Posts Tagged ‘ parenting skills ’

Introducing Harley Rotbart’s Developmental Milestones of Parenting

Monday, July 1st, 2013

Stones and pebbles in feet shapeEditor’s Note: In a post for an ongoing series, Dr. Harley A. Rotbart, a Parents advisor, will be guest blogging once a month. He will be offering different advice, tips, and personal stories on how parents can “savor the moment” and maximize the time they spend with kids. Read more posts by Harley Rotbart from this series.

Volumes have been written about kids’ developmental progress—when they first roll from front to back, sit, walk, utter their first words, and countless other baby benchmarks. But often lost in the glow of babies’ accomplishments are the parallel milestones parents achieve after their kids are born. Similarly to how the age of a child’s first steps and first words can be roughly predicted, I’ve identified 14 reliable markers you can anticipate along your developmental path as a parent. So, published here for the first time are Harley Rotbart’s Developmental Milestones of Parenting.

The Womb: Nurture, Nest, and Nausea

The parenting adventure hasn’t even started yet, but there are great expectations mixed with apprehension and mystery. How is it possible that each edition of Heidi Murkoff’s wonderful What to Expect When You’re Expecting gets thicker and more intense than the previous edition? How can there be so much to learn and prepare? What did expectant parents do before books?

Birth to 1 month: Fear, Shock, and Awe

Everything about your first newborn is, well, new! You can’t even begin to know how much you don’t know, but you’re sure there’s a lot. How did your parents ever do this? How did the neighbors? Add to that sense of ignorance a creeping sense of panic, and a sense of responsibility like nothing you’ve ever felt before—not with a new car, a new house, or a new job. Nothing puts more weight on your shoulders than an 8-pound baby.

1 month to 3 months: Warmth and Wide-Eyed Wonder

Now we’re finally getting somewhere. Eye contact, babbling, and smiling all reassure you that there may be a little person hidden in this bundle of blankets and diapers. This is the developmental phase, when intense bonding takes place because the interactions with your baby are now more consistently two-way. If he’s smiling, you must be doing something right.

3 months to 7 months: Vaudeville and Variety Show Performer

Parents now go through what appears to the rest of the world to be a developmental regression: speaking baby talk, making goofy noises and silly faces, dancing daffy dances, singing senseless songs, and peek-a-boo-ing endlessly. Doing whatever it takes for your baby to give you one of those belly laughs that turns your insides to goo.

7 months to 12 months: Biographer and Curator

Although your baby’s first smile and laugh are unforgettable events during the earlier stages of parenthood, the “firsts” now come fast and furiously. The first time your baby sits, pulls to a stand, cruises, takes steps, and utters a word are the firsts you’ll remember most, the ones that you’ll write down and film for posterity. More photographs are taken per minute during this phase of parenting than any other.

1 year to 2 years: Secret Service Agent

Parents are now in full bodyguard and gatekeeper mode, from the time their toddler wakes up until the time he’s asleep for the night (if you’re lucky enough that he’s asleep for the night!). Your tot’s mobility and curiosity are soaring, and the dangers surrounding him are becoming your constant obsession. You feel as though you always have to be one step ahead of your little adventurer.

2 years to 3 years: Designated Bad Guy (stage 1)

This is the stage when parents teach boundaries and rules to their kids, and in so doing they learn to live with being the bad guy. Parents of toddlers say “no” more than any other word, which is excellent practice for having teenagers (when you enter Designated Bad Guy stage 2). Although experts extol the virtues of setting limits and structure for kids, that doesn’t help with the guilt you feel as the constant naysayer.

3 years to 5 years: Best Friend

This is the age when your kids are beginning to form their lifelong memories—and just in time because they’re now able to do so many more memorable activities. Your child is now a tricycler, climber, artist, and actor. Now is also when all their questions start: Whyyyy, Mommy? Howwww, Daddy? Better get your answers ready, because this is the parenting stage when you should become your kids’ best friend forever. This is when they learn to come to you not only with constant questions but also with problems you may see as exaggerated, but your kids see as front-page news. If you handle this bonding time right, they’ll keep sharing issues with you when they’re older and their problems are bigger.

5 years to 7 years: Separation (stage 1)

Some parents are jubilant about their child’s first day of kindergarten; others, not so much. In describing grief, Elizabeth Kübler-Ross noted five distinct stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Just sayin’.

7 years to 10 years: Chauffeur, Choreographer, and Cruise Director

Your kids’ calendar is now filled up, and the tires on your car are worn down. Juggling your kids’ schedules with your own commitments could be a full-time job for a party planner or White House Chief of Staff. But since you can’t afford to hire either, this is when you had better master parental organization.

10 years to 12 years: Life Coach

The so-called tween years of your kids’ lives are also tween years in yours. You’re now transitioning from a period of reasonable control over your kids’ lives (7 to 10 years) to the next phase (12 to 15 years), when you lack all sense of control over anything. Your crisis and stress management skills will be tested in a gentler and kinder way now than they will be in few years, so this is the time to establish healthy parental coping patterns in preparation for what’s to come. This is also when you become your kids’ life coach—anticipating the challenges they will have as teens, you may now feel an uncontrollable urge to tell them everything they’ll ever need to know in their whole lives. That’s okay, but check periodically to see whether they’re still listening or if they’ve put their ear buds back in.

12 years to 15 years: Designated Bad Guy (stage 2)

This is when you catch yourself sounding like your own parents, something you promised you’d never do. The word no returns to your vocabulary with a vengeance.  The early teen years force you to answer the question “Am I my kids’ parent or their best friend?” And the answer that most helps you get through the challenges of these parenting years should be “yes.” Kids need law and order now more than ever, but they also need your friendship and love more than ever—a tricky balancing act.

15 years to 18 years: Separation (stage 2)

Now is the time for parents to develop nerves of steel; nothing else will get you through your child’s getting a driver’s license. Driving is your child’s first launch into independence. Although their most dramatic declaration of independence will occur as you say goodbye at their dorm room a few years from now, driving is nature’s way of easing parents into the idea of their kids leaving home. No longer needed to chauffeur or accompany, you now face the challenge of adjusting to the new reality of having near-grown kids. You’ll go to bed before they do, so remember to ask them to wake you when they’re home for the night.

18 years and Beyond: Long Distance

For many parents, college means empty bedrooms at home. Parenting isn’t over, it’s just more remote. Read my NYTimes.com blog post 8 Tips for Keeping Adult Children Close for some tips.

As you notice your children’s growth and development, be conscious of yours as well. Enjoy each stage of parenting for what it is: another leg in the unique journey of your life.

Dr. Harley A. Rotbart

Dr. Harley A. Rotbart is Professor and Vice Chairman of Pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and Children’s Hospital Colorado. He is the author of three books for parents and families, including the recent No Regrets Parenting, a Parents advisor, and a contributor to The New York Times Motherlode blog. Visit his blog at noregretsparenting.com and follow him on Facebook and Twitter (@NoRegretsParent).

 

Image: Two traces of feet made of pebble stones via Shutterstock.

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Giving Up the Extra Legroom for the Kids

Monday, March 4th, 2013

Airplane seatsEditor’s Note: In a post for an ongoing series, Dr. Harley A. Rotbart, a Parents advisor, will be guest blogging once a month. He will be offering different advice, tips, and personal stories on how parents can “savor the moment” and maximize the time they spend with kids. Read more posts by Harley Rotbart from this series.

My career was taking off, and so was I. As my star rose in the very, very small firmament that is my specialty, the invitations for the honor of my presence increased: keynote speeches, advisory boards, prestigious panels, exotic meeting locations, all-expenses-paid trips with notes saying, “Please bring your wife if she can get away.” Success was intoxicating; it was nice to be recognized and admired by peers. My kids were little, and I told myself they were sleeping for most of the time I was out of town, anyway. My wife caught me up on the milestones I missed.

As the kids turned 5, 3, and almost 1, they weren’t sleeping as many hours as they did when they were younger, and they were starting to have experiences – in kindergarten and preschool, at playdates and Gymboree — they would remember without me. T-ball was starting in a month for our 5-year-old, and our 3-year-old’s hair was just long enough for first pigtails. The baby was walking — running really — to keep up. I tried to keep up, too. To know their friends’ and teachers’ names, what they liked best on TV (how badly do I date myself if I tell you it was Barney?). But even when I was home and they were animatedly telling me about their day, my mind wasn’t with them. Instead, my mind was on the next colloquium I had to prepare, the next flight I had to catch, and the call I should make to a colleague to discuss the seminal lecture I would be giving in Scandinavia. It was during our middle child’s third birthday party that I had my fateful Dorian Gray moment. I was filming my kids running around in party hats with ice cream cake on their cheeks. As I filmed my daughter opening her presents, I had a stark vision of my future, but I didn’t look like me; I looked like Rick, Mike, and James.

Rick, Mike, and James were real people, colleagues I knew from my hotshot meetings, established megastars in their universes of influence. Million Milers! There wasn’t a major meeting in my field without one or more of the MMs on the dais. In the lounges after the meetings, they regaled us with travelogues; they had been everywhere and seen it all. For small talk, we compared frequent-flier miles and upgrades, and chirped about the legroom. Rick had trouble remembering if his second child was in 10th or 11th grade, but worried that his oldest, a college freshman, was probably drinking a little too much, as she did in high school when she got a DUI. Mike’s three teenagers were estranged from him since he left them and their mother back east to move west for a big promotion. He was confident they would reconcile when the kids were old enough to understand adult responsibilities. James’s divorce came with a brutal custody battle. His wife made wild accusations about his extracurricular activities on the road. I was on my way to becoming George Clooney’s character in Up in the Air while George was actually still an intern on ER. There was just one big difference between George and me. Okay, maybe more than one big difference. But the one that matters for purposes of this discussion is: George’s peripatetic character didn’t have kids, but I did.

With a vivid and terrifying vision of becoming Rick, Mike, or James, I stopped filming the birthday party and started to really see it. I realized a few things: I liked hearing my kids tell me their adventures better than I liked hearing those of the MMs. I liked sleeping at home with my wife better than alone in a luxurious hotel room that I could only describe to her by phone. I liked hearing my baby giggle better than I liked hearing polite applause from colleagues in a far-off ballroom. I wanted to be at the first T-ball game. Heck, I wanted to coach the T-ball team.

That was the day I grounded myself. Not all at once, of course. I still had obligations to fulfill. But I learned to say no, and I learned to be a lesser player. I was fortunate that my job didn’t require the travel or the renown — those were merely accoutrements of my success. I could still earn a decent living and sleep at home, as long as my ego would survive a cut in prestige. And it did. In a matter of months, I went from budding superstar to just being a regular star. If any of this story sounds familiar, if you are superstar wannabes, ask yourself these questions before you get too hooked on the fanfare: How much status and stature do you need? How much do you need to know your kids, and how much do they need to know you? And how much are you willing to miss during all those hours on the tarmac? For me, even though I lost my Premier Executive status with the airline and gave up the extra legroom, I gained something more precious — time with my kids that I’ll always be grateful for. And, yes, I did end up coaching T-ball, too.

Dr. Harley A. Rotbart

Dr. Harley A. Rotbart is Professor and Vice Chairman of Pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and Children’s Hospital Colorado. He is the author of three books for parents and families, including the recent No Regrets Parenting, a Parents advisor, and a contributor to The New York Times Motherlode blog. Visit his blog at noregretsparenting.com and follow him on Facebook and Twitter (@NoRegretsParent).

 

Image: Well-lit empty airplane interior with window and blue seat via Shutterstock.

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Teaching Kids Perseverance on the Monkey Bars

Friday, August 17th, 2012

Playground monkey barsEditor’s Note: In a post for an ongoing series, Dr. Harley A. Rotbart, a Parents advisor, will be guest blogging once a month.  He will be offering different advice, tips, and personal stories on how parents can “savor the moment” and maximize the time they spend with kids. Read more posts by Harley Rotbart from this series.

Let me say this right up front – not every child masters the monkey bars. Unlike sitting, standing, walking, potty training, or riding a tricycle, the monkey bars are not considered a developmental milestone. At well-child visits, doctors don’t ask, “Has your child mastered the monkey bars yet?” the same way they ask, “How many words are in your child’s vocabulary?” Trust me, I’m a pediatrician. There are even successful adults working alongside you who have never been able to master the monkey bars.  Trust me, I’m one of them.  I was never able to climb a rope or do a pull-up either. I always blamed my inabilities on a poorly-centered center of gravity. But enough about me. This is about our daughter who, happily, did learn to master the monkey bars. She absolutely had to.

Emily’s best friends in grade school were tiny wisps of girls who didn’t touch the ground when they walked because they were too light for gravity. For them, the monkey bars were as natural as breathing – they didn’t have to think twice before sailing from one end to the other, with each girl outdoing the other in speed and panache. When the monkey bars became the “must” place to be during recess, Emily was in a tough spot.  Her feet did touch the ground while walking and the monkey bars were not automatic like breathing – they were more like hyperventilating. Not being a wisp came in very handy for Emily when she played sports later in life, but this was first grade and nothing mattered except the monkey bars.

Knowing no one would be at the school playground on Saturday, we packed everyone in the van and headed there for a monkey bars crash course. First, our oldest child (who was in third grade) tried to inspire Em by hopping onto the launch step and zipping all the way across, gracefully swinging from each arm to get to the next bar.  He dismounted and encouragingly said, “See, Em, it’s easy!” Emily didn’t find this inspiring. In fact, she started crying. Next, the youngest child (who was in preschool) needed a turn. We held him up and walked beneath the monkey bars as he touched each one with his hands. Then he was off to the sandbox.

Finally, Emily stood on the launch step, grabbed the first bar with her left hand, stepped, and…just dangled there.  Her right arm waved toward the next bar, but her body did not obey. She dropped to the ground and sobbed, “See?! I told you I can’t do it!” Of course, we asked ourselves how much of the obstacle was physical or mental.  We pretended to be sports psychologists for a little while, probing her deepest monkey bar phobias. Yes, she was afraid of failure.  Yes, she was afraid of embarrassment.  Yes, she was sure everyone else was better at monkey bars. Yes, she would never, ever, ever have friends, in her whole life, if she couldn’t conquer the monkey bars. Ok, enough psychology – there were fewer than 48 hours before Monday’s recess. A miraculous cure was in order, and it had to be immediate.

(more…)

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Fun Ways to Prevent Summer “Brain Freeze”

Thursday, July 26th, 2012

Family playing cardsEditor’s Note: In the first post for an ongoing series, Dr. Harley A. Rotbart, a Parents advisor, will be guest blogging once a month.  He will be offering different advice, tips, and personal stories on how parents can “savor the moment” and maximize the time they spend with kids. Read more posts by Harley Rotbart from this series.

Children’s brains go to sleep as soon as school ends for summer vacation, and they can hibernate until after school starts again in the fall. While kids need rest and rejuvenation, structured and unstructured play, physically active and tranquil days, and homework-free evenings, the summer “brain freeze” (a.k.a. “summer meltdown” or “summer slide”) can last too long. When resting brains slip into vegetative states defined by TV, video games, Facebook, text messaging marathons, and MP3 hypnosis, it’s time for an intervention.

Fortunately, there is a cure: enrollment at Family Summer University (FSU)! At FSU, there is no tuition and no homework, but there are tests (more like friendly and funny family competitions) every night.

As Dean of FSU, it’s your job to set aside a little time each day to write the quiz questions. Tailor them to the ages and learning levels of your kids, but don’t be limited to school subjects.  Instead, include a wide range of topics: celebrities, cartoon characters, favorite storybooks, sports teams, movies and TV shows, or any other topics that each family member will enjoy.  Fun trivia about Justin Bieber and Jeremy Lin can help camouflage the educational lessons about hypotenuses, homonyms, and Hamlet.  Mix and match questions every night from different subject areas or dedicate different nights of the week to certain subjects.

Look to brain teaser games, flash card sets, home versions of TV quiz shows, the library, the internet, and yes, your kids’ school books, to write your questions. But don’t overdo it — set a maximum of 20 questions per child per day, 10 questions if you have more than three kids! Remember, if you’re asking your 6 year old a tough question for his age, you should also be asking your 12 year old a tough one for her age.

Once your questions are written, gather the kids on the designated FSU campus (it can be the porch, patio, or another comfortable venue that’s preferably outdoors) and let the games begin! A great time for FSU to gather is after dinner because everyone is already together. Play every night or play a few days a week. Add bonus questions, musical prompts, and picture clues to make the game more interesting. Watch as scarce minutes with your kids turn into special moments.

After the answers are given, discuss them with your kids.  Gently explain the questions they missed and have them explain ones they got right. Tally the correct number of answers for each contestant each dayk. At the end of each week, give a prize to the child with the highest score, and then start scoring from scratch the next week.  This way, no one falls so far behind that they have no chance of catching up.  Good “prizes” can be letting the winner choose the DVD on family movie night or the theme for a special dinner night.  At the end of the summer, have an FSU “graduation” ceremony with cardboard caps, bed sheet gowns, and colorful paper diplomas. Then, make sure to go for ice cream!

Dr. Harley A. Rotbart

Dr. Harley A. Rotbart is Professor and Vice Chairman of Pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and Children’s Hospital Colorado.  He is the author of three books for parents and families, including the recent No Regrets Parenting, a Parents advisor, and a contributor to The New York Times Motherlode blog. Visit his blog at noregretsparenting.com and follow him on Facebook and Twitter (@NoRegretsParent).


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New Study: Parents Believe Kids Curse More Than They Did as Children

Thursday, July 7th, 2011

As adults, we may laugh amongst ourselves when curses are used in a childlike context (see “Go the F–k to Sleep’“), but it’s less funny when a child is cursing out of context.

In a new study commissioned by Care.com, parents believe their children are cursing more than they themselves did as kids.  Of the 700 parents who participated in a recent online survey, 86% believe that kids ages 2-12 have loose lips when it comes to unmentionable words…and 54% said their children had actually cursed in front of them. 

In some cases (12%), the kids were just repeating a parent’s curse word and 20% didn’t believe their kids understood the meaning of the word.  Eight out of ten parents also confessed to cursing in front of children, even though 93% also tried to suppress the urge to do so.  Along with blaming themselves, parents also cited other reasons why their kids picked up curses: daycare, playgroups, older siblings, television, games, and movies.

According to Dr. Robi Ludwig, Care.com’s Parenting Expert and psychotherapist, “cursing is something that is definitely going to happen, and parents should know this is something to expect and not a reflection of being a bad parent.  However, there are steps parents can take to stop the language before it continues, from creating consequences to monitoring the TV shows and movies your kids watch to correcting houseguests and encouraging the use of alternate words.”  A few more of Dr. Ludwig’s tips to prevent cursing include: don’t overreact, be honest, nip it in the bud, and don’t be tempted by YouTube fame.  (So, parents, put away the recording camera!)

How vigilant are you about not cursing in front of the kids?  What are your tips and advice for dealing with or preventing cursing?

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‘Show Dad How,’ An Illustrated Guide for New Dads

Friday, June 24th, 2011

bean-show dad howNew dads, now you can learn how to prepare for fatherhood with “Show Dad How” by Shawn Bean.  Bean, the Executive Editor of Parenting magazine (often confused with Parents magazine) and his staff put together this 156-page, illustrated guide to help dads through the toughest, most puzzling challenges of baby’s first year and beyond. 

Divided into three sections (Prep, Deal, Play), the book offers a mix of practical and tongue-in-cheek advice for every situation: how to pack a diaper bag, decipher the color of baby poo, and serve green eggs and ham as a meal.

For new moms, there’s even a “Show Mom How” illustrated guide.

Read more about new fathers on Parents.com

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Questions for Parents of Kids 2 or Younger

Tuesday, April 5th, 2011

100sq_BPH027Our friends at Chicago’s Erikson Institute, a graduate school devoted to improving the health and education of children up to age 8, have launched a new survey and they want to hear from parents of children age 2 and younger. The goal of the survey is to study, essentially, how well a parent feels about his or her parenting skills.

Lead researcher Tracy Moran, Ph.D., assistant professor at Erikson, explains why she’s hoping you’ll participate: “Your input will help illustrate the peaks and valleys of parenting in those first two years. The benefits will be far-reaching, to generations of future parents and their children.” Through survey results, Dr. Moran will:

  • identify specific tasks that are especially difficult for most parents
  • gain knowledge that will aid physicians, nurses, and other professionals in supporting parents
  • help professionals identify parents at risk for postpartum adjustment, depression, and anxiety

You can fill out the survey here. Please note that the first page says that the survey can take between 30 to 40 minutes to complete, but having taken it myself, I can say that it’ll probably only require half that time.

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