Archive for the ‘ The Parents Perspective ’ Category

And puppy makes a family

Monday, September 22nd, 2014

In January of this year my daughter, Madelyn, asked if she could get a dog. We have one cat, Wriggler, that no one paid much attention to and was getting old. Why can’t she just love the cat more? My husband wanted to know. But Madelyn wouldn’t let up. Dog. Dog. Dog. That’s all she talked about. Finally I said if she could take care of the cat — feed her every day and help Dad clear out her box, she could get a dog for her 8th birthday. In October. 10 months away. And the rule was she couldn’t miss a feeding.
Welp. She surprised me and did just that. She fed the cat twice a day every day without fail. And a funny thing happened — she and Wriggler bonded like they hadn’t before. Instead of going to me or my husband, that cat snuggled up to Madelyn and started sleeping in her bed. Then this summer, just turning 12, Wriggler got sick. She wasn’t acting herself and soon she couldn’t keep down her food. It was sad to watch and especially sad for Madelyn who had suddenly gotten so close to her. Should I have encouraged this? Was I just setting her up for heartache? When Wriggler died Madelyn made a gravestone for her: “We love you!” she wrote and the whole family signed it. She loved that cat more in the last 6 months than she had in the last 6 years. She wept and wept. It was the first time (outside of the fish) she’d experienced true loss.

And then this weekend we picked up her puppy. Her birthday isn’t for another month, but we knew enough while searching for puppies on the rescue sites that you gotta jump when you find a good one. We brought her home. Madelyn named her Blue (she has one blue eye; one brown). She’s drinking out of the Wriggler’s bowl for now. The puppy’s not replacing Wriggler, but if it wasn’t for Wriggler, Madelyn wouldn’t have earned her. But it’s probably better that she missed Blue’s arrival. She probably would have given this adorable jumpy puppy a good swat!

Oh Where, Oh Where Has My Little Dog Gone?
Oh Where, Oh Where Has My Little Dog Gone?
Oh Where, Oh Where Has My Little Dog Gone?

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What If Your Child’s School Got Rid of Homework?

Friday, September 19th, 2014

Canadian School Gets Rid of HomeworkGrowing up I liked a lot of things about school—silent reading time, seeing friends, having the chance to write on my classroom’s dry erase board… the list goes on. But one thing I did not enjoy so much was, you guessed it, the homework.

Sure, that project on my family tree was fun, and I always liked my “journal-writing” assignments, but the thing that time-and-again brought on a load of anxiety after school was my math homework.

I spent many nights with my dad at our kitchen table working through question after question of long division and fractions. Unfortunately, these sessions often devolved into a mess of frustration and teary eyes. Math was tough for me, and though my dad was just trying to help, my patience and perseverance capabilities as a 9-year-old didn’t leave much room for practicing math outside the school day. And so, like many other kids I’m sure, I often dreamed about what life might be like without homework…

Now, it appears some teachers and administrators in Canada may be having the same dream. According to CTV News, a Quebec elementary school is banishing homework for this school year.

“It’s based on research that homework time is becoming more and more difficult,” Marie-Eve Desrosiers, a spokeswoman for that school board said in the article. ”Often children are away at daycare from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. at night, and a lot of families are finding it increasingly difficult, and so we’ve decided to try this out at a school.”

While teachers are still able to assign studying and reading, worksheets and packets are a thing of the past—for now. The ban is just in a trial run for this school year.

Other schools, including some in the U.S., have also decided to do away with traditional “homework” over the past few years. Some have mentioned the stricter Common Core standards in the classroom as a reason to give students more freedom out of the classroom, one Maryland school principal told Today.

This debate has been going on for several years, with the pro-homework side advocating a “use-it-or-lose-it” mindset and the anti-homework side arguing that kids are too busy with extra-curriculars, homework interferes with family time, and that it puts children from a low-income background at a disadvantage because they often lack the resources to do their homework that a child coming from a higher income level might have, according to John Buell and Etta Kralovec’s book, “The End of Homework.”

“The research is very clear that there’s no benefit at the elementary school level,” Kralovec said about the school in Montreal, according to CTV.

What do you think? Do you feel like your child gets too much homework? And if you need a little help, check out our readers’ best tips for homework success with your kids.

Best Practices for Homework
Best Practices for Homework
Best Practices for Homework

Photo of planner courtesy of Shutterstock.

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Potty Training: Turns Out There May Be No “Right Way”

Thursday, September 18th, 2014

While being the oldest sister had many upsides—like forcing my younger brother to play princess dress up with me, and the argument-ending “because I’m older” quip—the one thing I always hated about it meant my parents relied on me to help around the house. Normally, that’s understandable, and knowing how to do dishes and sweep the floors are surely qualities my roommates value. But, the one chore I hated, and often got saddled with, was throwing away dirty diapers. Any time I was told to dispose of one, I would pinch as little material as possible between two fingers, hold it away from my body, and dash, cartoon-like, to drop it in the special garbage can my parents kept in the bathroom.

So when my youngest brother was finally potty trained, I might have celebrated more than my mom. I’m still not sure how that veritable miracle happened, I’m just glad it worked.

According to Laura Sanders’ recent Science News piece, despite the myriad of methods found online and in books, they all boil down to two basic approaches to potty training: child-led and parent-led. The truly confusing thing is that there’s no scientific study pitting the two methods against each other, so there’s no way to know if what you’re doing is the “right” way.

As for the best age to start potty training, that seems to fluctuate based on culture. While most doctors agree that by 18 months, most children have enough control to begin training, in parts of Africa and Asia, potty training can start in the weeks after birth. In Iran, kids are potty trained just before they turn two. And in the U.S. in the 1950s, a Baltimore study found that about half of children were potty trained by age two. More recently, though, the age in the U.S. has been slowly increasing to around age three.

But, there’s studies that refute both waiting to start, and starting too early. Jumping the gun could mean you’ll spend longer potty training your kiddo. Waiting until the child is older could lead to slightly higher risks of problems like incontinence and urinary tract infections. Though it’s not clear if these issues are direct results from the age at which a child started potty training.

So, with no scientific consensus available, this brings me back to the solid belief that it actually was a miracle that kept me from sprinting around the house with dirty diapers.

Still confused if the time is right to start potty training? Take our quiz and find out!

Potty Training Girls vs. Boys
Potty Training Girls vs. Boys
Potty Training Girls vs. Boys

Image: Child on potty chair via Shutterstock.

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The Heartwarming Way One NFL Team Is Helping a Kid With Cancer

Wednesday, September 17th, 2014

Devon StillWe’re big football fans in my house, and each Sunday during football season my husband, two sons, and I proudly don the purple jerseys of our hometown team, the Minnesota Vikings. But as a fan, a woman, and a mom, I’ve been distressed and disgusted by what’s going on in the league right now. (Today’s decision to “indefinitely bench” the Vikings’ star running back, Adrian Peterson, while he addresses child abuse allegations is the right decision in my mind.)

Given the current state of affairs, it was heartening to actually read something positive about an NFL team recently—even if it’s one I don’t normally want to win. During the preseason, the Cincinnati Bengals cut defensive tackle Devon Still, but then signed him to the practice squad so he could keep his health insurance—something that’s important for any player, but especially one who has a 4-year-old daughter fighting cancer. Then, the team did something even more heartwarming: it announced that all proceeds of sales from Still’s jersey would benefit Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and pediatric cancer care and research. And then Still was added back to the official roster—thus ensuring that there will be more interest in the jerseys.

As Today.com reported, after the announcement about the jerseys was made, single-day sales of Still’s number 75 set a team record, according to Bengals director of sales and public affairs Jeff Berding. To date, more than $400,000 has been raised thanks to the jerseys. (If you can’t afford to buy a jersey, there are other ways to help the cause, too, including a Still Strong T-Shirt and website where you can pledge your support: Help the Bengals Sack Pediatric Cancer.)

A cynic might say that Still’s re-signing was a good PR move for a league in dire need of some positive publicity. But to me, the reasons don’t really matter. What matters is this: a dad is able to help his daughter get the treatment she needs, and a worthy cause is getting much-needed publicity and funds. Touchdown.

Image: Devon Still/Instagram

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How a tape measure and a scale could save your kid’s life

Wednesday, September 17th, 2014

Motor vehicle crashes are the second leading cause of death for children 4 to 10 years old. Buckling a child safely into a car seat or booster seat can dramatically reduce the risk of  serious injury, yet 9 in 10 parents are switching their kids from boosters to seatbelt-only restraints before the children are big enough to be safe sans booster, according to a new survey from Safe Kids Worldwide and the General Motors Foundation. (Disclosure: I sit on the board of Safe Kids Worldwide, so this issue is especially near to my heart.)

Here’s where the tape measure and scale come in:  Seven in 10 parents surveyed didn’t know that a child should be at least 57″ tall (4’9″) to ride in a car without a booster seat. So pull out your measuring device and check your child’s height before you yield to his appeal to ditch the booster. Weigh him too: Your child should also be at least 80 pounds before going boosterless. Lots of children won’t hit these marks until they are 11 or even older according to this info from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Check your child’s stats even if you previously reviewed your state’s booster regulations (rules vary from state to state). Many states don’t require boosters after age 7, much less until age 11. These are also among the states with the highest rates of motor vehicle fatalities among kids ages 4 to 8. (I’m talking to you, Montana, Mississippi, Arkansas and Kentucky.)

Carpools are particularly worrisome, according to the Safe Kids Worldwide report. Anyone who even occasionally shuttles around extra kids should keep a spare booster in their trunk. I sometimes find that my own child is out of the booster zone but we ferry a friend who is not. Indeed, one in five parents in the survey said they bend the rules when carpooling.

Of course all this is moot if you don’t buckle your kid up in the first place, and an astounding one in three fatalities in 2012 happened when a child was completely unbuckled during a crash. So let’s all resolve to buckle our kids, every time. And if you have younger children who are still in a car seat (as opposed to a booster) it’s a good idea to check to make sure the seat is installed properly. This Saturday is National Seat Check Saturday, so take a moment to review these safety smarts. And visit Safe Kids to find out where you can get guidance from a certified Child Passenger Safety Technician on proper installation of your seat.

Keep your kid safe no matter where they are with our Parents’ Home Safety Guidelines.

Car Seat Installation Tips
Car Seat Installation Tips
Car Seat Installation Tips

Photograph: MikhailSh via Shutterstock

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