Archive for the ‘ Must Read ’ Category

‘Prison Baby’ Author Deborah Jiang-Stein Says Sometimes Girls Should Throw a Punch

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014

Prison Baby author Deborah Jiang-Stein was born in prison addicted to heroin just like her mother was. Deborah spent her first year of life there and eventually went into the foster care system and got adopted. Today, she is a national speaker and founder of The unPrison Project, a nonprofit working to empower and inspire incarcerated women and girls with life skills and mentoring to plan and prepare for successful lives after prison. She’s the author of the brand new memoir, Prison Baby (Beacon Press.)

Today, one of her biggest roles is mother. Here’s what she has to say about teaching her daughters to stand up for themselves–even if they need to throw a punch.

“When one of my daughters was in third grade or so, I got a call from her school’s aftercare program that alarmed me. She’d punched a boy in the face and split his lip open. When I picked her up, the teacher pulled my daughter and me aside and reminded us about the no hitting rule. The aftercare worker didn’t know the reason for the incident. So at the time I just agreed, and repeated back the words, “No hitting.”

As she and I walked out of the building, she cried, hugged my waist and said, “You always told me that if my body was threatened, I should fight back.” I didn’t remember that I’d said that, but it sounds like me.

Right then I knew there was another story behind the story. As it turns out, two of her classmates, both boys, had pinned her down and had teased her about crushing on another boy. All in fun, and kids play around like this. But I’ve raised my two daughters as fierce, gentle warriors. I’m raising them to hold love and kindness in the highest esteem and also to stand up for what they believe. And to physically defend themselves if they are physically attacked. It’s survival—how simple is that?

If she’d been a boy, would I’ve been called into school? We don’t expect girls to scrap around in a fight. We don’t expect them to compete with boys either.

A few years earlier in a school parent conference, her homeroom teacher, a socially-conscious instructor who we adored, made me a proud mother when she said: “Your daughter’s a hard worker and a delight in class. “

“But,” the teacher went on, ”whenever we lineup in the hall for transition time, she fights her way to the front of the line.”

I remembered my school days when the boys would rumble around in the hall and the girls lined up nicely waiting for instructions from the teacher. I was a rumbler, too.

I asked the teacher if any other girls did this, or just my daughter. Turns out, just her, along with most of the boys.

“Are you speaking to the boys’ parents about their scrapping around too?” I asked the woman.

We both sat in a silent teaching moment. “No,” she said. “Good point. I haven’t talked to the boys’ parents about their sons ruckus in line.”

Social expectations carve deep into our parenting and teaching. I’m raising my girls to show up as gentle and kind and fierce human beings, all in the same bundle. From generation to generation, I learned this from my progressive parents, and I’m sure also from my incarcerated birth mother with whom I spent one year in prison where I was born. But it was a year where I’m sure women surrounded me with love and strength, wisdom and kindness.”

Read the rest of her story in Prison Baby.

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Is Calling a Girl Bossy Bad? Sheila Heen on Ban Bossy

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014

Last week, I posted about the great new book, Thanks for the Feedback. This week, one of the authors, Sheila Heen, tells me what she thinks about calling girls bossy. Is it bad? Is Sheryl Sandberg onto something with her Ban Bossy campaign? And by the way, how do we handle all the unwanted mom-to-mom advice that often feels so judgmental?

Check out the awesome advice Heen has below:

KK: What do you think about the Ban Bossy campaign? How bad is bossy?
SH: Being called “bossy” as a little girl is like most feedback we get as adults–mixed.  It undermines the value of the skills it takes to speak up or provide leadership in a group.

But the feedback that we’re being bossy also contains information about how we are impacting those around us that sometimes we should learn from. Maybe someone feels unheard or dismissed or steamrolled. That is important for leaders to understand.
So when my daughter is called bossy (as I was), I want her to hold onto the initiative and being willing to try, and I want her to learn that real leadership is marrying that with empathy and engaging others.
KK: Women are often giving each other advice about babies, parenting and everything else. Why does this hit so close to home?
SH: It’s easy to hear well-intended coaching (“have you tried a wheat-free diet?”) as judgment that you’re doing it all wrong. Particularly when we’re first-time parents, or trying to figure out our second child, our own anxiety about being the perfect parent and not ruining our kids forever can amplify our sense of accusation, even when the mom offering the tip is well-intended.

KK: Why is it often so judgmental?
SH:
Because it often is. Every parent is doing some things well (our kids eat healthy and already know their ABCs) and others less so (Noah nap? Never. Yes, he’s a basket case.)  These reflect our own values and upbringing, as well as our kids’ challenges and temperaments. In your house, discipline and table manners get instilled early, while next door table manners are nonexistent but potty training is completed before age two. So when we offer neighbor mom “suggestions” for teaching table manners, we are trying to be helpful, but we’re also not-so-secretly wondering why the heck she hasn’t taken care of this before middle school.

KK: What helps?
SH: 
Remember that you are in charge of how you hear mom-to-mom advice, and work to extract the judgment and hear the coaching as simply coaching. It’s advice, and it’s your job to decide what’s might work for your kids and your family. The fact that the neighbors do it differently doesn’t mean that you’re doing it wrong. And even when the advice is 90 percent wrong – would never work for your son – that last 10 percent can sometimes be of value, sparking an idea that does work, and the payoff is worth it when you finally toss the last pull-up.

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Cool Book Alert: Learn Chinese Easy with Chineasy

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014

Cool book alert: Chineasy by ShaoLan, a successful mom entrepreneur and now the author of a book that makes Chinese easy for kids–and their parents. See what she has to say below, and check out a character from the text:

“The Chinese language has long been considered the most difficult major language to learn, largely on account of the vast number and complexity of the characters. Being a Taiwanese native now living in London, I am acutely aware of this fact. When I began to teach my British-born children Chinese, I realized just how difficult Chinese characters are for a non-Chinese native speaker to learn. It was like torture for my kids! So I spent many years looking for a fun and easy way to teach them how to read Chinese. After years of searching, I realized that none of the methods out there were engaging or efficient enough. So I did what any entrepreneur would do, I created my own method to learn how to read Chinese characters.

I created a methodology that breaks down thousands of Chinese characters into a few hundred base building blocks. When these building blocks are combined, they form compounds that can in turn be combined to create phrases. Through this method learners can quickly build a large vocabulary of characters with very little effort.

By making the characters pictographic and by explaining their history I found that my children could more actively retain what they were learning. The illustrations gave the alien forms of Chinese characters a frame work in which to be views. This started with simple characters such as fire 火 and mountain 山. But once a child knows these, it is not a big jump for them to learn that a burning mountain is a volcano 火山. My first book which will be released on March 10th features just over 400 different characters. Once I had finished writing this book my children knew all of them and that was only through including them in the artistic process of selecting one interpretation of the character out of the 6 or 7 provided by the designers. I think what appeals to them about the illustrations is how graphic they are. They are colourful and they are simple – some are also quite cute. When looking for artists to illustrate the characters I looked at a lot of different possibilities, but most were too fussy or too Chinese looking. My children were born in the UK and so Western styles of illustration appealed to them more. I have found that applying this modern and universal aesthetic to the characters allows people to abandon the preconceptions they have about the language.”

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5 No-Nonsense Ways to Make Your Kids (And Yourself) ‘Smarter’

Friday, March 7th, 2014

Want to build your brain? Want to nudge your child’s brain along? Brilliant New York Time Magazine science writer Dan Hurley says it can be done–at anytime and at any age. Did you see him on TV this week? He told Diane Sawyer about proven, no-gimmick ways to boost brainpower from his book Smarter. Today, he tells us:

“When I was in third grade, I still couldn’t read. My teacher told my mother, “Daniel is a slow learner.” But just three years later, in sixth grade, I earned straight As, and spent the summer afterward typing my first “novel.”

How did I do it?  My best friend, Dan Feigelson, became obsessed with Spider-Man and other Marvel comic books and started reading them and drawing their own. Refusing to be elbowed out, I began flipping those pages, putting the words together with the pictures. Soon I was drawing and writing my own comics, and Feigelson and I even made a movie (with help from his dad) starring our invented characters.

It would be simplistic to say that reading Spider-Man made me smarter, but one thing is certain: The old myth that intelligence is forever fixed—that IQ is like a number tattooed on the soul—is dead. Whether already gifted or struggling, diagnosed with a learning disability or just wanting to do a little bit better, children and adults alike can significantly enhance their brain power, according to dozens of randomized, peer-reviewed clinical trials published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. During three years researching my new book, Smarter: The New Science of Building Brain Power, I found strong scientific evidence detailing exactly what works for increasing cognitive capacity—and what doesn’t work.

If you’re waiting for a smart pill, forget about it. Although stimulant medication for ADHD can help some children (and adults) focus enough to learn, they do not raise IQ. Nor do any foods or dietary supplements in otherwise healthy people, as I carefully document in my book.  (Don’t shoot; I’m just the messenger.)

So what does work?  You don’t need me to tell you that reading to your kids and assuring that they get a solid night’s sleep are good for their minds. Beyond the obvious, though, here are five lessons drawn from my book on 5 No-Nonsense Ways to Make Your Kids (and Yourself) Smarter:

1. Computerized Training
You have probably seen advertisements for Lumosity on television, claiming to offer science-based games to improve mental function. While we have all learned to take such claims with a Costco-sized container of salt, in this case the evidence is there. It’s not as proved as, say, insulin for treating diabetes, but it’s certainly not a scam. A recent study, for instance, found that children who had survived cancer “significantly increased processing speed, cognitive flexibility, verbal and visual declarative memory scores as well as significantly increased pre-frontal cortex activation” after playing Lumosity games for eight weeks. Another study of breast-cancer survivors found that playing Lumosity improved women’s high-level cognitive performance, clearing the so-called chemo fog.

For children and adults with ADHD and other learning challenges, psychologists offer a program called Cogmed, which trains an essential cognitive skill called “working memory.” Many studies published in peer-reviewed journals have found benefits, but a few have questioned how meaningful those gains really are. But compared to the countless kooky psychological interventions that get hyped in the press without any scientific validity whatsoever, Cogmed is legitimate enough that I am enrolling my own child in it. Dozens of other studies of computerized working-memory games have found significant benefits. It’s no panacea, but I consider it well worth a try.

2. Music Lessons
Piano lessons aren’t just a way to make your children hate you; they might also make your children smarter. A study published in February, involving 60 children between the ages of 5 and 6, found those who were assigned to music lessons showed significant improvements in IQ after just 12 weeks, compared to those who didn’t receive the music lessons. Another recent study found that children who received music lessons for 18 months showed increases in their memory.

Of course, as parents know, some children enjoy music lessons, and others hate them. My older daughter begged for a guitar and never practiced, then begged for a ukulele and never practiced. Those stupid instruments are still gathering dust in the corner of our dining room. But there is hope: The younger one says she’s ready. Check back with me in a year.

3. Sports
Physical exercise is the best-proved way to improve cognitive performance in both children and adults. Aerobic exercise is now considered a cornerstone of cognitive therapy in older adults, and resistance training to increase muscle strength has also been shown to help.

In children, a study published in January found that children with lower cognitive abilities improved significantly after a brief cardiovascular workout, while those with higher abilities showed little change. Another study, analyzing the combined results of eight previous studies, also found evidence of benefit.

Now you know why professional hockey players are such geniuses, right?

4. Mindfulness Meditation
How can sitting quietly and doing nothing make you or your child smarter? The cognitive benefit of mindfulness meditation is that it builds the ability to pay attention, to maintain focus. Studies by Michael Posner of the University of Oregon have found that mindfulness meditation not only improves attention but also increases the formation of connections between brain cells, and can even help young people quit smoking. A study published last year by researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara, even found that mindfulness meditation can increase test scores on the Graduate Record Exam.

5. Chess
My book opens with the story of two immigrant children, Danny and Julie Vizcaino, who were left behind a grade in elementary school and considered themselves “dumb” until a teacher started a chess club. In a couple of years, both of them were nationally ranked chess players, and both went on to graduate from universities.

Only a few studies have looked at whether teaching chess to children can actually enhance their mental abilities, but it’s a much better bet than having them play Sudoku, Scrabble or other word games—none of which have ever been shown to increase cognitive abilities. What’s special about chess is that it demands focus (like mindfulness meditation); that it requires careful, deliberative thinking; and that the level of play gets progressively harder as skills improve.

Whichever activity you choose, the most important thing is that you and your child understand that intelligence is flexible and can be increased. As Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck has shown, simply explaining to kids that their intelligence is malleable and depends on how hard they work will improve their grades.

I know, it sounds like something out of a Disney movie, but hey, I’m the guy who got smarter thanks to Spider-Man, so what’d you expect?”

 

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Bored? Steam Up the Winter With These 6 Erotic Novels

Thursday, March 6th, 2014

Snow. Cold. Winter. Blah. My theme of the week is boredom. I am losing my mind with the same old work and routine. So is my husband. We’re hovering in this end of the season limbo waiting for temps to lift and the sun to come out so we can play. Sometimes, it’s just normal for life to become monotonous. My friends agree, they’re stir crazy. One of my editors at Parents is also about to lose it. I promised I would not name here. She’s especially bored this week.

We don’t have to live this way. Let’s spice things up!

I have the perfect idea.

Let’s download 6 erotic novels on Audible. Okay, so my kids can’t have anything to do with this raucousness. But my husband, friends and I will get a kick out of it. Listening to one of these will kill some time between now and spring, and it’s way better than Girls this season on HBO.

Here are 6 erotic novels that should be really good. They just won the 19th Annual Audie Awards, presented by Audio Publishers Association. Take a peak:

1. Carrie’s Story: An Erotic S/M Novel
by Molly Weatherfield, narrated by Shana Savage
The dirt: Imagine The Story of O starring a Berkeley Ph.D. in comparative literature, who moonlights as a bike messenger, with a penchant for irony, self-analysis and as well as anal pleasures. Set in both San Francisco and the more chateau-friendly, Napa Valley, Weatherfield’s deliciously decadent novel takes you on a sexually explicit journey into a netherworld of slave auctions, training regimes, enticing “ponies”, (people) preening for dressage competitions. Desire runs rampant in this story of uncompromising mastery.

2. Fallen Too Far
by Abbi Glines, narrated by Jennifer Bronstein
She is only nineteen. She is his new stepfather’s daughter. She is still nave and innocent due to spending the last three years taking care of her sick mother. But for twenty-four year old Rush Finlay, she is the only thing that has ever been off limits. His famous father’s guilt money, his mother’s desperation to win his love, and his charm are the three reasons he has never been told no.
3. The Killer Wore Leather
by Laura Antoniou, narrated by Lauren Fortgang
The Killer Wore Leather is a deliciously tongue-in-cheek murder mystery set at a leather convention, allowing listeners into this private world of personalities and peccadiloes. It’s the kinkiest game of clue ever, with a sex toy as the murder weapon, and every leather man and woman lacks an alibi. Cleverly crafted and highly humorous, Antoniou is at her wicked best in this pause-resistant fetish fest.
4. Release Me (The Stark Trilogy)
by J. Kenner, narrated by Sofia Willingham
He was the one man I couldn’t avoid. And the one man I couldn’t resist. Damien Stark could have his way with any woman. He was sexy, confident, and commanding: Anything he wanted, he got. And what he wanted was me. Our attraction was unmistakable, almost beyond control, but as much as I ached to be his, I feared the pressures of his demands. Submitting to Damien meant I had to bare the darkest truth about my past – and risk breaking us apart. But Damien was haunted, too. And as our passion came to obsess us both, his secrets threatened to destroy him – and us – forever.
5. This Man
by Jodi Ellen Malpas, narrated by Edita Brychta
Young interior designer Ava O’Shea has no idea what awaits her at the Manor. A run-of-the-mill consultation with a stodgy country gent seems likely, but what Ava finds instead is Jesse Ward – a devastatingly handsome, utterly confident, pleasure-seeking playboy who knows no boundaries. Ava doesn’t want to be attracted to this man, and yet she can’t control the overwhelming desire that he stirs in her. She knows that her heart will never survive him and her instinct is telling her to run, but Jesse is not willing to let her go. He wants her and is determined to have her.
6. Wuthering Nights
by Emily Bronte and I.J. Miller, narrated by Joy Pratt
Romantics everywhere have been enthralled by Emily Bronte’s classic novel of the tragic love between beautiful, spirited Catherine Earnshaw and dark, brooding Heathcliff. The restrained desire between these two star-crossed lovers has always smoldered on the page. And now it ignites into an uncontrollable blaze. In Wuthering Nights, writer I.J. Miller reimagines this timeless story to reveal the passion between Catherine and Heathcliff – in all its forbidden glory.

 

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