Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Parenting Ramblings: Punishment or Correction?

I am a mom. My husband and I raised our kids to think for themselves, be responsibly for their actions, and care about others, and for the most part I think we did okay.  My kids get decent grades, have good friends, and do their chores with only a little bit of sighing and eye-rolling.

Parenting discussions are a must for any parent, including the one where you discuss how to handle a misbehaving child.  I read all the books and magazine articles available at the time, talked to other parents, and watched other parents with their children.  It soon became apparent that there are two main ways to discipline kids:  through punishment and through correction.

Traditionally, parents used punishment for discipline.  From spanking to time-outs to losing toys, a child was punished for not behaving appropriately.  The reasoning behind punishment goes something like this:

A child does not want to be punished, so he will follow the rules to avoid punishment.
Only, children respond best to positive reinforcements instead of negative reinforcements.  And punishments may lead to a situation where a child does not care about the punishment, only about getting his way.  For example, punishing a child who doesn't do his homework by removing his TV time only works if that child cares about watching TV that night.

Correction, on the other hand, focuses on how to get a child to follow the rules, of correcting bad behavior. This means that there are several methods and means used when parents want to correct behavior.

Correction can mean having the consequences fit the action.  For example, if a kid doesn't put a game away properly (with all the pieces), he won't be able to play it again until he searches the house to find all the pieces.  Or, if a kid spills a glass of water, he needs to clean up the mess.

Correction can also mean earning rewards for conquering bad habits or earning rewards for creating good habits.  For example, praising a child for putting his dishes away after dinner without you needing to remind him.  Or taking your kid on a surprise trip to the park for putting his school stuff away all week instead of throwing his backpack willy nilly around the front door.

In my experience, correction works much better than punishment, so long as I'm willing to put the effort into making the correction appropriate to the problem.  Punishing a child is somewhat easier, because you can use the same punishment generally for every situation.  But correction takes work, because what is appropriate for one scenario is not for another.  The equates to you and your spouse having discussion about how to approach correction, since most of the time only one parent will be around to handle the situation.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Revelations from Fallout: New Vegas

Fallout: New Vegas is a first-person role playing game set in an apocalyptic future. You, the player, wake up after getting shot in the head in a tiny town called Goodsprings.  From here, you have choices about what to do.  Do you follow the trail to the people who tried to kill you or do you explore the area?  Do you help the people who found you?  Or do you help another group take over the town?  Your choices create your karma rating, and your reputation with different factions in the game.

It's the choices that I like in this game.  I choose what I want to specialize in, I choose whether I want to solve problems with words or guns.  Sometimes, there are no good choices and yet I still need to make one.

I've played this game a lot lately, and I realized something on a gut level that I only knew in my head before - I learned the cost of fighting and war.

This revelation began with the Great Khans, a tribal faction that people wanted either manipulated or dead.  One side, the Legion, wanted to use the Great Khans as cannon fodder for an upcoming battle, after which whoever survived would then be a slave for the Legion.  The NCR wanted the Great Khans not working with the Legion, but the Great Khans hate the NCR for massacring their elderly, sick, and young.  I never played on the side of the Legion, mostly because even though it's a game, I find the Legion to be repulsive.  Yet even playing for the NCR, I disliked the attitude of the command to "deal with"  the Great Khans.  The NCR didn't care if I butchered the entire group or got them to sign a truce, just so long as the Khans didn't work with the Legion.

So here I was, speaking to people who were not my enemies, but not my friends.  A Legion representative arrived before I did, selling snake oil to the Great Khan leaders.  The first item on my agenda was to find evidence of the Legion lies, which turned out to be straightforward though quite difficult.  The second item was getting the Great Khans the evidence and breaking the fledgling alliance.  Again, straightforward, though this was relatively easy.  Now, I had a choice.

Do I try to convince the Great Khans to join the NCR in the battle?  Or do I leave well enough alone?

I discovered another option - convince the Great Khans to leave Nevada and settle in a new home, away from the NCR and the Legion.  I choose this option, because it caused the least amount of bloodshed for the Great Khans.  But I had to think about it a lot, because this option also means a potential for more NCR losses. Whose life is more important, a Great Khan or an NCR soldier?

And that is the exact moment it hit me, the revelation.  War costs money, true enough, and time and energy.  But more important that those, war costs lives, and not just the lives lost.  The people who go to war and survive always come out scarred, inside and/or out.  War is a great beast that eats people, consumes their innocence and happiness, and spits out the gristle.  War is Cerberus, the three-headed dog from Hades, while the war machines are merely dog food production lines.  War is is a place so negative, so bad, that to die there is preferable to living, because the memories of War are chained to them forever, while the dead get to rest and be free.

For civilians, war kills the very young and the very old, the sick and weakened.  War takes away homes, stability, medicine, jobs, and schools, leaving behind burned out wreckage.  Right now, polio is springing up in Syria because war stopped the efforts to vaccinate everyone.  Right now, millions of people are in refugee camps, divided from their families and friends, wondering where their next meal will come from, because war took away their food and stability.

By playing Fallout: New Vegas, I grokked the cost of war, and I decided that for the Great Khans the price was too high to ask them to pay.  So I convinced the leader to take his people away, start anew someplace else.  At the end of the game, I watched a series of vignettes showing me the results of my actions during game play.  The Great Khans established their own territory, protecting their people, and trading with others.  War didn't win, at least this time.

On a side note, video games can help people learn consequences without needing to hurt anyone in the real world.  Remember that, nay sayers. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Phony Phone Calls

It happens to all of us.  The phone rings when you're either making or eating dinner, and you rush over to answer.  A friendly voice asks for you, but refuses to say who he/she is or what the call is about until you verify your identity.  Or a robotic voice begins to speak.  And you know, you just answered spam, a phony phone call.

Robocalling and telemarketers have plagued the phone system for decades, completely known and so far completely unstoppable.  The government instituted a Do Not Call list, which stopped legitimate telemarketing companies, but does nothing for illegal ones.  In 2012, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) even offered $50,000 to whoever came up with the best idea for stopping illegal telemarketers and robo-callers.  Several people submitted good ideas, but nothing has come of it so far.

The problem is all of these solutions focus on the people receiving the phone calls, not the call providers.  The government already has laws against these calls, but the responsibility falls on the regular person to pursue offenders, which makes no sense because regular people don't have the information or resources to do this.

Who has the information and resources available to track down illegal telemarketers and robocallers?

Your phone providers, of course.

No matter who you use for your land line or cell phone, these people have the records of every call made to you, including the origin of the phone call.  So, why don't we make the phone companies police the calls that they connect, then pay the penalty when they connect an illegal call?

At the moment, the phone companies have no incentive to police themselves, no reason to put effort into weeding out robocallers and illegal telemarketers, because these people pay the phone companies to carry their calls.  If we change the incentive and make the phone companies act as the middleman and pay the consumer to unwanted calls, then the phone companies have a reason to stop the illegal calls.

At least, that's what I think.  And you?

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Oh, The Weather Outside is Frightful....

I live in Metro Atlanta, an area which had an interesting few days this week.  Note, I'm using the word "interesting" as in the Chinese proverb, "May you live in interesting times" or the Firefly definition, "oh, god, oh, god, we're all gonna die". Not that I think a little snow and ice will kill you, but I'm fairly certain that someone thought it might by Tuesday night.

If you haven't heard, the Metro Atlanta area got 1" - 3" of snow on Tuesday, as forecasted by, well, everyone.  Now, snow is a bit unusual for here and if the storm had not been predicted two days earlier, what happened on Tuesday would be completely excusable.  The problem here is that city and county officials everywhere around Metro Atlanta acted as though we weren't going to be hit with snow.  So no schools closed, no government offices closed, no one asked people to work from home, they didn't have sand laid over bridges and overpasses...  No prep work done anywhere - which caused a quite foreseeable disaster.

Hundreds, if not thousands, of people didn't make it home Tuesday night.  Hundreds of kids slept in schools in several counties.  People abandoned their cars everywhere, opting to walk home.

But on the flip side, hundreds of people helped others, pushing stalled cars off the road, getting small vehicles up hills, clearing ice off of local roads, offering a place to stay to stranded people, working in churches and schools to help people who needed food and shelter,...

So, while it's easy to rag on Governor Deal and his statements that he didn't know about the snow, this week showed that people can still react with thoughtfulness and kindness, with no expectations for compensation or glory.

Makes me proud to live here.

Freaky Friday News: Unicorn Licenses

Los Angeles County Gives a Young Resident a Unicorn License Last month, a resident of Los Angeles county, Miss Madeline, sent a handwritte...