The Perfect Gift: Does mindfulness matter?

This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series The Perfect Gift

Hands forming a heart shapeDo you wait until the last minute to decide what to buy for holiday gifts? Or, have you been thinking about it for months, carefully compiling your list of just the right gifts for just the right people?

The second approach requires mindfulness. I don’t mean the traditional Buddhist practice (though that might help). Rather, I’m referring to being thoughtful about gift giving.

“Being mindful about gift giving,” writes psychologist Marilyn Price-Mitchell, “means paying attention to the whys behind the gift, looking anew at how we give, and questioning preconceived or traditional ideas of giving. Being mindful requires us to reconsider what we think we know about giving and adapt in ways that match our family’s values.”

Price-Mitchell says we develop “giving identities” during childhood and adolescence. So, being mindful about gift giving as an adult means reflection and introspection about gift giving when we were young.

It also means being conscious to the giving identities we intentionally or unintentionally create in our children.

“Parents can help children and adolescents become more mindful about gift giving simply by encouraging them to think, voice their thoughts, and then act on them,” says Price-Mitchell. “Parents have ample opportunities to ask open-ended questions that engage children in conversations about giving.”

Are you a mindful gift giver?
What did gift giving mean when you were growing up?
What giving identities to you instill in your children?

Your viewpoint is important!

You can leave a comment below. Or, you can talk with friends by using the blue-“f” Facebook or envelope-shaped email icons and asking friends to read this series with you. You’re also free to print out these columns and use them to spark discussion in your class or small group.

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Categories: Uncategorized

Thanksgiving: Is the holiday cheaper this year?

This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series Thanksgiving
Vox website charts Thanksgiving inflation 2014

Click on this chart compiled by Vox to visit the Vox website and read the entire story about the relative cost of Thanksgiving dinner.

Gas prices are down, so if you’re driving this year, you’ll be spending a bit less on gas for your vehicle.

What about food? Is the cost of Thanksgiving dinner higher, lower, or about the same this year as last year?

It depends on what you’re having for dinner. Butter and margarine are a lot more expensive now than last year—16% higher, according to CPI data compiled by Vox. Steak and bacon are more expensive, too.

But a traditional Thanksgiving dinner this year is less than 1% higher than it was last year. Compared to the cost of Thanksgiving dinner in the past, this year is about average. The lowest cost for Thanksgiving dinner occurred in 1987, about 15% cheaper than it is this time. Expensive years include 2011, 2007, and 1989.

Despite these holiday fluctuations, there’s been a long term decline in food spending over the decades, according to data by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Americans spent a much bigger share of their disposable incomes on food in the 1930s, 19040s, and 1950s than they do now.

Cheaper food doesn’t mean that millions of Americans are not going hungry. Over 49 million people lived in food insecure households in 2013, according to Feeding America. This includes almost 16 million children.

Are you spending less, more, or about the same on Thanksgiving this year, compared to last?

What’s happening in your community to alleviate hunger this season?

Share this with friends!

You can share this with friends by using the blue-“f” Facebook or envelope-shaped email icons and asking friends to read this series with you. You’re also free to print out these columns and use them to spark discussion in your class or small group.

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Categories: Uncategorized

Changing Relationships: Who needs marriage, anyway?

This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series changing relationships
OV Pew 2014 Public Is Divided over Value of Marriage

CLICK this Pew graphic to read the entire Pew report.

Marriage and family are often considered to be the bedrock of society, but values about these institutions are changing.

One shift is rising support for legalizing same-sex marriage. But changing values about traditional marriage is an even bigger trend, at least in terms of sheer numbers.

What’s your view? Is society better off if marriage and children are a priority? Or, is society just as well off if people have different priorities?

You have plenty of company either way. Half of all Americans (50%) now say that society is just as well off if people have priorities other than marriage and kids, according to a new Pew poll. And, 46% of Americans disagree, saying that society is better off if people make marriage and children a priority in their lives.

Younger Americans are much more likely than older Americans to say that society is just as well off if people have other priorities. Two-thirds of Americans who are 18 to 29 years of age say so, as do a majority of Americans (53%) who are 30 to 49. Americans who are 50 years of age or older are more likely to say that society is better off if getting married and having kids are priorities.

If a couple wants to spend the rest of their lives together, do you think they should get legally married? A majority of Americans say yes, but again we see differences by age. Just over one-third of Americans 18 to 29 believe that those who want to be together for the rest of their lives should get married, compared to half of Americans who are 50 to 64 years of age. The oldest group (65 and older) is the most likely to say that getting legally married is important if a couple wants to spend their lives together.

Have you or did you make marriage and having children a top priority in your life?

Should people get legally married if they want to spend the rest of their lives together?

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Categories: Equal OpportunitiesFreedom

Hopes for Children: Is our success determined by outside forces?

This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series Hopes for Children
Pew chart on whether success is determined by outside forces

CLICK on this chart to visit the Pew website for more.

Have you ever heard of the self-serving bias?

It’s the tendency to attribute our successes to ourselves and to blame our failures on outside factors. For example, you got your dream job because you were supremely qualified for it. Or, you didn’t get your dream job because the interviewer was prejudiced.

Now, consider your children’s successes and failures. How do you explain them?

People around the world vary considerably in their views about the causes of success in life, according to new data from Pew’s global attitudes survey.

Among economically developed societies, Americans are the least likely to say that success in life is determined by forces outside our control—only 40% of Americans attribute success to outside factors.

At the other end, South Koreans are the most likely to attribute success to outside forces—almost three of four (74%) do so.

Are Americans the least likely of all nations to attribute success to outside factors? That would be a good guess, since our core values include self-reliance and individualism. And, it’s a pretty good guess, according to Pew, but not entirely correct.

Of the 44 countries Pew surveyed, only four had a lower percentage than the U.S. of those who agreed that success in life is determined by outside forces: Columbia, Mexico, Venezuela, and Nicaragua. The first three are considered emerging economies, while the fourth is classified as a developing economy.

To what do you attribute your successes and failures?

When children don’t live up to our hopes, do we blame them—or outside factors?

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Categories: Self-Reliance

Hopes for Children: Why are parents in rich nations pessimistic?

This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series Hopes for Children
CLICK THE CHART to visit the Pew website and learn more about these reports.

CLICK THE CHART to visit the Pew website and learn more about these reports.

Rising affluence usually translates into optimism about the future. One of the chief findings from the vast World Values Surveys is that economic development generally elevates happiness, well-being, and satisfaction with life.

Why, then, are so many people in affluent societies pessimistic about their children’s future?

The majority of Americans and Europeans don’t believe today’s children will be better off financially than their parents, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center. In fact, the citizens of most of the countries with advanced economies are pretty gloomy about their children’s prospects. Conversely, the citizens of many emerging-market societies see a bright future for their children.

The reason for these differences is the rate of economic development. This is shown clearly in this graph from Pew. Those who live in nations with the fastest GDP growth are optimistic about their children’s future. China and Vietnam are prime examples. Nations with slow growth (like the US) or negative growth (like Italy or Spain) exhibit lots of pessimism.

Other factors matter, of course. Argentineans, Lebanese, and Tanzanians are experiencing fast GDP growth, but they are less optimistic than they should be, given their rate of economic change. Conversely, Ukrainians have experienced negative economic growth but they are more optimistic than nations with similar economic experiences.

How optimistic or pessimistic are you about the future prospects of today’s children?

Are your surprised that so many people in affluent societies are pessimistic about their children’s future?

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Categories: Uncategorized

Hopes for Children: What can kids do in our troubled world?

This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series Hopes for Children
Malala Yousafzai's photo has been added to the colorful exhibition at the Nobel Peace Center in Oslo, Norway. This photo was posted to Wilkimedia Commons just hours after her Peace Prize was announced.

Malala Yousafzai’s photo has been added to the colorful exhibition at the Nobel Peace Center in Oslo, Norway. This photo was posted to Wilkimedia Commons just hours after her Peace Prize was announced.

What can a child do?

Plenty! That’s the word from the committee giving the next Nobel Peace Prize to Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi “for their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education.”

At 17, Malala is the youngest-ever recipient of the prestigious prize. (You can read more about Malala and other extraordinary young women this week in our own Interfaith Peacemakers section.)

Children can be heroes—like 12-year-old Kamal Nepali, who rescued a two-year-old girl who had fallen into a gorge carved by the Seti River near Pokhara, Nepal. The child was trapped in a crevice so narrow that adults couldn’t reach her. Kamal was small enough to fit in, and he volunteered to do it. The adults lowered him into the darkness of the crevice, and he emerged later with the girl strapped to his back. (ListVerse magazine has more details about Nepali’s story.)

Pew chart on regions of the world and optimism about children 2014

Click this chart to read more at the Pew website.

From small acts of kindness to extraordinary events, children can do a lot in our troubled world.

Parents around the globe envision a better world for their children, according to new reports from Pew. Many people predict that their children will be better off than their parents.

But this optimism is not spread evenly around the world.

Can you guess which region is the most optimistic about their children’s future? Hands down, it’s Asia. Well over half (58%) of Asians are optimistic about their children’s future. Only 24% are not.

Which region is the most pessimistic? It’s Europe, according to the Pew Research Center. Sixty-five percent of Europeans predict that their children’s future will be bleaker than their parents’ experiences. Only 25% are optimistic about their children’s future.

What can a kid do?

What do you hope kids will achieve?

THIS WEEK’S OurValues series by sociologist Dr. Wayne Baker is great for sparking discussion among friends. Please, use our blue-“f” Facebook icons or envelope-shaped email icons to share this column with friends. Or, simply leave a Comment below.

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Categories: Justice and FairnessRespect

Children’s Values: Just how much curiosity do we want?

This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series Children's Values
Colorado school students protest conservative curriculum

Click this collage of headlines to jump to the Los Angeles Times story.

“Curiosity” is a good value to teach our children, millions of Americans agree—however, the Pew report we are examining this week shows that liberals and conservatives are likely to disagree on its relative importance.

The eruption of protests among students and teachers in a suburb of Denver, this week, may reflect this difference. Pew did not ask specifically about the Colorado case, but a political split over “curiosity” appears to be part of the Colorado conflict.

THE NEW  YORK TIMES REPORTS, in part: “ARVADA, Colo.—A new conservative school board majority here in the Denver suburbs recently proposed a curriculum-review committee to promote patriotism, respect for authority and free enterprise and to guard against educational materials that “encourage or condone civil disorder.” In response, hundreds of students, teachers and parents gave the board their own lesson in civil disobedience. On Tuesday, hundreds of students from high schools across the Jefferson County school district, the second largest in Colorado, streamed out of school and along busy thoroughfares, waving signs and championing the value of learning about the fractious and tumultuous chapters of American history.”

The students are concerned about more than “curiosity,” but their comments in national news media make it clear that their desire to be curious is a prime motivation. In the hundreds of news reports streaming out of Colorado, teenagers are quoted as saying that they want to ask probing questions in their American history classes. They are wary of being taught from textbooks that they fear may be slanted, now, toward conservative viewpoints on our history.

PEW FOUND—Liberals are much more likely than conservatives to value curiosity as a quality they would like to see in children, according to the new Pew survey we’ve been consulting this week. Over eight of ten consistently liberals (86%) say that curiosity is especially important for to teach children. A third say it is among the most important values. Just over half of consistently conservative Americans (55%) say that curiosity is a very important value for children, with 6% saying that it is among the most important.

What do you think about the school protest this week?

Do you think the protests are motivated partly by curiosity—or other motives?

How would you resolve the Colorado conflict?

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Categories: Critical PatriotismFreedom