Are Parents Trying Too Hard?

Oct 10, 2016

After helicopter parenting and tiger moms, a new book tells American parents to back off!  We talk with  developmental psychologist Alison Gopnik  about her book, The Gardener and The Carpenter.  Gopnik draws on the science of the human brain and evolution to make the argument that children are hard-wired to learn on their own.  We discuss the two possible ways of thinking about the role of parents suggested by the book's title and look at insights the new science offers into the relationship between parents and kids. 

GUEST:   Alison Gopnik, professor of psychology and philosphy at University of California, Berkeley.

Sean Hurley

Six years is barely the blink of an eye for the White Mountains, which have defined New Hampshire’s landscape for more than a hundred million years. But to a father, six years can feel like a lifetime - as NHPR’s Sean Hurley discovered while hiking recently with his son.

ihaveadreamorgeon / Flickr/CC

With the number of diagnoses and prescriptions on a twenty-year rise, these days, having a kid with ADHD is no longer outside the norm. Still: there's plenty of disagreement over the nature of the diagnosis itself, when medication can help kids, and when other approaches might be better. 

This program was originally broadcast on January 19, 2016.

Logan Shannon / NHPR

When it comes to the players and intrigues of primary politics, Fergus Cullen, has plenty of stories. On today’s show we celebrate election day with the former chair of the New Hampshire Republican Party. He'll dish on some key moments of primaries past, And explain what he thinks makes New Hampshire voters tick.

Plus, we'll remember the campaign of Margaret Chase Smith, the first woman from a major party to run for president, in 1964.

Kids and Digital Media: What Parents Need to Know

Dec 22, 2015
Mike / Flickr/CC

This holiday season, many kids are asking for shiny new devices, but some parents worry about how access to all this may affect children. We talk with the author of a new book that takes a fact-not-fear approach to exposing kids to technology, and promises to help parents navigate the digital world.


Adam Foster via flickr Creative Commons /

We all use encryption technology to keep our data and credit cards safe. ISIS does too - for communication and recruiting. The Obama Administration and some lawmakers want tech companies to provide access to encryption codes, but would making data more vulnerable make us safer? We’ll take a look into the complicated issue of encryption. Then, a tech researcher conducted a two-year study on how families maneuver the digital world and found that restricting screen time is unrealistic and counterproductive. An argument for why parents shouldn’t be ashamed of technology. 

PeterHDK / Flickr/CC

In his new book, Josh Levs says many dads today want to engage with their families, but old office stereotypes prevail, with corporate policies standing in the way.  He says that hurts not only fathers, but families and businesses as well.

This program was originally broadcast on 9/16/15.



Elizabeth / Flickr/CC

After allowing their six and ten year old children to walk a mile home by themselves, a Maryland couple are fighting accusations of child neglect. The case has inflamed a familiar argument over how much supervision and independence children need. We’ll look behind the clichés and get the range of views on free-range parenting.

Joel Telling via Flickr CC /

Katrina was one of the deadliest hurricanes in American history, but hardly one of the strongest to hit the Gulf Coast or the city of New Orleans. Today, a look at the geography of poverty and how societal factors turn natural disasters into disproportionate catastrophes. Plus, a primer on gifted kids. Many parents try to nurture their child to bring out the very best, but some may be looking over signs that their child is truly exceptional. And, new research on an old question: do babies make new parents unhappy?

Such a Groke via Flickr CC /

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 30% of people between the ages of 18 and 34 are living at home with their parents. There are many opinions as to why - but perhaps parental techniques are partly to blame. On today's show: can over-parenting ruin confidence? Then, the value of teaching kids to cook, and how coloring books - for adults, mind you - are on the rise. And finally, we take a look at the more political side of well-beloved Dr. Seuss.

Stephanie Sicore via Flickr CC / //

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 30% of people between the ages of 18 and 34 are living at home with their parents. There are many opinions as to why - but perhaps parental techniques are partly to blame. On today's show: can over-parenting ruin confidence? Then, the value of teaching kids to cook. And finally, we take a look at the more political side of well-beloved Dr. Seuss.

Does Homework Matter? N.H. Educators Weigh In

Aug 3, 2015
Marco Nedermeijer / Flickr/CC

The emerging focus in New Hampshire on what’s called “competency-based” education, emphasizes mastery of a subject over time in class or number of worksheets completed.  But traditional homework has many defenders, who say it solidifies class learning and fosters good study habits.

  This program was originally broadcast on January 8, 2015.


Summer Camp: An Antidote To 'Helicopter Parenting?'

May 26, 2015
Camp Emerson / Flickr/CC

We talk with author Michael Thompson, who argues in his new book that kids need summer camp more than ever.  With today’s over-scheduled and over-protected children, Thompson says summer camp remains one of the few places where kids have to rough it, stretch their boundaries, and conquer the challenges of the great-outdoors.

The First Decade: N.H. Family Demographics

May 18, 2015
Emma Fierberg / Flickr Creative Commons

The Granite State has one of the lowest childhood poverty rates in the nation. But behind that rosy figure is a widening gap between children who have and those who have not. As we kick off our series “The First Decade” we’ll look at the causes, effects, and potential solutions for families struggling in New Hampshire.

Logan Shannon / NHPR

As schools across the country struggle to meet the new national common core standards, one controversial aspect of education is not part of the curriculum: sex education. On today’s show, the evolving debate around sex ed, which is not strictly an American phenomenon.

Then, parental leave has been shown to benefit infant health and early development, but Jennifer Senior argues that if we truly care about our kids’ well-being, the policy should not stop after the first 12 weeks.

Listen to the full show or click read more for individual segments.

igor kislev / Flickr/CC

Of all the difficult conversations between parents and children, talking about money may be the one parents are the least prepared for. This, despite the constant stream of financial news and data all around us. We talk with New York Times columnist Ron Lieber about where parents should draw the line between educating their children about money and unnecessarily involving them in the financial stress of an adult life.


Petra / Flickr/CC

It’s often said that adolescents are impulsive partly because their brains aren’t fully developed.  Now a new book adds fuel to the discussion, describing how the period of adolescence is a lot longer these days, from age ten to twenty-five. It also shows that the brain at this time is highly malleable, and much more easily influenced by both positive and negative experiences. 

This program was originally broadcast on November 3, 2014.

Lyanne Guarecuco / Flickr/CC

A recent survey shows Americans rank finding balance between our jobs and lives beyond work as a top priority, but that overall we’re doing a poor job achieving that.  We’re looking at this conundrum, and exploring the notion that perhaps we do in fact have more leisure time than we think, especially compared with earlier eras.

This show is a rebroadcast that originally aired on 9/3/14.


Kevin Flynn for NHPR

As kids head back to school it's time to get nostalgic for adolescent days and the milestones that come with them...that first kiss, getting your driver's license, prom.

And then there are the milestones that parents are often dragged into...whether we like it, or not.

I had no one to blame but myself for being stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic on Route 128. In the backseat were two 14-year-old girls playing an endless game of “Would You Rather...”  Ever hear of it? It goes like this:

Dr. Murray Straus has studied the use of spanking and corporal punishment with children for decades, as a professor of sociology and founder and co-director of the Family Research Laboratory at the University of New Hampshire.

He compares the research on spanking to studies on cigarettes – people use it because it seems right at the time, but that’s because they can’t see the long-term dangers.

starleigh via Flickr Creative Commons

On July 1st, the Chinese government enacted a new law called the “Protection of the Rights and Interests of Elderly People”.  It is, in effect, a state-sponsored guilt trip for the adult children of older parents…stipulating the need for frequent visits, phone calls, etc.

Retired teacher and computer consultant Barry Davis read about the new law in the New York Times... then wrote an op-ed suggesting America follow suit with its own “Bubbe’s Law”, as he calls it.  We tracked Barry down at his home in Connecticut for more.

(Photo courtesy Paula Poundstone)

For many public radio listeners, the weekend begins with NPR’s oddly informative, extremely funny program Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me. Comedian Paula Poundstone is a frequent panelist on Wait Wait, and she’ll be performing  at the Colonial Theatre in Bethlehem, New Hampshire this Thursday.  Paula spoke with Virginia Prescott last year about what it’s like to be in the business of comedy.

rbrucemontgomery via Flickr Creative Commons

Children’s books are delightful, colorful, and whimsical ways to introduce children to reading. Although parents may find it a wee bit annoying to repeat the same stories night after night, reading to kids is crucial to healthy childhood development and helps form their vision of a world outside of their own. A study released last year found that children’s books are woefully under-representative of cultural diversityJason Boog is editor of the publishing website GalleyCat – he’s working on a book about reading to kids, and has been keeping an eye on content for kids.

People often lament that handwriting is a lost art. But if the creators of a new educational tool have their way, calligraphy will never die out completely. The Lernstift – or “learning pen”– is a working computerized pen which uses vibration to help improve handwriting, and is projected to go into production this fall.   Word of Mouth’s Molly Donahue spoke with Daniel Kaesmacher who helped develop the Lernstift, to learn a little bit more about it.

The Baby Wait

Dec 17, 2012
Mr. Physics via Flickr Creative Commons

Since 1970, the average age of first-time parents has increased markedly, from twenty-one years-old to twenty-five. Now, many parents wait even longer to conceive, and science makes it possible with advances in fertility treatments. A new era of freedom for women and men looking to have children later in life is now more a reality than a possibility, and the consequences are becoming more apparent.

Free-Range Kids!

Sep 28, 2012

We talk to the author of a new book who says that today’s hovering, hyper-safety-conscious parents are doing their children no favors. In fact, she says, overprotective adults have created a generation of fragile kids who fall apart once they hit the real world.  We’ll examine why American childhood has become so restricted, and one mom’s crusade to restore its freedoms.

Lenore Skenazy is the keynote speaker at this year’s N.H. Children in Nature Coalition conference, Oct. 4, at the Castleton Conference Center in Windham, NH.


Back-to-school season means new notebooks, pencils, and pens, and for at least one very lucky kid – a brand-spanking new lunchbox.  J.M.

Oude School via Flickr Creative Commons

Parents of girls dread the moment when freckles and flats first make way for lipstick and heels - when soon-to-be-teen girls start flirting with adult styles and sensibilities.  A new study reveals there’s one activity that might help shelter young girls from the cultural rite of sexualization for a few more years… ballet. 

Boys and Ballet via Flickr Creative Commons

We’ve recently noticed a trend of all-boys ballet classes popping up in dance schools, including the Southern New Hampshire Dance Theater in Bedford. Word of Mouth Senior Producer Rebecca Lavoie, herself the mother of two boys, wanted to find out more about all-boys ballet, so she reached out to that school’s artistic director, Patricia Lavoie (just coincidence…no relation) for more on their all-boys ballet program, and the trend of these classes popping up all over the country.

(Photo by rodab0B via Flickr Creative Commons)

Produced with Emma Ruddock