toys by Freedman and warned not to play with the robot while he was briefly out of the room because “it is wrong to play with the robot.” This time, Freedman provided no strong threat to frighten a boy into obedience.  He simply left the room and observed through the one-way mirror to see if his instruction against playing with the forbidden toy was enough. It was. Just as with the other sample, only 1 of the 22 boys touched the robot during the short time Freedman was gone.

The real difference between the two samples of boys came six weeks later, when they had a chance to play with the toys while Freedman was no longer around. An astonishing thing happened with the boys who earlier had been given no strong threat against playing with the robot: When given the freedom to play with any toy they wished, most avoided the robot, even though it was by far the most attractive of the five toys available (the others were a cheap plastic submarine, a child’s baseball glove without a ball, an unloaded toy rifle, and a toy tractor). When these boys played with one of the five toys, only 33 percent chose the robot.

Something dramatic had happened to both groups of boys. For the first group, it was the severe threat they heard from Freedman to back up his statement that playing with the robot was “wrong.” It had been quite effective, while Freedman could catch them violating his rule. Later, though, when he was no longer present to observe the boys’ behavior, his threat was impotent and his rule was, consequently, ignored. It seems clear that the threat had not taught the boys that operating the robot was wrong, only that it was unwise to do so when the possibility of punishment existed.

For the other boys, the dramatic event had come from inside, not outside. Freedman had instructed them, too, that playing with the robot was wrong, but he had added no threat of punishment should they disobey him. There were two important results. First, Freedman’s instruction alone was enough to prevent the boys from operating the robot while he was briefly out of the room. Second, the boys took personal responsibility for their choices to stay away from the robot during that time They decided that they hadn’t played with it because they didn’t want to. After all, there were no strong punishments associated with the toy to explain their behavior otherwise. Thus, weeks later, when Freedman was nowhere around, they still ignored the robot because they had been changed inside to believe that they did not want to play with it.”

(Cialdini, Robert B. (2009-08-20). Influence: Science and Practice, ePub (5th Edition) (Kindle Locations 1986-2029). Pearson HE, Inc.. Kindle Edition)

The implications for child-rearing become more obvious in this piece.  But Cialdini goes on even further to talk about methods for teaching values and principles of right and wrong.

So… have Caribbean disciplining methods been working?  Do you think there is a link between those methods and the prevalence of violence in our societies? Start the discussion via your comments in the box below. I think the safety of our children – and the future of our communities – depend on it.

Read more about methods for influencing children to believe in the right things for life instead of just until you’re not around.  Download our own free e-book, “Win Back the Child You Love in 30 Days.”

What Fraternity Hazing & Chinese Prison Camps Can Teach Us About Raising Children

This post is an unedited excerpt from Robert Cialdini’s fifth edition (2009) of  “Influence.” We’re using it to run a comment competition based on the question immediately following the excerpt.  Test your knowledge of state-of-the art research on parenting methods while having some fun discussing and sharing with the Life-Parent community.

“It appears that the commitments most effective in changing a person’s self-image and future behavior are those that are active, public, and effortful. However, there is another property of effective commitment more important than the other three combined. To understand what it is, we first need to solve a pair of puzzles in the actions of Communist interrogators and college fraternity brothers.

The first puzzle comes from the refusal of fraternity chapters to allow public-service activities to be part of their initiation ceremonies. Recall Walker’s survey (1967), which reported that community projects, though frequent, were nearly always separated from the membership-induction program. Why? If an effortful commitment is what fraternities are after in their initiation rites, surely they could structure enough distasteful and strenuous civic activities for their pledges; there is plenty of exertion and unpleasantness to be found in the world of old-age-home repairs, mental-health-center yard work, and hospital bedpan duty. Besides, community-spirited endeavors of this sort would do much to improve the highly unfavorable public and media image of fraternity Hell Week rites; a survey (Phalen, 1951) showed that for every positive newspaper story concerning Hell Week, there were five negative stories. If only for public-relations reasons, then, fraternities should want to incorporate community-service efforts into their initiation practices. But they don’t.

To examine the second puzzle, we need to return to the Chinese prison camps of Korea and the political essay contests held for American captives. The Chinese wanted as many Americans as possible to enter these contests so that, in the process, they might write comments favorable to the Communist view. If, however, the idea was to attract large numbers of entrants, why were the prizes so small? A few extra cigarettes or a little fresh fruit were often all that a contest winner could expect. In the setting, even these prizes were valuable, but, still, there were much larger rewards—warm clothing, special mail privileges, increased freedom of movement in camp—that the Chinese could have used to increase the number of essay writers. Yet they specifically chose to employ the smaller rather than the larger, more motivating rewards.

Although the settings are quite different, the surveyed fraternities refused to allow civic activities into their initiation ceremonies for the same reason that the Chinese withheld large prizes in favor of less powerful inducements: They wanted the participants to own what they had done. No excuses, no ways out were allowed. A pledge who suffered through an arduous hazing could not be given the chance to believe he did so for charitable purposes. A prisoner who salted his political essay with anti-American comments could not be permitted to shrug it off as motivated by a big reward. No, the fraternity chapters and Chinese Communists were playing for keeps. It was not enough to wring commitments out of their men; those men had to be made to take inner responsibility for their actions.

Given the Chinese Communist government’s affinity for the political essay contest as a commitment device, it should come as no surprise that a wave of such contests appeared in the aftermath of the 1989 massacre in Tiannanmen Square, where pro-democracy protesters were gunned down by government soldiers. In Beijing alone, nine state-run newspapers and television stations sponsored essay competitions on the “quelling of the counterrevolutionary rebellion.” Still acting in accord with its long-standing and insightful de-emphasis of rewards for public commitments, the Beijing government left the contest prizes unspecified.

Social scientists have determined that we accept inner responsibility for a behavior when we think we have chosen to perform it in the absence of strong outside pressure. A large reward is one such external pressure. It may get us to perform certain actions, but it won’t get us to accept inner responsibility for the acts. Consequently, we won’t feel committed to them. The same is true of a strong threat; it may motivate immediate compliance, but it is unlikely to produce long-term commitment.

In fact, large material rewards may even reduce or “undermine” our inner responsibility for an act, causing a subsequent reluctance to perform it when the reward is no longer present (Deci & Ryan, 1985; Higgins, Lee, Kwon, & Trope, 1995; Lepper & Greene, 1978).

Cialdini, Robert B. (2009-08-20). Influence: Science and Practice, ePub (5th Edition) (Kindle Locations 1952-1986). Pearson HE, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

The implications of this article for resisting attempts by others to influence us, are huge.  But the article can serve us well in other ways. For one, if your’e in business, we’re talking here about techniques that the world’ most successful sales personnel use.  More importantly, the implications for parents are mind-boggling.  Let’s see who can give us the best response to the following question:

What does Cialdini’s work tell us about the best way to build character, successful belief-systems and habits in our children? What does it overwhelmingly suggest about the culturally accepted ways in which Caribbean parents have traditionally instilled discipline?”