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Monday, April 29th, 2013
It’s been two weeks since the Boston Marathon tragedy, and since then many stories have emerged about helping those whose lives were changed that day. There are a number of ways you can support the healing of those involved. Here I will share one particularly inspiring story.
Megan Conner – a top singer/songwriter in Nashville who is also a fitness expert – crossed the finish line about 15 minutes before the explosions occurred. She was close enough to hear the explosions go off and see the clouds of smoke. The experience of being there that day not only gave her a sense of connection to all those involved, but also, as she described to me, an “overwhelming love and concern” and a need to do something for the families who are dealing with a very long healing process. So she wrote and recorded a song called “Dear Boston” as a way of capturing the emotions involved and serving as a platform for raising funds to help those who need help.
You can hear the song and watch her accompanying beautiful video on YouTube. Follow the link on the video to download the song for $1 (which will help support the victims and their families) or click here for a link to do so.
It’s a great song for a great cause.
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Wednesday, April 24th, 2013
Should young kids be told that they must always share? Should they be told that they never have to share? Or should they be encouraged to learn how to try to work things out themselves?
The answer from decades of research on preschoolers is … they should get experience in trying to try to work things out themselves, with good guidance from adults.
To get an expert perspective on this, I contacted Dr. Melanie Killen, who is Professor of Human Development, Professor of Psychology (Affiliate), and the Associate Director for the Center for Children, Relationships, and Culture at the University of Maryland. She is the author of Children and Social Exclusion: Morality, Prejudice and Group Identity (2011), co-editor of Social Development in Childhood and Adolescence: A Contemporary Reader (2011), and serves as the Editor of the Handbook on Moral Development (2006, 2013). Dr. Killen has a distinguished record of conducting seminal research on the social, moral, and cognitive development of preschoolers (as well as older children), and as such is well positioned to offer a perspective on sharing in the preschool years. Below is her take on a few key issues.
ARE EXPERIENCES THAT ARISE FROM CONFLICTS ABOUT SHARING IMPORTANT IN EARLY CHILDHOOD?
Yes. Sharing toys and resources is a fundamental aspect of early childhood social interactions that promotes the development of social competence. In fact, children who learn how to resolve conflicts about sharing in constructive ways (e.g., through negotiation and bargaining) are more liked by their peers and better adjusted in school contexts than are children who resort to aggressive strategies (such as insistence on one’s own way). What children learn from conflicts about sharing toys under optimal conditions is how to bargain, negotiate, and apply principles of fairness to their peers.
WHAT’S WRONG WITH TELLING KIDS THAT THEY HAVE TO – OR DON’T HAVE TO – SHARE?
A policy that mandates either sharing or “no sharing” is a problem from the start because it removes the opportunity for children to understand the principles that underlie sharing behavior. These principles include the fair distribution of resources – how do we share resources (or toys) in such a way as to treat others with mutual respect? This involves explaining to children the conditions in which not sharing toys is being unfair to another child (“If you play with all of the toys then he won’t have any to play with”). However, it’s also important to recognize that there are also conditions in which not sharing toys is viewed as legitimate, such as claims to ownership (“This is her special birthday present and she doesn’t want it to get broken”), or previously agreed upon rules about the use of resources (“She had the toy yesterday so today it’s your turn to use the toy”).
WHAT ROLE SHOULD ADULTS PLAY IN SHARING?
The bottom line is that a unilateral policy takes away from the learning opportunities for young children through which they teach each other what makes it wrong to refrain from sharing (“You had it all morning and I didn’t get to play with it so can I play with it now?”). Adults need to facilitate the opportunities for children to discuss, negotiate, and interact about how to play with toys, especially in early childhood when the stakes are still low. Learning how to share toys, which includes the recognition of ownership claims is a fundamental social skill that is related to constructing notions of equality, fair treatment, and mutual respect.
Children Playing via Shutterstock.com
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Monday, April 15th, 2013
The news of the explosions at the Boston Marathon once again necessitates that parents take control of what their kids will hear and see. Here are a few key points to keep in mind.
Be aware that coverage (TV and online) of these explosions – and the coverage will be continuous and extensive – will have some graphic footage. There are recordings of when the explosions happened. There are images of injured people on stretchers. You will see the aftermath which can be disturbing. It will be on TV. It will be online. Keep this in mind in terms of what your kids will see. Kids of any age will find this disturbing. It’s a good idea to monitor your kids now so you can be in control of what they see – and be on the ready to switch off quickly if there are things they shouldn’t see.
In addition to footage, remember that interviews will contain graphic talk. People will be describing what they saw and heard. Many will be distressed. The talk may be graphic and reference fatalities. Online, you will read quotes by witnesses. Again, you might want to actively screen this information.
While shielding your kids from footage and conversation that is upsetting, it’s also important that you be the source of information for them. You can explain things in the best way possible without deviating from being honest. Keep your descriptions short and factual (“Yes something bad happened. Some people were hurt.”) without going into much expansion. Allow your kids to ask you questions and answer exactly what they are asking. For example, if they ask if anyone died, you can simply answer “Yes” and see if they ask anything else. Try to be calm and in control even though these catastrophes rattle all of us. Even though we can’t assure our kids that we can keep them safe every second of the day, we do want them to feel safe with us and have some sense of control.
Finally, be aware that your kids may have questions for awhile, as this tragedy will undoubtedly be in the news for some time. Keep the lines of communication open and be ready to have frequent and short conversations about it – kids may have a question here or there and they are only looking for an immediate answer to it. You can rely on your knowledge about your kid’s personality, but do bear in mind that kids typically don’t want the level of detail that we adults would pursue.
And of course do what you do best – hug your kids. That will speak volumes.
Mom Soothing Child via Shutterstock.com
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Thursday, February 28th, 2013
February 2013 was a busy month in the world of parenting – lots of things going on. Here’s a snapshot:
The news that an adult male slapped a stranger’s toddler on a plane led to a conversation about how our culture may be breeding, at a minimum, a lack of respect for our youngsters – and at worst, provide a context in which child-hating is tolerated.
Speaking of conversations, we had many about if we should use what we are learning about genetics to support genetic engineering, including targeting childhood psychiatric disorders. Then came news that new research suggests some genes might predispose to a number of forms of mental illness – but it’s not at all clear that this will move us closer to genetic solutions.
We always include applications of current research to help guide us decide on good parenting strategies. One study suggest how important it is to let your toddler – and not you – be the “boss” when you are playing. And compelling research showed how the simple act of turning off violent shows and replacing them with educational content – without limiting the amount of TV watched – is beneficial for kids.
BARRIERS TO SERVICES
We took on some key barriers to getting kids mental health services and broke them down in understandable turns. Now we all wait to see if sequestration is going to provide the biggest barrier of all.
Time For Review via Shutterstock.com
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Monday, February 18th, 2013
When a toddler cries, parents can get worn down and even ornery. People in a restaurant may be annoyed. Passengers on a plane may be especially ruffled.
I get all of that – it’s human nature. But human nature has hit (pun intended) a new low with the report that a man has been accused of slapping a toddler in the face during a flight because he was crying. The toddler was sitting on his mom’s lap. And for good measure, the man is also reported to have made a racial slur as well. And now the child is “scared to death.”
If the accusation is proven to be true (like you, I’m just reading the news reports on it and I wasn’t on the plane), it’s almost easy to dismiss this as the act of a child-hater gone wild. Maybe it’s just one guy who did an unbelievable and reprehensible (you can fill in your own words here – I’m almost at a loss to describe the actions) thing. But there is, I think, a deeper message.
In our culture, we’ve become too tolerant of directing anger at toddlers (and of course, babies and children and teens). It’s become too acceptable to complain and b**** about a toddler who won’t stop crying, or who is too clingy, or too demanding. People who don’t currently have a toddler do that. And some parents do as well. I get that parents need to vent – and sometimes it’s very helpful to do that. I understand that parents might find a bit of solace writing in exaggerated tones online as a form of release. I don’t have a problem with “Go the F**k to Sleep.” But I worry that this trend is going too far. Are we breeding and encouraging a parenting culture that hates parenting? Are we too accepting of some of the inevitable negative feelings that we have about kids and going overboard in being “honest” about everything we dislike about kids? I’d like our parenting culture to model acceptance and understanding and tolerance of our how our babies and toddlers and kids and teens act. And then I’d hope our broader culture would follow suit.
Let’s face some facts. Kids are dependents. They cry and scream and get upset because they are supposed to do this. It’s a signal to adults that they need comforting, guidance, and soothing – not angry looks and nasty tones. Yes, it’s frustrating – but we are, after all, the adults.
So as understanding as I am about the idea of banning kids from some restaurants and banning them from some flights, part of me wants to dismiss all of this. Part of me wants to remind adults that they were toddlers once. Part of me wants to say that, guess what, not all adults in restaurants or on airplanes are especially delightful to be around in public. Maybe it’s time we stop indulging all of the negatives about being around kids and start embracing all the wonderful things about it. So when we find ourselves on a long flight, and there is a baby crying and parents are trying hard to calm and soothe them, maybe it’s time we start practicing empathy rather than anger – and maybe even see if we can help. Let’s save the anger for adults who don’t treat kids right.
Baby Crying via Shutterstock.com
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