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Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014
Last fall, we partnered with researchers at Brown University School of Medicine, Children’s National Medical Center, and New England Center for Pediatric Psychology to help find answers to pressing questions about how media use, family routines, and parenting style affect kids. We encouraged readers to answer a brief survey as part of The Learning Habit Study, and more than 46,000 parents in 4600 American cities participated in the research being published today in the American Journal of Psychology as well as in the book, The Learning Habit, by Dr. Robert Pressman, Stephanie Donaldson-Pressman, and Rebecca Jackson.
One of the study’s biggest findings was that kids’ total screen time—especially more than two hours a day—was associated with lower grades, while increased family time—including family dinners, playing board games, and attending religious services—was linked to higher grades. The researchers think that spending time with our kids can help mitigate the negative effects of too much screen time.
The study also found that a parenting style known as empowerment parenting is the most effective way to build habits that benefit kids in school and life. Similar to what’s commonly known as authoritative or positive parenting, empowerment parenting helps children build good habits by establishing rules; empowers children by giving them choices, and encourages children by praising their efforts. In their book, the researchers write about how parents can create opportunities for their kids to develop these eight essential learning habits: media management; homework and reading; time management; goal-setting; effective communication; responsible decision-making; concentrated focus, and self-reliance.
The statistic from the study that I found most interesting: Two-thirds of 5- and 6-year-olds don’t make their own beds—and neither do the same percentage of 15- and 16-year-olds. So if you don’t want to be making your kid’s bed until she leaves for college, get into the habit at a young age by letting her know that it’s her responsibility.
Make it easier by downloading our free chore charts.
Photo via Shutterstock
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Big Kids, Child Development, Education, Food & Nutrition, News, Parenting, The Parents Perspective
Tuesday, April 15th, 2014
This week is the Jewish holiday of Passover, and tonight we have the second seder, or Passover dinner. What I enjoy about Passover is the opportunity to have back-to-back dinners with family and friends, some of whom we might not see often. It’s an excuse to skip after-school and after-work activities and come together. The seder, with all of its prayers and traditions, slows down the night and allows us to enjoy each other’s company. For me, simply sitting down at a kitchen table and eating a meal is something that I don’t normally do.
The good news is that more families are regularly having dinners together. According to the Importance of Family Dinner IV, a 2007 report from the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University, a surprising 59 percent of families report eating dinner together at least five times a week, which is a 12 percent increase from 1998. Even President Obama and Lean In’s Sheryl Sandberg make sure they are at the dinner table almost every night. There are some great benefits from eating together as a family. Research shows that children who eat with their families regularly are more motivated, receive better grades in school, and get along better with others. Family dinner is also a way to strengthen communication and bond with your kids. Kids who eat with family members are more likely to eat healthy foods and less likely to become overweight. Moms benefit from family dinners, too! Researchers at Brigham Young University studied working moms at IBM in 2008 and found that sitting down for a family dinner relieved their tension and stress.
If you’re looking to get more use out of your kitchen table, there are plenty of online resources to get you started. On Dinner a Love Story, blogger Jenny Rosenstrach shares how she schedules family dinners around after-school activities and reveals her favorite recipes for busy parents. Our site also has plenty of easy, family-friendly recipes. If you’re worried about silence at the dinner table, check out the Family Dinner Project for their fun conversation topics, games, and activities. Have a great time with your family!
Try one of these one-pot suppers this week and browse kids’ place mats.
Image via Shutterstock.
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Tuesday, February 11th, 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.
On February 17, 2014, the country celebrates Presidents Day, which coincides with George Washington’s birthday. Known as the “father of our country,” Washington is said to have been a devoted stepfather to the two children of his wife, Martha. I cannot tell a lie: I really don’t know if it was the Washington family routine to take a day off (from the day-to-day demands of the Revolution and of the Presidency) for his birthday to spend quality family time. But for many parents and kids, Presidents Day means a three-day weekend, so if you’re able to take the day off with your family, I encourage you to do so.
Three-day weekends are unique parenting opportunities. Unlike the usual overbooked experience of a two-day weekend, filled with soccer games, playdates, and to-do lists of chores, a three-day weekend is bonus time for the family, especially if your kids are home from school and less programmed than usual. If you’re lucky enough to have Monday off, think twice about scheduling golf or tennis with your adult buddies and shipping your kids off to friends’ houses. If there are chores around the house, do them with your kids. If you can’t resist the Presidents Day Sale at the furniture store or car dealership, take your kids along with you and go for ice cream afterwards. If your plan is to sleep in for an extra two hours while the kids are watching TV, change your plan – sleep in an extra hour (you’ve earned it!), but spend the second hour with the kids not watching TV.
There are 940 weekends between your little girl’s birth and the day she leaves for college. Sounds like a lot, right? But if she’s 5 years old, you’ve already used up 260 of those weekends. And only about 100 of them are three-day weekends so, by the time she turns 5, you’ve already used up 25 of those! If you’re like most parents who think their kids are growing up too fast, you probably already wish you could have some of those weekends back. Even though you can’t, now is the time to make sure you don’t have any regrets about how you spend the remaining weekends of your kids’ childhoods. And three-day weekends are the perfect place to start.
Get out your calendars and mark down these official federal holidays (which include a few three-day weekends) for the rest of 2014: Memorial Day (Monday, May 26); July 4 (a Friday this year); Labor Day (Monday, September 1); Columbus Day (Monday, October 13); Veteran’s Day (Tuesday, November 11); Thanksgiving (Thursday, November 27); and Christmas (Tuesday, December 25). If your job doesn’t let you take off for all these special days, you can still spend the time you have wisely.
This February 17, take a little time to talk with your kids about George Washington and other great presidents in U.S. history. Give your kids a shiny quarter or a crisp dollar bill and point out George’s image. Or try throwing a rock or a penny all the way across a river (who can afford to throw away a sliver dollar today?).
On Presidents Day, honor the father of our country, and your kids, by doing something really fun that the whole family will remember until Memorial Day—the next three-day weekend!
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).
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Image: Silhouette of family on a beach at dusk via Shutterstock
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family, family memories, family time, george washington, harley rotbart, harley rotbart series, Holiday, holidays, parenting, parenting style, presidents, presidents day, self-esteem awareness weekend | Categories:
Holidays, The Parents Perspective
Tuesday, February 4th, 2014
For as long as I can remember, my little sister and I have been close. When we were little, we’d always play together, whether it be trying on costumes for dress-up or building forts outside. Now that we’re older, I rarely go more than a few days without talking to her, even if it’s just a text about the latest episode of Downton Abbey. I realize that not everyone gets along with their siblings, so I feel lucky to have a sister who is also a good friend.
So I was particularly interested in this new study about sibling relationships published in the journal Pediatrics. Research suggests that younger children who are close with their older siblings may develop better vocabularies. This is especially true in large families, where the littler kids might receive less individual attention from Mom and Dad. But an older “cognitively sensitive” child—who uses simpler sentences or slows down without talking like a baby—can be a huge help.
My sister has always been smart, and I have no doubt that she’ll be one of the top in her class when she graduates from college in the spring. While I’d love to take all the credit for her extensive vocabulary and academic abilities, I’m sure plenty of other factors were involved too. But I like to think that even in our small family, maybe I gave her an extra boost at some point. Plus the research is a nice examination of how family bonds can bring about all sorts of unexpected benefits.
No matter the size of your family or the depth of anyone’s vocabularies, a strong friendship between siblings is crucial. Here are some tips to build bonds that worked for my parents:
- Let the kids work as a team, whether they are completing chores together or tackling a challenging jigsaw puzzle.
- Encourage respect. Teach your kids how to consider each other’s feelings, and how to voice polite disagreement.
- Have regular family discussions in which everyone can speak up.
- Emphasize the importance of family, and spend plenty of time together doing fun activities.
Image: Girl playing with little brother via Shutterstock.
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Wednesday, January 29th, 2014
By Warren Hynes
Warren Hynes is a teacher and freelance writer. This post originally appeared on his blog, The Pitch: Baseball & Life.
For the past 12 years, I’ve found it fascinating to be a father to daughters. My two girls have brought me on an eye-opening cultural journey that has covered Elmo and Dora, Disney princess dresses, American Girl dolls, pretend-school lessons, pet guinea pigs, and performances of Wicked both on Broadway and in our living room. Lately, their activity has focused on some songs from the soundtrack to Disney’s latest animated feature, Frozen – the album that stands behind only Bruce Springsteen’s new record among the best-selling LPs in the nation. The songs, which sound more Broadway-ready than the typical multiplex fare, are bolstered by the voice of Idina Menzel, the actress who originated the role of Elphaba in Wicked and Maureen in Rent.
In our home, the girls have been blasting the Frozen songs from our little Bose speakers and lip-synching their way through the whole show. In the car, even with no music on, they’ll practice certain lines together. They’ve seen the movie twice, and are clamoring for thirds. When our youngest turned nine three weeks ago, she asked for a cake in the shape of the film’s snowman character.
Now I’m no cheerleader of Disney’s traditional portrayal of young female characters. The funny thing about this movie, though, is that even though all of the typical princess set pieces are there – the castle, the gowns, the big eyelashes, the handsome love interest – this film is ultimately about none of those things. It’s about two sisters, and their overriding love for each other. It’s about how far you’ll go to protect and save the best friend you have in the world. In our house, that’s a story worth some attention.
As my girls sing along to the film’s song “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” we hear the story of a younger sister who is being pushed away by her older sister, and can’t understand the reason for it: “We used to be best buddies / And now we’re not / I wish you would tell me why.” The younger sister asks once more for some play time, but after being told to go away, she hangs her head and sings, “Okay, bye.” As I hear my girls singing this together, I recognize that we’re getting close to the time when this exact scenario will play out in our home. Katie is 12, and she’s spending more and more time in her room trying on makeup, watching YouTube videos and, yes, texting. At nine, Chelsea is more interested in playing with her older sister than in spending time alone in her room. More often than not, Katie still plays with Chelsea. But those moments of rejection are nearing, like the gathering of dusk before night falls.
When it comes to music, I find it incredibly annoying to hear the same song over and over. But as my girls sing the Frozen tunes together countless times – and, to be honest, they’ve got a third singer in their group in the form of my wife – I can’t help but feel some relief amid the repetition. Because it seems that Katie and Chelsea have found something that transcends age differences and hormonal swings. They share a love for music and performance, and that love may connect them when other things do not. My brother and I are three years apart, just like my girls are. As kids, we had our stretch of time when I needed my space from him. But we always had our sports, be it a Yankees game on the TV or a 1-on-1 basketball game in the backyard. Even when we shared few words, there was still plenty of communication in the form of a last-second jumper on the patio, or a Dave Winfield home run on the basement TV.
My brother turns 40 in two weeks; I just turned 43. We talk about a lot of things now, as adult siblings do. But we still have a soft spot for the sports stuff. Years from now, I can see Katie and Chelsea spending an afternoon together, perhaps at one of their apartments, or maybe out shopping. There comes a point when they turn on some music. For fun, they click on the Frozen album. They smile, and start singing. Together.
We only have each other / It’s just you and me / What are we gonna do? / Do you wanna build a snowman?
Image courtesy of Disney.
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