Posts Tagged ‘ child development ’

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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Are You an Emotional Grown-Up?

Monday, February 23rd, 2015

I can’t stop thinking about the inspiring talk I heard recently by Robin Berman, M.D., author of the book Permission to Parent: How to Raise Your Child With Love and Limits.  One of the most challenging parts of parenthood, she said, is being an emotional grown-up.

It’s hard enough to deal with all the practical and financial aspects of adulthood. But when you’re tired or stressed or frustrated, it can take a lot of self-control not to have your own meltdown. Or to say something critical or sarcastic or insensitive that you’ll regret later.

Of course, the opposite of acting like a grown-up is acting like a child. While it’s perfectly normal for a little kid to be moody and self-centered and out-of-control sometimes, it’s our job as parents to put our own needs and issues aside and focus on what’s best for our kids. That doesn’t mean we should be selfless or indulge their every whim, but we have to be mature enough to take the high road, to think before we speak, and to not expect our kids to make us feel better.

I’m sure you can tell plenty of stories about other parents you know who’ve taken the low road. However, we all have moments when we’d like a Mommy do-over.

Just one of my own examples: My 10-year-old has been having nightmares lately, and she’s been calling for me repeatedly through the night. She gets truly frightened, and I have to sit with her and help her do breathing exercises and visualize happy scenes instead of scary ones. But we’ve both been losing a lot of sleep. There have been nights when I’ve seemed angry about being woken up (again), and I hate that. So I’ve apologized. The nightmares aren’t her fault. I want her to know that I have faith that she will get through this rocky patch and that I’m here to support her.

“No parent ever gets it right the first time…parenting is the ultimate in on-the-job training,” writes Dr. Berman. “Lucky for us, kids are very forgiving. “

Here are some other quotes that have stuck with me:

“Parenting is a divine invitation to be your best self.”

“You wouldn’t cough on your child without covering your mouth. So make sure your unresolved issues don’t infect your children.”

“If you feel your control or patience waning, remind yourself of the role you want to be remembered for: hero, not villain; protector, not persecutor.”

“Why is it we pay more attention to recharging our smartphones than to recharging ourselves? If we were smart, we’d pay attention when our battery light started flashing ‘low.’”

“No matter what difficulties you run into with your children, keep imagining them at their best. Believing things will get better gives you both something to hold on to until they do.”

Dr. Berman is the newest member of our expert Board of Advisors, and you’ll be hearing more of her voice in our pages. Treat yourself to a copy of her book.

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

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

Photo of mom and daughter with painted faces via Shutterstock

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The App That Can Prevent Bullying

Thursday, October 16th, 2014

We all know that bullying can start at frighteningly young ages—the behaviors can show up as early as preschool. But even little kids can be taught lessons that help prevent the problem from getting worse, says Ingrid Donato, the co-lead in bullying prevention at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): “The preschool age is so incredibly pivotal.”

It’s crucial to spot what Donato calls “pre-bullying behavior”—actions like grabbing toys away, pushing kids, or isolating them from group play. While this isn’t technically bullying (which is defined by as an imbalance of power, whether physical, emotional, or social, exerted repeatedly) these behaviors need to be stopped early on.

For example, if you have an overly aggressive child, it’s important to intervene when hisactions are harmful, and explain why the behavior is unacceptable. Then come up with solutions—like steering him toward high-octane activities to burn off extra energy. If your child is on the receiving end of bullying behaviors, Donato suggests arranging for her to spend time with a more confident child, who can act as a role model.

But strategies aren’t always enough. To help parents deal with these situations, and just in time for Bullying Prevention Awareness Month, SAMHSA has released KnowBullying, an app for iPhone and Android that provides parents, educators, and caregivers with information on how to effectively communicate about bullying with kids. “We were finding out from the research that kids were reluctant to talk to adults about bullying,” Donato explains. “One of the reasons was they weren’t confident that the adults would know what to do. And when we talked to parents, we learned they were very nervous about talking with their kids because they didn’t know what to say.”

The app has conversation starters to discuss bullying with kids, broken down by age. Suggestions for ages 3 to 6 include: “Share one thing that happened today,” “What makes you angry? What do you do when you’re angry?” or “What rules do you follow at school? Why?” These questions don’t deal directly with bullying, but they do help children talk about situations that could progress to bullying.

“We found one of the most powerful ways to reduce the effects of bullying as kids get older—as well as many other negative things that could happen—was to have supportive, regular, engaging conversations with an adult,” Donato says. That may seems like a small step, but it’s an important one that KnowBullying hopes to inspire parents everywhere to take.

How to Identify Bullying
How to Identify Bullying
How to Identify Bullying

Image courtesy of SAMHSA.

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How Twitter Can Help Shy and Introverted Kids in Class

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014

Twitter bird and hashtag symbol on black chalkboardHere’s the one thing my parents heard every year at Parent Teacher Conferences: “Your daughter has really good grades, but she doesn’t speak up enough. She has to learn to speak up because it’ll be important for her later in life.” But as much as I wanted to, I was too shy and introverted to speak up, and every time that I did, I would suddenly feel my stomach tightening, my heart racing, my arm shaking as I raised it, and my lips parting without being able to form words in a cohesive, coherent way. My mind always went too fast for my mouth to process. And even after I spoke, it would take me a good 10-15 minutes to calm down again. I just hated everyone’s eyes on me and the silence in the room as everyone listened, tuning in to every nuance of my shaking voice. It was just easier not to say anything!

Because I still remember how I felt, I was fascinated by Amanda Wynter’s piece in The Atlantic, “Bringing Twitter to the Classroom.” Chris Bronke, a high school English teacher in Downers Grove, Illinois, has developed a brilliant way to get his freshmen class to participate in class discussions — by having them on Twitter. While Bronke isn’t the first teacher to use social media to improve classroom learning, he is one of the few making progress in a positive and effective way. By relying on a social media platform the kids were already using, Bronke has encouraged his students to post photos, quotes, quick thoughts, questions about the reading. Hashtags, of course, keep the discussions contained in one thread. Along the way, kids “favorite” each others’ tweets and connect more with each other any time, anywhere, and from any device (mobile, tablet, or desktop). Bronke found that discussions were rich and robust, and that kids were more engaged with the reading and with each other.

Although Wynter’s piece didn’t mention whether Bronke noticed more participation from shy and introverted kids online, I can only imagine this has been the case. There’s no doubt technology helps people develop alter egos that allows them to voice things in a way they aren’t able to in person — just check out these New York Times and Washington Post articles on how shy and introverted kids tend to be more engaged and “extroverted” online. There is something liberating about being able to process and write your thoughts and feelings — without the pressure of eyes and ears — and vet them before sharing them with the world. For shy and introverted kids who struggle with speaking in class and having the spotlight on them, but who need to speak up because their grades depend on it (site note: I always hated this!), participating in online discussions may be a good outlet. These kids are more likely to blossom online and share their ideas and opinions without fearing how they look and sound, and how others are perceiving and reacting to them. Susan Cain, the author of “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” even interviewed a teacher in Canada who noted the benefits social media in classrooms for shy and introverted kids.

Of course, using Twitter (or any other social media) to promote discussions certainly has its potential problems — online interaction is still no substitute for real-world conversations, and over-reliance on technology can negatively affect face-to-face social skills (like being unable to identify social cues). As much as shy and introverted kids may be more vocal online, they also need to develop public speaking skills because “real world” situations beyond school necessitate in-person interactions. I know that if I was given the ability to participate on Twitter during school, I would have loved  having another outlet to make my voice heard. But I’m also glad that I didn’t grow up with that technology — I may have relied on it too much and hid behind it. Without it, I had to force myself to feel at ease with talking in front of people — even if it took years, and is still something I’m still working on.

Eventually, kids will need to make speeches and presentations, and give and go on interviews, so it’s always easier to sharpen and refine oratory skills (or any type of skills!) from a young age. Of course, it’s possible that being able to “talk” freely and being “favorited” on Twitter will boost kids’ confidence and make them comfortable talking in person. But teachers will need to make sure they strike a balance with having online and roundtable classroom discussions, and they would also need to make sure that online participation doesn’t become a crutch as the only way to earn good grades. After all, developing well-rounded communication skills will help kids throughout life in all situations (with family and friends), beyond the classroom. Ultimately, this would be the true mark of learning — and even success.

Share your thoughts: Do you believe social media has a place in the classroom?

3 Things to Raise a Successful Student
3 Things to Raise a Successful Student
3 Things to Raise a Successful Student

Image: Twitter bird and hashtag symbol on black chalkboard via Shutterstock

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What Are Our Kids Really Thinking?

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

Asian baby girl thinking question marksEditor’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.

Have you ever wondered what our pre-verbal infants and young toddlers are really thinking when we bundle them up, strap them in, and drag them along with us as we go about performing our adult to-do lists? As kids get older, of course, we can explain our plans for their day. Although they may not always agree, at least they know what’s in store for them: “We’re going to the mall,” “We’re dropping your sister at a friend’s,” “We’re visiting Grandma.” And they may answer, in adorable toddler Tarzan-speak, “Want ice cream!” “Need potty!” “More ice cream!” Or, simply, and not so adorably, “NO!!” Some days they might end up on the supermarket floor throwing a tantrum: “DON’T WANT TO!!” For better or worse, when they can speak, at least we know their opinions on the matter at hand.

But in the more tranquil months before they communicate with words, it’s only their gestures, body language, and the tone of their whimpering (or shrieking) that give us clues to their innermost feelings about…well, about everything! In particular, my wife and I were always curious about what our little ones thought we were doing when we packed them into a baby carrier, backpack, or car seat and set them in motion. It must have been especially weird for them when they were facing backward, looking at our chests or at the car seatback. What was it like for them to be helpless hostages to our adult whims, never knowing when each journey would begin, how long it would last, or where it would end?

I’ve come to believe that kids store up their responses to the ways we manipulate their lives until the day they have just enough vocabulary to burst forth with a revelation. Case in point: our youngest son’s first sentence, uttered into a plastic toy telephone while strapped into his car seat in the back of the minivan, was, “Driving-car-pool-be-little-late.” Or perhaps it wasn’t a sentence at all. It actually came out sounding like he thought it was one really long word, a “word” he’d undoubtedly heard his parents use far too often. He had accompanied his older siblings and their friends on the ride to school with us so many times that he learned to associate the term “car pool” with turning right-left-right-right-left after leaving the driveway. As it turns out, he knew where he was headed long before he could speak. And when he finally could speak, it all came out at once: “Driving-car-pool-be-little-late.”

Not long after that, he surprised us again with his growing car seat lexicon when, as we pulled into the hardware store’s parking lot, he shrieked, “NO MORE ERRANDS!!”

Dr. Harley A. Rotbart

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 and follow him on Facebook and Twitter (@NoRegretsParent).


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What's Your Parenting Style?
What's Your Parenting Style?

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Image: Wondering Asian baby via Shutterstock

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