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Notes from

Licensing Parents
by Jack Westman
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Here are notes from my reading of Westman's book about the idea of licensing parents in the USA. I first read his book before I had ever started working with abused, self-harming, suicidal teens. Even then much of what he says made sense. Now with over 10 years of experience in that area I am even more convinced of the damage parents can do.

Westman does not say much specifically about the connection between incompetent parenting and youth suicide, but he does a good job of showing the connection to a wide variety of other problems.

Although I am not sure I would trust a government with developing the rules for parent licenses, his work strongly supports the need for training and educational classes for future parents. S. Hein

Licensing Parents: Can we prevent child abuse and neglect? Insight Books, New York. 1994 Jack Westman, M.D. U of Wisconsin

[read in 1995 - the bold font is my emphasis]

From foreword: by Judge Charles D. Gill. Superior Court, State of Conneticut, Litchfield Conneticut.

.. parenting is a the most important human to human job we will ever have as adults. It is a job for which there is no minimum entry-level standard, no required education, no on the job training, no aptitude testing, and no character references requirements.

In speeches he would say: "We need a license to go fishing. We need to be tested physically, intellectually, and fiscally to be licensed to drive an automobile. But to possess, own, operate and rear a helpless child, there is no test. There is no license. Whoever begets them, gets them." p vii


US advisory board on Child Abuse and Neglect calls it a "national emergency", yet the warning is met with "a yawn." Apparently it takes the destruction of children and families in somebody else's country--Kuwait, Somalia-- to constitute a real "national emergency". p viii

He says passionate people offer no solutions. The average citizen has developed a type of "psychic numbness" when it comes to children's issues. (I suspect because it is too close to home, and they know it subconsciously if not consciously--the thought of having to think about it makes them uncomfortable because the topic might lead directly to their own parenting and childhood.)

"In a zany political frenzy, we shout the old, useless slogans: Beef up police! Crack down on crime! Lock them up! Throw away the key! Three strikes and you're out! Ban weapons! Limit welfare! Return to the basics in education!"

(I would add that religious fanatics add to the shouting with "Repent Sinners!" and "Trust Jesus!" "Read the Bible" and "Pray!")

Political leaders are saying we need to toughen up and punish those they self-righteously label "monsters, punks, heathens, animals", etc. But they do not stop to give thoughtful consideration to the question of "where do these monsters come from?" "Did they parachute from another country?" pviii (I would add, do we still believe that their souls have been taken by the devil? Or that there is some mysterious evil force, such as "the devil," that controls them? See notes on the word "evil"

He continues, we know these things about the vast majority of them:

"One, they were all born in American hospitals; two, they were all educated in American schools; and three, they were all reared by American adults." p viii

.. Is it not time that we made proper parenting THE goal of American child policy? Instead he says, we continue to focus on "after the fact rehabilitation" We know from experience that the costs of such rehabilitation are staggering and the prospects for success are dismally low.

Judge Gill lists the results of inept parenting:

Child custody hearings, which bear tremendous costs, both financial, but more importantly for the child, emotional. Such hearings far too often become vicious legal battles. I use the word "battles" deliberately as these conflicts involve winners, losers, attacks, defenses, and staggering losses. As we all know, the only winners are the lawyers. This is so well known it has become a cliche. Thus it has become another accepted part of society, and its importance minimized if not altogether lost. The enrichment of the lawyers comes from impoverishment of their clients, adding to their fear, anxiety, sense of helplessness and loss of trust and disillusionment in the so-called justice system.

- Juvenile hearings

- Criminal prosecutions

"The place to fight crime is in the cradle" p ix

The removed child looks for protection saying to the first female officer or child protection service worker, those heart wrenching pleas:

Will you be my mommy?

Can I go home with you?


Please don't send me back there!

Gill says, "the child knows what she needs, why don't we?"

Estimate that incompetent parenting costs 1 million vs benefit of 2 million for competent

"Juvenile ageism" - "While we are a nation that professes to love our children, our policies, laws, and actions clearly say otherwise." p x

"We look out for the child's needs only after they have been damaged."

"The evidence is in. It is incontrovertible. The only possible verdict is to find us guilty of perpetuating a system of incompetent parenting that neglects and devalues our children. p x


We must place a higher value on parenting. Children need society's protection before they are damaged. p xii

He calls ageism a form of prejudice and discrimination akin to racism and sexism.

We not only tolerate incompetent parenting but actually support it.

"The failure to identify parenting as a vital social responsibility in the United States has resulted in enormous social and financial costs for our society" + emotional p xii

Little action has been taken to reverse the progressive deterioration of our children's lives [& thus society]

.. enormous waste of human and economic resources that results from incompetent parenting. In the past setting expectations for parents has been seen as desirable. Now it is a necessity. p xii

But he says "licensing parents would not compromise the right of each woman and man to conceive and each woman to give birth to a child. [ then what is the point? -- he hedges here.] xii

Goal is children that will be contributing members of society (and happy or at least mentally healthy?) p xiii

... competent parenting is essential for the well being and even survival of our society. xiii

[but he keeps talking about their civil rights. "recognizing that they are humans with civil rights." He doesn't distinguish between rights and needs or the needs of the individual vs the needs of the species.]

Our society cannot afford to continue to subject children to the caprice, neglect, and irresponsibility of incompetent parents. xiii

He says "elevate parenting to a privilege" xiii


Speaking of incompetent, inept parents Westman says, "...there is a definite connection between the damage caused to children by the failings of those parents and our society's educational, health, safety, and economic problems." p 1

.. competent parents are people who can restrain themselves from seriously harming their children. p. 2

In contrast, incompetent parents pursue their own urges and damage their children by ignoring or tyrannizing them or both. 2 [ie they are using the children to fill their own needs]

A small fraction of the population has reduced public safety for adults and children to unacceptable levels...

He says less than 5% of parents "seriously endanger our society. 2 They are the source of 3.6 million children and thus the source of "society's criminal and welfare dependency problems."

"Licensing parents would be one way to convey society's recognition that parenting is an important undertaking for which there are minimum requirements." p 4

he suggests some basic requirements for parents 4

- have completed own growth and development [actually we are never complete] - able to assume responsibility for their own lives - for childrearing

[perhaps financially, emotionally: self-control, anger management, emotional expression, validating, etc.

Another requirement: parents "make a commitment to care for their children and to refrain from abusing or neglecting them" p 4 pretty weak

but on p 5 he says ... when they are not competent we should provide financial aid, educational programs social services, and "when necessary, relief from the responsibilities of parenting."

Chap 1

Why has our unprecedented material wealth not given us emotional or physical security [or happiness] p. 7

Income and status do not mean competent parents p 8

many affluent parents provide children with material things but neglect their character development [all the while teaching by example the wrong values] 8

parents who are excessively indulgent and lenient fail to teach self-discipline, partly because they want their children to have more material things than they did [they are working from the good intention of wanting their children to be happier than they, but from the false assumption that material wealth means happiness.]

p 9 As these children grow older.. - preoccupied with self-gratification - lack civility - regard gifts as entitlements

... generation is growing up in fear p9

signs of alienation: p12 - lack of attentiveness - misbehavior in school - academic underachievement - smoking - sexual promiscuity - alcohol and drug abuse - dropping out - vandalism, violence, crime, suicide, welfare dependency

in 1940 problems rated by teachers were:

talking out of turn, chewing gum, making noise, running in the halls, cutting in line, dress-code violations, and littering


- drug and alcohol abuse - pregnancy - suicide - rape - robbery - assault p. 12,13

the US is spending more money, yet getting worse results than other countries

p15 study by US Dept of Education: only 1/2 of adolescents are growing up in a basically healthy manner

p 18 the majority of deaths in the US are from preventable illnesses such as - smoking - drinking - unhealthy diets - poor physical fitness - stressful working conditions

average cost of treating gun injury is $340,000. resulting in an annual cost of over 4 billion p 18

The US is the most consistently violent nation on earth 18

The chances today of being an innocent victim of crime "enormously outweigh the chances of being a falsely convicted, innocent person." p 19

about 5% appears to be responsible for the deterioration in the safety of the entire nation [disagree, we all are if we support the value systems that create individuals who cause crime] about .2 percent of total population are habitual criminals

p20 "Gun-Free Schools Zones Act" making it illegal to have guns near schools-- [not solving anything! Treating symptom.]

The US Advisory Board on Child Abuse and Neglect calls ca & n a "national emergency", [but we do nothing to address the root cause of the problem!] p 20

[The US govt. defines child abuse for all practical matters as a child who is either maimed or killed. There must be imminent danger, visible signs of physical abuse.. The reason they can't or don't address emotional abuse is that you can't immediately see the results.]

Americans are working harder, enjoying life less.

p23 "Why have we not drawn the line?"

[He says all this has "far exceeded acceptable limits" however this is obviously not true, because we are accepting it!]

His answer: p 24: Decreasing representation of children in public affairs

He says it because more households have fewer or no children. [It could be because people have not seen how it is in their interest to regulate parenting. In fact, the ones without children should be more likely to vote for regulating kids, I would think, because they are not as defensive.]

He says it is because we are not interested in the children, these homes "have no stake in children". [On the other hand, all of us are only interested in ourselves first, as is natural.]

And he says childbirth is "being controlled routinely through the use of contraceptives, sterilization and abortion."

p. 25 The way children are parented plays a vital role in the quality of all of our lives. We can no longer afford to avoid defining and confronting incompetent parenting.

[Well, like everything, there is a price to pay, so far we would rather pay the price of not regulating parents than the price of regulating them. Of course when I say "price" I mean more than just the actual dollar expense, I also mean the psychological price. There is emotional cost to not regulating parents in terms of the emotional pain inflicted on children and the pain they inflict on others. And there is an emotional cost for parents who are told they can't have children, and an emotional cost for any compassionate person who tells them they may not have children.]

Chap 2 "The Proximate Cause: Incompetent Parenting"

We have all been conditioned to attribute our problems on sociological, societal, economic, political, and environmental causes.

As he says, while these all have some validity, they are "one step removed from the actual life situations of children in which the foundations of crime and welfare dependency are laid." p 27

The degree to which all of these external influences are transmitted to the child depends on the parent-child relationship. p 28 (not direct quote).. "For this compelling reason, the proximate causes of the behaviors of children and adults who become habitual criminals and welfare dependent lie in the parenting of our children."

"This means our society has a stake in the way in which children are parented..." p 28 "Parenting is more than a private, personal matter. It is a vital social role. More significantly, of all the factors that contribute to our social problems, parenting is the most susceptible to remediation.."

The importance can be seen in calculating both (a) the social benefits of competent parenting and (b) the social costs of incompetent parenting. [ndq] 28

Obviously we need to define competent parenting... but he never does a very good job.

I would suggest here that most parents would feel defensive.

He suggests that parents will feel guilty, but I suggest they won't admit it! Instead they will become defensive.

His definition:

..Competent parents are simply people who show through their behavior that they care about what happens to their children and who can restrain themselves from seriously harming them. [Very weak definition. Way too broad and subjective (how are we going to define "serious" and "harm"?), but at least itis a start] p 28

He goes on to give more specifics:

Incompetent parents:

- cannot control own impulses

- either neglect or tyrannize their children

- unable to manage their own lives

- unable to manage their children's lives

- they minimize or deny their own incompetence

Some, even with "support and treatment are unable to change in time to become competent parents for their own children." [Right] p 29

.. there are essential experiences for the healthy personality development of children. [just like there are certain essential vitamins and minerals needed for physical growth & development]

.. "the overall objective of childrearing is the "development of each child's potential to function competently" ... within our society -- [What about happiness? and what does "function competently" mean?-- everything comes back to definitions- but we can't agree on definitions!]

He says we need to teach children:

- to learn [I would say that learning comes naturally- we just need to prevent them from having their curiosity and desire to learn destroyed] - to relate to others - to initiate self-expressive activities - to delay gratification - to tolerate frustration - to work - to restrain from harming others

[still doesn't sound like happiness. - I would add, for example "to trust themselves, to become morally autonomous, to have empathy, to use reason, to resolve conflicts"

So parents need

- to delay gratification - to tolerate frustration - handle responsibility for their own lives - same for kids - to restrain from harming their children [is he talking only physical harm?]

[one thing I learned in studying my own life, in my work with others and from hearing story after story from a child protection worker I dated, was the dangerous pattern of overlooking mental, psychological and emotional damage to the child. This damage comes from even the best-intentioned parents, who are often over- protective, insecure, and over-controlling]

continue list of what parents need:

- refrain from alcohol and drug use [I would add any addictive compulsive behavior-including workaholics, churchaholics] - to be sensitive to the needs of others - to be reliable - to be able to form affectionate attachment bonds with the child - to handle routine behaviors of children - to refrain from neglect or over-reaction to child's behavior - to be predictable, consistent, and to offer stability - to refrain equally from idle threats and severe punishment [how to define severe; why do we need punishment at all, isn't it always just education and experience a child needs?] - to balance affection and limit setting - to refrain from coercion - to provide adequate food, shelter, clothing (duh) - to involve themselves in their children's lives - to provide adequate hygiene, and health care - to support child's development - to refrain from excess criticism of the child [how to define excess] - to provide healthy behavioral modeling including personal responsibility, sexual control, non-violence, non-criminal behavior - stability of home location and household composition pp 31-32

* neglect is more harmful than physical abuse p 32 end of list!

If children can't make sense of parent's behavior, the children are not likely to feel secure.. also if they are not treated with compassion, they will not develop compassion for others, including their own future children [sph]

study: children whose mothers wanted an abortion and were denied- had long term adverse psychological, emotional and social effects. - 34

He says that poverty is a legal defense against neglect hmm p 35

We used to think (even poor families) that ambition, perseverance, hard work, would bring rewards - those were values p 36 those values did not differ much from affluent families' values. Good point. (consider my own grandfathers)

He says there is not a convincing link between poverty and incompetent parenting (at least in the first generation) [Right, it costs zero to teach values. & to give love, and teach self-esteem] p 38

38 "the underclass: 1) geographic concentration 2) weakly part of labor force, (attachment?), dependency on welfare, teenage pregnancy, dropping out of school, and crime (3) persistence of these behaviors over two or more generations

This shows that not all poor are in the underclass, and not all the underclass are poor. [true] p 39

"The evidence reveals that incompetent parenting is concentrated in the underclass." p 39 -------- Chap 3

The Benefits To Society of Competent Parenting

importance of responsible choices which do not harm others. p 41

The children of ic's are "likely to become burdens for their communities and society". p 42

To be a contributing member of society: Children need dependable relationships with adults who model competent living [healthy?]

[seems we'd do better to talk about mental, physical health, financial responsibility]

We all gain from competent parenting, and we all lose from incompetent parenting. 42

He hasn't talked about love much yet--just one ref. here p 42

Eight sources of evidence that children who form positive "attachment bonds with their parents can overcome early adverse life circumstances, whereas those who do not are unlikely to become contributing citizens." p 43

-- if not a parent, then another important role model.

1. from anthropologists: all cultures, always stress these bonds 2. ethological ? research: mother child bonds are essential in all primates and mammals

sph: what he calls attachment bonds, along with guilt trips, were needed to ensure that kids would take care of parents. But we no longer need this as much, since parents are wealthier, have insurance etc. Though they still need the emotional support for happiness- but the less they need their children, the better

3. studies show: young children are damaged by significant interruptions of their attachment bonds with their parents. He implies it is clear that nature intended this since kids "show distress reactions and resist separation from their parents" [separation anxiety, fear of abandonment]

4. institutions damage children when they can't bond with an important adult. p 43 orphanages no good.

p 44 foster homes are better [but some, if not many, foster parents damage kids]

5. studies show positive long term effects of the first two years of affectionate att. bonding.

6. also for at risk kids, their mental health is better

7. ^ levels of commitment to own children, ^ involvement in civic activities, ^ (^=increased)

8. "Success is not precluded, and may even be enhanced, by adversity. " p 44


attachment bonding--> increases self-confidence, social functioning, mental health, committed relationships with others, p 45

in sum,.." an affectionate attachment bond is the most effective and efficient socializing process for developing the values and skills required for cooperative group living. " p 45

He calls bonding "the core of competent parenting" It:

1) motivates a parent to care about the child 2. motivates child to identify with parent

-- but he doesn't talk about the equally strong unhealthy bond and modeling xx If not present, child will not empathize with others. p 45

- competent parenting prevents illness

over time, affection has begun to replace duty as motive for parenting p 47

Hopelessness called the "silent killer" 47

love, trust and self-esteem have been growing in importance ; seen as keys to " health and well being" 47

kids used to be seen as economic resources ie objects & thus did not feel valued in themselves, thus hurting self-esteem

More research shows link between mental and physical health, for example optimism. p 48

How much one can help depends on how much "has gone right in a person's life" p 48 good point.

Competent parenting one of 3 protective factors against criminality and welfare dependency 1. Predisposition of individual 2. Affectionate bonds within family 3. External support systems

this study supported idea that competent parenting outweighs negative effects of poverty, teenage pregnancy, brain damage, malnutrition, birth trauma and other negative influencers. 48-50

Another study showed that those who didn't have "stable parenting" also became incompetent parents (no fake!)

Findings tend to show that it is not the events that negatively affect the children, but how they are handled by the parents. 49

Conversely: well-off children can be screwed up p 50

Some problems: 1. less time with kids 2. Govt money for incom. teenagers 3. lack of effective institutional cures for incompetent parents - they are too costly and labor intensive- even "optimal education cannot correct the consequences of early incompetent parenting. p 50-51

4. Govt support of "intractably inc. parents- not terminating their rights

Competent parenting would be the most effective and efficient social program.

It is more efficacious and far less costly to promote parent child affection attatcment bonding than to continue to assume the burden of the educational clinic and correctional treatment of those who suffer from the effects of ic.! p 51

Chap 4

The Effects of Incompetent Parenting

... public safety has deteriorated to intolerable levels because the sheer volume of crime has exceeded the capacities of law enforcement agencies to control it

ie OUT OF CONTROL! p 56 70% of all crimes are committed by 6% of males

The early manifestations of criminality are seen in a general pattern of incorrigibility at home, truancy from school, reckless automobile driving, and alcohol and drug abuse. 57

[So lets look at their "records" before letting them have kids]

He doesn't address causes well, looking first at age, sex. saying its young males

anyhow he says it is not innate, duh! People are trying to find biological and chemical links, but he doesn't mention intelligence.

"Without question disorderly neighborhoods have been long-standing sites of criminal behavior. When disorder goes too far, the social fabric on which the stability of a neighborhood depends is undermined. [In such a neighborhood, children learn that adults do not value responsibility, etc. for condition of homes, streets, etc. So the children learn to be irresponsible as well ]

"When rising levels of disorder are accepted--when broken windows, uncollected garbage, loitering gangs, graffiti, derelicts, prostitutes are tolerated-- a signal goes out that neighborhood residents have lost control of their environment and criminals then move in. " p 60

he quotes alice miller, the untouched key, [her p 168] about criminals who probably came from incompetent parents p 64

neglected children attention and recognition seeking; materialistic; lack self control; self-centered; testing the limits; and ultimately - criminal

neglected children learn to expect that their caregivers will be unavailable and unresponsive to their emotional needs. -> feelings of uncared for, isolated, and unworthy ie essentially "bad"-- other people then are viewed unrealistically as uncaring and therefore are treated with anger and hostility. p 65

p65 children act out their bad self-images (number of studies) following ways - testing limits of acceptable behavior - aggressive - disruptive - lying - cheating - stealing - sexually, physically, verbally, psychologically abusing other children - low self control (anger, violence, temper, self & other destructing ===>- getting rejected as results p 65 & unable to form lasting relationships (except based on fear, perhaps?) or codependency =certainly not fulfilling. because they have a leak.

Quote: p 65

In essence, developing the ability to relate effectively to other people rather than being dominated by one's impulses depends upon learning during the early years of life how to restrain oneself out of respect and affection for others. In this sequence, neglected children fail to form affection attachment bonds with other people and do not learn to delay gratification and to tolerate frustration. Consequently, they are unable to work in school and to take advantage of opportunities in later life. Their lack of self control and lack of prosocial values is later reinforced by the values of antisocial peers, often ironically crystallized in institutions intended to treat juvenile delinquency. " p 65

Because they feel alienated from other people, neglected children become capable of violent robbery and killing. They have no compulsion about taking from the "haves" because they are the "have nots"- they don't feel they are in the wrong because they feel society has deprived them. If society does not, they steal, and murder is incidental. xxx They lead irresponsible lives and coerce or manipulate others to satisfy their own needs without regard for the rights or lives of others. Their self-esteem comes from their gangs, from their willingness to commit violent acts, and from venting their hatred on more affluent people and even on each other. [getting over] They are drawn to crime because it is more exciting and meaningful than any other experience they have known. They are unresponsive to persuasive or educational efforts to change their behavior. p 65,6

Leonard Shengold calls it "soul murder", like Bradshaw. ["soul murder and the effects of childhood abuse-1989] they become "estranged from their own feelings" p 66

"their very existences become roles that are played" wow, how true. rather than following their own feelings, desires

Most likely to be welfare mothers are: - teenagers, unmarried, unemployed, abused & neglected as kids & likely to abuse and neglect as parent p 70

Single female head of households are perpetrators in 51% of neglect cases. p 70

Over 1/2 of AFDC recipients got on program when teenagers.

75 low self esteem leads to people hurting selves.

Nature wants women to have kids between 16&19! p 75

Maternal alcoholism, Drug abuse, & STD's p 76 Kids need to be protected from this. Fetal alcohol syndrome, crack babies.

Neonatal costs of cocaine babies is over 1/2 billion annually. p 77 children of homeless, welfare moms have more accidents, more sicknesses & cost more in medical care.

p 78 killing selves: driving fast, intox., indiscriminate sex, shooting, eating, working

! lets draw the line, we can always change it. Not written in stone!

Contributing factors to crime: include personal traits and family socialization with family factors leading in importance. ("Criminologist somebody & Richard Herrstein's study)

53% of child neglect cases are in families on welfare! p 69 3 things that contribute to intergenerational welfare dependency- 1. characteristics of mothers 2. of fathers 3. and the welfare system itself

Chap 5 The Costs of Incompetent Parenting

No one is studying this. p 83 Quality of workforce Approximately 1 million dollars of income (30 yrs *35k) Will pay approximately 10-30% in taxes.

Chap 6 The Tolerance of Incompetent Parenting not read Chap 7 Juvenile Ageism not read Chap 8 A Child's Right to Competent Parenting Not Read

Chap 9 A Parent's Right to Be Competent

Parents have a moral right to be competent- so they shouldn't have to live in dangerous environments, he suggests 164 (he doesn't seem to believe in personal responsibility much)

... the integrity of society depends upon the competent parenting of its children. p 164

Incompetent parenting threatens the very survival of society. 164 Therefore, competent parenting is an essential function of society and deserves the status of a right. {What? Weak argument, not logical! To many "rights" already. ) 164 Privilege is much better, honor even, for isn't this one of the most important (xx?) responsibilities?

He says we have a "moral responsibility" to support the parenting of the next generation" 164 I say it is in our own selfish and best interests!

166 people need help learning the skills needed, but he admits, .. a "critical number are unable to function as competent parents at all. " He adds that many are children themselves.

Importance of male: p 172

Through a relationship with her father a girl acquires her attitudes about men and herself in relation to them. & of course boys need a positive role model.

p. 173 Malthus said that Catholics spent their lives proliferating because they had been subjugated by the English. "..no people could plan for the future unless they believed that their industrious exertion would benefit them". (from American Scholar, spring 1990: titled Malthus, the reactionary reformer)

when kids become parents, their opportunities are further diminished-- just like I saw at Arco.

Common sense and conventional wisdom tell us that teenagers are too young to be parents, yet society (government) encourages, aids, abets it. This is like aiding and abetting the enemy! see notes

Ease of welfare contributes to teen pregnancy Kid who said I don't like school & I can get $425 a month! p 178 ie more appealing than either finishing school or getting job. p 181

they don't realize how much care kids require & that they are not always cute & loving 182

p 184 why teens have kids

1. too careless etc to prevent preg. in st relationships 2. seek sense of belonging, to be loved (low se means more babies) (seen as sources of love!) 3. to get married & escape a bad family situation 4. those in long term relationships, who then get married

Says there has been a "bitter controversy over whether or not adolescent parenthood should be accepted as an expression of a legitimate cultural life style"!!! p 186

Whites more likely to seek abortion or adoption. p 186 Blacks between 2& five times more likely to have illegitimate child. p 186

Over 50% black children live with one parent! (doesn't give exact statistic) p 187

187 data suggests blacks did not traditionally have more illegitimate children than whites up until 60's

this way of proving masculinity needs to be replaced

study showed that successful students got worth through education, unsuccessful through having babies. p 188

Chap 10 Big Picture little picture

"If we are ever to solve our nation's critical problems, we need a new way of thinking about children." p. 199 HOW TRUE!

.... we act as though the way in which our children are raised has nothing to do with our social problems. Thus he says, we continue to tolerate incompetent parenting as society slowly unravels.

p200 "The fate of our nation will not be determined by our emotionally driven reactions to the social crisis of the day. It depends upon using our collective wisdom to think through ways to prevent our social problems. "" Without preventive strategies.. enormous expenditures for each social crisis will continue.." He continues to say that the consequences of such policies are increasingly adverse. ie counterproductive! They amount to placing buckets under each leak while not repairing the roof. While the wood rots away more with each passing day, attracting termites, worms and any variety of insects to both feed from the rot and exacerbate the decay and eventual collapse of the structure.

[same way a parent acts: I don't have any idea why my boy Johnny gets in so much trouble! It must be the devil!

single cause v multiple cause//little big. black /white

He says such thinking is characteristic of the lowest form of our brains' reactions to threats and crises. p 202

says we are being unrealistic (like Peck),

surface impressions, oversimplification, single causes and "indifference to consequences" p 201 this may also be called extremist thinking or more mildly exaggerations - like it is freezing in here. Bleeding heart liberals, etc.

he says either "permissive" or punitive extremes. Good point, liberals want to permit everything. cons. nothing! Labels are by their very nature and design, emotionally laden

I disagree however when he states on page 201 that one underlying belief we need to discard is Adam Smith's contention that humans are mainly motivated by self-interest. He says that this minimizes the fact that we often do things which are self-defeating by seeking short term pleasure and avoiding discomfort and anxiety. Yet there are payoffs for each of these self-defeating responses. The question is not whether man is selfish, but the scope of his perspective. If he can only see as far as the nose on his face, he will no doubt continue to make choices which are short sighted. He will continue to use drugs and alcohol to numb his pain, while literally killing himself. Certainly not a good long term decision. Yet, in the short term it the substances do serve his immediate self-interest.

This would be unintelligent individual behavior, according to my definition. As we have seen, allowing, encouraging and rewarding (enabling) such behavior is clearly not socially intelligent.

He also says that we often act in altruistic ways. Yet I disagree again. Simply because I believe that people would not feel good about themselves if they did not behave in such ways. Take the parents which Goleman cites who gave up their lives for their baby. How would they feel about themselves if they had not made that choice? My guess is that they would have felt tremendous guilt. Thus I contend that even acts which appear to be altruistic are in fact based on underlying, even unconcious, "selfish" motives.

For example, when I write, why do I write? Usually it is because I would not feel good if I did not write it. There is also the desire for acknowledgment, appreciation, and financial reward, all of which are filling some of my needs. I contend that every person who acts in a charitable way does it to allay their own conscience.

"Little picture thinking divides our social problems into separate, unconnected groups. Each one is seen as having a different cause and a different solution. The remedies devised for each of these problems often contribute to the very problem they seek to solve because they do not address the underlying causes" .. [which all the problems share.]

He lists our many social "problems" (I prefer to call them symptoms) such as crime, welfare, drugs, teenage pregnancy, smoking, alcoholism, violence, child abuse, spouse abuse, etc. and says that in trying to address each one separately we have set up institutions, programs etc, which compete against one another for resources and attention. "The helping professions concentrate on helping the "victims" (my quotes) of each problem, rather than addressing the causes of each problem. The status quo is perpetuated, and the people feel like they are doing something useful, and the funding for their program continues. p 202

An analogy here might be useful. When I was a computer consultant for a cancer center, I heard an oft-repeated tongue in cheek joke. The "joke" went as follows.

We don't really want to find a cure for cancer. Then we would be out of business. We just want to find ways to keep the patient alive longer. Then we can keep getting insurance money to treat him."

Such issues make me ponder. For example:

I wonder what all the associated health care employees would do if we did find a cure for cancer.

Such thinking leads me to ask other questions. For example,

I wonder what all the millions of social workers and government entitlement employees would do if people ever started taking care of (ie responsibility for) themselves.

I wonder what all the tax accountants would do if we had a flat or a value added tax.

I wonder what all the employees of the beer and tobacco firms would do if we stopped drinking and smoking.

I wonder if there are better things they could do with their time and energy.

Obviously there would be mass changes in our employment picture. Yet, such changes are exactly what I am proposing. Though the changes may take years to effect, I firmly and wholeheartedly believe each would be in the best long term interests of our country, ie socially intelligent.

I agree with his assertion that when We turn these problems over to professionals the importance of families and neighborhoods is diminished.

Westman continues: "Personal relationships are replaced by professional services, and the illusion that professionals will solve our problems is fostered. p 202

He talks about compartmentalized thinking-[similar to black white thinking.]

[Responses to fear based advertising, political slogans, sound bites} are ".. lowest forms of our brain's reaction to threats and crises." 202

"Although perhaps not very flattering, 'little picture' thinking is based on simplest levels of brain functioning. Those levels are biologically gauged to react to immediate threats to our survival, such as an attacking animal. For our hunter-gatherer ancestors, it worked well to take the familiar at face value and only respond to emotions evoked by immediate dangers or pleasures. In our modern world 'little picture' thinking is no longer sufficient to ensure individual, and certainly not group, survival. In particular, it stands in the way of identifying the causes of crime and welfare dependency." 202-3

"Fortunately, the higher centers of our brains permit us to engage in the analytic and synthetic problem solving of "big picture" thinking". 203

ie the expression: simple minded

Comparison of social v cultural values

Social come from government business, (Hollywood, sports)

Says self-centered self-destructive values eventually give way to culture values

experts think they have all the answers. but it would be better to let public make more of their own responsible judgments (especially the smart ones!)p 204

p 205:

Beginning to see that material success is not everything.

moving towards self fulfillment, self-actualization, self-esteem he says, away from image, status & appearances (my words)

We must have competent adults for safety, cooperation, economy

Families can provide opportunities for altruism. Just as looking out for interests of kids. ie help those potential parents who really want to be competent. (my words)

"Lasting personal fulfillment is more likely to be achieved in the pursuits of altruistic goals that involve "big picture" cooperation with others than by pursuing "little picture" goals that tend to separate and alienate us from each other." 205 -- Just like maslow said....

Big picture & cultural values are related. but little picture & social are also related p 206

p 206

The objectives of our society are to produce consumers and producers. [my words, over simplification]. Not independent thinkers or happy high se people.

Cultural values evolve over time to "ensure survival of the species" RIGHT p. 207 + "contributing to the common good" RIGHT

"The survival and prosperity [and certainly our happiness & safety] depends upon a critical mass of adults who are guided by our cultural values and are committed to the goals of the commonwealth. Without an infrastructure of cultural values that emphasizes cooperation between people our society cannot endure." p 207 RIGHT

Social values are coming from commercial policies... p 207 maybe so.... [government reflects social, cultural values, doesn't create them, or does it.. hmm]

He says infrastructure of human relationships (ie culture, social values, lies in "the mediating structures of cultural institutions- - in families, religious groups, and voluntary organizations. "Therefore, in order to insure its own survival a society needs social values that reflect its cultural values and that support rather than undermine its cultural institutions of which the family is the centerpiece" -- I guess this is why they say that the break down of the family is responsible for all of society's problems.

207-208 When social & cultural values conflict- "integrity of a society depends upon the long-range prevailing of the cultural value. [so if the social value takes over & becomes the new cultural value, society, as we know it will change.-- very interesting]

Social values detached from cul. values- espec blacks, underclass-- 208

209: we have devalued parenting

"only strengthening parent-child relationships can reverse this trend"

we have never clearly articulated our expectations for parents true, we need clear and direct communication

there has been no lobbying, because kids can't vote!

we expect & demand that kids become responsible (ie not thieves, etc) but we don't demand that they be raised that way. We are prosecuting the wrong people.

is it better to have kids in day care sooner? he thinks not p 210

"parent child unit is irreducible" true

we must provide support for competent parents/punishment for incompetents.

"pro-social values" p 211, character is key

212: Time to focus on big picture, no longer need to look at little picture, like CProph said. look at higher level needs

he says it is nice to feel needed as reason for being good parent- true I suppose


[parents need to teach self-reliance, honesty and integrity-- these would be good for starters. ]

".. incompetent parenting is at the root of our social problems"

[we need to reduce our laws to

- acting irresponsibly, anti-socially,

we need people who are smart enough to figure out what that is without one zillion pages of laws.

this is the bottom line!

"Children are entitled to competent parenting" 213 -- I don't really like the concept of rights and entitlements. I would say children *need* competent parents. (see rights vs needs)

END of Chapter

p 170-172 adolescents' need for parenting. a's depend on caring relationships, good role modeling, good communication. They need to know that parents care [and can accept them when they make mistakes. (sph)]

..."educational and clinical efforts cannot in themselves replace competent parenting in protecting adolescents from their own risk- taking behavior" p 172

173 lack of [perceived] opportunities increases the number of teenage pregnancies. I recall a seminar I went to on gangs and low income families. She said that young, poor women like to have a baby because they get a lot of attention for a while. But later the attention fades and the baby becomes less cute and more rebellious so they have another baby.

But he makes it sound like poverty causes these feelings, not lack of parenting.

---------- sph:

1/4 preg by 18 1/6 gives birth by 19 p 175

"teenagers who use tobacco, alcohol and other drugs are much more likely to start having sexual intercourse at a early age and are more likely to initiate pregnancy than those who do not"

He correlates such behavior to low self-esteem! p 175

And guess what you would find if you looked at their parents: unhealthy and low self esteems too!

Teens are not seeing the relationship between their actions and the consequences. One reason they are not using contraceptives. p 176 Of course, neither do most of us. Especially the immature ones. And they are not realistic about responsibilities, obligations, restrictions, and frustrations involved in childrearing [sph expanded]

Sex is not in context of "enduring personal relationships". p 176 It is an "impulsive sensual experience" 1/4 contract STD!s Casual sexual activity, especially for girls can lower their self- esteem.

Many kids want these kids, not always unwanted pregnancies. p 176

>> ".. those adolescents who are the most likely to become pregnant are those who are the least likely to profit from preventive education and services. For this reason, teenage pregnancy is resistant to most health and educational preventive efforts p 177

Additionally, it is doubtful that many of these young women give "their" baby up for adoption, or even seriously consider this possibility.

ie it will take more than the education and the availability of contraceptives.

p 177 "They need encouragement to exercise self restraint and sound judgment by their parents and by society." True but weak. or this begs the question : what form of "encouragement"?

Story of a 15 year old in his office who he asked how she planned to raise the baby said: .. said "I don't like school, and I can get $425 a month. I know a lot of women who are doing it.

180 he says our policies clearly condone [if not encourage] teen pregnancies, even though most adults would agree that teenagers are too young to be pregnant [and unwed, financially dependent mothers are not good for society] Damn good point. Emotionally unintelligent /socially stupid.

He says such policies which encourage teenage motherhood fail to consider that doing so can be "...harmful to their own development as well as to that of their children".

I say it is an absolute lie to think that a child will repair any pre-existing problems between family members. At best the child is a temporary distraction from their own problems. But it is also a powderkeg of conflict, stress, and difficulties. A child's needs do not wait while adults smooth out their own problems. Rather the child becomes the main recipient of all family turmoil. Far too often, the child literally becomes the family punching bag.

note earlier he talked about parental consent about pregnancy, abortions. I may skip the topic, but I feel that if the parent/child relationship is so bad they can't talk about it, the child has no business creating another child. ie brining another innocent victim into the family conflict and communication breakdown. What a terrible model for any child.

He calls the "humanitarian impulse" to support teenage mothers "understandable", but I would say understandable yes. Acceptable, NO! p 181

Society and policies ignore all the needs & problems that the mother and father have, choosing instead to focus on the "crisis- filled nature" of teenage childbirth. Another example of our reactive "crisis mentality". sph

he also talks about 4 categories of teenage mothers, including the ones like Katrina who say they want someone to love & be loved by, and "he is mine-no one can take him away"

p 186 cultural factors: blacks two to five times more likely to have child outside of marriage.

Chap 11 A national parenting policy.

3 "rights"

1. to conceive 2. to bear (complicated with artificial insemination, etc) 3. custody (trend is away from child as possession)

Parent-child relationship is defined more now by life experiences v. the birth p 216

217 "The vast majority of adults learn how to be competent parents without society's intervention" -- I'm not so sure...

"Society must establish a clear connection between the public interest and competent parenting..."

.. the state both defends the parent and attempts to prove they are unfit"

"Children have no protection from damage by their parents before it occurs." p 218

"As is the case with any social value, the articulation of social values that support parenting will require persuasion, education, and legislation." p 219

not everyone can be depended upon to be sufficiently influenced by knowledge.

Laws show we are serious about the value we place on something.

Adoptive parents are screened intensively.

[when there are fundamental flaws in systems, you must look for fundamental causes ie go back to the beginning]

He doesn't talk about licensing pre-birth 219 "not to the conception or birth stages" what about Fetal Al. Syndrome, crack babies?

Only licensed parents eligible for gov't benefits. p 219 " in order to insure that public funding supports competent and not incompetent parenting"

Lic. would help accountability of our money being spent.


... the quality of parenting has social consequences. + competent parents strengthen society and incompetent parents weaken society. RIGHT

Society has a compelling interest in monitoring the rearing of its children

Parental comp. is the single most critical variable in promoting adult competence. TRue p 221 - says we must raise public awareness.

far less costly than public interventions after damage has been done. 222

Just like children need reasonable boundaries from parents, so do parents need same set by society- good point

1. Award privileges after responsibility is demonstrated, rather than before. 223 wants more programs for the poor, not just those on welfare! NOT GOOD "Child Allowance Trust" !! BOO :( ! 224

? how to get employers to recognize value of kids? not with more laws..

224 naively thinks that spending more money on creating "vibrant connected neighborhoods with parks and libraries ..." will help things. This is in direct contrast to his assertion that the most important factor is parenting!

[Making it harder to get something makes you value it more, like initiation, membership fees, high standards etc-]

p 226

He thinks "church-related" stuff is needed BOO.

He suggests mentoring, support systems, more stuff to prop people up. Headstart type stuff. too But my grandparents (mom's) were proud, smart and hard working - Only qualification for Headstart is being poor. Not having brains or motivation, or potential to learn.

227 he wants to force training on parents if they don't want it This will never work!!!!! He also wants literacy programs.

229 Foster parents must - be 18; in good health; have safe homes; have sufficient income; be emotionally stable; have character references; no criminal record; sufficient bedrooms; be willing to work with social workers; attend training workshops. (and probably speak English and be literate)

He calls this a double standard. True

day cares have to be licensed - 230

can a child sue because they didn't have a brother or a sister to play with? (like because of an abortion)??

It is illegal to contribute to the delinq of someone else's child, but not yours! 231

Hold parents resp. for kids behav. 231

In california it is against the law to permit your child to be in an antisocial gang! Like that is going to solve our problems! Just like the equally dumb idea of wearing uniforms.

Arkansas they fine parents when kids skip school. Wisc. they lose welfare if kids skip school.

Adult Kids are being allowed to sue for prev. abuse by parents.

233: Cal's dumb rules about making parent go to a kids class and not allowing employers to do anything to the employees!

Licensing is required whenever harm might be done to any other person: doctors, day cares, even vets, except when it is done to their own children.

? can religion harm a child?

Grandparents liability for unmarried children's kids.. more rules! p 234

SPCA came before SPCC p 236 some places even have rules for adopting animals, such as never being allowed to use it for experimentation-- but that is what all parents do!

238 - Margaret Meade- suggested licensing.

lic. would mean putting the burden of proof on the parent to prove competency, rather than the state having to prove incomp later. 239 True

? require marriage, certain number of years?

240 his rules are too vague, makes it sound easy as applying for marriage license !! Why even bother then?

- simply wants them to sign an agreement! worthless! "to care for and nurture the child and to refrain from abusing or neglecting the child." 240

Require parenting course? YES: every middle and highschool would have course.

parenting course is more important than any other academic subject TRUE p 240

Very weak in his implementation recommendations! Weak in suggestions for parents who later show incompetency.

We have very inefficient means of identifying incompetent parents.

He is right in saying that mistakes will be made, but the benefits still outweigh the costs. 243

Tax incentives for comp. par and support services for incomp ?? I don't like this idea. We don't give tax breaks to good drivers (but private insurance has figured out a way to make money off of 244

Good point about violation of equal opportunity idea p245 if kid is born to shitty parents, he certainly does not have equal opp.

RE services- I believe they should be given choice pay for class, counseling, or lose kid.

Chap 12 Arguments against lic. parents. 250 - they will feel threatened, invasion of privacy, feel possessive, feel fear,

he says the vast majority would be affirmed, I disagree, but it is a place to start.

He says the vast majority would be "reassured that they are competent"

on page 251 he summarizes all the reasons it won't work, but I am too lazy to type them in right now but he does mention some beliefs including: that "drastic social changes cannot occur"

also "need for incompetence" to make jobs!

then he briefly treats each argument

"Children are our most precious natural resource" is a lie.

Any idiot is eligible for aid now, no one asks if they are competent, [or even on drugs! ] 276

there is "little recognition of the connection between our social problems and incompetent parenting" ie cause and effect