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The Web Site of Victor Niederhoffer and Laurel Kenner
Dedicated to the scientific method, free markets, ballyhoo deflation, value creation, and laughter. A forum for us to use our meager abilities to make the world of specinvestments a better place.
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The DailySpec Department of Child Rearing
The article that started it all, sent in by Mr. E
Colleges try to contend with qualms of hovering parents
By JUSTIN POPE
The Associated Press
HAMILTON, N.Y. — They're called “helicopter parents,” for their habit of hovering — hyper-involved — over their children's lives. Here at Colgate University, as elsewhere, they have become increasingly bold in recent years, telephoning administrators to complain about their children's housing assignments, roommates and grades.
Recently, one parent demanded to know what Colgate planned to do about the sub-par plumbing her daughter encountered on a study-abroad trip to China.“That's just part of how this generation has been raised,” said Mark Thompson, head of Colgate's counseling services. “You add a $40,000 price tag for a school like Colgate, and you have high expectations for what you get.” For years, officials here responded to such calls by biting their lips and making an effort to keep parents happy. But at freshman orientation here last week, parents heard a different message: Colgate is making educating students a higher priority than customer service. The liberal arts college of 2,750 students has concluded helicopter parenting has gotten out of hand, undermining the out-of-the-classroom lessons on problem-solving, seeking help and compromise that should be part of a college education. Those lessons can't be learned if the response to every difficulty is a call to mom and dad for help. “We noticed what everybody else noticed. We have a generation of parents that are heavily involved in their students' lives, and it causes all sorts of problems,” said Dean of the College Adam Weinberg. College, he said, should be “a time when you go from living in someone else's house to becoming a functioning, autonomous person.” Colgate says it has ample resources to help students. But when parents call, unless there's a safety risk, they're usually told to encourage their children to seek out those resources themselves. As for the China inquiry, Weinberg said, “we tried to explain in the 21st century, the ability to plop down in a foreign country and hit the ground running is a fundamental skill.” Heightened parental involvement is one of the biggest changes on college campuses in the last decade, experts say. One major reason is the tight bond between Baby Boomer parents and their children. “This is a group of parents who have been more involved in their children's development since in utero on than any generation in American history,” said Helen E. Johnson, author of “Don't Tell Me What To Do, Just Send Money,” a guide for college parents. “I think colleges have been far too responsive in inappropriate ways to this very savvy group of consumers.” Another factor is cell phones. The era of the 10-minute weekly check-in from the pay phone in the hall has given way to nearly constant contact. Rob Sobelman, a Colgate sophomore, says when students walk out of a test, many dial home immediately to report how it went. One friend checks in with her mother every night before going to sleep, he said. “Even 10 years ago, parents couldn't even get hold of their children,” said Colgate President Rebecca Chopp. “If you reached them once a week it was a miracle.” Now she says she's hearing from older alumni who are “worried their grandchildren won't learn accountability and responsibility.” Many schools have noticed the trend, but they've been reluctant to alienate parents. Some have tried to accommodate the change, opening parental liaison offices, for instance. But some schools, while glad to see parents care, are expressing concern over the downside. During freshman orientation this year at Northeastern University in Boston, administrators urged parents not to call their children but to let them call home when they want to talk. At Washington University in St. Louis, upperclassmen perform skits about healthy transitioning for parents. The University of Vermont hires students as “parent bouncers” to delicately keep parents from interfering in, for instance, meetings with advisers. At Colgate, parents used to receive a sheet listing administrators' phone numbers. This year, they got a statement about Colgate's philosophy of self-reliance — a message that was hammered home repeatedly in talks by administrators. Next year, the school may assign parents summer reading on the transition to college. The approach will continue throughout the year, part of a larger emphasis at Colgate on “teachable moments” outside the classroom. A memo sent to departments ranging from residential life to counseling to public safety reminds employees: “We will not solve problems for students because it robs students of an opportunity to learn.” Mike Herling, a 1979 graduate with sons in the sophomore and freshman classes, said he welcomes the approach. “It's the intercession on a regular basis they're trying to discourage, and I think it's important they do,” he said. “Kids are much more self-confident and develop better decision-making skills if they're given the opportunity to make decisions for themselves.” But Colgate acknowledges not all parents will be happy, and that there have already been unpleasant calls. “We get quoted the price tag frequently,” said Dean of Student Affairs Jim Terhune. “But what you're paying for is an education, not a room at the Sheraton, and sometimes that education is uncomfortable.” Says Thompson, the counseling director and the parent of a college student himself: “I don't want them to be happy today. I want them to be happy a decade from now.”
Symbolic Thinking, from Rod Fitzsimmons Frey
As a new father, I've found interest in studies of child development. In the August 2005 Scientific American, Judy DeLoache describes the development in children of symbolic thinking. The introductory experiment showed to children a small model of a full-sized room: the experimenter used the model to demonstrate to the child where a toy or treat was hidden in the room. Released into the real room, three-year-olds had no trouble finding the toy. Two-and-a-half year olds, on the other hand, failed utterly.
Apparently, examples abound, including children trying to stuff their feet into photographs of shoes, or biting into paintings of apples. By the time a child reaches four or five their symbolic thinking has developed sufficiently that such amusing mistakes disappear.
Or do they? An illustrative example concerned three-year-olds given a riding car to play with. At some point the riding car is secretly replaced with a small model car, a foot long. The child is then observed trying to stuff his foot into the diminutive toy. He was riding in it just a few minutes ago! The reaction of children to their failure to enter the car was either anger at the car, or avoidance: they walked away.
This is directly analogous to my, and I suspect others', reaction to Bacon's ever-changing cycles. What worked last month stops working: the rational reaction is to determine what has changed and what the current appropriate behaviour is. The more common reaction is to rage against the market, the broker, and the universe; or to walk away from the table in disgust. I suspect that we don't actually "complete" our development of symbolic thinking by four years old. We simply grow enough of it to avoid embarrassing and frustrating everyday experiences. More sophisticated examples of morphing models still have us stuffing our foot into the photographed Adidas. Every time the market world isn't behaving as it should, we should picture the child climbing into the Tonka toy and ask ourselves, "what's changed?"
The wind sits in the shoulder of your sail, A father's message to his son, sent in by Jim Sogi
Polonius farewell to Laertes Hamlet Act I Scene III
Yet here, Laertes! aboard, aboard, for shame!
The wind sits in the shoulder of your sail,
And you are stay'd for. There; my blessing with thee!
And these few precepts in thy memory
See thou character. Give thy thoughts no tongue,
Nor any unproportioned thought his act.
Be thou familiar, but by no means vulgar.
Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,
Grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel;
But do not dull thy palm with entertainment
Of each new-hatch'd, unfledged comrade. Beware
Of entrance to a quarrel, but being in,
Bear't that the opposed may beware of thee.
Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice;
Take each man's censure, but reserve thy judgment.
Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,
But not express'd in fancy; rich, not gaudy;
For the apparel oft proclaims the man,
And they in France of the best rank and station
Are of a most select and generous chief in that.
Neither a borrower nor a lender be;
For loan oft loses both itself and friend,
And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.
This above all: to thine ownself be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Farewell: my blessing season this in thee!
Steve Wisdom on 'Helicopter Parents'
Thought-provoking AP story, carried by various media yesterday, about 'helicopter parents' and colleges' attempts to handle them
Here in Westport, I'm at hyper-parenting ground-zero. Every day I see parents who infantilize their children (or even their adults, ie >18 year olds), trying to protect them from every risk, from every setback, every deprivation, every struggle, indeed from the very warp & woof of life -- often by throwing money at them
The result is 18 year olds with the coping ability of 8 year olds (Daddy, gimme the car keys, gimme the cel phone, gimme the iPod) and the poor b#stard college administrators are left eating the bitter fruit
A Father's Query, by Victor Niederhoffer
One of my daughters just got her first job. I wrote to her with some preliminary advice saying that she should always go beyond the dollar or the clock, that she should always try to give much more than she is paid for, always to volunteer to help someone do something important for the firm, always to be positive and reflective about how her work could be expanded into new products and markets, and above all to be loyal and proud. Also to know that men always cotton to a well turned ankle, that older business people have a benevolent attitude towards the younger and are always ready to help, and that she should seek out mentors. These are the sort of things that Graham would have said in the letters of a self made merchant to his son, but I felt that i was leaving much out. With 6 daughters I believe I should know more about this subject and wonder what the experience or advice of my worthy counterparts in this august party might say?
Vincent C. Fulco comments:
At the risk of introducing some skepticism and jadedness into your daughter's work experience, I found David D'Alessandro's Career Warfare to be an excellent guide to the different styles of bosses out there as well as one man's experience over a long career. Most recently, D'Allesandro was John Hancock's chairman & CEO prior to its sale to a Canadian concern. I found myself chuckling over the parallels between some of his bosses and my own early experiences. It particularly resonated since I spent five years in my first job trying to make a boss/employee relationship work. I should have taken the strong cues from all prior employees at the firm ultimately leaving but I'm stubborn and hoped to come up with the right solution given time. It taught me a very valuable lesson; that is, for some puzzles, there is no solution. Subsequent to my leaving, he's been through six other direct employees in 10 years. He remains one of the more troubled and tragic characters I've ever known.
Another classic assigned to junior i-bankers at UBS is People Styles at Work by Bolton & Bolton. This book speaks to the point that most fellow employees are stuck in their ways and it is your responsibility to understand what makes them tick and learn to temporarily "flex" your style to be more compatible in the name of greater productivity. An interesting and novel concept.
Steven Freeman adds
If you find yourself in a situation that is at best questionable, always behave as though everyone that you love and respect is watching.
James Lackey offers:
Jay Pasch adds
I let them fall, the way nature teaches. I let them experience healthy suffering, especially when coming from their own decision-making. nature is a great and efficient teacher, produces amazing beauty, strength and intelligence, and it is often from her that I take my cue when if comes to offspring...
David Higgs comments
"Pushing to the Front" by Orison Swett Marden, 1911 vol. 1 and 2 are teaming with good stuff. Some contents headings are: dare, the man with an idea, the will and the way, work and wait, stand for something, nature's little bill, the power of purity, the power of suggestion, the curse of worry, the romance of reality, rich without money, choosing a vocation, nerve-grip, pluck, raising of values ........... and much more with mentions of great people form the past!
George Zachar adds
The only thing I would add to your very comprehensive list is this:
Strive to have the intellectual core of one's paid labor congruent with one's private interests and passions, so that "work" resembles "play" as much as possible.
This both keeps the spirit high, and makes going "the extra mile" a joy and not a burden.
Kim Zussman adds
As one much better able to abide employer status than employee, and a 21-year employer of women:
I add a few points from the perspective of one who received similar advice from one's parents on signing up with the first job in life, but who after 13 years of receiving such useful advice discovered the following to be necessary for implementing it:
As a single man:
I have two repositories for spec list posts. One for elite styles and one for ordinary styles. Your posts go to the elite file. But remember, although you have dedicated yourself to progress, your choice of parents have more to do with who you are than what you put into yourself. Your parents provide the genetic grounding for yourself. Your parents provide the environment in which you are and have been nurtured. What is nice in your circum- stance is your culture honors those who honor their parents. Alas, in America that is not necessarily so.
That I propose a choice in parents may seem crazy. But there is a spiritual concept here. That is, we have lived before and will live again. In the netherworld we make choices about our next venture in this sphere of being. So I am suggesting we choose our parentage and our environment, prior to being here, this time and every time.
Overall, there is a destiny that cannot be denied. Lack has all the "Famous Quote" books where I could look up the pertinent idea about destiny. So I will leave destiny to others.
Pamela Van Giesen
I think that you summarized it nicely. Augmenting your comments a tad I would add:
Infuse your work with enthusiasm and passion.
Smile frequently and be friendly and warm toward everyone in the organization from the mail room people to the senior executives. You will have need for almost all of them to go the distance for you at some point, and the adage that you get more bees with honey should never be dismissed.
Women have many natural advantages in the work place and they should use them instead of trying to be like men. Their tendency to engage others, make connections, and forge relationships is keep to efficient operations in today's team-oriented/consensus-building business environment.
Advice, by Imogen Rose Smith
I knew it - she wants to be a journalist. Aughhhhhhh!!!!!! Laurel will know this better then me. But, some cautionary notes.
Journalists do not respect PR people. If they were previously journalists that have moved into PR poor and embittered journalists believe they have sold out. If they are working in PR on there way to become journalists poor and embittered journalists tell themselves people in PR are stupid.
Having said that this might be different in the world of fashion, I don't know. Certainly her house is representing some impressive labels.
Network, network and more networking. You do not have to be a good journalist (though I am sure she is) to get a good job. You just have to be good at schmoozing. And the very best journalist in the entire world can flounder in obscurity because they can't network to save their cotton socks.
Because she is a young woman. A good tactic is to write to journalists she respects, or at publications she respects, asking for "career advice." A nice polite email can go along way.
Move jobs frequently. I do not actually subscribe to this theory, but it is something a lot of journalists do. Basically the faster you move up the ladder the less time people have to rate your abilities. I do not approve but I've seen it in action and it works. I do, however, believe that when the job stops being challenging and/or interesting you should look to move on. There is rarely any reason to feel a sense of obligation to anywhere, most people are infinitely replicable. And you do not want to become trapped.
Be resourceful, don't wait for people to tell you what to do. Figure it out for yourself.
On the other hand, do not be afraid to admit what you don't know. Ask people for advice and listen. Flattery goes a long way too.
Read a lot.
Always work hard, arrive early and leave late. Do not take long lunch hours. But remember hard work will often be exploited just as much as it is appreciated. Know where to draw the line.
Good references are important and useful. (This goes back to the networking thing.)
Never tell your boss he/she is an idiot even if you think he/she is. In a more sophisticated version of the same idea - try not to give the impression to those to whom you report that you believe you are smarter then them. Even if you undoubtedly are.
Always be honest both in your professional relationships and in print (except for the above.) Never stretch the truth even if it will make the story better. But do not be afraid to use anonymous sources, remember however that every source has an agenda and know what that is.
Look to get freelance work and experience. But never work for free. Know your value in the market or others won't.
Keep a sense of humor and remain curious.
Do not become a journalist.
She probably knows this already, but here are some web sighs of various usefulness:
Hope this helps - I am mostly joking about the bitterness!
Big Al adds
Look for difficult, high-impact tasks that others avoid, and learn to do those tasks well.
Find an area where performance is quantified and public, such as sales, and succeed there.
Stay close to the customer. This is an over-used phrase when applied to organizations, but it is often overlooked as career advice to individuals. Get to know your customers personally.
Learn the technology of the business. Become that rare person who can speak to the customer out in the real world, and the computer geek in the back office, and translate between the two. This enormously valuable skill can be applied to many different areas.
Become an expert in an important knowledge area. It is said that in ten years of diligent effort, one can become an expert in anything.
Putting these things together, one can develop a rewarding independence based on one's value and expertise.
I would add stay away from hoodoos and try to attach yourself to benevolent people. Make sure that you don't get involved with a man who's had a string of unhappiness about him, or in general one who's argumentative. your ideas are excellent and very helpful and I have sent them directly to Rand. Vic
Visa at 14, by Jeff Sasmor
Decided to start off my daughter's first yr in HS with her own credit card. Now for those who've just gasped, it's something called Visa Buxx, where you stick some predetermined amount in each month (automatically transferred from my Visa card). So it's an allowance mechanism. Works for me, I never remember to give it to her, and what's worse she never remembers to ask.
What I'm experimenting with here is rather than my just buying more-or-less whatever she wants I am hoping she will (eventually) learn to budget. She's been told that this covers ALL discretionary stuff, except for clothes for now) and if she is out with us, wants something and is without the credit card, she's S-O-L.
The Wiz adds
Very simple "budgeting" mechanism for a 14 year old -
14 : I wanna iPod, all the other kids have one!!!
Dad: How much do they cost?
14 : Only $400!!!
Dad: I believe lawn mowing gets $25/acre around here. There are about 25 weeks in the mowing season. That's $625 for one lawn for one summer. You'll have $225 left over to buy accessories!
Jim Sogi adds
They just need to know that you love them unconditionally.
They need a lot.
Give them love, it's boundless.
I would emphatically second what your father says about seeking out
mentors, and staying away from hoodoos. You should always seek out the best
instruction. This has been the biggest factor in my successes over time.
I would also second the cliché about follow your heart, work at something you
love to do. This is true of everyone I have come into contact with who has been a master at
what they do. They don't work hard and practice in order to improve -- they just
love to work at it and practice, which is why they improve. Your father is this
way with his racquet sports and trading.
It's a bit corny, but the power of the vision really is true. You have to have
extraordinary goals because it's our extraordinary intentions and our visions
that act as our fuel for our work. Have a vision, whatever i is. Visualize
it. Update it as you go along.
Over time I have come to appreciate the wisdom in the maxim 'You are what
you read." Be careful of associations, both with people and media. I find we tend to
take in more by osmosis than we often realize.
Know your standards of integrity. Write 'em down. In military parlance, know
which hill in any relationship that you will never surrender and are willing to
die on. Know where your integrity lines are and don't equivocate about them, in
any relationship, work or personal.
On the flip side, always be magnanimous in victory.
You would think that after thousands of hours sitting and listening to
lectures and teachers, one would have the skill of artful listening.
Unfortunately that doesn't seem to be the case with most people. Instead the
education system teaches students how to prognosticate more than listen.
Listening is a fine art. Good listening is about understanding people's
perspectives as much, if not more than the data they are presenting. Withhold
judgment; listen first, talk later. in a meeting, One good question is worth ten
good statements. There is much to be learned by listening to two or more accounts
of the same event.
I must say that I am disappointed? I can't believe all of the "fixed rules" suggestions from the List in regards to child rearin'? Where's the Ever Changin' Cycles, Deception, BBQ, Clews, Least Effort, and Trees and Life? Ever hear the Rabbi and the wine vat story? These principles run deep, only meeting Vic and Suz a handful of times, I can tell you that these principles were apart of the new career woman's childhood lessons! Epstean's Law, Round Number Theory, Lobogala are all things that are effectively applied in the workforce. Principles run deep. You can profit through trade and you can profit through life using them! We ain't wastin' time here folks!
I apologize, I'll now step down off the soap box.
Russell Sears adds
These responses were too good to remain silent. Bravo, to all.
Might I add a few of humble words.
To your advice to attach to "Benevolent". I would add, "But, shun the fools, posing as benevolent." There will be scores of them at first, because they rely on your innocence not to spot them. You can spot them since they are first in line to take credit for any wisdom, whereas the truly wise are confident and too busy to bother, and let credit find them . In short fools often pose as benevolent wise men to take your innocence. Perhaps the Collaborator , or Mr. E could make a country western ballad out of my early job mistakes: "I was too innocent to know that he was a fool"
Also I would add be benevolent to those who are below you or at your level. The departmental secretary mourned my leaving because I was the only one of the investment guy that who considered her birthday, holidays-etc. as a chance to invest in a gift. The truly benevolent will see you as a kindred spirit.
A couple of thoughts presaging a book review...
I just started reading "Influence: Science and Practice," by Robert Cialdini. It studies (in an anecdotal sense - sparse on counting) why people behave in the manner that we do, particularly when it comes to enlisting others to help us achieve our goals. Although competent salespeople may already possess such skills innately, the author examines how various interplay between colleagues and strangers can stimulate the human "desire to please" reflex.
Several of the chapters made me think of communication methodologies that I
wish I had known when I started out on Wall Street.
-Giving someone an opportunity (and motivation) to reciprocate in your favor...
-Adjusting your attitude and demeanor to give the perception to customers that they did the right thing in asking you for advice...
-Simple language cues, such as being sure to ask questions of others that require a subjective response (as opposed to a binary yes or no.)
Make sure you never develop a touch of royal spending to impress your client or bosses and make them feel like royalty. Always remember there isn't an ounce of business in any castle. Knowing where you come from, I am sure your admirable characteristics and honesty will be your essential tools to impress your clients.
The worst use of money is to impress your clients or your bosses. Your money should be either invested or spent on your happiness.
No matter how many millions you might acquire, squandering it is foolish. I personally would not do business with anyone who has royalty spending habits as I won't get over the notion that your expenses are from the business I would be giving you.
The more successful you become, the more envy you will get from those around you. Do not get involved in gossips. They are a waste of time and can hurt you.
Having money can be treacherous. You will have a lot of false friends and you will get a lot of meaningless compliments. I am sure your father can tell you more about that. Stay away from these compliments, they are meaningless and can give you the false sense of being " a hot shot". Look for those honest and hard working people. Those honest people usually draw back, work hard and avoid spotlights.
Don't comply with anyone's request for a loan, but you can offer your help with a loan to those genuine worthy people you think need help. These people usually pay you back.
Your pride should stem from adding profitability to your company, not from your connections or how much you have. How much you make is very personal. Make sure you keep it that way no matter what. Have you heard of Mr. X next door who won the lottery last year but now he is broke again. Let me tell you, Mr. X was foolish with his money. Make sure you're not. Wise people can start companies from scratch but foolish people won't keep the GDP of the United States for long. Making money is a slow process, but losing it is never as slow. Again, your father is probably an expert on the subject.
Consistency, consistency, consistency. As Bacon would say, avoid the switches. Once you find a niche, an innovative or profitable idea, keep it as close as possible to your chest. Profitable ideas are hard to come by. As your father says, man cannot live by bread alone, but it helps if others don't bake it using your recipe.
If you find any of this useful, don't thank me. Thank your father. That's where I learned it all.
A couple of good rules:
Never interrupt someone who is writing you a check.
Never interrupt someone making you an offer.
A few hard ball tips when the going gets tough.:
Never give a sucker an even break..(Barnum said that).
No more Mr. Nice Guy. (Skeletor said that).
Bill Egan adds
"Always volunteer to prepare the minutes of the meeting"
As a wise corporate office-politician once explained to me: No one wants the onerous, thankless task of recording and preparing minutes. But do it! No one pays attention at long boring meetings, so the minute-taker can "rewrite history" to his taste in the written minutes.
Eg, "volunteer" disliked colleagues for tasks and projects ("We then discussed facilities management, and Bob said he'd be glad to scrub the toilets every morning") or pick fights among them ("We previewed the 360-degree review process, and Bob said his boss is a horse's ass")
Big Al adds
Lots of interesting research on what forms adolescent attitudes and "character", especially the different influences of adults and peer groups:
an interesting discussion here, the UVA Research Program and the Society for Research on Adolescence (Ann Arbor, MI).
Steve Wisdom comments
Wise words indeed from Dr Zussman, to which I'd add: the original query was about a child, and children have an amazing radar for hypocrisy. They learn (or don't learn) the values Dr Zussman enumerates (and others: courage, honor, loyalty, empathy, courtesy, respect, integrity, patience, fairness, dependability et al) not through parental advice (if only it were so easy!) but through observing parents' actions. A parent is a 'living textbook' to which a new page is added every day
And as Dear Abby says, the best advice is that which is requested. I've found unrequested advice to my children has a zero or negative 'coefficient' (but maybe I'm a subpar parent). Note that adults value (as in, 'pay for') advice about specifics: from the attorney, doctor, or tax-accountant. But when did you last consult a $500/hr philosopher? Children are the same, their requests are concrete, advice on how to tell minnows from tadpoles, or how to pronounce a multisyllabical word in a reader
After hanging out with this crowd in particular and the reading list, I found myself watching Sesame Street. (A yearly ritual to keep in touch - I regress to an earlier state of mind).
Sesame Street makes more demands of a child's time and attention than it has in the past. In fact, it expects far more of children than regular programming does of adults.
One of the phrases that Sesame Street has espoused for years is "co-operation". It is not collectivization and it is not competition. A curious avoidance and transcendence of the (contested) ills of both scenarios.
It is a great reminder as the doomsayers, crowd-mongers and anti-efforters in the schoolyard never grow up "You are a loser. You cannot play with us. We need So-And-So on our team to win."