Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Julie Myerson: Monsters in the making?

By Judith Woods

Child violence: monsters in the making?
Held in contempt: children so commonly abuse their parents that it's come to be considered as normal

Can there be a parent in the country who isn’t chilled to the marrow watching the Myerson family implode so very publicly? The sight of such ordinary middle-class people locked in the sort of internecine warfare more usually associated with The Jeremy Kyle Show is a wake-up call to every mother and father in the land.

The Myersons were plunged into a state of despair and fear when their eldest child Jake’s drug use destabilised family life, throwing out their volatile and violent son in an attempt to safeguard his two younger siblings. In her controversial new book, The Lost Child, Myerson documents the pain, shock and sadness as her domestic life fell so messily apart.

The rights and wrongs of whether Myerson should have published (she has certainly been damned for it) have become something of a side issue. What she has succeeded in doing is lifting the lid on our darkest fear, that through our own well-intentioned but wishy-washy parenting, we are creating a generation of teenage timebombs.

“I wish you weren’t my parents! I want to live with Phoebe’s parents. At least they respect her.”

As the door slams behind my furious six-year-old daughter (yes, that’s six, not 16) I am left wondering what on earth I’m supposed to do next. I have no idea. Should I run after her, rugby-tackle her on the stairs and demand she acquiesce to whatever request I had made – to hang up her coat perhaps, or tidy away her toy farm? Quite possibly, but I haven’t the energy, or, if I’m honest, the will.

I stand as guilty as the next modern parent of believing that benign is best, and if the price to be paid is picking up a few handfuls of 1:32 scale Friesians, then so be it. My daughter is generally a sunny, sweet child, so why make a fuss when she throws an occasional strop? Yet there remains a nagging suspicion that my generation of parents has got the balance wrong and that, far from our reasonable boundaries being adhered to by our hopefully reasonable children, we are in fact in danger of storing up a host of problems in years to come by treating our children so democratically now. Like many parents reading the Myerson story, I wonder: what can I do to avoid a full-scale teenage rebellion? And, just as importantly, am I already too late?

I would never have dreamed of giving cheek to my mother at any age. There was, at the heart of our relationship, a healthy degree of fear on my part, and steely resolve on hers. I knew, instinctively, that her word was final, argument useless and retribution would be swift and biblical if I was disobedient.

Crucially, I was seldom hit (although a slap across the legs wasn’t unheard of); for my generation our parents’ approval was what we craved and its withdrawal was punishment enough. So where did that all go? What happened to the consensus that grown-ups are in charge and children should do as they’re told?

My friends, battling with the issue of discipline, find it almost impossible to impose on their youngsters at any age; the naughty step is all very well, but what the hell do you do when they reach the age where they realise they can just stand up and walk away whenever they like?

No wonder we’re obsessed by supernanny and bossy parenting programmes; our offspring, encouraged by us to be free-thinking, autonomous individuals from the first nappy-change, have so much attitude by the age of 10 that they routinely patronise us and treat us like halfwits. By 15, we’re scared of them.

“My daughter went off the rails by the age of 14, throwing terrible temper tantrums, and screaming abuse at us,” says one mother I know. “We had no idea why she was so angry and we still don’t – she was drinking a bit, but there weren’t any drugs involved, as far as we could tell. It was so bad it got to the stage where we put a lock on our bedroom door, so she couldn’t storm in whenever she felt like it.

“She hit me and attacked her father. When he defended himself, she called the police and said he’d assaulted her. Thank God they could see that wasn’t the case, but it was horrific that she would do that. She moved out at 16 to live with friends in a flat, and is now 19. We’re starting to rebuild a relationship with her but I feel a real sense of bereavement about the time we lost.”

Nowadays I don’t know of a single parent of teenagers who hasn’t been sworn at on a fairly regular basis. Apparently, it’s now regarded as normal. There’s no longer any of the “my house my rules” be-home-by-10-or-else edicts we were brought up with. They have been jettisoned in favour of a peer group-imbued “everybody else does it” laissez-faire ethos, which may make things easier in the short term, but stores up a plethora of horrors in the long run.

The Myersons, remember, were “pretty relaxed” about their son smoking dope initially, their only proviso being that he did not become addicted to tobacco. So when it became an issue, how could they deal with it? He wasn’t used to being told what to do, so he was hardly going to suddenly throw down his spliff, crimson-faced with contrition.

Perhaps because we were ourselves brought up with strict – sometimes overly strict – codes of conduct, as adults we are in grave danger of veering much too far in the opposite direction.

The biggest mistake we can make as parents is to want to be our children’s friends. Yes, they may like us more, their classmates may think we’re cool, (Really? Gosh, isn’t that lovely!) but the truth is that they also see us as weak. And weakness in those who ought to be powerful will always invite contempt.

And so as you shake your head in disapproval and puzzlement as Julie Myerson hauls her dirty linen into your nearest branch of Waterstone’s, pause for a moment and take a long, hard look at your own offspring. Are they respectful and biddable at all times, are they shining beacons of model behaviour thanks to your conscientious, consistent parenting?

Be careful when it comes to casting the first stone. Not all of us seek to cash in by writing a book about rampant children and our terrible family tragedies, but there but for the grace of God, go we all.

Five golden rules for raising children
By Sue Palmer

1 Love. From the moment they’re born and until they’re fully grown, children need to know that their parents really care for them. In the words of developmental psychologist Urie Bronfenbrenner, “Someone’s got to be crazy about that kid. That’s number one. First, last and always.”

2 Discipline. Children need to learn the ropes of day-to-day family life, how to behave beyond the home, and how to abide by the necessary rules of institutions. Adults must set clear boundaries.

3 Play. Active, imaginative, social play is essential (not sedentary, screen-based entertainment). It is unstructured, preferably outdoors and doesn’t need adult control.

4 Communication. This starts with a 'dance of communication’ between parent and babe-in-arms, usually accompanied by babytalk. As they grow into the teenage years, children need loving adults to talk to them, and opportunities to talk (and listen) to friends during play.

5 Given these four essential foundations, almost every child should be able to take advantage of education, starting with literacy. But this doesn’t need to start too soon. It is generally agreed that, until the age of six or seven, it’s better to prepare the ground for learning through play and opportunities for spoken language.

  • 'Detoxing Childhood’ by Sue Palmer (Orion) is available from Telegraph Books for £7.99 plus £0.99p postage and packing. Call 0844 871 1515 or
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5 Failed McDonald's Menu Items

by Jane McGrath

mcdonald's original menu
Tim Boyle/Getty Images
Why mess with a perfect thing? Although McDonald's has had plenty of successes, it's had even more misses.
See more fast food pictures.

Back in the day, you couldn't go wrong with the original McDonald's menu. With two entree choices -- hamburger or cheeseburger -- there wasn't much room to experiment. Nowadays, there are lots of choices.

Many introductions to the McDonald's menu have been successful. Take the Big Mac: "Two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame-seed bun." Other chart-topping hits include the Egg McMuffin and Chicken McNuggets, which quickly won the hearts of customers and keep fans hooked.

But in 50 years of experiments, there were bound to be some mistakes. Some new items failed because customers just didn't like change. In other cases, a menu item didn't sell due to ineffective marketing or simply because it didn't appease many customers' taste buds. Many concoctions have come and gone from the McDonald's menu, proving that sticking a "Mc" prefix in a sandwich's name won't make it sell.

We'll explore five flops that went down in flames. Most of them came after the company's founder, Ray Kroc, died. However, the first flop we'll talk about was actually Kroc's brainchild.

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Media Images of Alcohol Can Drive You to Drink

WEDNESDAY, March 4 (HealthDay News) — Young men who watched the movie American Pie with accompanying commercials for alcohol were more apt to grab a beer or glass of wine from the refrigerator, compared to those who watched a movie without the drinking prompts.

This study shows for the first time the effect of on-screen depictions of alcohol and their influence on consumers’ behavior, said the researchers, who are from Canada and the Netherlands.

“It’s one of those things the majority of people have assumed to be the case, but it’s nice to have the empirical evidence,” said Jeffrey T. Parsons, chair of psychology at Hunter College in New York City. Parsons was not involved with the study, which was published online March 4 in the journal Alcohol and Alcoholism.

But, Parsons added, the study had limitations.

“It was done just with young men, and there are a lot of differences in the role of gender and alcohol,” he said. “It’s also a Dutch study that used American movies. Part of me wonders if it’s just bad American movies that make people drink.”

The study is unlikely to be the last word on the subject, Parsons added.

The new research isn’t the only new troubling data coming out on alcohol and alcohol abuse.

On Tuesday, a report in the March issue of the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine said that an estimated 11 percent to 20 percent of U.S. teens have T-shirts, headwear, jewelry, key chains and other paraphernalia emblazoned with brands of alcoholic beverages. These children seem to be more prone to end up being binge drinkers, the Dartmouth researchers noted.

For the new study, 40 pairs of unsuspecting men aged 18 to 29 were invited into a lab that doubled as a “home cinema,” complete with fridge (stocked with both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks), a leather couch, large-screen TV, nibbles and an ashtray.

The men, who were given the option of a free taxi home if they drank three or more bottles of beer or wine, were randomly assigned to watch American Pie with and without alcohol ads, or characters consuming alcohol, or 40 Days and 40 Nights, again with and without the alcohol content.

Those who watched the segments that included alcohol drank an average of three 200-milligram bottles of alcohol. Those watching the “neutral” segments drank half that amount.

The findings, which need to be confirmed in other groups of people and in larger studies, may argue for a sort of “rating” system regarding alcohol in movies, the authors stated.

Dr. Kathryn J. Kotrla, chairwoman of psychiatry and behavioral science at the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine, said the new study was “reminiscent of the imaging studies, for example, looking at cocaine addiction.”

“It would be fascinating to follow the study up with neuroimaging studies with alcoholics … to see if the same reward pathways are triggered in the brain,” she said. “Why that’s so important is that it bypasses the debate, is alcoholism a failure of will or a disease? It puts [the debate] smack dab in the neuroscience arena, which, in fact, is where it needs to be.”

More information

To learn more about alcohol abuse, visit the U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

SOURCES: Jeffrey T. Parsons, Ph.D., professor and chair of psychology, Hunter College, New York City; Kathryn J. Kotrla, M.D., chairwoman and associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral science, Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine, and associate dean, Health Science Center, Round Rock; March 4, 2009, Alcohol and Alcoholism, online

By Amanda Gardner
HealthDay Reporter

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Rare Harry Potter book fetches $19,000 at auction

(CNN) -- A first-edition Harry Potter book was sold for about $19,000, according to an auction house in Dallas, Texas.

Normal copies of the Harry Potter books go for under $20, unlike the autographed first edition that sold for $19,000.

Normal copies of the Harry Potter books go for under $20, unlike the autographed first edition that sold for $19,000.

The soft-cover book was one of 200 copies printed and is a rarity compared with later editions of the popular series that were printed in the millions, the Heritage Auction Galleries said.

The book, "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone," includes an autograph from author J.K. Rowling.

It's the first book in the Harry Potter series and was published in the United States under the title "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone."

The auction had estimated that the 223-page book would sell for as much as $12,000.

The winning bid of $19,120 bypassed expectations, but it was not the most expensive sale of Harry Potter-related items in an auction.

Last year, an 800-word prequel to the blockbuster Harry Potter novel series fetched nearly $50,000 for a writer's group and dyslexia charity.

That prequel was handwritten and signed by Rowling.

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But can you hear THIS?

We got a lot of positive feedback on our “Can You Hear Like a Teenager?” article, and it inspired us to take it just a little bit further.

Here is a list of tones that go from 8Hz all the way up to 22,000Hz. It’s fairly common for people who are over 25 years of age to not be able to hear above 15Hz, so this will help you find out where your high frequency hearing cuts off.

Musicians have a much higher risk of hearing loss that most people do, and many of us don’t really wear proper hearing protection. Even just listening to an ipod for an extended period of time can permanently damage your hearing. We also gradually lose our high-frequency hearing as we age.

Take our unscientific hearing test: listen to each of these tones and let us know at where your hearing cuts out:

If you’re around loud music a lot like I am, or if you are experiencing some hearing loss, I highly reccommend getting a pair of these. They don’t muffle the sound like conventional earplugs - they basically give you the same frequency response as without, but with a bit lower volume. If I wear them out to a club, they also help me carry on a conversation without yelling.

Etymotic also makes some cool earbuds that isolate your ear so you don’t have to turn up the volume as much on your mp3 player (ambient noise is one of the biggest reasons we turn up the volume). I love mine.

You might also find this interesting: What music do your favorite bands listen to?

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Hey, while you're here, why not check out our new forums?

Finnish millionaire gets 111,888-euro speeding ticket

speedingA Finnish millionaire Jari Bär, the former owner of the Iisalmi’s company Finnritilä was handed a fine of 111,888 euros (141,661 dollars) for doing 82 km/h (51 mph) in a 60 km/h (37 mph) zone on January in Siilijärvi, Finland.

According to Savon Sanomat if the speed had been 80 km/h the fine would have been only 115 Euros.

Looks like these extra 2 km were critical and cost him more than a brand new Porsche 911 GT3. In his case 20 km more would have been a standard fine, but these 2 extra kilometers made the difference.

Why such a huge speeding ticket? In Finland fines are issued according to ones salary per day. As Mr. Bär was 2 km over the standard fine range he had to pay his 12 days income. If his income in 2007 had been 50 euros a day, then the ticket would have been 600 euros.

It turns out that in 2007 he sold a majority stake in his company and in average made an impressive 9300 euros a day, which translates to a 111,888 euros speeding ticket. Of course Mr. Bär is not happy as his real income today is not that big.

In Finland tax records are public and there is no such thing as maximum fines. The more you make the more you pay!

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R35 + M35 = First Nissan GT-R Wagon!

By Ray Wert

What you're looking at is an 'R35' Nissan GT-R front end welded to the back two-thirds of an M35 Nissan Stagea. It's called the ‘StaGT-R' and it's on show at the Nagoya Auto Trend show.

GT-R Frankenwagon

Now, this isn't not the first time the head of a GT-R has been frank-chopped onto a Stagea -– it's a popular swap in Japan -– but it's the first we've seen for the all-new GT-R. This GT-R wagon's been put together by the Japanese tuning house Kids Heart.

Obviously no one over there's been reading the GT-R manual. [Northwest Nissans via The Motor Report]

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Explorer Columbus 'named Pedro Scotto'

Christopher Columbus
A Spanish historian claims the real name of renowned explorer Christopher Columbus was Pedro Scotto.

The great navigator who opened up the American continents to Europe was Pedro Scotto - the real name of the 15th century explorer known as Christopher Columbus, according to a Spanish historian.

Alfonso Ensenat de Villalonga disputes the usual opinions about the explorer's origins - that he was the son of a weaver in Genoa, Italy, or that he was from Catalonia or Galicia in Spain, or of Corsican or Portuguese origin.

He was from Genoa but he was "the son of shopkeepers not weavers and he was baptised Pedro not Christopher", Villalonga was quoted as saying by the ABC newspaper on Sunday.

And his family name was Scotto, not Italian but of Scottish origin.

"He had light-coloured eyes and freckles. He also had blond hair even though it quickly turned white. That's how his contemporaries described him. Nothing like the traditional images (of him), which are totally invented," the historian said, according to ABC.

Villalonga cites a chronicle of Catholic kings written by Lucio Marineo Siculo, who refers in his writings to "Pedro Columbus", not Christopher.

The historian also claims that the navigator once worked for a pirate called Vincenzo Columbus, and adopted that family name in order not to "expose" his relations.

Villalonga says his research involved combing the archives in the Genoa region along with those in the Spanish history academy and national library.

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