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Why Mentally Strong Parents Let Their Kids Fight Their Own Battles

Posted: Fri, 09/22/2017 - 16:08

Sheltering your children might do them more harm than good. 


CREDIT: Getty Images


The following is an excerpt from the book 13 THINGS MENTALLY STRONG PARENTS DON’T DO: Raising Self-Assured Children and Training Their Brains for a Life of Happiness, Meaning, and Success by Amy Morin. Copyright © 2017 by Amy Morin.  On sale September 19 from William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. Reprinted by permission.

When animals are born and raised in captivity they aren’t usually released into the wild. Biologists say letting these animals fend for themselves is cruel, because they lack the life skills they need to survive on their own.

But that’s what many parents do to their kids. They do everything for their children and their kids grow up unprepared for the rigors of adulthood. They lack the skills necessary to succeed in college, the military, or a job. That’s why we’re seeing another disturbing trend--parents becoming overly involved in their adult children’s employment. In a 2007 survey conducted by Michigan State University, 32 percent of large companies report they hear from employees’ parents.

CREDIT: Courtesy William Morrow

While 31 percent of hiring managers say they’ve seen parents submit their children’s résumés for them, 4 percent say they’ve experienced parents attend interviews with their adult children, and 9 percent say parents have tried negotiating their child’s salary.

Some HR departments report getting phone calls from parents when their employees receive disciplinary action. Just like in middle school, young adults are complaining to Mom and Dad when they get in trouble. And parents are getting involved and trying to ensure that their children aren’t held responsible when they mess up in the office.

If you don’t think your child is able to get his own job, or you think he can’t deal with workplace issues on his own, that’s a big problem. This is not to say she might not need your help. She may have questions about how to negotiate her salary or she may want you to read over her résumé. Offering your words of wisdom can be helpful. But that’s different than taking over and doing things for your child.

If you’ve always rescued your child from facing his own battles and sheltered him from responsibility, he’ll lack the experience and confidence he needs to get by in the real world. Your child’s future boss--or partner, for that matter--isn’t interested in someone who still relies on his parents financially, physically, and emotionally.



9 tips for raising kids with character

Posted: Tue, 09/12/2017 - 15:27



9 tips for raising kids with character

The kids are back in school, which means they’ll not only learn to read and write, but they’ll learn from their peers as well. They will learn that some kids are nice and some are mean, that some are honest and some are cheats. DepositPhotos (courtesy)

Tom Wang

The kids are back in school, which means they’ll not only learn to read and write, but they’ll learn from their peers as well.

They will learn that some kids are nice and some are mean, that some are honest and some are cheats. They will learn the “in” brand of sneakers and how many kids in the fourth grade already have their own iPhone.

And in putting themselves in the public sphere, they will begin to shape their own character.


Some of that is good. And some may be to their detriment.

I heard in a recent podcast with author and columnist David Brooks that the majority of children used to talk about how they wanted to make the world a better place.

Now they talk about being rich and famous.

Society does little to reinforce character and almost nothing to reward it. This makes the job of families and educators ever more important if we want to raise kids with character. Here’s how:

1. Don’t give them everything they want. Delay gratification. Make the simple pleasures a surprise and delight.

2. Learn to say no, and stick to it. Be comfortable with your child’s discomfort. Create rules and boundaries. Children with permissive parents grow to be permissive adults with no bearings.

3. Call your children out for their good behavior, not their accomplishments. We put so much emphasis today on what our kids can do, not who they are. Praise them when they are honest, when they speak kindly to a sibling, when they stop to help someone on the street or open the door for a stranger.

4. Teach them. Talk about honesty. Talk about kindness. Give children the tools to use these character traits. I’m not opposed to the anti-bullying campaigns that have swept through schools across the country, but I think it’s handled wrong. Call it the kindness campaign. Instead of teaching kids the don’ts, teach them the do’s.

5. Model good character. Treat others with respect. Talk kindly to service workers who come into your home. Smile at the cashier in the checkout line. Deal honestly with others. Keep your online comments thoughtful. Elevate your language. Make your home a place free of gossip and ridicule. Your children are watching.

6. Teach children how to interact with adults. They are going to be adults someday and they need to learn how to respect and treat their elders. Teach them to look adults in the eye, greet them by name, ask how they are doing and say thank you.

7. Have children write thank you notes. Teach them about gratitude. When they pray, make sure they express thanks. When they receive presents or someone cooks them a meal, teach them to say thank you. Talk as a family about your blessings, especially those that are non-material.


8. Teach them to work hard and serve others. Enlist children in chores every day. Don’t do for your kids what they can do for themselves. Replace Saturday entertainment with Saturday service.

9. Give them literature that reinforces character. Public schools and universities used to be focused on educating the whole child. Where you see that lacking, fill in the gaps with scripture, biographies, fiction and memoirs that point toward character life lessons.

The moments in which a parent teaches character are rarely big and profound. They happen in the cracks of the day, over plates of spaghetti at the dinner table, with each goodnight hug, with a text to a son at soccer practice and in traffic on the interstate.

Life is the vehicle through which we teach character. It's up to us to remember who's in the driver's seat.



Educators flipping out over fidget spinners are missing the real menace

Posted: Sat, 05/13/2017 - 16:39
Educators flipping out over fidget spinners are missing the real menace
By Naomi Schaefer Riley May 8, 2017 | 9:00pm | Updated
Modal Trigger Educators flipping out over fidget spinners are missing the real menace
What if I told you there was a safe, small, inexpensive toy that was quiet, used no batteries, was almost impossible to break, had no screen and seemed to interest kids between the ages of 3 and 23? Would you go out and buy a million of them? Of course, and that’s why stores have been selling out of the fidget spinner in recent weeks.
But just as these small devices have become popular, classrooms and schools around the country are starting to ban them. As usual, adults have completely lost sight of the real problems of childhood today and focused instead on an object that is at worst a symptom of these problems and at best a step toward solving them.
In a post on the Working Mother site that went viral, Cristina Bolusi Zawacki, a sixth-grade teacher, explained, “I actually have a visceral reaction when they emerge from a pencil case or pocket.”
The spinners began as a way to get children who have attention deficits to focus in class. The idea was that if they were doing something with their hands, they would be more likely to pay attention to what the teacher was saying. Acknowledging that it is very hard, especially for young children, to sit still for long hours, some classrooms have substituted exercise balls for chairs.
Obviously, there are other useful ways to combat this problem. Some might suggest more recess or jumping jacks or yo-yo time.
But as more kids with these diagnosed attention disorders came to class with the spinners, they apparently started to distract from classroom lessons. Zawacki writes she became filled with “red-hot rage” as the toys have “become the Millennial/Gen Z/Linkster version of Pokémon cards, Pogs or Tamagotchis.” Maybe.
One nice thing about the spinners, as well as the fidget boxes (small cubes with buttons that don’t do anything except go in and out), is that you don’t actually need to look at them when you’re playing with them. Students can feel them in their hands and still be watching and listening to a teacher. (I have had extensive conversations with all three of my children while they were using spinners, unlike with other toys.)
Tamagotchis, the small robotic pets popular a few years ago, actually did place demands on kids’ attention, requiring them to feed it, speak to it, even scold it.
The Gen Z version of the Tamagotchi is actually something much more ubiquitous than the fidget spinner; it’s called the cellphone. And any sixth-grade teacher who claims spinners, not smartphones, are the scourge of her existence has lost sight of the real attention problems our kids have.
But most educators have simply thrown up their hands. Teachers did not explode in protest when New York City allowed cellphones in schools last year. There was no outrage from educators in Los Angeles when the city gave kids iPads, even though they can be used in class for non-educational purposes.
Indeed, many parents and educators I’ve interviewed say teachers have embraced technology in the classroom despite the distractions it causes.
In Nicholson Baker’s account of life as a substitute teacher in Maine (where each child has a tablet), the novelist notes that students used their screens to play games, listen to music, even watch inappropriate material in the back of the classroom. But the adults don’t object.
In numerous studies, including a 2010 study in the journal Pediatrics, increased screen time has been linked to attention problems for children. Adam Cox, a clinical psychologist, says screen-based activities, especially video games, have a serious effect on kids’ attention spans.
“It’s like constantly being on a roller coaster,” says Cox. “A child feels that all the time: My brain will consist of all peaks and no valleys. It’s like someone who lives on cocaine.”
If anything should promote “red-hot rage” among educators, it’s the fact that kids can’t seem to look up from their screens to speak to adults or concentrate on any activity for a sustained period.
But then, many educators encourage kids to use screens in class and at home for homework, though there’s almost no evidence they improve learning. Where is the anger over misused iPads or the fact that kids text their friends or check social media during class?
Fidget spinners may occupy some of children’s attention but not all of it. They’re a way of helping kids cope with “the valleys” that they will inevitably experience when not looking at a screen. Blaming fidget spinners for our children’s lack of attention is like blaming methadone clinics for drug addiction.
Naomi Schaefer Riley is a senior fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum.


This is why Dutch kids are much happier than American children

Posted: Mon, 04/10/2017 - 13:44
In the Netherlands, kids get chocolate sprinkles on their breakfast and early sex education
Rina Mae Acosta is Asian-American, a mother to two young kids, and originally from the San Francisco Bay Area. She grew up not far from Amy Chua, the author of “The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother,” which explored strict kid-rearing inspired by Chinese parenting traditions — and prompted countless debates over the key to children’s happiness.
By contrast, Acosta chose to raise her children in a small village in the Netherlands with her Dutch husband, and her approach is far more laid-back. She lets her kids eat chocolate sprinkles every morning for breakfast. Her children, aged four years and 20 months, have open play dates and are free to roam around in the backyard, unstructured and unattended.
“I guess I’m a Tiger Mommy failure,” she says.
But parents in the Netherlands like Acosta seem to be doing something right, because in two consecutive Unicef studies (conducted in 2007 and 2013) on children’s well-being in rich countries, Dutch children came out on top. Out of the 29 countries studied, the U.S. ranked 26th. “The Netherlands heads the league table of children’s subjective well-being with 95% of its children reporting a high level of life satisfaction,” the 2013 study cited.
Now, Acosta and co-author Michele Hutchison — a British expat also raising her two kids in the Netherlands — are sharing the secrets of Dutch parenting more widely, with “The Happiest Kids in the World: How Dutch Parents Help Their Kids by Doing Less” (The Experiment).
“The Dutch parenting approach is not really something new,” Acosta says. “I think it’s an intuitive parenting approach that most of us already know but have forgotten.”
MarketWatch spoke with Acosta to see what American parents can learn:
MarketWatch: Your book says it’s all about the “hagelslag” (chocolate sprinkles). Why is eating “hagelslag” with bread for breakfast the key to Dutch kids’ happiness?
Acosta: Who wouldn’t be happy with having chocolate first thing in the morning? But the bigger idea is: Everything in moderation. So if children are allowed their own indulgences, it becomes less of a taboo and they learn to have more self-control. For example, my four-year-old, because he knows he can get chocolate first thing in the morning for breakfast, is able to moderate himself. He’s happy with the two slices of bread. Even if I put the whole box of hagelslag on the table, he doesn’t pour more in once he’s had his share.
MarketWatch: So in creating a more free environment, you actually help a child set his/her own rules?
Acosta: A really happy child is a child who is given boundaries and, within those boundaries, is given a lot of freedom. They are not children who are entitled — in fact, the children who are spoiled and entitled are often the unhappiness, I find. [Those] children feel like the world owes them everything. They want the most expensive toys or the newest, fanciest toys and biggest birthday parties. Middle-class Dutch children would know even if they wanted something, they have to actually work for it.
A great example is King’s Day, one of the most important holidays in the Netherlands celebrating royalty’s birthday. Aside from everyone wearing orange and everyone partying, the whole country becomes one giant flea market. This is when Dutch children have their own section where they can sell and buy toys. You can find seven- or eight-year-olds trying to sell their toys or cupcakes. We’re talking about prices that are, like, 25 cents. One euro is actually a lot of money for a toy. It teaches them the value of money and to take joy in the simple things.
MarketWatch: If they eat chocolate sprinkles every morning, how come Dutch kids aren’t fat? They have some of the world’s lowest obesity rates.
Acosta: They bike to school. They have 45 minutes of recess. They’re also expected to play outside. The first years of school, they’re encouraged to create their own play dates. The parents talk and it’s decided whose house the children are going to be at, and what time the children are picked up or dropped off at their house. During that time, the children are expected to entertain themselves. They’re expected to go outside and play. But, keep in mind, we also keep the area safe.
MarketWatch: As an Asian-American expat, what has been the biggest adjustment for you?
Acosta: I grew up with this idea that to be the best mother, I always have to be there for him and to be cautious and careful and anxious. Anxiety is a sign of being a good mother in American culture. In a way, it’s our battle stripes, and we do take pride in being worried about our children.
It’s not that the Dutch are not worried. Like all parents, they have concerns. What makes them different is they try to take a pragmatic assessment of real risk versus perceived risk. Rather than just worry and try to control everything, they try to equip their children starting from a young age with how to assess risk. A great example would be how to navigate the road safely. Starting at the age of two, toddlers are already taught the traffic rules. Here’s a bike lane, stay on the right-hand side. Also, swimming: It’s really important because we’re surrounded by a lot of water, so at around four- or five-years-old, the children all have their swim diplomas so they won’t drown.
MarketWatch: Specifically with babies, what is a unique aspect of Dutch parenting?
Acosta: My research of Professor Sara Harkness and Charles Super’s studies led me to realize that a lot of American babies are actually being overstimulated. There’s too much emphasis on cognitive development at such an early age. The takeaway is for parents to just relax and realize that for a newborn baby, the world is interesting and stimulating enough.
MarketWatch: What about with teenagers?
Acosta: I see a difference in terms of openness and communication between Dutch parents and teenagers. Two great examples are drugs and sex. Dutch parents talk about everything with their children. Parents would rather the children come to them than get their information from somewhere else.
Dutch teenagers are often allowed to have romantic sleepovers with their significant others because Dutch parents would rather their teenagers are in a safe environment. We should also stress that the Dutch teenagers have among the world’s lowest STD rates. They don’t engage in sexual activity earlier than their American peers and when they do have their “first time,” it’s often with more positive experiences. Everything is so open for discussion — not everything is allowed, it’s not a free for all — and it seems that Dutch children are less likely to rebel.
MarketWatch: Americans can be conservative when it comes to sex education. What’s the Dutch approach?
Acosta: The Dutch are the paragons of sex education in Europe. They beat the French and the Italians and the Spanish — the Latin lovers. The Dutch pragmatically believe in teaching sex education. Starting at the age of four, children are taught in age-appropriate ways about sexuality. They’re taught about feelings, different kinds of people and, also, what is appropriate and inappropriate touching and how to be vocal when they’re touched in a way they don’t feel comfortable with: A simple thing such as a child not wanting to be touched on their arm. There’s a whole week dedicated from age four to 12 about sex education. As the children get older, the topics become more detailed and explicit. But what I love about starting at the age of four is it helps children understand the importance of boundaries.
MarketWatch: Your book highlights the Dutch saying, “Doe maar gewoon,” or “just act normal” or “calm down.” How does it extend to parenting? For instance, you write that some expats interpret this as pressure to resign yourself to being average.
Acosta: It’s not necessarily that the Dutch lack ambition, which is a common misconception. “Doe maar gewoon” can be translated simply as not putting with up pretenses, of not thinking you are better than everyone else but just being down-to-earth. “Doe maar gewoon” is the Crown Princess Amelia biking to school, just like all the other Dutch kids.
If a child happens to be brilliant and intrinsically motivated, they are given the support to excel, both at home and in school. It is this same “Doe maar gewoon” mentality where the Dutch win Nobel prizes, namely in chemistry and physics, where they lead the way in architecture, design and medicine, and where they are well-respected and quite opinionated in the European Union.
Of course the Dutch have ambitions for their children like all parents around the world. It’s simply that the Dutch see happiness as a means to success, that “happiness,” self-awareness, intrinsic motivation, independence, positive ties with their family and friends, can cultivate success. Whereas, often times in our modern day culture, success is seen as the way toward happiness

The consequences of forcing young kids to sit too long in class

Posted: Sat, 03/18/2017 - 10:03
Robbi Giuliano teaches her fifth-grade class as they sit on yoga balls at Westtown-Thornbury Elementary School in West Chester, Pa., in 2013. (Matt Rourke/AP)
On July 8, 2014, I published a post titled “Why so many kids can’t sit still in school today” by Angela Hanscom, a pediatric occupational therapist. Ever since then, the idea has struck a chord with readers around the world, still drawing a big audience along with some of the follow-up pieces Hanscom wrote.
Why did that story have such resonance? Because standardized-test-based school reform has overemphasized math and reading instruction and test prep to the exclusion of other things, forcing young children to sit in their chairs for hours at a time, often without a real break, even though many kids aren’t ready to do that (if, indeed, young people of any age should have to). The result, as Hanscom has written, is that too many kids fidget, lose focus and act out, with some diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder even when they do not have it.
To be sure, some schools have realized the damage this is doing to children. One is Eagle Mountain Elementary School in Fort Worth, which has started sending kids out for unstructured play four times a day as part of a program it adopted called the LiiNK Project. The project connects play and character development and is designed to bridge academics with the social, emotional and physical well-being of children. 
Other schools, too, have started adding recess back into the school day, but still too many limit it, and kids wind up suffering. In this post, Hanscom takes a new look at the issue. She is the author of “Balanced and Barefoot,” and the founder of TimberNook, a nature-based development program designed to foster creativity and independent play outdoors in the United States and in New Zealand.
It originated on my blog here as what appeared to be a simple plea for people to wake up to the dark realities of restricting children from two things: movement and outdoor play. It got picked up and posted here and here and elsewhere, and it keeps going viral even today, nearly three years later.
Why does this message resonate with the hearts of so many?
It is a great indicator that there are many truths behind this article — ones that we need to start paying attention to. And they remain the same truths today: In order for children to learn, they must be able to pay attention. In order to pay attention, we must let them move!
To do anything less, we cause harm. In fact, we’ve reached a tipping point, where we are restricting children’s movement and play experiences so much that we are witnessing the consequences from toddlers to adolescence on this new generation of children. It is alarming.
Teachers are reporting a significant decline in children’s ability to pay attention in class to more reports of children falling out of their seats to seemingly being “unable to keep their hands off each other” during recess breaks in the past 10 years. At the same time, the number of children needing occupational therapy services to treat these issues is on the rise in a profound way.
The connection? When we continuously expect children to be seated for hours everyday, whether that is sitting for lengthy stints of time in the classroom, being driven from one event to the next, or doing homework till it gets dark outside — children are often found in an upright position with little sensory stimulation.
Children need to move much more than we realize. They need ample opportunities to move their bodies in all different directions such as going upside down, spinning in circles, rolling down hills or even climbing trees. This movement causes fluid to move back and forth in the inner ear, stimulating hair cells that develop the vestibular (balance) sense. This sense is the unifying sense and supports all the other senses.
Many children today are walking around with an underdeveloped vestibular sense. It is the No. 1 issue we have to treat in the clinic. A mature vestibular sense supports attention, emotional regulation, eye muscle control, spatial awareness, and organization of the brain to support learning! As you can imagine, if this isn’t developed and maintained through plenty of daily movement opportunities, it is very, very hard for children to learn.
This truth isn’t always easy to hear, especially when it requires action.
“I never said this was going to be easy,” my mentor told me last year when I was facing a particularly difficult trial with my work in relation to TimberNook and getting children outdoors. He was right. Doing what is right isn’t always the easiest path — but it is the right path. It would be so much easier for us to just throw our hands up and say, “this is impossible” or “we don’t have time for more play or movement during the day,” or even “our hands are tied.”
I have news for you. If you ignore this message, things are only going to get worse for the children. We will continue to see a decline in children’s strength, coordination, balance, attention and social-emotional skills.
We will likely see even more:
• Children struggling to sit still and pay attention;
• Children falling from their chairs;
• Children lacking the ability to regulate their activity levels and their emotions;
• Children hitting with too much force when playing games like tag;
• Teachers losing faith in their profession;
• A continuous rise in sensory and motor deficits.
As adults, we often have the choice if we want to move or not. Children do not have the same luxury. Even if they need to move, oftentimes they are told to remain in their seat. And their 15 minutes of recess to “play” within a six- to eight-hour school day is laughable. Young brains depend on frequent movement experiences throughout the day in order to learn, yet most schools fail to provide this essential, basic need. And we wonder why they fidget in their seats or “act up.”
We have an obligation to defend our children’s right to move.
We cannot allow fears, worries, justifications, rules and regulations to take over, to dominate the educational world and continue harming our children on a global level.
It starts with you and me. May you gather your courage and start taking the steps necessary to create this change our kids need. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
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• Bring the “post that won’t sit still” to your administrators. The secret to creating change is to share the science behind movement and outdoor play and how they impact child development. Most adults want what is best for children. Once their eyes are opened to this truth, they often desire to work toward that positive change.
• Get Creative. It is time to start thinking outside the box. What are your objectives in the classroom? If it is to teach, then this is best done through meaningful hands-on, whole-body learning experiences. Take notes from Finland, and allow children to study the ecology of a river by exploring an actual river. Take a walk to a local museum to learn about history, science and the arts. Go outdoors to write poetry. Walk outside to discuss complex topics with a partner. Go a step further and create a committee just to brainstorm ways to get children moving more while learning.
• Be the example. If you are a teacher, take the children outdoors and tell other teachers about this and the changes you are seeing. If you are a parent, invite other children over for the day and send them outdoors! If you are an organization that gets kids outdoors, invite the local press to come see what you are doing and get the word out about the benefits. Being the example can be one of the most powerful ways to create change.
• Unite. Schools could benefit immensely from creating outdoor classrooms. Work with local organizations to help you plan for and fund for this endeavor. Watch as the community comes together for this greater purpose of getting children outdoors in meaningful learning experiences. Parents can do the same at home. Find like-minded individuals that value outdoor play and invite their children over to play or go on outings such as camping trips or hikes. Get to know your neighbors again to create a community that watches out for the children.
It is not enough to read these articles and say, “Yes, this is good.” Will you listen?
By Valerie Strauss March 17