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It’s probably true that we’ve all been in a situation where someone else’s child is out of line, and they’re either not there or simply not doing anything about it. In fact, it tends to happen a lot around the holidays when we start visiting with family and friends who we don’t see everyday. When faced with this situation, we’re often tempted to scold the child in loco parentis – or, hey, maybe even discipline the negligent parents themselves. After all, we’d never let our kids behave like that. Which is exactly why an article in Newsweek caught my eye recently. In it, Kathleen Deveny lamented just this situation – and claims she still regrets not having taken it upon herself to say something to someone else’s child in a situation or two, rather than buying into what she calls one of society’s “parenting taboos.”
I beg to differ. In my opinion, the only time we should be disciplining another person’s child is when it’s necessary to prevent dangerous and destructive behavior. Otherwise, it’s up to the parents to set their own limits and decide what will be punished and how. Although Deveny points to a time in the mid-20th century where parents felt free to enact community discipline and yell at any and all neighborhood kid behaving inappropriately, families today have wildly different standards. Who’s to say it’s not right for a child to jump in puddles or run through the grocery store? Well, if it’s not your child, then not you.
Parents need to be consistent with their discipline without worrying how other children’s parents are treating their child, and they should feel free to set their own boundaries in their own way. The way they choose to discipline their child is, after all, no one else’s business. No matter how annoying that really loud 4-year-old in your favorite restaurant is.
Deveny also claims that too many parents today are unwilling to discipline their child – and maybe she’s got something there. In this age of spoiling our kids, trying to be their friend, and not teaching them the word ‘no,’ this is a whole different issue. Yet even if it’s the case that we are more lax with our kids than our parents were with us, it still doesn’t give someone else the right to decide what’s appropriate for our child.
And while we’ve all been in that situation where we have to bite our tongue instead of saying whatever it is we’d like to say to the offending child, many of us have also been nearby when another adult reprimanded our kid – and we probably had a few choice words in mind then, too.
What do you do when baby comes home, you quit going to the gym, and several years later you still have yet to lose the baby weight? According to a recent article in The Washington Times, the solution for time-pressed yet exercise-deprived parents is to make fitness a family project.
Lots of gyms and fitness centers have already thought of this, which led to the creation of numerous family fitness programs and even brand new fitness centers dedicated to allowing families the opportunity to get moving together. Parents and their children of all ages can take part in a variety of family-friendly classes ranging from swimming to jogging to dance. Yet club memberships or trips to the gym aren’t the only way to get your family in shape.
In fact, the article suggests simply just getting outside and moving around – a novel idea by today’s standards, where busy schedules and video games often prevent families from engaging in any kind of physical play. Yet playing games in the backyard not only helps squeeze in a fun and easy fitness routine for the day, but it gets kids off the couch and active, creates a positive impression of physical activity, relieves stress, and nurtures family bonding time.
It might come as a shock to some that, after all of the fad diets and expensive exercise equipment, experts are now suggesting we go back to Red Rover, Kick the Can, tag, and ball tosses. It took a long time – and a lot of failed diets along the way – but it seems we are now rediscovering the obvious. An afternoon outside can do wonders for the waistline – not to mention the family.
So grab the kids and head outside for a few games from your own childhood – while the weather still permits. And, hey, after all that running around maybe you won’t feel so bad about indulging during the holidays.
Sometimes walking down an aisle of video games can be dizzying. How do we choose from an ever-growing selection of titles, hoping our children will like it, but also worrying whether or not it is appropriate for their age? It isn’t the fact that our kids play video games; but a bigger concern is with what games they play. With a busy Mom’s schedule, we don’t have time to watch or read about every game out there to make sure it is a safe and fun pick for our children.
That is why, just like videos, ESRB (the Entertainment Software Rating Board) has developed a trusted system to rate each game. Since video games are no longer being made “just for kids” (what happen to Pac Man?!), we as parents have to be more aware of the content that is in a given game. In addition, ESRB is beginning to give parents instructions on how to stop their child from reaching certain adult-themed levels of a game through their child’s gaming systems.
ESRB has surveyed parents and learned that when we are aware of the different ratings, and what they mean, we are more likely to check them before making a purchase. We know we want our children to steer away from violent games, but sometimes just the cover (that cute bunny doesn’t just hop around!) doesn’t give enough information.
ESRB ratings have been assigned to computer and video games since 1994 and appear on the packaging for virtually every game sold in the U.S. and Canada. There are six rating categories ranging from eC (early childhood) to AO (adults only) and appear on the back of the package with accompanying details regarding any elements that may trigger concern.
Beyond the ratings, websites have more information to help us make better decisions before we even get to the video game aisle, including trailers, screen shots, and interactive demonstrations.
Sometimes, even when we think a game is safe for our child, there may be levels in the game that introduce them to more violence than we want them to see. For this reason, ESRB is now giving parents access to web sites that offer instructions on how to adjust different types of gaming systems in order to introduce parental controls.
For example, the Xbox website lists information on such safeguards as from how to make sure your child is not participating in video communication with other gamers he doesn’t know personally to controlling the level content they are allowed to play in certain games. ESRB makes it easier for parents to find and link to these pages and become a step ahead of their child’s video game playing.
Although, no amount of remote control beats sitting down with your child and playing the games with him ESRB makes it easier to ensure appropriate games are played when you cannot be there.
Good news for all those parents whose heart breaks every time they drop their kids off at daycare or leave them with a nanny and head off to work. According to a GfK Roper Consulting survey, kids claim to be much less affected by working parents than we tend to think they are. Which, at the very least, should relieve some of that maternal guilt.
These findings contradict every message we have heard on the subject recently, and probably our own personal beliefs as well. Every mother who works knows how difficult it is to be away from her children during the day – and often worries about what she or her kids are missing out on as a result. Which makes that decision whether or not to return to work all the more difficult after baby is born. Moms worry their kids are being short-changed as they try to balance their responsibilities, too often feeling like they’re not giving either job their full attention.
But while we’re feeling guilty, it seems kids are satisfied. According to Business Week, the survey showed that the kids polled (who were all between the ages of 8 and 17) are as content to have both parents work as they are to have one parent who stays home full-time. And not only does having two working parents create positive role models for kids, they’re really not feeling deprived at all.
Now don’t let these results make you think that we are neglecting our kids, or that they’re simply used to having parents out of the house and are happy to entertain themselves. The study also found that the amount of time parents are spending with their kids on average is up even in the past five years – now almost 31 hours a week. Whether this is due to more understanding and flexible companies or simply more working parents dedicated to making the time for their kids, it’s good news for everyone.
So stop feeling so guilty; the kids are fine whether you work or stay home. If we’re lucky, maybe this will help put an end to those Mommy Wars.
I recently came across yet another article about the ongoing vaccination debates of late, and was, once again, struck by the absurdity of such controversy. Amidst rumors of autism, refusals to get the chicken pox vaccine, and even reported dangers of cold medications, this topic is becoming as heated as whether or not to breastfeed or stay home from work.
It’s becoming increasingly clear that people simply don’t trust doctors anymore. With the widespread and frequent use of online medical sites like WebMD enabling (often flawed) self-diagnoses and books advertising ever more rigorous and fanatical forms of healthy living, mothers no longer take pediatricians at their word. In fact, moms are taking their kids for second, third, even fourth opinions, and writing off doctors who recommend vaccinations.
What happened to the days when we were grateful?? Not to say that educating yourself on issues you find important is bad. But there was a time when mothers trusted doctors – who are trained to answer their questions and make suggestions based on their expert opinions (whether you agree with them or not). Yet the mere suggestion of the flu shot now brings moms to arms in doctors’ offices across the country.
Although polio has been widely eradicated in the Western world, a boycott of the polio vaccine in Africa by parents worried that the shot could contain harmful chemicals recently led to outbreaks in over a dozen countries. Which could, conceivably, happen in the US as well. And although many parents believe that their children won’t get sick, especially if they’re not yet in school, there’s no way to ensure kids are safe if you choose not to vaccinate.
The debate has been greatly intensified lately by reports about links between the MMR shot and autism, although scientific evidence thus far has not proven a cause and effect relationship between the two, and any correlation may simply come from the fact that the age the vaccine is given corresponds pretty directly with the age that the first symptoms of autism become apparent, leading many to draw mistaken conclusions.
Still, despite scientific studies and the advice of pediatricians, when it comes to choosing whether or not to vaccinate, many parents claim they’d rather be safe than sorry. But, knowing what could happen without vaccines, what decision is safer in this case? Yet, regardless of any and all reports favoring either side of the issue, without a question the debate will rage on.
Move over, Angelina! A woman from Chelmsford, MA who recently celebrated her 90th birthday, looked back over her long and happy life, the highlight of which was raising 155 children. Jane Cryan, who has five biological children, along with 18 grandchildren and 6 great-grandchildren, also spent over 30 years taking in foster kids – 150 total.
It takes a special person to be a foster parent, and Jane clearly had love to share. While many parents can’t imagine handling more than the 2 or 3 kids they already have, Jane found the patience and care necessary to help as many children as she could.
Jane and her husband took in a variety of troubled or abandoned kids, from a confused 17-year-old to four-year-old triplets to impressionable infants, and everything in between. And they have a lot of happy memories to show for it – including big group meals, family chores made fun when disguised as games with numerous participants, and always-crowded bedrooms full of makeshift beds. Some children stayed only days, while others remained in the house for years., but the Cryans always considered themselves lucky to be able to have an effect on the children’s lives, no matter how much time they spent with them.
Although they are now grown and long gone, Jane is in contact with many of her former foster children, and she hopes above all that she has taught them love, compassion, and respect. For their part, Jane’s five kids, who enjoyed having so many playmates around, believe she did just that. After all, if anyone could be a role model for love and compassion, Jane is that person.
Although she admits that not only were there never any dull moments around their house, Jane also says it was never quiet either. Yet she managed to pack a lot of life into her 90 years – and that’s something to be grateful for.
According to a recent article out of England, moms are no longer just worried about the marketing aimed at their kids – they’re also worried about the commercials and ads being aimed at them.
Although moms make the majority of purchasing decisions for their homes, about everything to cars to house cleaning products to clothes, a study of over 1000 mothers proved that advertisers are missing the mark. Not only did half of the women surveyed disagree that advertisers were targeting them well, over 80% of moms also said that marketers clearly don’t understand moms’ interests, values, or motivations.
Although women have made a variety of great strides in the last several decades, it seems advertisements haven’t been keeping up. Many mothers believe that advertisers are portraying women solely as housewives interested only in babies, products for cooking and cleaning, and their looks. Advertisers also don’t seem to realize that moms vary across important spectrums – including job status, ages of their kids, backgrounds, and interests. Rather, marketers see “mom” as a single defining factor and pigeonhole the group based on stereotypes about what that means. Obviously, in the advertising world, ideas about motherhood lag far behind society.
The moms in the survey also expressed annoyance with the recent increase in “celebrity mom” advertisements, such as ads featuring Nicole Kidman or Victoria Beckham. Although moms may like the stars featured in ads, few aspire to imitate celebrity parents, the result of which is ineffective advertising.
So why, when moms make up such an important audience, are advertisers so off base? The experts think it has to do with the advertising companies themselves – most of which employ many more men than women. Even when the products are ones that will appeal to moms, these companies often don’t understand why women make the purchases they do. For that reason, most moms preferred brands that weren’t stereotypically targeting mothers.
With the holiday season upcoming, companies will likely be struggling to reach moms through a variety of new advertisements, and only time will tell whether they continue to miss the mark.
Bye-bye baby cold meds; it’s back to Grandma we go. With the recent withdrawal of many baby medicines from stores, parents are at a loss to find new ways to treat their sick infants, thus leading many back to the natural remedies touted by grandmas everywhere for generations.
Oral cold and cough medicines for the under-2 age group, including many by Tylenol, PediaCare, and Triaminic, were pulled from shelves earlier this month due to reports of misuse, leading to overdose, although the products are claimed to be safe when used correctly. This tends to be tricky when it comes to the youngest children though, as many of the medicines claim to be safe for children under 2 but don’t list appropriate doses which have been tested.
The latest reports, however, suggest that the FDA might be banning all cold medicines for kids under the age of 6. This recent news comes in response to studies showing that these medications may be dangerous and often don’t even work. Which is not only scary, but difficult for parents as well. Better safe than sorry, sure, but millions of parents are left not knowing what to do instead – especially when no medicine means their child is up crying at 3 am.
So here we go back to those natural remedies – bundling, plenty of fluids, warm baths, humidifiers, vitamins, and so forth. Things that may not solve the problem the way meds would, and might mean a bad night’s sleep for everyone, but they at least guarantee your kid is safe.
Clearly, the upcoming cold season will be more challenging than ever before. At least moms know they can always rely on some sympathy, a good snuggle, and a big bowl of ice cream. And, if all else fails, send the sick kids to Grandma. She knows best, after all.
With a recent segment, 20/20 became the latest of the national media outlets to draw attention to child prodigies. Three children were featured on the show, including Adrian Aivaliotis, a 3-year-old from Connecticut who knows all US state and most world capitals. Besides his extraordinary memory, Adrian can also recognize certain musical pieces and paintings and was learning to spell difficult words by the time he was two.
So…what doesn’t this 3 year-old know?? Does remembering the capital of Burkina Faso mean he’s the next nuclear scientist? Or does it mean, perhaps, that this kid, despite his obvious talents, isn’t spending enough time reading stories, playing with other kids, building blocks, or watching Blues Clues? (The answer is Ouagadougo, by the way, although most people would probably be impressed if you even recognized the country.)
This isn’t the first story on child prodigies, but with each one I dislike the attention this is getting more and more. Although toys, music, videos, and other products meant to increase a kid’s IQ in toddlerhood, as an infant, and even before birth have become an increasingly popular trend, I think we can all agree it’s possible to go too far in trying to create the next Albert Einstein.
Of course, next to the headlines about child prodigies and how to make your child smarter are the ones lamenting the increased stress placed on kids today -- from keeping up test scores to overscheduling extra-curricular activities to hiring professionals to get preschoolers into the most prestigious kindergartens. And with all of this going on, it should really come as no surprise when so many of these ahead-of-the-curve kids burn out from the constant pressure before they even graduate high school. So, basically, no matter how remarkable a child’s talents might be, these stories all say the same thing to me: parents need to let their kids be kids.
This is especially true if that child happens to be a genius, in store for a lifetime of being put on display, being forced to grow up too fast, and dealing with the challenges of being different from his peers. So when the choice comes down to cuddling with your toddler and reading a book on the couch or going over world maps and practicing mathematical equations – the answer should be pretty clear.