Mike the Psych's Blog

What if psychologists ruled the world? In real life?


Are you teaching your kids to be quitters?

Biz Psycho

Not a good thing! Research clearly shows the importance of perseverance in school and in life.

So next time you are struggling with a task in front of your children don’t make it look too easy. By trying and repeatedly failing at a task you are helping children understand the value and importance of persistence.

Many cultures emphasise the value of effort and perseverance. This emphasis is substantiated by scientific research: individual differences in conscientiousness, self-control and ‘grit’ correlate with academic outcomes independent of IQ” wrote scientists at  the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

They wondered if persistence and quitting could be learnt. “Does seeing an adult exert effort to succeed encourage infants to persist longer at their own challenging tasks?”

In an experiment they ran at MIT, reported in the journal Science, 250 15-month old children watched adults perform a task getting a keychain attached to a carabiner out…

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Another supermarket helping people on autism spectrum

I’ve already posted about what my local Tesco store is doing to help people with this disorder and I noticed that the Rawtenstall branch of ASDA, in association with the National Autistic Society is doing its bit as well.

The Meet Jenny  activity was inspired by the way her 4-year old boy was helped by using symbols and pictures. So her little helper activity is a velcro-backed visual shopping list showing a range of items. It helps people with autism to avoid being overloaded with information.


Noisy kids getting short shrift in pubs and cafés – and not before time!

Who doesn’t enjoy a meal out with the kids? Well pubs and cafes it seems.

The editor of the The Good Pub Guide says most landlords welcomed families “with their fingers crossed behind their backs”. The disruption caused by children running amok or babies screaming uncontrollably now accounts for more public dissatisfaction than anything else.

And when staff ask the children to be quiet they get abused by over-protective parents who should be sorting it out themselves.

Pubs obviously need the business and can make more money from children’s portions but it’s a fine line. One pub, The Waterfront in Burton-on-Thames, which actually banned under-5s because parents refused to move high chairs and prams blocking exits had a Facebook page set up asking people to boycott the pub. Fortunately trade hasn’t suffered.

And it’s not just pubs. Coffee shops have the same problem with yummy mummies and their off-road sized prams. The Organic Kitchen in Epping Forest decided enough was enough saying riotous children were spoiling the café’s atmosphere. The proprietor, who bought baby-changing facilities and high chairs when she first opened, said there were far too many instances of mums going in with new-born babies and just allowing them to cry. So now there’s a “babies banned” sign saying “No children under 5″.

And it wasn’t just the noise. Prams “the size of Essex” blocked passageways and made it difficult for staff when carrying hot food. Well-behaved children are still welcome but parents aren’t the target customers anyway as the café has a Los Angeles ambience serving avocado on rye bread!

Of course not everyone is happy, one mum saying it was discrimination against parents (against poor parenting maybe). Another called Annabel thought they were “shooting themselves in the foot as there were three independent schools and two state schools in the street“.

And parenting site Netmums defended families saying we are family-unfriendly in the UK compared with the rest of Europe and so our children behave accordingly. What utter bilge. If they had some manners they’d know how to behave but don’t blame the parents of course, it’s everyone else’s fault for not understanding.

But it’s not just the Brits who are getting fed-up with kids in eating and drinking places. The Dutch have a No Kids Allowed group which invites people to compile a list of hotels, restaurants and cafés free from “screaming, stomping, screeching, snotty children and their permissive parents“.

Within a month of being set up the group has received a torrent of TV and press coverage and a national newspaper poll showed that 70% of its readers supported the idea of banning children from some restaurants.

One of the groups organisers Annabel Nannings (obviously not Epping Forest Annabel) is herself a mother of a two-year old said her visits to restaurants in her native Amsterdam were often spoilt by children running around annoying staff and diners. “People do nothing about it or assume you like their kids” she said. “It’s not normal, desirable behaviour and shouldn’t be accepted“.

A parenting adviser from the Netherlands Youth Institute said it was too easy to criticise poor parenting and that she was more interested in positive labelling for places parents can go where their kids feel at ease.

I first blogged about this 5 years ago when a coffee shop in Berlin banned prams.  This was about the time my colleague and I had sadly forsaken our favourite bistro, where we used to meet for a glass of wine and coffee to go over the week’s business, when they introduce kid’s menus. Suddenly the place was invaded by oversized prams, noisy kids and mums on smart phones oblivious to the havoc they were causing.

I had occasion to meet some friends there recently but warned them that there might be a problem with kids and prams. We got there at 1100 and it seemed OK but before long the yummy mums arrived in convoy complete with their “essex prams”. Too late to leave as by then we’d ordered! Fortunately they went upstairs. Maybe they’d got the message?

The more people and proprietors make a fuss the more parents might think twice about inflicting out-of-control kids on the rest of us.

Update 31 August

Now a coffee shop owner in Devon has banned under 12s from his establishment.The Chart Room, in Brixham, Devon is an ocean-liner themed coffee lounge which also houses antiques and collectables.

Bob Higginson said it was designed for people to experience the “opulence and splendour of early steamship travel without distraction”.

Can’t blame him


Rich areas have fewer divorces or single parents

Almost 90% of parents from the top two socio-economic groups are married in places such as Harrow or Wokingham according to a new marriage map produced by the Marriage Foundation.

They say “if our neighbours are married we are more likely to be married ourselves. In richer areas everyone across all social classes is more likely to be married, regardless of how well off they are“.

Across England and Wales the average marriage rate for people in socio-economic groups A & B is 79%.

Twenty council have higher proportions of married couples in these socio-economic groups.

  • Harrow – 88%
  • Wokingham – 87%
  • Surrey & West Berkshire – 86%
  • Buckinghamshire – 85%
  • Barnet – 85%

At the opposite end of the socio-economic scale the marriage rate in Liverpool and Knowsley among socio-economic groups D & E (manual and non-workers) is only 25%.

No more than 30% of parents with dependent children in the bottom 20 council areas were married. The average rate for marriage in these groups is 37%.

  • Liverpool  & Knowsley – 25%
  • Salford, Blackpool, Wirral & Lambeth – 27

Experts believe that children from unmarried families have to contend with yet another factor which influences their life chances, inequality and social mobility.

A child born in 2017 has only a 50% chance of living with both parents by the time they reach fifteen. Of those parents who do stay together until their children reach fifteen, 93% are married.

And while there may not be a causal effect between being married and being rich if you don’t want your children to grow up poor you need to find a partner willing to work full-time according to Frank Field, a politician with a long interest in social inequality and fairness. Perhaps wealthier couples have more to lose if they split up so stay together longer regardless off how poor their relationship is. If you don’t have a lot to start with then you don’t have a lot to lose and you might be better off single and on benefits.

As my earlier post said, staying married might depend on how much you agree about money matters


Lazy, selfish motorist taking up child space

Sainsbury’s car park on a Sunday lunchtime. Not packed out with plenty of spaces but sports car driver and passenger happy to take up one of the limited child spaces. My partner challenged them but female passenger arrogantly dismissed it with “if it makes you feel better” as she continued to text on her smartphone . Just hope they’ve not got kids or grandchildren to worry about on car parks.


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Want a lasting relationship? It’s all about money

As you know from experience (or one of my recent posts) it’s not about sharing housework or childcare or even sex (although men might disagree).

The secret to a lasting relationship is to have a similar attitude to money.

It doesn’t matter whether you are spenders or savers as long as you both agree.

In a survey of 5,000 adults by three charities (carried out by YouGov for Relate, Relationships Scotland and Marriage Care) family finances were the biggest cause of tension in relationships.

It wasn’t the actual financial pressure that led to problems but the issues of trust, candour and values.

Other issues such as bringing up children, alcohol consumption, even extra-marital affairs, were less critical.

  • 20% of people in the survey  cited lack of compatibility
  • 19% said different sex drives cause problems
  • 17% blamed poor work-life balance
  • 16% said they had different interests
  • 15% said division of household labour caused problems
  • 12% said alcohol consumption caused problems
  • 12% thought jealousy was a problem
  • 10% blamed the in-laws or extended family
  • 9% blamed the fallout of discovering extra-marital affairs
  • 8% said bringing up children caused problems
  • 6% blamed spending too much time on-line
  • 5% blamed smoking
  • 4% thought tensions over stepchildren caused problems
  • 3% blamed political differences

A counsellor with Relate said “The key is to be completely open and honest with each other about your values, feelings and spending habits. Make sure you’re both clear on how you plan to share finances, pay bills, and manage your spending”.