Found in 5 comments on Hacker News
tokenadult · 2015-01-13 · Original thread
Another top-level comment asks,

Is anyone willing to contribute insight or actionable information in the interest of a better discussion? The article is steadily climbing the front page, so this is clearly a popular topic.

I'll put in an edit to my first comment here to answer that question. This is advice based on the research I did as I brought up four children, beginning in 1992:

1) The book The First Three Years of Life[A] by the late Burton White is a good book about child development. His perspective on how (to use the title of another of his books[B]) to raise a happy, unspoiled child is helpful for parents.

2) Be open to shopping for educational choices. Don't assume the school down the street will do a good job, no matter where you live. We have mostly been homeschoolers as our children have grown up, and our firstborn sent me a very kind email on Father's Day two years ago telling me he is glad I did that. He still thinks so two years later.

3) The book The Optimistic Child[C] by Martin E. P. Seligman is good for teaching children how to deal with inevitable problems and setbacks of human life.

4) The book Mindset[D] by Carol Dweck is a very good book on helping young people and people of all ages to maximize their abilities. We have seen wonderful results from "growth mindset" with our two younger children, who are young enough not to have known any other mindset in our household.

5) Develop a network of parents who are your close friends--close enough friends to be real with and to vent with when parenting becomes challenging. It's too easy for parents to isolate themselves by wanting to keep up a show of not having challenges in their parenting.





Having written that, I'm open for more discussion. What's below is my original comment on the submitted article.

Here is the gist of the article, in the author's own words: "I think a lot about parenting. Last year, I moved to the D.C. area after 16 years in Oregon. Although I grew up on the East Coast, I hadn’t been immersed in the competitive parenting scene since I left home for college. But since my husband and I returned, I’ve caught myself fretting over whether enrolling my daughter in the “right” activities — sports or academic enrichment? Karate or Odyssey of the Mind? Or both? — will guarantee her entrance into a good college and success in life.

"I don’t have time to talk about parenting with the moms of my daughter’s friends, and, besides, they’re all going through the same thing I am. I started thinking about the people who have raised successful children, and I wanted to explore how they did it."

She then relates anecdotes about various families she has encountered, who have had children who appear to be successful by differing definitions of success. Good for them. As a parent myself (four children, one grown up and launched into adult life, and three still in my care in my household), I thought I might see some actionable information here, but I really didn't. The experiences of the families described in the article differ enough from mine that even after reading the whole article, I will seek other sources of advice on how to continually refine my parenting.

Collections of anecdotes like this suffer from problems that everyone who reads Hacker News knows about, and anecdotes about effective parenting suffer from one more problem that a lot of people miss. Any collection of anecdotes suffers from sample bias: how do we know that these families are representative of the many millions of other families who have either unsuccessful or successful children? A collection of anecdotes about people who reach some defined endpoint suffers from "survivorship bias,"[1] the tendency to look only at what the people who reach the endpoint have in common, without looking at how they differ from people who drop out of the competition to reach that endpoint. Maybe we have no idea, after looking at the successful, if any of their characteristics really make them different from the unsuccessful.

A powerful mistake in many studies of parenting is not setting up a genetically sensitive design for the study. All human beings everywhere have systematic similarities with all other human beings everywhere. But in the aspects of human life that show individual variation, usually people resemble close relatives more than they resemble random members of all humanity. If some individual differences contribute to success, and some do not, we may have observations of children who become successful not because their parents parented well, but because their parents passed on genes for success to the children. Any correlation between parent behaviors and child outcomes has to be tested for whether or not it arises from genetic similarity. (The study designs that help tease out these issues, but do NOT fully resolve them, involve including observations of identical twins and adopted children--and at best identical twins adopted into different adoptive households, who are rare--to separate upbringing influences from biological inheritance influences.) Children resemble their parents sometimes more than parents wish.


tokenadult · 2014-10-10 · Original thread
This is a very thoughtful article, which I see is part of a series from the same publication about suicide. There is good information here.

One paragraph jumped out at me: "Some states allow for court-ordered treatment plans. No studies have been done on whether this could prevent suicides, another example of gaps in knowledge, Caine says. Such ideas, he says, lie 'at the edge of what we know and what we don't know.'" Ugh, so even rather basic research on what might help hasn't been tried yet. We need to know more to do more.

The article also included some inspiring examples, including an Army officer who had come close to suicide himself about seven years ago during a combat deployment. "Today, he cannot recover from colon cancer diagnosed in 2012 that doctors declared terminal last year. In June, they said he had only months left. Faced with his own mortality, Fitch consulted his wife, Samantha Wolk, and reflected on the 22 veteran suicides occurring each day. He chose to devote his remaining time to prevent others from committing suicide.

"'I've always wanted to focus on trying to leave the world a better place,' he says."

Martin E. P. Seligman, in his book The Optimistic Child,[1] reviews some of the research current to about a decade ago about "self-esteem" programs in schools. They have long been known to be dangerous. The rising suicide rate compared to earlier birth cohorts in the United States suggests that young people in my generation and younger were not exposed in childhood to "optimism" as Seligman defines it but rather to "self-esteem" thinking, which doesn't leave people with enough inner strength to face a lot of challenges in life. Changing our thinking about what kind of thinking builds resilience in young people would help prevent suicide (and help everyone enjoy life better). There is already research on this, and we should apply it more.


tokenadult · 2013-11-18 · Original thread
You are working on something important, and I was glad to read (and upvote) a lot of the other comments you received, and especially the offers for pro-bono help. One comment below suggested that you read the literature (I presume that means the literature about suicide prevention) and I would second that advice. To expand that advice a bit, I'll note that Martin E. P. Seligman and some other psychologists who have studied depression and suicide think that the "self esteem" movement that took over United States schools after I graduated from high school may have actually INCREASED risk of suicide in the United States--certainly the rates of both attempted and completed suicide, and the rate of diagnosed youth depression, went up over the years when those school programs were put in place. In other words, don't just rely on intuition about what would be helpful, but look into actual research. Seligman's books Learned Optimism[1] and The Optimistic Child[2] are both helpful, although there should be some even newer research out by now. Reading those books may help you deal with the challenges of working on this interesting project while keeping up with your school work. Best wishes.



tokenadult · 2013-05-26 · Original thread
This article was a weird read for someone like me who meets regularly with psychologists from a scientifically oriented research department of psychology (at the University of Minnesota). The conclusion of the article begins,

"In conclusion, the depression observed in children with high potential would seem to be characterized by narcissistic vulnerability associated with genuine traumatophilia,"

and the old-fashioned terminology like "narcissistic" and the use of outmoded (and never validated) projective tests of personality (like the Rorschach) shows the article is far out of the mainstream of current psychology. I was wondering how such an old-fashioned article could come from 2012, so I focused my attention on the academic affiliations of the authors (not from major centers for the study of high IQ or of depression) and the journal of publication (not a top journal in this field).

There is a huge prior literature on associations between high IQ and mood disorders, with much of that literature summarized in the authoritative textbook by Goodwin and Jamison.

As a parent of four high-IQ children myself, painfully aware of how toxic the United States school system can be for such children,

I first of all sought local friendship networks of other parents who understand such children. We have been homeschoolers throughout our children's childhoods, and that seems to have provided our children with some extra scope for creativity and added resilience for facing personal challenges (including two international moves during the childhoods of our three oldest children). Through association with the Davidson Institute for Talent Development Young Scholars program,

we have learned about--and have shared--resources with other parents about building optimism in children. I especially like Martin E. P. Seligman's book The Optimistic Child

as a framework for children to learn how to reality-check their own thinking and not to be depressed by setbacks in life.

tokenadult · 2012-02-10 · Original thread
Plenty of psychologists think that the "self-esteem" movement in schools when your generation was in school was harmful to school pupils, not giving them the resources to be resilient when facing adversity. See Martin E. P. Seligman's book The Optimistic Child

(this book is good for adults too, even if they are not parents) for more information about how "optimism" differs from "self-esteem." Seligman's more recent book Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being

is also helpful.

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