Is The Rise In The Divorce Rate A Problem?

Separation Sculpture One of the trends that’s regularly used to prove that we’re living in dark and dangerous times, and that the situation is only getting darker, is the rising divorce rate.

But is it really a problem?

I can think of 3 positive developments that have contributed to the rise in divorces:

1- Women’s empowerment: Women haven’t always had a say in who to marry, let alone choosing to leave their husbands. That a wife can now exercise her right to leave a marriage is a very healthy development.

2- Exercising choice: Admitting that we’ve made a mistake is hard enough. Doing something about it is even harder. A divorce can be an acknowledgement that things aren’t working out, and the couple want to call it quits. People are realizing that they have a choice in how to lead their lives, and what they can do about past decisions.

3- Happiness matters: When couples break up because they’re unhappy, it means they value their happiness. In my book, that makes divorce a good sign.

So is divorce a problem or not?

My answer would be: It’s not even the issue!

Our obsession with the divorce rate is making us overlook the real problem we should be addressing. The rise in the divorce rate is only a symptom, which we can do nothing about, without tackling the problem that’s causing it.

Divorce isn’t the problem.

The real problem is: dysfunctional relationships.

People aren’t taking the divorce route to go somewhere, but to leave something. And that “thing” is a dysfunctional relationship.

Sadly, we’re being encouraged to get married, whether to start a family, settle down, avoid committing sins, etc., without being taught what a relationship involves and how to make marriage a home for happiness and not a prison of problems.

When I was 20 years old – and single – a religious scholar told me that I was already 4 years late to getting married!

Talk of marriage and its importance is very common. But advice on how to treat a spouse, what to expect from a relationship, and how to positively engage with problems are commonly overlooked.

Besides, “happiness” isn’t usually included in the marriage formula. It’s something you abandon during your initiation rites into married life. (That’s why guys throw bachelor parties!)

But happiness does matter, and we need to bring it back into the marriage formula.

One way of doing that is to look at the signs of a dysfunctional relationship – i.e. a relationship where one or both partners don’t see the relationship contributing positively to their life experience – and see how we can avoid the thoughts and behaviors that get in the way of a healthy relationship.

But Think of the Children!

When a parent contemplates a divorce, they’re often asked to think of their children before making a decision.

But as we’ve seen, divorce isn’t the problem. The dysfunctional relationship is. Divorce is just the (unfortunate?) result of a problem that isn’t being effectively addressed.

Children will be better off not living within a dysfunctional relationship, rather than have their parents set a negative example for them to follow when they grow older.

So don’t blame the divorce, and look at what can be done to fix dysfunctional relationships.

Your Thoughts

I’ll be writing a post on some of the signs of dysfunctional relationships, and would like to know what your thoughts are about this issue.

What have you noticed in your own relationship, or in other people’s relationships, that compromise happiness, rather than foster it?

And what do you believe can be done to improve relationships, so they can contribute positively to people’s lives?

Photo credit: Daquella Manera


Why Are Kids So Damn Annoying?

Angry ChildLet’s face it. You try to be a good, patient parent, but there comes a time (usually called “day time” or “night time”) when your kids drive you insane, and you can’t make sense of why they treat you the way they do, when you’re only trying to be nice to them.

You try to control their behavior (so they wouldn’t be so annoying and can grow up to be responsible adults), but that never seems to work. They’re committed to testing your patience, and usually succeed in seeing you crack.

So why are kids so damn annoying, and what can you do, as a parent, to correct this?

Luckily for you, I have 2 tips to help you “deal” with your pesky children:

1) Your kids aren’t the problem:

When it comes to parenting, and almost any situation in life where your patience is tested, it’s not the situation that’s the problem, but your fear that you won’t be able to handle the situation effectively.

You’re afraid of making a mistake. You’re afraid of not knowing what to do, or not having enough personal strength and resilience to manage yourself in that situation. You feel that you’ll be judged by others for not being a good parent (or a good human being).

At times you’re struggling with another issue that’s making you feel anxious and worried, and your children aren’t giving you enough space to think your problem through, so you see them as the problem, without realizing that you’re only taking out your frustration at them.

But because your children aren’t to blame, there’s no reason to take your frustration out at them.

Be aware of the issues that annoy you, and look for ways to deal with these issues, rather than suppress your feelings about them.

Don’t be harsh on yourself, or harsh on your children.

2) Your kids are kids:

We tend to feel frustrated when we want things to be different than what they are. We expect a dial-up Internet connection to behave like a broadband line, and get frustrated when our expectations aren’t met. We snap when we drop a glass vase and it shatters into a million pieces because we don’t want a glass vase to break. We fume when our children don’t behave the way we want them to, because we expect them to behave like mature adults, and not as children.

But kids are kids, and will behave as kids. They’re not fully mature, so they don’t know how to handle every situation effectively, and don’t have proper control over their emotions, or a sound understanding of how the world (and social customs) work. How many adults do you know that act maturely in every situation? So why do we expect children to behave impeccably?

It’s important to treat children as children, and not to take any shortcuts in their upbringing by condemning them for not behaving as adults, or expecting them to follow our instructions, without giving them room to think for themselves.

It’s wonderful to see children behave as children (which is not always apparent, given other life challenges we face!), and the natural phase of human development they’re going through. How they discover things for the first time. How they try to voice their opinions and express their feelings. How they meet new challenges: what they have the courage to face, and what they’re too afraid to confront. How they try to mimic your behavior and what expressions they learn to use. How they develop their likes and dislikes.

Whenever you find yourself getting annoyed by your children, remember that they are children, and you shouldn’t be expecting any more from them than they are able to do at this part of their development.

See the world through their eyes, and you might appreciate what they’re going through. 🙂

Photo credit: mindaugasdanys

Intellectual Parenting

Why It’s Wrong To Obsess Over The Right Answer


“I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.”
~ Mark Twain

Parents and teachers often have the greatest of intentions and genuine concern for their children’s well-being and education, but it is all too common for educators to take the wrong approach to education, which impedes learning rather than facilitate it.

Many of us carry psychological scars as a result of our schooling, which continue to our adulthood, without us ever consciously addressing these scars. We have come to accept that learning is difficult and is taxing on the brain, without realizing why that is.

One of the worst mistakes educators commit is obsessing over the right answer, rather than encourage independent thinking.

This isn’t to say that any answer is equally valid to any other, or that we all have unique answers based on unique perspectives. In many issues, there is a right answer and a heap of wrong answers.

But that’s not the point.

The point is, as human beings, we need to know how to use our brains for thinking, in the same way we learn how to use our legs for walking.

Being told to memorize answers, without knowing why they’re true, bypasses the thinking process, and sees the human brain as a storage house, with no cognitive apparatus that acts on and analyzes the information it stores.

But the human brain is a marvelous computer, not a hard drive.

It is crucial that we feel comfortable thinking for ourselves, without being afraid of making mistakes every now and then. And the more we refine our thinking, the fewer mistakes we are likely to make. In the same way an infant struggles to walk at first, and constantly falters during his initial attempts, then walks more and more steadily as he learns how to use his legs and body, we need to go through a similar learning process when it comes to the use of our rational faculty.

This learning should have come at an early age, but well-meaning educators were too concerned with filling our brains with information rather than encourage us to develop our own thinking.

It is impossible to develop understanding without knowing how to think. We can memorize information without too much mental processing. But understanding involves connecting bits of information together, and looking for consistency between them to form a bigger picture from all the smaller pieces. That involves thinking.

Understanding is an essential component to healthy living. It helps us make sense of daily events and allows us to reach conclusions based on the knowledge we already possess, thereby expanding our knowledge through mental effort. Trying to hold disconnected factoids about the world in our brains can become too taxing for our memory recall. Understanding helps us make our way from one piece of information to another, based on the connections that link them together and the context they share.

I usually don’t ask my students for the right answer. I ask them for an answer (any answer that conveys their understanding), and base my explanation on what they already understand (or what they have misunderstood). That way I respect their own thinking, but offer them guidance on where they went wrong and how they can reach the right answer. Some students feel too embarrassed to reveal their ignorance, or to give a wrong answer (a sign of bad education), and opt for a shrug of the shoulders or a blank: “I don’t know.”

Learning involves a great deal of mistakes, and there’s no reason to feel guilty or bad about making intellectual errors. We don’t learn by hiding our ignorance. We learn by revealing what we know, and being open to opportunities to improve our thinking. We should also encourage our children to think for themselves, rather than snap at them whenever they say something nonsensical.

For example, if your child came to you and said: “Pigs can fly!”

It’s not wise to reply: “You idiot! What made you think they can fly? Pigs can’t fly!”

A better approach would be to encourage your child to think for himself by asking thought-provoking questions and offering facts for him to consider: “How can pigs fly? They don’t have wings.”

If your child says: “They can use a rocket!” then his initial statement was right, and there’s no need to undermine his creative thinking process. That’s a mark of intelligence, not wild imagination, because he considered an alternative way to flying that doesn’t involve wings!

It’s this kind of thinking that should be encouraged by educators, and exercised by children and adults alike.

Photo credit: jurvetson


Don’t Learn to Say “No”

The word “No” is considered taboo by many people who think that the only socially-acceptable response to a request is a resounding “Yes!”

These people soon realize that they’re biting more than they can chew and can’t seem to ward off the onslaught of dishes coming their way. After all, if people are accustomed to hearing you say “Yes,” then they can safely assume that you’re still hungry for more work.

The traditional advice given to people dealing with unhealthy amounts of work is that they should learn to say “No.”

Some “experts” give ratios of how many “Yeses” to “Nos” we should be using, and advise us to tip the scale towards the latter.

The more “Nos” you use, the less work you have to deal with, and the more you can focus on work that matters.

But the problem isn’t what response you use. A misplaced “No” is as harmful as a reluctant “Yes” (even if their consequences differ in kind).

The question you should be asking yourself is: What am I basing my response on?

Do you fear offending others when you turn them down?

Do you want to build a reputation for being the go-to guy/gal in your organization?

Are you trading a “Yes” today for one from others tomorrow?

Do you not have a valid reason to say “No”?

What makes it difficult for you to say “No” instead of “Yes”?

There is no reason to learn to say “No” if “No” isn’t the right answer.

Instead of learning to say “No” you should learn to say “No” when it’s appropriate and to say “Yes” when it’s appropriate, given your values, interests, current commitments, time and effort required for the task requested and other factors that you need to base your decision on.

People often respect a response coupled with a valid reason.

One of the most irritating responses in the world is a “No” followed by a vacuum (children pick up on how annoying this is at an early age). The person requesting your assistance usually needs a reason why you’re turning them down. And in almost all cases it’s never the “No” that offends people. It’s the lack of a valid reason.

“No” and “Sorry”

A better alternative to a “No” is usually an apology.

Yes, even when you don’t need to apologize. I know that your time is your time and people don’t have the right to your time or effort.

But an apology expresses intent. You would love to help, but you want to be realistic with your resources. You want to be passionate about the projects you take on. You want to ensure that you can deliver on your promises. You can’t, so you apologize.

“Sorry I can’t. I already have my hands full with a project I’m working on.”

Consider more lenient responses that work just as well as a “No” and are more respectful towards others. That way, even when turning others down they still walk away having gained a sense of respect from their interaction with you.

Don’t learn to say “No.”

Learn when to say “No” (or its equivalent), and how to communicate your reasons effectively and respectfully to others.


Short Film: What Is That?

A touching short film about parents and parenting. I don’t want to spoil a thing, so just watch the film!