Archive for the ‘ Child Development ’ Category

Your Kids’ Birth Order Doesn’t Shape Their Personalities After All

Tuesday, July 21st, 2015

siblingsWhen I was younger, I enjoyed being the oldest child in my family and wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. I was–and still am–what some people would consider a “typical” first-born. Structured and controlling? Yep. Diligent and eager to please? Check. I proudly owned my oldest-child personality, both the good and the not-so-great…until I read a recent study that says birth order doesn’t meaningfully affect personality or IQ.

The study, which was led by University of Illinois psychology professor Brent Roberts and postdoctoral researcher Rodica Damian, looked at 377,000 high school students and was the biggest birth order and personality study ever. It controlled for some factors that might have skewed the results, such as the family’s economic background, how many kids each family had, and the ages of the kids at the time of the study. While first-borns scored one point higher on IQ-point tests than later-borns, the difference is so small that it is, as Roberts put it, “meaningless.” Also unremarkable? Any differences in personality. Yes, first-borns were more “extroverted, agreeable, and conscientious” than later-borns, but not enough to be noticable. The bottom line is that we’re not so different, first-borns and later-borns.

The findings are not only interesting for siblings; they are something that parents should take into consideration as well. “The message of this study is that birth order probably should not influence your parenting, because it’s not meaningfully related to your kid’s personality or IQ,” Damian said.

While it’s not surprising to me that there isn’t a notable difference in IQ, I admit that the personality bit through me for a loop. My brothers and I fit the oldest child/middle child/youngest child stereotypes to a T. I know it’s crazy to doubt a study of this magnitude, but I still believe in astrology, so I can’t say I’m always logical. Either way, the study’s findings are something to consider when I have my own kids, though I don’t think I would have treated them differently anyway (at least not consciously!).

What do you think: Does birth order shape personality?

What You Need to Know About Birth Order
What You Need to Know About Birth Order
What You Need to Know About Birth Order

Hannah Werthan is the associate social media editor for She is married to an oldest child who is the definition of a perfectionist. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

Image via Shutterstock

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The 4 “Independence Days” of Childhood

Thursday, July 2nd, 2015

parents with baby

Editor’s Note: In an ongoing series, Dr. Harley A. Rotbart, a Parents advisor, guest blogs once a month with advice, tips, and personal stories on how parents can “savor the moment” and maximize the time they spend with kids. Read more posts by Harley Rotbart on Goodyblog and on Parents Perspective.

Each day of a child’s life brings new growth and development, sometimes subtle, other times momentous. Among the many “firsts” in your child’s life, however, there are four that deserve special mention this Independence Day. Four milestones that launch kids from one stage of their young lives to the next, bringing them ever closer to their own independence. These are milestones for parents as well since each new step your kids take towards independence means a new phase in your lives as well.

Independence Day #1 – First Steps

Rolling from front to back, back to front, creeping, and then crawling are all big news in the life of a baby and her parents, and certainly cause for collecting video memories – but there is no mobility milestone that matches walking for excitement and a sense of accomplishment in the minds of parents and kids. Just watch the face of a baby hurtling upright from one parent to another, albeit a mere 3 feet away. And just watch the faces of the parents! And don’t stop watching, because in the blink of an eye, walking becomes running, jumping, hopping, and skipping and then good luck keeping track of them at the mall. That’s independence!

Independence Day #2 – First Day of School

For some kids, this may be all day preschool, for others kindergarten, but for all kids that first time standing at the door of a classroom and saying goodbye to mommy or daddy for a whole day is huge. It may involve, as it did for two of our kids, clinging to mom’s leg for dear life. Or, as with our other child, it could mean a quick kiss and running off to meet new friends and find new toys, leaving mom wishing for a little more clinging. Vive la différence! Either way, all-day school will become part of your family’s life for many years to come, and this first day is a true marker of independence from the comfort and security of home.

Independence Day #3 – Driver’s License

Many parents are taken by surprise at the impact their child’s driver’s license makes in the life of their family. When kids can get themselves to school and the mall, and take their younger siblings to soccer practice, a parent’s first thought may be, “hey, my life just got easier.” And then it hits you: now they can go just about anywhere they choose, and pick up friends along the way, and use their cell phone in the car, and drive at night. And what if someone brings beer, and what if they do the stuff in the car that you did when you were their age?! OMG, there are all those other drivers on the road that may not be as conscientious as your kid! Suddenly you, the chauffeurs of the past 16 years, become terrified bystanders as your former dependents become freewheeling independents. This is the most telling independence day of all for kids and will say more about who they are than almost anything else they do along the way to adulthood. Driving brings so many opportunities to make good decisions, and such high risks for making bad ones. Buckle up!

Independence Day #4 – High School Graduation

And then it’s here. After 18 years, 940 weeks of childhood, they’re up and out. Or even if they’re staying home for a while, they’re officially adults. Old enough to vote and fight in wars. Old enough to say “no” without getting sent to their rooms. This is Independence with a capital “I,” time to see your kids for the wonderful people they’ve turned into. Time to respect their opinions and decisions no matter how much you may disagree. But don’t panic. If all goes well, soon they’ll begin respecting your opinions and your decisions soon, too. By the time the “fog of adolescence” lifts in their early 20s, your kids will be your new best friends. Friends you will want to be around and who will want to hang with you again. Really.

May all your kids’ Independence Days be happy and safe!

Dr. Harley RotbartDr. Harley A. Rotbart is Professor and Vice Chairman Emeritus of Pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and Children’s Hospital Colorado. He is the author of four books for parents and families, including No Regrets Parenting and 940 Saturdays. He is also a Parents advisor and a contributor to The New York Times Motherlode blog. Visit his blog at and follow him on Facebook and Twitter (@NoRegretsParent).

Image via Shutterstock

Signs Your Baby is Learning to Walk
Signs Your Baby is Learning to Walk
Signs Your Baby is Learning to Walk

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Strides Toward Independence

Wednesday, June 24th, 2015

As a grade-schooler, I would climb over our backyard fence (which bordered a playground) and walk to class on my own. I usually came home for lunch, and remember bringing friends with me—sometimes without my mom being home. I wasn’t a latchkey kid by any means. I had loving, involved parents. It was simply a different era, when free-range kids were the norm and there was far less concern about stranger danger (not that the world was truly any safer, mind you).

I have no desire to return to that era of laissez-faire parenting. Still, when my 10-year-old daughter, Isabella, asked if she could start walking the three blocks to school on her own, I thought it was high time to let her. And the advice in our magazine confirmed that it was age-appropriate. First, though, I had to teach her to cross the street.

We went out on a Sunday afternoon and practiced together. I modeled how to look both ways and watch for cars that might be turning left or right into the crosswalk. I stressed the importance of waiting for the image of the pedestrian walking to light up before going—and never to cross when the red hand was showing, even if she was certain there was no traffic coming. (That was a challenging behavior to model, as New Yorkers don’t wait for an invitation to cross and constantly assert their right-of-way over cars regardless of what the lights indicate). Then I shadowed her, watching from half a block behind as she made her way home from school.

She was ready. Were we? Isabella had shown us that she deserved our trust, but how would we know she was okay? For many kids, technology is the answer: They call on their cell when they arrive safely. Only one problem: Isabella doesn’t have a phone yet. So we worked out a compromise: Once at school, she would go up to the school office and make a quick “I’m okay” call. The administrator agreed to let her—in part because she supported the idea of waiting to get her a cell.

Now I get a call five times a week from my darling daughter at 8:03 am: “Hi, I made it to school, dad.” I tell her I love her and wish her a wonderful day. And then my wife and I can rest easy. Isabella asks repeatedly if she can stop calling. The answer is no.

Still, she’s taken other noteworthy steps on the path toward independence this year. She now gets her homework done on her own before we return from the office, which has facilitated a far more peaceful evening routine. She picked out her fifth-grade science project (pictured) on her own, recruited and tested subjects without our help, and put the whole thing together with minimal help. Heck, she even got it done early. She has also started going for “out lunch” on Fridays with friends, a lesson not only in independence but also, we hope, in money management ($12 doesn’t go as far as you’d think, especially in Manhattan).

Recently, she got her ears pierced. My wife wanted to wait until Isabella showed she was responsible enough to clean her own ears three times a day for eight weeks so as to prevent infection. But Isabella had proved herself in other areas (including street-crossing), so she got her wish. True to her word, she has cared for them properly, and has only one more week to go.

I can’t claim that there aren’t areas in need of improvement. Isabella needs to be reminded to change the empty toilet paper roll and (sometimes) to set the table. We’re still working on life skills like fetching her own snack and sorting her own laundry.

Even so, she’s come a long way this year, and her graduation from elementary school is more than a formality. My baby is growing up. She’ll keep making strides toward independence during middle school, and we’ll gradually have to learn to let go.

Parenting Style: Positive Parenting
Parenting Style: Positive Parenting
Parenting Style: Positive Parenting

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Jennifer Garner Wants You to Join the #GlobalMoms Discussion

Tuesday, May 5th, 2015

What kind of world do you want for your family by 2030? What can be accomplished in 15 years to make this a better world for our children?

Experts and advocates came together last Friday for the third annual Moms +SocialGood event to jump-start this very conversation. The all-day event, which is just one part of the Global Moms Challenge, is dedicated to the power of mothers and families to improve the future for their communities. This United Nations Foundation initiative, along with the support of Johnson & Johnson, has already helped more than 120 million women across the globe.

The event included individual speakers and panel discussions focused on the many facets of parenthood and childhood. One of the many speakers was mother, actress, and member of Save the Children’s board of trustees, Jennifer Garner. Like every mom, Garner adores her three young children—but she’s also devoted to the well-being of all kids. Parents had the opportunity to submit questions to Garner, who answered via video response, about her experiences with motherhood and some of her greatest passions.

Moms +SocialGood is all about the power of moms and families. When do you feel the most powerful as a mom?
JG: I feel the most powerful as a mom when I can handle the challenges of motherhood with equanimity and remember that they’re just little kids and not try to expect them all to be mature enough to handle the disappointments of life that can throw kids into a tizzy. When I can be calm and carry on that’s when I feel like…okay, I did it!

As the third annual Global Moms Relay kicks off, what’s your answer to the question, “What kind of world do YOU want for your family by 2030?”
If I’m thinking just about my family, I’m hoping that my kids are engaged in the world, that they have balance in their lives, and are enjoying all of the incredible opportunities that the world has to offer them. But I also hope that we have enough water, I also hope that kids’ needs are being met all over the world, that kids are living until 5 in developing nations, which is so doable, and that kids in the United States are getting the right chance to start off on the right foot.

Although you’re actively involved in many ventures, what specific projects are you channeling your energy toward right now?
With Save [the Children], I was just in South Carolina trying to raise the visibility of the importance of birth to five education, development, nurturing moms who have newborns—particularly, moms who are raising kids in poverty. One in three kids in rural SC is growing up in poverty and 72 percent of 4th graders in SC are not reading at grade-level—there’s a real connection there. So I was just there trying to boost the morale of the legislators and say ‘come on, let’s fight for little kids and let’s make sure money is going in the most effective places.’

When you first became a mother, what would you say was the one thing that changed the most?
It’s such a huge change, and it’s such a huge shift. I had to really fight from becoming isolated, and I’ve always been social and I love my girlfriends, but you kind of go into your little bubble, which is not really a great place to be. Parenting should be done as a part of a community.

Millions see you as a role model, but who do you look up to the most? And why?
I look up to my sisters and my mom—I think they’re pretty cool. And I look up to all of the moms that Save is helping around the United States, these mothers love their kids just as much as I love mine, just as much as my mom loves me, and are doing their best to give their kids the right start without the help and resources that I have.

Related: For more on mothers around the world, read about Save the Children’s recently released State of the World’s Mothers report.

Caitlin St John is an Editorial Assistant for who splits her time between New York City and her hometown on Long Island. She’s a self-proclaimed foodie who loves dancing and anything to do with her baby nephew. Follow her on Twitter: @CAITYstjohn

The Lasting Impact of the Early Childhood Years
The Lasting Impact of the Early Childhood Years
The Lasting Impact of the Early Childhood Years

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Speaking Up About National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week

Monday, May 4th, 2015

Parents has had an ongoing partnership with Child Mind Institute, and we applaud its efforts to end the stigma associated with children’s mental health issues—and to help make sure that all children get the treatment they need. As part of its annual Speak Up For Kids Campaign, the Child Mind Institute Mental Health Report was released today, and it contains the latest, most reliable information about the scope of children’s mental health in America. These are just some of the powerful statistics:

  • 17 million young people have or have had a diagnosable psychiatric disorder.
  • 40% percent of kids with ADHD aren’t getting treatment.
  • 60% of kids with depression aren’t getting treatment.
  • 80% of kids with an anxiety disorder aren’t getting treatment.

“The numbers are staggering,” says Parents advisor Harold Koplewicz, M.D., president of Child Mind Institute. “Mental illness is the common disorder of childhood and adolescence—it’s more common than asthma, peanut allergies, or diabetes—and 22% of kids have serious, debilitating symptoms. It is time for us to start a new conversation about this.”

Dr. Koplewicz is particularly concerned about anxiety disorders, and age 6 is the median age of onset. “When it’s not treated, anxiety can prime the brain for depression in adolescence and adulthood.”  The article in our May issue, “Anxious All The Time,” offers practical and reassuring advice, and Child Mind Institute has a comprehensive guide to finding good care for all types of mental illness.

Child Mind Institute is also honoring the winners of its Change Maker Awards, which celebrate leaders, organizations, and local heroes that are creating change in children’s mental health. Parents readers had been invited to submit nominations for the last two awards.

The Champion Award: Congressman Tim Murphy, Ph.D. A clinical psychologist from Pennsylvania, he recently unveiled his landmark mental health reform legislation, the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act.

The Activist Award: First Lady Chirlane McCray of New York City. She was inspired by her own daughter’s past struggles to dedicate herself to mental health advocacy and help make sure that young people are connected to the services they need.

The Corporate Advocate Award: Bloomingdales, led by CEO Tony Spring. The retailer took a stance on mental health at a time when few organizations were speaking up about it, and raised funds by selling limited-edition special products.

The Community Builder Award: Active Minds. Founded by Alison Malmon, who lost her brother to suicide, the organization raises awareness about mental health issues at colleges across the country.

The Local Hero Award: Angela Renz, LCSW. A social worker in New York City schools for decades, she has helped thousands of at-risk children, and educated parents and children about the dangers of stress and the benefits of teaching resilience.

Child Mind Institute says it best: “Speaking for children’s mental health is about more than words—it’s about making change for kids and families. Raising our voices lets struggling young people know it’s okay to ask for help. Sharing accurate information as well as our stories makes childhood mental illness real. And taking action together transforms children’s lives. Speak Up for Kids is about sharing knowledge—and creating change.”

Diane Debrovner is the deputy editor of Parents and the mother of two daughters.

Life with ADHD and Sensory Processing Disorder
Life with ADHD and Sensory Processing Disorder
Life with ADHD and Sensory Processing Disorder

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