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Helen Smith

Helen Smith is a psychologist specializing in forensic issues in Knoxville, Tennessee, and blogs at Dr. Helen.

Are Teenagers Happier Than They Were Ten Years Ago?

The Daily Mail has an article that says, “yes,” teens are less likely to drink, smoke or be bullied:

Young teenagers are happier and healthier now than teenagers were a decade ago, a new study said yesterday.

It found that the ‘Facebook generation’ of youngsters are less likely than their predecessors to drink alcohol, smoke tobacco or cannabis, or get bullied.

A growing proportion of 11 to 15-year-olds, the study said, engage in behaviour that would make their parents proud. They eat fruit and vegetables, take exercise, clean their teeth, and talk to their mothers and fathers….

Some researchers have pointed to a ‘Facebook effect’ which has led teenagers who would once have spent their spare time on the streets instead to devote it to playing with gadgets in their bedrooms. Widespread public disapproval of smoking, drunkenness, drug abuse and teen mothers is also likely to have influenced teen behaviour.

I wonder if teens are happier now because they spend less time around peers and there are more choices for how to spend one’s free time. Video games, online school and online activities mean that one can find more individualized ways of spending time rather than being around other obnoxious teens and school administrators. The internet and video games have their pros and cons but they do allow for more individual choice, and a way to find others who are more similar to oneself. Instead of getting in trouble on the streets, teens have other options that are a click away.

In Judith Rich Harris’s book The Nurture Assumption: Why Children Turn Out the Way They Do, she points out that peers are the most important influence on kid’s behavior. If the internet lets you choose your peers or gives a teen access to better ones, this would have some influence on happiness and subsequent behavior.

Do you agree that teens today are happier than ten years ago or is this article and study a crock?

Posted at 9:23 am on March 25th, 2015 by Helen Smith

How Do We Help Mothers Understand Their Grown Sons?

As I talked to an older mom with a 33-year-old unmarried son the other day, I wondered how we could help mothers understand their adult sons. She asked about what I did and I told her about my work and my book about men and marriage. When I told her men did not want to marry much anymore, she looked bewildered, and said, “Is it because they are selfish?” “No,” I said, “it’s because women are selfish.” This took her back a bit and I meant for it to.

Sure I was stereotyping a bit here but so was she. Popular culture and its negative memes about men sink down to everyone, sometimes without the person even realizing it. This mother had no idea what the disconnect was between what she thought about men and what they actually are. She told me that her son was involved with a woman whom he lived with, whom he provided for, bought gifts for and helped out when he could. This woman, in turn, racked up more and more bills, including $100,000 in student loans, without including him in her plans at all.

This would all be well and good if she also expected to pay her own way. She did not appear to do that from what I understood, and the son felt betrayed and upset that he was pulling all the financial muscle in the relationship while the spoiled woman took advantage of him. They broke up and he went on a series of dates with women that he met online. Apparently, they said such outrageous things, and were so different than he was, that he has just decided to take a breather from dating for the moment.

The mother told me that she had liked the first girlfriend very much and thought that things ended poorly because her son was living with this woman rather than marrying her. I explained to the mother what might have happened if he had married the spoiled woman. If she wanted children and they had them and she ended the relationship later or wanted to, she could control the son with the children. “In fact,” I told the mom, “she could easily take your son’s kids away from him and take your grandchildren from you and it would be hard and expensive to fight.”

At this point, once the mother figured out that something bad could happen to her and her potential grandkids, I could see a light go off in her eyes. Her son was smart enough to know the odds were stacked against him and ending the relationship was for the best. Men these days have to be much more careful than women about whom they settle down with, have children with, and marry. Now this mom seemed to get that. I hope that she can now understand her son a little bit better and be supportive of his choices in this difficult legal and psychological climate.

There are many mothers out there who simply don’t understand what their grown sons are going through, particularly older women who have sons in their late twenties and thirties who do not want to marry, or are hesitant to make that commitment. These mothers could be good allies for men and could be helpful in bringing about changes in the culture and the legal system, but they have to understand that the problem is with these sexist systems, not necessarily with their sons.

Education is key with this group and fighting the constant media drumbeat that men are rapists, selfish and evil is difficult. How do we reach moms of sons?

Posted at 4:55 am on March 24th, 2015 by Helen Smith

Should College Tuition be Free?

Michael Walsh has a post over at the PJ Tatler entitled “The Culture of Entitlement: Somebody Else Pay for My College Tuition!” He discusses an article at the Washington Post about an African American female student accepted to Tulane who cannot afford to go there without a free ride:

I am one of the top two prospects for valedictorian at Riverside, the opposing student is an African-American female and scholarship student as well.

With silent fervor and diligence, together we worked to rise to become the top senior ranks…..

To my dismay, I was denied the full scholarship to Tulane.

The student, Crysten Price, is dismayed that she is denied this scholarship, pointing out that those with wealthier parents can attend their first choice school and those with no money can attend but those who are lower and middle class are not able to go to their first choice school. This is unfair, she says:

I want the rest of the students within my community to leave, to branch out, and to thrive.

I want the destructive system crippling my community to fall.

I want equality of outcome.

So what is equality of outcome? I can’t say what it means to the student mentioned above but according to Wikipedia:

Equality of outcome, equality of condition, or equality of results is a political concept which is central to some political ideologies and is used regularly in political discourse, often in contrast to the term equality of opportunity.[2] It describes a state in which people have approximately the same material wealth or in which the general economic conditions of their lives are similar. Achieving equal results generally entails reducing or eliminating material inequalities between individuals or households in a society, and usually involves a transfer of income or wealth from wealthier to poorer individuals, or adopting other measures to promote equality of condition.

So in order for this student’s community to thrive, is she saying that college should be free for this community? Where is the money going to come from? Who is paying and how does this affect other people’s “equality of outcome?” If, for example, college is free for those who can’t pay for their first choice expensive school, how does that affect the economy in general for those without much money? Other social programs would have to be cut, taxes raised, and jobs reduced since employers would be paying higher costs. This in turn would affect other people, her own community and other communities and people. But nothing matters as long as “other people” are footing the bill. But as Margaret Thatcher so astutely said, “The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money [to spend].”

What do you think, is free tuition to one’s first choice school a good idea or a self-entitled delusion?

Posted at 3:36 pm on March 22nd, 2015 by Helen Smith

Married Women Sleeping with Strangers

A reader sent me this book review from the Washington Post titled: “She took a year off from her marriage to sleep with strangers. What could go wrong?”:

Get ready for “The Wild Oats Project.” And not just the book. Get ready for “The Wild Oats Project” phenomenon — the debates, the think pieces, the imitators and probably the movie. Get ready for orgasmic meditation and the Three Rules. Get ready for “My Clitoris Deals Solely in Truth” T-shirts.

Robin Rinaldi, a magazine journalist living in San Francisco by way of Scranton, Pa., initially wasn’t sure she wanted children, but she knew that Scott, her stoic Midwestern husband, did not. Over time, Rinaldi decided a baby would add purpose to their lives, but Scott wouldn’t change his mind. “I wanted a child, but only with him,” she explains. “He didn’t want a child but wanted to keep me.” When Scott opted for a vasectomy, she demanded an open marriage.

“I refuse to go to my grave with no children and only four lovers,” she declares. “If I can’t have one, I must have the other.”

Wow, this sounds like a pretty dumb plan. What are your thoughts?

Posted at 5:25 pm on March 19th, 2015 by Helen Smith

“On average, men received 63% longer sentences than women arrested for the same crime.”

Christina Hoff Sommers has a new Factual Feminist video up asking the question: “Criminal sentencing: Do women get off easy?”

Posted at 7:37 am on March 18th, 2015 by Helen Smith

Dadly Virtues

I am reading a fun new book edited by Jonathan V. Last called The Dadly Virtues: Adventures in the Worst Job You’ll Ever Love. The book is a compilation of stories about fatherhood and is a refreshing change over all the books out there written from women’s perspective of parenting. An all-star cast of dads is featured including P.J. O’Rourke, Jonah Goldberg, Stephen F. Hayes, Tucker Carlson, Toby Young and Iowahawk’s David Burge and others.

The stories are funny and interesting such as Joe Queenan’s chapter on “Surviving School.” “It’s just as bad the second time around,” he states, …it is an eighteen year plague that had run it’s course…Good riddance.” There are many other fun topics such as:

Matthew Continetti’s, “Newborn Terror: The Moment You Realize that ‘Bundle of Joy’ Is a Euphemism for Something Very Different.”
Stephen F. Hayes’ “Siblings: The Best Gift You’ll Ever Give Your Kids.”
Jonah Goldberg’s “Get Your Kid a Dog: The Moral Case for Pets.”
Tucker Carlson’s “In Praise of Adventure: How to Fill a Child’s Life with Excitement and Danger (without Getting Them Killed).”
Michael Graham’s, “Dating: Enjoy the Movie and Please Keep the Impregnation to a Minimum.”
Christopher Caldwell’s “College: It’s Not as Bad as You Think; It’s Worse.”
Andrew Ferguson’s “Emerging Adults and Empty Nesters: Just When You Had Fatherhood All Figured Out.”
Toby Young’s “The Dark Side: Bad Parenting and the Things We Think, but Do Not Say.”
Joseph Epstein’s “Thanks, Grandpa: Grandfatherhood and the Spirit of the Age.”
And more.

Overall, it’s a good book and a fun way to see what men really think about raising kids.

Posted at 5:28 pm on March 15th, 2015 by Helen Smith

Bachelor Nation: 70% of Men Aged 20-34 Are Not Married

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I saw this headline at Newsalert from a CNS News article and went over to read it:

(CNSNews.com) – Seventy percent of American males between the ages of 20 and 34 are not married, and many live in a state of “perpetual adolescence” with ominous consequences for the nation’s future, says Janice Shaw Crouse, author of “Marriage Matters.”

“Far too many young men have failed to make a normal progression into adult roles of responsibility and self-sufficiency, roles generally associated with marriage and fatherhood,” Crouse, the former executive director of the Beverly LaHaye Institute, wrote in a recent Washington Times oped.

The high percentage of bachelors means bleak prospects for millions of young women who dream about a wedding day that may never come. “It’s very, very depressing,” Crouse told CNSNews.com.

It seems that Crouse and her crowd are watching too many Say Yes to the Dress episodes. So what matters is that women’s dreams are shattered? What about the bleak prospects for millions of men across the country who get very little legal or psychological protection from marriage? Now that’s what’s very, very depressing. Change that and maybe more men will be interested.

(Artwork by Shutterstock.com.)

Posted at 4:21 pm on March 11th, 2015 by Helen Smith

Mike Slater Show on Boys and Family

I will be on the Mike Slater radio show in San Diego at 2:00 Eastern time and 11:00 Pacific today talking about boys, family and Men on Strike.

You can listen here.

Posted at 9:58 am on March 9th, 2015 by Helen Smith

Weaker or Discriminated Against: There is a Difference

The Economist: The weaker sex:

IT’S all to do with their brains and bodies and chemicals,” says Sir Anthony Seldon, the master of Wellington College, a posh English boarding school. “There’s a mentality that it’s not cool for them to perform, that it’s not cool to be smart,” suggests Ivan Yip, principal of the Bronx Leadership Academy in New York. One school charges £25,000 ($38,000) a year and has a scuba-diving club; the other serves subsidised lunches to most of its pupils, a quarter of whom have special needs. Yet both are grappling with the same problem: teenage boys are being left behind by girls…..

Perhaps because they can be so insufferable, teenage boys are often marked down. The OECD found that boys did much better in its anonymised tests than in teacher assessments. The gap with girls in reading was a third smaller, and the gap in maths—where boys were already ahead—opened up further. In another finding that suggests a lack of even-handedness among teachers, boys are more likely than girls to be forced to repeat a year, even when they are of equal ability.

What is behind this discrimination? One possibility is that teachers mark up students who are polite, eager and stay out of fights, all attributes that are more common among girls. In some countries, academic points can even be docked for bad behaviour. Another is that women, who make up eight out of ten primary-school teachers and nearly seven in ten lower-secondary teachers, favour their own sex, just as male bosses have been shown to favour male underlings. In a few places sexism is enshrined in law: Singapore still canes boys, while sparing girls the rod.

As a commenter to this piece so aptly pointed out:

It is difficult for me to imagine an article in the Economist attributing women’s lower levels of success in the workplace to their “brains and bodies and chemicals”, and it is offensive to suggest as much for boys. I think the magazine should issue an apology.

Posted at 4:51 pm on March 8th, 2015 by Helen Smith

How Do Boys Cope with a Female-Dominant Environment?

I often think about this question, and I saw a letter over at Alphagameplan blog from a father wondering how his lone son in a family with four girls could deal:

BD emails concerning his son:

A comment on your post “The Danger of Fantasy” talked of separating the masculine from the feminine. My wife & I have 5 children & we home school. We have just one boy. What I’ve noticed for awhile is that I believe my son actually takes on some female traits. He’s somewhat petty. He’s very jealous. He’s very overdramatic at times. He very much cares what his sisters think about him and cannot stand when they laugh at him. To me these are feminine traits. He’s around girls all the time and the 5 girls in our family (my wife & 4 daughters)​ are exceedingly girly. Is there any advice that you have or things I can to try & steer him away from this feminization? I’m the family provider so there is no way I can spend as much time with him as my wife does and by proxy his sisters. He’s a big strong athletic kid but sometimes he’s the biggest baby in our family & he has shown LOTS of tendency to avoid confrontation, especially now that he’s playing contact sports.

I wonder if the society is sort of like BD’s family above for many boys. They go to female-dominated schools where most of the teachers are women, have fatherless homes or homes where dad is at work or gone, and the culture focuses on women such as the Kardashians whose needs and personalities are at the forefront while men and boys are overlooked or humiliated. Rob Kardashian has often been ridiculed by his sisters and even Bruce Jenner wants to become a woman; perhaps it’s too hard to be a man and it’s easier just to become feminized like BD’s son above. Or perhaps there are no role models for boys on how to be men and they are only exposed to the female point of view. What will our society become if younger men simply become feminine and never know the masculine? Is this a good thing? Is it terrible? I can’t help but think the latter.

Posted at 6:47 am on March 8th, 2015 by Helen Smith