Posts Tagged ‘ parenting style ’

What Barbie and Ken Taught Us About Stereotypes

Monday, October 1st, 2012

Barbie and KenEditor’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.

As a pediatrician, I may have been ahead of my time in advocating gender-neutral play for kids. Beginning nearly 25 years ago when our oldest was born and continuing with his sister and brother, we gave our boys ample opportunity to play with dolls and our daughter saw more than her share of toy trucks. Despite our advanced thinking, by the time they were 2, 4, and 6 years old, the kids seemed to have already absorbed society’s subliminal stereotyping, gravitating to the predictable playthings for their gender. Our kids really loved playing together, so most of their play was gender generic: backyard soccer, Beanie Babies, Candy Land, card games, and climbing towers.  We gradually reconciled ourselves to the fact that some of their play would never cross gender lines.

As they got a little older, our daughter found girlfriends who loved Barbie dolls as much as she did (there were some non-stop Ken and Barbie days from breakfast to dinner)  and the boys played ball — all the time, with each other and with other boys in the neighborhood. (Our oldest son’s first question, when we brought his baby brother home from the hospital, was: “When will he be old enough to play baseball?”). Occasionally, when Ken and Barbie were tired or when her friends had to go home, our daughter would join the boys in the backyard for ball. But the reverse never happened, for two reasons: the boys never tired of ball and Barbies were for girls.

That brings us to the fateful day when our now 4, 6, and 8 year old kids taught us an important lesson about the ability of kids’ imaginations to transcend all the TV, movie, children’s books, and playground stereotypes they were exposed to every day. It was a rainy Saturday and Emily’s closest Barbie buddies were all unavailable.  This was a potential 7.0 crisis on the kid Richter scale.

Downstairs, in the basement, our boys had a 5 foot basketball hoop set up for rainy days. To compensate for age and size difference, our 8 year old played on his knees.  Meanwhile upstairs, our daughter was able to sustain a Barbie soap opera (there was always drama with Ken and Barbie) on her own for about half an hour, but then she exhausted her imagination and needed a friend to contribute to the plot and dialog.  But on this day, there were no friends and no outdoor options.

This was clearly a parenting moment, and my wife leaped into action. She called the boys upstairs and told them they had to be their sister’s Barbie buddies, at which point we both upgraded to DEFCON 3 and waited for the explosion. No explosion. Just a loud groan from the 8 year old and an echo groan from the 4 year old, followed by the negotiations. Will she play basketball with us after? How long do we have to do it? Do we have to talk like Barbie? When’s lunch? Each question asked by the 8 year old was echoed by the 4 year old. At that point, mom made it very clear: Your sister puts up with a lot of boy stuff in this house. Please go upstairs, now. Play Barbie and pretend to like it. Big groan, echo groan, synchronous stair stomping.

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Money As You Grow: A White House Website to Teach Kids About Money

Monday, September 24th, 2012

Do you know about Money As You Grow, the new financial literacy site for kids? If you don’t, head over to MoneyAsYouGrow.org, which was developed by the President’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability and launched by the White House in May.

The site offers “20 things kids need to know to live financially smart lives,” which are 20 money milestones kids should learn; there are four milestones divided in five age groups (3-5, 6-10, 11-13, 14-18, and 18+) with age-appropriate activities. For example, one money milestone for preschoolers is to learn the “difference between things you want and things you need.”  To help with this money lesson, a suggested activity is to go shopping with kids and point out basic essentials such as food and clothing compared to optional wish-list items.

Parents can visit each section “to start a dialogue about money and teach kids important lessons about saving, making choices, and avoiding debt.”  There are also posters with milestones and activities that can help parents track their kids’ knowledge of money and finances.

Read more about Money As You Grow at Mint.com — Beth Kobliner, a personal finance commentator, journalist, and member of the Financial Capability council, shares her involvement in creating the site.

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5 Essential Back-to-School Tips for Parents

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

Back to School colored pencilsEditor’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.

Ready or not, it’s that time again. Your kids are trying on fall clothes, cleaning out backpacks from last year, and shopping for school supplies. Another exciting year of growth and development is on the horizon for your children. Here are five sure-fire ways to make this a year of growth and development for you as well.

Hold a weekly calendar meeting.

Each new year of school brings more complicated choreography to your kids’ schedules – and to your schedule as well. Every Sunday night, sit down with your kids and enter every commitment and event of their upcoming week into your personal calendar. There are 3 important reasons to do this: a) you should always know where your kids are; b) you have a head start on dinner conversation if you know what your kids have been up to all day; c) you may get a pleasant surprise – a meeting of yours is canceled in time for you to make the second half of a basketball game. But you’ll only know about the game if it’s on your calendar.

Volunteer at school.

Every school is underfunded and shorthanded. Your kids’ school can use your help and participating in an after-school activity can be a meaningful experience. Depending on your kids’ ages and their level of pride (or embarrassment) in seeing you at school, there are many roles to fill: homeroom parent, teacher’s aide, hall monitor, coach’s assistant, team parent, crossing guard, PTA, office volunteer, and field trip chaperone or driver, to name a few.  Spending a part of your day at school gives you an up-close look at interactions with teachers and friends, hallway dynamics, and locker lore. All this can lead to more good dinner conversation!

Drive a carpool.

Whether it’s driving back and forth to school or to and from after-school activities you learn a lot about your kids by driving the carpool. Mysteriously, the carpool driver becomes practically invisible to the passengers, especially when it’s more than just your own kids in the car. This allows you an invaluable “fly on the dashboard” opportunity to eavesdrop on your kids social interactions, catch up on grade school gossip, and hear about homework without even asking.

Help with homework.

Be involved with your kids’ homework every night. When they’re in grade school, sit with them for part of the time they’re doing work – not to catch every math mistake but to make sure they get the big picture. In middle school, just look over their completed work regularly for overall quality. Show you are happy to see them doing such a nice job. Your pride in their work will become their pride. By high school, it’s enough to ask each night if they’ve finished their homework and occasionally review a teacher’s comments on the graded work.  No matter the age, if your kids ask for help, do your best to guide them without doing their homework. Remember, you’ve already learned “times tables,” so now it’s their turn.

Manage extracurricular activities.

Beware of “potpourri parenting” – soccer Mondays, violin Tuesdays, karate Wednesdays, etc. Kids’ options for extracurricular activities are limitless, and you may be tempted to enroll your kids in everything, thinking you’re “enriching” them.  As long as your kids are enjoying these activities, and you’re not missing chances to spend more time with them, there’s nothing wrong with having many varied experiences. But if programming begins to replace parenting or if your kids are showing “enrichment fatigue,” reduce the amount of activities. Your time together as a family is almost always more enriching, especially since time with your young kids is fleeting. Don’t give it all away.

The school years won’t seem to pass by as quickly if you get involved in your kids’ school lives. So have a wonderful fall semester!

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: “Back to school” and colored pencils 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.

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Parents Daily News Roundup

Monday, August 6th, 2012

Goody Blog Daily News Roundup

Violent Cartoons Linked to Sleep Problems in Preschoolers
Swapping Batman for Big Bird could help young kids sleep better, a new study found. The study of sleep habits among 565 preschool-age children found that those who tuned in to age-appropriate educational programs were less likely to have sleep problems than those who watched sparring superheroes or slapstick scenes meant for slightly older kids. (via ABC News)

A White Dad Does His Black Daughter’s Hair, and the Internet Smiles
The little family moments are often the ones we wind up treasuring over the years. Usually, they’re lost in the shuffle of daily life, but sometimes they’re captured on camera. And sometimes, those pictures capture the hearts of people everywhere. Such is the case of a picture posted on Facebook by Frank Somerville, a TV news anchor in Oakland, CA. (via MSNBC)

Parents Get Physical With Unruly Kids, Study Finds
Parents get physical with their misbehaving children in public much more than they show in laboratory experiments and acknowledge in surveys, according to one of the first real-world studies of caregiver discipline. (via Science Daily)

Gold Medal Mom: ‘I Felt Selfish’ Training for Olympics
For every woman who feels like she’s had to scale back her personal ambitions since becoming a mother, gold medal cyclist Kristin Armstrong has a message: Don’t give up on your dreams. (via Today.com)

Motherhood May Make You Smarter, New Study Says
In the study, women who were new mothers scored better on tests of visuospatial memory — the ability to perceive and remember information about their surroundings — compared with women who didn’t have children. (via MSNBC)

Growing Up Grateful Gives Teens Multiple Mental Health Benefits
Grateful teens are more likely than their less grateful peers to be happy, less likely to abuse drugs and alcohol and less likely to have behavior problems at school, according to research presented at the American Psychological Association’s 120th Annual Convention. (via Science Daily)

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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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Willow Smith: Too Young for a Pierced Tongue?

Tuesday, July 24th, 2012

We’ve all grown accustomed to the daring style statements of Will and Jada Pinkett Smith’s daughter, Willow. In the last year alone, the young celeb has been seen sporting sky-high platform shoes, bright green hair, and, as of late, a tongue piercing. Did we mention she’s only 11 years old?

The most recent cause of public uproar came when Willow instagrammed a picture of her and a friend proudly displaying their mouth piercings (there she is, at right). Turns out the piercing was a magnetic stud, but critics still questioned the Smiths’ lenient parenting style and its effect on their kids. In the past, Will has publicly defended his daughter’s choices, explaining that Willow is in control of her body and can decide what she does with it (including shaving her head). Though we’re all for nurturing a child’s independence, we can’t help but ask: When your child is 11, how much freedom is just too much?

It’s important to help your kid develop his individuality, even if that means occasionally giving in to his newfound “let me do it!” demands. Sure, allowing your youngster to wear his Halloween costume to the grocery store once is cute, but what if he insists on donning it every single day for a month? If you give in now, could that pave the way for a child to insist on hair dye or piercings (fake or otherwise) later? While we all want our children to learn to fly solo, we wonder where the line between self-sufficiency and complete autonomy lies, and how far parents are willing to go to let their kids feel independent.

If your child wanted to shave her head, dye her hair, or “pierce” her tongue, would you let her? Share your thoughts below!

 

Image: Willow Smith and friend via Webstagram

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“Once Upon a Time” Actor Raphael Sbarge on Fatherhood and Storytelling

Thursday, June 14th, 2012

Raphael Sbarge Once Upon a TimeI’m a huge fan of “Once Upon a Time,” and if you watched the show as avidly as I did each week, you’ll recognize actor Raphael Sbarge in his dual role as Jiminy Cricket and psychologist Archie Hopper.  The show, which has been renewed for a second season, is centered on the power of storytelling and finding the extraordinary truth in ordinary fairy tales.

Here, in an exclusive essay for Parents.com, Sbarge writes about his own roles as father, storyteller, and entertainer for his two kids.  He shares how making up bedtime stories (such as The Adventures of Seymour and Alice) helped instill imagination, creativity, and a love for books. Just in time for Father’s Day, read an excerpt from the essay below.

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I have two children, a son and a daughter. Django is now 7 and Gracie is 9. One problem I had when they were younger is that a book for one child wasn’t necessarily for the other, and bedtime was a precious window. I discovered one day, quite by accident, that I could make up my own stories. These stories would invariably come from a kind of free association, as random and ridiculous as whatever would occur to me in the moment, like the tale of a female pillow that had lost her owner and decided to find him. Or a bird that woke up one day and was able to talk to humans but would occasionally lose control and speak bird again.

But I really hit pay dirt with my ongoing series, The Adventures of Seymour and Alice, about a brother-and-sister adventure duo that would often get lost and find themselves in fantastic and perilous circumstances, yet by ingenuity, gumption, and a deep desire to help one another, would always find their way home. Click here to read the full essay by Raphael Sbarge.

 

Follow Raphael Sbarge on Twitter (@RaphaelSbarge) and on Facebook (facebook.com/officialraphaelsbarge).

Photo Credit: T Love Photography by Tena Fanning

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