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The Parents Perspective ’ Category
Thursday, March 6th, 2014
A couple of weeks ago, a friend posted this picture of her son’s social studies project—a shoe box decorated to look like a mummy’s tomb—with this note: “Hours and hours and hours of work went into this, and I’m wondering what did it REALLY teach my son about ancient Egypt?” Sigh! I could relate—my daughter has made plenty of projects over the years that were heavy on glitter glue, and short on substance. In fourth-grade, she had to squeeze an entire book report on Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone on the sides of a tissue box. I understand that the teachers were trying to spark creativity and attempting to make it more fun for kids. But for my daughter and some of her friends, the angst of having to fit all the requirements on the tissue box outweighed the joy of reading the book–and wanting to share it with the class.
Still, I’ll take a tissue box or a diorama any day over the Science Fair. Don’t get me wrong: I’m all for more science education in schools and labs that allow kids to get hands-on experience. Why I don’t like the Science Fair is simple—I’m never sure how much help (or any help) I should give. And kids whose parents don’t or can’t help (whether it’s shelling out money for supplies or proofreading or brainstorming what the experiment will be) are at a big disadvantage in much the same way that high schoolers who can’t afford all those pricey SAT prep classes are when it comes to getting into college. (Thankfully, the College Board is making some changes to level the playing field for the SATs.)
I got a hint of what the Science Fair was going to be like when my daughter was in third grade. For a classroom convention, she had to make an invention that used simple machines. On her own, she came up with the idea of making a washing machine for doll clothes (that’s her project below). She had the idea to put a Bundt cake pan inside a box, but she couldn’t figure out what she would use to make it turn. Then I thought a whisk might work. I helped her put it together—she did about 80 percent of the work and I did the rest. I felt incredibly guilty for helping so much until I walked into her classroom—and saw that one child had brought in a huge wooden bed frame that folded up with a pulley. He said he made it with his dad.
By the time the Science Fair rolled around in fourth and fifth grades, I settled on semi-helping. The idea had to be my daughter’s, the work had to hers, but I proofread, typed, and help organize. She won ribbons both years. One of her friends did too and when I went over to congratulate her, she whispered in my ear, “My mom helped me.” She didn’t need to tell me. In looking through the projects, with complex charts, graphics, and some even with spreadsheets, it’s hard to believe that any 9-year-old—even a tech savvy one—did that on her own. And what about those kids whose parents couldn’t afford to drop 50 bucks at Michaels or didn’t have access to a computer at home? They were ribbon-less. And it wasn’t fair.
I promised myself that I wouldn’t be as involved in this year’s projects–and, thankfully, it’s been a non-issue. My daughter’s teachers focus on group projects that are done entirely in school. Recently, I loved hearing about travel brochure for the Paleozoic Era that she and a couple of other kids created in class. I wish that it had been this way all along. Let’s tell teachers that we prefer this method.
How much help have you given your kids on their projects? Let me know in the comments.
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Thursday, March 6th, 2014
For the past two years I’ve been working for a family as a regular babysitter for their now 3-year-old son, Mason, and this past weekend I was called in to hang out with him while his parents went to a friend’s party. As a surprise I brought him a few new books to read that I figured would get tucked away on a shelf and occasionally looked at before bedtime, but I could not have been more wrong.
From the second I pulled the big, colorful kids’ books out of my bag, Mason couldn’t take his eyes off of them. Once he got his hands on them, he ran over to the couch and asked that we started reading them, making sure to go through each detail from cover to cover. Normally our time together is spent eating pizza, throwing dance parties, and playing with Legos, so the change of pace caught me off guard. Aside from the 20 minutes or so spent breaking for dinner, we were on the couch the entire night reading the same three stories and looking at their pictures.
I have to say; I was really impressed with Mason (seen above in his early reading days). He genuinely enjoyed spending his time flipping through these pages, pointing out details of the illustrations and asking questions about things that were unfamiliar to him. Sure, I remember loving books as a kid, but my ability to get lost in the pages of a good story has dwindled after my college years of scouring studies and analyzing classic literature. Truth be told, I got kind of jealous as I thought about the (overdue) library book that has been sitting on my shelf untouched for weeks. Whatever happened to kicking back on a Saturday night to read a good book with your babysitter?
I was feeling the sting of my freshly wounded ego when I came across a post today from Rewire Me that reminded me of why kids, unlike some adults, find reading to be so much fun. The article outlines major reasons that explained why reading to your child sets them up for a better future. Aside from the quality time you get to spend bonding with your little one, the article mentions that reading to kids also helps foster imagination, builds language skills, and helps them establish a connection between pictures and words. It also delves into the importance of repetition while reading to your child, explaining that reading the same story and looking at the same pictures multiple times can strengthen fragile neural connections. And just think: all of this before bedtime.
As it turns out, I was doing a lot more for Mason than just humoring him when he insisted on reading the same new books over and over again. What I simply thought was a case of being excited about new books was actually an exercise in strengthening a 3-year-old’s brain. Talk about being babysitter of the year.
After reading through the article I started thinking about reading books with my parents growing up, and how I eventually became a book-worm who would camp out on the living room sofa for hours at a time. My parents reading to me instilled an excitement about books, stories, and information that I’d seemingly lost until my friend Mason found it and returned it to me. Thanks for the help, Mase. I’m looking forward to our next story time together, but promise you’ll let me pick one of the books this time, ok?
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Monday, March 3rd, 2014
Editor’s Note: In an ongoing series, Dr. Harley A. Rotbart, a Parents advisor, will be guest blogging 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.
The daily choreography of dressing, feeding, teaching, and transporting our kids is daunting, and often leaves precious few moments for truly enjoying them. When you think about how much time we spend stressed out with our young kids, you can’t help wondering how many more meaningful moments we could capture from each long, hard day if we could only decompress some of those stressful minutes. Well, you can! Let’s start with one of the toughest challenges: bedtime.
Perhaps no period of the day is more stressful for parents than the minutes leading up to bedtime; they can be chaotic and tense. The kids are bouncing off the walls, hyperkinetic from a full day of action, impossible to calm down. You’re exhausted and need the kids in bed, asleep, to regain your mojo (or to go to bed yourself!). But they need one more glass of water or one more story. They suddenly remember the homework they forgot to do, the friend they forgot to text, or that their favorite team is on TV tonight (“please, mom, just one more minute!”). The night-light isn’t bright enough, the hallway is too noisy, the closet is scarier than usual. Kids are at their imaginative best when finding ways to delay or disrupt bedtime.
There is lots of advice out there addressing the best ways to calm and quiet the kids before tucking them in. As spring nears, with warmer weather and longer daylight on the way, one of my favorite techniques is a pre-bedtime pajama walk. Not only does it give kids gentle, tranquil moments when they can decompress from their hyper after-dinner activities, but it also gives parents special moments with their kids that otherwise might have been lost to TV, social media, and video games. Or, worse—these moments might have been wasted yelling and screaming at each other. The key to pajama walks is the pajamas. First, get the kids completely ready for bed: teeth brushed, faces washed, pajamas on. Then take their hands for a walk, or put them in their stroller, on their tricycle, or on their two-wheeler, and meander slowly around the neighborhood. No snacks en route (their teeth are already brushed!); don’t kick a soccer ball along the way or bring baseball mitts; postpone animated conversations until tomorrow. These are the mellow moments.
I’ve given a lot of thought to why pajama walks work so well—and they do work well! It’s because kids understand the concept of “going someplace.” They go to Grandma’s house, to the store, to preschool or school, to the park. But “bed” isn’t “someplace,” and kids don’t get the idea of going to bed, so they don’t — they dawdle and fuss and resist. The beauty of pajama walks is that kids are going someplace, so they (and you) can bypass the drama of bedtime inertia. It may take a couple of laps around the block, but by the time you return home with your kids, they will be in a fresh-air trance and ready for a bedtime story; they may even fall asleep on the way and just need your tender transfer into the house and under the covers.
And now it’s time to find your mojo again.
Dr. 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 three books for parents and families, including the recent No Regrets Parenting, a Parents advisor, and a contributor to The New York Times Motherlode blog. Visit his blog at noregretsparenting.com and follow him on Facebook and Twitter (@NoRegretsParent).
Image: Father and son walking at night via Shutterstock
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bedtime, bedtime routines, family time, harley rotbart, harley rotbart series, no regrets parenting, pajama walks, parenthood, parenting, parenting style, sleep | Categories:
Big Kids, Child Development, The Parents Perspective, Toddlers
Monday, March 3rd, 2014
We all know today’s tweens and teens are prone to oversharing every aspect of their lives on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram — and even adults are guilty of oversharing — but in the case of one young woman, college undergrad Dana Snay, her overshare accidentally cost her family thousands of dollars.
When Snay’s dad, a former headmaster at Gulliver Preparatory School, sued his former employer for age discrimination and won an $80,000 settlement, Snay couldn’t resist posting this cheeky Facebook update: “Mama and Papa Snay won the case against Gulliver. Gulliver is now officially paying for my vacation to Europe this summer. SUCK IT.”
Her careless post started a domino effect: it was seen by other Gulliver students (in her network of 1,200 friends) and eventually made its way back to the school’s attorneys, who reported it back to the ruling judge, who then revoked the settlement. Even though the court stipulated that it was Snay’s parents who couldn’t talk about the case, her Facebook status still violated the confidentiality agreement.
Obviously, Snay was old enough to know better than to boast about something better kept private, but her mistake highlights our society’s addiction to social media and to oversharing (and oversharenting). Our constant need to be plugged in can lead us to weaken our sense of privacy and diminish our better judgment. So as your children being spending more time on social media, start teaching them the things they should never reveal (on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram)…no matter how tempting. Even if they have exclusive “friends only” settings on their social accounts, remind them to avoid sharing the info below for privacy and safety reasons.
1. Personal IDs. This seems like a no-brainer, but teach kids not to type social security numbers, credit card numbers, and account passwords of any kind (email, social media, bank) in any messages. They should also not share photos or videos that show credit cards in them. You can never be too careful…especially when child identity theft can be prevented.
2. Mailing/home address. Street View on Google Maps is just a few clicks away. (And no one wants a repeat Bling Ring situation.) And tell your kids to avoid posting photos or videos of the house (or selfies with the house in the background), especially with street signs in prominent view. And be careful about Foursquare, especially if you don’t want too many people to know where your kids are at certain times.
3. Medical history. There have been amazing stories of kids being diagnosed and saved through Facebook, but like personal IDs, medical information (e.g. specific conditions, diseases, and allergies) should be kept private. You never know what people may do with the info — child identity theft can also occur with medical records.
4. Specific vacation days. Sure, your kids may be excited about going to Disney World or Hawaii, but it’s probably best to avoid posting status updates that say, “Can’t wait to see Mickey in two weeks!”, or posting photos with the caption, “I can’t believe I’m in Hawaii right now!”. Don’t let others know when your house will be or is empty. Instead, encourage your kids to post photos and share stories after the vacation is over.
5. Problems with other people at home or school. It’s easy to vent about some annoying parent, sibling, friend, teacher, etc., online but you never know who will see a Facebook or Twitter status and be hurt. It may be hard, but it’s best to wait and talk to someone in person (whether it’s venting to an objective person or confronting the problem person). Embarrassment will be nixed and online fights and dramas will be avoided. Personal problems won’t drag on…and on.
6. Improper photos or videos. These include any photos and videos that can be misconstrued or misinterpreted, including ones showing nudity or risqué looks, hard partying, smoking, drinking, drugs, etc. Basically anything that show your kids in compromising situations. And have your kids ask their friends (and vice versa) to grant permission before any photos or videos are posted and tagged.
7. Sensitive information attached to a court case. Obviously, don’t do what Snay did. If your family is involved in or going to be involved in any court case, instruct your child not to reveal anything (even in person) before, during, or after the case…no matter the outcome. After all, no one wants two sentences, 140 characters, or a photo or video to be the cause of unhappiness (like, um, losing money) and unwanted media attention.
Tell us: What will you teach your kids not to share on social media?
Use our family internet-use contract to keep your kid’s digital interactions under control.
Image: Popular social media icons on iPhone via Shutterstock
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Monday, March 3rd, 2014
Most parents would probably be shocked to realize that there are no national standards for quality and safety in child care, only a hodgepodge of inconsistent state laws. Fortunately, the Senate is finally gearing up to consider reauthorization of the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), which allocates funds to states for child care and assists states in improving the quality of child care.
The legislation has not been reauthorized in nearly 18 years, despite hard work by advocates to push much-needed reforms involving safety, inspections of centers, caregiver training, and quality rating systems. For example, the bipartisan Senate bill would require comprehensive background checks for child care providers who are receiving federal subsidies and require at least one annual unannounced inspection.
“This measure ensures working families have safe child care options — protecting both children and working parents,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said on the Senate floor last week. He said the bill offers “an opportunity for Republicans and Democrats to find common ground and work together.”
Please take two minutes to send an email to your Senator to express your support for this important legislation.
Sign up for our recall alerts the latest news to keep your child safe.
Photo of sign via Shuttertock
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