January 31, 2010

Lead by Example: Eat Your Veggies!

There has been a commercial on lately for one of those fruit/veggie drinks to trick your kids (or spouse) into eating their veggies.  This commercial shows a family sitting at the table, and they pass around a delicious-looking plate of steamed broccoli, which no one (not even the parents) touches, before gulping down glasses of the advertised beverage.

And I don't like it one bit.

First of all, that broccoli looked really good!  But I won't get bogged down in details.  The real issue is bigger than this ad, so I'll look at the big picture.

January 29, 2010

Your Baby Can Read! But Should They?

We've all seen the ads and seen the trends:  Infants who can barely sit up that can recognize 100 basic flash cards.  Toddlers who can "read" a shockingly large number of words.  Parents who park their little ones in front of the TV for hours of educational programs to give them a step up in school.  Does it work?

Well, yes.  You can see the results all around you, from the baby in the infomercial to your neighbor's little reading prodigy.  The real question is, should we be pushing our children to this extreme?

January 28, 2010

Debate on Discipline

Reading up on parenting ideas, I came across this debate on the Genius Child Program blog.  The question presented is whether or not a parent should have to reason with a child to get them to obey.  As I began to read the responses, I was largely disappointed.  The majority of parents gave a simple, black-or-white answer that their child should always simply obey.  That no matter what the circumstance, if their child doesn't listen, they get punished.  That the parent, as an authority, must maintain their authority by demanding blind obedience.

How disappointing!  Let me ask every parent and teacher to look back at your own childhood.  Do you remember your frustration with parents, teachers or coaches who never listened to you?  These people did not show you any respect, and they probably didn't get much of yours.  They were tyrants.

On the other hand, we have all also experienced a parent, teacher or boss who had no authority.  They allowed their homes, classrooms or workplaces to deteriorate into anarchy.  They were walked-on and taken advantage of.

What's a parent to do with these two extremes?  Find the golden mean.

January 27, 2010

Your Children Reflect You: Apologies

Every parent wants to see their child to grow up to be a "good person."  What this means, exactly, varies slightly from one culture, family and individual to another, but I would think that every parent would want their child to be able to develop deep, lasting relationships with other people.

In order to maintain a healthy relationship with a friend, family member or significant other in the long run, children need to learn how to apologize.  The reality is that things go wrong and people make mistakes; handling them in a sensitive, caring way is what makes the difference in a relationship.

Just like learning good manners, children learn to feel comfortable with apologies when they have seen them and been exposed to them on a regular basis.  And that brings me to a sticky question: when is the last time your kids heard or saw you apologize?

January 25, 2010

Teachers: Help Your Students Cope with Disaster

Seeing the footage of the disaster in Haiti on the news these last few weeks has been difficult.  It is hard for adults to wrap their minds around such disaster, poverty and pain.  Yet I remember how much more difficult it was to watch the news during my childhood; I was a sensitive child, easily affected by the intense words and images.

There was an earthquake in California during my early childhood; misunderstanding the wreckage I saw on the news, I wrote in my school journal entry that millions of people had died.  My teacher wrote a note on the entry, explaining that in this instance, no one had died but many buildings had been destroyed.  While teachers can not offer this comfort to students in the case of the earthquake in Haiti, they can help their students deal with various kinds of tragedy.

January 20, 2010

Answering Tough Questions

Every parent will have that moment: a very private question asked at the worst time, or a question they didn't expect to answer until years down the road asked casually at the dinner table.  Whether the question is the legendary "where do babies come from?" or the heart-wrenching "is Santa real?", parents have to take a deep breath. 

Follow the link for a few tips for dealing with that moment in a way that's good for you and your child. 

January 19, 2010

Protect Your Kids From Real Dangers

I spend a lot of time thinking about safety.  Especially when I'm by myself, but with my husband as well, I remain consciously aware of everything around me: animals, people, their direction of travel, the security of the path I'm walking.  As I approach my car, I look underneath it and as I get in, I take a peek in the backseat.  When I go into a public bathroom, I make sure no one follows. 

This is not paranoia (paranoia is when I check for baddies in every closet and under the bed upon arriving home).  These small precautions give me a step up on possible dangers.  If a situation were to occur, I would have a few more precious seconds to react; plus, being so obviously aware of my surroundings keeps me from looking like an easy target. 

As kids get old enough to learn about being safe out in the world on their own, parents can begin to teach them.  But until that time it is a parent's responsibility to keep their children safe.  And that brings me to the incident I witnessed over the weekend. 

January 15, 2010

Every Parent and Teacher Must Teach Tolerance

Today is Martin Luther King Jr.'s Birthday.  Happy Birthday to a great man, a powerful speaker, an inspiring leader. 

This is, naturally, a great time of year to talk about race relations, prejudice and tolerance; it is a time to take stock of our progress as people and families, as well as nations.  While there have been many steps forward, there is still a long way to go. 

And that brings me to something a bit controversial that I believe needs to be said: Racism is not a one way street.

January 12, 2010

Continuing Education for a Lifetime

Have you stopped learning?

It's a strange question to pose to an adult, isn't it?  Yet it is an important one.  In the last several years, studies have shown that people of all ages need to keep their minds active and engaged to remain happy and healthy into their golden years.  It's not a very surprising finding, but it is one that adults should bear in mind.

If your child stopped learning at any stage of development or had no interests outside of school, that would be a serious cause for concern; yet when adults find ourselves in that rut, we make excuses: we're busy, our careers are important, someone has to pay the bills, etc.

January 11, 2010

"Casual Dining" Does Not Mean Parents Can Ignore Children

This issue is fresh in my mind tonight because of an incident I witnessed recently.  I was waiting at a casual dining restaurant with my husband for an old friend to arrive for a lunch date.  I would have liked to enjoy my husband's conversation until my friend arrived, but this was rendered impossible by the child at the table next to mine.

She looked to be 4 years-old.  And she refused to sit still.  She was not running around, not throwing things, nothing quite so blatant; she was writhing on her chair.  One moment sitting on her bottom and leaning far to the side, the next laying across the seat on her belly, then kneeling and facing all different directions.  She was constantly in motion, and somehow, it was more annoying than if she had been walking around.

And what were the adults doing about it?  Nothing.  Absolutely nothing.  Two couples, who looked to be her parents and grandparents, sat and chatted, ignoring her completely.  The grandmother made one half-hearted attempt to set her on her bottom in the chair, but nothing further was done.

Stranded in the Airport

I am now safely back home, but I happened to be travelling internationally by airplane shortly after the recent terrorist attack at the end of December.  As a result, several hundred other travelers and I had the joy of sharing a terminal over nearly 12 hours of delays.

This is never a pleasant circumstance, but I have to say that it was made easily tolerable by the very kind people we met in our various lines and hours of waiting.  Nothing brings people together quite like a common problem.

But now to the issue at hand: with 12 hours of observation time, how did the behavior of parents and children hold up in these unexpected and stressful conditions?