TIME Innovation

A Piece of Cardboard Is Helping Transform India’s Schools

These desks cost only 20 cents to produce and are making a huge difference for schoolchildren

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This article originally appeared on Lost at E Minor.

A single sheet of cardboard can’t do much, right? Wrong! In India, many children go to school but don’t have the luxury of sitting behind a desk. To address this issue, the nonprofit organization Aarambh created a necessity out of a single sheet of cardboard: a school desk. The Bombay-based nonprofit worked with designers to come up with the desk design from a simple sheet of cardboard.
They transformed that cardboard into a modern-looking backpack for kids to carry all their school supplies, but when folded out, the briefcase then turns into a work desk.

What’s brilliant about this eco-friendly design is that it costs just 20 cents to produce and each desk is cut in a way so all the student needs to do is fold it together—nothing more is required. This makes education and school supplies even more accessible for families everywhere.

Building the cardboard desks
Courtesy of Aarambh
Students using cardboard desks
Courtesy of Aarambh
Completed cardboard desk
Courtesy of Aarambh
TIME Parenting

The Pain of Passing My Disability on to My Child

Parenting
Cecilia Cartner—Getty Images

When my daughter was six weeks old, we received official word that she had inherited my bone disorder, a condition that would likely cause her many fractures and possibly painful corrective surgeries

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This article originally appeared on Patheos.

When my oldest daughter Leah was born, many people made the same observation: “Look at those fingers! So long and skinny…just like yours, Ellen.” Right after she was born, my husband went with her for a bath as I was stitched up after my c-section. When he returned, he mentioned that her eyes were a “funny color.” All of those observations, straightforward and innocent on the surface, let me know that some of my darkest fears were probably being realized.

My daughter’s long, skinny fingers and toes, the bluish color in the whites of her eyes—these were signs that Leah had inherited a scrambled gene that would wreak havoc on her skeleton. When she was six weeks old, we received official word that Leah had indeed inherited my bone disorder, osteogenesis imperfecta (OI)—a condition that would likely cause her many fractures (I had about three dozen before the age of 11) and possibly painful corrective surgeries. I clutched her fiercely against my chest and told God that he had damn well better take care of this child. That day 14 years ago was the hardest day of my life.

I have spent much of the past 10 years or so writing about genetics and disability and the choices made possible by increasingly sophisticated technologies that allow parents to choose, to some extent, what sort of child they might have. I have talked to dozens of potential parents who, like me, have some serious genetic baggage and fear putting its weight on their children’s shoulders. And I have talked to some people who wonder whether, if their child does inherit some genetic menace that wreaks havoc on that child’s health and well-being, will they regret that they took such chances with a genetic lottery stacked against them?

I tell such people that I think it’s impossible, barring extreme psychological dysfunction, to regret your own child’s existence. And I tell them about my daughter Leah, who is bearing the weight of my own genetic baggage on her fragile skeleton, who has, yes, broken a dozen bones and deeply mourned the losses that come when yet another broken bone messes with our plans. I have watched Leah sink into a place that is really dark and really sad. But I have other stories to tell about Leah, not just the dark and sad ones.

There’s this story: One Sunday morning several months ago, I slipped on some black ice when going to get our newspaper. Landing hard on my back, I broke two ribs and a shoulder bone, and partially collapsed a lung—the kind of injuries that stronger-boned people incur when they fall from trees and roofs. I managed to crawl from the frozen front walk into our entrance hall, but couldn’t go any farther. While I lay there waiting for the ambulance to arrive, as my husband reassured my two younger children and called my mom to come stay with the kids, as I struggled to breathe, Leah sat next to me on the floor. She just sat there, silent. At one point, I said to her, “You know, Leah, don’t you? You know how I’m feeling.” I wasn’t talking just about the pain, but also the crushing disappointment of a regular day ruined, the weightier knowledge of the ruined days to come. I was talking about feeling powerless in the face of something as stupidly mundane as ice, and being betrayed by the fragile body gaining the upper hand on the strong spirit. Leah nodded. Yes, she knew.

A few months later, I was heading to pick Leah up from church choir practice. I was dreading it, because I knew that Leah would be getting some bad news at the rehearsal. For Leah, singing is a passion, and when she joined our church choir about three years ago, she found another family, a community. The choirmaster was a young man called Dr. Roberts. Dr. Roberts is a talented musician but also a gifted teacher. Leah will, I’m sure, remember him for the rest of her life as the kind of teacher and mentor who changed her life. I knew that during this particular rehearsal, Dr. Roberts was planning to let the kids know that he had taken a job in New York City and would be leaving. I knew Leah would be devastated.

She came out from the church to the parking lot and with tears streaming down her face, she said, “You know Mom? This is his dream, this job he’s taking in New York. It’s good. It’s just all good.”

So it seems that, at not quite 15 years old, Leah knows what love looks like. She knows how to help carry another’s burden. She knows that sometimes an empathic presence is more helpful than words. She knows about wanting the best for someone you care about, even when their best is your worst. That she is capable of such wisdom at such a young age is proof to me that I can never regret anything about the person Leah is and is becoming, brittle bones and all.

I want to be perfectly clear, though, about what I don’t mean. I hate those clichés about how we should be grateful for the shitty stuff in our life because it teaches us so much, about how “Everything happens for a reason.” I don’t believe that one bit.

But I’m beginning to understand that Leah’s inheritance from me is not merely a faulty gene and a fragile skeleton, but also the truest kind of compassion—the kind that arises when you know what pain looks like and feels like, and you recognize another’s need, and know just what to do.

Do I regret that Leah inherited my fragile bones? I don’t love it. I even sometimes hate it.

But while I sometimes wish I could have spared her that particular genetic fate, I’m also profoundly grateful that it was not in my power to decide what kind of kid I would get.

Because I never could have predicted, much less devised, the wounded and gracious person my daughter is becoming.

Ellen Painter Dollar is the author of No Easy Choice: A Story of Disability, Parenthood, and Faith in an Age of Advanced Reproduction (Westminster John Knox, 2012). She blogs about faith, family, disability, and ethics at Patheos. Dollar also serves on a working group sponsored by the Yale University Interdisciplinary Center on Bioethics, exploring bioethical issues related to health care and people with disabilities.

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TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME

There’s Nothing Wrong with the Mommy Track

mother daughter
Crezalyn Nerona Uratsuji—Getty Images

Our culture sings in only two keys about how successful women manage motherhood and work: either you’re driving a hard line to the C-suite, parking the crib in your corner office, or you’re shredding the Mommy track. What about a third way?

Before I became a parent, I was a bestselling author and speaker pounding up the escalators of a different airport every week. I worked insatiably, sometimes meeting three different contacts for a drink, dinner and dessert. When my daughter was born, I was thrilled — and anxious. I had heard the old adage, “You can have it all – just not at once.” On my first day back after maternity leave, I packed up my breast pump and parking meter quarters. I was ready for my life to change.

But here’s what I didn’t count on: feeling ashamed because I refused to put work above all else. Because I yearned to spend quality time with my daughter. Because I wanted actual work-life balance.

Instead of shutting down my laptop at 7 or 8 pm, I now relieved my sitter at 4:30. I rarely logged on after bedtime, or on weekends. But as I played with the baby on the floor, I was miles away in my head. Would my clients and colleagues write me off if I didn’t produce at the same pace? What would my next big project be? I read my daughter books in a toneless, distant voice, ruminating furiously.

I had plowed through a pile of work that month – finishing a grant, giving speeches, writing an advice column, teaching 60 high school students, answering countless emails – yet I still felt like a slacker. It never occurred to me that I was working, and working hard. Why?

Our culture sings in only two keys about how successful women manage motherhood and work: either you’re driving a hard line to the C-suite, parking the crib in your corner office, or you’re shredding the Mommy track.

But what about those of us who are still working hard, and who live and work somewhere between the two? I love being a mom, and I also love (and can’t afford not to) work.

So why do we speak in such crude terms about the nuanced, ever-changing dance of work-life balance? To begin with, the choices are rigged. To hear popular media tell it, the alternative to leaning in seems like a thinly veiled insult: the words “opt out” or “mommy track” suggest that the “in” – the standard of true success– is paid work.

In our million-mile-an-hour culture of never enough, working less is interpreted as working less well. This isn’t always the case. Parents quickly become expert at doing more work in less time, redirecting chit-chat and out-for-lunch hours toward getting the job done faster. Yet it’s mothers, far more than fathers, who are judged critically.

Perhaps even more galling, the suggestion that women can either elect to work harder or opt out demeans the nearly 50 million working mothers who maybe can’t afford the choice.

Brown University Professor Yael Chatav Schoenbrun knew she wouldn’t fit the mold. “I made a decision,” she wrote in the New York Times, “to back down, but not bail out.” She would work hard, just not as hard as she did before parenthood. Recalling her angst over choosing her own path, she shared a puzzling conclusion. “The real problem,” she wrote, “was me.”

But was it really? This kind of self-blame comes so easily to women. It recalls the self-flagellating angst of a generation that Betty Friedan profiled in The Feminine Mystique. The reality is more complex. New research has confirmed what many have suspected for a long time: moms are less likely to be hired for jobs, perceived as competent, or be paid as much as equally qualified male colleagues. But for men, having kids helps their careers. Dads are more likely to be hired than childless men and are more likely to earn more after they have kids.

Doesn’t some responsibility lie, too, with a culture that insists on pigeonholing its women into two extreme, unattainable ways of being? It is a familiar trope: We are to be nice, and liked by everyone; or else we are labeled aggressive. We’re humble or conceited; compliant, good girls or sluts. Rarely are women offered a middle road, one that imagines them as real, complex, dynamic beings.

When we frame women’s choices in terms of extreme work or extreme mothering, women think they have to define themselves in terms of a single goal, everything else be damned. Instead of having the chance to succeed in either realm, women committed to both work and mothering end up feeling inadequate in both. Mommy wars are the sad by-product of the drive to prove one’s worth in a contest where no one ever gets to feel like they are enough as they are.

Working mothers who feel inadequate, even as they continue to work hard, may suffer from what Brene Brown, author of the bestseller Daring Greatly, calls the “never enough” problem: a persistent, self-defeating belief that we will not be worthy or lovable until we are richer, thinner, more powerful, more successful, and so on. We are made to feel, she writes, “that an ordinary life is a meaningless life.”

Perhaps this is why working women are inducted into motherhood being warned that we will never feel like good enough moms or good enough professionals. Ruthless perfectionists that we are, we drink this kool-aid without question.

But what if it’s precisely that juicy, flawed mix of experiences that adds up to a life well-lived? What if by trading in the fruitless drive to be perfect, we inherit a richly textured self?

Besides, the endless diaper changes and tantrums give way, soon enough, to the first day of kindergarten – and a lot more time to devote to a career.

I have spent my life in fear of being average. But the joy I experience as a parent is driving me to face that fear in a way I never thought possible. As I bumble through paving my own third way, I am learning to lower my standards when I need to: to prep last minute; to write bullet points instead of full paragraphs; to say no. At first, I was sure the bottom would literally fall out of my career – and therefore my world. Slowly, I saw that no one really cared. They may not have even noticed. (It’s often said that we are our own worst judges. In some cases, we may also be our only worst judges.)

Waves of anxiety about my career still find me, often in the middle of the night. It is an ongoing struggle to remember that I am enough as I am. But now, when I sit on the floor with my daughter, I see our time as anything but a detour from my ambition. She is the passion project I was waiting for.

 

TIME

Tiger Mom, Hold That Growl

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David Jakle—Getty Images/

A new study debunks the idea that punitive, Tiger Mom-style parenting is superior.

Yale professor Amy Chua wrote “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” in 2011, introducing the phrase “Tiger Mom” into popular culture and celebrating her strict parenting style. But in China, the birthplace of tiger parenting, kids whose parents control their lives with cheerless demands for perfection are becoming a problem.

Researchers from UC Riverside published a new study this week, based on data from nearly 600 middle- and high-school students in Hangzhou, China, debunking the idea that punitive tiger parenting is superior. It finds that less supportive parenting techniques used by some Chinese parents damages self-esteem and complicates school adjustment, while also putting kids at greater risk of depression and problem behaviors. “Our research shows that Tiger Mother type of parenting, specifically controlling, punitive, and less supportive type of parenting is really not working in this sample of Chinese adolescents,” said Cixin Wang, an assistant professor at UC Riverside’s Graduate School of Education. “It also shows that it is important for Chinese parents, who tend to be less emotionally expressive and use less praise in parenting, to show their approval, love and support for their children.”

Chua’s book was packed with vivid, sometimes shocking tales of her strict approach to raising her own daughters, including limiting their social lives, shaming them as punishment when they failed, and forcing them to practice music until their performances were perfect. Ultimately, Chua’s daughters became very successful, and she insists that her hard-edged, unsentimental tactics are the key. Anyone who had ever marveled at the disproportionate academic success among Asian-American kids compared with other minorities now had an intriguing, rather disturbing, explanation: These kids’ cold-hearted tiger moms were demanding perfect grades and mastery of musical instruments, and withholding praise and affection until their kids fell in line. It used to be called tough love until Chua gave it this cooler name.

Giving a parenting style a cool name is not the same as proving its worth. In the wake of Chua’s sensational claims, thoughtful research has found that high-achieving Asian-American students have parental support and put in the necessary work – just as successful students from any culture must do. The flip side, of course, is that when high standards and a strong work ethic are accompanied by emotionally unsupportive parenting, Asian-American students are more likely to suffer negative effects – just as the children of cold or distant parents from any culture are. Furthermore, it turns out that Chua’s brand of harsh parenting is not even very common among Chinese-American parents, who are more likely to be closely involved with their school-age children in a firm, encouraging, but overall positive way. Only when too much pressure to perform enters the picture do Asian-American kids suffer loss of self-esteem.

None of this is new. Chua’s colorful account seemed to make everyone forget about other research, published years earlier, which identified mundane and logical factors in Asian-American students’ high-achieving ways. As long ago as 1988, large studies of minority students found that Asian-American students were more likely to come from stable, two-parent households, to spend more time “on task,” (meaning homework or music practice), and to have better study habits, greater access to after-school lessons and activities, and more parental involvement.

Maybe our greatest chance for having successful kids is to leave behind the cultural stereotypes and focus on the best practices of all high-achieving households. Have high expectations, and communicate them clearly. Be aware of what your children are doing at school, and insist that they make their best effort on assignments and homework. Find opportunities for them to build on their curiosity in music classes, at the public library, at museums or on websites. You don’t have to pay for fancy lessons – whatever your family can afford can work. Of course, kids have different challenges and innate abilities. No one knows and loves your child the way you do, so you will know best whether he is working up to his potential. Make it clear that everyone in your family works hard at his or her job, and that is how you expect the kids to approach their studies, music lessons, sports, and other structured activities. You can set a very high bar and still come through with a hug and a word of encouragement when your child falls short of expectations—yours or his own. I have yet to see a research study that advises against this parenting style. If only I could come up with a cool name for it.

TIME

Single Parents With Young Kids Have As Much Sex As Singles Without Kids, Study Says

Young couple lying in bed under sheets, low section, close-up of feet
Jonathan Kirn—Getty Images

No, this is not a headline from "The Onion."

Turns out that single parents are dating and having as much sex as singles without children.

A new study from The Kinsey Institute has found that single parents of children younger than age 5 date and are sexually active as often as singles without children — and more often than single parents of older children. (I’m guessing that later bedtime and increased ability to lay out guilt trips is to blame for this last phenomenon.)

Researchers began the study thinking that single parents would put hooking up on the back burner while trying to make a human being from scratch. Apparently, not so much. “For single parents, there is only so much time and so much energy to be used for a variety of competing demands in their life. Without the help of a partner, singles often have to divert more energy to parenting and so in theory one might think single parents would not be dating as much. But that’s not what we found,” Justin R. Garcia, an evolutionary biologist at The Kinsey Institute and assistant professor of gender studies at IU Bloomington, said in a press release.

Turns out it’s pretty easy to right-swipe on Tinder while watching Yo Gabba Gabba. Still, it’s news to me that having a kid under the age of 5 is no longer a barrier to a swingin’ single lifestyle. When my son was a toddler he was a barrier to just about everything, including showering, grocery shopping, using the restroom and doing anything alone with my husband. “These data are counter to theory and what was previously assumed about patterns of dating and sexual behavior among U.S. singles,” said Garcia.

But what’s a little less clear is exactly why this counter-intuitive phenomenon is true. The study gives us a few hints: “Male and female parents of young children experience hormonal changes that can affect their sexuality.” It also says that with single moms there’s a desire to find a partner again and people with young children are often younger themselves and tend to have a higher sex drive than older moms.

Remember, this study doesn’t say that single parents are having more sex than married parents. Although, or more realistically, married couples without children or married couples trying to have children probably have more sex than anyone else on earth. “We know that on average, singles have relatively less sexual activity than coupled people — singles tend to have lower rates of sexual frequency likely because they have to first find a partner to have sex with,” Garcia said.

TIME

40 Classic Children’s Books Even Adults Love

The most formative books may be those of your childhood: Dozens of Real Simple readers remember beloved children’s books that turned them on to reading. They reveal why in their own words. Visit RealSimple.com to read the full list.

Here are the first five books:

 

  • 1. The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

    The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
    Harper & Row

    As a child I loved the simple story and it has resonated with me more and more as an adult. —Samantha Sadler Layman

    To buy: Ages 1 to 8; $17, amazon.com.

    (More from Real Simple: 6 Funny Movies to Watch This Weekend)

  • 2. Ferdinand by Munro Leaf

    The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf
    Grosset & Dunlap

    My dad read it to me as a baby girl recovering in the hospital. We read together until his grandsons were born. And then we read to them. “Just quietly under the cork tree.” —Cindy Lee Claplanhoo

    To buy: Ages 3 to 5; $4, amazon.com.

  • 3. The Saggy Baggy Elephant by Kathryn Jackson and Byron Jackson

    The Saggy Baggy Elephant Book
    Little Golden Book

    My grandma would read that to me when I was little. I was so proud when I could finally read it by myself. —Charmin Garst Savage

    To buy: Ages 3 to 7; $4, amazon.com.

    (More from Real Simple: Banishing Life’s Little Annoyances)

  • 4. Are You My Mother? by P.D. Eastman

    Are You My Mother?
    Random House Books for Young Readers

    Are You My Mother? showed love and opportunities were everywhere. —Denise Thompson

    To buy: Ages 3 to 7; $9, amazon.com.

    (More from Real Simple: 50 Great Books That Will Change Your Life)

  • 5. Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson

    Harold and the Purple Crayon
    HarperCollins

    I was so inspired by Harold’s imagination and realized that books could take me anyplace I wanted to go, just like Harold. —Leslie Fischer

    To buy: Ages 3 to 7; $7, amazon.com.

    (More from Real Simple: 5 Ways to Stay Cool Under Pressure)

    Read the full list HERE.

TIME Media

Behind the Scenes: How PBS KIDS Brings New Shows to Life

PBS KIDS Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood
Frederick M. Brown—Getty Images

Paula Kerger is the CEO of PBS.

We don't just make shows because we think they're educational — we want to make sure they can really make a difference in kids' lives

This post originally appeared on LinkedIn. Follow Paula Kerger on LinkedIn. This post is part of a series titled “Behind the Scenes” in which Influencers explain in detail one aspect of their work. LinkedIn Editor Isabelle Roughol also provides an overview of the 60+ Influencers that participated in the package.

One of the most intensive decisions we make is how to find shows to enhance our PBS KIDS lineup. Of course, we still have standards like SESAME STREET, which is celebrating its 45th anniversary this fall, and we’ve actually added another half hour of SESAME STREET in order to make our content even more available and accessible to kids on digital platforms. Building on the rich history of a series that defined educational television is the focus of our programming team. So how do we develop new shows for our PBS KIDS lineup?

We start by identifying what kids need. In 2006, our PBS KIDS Next Generation Advisory Board — made up of child development experts — pointed out that while we had shows focused on academic skills, we were missing a really big piece of the puzzle because we didn’t have a program focused on social and emotional skills. Without skills like how to experience something new and how to deal with feelings like disappointment or uncertainty, some kids just aren’t ready to enter school by the time pre-K rolls around. And that makes academic learning much, much harder. When we started to do a little more research, we realized the need was clear — kids need to learn important social skills in order to get the most out of learning. Figuring that out was step number one.

Step two was figuring out how to best address this need with our content. We reached out to producers to say that we were interested in pursuing social-emotional development as our next big curricular focus. It just so happened that one of our longtime producers, the Fred Rogers Company, was already thinking about how to take the social emotional lessons Mister Rogers had taught and present them in a contemporary show, and had partnered with Out of the Blue Productions. They came back to us with a proposal for a show all about teaching kids strategies they can use for all of the little ups and downs in their everyday lives, building directly on the Neighborhood of Make-Believe Fred Rogers had created.

But we don’t just make shows because we think they’re educational — we want to make sure they can really make a difference in kids’ lives. That brings us to step three — developing a pilot for the show, and then going out and testing it with kids and with parents.

For “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood,” we tested an episode that’s all about learning how to deal with disappointment. It’s Daniel’s birthday, and his special tiger cake gets smushed while he’s carrying it home from the bakery. With a little help from Dad, Daniel figures out how to turn this disappointing situation into something good.

After hearing the script and looking at storyboards, we found some encouraging results. Kids understood that “disappointed” meant “sad,” even though they had no knowledge of the word beforehand. And they also understood that the strategy was to take something bad, turn it around, and find something good — like when Daniel realized that the smushed cake still tasted delicious. But when the producers asked the kids to explain what they would do if they ever felt disappointed about something, the kids answered: “We’d taste it!” A practical strategy, but not one for every occasion… so the team went back to work, refining the takeaway from the episode, until they got it just right.

When they had refined their approach, and re-tested it to make sure that the content was actually connecting with KIDS, “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” was ready for our airwaves. This all might sound relatively easy, but in fact there was an incredible number of people, and a tremendous amount of work that went into getting the show on PBS. In all, between The Fred Rogers Company, Out of the Blue, 9Story and all of the other production entities involved in producing and delivering the animated series, more than 200 people work on “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood.” Those teams spent three years working on the pitch and pilot, and then another three years testing and refining the show. Six years after the initial idea of a show that dealt with social emotional skills was put forward, we debuted Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood on September 2, 2012.

Getting a kids show to air on PBS is no easy task. But we start by identifying what today’s children need the most, and asking ourselves how we can push the boundaries of what media can do to best serve them through PBS KIDS. We do that with every element of our content — not just TV shows, but online games, mobile apps and resources for parents and teachers. We try to do everything that we can in order to make sure that we’re getting closer to realizing our mission: to create a better world, where every child discovers unlimited possibilities.

Paula Kerger is the CEO of PBS.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Parenting

It’s Time for the U.S. to Ban Spanking

Spanking Corporal Punishment
Dario Egidi—Getty Images

Studies show that spanking is harmful — and unnecessary

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This article originally appeared on Patheos.

I know very little about the case of an NFL player hitting his child, I have seen the photos in articles and it disgusts me that a grown person thinks it is ever okay to do that to a child, especially when you are the size of an NFL player. Not that ones size makes abuse any different, but to know you are a massive, strong person, and then unleash that strength upon a child, you are a vile human being.

But leaving the NFL behind, and looking only at the action of spanking, what is one to do? It is not uncommon in the US to hear of parents spanking their children, I was spanked, I know friends who spank, and I fully disagree with their decision to do so.

If my friend does something wrong, even terrible, it is illegal for me to hit them, it is assault and I can be jailed for it. Yet if my child eats a cookie when I tell them not to, I am legally permitted to hit them, or spank them as we call it because hitting sounds to violent. Yet there is no difference between hitting and spanking a child.

The defense in spanking is that by doing so you teach your child to stop an action you no longer want them to do. Spankers believe that the pain of being hit will remind them to listen and obey. But is this true?

No, it does not work, according to research done by Yale University psychology professor and director of the Yale Parenting Center and Child Conduct Clinic, Dr. Alan Kazdin.

You cannot punish out these behaviors that you do not want,” says Kazdin, speaking to the American Psychological Association. “There is no need for corporal punishment based on the research. We are not giving up an effective technique. We are saying this is a horrible thing that does not work.”

Even more so, there is evidence that spanking actually causes harm. Even cause the The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child issued a directive in 2006 to call physical punishment “legalized violence against children,” and urging the practice be eliminated through legal and educational process.

Thirty countries around the world have banned spanking in all settings. These countries do not use the bans as threats against parents, but as tools to educate parents about better ways to discipline a child. Often, parents use physical punishment as a way to train a child, but if it doesn’t work, the parent then escalates the punishment and can cause even more severe physical and psychological damage.

In his book The Primordial Violence, Murray Straus says that spanking does correct behavior, but further explains:

“Research shows that spanking corrects misbehavior. But it also shows that spanking does not work better than other modes of correction, such as time out, explaining, and depriving a child of privileges. Moreover, the research clearly shows that the gains from spanking come at a big cost. These include weakening the tie between children and parents and increasing the probability that the child will hit other children and their parents, and as adults, hit a dating or marital partner. Spanking also slows down mental development and lowers the probability of a child doing well in school.”

The author continues:

“More than 100 studies have detailed these side effects of spanking, with more than 90 percent agreement among them. There is probably no other aspect of parenting and child behavior where the results are so consistent.”

With such research and a huge understanding of spanking why is it still condoned in the US as a valuable practice?

Religion has a lot to do with it. Many religious groups condone and endorse corporal punishment techniques, with books like To Train Up a Child that is responsible in teaching physical punishment techniques that have been responsible for multiple deaths as a result of their endorsed methods.

While most religious parents do not go as far as To Train Up a Child suggests, the practice is highest among born-again Christians, according to research shown by FiveThirthyEight. (See article for graphics.)

They also show that spanking is associated with your political beliefs and demographic location in the US, and it is most likely no coincidence that Christian beliefs align much the same in these areas:

So really, is it any surprise the practice is still condoned in the US where the religious majority endorses the practice? Would it be going too far to speculate that a campaign in congress to end physical punishment would be met with cries of religious persecution?

We have a duty to protect children, and knowing that physical abuse is not only painful and unnecessary, but also psychologically damaging, we must act and bring this practice to an end.

Dan Arel is an author, journalist, speaker and secular activist. He writes on secular and humanist values on subjects such as secular parenting, church and state separation, education reform and secularism in public policy.

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TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Minecraft

Dear Microsoft: Please Don’t Screw Up Minecraft. Sincerely, Parents

Microsoft To Acquire Maker Of Popular Minecraft Game For 2.5 Billion
MIAMI, FLORIDA - SEPTEMBER 15: Daniel Llevara checks out the XBox 360 Minecraft game at a GameStop store on Sept. 15, 2014 in Miami. Joe Raedle—Getty Images

Children of all ages love it, parents love it, and Microsoft should leave it well enough alone. But will they?

Yesterday, news broke that Microsoft was acquiring Mojang, the creator of the “sandbox” game Minecraft for $2.5 billion. The move will bolster Microsoft’s gaming ambitions and further integrate Microsoft’s gaming system, Xbox, with the incredibly popular game.

While the business world was ogling the massive deal for the open-world game, which has an estimated 100 million downloads on PCs alone and brought in $100 million in profit last year, parents were wondering what this means for their Minecraft-addicted children.

Minecraft is the go-to game for parents and children alike, because it’s incredibly easy to learn and fun to play, involving nothing more than clicking and building anything from roller coasters to castles to tree forts. It’s impossible to win or lose and no one dies — it’s just building. There are no rules and no instructions, it’s intuitive and straightforward. Younger children, say, 6 and up, may prefer to play in “creative mode,” which let’s users simply wander the landscape and build whatever they can imagine and the game’s blocky graphics can allow. For older players, there’s the more challenging “survival mode,” filled with zombies, pigs, zombie pig men and a dragon lurking somewhere in the distance. Still, you can’t die in survival mode, you simply “respawn” and go back to what you were doing. It’s gaming lite, which is where the appeal lies for the next generation of gaming fans (just ask my 7-year-old son) and their parents who don’t want to hear cries of frustration over levels and character deaths.

Minecraft’s simplicity is the key to its inter-generational success and for any parent who has done battle with a Microsoft operating system — and with the specters of Windows Vista and Windows 8 and all their software and hardware compatibility issues floating in the air— it’s hard for parents whose children love Minecraft not to be slightly wary about news of the acquisition. Some parents (me) may have groaned loudly thinking about trying to explain the sudden addition of Microsoft Bob to the ranks of Minecraft characters like Herobrine and Steve. Then other questions started percolating: Would Minecraft only be accessible via a Zune? Would you need a Hotmail account to sign up? Would you have to download Internet Explorer? Would Microsoft Word’s ever-present helper Clippy become a creeper? (That’s a local Minecraft hostile, if you don’t play the game.)

The main concern for parents though, is that Microsoft will somehow change the game, making it more complex, allow in-app purchases, or require parental supervision (the horror!). While the game has only been around since 2009, it has grown to become one of the most popular computer games of all time, with over 16 million copies sold for computer use. Parents trust it to be safe, fun and ostensibly educational, operating both as a gateway to the world of computer science and helping to develop spatial recognition skills. Children of all ages love it, parents love it, and Microsoft should leave it well enough alone. But will they?

One likely possibility is that Microsoft may push more unique features towards its own Xbox platform. Currently, Minecraft can be played on several platforms, including desktop computers, tablets and smartphones, with PCs having the most functionality and advanced controls. Xbox has long been a popular way for kids to access the cubist landscape of Minecraft and it has the same functions as playing on a desktop. According to a Microsoft press release, Minecraft is the top online game on Xbox Live, with over two billion hours played on Xbox 360 in the last two years. Minecraft on Xbox also gained popularity thanks in no small part to YouTube users like Stampy Longhead, whose wildly popular videos feature the player touring through Minecraft worlds, narrating his findings in his excited British accent and feeding bones to digital dogs. (While parents may find the allure of these videos elusive, calling Stampy “wildly popular” is perhaps an understatement. Stampy was the fourth biggest YouTube channel in July with 199.6 million video views, the majority of which were undoubtedly racked up by my kid watching during lulls in summer activities while I tried to work.)

Stampy plays exclusively on Xbox and only visits worlds connected to the Xbox network, at least according to my son. The kid has been making a hard sell for weeks trying to convince me that he needs an Xbox for Minecraft use. If Microsoft expands its Xbox Minecraft network to its tablets or smartphones, it could transform millions of children around the world into walking, whining Microsoft acolytes (which may be part of Microsoft’s business plan), begging mom, dad and Santa to fill their stocking with Microsoft products. It’s probably not something that happens very often aside from the Xbox, as the company is still best-known for making corporate hardware and software bundles.

While parents may have fears of Microsoft corrupting Minecraft — or at least being bullied into buying Microsoft products for their clamoring underage Minecraft fans — some young players are concerned, as well. “I am worried that they might change Minecraft in a bad way,” said tech savvy 11-year old Zoel Boublil, who is an expert in all things Minecraft. “For example, what if they fire Notch, the CEO of Mojang? Notch, Jeb [Bergensten, the lead developer of Minecraft] and Dinnerbone [a game developer on Minecraft] all put in a lot of creativity and I hope Microsoft doesn’t just make it into some ‘normal’ game and what if they put Microsoft advertising on everything? That would not be cool.” This fear of rendering something once cool, corporate, is often fans’ biggest fear; adults who used to use MySpace or Flickr are familiar with this kind of thing. That said, Yahoo! hasn’t managed to change Tumblr culture too much yet, and it probably doesn’t want to.

The reality is that no one knows what will happen in the deal that Microsoft claims will close by the end of the year. Hopefully, Microsoft is business savvy enough to know not to mess with something that has universal, inter-generational appeal. And if they do? Well, there’s a zombie pigman that could take out Clippy, if necessary.

 

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