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ISBN 978-1-59411-015-3

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Pages: 294, includes full index and learning guides for parents and teachers

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Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems is available by ordering from your local bookstore or by ordering from the major online bookstores.

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Typical social (community    and personal) problems    addressed by TIA:
violence, drug abuse, alcoholism, other addictions, road rage, office rage, bullying, homelessness, teenage rebellion, thrill-seeking and depression, major crime, even illiteracy, high divorce rates and personal problems that lead to neuroses, bankruptcy or emotional breakdowns.



 Copyright 2003-2012  BillAllin.com          All Rights Reserved


         News Articles

These articles may be used freely in ezines, magazines, newspapers or newsletters provided that the following attribution is given at the beginning or the end of the article:
Bill Allin is author of Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a book and program to improve the lives of every person on Earth. His web site is at

The following articles may be found on this page. Click on an article title to be taken directly to that article.

Back to School Means Return to Fear for Some Kids

Finding Education's Missing Links: They Hamper Learning

Your Most Unrecognized Need: Touch

Is Bad Parenting Responsible for Kids that Go Bad?

What Schools Are Forbidden to Teach Hurts You

Children Imprisoned Through Ignorance

Education Policy Fails Our Children, Not Schools

Genius, Insanity and Trouble-Bound Children

If You Knew Then What You Know Now


Back to School Means Return to Fear for Some Kids

By Bill Allin

For most grade school children, back to school is a happy time, a time for skipping and playing football, of renewing friendships, engaging in schoolyard activities and get on with that heady job of learning the stuff of life.

For some kids the end of summer vacation means the resumption of the fears they had managed to set aside while school was out.

Over the past few decades schools have found ways to identify children with learning problems, accommodated themselves to kids with physical handicaps and taken pride in their ability to provide an equal education for all children. Some children have what are called hidden disabilities, which teachers are not equipped to deal with.

Even some streams of childhood development cannot be addressed by schools because of a lack of time and support from their school boards..

Education systems of modern times were created to provide a basic education to every child and to assist with the intellectual development of as many children as they can. Most address the physical development of kids, introducing them to activities they can continue outside of school so that their bodies can develop the strength and agility they require.

Few schools address, by plan and with full support, the social or emotional development of children. Any prison psychologist can tell us that these institutions are filled with people with underdeveloped or maldeveloped social skills. Any family doctor will attest to the underdeveloped or maldeveloped emotional/psychological skills of many of their patients. It's time to look at the direction our schools take.

We have become accustomed to believing that psychologists and therapists will put back on track adolescents and adults who have not been able to manage the conditions of their lives. Their patients lack the coping skills they require to manage their current life situations. Therapy helps.

When these medical professionals fail, it's usually because they don't have enough time or money to fulfill what their patients need, which is always extensive. When trying to repair a broken adult, money and the time it buys become the key issues.

More than anything else, schools prepare young people for jobs they acquire on graduation and for the lives they will live as single adults in those jobs. However, in today's post-industrial society, any young adult may have as many as ten jobs in ten quite different occupational fields during their working life.

A post-high school institution can train a young person for only one or two of those many career jobs. Experience must kick in eventually to allow the person to fend for themselves when the formal education no longer satisfies the needs of potential new employers.

In the primary grades of school, we have children learning skills they will use as employees of the near future, but not skills they can use when having to deal with problems in their social lives, problems with their parents or emotional problems they experience.

A child with a crisis involving another child, a parent or the inability to make supportive friendships has the same difficulty learning as a child with a newly acquired bad cold or allergy. The child's ability to learn is severely hampered and friendships are difficult to make.

In a child's mind, a social problem involving friends or lack of them, or an emotional problem involving a parent or any emotional problem they can't cope with always takes precedence over learning new material in class. That child may do adequately or even well on standardized tests, but learning in class is nearly impossible. "Not meeting his potential" is a common report card comment.

Being unable to learn like other kids often results from a fear situation. The child may be afraid of another child, a parent, the teacher or the breakup of his parents, for examples. The fear of not being able to keep up with work his peers are learning easily creates a feeling of inadequacy, doubles the fear.

A child in fear may demonstrate this in ways that adults don't understand. It may involve acting out in class, stealing from other classmates, fighting in the schoolyard. It may also show as withdrawal from activities others are involved with, which may be interpreted as standoffishness or even arrogance. It may even result in episodes of bullying or other antisocial behavior.

A fearful child is an unknown quantity to adults. Adults with fears find ways to cope, usually by avoiding situations where these will show. Children have no way of hiding from their fears because their location and what they do at most times of the day are regulated by adults. Kids reroute the expression of their fears to take the forms of we call discipline problems.

Schools need to be granted the ability to teach knowledge, skills and coping mechanisms to children, the same material that patients of psychologists and therapists learn as adults to solve their problems.

Only when schools can address the social and emotional development of children will teachers be able to advance the intellectual development of their students with the equality of opportunity promised by their political leaders.

About Bill Allin:
Sociologist and educator Bill Allin is the author of 'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems' (The Writers' Collective, 2005).

He taught primary, junior and intermediate classes of all socio-economic categories for nearly two decades, then adults for another two decades. As a result of his close work with kids and his unique personal background, he gained an unusual perspective on childrens needs, social skills and coping mechanisms that other professionals have overlooked.

A feral child who learned to read and write as an adult, Bill holds a Master of Education degree in the Sociology of Education from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto.

Learn more about the unique TIA approach to solving community problems and avoiding personal ones at his book's web site:


Contact Bill Allin:
(506) 836 - 2956
3860 Route 108, Upper Derby
New Brunswick E9E 2K1 CANADA



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Finding Education's Missing Links:
They Hamper Learning

by Bill Allin

"We're the ones who have to look after the unaddressed social and emotional needs of children before we can teach to their intellectual needs." The high school vice principal knew what her students had missed in their lives, knew how much that deficit affected their learning.
She spends most of her time dealing with the consequences of underdeveloped social and emotional learning, very little actually teaching to them. Schools call these discipline problems, not learning opportunities.
As any teacher will attest, all students suffer when the learning stream grinds to a halt to attend to "discipline problems." Children learn slowly and some become disruptive when they have emotional or social problems they can't deal with.
Today's children, in all parts of the world, grow up in homes where many parents don't know what their kids need beyond shelter, food, clothing and love. Some "quality time" maybe. Toys, if they can be afforded.
Most parents try their best to provide for the needs of their children. They buy expensive shoes, clothing, books, vehicles and give them money.
Parents don't know what else their children need. They follow the examples of their own parents and what they have learned from neighbors and family friends. They learn the job of parenting as they live it.
Many have no idea why their teenage children rebel, take drugs or alcohol, drive much faster than is safe, refuse to talk to them, pierce or tattoo themselves or dress like hookers or devil worshippers.
Parenting, like any endeavor based on skill and knowledge, requires learning. It's is the only critically important life project where young adults begin with little more than their own life experience.
For many parents, the old adage holds that "If it was good enough for my parents, it's good enough for me." They forget that were growing up they wished their parents would do things differently.
Human nature's rule is: No one does anything differently unless they're taught something different. History teaches us that the only way for everyone to do something differently is for the new way to be taught to youngsters.
Children develop in four fundamental streams: intellectual, physical, social and emotional/psychological. Schools address intellectual development and touch on physical development. Parents help by enrolling their kids in sports or other athletic activities.
On a community-wide basis, no one addresses the social or emotional development of children in an organized fashion. We have prisons filled with social misfits. We have mental hospitals filled with people who could not cope emotionally with the rigors of their lives and many more at home taking Prozac or sleeping pills to get them through the day or night.
Our communities overflow with broken people who couldn't cope with the conditions of their lives or its problems and turned to illegal or harmful alternatives. Their lives never improve with these new turns, but at least they feel they have tried something. Some give a quick thrill or high.
School systems are ideally set up to teach to the social and emotional development of children. They are also equipped to teach new parents what they need to know to assist with these developmental streams before the children get to school and in their early school years. However these are not on their curricula.
In Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, sociologist Bill Allin provides a framework around which education-based programs for parents and teachers could be built. He provides appendices that amount to course material for primary school teachers and new parents.
Surprisingly, it wouldn't cost a fortune to implement such programs because most of the necessary infrastructure exists already. The programs would not be controversial because they would teach what everyone agrees needs to be taught to children--how to make and keep friends, what to do if you have a problem you don't know what to do with, what to expect in the coming years of school and personal life, how to cope with problems that arise from them.
Hiring more police, building more prisons and providing more help for those with psychological or emotional problems has not solved our personal or community problems. Problems in almost every community worsen each year.
Instead of trying to fix broken people, we need to teach children how to prevent themselves from breaking. They can grow strong, straight and healthy if they have the necessary skills and knowledge.
Bill Allin says the only way to accomplish that is by giving a new direction to our education systems. "Solutions to many of our problems are available. We need to teach ourselves how to find them and to implement them."

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Your Most Unrecognized Need: Touch

By Bill Allin

You need touch. Not the way you need money or clean clothes. More like the way you need food.
We tend to think of touching others as something that happens incidentally, either as an accident or a necessary part of some other activity.
Why don't we think of touch from other people as a basic need, a requirement for our well-being? Our parents and others who influence us as children warn us about other children and adults who try to touch us inappropriately. Parents themselves may be hesitant about touching us for fear of being accused by an ignorant busybody of child molestation. In a culture of fear, the last thing a parent wants is to be accused of mistreating a child.
As with other moral matters that transform themselves into laws and public policy, touch becomes an ON or OFF thing. Some touch is bad, so all touch is avoided, even forbidden in many situations.
We need to distinguish between good touch, appropriate touch, and that which is invasive of our personal space or harmful to our emotional well-being.
In one Canadian city, a woman who calls herself The Hug Lady offers hugs to strangers she meets on the street. Her husband died a few years ago and she realized that she missed his touch. Now she offers to hug strangers.
Not only do at least 75 percent of them accept her offer, but most express great gratitude after receiving their hug. Two people have better days because of one hug.
One way of enhancing a potential friendship is to touch the prospective friend casually in conversation. Sports teams gain team spirit by frequent hugs/huddles and pats on the behind are acceptable male-to-male touching on the football field. Service clubs often have rituals that involve members touching each other in friendship.
An injured child runs to mother. Does the child really believe that mommy can heal the hurt? No, the child knows that it needs the comfort of a hug in times of unexpected trouble.
Unlike dogs and cats who actively seek the touch of humans--we call it patting--human children lack the ability to ask for touch when they need it. Instead they act out, misbehave or seek parental attention in ways that often annoy the parent.
Kids who most need touch from their parents misbehave. We call it attention-seeking. Yet adults teach each other that a child who seeks attention should not receive it for fear that the child will be spoiled. Instead we punish the child for the misbehavior. The irony is positively cruel.
We must learn to distinguish between appropriate and inappropriate touch, then teach this to everyone in our community. In short, an appropriate touch or hug is one in which both parties agree to participate. It's a means of giving to someone else, not of taking from them.
In the book Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, author Bill Allin stresses that emotional and social development are both critical to the growth of children. Touch is integral to both emotional and social development.
Children need touch from those who love them as a way of ensuring that those people care. Instead of worrying about whether we give our children and our spouses enough appropriate touch, we should concern ourselves with how they may behave if they don't get enough.
People who lead troubled lives rarely get enough touch. Look around you. Look in the mirror. You may know several people who need a hug today.

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Is Bad Parenting Responsible for Kids that Go Bad?

By Bill Allin

It's tragic. Most of us know at least one couple we consider to be good parents, but they have a child that goes bad. Are we mistaken? Could nice, loving people be bad parents?
The temptation compels us to consider the "bad seed" principle, suggesting that something genetic must have gone wrong in the womb before the child was born. Something we can't explain must have happened when early stem cells were specializing into brain cells so that a well-raised child turned anti-social.
What do we really know about raising children? Everyone agrees that parents exert the greatest influence on young children through their stages of major development. A 2002 study in Canada showed that teens agree (89 percent) that their parents influenced them most and they tend to listen to their parents more than others when considering options for their lives.
With all of this influence and power that parents have over their children, it would seem to follow that a child that gets into trouble with the law, with drugs, with a gang or with some other form of anti-social behavior somehow arrived on that path due to parental influence.
Yet how could good and well-meaning parents raise a bad kid? Stranger still, how could the same good parents raise one child that becomes a model citizen and another that is a social pariah?
Despite the fact that humans have been parenting since our species began, we have not pulled together enough research information to produce a book or course that tells new parents what children need, how they develop, how they react to situations as they get older and how their needs change. This information exists, in pieces, mostly in academic settings.
Children develop in four main areas: intellectually, physically, socially and psychologically/emotionally. Schools and parents have the ability to control the intellectual development of children, including their artistic skills and talents. Enough promotion exists today to help parents direct their children into activities that will develop them physically.
Social and emotional development are largely left to chance. Think of social ability as what we do that others can see and evaluate and emotional ability as how we cope with what goes on inside our heads. Comprehensive programs to guide parents in how to assist with social and emotional development of their children don't exist in a formal sense, though some help may be part of other programs.
When virtually every inmate in our prisons and jails has a problem with social ability and those with psychological problems can't cope with the realities of their lives emotionally, we look seriously at corrective measures.
We have psychologists, therapists and counselors who help broken people put their lives back together. They have both the knowledge and the skills to do this. We need to put them to work using the same skills and knowledge to help parents and teachers guide children in ways that will avoid having them "break" as they get older.
Any social or emotional problem that can be fixed after the fact can be prevented before it happens. This is the foundation that Canadian sociologist and teacher Bill Allin uses in his book Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems.
Allin says "we have the knowledge, we just apply it in the wrong place." He says that we spend fortunes in tax money each year incarcerating or providing health services for broken people who could have been saved from tragedy if they had been taught coping and social skills as children.
Good parents have no more knowledge of social and emotional development of children than people we consider bad parents. They make the same mistakes, no matter if they have the best of reasons for them.
"Think of parenting the way you think of software development," says Allin. "One bad moment in writing software could destroy the results of the final program, just as one bad experience between parent and child could destroy the final product when the child is older. We can teach new parents," he says, "how to deal with bad experiences so that they don't have a damaging result on the development of their children. We can teach them skills and knowledge about how to get along with others, rather than leaving this to chance."
Turning It Around provides material for parents and teachers as starting points for their learning about childhood development and needs.

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What Schools Are Forbidden
to Teach Hurts You

By Bill Allin

Some people in your community have big problems that cost you. The problems cost you in taxes for police services, in out-of-pocket expenses for replacement of stolen equipment or in emotional drain from constant but suppressed fear of personal attack.
We think of drugs, home invasions, addictions and car theft as functions of modern communities.  We believe that high divorce rates, homelessness and break-ins form the basis for a new kind of society that never existed in the past, a reality of the 21st century.
Personal problems of others, such as poverty, mental breakdown, spousal abuse and school yard bullying we prefer to avoid thinking about.
They all derive from two causes: people who can't manage to cope with the downturns or conditions of their lives and people who don't have a clear moral foundation about such things as murder, hurting others and stealing.
Some turn to crime, addictive drugs or alcohol, life-threatening thrills or violence when they can't cope with conditions they fear and can't manage.
Since psychologists and therapists deal with these very problems every day, we simply need to apply their knowledge to younger people before they need it, before they "break" from social standards of normal behavior.
Schools teach concepts; it's what they do. They believe they're not allowed to teach some concepts due to regulations forbidding the teaching of religion. We need to separate religious teaching from the basic principles that people of all religions agree upon and allow schools to support the teaching of them by parents. No one wants to become a drug addict, a divorcee or a felon, but most don't see other options.
Kids need consistency from their authority figures during their formative years, both at home and at school. Both home and school need to provide role models, teach standards of their communities and encourage children to seek help when they have problems.
The methodology and means to rearrange school curriculum to address social and emotional development of children provides the main focus of a new book by Canadian sociologist and educator Bill Allin. Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems gives easily and cheaply implemented solutions to the worst social problems of any community.
Today's kids need more than traditional facts and skills to survive extraordinary demands on their social and emotional development as adolescents and adults. A child with a social or emotional problem can't progress intellectually because the former preoccupy their minds, their attention and their emotions.
Schools are in the best position to help support time-challenged parents.

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Children Imprisoned Through Ignorance

By Bill Allin

For some kids, school combines the strict discipline of a prison with the oppression of living in an iron lung. No matter what they do, they have no chance of succeeding.
They are troubles waiting to happen. When one of them commits suicide, robs a store, starts a fight or bad mouths a teacher, we label them bad.
Most of us know what it's like to sit down to a classroom test we know we won't do well on. Imagine that feeling of impending failure spread over whole days, almost every school day and most non-school days. Think for a moment about how you would act if you were trapped in this never-ending cycle.
In such situations, teachers aren't trained to reason that the child has a reading problem, a social problem or a brain dysfunction. A child can deceive a teacher into believing that he is lazy, forgetful or deceptive while disguising the fact that he can't read. A 2002 ABC Canada study found that 22 percent of Canadian adults experience serious reading problems.
One of the least well-diagnosed problems that children have is slow thinking. Some kids and adults think slower than others. No standard exists by which we could measure thinking speed. If a teacher misses the clues, the child may be diagnosed as "slow," meaning an intellectually challenged learner.
The kid may just need more time to absorb what others kids get in the normally allotted time. The child feels dumb, constantly fearing that an ax will fall on his head.
Some quite intelligent kids find themselves in special education classes with kids with much lower intelligence. Putting an intelligent child into a class with children of much lower intelligence is torture as the child will feel imprisoned with no opportunities to develop his intelligence. He has no way out and he lacks the skill to express his problem to decision makers.
Children with average or above intelligence who have severe allergies that affect classroom performance and test results may also find themselves in special education classes. As the child may be a behavior problem in a regular class, the school takes the easiest direction, a special ed. class.
Another under-recognized classroom problem is the child who reaches his daily limit of intellectual intake before others in his class. Think of the feeling you have when a bad cold first hits, when your brain seems numbed because you're so stuffed up. That's what hitting the intellectual wall is like.
What does a child do when he hits the intellectual wall, when he is so stuffed with allergic histamines that he can't think, when he can't express and develop his intellect or when he is socially underdeveloped compared to others in his class?
Inevitably a problem will result, usually misbehavior, sometimes social withdrawal. Occasionally suicide may be attempted. If the problem doesn't appear in school, it may show as anti-social behavior in the community.
Many parents and teachers believe that some kids act out to get attention. They seldom act on their own conclusions. The reason is that they've been taught that children who act out to get attention should be punished.
The very children who need attention most receive punishment, usually of the kind where attention is withdrawn from them.
More human touch may be just what most misbehaving children need. Touch is a basic need, though no one dies from lack of it. Those who don't get enough touching often cause trouble for others and suffer loneliness themselves.
Sociologist/educator Bill Allin, in his book Turning It Around, shows how schools address intellectual development of children well, physical development less so, but do little to address the emotional development or extremely important social development.
A socially immature child, he says, will have a great deal of trouble learning intellectual material because problems with his peers take precedence in his mind. To a child, acceptance by parents and peers is always more important than classroom lessons. A socially inept child will inevitably learn slowly, no matter what his intelligence.
In schools, our ignorance of how the brains of children work and what kids need have done immense and lasting harm to untold multitudes of kids who may have needed little more than some gentle understanding and care.
Now that we know more it's incumbent upon us to make sure than kids with hidden needs get the attention they need and deserve. Every community will benefit from having more kids that are better adapted to the lives they live.

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Education Policy Fails Our Children, Not Schools

By Bill Allin

Schools don't fail our children.  In fact, they succeed far better than we have any right to expect, given the restrictions we place on them.
North American school systems evolved their way of teaching in the nineteenth century.  In those still-early days of the Industrial Revolution, employers wanted their workers to be able to read, write and do basic arithmetic.  With those and a strong back, any man could get a job.
Today we have people crying that schools should return to teaching "the basics" because they encounter young adults who have trouble with spelling, can't write a coherent sentence and avoid simple arithmetic.
The ugly truth is that adults who have a reasonable command of "the basics" may be functionally illiterate.  That is, they may have trouble doing some of the thinking, writing and calculating required in today's complex society.  They may have trouble completing their own income tax forms, understanding warnings that accompany medical prescriptions or interpreting their electricity bill.
Their lives may be at risk if they can't understand what they need to be safe and function comfortably.  They rarely talk about their situation to others.  They could be neighbors or family members.
Who comprises this small minority?  ABC Canada found in a 2002 study that fifty percent of Canadian adults experience such problems.  A Southam Newspapers study revealed in 1987 that eighty percent of Canadian seniors scored low on literacy tests.  These people grew up in the days when "the basics" were core curriculum.
Consider how quickly newly built prisons fill to overflowing, requiring that still more prisons be built.  The United States has more of its citizens in prison, per capita, than any other country in the world.  Stricter laws and super-efficient police don't account for this.  Something is wrong with the social system.
Too many people turn to crime as a way of coping with their problems.  When life gets tough, they can see no other way than to break the law.  Many believe they won't be caught.  Some may hope they will.
In generations past, people didn't have psychologists, psychiatrists, therapists, counselors and support groups to turn to when they couldn't cope with their problems.  Yet fewer went to prison or were confined to mental institutions.  Most people felt safe walking the street at night.  Leaving doors unlocked was common.  In most communities, unstable people weren't on the streets, mugging strangers and causing drive-by shootings.
Something really was different in the past.
The "good old days" were never that good.  Today's complex society requires much more skill than many of us have.  But why?
Everyone realizes that today's adults require more skills and knowledge than our grandparents.  A young person today without a high school diploma will have trouble finding any job.  School boards and departments of education heap more and more curriculum onto teachers, forcing overload on teachers and students alike.
As the curriculum grows, the number of broken and confused individuals increases even faster.  If the system were working effectively, at least the proportions of successful, well-adjusted adults to broken ones should remain the same as it was a century ago.  It's not.
The original intention of schools in the nineteenth century was to have those who had time (teachers) teach children what their parents couldn't manage.  In most cases, schools were directed to tend to the intellectual development of children in their charge.  Parents looked after the teaching of morals, guided their children through emotional experiences and gave them the basics of what they needed to get along with others.
In time, accepted thinking said that schools addressed the intellectual needs of children and that was all the children needed from them.  Schools taught physical education and touched on the arts, but these were never fully committed to by their communities.  Today, schools often give little time to these because they can't fit them around their crammed curricula and strained budgets.
When designing curriculum and methodologies, education leaders focused on what their communities needed children to know and practice as adults.  The needs of the community, often represented by employers, predominated.  Adults, after all, need to earn a living.
Today's adults pay, through taxes and health care costs, for the accommodation of more broken adults than most of us realize.  We pay without considering the possibility that most of these broken people could have avoided their problems in the first place if they had known how.
What these people need, we believe, is fixing or confinement.  What they really needed was bypassed years ago by community leaders who didn't understand what children need.  What children need is what will help them through the rigors of adulthood.
If we want to prevent adults from breaking, resulting in emotional/psychological problems or criminal activity, we must prepare them as children.
When education of the child centers exclusively on the needs of the community, there are bound to be "leftovers", those who cannot fit into the school mold created for all children.  Children are not created equal; they only receive equal rights under the law.  The square peg will never fit into the round hole without chipping off some of its edges.  Chipped edges on children become breaking points for adults.
Schools claim to have become more "child centered" over the past generation.  They have, but only in the sense that teachers today know more about how to appeal to the different learning styles children prefer.  Course material, though advanced beyond what it was, continues to center around the same topics as it did half a century ago.
Let's look at the needs of children, factors which often receive little attention from those who teach pedagogy and design curriculum.  First, let's remember that, legally, teachers act in loco parentae (in the place of--thus with the authority of--parents).  This legal term, which has guided the actions of teachers for generations, should govern not just what teachers may not do, but also what they should be given responsibility and authority to do.
Everyone needs a substantial level of self-esteem.  Therapists and counselors speak and write about this every day.  Self-esteem gets its foundation mostly during the school years, though it begins with social interaction in pre-school years at home and in daycare.
You don't have to go far to hear someone say that children should not be praised for work that is inferior to the average.  Praising work of poor quality, they claim, lowers the standards of children and gives them the impression that they deserve praise for even poor work.  We build self-esteem by boosting the self-awareness and self-esteem of those who need it most.
While most agree about the value of self-esteem is, opinions vary greatly as to how to achieve this.  Some interpret a high level of self-esteem as arrogance.  The distinction comes from differences in perspective.
Self-esteem means believing that you have value to the world, that you are worth something.  Not just to yourself, but in the eyes of others.  Our belief in our own worth depends to a great extent on what others think of us and what others tell us about ourselves.
To a child, self-esteem that depends on input from others requires that the "others" make clear and obvious to the child their belief that the child is valuable to the world.  This must be distinct from the indicators given by parents that they love their child.  That the parent loves their child is shown by an outflowing of energies in the direction of the child.
Parents show a child that he or she is worthy by an acknowledgment of the flow of energies from the child to the parent.  This means that parents must provide opportunities for the child to express his energies in productive or creative ways so that the parents will have something to acknowledge as worthy.
If the parent does not provide opportunities for the child to develop skills and talents, the parent will have little to praise or acknowledge, thus the child will lack input from which to derive his belief in his self worth.  The responsibility, then, is with the parents to provide opportunities for the child to develop skills and talents, at least to get experience in a variety of ways.
Children do not come ready-made with fully developed skills and talents.  These must be introduced, encouraged and massaged by parents so children will develop enough interest and commitment to improve their skills and talents.  Kids need to be good at something.
Teachers and parents need to be in regular contact with each other not just so that they may all present a common approach to the child, but also that they may influence each other in the direction of better meeting the child's needs, as necessary.  Teachers need to know both how the parents want their child's self-esteem to be encouraged and how the parents believe it should be developed.  That way, the teacher can provide some of the stimulus to which parents can respond when the child produces something.
A child should believe that he or she can turn to either parent or the teacher in times of trouble or confusion.  Failing and stumbling are part of the learning process.  Children need to know that making mistakes or failing to learn something is not a personal failure, just part of learning.
They need to understand that if they have not learned something or if they are confused, they should express this to their teacher or parent.  Failure by the child to express confusion or misunderstanding about what has been taught is one of the greatest impediments to learning and one of the great enhancers of low self-esteem.
Parents and teachers today universally respond that children are welcome to bring their problems to them at any time.  However, the fact that this is not happening with enough children gives evidence that something is wrong in the communication and the rapport between parents and teachers and between both of them and the children.  It's not happening in all families, but then not many families produce dysfunctional children who become community problems later.
Where the communication lines between parents and children are weak?the kids are not willing to readily discuss their problems with their parents?the foundation for later problems is in place.
How often do we hear someone say that a child is "just seeking attention" when the child misbehaves in front of others?  With these words, the speaker intends to convey to the child that he has chosen a bad time to interfere with what the adults want to do.
This happens at school as well as at home.  Attention-seeking students tend to attract more than their share of time and personal attention from both teachers and other students.  The response, in most cases, is a reprimand or another form of punishment.
Let's get this straight: the child is recognized as needing attention from an adult, but instead of giving the child an appropriate form of attention in an appropriate way, the adult rebuffs the child, criticizes the child or punishes the child.  That works for the adult.  It doesn't work for the child.
The message the child takes from that experience is that the adult is not prepared to satisfy his need at the time he has the need.  Or, the child accepts the negative attention and pursues it on more occasions because it works, sort of.
Punishing or pushing away a child who needs attention, has openly expressed his need for attention, qualify as the two worst reactions an adult can make.  Yet we see it every day, especially in classrooms.  If teachers and parents work together to guide the development of these children, such occasions of openly expressed need for attention would be greatly reduced.
The last basic need is the most controversial.  It's the most controversial because teachers are given specific direction to avoid doing anything to satisfy this need in a child, sometimes on threat of dismissal.
Humans, like all social animals, have a fundamental need for touch.  We need to be touched.  We need to touch each other.  We prefer to be touched by those who love us, but respond also to touch by more casual acquaintances, such as handshakes or touches on the arm as they speak to us.  Those who do not get enough touching by others may turn to socially unacceptable means to get it.  Think about how many crimes involve some contact between perpetrator and victim.
Touch is an integral part of the social component of our lives.  We greet each other, we comfort each other, we compete with each other, we even laugh with each other with touch as a part of it.  We heal better when touch by caregivers is part of the process.  Elderly people have more desire to live when they are touched by others regularly.
Children have a somewhat greater need for touch than adults simply because adults have found other ways to engage their minds.  When children play, they usually play games that involve some touching.
Yet, when in school, children are expected to avoid touching each other and teachers are virtually forbidden from touching their students in many communities.  A child who unconsciously suffers from the need for touch will not learn well and may "act out" in ways that will have them touch others.
Teachers know of the need to encourage self-esteem, so they consciously make efforts to boost the morale of those who need it in their classrooms.  Teachers and parents need to respond to obvious displays of need for attention by children by providing it immediately or shortly thereafter in an appropriate manner.
Teachers find themselves in an awkward position when it comes to touching students because their communities tend to suspect touching by teachers as inherently evil.  Despite a huge need by children for touch, the community has been taught that simple touching by a teacher will inevitably lead to child molestation.  The rationale is insupportable.  It's like saying that no one should go into a bank because eventually everyone will rob it.
Teachers can learn appropriate ways to touch students, ways that show support and encouragement without risk.  Teachers need to be taught those ways and encouraged to practice them.
Children develop in four main ways that involve and interest their schools.  These are intellectual, physical, social and emotional.
Schools assist with the intellectual development of children, their primary purpose, very well.  However, intellectual development lags if a child has weaknesses in other areas of development.  A child who is underdeveloped physically may suffer from bullying.  His self-esteem will suffer when he is chosen last for team games.  He is less likely than average to be invited to join social groups among his peers.
Schools give lip service to physical development.  While physical education features strongly in some schools, in many more it receives little attention, few resources and no training for teachers.  As the physical development of their children receives little commitment from some parents, teachers may be reluctant to encourage parents to get their children involved with activities that develop physical strength and skills.  Responsibility for physical development falls most often to parents.  Some wont pick it up.
The emotional development of children is considered by most people to happen as a result of circumstance.  That is, children learn about happiness when they do things they enjoy and they learn about sadness and grief when unpleasant events happen.
Just because emotional development has been left to chance historically does not mean that this is the best way to do business.  The proliferation of therapists, counselors, psychologists and psychiatrists, not to say social service workers, speaks to an unmet need to give children better guidance so that their emotional development proceeds smoothly.  We fix what we did not build properly.
Children need to learn about emotions more than just by experiencing them by chance.  They need to be taught what emotions are, how they express themselves, what they feel like and how to keep them from hurting too much.  Children need to know the limits of emotional expression, limits imposed by society.
They also need to know that it's all right to cry.  Big boys and men really do cry, at least the emotionally healthy ones do when circumstances dictate.  They don't have to "suck it up" when the need for grieving presents itself.  Stifling grief builds a jail cell around all emotions.
Children need to be taught all about emotions and be allowed to express them.  They can't grow if they don't know.
We generally accept that a grieving child whose father has died recently will not learn as effectively and efficiently as one who has not suffered an emotional downturn.  What we may not understand is how devastating social immaturity or underdevelopment can be to a child.
A socially immature child is always a misfit.  That child will seldom have good friends, seldom belong to a social group of his peers and seldom feel good about himself.  More importantly to a teacher, a socially immature child will inevitably fall behind with his intellectual development.
In short, a socially immature child will be a poor student and something of a loner, no matter what gifts of intelligence he may have.  Such a child is more interested in the fact that he is not deemed by his peers to be as good as them than in what the teacher is teaching.  Self-esteem and peer influence come together to mitigate against learning in a child who is not socially equal among his age peers.
Schools stand in an ideal position to encourage and guide the social development of children.  They must recognize their responsibility to facilitate social development.
Schools must be encouraged by their communities to teach social development while they execute other parts of their curriculum.  Telling schools to "butt out" of childhood development is a prescription for failure.
Schools are a primary facilitator for childhood development.  Their role needs to be increased and supported by their communities.

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Genius, Insanity and Trouble-Bound Children

By Bill Allin

The saying that there's a fine line between genius and insanity is so common in the western world that we assume everyone understands why.  In fact, few do.
Have you ever wondered why two people who have much the same physical dimensions, including head size, have different levels of intelligence?  Given that the head size is the same, why is one more or less intelligent than the other?  If the gray and white matter that comprise the brain are of equal size, what makes the difference?
The answer is debatable, but we can make some reasonable guesses.  Nutrition would make a difference only if one were deprived and the other not.  If one mother smoked tobacco, drank alcohol or took drugs during pregnancy, that could explain something.
It would seem that genetics plays a role, as highly intelligent parents tend to have highly intelligent offspring, though this is not universally true.  Genetics is nature, but what about nurture?
Highly intelligent adults may have interests that are significantly different from those of low intelligence, or even of average intelligence.  By doing whatever they do, they unconsciously (sometimes) are role models for children whose objective is frequently to become like mommy or daddy.  They read, they think, they discuss and debate, they feed brains that are endlessly curious and eager for new knowledge.
Their children may follow the examples of the parents.  By trying to emulate their parents, the kids work their brains in the same way as their parents would need to have their brains function.  In other words, they create neuronal pathways through the brain that allow them to do things that their parents can do.  These are pathways that children of average of low intelligence parents may not have or need in their daily lives, so they don't give their children opportunities to develop them.
Highly intelligent people tend to specialize in the ways they use their brains.  Their areas of interest focus their brains in such ways that they become not just knowledgeable about those subjects, but they become geniuses in those subjects because they concentrate only on those specific areas of thought, research or development.
The human brain can only go in a limited few directions at once.  The further it goes into one discipline, the less able it is to go in other directions when these are needed.  Thus we have the examples of the absent-minded professors and the computer geeks who need Velcro straps on their shoes because they can't tie laces.
The more specialized a brain becomes, the more that person is apt to be known as a genius in that area of specialty.  What does not become public knowledge is how incompetent a genius may be in other areas of life.  The "genius" keeps that hidden or well disguised through practice.
A genius, like any person, will face crises, downturns and tragedies.  But the brain of the genius may not have a broad range of experiences to prepare it to cope with some of them.  Complete preoccupation with one area of specialty may result in that person being a fool in many other areas, including personal relationships (such as with a spouse) or management of personal finances.
Crises in these areas would cause anxiety in the genius, as it would in anyone.  But, unequipped with coping mechanisms, the mind of the genius may drift into mental illness as a way to escape his inability to deal with unsavoury realities.  Thus we have the genius crossing the line into insanity, or at least straddling it for some period of time.
This concept is easy for most of us to understand.  What may not be so obvious is the fact that anyone may have intellectual difficulties due to inadequate wiring of the brain, especially in some areas.  Balancing a personal budget would be one example.
What is even less obvious, but far more important, is that anyone facing a crisis may not be equipped with the coping mechanisms to deal with that crisis adequately.  Anyone with an anxiety-producing problem they cant cope with may cross the line from social acceptable behaviour to socially unacceptable behaviour due to their inability to manage anxiety that results from their inability to cope with their current environment.
So we have road rage, anger in the workplace, "mental health" days off work, theft, drug-taking, spousal abuse and criminal activity resulting from inappropriate decisions made by a person who can't cope with their life.
Psychologists, psychiatrists, therapists and counsellors make their living helping to fix broken people.  Their numbers and the need for their services is expanding rapidly.  We have too many broken people to fix because this takes lots of time, lots of skills and lots of money.
Anything that can be fixed can be prevented from happening in the first place.  What these emotional health specialists do more than anything is to help their clients learn coping mechanisms.  Someone who can cope with their environment doesn't need a therapist.
Coping strategies can be taught to young people, even to children, before they reach the point of overburdening anxiety.  Children develop new neural pathways easily, so can adapt to new learning about how to cope with their problems fairly easily.  If we teach them.
Our schools are not set up to teach such things as social skills, life tragedies and coping strategies.  Their purpose, as established by law, is to teach to the intellectual development of children.  This could be changed.
Imagine how your community would change if everyone were capable of coping with lifes problems as they arose, if they knew where to turn for help when they need it, if they were encouraged to seek help from publicly funded counsellors.
Your community wouldn't have as much need for jails and everyone involved with filling them.  It wouldn't have as much need for therapists and mental hospitals.  Not as many people would turn to fundamentalist forms of religion to escape from the harsh realities that are their lives.
We need to evaluate and change the primary purposes for our schools.  We can teach children what they need to be well-balanced adolescents and adults before they run into problems they can't cope with.
Such change will only happen if it is strongly supported at the grass roots level before it is presented to politicians and education leaders.  This can only happen if you spread the word about what is possible.
There is good reason to hope for a better world and healthier communities.  The answer lies in supporting good teaching strategies, not in building more prisons and hiring more police.
A community can only be healthy when its residents are mentally healthy and able to cope with what life throws their way.  Schools have the means to achieve a better world, but they need guidance and support from the communities they serve.

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If You Knew Then What You Know Now  

By Bill Allin

For those of you who have been married and left that relationship, would you marry the same person if you could do it all again?
Would you look for the same kind of person for your first boyfriend/girlfriend as you did then?  Would you date the same kind(s) of people you once did?

Flourishing businesses have grown around self-help and counselled help, such as through psychologists, psychiatrists and relationship counsellors.
If we have the skills, the ability and the knowledge to fix what is broken among our fellow citizens, we only need the will to prevent them from breaking in the first place.
That means we need to teach people what they need to know, well before they will need it.  Since learning about relationships begins in the early years of our lives, it follows that we must teach children the basics of relationship skills when they are young.  If we wait until they reach their teen years, they have already developed skewed concepts of how relationships work, who they should make friends with, what they should expect of friends and what they should be prepared to offer to potential friends to develop friendships.
Teaching relationship skills before children establish their own concepts about relationships through their experiences is critical to the idea of prevention of broken hearts and broken relationships.
Can a young child understand what they must do and what they should know to find a worthy potential friend and develop a good friendship?  To adults, this seems unlikely.  But to a child this is no harder than learning how to use table utensils at mealtimes.  They see learning about relationships as one more example of learning a new pathway of life.
To an adult, learning a new language is often very difficult, especially if they do not have a critical need to know that language, such as for communicating at work, and if they do not have opportunities to practise using the language on a daily basis.  A child under age 11 learns a new language easily because his brain is adapted to that kind of learning of new concepts.  To a child, learning the concepts and skills of relationship building is as natural as learning how to get dressed in the morning or learning table manners.
Put a very young child in a sandbox with one or more other children and watch that child learn relationship building skills and concepts by experience.  Yet before that child is old enough to go to school, he can be taught what to do in certain situations in order to avoid having another child bully him, steal his toys, or how to let another child know that he wants to make friends and is willing to share.  It takes some practice, but so does learning how to use a fork and a knife to cut food on a plate.
Teaching relationship skills is a parental responsibility.  It becomes a school responsibility when a child moves into that new phase of his or her life.  Schools suffer when a child becomes alienated from his fellow students.  The child may develop discipline problems or psychological problems.  In time, that feeling of alienation may cause the child to want to escape the place that makes him feel so uncomfortable.  He becomes a runner.
When teachers and school administrators confront a situation where a child has run away from school, the natural tendency, based on education protocol, is to find a way to prevent an other escape.  The child must be at fault or he would not have escaped the environment into which his parents placed him, the classroom.  Schools, in general, give little consideration to the reasons why the child wanted to escape because they do not have the means to correct that situation.
What they can do is to punish and to restrict the child's movements within the classroom and school environment.  The runner is confined.  The school is secure once again.  Peace reigns.  But the prisoner still lacks the skills to cope with relationship skills within his class.  His anxiety builds to the point where it will vent itself in another form, in another place, in future.
We then call him a bad child.  We don't consider our failure to teach that child what he needed to cope with his environment.  His teachers were too busy teaching arithmetic and reading.  His parents too busy looking at report card marks and checking work brought home for spelling errors.
Parenting and teachering are about growing a whole person, not just about preparing a child for a better quality college or a high paying job. Children who have the skills to cope with their environment like school and usually do well.  Those who don't have those skills go "bad."
We can't figure out why.

Bill Allin

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Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems

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