Instead of “Mom Shaming,” How About Offering Kindness or a Helping Hand?

It’s always fun when your kids are falling apart in public, isn’t it?

I’ll never forget a trying day I had in a Target checkout line. I was pregnant, with two bickering children in tow. After I left the store and shuffled us toward the car, a woman approached me and said, “I just want you to know that you’re doing a really good job.” That kind stranger made my day.

Compare that story to something I read about this week, a new development in the loathsome trend known as “mom shaming,” in which strangers criticize others’ parenting choices online. With so much to toss grenades at—breast or bottle? sleep-train or not?—there’s plenty to keep the trolls busy. But this new twist makes the hair on the back of my neck stand on end. The gist: A stranger snaps a photo of a parent doing something he/she deems “wrong,” posts it with an incendiary caption, and sits back to watch the sparks fly. Rachel Garlinghouse writes in HuffPost Parents:

First I read the story of a mom child-wearing her 5-year-old while shopping in a store. The store manager took a photo of the pair and posted it on her personal Facebook page along with critical commentary. The photo began circulating online, and the mom later discovered the photo herself.

 The second story was a mom who was nursing her baby in a restaurant when a [male] stranger took a photo of her and posted it online, along with a comment stating she needed to “cover up.” The mom recognized her own photo after it had gained popularity online.

Like Garlinghouse, I’m appalled that there are people who think it’s okay to snap a photo of a parent in public who is simply in the middle of…parenting, and then post that picture with an intent to stir the pot. I like to think that most of us parents with young children are too busy to be seizing opportunities to photo-stalk people we don’t know and upload those images for, for… (Really, for what?) Even more nauseating, YouTube is rife with videos of parents shaming their own children—videos the parents created themselves—to teach their kids “a lesson,” sometimes with tragic results. Some parents have thankfully spoken out against the practice, like this father did, in memorable fashion.

Shaming one another has always been a part of our culture, it turns out, since at least the days of the public whipping post, as Jon Ronson says in his new book, So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed. Ronson writes: “I think our natural disposition as humans is to plod along until we get old and stop. But with social media, we’ve created a stage for constant artificial high drama. Every day a new person emerges as a magnificent hero or a sickening villain. It’s all very sweeping, and not the way we actually are as people.”

I hope not. I have my doubts when I read stories about mom shaming, and similarly, “good Samaritans” who call the police on parents when they see children “in danger”—walking to a park, or waiting alone in a car for a few minutes while a parent runs inside a store—and smugly walk away from the real nightmare they just set in motion for that family.

Instead of being judged for their every move, what parents really need from strangers: a little more kindness and compassion, not cellphone cameras pointed in their direction.

Gail O’Connor is a senior editor at Parents and mom of three. You can follow her on Twitter.

Social Media¿ According to Kids
Social Media¿ According to Kids
Social Media¿ According to Kids

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The Best Money-Saving Apps

Ellie Kay, a Moms Money Clinic advisor for Parents, guest blogs regularly to answer mail about money issues. Today she’s helping parents looking for money saving sites and apps.

Q. I love to save money online and by using my smart phone. But I only have so much time to search sites and space to store apps. What are your favorite tools for budgeting, travel, couponing, and more?

A. There are several apps I love to recommend. One is RetailMeNot, which is so easy to use. Every one of my family members has the app, which features more than $400,000 worth of coupon codes for brick-and-mortar stores as well as online shopping sites. It literally saves each of us hundreds of dollars a year. The beauty of it is that you can look for coupon codes instantly. The other day at Old Navy I saved $5 off a $10 purchase while standing in line at checkout.

But I’m always learning about more and more websites and apps through the people I encounter. Here are some more great apps for busy parents.

Budgeting Mint is a terrific site and app for budgeting that I recommend frequently. It lets you set up a spending plan, pay your bills, and see your credit score. Also check out GoodBudget (formerly EEBA) if you’re a family that likes using the envelope system; it also lets you share the budget with your partner so you stay on the same page.

Saving on gas Waze is my favorite GPS app. It calculates the best route using both highways and side streets. Plus, it tells you the gas prices for stations in your area and calculates how far off your route each one is. AAA’s TripTik calculates mileage based on the most economical route. GasBuddy is another tool for calculating trip cost, gas prices, and more.

Coupons While RetailMeNot is my top app for retail shopping, you should also check out Coupon Sherpa for in-store coupons to make sure you’re getting the best deal. If you’re a fan of paper coupons, use SnipSnap to take pictures of the coupon, and then use your phone when it comes time to redeem.

Entertainment Tickets Goldstar is a great site for finding half-price tickets for shows, concerts, and events. Veterans and their families should take advantage of the Veterans Tickets Foundation, which provides free admission to sporting events, concerts, performing arts and family activities for family members of troops killed in action, members of the military, and veterans.

Parking You’ll never overpay for parking when you use BestParking. You can search by city or airport making it a valuable tool for trip planning and getting a good price on the go.

Airfare Looking for a great rate for an upcoming trip? Keep an eye out for the best time to fly at the best price with Hopper or BookingBuddy.com. Travelzoo is another place to find affordable last-minute deals.

Cleaning up your inbox You probably sign up for e-mails from your favorite stores and brands because they send out frequent sales, deals, and coupons to keep you shopping. But if you’re tired of getting 30 e-mails in your inbox every morning, sign up for Unroll.Me. It lets you unsubscribe from companies and lists you don’t want to hear from anymore.

What are some of your top money-saving apps and websites? Let me know so I can keep spreading the word!

How to Buy Baby Diapers on a Budget
How to Buy Baby Diapers on a Budget
How to Buy Baby Diapers on a Budget

Mother and daughter putting coins into piggy bank via Shutterstock

Ellie Kay is a family financial expert, the author of The 60-Minute Money Workout, and a mom of seven. Read more of her advice at elliekay.com.

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Overuse Injuries Are More Common (And More Harmful) Than We Thought

My oldest son is playing on a Little League travel team this summer, and unlike the regular season, which, in my son’s division, is coach-pitched, travel team means kids face pitchers their own age. My lefty son is one of several kids on his team who will be hurling balls at batters, and that means that not only is he working his arm on game day, but he’s also practicing pitches on his own several times a week.

I’m happy that my boy has the opportunity to play different positions (he also catches and plays first base) but even at this early stage in his “career” I’m worrying about overuse injuries—in part because he isn’t involved in any other organized sports at this time, and also because two recent studies are shedding additional light on the problem. Research presented earlier this week at the annual meeting of the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine found that “surgeries related to overuse elbow injuries, i.e., Tommy John surgery, are more common among young athletes than previously believed.” According to lead author Brandon Erickson, M.D., of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, 15–19-year-olds made up more than half of the Ulnar Collateral Ligament Reconstruction (UCLR), or Tommy John, surgeries performed in the United States between 2007 and 2011.

In a press release, Dr. Erickson noted, “The research numbers suggest that more young athletes believe that having an UCLR procedure performed earlier in their career may lead to the big leagues or a scholarship, even though only one in 200 kids who play high school baseball will make it to the MLB. This paradigm shift needs to be evaluated further to help prevent overuse injuries in kids from the beginning of the season when most issues arise.”

ON that note, interestingly, another new study from the AOSSM found that having surgery before college athletics may actually put young athletes at an increased risk for future injury—although this particular study found that to be the case with lower extremity surgeries, rather than an arm surgery like Tommy John. “This is the first study to look at the relationship between precollegiate surgery and future injury requiring surgery in collegiate athletes,” said lead author, Dean Wang, M.D., from the University of California at Los Angeles, in a press release. “Our results suggest that athletes injured before college might be left with a functional deficit that puts them at risk for future injury.”

Don’t get me wrong here—I’m not the sports version of a stage mom, already dreaming of an athletic scholarship for my son. And I trust that his coaches, who keep track of the kids’ pitch counts, are aware of the issue. But the findings of studies like the ones noted above have opened my eyes even more to the dangers of overuse injuries—and I’m doing everything I can to educate myself and protect my little athletes.

Erika Janes is the Digital Director of Parents.com, the mom of two sports-loving boys, and a former college athlete who managed to avoid surgery for overuse injuries.

How to Pitch Like a Big Leaguer
How to Pitch Like a Big Leaguer
How to Pitch Like a Big Leaguer

Image: Shutterstock.com

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Do Our Kids Need Standing Desks in School?

alphabetter standing deskStanding desks have been on my mind a lot lately. I’ve read the research showing that a sedentary lifestyle can lead to all kinds of health issues, from diabetes to heart disease to cancer. In fact, The World Health Organization now ranks physical inactivity as the 4th largest risk factor for death globally behind obesity.

I’ve felt the effects of sitting all day firsthand. After 15-plus years of being parked at a desk every weekday, I spent nine months last year living a more active lifestyle and felt my body start to change. My posture improved while my mysterious aches disappeared. Then I went back to the “sitting at a desk” grind and within weeks I was at a chiropractor for back pain and my shoulders had resumed their forward slumped position. I’m working on getting myself a standing desk and hope to put myself on the right path. But, while I’ve been worrying about my own health, it only recently crossed my mind that maybe I should be worried about my children sitting all day, too.

Kids in elementary school sit five to seven hours a day. Would they (especially my fidgety boys) be better off with standing desks too? The organization StandUpKids thinks so. They’re currently fundraising with the mission of “get[ting] every public school child at a standing desk in 10 years, to combat the epidemic of sedentary lifestyles and inactivity, and to better reflect 21st century education goals.” They call children’s sedentary lifestyle a “public health crisis.” The organization points out that tacking on exercise like playing on a soccer team or taking a gymnastics class isn’t enought to combat the effects of sitting all day—something more needs to be done.

It seems like a radical idea at first—just try picturing a classroom of kids standing behind their desks. And is it really necessary? After all, kids have been sitting at school for generations. But as our society has evolved, our kids have started sitting more outside of school. The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that children spend an average of seven hours a day on screens including television, computers, and phones. That’s a lot more sitting than any previous generation—and we don’t yet know what effect it will have on our kids later in life (but it can’t be good, right?). Converting to standing desks in school seems like such a simple, (ultimately) cost-effective solution to a huge societal problem. (The desk pictured above is currently available on Amazon for $225.) We can give our kids a healthier start in life and do it at school, where they spend so many hours of their lives.

Beyond the health benefits, there’s also research that shows kids learn better standing up. Researchers at Texas A&M found that students at standing desks exhibited higher rates of engagement—measured by on-task behaviors like answering a question, raising a hand, and participating in discussions—than their seated counterparts. And for those kids who have trouble sitting still, staying attentive, and not disrupting class, a standing desk might allow enough movement to help them thrive in the classroom. My son gets movement breaks at school when he’s having trouble concentrating. I can imagine he might not need these breaks quite so often if he were standing throughout the day.

What do you think? Should standing desks be the norm in schools?

Photo via SafeCoProducts

We Need More Physical Education in Schools
We Need More Physical Education in Schools
We Need More Physical Education in Schools

Tracy Odell is the General Manager of Parents Digital and mom of two boys. When she’s not sitting, she likes CrossFit and gardening (though not usually at the same time). You can follow her on Twitter at @tracyodell.

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Overparenting in Academics is Not the Answer

When I was getting ready to go away to college, there were a lot of things my parents had to prepare me for. I was ready for the classes, the tests, and the extracurricular activities, but what about everything else? I had to learn how to do laundry, clean, pay bills, and cook (note: I once managed to set Easy Mac on fire)…#sendhelp!

My parents included a happy balance of control and freedom into my upbringing: They made my bed when I forgot to, washed my dishes when I “accidentally” left them in the sink, and separated my whites and colors before they did my laundry, but I was expected to figure out plenty of life on my own, too. It turns out my parents decision to take a more hands-off approach when it came to overseeing my school work (they sat with me when I completed homework growing up, but always made it clear that doing well in school was encouraged, but generally my decision, and an A- was not failure) may have led to my later success in college and grad school.

In Julie Lythcott-Haims’ book, How To Raise An Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid For Success she points to overparenting as a cause for the growing number of psychological problems college students are facing today. “The data emerging about the mental health of our kids only confirms the harm done by asking so little of them when it comes to life skills yet so much of them when it comes to adhering to the academic plans we’ve made for them,” she writes.

Within the book, Lythcott-Haims quotes Madeline Levine, a psychologist and author of The Price of Privilege, who points to three ways parents are unknowingly causing psychological harm:

  1. When we do for our kids what they can already do for themselves;
  2. When we do for our kids what they can almost do for themselves; and
  3. When our parenting behavior is motivated by our own egos.

Levine says that this is how parents “deprive our kids of the opportunity to be creative, to problem solve, to develop coping skills, to build resilience, to figure out what makes them happy, to figure out who they are.”

In the news lately, I’ve been reading stories of parents on the other end of the spectrum, those considered “free-range.” In Maryland, a couple was investigated by authorities and Child Protective Services when their two children, ages 6 and 10, were found at a park without adult supervision. Providing young children with complete freedom like this is not necessarily a solution, but neither is shadowing or controlling their every move. When her study results came in, Lythcott-Haims learned “that figuring out for themselves is a critical element to people’s mental health. Your kids have to be there for themselves.”

As a kid I learned how to be independent at sleep-away camp when I was going into 4th-grade; I was encouraged to sign up for extracurricular activities I was absolutely horrible at (thanks for those participation trophies, softball!); and I was taught to ask my own questions when it came to concerns over assignments or grades. I still call my parents every day with questions about work, relationships, and standard crises most 20-somethings have, but I also know how to be there for myself.

Melissa Bykofsky is the associate articles editor at Parents who covers millennial trends, entertainment, and pop-culture. Follow her on Twitter @mbykofsky.

Image via Shutterstock

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