Archive | Communication RSS feed for this section

Our Thoughts on Discipline — Stop YELLING!

7 Sep

I know, I know… it’s impossible isn’t it?  And no, we’re not yell-free at our house — we wish.  This article to me is more of a reminder of why we shouldn’t yell and I’ll sure as heck try to not yell – because funny thing is, I know it doesn’t work – yet it slips out anyways when the Ms. Hannigan in me rears her ugly head.  I remember a time when I was child-free looking at other parents yelling at the kids in the store/park/etc. and thinking “that is NOT going to be me”.  Well alas, just the other day at the library no less I found myself seeing my toddler try hopping down stairs while distractedly looking around and for some reason the yell just ripped out of me “STOP! What are you thinking?!?!” echoed through the silence – ugh.  Worse, since the toddler is a bit more rambunctious than my older child, I find myself yelling at her more than I ever did  her older sister… so what do you think happened?  My munchkin is more of a yeller :0/ – I’m not going to take all of the credit for this, but I’m certainly not faultless (waaaaaaah) – I see my hubs raising his voice in exasperation at well… BUT we are trying to change.

What we do believe in is modeling, we have to model behavior we want our children to have, there is no way around it (save for boarding school – haha).  We also aren’t aiming to be perfect parents by any means, you know where I categorize this?  Parenting as a way for me to become a better person, and being a better person means getting a hold of my temper and dealing with things in a more even-tempered way.  The truth is, what I realize now is that it is sometimes not the act itself that makes me yell but something else that isn’t even my child’s fault – like when I don’t get enough sleep the night before, or when I’m so busy with a million and one errands I need to get done.  But yelling doesn’t solve anything, and it certainly doesn’t make me feel better.  So goodbye yeller mom!  Hello zen mom with a cup of coffee in her hands 😉

10 Ways to Stop Yelling

overwhelmed parent

Inhale. Exhale. Repeat. Sometimes all it takes is a moment to cool down.

You told your child to pick up all his toys and get ready for bed. Five minutes later when you check in, the toy cars are still all over. You feel your blood start to boil. You’re on the verge of losing it. Turn around, close your eyes, and breathe. Take a moment to collect yourself — and your emotions. Michelle LaRowe, author of A Mom’s Ultimate Book of Lists, says, “Take a time-out. If you’re worked up, you’re only going to work up your child. Before addressing your child, take a deep breath and think through what you’re going to say, calmly.”

child jumping on couch
Address the Behavior

We all have good kids; sometimes their behavior just stinks.

When you’re teaching your children to ride their bikes, do you punish them when they don’t get it the first try? Of course not. You encourage them, support them, and give them guidance. Rex Forehand, Ph.D., author of Parenting the Strong-Willed Child: The Third Edition, with Nicholas Long, Ph.D., says that disciplining your children should be the same way. “When we think about teaching our children, we usually go about it in positive ways, that is except for behavior,” Dr. Forehand says. “For some reason we think that punishment should be our teaching tool.” It doesn’t need to be. When your child hits another child during a playdate, it’s easy to react with yelling, “Stop! Don’t do that!” Instead, Dr. Forehand suggests focusing on addressing the specific behavior and taking the opportunity to patiently teach your child why hitting is wrong.

mother talking to child
Mean Business Without Being Mean

Instead of yelling, use a firm, but soft, I-mean-business tone when giving behavior directions.

Direction that makes the most impact on a child is actually one that is stern and even somewhat gentle, says LaRowe. “When you speak in a calm but firm soft voice, children have to work to listen — and they most always do. The calmer and softer you speak, the more impact your words will have,” she says. Not only will your child most likely grasp your instructions faster, you won’t have to lose your voice trying to convey it.

mother talking to child
Help Your Child Explain Feelings

Before you lose your cool because your child has misbehaved, figure out what is causing the behavior.

One of the biggest reasons toddlers misbehave is they simply haven’t learned an alternative approach to displaying their feelings. “Our goal as parents should be to teach our children how to effectively express themselves by validating their feelings without validating their behavior,” LaRowe says. Next time Tommy pushes a friend who just knocked over his blocks, stray away from the tempting ridicule of yelling “No! Don’t do that!” LaRowe suggests instead explaining why the action is bad. “Tommy, I understand you are mad that your friend knocked over your blocks. It’s okay to be mad, but when you are mad you tell your friend ‘I’m mad;’ you don’t push.”

toddler in timeout
Have Clear Rules & Follow Through

Not carrying out your threats will result in them testing you — and you getting angry.

“Jenna, please turn off the TV.” Five minutes later, Jenna is still watching TV. “Jenna, I mean it, turn off the TV or you will sit in time-out.” Five minutes later, Jenna is still watching TV. “Jenna, I mean it …” Empty threats and nagging won’t work on your children, and eventually they will call your bluff. And when they do, it’s likely parents will find themselves frustrated and yelling. But this is easy to avoid. Have clear rules. When you state a consequence, follow through.

mother talking to her child
Give Praise for Okay Behavior

Parents praise their children for good behavior, and scold for the bad, but what about the in-between?

Children love getting attention from their parents, sometimes even if it’s bad. “Parents tend to give attention to their child either by praising them for good behavior or punishing them for bad behavior. And at times a child will take either or,” says Dr. Long, who advises to ignore your children when they are acting badly, such as whining to get attention. “If you yell at them, you are still giving them the interest they wanted, and therefore they will continue to use negative behavior to get a reaction from you,” Dr. Long says. If you praise behavior, even when it is just okay, then your child will be more likely to repeat it because of the way you took notice.

child hugging mother
A Strong Bond Makes Discipline Easier

The stronger your relationship is with your child, the stronger your discipline will hold.

At this age your child wants to be close to you. Take advantage of it and reaffirm your bond with your child. Not only will it strengthen the relationship between parent and child, but your child will then have a greater respect for you. According to Parenting the Strong-Willed Child: The Third Edition, the closer you are to your child, the less likely your child is to act up, even though no child is perfect. “A child who has a strong relationship with a parent is more prone to accept the discipline offered by a parent,” Dr. Long says.

toddler discipline

Are you hurt when someone yells at you? Of course; so why wouldn’t your child be?

“Our goal as parents should be to teach our children and to build them up, not to tear them down. When we yell at our children we risk damaging their self-esteem and sense of self-worth,” LaRowe says. Consider how you’d feel if your boss yelled at you. You’d likely be embarrassed and hurt. LaRowe points out that often you don’t have a chance to process what your boss is saying because of how it was said. The same goes for your child. You want to be able to teach him what is acceptable and what is not without making him feel shame or embarrassment.

mom putting toddler to bed
Good Eating & Sleeping Habits

Healthy children are the happiest children.

Parents underestimate the power of what a well-balanced diet and a good sleeping schedule can do for a child’s behavior. If you think about it, what are two of the major underlying problems that cause toddlers to act up? Hunger and fatigue. Well-rested, well-nourished children who are on predictable schedules tend to have fewer behavioral issues. On the flip side, the better your sleeping and eating habits are as a parent, the more likely you are to keep your cool longer — and catch yourself before you start yelling.

Stop Sibling Squabbles
We’re Not Perfect

No matter how hard we try, sometimes we will slip up and yell. And that’s okay, as long as we know how to make it right.

Your child has been driving you up the wall all day. You have tried to keep your cool and follow all the steps, and yet you still feel your temper escalating. And then, one small mishap from your child, and you lose it. You raise your voice, and there’s no taking it back now. Dr. Forehand and Dr. Long suggest talking to your children when you’ve calmed down after yelling. “It’s important to explain that Mommy or Daddy didn’t mean to raise their voice, and that they didn’t mean to get mad,” Dr. Forehand says. “Explain to them that it frustrates Mommy or Daddy when they don’t listen, and ask them to do better, and that you will, too.”

Copyright 2010 Meredith Corporation.


http://www.parents.comBringing together the power of respected magazine brands including American Baby and Parents, the Parents Network is your go-to destination for parenting information. From first kicks to first steps and on to the first day of school, we are here to help you celebrate the joys and navigate the challenges of parenthood.

How To Stop Bribing Your Kids!

11 May

This article from Parents.Com is a great read with helpful tips/suggestions on how to stop using bribes with your kids.  It really works and the real-life examples are classic!  Incentives are technically different from bribes – they are predetermined before the bad behavior and preventative.

In my house we also use the “First X then Y” ie. First finish your dinner then you can have dessert.  First put away your toys then you can take a bath and play in the tub.  We also find the “If you don’t stop A, we won’t have time for B” ie. Stop running around – get ready for bed now or there is no time to read tonight.

What works for you and your family/household?  Share via leaving a comment!

4 Ways to Stop Bribing Your Kids

Strategies to break the bribing habit.

By Jacqueline Burt Wang


As an enlightened mom, I know that bribing a child to behave is as foolish as washing a kid’s mouth out with soap. It’s just that when I’m in the supermarket with my whining 3-year-old son, Julian, a pack of chocolate-chip cookies in exchange for some stress-free shopping doesn’t seem like such a bad trade-off. And when my 7-year-old daughter, Charlotte, throws one of her “I hate my hair and I’m never going to school again” fits, I’ve been known to promise her an ice-cream sundae later just to get her out the door now.

I’m far from alone in doling out rewards. Lots of parents buy off their kids — including my best friend, Jackie. “I can’t believe what I give them for the sake of a little peace and quiet,” she says, raising her voice to be heard over her bickering 3-year-old twin daughters in the background. She interrupts our conversation to say, “Hold on a sec. Girls, if you stop fighting and find your shoes, we’ll have time to stop for doughnuts.”

Bribes may seem harmless, but they aren’t. “Bribery teaches children to expect rewards for basic behaviors,” says David Gruder, Ph.D., a family therapist and author of The New IQ: How Integrity Intelligence Serves You, Your Relationships, and Our World.

 A Briber’s StoryMy household is a case study. I ask Charlotte to start her homework. “Okay,” she bargains, “but then I get to watch three Hannah Montana shows.”

“Can you please help me pick up the Lincoln Logs?” I ask Julian.

“Yeah,” he sighs heavily, adding, “if you give me chocolate.”

All I wanted was a little cooperation, but instead I’ve schooled my kids in the art of extortion. Even more worrisome are the long-term effects of bribing. A University of Florida study published in The Journal of Research in Science Teaching revealed that grade-schoolers who were rewarded for answering simple questions became less certain of their abilities when compared with kids who didn’t get anything. And University of Toronto research showed that 4- and 7-year-olds who were overpraised for being generous wound up sharing less with their buddies. “Bribes rob kids of the opportunity to feel good for doing the right thing,” says Bette Alkazian, a licensed family therapist in Thousand Oaks, California. “Their teachers won’t reward them to do schoolwork. Their bosses won’t reward them to finish a project. So parents need to stop doing it.”

Yikes. I never wanted to deprive my kids of anything, least of all their self-confidence. So I challenged myself to stop bribing for good. Since I knew it would be next to impossible to quit on my own, I turned to a few experts to set me on the path to recovery.

Bribe Buster #1: Make It Your Kid’s Call

My first step was to come up with a game plan for dealing with my kids’ recalcitrance, which invariably leads to a bribery breakdown on my part.

I asked Kathy Seal, coauthor of Pressured Parents, Stressed-Out Kids: Dealing With Competition While Raising a Successful Child, how to get them to be more agreeable. Her advice: Give kids reasons for your rules, and let them see the result of not obeying them. “Children are more likely to behave if they feel they’re doing something because they want to,” Seal tells me.

Trying out the tactic It’s a chilly day in Connecticut, but my daughter doesn’t want to adjust her outfit (short skirt, sleeveless top) to fit the weather. When I tell her she needs to put on tights for her playdate, she replies, “My legs never get cold.” Apparently her head and hands never get cold either, since she refuses to put on a hat and gloves. Charlotte’s got her stubborn face on and is about to make a scene. Plus, we’re in a rush. My mind wanders in a familiar direction: What sort of carrot can I dangle to get her to bundle up?

Then I remember Seal’s approach and change course. Charlotte would agree to wear warm clothes if she understood how freezing it is outside, especially if she felt dressing properly was her idea, not mine. “Okay,” I say. “Go outside for two minutes. If you’re warm enough without a hat, tights, or gloves, you don’t have to change before we go to Grace’s house.”

Charlotte dashes out to the backyard, eager to prove her point. I keep my eyes on the clock. Not a minute later I hear the door slam shut. “It’s cold!” my daughter yells as she runs to her bedroom. “I’m gonna find my scarf, plus all that other stuff!”

Whoa. If the rest of my experiment has results like this, I’m sold.

Bribe Buster #2: Tune In to Your Child’s Needs

Next, I spoke with Alkazian, who likens bribes to “behavioral Band-Aids” — they might get your child to cooperate for the moment, but they won’t heal the underlying problem. “Kids always have a reason for acting defiantly,” she says. “They’re trying to communicate something.” A preschooler who has a tantrum on the way to swim class might fear that the pool will be too cold or that she’ll get water in her eyes. By pinpointing what may be bugging her, you might be able to defuse it (such as having her take a warm shower first or buying her a pair of goggles) rather than paying her off (such as promising a trip to the toy store afterward).

Trying out the tactic It’s Monday morning after a hectic weekend of social obligations and missed bedtimes. I need to get Julian ready for preschool, but he’s sprawled out on the floor in tears. “I don’t waaaannna go to school!” he shrieks. “Pleeeeaaase don’t make me go!” I try to calm him with cheery talk about how much fun he’s going to have with his friends, but he just cries harder.

Maybe my sweet-toothed son would get moving if I offered a post-school cupcake, I think. But then I focus on what’s causing Julian’s out-of-character display instead of how to squelch it. I notice that his cheeks are flushed, and his forehead feels suspiciously warm. “Do you feel like taking a nap?” I ask. He nods, falling asleep almost as soon as I put him down. By the afternoon, Julian has a fever of 102°F. Lesson learned: Always check the vitals before deciding my kid is merely misbehaving.

Bribe Buster #3: Take Care of Yourself

Another mistake I’d been making was focusing too much on my children’s demands and not enough on my own needs. “Stressed-out parents are more apt to resort to payoffs if they’re too exhausted to think of a different solution,” says parent coach Roni Stein, Ed.D. Her philosophy: If you recharge your own batteries regularly, you’ll find better ways to deal with your kids.

Trying out the tactic It’s been a lousy day (among the highlights: car trouble, an emergency run to school to deliver a forgotten lunch, and a nightmarish pediatric dentist appointment), and I’ve got hours to go before bedtime. I’d love to make it to the gym or, better yet, sneak out for a restorative spa treatment. But I don’t have that luxury, so I decide to heed Dr. Stein’s advice and treat myself to a “mini-pampering moment” (definition: anything I like to do that takes no more than five minutes, from doing a yoga pose or two to writing an e-mail to a friend). The idea is to feed my self-preservation parking meter a quarter at a time instead of tossing in a handful of change all at once.

I get my opportunity when Charlotte, who’s doing her homework, finally hits her stride and stops asking questions. (Julian sticks to coloring contentedly by himself.) Ordinarily I would squander this rare quiet moment by fretting about my need to clean the kitchen or pay bills. Instead, I relax with a magazine until Charlotte becomes frustrated by a math problem. The little respite boosts my mood. Instead of my usual cave-in approach (agreeing to let her skip a bath if she completes the assignment without further fuss), I’m Zen enough to joke about my arithmetic struggles as a kid. This breaks the tension, and soon Charlotte finishes up. And I start running the tub.

 Bribe Buster #4: Eliminate the Triggers

I’d made progress, but I wasn’t ready to stop. So I phoned Dr. Gruder back in the hope of reversing the endless delays and deal-making that go on during morning madness (“No late pass and we can pick up a new Miley poster later!”). These are the toughest bribes to reverse, he warned, because the same high-stress situations tend to cause you to break down. The key is to change the pattern. “If you can’t think of what to do in place of a bribe, simply abstain from offering one and come up with a more positive alternative later,” he says.

Trying out the tactic Getting Charlotte up — and moving — is a constant struggle. One evening I chat with her about how much smoother things would go if we set the alarm 15 minutes earlier: She wouldn’t have to wolf down her breakfast in the car and could spend more time fixing her hair

I tell her that if she gets ready early, she can do something fun with the extra time, like crazy dancing to loud music. That last part strikes me as a bit “bribe-esque,” but experts tell me little incentives offered in advance (as opposed to when a kid goes into full freak-out mode) are an acceptable form of positive reinforcement.

I expect resistance when the alarm clock buzzes the next morning, but there is none. Charlotte is ready with five minutes to spare. I’m a little disappointed that she chooses to squander it watching SpongeBob instead of crazy dancing. But you pick your battles, and I’ve won the war: We arrive before the late bell all week.



A month into rewards rehab, I can honestly say that I’ve kicked the bribing habit. My kids, though, are having serious withdrawal. At times their whining and recalcitrance seem worse than ever, which doesn’t surprise Dr. Gruder. “When a parent stops bribing, children’s first instinct is to try to restore what they’re used to,” he says. “But they’ll learn to adjust as long as you stick to your guns.”

That’s exactly what I’m doing. Now when Charlotte and Julian get grumpy in the grocery store, I don’t detour to the cookie aisle. Instead, I offer them healthy snacks I’ve brought along. I ignore their protests, and I think about my next “mini-pampering moment”: watching House after they go to sleep. It’s just an innocent little bribe — to myself — for good behavior.


How You Can Cheat – While bribes are bad, it’s totally fine to provide an incentive for your child to behave well. “An incentive is something you offer before a confrontation, so it’s about positive reinforcement, not bribing,” says Lori J. Semel, M.D., a pediatrician in Mount Vernon, New York. The way you phrase it can make all the difference.

Bribe: “Stop screaming, and I’ll buy you some candy when we get to the checkout aisle.”
Incentive: “We’re going to the grocery store. If you’re patient while we shop, you’ll get two extra books before bedtime tonight.”

Bribe: “If you stop shoving Hannah away and let her share your markers, I’ll let you watch an extra hour of TV later.”
Incentive: “If you share your art supplies nicely with Hannah, we can ask her to come back for another playdate tomorrow.”

Bribe: “I know you don’t like the dentist. But if you calm down, we’ll get some new fish at the pet store afterward.”
Incentive: “Get dressed quickly, and we might have time to stop and see the puppies before we go to the dentist.”

Originally published in the December 2009 issue of Parents magazine.

Related Features:


http://www.parents.comBringing together the power of respected magazine brands including American Baby and Parents, the Parents Network is your go-to destination for parenting information. From first kicks to first steps and on to the first day of school, we are here to help you celebrate the joys and navigate the challenges of parenthood.

How to Raise a Grateful Child

15 Mar

How grateful or appreciate is your child for the things he/she has and all the things you and others do for him/her?  I struggle regularly to have my 4 1/2-year-old say thank-you and please every time someone does something or gives something to her.  I don’t want her to do it robotically with no meaning, but to consciously say it with real feeling and understanding of why she’s saying it.  Is this too much to expect from a preschooler? 

I believe my daughter’s generation has a lot of excess (toys, food, technology, etc.) and although she doesn’t have a sense of entitlement, I want to ensure she appreciates what she has and what people do for her.  So when I came across this article on AmericanBaby.Com, it was very helpful and I wanted to share it!

The Grateful Child

Teaching your child the importance of saying thank you.

The Art of Appreciation

When my son, A.J., was 4, he was obsessed with getting a robotic dog. Whenever we drove past a toy store, he started his pleading. Convinced that nothing would make him happier than that dog, my husband and I broke down and bought him the most expensive version on the market for Christmas. “He’ll be so thankful when he opens this gift,” we told ourselves. And yes, A.J. was thrilled — for about a week. Then we noticed the dog spent most of the time in the closet, as A.J. begged for other, even more expensive toys — a drum set, a riding mini-Jeep, a huge playhouse. “You’d think he’d be grateful for what he has,” I complained to my husband, Tony. “The more we give him, the less he appreciates it.”

Gratitude is one of the trickiest concepts to teach toddlers and preschoolers, who are by nature self-centered. But it’s also one of the most important. Sure, thankful, polite children are pleasant to be around, but there’s more to it than that. By learning gratitude, they become sensitive to the feelings of others, developing empathy and other life skills along the way, says Barbara A. Lewis, author of What Do You Stand For? For Kids (Free Spirit). Grateful kids look outside their one-person universe and understand that their parents and other people do things for them — prepare dinner, dole out hugs, buy toys. “On the flip side, kids who aren’t taught to be grateful end up feeling entitled and perpetually disappointed,” Lewis says.

Indeed, instilling grateful feelings now will benefit your child later in life. A 2003 study at the University of California at Davis shows that grateful people report higher levels of happiness and optimism — along with lower levels of depression and stress. The catch? “No one is born grateful,” says life coach M.J. Ryan, author of Attitudes of Gratitude (Conari). “Recognizing that someone has gone out of the way for you is not a natural behavior for children — it’s learned.”

When Do Kids Get It?Even though toddlers are completely egocentric, children as young as 15 to 18 months can begin to grasp concepts that lead to gratitude, Lewis says. “They start to understand that they are dependent, that Mom and Dad do things for them,” she adds. In other words, toddlers comprehend that they are distinct human beings from their parents and that Mom and Dad often perform actions (from playing peekaboo to handing out cookies) to make them happy — even if children that age can’t articulate their appreciation.

By age 2 or 3, children can talk about being thankful for specific objects, pets, and people, Ryan says. “When my daughter Annie was 2,” she recounts, “our family would go around the dinner table each night and say one thing we were thankful for. Annie wasn’t particularly verbal, but when it was her turn, she would point her finger at every person. She was grateful for us!”

By age 4, children can understand being thankful not only for material things like toys, but also for acts of kindness, love, and caring.

Work gratitude into your daily conversation. Lately, we’ve been trying to weave appreciation for mundane things into our everyday talk with A.J., his big sister, Mathilda, and especially our youngest, Mary Elena. (“We’re so lucky to have a good cat like Sam!” “Aren’t the colors in the sunset amazing?” “I’m so happy when you listen!”) When you reinforce an idea frequently, it’s more likely to stick. One way to turn up the gratitude in your house is to pick a “thanking” part of the day. Two old-fashioned, tried-and-true ideas: talk about the good things that happened that day as part of your dinnertime conversation, and make bedtime prayers part of your nightly routine.

Have kids help. It happens to all of us: You give your child a chore, but it’s agonizing to watch him take forever to clear the table or make a huge mess mixing the pancake batter. The temptation is to step in and do it yourself. But the more you do for them, the less they appreciate your efforts. (Don’t you feel more empathy with people who work outside on cold days when you’ve just been out shoveling snow yourself?) By participating in simple household chores such as feeding the dog or stacking dirty dishes on the counter, kids realize that all these things take effort.

Find a goodwill project. This doesn’t mean you need to drag your toddler to a soup kitchen every week, Lewis says. Instead, figure out some way he can actively participate in helping someone else, even if it’s as simple as making cupcakes for a sick neighbor. “As you’re stirring the batter or adding sprinkles,” Lewis suggests, “talk about how you’re making them for a special person and how happy the recipient will be.”

Encourage generosity. “We frequently donate toys and clothes to less fortunate kids,” says Hulya Migliorino, of Bloomingdale, New Jersey. “When my daughters see me giving to others, it inspires them to go through their own closets to give something special to those in need as well.”

Insist on thank-you notes. Paula Goodnight, of Maineville, Ohio, always has her daughters (Rachel, Amelia, and Isabella) write thank-yous for gifts. “When they were toddlers, the cards were just scribbles with my own thank-you attached,” she says. “As they grew, their scribbles became drawings, then longer letters.” Younger children can even dictate the letter while you write, Lewis says: “Just the act of saying out loud why he loved the gift will make him feel more grateful.”

Practice saying no. Of course kids ask for toys, video games, and candy — sometimes on an hourly basis. But it’s difficult, if not impossible, to feel grateful when your every whim is granted. Hearing you say no can make your yesses sound that much sweeter.

Be patient. You can’t expect gratitude to develop overnight — it requires weeks, months, and even years of reinforcement. But trust me, you will be rewarded. Four years after the robotic-dog fiasco, I can now report that A.J. is a grateful, cheerful boy who delights in making others happy. Sure, he asked for lots of presents last Christmas, but he was just as excited about requesting gifts for his sisters. “They’ve both been good girls and deserve something special,” he wrote in his letter to Santa. Now I’m the one feeling grateful.

Surviving the Holiday Gift GlutLimit extracurricular giving. Stick to a no-gifts policy with playdate, Sunday school, or preschool buddies.

Take the big day slowly. Instead of one huge gift-grabbing frenzy, suggests Ryan, have family members open presents one at a time. “You can make it a little ritual, with all eyes on the person opening the gift,” she says. “That way you have a few moments for appreciation built in.”

Stash ’em. If you feel your child will be receiving too many gifts this holiday season, put a few of them away to dole out as rainy-day surprises throughout the year.

Downplay the presents. Put more emphasis on celebrating — making cookies, attending religious services, decorating the tree, lighting the menorah, or visiting relatives.

Take them shopping. To buy gifts for other family members, that is. Even better, have them create homemade presents. Children get immense pleasure from giving gifts and seeing you express gratitude for them.

Copyright © 2007. Used with permission from the November 2007 issue of American Baby magazine.


Raising Children in an R-Rated World

10 Mar

Recently my older daughter, who’ll turn 5 years-old in June, started asking about death and how babies come out of their Mommy’s belly…this made my wife realize that she is better at talking about a vagina than death!  LOL!

But seriously, aren’t you surprised by the questions and/or topics of conversation your preschooler may bring up in the car, at the store or dining table?  When I was growing up in the 70’s, I do not recall asking as serious and intense questions as my daughter does…

When I came across this article in Parents.Com it sparked an OMG! moment for me.  My baby girls are growing up in an R-Rated World!  Such  difference from my childhood – I have fond memories of watching The Electric Company, Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood and (the original) Sesame Street.  Now a days there is more animation/cartoon in the current generation Sesame Street, although the message and educational aspect is similar.

Also, it’s so true how the animated movies – i.e. Toy Story, Shrek, etc. – are now geared for adult and kids…family movie with adult one-liners that the kids are not supposed to understand?  Oh boy.   Even now I wonder how much longer my wife and I can spell out words we don’t say out loud, as Julia is well into reading and if she can hear and remember all the letters we say, she’ll be piecing it together in no time! 

Although my preschooler  does watch some TV, I actually prefer that she watch kids’ shows with real people (ie. The Freshbeat Band, Imagination Movers, The Upside Down Show) rather than just cartoons.

At any rate, as the article concludes, it really is the parents and communication that is key to safely raising a child in the current R-Rated society.  I personally feel it to be my duty/responsibility as a parent to teach and guide my children.  I much rather have them come to me and ask any questions on their mind and have a conversation with me vs. getting information from classmates. 

Do you have any tips or stories to share?  PLease do so by leaving a comment.  Thanks!

Raising Kids in an R-Rated Culture

Between sultry pop stars and suggestive prime-time TV, children encounter sexual language and images at very young ages. Here’s how to protect your kids. A special must-read report.

By Dianne Hales


Introduction For many years, children at one Chicago nursery school have enjoyed playing with big cardboard boxes, transforming them into trucks, spaceships, castles, and forts. Lately, though, the preschool staff has been watching a little more closely when kids disappear into the cartons. The reason? Teachers recently found a 4-year-old boy lying on top of a female classmate, trying to kiss her.

In the past, educators would have thought such behavior was an indication that a child had been sexually abused. But these days, they’re just as likely to suspect that kids are merely mimicking something they’ve seen on TV. “Children always react to what they’re exposed to in the media,” says Diane Levin, a former teacher and author of Remote Control Childhood? Combating the Hazards of Media Culture (National Association for the Education of Young Children). “Play often involves issues children are trying to understand, and one of those issues is sex.”

Although violence in the media has provoked major public controversy, concern is growing about the impact of exposure to sexualized language and situations, especially on the very young. There’s no consensus among experts on the short- or long-term effects our sex-heavy pop culture has on kids. But parents of young children seem to agree that the media’s obsession with sex is prodding kids to look and act precociously sexual. “My 3-year-old stands in front of the mirror and belts out words from a Britney Spears song — ‘I’m not that inn-o-cent,’ ” says Molly Gordy, a mother of two girls in New York City. “We sure hope that’s not true.”

What’s coming out of the mouths of babes hardly sounds innocent — even though it usually is. Driving a car pool of 5-year-olds, a California mother was dumbfounded when her daughter asked, “What’s a blow job?”

Sex-Saturated Culture The first response of startled parents is to wonder where their youngsters are picking up such words and ideas. But the answer is simple: everywhere. Long before they can read, today’s kids are bombarded with sexual imagery — on magazine covers, in TV commercials, in movie trailers, and on billboards. “Advertisers increasingly use sex to capture a consumer’s attention,” says Gail Dines, Ph.D., a professor of sociology at Wheelock College, in Boston.

At home, television has turned up the sexual heat. More than half of all television programs — 56 percent — contain some sexual material, according to a recent study by the Parents Television Council, a nonpartisan advocacy group. From 1989 to 1999, the frequency of sexual interactions, verbal and physical, more than tripled during prime-time viewing hours. References to genitalia occurred more than seven times as often, while foul language increased more than five and a half times.

Even movies geared toward young children aren’t as tame as they were a generation ago. Pocahontas, with her strapless dress and exposed cleavage, is far sexier than Cinderella ever was. Remakes of The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle and Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas, unlike the originals, are sprinkled with double entendres and sexual references.

Many parents assume that sexual sizzle goes over the heads of kids barely old enough to tie their shoes. But that’s not necessarily the case, says clinical psychologist Ben Allen, Psy.D., of Northbrook, Illinois. “Children are sponges,” he says. “They don’t respond to suggestive material by becoming sexually stimulated in the way that adults do, but they do find it intriguing.”

Certainly, young children are curious and impressionable. “My 6-year-old picks up on everything he sees in ads, on billboards, and on magazine covers,” says Mary Kay Turner, of San Ramon, California. “He’ll ask questions like ‘Why are they kissing that way?’ I find myself having conversations that I don’t think he’s ready for.” A Washington, D.C., mother, certain that her preschooler wasn’t even paying attention to a commercial for Viagra that came on during a game show, said she was amazed when the 4-year-old asked her what erectile dysfunction meant. “I told him it was a medical problem, and that was enough information to keep him satisfied,” she said. “I’m glad he wasn’t watching television with his 12-year-old cousin. Who knows how he would have explained it.”

Some experts say that the barrage of sexual material can be baffling to young children. “Kids have always been interested in each other’s bodies, but now they’re puzzled because they’re seeing things that are far more complex than what they would naturally be curious about,” says Levin. Worse, a precocious interest in sexuality may distract 4- and 5-year-olds from more important developmental tasks, such as learning to negotiate with friends, use language precisely, and play creatively.

Peering into the future, parents wonder where the bombardment of sexual messages and images will lead. “What parents fear most is the impact on later behavior and sexual experimentation,” observes Debra Haffner, former president of the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States and author of From Diapers to Dating: A Parent’s Guide to Raising Sexually Healthy Children (Newmarket). “But there’s no evidence at all to suggest that learning to roll your hips to a music video at age 6 means you’re more likely to have sex when you’re in ninth grade,” Haffner says.

Nonetheless, sexual experimentation is beginning at surprisingly early ages. According to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit reproductive-health research organization, two out of ten girls and three out of ten boys have had sexual experience by age 15. What’s more, there are widespread reports of increased sexual activity, including oral sex, among middle-school students — although reliable statistics are hard to come by.

Even at younger ages, though, children have an awareness of sexuality and sexual terms. One mom described taking her 5-year-old to a birthday party where little girls were gyrating their hips while lip-synching the lyrics of a suggestive song. “They looked like a bunch of little Lolitas,” she says.

Fashion feeds into the trend as well. Though little girls have always delighted in dressing up in grown-up clothes, some kids’ styles are even sexier than what’s inside Mom’s closet. Stores sell tube tops, belly-baring hip-hugger skirts, even bras and bikini panties for girls as young as 6 or 7. “They all want to look and dress just like the sexiest pop stars,” one New York City mom complains.

How do the sexually charged images of pop music affect children? Experts disagree. “Young girls don’t comprehend that people can view a pop singer as a sex symbol,” says Dr. Allen. “But at the same time, they know that looking and acting like Christina Aguilera grabs attention. The danger is that girls may think they need to be like her to have a sense of self-worth.”

However, others believe that children find harmless comfort in contemporary music. “Young kids get into a hypnotic state that’s somewhat erotic when they watch music videos or listen to pop songs,” says psychiatrist Lynn Ponton, M.D., of the University of California at San Francisco, an expert on child sexuality and author of The Sex Lives of Teenagers (Dutton). “It’s one of the ways they feel safe having their first sexual feelings. The songs give them permission to feel excited in a harmless way.”

Curbing the Sleaze Most parents say they can largely control what movies, television, and music their children are exposed to. Nonetheless, even the most vigilant parent can’t completely shield a child from the sexual material that’s so much a part of contemporary culture. Sooner or later, every youngster is going to see an inappropriate video or listen to a song with obscene lyrics. “We live in an age when sexuality is freely accepted and exposed,” Dr. Allen says. “Trying to insulate a child from sexual material is like fighting a tornado. You need to think of it as junk food. Once in a while, it’s not really a threat, but you want to avoid a steady diet.”

Parents should make an effort to help a child understand what he’ll inevitably encounter. The best way to do that is by talking openly with your child about sex and being available and willing to answer any questions that come up. For preschool kids, it’s wise to teach correct anatomical terms for body parts and functions. If a child hears (or uses) slang, parents may want to explain that such words are inappropriate. Opinions vary on when parents should talk to their children about the birds and the bees; some experts say that explaining sex to a child at about age 5 or 6 can help ensure that he’ll get the message from you, not his friends. With kids this age, keep conversations simple and brief. Ask kids what they already know to gauge how much they’ve heard. Listen carefully to their responses, and clarify any mistaken impressions. Provide only the information they want at the moment.

When it comes to a child’s using sexual language or mimicking sexual behavior, the way parents respond makes a lasting impression. It’s important not to scold or punish a child or make him feel ashamed.

“Remember that sexual curiosity and experimentation, like playing doctor, are normal for 4- and 5-year-olds,” Haffner says. However, children who engage in behaviors such as oral-genital contact or simulated intercourse may well have been victims of sexual abuse, so that possibility should be investigated. It’s also possible, however, that these kids may have come across inappropriate materials in the media. If parents find that young children are venturing into adults-only territory, they should explain why the material isn’t suitable for kids.

“It’s not fair for adults to make children feel bad for their fascination with material that we expose them to,” says media expert Levin. “If you say, ‘Don’t do that’ without explaining why, children conclude that they can’t go to adults for help figuring this stuff out.” Rather, your goal should be to put what your children see and hear into context. Here are some ways to begin:

Tips to Help Your Child Put What they See and Hear into Context  
  • Take charge. In the same way that you wouldn’t give preschoolers free rein over what they wear or eat, carefully choose the videos, CDs, and television shows that your youngsters listen to and watch. If your kids complain that their friends get to see other programs, explain that your family has made a different choice.
  • Keep TVs and computers in family spaces rather than in children’s rooms. Whenever you can, watch with your child and discuss what you see. Monitor their Internet use, and use filtering software (available from most Internet service providers) to keep them away from inappropriate Websites.
  • Make sure your television has a V-chip, a device that prevents kids from accessing certain channels. Particularly useful if older siblings or baby-sitters may flip to inappropriate shows when you’re not around, the V-chip will keep out explicit sexual language and behavior.
  • Don’t assume anything goes over a child’s head. By ages 5 and 6, children pick up the sexual undercurrents in prime-time programs like Friends and Will & Grace. Some experts say that kids may actually pay closer attention than adults, who have been desensitized to sexual innuendo in the media.
  • Don’t encourage sexual precociousness. You may be sending your child the wrong messages if you buy skin-baring clothing or applaud sexy dancing as cute. Encourage children to appreciate their bodies for the many things they can do rather than for how they appear.
  • Take advantage of teachable moments. When sexual subjects come up on a TV program that you’re watching with your kids, ask open-ended questions, such as “What do you think about that?” or “How would you feel if someone treated you like that?” This is a good opportunity to communicate your values about sex and sexuality.
  • Emphasize respect for oneself and others. “Boys need to know that being a man is not about sexual conquests, which is what the media tell them,” Dr. Dines says. “Girls should know that they weren’t put on earth to please boys — which is what they see in the media — but to live a full, happy, and successful life.”
  • Keep the conversation going. Try to help make your child feel comfortable approaching you to discuss issues of sex and sexuality. Never dismiss his questions and concerns as silly or trite. Children who learn early on that they can talk with their parents about these subjects without fear of ridicule or rebuke develop a trust that can endure into adolescence and beyond.


Phone Calls or Video Chat via the Net?

8 Mar
Wi-Fi Alliance logo

Image via Wikipedia

What phone, video chat, internet communication programs do you use?  With family and friends in other countries and no landline in our home, we utilize Skype and MagicJack.  See this article by David Progue of The New York Times on his view/review of the “Ins and Outs of Calling via the Net.” 

State of the Art

Ins and Outs of Calling via the Net

Published: January 26, 2011
Correction Appended

“Hi David! Am I the only one getting really confused by all the free/cheap Internet calling options? Would you mind clearing the steadily occluding waters of Skype, Google Voice, Line2, FreePhone2Phone, and so on? Your fan, Caroline C.”

I loved this e-mail message for two reasons. First, I knew that the answer might make a great column.

Second, you so rarely encounter the word “occluding.”

All right, Caroline, here’s the story.

The world of phone calls is changing fast. Any time some service is both essential and expensive — like phone service — you can bet that somebody will invent less expensive alternatives.

As faster Internet connections caught on, it didn’t take long for clever programmers to realize that the Internet could transmit voices.

The world was suddenly full of programs (Skype, iChat, Google Talk, various Messenger programs) that let you make free “phone calls” to anywhere, as long as you and your callee were both sitting at computers.

Then came the era of cellphones that could connect to the Internet. What a mind-boggler! Doesn’t that mean that app phones (like iPhone and Android phones) could, in theory, make free “phone calls” over the Internet, bypassing voice networks? Your Internet calls would never use up any of your minutes. You’d save all kinds of money. You’d rock the very foundations of the telecom world.

Well, we’re getting there. With a few technically complex exceptions there’s still no app that offers all three of these elements: free calls, to regular phone numbers, from your cellphone. In most cases, you can choose only two of the three. For example, you can make free calls to any phone number — but only from your computer or landline phone (Google Voice). Or you can make free calls from your cellphone to other owners of an app (Fring, Skype, TruPhone) — but not to actual phone numbers.

To prepare this report on the state of Internet calling, I made a lot of calls in all kinds of different configurations: to a cellphone, to a landline, over WiFi, over cellular, and so on. Over time, it became clear that Internet calling apps represent an excellent exercise in expectation-lowering.

For example, compared with regular cellphone calling, Internet calls usually take longer to connect. The sound quality is almost always inferior; you’d describe it as muffled, faint or distant.

Finally, the voice delay is measurably worse on Internet calls. During each test, I conducted a little experiment: I told my calling partner that I was going to count to three, and asked her to say “three” simultaneously with me. Even on a typical cellphone call, I hear her “three” distinctly late — a half second or so. But on Internet calls, that delay is usually a full second or even more. Don’t try to practice your comic timing on an Internet call.

Ordinarily, calling apps connect to the Internet when you’re in a Wi-Fi hot spot. When you’re not, these apps can connect to the Internet over your cellphone company’s data network. In that setup, though, the results are disappointing; the sound is muffled and delayed, and, if you’re driving, the calls drop frequently. Internet calling apps are generally worth using only when you’re on Wi-Fi.

Exaggerating the abilities of these apps is par for the course. Skype and Fring, for example, claim to permit phone-to-phone video chats, even when you’re not using Wi-Fi. In practice, the quality and delays are so horrific that the feature is unusable.

Despite all of these drawbacks, though, these apps offer two unassailable benefits. First, of course, they can save you a lot of money. If you make most of your calls over Wi-Fi, you can downgrade to a cheaper cellphone calling plan, because you’re using fewer minutes. (If you have Line2, Pinger or Google Voice, you can also cancel your text-messaging plan because they offer unlimited free texting.)

And second, these Wi-Fi apps let you make solid calls indoors — precisely where cellular coverage is weakest.

All right, then, Caroline: here’s a rundown. Most of these apps are available for iPhone and Android phones. Each recreates your phone’s existing phone-calls app, complete with a dialing pad, Recent Calls list, address book (inherited from the one already on your phone) and so on. All offer very cheap calls to overseas numbers.

SKYPE Free “calls” to anyone, anywhere in the world, with Skype on their computers or phones — which is a lot of people. The company says it is averaging 124 million users a month. If both of you are on Wi-Fi, the call quality is insanely clear and realistic, more like an FM radio broadcast than a cellphone call. Despite the clarity, delay problems can come and go during the call. Delay can still be a problem, though.

To call actual phone numbers, it’s $3 a month for unlimited calls within the United States, paid in advance; there are all kinds of other plans. (With most of these apps, billing can get complicated, and you should not expect tech support of the caliber supplied by your cell company. Line2 is the only app here, for example, with a human staff on its tech support line.)

You can send text messages for 11 cents each. But recipients’ replies come to your phone’s regular text-message app, not to Skype, so you can’t see the back-and-forths in the same app. And you pay for the replies at the standard carrier rate.

TRUPHONE Unlimited calls to landlines in 38 countries, or cellphones in 9 countries, for $13 a month. Like all of these WiFi calling apps, TruPhone turns an iPad or iPod Touch into a Wi-Fi cellphone. No text messaging.

FRING This app’s strength is its ability to connect to a lot of other services, like Skype, MSN Messenger, Google Talk, ICQ, SIP, Yahoo Messenger and AIM — either with “phone calls” or typed chats. As with Skype, you can make calls to phone numbers only by buying credits in advance; you’re billed 0.7 cents or 0.9 cents a minute to domestic landlines and cellphones. Sound quality isn’t great. No text messaging.

LINE2 This app gives your phone a second phone line, with its own phone number. It’s smart enough to place and receive calls over Wi-Fi when available, and over the cell network otherwise; $10 a month buys all the Wi-Fi calls you want, to regular phone numbers. It’s the only app here that offers true phone-to-phone text messaging, which is very useful. My only beef: the app takes too long to notice that it’s on a Wi-Fi network before you can place a call, sometimes 15 seconds.

GOOGLE VOICE Google Voice is free. It offers a million glorious features — transcripts of your voice mail messages, for starters, and free text messages, which is huge. It does not, however, save you any money on cellphone calls; it places calls over the regular cellular network, so it doesn’t conserve cellphone minutes. (Google Voice can make free domestic calls from your computer or a landline, not from your cellphone — at least not without a tricky app called Talkatone.)

FREEPHONE2PHONE This service works on any phone, not just app phones like iPhone and Android. If you listen to a 10- or 12-second ad, you get a free 10-minute call — to landlines in 55 countries.

To use it, you start by dialing a local number, which you look up at After the ad plays, you dial the country code and number; sound quality is excellent. Beats using calling cards, that’s for sure.

TEXTFREE WITH VOICE TextFree, this app’s predecessor, gave an iPod Touch its own phone number — and gave you unlimited free Wi-Fi text messaging. The new free “With Voice” app adds voice calls from Wi-Fi, with a fascinating payment twist: you earn free minutes by downloading certain promoted apps (say, 15 or 30 minutes each). You can also buy minutes cheaply (for example, 250 minutes for $5). This app comes breathtakingly close to turning a Touch into a full iPhone — at a fraction of the monthly cost — which makes it catnip for teenagers and those even younger.

So there you have it, Caroline: my effort to render the cheap Internet calling options just a little less occluded. May all your minutes be free ones!


Correction: January 28, 2011

The State of the Art column on Thursday, about Internet calling apps, described the capabilities of such apps incorrectly. A few of them allow free calls to regular phone numbers from cellphones; it is not the case that no apps meet that description. David Pogue has written a follow-up post about these apps. The column also misstated the capabilities of Google Voice. Besides offering free domestic calls from your computer, the service also allows free calls from a landline phone and, with the use of an app called Talkatone, from a cellphone. It is not the case that it does not allow free calls from a phone.

What Your Kids Learn from Your Marriage

6 Feb

This article from Parents.Com really hits home and serves as a great reminder.  Kids are super sponges and observe everything!  So, keep it in mind and keep your actions and words in line – when my wife and I have a slightly heated “discussion”, our preschooler always says, “Mommy & Daddy, be nice to each other” and our voices automatically return to normal levels and drop the attitude ;o)

What Kids Learn from Your Marriage

Those little eyes and ears are picking up everything. Do you like what you and your husband are teaching?

By Jenna McCarthy


My husband and I cook dinner together almost every night. I never thought much about this — other than to be really, really grateful for both the collaboration and the companionship — until one day I overheard our daughters, ages 4 and 6, playing house with their friends. Our girls had appointed themselves the parents, and their two friends were the “kids.” All was going along swimmingly until it was time to prepare their imaginary meal.

“The dad doesn’t cook!” laughed one of the friends, pointing to my older daughter as she popped a plastic casserole into the oven.

“Yeah, you’re right,” said the other.

“Yes, he does!” my daughters roared back in unison, running to me and begging me to set the record straight.

My husband and I help our daughters understand concepts like “choices” and “consequences” and reinforce positive behaviors. But in that moment, I realized that our very marriage was presenting them with a set of values and beliefs that they would go on to believe were “right,” for better (as in this case) or worse.

“Modeling” for your kidsTurns out there is copious research to suggest that modeling — a fancy word for behaving in a way you want others to replicate — is a key but often overlooked component in a child’s development. “Modeling takes place even before kids can understand verbal communication,” explains Elizabeth R. Lombardo, Ph.D., a psychologist in Wexford, Pennsylvania, and author of A Happy You: Your Ultimate Prescription for Happiness. “As parents, we so often focus on teaching verbally, but we forget the importance of our actions.” And no interactions are more visible — or powerful — to a child than what transpires between Mom and Dad. It’s not just division of labor or gender-role stuff that matters; a longitudinal study published in 2009 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found that the quality of a child’s parents’ marriage had as much influence on his or her future mental and physical health and well-being as his or her own relationship with either parent.

“The most important relationship in any family is the marital one, and the best thing parents can do for their children is to love one another,” explains Daniel L. Buccino, a clinical social worker and cofounder of the Baltimore Psychotherapy Institute. “By making the effort to value each other, parents teach their children important lessons about intimacy, conflict, and balancing work and home.” Single parents, he adds, can demonstrate some of these same skills in healthy relationships with friends and family members.

We can urge our children to share or to fight fair, but the truth is that they are too busy watching every last move we make — from the way we resolve disputes to how much quality couple time we share — to listen to a word we are saying. This is how to use your marriage to model only the healthiest behaviors.

The importance of affection

Love Lesson: Show Affection

While most parents instinctively understand the importance of being affectionate with their kids, some overlook the fact that it’s critical for them to see Mom and Dad being demonstrative toward each other. “Our parents’ relationship is a training ground for our own,” explains Melody Brooke, marriage and family therapist in Richardson, Texas. Children who grow up in a house where their parents don’t show affection for each another in front of them can grow up being uncomfortable with intimacy in their own relationships, she adds.

Just as children raised in violent homes are apt to continue that cycle, kids who witness loving contact will take those lessons into their own future family. “By demonstrating appropriate, tender ways to be affectionate, we teach our children at a young age what is okay and what isn’t — which is especially important when we aren’t around,” explains Beverly Hills psychiatrist Carole Lieberman, M.D., best-selling author and host of the radio show Dr. Carole’s Couch. It also reinforces the idea that the world is a safe place, something children can’t hear or see often enough.

It’s important not to show affection with your spouse only when he’s done something to make you happy. Instead, you might want to go out of your way to let your kids see you hugging your hubby when you pass him in the hall or asking him to sit with you on the couch during family movie time. “Children need to get the message that people don’t have to be perfect to be loved,” explains Virginia Barlow, M.D., a family-practice physician in Potsdam, New York. This means that while Dad is certainly entitled to a hearty high five when he fixes the leaky sink, it’s the for-no-special-reason squeezes that ultimately mean the most. (Of course, this applies to the affection you show your children too.)

Having a date night

Love Lesson: Stay Close

Surely you remember when your spouse was your top priority. You rearranged your schedules to be together, sacrificed sleep for another hour of sex, and went out of your way to perform thoughtful gestures on the other’s behalf.

Then you had kids. As lovely and magical as your offspring are, their incessant demands can make focusing on your partner feel like a luxury. “It’s the reality of many parents, especially moms, that the care of children leaves no energy, time, or even desire to invest in their marriage,” says Sheryl Kayne, who runs parenting workshops in Westport, Connecticut. With dual careers, an endless list of extracurricular activities, and an infinite number of distractions (Facebook, American Idol), couple time often gets shelved.

The fix? Good old date night. “It requires effort to remain friends, lovers, and connected partners,” insists Kayne, who believes setting up a weekly event is nonnegotiable. (If cash or child care is an issue, do date night 2010-style: Eat a civilized meal at home, then order a movie on demand after the kids are in bed.) “The relationship you build with your partner creates the foundation for your family, so you want it to be a strong one. You may think that your children will resent this time away from them, but when kids grow up knowing their parents love and make time for each other, it provides a sense of security that nothing else can.”

Clearly, divergent schedules make lots of one-on-one time impossible, but showing your kids that you want to be together — even for five minutes stolen here and there — goes a long way.

Divvying up the duties

Love Lesson: Share Responsibilities

We all know that running a house is like running a business, and there is an endless list of responsibilities that need your constant attention — from cooking and cleaning to schlepping to soccer/ballet/tuba practice. Even when Dad is the sole breadwinner, couples should strive for joint responsibility of the home, says Scott Coltrane, Ph.D., a sociologist at the University of Oregon and author of Family Man: Fatherhood, Housework, and Gender Equity: “Data show that each generation expects to share more of both financial and domestic duties.”

Need something else to convince your husband of the benefits of folding the occasional load of laundry? Dr. Coltrane has studied national survey data and found that school-age children who do housework with their father are more likely to get along with their peers. They are also less likely than other kids to disobey teachers or to become depressed or withdrawn. “Seeing fathers perform domestic service teaches cooperation and democratic family values,” explains Dr. Coltrane.

In our home, by doing the cooking together my husband and I have taught our daughters — almost by accident — that men and women can share domestic duties willingly and happily. Whereas I never made such a bold assumption about my own father (probably because I never saw him attempt to boil water), our daughters will go into the world, and into their own relationships, with this expectation.

Healthy arguing

Love Lesson: Fight Right

Interestingly, you have another important chance to improve your children’s lives whenever you and your husband aren’t getting along. A recent study published in The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry has found that as long as the fighting is fair, you don’t have to do it behind closed doors. “Under certain circumstances, kids benefit from seeing their parents disagreeing,” says study coauthor Patrick Davies, Ph.D., professor of psychology at the University of Rochester, in New York. “If parents make progress toward resolving arguments, it may offer children a lesson on how you can come to a solution through compromise.”

Dr. Lieberman takes this one step further: “Showing our children how to handle conflict effectively is one of the greatest gifts we can give them,” she insists. “I have worked with numerous patients who grew up in homes where their parents never openly communicated differences. These kids ‘learned’ that you must always agree with your loved ones. So when they have disagreements later on in their own lives, they assume the relationship is ruined or that there’s something wrong with them.”

Once you’ve established the fair-fighting ground rules (no shouting, no walking away, no name-calling), it is critical for both parents to agree to the terms. Mastering the art of empathic listening (“You sound frustrated”) works to smooth ruffled feathers and also shows respect. When you do this right, you reinforce the concept of unconditional love by showing that you can argue and still be okay.

Having a peanut gallery for a heated debate can also have a hidden advantage, I discovered recently. My husband and I were having one of those I’m-right-no-I’m-right discussions, and there was no end in sight. Our older daughter interrupted us with this nugget of wisdom: “Daddy, if you love Mommy why don’t you just let her win? She can let you win next time.” It was a great idea, and we told her so. Luckily for us, the modeling thing can go both ways.

Originally published in the June 2010 issue of Parents magazine.

Good & Bad are Over Used Words!

5 Jan

How often do you say something or someone (i.e. in parenting or about a pet) is Good or Bad?  Probably a lot – at least my wife and I did and finally realized it as parents of an active (and expressing major independence) 4 1/2 year-old and a 1-year-old…

It hit us when Julia started asking “Am I being “good” today?”  Then I started thinking how generic a term that is!  What is being good or bad mean?  As adults and/or parents, we should really be specific:

  • Julia, that was very helpful of you to put your plate and cup by the sink when you were done with your snack.
  • Julia, that was nice of you to play with your sister while we cleaned up the kitchen.
  • Julia, thank you for helping me bring the shopping bags into the house.
  • Julia, that was kind and generous of you to share your crackers with me.

Now, aren’t the four statements above more meaningful and specific than just “Oh Julia that was good” or “You’ve been so good today.”

Same goes for “Julia stop being bad.”  How is a toddler or preschooler to understand what is really wrong?  Being more specific like:

  • Julia, it is not nice to take a toy away from your sister when she is playing with it.
  • Julia, it is not respectful to interrupt and start talking to Mommy when you can see & hear she is talking to Daddy.

In the above two examples what is wrong is clear – don’t take the toy away from your sister and don’t interrupt when Mommy & Daddy are in the middle of a conversation.

As I was thinking about this topic for my blog – it hit me that this applies to our adult conversations with colleagues and spouses/significant others also.

I shouldn’t say “I don’t like the stew you made for dinner” or “This tea tastes bad” or “I don’t like the layout of your Power Point presentation” or “Wow, this chicken dish is really good!” 

  • Why don’t I “like” the stew?  Is it too salty/sweet/watery?  If I don’t explain what it is I don’t like about it, how will my wife know how to change it up next time?
  • What’s “bad” about the tea?  Too sour/sweet/strong/weak?  How should the next cup or pot be made?
  • Why don’t I like the presentation?  Is it too crowded, lacks images, too lengthy?
  • What’s so “good” about the chicken?  Is it spicy and I enjoy spicy food?  Very zesty & flavorful/well seasoned? 

I think we get the point now and understand that being specific and explaining why we like/don’t like something or why someone or thing is bad or good is such a better way to communicate – whether with a child or adult.

So work on breaking the habit – my wife and I are!  We know it takes some time…Join us!