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Are We There Yet?

Archive for February 2009

Intentional Parenting — and an essay contest

I had to share this contest with you — not only because the prize includes a $100 spa gift certificate and one-night’s stay at the Hotel Lusso, but also because the essay topic is a good one.

Unfortunately, it’s not open to everyone. First, you have to be a mom or dad with at least one kid under the age of 10. Second, you have to be a Gonzaga alum to enter, but there’s plenty of you out there in the Spokane-Coeur d’Alene area. So here it is…

The Little Zag Committee of the Spokane Alumni Chapter is wondering how the values you learned from your Gonzaga education helped shape your philosophy as a parent. So they’re asking you to write a one- to two-page essay with the overall thesis of: “I am an Intentional Gonzaga Parent because I have used (blank) from my education at GU to teach my children (blank).”

The committee suggested parents examine issues that include diversity, world view, teamwork and cooperation. If you want more information, e-mail amyjowalker@comcast.net. The contest deadline is April 3.

So for the rest of you who didn’t attend Gonzaga… How did the values you learned at your school (high school, college, university) influence the way you parent today?

The Influence of Peers

Kids don’t really listen to parents, according to Judith Rich Harris, author of the “The Nurture Assumption: Why Children Turn Out the Way They Do.” Instead, it’s all about their peers.

In “Why Parents (Still) Don’t Matter,” TIME recently interviewed Harris, whose book caused a bit of controversy when it was first published 10 years ago. Harris insists that parents cannot make their children “good” people. Children’s morals and attitudes, she argues, are actually shaped by the culture and the company they keep.

“One of the things children have to do while they’re growing up is to find out what kind of people they are,” Harris told TIME.  “Am I smart or dull? Pretty or plain? Strong or weak? They find out the answers by comparing themselves to their peers. And they put this knowledge to good use. They find out what they’re good at and concentrate on that, and give up competing in contests they are sure to lose. They try out for leadership, for example, by finding out whether other kids are willing to follow them. Research has shown that boys who are taller than their peers in adolescence tend to have more dominant, self-assured personalities in adulthood. On average, they earn higher salaries in adulthood, even though the others may have caught up to them in height.”

Although they lack influence on their children’s lives, the role of the parent is to provide their kids a “happy home,” Harris said. “Aside from that, there are other things parents can do, such as providing training in music or sports. Parents have some ability to decide where they will live and where their children will go to school. Some schools have an atmosphere that is more favorable to academic achievement.”

I’m not sure if I agree with that, although my children are so young right now that I don’t have much experience to base an opinion. It’s a theory that doesn’t make much sense to me, nor does it give me any hope or incentive to become a better parent. How about you? Do you think kids tend to listen to their friends instead of their parents? If you disagree with Harris, what can parents do to help their kids become “good” people? 

 

 

A conversation about math and science

Laurie Rogers, one of the original members of the newspaper’s Parents’ Council, asked me to post the following on the blog:
Spokane’s school board is hosting a “Coffee and Conversation” at Ferris High School library, 3020 E. 37th Avenue, on Wednesday, Feb. 25, 6-6:50 p.m., prior to its regular 7 p.m. board meeting.
I’m asking you to go at 6 p.m. and ask for a more traditional mathematics and science curricula.
The math and science WASLs are routinely criticized as being weak indicators of the skills needed for postsecondary life. Yet, in 2008, barely more than half of Spokane’s public-school students passed the 6th and 7th-grade math tests. Fewer than half passed the 8th and 10th-grade math tests. Fewer than half in any grade passed the science tests.
About a third of Spokanes high school students are likely to drop out before graduation. Of the graduates who choose college, about half will need four to six classes of remedial math (which can’t be taken concurrently). When they decide math isn’t for them, the door will slam shut on multiple careers, including engineering, medicine, technology, law and business. This will be a cold shock to their parents, who watched them get “A”s in “Honors Math” and Advanced Placement math classes.

You can contact Laurie directly at wlroge@comcast.net or share your opinions on this blog.

Friends without kids

As each year goes by, I find myself losing touch with friends who don’t have children.

This makes me sad, especially since some of these people have been part of my life for a long time. But I find that my world has become so vastly different from theirs. Parenthood transforms us – we not only have less time to spend with friends given the demands of rearing kids; our priorities also change. Sometimes, we just don’t have as much in common with people whose lives aren’t governed by naptimes, breastfeeding and dilemmas such as disposable or cloth.

My life is also a lot less interesting to some of my friends without kids. I don’t have time to go to the movies or watch TV; I go out for drinks maybe once every few months; I can’t deal with drama, except the kind that involves tantrums in public places.

I think I have many interests besides my children, but it’s fair to say that many of my activities usually involve other families.

How about you? Do you still have friends without children? Do you have any advice to help maintain friendships with people who don’t have kids?

Car seat check this Saturday

In light of the current Spokane County Superior Court case involving a Post Falls mother charged with vehicular homicide for not properly installing her 2-month-old’s car seat (which led to her daughter’s death in a car accident three years ago), here’s an opportunity for families to learn more about car seat safety:

A team of nationally certified technicians will be providing free car seat checks and information on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Spokane Regional Health District, 1101 W. College Ave.

Unlike other events sponsored by the Spokane County Child Passenger Safety Team, this one is by appointment only. Please call (509) 324-1530.

When Feelings Hurt

My youngest son had a half-day today. When he climbed into the car he started crying quietly. “I had a bad day,” he said.

“What happened? Did you get in trouble?”

“No,” he sniffed, and cried harder.

“Did someone hurt your feelings?”

“Yes!” he sobbed. “I don’t wanna talk about it!”

We were quiet for a bit. “Would a Happy Meal help you feel better?”

“Yeah, I think so,” he said.

As we pulled out of the drive-thru I asked him if he wanted to talk about what happened, or if he was getting over it. “I’m getting over it,” he replied.

When we got home he gave me a big hug and kiss. “Thanks, Mom.”

How do you handle it when your kids get their feelings hurt?

Day care in Idaho

I just don’t get it. Why has it taken so long for lawmakers in Idaho to vote for a bill that requires criminal background checks for day cares in their state?

According to Betsy Z. Russell’s story earlier this week, legislators have been striking down the day-care bill for the past five years.

It was back this week in Boise. “The measure would require licensing of all day-care operations that care for four or more unrelated children. It would set minimum standards including criminal background checks, health and fire safety inspections, and child-staff ratios,” Betsy wrote.

Why wouldn’t responsible people vote for something that promotes kids’ safety? According to Betsy’s story, several members of the House voted against it two years ago because they believe moms should stay at home with kids.

I’m not sure whether to laugh or cry in response. Women have every right to a job as men. (And why don’t they think dads can stay at home, too?)  For those of us who would like to spend more time with our children, it’s not always possible to survive on just one income. With the decline in the economy coupled with rising insurance costs, it seems that parents have no choice but to both work outside the home in order to make ends meet.

 What are your thoughts on this issue?

How gesturing can build your child’s vocabulary

Parents who point and move their hands and bodies when they talk are doing more than simply communicating with their kids. According to research by two University of Chicago psychologists, they’re also building their children’s vocabulary.

In a recent Chicago Tribune story, “U. of C. study finds children knows more words when parents use gestures,” reporter Robert Mitchum focused on a study of 50 families. The research concluded that children who gesture more at 14 months – as a result of having parents who gesture – end up with larger vocabularies when they start school. Mitchum also interviewed speech pathologist Denise Boggs, who noted that gesturing enables kids to communicate long before they are able to speak.

The article reminded me of our efforts to teach our children sign language when they were toddlers. We weren’t very consistent, but my kids learned the signs for simple words such as “more” and “all done.” It’s too soon for me to assess how much it has helped their vocabulary, but I do think it helped give them a “voice” by providing another method to express their feelings.

What do you think about this study? Based on your family’s experience, do you think there’s a correlation between gesturing and building a child’s vocabulary? Did you teach sign language to your kids?

Date night

 With meals to cook, a house to clean, kids to care for on top of a career and other obligations, it’s sometimes hard for moms and dads to get any alone time together. Gone are the days when you could leave for a romantic getaway on the spur of the moment. Even the logistics of arranging dinner and a movie can sometimes be too much work.

Making time for your spouse, however, should remain a priority. “One thing that is often not realized by parents is that a happy and harmonious marriage is one of the greatest gifts they can give to their children,” Dr. Margaret Paul, a marriage and relationships expert, wrote in an article, “Kid Time and Couple Time.” “Most children will gladly spend less time with their parents when they know that some of the time being spent away from them is about creating and maintaining a loving relationship between their parents.”

I know couples who schedule a regular date time every other week. Some have even gone on romantic getaways without their children. But I also know parents who are burdened with guilt, who often feel bad whenever they have to leave the kids behind.

What do you do to make sure you and your spouse get enough couple time?

Kissing

I drive my nine-year-old son to school every day. Each morning as he prepares to get out of the car he leans forward and plants a big kiss on my cheek. “Bye, Mom,” he says.

“Have a good day. I’ll see you after school,” I reply.

Since he’s my fourth son, I savor this little morning ritual, because I know what comes next. Somewhere between 4th and 6th grade the goodbye kisses will end. He’ll have more on his mind as he leaves for school than saying goodbye to his Mom, and besides, what if one of his friends should catch him?

Thankfully, goodnight kisses in my experience last into the early teen years before they too taper off.

How about you? Do your children still kiss you goodbye? Do you have leave-taking rituals?

“Friending” your kids on Facebook

I confess: I have a mild addiction to Facebook. It hasn’t taken over my life but it does take up my time. Instead of working, I find myself taking a quick peek and checking on my friends’ status updates. Before I realize it, I’ve been on Facebook for at least half an hour – reading witty comments from old pals and trying to come up with something equally compelling to share.

While it’s a way for me to catch up with friends, some parents actually use Facebook as a tool to keep track of their kids, according to a story in the San Jose Mercury News, “Don’t worry, kids, Stanford will teach Mom, Dad about Facebook.”

The four-part lecture series at Stanford University is already full, according to the article. It also includes a lab for parents to get one-on-one Facebook tutoring.

They don’t necessarily see it as spying on their kids, experts say. Facebook and other social networking sites have simply become “a new form of dinner table conversation.”

Some teens, however, are mortified by the idea of having their moms and dads on Facebook. “Some kids say that a “friend” request from parent is like discovering Dad at your beer pong game,” according to the story. “Or bumping into Mom in the dressing room of Forever 21.”

Are you on Facebook? Do you “friend” your kids? Do they accept your friend request? What do you think about Facebook becoming “a new form of dinner table conversation”?

Wimpy kids?

American parents tend to coddle their children, according to Hara Estroff Marano, an editor at Psychology Today and author of “A Nation of Wimps: The High Cost of Invasive Parenting.” They don’t want their kids to ever feel bad, she wrote. They become over-involved and will do everything to prevent them from failing.

In her book she writes: “Behold the wholly sanitized childhood, without skinned knees or the occasional C in history! Kids need to learn that you need to feel bad sometimes. We learn through experience, and we learn especially through bad experiences. Through disappointment and failure we learn how to cope.”

In an interview with TIME magazine last summer, she offered this advice to parents:

  1. Back off and give kids the leeway to try things and demonstrate competence.
  2. Let kids play freely without monitoring.
  3. Eat dinner together at least five nights a week.

What do you think? Are we really raising a nation of wimps?

Actual parental threat overheard at the supermarket just now

“Do you want me to take you out to the car without your chicken?!?”

Mother Charged in Infant’s Death

Police say mother installed baby’s seat improperly

Jody Lawrence-Turner
Staff writer

Spokane County prosecutors charged a Post Falls woman with vehicular homicide Tuesday in the death of her infant daughter, who was severely injured by a car’s airbag while riding in a rear-facing car seat in Spokane.

If convicted, it could be the first time in Washington a parent has been held accountable for the death of a child stemming from an improperly installed car seat, prosecutors and police say.

http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2009/feb/04/car-seat-death-leads-to-charge/

How diligent are you about the use and placement of infant car seats?
Do you feel these charges are appropriate?

 

The economy and the mental health of families

A growing number of families have hit a crisis point, according to this recent USA Today story, “As economic fears rise, families on verge of unraveling.”

Parents are suffering from stress and sometimes can’t cope with economic uncertainty, experts say. The worst-case scenario happened in Los Angeles late last month, when Ervin Lupoe became so depressed about losing his job that he killed his wife and five children before taking his own life, according to CNN and other news reports.

In the last few months, more Americans have turned to therapists, according to the USA Today story. Domestic violence and suicide hotlines also have reported increased calls.

It’s not just the parents who have lost their jobs, therapists say. People who are still working also experience anxiety because they don’t know if they’ll be able to hang on to what they have. Inevitably, children begin to share their parents’ worries and burdens.

Around Christmas time, we had a discussion about the need for transparency – how families can benefit when parents can discuss problems with money and talk to kids about the economy and their fears. But even then, some parents have a hard time reassuring their children – simply because they themselves don’t know if things will be OK.

Besides just talking about it and perhaps coming up with a savings plan, what else can families do to keep it together during these tough economic times?

“Dirt don’t hurt”

In fact, it might even be healthy. In “Babies Know: A Little Dirt is Good for You,” Jane E. Brody of The New York Times wrote about the “hygiene hypothesis.”

Basically, the theory suggests that we are too clean for our own good. Since we have a tendency to avoid dirt, which contains bacteria, viruses and worms, we are no longer able to fight off diseases and have become more prone to allergies, asthma and autoimmune disorders.

In her article, Brody quoted Mary Ruebush, a microbiology and immunology instructor and the author of “Why Dirt is Good: 5 Ways to Make Germs Your Friends.”  Ruebush wrote: “What a child is doing when he puts things in his mouth is allowing his immune response to explore his environment. Not only does this allow for ‘practice’ of immune responses, which will be necessary for protection, but it also plays a critical role in teaching the immature immune response what is best ignored.”

The article also quotes two doctors, who noted that children who grow up on farms and are much less likely to develop allergies and autoimmune diseases. These doctors also suggested it’s good for kids to have pets so that they will be exposed to worms that can promote a healthy immune system.

What do you think of the “hygiene hypothesis’? How much dirt exposure is acceptable to you?

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This blog is intended to provide a forum for parents to share knowledge and resources. It's a place for parents young and old to combine their experiences raising families into a collective whole to help others.

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