We all know that it is a myth that vaccines cause autism, George Washington had wooden teeth, and the Chicago Cubs will win a world series. Here are more myths from my world of psychology.
- Helping your children feel good about themselves is important. There is no relationship between a child’s self-concept and their subsequent behavior. The world is filled with people who feel good about themselves, but behave in horrible ways. Focus instead on helping your children behave properly and treat others with courtesy and respect.
- All you need is love. This may be a wonderful song by the Beatles, but kids need more than love. In addition to attention and affection, youngsters flourish with clear rules and consistent consequences. They mostly need to be around caring adults whose actions are consistent with their words. Our kids will continue to imitate what we do rather than listen to what we say.
- You shouldn’t argue in front of the kids. It’s common for parents to occasionally get upset. Disagree with your spouse or others in front of your children so they can observe the positive ways you resolve conflicts. If you lose your temper and get really upset, let your kids see how you recover from your mistakes.
- Opposites attract. What is true in the world of magnetism doesn’t occur in human relationships. We tend to be friends with people of similar values and interests. The same holds true for romantic relationships. Work at helping your kids understand and respect diverse perspectives.
- Kids are more sexually active today than ever before. Twenty years ago, about 54 percent of kids had sexual intercourse while in high school. Little has changed over the years, with a rate of sexual intercourse decreasing to 47% of our teens in 2011. Kids may be more open about their sexuality, but their behavior has not changed from previous generations.
- Sexual abuse is increasing at an epidemic rate. The rates of child sexual abuse remain extraordinarily high, with estimates of 4-5 percent of boys and 10-18 percent of girls being abused during their childhood with devastating consequences. However, the good news is that the prevalence of child sexual abuse has actually declined substantially (perhaps by 40 percent) since the 1990s.
- Adolescence is a time of turmoil and high stress. Our children’s basic personalities change little after around age 12. While there is some normal adolescent angst over their separation from parents during the teen years, most adolescents get along fine with their families. Things may feel more intense to parents who are accustomed to dealing with a compliant child, but most teens (and parents) typically enjoy these very special years.