Which One Would You Rather Hug


Leave Kids at Home, Bring Pets to Work

I never married because there was no need.
I have three pets at home which answer the same purpose as a husband.
I have a dog which growls every morning, a parrot which swears all afternoon, and a cat that comes home late at night.

- Marie Corelli

San Jose, California - Silicon Valley's workplaces are going to the dogs (along with a few cats, birds, rodents and fish).  A growing number of high-tech companies are letting their employees bring their animals to work after discovering that making pet owners happy can be good business.  Employees no longer feel they have to make it home at a certain hour to care for Fido or Fluffy.  And a pet-friendly workplace can help attract and keep good workers, many of whom care as much for their pets as parents do for their children.

Companies don't exactly let pets have the run of the workplace.  They require that animals be confined to their owners' workspaces.  Dogs must be leashed, licensed and have all their shots.  Personnel managers at Netscape Communications Corporation, Excite! Incorporated and Autodesk Incorporated say they haven't received any complaints so far.

For Rafhael Cedeno, a software engineer, bringing his Yorkshire terrier to work is so important, he won't take a job where he can't.  "(He) would be upset if I didn't bring him to work," Cedeno said.

Source: for the picture of dogs above "Dog World" is a painting by Elizabeth Ansell

Kids Alone: Feral and Furious

Where the trouble starts

Review of the book Home-Alone America: The Hidden Toll of Day Care, Wonder Drugs, and Other Parent Substitutes by Mary Eberstadt. Sentinel; 218 pages

It would be better for both children and adults if more American parents were with their kids more of the time," insists Mary Eberstadt, at the end of a gloomy account of all that has gone wrong with youngsters' lives.  She wants a new public consensus to reflect that.

Can views change?  Public concern about the absence of fathers from their children's lives has already begun to rise in the past decade.  Indeed, the author's catalogue of childhood unhappiness sometimes conflates the effects of divorce with her main and more controversial target, namely, the decline in the amount of time that children spend with either parent.  She blames the rise of day care and of empty homes for rising aggression, obesity, unhappiness and teenage sex.  The average American teenager now spends about 3½ hours alone each day: more time alone than with family and friends.  In that loneliness, and in children's resentment of it, lie the roots of most of the ills that beset America's youngsters.

The loneliness, Mrs Eberstadt argues, starts in day care.  Deposited, by working mothers, too soon and too long in the care of strangers, small children suffer more infections and develop more aggressive behaviour than they once did.  At school, children whose parents are out of the home for long periods behave worse and achieve less.  Violence in primary schools has grown.  So has childhood obesity: the proportion of overweight youngsters tripled between the 1960s and 1990S.  Why?  Because, says Mrs Eberstadt, there is no longer an adult at home to tell a sedentary child to stop munching in front of the television and go out to play.  She cites research showing a significant link between maternal work and overweight children.  Television makes the dual-career and single-parent family possible.

Children hate being parentless.  But the adult response to what she calls the "furious child problem" has been pharmaceutical: prescription-drug use is now rising faster among children than among the elderly.  Schools have difficulty managing "feral" children, their behaviour undisciplined by a parental presence at home.  Teenagers left alone at home for too long get up to greater mischief.  And she reports a rising epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases among teenagers.  Parents are "the ultimate prophylactic".

The figures do not always support her alarm.  Teenage crime and suicide have been falling recently, and pregnancy is not rising.  There is, she feels, strong "cultural pressure" to suppress what is up with kids today.  But her-passionate attack on the damage cause a by the absence of parents suggests that we may be approaching some sort of turning point in social attitudes, where assumptions about family life and maternal employment start to change.  It has happened before-it could happen again.

Source: The Economist 13 November 2004

After School Haven Needed for Kids Whose Parents Aren't Home

by Ted Rueter

As a child growing up in Nebraska and Minnesota, I remember coming home from school each day around 3:30 in the afternoon.  My mother — a full-time mom — greeted me with a hug and some cookies.  After we chatted, I practiced the piano until dinner.

Today, for most kids, things are very different.  Schools - staying open later - could substitute for the parents that can't be there after school.

In 1992, 66% of all families with children under 18 had mothers in the labour force, a study of the National Education Commission on Time and Learning showed.  Twenty-two million adolescents are left unsupervised during the hours of 3 and 6pm according to the Andrews University Institute for Prevention of Addictions.

How are America's kids spending those unsupervised hours?

Many of them are glued to Ricki Lake and Jenny Jones.  On average, according to the Centre for Research on Women at Wellesley College, American children spend 40 hours a week watching television and playing video games - more hours than they spend in school.  Children in low-income households are estimated to spend 50% more time watching television than their more affluent peers.  Children who watch more television than average are more likely to be obese, read less, and play less; they are also more aggressive, the Wellesley research shows.

Some latchkey adolescents spend unsupervised afternoons having sex.  Most adolescent girls who become pregnant do so between 3 and 6pm, in their own home, the Andrews University research shows.  Latchkey children are especially likely to experiment with alcohol and other drugs.  A Task Force on Youth Development and Community Programs study of approximately 5,000 eighth-graders found that students who had no supervision for 11 or more hours a week were at twice the risk of substance abuse as their peers.  Other latchkey kids may spend their unsupervised time committing crime.  Most juvenile crime, according to the Andrews study, is committed between the hours of 2 and 6pm.

The problem of unsupervised children and youths is likely to get worse.  The 1996 welfare reform bill is forcing even more mothers into the work force, since all adults on cash assistance must get a job within two years.  Closing school at 2 or 3pm makes no sense.  It is the relic of an agricultural society, in which kids were needed to help with farm chores.  Today, typically, there are no chores, there's only one parent, and she's not home.

So what is to be done?  Public schools should be open until at least 7 or 8pm, on weekdays.  They should also be open on weekends and in the summer.  Schools should bring in coaches, counsellors, and mentors to offer kids havens of sports and supervised activity - or even study.  A Carnegie Council on Academic Development study found that "high school students involved in organised activities had higher self-esteem, higher grades, higher educational aspirations, lower delinquency rates, and a greater sense of control over their lives."  A new report by the US Department of Education - “Safe and Smart" - found that communities with after-school programs have lower juvenile crime rates, and lower rates of juvenile tobacco and drug use.  President Clinton recently announced nearly $40 million in new grants to establish or expand after-school programs, under the America After School Act.  The grants will enable 315 rural and inner-city schools to provide programs after school, as well as during weekends and summers.

Keeping schools open late makes good financial sense and good common sense.  And while there's no substitute for the love and care of a parent, after-school programs are the next-best thing.

Ted Rueter is campaign policy director for Mark Dayton, a Democratic candidate for governor of Minnesota; distributed by The Christian Science Monitor

Source: © Nando.net and The Christian Science Monitor 3 July 1998

The dog won’t be there when Junior gets home from school because Mom took him with her to work.  Presumably staying at school longer would leave a child better off than if he spent that same time watching tv.  At some time in the future, though, his parents shouldn’t be surprised if his primary allegiance (the group with which he most identifies) shifts to his peers or mentors and away from the haven of the immediate family.

: A dog's life.

A kid's life:  "I can help my kids see ways to watch out for trouble, but trying to teach them everything, or to physically protect them at every moment, is impossible.  Metal detectors, locks, security patrols, and gun control legislation all have their limits of effectiveness."

Source: the Christian Science Monitor website 31 March 2000

The thing I find amazing is that the parent quoted above appears to take in stride that "metal detectors, locks, security patrols, and gun control legislation" are a requirement in today's schools to protect his children.  All I can say is: perhaps he should consider immigrating to New Zealand.

Our Criminal Children

I have always felt that too much time was given before birth, which is spent learning things like how to breathe in and out with your husband
(I had my baby when they gave you a shot in the hip and you didn't wake up until the kid was ready to start school),
and not enough time given to how to mother after the baby is born.

- Erma Bombeck

by Oskar Alley

25% commit an offence before 19, says report

A quarter of New Zealand's young people have committed a criminal offence by the time they reach 19, a report into youth offending prepared for the Government says.  But research into ways to stop young people entering a life of crime shows that the court system and police officers' attitudes are not reducing reoffending, and in some cases are fuelling criminal behaviour among troubled teens.  The review of research into youth crime, prepared for Youth Affairs Minister Laila Harre - and obtained by The Dominion under the Official Information Act - warns that substance abuse by children aged between 6 and 11 is one of the key factors in petty criminals entering a life of crime.  For teens aged between 12 and 14, the main danger is posed by them falling into bad company with "antisocial" friends.

The report, titled Tough Is Not Enough and prepared by Youth Affairs Ministry staffer and Victoria University reseacher Kaye McLaren, says 25% of youngsters have committed a criminal offence by the age of 19.  The majority stray only once or twice, but there is also a small group who grow into "serious juvenile offenders".  Some start as young as 10.  The report concludes that bad parenting is the main causal link to such serious offending.  It lists several initiatives, including improving parenting skills, identifying antisocial behavioural patterns and halting drug abuse as "constructive" ways to reduce youth crime.

Ms Harre said she supported the report's findings and it had prompted a governmental shakeup of ways to tackle youth crime.  Previous ministers had ignored the problem, she said.  "I know some people see this as being soft, but the previous hard-line "tough" punishment-based system did nothing to reduce reoffending.  We're saying you've got to intervene before it's too late, before young people grow up to become hardened criminals."

The review of research debunks traditional punitive attitudes to youth crime, saying:

bulletThe police's less respectful attitude and "bad manners" toward young people increase the risk of crime.  Arresting them also results in more offending.
bulletSending young criminals to prison does not reduce their criminal activities and can increase offending.
bullet"Scared straight" programmes, such as hardened criminals being used to scare troubled teens, have a "very poor" track record.

The report gives qualified support to much-vaunted family group conferences - where offenders are made to confront their victims - though there is only limited research into the effect the conferences have on reducing reoffending.  More than 80% of conferences are accepted by the courts and result in the offender avoiding a conviction.  The report says 26% of young people who appear at the conferences reoffend.

Principal Youth Court Judge David Carruthers has been asked to lead a taskforce looking into ways to cut youth crime, which rose by 55% in the 1990s.

Source: The Dominion Tuesday 17 October 2000

See also:

bulletHigh School Student Survey - The Report Card on the Ethics of American Youth found that 92% of the 8,600 students surveyed lied to their parents in the past year; 78% said they had lied to a teacher, and more than 25% said they would lie to get a job...  Nearly 1 in 6 students said they had shown up for class drunk at least once in the past year; 68% admitted they hit someone because they were angry.  Nearly half said they could get a gun if they wanted to...
bulletRejection by Peers May Lead to Violent Behaviour - "...children who might not have been aggressive otherwise will often become aggressive after they have been rejected by their peers..."
bulletTracking Millennium Babies - The age-old nurture versus nature argument is to be put to the test in a British television documentary which will follow a group of millennium babies through two decades of their lives...

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