Another birthday

April 22, 2014

Our family should have been celebrating another birthday today – that of our first son, Tom.

But he had a brain disorder and lived only 20 weeks.

In spite of all the tests which were carried out while he was alive and a post mortem, no cause was found for his problems and we were told it was safe to have another baby.

We did and just over two years after Tom’s birth we welcomed Dan’s arrival.

Our joy was short-lived. When he was just two weeks old Dan started having fits, which was the first sign we’d had that Tom had problems. It took a few weeks of tests while we waited and hoped. But eventually we had to accept that Dan had the same condition which had killed his brother.

He lived longer, dying 10 days after his fifth birthday, although he passed none of the developmental milestones and could do no more the day he died than the one he was born.

The year after Dan’s death we hosted an AFS scholar from Argentina.

There’s a huge element of luck in these relationships and we struck the jackpot – a lovely teenager whose family became ours.

I can’t answer the question of whether it would have been better to have healthy children ourselves or to have our exchangee and his family in our lives.

Of course I’d rather our sons were alive, happy and healthy but I wouldn’t want to shut the doors that have opened because those ones closed.

All I can say is that few people go through life untouched by sad times but it is possible to get over them and life happy lives again, not just in spite of them but sometimes because of them.

We’ve you’ve been in the dark valleys, the light and warmth on the mountain tops is even better.

To see ourselves . . .

April 20, 2014

A modern parenting tip from a Facebook friend and father of a two-year-old:

Modern Parenting Tip: video your kid having a tantrum on your phone then play it back to them immediately. They are always distracted by videos of themselves. 100% success rate so far.

 Would it work for kids of all ages?

As Burns said -

. . . O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us! 

World’s toughest job

April 18, 2014

Who would want a job like this?

Here’s a pretty cool project from Mullen for a client we won’t immediately reveal, lest we spoil the surprise. (Scroll down to the bottom of credits, or watch the video to find out.)

The Boston agency posted this job listing online for a “director of operations” position at a company called Rehtom Inc. The requirements sounded nothing short of brutal:

• Standing up almost all the time
• Constantly exerting yourself
• Working from 135 to unlimited hours per week
• Degrees in medicine, finance and culinary arts necessary
• No vacations
• The work load goes up on Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s and other holidays
• No time to sleep
• Salary = $0

The job ad got 2.7 million impressions from paid ad placements. Only 24 people inquired. They interviewed via webcam, and their real-time reactions were captured on video.

Check out what happened below. It’s worth watching to the end.  

Welfare reform that works

April 15, 2014

Robert Doar writes on welfare reform that works and he does it from the inside:

. . . From early 2007 until the end of 2013, I was the commissioner of the New York City Human Resources Administration (HRA), the agency with the 1960s-era name that occupies 180 Water Street. And before 2007, going back to early 1996, I worked at, and for a time led, the state agency that was responsible for overseeing many of the government-assistance programs administered by the city. But while my perspective is that of an insider, the facts speak for themselves: From 1995 until the end of 2013, New York City’s cash-welfare caseload shrunk from almost 1.1 million recipients to less than 347,000 — a drop of more than 700,000 men, women, and children.

The achievements of welfare reform in New York City were about more than reducing the number of people on cash welfare. There were also big increases in work rates for single mothers (up from 43 percent in 1994 to 63 percent in 2009) and large reductions in child poverty (down from 42 percent in 1994 to 28.3 percent in 2008). Even in the wake of the 2008 recession, child poverty in New York City in 2011 was almost ten percentage points lower than it had been the year before welfare reforms started.

Welfare-caseload declines, work-rate increases, and child-poverty declines all happened largely because, for eight years under Mayor Giuliani and twelve years under Mayor Bloomberg, New York City required welfare applicants and recipients to work, or look for work, in return for benefits. We aggressively detected and prevented fraud and waste (although we didn’t stop all of them); and we enforced these requirements with a vigilance that every day led to hundreds of case closings and welfare-grant reductions as we made clear that welfare came with responsibilities. . .

He gives 10 tips on welfare reform which includes:

Always promote personal responsibility. The minute an applicant believes that government will solve all of her problems, she loses. Accepting responsibility for one’s own future is the vital first step to moving up. . .

Employment is far better than training and education. In the years leading up to the passage of the federal welfare-reform legislation, study after study showed that programs that encouraged training and education over rapid employment proved less successful at getting people into jobs that lasted.  . .

The priority should be work first, then education or on-the-job training as a supplement.

Making work pay is welfare reform too. Being off of cash welfare does not mean a person is off of all assistance. Not only are a lot of former cash-welfare recipients still dependent on some form of assistance, but the increasing use of these programs means that total spending has not been reduced as a result of federal welfare reform. It has actually increased.

Food-stamp benefits, child-care vouchers, and public health insurance all were part of this arsenal of non-cash “work supports” that we promoted in New York. And so long as these forms of government assistance went to working people, the public was supportive. . .

Be honest about the importance of married two-parent families. Very few families with married and involved parents, both working, ever need any form of welfare. This is why I came to believe that it was dishonest for us not to talk about the importance of parents’ marriage in reducing the poverty of children. Children need stable, two-parent families. No government or public program can replace a missing parent. It was the recognition of government’s inadequate response to the problem — and my desire to be honest about it — that led us to put together the city’s public-messaging campaign about the consequences of teen pregnancy.. . . 

Caseworkers don’t cost much; benefits do. I understand the temptation to rail against bureaucrats and bureaucracy, but in welfare the money is spent mostly on benefits to clients, not the administrative costs of the agency. Welfare-administration costs are typically less than 5 percent of a program’s total costs. . .

Welfare recipients (and workers too) will try to “get over.” “To get over” is a very New York expression meaning to steal – usually from government and usually to obtain benefits that one isn’t entitled to. There’s no better opportunity for it than welfare programs. Turning a blind eye to the potential for fraud and abuse is naïve.. .

The vast majority of expenditures in welfare programs are consistent with program rules and not fraudulent. But the overall size of the spending is so great that even a 5 percent error rate is significant. And, more important, taxpayers have a right to expect that spending on programs be managed properly. . . .

When it comes to the disabled, trust but verify. Obviously a work-based welfare program can’t be successful if someone is too sick or disabled to work. But accepting disability claims at face value isn’t the right answer either. That’s why we set up a whole separate (and, yes, bureaucratic) process for welfare applicants who claimed they could not work because of some physical or mental condition. . .

Over the years, we found thousands of people who said they could not work but in fact could. We helped an equal number improve their underlying conditions so that they could go to work. And we helped those who really did qualify for the federal program gather the documentation necessary to apply.Always cheer for the economy. I spent seven years running New York City’s welfare programs for Michael Bloomberg, and as proud as I was of what our social-service programs provided to poor New Yorkers, I never forgot that perhaps the most important key to helping struggling families was a vibrant economy that offered an abundance of entry-level jobs. That’s why I was always first in line to support and encourage every kind of thoughtful economic-development idea that promised job creation.   . .

To make welfare programs succeed, always cheer for the economy, and those who nurture it. . .

All of these factors apply just as much in New Zealand as New York.

Welfare reforms that work are better for the people who move from welfare to work, or who get the right help because they can’t work.

The benefits aren’t just economic they’re social too with improvements in positive statistics like health and decreases in negative ones like crime.

Welfare reforms that work pay-off for us all.

Hat Tip AEIdeas

Successful succession

April 15, 2014

A recent Baker and Associates’ weekly AgLetter* included Rob McCreary’s thoughts on succession planning, given at the Wairarapa Farm Business of the Year Field Day.

1. Rob’s farther was an academic. The greatest thing his father passed on to Rob was no expectation of succession!

2. You have to define what you mean by succession vs inheritance. In Rob’s view, succession is about investing in the energy, youth and enthusiasm of the next generation. It’s also about handing on your experience and being a mentor to the next generation. Inheritance is simply getting what’s left at the end.

3. It’s important to pass on some debt, as well as assets.

4. Make sure the kids have a business or a part of a business that they can stamp their mark on.

5. Because children work in their family businesses, there is an automatic expectation of succession. In older businesses, this expectation is probably a lot stronger, and therefore needs a lot more management.

6. If it’s important to treat all children equally, their net equity will only be equal for one day. After that day, their own business skills and external forces will change what that equity becomes. This is a fact of life. There should be no come‐back.

7. For a successful succession plan, your business needs to grow. Concentrate on improving the things that increase income. Don’t over‐capitalise. Buy more land. Spread your business.

8. Carry out your succession plan as early as you can. This gives your kids more opportunity to do something with their own equity.

9. All the young people I’ve come to know who have been given this type of help have driven their business further and better than the last generation.

 Succession is a generally complex which will be different for every business.

One measure of successful succession is that all parties are still talking to each other when it’s done.

If one or more offspring wish to farm and others don’t, it’s easier if there’s some off-farm investments for the latter. Not all farms generate enough income to enable this and many prefer to put any profit back into the farm.

Some people think it has to be equal to be fair, others are sure that fair isn’t always equal and equal isn’t always fair.

Regardless of which side you take on this, point 6 is right. Even if all are treated equally their net equity will only be equal ont he day they get it. After that it’s up to them.

* You can see more about the AgLetter and how to subscribe here.

The AgLetter is a weekly publication, which provides timely management and marketing information to sheep, beef and deer farmers throughout the country. Established in 1986, the AgLetter has become a valuable source of information and humour for a large number of subscribers stretching from south Auckland to Southland.

Each week, the AgLetter provides an overview of:

  • Topical management advice
  • Industry Issues
  • Store market prices
  • Export schedule price
  • Market analysis

Detailed prices on export schedules and store sales are provided.

In addition, special topics are covered each week that may range from stock trading profitability analysis, fertiliser price and product reviews, industry developments such as carbon trading, new financial instruments or drench resistance. . .

It’s well written, easy to read and informative.

Two’s more than 1 + 1

April 9, 2014

The ODT has an opinion piece headlined half of two less than one when it comes to families.

There is a devastating demoralising disease sweeping the world at a drastic rate, and children in our generation have a 42% chance of being infected with it.

This disease will affect almost every aspect of a child’s life.

There is no cure, no treatment available, but there is a preventive.

The question is, will you try to stop it?

This disease will give a child a 48% higher possibility of smoking.

One in four children that get the disease will drop out of high school.

Out of the three in four kids who stay in school, 40% of them will not graduate by the age of 20.

If a child is seriously affected, they will fall behind their classmates in math and social skills, and are at immense risk to suffer from anxiety, stress and low self-esteem, which can lead to depression and suicide.

And what is this disease?

In today’s world, when a husband and wife are no longer happy with their relationship, there is an easy way out.

Divorce – the legal separation of man and wife, by judgement of a court, therefore totally dissolving the marriage relation.

You are happy, your ex is happy. Simple solution right?Wrong!Has anyone spared a thought for the children? . . .

Keep reading and see who wrote this.

Only one of my friends had divorced parents when I was a child.

It used to be shameful and people stayed together even when there were very good grounds for separating including that it was dangerous for at least one of the partners and/or the children.

It would be wrong to go back to that.

But is there a way to prepared people better before marriage and  help families, without serious problems, before differences become irreconcilable?

A friend once said, in jest, that she’d never contemplated divorce but murder had crossed her mind a couple of times.

She is of the generation where you work through hard times and know that two parents together are usually better for children than one here and one there.

Every relationship has its difficulties, but Nietzsche’s observation that which doesn’t kill me makes me stronger can apply to marriage too.

A pup by any other name . . .

April 4, 2014

When we were choosing names for our children I wanted something short, simple and easy to pronounce.

Shepherds use the same criteria and several of the names I suggested were vetoed by my farmer because he’d had a dog called that.

Memories are made of this

April 1, 2014

Dear Future Mom

March 21, 2014

When I was pregnant with my second son I attended a business seminar taken by Wilf Jarvis, who developed Four Quandrant Leadership.

One of the points he made was about the danger of sticking labels on people.

He illustrated this by telling of a woman who came to see him about with a young child and began the session by saying “This is my son, he’s a mongol, he’ll never learn to read and write.”

Wilf stopped her and asked his name, she told him and he said, “This is Y and he has Down Syndrome.”

Y is now an adult, living an independent life and among his other achievements is writing his autobiography.

One of the children I met while in hospital with my son had Down Syndrome. He too is independent and one of his achievements was getting his driving licence.

Not all people with Down Syndrome are that able, but then not all people without it are that able either.

It’s World Down Syndrome Day.

This video was made in response to a woman who had discovered the baby she was carrying had Down Syndrome and she was afraid.

Several years ago Emily Perl Kingsley wrote  Welcome to Holland, which explains how she felt when being told her child had a disability.

Is welfare part of the problem?

March 21, 2014

Is poverty driving family break-ups?

Surprise Census figures suggest that poverty may be breaking up the nuclear family. . .

Wellington analyst Paul Callister and Statistics NZ demographer Robert Didham said in Auckland poverty was increasingly concentrated because of housing costs.

“What you are seeing in Auckland is a real sorting effect in the housing market, it’s pushing the sole parents into certain areas,” Dr Callister said.

He said the welfare system meant many couples were better off by separating. Welfare entitlements are based on family income, so if one person loses a job they can’t get a benefit if their partner is working. . .

Lindsay Mitchell points out that this isn’t a chicken or egg scenario:

For a nuclear family to “break-up” it has to exist first. In 2012 the proportion of unmarried births was 48 percent. In the same year, 21 percent of babies born were dependent on welfare – usually the DPB – by Christmas. Around half of these children will spend 7 or more years in the benefit system.

It isn’t poverty driving family disintegration. It’s the availability and heavy use of welfare. This is particularly prevalent amongst Maori because welfare incomes are close to incomes from low paid, unskilled jobs.

As the article notes, “Education is also a powerful factor.” Exactly. In time females with qualifications and aspirations may choose not to embark on a career of poverty-stricken single parenthood. Then again, as long as it’s a seemingly ‘easy’ option the pattern of single mothering and subsequent hardship will continue.

If welfare is regarded as a preferred option for people it is part of the poverty problem, not the solution.

Welfare has a place for those unable to look after themselves, some of those will require long-term, possibly permanent assistance.

But for most recipients it should be a temporary safety net not a long-term hammock.

This is why this government’s policies which are addressing long-term benefit dependency are helping those who can help themselves to do so.

Family Farming road show

March 17, 2014

Rural Women NZ is running a series of events to celebrate the International Year of Family Farming:

“We are excited to be leading events around the country, with a series of road shows beginning at North Otago’s A&P showgrounds in Oamaru on 27 March,” says Rural Women NZ national president, Wendy McGowan.

Similar events will be held at the A&P showgrounds in Rangiora (28 March), Ashburton (29 March), Helensville (5 April), Carterton (6 April), Rai Valley (7 April) and Stratford (9 April). 

Marlborough dry lands farmer, Doug Avery, a passionate advocate for family farming and Landcorp Communicator of the Year in 2013, will co-host the events, giving an inspirational talk on the transformation of his drought-stricken farm into a sustainable venture through visionary changes to his farming system.

Avery predicts farming families will continue to excel in New Zealand.  

“There is one reason they will do that, which is because you can’t replace passion in anything, and people that are working for themselves with their own vision have that element that is called passion, which will lead and beat pretty much anything else that corporate structures will throw at us.”

But farmers can’t operate in isolation.

“Every family needs a farmer, and every farmer needs a community,” says Wendy McGowan. “Our organisation is focused on growing dynamic communities, so celebrating the UN International Year of Family Farming is the perfect fit for us.”

Each of the road shows will have its own local flavour, including seminars on topics such as succession planning, safety on the farm, investing in your farming future and sustainability.

There’ll also be market stalls, crafts and displays by local businesses.  

And we’ll be ending the celebrations on a fun note, with a hilarious romp around the dog kennels courtesy of Kiwi performers The Bitches Box and Mel Parsons, hot from their stellar season at the Edinburgh Film Festival.

Worldwide, the UN International Year of Family Farming is focused on sustainability, food security, the eradication of hunger and malnutrition, and helping people step up out of poverty.

These events are open to the public.
There’s more on the year at the International Year of Family Farming website.

The 2014 International Year of Family Farming (IYFF) aims to raise the profile of family farming and smallholder farming by focusing world attention on its significant role in eradicating hunger and poverty, providing food security and nutrition, improving livelihoods, managing natural resources, protecting the environment, and achieving sustainable development, in particular in rural areas.

The goal of the 2014 IYFF is to reposition family farming at the centre of agricultural, environmental and social policies in the national agendas by identifying gaps and opportunities to promote a shift towards a more equal and balanced development.  The 2014 IYFF will promote broad discussion and cooperation at the national, regional and global levels to increase awareness and understanding of the challenges faced by smallholders and help identify efficient ways to support family farmers. . .

There’s growing concern here about a takeover by corporate farming and foreign owenrs but the vast majority of farms are still family farms.

Finance Minister Bill English explains why the owner operator model works:

“Often farms that are purchased by foreigners end up reverting to local ownership, as the owners realise you have to live it and love it to make any money out of it,” he said.

Living it and loving it, that explains why a lot of families keep farming and farming successfully.


Not so good old days

March 16, 2014

From the ODT’s 100 years ago, a moving tale of cruelty:

Some sidelights on the work which women are sometimes called on to do on a farm were given in the Hawera Magistrate’s Court today, when a farmer’s wife proceeded against her husband, for persistent cruelty to her and her two children and for (1) a maintenance order, (2) a separation order, and (3) a guardianship order.

According to the evidence the parties were married six years ago, and they went to live on a farm at Patea. For a time matters went on smoothly, but subsequently trouble arose, the complainant saying that the defendant insisted upon her assisting with the milking. She had to do her own household work in addition, feed the calves, and chop the firewood. Witness used to go into the shed between 3 and 4 o’clock in the morning, when she milked from 25 to 30 cows out of a herd of 112.

Witness had to milk the same number of cows in the evening, and did not finish until nearly 8.30. She had too much to do, and had often complained of having to work in the cowshed, but her husband only retorted: ”You will come if I want you.” Witness was milking up to the night before her first child was born and three weeks later she was in the shed again. Later on, the defendant put in milking machines, and then she had to strip over 40 cows.

Witness complained that she had to borrow money to come to Hawera to be confined for her second child and while there she received ”pocket” money from her mother. She had only received £1 in pocket money during the six years of her married life. On one occasion the defendant had made trouble about her asking for a shilling to buy a hat, remarking that she could do without it. Her mother made most of the clothes for the children, but had never been paid for them. . . .

A sad reminder that those weren’t always the good old days.

For Children’s Day

March 2, 2014

Photo: Celebrating Children's Day 2014. Like or share if you agree with Paula.  #childrensday


The Minister of Social Development has a role in ensuring those in need get help.

But giving children the best possible start and ensuring they thrive and achieve requires more than benefits and is first and foremost the responsibility and duty of their families.

Raising children for better world

February 28, 2014

Apropos of the discussion on children:
“Like” if you agree.   Do you have wonderfully kind children? Tell us about them in the comments!

I read this as encouragement to nurture, but not spoil.

Children need love, security, boundaries and consequences for breeching them.

Those consequences should not be violent, they should be fair and not cause fear for safety and wellbeing.

Drinking to be illegal in pregnancy?

February 25, 2014

A challenge in the UK against a woman who drank while pregnant could make it illegal for any woman to drink during pregnancy:

. . . The woman kept drinking despite advice from her doctors that excessive amounts of alcohol in pregnancy could seriously damage her unborn child. Her daughter was born with foetal alcohol spectrum disorder, which can cause physical, psychological and behavioural problems.

The child was fostered and is now under the guardianship of a council in the north-west, who have accused the mother of criminal injury. They are trying to secure compensation on her behalf by taking the case to the Court of Appeal.

A tribunal in 2011 already ruled that the child sustained injury because of her mother’s actions, but Judge Howard Levenson of the Administrative Appeals Chamber overturned this ruling in 2013, concluding that no criminal conviction could be made.

Although there had been “administration of a poison or other destructive or noxious thing, so as thereby to inflict grievous bodily harm,” because this took place during pregnancy the unborn baby “was not a person,” and so no criminal offence could be committed.

The council is mounting their challenge against Judge Levenson’s decision. If they succeed, knowingly harming a child by drinking alcohol while pregnant could be classified as a crime. . .

Foetal alcohol syndrome is a serious an preventable condition but making drinking at all when pregnant would be a very serious step.

Not all pregnancies are planned so many women drink without realising they’re pregnant.

Doctors advise women to drink no alcohol while pregnant because there is no known safe amount.

That isn’t quite the same as saying any amount is dangerous.

Making any drinking illegal might stop those who drink very little anyway but it is unlikely to have any influence on addicts.

There are other implications to such a law change- at the moment the unborn child doesn’t have any rights.

If it was criminal to endanger a child by drinking during pregnancy there would be a precedent for action against anything else which could harm the unborn baby, including abortion and possibly IVF.

A few years ago a midwife was found not guilty of charges of misconduct after the death of a newborn baby because she’d followed the mother’s instructions.

A lawyer told me that was because the mother’s wishes trump the baby’s until s/he’s born.  He said moves to change that if the pregnancy was sufficiently advanced to survive outside the womb had never got anywhere.

More money not always solution

February 20, 2014

When National won the 2008 election it inherited Labour’s forecast of a decade of deficits.

Careful management has turned that round in spite of the economic and natural disasters with which the government has had to deal.

The careful balance between economic management and provision of services to those in need was explained during question time yesterday:

3. SHANE ARDERN (National—Taranaki – King Country) to the Minister of Finance: How is the Government balancing its focus on responsibly managing its finances with addressing some of the most challenging social issues facing vulnerable families?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): The Government has been clear since it became the Government that the 50 percent jump in Government spending in the 5 years to 2008 was unsustainable. In setting a path back to surplus, we rejected the option of aggressively cutting spending. Instead, we took the time to understand the drivers of existing spending and whether the spending was delivering results, and to ensure that results were delivered. At the same time, we put significant resourcing and effort into improving the lives of the most vulnerable New Zealanders, particularly children. We are not doing that by throwing taxpayers’ money around indiscriminately. We are attempting to resolve the complex and persistent problems that mean some of our children have lives that sap their sense of opportunity.

Shane Ardern: What are some of the social issues the Government is addressing to improve the lives of the most vulnerable New Zealanders?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Government has set out what it believes those social issues are, but, more than that, it is publishing results in order that the public can hold us and the public service to account for achieving something for the most vulnerable New Zealanders. The Better Public Services targets are particularly challenging because they cover some of New Zealand’s most persistent problems, like long-term welfare dependency, vulnerable children and the amount of violence that they suffer, the need to build skills and employment so these young New Zealanders have real opportunities, and also crime reduction and making our communities safer. Overall, we are making good progress towards meeting these results and further updates will be published tomorrow.

Shane Ardern: What kinds of social issues affecting the most vulnerable New Zealanders did this Government inherit in 2008?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: There were a number of long-standing social issues making the lives of New Zealanders miserable in 2008. They are set out clearly in the Salvation Army’s state of the nation report of February 2008. It said: “The social outcomes which we as New Zealanders have achieved over the past five years”—that is, under the previous Labour-led Government—“were somewhat mixed and in some areas quite disappointing.” The report noted that in 2008 more children appeared to be at risk of harm, more young people were engaged in petty crime, there was more violent crime, and the number of people going to jail was rising at a significant rate. I do not think that any of those trends could be seen as progress. The Salvation Army noted in 2008 that New Zealand households were chronically indebted.

Shane Ardern: What else do reports say about the serious social challenges facing New Zealanders when this Government took office, and particularly the fiscal policy approach to dealing with those issues?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Salvation Army said in its report in 2008 that perhaps the most disappointing aspect was that New Zealand had invested huge amounts of money in core areas of social spending but the spending seemed to have contributed very little to New Zealand’s social progress. This was not said by the then Opposition’s spokespeople; this was from the people from the Salvation Army. The report listed billions of taxpayers’ dollars that had been spent, and then listed many indicators that were going backwards—rising numbers of referrals to Child, Youth and Family Services, more children in Child, Youth and Family Services care, rising youth offending, rising teenage pregnancy and abortion rates, continuing educational inequality, and early childhood enrolment rates lower than 65 percent. Funnily enough, in 2014, almost all of these indicators are turning positive, when the Government has been very careful about its spending but instead has focused on its effectiveness.

It’s an issue of quality rather than quantity.

More money isn’t always the solution to social problems.

While the Labour-led government of the noughties spent more social indicators worsened.

By looking at causes and focussing on effectiveness the government is achieving more without throwing taxpayers’ money into a black hole where it makes no difference.

Fathers matter too

February 5, 2014

Andrei left a comment on a post a couple of days ago which warrants further discussion.

He wrote:

A young man gets a young woman pregnant. In days of yore he would have most likely married her and taken financial responsibility directly for her and their child. If marriage wasn’t possible for whatever reason the child would have most likely been adopted – a sad situation.

But today the most likely outcome is for the young woman to go onto the DPB and if the young man is at the start of his working life and on low wages it is a financial no brainer for her to do this, she’ll get more money and retain “her independence” – well sort of, not really but it will appear that way.

But the young man – well he is in deep do dos. See he is wacked by the IRD for the upkeep of his child and the mother of said child cannot maintain a romantic style relationship with him without breaking the law and risking her benefit and therefore must distance herself and child from him.

And in a great many cases that young man is now better off not working because the reward for his labours is so low, and the money taken from him while in principle is for his child, his child who he might never see, is no better off no matter how hard he works or doesn’t.

And young men caught this way find themselves in a poverty trap with no way out except perhaps absconding to a place where the IRD can’t find them.

I know three young men in this position and there is no way forward for them – and no chance of ever starting a regular family.

If I understand the system correctly, if a couple goes through WINZ, the amount the liable parent pays is based on how much s/he earns but the custodial parent gets a set amount based on the number of children, not what her/his former partner pays.

If the earner gets a pay rise, s/he pays more but the payment to his/her family doesn’t change.

That’s the bind the young men Andrei writes of are in.

But there are ways out.

When friends’ marriage broke up they were advised to settle payments for their children between themselves.

That way the mother, who in this case was the major breadwinner, paid less, and the father received more than if they had gone through WINZ.

This will only work if the working parent has a better than average income and the care giving parent can trust him or her to pay the agreed amount when it is due.

If the earning parent is on low wages or can’t be trusted, it would be safer for the caregiver to go through official channels.

The young men in  Andrei’s comment obviously aren’t earning much.

However, there is a way out for them too.

If the children’s mother starts working, as they are being encouraged and assisted to do, the benefit abates and so, presumably, does the amount the liable parent has to pay towards it.

The focus for assistance has been on the caregiver, but non-custodial parents, in this case the fathers, matter too.

Andrei’s young men are at least as much in need of encouragement and help to find work as the mothers.

If they are on what were called unemployment benefits, they should be getting assistance to find a job and possibly up skill so they can get a better one which will pay more and ensure they can start getting ahead.

Not only they, but their children, will be better off for having parents in work, and not just in financial terms.

The answer to the difficult situation Andrei describes isn’t a handout.

It’s a hand up so both parents can help themselves and their children and neither will have to worry about any agency concerning itself about their romantic arrangements.

How much is enough?

January 28, 2014

A living wage for a family of two was, until yesterday, supposed to be $18.40 an hour.

Inflation must be raging because after the announcement by Labour leader David Cunliffe, promising $60 a week to people who have a baby, a living wage for a family with just one child has risen to $75 an hour or $150,000 a year.

Only those who earn more than that won’t be eligible for $60 a week when they have a baby.

It would be very difficult to argue against giving children the best start possible, but how much is enough to do that?

The first year of a child’s life isn’t the most expensive in terms of providing for her or his needs.

You need equipment – a cot, bedding, buggy, high chair, car seat, clothes, napkins, books, toys . . .

However, nothing apart from the napkins has to be new – they can be bought second hand or borrowed.

Once you’ve got them, if you’re willing and able to breast feed, there’s no cost for food for the first few months and not much after that.

The biggest cost is income forgone if one parent chooses to be a full-time parent and in spite of social and financial pressure to return to work, many women and some men don’t while their children are young.

Most will have saved before they had children and all will have decided that the time and energy they can devote to their children is worth more to them and their family than anything they can earn.

All will make financial sacrifices to do this but they will have worked out that they have enough.

How much that is will be different for each family and when it’s their money it’s their business.

But Labour is planning to spend our money on its $60 a week for every baby which makes it our business.

It is not paid parental leave – parents in work will get the same as those who stay at home, until the combined income gets to $150,000.

There’s no requirement for it to be spent on the baby.

It is a no-strings-attached gift to new parents, whether they need it or not.

If it was targeted at the very poor to ensure they had enough, it would be difficult to argue against.

But it’s not targeted – unless the 95% of new parents who earn less than $150,000 can be called targeting.

It’s an almost universal payment that isn’t based on need, and it gives an equal amount to those who have too little and those who have more than enough.

How much is enough is debatable – but families earning well above the average income are getting too much to need welfare like this.

Best stop Best Start before it starts

January 28, 2014

You’re both working full time in unskilled jobs. You’re only just better off doing that than being on a benefit because of Working for Families and a grandmother who takes care of the children after school. You’re still renting but trying hard to save a deposit for a house.

How would you feel about people earning up to three times what you do because they have a baby?

You’ve just graduated. You want to pay off your student loan as quickly as possible, you need to buy a car, you’re earning $75,000 and it will be a couple of years before you get much more.

How would you feel about paying more tax than you need to so a whole lot of people earning up to twice your salary can get $60 a week because they have a baby?

You’ve just bought your first house. You’re paying off the last of your student loans and servicing a mortgage. The house is a doer-upper and every spare moment either of you have is spent doing it up because you can’t afford to pay anyone else to do it.

How would you feel about some of your tax going to pay $60 a week to people living in a far newer, bigger, better  house than yours, and earn far more than you do, because they have a baby?

You’ve got a couple of preschoolers. One of you works full-time, the other part-time. You’re servicing a mortgage, trying to save for much-needed alterations to your house and put a bit away for travel, retirement and contingencies.

How will you feel knowing some of your tax is paying $60 a week to people earning the same as and more than you, because they have a baby?

You’ve got a couple of teenagers. You earn a bit too much to get anything near $60 a week from Working For families. You’re servicing a mortgage, trying to save for your retirement while feeding, clothing, educating and entertaining your teens.

How would you feel about some of your tax paying $60 a week to people earning more than twice what you do because they have a baby?

You raised your children before Working for Families was introduced and never claimed welfare even though at times you’d have been better off on a benefit than in work. You’re still working, saving for your first overseas holiday and your retirement.

How would you feel about some of the money you earn and could well use towards your retirement going in tax to pay $60 a week to people earning far more than you ever have or will, because they have a baby?

You worked hard all your life, raised your family without anything to spare for extras and went without to save a nest egg for your retirement.

How would you feel about some of the tax you pay going to pay $60 to people who have and earn far more than you ever could just because they have a baby?

If you’d feel aggrieved, you’d be justified because Labour’s Best Start is a corruption of what welfare should be.

It isn’t based on need.

It’s redistribution but it’s not just taking from those who have more than enough to go to those with too little.

It will be taking for people who don’t have enough and going to people who have far more.

Labour leader David Cunliffe said in his speech:

. . . we will be unashamedly asking the wealthiest few percent of income earners to contribute to giving all Kiwi kids the best start.

But increasing tax on incomes over $150,000 is very unlikely to cover the cost of this policy.

Even if it did, it will be paying many people money they don’t need when it could be used to pay for other things the tax on those on much lower incomes has to cover.

This is a very expensive bribe which will give some more than they need while others still don’t have enough.

It’s not a best start it’s bad policy and the best way to stop it before it starts is to vote against the parties supporting it.

Coddled kids set up for failure

January 4, 2014

One of the strongest influences on my parenting was a business seminar on four quadrant leadership taken by Australian behavioural scientist Wilfred Jarvis.

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The quadrants referred to a graph with the employers’ control on the horizontal line and the employees’ skills and ability on the vertical one.

The first quadrant was at the bottom right where the employer had total control and the employee little or no skill. That was I’m in charge and I decide.

The next quadrant moved to the left and up as the employee developed some skill and the employer had less control. That was we’ll discuss and I’ll decide.

The third quadrant moved further to the left and up as the employee’s skill improved and the employer’s control lessened. That was we’ll discuss and we’ll decide.

The fourth quadrant was at the top left with the employee having all the skill required and the employer relinquished any control. That was you’re on your own, but I’m here if you need to consult.

This idea was just as useful in parenting as business.

Putting it into practice meant helping children develop their skills and giving them opportunities to learn and experiment. This let them experience the rewards of succeeding by themselves as well as learning to deal with failure. It fostered confidence, independence and resilience.

I was reminded of this when I read about these coddled kids:

Computer games, junk food, political correctness and apathetic parents are inhibiting Kiwi kids’ development, says physical educator Lee Corlett.

He has seen children cry because the grass on their school field hurts their bare feet, and kids who are so obese that they can’t get up off the ground without help.

“This is what our parents are doing to some of our children. It’s tragic, it’s awful,” he said.

It sounds like parental neglect at best and a form of abuse at worst.

Mr Corlett, of Sporting Initiative Nelson, every week teaches hundreds of Nelson children to “run, jump, throw, hop, skip, and catch, really well”.

He adores his job but says he is dismayed by many Nelson youngsters’ lack of physical skills and confidence, which he said were standard 20 years ago, before “PC gone nuts”.

“School teachers don’t have time any more, and mums and dads don’t have time any more.

“My job is to try and create a habit in the child’s mind that physical activity is real cool. And the hope is that will stay there for the rest of their lives.

“The physically capable children we are working with in Nelson tend to be the more academically capable child later on. That’s cool,” Mr Corlett said.

But parental apathy, and a lack of appreciation of the importance of physical activity for a child’s development, is affecting children’s attitudes toward exercise, something Mr Corlett fears will stay with them their entire lives.

“I’ll go to the park down the street from our house and I’ll see mum sitting there with her children. While they are playing, mum’s busy on the cellphone. There’s no interaction. It’s really sad.”

My parents and their generation didn’t do a lot with their children, they were too busy working. But they did encourage us to do things for ourselves and gave us the freedom to play outside where we ran, biked, climbed, indulged in rough and tumble and explored.

When our parents did have time to take us the beach, river or playground they might have chatted to other parents but they also watched and interacted with us.

Lazy parenting also affected a child’s work ethic, he said.

“Lots of New Zealand children don’t have any perseverance. Lots of things are done by mum and dad, because it’s quicker for mum to do it than for Johnny to learn to tie up his laces.”

However, children didn’t learn anything that way, other than reliance on their parents, Mr Corlett said.

It is often easier in the short term to do things for children but that sets them up for dependence and other problems in the longer term.

He said his programme encouraged kids to get stuck into physical activities and to push themselves further than they otherwise would, in a safe and supported environment.

“We’ll tell them why we do [an activity], and how it will help them later in life with sport or whatever. And we don’t give the option of not doing it. I will help them until they get it.”

He is imploring parents to do the same, so they can take an active role in their child’s physical development.

Five minutes a day of activities was all it took, he said. Parents should also allow their children to experiment, to go outside their comfort zones and perhaps their parents’ comfort zones. “If they climb a tree, let them climb a tree. It’s a good thing.”

It was also essential to create a balanced lifestyle, he said, “making art a part of their lives, physical activity a part of their lives, and, of course, schoolwork a part of their lives”.

Four traits were common indicators that a child would succeed later in life, Mr Corlett said.

“Confidence, perseverance, a ‘give anything a go’ attitude, and listening well. It’s all about attitude, and so much of that comes from parents.” . .

Parenting takes time and requires a degree of selflessness but the more you put into helping them learn for themselves when they’re younger, the more able they are to do things by themselves as they grow older.

Good parenting gives children the skills and confidence to succeed independently.

Coddling kids sets them up for failure.


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