Archive for March, 2007

The Best Parenting Advice Ever

Saturday, March 31st, 2007

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When my son was born, I remember asking my YaYa, which is Greek for Grandma, for one piece of advice on raising children. Her reply was quick and to the point, “You talk to them,” is all she said.

What simple and perfect words of wisdom.

God gave you two ears and one mouth. That is a signal to listen twice as much as you talk.
-Anonymous

Today, our world is filled with noise that clouds our judgment. As parents, we need to do our very best to incorporate quiet into our homes and our thoughts.

Look at our lives and how out of control they have become with noise. Walk down the street and there are people text messaging, talking on cell phones, listening to iPods, and kids in their SUVs with their parents for a short drive to the supermarket with headrest DVDs playing.

Despite the fact that 500 television channels present little quality content, Satellite TV can now be included on minivans. The ‘pitch’ is that parents could watch Howard Stern in the front, while kids can watch Spongebob in the back.

Television is called a medium because it is neither rare nor well-done.
-Ernie Kovacs

Is this what we consider quality time? All this noise keeps you from building some of the most important relationships in your life – the relationships with your children. It becomes especially important as messages are sent directly to your children.

I love the technology, but like anything else, moderation is the key.

What You Do Matters

Wednesday, March 28th, 2007

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Yet again, parents have taken up sides in the mommy wars as a result of the media’s sound bite reporting on a child care study. “Study ties day care to some behavioral problems” was blasted across the news the other day, with some news broadcasters giving parents a clear choice; either you stay at home which may pose financial risk, or you and leave your child in daycare which could cause future behavior problem.

Are those my only choices?

I believe that what parents do matters more than anything else. Again, I find myself thinking that we’re asking the wrong question. The experts agree that a nurturing, quality day care setting would be beneficial to a child. So let’s provide more access affordable, quality child care. Provide tax incentives for employers to create job sharing, allowing parents to work part-time, which would require less time children were in child care settings.

Good day care is good for kids, while bad day care is bad for kids, but much like the education system, day care cannot bear the burden without including parents in the equation. What parents do really matters. One of the things parents do is to search for good quality day care, by asking the right questions.

Child Care Aware which has wonderful free publications they can send to you, or you can call their toll free number 1-800-424-2246.

The best way to find quality day care is through a recommendation of someone you know and to visit the day care facility yourself and meet with the director. You should also observe the setting. Children should look comfortable and happy in the setting.

Here are some good starter questions to ask. Please add your own.

1. Can I drop in anytime?
2. Are there opportunities for parent (or grandparent) participation such as story time?
3. What are your hours of operation?
4. What are the fees and what do they include? (Some facilities include snacks and lunch). Are there additional fees for music or field trips?
5. What is a typical day like?
6. What is the ratio of teachers to children? This will differ by children’s ages and must meet state standards.
7. What are the teachers’ qualifications? What is your screening/hiring process?
8. Do the caregivers receive benefits? (This question may seem odd, but if the caregivers have a good benefit package, there will be lower turnover, which is important to giving your child a more stable environment.)
9. What are your procedures if a child is hurt?
10. How do you work with children on behavior issues?

What is Real Talent Worth?

Thursday, March 22nd, 2007

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A woman was strolling along a street in Paris when she spotted Picasso sketching at a sidewalk café. She asked if he might sketch her and charge accordingly.

Picasso obliged, and in just minutes, there she was, an original Picasso. “And what do I owe you?” she asked. “Five thousand Francs,” he answered. “What! It took you only minutes,” she politely reminded him. “No,” Picasso replied, “it took me all my life.”

Think about what real talent is worth to you, whether you were in need of a mechanic, a lawyer or a new hairstyle. What role did time play in the successful completion of the task – not much.

Why do we judge the value of a person by the concept of time? I have worked with many technical folks who with great effort would pour over a problem for days, but were not able to complete the task. Yet another technical person will come over and in minutes immediately and permanently fix the problem. Then why do we value time?

Recent articles and news programs talk about ‘Mommy Guilt’. Today’s moms are actually spending more time with their children, yet feel guiltier than their mothers. Guilt seems to be a natural byproduct of giving birth. You know how a turkey comes with a gravy packet? I have to believe that as we’re excitedly looking over our brand new baby, a ‘guilt’ packet is inserted into mothers. How else can you how these overwhelming pangs of guilt take over?

Here is a solution to the problem which seems to trouble working mothers much more. Employers need to create programs that allow working parents to have flexible hours by realizing it is about the work that needs to get done, not the ‘face time’ in the office.

Today is a good day to start a revolution.

Visit the following sites to learn more…

Work Options

Jobs and Moms Career Center

Handbook on Alternative Work Schedules

Moms Rising

The Attention Span of a Two-Year Old

Monday, March 19th, 2007

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Recently, I took my two-year old nephew to the playground on a perfectly sunny day. Like many moments in families, I didn’t need a camera; the smile on his face at play is etched in my mind. He would have been happy to play the entire day.

After a while, I found myself distracted with other things on my ‘to do’ list. And then it dawned on me that although we talk about the limited attention span of children, it isn’t their attention span that’s a problem – it’s ours.

When has a child ever asked to leave a playground? I doubt they ever do. Don’t they ask us to read Goodnight Moon several thousand times and then plead for one more time?

Our children need to move – they want to move. It’s parents that put children in front of the TV under the premise of learning when in fact we need to get our ‘to do’ list done.

The greatest athlete in the 20th century, Jim Thorpe, was said to have tried to mimic the movement of a two-year-old until he collapsed. When we think about our children being sedentary – let’s look in the mirror to figure out the root cause.

Here is a suggestion- to accomplish two things at once, include your child in your chores. That is a great way to spend time with your children, as they help (ok, I’m using that term very loosely) but in the long run you are winning both the battle and the war.

Fun fact about Jim Thorpe
Believe it or not, Thorpe once hit 3 home runs into 3 different states in the same game. During a semi-pro baseball game in a ballpark on the Texas-Oklahoma-Arkansas border, he hit his first homer over the leftfield wall with the ball landing in Oklahoma, his second homer over the rightfield wall into Arkansas and his third homer of the game was an inside-the-park home run in centerfield, which was in Texas!

Coaching Our Children for Success in Education

Thursday, March 15th, 2007

One should guard against preaching to young people success in the customary form as the main aim in life. The most important motive for work in school and in life is pleasure in work, pleasure in its result, and the knowledge of the value of the result to the community.
Albert Einstein

The late 1990’s doesn’t seem as if it was that long ago, but in the world of technology it’s dog years. While it was common for everyone in business to have email, non-business folks hadn’t caught up. Schools were even further behind the technology times and would send notes home the old fashioned way – in kids’ backpacks. Parents would find ‘important’ notes buried in the backpack the last day of school along with crumbs and gum wrappers. I almost expected to find Jimmy Hoffa.

As a full-time working mother, school communication is especially important because you had to be uber-organized to keep it together. Since I often traveled, having the school calendar in advance to keep me informed would help me to be around to attend important school events. But when asking for the calendar in advance; you would think I asked them to split the Atom.

After numerous promises and no delivery, I approached the Superintendent of Schools and asked why we still relied on such an antiquated method of paper notes, and late ones at that, for important schools news while the rest of world was whizzing by. My intention was to create email blasts for parents, without upsetting the current paper delivery method.

Our Board of Education representative, who didn’t quite agree, accompanied me to that meeting and said, “When do we let our children grow up and make them responsible for this information?” I looked at her and said, “Not yet.”

Think of the ways others communicate with our children. The Internet, cell phones, media and marketing messages – parents need to hang on more than ever. Schools should embrace technology and ways to keep us informed, so parents can play an active part in their child’s education. After all, there are many ways to deliver a message.

The ability to inform parents of their child’s attendance, grades and even lateness for classes has been around for a while. PowerSchool is a system that is being used in schools. Parents can learn about grades, attendance and even lateness as it happens, rather than waiting for a progress report or report card. Most parents embrace this enhanced communication while others worry about playing Big Brother. I worry about just the opposite. Surprisingly, some kids like it because they can check on themselves as well, and let’s face it; they are very comfortable with technology. It’s almost as if they expect this.

Parents worry that they will micro-manage their children with this information. That is a choice you make. You would be better served to coach rather than manage. If you manage, you do so for life. If you coach your child, you are teaching them to manage their own education. Isn’t that the objective?

Woody Allen said “80% Of Success Is Showing Up”

Monday, March 12th, 2007

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This weekend, I presented a workshop at the New York City Elementary Schools Principals Association (NYCESPA) on bridging the gap between math and home. The audience included principals and parents who understood the value of working together. If you would like to get the program notes, please visit www.parentalwisdom.com click on Free Reports and choose Bridging the Gap between Math and Home.

Although well-intentioned, the No Child Left Behind act did indeed leave someone behind – the parents. Much like a three-legged stool relies on each leg for support, the Ready – Fire – Aim execution of the NCLB act didn’t quite understand the importance of getting parents involved.

Clearly we have a problem with our education system. Last week Bill Gates said, “We simply cannot sustain an economy based on innovation unless citizens are educated in math, science and engineering.”

Exxon Mobil Corp. is launching a national program aimed at improving the way math and science are taught in U.S. schools and getting more students to take challenging coursework.

But in the midst of all this focus and excitement, we have added a layer of lunacy – paying students for AP courses. On the Today Show, experts weighed in on the reasons behind it. Please watch the video for yourself, but the Woody Allen quote as the heading for this blog entry applies here.

Please stop the madness. It is a privilege to learn, and our children should enjoy learning for the beauty of it.

Getting to Know You

Thursday, March 8th, 2007

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We will need to disconnect before we connect with each other. Parents – our primary goal, our most important job, is to raise happy, healthy, well-adjusted, independent children that contribute to society. Our children need to have empathy and listening skills which leads to good relationships and feels like a ‘psychological hug’.

Unfortunately, with iPods, text messaging and instant messaging, we’re not talking at all – at least not face to face. When getting together to go out, kids actually don’t go out at all – they watch movies or play video games. Their social skills are at great risk. A by-product of poor social skills is a lack of empathy. How could our children care about others when they don’t even take the time to know their friends?

A recent news story where a man was found dead after a year with his TV still blaring made me realize were we setting a good example about caring about our neighbors? The man had no contact with anyone for a year, despite the fact that he suffered from blindness and diabetes. Fortunately a water pipe broke, or we still might not know.

A family with two young boys came home from school ahead of their parents who were teachers. The house had been broken into and the boys hid in the backyard until their parents arrived home. Why didn’t they go to a neighbor’s house? They didn’t know any of their neighbors, even though they lived on that block for over nine years.

Not caring is not new. The story of Kitty Genovese still sends chills up my spine. It was 1964 and a young woman coming home from work was brutally stabbed to death while no fewer than 38 of her neighbors witnessed her attack. It would take them three hours after the attack to call the police.

Some might excuse apathy for fear of getting involved. For the record, I don’t buy that theory. The concern is that the simple act of our kids not even getting to know their own family and friends through simple social interaction because they are engaged in being connected may have just the opposite effect. They will be completely disconnected.

Parents – encourage your children to unplug and break out the art of conversation.

Stupid Ticket Winners

Monday, March 5th, 2007

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Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former. Albert Einstein, US (German-born) physicist (1879 – 1955)

Parenting is like no other job in the world. There are no qualifications, preparation, licenses or follow up evaluations. It’s as if you have to do something extreme before anyone checks up on you. Here are two recent cases in the news where that happened:

Two uncles taught their 2-year-old and 5-year-old nephews to smoke pot, thinking that it was pretty funny. The mom of the two little boys felt the uncles should receive probation rather than jail time. She said she didn’t know it was happening and therefore doesn’t understand why her children were removed to foster care. Well, then I certainly can’t explain it to her.

This second incident happened in England where an 8-year-old weighed in at over 200 lbs because the mother is literally feeding this child to death. As the mother stepped in to see if it made sense to take the boy away, the mom’s view was “If I was abusing him, he would be a skinny little runt.”

A parent’s first job is to protect their children and keep them safe. Both families neglected to do that and therefore are awarded the coveted Stupid Ticket from Parental Wisdom Free Reports.

For those parents that realize that one of their (many) jobs is to raise a healthy child, please see the Today Show where they featured Jennifer Trachtenberg, MD, FAAP Author of Good Kids, Bad Habits: The RealAge Guide to Raising Healthy Children. You can also get a free chapter including some charts and other helpful information by clicking here.

Yes, parenting is a tough job, but it is the one you signed up for.

Ferris Bueller – Big Brother is watching

Friday, March 2nd, 2007

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Ferris Bueller, the hooky-playing high school student who took his friends joy riding around Chicago in a Ferrari wouldn’t be very happy about the new drive cam.

As a mother of two relatively new drivers – I am thrilled. In earlier posts to this blog I wrote that the most frightening seat in the world is you in the passenger seat of your teen driver. Even more frightening is when they drive away with you peeking through the front curtains, holding your breath.

American Family Insurance, a Midwest insurance company has come up with a terrific proactive approach to prevent the number of accidents by teen drivers. Customers with teenage children in Indiana, Minnesota and Wisconsin can request that the system be installed in their cars, free of charge. Parents will receive regular reports on incidents that trigger a recording, which they can then review with their kids.

The system, made by DriveCam Inc. is the latest in a line of tools that can help parents track their teenagers’ behavior. For example, global-positioning equipment can alert parents if a car leaves a certain area. Other devices can reveal driver behavior in general. Black boxes, now standard in many new vehicles, can capture data such as how fast a car is moving. To read the full article, click here.

That system is now only available to American Family Insurance members; however, they do have a request for teen driver program info when it becomes available in July 2007.

For now, start a conversation with your teen about dangerous driving. Here is a terrific video which can serve as a conversation starter included in my January 30th blog entitled “When Peer Pressure is a Good Thing.”

Not only will Ferris Bueller be unhappy about this, but so will my hair colorist. Grey hair is a by product of having a teen driver.