If you examine him through the lens of playground politics, you will recognize Mr. Trump as a thin-skinned bully who seems incapable of stomaching criticism or opposition. At the same time, he postures as a victim, vacillating between venomous outcries at his foes and the desperate need for validation from his fans.
.. The problem with America — Mr. Trump’s playground — is that we’ve developed an insular, conflict-averse culture. The president’s trolling is so effective, in part, because many of us have not learned how to deal with interpersonal conflict, starting with the playground. We must learn to defend ourselves so that when Donald Trump or any other bully taunts us, we can rise to the occasion.
.. One of the earliest lessons you learn at school is about the boundless cruelty of other children. And that bullies can win. Yet contrary to these early playground lessons in realpolitik, children are consistently taught to avoid conflict by well-meaning parents, teachers and caregivers because that’s how we want the world to work.
.. I don’t want her to lose it when somebody like Donald Trump is elected. More than anything, I want her to be able to defend herself and fight back.
.. I want my daughter to learn to say no confidently and unapologetically. Dealing with conflict is also about standing up for yourself as a woman, whether a man is talking over you at a meeting or trying to engage in unwanted sexual behavior. If we learn early how to have difficult or uncomfortable conversations up front, we don’t need others to fill in the gaps, make our decisions or read our minds. But if we can’t stand up to conflict, we risk becoming the snowflakes that the Donald Trumps and the wagging tongues on the right make us out to be.
Parents these days are stressed. So are their kids.
The root of this anxiety, one scholar says, is the way we understand the relationship between parents and children. Alison Gopnik, a psychology and philosophy professor at the University of California, Berkeley, thinks parents—especially middle-class parents—view their children as entities they can mold into a specific image.
“The idea is that if you just do the right things, get the right skills, read the right books, you’re going to be able to shape your child into a particular kind of adult,” she says.
It’s a view that’s gained popularity in the last few decades, along with the term “parenting” — which is itself a relatively new idea.
“It’s only around the 1970s in America that the word first begins to really take off,” she says.
.. In her latest book, The Gardener and the Carpenter, Alison lays out this science and an alternative way to think about the relationship between parents and children.
Young kids might be smarter and more empathetic than adults think.
I was in court several times to uphold the fact that gay parents that wanted to adopt a child had all the strength that heterosexual parents had. They were giving them the love, the understanding, the socialization. That giving a child for adoption to a gay couple did not endanger the child in terms of their mental health.
People would say, “Other children are going to tease them and bully them,” “Other parents are not going to want their children to play with them,” “They won’t have a community that they can belong to,” and the point that me and others were making is that that is not inherent to the condition of being gay. It is inherent to the prejudices of society in how they relate to gay people.
.. There is a new understanding that tantrums, oppositionalism, [and] negativism are not a sign that the child is terrible or that the child’s age is terrible. It’s a sign that the ability of the child to think through a situation has collapsed because of overwhelming feelings of fear and frustration that dysregulates their emotional composure.
.. You mentioned that in recent years, child psychology has moved away from a view of the toddler as simply egocentric. Are these children more empathetic than we give them credit for?
.. I’m the starry-eyed grandmother of a 2-year-old [named Sam]. He’s been learning to use the harmonica. There was this 18-month-old who was mesmerized by Sam making music with the harmonica, and he kept wanting the harmonica. And Sam gave it to him. And Sam is just a regular toddler … I’m not saying [this because he is] my grandson. The 18-month-old is huffing and puffing and nothing happens. And Sam takes the harmonica back and goes very close to him and blows on the harmonica, and then gives the child the harmonica. And the child tries and tries and makes it happen, and Sam starts clapping with great joy and turns to the parents. [Here we have] two toddlers identifying a goal, and the older toddler turning over a cherished object to a little boy that he loves, and the little boy allowing himself to be taught by the toddler in a way that his own daddy could not quite do, and then the older toddler celebrating him and turning to the adults, as if he were saying, “Look at what he did!”
The Four Kinds of Happiness. The lowest kind of happiness is material pleasure, having nice food and clothing and a nice house. Then there is achievement, the pleasure we get from earned and recognized success. Third, there is generativity, the pleasure we get from giving back to others. Finally, the highest kind of happiness is moral joy, the glowing satisfaction we get when we have surrendered ourselves to some noble cause or unconditional love.
.. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, on the other hand, moves from the collective to the relational and, at its peak, to the individual. In one the pinnacle of human existence is in quieting and transcending the self; in the other it is liberating and actualizing the self.
.. Most religions and moral systems have aimed for self-quieting and, figuring that the great human problem is selfishness. But around the middle of the 20th century, Abraham Maslow, Carl Rogers and others aimed to liberate and enlarge the self. They brought us the self-esteem movement, humanistic psychology, and their thinking is still very influential today.
.. a marriage exists to support the individual self-actualization of each of the partners. In a marriage, the psychologist Otto Rank wrote, “one individual is helping the other to develop and grow, without infringing too much on the other’s personality.” You should choose the spouse who will help you elicit the best version of yourself. Spouses coach each other as each seeks to realize his or her most authentic self.
.. If you go into marriage seeking self-actualization, you will always feel frustrated because marriage, and especially parenting, will constantly be dragging you away from the goals of self.
.. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs has always pointed toward a chilly, unsatisfying version of self-fulfillment. Most people experience their deepest sense of meaning not when they have placidly met their other needs, but when they come together in crisis.
.. Finkel reports that starting around 1995, both fathers and mothers began spending a lot more time looking after their children. Today, parents spend almost three times more hours in shared parenting than parents in 1975 did. Finkel says this is an extension of the Maslow/Rogers pursuit of self-actualization.
.. I’d say it’s evidence of a repudiation of it. I’d say many of today’s parents are moving away from the me-generation ethos and toward covenant, fusion and surrendering love.
.. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs too easily devolves into self-absorption. It’s time to put it away.