Your child’s school probably has a few rules about proper attire for it’s students. Now, school board members in a Florida district want to discuss a dress code for parents—to stop moms and dads from coming to school in short shorts, hair curlers, saggy pants, pajamas, and shower caps. Whether you’re the put together-looking mom in your child’s school drop-off line or the mom who hastily zipped a jacket over her nightgown, we want to know: Do you think parents should be required to dress “appropriately” on school grounds? Tell us why in the comments below.
When I was younger, I dreaded doing my homework to the point where, in third grade, I just stopped doing it, cold turkey. After a few days without receiving any assignments, my teacher alerted my mom who was, needless to say, unimpressed. Every day after school, I would have to sit at the kitchen table with my mom until I got everything done. Even after that incident, I never could quite shake my distaste for doing schoolwork after hours. Then, when I began babysitting, my favorite thing to do became helping kids with their assignments, even if they didn’t need my assistance. I was especially helpful to my brothers, showing them what I had done in years past and catching their mistakes mid-math problem.
Some parents and caregivers think that getting involved in children’s homework helps them learn and become better students. It turns out that line of thinking may not be not true. In a new parental involvement study, two sociology professors dug through three decades of research and found that, overall, more-involved parents make very little difference in students’ academic achievements, regardless of race, class, or educational background. In fact, sometimes the increased participation can hurt students. This is the case with homework, especially by the time your child is in middle school. According to Keith Robinson, one of the researchers in the study, parents often don’t make suitable tutors for older kids. Adults may have forgotten the material or they may not have learned it (or learned it well!) to begin with. With the introduction of the common core in school, things are simply taught differently now. I remember looking at a sixth-grader’s math assignment last summer and thinking that it might as well have been in a different language. After all, there is a reason your child goes to school: to learn from teachers, who are the best people to teach her about what she learns. It’s also not helpful for parents to communicate regularly with teachers, according to the study. The bottom line is that teachers have to be trusted to do their job.
Not understanding the material is a good reason to get less involved with your child’s homework, but it’s certainly not the only one. It’s hard for a child to feel confident about his homework if a parent is always breathing down his back. Moreover, there is going to be a day when a parent isn’t going to be able to help a child with an assignment. If that day doesn’t come until he enters college, it’s not going to be a good day. It’s in your child’s best interest for you to prepare him to be independent at a younger age. I understand the urge to help him with his work – especially because I used to have that urge often with the kids I babysat – but the best way to help is to lean back and let her try the assignment on her own first. You can still lend a little helping hand when he’s studying for an upcoming spelling test, but it’s time to cut back on helping if you find yourself doing it too much every night. If you are worried about your son or daughter’s progress in school, there are ways to help without constantly pitching in during homework time. For example, a tutor can work with both the student and the teacher to get the student up to speed on schoolwork. Luckily for Mom or Dad, you’ve reached an age where you don’t have to worry about homework anymore. Enjoy it!
“Teen Mom” reality star, Leah Messer from Charleston, West Virgina, received some backlash after she admitted on Twitter that she lets her kids play with toy guns, according to Radar Online. These days, schools are cracking down. Many are prohibiting kids from bringing toy guns to school, making gun hand signals during play, or even eating a sandwich into the shape of a gun. We’d like to know: Do you think it’s wrong for kids to play with toy guns? Share your experiences in the comments below for a chance to be quoted in an upcoming issue of Parents.
We’ve had helicopter moms. And tiger mothers. I’d like to propose a third parent type: the digital dragon. You know who you are. Your toddlers still color with crayons in restaurants. Your preschoolers have never logged $249 worth of accidental in-app purchases on your iPhone. Your bigger kids have signed a contract like this to ensure the responsible use of devices. And everyone in the house knows that what you’re screening on movie night needs to be cleared through the Common Sense Media site.
A couple hundred dragon types gathered into a packed room last week to hear Chelsea Clinton moderate a panel hosted by Common Sense Media about how to raise caring kids in a digital world. On the stage: Jim Steyer (founder/CEO of CSM), Dr. Howard Gardner (professor of education at Harvard and the author of the book The App Generation) and Slate senior editor Emily Bazelon, author of Sticks and Stones: Defending the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy. There were many interesting nuggets, including the fact that a recent report by CSM on kids’ mobile use in America finds that the average amount of time they spend has tripled in the last two years. And that California has passed what’s called the “eraser button bill” which requires web sites to allow kids under age 18 to remove their posts if they want to do so.
But for this dragon lady, the joy of the event was being reminded that I am not alone. Because it can sometimes feel as if I am the only parent who is being called a “jerk” by my kid because I refuse to let him explore the digital universe untethered. I felt so much more comfortable with my own fire-breathing behavior as the mom of two boys, 9 and 12, when Bazelon, mom of two boys ages 10 and 13, explained her caution with the internet by saying, “I would not open my front door in the city where we live and send my children out and say, ‘good luck.’” Right! Or when Steyer, a father of four, said he is “referred to by my kids as the world’s most embarrassing dad.” Hey, I thought that was my husband!
Don’t get me wrong: I said dragon parent, not luddite parent. I am wholly in favor of kids having access to digital tools—with limits and supervision. And we moms and dads can’t delegate this to the school and expect them to deal with it. Just as it is your responsibility to have the sex talk, it’s also your job to have the digital-safety talk. And the appropriateness-of-sharing talk. And the no-posting-photos-from-parties-not-everyone-was-invited-to talk. And many others. Key is to have these chats in a way that encourages your child to put himself in another’s shoes. As the speakers pointed out, as less communication happens face to face, kids miss out on learning to read the facial expressions and vocal cues that can help them feel empathy. It may be harder, then, for them to know what is hurtful to another child. One of the hardest conversations I’ve had with my kids about the power of a text message started with the words “Imagine how you would feel if…”
One fine place to start the process is by taking this new quiz to assess how digitally healthy your family is right now. And then if you want to meet fellow dragons, consider lifting your eyes from your phone (yes, we dragons can be guilty of major “do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do” behavior) and talking to parents at your child’s playgroup or school to compare notes. If the mood in the room last week is any indication you will find that even in this age of sharing, many other dragons are struggling and feeling like they too are alone.
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Proof that as a parent you can use the powers of digital media for good: Elmo and Murray of Sesame Street visited Parents and we got them on video!
Sesame Street Lessons: Healthy Eating
Can’t find a movie you can all agree on? Try a board game!
National Bullying Prevention Month wasn’t around when I was a kid. And no one called what happened to me bullying back then—when a “friend” started talking about me behind my back and actively excluding me from our group of friends. The kind of bullying that girls tend to engage in—emotional bullying—was just something you were meant to suffer through in silence, until graduation got you (hopefully) out of harm’s way.
Back then, schools often looked the other way on physical bullying, too. When my brother repeatedly came home with cuts and bruises from being shoved and punched, the school’s vice principal told my mother that my brother needed to just punch back. And when my mother asked, incredulous, if the vice principal was actually encouraging physical violence in his school, he simply shrugged. (That’s when my parents made the decision to move to a different town to keep my brother safe.)
But what no one really talks about is the lasting damage bullying can do, long after the cuts have healed and the remarks have cleared the air. I can feel its shadow in my friendships even now, more than 20 years after I last saw my bully. (Which makes me wonder how kids today manage to keep going, when the insults and nastiness are captured forever on the internet.) I catch myself worrying when a friend turns down an invite and analyzing what was said when we get together—even though I know that the friends I have now are true friends, and that the days of bullying are over for me.
Except that it isn’t entirely, because I have to shepherd my own children through it. I’ve worked with my kids on strategies for fighting bullies, and stressed that our kids should try to befriend the kids who are being picked on, and develop empathy for everyone in their class (even the bullies). And they learn these social skills in a weekly class with their guidance counselor, now mandated by our state.
But that clearly isn’t quite enough. The boys in my daughter’s class recently started making trouble with her, mocking her with racially-tinted taunts. I’m fortunate that the school has taken it very seriously—the principal, the guidance counselor and the teacher are all working together to keep it from happening. But even then, they have to walk a fine line, as calling the kids out on it directly may just lead to more anguish for my daughter. The bullies never like a tattletale.
I know that a lot of bullying comes from the parents themselves. My brother created a documentary about bullying, and went back to our old neighborhood to interview some of his former tormentors. (A few of them, it turns out, were in jail.) One of them said that he bullied my brother because he was envious of what he had: a stable home, loving parents, and a promising future. And in retrospect, I can see how my bully’s mother may have influenced her decision to treat me that way. My only hope is that I can teach my kids to be kind, so that they don’t inflict this pain on other kids—and give enough strength to deal with the kids whose parents won’t.