Monkey Hear, Monkey Do.

Monkey Hear, Monkey Do.

Babies aren’t born smart; they’re made smart when parents talk to them.  That’s the message of Thirty Million Words by Dana Suskind. The main premise of the book is that each child is born with great potential, but to reach his or her fullest potential, a child has to hear lots of words.  Reaching our fullest potential is strongly determined by what happens to us when our brains are being developed, from birth through about three years of age1. Hearing lots of words during that time promotes brain development and the early connections that are needed for children to prosper.  So to nourish your child’s brain and to help him reach his fullest potential, you simply need to talk, talk, talk.  

Picture courtesy of  John St. John on Flickr

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Balancing Life

Balancing Life

My boss talked to me one day about how best to succeed in our industry.  My boss, like me, was married with children.  She suggested I have someone come in and clean, recommended I find a mentor to help guide my career, and warned that the work-life balance was tough for women because we were missing one thing that most of the men at our level had: stay-at-home wives. I couldn’t really appreciate what she was saying until a few years later.  

Mouse picture by Nebraska Oddfish on Flickr.  

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Helping Parents Navigate The Obstacle Course That Is Childhood

Helping Parents Navigate The Obstacle Course That Is Childhood

Picture yourself as an adventurous kid standing in front of the most stupendous and death-defying obstacle course ever invented.  It’s several stories off the ground with high-flying rope walks, a climbing section with only-somewhat-sturdy rope-ladders, and a 10-foot section with moving wooden planks to traverse. It’s both awesome and terrifying at the same time.  And there’s a guide to ensure your safe completion of the course and to talk you through the rough parts.  You can’t wait to start the course. 

Now imagine your disappointment when your mother shows up, berating the guide about the safety of the course, wrapping the sharp edges and rough spots with bubble-wrap, and demanding you wear a helmet, knee pads, shoulder pads, wrist pads, and every article of thick clothing you have for cushioning in case you fall.  The excitement that once your spirit just a few seconds ago has evaporated. And now you’re probably doubting whether you should try to do the course at all.  The ultimate buzzkill.  

Well, that’s what we as parents are doing to our children’s experience of childhood.  Our overparenting is, in essence, removing all of the sharp edges of being a kid, flattening out what should be rocky terrain, and baby-proofing everything that is, or could be considered, dangerous.   That’s the premise of Jessica Lahey’s book, “The Gift of Failure”.  The book makes the case that this flattening out of the obstacle course that should be childhood is doing a disservice to our children. 

The author states “out of love and desire to protect our children’s self-esteem, we have bulldozed every uncomfortable bump and obstacle out of their way, clearing the manicured path we hoped would lead to success and happiness.  Unfortunately, in doing so, we have deprived our children of the most important lessons of childhood.  The setbacks, mistakes, miscalculations, and failures we have shoved out of our children’s way are the very experiences that teach them how to be resourceful, persistent, innovative, and resilient citizens in this world”.  

The book is a well-written treatise on the pitfalls of helicopter-parenting.  In it, Lahey states “every time we rescue, hover, or otherwise save our children from a challenge, we send a very clear message: that we believe they are incompetent, incapable, and unworthy of our trust.  Further, we teach them to be dependent on us and thereby deny them the very education in competence we are put here on this earth to hand down”.  She advocates not for relinquishing our parental duties, but instead for supporting our children’s autonomy.  Not parenting for our own needs,  but for the long-term success of our children. And it was a compelling read that I highly recommend to all parents, and especially those of middle-schoolers and high-schoolers.  I learned a great deal about myself and about parenting while reading it.  

Picture by Michelle Robinson on Flickr

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How Much Screen Time is Too Much?

How Much Screen Time is Too Much?

We’ve all seen them. Toddlers and small children tethered to iPads and iPhones, staring blankly while watching a television show or swiping furiously across the screen to reach some higher game level.  For me, the question often arises, is there such a thing as too much time on electronic media for small children? What about tweens and teens? Can they get too much t.v. or Instagram? Well, a wealth of studies would lead you to believe that yes, there is such a thing as too much media.  In fact, for children younger than two, all media is too much [2].  And anything more than a little is too much for older children, tweens and teens.  Why? Studies link television, video games, and other media usage to lower test scores, less studying, less sleep, more attention disorders, less reading and a delayed start in reading, delayed vocalization in babies, less interaction with parents, and a lower likelihood of attending college. What’s the best balance?  The scientific answer to that is pretty clear.  Based on these studies, experts recommend that children over two spend no more than one or two hours using electronic media each day, and ideally parents should participate with them.  We should encourage non-media activities and games, especially those that encourage interaction with other people. And we should think twice (or even three times) before putting a television in our children’s bedrooms.  What’s best for your and your family? That’s up to you to decide.  The research is clear, but that doesn’t mean we should be tearing the iPads from our children’s hands.  We all benefit from watching an episode of Modern Family or a game or two of Words With Friends, right?  Ultimately, this blog is meant to be thought-provoking and to elicit discussions about what we can or should use to entertain and pacify our children.  Once you read it, you’ll have a lot to think about. 

Image by ccharmon on Flickr

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Getting Your Head Around Concussions in Soccer

Getting Your Head Around Concussions in Soccer

Concussions.  They’re a big deal in the news these days.  For football playershockey players, and even soccer players.  And especially for young soccer players.  Scary stuff.  And my teenage son is a soccer player.  So I couldn’t resist reigniting this blog with a post about concussions in soccer.   If you’ve asked yourself the question “should I be worried about my son heading the ball”, this post is for you.   We’ll start with some basic facts about the number of injuries and concussions that soccer players actually experience, followed by some information on the positions that are most prone to concussions and why, and end in a summary of what all of this means for you and your family.  I should point out that this post does not go in to depth about the science of concussions, or the long-term damage that they can cause.  This post is focused on answering your questions on the prevalence of concussions, and what you should know to avoid them.  

Image by Kevincure on Flickr

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The Link Between Adversity and Resilience

The Link Between Adversity and Resilience

We’ve probably all been guilty of doing too much for our kids. Getting them iPhones for 5th grade graduation because everyone else has one. Buying them Jordans that cost more than a piece of furniture because their friends are wearing them. Perhaps even not signing them up for that tough math class because we didn’t want them to be “stressed out” and grow to hate school.  But are we doing more harm than good when we keep them comfortable? We’re making them happy in the short-term, but are we raising joyful, hopeful and resilient children? Research sheds some light on the subject, pointing to the fact that low levels of stress during childhood is needed to foster resilience in adults, and that living through stressful experiences leads to less stressed, less anxious, and more confident adults.  In fact, living through stressful moments teaches kids and adults that they can not only cope, but can thrive after facing adversity.  And with that knowledge comes a sense of control and belief in their ability to succeed [16]. But are we letting our children experience adversity? Perhaps we should think more about letting them experience life’s struggles, and perhaps we parent them best when we let them figure their own way out of a problem. It may be time to start kicking our baby birds out of the nest, or at least pushing them towards the edge. Time to let them gain independence, knowing they may fall but they will eventually learn to soar.  It will probably be harder for us than it is for them.   

Image by PleasantPointInn via FlickR

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