Tough Decision

Supervise your children

With the modern technology of GPS and mobile phones, there are many products on the market that will help you supervise (spy) on your children. If they’re hanging around with a rough crowd, your monitoring of their every move may be helpful.


The consequences of children running around unsupervised could be horrific! However, that also means that our brain has a much stronger urge to make a quick decision. Alarm bells can ring in our head, “MORE CONTROL IS REQUIRED!” That voice in our head can scream so loud that we don’t even look at the other side. The situation can be very serious. However that’s all the more reason to evaluate both sides. To explain the other side, I’ll first tell a seemingly unrelated story.

When I was young, I had to walk through a walnut tree orchard in order to get home from school. As I walked, I suddenly saw some movement. I frightened a jack-rabbit and he ran a short distance to get away from me. I walked towards the rabbit to get a closer look. However, that didn’t work out so well. Unfortunately the jack-rabbit ran away from me, onto the road and was hit by a car!

I’ll retell the story and modify it a bit. Please bear with me as I wander away from reality. Stories don’t need to be realistic. On the television show, ‘Nightrider’, David Hasselhoff got to save the Lassie21-001world (many times) by cruising around in a talking car. Lassie also saved someone’s life by performing the Heimlich maneuver!

As I was walking through a farmer’s orchard, I spotted a jackrabbit. I wanted to see if it was hurt. I know that farm machinery is very dangerous and I was concerned for its safety. It could get run over by a harvester or it could be sprayed with pesticide! The rabbit ran a short distance from me. It’s possible that it may have been limping, however, it was too far away for me to tell. I was concerned and wanted to get a closer look. The rabbit was defiant and ran onto the sidewalk! Now I was really concerned because anything could happen! He could get trampled on or a bully may throw rocks at him! I knew that it was a very dangerous place for a jack-rabbit to be at and I did everything that I could to try to coax him back to safety. However, the rabbit was rebellious. If only he listened to me in the first place. He wouldn’t be in this dangerous situation! I ran after the rabbit to try to rescue him but wasn’t fast enough. The stubborn rabbit ran onto the road and was struck by a car!

How much control is needed to keep a child out of danger and at what point does it encourage rebellion? Will more control discourage rebellion or make them more determined at running from us? Sometimes the actual facts are hard to obtain and the dramatized ones make it hard to keep things in perspective. Let’s say that your child is running around with a bad crowd. More control may be appropriate or it may chase your child into a worse crowd. There is no easy answer. Unfortunately, the stress of the situation can make the brain shift into simple thinking mode.
Your child running around with a rebellious crowd is a serious problem. Careful consideration must be made. It’s important to look at both sides and weigh up the pros and cons. Unfortunately, the urgency can make us want to do the opposite! The more serious the situation, the more we want to look at ONE SIDE ONLY! It takes strength to override this urge. Some people don’t have enough strength to be able to look at both sides! (Their ‘stress trigger’ has been damaged) The worst possible scenario pops into our mind! We remember the crime drama of a 12-year-old girl being raped, tortured, and killed! This image is burned into our memory so vividly that it’s hard to see anything else!

Child sexual abuse or kidnapping is a ratings goldmine and is the number one favorite of the media. Once it happens, it not only makes international news but the same incident gets reported for years! (The drama junkies demand the story to run so often)

“Today is the five year anniversary of the abduction of….” or “This is a computer simulation of what little __________ (fill in) may look like today after this two-year-old child was kidnapped eight years ago.” The statistics of custody battles (Very common) gets lumped into and added to the same statistics of kidnapping by strangers. (Very rare) The media capitalizes on this vagueness by reporting a story, “You will be shocked by how easy it was for our reporter to lure a child into his van.  THIS COULD HAVE BEEN YOUR CHILD!” They then immediately quote statistics about missing children. This number is so high that it’s frightening! However, they fail to mention that most are custody battles or runaways! When they quote the number of murders, they won’t tell you that the three-way love triangle killings and gang war statistics are also included in this terribly high number!

We all have times when we have to say ‘NO’.  However, you need be careful of doing this too often. Think about ‘NOs’ as money. You need to budget. You don’t have an unlimited supply of money and you don’t have an unlimited supply of ‘NO’ that your child will listen to. If you ‘spend’ your NO too often, you resemble a duck. Instead of making a quack sound, you make a ‘NO’ sound. Your child stops paying attention to them.  Make certain that you don’t ‘overspend’. You can really kick yourself when a situation comes up that really needs a ‘NO’ but you don’t have any left.

If you overspent, you can be forgiven. The media thrives on doom and gloom. They distort the facts so much that it’s difficult to know what’s real. One of the byproducts of ratings grab through the distortion of facts is brain priming. Brain Priming is an implicit memory effect in which exposure to one stimulus influences a response to another stimulus. When you don’t have all the information, you must fill in the blanks.

brain-priming-url For example, you’re given the letters SO_P and have to try to work out what the missing letter is. If you’re in the kitchen, you’ll think of ‘soup’. However, if you’re in the laundry, you’ll think of ‘soap’. If you spend most of your time in the kitchen, you will guess more often that the correct answer is SOUP


In every situation, we have to fill in blanks. We don’t know everything. we have to fill in the unknown. If you spend most of your time watching the news and browsing the internet on all the worst things that can go wrong, then it influences your decisions.

Fear doesn’t prevent death. It prevents life.

Every parent wonders about what age to allow your toddler more space to explore and how much exploring they are allowed. Some people can’t let go and are so overprotective, that their children become dependent on them even when they’re adults. Their confidence to be self-reliant becomes underdeveloped. Their dependency or their revolt makes the parent’s life a living hell!

Fear doesn’t need FACTS. It feeds on itself.
Lenore Skenazy

Fear can invent ‘facts’ that will rationalize the fear. Once it has these new ‘facts’, they can overrule anything else.
leafThe more desperate the situation, the more desperate we are for answers. Note the picture of the leaves. The larger one is easier to grab. This can distort our view by making us think, “The bigger one must be the correct answer.” (child rape or abduction is most likely to happen if I allow her to….)

Daniel Kahneman is famous for his Prospect Theory. This theory describes how people under stress can be very inaccurate in determining risk and probability.

A reliable way to make people believe in falsehoods is frequent repetition because familiarity is not easily distinguished from truth.

This is the essence of intuitive heuristics: when faced with a difficult decision, we often answer an easier one instead, usually without noticing the substitution

We can be blind to the obvious, and we are also blind to our blindness

Jumping to conclusions on the basis of limited evidence is so important to an understanding of intuitive thinking, …..I will use a cumbersome abbreviation for it:  WYSIATI, which stands for what you see is all there is. You cannot help dealing with the limited information you have as if it were all there is to know. You build the best possible story from the information available to you, and if it is a good story, you believe it.

Daniel Kahneman,  Author, well-regarded psychologist, and Nobel prize winner.



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