Friday, January 30, 2009

So Sexy So Soon

If you’re concerned with effects sexualized media is having on the behavior of young girls and boys, the book So Sexy So Soon can help sort through some of the issues. The authors identify a number of ways media is affecting young children’s views of their bodies and what constitutes appropriate behavior.

They provide numerous examples of behavioral problems occurring in both families and schools due to the sexual images children are frequently exposed to. While they document these problems, they also point to some potential solutions. The book includes various ideas for how parents can help their children navigate the sexualized culture we live in.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

ADHD or a dancer?

This is an interesting story of a mom trying to find help for her fidgeting daughter who was doing poorly in school. It was told by Sir Ken Robinson during a TED talk in February 2006:

“And the third thing about intelligence is that it's distinct. I'm doing a new book at the moment called Epiphany, which is based on a series of interviews with people about how they discovered their talent and actually about how people got to be there. It was really prompted by a conversation I had with a wonderful woman who most people have never heard of; she’s called Gillian Lynne. … She's a choreographer, and everybody knows her work. She did Cats and Phantom of the Opera. …

Gillian and I had lunch one day, and I said, "How did you get to be a dancer?" She said it was interesting. When she was at school, she was really hopeless. And the school in the 30’s wrote to her parents and said, "We think Gillian has a learning disorder." She couldn’t concentrate; she was fidgeting. I think now they'd say she had ADHD. Wouldn’t you? But this was the 1930s, and ADHD hadn't been invented at this point. It wasn't an available condition. People weren't aware they could have that.

Anyway, she went to see this specialist … She sat on her hands for twenty minutes while this man talked to her mother about all the problems Gillian was having at school. … In the end, the doctor went and sat next to Gillian and said, "Gillian, I've listened to all these things that your mother's told me. I need now to speak to her privately. Wait here; we'll be back. We won't be very long." And they went and left her.

As they went out of the room, he turned on the radio sitting on his desk. When they got out of the room, he said to her mother, "Just stand and watch her." The minute they left the room, she said she was on her feet, moving to the music. They watched for a few minutes, and he turned to her mother and said, "You know, Mrs. Lynne, Gillian isn't sick. She's a dancer. Take her to a dance school."

I said "What happened?" and she said, "She did. I can't tell you how wonderful it was. We walked into this room, and it was full of people like me: people who couldn’t sit still, people who had to move to think." … She was eventually auditioned for the Royal Ballet School; she became a soloist; she had a wonderful career at the Royal Ballet. She eventually graduated from the Royal Ballet School and found her own company, the Gillian Lynne Dance Company and met Andrew Lloyd Webber. She's been responsible for some of the most successful musical theater productions in history; she's given pleasure to millions, and she's a multimillionaire. Somebody else might have put her on medication and told her to calm down.

You can view his entire twenty minute talk, “Do schools kill creativity?” (this story starts about 15 minutes into the talk).

Monday, January 26, 2009

Putting the screaming baby down

A mom was pushing her baby in a stroller and telling her friend that yesterday she just couldn’t take his crying any more. She decided to put him in his crib and take some time to regain herself. Once she was able to get a few minutes to herself, she was able to pick him up from the crib and once again try to soothe him.

Babies who cry inconsolably can push even the most patient parents to their limit. This mom made an excellent choice in putting the baby down. The baby was safe in his crib (not happy but certainly safe) and mom could get time to regroup. Parents are wise to take care of their own basic needs so that they have the strength to meet their children’s needs.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Postponing the most important things

As parents our days can easily be filled to overflowing with all the tasks that are required to keep our families running: making meals, doing dishes, driving kids to activities, washing clothes and working. These are certainly not the most important things in our lives but they can quickly take over our most of our time. It’s easy to say things like:
  • “I’ll play a game with the kids tomorrow.”
  • “We’ll go for a bike ride together soon.”
  • “I’ll volunteer when I have more time.”
The things that are the most important to us are also often the ones that are the easiest to postpone. The problem is that sometimes we delay so long that we miss the opportunity. Our children will not want to have a tea party or play catch with us forever. They quickly grow up. If we want to share special times with our children, we must intentionally carve out the time to do these things.

Everyone’s life will come to an end and we don’t know when that will be. At the end of your life, what do you want your children to remember about you? Certainly I don’t want my kids’ strongest memory to be “Mom always kept the bathrooms really clean!” However, if I want my kids to remember special times we shared together, then I need to take time today to play with them, listen to them and be there for them.

Carving out time for the truly important things isn’t easy but it’s worth the effort. Let the bathroom stay dirty one more day and enjoy having fun with your children today!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Class of a Lifetime

Christine Hohlbaum, author of S.A.H.M. I Am: Tales of a Stay-at-Home Mom in Europe, recently reviewed the Priceless Parenting course. In her review titled "The Class of a Lifetime" she wrote about trying out some of the new ideas with her kids:

“It comes down to this: speaking in 'I' statements while telling our kids what we are going to do, alleviates common power struggles virtually immediately. I tested it out on my seven and nine-year-old. It was amazing! Instead of shouting "Get your shoes on!" while trying to get out the door, I said, "I will be in the car if you are looking for me." Or this: "I see the struggle here. What are you going to do?" Leaving the problem up to the kid while showing interest is the key to raising independent thinkers.

I highly recommend this course. To quote Obama in his Inaugural address: "We will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist."

Parenting needn't be a tug-of-war. With love, compassion and effective communication, we can reach common ground. Together.”

You can try out the first lesson in this online parenting class for free.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Hopes and dreams

Today we remember and honor Martin Luther King. In his famous “I Have a Dream” address King stated one of the dreams he had for his children, “I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” He lived his life working to bring that dream to reality.

Being a parent can inspire us to be our best possible selves for the sake of our children. As Barack Obama prepares to become President of the United States, he wrote a letter to his young daughters describing why he decided to run for this office. In his letter he explains “And I realized that my own life wouldn't count for much unless I was able to ensure that you had every opportunity for happiness and fulfillment in yours.” He is working hard to ensure his daughters have those opportunities.

What hopes and dreams do you have for your children? When our children inspire us to dream big, we can often find unrealized strength and persistence to work towards fulfilling those dreams.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Practice Makes Better

I much prefer the saying “practice makes better” to “practice makes perfect” especially when it comes to parenting. There are no perfect parents and trying to achieve some type of perfection often leads to feeling insufficient as a parent. However, we can all improve our parenting by practicing skills that have been proven to work well in raising responsible, respectful children.

Developing great parenting habits takes plenty of practice … and your kids are ready to give you just the practice you need! How can you learn these parenting skills? Taking the Priceless Parenting class is one great way to discover these proven techniques and the homework at the end of every lesson provides many practice opportunities! Practicing these effective parenting skills will help those skills become a solid part of your parenting habits.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Making and Breaking Promises

“But you promised!” It’s easy to misinterpret a statement as a promise when no promise was intended. Being intentional about what is a promise and what is not can be helpful in avoiding misunderstandings. When you make a promise, it is important to follow through with what you promised.

I attended a seminar recently where the leader asked us to think back to a situation from our childhood where someone broke a promise to us. Each of us was able to vividly remember a situation; it was amazing how much emotion was still attached to these incidents so many years later.

I remembered being promised by my friend’s aunt to be driven up to a lake cabin where my friend was spending a couple weeks in the summer. The aunt cancelled going the day before we were supposed to leave; I was crushed.

One 50-year-old woman recalled being at a pool and being afraid of going down the slide. Her dad was in the water and promised her that he would catch her. However, when she came sliding down, he didn’t catch her. She popped right up after being under water and reasoned that her dad probably just wanted her to learn that she could do it. She clearly remembers that broken promise and her feelings of being deceived.

How do we feel when promises are broken? We often feel betrayed and let down. A broken promise affects our ability to trust that person in the future. Given the significance of promises, it is really important that we only make promises to our children that we are confident we can keep.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Unhappy teens from privileged families

I recently read The Price of Privilege: How Parental Pressure and Material Advantage Are Creating a Generation of Disconnected and Unhappy Kids by Madeline Levine. Levine is a clinical psychologist who has spent the past 25 years working with many teens from upper-middle-class families. Although these teens are often smart and talented, meeting their parent’s academic and athletic expectations, they are also often feeling depressed, anxious and empty.

Levine writes that researchers have found that “children of privilege are exhibiting unexpectedly high rates of emotional problems beginning in junior high school and accelerating through adolescence.” She reports “… two factors repeatedly emerge as contributing to their high levels of emotional problems. The first is achievement pressure and the second is isolation from parents. While achievement pressure and isolation from parents appear to be mutually exclusive (somebody has to be putting the pressure on), they are not. In fact, achievement pressure often comes from parents who are overinvolved in how well their children perform and inadequately involved in monitoring these same children in other areas.”

Pulling information from both research and her own clinical cases, Levine does an excellent job supporting her points with real life examples. The Price of Privilege book provides insight and guidance for parents from any economic status who want to support their children in developing into emotionally healthy adults.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Children Shooting Guns

Children and guns are a dangerous combination. On Tuesday an angry 4-year-old Ohio boy got a gun out of a closet and shot his baby sitter. Luckily the baby sitter will recover. What is especially disturbing about this story is that it wasn’t an accident. This preschooler knew both the location of the gun and how to use it.

Another gun tragedy involving a 4-year-old occurred last June when a South Carolina girl shot herself in the chest. This occurred when she took a gun out of her grandmother’s purse during a shopping trip at Sam’s Club.

In November an 8-year-old Arizona boy killed his father and another man using a .22-caliber rifle. His father had taught him how to shoot a gun to kill prairie dogs. Apparently the boy kept a tally of his spankings and had decided that the 1,000th spanking would be the last.

Clearly this 8-year-old boy learned to shoot a gun quite well. While parents can certainly teach their children to shoot guns at a young age, their brains are not sufficiently developed to handle decisions around appropriately using guns.

While most parents would agree that teaching preschoolers to shoot guns is too young, when can a child safely learn to shoot a gun? Recent research has shown that it takes about 25 years for a person’s brain to fully develop. The part of the brain that controls reasoning and impulses is the last to develop. We know teenagers and young adults can have difficulty controlling their emotions and impulsive behaviors. Unfortunately, upset teens with access to guns may lead to deadly results.

Many U.S. children have access to guns since about 35% of U.S. households have guns. Guns in the hands of children and young adults put all our children at risk. It’s time to figure out a better way to handle guns so that these types of tragedies stop.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Spending time together

Being able to spend fun times together with our children is part of what makes being a parent so rewarding. We just returned from a six day trip to Leavenworth, a Bavarian town in the mountains a couple hours from Seattle. Our trip was extended an extra day when we were snowed in because all the mountain passes were closed due to avalanche danger. We’ve had a lot of snow this year!

We’ve been going on this yearly trip for the past 12 years with another family. It’s a special time we spend together cross country skiing, sledding, hot tubbing, playing games and of course eating. My children are now 16 and 13; they happily anticipate spending New Year’s Eve in Leavenworth each year. After being home for a day, my 16-year-old daughter wistfully said she already missed being together as a family in Leavenworth.

Although we don’t have a large home, upon arriving home we each quickly go our separate ways for much of the day … busily putting away gear, washing clothes and taking care of many other tasks. When we’re in Leavenworth, the time is magical because we focus completely on doing fun things together. There are no chores, no school work and very few worries. Being able to spend special time together as a family is truly priceless!

Friday, January 2, 2009

Monsters under the bed

Night time fears are common in young children. Children may have trouble calming down at bedtime due to fears like finding a monster under the bed. Although these fears may seem ridiculous to adults, they can be very real to young children.

If your child expresses a fear like this, it’s important to acknowledge the fear by saying something like “I can see that you are really worried about this.” Instead of overreacting and spending a lot of time discussing the monster, find ways to solve the problem:
  • Leaving a nightlight on
  • Using "monster spray" (pretend bottle or a real one filled with water)
  • Checking under the bed
It can also help to discuss the fear with the child a few hours before bedtime. Then when the fear is brought up at bedtime, you can remind the child about what you discussed and how you decided to handle it. You can then calmly do whatever you planned like check under the bed and reassure your child all is well. Hopefully everyone will then have a good night’s sleep!