Archive for the ‘
Big Kids ’ Category
Friday, March 14th, 2014
By now you’ve heard that Amy Chua (best known as Tiger Mom) is back with another controversial book, The Triple Package. Co-written with her husband, Jed, the premise of the new book focuses on how eight cultural and minority groups in America (among them East Asians, Indians, Jews, and Mormons) have three traits that make them better than other groups: a strong sense of self-worth, an uncertainty about their status in society, and an ability to avoid temptation and short-term gratification.
Although the book isn’t a parenting memoir or handbook, the refocus on success and superiority has made the book quick fodder in the news. Fellow Parents.com blogger Richard Rende of Red-Hot Parenting kickstarted a series of posts based on the benchmarks of success outlined in the book. I haven’t read The Triple Package yet, but both Slate and The Washington Post have already pointed out the flaws and holes in the thesis that only certain groups are the most likely to succeed (like ignoring historical and statistical data that don’t fit the book’s thesis and disregarding the impact of immigration and social class).
Just the superlative “most likely to succeed” reminds me of the school superlatives and stereotypes surrounding kids as they grow up, which inadvertently influence how they view and define success. But here’s the thing: labels and traits are never as pat as we want them to be. And who’s to say that having every single trait for success (even by Amy and Jed’s standards) will actually determine success? Being Chinese-American seems to predetermine me for Triple Package success, and I remember growing up with the pressure to be successful in school and in my job — not so much from my parents, believe it or not, but from myself. (Maybe it had something to do with being an only child.) But what does success really mean? By society’s standards, the traditional ideas of success center on prestige, wealth, and marriage: school success means graduating with honors, work success means having a high-paying job, romantic success means finding your true love…you get the idea.
But by defining success narrowly and by traditional measures, we risk limiting a child’s potential growth and feelings of self-esteem or self-worth. Kids are particularly susceptible to adults’ ideas of success, so it’s important for parents to emphasize that success is subjective; kids should define their own personal markers of success. These markers can change through the years, but one marker should stay constant: happiness. One of my favorite quotes is by Margaret Lee Runbeck, “Happiness is not a station you arrive at, but a manner of traveling.” For me, the word “success” can be substituted for “happiness” — the journey toward achieving an outcome should be its own success. And this journey often means having determination and perseverance and being dedicated to an outcome that makes me happy. And to determine my level of personal success or happiness, I ask myself questions that kids can also ask themselves: Am I happy with my decision(s)? Am I happy with what I’ve accomplished? Does XYZ make me happy?
I know, I know, the idea of happiness sounds like a cliché, but it doesn’t make it any less true. After all, one could achieve the standard checklist of success and still be unhappy or, on the flip side, one could achieve none (or a few) and have a happy life. And without happiness, it’s hard to stay positive and motivated to keep moving forward in life. So instead of trying to live up to society’s standards for success, help kids focus on what makes them happy and praise them for the time and effort they put into the journey toward personal success — however they define it, and whatever it may be.
Share in the comments below: How will you help your child define and determine success?
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Image: Chalkboard with text, Success It Depends on You, via Shutterstock
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Wednesday, March 12th, 2014
Glennon Doyle Melton is the author of Momastery and the Best All Around winner of the 2014 Social Media Awards. Since 2009, Melton has been sharing her sentimental and silly moments as a stay-at-home-mom who doesn’t always get it right. Melton is also the author of Carry On, Warrior a New York Times best selling memoir about her recovery from drugs and alcohol and experiences in marriage and parenthood.
A few weeks ago, I went into Chase’s class for tutoring.
I’d emailed Chase’s teacher one evening and said, “Chase keeps telling me that this stuff you’re sending home is math – but I’m not sure I believe him. Help, please.” She emailed right back and said, “No problem! I can tutor Chase after school anytime.” And I said, “No, not him. Me. He gets it. Help me.” And that’s how I ended up standing at a chalkboard in an empty fifth grade classroom staring at rows of shapes that Chase’s teacher kept referring to as “numbers.”
I stood a little shakily at the chalkboard while Chase’s teacher sat behind me, perched on her desk, using a soothing voice to try to help me understand the new way we teach long division. Luckily for me, I didn’t have to unlearn much because I never really understood the old way we taught long division. It took me a solid hour to complete one problem, but l could tell that Chase’s teacher liked me anyway. She used to work with NASA, so obviously we have a whole lot in common.
Afterwards, we sat for a few minutes and talked about teaching children and what a sacred trust and responsibility it is. We agreed that subjects like math and reading are the least important things that are learned in a classroom. We talked about shaping little hearts to become contributors to a larger community and we discussed our mutual dream that those communities might be made up of individuals who are kind and brave above all. And then she told me this.
Every Friday afternoon Chase’s teacher asks her students to take out a piece of paper and write down the names of four children with whom they’d like to sit the following week. The children know that these requests may or may not be honored. She also asks the students to nominate one student whom they believe has been an exceptional classroom citizen that week. All ballots are privately submitted to her.
And every single Friday afternoon, after the students go home, Chase’s teacher takes out those slips of paper, places them in front of her and studies them. She looks for patterns. Who is not getting requested by anyone else? Who doesn’t even know who to request? Who never gets noticed enough to be nominated? Who had a million friends last week and none this week?
You see, Chase’s teacher is not looking for a new seating chart or exceptional citizens. Chase’s teacher is looking for lonely children. She’s looking for children who are struggling to connect with other children. She’s identifying the little ones who are falling through the cracks of the class’s social life. She is discovering whose gifts are going unnoticed by their peers. And she’s pinning down right away who’s being bullied and who is doing the bullying.
As a teacher, parent, and lover of all children, I think that this is the most brilliant Love Ninja strategy I have ever encountered. It’s like taking an X-ray of a classroom to see beneath the surface of things and into the hearts of students. It is like mining for gold (the gold being those little ones who need a little help) who need adults to step in and teach them how to make friends, how to ask others to play, how to join a group, or how to share their gifts with others. And it’s a bully deterrent because every teacher knows that bullying usually happens outside of her eye shot and that kids being bullied are often too intimidated to share. But as she said, the truth comes out on those safe, private, little sheets of paper.
As Chase’s teacher explained this simple, ingenious idea – I stared at her with my mouth hanging open. “How long have you been using this system?” I said. “Ever since Columbine,” she said. “Every single Friday afternoon since Columbine.” Good Lord.
This brilliant woman watched Columbine knowing that all violence begins with disconnection. All outward violence begins as inner loneliness. She watched that tragedy knowing that children who aren’t being noticed will eventually resort to being noticed by any means necessary. And so she decided to start fighting violence early and often, and with the world within her reach. What Chase’s teacher is doing when she sits in her empty classroom studying those lists written with shaky 11-year-old hands is saving lives. I am convinced of it. She is saving lives.
And what this mathematician has learned while using this system is something she really already knew. That everything, even love, even belonging, has a pattern to it. And she finds those patterns through those lists. She breaks the codes of disconnection. And then she gets lonely kids the help they need. It’s math to her. It’s math. All is love, even math. Amazing.
Chase’s teacher retires this year after decades of saving lives. What a way to spend a life: looking for patterns of love and loneliness. Stepping in every single day and altering the trajectory of our world.
Teach on, Warriors. You are the first responders, the front line, the disconnection detectives, and the best and only hope we’ve got for a better world. What you do in those classrooms when no one is watching, it’s our best hope.
Teachers, you’ve got a million parents behind you whispering together, “We don’t care about the damn standardized tests. We only care that you teach our children to be brave and kind. And we thank you, we thank you for saving lives.”
Love – All of Us
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Photo from Momastery.com
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Tuesday, March 11th, 2014
I live in a slightly out-of-the-culture neighborhood of Brooklyn, where mothers of baby girls shun pink and boys wear their hair fairly long, and sometimes I feel surrounded by princess-haters, who think that the Disney Princesses are trying to put all of our kids into a narrow box. I have lost count of the number of friends who have said they will never sanction Disney princesses in their home. They usually lose that battle anyway.
I can’t speak authoritatively about girls trying on extreme gender roles, because I am no child-development expert. But my beat here at Parents and American Baby includes toys, and I know when a little girl reaches 2 or 3 she usually wants a princess doll, or a costume dress, or a plastic pony with a long pink tail. I don’t know why, but I can tell you the want is real and seems primal.
My daughter, Grace, went on a loopy-doopy princess bender from ages 2 through 4. She dressed as Cinderella as she learned to climb the monkey bars and wore her Belle dress through the supermarket. It hurt no one, and I would argue particularly did not hurt her. She outgrew wearing costumes before elementary school, as I knew she would, but retained some lessons from “the ladies.” She knew that Ariel should have talked to her Dada before making that crazy deal to get human legs, and that Jasmine needed some street smarts. She understood Cinderella’s weary patience and Belle’s determination to block out haters. The new movie Frozen (which we’ve seen twice!) particularly has great themes, as Sheryl Sandberg points out.
Last fall we visited Belle in Fantasyland and Grace, now 11, studied her from a distance, judging her acting ability. (“She gets the voice right…”) I can’t get my tween to put on a dress, let alone a frilly one. She eyes Taylor Swift and Katy Perry, which honestly makes me more nervous than her watching of Snow White ever did.
The eloquent “Reaching My Autistic Son Through Disney” piece that ran in the New York Times resonates with me in that it points out how Disney stories are tales as old as time. The characters are acting out ancient dilemmas: How do you learn to trust your instinct? When should you do what you want to do, and when should you do what is expected of you? How do you find your place in the world? Not to overstate things too much, but trying to block kids from learning the princesses stories is to shut off a huge wealth of literature, history, and culture. And I can’t help but notice that no one fusses at my son about Tarzan’s body or the fact that Mowgli is so dang skinny.
I am not saying you need to welcome the ladies into your home so much as I’m saying: Calm down about them. They’re characters, and if you pay more attention to their character development instead of their shape, they have a lot to teach.
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Tuesday, March 11th, 2014
Lean In author Sheryl Sandberg can campaign all she wants about #banbossy. But I’m not jumping on her bandwagon. And it makes me sad that her crusade is giving bossiness a bad name.
I can appreciate the sentiment behind the #banbossy campaign. Girls and women often struggle to have their voices heard and be forceful as leaders, without getting called a far less-attractive B word in the process. But as a lifelong “bossy” girl, I embrace the traits that earned me that label—the stubbornness, the take-charge attitude, the ability to steer even the most wayward project or person back on track. I think I can credit my bossiness for getting me most of my heart’s desires—everything from my ability to bend customer service reps to my bidding to my career to my status as a mom. (Trust me—you can’t navigate the paperwork for two adoptions successfully without being at least a little bit bossy!) I wear the word “bossy” as a badge of pride.
Besides, some of my favorite pop culture characters are my fellow bossy girls—Hermione Granger, Veronica Mars and yes, even Peanuts’ Lucy Van Pelt. (Despite Sheryl’s disdain for her, I’ve always been a sucker for characters like Lucy, with her whip-smart, take-no-prisoners vibe.)
And I’m proud to say that I’m raising two very bossy girls—girls who are unafraid to speak up for what’s right, who are excited to share their ideas. (Even if it leads to some pretty heated battles in my house.) We work on how to lead without completely trampling over their playmates or their siblings, and how to harness their bossiness and stubbornness to help them follow their dreams. And when I call my daughter bossy, it’s not to punish her—but to tell her that I notice how wonderfully strong she is. Maybe they won’t be President someday, but my daughters definitely won’t get pushed around.
As far as we’re concerned, there are plenty of B words we shouldn’t be called—but bossy simply isn’t one of them.
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Image: bossy girl by jayfish/shutterstock.com
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Monday, March 10th, 2014
Photo of the author with his father and brother.
Charlie Capen is one-half of the duo behind How To Be A Dad, a self-described “how-not-to” blog for dads, moms, soon-to-be parents, and everyone in between. Capen lives on the outskirts of Los Angeles with his wife, Avara, and two boys, Finnegan and Arden.
It was a cold, windy day on the grassy plains overlooking a beach in San Francisco. The wind filled sails and people sat bundled up, pretending it was a summer afternoon. San Francisco had that effect on people. It was anything they wanted it to be.
My father jogged over to a payphone, pulled a quarter from his pocket and rang my mother. “It’s such a beautiful day. You should bring the boys down here. And we can fly some kites. It’s perfect.”
“Stephen, the boys are with you.”
That was the day my mother had a talk with us about what to do if we ever got lost, though it was more for my dad than for us. His chemically-sourced absentmindedness was an origin to many stories that started more or less in this way.
Mom’s directions were simple. Find a responsible adult. Learn your phone number. Learn your address. Learn to dial “911.” Times were much different. Technology wasn’t as suffocating and the news every-hour-on-the-hour coverage about scary abductions was nonexistent, though the “stranger danger” mantra was fast becoming a common phrase.
In hindsight, those instructions for our urban life as two young boys seem rather liberated. Loose. They were important enough to remember, which we did, but almost unsafe when compared to the guidelines most of us have now.
Today, I am confronted with something I could not anticipate before I became a father. Now that my son is one of those kittens that you cannot herd, at the tender age of four years-old, I have to teach him about being lost and finding his way.
However, this lesson isn’t what confuses me. It’s the response to a question I posed on our Facebook page and my personal profile:
“Who do you tell your kids to seek out if they get lost?” Simple enough, right? Not really. Some of the answers are just frustrating. Out of nearly 120 comments (ruling out the obviously humorous or ridiculous ones), more than half of commenters said some version of “FIND A MOM.”
Here are some of the responses:
Okay. Yeah. Those weren’t helpful. How about these:
Don’t get me wrong, I understand. A whopping 96 percent of assaults are committed by men. I’m not telling anyone to stop saying “find a mom” here. That works for me. In fact, it’s smart. Moms are parents. Parents with kids would intuitively be the right choice. But are we stigmatizing men and fathers in so doing? Even just a little bit?
I’m not saying men don’t commit these crimes. That’s not it. I’m saying our actions can be informed by statistics, but our attitudes must be guided by context. The location, the people in question and the specifics pertaining to the form of the moment are all crucial details that, if unobserved, keep us generally fearful of others. Especially, and unfortunately, based on their race or sex.
In the end, I’m asking you to look at this in a different light, from the point of view of a man who deeply and unabashedly loves his children, and, by proxy, any child who is in need. As my friend Whit said:
“I explained that the problem with teaching children that men are bad is that some of them might actually believe it — children that have fathers and brothers or those that will someday be men themselves. It was a terrible and ignorant weight to put on a child.”
I’ve had women ask me, sharply albeit inquisitively, which child was mine at the playground. I’ve had random, uninvited kids climb all over me and seen the eyes dart in my direction, watching my every move as I sheepishly try to stop them from making me a human jungle gym. It’s unacceptable that I couldn’t be a safe person to help a child in need, and that the odds aren’t perceived as in my favor.
This isn’t an edict but a simple request for an adjustment in how we look at keeping our children safe as told by a child who endured the very thing we’re talking about now.
Protect your child from predators with these important tips!
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