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Jan Brady has been a poster child for the “middle child” stereotype since the “Brady Bunch” became ingrained in the American culture in the early 1970s. You might recall that Jan sometimes felt overlooked as she struggled to find her own niche and identity – caught between her ever-popular older sister, Marcia, and her younger sister, Cindy.

And while middle children are unfairly stereotyped as going through life with an insatiable craving for attention because of a perceived lack of it growing up, no birth order has been as stigmatized and maligned as much as “only children.”

blogonlychild

The “lonely onlies” may not have a symbolic character to perpetuate their own stereotype – that of spoiled children who become self-centered adults — but one clearly isn’t needed. Say that someone is an only child and many people will instantly associate them with those undesirable traits, even if they don’t say it. And intuitively, it doesn’t sound unreasonable. If you’ve never had to share your toys or clothes, compete for parental attention or negotiate with siblings, it doesn’t sound like such a huge leap.

But Phyllis Gordon, director of Southern’s Family Therapy Clinic, says that an overwhelming amount of research on only children does not support the stereotype. She says the stigma originates from G. Stanley Hall, an American researcher and pioneer of child psychology. After collecting data from various sources in a way that has little resemblance to today’s scientific research methods, Hall actually went so far as to say just before the turn of the 20th century that “being an only child is a disease in itself.”

Whoa! Maybe that kind of comment could fly in the late 1800s, when large families were the norm and only children were rather uncommon. But can you imagine the fallout today if a researcher were to make that “analogy” about only children, or anyone’s children?

Just in the last 50 years, the percentage of kids under the age of 18 who fall into the category of being an only child has doubled – from 10 percent to 20 percent. So, in a typical classroom of 25 students, 5 of those students are only children, on average. Yet, the popular notion continues that they tend to be spoiled.

“Virtually all subsequent research on onlies has debunked the anecdotal and meaningless findings of Mr. Hall,” Gordon says. “But many parents continue to fear that being an only child will mean a lifetime of being unhappy, selfish, spoiled, lonely and maladjusted.”

Nevertheless, Gordon says there are some distinctive characteristics among only children of which parents should be aware. After all, birth order does play a role in the development of a child’s personality. Therefore, she offers a few suggestions to parents about raising only children, keeping in mind these are based on generalities and that each child is unique.

First, don’t worry! An only child is not from another planet. And studies have shown that only children tend to feel more confident in school; score better in achievement, motivation and personal adjustment; and complete an addition year of education, on average, than their peers. And despite not having to grow up scrapping with siblings – and perhaps because of that — they tend to be more calm and patient with others. They learned early in life that their turn will come because it generally did in their more orderly childhoods.

Be extra careful about pressuring them to succeed. Only children (and first borns) tend to be self-driven and conscientious. They often apply plenty of self-imposed pressure. When they do, outside pressure can be like pouring gasoline on a fire! It could create psychological and emotional problems. Again, each child is unique and some do need a nudge, or several nudges. But be aware of this tendency among only (and first-born) children.

While only children are quite capable of making friends, it is important to give them those opportunities. Children learn some of their social skills from their siblings. So, it’s probably even more important for onlies to have opportunities to interact with other kids, whether they are play dates, after school activities or youth clubs and sports.

And just in case you needed any more assurance, just look at some of the many famous only children. They include:

• Franklin Delano Roosevelt
• Joe Montana
• Elvis Presley
• Nancy Reagan
• Ted Koppel
• Walter Cronkite
• Kareem Abdul-Jabaar
• Sammy Davis Jr.
• Laura Bush
• Maria Sharapova

The list goes on and on.

While studies have shown that hyper-stimulation – caused by stress, nervousness and pressure – can negatively affect an athlete’s performance, the same thing can happen to students while studying or taking an exam.

Whether you’re preparing for your college mid-terms, high school finals or SATs, stress can sometimes cause even the best students to “choke” under pressure. Some top-notch students excel in their Advanced Placement classes, but paradoxically end up with a perplexingly sub-par score on the SATs. Trying to find “the zone” between overstimulation and lack of enthusiasm is the key. And on major exams, especially for dedicated students, the former tends to be more of a problem.

blogphotodestressSo, what kinds of stress-busting techniques can help you ace that final exam? Denise Zack, a counselor in Southern’s University Counseling Office, says there are some general tips that can help most individuals, and also some specific stress reduction suggestions based on how stress affects you.

“Certainly you want to try to stay on a regular and healthy schedule as far as eating, sleeping and studying is concerned,” she says.

But Zack also offers other general tips on de-stressing, such as:

*Don’t forget to breathe. It sounds silly, but you would be amazed at how many people hold their breath for extended periods of time. That prevents optimal amounts of oxygen from getting to the brain and the body. Try deep breathing exercises to help relax further.

*Pet therapy. Studies have shown that just petting your dog or cat can lower your blood pressure, reduce your heart rate and elevate your mood. There is a reason why therapy dogs can be found in hospitals and nursing homes. But dogs don’t discriminate – they will help people of all ages.

*Quiet your mind. No, that doesn’t mean yelling “shut up” to your brain. (That move might create a whole new set of stressors in your life, or indicate a much deeper problem.) Instead, try to focus on the present. Are you comfortable? Is there any imminent danger? The answer is usually no.

Zack also notes that some techniques are more effective at dealing with stress that affects you physically or behaviorally, while other methods are better at helping people cope with the emotional or cognitive. Someone affected physically might be getting stiff necks or increased fatigue, while those affected emotionally might find themselves crying or getting agitated more quickly than normal.

Zack suggests the following to deal with the physical aspects of stress:

*Exercise. Walking, jogging, swimming, or almost anything that gets your blood pumping can be helpful.

*Yoga. Not all of us are capable of bending ourselves into a pretzel, but any sort of stretching — gentle stretches for at least 20-30 seconds at a clip — can reduce physical signs of stress, as well.

*Take a warm shower. It sounds simple, but it can help increase blood flow to the part of the body that may be bothering you. That reduces pain and stress.

She suggests the following to deal with stress that affects you psychologically:

*Talk it out. Chatting with a trusted friend or family member can help lower cognitive stress levels.

*Write it out. In a similar way, writing in a journal can be cathartic and provide stress relief.

*Watch a movie in a warm blanket with some hot chocolate. It may sound like one of those after school TV movies, but it can work effectively. Humor, comfort foods and a relaxed atmosphere make a wonderful trifecta.

(For a look at an example of pet therapy, check out the video below of a de-stress program offered at Southern a few days before the start of final exams. Students were able to interact with dogs of various sizes and breeds.)

[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/66676054 w=375&h=661]

Mika Brzezinski’s new book, “Obsessed: America’s Food Addiction—and my Own” has reopened the periodic national conversation about eating disorders.

Mika, co-host of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” and a former Connecticut broadcast journalist, chronicles her ongoing bout with food addiction and eating disorders. In the book, Diane Smith, a former Connecticut broadcast journalist who is now a producer at the Connecticut Network (CT-N), also talks about her fight against overeating. The two recently discussed the book and their experiences on “Morning Joe.”

When two individuals with successful careers in the media can talk candidly about their personal but painful experiences, the hope is that those battling similar demons will feel a little less isolated, and perhaps will find a path to a healthier lifestyle.

Millions of Americans are estimated to have an eating disorder. Among the disorders are anorexia nervosa (losing weight to the point where it is unhealthy), bulimia nervosa (cycles of binge eating and purging, typically through forced vomiting) and binge eating disorder (pattern of eating in excessive amounts in a short period of time).

blogphotoeatingdisorderWhile eating disorders affect people across society’s demographic spectrum, females in their middle school, high school and college years are typically the most vulnerable, according to Patricia DeBarbieri, a professor of marriage and family therapy at Southern.

“Prevention is the big focus in eating disorder work right now,” DeBarbieri says. “Like the ‘great smoke out,’ it is the best protection.”

DeBarbieri says the development of a healthy sense of self – which includes solid doses of self-esteem, self-confidence and self-respect — is very important in that prevention effort. She notes that a healthy sense of self contributes significantly to a person’s social and emotional development. In turn, social and emotional development builds resiliency, which is kind of a psychological/emotional vaccine against developing eating disorders. Just like flu vaccines, it’s not a guarantee you won’t come down with an eating disorder, but you reduce your chances significantly. And if you do develop a disorder, it is likely to be less virulent.
Of note, she is not talking about the development of an inflated self-esteem or narcissism that many experts see as a growing phenomenon in society today.

DeBarbieri offers the following outlook for girls and young women to follow to build a healthy self-esteem and resiliency:

I am unique. Nobody else on the planet is quite like you, whether it is the way you think, act or proceed in life. It is important to help young people identify their uniqueness and celebrate their special qualities. This does not mean that everything you do is wonderful, nor are you always right, but nobody does it quite like you.

I am connected. A strong support network is important, especially in the formative years. This can be to your family, your school, your hometown or your place of worship. It can also be in a larger context, such as connection to your state or country.

I am comfortable in my body. The “beautiful people” tend to be the stars of TV, movies, advertisements and other forms of media. There is certainly nothing wrong with being beautiful, but the problem is that the images shown tend to be the exceptions, rather than the rule, within the population. Over time, that can negatively influence the way people view their own bodies since the large majority of the public can’t match up. It may be counterintuitive, but rather then encouraging people to eat healthier and exercise more, it can have the opposite effect as despair sets in at not being able to look like them.

I am lovable. Unconditional love is said to be the purest form of love on earth. There are no strings attached. That feeling of being accepted and loved is crucial to a healthy self-esteem.

I am capable. Self-confidence is an important quality to have when dealing with life’s twists and turns. That confidence – genuine self-confidence as opposed to false bravado – generally is developed through taking on age-appropriate responsibilities. (As we discussed in an earlier post, helicopter parenting can create problems, notably in the area of self-confidence.)

I assert my power to make choices. An important factor in developing a healthy self-esteem is being able to assert yourself in making your own choices. Allowing other people to consistently make your decisions can chip away at your self-esteem.

I have role models. Role models can fall into the category of people we know personally, as well as those who we don’t but admire from afar. They can also be fictional. But we have to be careful to choose positive role models whose values are similar.

Those of you who watched David Ferrer come agonizingly close to pulling off an upset against Andy Murray in the recent Sony Open couldn’t help but wonder what was going through his mind in those last few games of the tennis match.

Ferrer, arguably the 5th best player in the world, is a model of consistency on the tennis court. His speed, accuracy and heart make him a force to be reckoned with against any opponent – his inability to beat the Big Four (Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray) in title matches notwithstanding.

In the finals of the Sony Open, Ferrer crushed a lackluster Murray in the 1st set, 6-2. Murray found his stride in time to win the 2nd set, 6-4. Ferrer took a 6-5 lead in the 3rd set and had a golden opportunity to win it all. In fact, he had a break and match point, only to falter. Finally, in the tiebreaker, Murray decisively put him away.

blogchokingphoto3Many would call it a case of a classic “choke.” It was almost as if the reality suddenly sank in of being on the doorstep of beating one of the Big Four. We’ll never know, of course, what he really was thinking and feeling at those moments. But a subconscious fear of success could have been at work.

We’ve seen similar scenarios play out in so many close games and contests. One athlete or team thrives under pressure, while another wilts. Many of you might remember the New York Yankees leading the Boston Red Sox 3-0 in the 2004 AL Championship Series. Given that no Major League Baseball team has ever fallen to an opponent after leading 3-0 in a best-of-seven series, the Yankees were all but crowned as the AL champion. But Boston rallied in the final four games to win the series.

When a pattern of faltering in pressure situations occurs, the person or team develops a reputation of being a “choker.” The Buffalo Bills are a classic case, losing in four straight Super Bowl appearances (1991 to 1994). The most agonizing of those defeats came in 1991, when kicker Scott Norwood missed a 47-yard field goal attempt in the final seconds to save the Giants’ tenuous 20-19 lead.

So, what exactly happens physically and psychologically when someone chokes?
Sharon Misasi and David Kemler, both professors of exercise science at Southern, say it has to do with psychological pressure (stress) causing feelings of insecurity, muscle tension or autonomic arousal to occur. “When a performer perceives these affects occurring, it often leads to debilitating cognitive and/or motor outcomes,” they say.

“The performer’s scope of thinking diminishes due to the brain’s defenses that push the body into fight, flight and/or play dead mode. Worry and pressure cause the performer to forget or not access the motor programs that he or she has to solve the problem.”
Interestingly, it’s not just fear of failure that can lead to choking. Fear of success is a frequent culprit, as well.

“A performer may be worried (anxiety) about what will happen if they succeed at this level. They may be thinking, ‘What if I am successful? What will be expected of me the next time? Why do I deserve to be successful?’ This form of thinking and feeling can lead to our attention being directed to non-relevant cues, such as noises in the crowd, waving of the pompoms and trash talking. In the case of tennis, the individual performer focuses on the opposing player and not the tennis ball, or in football, the kicker focuses on the linemen or the football and not the uprights.”

What can be done to overcome a choking tendency?

Misasi and Kemler offer a few suggestions:

Practice game-like situations to prepare for the increased stress level that accompanies game day. These types of drills also help increase one’s self-confidence, which is an important step toward overcoming choking.
Keep expectations realistic and put the event in perspective. While predicting knockouts and the rounds that they would occur might have worked for Muhammad Ali, it could wreak havoc with the psychology of someone prone to choking.
In the days before the event, visualize yourself performing well. Visualization has proven to be effective psychological technique for many athletes.
Work with a sports psychologist. Coaches and athletes have varying degrees of knowledge and awareness of the phenomenon of choking. But a good sports psychologist is trained in the subject and can help an athlete overcome this obstacle.

Does anyone have any other tips to prevent choking?

It’s the stuff from which comedy skits are made.

You’re at a business dinner and you order something that has the potential to be especially messy. Nevertheless, you say to yourself, “What are the odds that I would actually be klutzy enough to spill the food?”

But sure enough, you end up being another victim of Murphy’s Law – the sauce spills on your dress or you dip your tie into the soup. Or even worse, you mishandle a dish or glass and the contents are suddenly all over your potential new boss, client, or someone else you are trying to impress.

blogbusinessetiquettephotoYou apologize profusely. And while the other person may be gracious (best-case scenario), the fizz for the business dinner suddenly is gone. No matter what you say or do for the rest of the evening, you know that the spilled food will be what is remembered most clearly.

That’s not to say that you can’t turn things around and create a generally favorable impression. But it sure is going to be much harder.

So, what can you do to minimize the chances of this kind of thing from happening?

Ellen Durnin, dean of the School of Business at Southern, says following proper etiquette can act as somewhat of an insurance policy toward those types of disasters. That’s not to say they still can’t happen, but it’s smart to play the odds in these settings.

“You want to create a positive impression during a business meal – whether it’s breakfast, lunch or dinner,” Durnin says. “While eating is certainly part of a business meal, your primary objective is usually business-related. It is better to leave the encounter with a half empty stomach than create a half-baked impression.”

She recommends eating before the meeting so that your focus can be on the business at hand.

“If you suddenly feel famished during the business meal, remember that you can always eat until your heart’s content after the meeting, either at home or at another restaurant, Durnin says.

The dean points to several suggestions offered by many business and etiquette experts to make a good impression. They include:

• Arrive on time.
• Be prepared for the meeting or discussion.
• Demonstrate good table manners.
• If you did the inviting, be sure to offer to pay the bill.
• Don’t get distracted by your meal.
• Remember B-M-W for identifying your place setting: from left to right – bread, meal, water. (This avoids the inevitable, “is that my bread plate or yours?”)
• Avoid ordering difficult-to-eat, messy or sticky foods.
• Select a meal from the menu that is in the middle price range of options.

So, what do you do if despite your best efforts, food or drink gets splashed the way of your dinner partner?

“Your response should be quick and sincere,” Durnin says. “Do NOT attempt to wipe the offending substance from their clothes. Instead, say, ‘I apologize. Please send your dry cleaning bill to me.’”

Durnin suggests moving on with the conversation at the table. “The other person does not want to focus on their stained clothing for the rest of the meeting, but will appreciate you returning to the conversation at hand.”

She also suggests following up with a message to their office the next business day to request the bill. This shows that the offer from the previous day was not an empty gesture.

Bon appetit!

With the extended winter weather this year, it’s hard to believe that the 2013 Major League Baseball season is upon us. Opening Day is scheduled for Sunday, but more important to Connecticut fans, the Red Sox and Yankees square off on Monday – the first of a three-game series.

When you think Yankees vs. Red Sox, what do you think of? New York vs. Boston. The Big Apple vs. Beantown. Manhattan Clam Chowder vs. New England Clam Chowder. Political Science vs. History.

Say what? You don’t get that last comparison?

You see, at Southern, the chairmen of two academic departments – political science and history – are avid baseball fans. Both are distinguished academicians in their respective fields, and when they are not teaching, researching, writing and administrating, they can often be seen following their favorite team. The two have been friends and colleagues for years. Art Paulson, who leads the Political Science Department, is a dyed-in-the-wool Yankees fan. Troy Paddock, who is in charge of the History Department, has been a Red Sox fan since he was 10 years old.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAInterestingly, both agree that it will be challenging for their respective teams to win the American League East this year. Both agree that it will be a very competitive fight for the division title and that Tampa Bay looms as the team to beat.

But that doesn’t stop either from talking about why they think their team will finish higher in the standings than their arch rival. Each has given their 5 top reasons why that will be the case.

Here they are:

Troy Paddock’s 5 Reasons why the Red Sox Will Beat the Yankees in 2013:

  1. Bobby Valentine is not the manager of the Red Sox. He cost the Red Sox at least 5 or 6 games last year by leaving pitchers in too long. John Farrell knows this team from his time as a pitching coach and the players like him. Enjoying coming into work matters, even when you are playing a game.
  2. Injuries. The Red Sox had a tremendous number of injuries last year. Jacoby Ellsbury, Kevin Youkilis, Will Middlebooks, Clay Buchholz, Jon Lester and David Ortiz all spent significant time on the DL (as did others). If the starting lineup remains relatively healthy, they should be in better shape than last year.
  3. The pitching – both starting and relief — looks to be better. Buchholz and John Lackey have both looked healthy in spring training; Lester looks to be returning to the form that made him one of the best left-handed pitchers in baseball a couple of years ago.
  4. This Red Sox team is deeper than past teams. There are several players who can make the trip up from Pawtucket to help this team. Jackie Bradley Jr. has caught everyone’s eye, but Ryan Lavarnway, Allen Webster, Rubby De La Rosa and Brock Holt have shown they step in as needed, too.
  5. The Yankees look weak. The decision to become fiscally responsible seems to have been ill-timed. With Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira all starting on the DL and CC Sabathia starting to show some signs of wearing down, the Yankees look like they might be in trouble. That’s too bad. Mariano Rivera deserves better in his final season.

Art Paulson’s 5 Reasons why the Yankees Will Beat the Red Sox in 2013:

  1. The Yankees have become the more experienced team. They have Jeter, Granderson, Sabathia, A-Rod, Robinson Cano, Teixeira, Pettitte and Youkilis. The Red Sox have good young talent, but it won’t collectively be as ready as it needs to be.
  2. New York has the better starting pitching. Not by much, but better. Sabathia is stronger than any of the Boston pitchers and Hiroki Kuroda is a pretty solid #2. He may also be better than any Bosox pitcher.
  3. The Yankees have Mariano Rivera and the Red Sox don’t. If Rivera can return to form after last year’s injury, he gives the Yankees a far stronger bullpen than the Red Sox. If for some reason he can’t – and I think he will – then the bullpen will be a close call.
  4. Stronger position-by-position.  If the Yanks can recover from their injuries, we have to give them the edge. Jeter is Jeter, and Cano is the best athlete on either team. Ellsbury is pretty good, but he’s the best the Red Sox have.
  5. The Yankees are the Yankees. The Red Sox are the Red Sox. Enough said.

Play ball!

Check out additional analysis from Art Paulson and Troy Paddock on the 2013 baseball season.

Much has been written about the Millennial Generation – those who were born roughly between 1980 and 2000. We plan to talk about some of the trends of the Millennials – also known as Generation Y — in future posts. But one aspect of this generation that hasn’t garnered as much discussion as some of the other characteristics is its consumer tendencies.

Mel Princeblogmillennialconsumersphoto, professor of marketing at Southern, says this generation is more “cosmopolitan” than others. By cosmopolitan, he means that the kids of today see themselves as “citizens of the world” more than in the past. Strictly speaking, of course, there are no citizens of the world. People are citizens of a particular country, or in some cases, more than one country. We are inhabitants of the world.

And Millennials – like those of previous generations — do identify themselves in this country as Americans. Nevertheless, they tend to see things through more of a global lens than do other generations, according to many experts. The consensus thus far is that they also place more of an emphasis on global issues than previous generations and are more likely to accept and participate in a diversity of cultural activities. They enjoy sampling life in a variety of neighborhoods throughout America and in communities around the globe.

And that interaction includes eating and shopping at establishments that are authentically from other cultures, rather than chain restaurants or retail operations.

Prince suggests that businesses should consider this trend when marketing to this new generation.

He offers the following recommendations:

  • Use high tech media as never before. Sure, the world has embraced the use of Facebook, Twitter, the Internet and other forms of advanced technological communication devices. But it is intertwined in the lives of Millennials in an unparalleled way. If you want to communicate with the Millennials, use of social media is more than just important — it’s critical.
  • Stress authenticity of products. Just as they prefer the “real deal” in consumerism when traveling abroad, Millennials also have more of an allegiance to independently-owned businesses at home.
  • Emphasize sustainability in business motives. Putting aside the cultural debate on the cause of climate change, today’s youth seem to be more concerned about the potential consequences than in past generations. They tend to place more value in businesses that highlight respect for the condition of the planet.
  • Employ urban cosmopolitan atmospheres in advertising messages. Generally speaking, Millennials seem to embrace life in the cities more than those of the Baby Boom Generation or Generation X. Therefore, it can be helpful to use cosmopolitan themes and stress the big city atmosphere when marketing to Millennials.
  • Use sophisticated brand messages that reflect increased cultural capital of this generation. Millennials are generally more comfortable and more attuned with the cultures of other races, ethnicities and nations. This sophistication should be represented in any marketing campaign toward Millennials.

Question to Millennials and non-Millennials alike: What are your thoughts and experiences pertaining to the new generation in the work place? Are they appreciably different from Baby Boomers and Gen Xers? If so, how?

Apple-Pi-413x275pxHigh school and middle school track runners learn early that the shortest distance around a 1/4-mile track is on the extreme inside. The further out you go on the turns, the longer you run. And in a close race, saving ground can make the difference between victory and defeat, or between placing well enough to gain points for your team or not.

But exactly how much extra ground do you save by staying on the inside, rather than venturing out into Lane 2 or 3 or beyond? And how do you figure that out mathematically?

The answer is as easy as pi. Not pie, but pi (same pronunciation).

Pi is a Greek letter used in mathematics referring to the ratio of the circumference of a circle to the diameter. The approximation is 3.14, but the digits of its exact value are believed to go on forever. In fact, researchers now say they have calculated pi to well beyond a trillion digits and there is still no end or repetition in sight.

First, let’s try to determine the circumference of a simple circle using pi. The circumference of a circle equals 2 x pi (~3.14) x radius (or simply pi x diameter). So, taking the C = 2 x pi x radius formula, if the radius of a circle is 5 inches, the circumference would equal about 31.4 inches (2 x pi x 5). So, using another example, if the radius of a circle is 3 inches, the circumference would be about 18.84 inches (2 x pi x 3).

You can take that same formula and apply it to the track, as well, since a track is basically two half circles joined by two straight lines. To calculate how much further you would need to run if you are running any distance outside of the extreme inside, here’s what you do:

Example 1: We’ll assume that the track has been constructed so that it is exactly 440 yards per lap. (Many modern tracks are actually slightly smaller at 400 meters, but let’s assume the track is 440 yards.) Someone running along the extreme inside for the entire trip would travel 440 yards. But if you were to run 2 yards away from the inside for a full lap (putting you somewhere in the middle of Lane 2), the radius of your lap would be 2 extra yards. Using the formula (2 x pi x 2), the circumference of your lap would equal about an additional 12.56 yards, for a total of about 452.56 yards. In other words, you ran about an extra 12.56 yards.

Example 2: In this scenario, you’re competing in the 2 mile and are merely 1 yard away from the inside, which would put you on the outer portion of Lane 1 on most tracks. Almost nobody would stay that same distance out from the inside for the entire race, but it wouldn’t be unusual to see someone do that for a portion of it. So, if you’re running 1 yard out for 3 of the 8 laps, that would mean you ran about an extra 6.28 extra yards (2 x pi x 1) per lap. If you did that for 3 laps, that gives you an about an extra 18.84 yards of running.

In reality, runners often have to go to the outside to pass someone. But passing on a turn requires you to run longer, whereas running on the outside on a straightaway requires no extra ground (except for a miniscule addition of moving diagonally for a step or two).

Many schools will celebrate “Pi Day” on March 14. (It’s designated as March 14 because of the approximation 3.14.) Rich DeCesare, associate professor of mathematics at Southern and the certification coordinator for the university’s Math Department, offers some historical tidbits about pi:

•The Hindu mathematician Aryabhata (476 to 550 A.D.) gave the following rule for determining pi. “Add four to one hundred, multiply by eight and then add sixty-two thousand. The result is approximately the circumference of a circle of diameter twenty thousand. By this rule, the relation of the circumference to diameter is given.” (Believe it or not, that formula actually gave us a pretty good approximation – 3.1416.)

•In 1897, the Indiana House of Representatives almost passed a bill that would have declared pi to be equal to 3.2. The bill was stopped at the last minute, saving the Hoosier State from a “not so precise approximation” declaration.

•Pi is sometimes called “Ludolph’s number” or “the Ludolphine number” after the mathematician Ludolph van Ceulen (1540 to 1610), who computed the numeral to 35 decimal places. His widow had the 35 digits carved on his tombstone. Talk about dedication to a cause!

•There are many mnemonics for remembering the first several digits of pi, which depend upon counting the number of letters in words. One example is: “May I have a large container of coffee?” That gives you 3.1415926. (Three letters in “May”…one letter in “I”…four letters in “have”…etc.) The longest mnemonic can only have 32 words since the 33rd digit of pi is zero.

Does anyone have other interesting anecdotes or practical applications of pi?

It is an unspoken right – and even social expectation — among those who have reached a certain age to express concern about the younger generations. You know the comments:

  • “Kids today just don’t have any respect for authority.”
  • “What’s going to happen when these kids start running the country? We are going to be in serious trouble.”
  • And a host of remarks that begin with something like…“When we were growing up, we didn’t have…”

But today, perhaps more than at any other time since the height of the Baby Boom Generation, parenting styles also have taken the spotlight. We hear much of what happens if you raise your children without structure and rules, and what happens if you have too much structure and too many rules. We hear about raising your kids with too much self-esteem and not enough self-esteem. And you might remember all the media attention paid to the “Tiger Mom” and how it prompted a national discussion about parenting.

Nevertheless, it is the phenomenon of Helicopter Parents that is the most discussed and analyzed by professional psychologists, family therapy experts, parents and educators. The consensus is that this type of parenting, while often well-intended, tends to do more harm than good.

bloghelicopterparentsgraphicFor those who may not have heard of the term, it refers to parents who are overly involved in their children’s lives and who tend to “micromanage” their kids’ day. In many instances, this “hyper-involvement” continues into the college years and sometimes even beyond. The consequences of this type of parenting style can include hindering kids’ ability to gain a proper amount of age-appropriate independence and to solve their own problems.

Suzanne Carroll, professor of marriage and family therapy at Southern, and Phyllis Gordon, manager of the university’s Family Therapy Clinic, are quite familiar with this trend. Both say that many people might not even be aware that they have fallen into the Helicopter Parents category. They offer four examples of how you know you are probably a Helicopter Parent:

  • You are doing homework assignments for your child or are frequently checking to make sure they’ve done them.
  • You are the one managing their responsibilities, such as doing their homework, waking up on time and attending athletic team practices.
  • You refer to your child’s team, club or organization as “we.” For example, saying that “we have a game today.”
  • You and your child are communicating too frequently, such as with multiple texts and/or phone calls each day.

Carroll and Gordon are not in any way suggesting that parents should be oblivious to their children’s lives. On the contrary, they underscore the importance of showing concern for their children’s well-being. But being overly involved in their lives can create long-term problems. Here are some suggestions that Carroll and Gordon offer to strike that balance of being a responsible mom or dad without being a Helicopter Parent:

  • Set REALISTIC goals and expectations with your child, based on their age and abilities.
  • Work with your child to make a plan (if needed), on how to meet those goals/expectations.
  • Step back. Have your child take responsibility for meeting those goals/expectations.
  • Be prepared to renegotiate.
  • Let your child accept the natural consequences of their efforts.

Carroll and Gordon recognize that resisting the inclination of parents to “fix” their children’s every problem or task can be difficult – especially at first. After all, it is perfectly natural for parents not to want to see their children struggle. And, of course, there are times when swift parental intervention is necessary. But a consistent pattern of micromanaging can have significant consequences as a child gets older and enters the world of adulthood.

“Remember, parenting is the illusion of control,” Carroll says.

For additional reading about the phenomenon of Helicopter Parents, check out a recent column written by Anne Michaud, interactive editor at Newsday.

As romantic vibes fill the air with the approach of Valentine’s Day, it is easy to assume that today’s customs — such as buying your significant other a token of affection or taking them out for a candle-lit dinner — have always existed in the American culture.

blogphotovalentinesdayGranted, the chocolates that existed once upon a time probably didn’t come in as many forms or flavors. And a floral arrangement in the 1700s might not include one of those cute teddy bears. But the basic idea was pretty much the same, right?

Not really. In fact, dating as we know it did not even exist in America until the Revolutionary War. And even courtship – a serious effort to woo a potential marriage partner – had been confined primarily to the elite class, according to Marie McDaniel, assistant professor of history at Southern.

To be fair, the country was much more sparsely populated back then, and there were no cars to hop into for a quick drive. People either walked, or traveled on horseback, wagon or if you had money, by carriage.

So, guys, if only you were alive in those days, you wouldn’t need to worry about trekking out late on Valentine’s Day eve to pick up a card, or get those chocolate truffles she has come to expect.

But romance began to change in America after the birth of our nation.

“The Revolutionary War served as a social revolution, even though it was an unintended consequence,” McDaniel says.

She notes that during colonial times, marriages were based more on economic interests than romantic ones. And companionate love took precedence over passionate love when considering a spouse. “The emphasis on romantic love really doesn’t take off until after the Revolutionary War. The culture and customs in colonial America were in many ways a backlash against England,” says McDaniel, who notes that passionate love was alive and well in England during the 1700s.

But societal mores began to change. The courting ritual began to take hold among what would later be known as the middle class after American independence.

The change to a democratic form of government had a cascade effect that led to the proliferation of romantic literature, especially in the form of novels. McDaniel notes. America began to place a higher value on education after the war – first with boys — because it recognized the importance of an educated citizenry in a democracy. White male property owners had gained the right to vote to elect the nation’s leaders and with that right came an increased responsibility. But an increased emphasis on the need to educate girls would follow – not because women could vote back in the early 1800s, but because mothers needed to be better educated so that they could raise well-educated sons. This better education of girls enabled them to read more novels, which encouraged their publication.

And by 1840, and the advent of the Victorian Era, the whole concept of romance in America had changed. Even many of the trappings of marriage that exist today, such as the wearing of white dresses and the exchange of vows and rings, began to flourish around that time.