Monthly Archives: December 2008

Business Ethics

Recently, I read a huge, full-page ad from the “Business Ethics Leadership Alliance” ( which said:

“Join us in supporting business ethics.  In these times of trouble, the demand is greater than ever to invest in, do business with, or work for a company you can trust.  Membership is open.  Does your company belong?

At its essence, BELA proactively empowers businesses to be “de facto” leaders in self-regulating against corporate fraud, corruption and greed.  The four core values for BELA members are: 

Legal Compliance – following both the letter and the spirit of the law to counter fraud, corruption, bribery and deceit.

Transparency - setting the cultural tone from the top by encouraging dialogue on ethical issues and disclosing information in a full, accurate and timely manner.

Conflict Identification – actively identifying and addressing potential conflicts of interest and appearances of impropriety.

Accountability – emphasizing quality, customer protection, environmental sustainability and integrity in the supply chain.”

Sounds great.  Some of the members:  General Electric, The Hartford, United Airlines, Dell, and Wal-Mart.

Frankly, you never know the value of this outside of the usual public relations goodwill until one of the companies turns on itself or is “outted” by BELA.  Until we see one of the companies brought to task and consequences meted out (public embarrassment would do), we cannot know that the members are signing up for anything more than looking good and impressing those anxious to believe.

Beware of Germy Gyms

Whenever I get on a plane or use someone else’s computer keyboard and mouse, I whip out the disinfectant wipes.  Have you ever read the reports on the germy nature of just about every surface in existence?  Wonder where you got that cold, flu, or other illness?

While doctors will say that the benefits of exercise far outweigh the small chance of acquiring a staph or other infection at the gym (so don’t use this report as an excuse for hugging that couch!), you ought to take some common sense steps to protect yourself.  And since just about everyone makes a New Year’s resolution to “get fit” once the holidays are over, here are some tips for you to keep in mind when you’re ready to reacquaint yourself with your local gym:

1.Before you use equipment (including exercise balls, spinning bikes, and weight machines), wipe off the surfaces with a disinfectant wipe that has at least 60% alcohol.  Just wiping with a wet towel is not enough!

2.Don’t use anyone else’s towel or yoga mat – they’re fast lanes to bacterial, fungal and viral infections.

3.Shower immediately after working out at a gym.  Wear flip-flops in communal showers, and bring your own soap, unless the gym has liquid soap dispensers.

4.Don’t go into the sauna or whirlpool if you have a cut, scrape or bad bruise.  Chlorine generally kills a lot of bad bugs, but others can survive…and don’t drink the water in those tubs!

5.If a scratch, bruise or cut gets red, hot, or tender, see a physician!  Don’t just let the infection fester until it’s progressed to something serious.

6.Get your own bicycle and ride in the neighborhood.  Buy some free weights, get a trainer, or buy a variety of workout videos.  Working out in your own home avoids a lot of “bugs” – except those you get from your school-age children!

Celebrity Teen Motherhood Hurts Kids

With all the hoopla surrounding celebrity minors who get pregnant – out of wedlock – everyone seems to forget or ignore the price that their children pay.  Obviously, a Jamie-Lynn Spears or a Bristol Palin has a source of financial and family support, but that situation is the exception and not the rule.  Glorifying teen motherhood and supporting it (think of John McCain with Bristol Palin’s “baby daddy” in a photo-op, for goodness sakes) does a gross disservice to the realities of the situations.

Babies need adult parents – a Mom and Dad, who are (preferably) married.  Or are babies just accessories to be called “cute,” and then passed on to the hired help?

A recent study by the Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy pegs the annual cost to taxpayers at almost $10 billion per year.  Spread that wealth!  Less than 40% of teen mothers earn a high school diploma, and their children are far, far more likely to go into foster care and eventually end up in prison than children born to even slightly older mothers, writes University of Delaware economist Saul Hoffman in Kids Having Kids:  Economic Costs and Social Consequences of Teen Pregnancy.

Linda Lausell Bryant, the Executive Director of Inwood House, a New York non-profit that assists teen mothers is frustrated by the racial issues involved.  The vast majority of girls are black or Hispanic.  “It’s a double standard.  If you’re a poor kid of color, it’s a bad thing.  If you’re affluent and white, it’s not so bad.”
She explained to the Associated Press that many of the girls served by Inwood House had already dropped out of high school before they got pregnant, and saw motherhood as a chance to add meaning to their lives, which may have been punctuated with abuse, abandonment and/or chaotic homes.  “It is a dream,” she says, “of raising a child the way they wish they’d been raised – being the kind of mother they never had. That’s the fantasy – it’s very powerful.”

Our celebration of teen pregnancies leads young girls in the wrong direction:  increasing poverty, despair, child abuse, abandonment, and even infanticide. Why am I one of the only voices in the media stating that what Bristol and Jamie-Lynn did was wrong?

Solving Lipstick on the Mirror

A listener sent this in and there’s a punch-line:

According to a news report, a certain school in Garden City, MI was recently faced with a unique problem. A number of 12-year-old girls were beginning to use lipstick and would put it on in the washroom. That was fine, but after they put on their lipstick, they would press their lips to the mirror, leaving dozens of little lip prints. Every night, the maintenance man would remove them and the next day the girls would put them back.    
Finally, the principal decided that something had to be done. He called all the girls to the washroom and met them there with the maintenance man. He explained that all these lip prints were causing a major problem for the custodian who had to clean the mirrors every night. To demonstrate how difficult it had been to clean the mirrors, he asked the maintenance man to show the girls how much effort was required.           
The maintenance man took out a long-handled squeegee, dipped it in the toilet, and cleaned the mirror with it.  Since then, there have been no lip prints on the mirror.                                                               
THE MORAL OF THIS STORY:                                                 
There are teachers, and then there are Educators.

Kids and Questions About the Tough Stuff

I’m a licensed psychotherapist (MFT), and I’d like to offer the following to help you parents deal with your children when so much that is scary to them is happening locally and internationally.

It is impossible for your children to not notice things like fires burning homes down, or hearing about gang violence, murders of children, store robberies and the like.  It is natural for parents to want to protect their children from ugly realities and have them immersed in their innocence as long as possible; it’s just a bad idea not to answer their questions, even when the subject matter brings a sense of horror to your own heart.

I’ve gotten a number of emails inquiring about how to answer questions like:  “Why would God let all those homes burn down?”  As children develop their notions of the Divine from whatever house of worship you attend, they tend, with their yet immature perspectives, to equate God with one of the characters in a Disney feature film with a magic wand, carpet or genii.

“Honey, God didn’t burn down anybody’s home; God created all the wonderful trees and flowers, and left it up to us to keep them trimmed, make our homes as fire-safe as possible, and not be careless with fire…as were those college students at the Tea Garden in California.”

An answer such as this places responsibilities on humans to take care of all their blessings, lest unfortunate, sad, and desperate things happen.

“Dad,” your child may have asked after Black Friday, “Why did those people crush the man in Wal-Mart? ” “Sweetie,” sometimes people get so focused on what they want or what they think they need – you know, they get greedy-that they don’t even notice they are hurting other people’s feelings or bodies.”

“Mommy, why are those terrorist people blowing other people up all over the world?”  “My love, there are people who wish to believe that they and their way of living and believing about God is the only way.  When people are unable or unwilling to share the world with others’ beliefs (as long as those beliefs do no harm to others), this is the sort of ugly thing that they do.”

“Mom, will they come here to get us too?”  “Well, sweetie, it is possible and that is why we have so many police all over the world getting information and doing things to stop them.  Since 9/11, we’ve been saved by our government staying alert.  And God forbid, should something more happen here, we will have the courage to stand against it.

I realize I sound like I’m politicizing some of these issues, and I don’t really mean to.  I’m simply pointing out how I believe you, as parents, should handle the questions your children ask.  Don’t hide from the questions; don’t lie for the sake of a false sense of security.  Children need to know – age appropriately – the realities of life within the context of something they can hold on to to feel safe or at the very least, prepared.

Some of the situations you’ll have to contend with are far more personal.  For example, “Why is Mom/Dad leaving us?”  “Grandpa died when he was asleep.  Could I die when I go to sleep?”  “Cousin Andrea is having a baby and she’s only 15 years old.  Can I have a baby, too?”  “Why did Uncle George kill himself?  What made him so sad?  I get sad too sometimes.”

In each situation, you must fill the vacuum of the child’s lack of understanding with something that makes sense – or they will fill it with ideas that are far more destructive than the truth.  Always be reassuring that they are loved, will be taken care of, and that because something happens to someone they love, it doesn’t mean it will happen to them.

And always try to leave a moral message.  For instance, “As for Cousin Andrea, don’t you think it is better for a baby to have a grown-up, married Mom and Dad like you have?”  This answer takes it from the “romantic” and brings it home.

Babies Need Love, Not Day Care

This letter is from a listener who wishes to remain anonymous:

Dr. Laura:
I totally agree with you about how bad day care is, and how damaging it is for children.  Recently, I saw a mother who had just picked up her 18-month-old daughter from day care at 6 o’clock!  That’s basically what time my kids go to bed!   The baby was crying, grabbing at the mother’s skirt, and refusing to let go.  The mother was getting annoyed, and kept saying, “Why are you acting like this?  What’s wrong?”

I felt so upset.  What a dumb question!  You neglected your baby for the entire day, she missed you, and is exhausted and stressed, and you’re surprised that she’s acting that way?

I would think that a mother who has her child in day care the entire day would be the one crying and showering love and attention on her baby instead of getting mad at her.  The baby should be mad at the parent, not the other way around.

And then, because parents don’t see their baby all day, they put them to bed too late, which makes them more stressed and makes it even harder for them to cope with their emotions in day care.  When we, as parents, are tired, it’s hard not to be fussy.  Well, imagine what it’s like for a baby!  It’s MUCH harder for them to handle being tired.  Parents need to do what’s best for their children, not what’s best for themselves, and if they don’t want to, or if they think their children shouldn’t stand in the way of their doing what they want, then don’t have them!

Why bring children into the world to give them to others to raise? Why bring children into the world if you are giving them the message that your job and your life are more important than them?  For those that say “Well, I’m just not the type to be home with my kids,” or “I can’t handle being with kids,” then don’t have them!

I know of far too many babies that get attached to their nannies, and spend more time with them than with their own parents.  These babies wonder why their “parent” (that is, the nanny) is leaving them for the night.  Not only do they not have their real parents during most of the day, but then they don’t have their “nanny parent” either.

Sometimes, people say “I want my kids to have the best – the best car, the best house, the best toys.”  Believe me, things are not what makes a baby happy.  Love and attention and kindness are what makes them happy.

How sad. 

And then people wonder why children are so troubled, and why they “act out,”and why they would do anything for attention.  If a mother MUST work to feed her family, I understand, but the attitude shouldn’t be that day care is the first choice.  The attitude needs to be “how sad that she cannot care for her baby.”

I think it’s nuts that people think it’s sad that my baby is home with me.  She is definitely happier than all the crying babies in the playground, but all the working mothers will  never know that their babies are crying, falling, or are just plain exhausted.