When I’m not writing this blog, I teach yoga classes. A woman fell out of her half-moon pose the other day and said, “Falling is very, very bad!” I said, “Falling is excellent! How else will you learn half-moon if you don’t fall 50 times? That’s exactly how all of us learned to get balanced and get strong.” She was so devastated to fail, but why? Failing is the key to success.
KK: My kids get trophies just for playing soccer or participating in gymnastics class. Is giving out rewards like this good for our kids? How can it hurt them? What should our schools—and we as parents—be doing differently to prepare our kids for life? MM: Failure doesn’t feel good. We probably all remember how bad it felt to be the kid who got picked last for the team or tried as hard as we could to win a prize but still fell short. It’s natural that we should want to shield our kids from that bad feeling by setting up games where “everybody wins.” But one of the most important lessons we learn in life is how to pick ourselves up after we try something—and flop. From babies learning to walk, to scientists figuring out how to split an atom, learning is a process of trial and error. A whole lot of error. The greatest successes are people who have failed again and again, learning along the way what doesn’t work . . . and from that, what does. When we shield our kids from failure, we’re teaching them that failure isn’t just unpleasant, but unimaginably horrible. They are sometimes completely derailed. Learning to cope with failure is one of the most important things anyone can teach. Kids who never confront failure won’t be equipped to dodge the curveballs that life inevitably sends you way, and will flounder once they hit the workforce.
KK: In what ways does the United States view failure and risk taking differently than other countries? Why is it easy to get rich in America and hard in Zimbabwe (or France)?
MM: America is a nation founded on failure. Why did our ancestors come here? By and large, because things weren’t working out back home. That heritage can be seen in our attitude towards failure. We admire people who don’t succeed at first but try, try again. We have higher rates of entrepreneurship, and we are more forgiving toward people who have tried to start a business and failed. We’re also more forgiving of people who have failed in other ways—our bankruptcy laws are the most generous in the world. When you make it easy for people to take risks, you also make it easy to get ahead. The more forgiving your culture is towards failure, the more welcoming it is of success.
KK: Which is better, frequent small failures or an occasional big failure? How can we encourage our kids to fail? MM: “Fail fast to succeed soon.” That’s the motto of a lot of startups, for good reason. Small failures are easy to recover from. Big failures that build for a long time are much more likely to be catastrophic. Businesses, governments and parents should encourage people to fail early and often—but also to recognize their failures and cut their losses quickly.
KK: Why is consistency so key to changing bad habits, from toddler tantrums to self-destructive behavior?
MM: I said earlier that people are obsessive pattern-makers. We learn how to behave by observing what happens when we do certain things. If we like what happens, we do it again, and if we don’t, we try to avoid whatever we did to trigger it. That means that if you want to teach a kid—or an adult—how to behave, you need to have absolutely consistent rules. That allows them to successfully predict what results their behavior will produce. Small punishments that are doled out for every single transgression are much more likely to produce behavior change than larger punishments that are delivered inconsistently—and the same is true of rewards. So if you want to raise well-behaved kids, or help adult prisoners rehabilitate themselves, the most important thing you can do is focus on making sure that the same behavior gets punished or rewarded the same way every single time.
Need some inspiration to get back up, try again, and smile? Check out this video, Epic Animal Fails.
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Put your phone down! That’s the message of the popular book and blog called Hands Free Mama: Putting Down the Phone, Burning the To Do List, and Letting Go of Perfection to Grasp What Really Matters. Author Rachel Macy Stafford wants us to power down and pay attention, and her awesome new book tells us how to do it, step-by-step. She says: “Our children are learning how to navigate life in a digital world by watching us. Through mindful technology use, children can learn there is a time and place for our devices. On the flip side, if we constantly have a device in our hand or our face in a screen, they will learn that the device takes priority over human beings and real life experiences. Their tech use is likely to resemble our tech use–so what we do with our device at the dinner table, while driving, or while waiting at a restaurants is likely what they will do.
One of my most effective strategies for maintaining healthy boundaries between real life and technology is to envision what will make my children feel fulfilled in the future. And it comes down to this:
If I want my children to be awed by sunsets in the future, I must take time to be awed by sights in nature now.
If I want my children to appreciate the joy of a screen-free Saturday afternoon in the future, I must take time to show them the joys of screen-free Saturday now.
It is my ultimate hope that my children’s childhood memories include me participating in their lives with open hands and attentive eyes. This means doing what I can now to be a hands-free parent as they grow.
Go Hands Free for a Specific Time Period Each Day
Living Hands Free does not mean giving up technology altogether, and it does not mean ignoring your job responsibilities, volunteer obligations or home duties. Living Hands Free means making a conscious decision to temporarily push aside distractions and give your undivided attention to someone or something meaningful in your life.
I started my journey by designating time periods when I unplugged from my devices and connected to my loved ones. Because I was so dependent on technology, I had to start with short, 10-minute increments. Although that doesn’t seem like much, the results were profound. Here are some of the revelations I experienced during my initial Hands Free periods:
A feeling of peace and contentment came over me when I was fully engaged with a loved one. I felt assured that I was exactly where I needed to be at that moment.
Within minutes of spending time in meaningful connection, online activities and household duties suddenly lost their urgency. Emails, phone calls, dirty laundry and scrolling newsfeeds would still be there after I finished nurturing my relationships. But time with my loved ones was fleeting.
Opportunities to connect to loved ones became more apparent. My Hands Free inner voice began to grab me and gently encourage me by saying, ‘Come on, put the phone down. Turn off the computer. You’re missing your life!” I realized that even in the midst of a busy day, there are countless opportunities to pause and connect with the people who matter most. I had just been to distracted to notice.
Being constantly available to people outside my family and trying to stay current on all of the latest online happenings was sabotaging my ability to live and love. The only person who could protect my time was me. And to do so, I had to create boundaries between technology and life.
As a result of these positive effects, I was motivated to increase the duration of my distraction-free time increments. With each experience of loving connection, my ties to daily distraction weakened.
This week, incorporate a designated Hands Free Time Period into your daily routine. Turn off your electronics—phone, tablet, laptop, or whatever—and then put them in a drawer or lock them in your car if you have to. Do whatever it takes to disconnect from devices and initiate meaningful connection with a loved one at least once a day. Here are a few examples of distraction-free timeframes:
First thing in the morning
Right before naptime or bedtime
When children arrive home from school
From dinner time until bedtime
As you make room for these Hands Free Time Periods, pay attention to the positive results. What emotions do you experience when you step away from your devices to spend time with a loved one? Do you notice anything special about your loved one that you failed to notice before? Does the importance of your online activities decrease when you are engaged in a moment of loving human connection? Are you beginning to notice more opportunities to connect to what matters to you?
By shutting down your devices periodically each day, you are able to protect your time, strengthen your relationships and nurture your own health and well-being. Giving yourself a chance to notice the details that make life worth living is time well spent.”
Can you do it? Do you have any hands free rules in your house–for yourself or your kids?
We love Elisa Zied, a registered dietician who is on the Parents Advisory Board. She also writes our blog called The Scoop on Food. So my editors and I were happy to hear about her new book, Younger Next Week. I couldn’t put it down yesterday. Elisa gives straightforward info about how many calories and how much fat most women need per day whether weight loss or maintaining their weight is a goal. For slow and steady weight loss of no more than 1 to 2 pounds weekly, she recommends 1600 calories (way better than 1200, right?) and 36 to 62 grams of fat. She also explains how to increase portions if you need more or if weight maintenance is the goal. She talks about healthy starches–we need them! And, of course, whole grains get big gold stars.
I especially love the recipes hidden in the back of the book. I’ve posted a delicious Brussels sprouts variation at the end of this helpful, insightful Q&A with Elisa about why you need this book.
KK: What do you hope is the biggest takeaway from your book? EZ: I wrote this book to be a wake-up call and permission slip for women to prioritize caring for themselves so that they can look and feel their best inside and out. I hope that after reading Younger Next Week, women feel empowered to tweak their eating, fitness and lifestyle habits each day to live their best life. I want women to know that they don’t need to move mountains to look and feel their best, achieve a healthier weight, and age well…but they do need to put themselves on their extensive to do list. I also want women to know that simply moving toward a more nutritious and healthful diet, incorporating a little more movement (and less sitting) into each day and connecting with others (not just online but in person) can do wonders for their appearance, mood and health. Women also need to know that self care isn’t selfish–everyone around them will reap the benefits of them taking better care of themselves.
KK: Why do women need this information?
EZ: We women tend to want to be all things to all people. And because many of us are in the business of caring for and nurturing everyone around us–husbands or partners, children, aging parents, friends and family members, neighbors–we often put our own physical and mental needs on the back burner. But doing so leaves us vulnerable to stress and puts us at risk for getting sick or developing diet- and lifestyle-related chronic diseases. And it certainly doesn’t help us stay centered or well-equipped to handle stressors like deaths, divorces, disabilities, work or financial pressures or losses or even just everyday stress that goes along with raising a family or simply living life. Women need Younger Next Week because it provides the impetus, the motivation and practical tools and tips based on science to help women not just talk the talk but walk the walk to achieve or reclaim the vitality that they so deserve.
KK: What are three of your favorite recipes? The black bean tartines sound amazing!
EZ: I simply adore brussels sprouts so am partial to the Shredded Brussels Sprouts on page 234. I also love the Shrimp and Broccoli Bowl (minus the red pepper flakes–those kill me) on page 225 for a hearty meal. For a snack/dessert, I love the Chocolate Walnut Granola Bars on page 237–they’re sweet and satisfying.
1 pound (5 cups) fresh small Brussels sprouts
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 cup diced onion
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
Kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper or minced garlic to taste
1. Trim the hard ends off the Brussels sprouts. Remove any outer leaves that have yellowed or withered. Cut each Brussels sprout in half and then slice the halves into thin strips. Set aside.
2. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and saute for 3 to 4 minutes, or until they have softened. Add the Brussels sprouts and toss, using tongs, to coat them with the onions. Cook for about 5 to 7 minutes, or until the Brussels sprouts have browned.
3. Spring the sprouts with the lemon juice and lemon zest. Season with salt and pepper if desired.
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Former Parents.com blogger and current New York Times bestselling author Allison Winn Scotch wrote a cool new novel, and of course she wants to tell us about it. In her book, The Theory of Opposites, she writes about a woman who thinks she has the perfect life–that the stars have aligned for her and her dreams have come true. Then, her husband asks for a “break,” her boss fires her and all hell breaks loose. Read this book for a fun–and sometimes sad–adventure through heartbreak and healing.
What inspired Allison to write this kind of women’s fiction? Find out in her guest blog below:
“What’s the toughest part of parenting for you, dear readers?
For me, It is accepting that I can’t control everything in my kids’ lives. Not the day to day stuff. I’ve always been a parent who believes that children have to sort out many things on their own, and with a 9-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter, there is plenty to sort out. Complicated friendships; homework time-management; sticking up for themselves against a not-so-nice kid who sits behind them on the bus; sibling squabbles that could potentially end in broken limbs. These are things that I happily let my kids manage on their own (unless I really do sense that a broken limb is imminent). (more…)
Thanksgivvukah is almost here! As many know, Hanukah and Thanksgiving coincide this year, and popular author and TV personality Jamie Geller is here to help with her book Joy of Kosher: Fast, Fresh Family Recipes. She’s all about delicious holiday recipes that do double-duty. Think Cranberry Chestnut Challah Stuffing; Rice Salad with Toasted Nuts, Apples and Onion Dressing; Latkes with Caviar and Cream; Whiskey-Glazed Whole Roasted Turkey; Butternut Squash Mac ‘n’ Cheese; Kiddie Candy Bark (that can be made into gelt coins); Cardamom-Scented Chanukah Cookie and Sea-Salted Soft Challah Pretzel Rolls. (Check out some great Thanksgiving crafts from Parents, too!)
Geller hasn’t always been kosher. She was raised on take-out and didn’t gravitate to her heritage until her mid-20s. When she married her husband, she was dubbed the Bride Who Knew Nothing–that’s how clueless she was about cooking. Joining his family meant celebrating more than 100 traditional Jewish holiday meals annually, complete with six-course homemade kosher dinners for the immediate and extended family. Determined to show everyone that she had what it takes and spurred to confront her culinary clumsiness, Geller didn’t just learn how to cook—she founded the Kosher Media Network and created cookbooks, magazines, a popular website and even a television show.
In Joy of Kosher, Geller wants everyone to know that if she can put really good food on the table, anyone can. There is no slaving in the kitchen (no rabbi required!) and cooking kosher is really not as tedious or complicated as one might think. Here are a 3 to get you started this week–Cardamom-Scented Chanukah Cookies, Cranberry Chestnut Challah Stuffing and Latkes with Caviar and Cream.