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The Problem With Overprotective Parents

Friday, April 18th, 2014

I recently came across a post on the Parents Community from a father who was “concerned/ paranoid” about his school-aged daughter’s safety when traveling to and from school and friends’ homes. He said he was thinking of using some kind of location tracker until she turned 14 or 15. Another member of the Parents community chimed in and said she felt the same and doesn’t let her kids ride their bikes to school alone, take the bus to school, or “do sleepovers… ever.” She also mentioned how she worries about her nephew who, at 9-years-old, is allowed to play with his friends outside without parent supervision. The mom brought up one specific incident where one of her nephew’s friends fell and broke a body part (and lost some teeth) so one of the kids had to ride his bike to get help. But my thought is, what’s so wrong with that?

While it’s reasonable to put rules in place to keep your child safe like setting a curfew, having him call to check in, or setting limits on where he can play, it’s not great for parents to spread the safety net too far. This kid and his friends, for example, learned a valuable lesson about how to react to an emergency. Maybe there wasn’t a parent around to call 911 or drive the injured kid to the hospital, but that group of  friends had to figure out who would go get help, who would stay behind, and how to handle themselves during a scary situation. These are life skills that help a child grow and prepare to take care of themselves when mom isn’t an arm’s reach away.

At the same time, a study published in the journal Child Abuse and Neglect last April found that kids of overprotective parents were more likely to be bullied. When parents “try to buffer children from all negative experiences they prevent their children from learning ways of dealing with bullies and make them more vulnerable,” said Professor Dieter Wolke, one of the study’s authors.

When I think back to my childhood and the warnings my parents gave me, I realize why I was the “fraidy-cat” during grades k-12. They scared me so much with tales of what could happen to “little blonde girls” like me that any stranger I met might as well have been a serial child abductor. However, I was still allowed to play with my friends unsupervised at a time when (gasp!) 10-year-olds didn’t have cell phones. Although I’m still fighting my fear of crossing the street, I like to think that my parents were on to something with their terrify and release tactic. By freaking me out with their warnings, they knew I was bound to come home in one piece.

Maybe they realized that having a constant fear about their child’s safety would also have an impact on their mental health. They might have thought that eventually I would want to go to a sleepover, or summer camp, or college away from home. If a parent doesn’t learn how to handle letting kids play unsupervised, how will they ever be mentally prepared for when their kiddo moves away?

Though I’m not a parent, and can’t even imagine what it takes to keep a child from accidentally injuring themselves, I do know that when my parents gave me space it helped me become independent and resourceful. Even if I still have to call mom sometimes.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

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Parenting Style: Authoritarian Parenting
Parenting Style: Authoritarian Parenting
Parenting Style: Authoritarian Parenting

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Expert Advice for Parenting in the Digital Age

Friday, March 28th, 2014

When Fisher Price introduced its iPad Baby Bouncy Seat late last year, many parents (and concerned citizens like myself) wondered, have we gone too far? But not long before companies were dangling iPads above babies’ heads, parents were creating twitter handles for their newborns and 10-year-olds were posting “duck-face” selfies on Instagram. With all of this digital-age craziness going on, how does a parent know where to draw the line?

Earlier this week, New York Public Radio rounded up a panel of experts for a program called Parenting in the Digital Age in hopes of advising confused parents on what’s acceptable when it comes to mixing kids and technology.  Read on for their advice for your family.

For babies, toddlers, and preschoolers. “There’s no evidence that screen time is helpful for babies,” says Dr. Susan Linn, the co-founder of The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, which has challenged companies like Disney for their “educational” Baby Einstein videos and Fisher Price for the iPad Bouncy Seat. Linn says kids under three should avoid all screen time and for children aged three to five, it’s best to stay below the two hour limit suggested by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

At the same time, Joel Levin, the founder of MinecraftEdu, a games-based education nonprofit and father of two girls under nine, thinks that technology can be valuable to kids. His oldest daughter started playing games on the computer when she was five. “When I played with my daughter, I was amazed with the thought processes she had. She learned to spell her first word using the game,” he says. However, he adds, it’s important that you don’t turn technology into a babysitter and, although it can be difficult, don’t use it as a crutch when the kids are bored or fussy.

For elementary school kids and tweens. Wendy Kelly, a third grade teacher at the low-tech Rudolf Steiner School in New York City, recommends the same rules that her school enforces: no technology before fourth grade. Kelly admits that this can be a challenge but suggests that parents talk their child’s friends about setting the same screen time boundaries. “What one child does has an effect on everyone so we ask parents to encourage crafts and books instead of movies, television, and video games.” Whether you introduce your kids to technology in kindergarten or wait until fourth grade like Kelly, all the panelists agreed that you have to monitor the content kids are consuming. “If you feel your kid is watching something that is inappropriate, turn it into a teachable moment and have a discussion about why she shouldn’t be watching it before you take it away,” says Levin. He also says it’s helpful to watch your kids play with their devices to find out why they’re drawn to certain games so you can encourage those certain skills when screen time is over. Lastly, try to carve out time for your kids with your family outside of screen time. It’s just as important as setting a time limit for technology, says Linn.

No matter how strict your screen time policy, one thing that is for certain: is that kids are around surrounded by more technology than ever before. It’s up to parents to make sure they instill the values and self-control needed to navigate the new digital world.

Click here for tech-free craft and activity ideas. 

Digital Devices and Children
Digital Devices and Children
Digital Devices and Children

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

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How the New Barbie Could Impact Our Girls

Friday, March 7th, 2014

Last summer, digital artist Nikolay Lamm created an image of what Barbie would look with the Center for Disease Control’sproportions of the average woman. The photo of Barbie standing next to her shorter, curvier counterpart went viral and parents began to wonder why this kind of doll wasn’t sold in stores.

Less than a year later, Lamm teamed up with Mattel’s former vice president of manufacturing and created a crowd funding campaign to turn his illustrations into a plastic doll named Lammily. Shortly after launching his donation site, Lamm had raised more than twice his goal of $95,000 to create a minimum of 5,000 dolls. So far, over 8,000 dolls have been ordered and are set to be delivered this November (just in time for Santa to stock up).

Besides the hype surrounding the doll, is there any reason for parents to replace their daughters’ Barbies with Lammilies? Alisha Ali PhD, an associate professor of applied psychology at New York University and a mom of two daughters under 10thinks so. “Girls don’t see a broad range of body images in toys which sends a message that when you grow up into an adult woman, this [doll] is what you should look like.” In addition to promoting a healthy body image, Ali says that the story behind the doll sends a positive message to young girls. “It shows girls that their ideas can make things come into being.” This story also takes the focus off the dolls body type entirely which encourages them not to compare themselves to plastic, she says.

Although the dolls may not be hitting store shelves in the near future, there are things you can do to counteract any negative impact your child’s toys may have on her now. “Any thing we spend a significant amount of time with can impact us,” Ali says. “If a child is young and is playing with a toy for an hour a day, it can shape how they see the world and themselves.” In order to avoid these effects, she suggests considering yourself the gatekeeper of the kinds of toys your daughter plays with. “Just because a toy is popular doesn’t mean you have to buy it for your child.” Instead, try to find toys that have a wide range of looks. Secondly, it’s important to engage with your daughter while she plays with toys like Barbie. Ali suggests reminding her that it’s not actually possible to look the way Barbie does. (Plus, if she was real, she’d have many health problems.) With an older child, Ali says to ask her,what do you think is more important, the way you look or what you can do? What are some of things you can do that you are proud of?

If your daughter is a Barbie fanatic, it doesn’t mean she will grow up with a low self-esteem. However, Ali points out, “don’t we want our girls to have a good self-esteem not despite their toys but because of their toys?”

 

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How to Make the Most of Playtime
How to Make the Most of Playtime
How to Make the Most of Playtime

Photo: NICKOLAY LAMM/MYDEALS.

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Are You Making These Baby-Sleep Safety Mistakes?

Thursday, February 20th, 2014

If there’s one thing we know you crave as a new parent, it’s sleep. Of course, for you to get some rest, you need your baby to safely drift off. And that can be grueling during the first year. American Baby, in partnership with Safe Kids Worldwide, an organization devoted to preventing childhood injuries, polled more than 4,500 new moms with babies age 1 and younger to find out how parents put their infant to sleep. Find out if you’re making any of the missteps our survey uncovered, and share this infographic with all your new-mom friends. Together, let’s make 2014 the year that babies sleep more safely.

baby sleep statistics

To post the infographic above on your own blog or website, cut and paste this code:

<a href="http://bit.ly/MBaGmt" target="_blank"><img src="http://images.meredith.com/parents/images/2014/02/pmm_650_InfoGraphicCrib.png" alt="Baby Sleeping Safely infographic from Parents.com" /></a>

To find out what common safe-sleep mistakes you’re making, click here to see the full story.

What do you need for a safe and sleep-friendly nursery? Download our checklist and find out. Then, learn how to make homemade baby food with our easy how-to guide.

All About Co-Sleepers
All About Co-Sleepers
All About Co-Sleepers

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How Thinking About Work Affects Parents

Friday, February 14th, 2014

It happens to the best of us. It’s Sunday night, you’re enjoying the end of your weekend with the family and you get a work email on your phone (or tablet or laptop). In seconds your mind is a million miles away. And while your partner and kids might miss you while you’re mentally “at work,” you might be doing harm to yourself at the same time. According to a new study presented at the Society of Personality and Social Psychology conference, parents who were confronted with money-making issues (such as jobs) while spending time with their kids were more likely to feel that parenting was less meaningful. This was especially true for moms. Though the importance of work-life separation might be obvious, actually doing it is a challenge to say the least.

Whether you’re a work-from-home mom or a schlep-to-the-office-daily mom these tips from work life balance expert and author, Jeff Davidson will help you tune out of work and into family time.

Use your commute to adjust from work to home or vice versa. Davidson recommends using a technique called “completion” to help turn off your work thoughts and focus on home life. To signal that the work day is over, “reward yourself by thinking what’s done at work is done, you did the best you could do.”

You can prevent work-life interruption by letting your co-workers know that you won’t answer emails after hours or on the weekends or by simply not responding. If going M. I. A. after hours isn’t possible for you, “mentally acknowledge the email and make a note to answer it later,” says Davidson. “If you must email them back right away, send them a note saying ‘busy, will get back to you by this time,” he says. Whatever you do, don’t interrupt the activity you are doing with your family.

Create a time barrier to deal with work issues outside of the office. “Each time you switch a task, you’re not doing your best in either area,” Davidson says. Setting aside 30 undisturbed minutes can help you be more productive and allow you to give your undivided attention to your family later.

Use a physical barrier. If you have someone to keep an eye on the kiddos, or if your kids are old enough to be solo, separate yourself from the crew and take care of whatever work issues you have.

When stressful thoughts of work strike, Davidson says to remind yourself of how good you are at work and to reflect on the big picture of you career. “This will help make the email seem less important to your career overall,” he says.

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