When it Comes to Making Career Choices, Let Your Child Do the Driving

Dear Mr. Dad: My daughter just turned 15, and I want to start preparing her for the future. Specifically, I want to make sure that she’s on the right career path, whether than means going to college, trade school, or something else after she graduates high school. She’s only got a few years left, and I’m a little concerned that she doesn’t seem to have much direction. How do I steer her toward the right career choice?

A: As parents, we all want our kids to succeed in everything they do, from getting good grades to finding the right life partner to landing the perfect job. But parenthood is an ongoing lesson in the difference between control and influence. When our kids are young, we’re pretty much in control and we’ve got a huge amount of influence. As they get older, they take on more and more control over their own lives. We have influence, but a little less every day. And by the time they’re around your daughter’s age, we have almost no control at all, and whatever influence we still have is much more powerful if we wait until we’re asked to help rather than offering unsolicited advice (which a lot of teens and young adults will see as an attempt to control them anyway).
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Fatherhood: The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same

Dear Mr. Dad: I’m what you’ve referred to as a “renewed dad.” I’ve got young adult children from a previous relationship and just became a new dad again. Things already seem very different than they were the first time around. Has fatherhood changed or is it just me?

A: A little of both. Renewed dads tend to be more financially secure and less worried about moving up the corporate latter than younger dads who are often just starting their careers. Renewed dads also typically have more time to spend with their young children. You’ll find that you’ll interact with your baby differently than you did with your older kids when they were the same age. Then, your back and knees were stronger than they are now and you probably spent more time wrestling, running, kicking, and doing other physical things. These days you’ll spend a little less time on the floor, and more time reading and talking to your baby.
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Breastfeeding: Is There Ever Too Much of a Good Thing?

Dear Mr. Dad: My wife continues to breastfeed our two-year-old daughter even though she’s old enough to eat “real” food. I don’t have a problem with this, but some of our friends and even some coworkers are shocked that she’s still breastfeding. Is there a specific age at which you should stop breastfeeding? Are we committing some sort of social faux pas by trying to do right by our daughter?

A: Oh, boy, are you going to cause a firestorm. Deciding whether to breastfeed a baby and for how long, is something only the parents can decide. But, as you’ve noticed, a lot of people have strong opinions on the topic and they’re not afraid to share them—whether you want to hear them or not.

Let’s start with some background. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that, barring any medical problem, babies get nothing but breast milk for the first six months. Then it’s “as long as mutually desired by the mother and child.” Many pediatricians suggest that starting at six months, parents should gradually introduce appropriate food and simultaneously decrease breastfeeding. At the end of a year, most babies will be weaned. But there is absolutely nothing wrong with having a child nurse for longer than that—as long as you understand that the kind of nutrition if provides is mostly emotional.
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Low Testosterone: To T or Not to T

Dear Mr. Dad: My 13-year old son doesn’t seem to be maturing as quickly as his peers. His voice has barely changed, he’s not sprouting much facial or body hair, and he’s below average in height. He’s also overweight and seems tired a lot of the time. Lately he’s become obsessed with the idea that his problem is Low-T. He’s been bringing me magazine ads, pointing to TV commercials and Internet ads, and is trying to convince me that he needs testosterone supplements. Could he be right? I though low testosterone was only something that affects older men.

A: The answer to your question is Yes and No. Yes, he could indeed have low testosterone (frequently–and annoyingly–referred to as Low-T). But No (no, no, no) he should absolutely not start taking supplements or doing anything to “treat” the problem until he’s been properly diagnosed by a professional. And by professional, I mean a trained healthcare provider who will run blood tests (the only accurate way to measure testosterone levels) and who is committed to identifying the underlying issues and how to overcome them, rather than to selling you a bunch of pills. Stay far, far away from anyone (including advice columnists) who claims to be able to diagnose and treat low testosterone or other medical conditions without actually seeing the patient.
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Sleep Woes: How Much Is Too Much?

Dear Mr. Dad: My husband and I have a three-year-old daughter and we’re a concerned about her sleeping patterns. Most people we know who have kids the same age worry that their children aren’t getting enough sleep. We’ve got the opposite problem—including naps, she sleeps about 14 hours a day! Is there such a thing as getting too much sleep?

A: Sleep is one of the things that parents of infants and toddlers struggle with the most—and, as you said, the problem is usually too little of it, not too much. Nevertheless, it’s perfectly natural to worry about anything child-related that’s out of the ordinary, even if it’s something that would make a lot of other parents envious. The general consensus among experts is that children your daughter’s age should be getting 12-14 hours per day of shuteye, including naps, so you’re within the range of what’s “normal.”

Children do a lot of their developing—both physical and mental—when they’re asleep, so there’s no question that sleep is important. But as we all know, kids develop at different rates, so it’s no surprise that what may be plenty of sleep for one toddler could be nowhere near enough for another. Bottom line, we all need as much sleep as we need—and those needs change over time. At six, your daughter probably won’t need any more than 12 hours per night. And by the time she heads off to middle school, she’ll be down to 10 or 11. When she hits the teen years, her sleep needs will increase (but since worrying about her will keep you awake at night, your family’s total average sleep time will stay about the same).

The thing to focus on here is the quality of your daughter’s sleep, not the quantity. And one way to assess that is to simply pay attention to her behavior when she’s awake. If she’s generally happy, energetic, playful, engages with you, and seems to be having a good time, all is well. But if she’s sluggish, tired, irritable, or behaves differently (worse) than usual, there could be a problem. It could be something as simple as iron deficiency, but it’s worth making a call to your daughter’s pediatrician.

A note on last week’s column on the Obama Administration’s exaggerated claims of the prevalence of sexual assaults on college campuses. I received a huge number of responses from men and women around the country. Most were quite supportive and some shared their very poignant experiences of having been falsely accused of assault and how difficult (or, in some cases, impossible) it has been to recover. A smaller number of people disagreed with my take on the issue and shared their equally poignant stories of instances where legitimate cases of rape or assault had been ignored and, again, how difficult or impossible it has been for the victim to recover. But whether they agreed or not, these emails had one thing in common: they were written by people who had an interest in a respectful, healthy debate of an important issue.

Unfortunately, there were a few outliers—people (all of whom disguised their identities in some way) who felt the need to call names, make accusations and threats, and even suggest ways I should kill myself. I truly enjoy interacting with readers of this column and am happy to discuss pretty much anything with anyone, but if your email is inappropriate (you’ll know it if it is), don’t expect an answer.

Sexual Assault on Campus: A Case of Battered Statistics Syndrome

Dear Mr. Dad: I’ve been reading about the recent White House study showing that one in five women will be the victim of rape at some point in her life. As a mother of twins (a boy and a girl) who are graduating high school, I’m scared for my daughter’s safety and I’m worried that my might do something unspeakable. What can I do to protect both of my children?

A: The first thing to do is calm down. For as much media coverage as the White House study got, it is one of the most flawed, inflammatory, and just plain incorrect pieces of “research” I’ve ever seen.

Let’s start with the numbers. To come up with its 1-in-5 statistic, the White House task force relied on a 2011 study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) which used a very broad definition of “sexual violence,” Besides forced genital and oral sex (whether by violence, drugs, or threats—the kinds of things that most people would consider rape), the CDC included “forced kissing” and “rubbing up against you in a sexual way, even if it is over your clothes.” That behavior shouldn’t be tolerated. But dirty dancing is not rape. To suggest that it is just plain wrong.

The CDC study also includes as victims of “sexual assault” women who answered Yes when asked whether they had ever had sex with someone who had pressured them by “telling you lies” or by making “false promises about the future they knew were untrue,” or “by showing they were unhappy.” Again, not nice, but regretting a sexual encounter after the fact doesn’t make it rape.

Besides relying on the results of ambiguous questions, the White House also claimed that just 12% of campus sexual assaults are reported—meaning that 88% aren’t. Mark Perry, a professor of economics at the University of Michigan—a guy who know a thing or two about statistics—carefully looked at the data and came up with a very different story. Between 2009 and 2012, there were 137 sexual offenses reported at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. If that’s 12%, the other 88% would be 1,004, bringing the total to 1,141. Dividing that by the 22,330 female students and the University (51.6% of 43,275), reveals that a female student’s actual chance of being sexually assaulted is 5.1%–a quarter of what the what the White House is claiming—and that’s still counting dirty dancing and being lied to as rape.

The report has a number of other flaws. For example, it completely overlooks a growing body of solid research finding that sexual assault on campuses is hardly a one-way street. In fact, young men and young women are equally likely to admit to having pressured someone else into having sex.

But a more serious problem is the report’s recommendations to essentially strip accused male students of their legal rights. The report states that “[t]he parties should not be allowed to personally cross-examine each other.” Um, the Constitution’s 6th Amendment, however, grants anyone accused of any crime anywhere that exact right.
Obviously, this is a much bigger issue than I can tackle here. But the bottom line is this: talk with your son and your daughter about unwanted sexual advances and about the statistical distortions the White House is peddling. As a parent, I’m sure you don’t want your daughter thinking of herself as a victim—and I know you don’t want your son to become a victim of overzealous college administrators who see every young man as a rapist waiting to happen.
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