Posts Tagged ‘ lisa milbrand ’

Which Age Is Hardest to Parent?

Saturday, August 23rd, 2014

I used to think that babies and toddlers were the hardest to parent, with all the sleep deprivation, bodily fluids and baby proofing that come with that age range. It felt like my children were trying really hard to get themselves killed, and we spent our waking hours standing sentinel and worrying that all that stood between my daughters and certain doom was a flimsy plastic cabinet lock. Those were the days of guacamole in the hair and 3 a.m. wakeup calls, but at least we got nap time to recover and get our groove back.

Now that I’m the mom of a tween and an almost tween, I find myself dreaming of those days. Because while the really physical days of parenting are done—no more bending in half and hunching my back for hours over a struggling-to-walk-toddler—parenting an older kid requires tremendous mental fortitude. And I’m not sure I have the skills necessary to survive the next few years. Here’s where I’m falling short:

Scheduling Prowess I need military-level precision to keep track of all the school projects, teacher meetings and extracurriculars—something a girl once voted most disorganized by a jury of her peers simply can’t muster.  I used to be horrified when I read stories of moms using their minivan as a traveling office/dinner table/living room, until my daughters began to fill every day with their various extracurricular passions. And now, my car comes stocked with paper towels, an array of snacks (and used wrappers), and is my regular conference call spot (thank God for Bluetooth!).

Mind Reader My daughter has developed a split personality, as she straddles the precarious line between childhood and adulthood. One minute, she’s begging me to let her watch The Fault in Our Stars—the next, she’s saying that she’s not too old for Sophia the First. And I’m never quite sure whether I’m talking to the grownup or the kiddo, which makes it hard to determine whether any suggestion I make is going to be greeted with a dramatic eye roll and sigh or excited exuberance. It’s hard to find that happy medium, where I’m allowing her to learn and grow, but not learn too much, too fast. So, despite the fact that I hear that every other parent in the fifth grade lets their children Snapchat on cell phones and watch Walking Dead marathons, we’re sticking by our guns.

Peace Maker I simply don’t have the negotiation skills necessary to get my girls to stop the battles and bickering and actually be the loving sisters I know they are, deep, deep (deep) down inside. I’d love to just tell my children to work it out themselves, but that often leads to tears and pain (and not just for me).

Book Smarts I was a straight A student when I was in school, but apparently I killed a lot of brain cells between then and now, or they decided to rewrite the curriculum just to make me look like the village idiot. Either way, there were things in fourth grade math that had me stumped, and I’m frankly a bit nervous about what comes next. I hope my daughters can teach me.

I’ve talked a bit about my struggles with tween parenting with my mom, and she just chuckles. “Wait until they hit the teens,” she says, ominously. “That’s when parenting really gets tough.” I hope I can survive it.

Tell us: Which age was the toughest for you as a parent? Why was that? Keep up with your kiddo through every age and stage through our Parents.com newsletters.

Mom Confessions: My Latest Parenting Fail
Mom Confessions: My Latest Parenting Fail
Mom Confessions: My Latest Parenting Fail

Image: Busy mom by Angela Waye/Shutterstock.com

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Companies Need a Lesson on What Kids Really Want

Thursday, August 7th, 2014

Even though I’m the mom of two girls, I find myself shopping in the “boys’” aisles an awful lot. And that’s because it seems like most of the cooler toys and t-shirts (at least according to my girls) show up in that section. First it was Thomas the Tank Engine, then Star Wars, dinosaurs and robotics components.

It’s disheartening in this day and age that companies still cling to these old-school beliefs that all girls like pink sparkly princesses, and all boys want dinosaurs and sports. That’s what got Lands End in trouble earlier this month, as a mom started a campaign against the hearts-and-flowers motifs on girls shirts, for more realistic depictions of science. (I may just have to pick up one of the solar systems shirts for my science-loving youngest.) Lego finally decided to throw us a bone by offering girl scientist figures, after making loads of money off the pink-and-pretty Lego Friends, who seem to spend an awful lot of time on fashion, cuddly animals and talent shows. And Disney seems to have actually taken their latest acquisition, Star Wars, back to the stone ages, by stocking a single piece of Princess Leia merchandise—an “action” figure of her dressed in the revealing slave costume.

But I feel even worse for the boys who don’t fit into the trucks-and-sports mode. Because it’s a lot harder to make things from the girls’ side of the aisle, where there’s a plethora of pink and sparkly, work for a boy. On Lands End’s Facebook announcement of their science shirts for girls you could see a whole slew of comments from moms of boys, requesting shirts with “non-threatening animals” and hearts and flowers for their not-so-stereotypical boys.

Of course, there are some ways to circumvent the marketing powers that be. Etsy and other internet retailers seem to be built on people making more gender-neutral crafts that kids that fall outside the stereotype might actually love.

Maybe we need to get the marketers to make it easier for all kids to find their passions—whether it’s a girl who loves robots, or a boy who loves horses.

Want to know if your kid’s destined to be a scientist, a chef, or President? Try our future career quiz.

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

Image: Courtesy of Lego

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Should You Let Your Kids Drink Alcohol?

Friday, July 18th, 2014

It’s been 30 years since the U.S. raised its legal drinking age to 21, a rule that’s led many a college student astray of the law. And it’s often broken in homes across the country, as kids get their first sips of beer or wine from a parent’s cup.

But even though I had my first taste of wine on a Christmas Eve long before I was legally old enough to drink, I haven’t yet let my own kids try it. And if you look at most of the studies about underage drinking, it looks like I might be right to hold off. Several studies have shown that allowing your children to drink when they’re underage may make them more likely to binge drink later on—especially if they’re girls. But as with anything, there are studies that contradict that idea—including a 2004 study that showed that children who drank with their parents were nearly half as likely to say they had drank in the past month and about one third as likely to admit to binge drinking in the past two weeks.

So what’s a parent to do? Right now, I’m sticking to my no-sips-allowed policy, and modeling responsible alcohol consumption for them (ensuring that you have a designated driver, and enjoying without overindulging). And since my 10-year-old was scandalized that the Catholic Church let her friend sip wine at her First Communion, I hopefully have a few more years before she’s really tempted to try it.

But there’s also a big difference between providing beer for your teen’s party and offering a glass of champagne to celebrate a special event. The studies that show the decreased rates of drinking in teens were in families where the teens were allowed to drink alcohol in family or religious settings. And if I decide to change my no-sips policy, I’d only be doing it in the context of a family gathering or special celebration—a sip of champagne at her high school graduation, for example. (So friends of my daughters—don’t be expecting a kegger in your honor!)

But I’m realistic. The odds of my daughters waiting until they turn 21 to drink are pretty low. And so I’m laying the groundwork now so that they’ll at least stay safe when they do it. I’ve already stressed the importance of not driving with someone whose drinking (and already told them I will always give them or a friend a safe ride home, no questions asked), and explained what drinking too much does to you—and why you may want to avoid that. (Hangovers and nausea = no fun!) And hopefully, they’ll heed my advice, and avoid a few of the mistakes I made along the way.

Tell us: Have you let your kids drink alcohol? Why or why not?

Alcohol During Pregnancy: Safe or Not?
Alcohol During Pregnancy: Safe or Not?
Alcohol During Pregnancy: Safe or Not?

Image: Child drinking a cocktail by RamonaS/Shutterstock.com

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Why #YesAllWomen Should Matter to Parents

Thursday, May 29th, 2014

In the wake of yet another mass shooting of young women and men in Isla Vista, the hashtag #YesAllWomen took off, as a way for women to share stories about the ways that male violence and harassment have impacted their lives. Odds are, you’ve probably seen this in your Twitter and Facebook feeds—and the stories I’ve read were harrowing. Horrific stories of domestic abuse, rape, even murder—and even the more typical tales of girls groped on the subway, women who don’t feel safe walking around alone at night, women who are told they should feel flattered when they get catcalled on the street. And really—should it be considered “typical” for a woman to feel like a walk around the block is too dangerous to risk? (If you want to just get the Cliffs Notes version of this debate, check out this list of some of the most thought-provoking #YesAllWomen tweets.)

But even though the tweets themselves are scary, scarier still is the backlash and comments these statements have provoked from a few men, who have harassed and even threatened women who chose to speak out. Because what we all should be doing is coming together and figuring out how to solve this issue—not intimidating people who are brave enough to share their stories. And who better to start on the path toward solving this than parents like us, who are raising daughters and sons.

I want my daughters to be smart and strong and kind and loving. But because I also don’t want them to be victims, they’ve been taught stranger danger, instructed not to trust adult men, and sent for years of karate and jiu jitsu lessons, so they can fight back if something does go terribly wrong. These are not the lessons I want to be teaching my daughters.

I’m hoping that my friends with sons will be teaching them a different set of lessons—how to honor and respect the women and girls they meet. That no means no, no matter what a girl is wearing or whether she’s had a few margaritas. That women aren’t conquests—that their opinions, thoughts and feelings matter more than their level of hotness. That sometimes, “manning up” means stepping in when your friend is crossing the line with a girl—and not staying silent. Because that silence means that you’re supporting whatever actions your friend is taking.

But I’m worried, because I can already see it starting. Lately, the girls in my daughter’s fourth grade class have been complaining nonstop about the boys, who keep trying to boss them around and put them in their place. Right now, it’s “kids’  stuff,” fights over kickball games and whose turn it is to lead the line. My daughter comes home angry about the latest boy-related slights to her and her friends, and tries to work with me to come up with strategies to deal with it.  I’ve been telling her to just ignore the boys and they’ll probably stop. But maybe that makes me part of the problem, by teaching her to stay silent and not speak up about the issues, like we’ve all been doing for far too long. Maybe we should be supporting our daughters as they fight to be treated like equals.

Tell us: What do you think of the #YesAllWomen movement? What lessons and values are you hoping to instill in your kids?

Manners & Responsibility: Getting Your Child to Listen
Manners & Responsibility: Getting Your Child to Listen
Manners & Responsibility: Getting Your Child to Listen

Image: Loving hands by CHAINFOTO24/Shutterstock.com

 

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Are Schools Bullying Kids Over High-Stakes Testing?

Tuesday, May 20th, 2014

Last week, my 9-year-old endured five days of testing, thanks to a government who doesn’t believe her teachers can do their job, and a school that desperately needs the funding that they will (hopefully) get if the kids filled in those little bubbles correctly. And so, the school devoted hours to test strategy and practice tests, and sent my little perfectionist home with high-pressure messages that sent her over the edge. We considered refusing to let her take the test—here in New Jersey, unlike New York, there’s no official “opt out” policy, but we still have the legal right to refuse. But we didn’t feel courageous enough to do it, and my straight A+ daughter desperately wanted to boost her NJASK scores, in the hopes that she could finally qualify for her school’s gifted and talented program. (That’s another whole story!)

But what was most shocking to me was when I started hearing stories about how some of the schools handled the children who refused to take the test. (And let’s face it—in most cases, that was the parents’ decision, not the kids.) While some kids were able to hang out in the library and read, or help out in the kindergarten classes, others were forced to stay in the test room and “sit and stare.” They couldn’t read or work on homework, but had to sit and stare at the wall for a few hours. Others were sent to the principal’s office, as if they’d committed some crime. In some high schools, the administrators said the children could be written up for insubordination. And at my daughter’s school, the principal threatened the one child who refused to take the test that she would be excluded from a “NJASK dance” they were having during school hours, that is sponsored by the school.

If other children did these sorts of things to these kids, they’d call it bullying. But apparently, in an effort to try to ensure that students take these tests, the school administrators felt they could use any means necessary, including abuse. (And let’s face it—forcing a third grader to sit silently for a couple of hours without allowing them to read, doodle, draw or do something engaging is pretty darned abusive.) And I’m sure there are parents who caved and let their children take the test after all, rather than make them spend several unfruitful hours over several days engaged in this battle of wills. There’s a point where fighting for what’s right isn’t worth the price to your kid.

Next year, our state switches over to the PARCC tests, a series of tests that’s supposed to make the NJASK seem like a walk in the park. I’m sure that more parents will be exercising their option to refuse next year—which puts even more kids in the line of fire.

Tell me: Did you opt out or refuse to let your child take high-stakes tests? Why or why not? How did your school handle it?

How’s your little one doing in school? Keep track of her progress using our free progress report.

Back to School: Handling Worries
Back to School: Handling Worries
Back to School: Handling Worries

Image: Mighty Sequoia Studio/Shutterstock.com

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