Archive for the ‘ Parenting Advice ’ Category

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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3 Ways to Take Feedback Better from Authors of ‘Thanks for the Feedback’

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

Feedback. It’s everywhere–from bosses, friends, teachers, husband and even our kids and Facebook. How do you take it? It’s a double-edged sword. We all want to improve our skills, but we also want to be liked and accepted.

This unique book addresses how to accept feedback gracefully whether your boss is giving you a review, your kids are commenting on their meatloaf dinner or your mother-in-law is offering snide commentary on your parenting style. Criticisms are among the most difficult conversations to have–but the new book, Thanks for the Feedback, aims to make it a little easier.

Now listen, sometimes the feedback you get is just plain crap.  Sometimes it’s callous or wrong. But sometimes it’s right. What do you say or think or do in response? The authors of Thanks for the Feedback try to give you a guide to make friends with your mistakes. They want you to know the difference between when you should let it roll off your back and when you should take it seriously and try to improve.

The authors, Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen of the Harvard Negotiation Project hit it out of the park with well-researched insight, advice and tips. I asked them some questions below–they explain what feedback is 3 Quick Ways to Take Feedback Better.

KK: What do you mean by feedback?
DS and SH:
We mean it both narrowly and broadly. Feedback is that performance evaluation or those test results, but in a bigger sense, this is a book about how to learn about ourselves from people and experiences – how to learn from life.

Feedback can be direct (“you missed your sales targets”) or indirect (when your boss said “good work, team,” she looked at your two colleagues, but not at you). And we’re constantly getting feedback in our personal lives as well – that comment from your mother-in-law about your permissive parenting, the way your spouse left this morning without saying the usual, “Love you.”  It can be from your boss or your boyfriend, your neighbor or your niece, even from your suddenly-too-tight jeans. We get feedback from everywhere, and not only from the outside. Let’s not forget the ways we beat ourselves up – the feedback we get from ourselves can be some of the hardest to take.

KK: What are 3 Quick Ways to Take Feedback Better?
DS and SH: Great question.  The research shows that people who seek out feedback – especially negative feedback that they can learn from – are perceived to be more competent, settle into new roles more quickly, and get higher performance reviews. So here are three tips that will help.

1. Don’t ask: “Do you have any feedback for me?” Too broad. Too daunting. Instead ask: “What’s one thing you see me doing – or failing to do – that’s getting in my own way?” That lets people know you actually want the feedback, and gives them permission to be honest.

2. Don’t just tap people you like and who like you – they can’t help you with your edges because they don’t see your edges. You live or work well and easily together. It’s the people we struggle to get along with who are often in a position to offer us something valuable about ourselves. They see our edges because they are so wonderfully adept at provoking them. Asking them about one thing you’re doing that’s getting in the way will not only elicit valuable insight into what you can do to reduce the friction, it will also be a bold step toward improving that relationship.

3. When you’re really struggling with feedback that seems fundamentally “off,” divide a sheet of paper into two columns and make two lists. On the left, list all the things that are wrong with the feedback. What they are saying isn’t true, it’s unfair, they’re one to talk, when they gave it was inappropriate, how they gave it was pathetically unskilled, why they gave it is suspect.  Now on the right make a list of things that might be right about the feedback. Too often we use all that is wrong with the feedback we get to cancel out the possibility that there is anything right about it. Your feedback might be 99 percent wrong, but that 1 percent that’s right might be just the insight you need. And once you get good at listening for what’s right, not just what’s wrong, you’ll do that in your conversations themselves more easily – getting curious about what they mean that might be helpful. That’s when you can really accelerate your own learning and improve your relationships. (more…)

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5 Tips for Toddlers Who Freak Out About Getting Dressed from ‘How Toddlers Thrive’

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

Is your toddler driving you nuts? If so, that’s totally okay! You are among friends here. All of us have had toddlers who made us bonkers. But what you have that we didn’t is this new book, How Toddlers Thrive by Tovah P. Klein, Ph.D. (with a fun and reassuring foreword by Sarah Jessica Parker). Tovah is also the director of the Center for Toddler Development at Barnard College. Check out Parents editorial assistant Ruthie, who recently attended Tovah’s book party.

Tovah tackles the most common issues and gives you real-life research and advice you can put to use. First of all, parents need to understand how those barely-walking baby minds think. The skill they most need to learn at age 2 is not how to share a toy or pee on the potty, but self-regulation. That alone is the key to their future success, Dr. Klein says.

Other topics in the book include thinking like a toddler (which helps you tame them), and “cracking the code” on everything from eating/sleeping/peeing routines to tantrums to sharing/playing/being alone. She’s full of useful tips that will help you and and your 2- to 5-year-old.

I really like these 5 Tips for Toddlers Who Freak Out About Getting Dressed:

1. Prepare in Advance
Put out two outfits your child can choose from in the morning. They need to feel a sense of power.

2. Give Limited Choices
“Dress or long pants?”

3. Buy Fewer Clothes
The fewer clothes your child has to choose from, the fewer fights you will have with her. Plus, you’ll save money!

4. Let Her Dress Herself
Even if you’re in a hurry, take the time to let her put that sock on. She will feel so proud.

5. Make It a Game
Whenever a tantrum is about to erupt, put a pair of panties on your head to turn tears into giggles.

 

 

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ADHD Does Not Exist–Right?

Friday, February 21st, 2014

The title of this new book screams for attention: ADHD Does Not Exist: The Truth About Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder. It’s so sensational that it turned me off at first. But once I dig into the author, Richard Saul, M.D.‘s arguments, I see he’s completely serious and legit.

As a behavioral neurologist who is certified in pediatrics, Saul has been seeing children and adults who think they have ADHD for 50 years. He believes that they do not have this disease. Instead, they have symptoms that can be treated. It’s a huge mistake to pop pills like Adderoll and Ritalin. People want a magic solution to get their kids–or themselves–to sit down and shut up. But these drugs are stimulants, and Saul says they lead to dangerous addictions.

He urges health care professionals and patients to dig deeper. One adult man complained that he could not turn off his television, computer and games, and he was going crazy. He was sure he had ADHD. Saul discovered he was only sleeping 4 to 5 hours a night and diagnosed him with sleep deprivation. Saul prescribed black out shades, a noise machine and a program that turns off all devices at midnight. The patient’s health dramatically improved.

The real conditions and disorders he diagnoses include vision and hearing problems, substance abuse, mood disorder, giftedness (kids need more challenge sometimes!), seizure disorders OCD, Tourette’s and Aspberger’s. He digs in and treats what is really wrong.

ADHD Does Not Exists is a wake-up call to get patients and professions off the Adderall and Ritalin. Saul acknowledges that attention and hyperactivity do exist. But there are so many better ways to tackle them than what we mostly see used today.

What do you think? Is ADHD a real disease or a catch-all excuse to put people on pills?

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