Archive for the ‘ Stories ’ Category

More On Heroes Who Fall: Aaron Hernandez

Tuesday, July 30th, 2013

Continuing the discussion of how to talk to kids when their heroes fall, I am sharing a link to a piece I wrote about Aaron Hernandez

His story certainly made national news and continues to do so. But if you live in the Northeast – and especially Massachusetts – this story hit home hard. The Patriots are a local obsession with a highly devoted fan base. So thinking through the ways in which parents and kids would talk about it was an interesting exercise. The most important thing, to me, was simply the idea that parents would have continuing discussions with their kids.

What would you say?

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When Heroes Fall

Tuesday, July 30th, 2013

Kids have heroes. They always have, and they always will. Adults have them too.

But what do we tell our kids when our heroes fall? 

The world of sports offers lots of opportunities to see personal success and failure. When the success happens, it reinforces why athletes are heroes to our kids. When they fail though, it’s not clear what it means to them.

Baseball, for example, has been plagued for years now with issues related to Performance Enhancing Drugs. While the “steroid era” has seemingly passed us by (one in which a good number of players with Hall of Fame numbers will probably not get elected because of confirmed or assumed use), we still see suspensions and new scandals emerging. Sometimes the fall is even more severe – as in the case of former New England Patriot Aaron Hernandez, who is now in prison, charged with murder.

So my question is what do we say to our kids? Are there lessons here?

My bottom line is that we can use these falls as platforms for helping our kids understand that their heroes are people – real people. Perhaps we can encourage our kids to admire their professional successes without making the inference that they are “special” people because of their achievements. We can use these examples to let them know that there are pitfalls in anyone’s life, whether or not they are “heroes.” And of course we can remind them that there are lots of heroes in the world – police and fire personnel, teachers, moms and dads. Anyone can be a hero – and it’s great to remind them that sometimes our heroes are heroes because of their personal characteristics, and not just famous achievements.

Man Acting Like Super Hero via

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Glee Star Death: Tips For Talking To Your Child

Monday, July 15th, 2013

If your child is a fan of Glee, then you have probably heard of the sad death of actor Cory Monteith. Here are a few tips for talking to your child about his death

Remember That These Kinds Of Deaths Are Important To Your Child: For tweens and teens, celebrities are important. Kids follow their lives – especially in this age of social media when they have more access than ever to information. They will undoubtedly have emotions (not just sadness but others including anger) stirred up by the death of someone they never met who nonetheless played a role in their life. Be sure to honor and respect that and not be dismissive. Which leads to the next tip …

Think Back To When You Were Young: We all have experienced deaths of celebrities that touched us. Remember how you felt – and the questions you had – when you experienced the death of a public figure.  Reflecting on your own experiences will provide a good reminder of what your kid may be feeling and thinking right now.

Start A Conversation: Given that your child is thinking about Monteith’s death – and will continue to hear a lot more about it – it’s important to let them know they can talk to you about it. So just start a conversation – any icebreaker will do. The goal here is not to probe or question or deliver information – it’s just an opening so that they know it’s okay to discuss with you. Let them do the talking and concentrate on listening – find out what’s on their mind. You can even be explicit and say it’s okay to talk more about it whenever they want.

Follow Their Lead: Kids are different. Some will want to talk about it frequently and in detail. Others may just mention something in passing now and then. Some might be emotional, some very calm. Be sensitive to their personalities and do what you do naturally – be supportive and responsive whenever they bring it up.

Be Honest But In An Age Appropriate Way: Monteith’s struggles with addiction are well publicized. You should be ready to have a discussion about addiction and substance use with your kids. Monteith had reported abusing substances in his teen years and your child may be aware of this. You can be respectful of the sadness of his death while, at the same time, discussing honestly the dangers of substance use and abuse, especially in the teen years. Do keep it simple and brief and factual – and anticipate follow-up questions that you will answer in the same style.

Support Your Child’s Efforts To Do Something: Some kids may be motivated to do something. Write a letter, post something online, make a collage. It’s healthy for them to act on their emotions and it’s important to support their efforts. Again bear in mind the first tip – even though they didn’t know Monteith they are still experiencing some type of grief and learning that it’s okay to act on that is a good (if sobering) message.

Be Ready For Deeper Questions: For some kids, the death of someone young, talented and successful can be hard to process. They might have questions about how this could happen. It’s a good time to have a sensitive conversation about how Monteith was as human as anyone else – and how bad things can happen to anyone. Depending on age and personality, some kids might want to talk about death in general – so be ready to have an open conversation on that very big topic (again being a listener first and a talker second).

Cory Monteith via D Free/


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Shaming Kids In Public: A Good Or Bad Idea?

Thursday, June 13th, 2013

Shaming kids in public has become a parenting trend. You’ve seen the stories. Kids forced by their parents to stand in public holding some kind of sign indicating a wrongdoing. It could be that they stole. It could be that they were disrespectful. But the bottom line is that some parents believe that these kind of humiliating moments – or instances of tough love – may have enough impact to change their kid’s behavior for the better. 

So … is this a good or bad idea? While I contend that it’s a bad idea, let’s walk through some of the more subtle points.

We typically hear of stories in which parents are extremely frustrated with their kids. Some are afraid that their kids will get into deep trouble. They feel like they have run out of options and don’t know what else to do. So I understand that they are ready to do something. I’ve seen them in many of my own research studies and have also seen them in juvenile court and understand that they want a solution.

But I suggest that a public shaming is not the corrective measure they are looking for. Will it shock a kid in the short term? Maybe. Will it fundamentally change all of the factors that led to the persistent troubling behavior in the first place? Probably not. And that’s the point.

In practice, and in research, you will find kids with all kinds of problems. Acting out, stealing, lying, cheating. Using drugs and drinking. Being disrespectful. It really begins to hit when they hit the early teens. In order to take on these kinds of behaviors, it’s necessary to work with parents and their kids – using methods that have been proven to work across decades of research – to improve three core parenting skills:

Monitoring: Really knowing who your kid hangs out with and what they do – so you can prohibit or change their patterns of behavior when you see warning signs of trouble. This leads us to ….

Limit Setting: Making sure your kid understands the boundaries you set and learning effective methods for applying them with consistency. This only happens by improving  ….

Communication: How many arguments would you imagine a parent has had with a child before resorting to shaming kids in public? Would you anticipate that their dynamics revolve around yelling and screaming at each other? Many times it will. Parents and kids need to learn techniques for improving their level of communication with each other. And parents need to develop communication skills that help them shape their kid’s behavior by being authoritative and not authoritarian.

None of these skills come easily or quickly. They take dedicated effort on the part of parents, kids, and their practitioner. But putting in this kind of effort over time can change behavior – over the long term and not just temporarily.

Frustrated parents and kids who are acting out are realities. It’s agreed that parents in these situations need some type of recourse to right the ship. It can be suggested that public shaming teaches kids about power structures and coercive behavior and teaches much less about learning rules and morality and empathy. What’s really required is that parents and kids have an opportunity to work together to improve their relationship so that parents can be more effective on a daily basis and not feel the need to resort to drastic measures that may not have long-term benefits.

Naming and Shaming via


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Life is good Festival 2013!

Friday, May 31st, 2013

The Life is good Kids Foundation provides an extraordinary amount of unique support for kids in need. To that end, I am sharing their announcement of their 2013 Life is good Festival, which presents two days of wonderful entertainment for kids and parents as a platform for raising over $1 million to support the many efforts of the foundation. 

YO GABBA GABBA! to Headline Kids’ Lineup at the Life is good Festival to Raise Money for Kids in Need

Limited free kids’ tickets now available for the Sept. 21‐22 fundraising music festival at Prowse Farm, Canton, Mass.

May 16, 2013 (Boston) – Life is good®, the Boston-based lifestyle brand committed to spreading the power of optimism and helping kids in need, today announced YO GABBA GABBA! will headline the kids’ lineup at the 2013 Life is good Festival on Sept. 21-22 at Prowse Farm, Canton, Mass. Characters from the award winning live action television series and live stage show will perform on the main stage both days. There will also be performances from the stars of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus®, Recess Monkey, and Josh and the Jamtones at the Festival. To make it easier for families to enjoy these top acts in kids’ entertainment, GoGo squeeZ, the leading 100 percent fruit, all-natural applesauce on the go, is providing a limited quantity of free kids’ tickets with the purchase of an adult ticket.

The Life is good Festival is a two-day celebration of music and optimism featuring activities for all ages and three stages of nationally known musical talent. The full artist lineup will be announced on June 17. One hundred percent of funds raised and all of Life is good’s net profits from the Festival, including Festival merchandise, will be donated to The Life is good Kids Foundation.

“As a company with a positive purpose, we’re making it easy for families to do what they love while supporting a great cause,” said Bert Jacobs, chief executive optimist for Life is good. “What makes this Festival unique is the community of fundraisers who come together to help kids in need.”

Individuals who purchase tickets are directed to a personal fundraising page, where they are encouraged to raise funds to support The Life is good Kids Foundation. Festival-goers who raise $500 or more will be rewarded with exclusive backstage hospitality, preferred concert viewing, artist meet and greets and other perks.

More than 30,000 fundraisers are expected to come together over the weekend with the goal of raising over $1 million for The Life is good Kids Foundation. The Life is good Kids Foundation directly funds the Life is good Playmakers program, which provides training and support to childcare professionals who use these tools to ensure that children grow up feeling safe, loved and joyful.

Tickets for the 2013 Life is good Festival are on sale now at Free kids’ tickets presented by GoGo squeeZ for ages 2-12 years are limited. Full priced kids’ tickets will be $20 for one day or $35 for a two-day pass. Life is good offers free admission for kids under 2 years. Adult tickets are $65 for one day or $120 for a two-day pass.

For more information about the Life is good Festival or to purchase tickets, please visit

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