Summer jobs

by Finn

A recent discussion on the politics open thread got onto the subject of immigration, then onto a discussion of how a change in immigration policy has affected businesses that rely on seasonal summer workers, which led away from politics to a discussion of summer employment of Totebaggers. Apparently many employers who rely heavily on seasonal summer workers have difficulty hiring domestic workers, and rely on foreign workers on visas (Denver Dad also mentioned it could be a problem for ski areas relying on seasonal winter workers).

For those of us with HS and college kids, what are your families doing WRT summer employment? Will, or have, your kids take or taken any of the summer jobs historically associated with kids that age, e.g., lifeguard, cannery work, agricultural work, fast food, wait or kitchen staff, etc? Or would jobs more associated with career plans, such as internships, be in their past or future?

What kind of summer work did you do, and will your kids do similar work?

Jealous of other kids?

by Denver Dad

Do you ever get jealous of other kids? I’ve mentioned quite a few times that DD plays softball and I’m one of the coaches. She loves playing, but she is just not an athlete. Over the years, I’ve seen quite a few girls who came in with little or no experience and pick it up so quickly. I can’t help feeling a bit jealous when I see them in comparison to DD.

The Latest Country Whose Parenting We Should Emulate

by Honolulu Mother

I’m sure we all remember when we were urged to go all Tiger Mom on our kids, and when a bit later we were urged to feed them pate and celeriac and send them off to play while the grown-ups talk, because French women not only don’t get fat, they also don’t serve up Easy Mac to picky eaters or hover over playdates. But now we’re offered a new group to be more like: the Dutch!

The key to raising happy kids? The latest trend says do as the Dutch do.

I am especially amused by this because a few years ago, around when the Tiger Mom stuff was big in the news, my daughter’s friend (whose mother is Dutch) had come along for a weekend at my parents’ house and my mother, impressed with the friend’s behavior, was talking about how there should be a book on Dutch parenting . . . right up until the friend accidentally dropped a gecko in my mother’s lap and it ended up inside her shorts.

The article suggests that features of Dutch childhood include plenty of independence, time for play, and minimal academic stress, all helped along by a wholly un-American level of work-life balance. Does that sound good to you? Does it sound feasible? And, what country’s parenting style do you think we should next be urged to adopt, and why?

When do you let your kids quit an activity?

by tcmama

When do you let your kids quit an activity? Our sons, 1st grade and kindergarten, are taking piano lessons. I have no musical ability, but I feel it is important for them to have some exposure to music. We are finishing their first year of lessons. The kids are starting to complain about practicing. Mostly the older one is complaining about practicing, and I think the younger one complains because his brother does. I don’t want them to quit because it is getting harder, but at the same time, I don’t want to force them to do something they don’t like.

Both kids like music and say they would like to try other instruments when they get older. The younger son seems to have an interest in music – he goes through life singing and making up songs. If we allowed the older son to quit piano, I think the younger son would quit too because he wants to do everything his brother does.

If this were a sport that the kid didn’t want to do, I’d let them quit once the season was over and not sign them up again. I wonder though if it should be different with music. I’m not sure if they are complaining now because it is getting harder and they don’t want to work through it. I’m not having them play piano as a resume builder for college. I want them to have exposure and appreciation for music.

Other info – I don’t think they mind going to the lessons because it is during their after-school care, so we don’t need to drive them to it. I started paying them to practice as they wanted to earn more money (daily prices – $0.25 for one time through all songs, $0.50 for two times through, and $0.75 for 3 or more times through).

For those of you who play an instrument or did play an instrument, did your parents make you play? How long did you take lessons for? Do you wish you would have stuck with it for longer? Should I let them take next year off and try taking lessons again when they are older? Any tips to help make practicing more enjoyable or provide more incentive for practicing? Should we allow them to stop taking lessons?

The X Plan

by Honolulu Mother

This blog post by Bert Fulks recommends a variant on the you-can-always-get-a-ride-home policy that I’ve seen recommended before (including on the Totebag) for the teenage years. He describes it thus:

Let’s say that my youngest, Danny, gets dropped off at a party. If anything about the situation makes him uncomfortable, all he has to do is text the letter “X” to any of us (his mother, me, his older brother or sister). The one who receives the text has a very basic script to follow. Within a few minutes, they call Danny’s phone. When he answers, the conversation goes like this:

“Hello?”

“Danny, something’s come up and I have to come get you right now.”

“What happened?”

“I’ll tell you when I get there. Be ready to leave in five minutes. I’m on my way.”

At that point, Danny tells his friends that something’s happened at home, someone is coming to get him, and he has to leave.

It seems like a good idea. What says the Totebag’s collective wisdom?

When talking is the wrong way to show support

by Honolulu Mother

I was interested in this Washington Post article suggesting that sometimes the best way to be a supportive parent is to stay quiet, at least until your child is ready to talk:

The first rule of sports (and all) parenting: Don’t speak

This is not a natural response for me. I have learned over time that there are times it’s best to say what you have to say and then drop it, or wait for a better time to raise a thorny topic — this isn’t limited to parenting, either — but I hadn’t really thought about the option to say nothing in a situation such as the one described in the article (disappointing loss in a big game). I’ll have to remember that as another tool in my parenting toolbox.

Is the don’t-talk approach something you would use, or have used, in a similar situation? What do you think of the advice?

Why Does Sports Participation Drop Off by 13?

by Honolulu Mother

Apparently of the kids who play organized sports, only 30% are still playing by the end of middle school, as written up in this Washington Post article:

Why 70 percent of kids quit sports by age 13

The article suggests a number of reasons, which largely come down to the way the system is designed to be up-or-out and narrow down to the most serious and competitive players, in combination with similar increases in time demands and competitiveness in other activities forcing kids to choose just one or two things to focus on.

Do you have thoughts on this phenomenon? Is there a place for a once-a-week fun league in high school? Have your high schoolers found other fun ways to keep active when they’re not in organized sports?

Terrible Twelves

by Honolulu Mother

My youngest, a seventh grader, has been a challenge to live with (and to teach) lately, in similar ways to his older brother at the same age. (My daughter went through the phase less severely and about a year earlier.) It led me to google “terrible twelves,” which turned up this NY Magazine article

Age 12 Is Like a Second Toddlerhood

Do you agree?

(And, remind me again that this stage will pass . . .)

Manners

by Honolulu Mother

Sometimes it takes an outsider to notice what our unspoken customs and expectations are, as noted in this Atlantic article:

Welcome to America, Please Be On Time: What Guide Books Tell Foreign Visitors to the U.S.

If you’re an adult with an etiquette question or even just trying to figure out the basics, there are places you can turn, like this forum (if you’ve never seen it before, set a timer before you start poking around!), or of course Miss Manners and whoever is the new Emily Post, plus more up-to-date versions of the advice column.

But with our kids, we have a responsibility to teach them this stuff before they head out into the world, and it doesn’t necessarily follow that raising them to be considerate and empathetic will necessarily lead them to just intuit how table settings work, or what the standard phrases are for congratulating or commiserating on life events, or the different expectations on arriving by the appointed time for a party versus a job interview.

Do you have a conscious program for teaching manners, or do you just try to work it in as you go along? Have you ever considered a class? And, at what point is it time for you to bite your tongue and figure that your kids are now beyond your jurisdiction — at 18, or later, or earlier?

Teaching your kids to drive

by Denver Dad

My son just turned 15, which means he is going to get his learner’s permit. I’m hoping DW and I can be patient driving instructors for him. When my brother and I were learning to drive, my mom would always jam her foot on the imaginary break and turn the imaginary wheel and yell “Watch! Watch!” when she’d see a car coming on a side street a half-mile down the road.

What were everyone’s experiences like teaching their kids to drive? How well did you handle it? And for those whose kids aren’t old enough, what do you think you’ll be like as a driving instructor?

How Not to Raise Brats

by Honolulu Mother

This Washington Post article has some thoughts on what leads kids to act ungrateful or entitled, and how we as parents can try not to promote those traits. The article is framed in terms of behavioral economy / psychology, but its suggestions can be summarized as:

– Train them to think about other people’s experiences and perspectives
– Avoid hedonic adaptation, i.e. don’t spoil them
– Show them how the world outside their bubble lives
. . . . especially by focusing on individual examples
– Don’t bribe them for desired behaviors

I’m not sure I entirely agree with the last one — sometimes bribery can be a way to get the ball rolling, especially if it’s phrased as a token of appreciation for their help and accompanied by verbal appreciation as well; and in a short-term situation bribery can be the tool that gets everyone through. But by and large, these seem like time-honored and common sense strategies.

Do you consciously try to follow these or similar strategies? Is the list incomplete? Have you ever been startled by some piece of entitled or ungrateful behavior by your child or children?

College Confidential (Totebag Version)

by Louise

Totebaggers with older kids, what is the criteria for getting into a college that people would recognize ? I am not talking of Highly Selective Schools but maybe a tier below ?

Also, if you have experience with HSS, please share that. Some Totebaggers have left the decision on where to apply, how hard to work to their kids, others may have offered tips or made suggestions.

Still others have inside experience as readers of applications, college administrators and professors. I would love to hear your views on this edition of The Totebag College Confidential.

The Mixed Message: School’s Creating Helicopter Parents

by AustinMom

Last week I went to a freshman (high school) parent night and was told about all the things I should be doing to ensure my child’s success. These included (1) making sure they were using the agenda the school gave them, (2) regularly checking their grades, (3) each weekend helping them select the appropriate FIT sessions for the next week, (4) subscribing to the teachers’ webpages for those using that system to get emails when each assignment is posted, (5) logging into my student’s account to see what the assignments are for the teachers using that system, and (6) in my account, I should also set it up so that I get a notification for missing grades, absences/tardies, and when the child’s average falls below a family determined level.

Before I go on, FIT sessions are mandatory 25 minute tutoring/study sessions that occur 3 days a week. Teachers post the topic/style of each of their sessions each week, such as Q&A review for Pre-AP Biology Test 2 or Review of Quadratic Functions, or the student can select a quiet study hall or a “open” study hall that allows talking so kids can work on group projects. Teachers or counselors can sign a student up for a FIT session that the student cannot change.

Yes, I set up my parent account so I can see grades, get notifications for missing grades and when an average falls “too low”. However, I think the rest of those items are my student’s responsibility, but I am absolutely willing to help her with any issue if she asks. The teachers and counselors have told them to do these things and have showed them how. I believe that my student should not be counting on me to do these things and then remind her about all her assignments. If she does not handle the responsiblity appropriately, then it is my job to step in and help her figure out what needs to happen differently.

The next day this article (Standford Dean) comes through my feed about the negative effects of helicopter parenting and not to do “everything” for them. The event last night that told me what “good”, “involved” parents should do seems to be promoting helicopter parenting.

About 5 days later I attended a set of college presentations with my HS junior. One of the speakers introduced the term “helium parenting”. The article (Helium Parenting) describes it better, but think about how a balloon is tethered to your hand when you hold it, but it can still move around freely within limits. Then, when you let go, it goes off completely on its own. Helium parents provide that freedom within boundaries knowing that they will ultimatley let go.

Totebaggers, do you feel that you are getting mixed messages about how “involved” you are to be in your child(ren)’s school life? Do you feel like you are a “helicopter” or “helium” parent?

What a Stanford Dean Says Parents are Doing That’s Ruining Their Kids

Helium Parenting

Supersmart kids

by Finn

If we’re all honest with ourselves, many of us have very smart kids. Perhaps they’re not supersmart, but they’re well above average, and common topics of conversation here are related to our kids being smarter than their classmates, and sometimes smarter than their teachers.

So these accounts of a study of supersmart kids will likely be of interest. Some here have mentioned some level of participation in the Johns Hopkins programs for very bright middle schoolers, and my niece participated, but I was totally unaware that the program was part of such a study of supersmart kids and how to help them maximize their potentials.

How to Raise a Genius: Lessons from a 45-Year Study of Supersmart Children

Want to Raise Wildly Successful Kids? Science Says Do This for Them (but Their Schools Probably Won’t)

What are your takeaways from these articles? Do they suggest any possible directions you will take regarding the education of your kids?

Would you ban your college age kids from a major?

by Honolulu Mother

This Washington Post clickbait, I mean article, discusses parents who forbid their college student offspring from choosing a liberal arts major.

Meet the parents who won’t let their children study literature

I assume the parents in question are paying for college. Would you ever place specific subjects off-limits as a field of study for your college-aged offspring? And if so, what subjects?

To me it seems inappropriate and controlling. But, I’m not paying for college yet so ask me again when one of mine announces s/he has discovered a grade-free program of study in Video Gaming as Narrative that involves playing as many games as possible and then discussing them at informal seminars to be held Friday nights over a keg.

High-achieving siblings

by MBT

Then don’t even mention Calculus…..

Here is the summary of a study on high-achieving siblings, and the commonalities in how they were raised. A lot of what these parents did seems contrary to the Amy Chua, or even Totebag parenting ideals. In particular, there seems to be a willingness to allow children to fail that we really don’t seem to have here. However, they mention drug and alcohol problems, teen pregnancies, and other stumbles on the path to adulthood. Many on this board would not consider those outcomes to be a success. The siblings profiled all did achieve success in their chosen fields, so there must be something more than chance going on. I’m not sure how that can be, though, because Calculus is not mentioned anywhere in the article. Do you see any similarities between your parenting styles and those profiled here? Do you consider these families to be successful?

Secrets of Super Siblings

Teasing and Friendship

by Honolulu Mother

Recent articles from New York Magazine and Quartz suggest that kids need to learn to distinguish between good-natured teasing, which can be an important part of friendship, and the kind of unfriendly jibes we might consider bullying.

Teach Your Kids to Take a Joke or They’ll Be Bad at Friendship

Teasing has many benefits, when done right

From the NYMag article:

Boston University psychologist Peter Gray tells Quartz that if parents and teachers try and shield their kids too much from any sort of smack talking, then they don’t learn to enjoy the crass banter that’s such a part of growing up or to stand up for themselves when it goes too far. Those sheltered kids have “heard from adults that [light-hearted teasing] is bullying and so they get really upset about it rather than knowing how to roll with the punches,” he says. It’s like the social equivalent of the microbiome: If your parents didn’t let any microbes into your house growing up, there’s a better chance you would develop asthma. And if they didn’t let you exchange barbs with your friends growing up, it might be harder to accept the vulnerability that’s a part of talking shit as an adult. . . .

We do a lot of teasing within our family, which I think has helped our kids to see it as an affectionate thing within the right context. In the school context, I think that kids teasing one another often are honestly uncertain themselves whether they mean it as friendly banter or mean teasing — often it’s the target’s reaction that decides it for them. So I do agree with the article that it’s helpful for kids to experience teasing as a part of normal social interaction, so they can distinguish between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ teasing as they grow up.

Can your kids join in to friendly teasing, and give as good as they get, or do these interactions upset them? Are your family members fond of teasing one another?

Ask the Totebag: Transitions

by Denver Dad

DS just started high school. During the first week, he seemed to be a bit moody and was starting to show signs of the anxiety issues he had a few years. At the end of the week, he sent an email to DW, the gist of it saying that he doesn’t like HS and wants to go to an online school. It was very mature and well thought out. I know HS is a tough transition, and more so when you go from a small school (550 students total in K-8) to a 1,200 student HS. DW and I agree he needs to give it time so he can settle in, and agree that online school is not an option (I am not interested in debating that).

We’ve already talked to our pediatrician about restarting the antidepressant he was when he had the issues a few years ago, and we are working on finding a counselor/therapist as well. We are going to reach out to the guidance counselor to see what she suggests because I’m sure other kids from his previous school have gone through the same thing (a lot of them go to this HS).

My question is, what are some things that you did to help your kids with the HS transition that seemed to help? And conversely, what are some things to avoid saying or doing that just made things worse?

And we can discuss the transition to college as well.

Allowance and chores

by Seattle Soccer Mom

I thought it would be fun to compare notes on how much allowance kids receive, what (if anything) they have to do to receive it, and whether they have to save parts of the allowance for long-term savings or charitable donations. I also thought it would be interesting to share info on what kids do for chores (I often learn that my kids are capable of much more than I’d been asking them to do).

Here’s what we do:

Allowance: 11 year old DS receives $5 a week. He doesn’t have to do anything to get his allowance but does have to do chores (see below). 16 year old DD has to do dishes 4 times in order to earn her $10 allowance. We added this requirement last year when it was hard to tell if DD genuinely didn’t have time to do the dishes because of homework or if she was just trying to get out of doing the dishes.

Both kids can spend their allowance however they want; we don’t make them put part of it towards long-term savings or charitable donations. DD is naturally a saver and doesn’t spend much. DS is a natural spender and doesn’t save much. The only time DS has intentionally saved money was when he was saving up to buy a mini-iPad. This was a good experience for him. Most of the other things DS wants are inexpensive – either hotwheel cars or songs on iTunes.

Chores: Both kids are responsible for doing their own laundry and putting it away although “putting it away” is loosely defined. DS shoves his clothes in his drawers (no folding involved). DD keeps her clothes in the laundry basket or strewn about her room (she has both a bureau and a closet but does not seem to make much use of them). I’ve decided that as long as I don’t have to deal with their clothes, I don’t care.

Both kids have to unload the dishwasher and put their dirty dishes in the dishwasher. DD has to do dishes after dinner. In the summer, each kid has to cook dinner once a week. We have a housecleaner who comes every two weeks; the kids are responsible for making sure their rooms are clean enough to be vacuumed and that they’ve put out clean sheets. If they fail to do so, then on the weekend, they get to pick up their rooms, vacuum, and change their own sheets.

DH would like the kids to help out with yard work but he keeps hoping they will naturally volunteer on their own. I have told him pigs will fly before that happens and he needs to tell the kids he wants their help rather than making it an optional activity.

Financial education for kids

by Finn

Having a kid who’s close to graduating from HS, this article caught my attention:

5 Financial Concepts To Teach Your Teen Before High School Graduation

What do you think? Do you agree with the five concepts? Are there any others you think should be added? How do you plan to teach these concepts to your kids?

On a related note, do your kids’ schools offer classes in personal finance? My kids’ school offers one, but DS tells me he won’t take it because he’s already maxed out on the number of classes he’s allowed to take, and doesn’t want to give up any of them.

Next year they plan to offer some short courses, with personal finance being one possible subject. With the PSAT being moved from Saturday to a school day, the school decided to cancel classes on PSAT day, and instead offer things like personal finance seminars for the freshmen and seniors. Another possible time for some short classes is the weeks after AP testing.

Safety First

by Louise

The basic — but often ignored — rules of zoo safety

The Gorilla Incident that occurred on Memorial Day Weekend caught my eye. I am a safety first person and get uncomfortable when others put themselves in dangerous situations. Though I can swim, I will heed all warnings about currents, not swimming too close to fishing piers etc.

Have you observed any dangerous behaviors? Any safety tips?

Can you foster a growth mindset?

by Honolulu Mother

This Pacific Standard article discusses research suggesting it’s best to encourage kids to think of intelligence as something that can be developed rather than an inherent ability that you have or don’t: How to Get Kids Into a Growth Mindset. I assume the same thinking would apply for other abilities, such as athletic talent, artistic or musical ability, or people skills.

Do you agree with this approach? Is it something you try to foster with your own kids?

Graduation costs

by Grace aka costofcollege

This time of year many families are celebrating graduations, whether preschool, elementary school, middle school, high school, or college.  The costs can mount up, as discussed in this CollegeConfidential thread.

Cap and gowns, diplomas, yearbooks, photos, rings, invitations, dinners, parties, travel, and gifts are some of the typical expenditures.  If your child is receiving honors of various types, costs for awards dinners can mount up.  One parent with twins complained she would be spending several hundred dollars for those.  Other end-of-year expenditures like recitals and proms can also strain family budgets.

How lavish is your spending for graduation celebrations?  What is common among your friends and relatives?  What about spending for other types of milestones, like First Communions or bat/bar mitzahs?

Does parenting destroy creativity?

by Honolulu Mother

An interesting article on the effect of parenthood on the ability to create:

A Portrait of the Artist As a Young Mom

I pretty much agree with the conclusion, that having a house full of kids can pretty much eliminate any prospect of having the mental space, the Woolf-style Room of One’s Own, to write or do other creative work; but in the long term, the immediate chaos will lessen and the parenting experience gives one a richer experience of life to draw on in creative work.

What do other Totebaggers think?

How do our young teens spend their summers?

by Denver Dad

In a recent thread, I talked about our issues finding a suitable “camp” or
other activity for the summer for 14-year-old DD. Some people commented
that they don’t understand why a teenager needs to go to camp.

So I’ll ask the question: what are your young teenagers doing for the
summer, or if you have older kids, what did they do when they were in the
13 to 15 range? I’m particularly interested in replies from families
where both parents work outside the home so the kids can’t get to/from
activities that are less than a full day.

Preparing to leave the nest

by Finn

Like several other regulars, I have a kid that will be leaving the nest for college soon.

As that day approaches, I realize that there are some things I should do before he leaves. Some fall into the category of things to teach, while others are tasks to be done in the remaining time. Among them:

-Take him to open a checking account, and teach him how to use it and to safeguard his checks.
-Walk him through a credit card application, and teach him how it works, and how to use it (e.g., always pay the balance, and never use it to buy something that will lead to a balance you can’t pay).
-Get a new phone and plan. We want him to have unlimited talk and text, because we want to have those channels to him wide open.
-Teach him to drive, and make sure he gets his license.
-Take him bike riding, both to sharpen his skills, and to teach him how to ride in traffic.
-Have him sign a health care directive/proxy and a HIPAA form, and keep copies on his, DW’s, and my phones.
-Have him do laundry. I’ve already taught him how to use the washer, but give him practice.
-Teach him how to use a non-solar dryer.
-Teach him basic cooking, and have him prepare some meals for the family.

Of course, in a lot of cases, ‘teach him’ can mean, ‘direct him to learn.’ I’m reminded of a story from a dad who was looking forward to teaching his son how to shave, only to have the son learn how from a YouTube video.

What’s on your list? How do you plan to prepare your kids before they fly the nest?

Skills that kids need

by Grace aka costofcollege

The skills Americans say kids need to succeed in life

Pew Research Center recently asked a national sample of adults to select among a list of 10 skills: “Regardless of whether or not you think these skills are good to have, which ones do you think are most important for children to get ahead in the world today?”

The answer was clear. Across the board, more respondents said communication skills were most important, followed by reading, math, teamwork, writing and logic. Science fell somewhere in the middle, with more than half of Americans saying it was important.

Rounding out the bottom were skills more associated with kids’ extracurricular activities: art, music (sorry, right-brained people) and athletics. There was virtually no difference in the responses based on whether the person was a parent of a child aged 18 and younger or not.

20160305.PewKidsSkillsI take it that communication skills include speaking and writing.  Go to the link to see differences based on the respondents’ level of education.

Your thoughts?

Moving

by L

Did any Totebaggers move as children? If so, do you remember or were you too young?

This Totebagger moved prior to age 3 and has no memory of the first house. As we contemplate moving now, I am sad to think that our youngest child will have few or no memories of this house.

In addition, any tips for moving with kids? Changing school systems? What are your must-dos and must-avoids?

Preparing Children for a Move

Social media — what not to do

by Louise

The 10 worst parental crimes on social media

This is a piece about teens, their parents and social media. What are some things about people’s posts on social media that annoy you ? What shouldn’t people post ? Are there age limits to posting certain kind of pictures ? Are there things that are appropriate on one type of social media that are inappropriate on others ?
Discuss.

Self-study SAT prep?

by Honolulu Mother

The author of this Vox article was charging $650/hour and up and still turning away clients, so he eventually made his lesson plans and materials available for self-study. He found that the self-study students did better than those paying for in-person instruction.

I made $1,000 an hour as an SAT tutor. My students did better without me.

Have you ever considered hiring an SAT tutor for one of your kids, or for yourself back in the day? Or do you think self-study is a better bet?

BTW, I can see that this article is partly a promotion for his expensive test prep software, and I don’t mean to suggest that his is the only effective self-study alternative. Free alternatives such as Khan, or simply taking practice tests and then carefully going over the answers both right and wrong, are more what I was thinking of.

(Sorry Mémé and others whose kids are much older or younger, not to mention those of you without kids — this one’s going to be tedious for you.)

Childless, or child-free?

by Grace aka costofcollege

25 Famous Women on Childlessness

Among the quotes:

“I would have been a terrible mother because I’m basically a very selfish human being. Not that that has stopped most people going off and having children.” — Katharine Hepburn

It should be noted that terminology matters.  “Childless” can imply something is lacking while “child-free” can imply choice.

No Kids for Me, Thanks

Childless people often face discrimination or pity.  Some are happy with their decision, but others feel dissatisfaction or even regret.  Sometimes childlessness is a deliberate choice, and sometimes it’s just what happens.

Most Totebaggers have or plan to have children.  How did you make your decision about this?  Did you always want children, or was that not a priority for you?  Do you have regrets?  What about your childless friends or relatives?  Do you find they are happy about how things turned out?  Would you be disappointed if you never had grandchildren?

The growing gap between rich and poor parenting

by MooshiMooshi

This article, on the widening gap in childrearing practices between the upper classes and the lower classes, seems right up Totebag territory. I couldn’t resist.

Most interesting to me was this passage.

Less-educated parents, and poorer and black and Latino parents are more likely to believe that there is no such thing as too much involvement in a child’s education. Parents who are white, wealthy or college-educated say too much involvement can be bad.

Interesting, because while parents may say they value either greater or lesser involvement, their behavior is the opposite. Upper class and upper middle class parents are very interventionist, bringing in tutors, therapists, special ed advocates at the first signs of any trouble – and hold the school administrator’s and teacher’s feet to the fire. Conversely, my college students, who are mainly from lower class circumstances, find the idea of parents knowing ANYTHING about their education to be strange. Many of them have non-English speaking parents from cultures that defer completely to the school authorities.

I do think, however, that the lip service we give to independence for our kids is a completely white, WASP-y ideal. My friends who are Hispanic or Asian largely do not share this ideal, and in fact, even my husband’s white-but-ethnic family does not share this ideal at all.

Here is the link. Total Totebag Fodder.

Class Differences in Child-Rearing Are on the Rise

The evils of helicopter parenting

by laurafrombaltimore

Yet another article on the evils of helicopter parenting:

Former Stanford dean explains why helicopter parenting is ruining a generation of children

I think the folks here know me well enough to know I’m not a helicopter. But this time, all I could think was “that’s rich.” Why? Because by definition, her experience is with helicoptering that is aimed getting the kids into a “top” college – specifically, Stanford, for which she served as dean for a decade. But that means her experience is based on *the students that Stanford chose to admit* (and via an extremely selective admissions process to boot). She has written a whole book criticizing parents for doing what it takes to get their kids into Stanford – and doing it better than everyone else.

So what’s her analysis of the “college admission arms race,” which she admits drives much of this? It appears to boil down to “well, not everyone has to go to Stanford,” with maybe a soupcon of “not my problem.” All of her suggestions (optional SAT/ACT scores, limiting the number of schools each kid can apply to) impose the constraints on the students, not the college – not to mention make it less likely that those who actually follow her advice will get into that top college (who here really thinks Stanford will choose the kid who “opts out” of the SATs over one with a 1560?). And the colleges are (conveniently) scot-free to continue to operate as they always have.

How about this: if top colleges really care about “life skills and a work ethic,” how about they base their admissions decisions on those criteria? If colleges think it’s so valuable to have kids do chores and have jobs and such, then how about requiring that information on the applications – and actually weighing that more than, say, sitting 4th chair in concert band? Parents who care about getting their kids into a top college are going to do what they think those schools value, period. If the result of that arms race is brittle, helpless kids, then that says as much about those colleges’ admissions priorities than it does about the parents and students who are doing the best they can to play the game based on rules they didn’t write.

Scary stories

by Rhode

It’s Halloween time and I’m all for scary stories…

I love lists like these…

14 Creepy Things Kids Have Actually Said

There’s also this take – scary 2 sentence stories (Reddit has a similar 5-word scary story thread).

20 Terrifying Two-Sentence Horror Stories. I Didn’t Think It Was Possible Until #5… When The Hair On My Neck Stood Up

Totebaggers, share with us your creepiest kid-tale or your scariest story in 2 sentences or less…

Parent Teacher Conference Season

By AustinMom

It’s that time again, the announcement and sign up for parent teacher conferences is here. Elementary conferences were pretty straight forward, with usually only one teacher to visit. If you weren’t certain about what topics to raise a quick search provides a plethora of results.

Middle school and high school conferences, at least in our area, are both set up for you to allow you to visit every teacher, or at least as many as you choose to. For both of our schools, you get a 10 minute slot per teacher, making it important to use that time effectively. With the current technology, we see grades posted online and generally have a good idea in advance of how they are doing from a numeric perspective.

At this level, I find that the teacher rarely has something specific they want to convey and the parent must lead the conversation. I have a few questions I ask every year tailored to each of my kid’s general approach to school. For my introvert, it focuses on class participation and advocating for herself. For my child who receives minimal accommodations, it focuses on feedback that these are working, which generally tells you if the teacher is implementing them. I also always ask for feedback on where each child is compared to their peers, about any standardized tests that have been taken, and anything that is coming up before the end of the semester that I should be aware of, especially if they require parental involvement. In the Spring I ask about next year’s class placements, will they be recommending the more rigorous courses, such as accelerated math in middle school or AP Calculus AB or BC in high school.

Totebaggers, Do you go to the conferences? If so, what do you try to glean from them? Do you have a favorite question or topic to discuss? Or, do you think they are a waste of time?

Smart slackers

by Grace aka costofcollege

“I divide my officers into four classes; the clever, the lazy, the industrious, and the stupid. Each officer possesses at least two of these qualities. Those who are clever and industrious are fitted for the highest staff appointments. Use can be made of those who are stupid and lazy. The man who is clever and lazy however is for the very highest command; he has the temperament and nerves to deal with all situations. But whoever is stupid and industrious is a menace and must be removed immediately!” — General Kurt von Hammerstein-Equord

20151019.TLazyIntelligentMatrix

WHY LAZY AND INTELLIGENT PEOPLE ACHIEVE MORE IN LIFE

Do you agree? Which quadrant do you occupy?

As a kid, I got lectured for only doing the bare minimum to complete a task. As an engineer, I get paid to do just that.

Does this work in real life?  How do you apply this idea when parenting?  And, is there a gender component to this way of thinking?

‘self-directed eugenics’?

by Grace aka costofcollege

What If Tinder Showed Your IQ?
A report from a future where genetic engineering has sabotaged society.

As genetic science becomes more precise, the potential for editing your unborn child’s genes to select for higher intelligence is growing. With that, however, will come a cultural shift in how we value intelligence—and how attractive it is when seeking out a potential partner. Parents will have to grapple with not just their unborn child’s chances of being smart, excelling in school, and getting a job, but also with their chances of getting a date.
We imagine a future where dating apps like Tinder don’t just let users judge others based on pictures of themselves, but on their intelligence scores, too.

Although this article is about an imaginary future, it’s possible to imagine the serious downsides of reprogenetics.

But there was a catch. There was always a catch. The science of reprogenetics—self-chosen, self-directed eugenics—had come far over the years, but it still could not escape the reality of evolutionary tradeoffs, such as the increased likelihood of disease when one maximized on a particular trait, ignoring the others. Or the social tradeoffs—the high-risk, high-reward economy for reprogenetic individuals, where a few IQ points could make all the difference between success or failure, or where stretching genetic potential to achieve those cognitive heights might lead to a collapse in non-cognitive skills, such as impulse control or empathy.

Against this backdrop, the embryo predicted to have the higher IQ also had an eight-fold greater chance of being severely myopic to the point of uncorrectable blindness—every parent’s worst nightmare….

The early proponents of reprogenetics failed to take into account the basic genetic force of pleiotropy: that the same genes have not one phenotypic effect, but multiple ones. Greater genetic potential for height also meant a higher risk score for cardiovascular disease. Cancer risk and Alzheimer’s probability were inversely proportionate—and not only because if one killed you, you were probably spared the other, but because a good ability to regenerate cells (read: neurons) also meant that one’s cells were more poised to reproduce out of control (read: cancer).3 As generations of poets and painters could have attested, the genome score for creativity was highly correlated with that for major depression.

But nowhere was the correlation among predictive scores more powerful—and perhaps in hindsight none should have been more obvious—than the strong relationship between IQ and Asperger’s risk….

Do you care about this?  What is your prediction about how this will go?  Mostly positive, or ruinously negative?  And for both today and tomorrow, how do you feel about your offspring marrying someone with a much lower or higher IQ?  Does it matter?

‘Friends’

by Grace aka costofcollege

‘Friends’ Has New BFFs: New York Teenagers

Young people have discovered old sitcoms.

… If you are somewhere between 13 and 20, however, and particularly if you live in New York, you may find yourself very much in the “Friends” zone. This is not because you landed on an episode, after coming home semi-wasted, on late-night television, where it is almost always on in syndication, but because you watch it methodically, on Netflix, in sequence, through its more than 230 shows.

20151005.TFriends

Which “Friends” character are you?

… “We are really into categorizing each other as a Rachel or a Monica; it’s fun to play into that.”…

My teen has even categorized one of our dogs as more of a “Ross” and the other as a “Joey”.

What old (or new) TV shows are your kids (or you) binge-watching?  What were some of your favorite TV shows from your younger years?  Have they aged well?  Have you bonded with your kids over old shows, movies, or music?

 

How are you parenting wrong?

by Honolulu Mother

How are you parenting wrong?

Now I want to try Twitch Plays Parenting. My sons would pay more attention to that than my actual parenting.

My failings that I’m aware of are probably: insufficient tigering, does not hold their feet to the fire enough on chores, not always willing to listen to some long account of some tedious thing. In other words, all the things that result from getting home tired and with not that long a time to get everyone fed in the evening. My failings that I’m not aware of, I’ll hear about years from now.

Boyz to Men

by Louise

My experience prior to having a boy has been around girls and women. I had male cousins but still women dominated. Then, I became the mother of a boy. It was a different experience. There is lots of energy that has to be channeled or burnt off.

Band Aids fly out of the medicine cabinet. The learning process is different. The color blue was with us for many years. Now, it is a gradual transition from a boy to a man. Socks, shoes and athletic wear are a riot of colors. The brighter the better. Unkept hair is giving way to a more groomed look. The one male teacher is the leader of the pack.

What are your experiences around boys and boyhood? How about the transition from a boy to a man? Three cheers for boyhood!

Getting the chores done

by Sky

What systems do you use to keep your household running smoothly?

I’m starting to think about going back to work, but will need to streamline the household work first. We have a once-monthly housekeeper, but the rest of it is my job. DH expects the house to be clean and organized when he gets home at 9 PM, but his participation is limited by his work and commute. (His own stuff is always impeccably neat, at least until the children find it.)

For chores, I’ve just assigned each day of the week a time-consuming chore:
Mondays = Laundry
Tuesdays = Baking & dusting (I have to do a fair amount of baking due to kids’ food allergies)
Wednesdays = Floors & errands
Thursdays = Laundry again
Fridays = Meal planning & grocery shopping
Saturdays = Yard work

About a month in, this seems to be working, except that with sports practice and games on Friday, Saturday and Sunday I often have to throw in another load of laundry on Saturdays.

I clean the bathrooms and kitchen and tidy up the kids’ toys every day.

My kids all have their own chore lists – even the toddler. There is a small cash incentive for each chore completed, because my kids are not motivated by stickers.

The chores for the younger two include making their own beds (with help), wiping the kitchen table, putting dishes in the sink, sweeping the floor, and putting away toys.

The oldest (6) is expected to make her own bed and lunch. I’ve heard that some of her friends can do laundry and cook breakfast, so we are working on those. With the return to school and sports, the incentive system is not getting me the amount of work I would like – DD decided this morning that she would rather watch Curious George than get 25 cents for making her bed.

How have you gotten your kids to do their chores? What kinds of chores do you expect them to do?

Kids riding shotgun

by Finn

When your kids ride in a car, where do they sit?

In the September 2015 issue of Consumer Reports, there’s an article that says that, “In cars made after 2006, a person sitting in the rear seat, even when wearing a seat belt, has a 46 percent greater chance of dying in a car crash than someone riding in the front passenger seat, according to a recent study….”

“The rear seat is still best for kids under 9 years old, probably because of the added protection of child restraints. We still recommend that all children under the age of 13 ride in the back.”

Shortly after reading this, DD sat in the front seat of my car for the first time (well, for the first time while the car was being driven). We were going to a camping trip, and the back of the car was full of stuff, so that worked out well, and she and I had a very nice conversation as well; she was quite excited about going back to school.

When will your kids move up to the front seat? For families with multiple kids, does this signal a return to the days of kids fighting over the front passenger seat?

Alcohol or Marijuana?

by Seattle Soccer Mom

Dr. Aaron Carroll is a professor of pediatrics at Indiana University who also writes columns for the NY Times Upshot. In the linked article below, he sorts through the dangers of alcohol vs. marijuana for teens. Dr. Carroll argues that alcohol is a factor in 40% of violent crimes (no link for pot); there are alcohol related deaths (e.g. binge drinking deaths) but not pot related deaths; more ER visits due to alcohol than pot; alcohol is more of a danger when driving; and a higher % of users end up dependent on alcohol than on pot.

His conclusion:

When someone asks me whether I’d rather my children use pot or alcohol, after sifting through all the studies and all the data, I still say “neither.” Usually, I say it more than once. But if I’m forced to make a choice, the answer is “marijuana.”

Fellow Totebaggers, which would you rather your teen experimented with – alcohol or marijuana? (and yes, let’s assume the first choice would be “neither.”)

For me personally, since I’ve never smoked pot, I’m more comfortable with the idea of DD experimenting with alcohol. After reading the article though, I’m a little less freaked out about the idea of DD experimenting with pot (my first choice is still “neither.”)

Alcohol or Marijuana? A Pediatrician Faces the Question

Pets and More Pets

By Sky

We already have a cat, but my kids have decided we also need a dog. Luckily the pleas of the youngest are still limited to pointing at dogs and saying “woof woof” plaintively, because the other two bring it up every time we see one.

I think I have persuaded DD and DS1 to settle for some betta fish for now, but I started to wonder if I should have campaigned for a virtual pet when I started reading about tank cycling and betta sororities. I manage sibling fighting all day as it is!

What pets have you had? What low maintenance pets would you recommend? Have you had any exotic or unusual pets?

What about pet care? How much do you think is reasonable? Does your pet get holiday gifts and go on the family vacation?

And most importantly, who does the work? Are there any Totebag children who walk the dog and clean up the mess, or is it all on the parents? (I know what the answer will be in my house, so we are not getting a dog!)

College Budgeting Fail

by ssk

I just read this online and thought it might be a starting point for a blend of two of our favorite topics: paying for college and teaching fiscal responsibility.

22-year-old college student blows her $90,000 college fund and blames her parents

While this article (and the accompanying videos) is tongue-in-cheek, it makes you wonder about how you have done (or will do) teaching your children about finances. Has anyone encountered a young person like “Kim”?

When Reality Hits

by Rocky Mountain Stepmom

I’m 28, I just quit my tech job, and I never want another job again

Young person learns that jobs are sometimes boring and stupid and your
personal fulfillment isn’t the boss’s priority. Film at 11.

More seriously, should we be doing more to help our snowflakes
understand that the adults around them will suddenly stop caring about
their Maslovian self-actualization as soon as they turn 22 and hit the
workforce?

Managing Screen Time

by WCE

Screen time v play time: what tech leaders won’t let their own kids do

This article on how different technology leaders manage their kids’ use of technology made me consider what limits are appropriate. My boys love TV, Netflix, Minecraft, etc. and their daily time is subject to completion of chores and homework. It can also be revoked for misbehavior. We have a Waldorf school nearby and I know people who like it, but avoiding screen time/electronics until you’re 12 seems unnecessary and a lot of work for the parent… and I’m all about avoiding lots of work for the parent. On the other hand, I worry about excessive gaming by my future-young-adult sons. Lack of self control in this area has affected college achievement and marriages of people I know.

When I spent a couple hours in the hospital lab for gestational diabetes testing, I took along a Disney Classics book from the library book sale and read my children the long stories I never read them at bedtime, due to lack of anything else to do. I try to make choices to interact in nontechnological ways. I sometimes waste too much time on the computer, especially when I’m tired or stressed or know I’ll be constantly interrupted if I try to read a real book. However, I also do lots of work on the computer (paid work as well as paying bills, researching travel, e-mailing with family, reading up on taxes or home repairs, managing finances). Sometimes the distinction between doing work and wasting time isn’t always clear. When our carpet cleaner seemed to be misbehaving, I read a lot about what was wrong and watched some videos on how to disassemble it, but read far more Amazon comments on different machines than strictly necessary since we didn’t end up replacing it. I do a lot of shopping online. Knowing where to find a replacement for the electric teapot and ordering a long-sleeved white shirt for Twin 1’s Storm Trooper costume are cases that come to mind.

What are your views of screen time and kids? Am I the only one who admits to wasting time this way as an adult?

Summer Homework – The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

by AustinMom

Students scramble to complete summer homework

I came across this article, just after my daughter received her third summer homework assignment. So far, she has to (1) read a novel for English class, (2) read a book for World History, (3) read a couple chapters out of the World History textbook and answer some questions, (4) read a chapter out of one Chemistry text and answer the questions for that chapter, (5) read 2 chapters out of the second Chemistry text and answer the questions for those chapters, and (5) watch 2 Chemistry videos and complete the guided notes. All this is due on the first day of school. She is also expecting some pre-calculus homework as well.

I have mixed feelings about this. On one hand, this is the equivalent of 2-3 nights of homework for each class or similar to what a week will feel like once school starts with her block schedule. If it seems overwhelming now, it will give her the chance to change her schedule the first day from all AP and Pre-AP to a mix that includes some “on level” classes as well. On the other hand, she worked very hard in school all year, she uses summer to catch up on her pleasure reading, and she went to an academic camp for 3 weeks that included reading almost the entire textbook, a short research paper, a presentation on another topic, and small group project. In short, she isn’t vegging out for 11 weeks in front of the tv or computer. But, even if she were, don’t these students deserve down time?

Totebaggers, do your students have summer homework? Did you? Is this summer homework really necessary? Does it only result in students dropping higher level courses to get out of the homework? Do the students benefit? If so, then why is summer homework focused on the higher performing students and not assigned across the board?

The Sins of the Fathers Are Visited on the Grandchildren

by Rocky Mountain Stepmom

Many childrearing practices are reactionary — parents raise their kids partly in rebellion against how they were raised. We often complain about how every kid now has to be treated like a special snowflake, and groan about helicopter parents making bizarre demands on schools and colleges. But I know why that happened — when I was growing up, we kids conformed to the system, not vice versa. We didn’t get any snacks during the day and I was often hungry. Not only was there no school choice, but your parents couldn’t even pick which teacher they wanted you to have. No one had learning disabilities — you were either smart or dumb. Things like Scout Camp were long exercises in being scolded for all your moral and physical failings, and being forced to eat disgusting canned carrots, being punished as a group for something stupid that one or two of the brat-girls did, and so on. Rules were rigid and punishments were swift and often unfair. Childhood was in large part a matter of putting up with a lot of injustice, having no choice over outside activities, enduring nasty behavior from teachers and other authority figures who were never held accountable because Adults Were Always Right, and so on.

So that’s partly why today’s kids are snowflakes, and each has to have customized care and an IEP, and why no one can have peanut butter because Madison’s allergic, and why frantic parents are now faced with a million decisions about schools and programs and teachers. It’s because my generation said “As God as my witness, my child will never eat canned carrots or put up with Mrs Sorenson for 6th grade. Their lives will be better.”

Totebaggers, what do you think this generation of kids is going to rebel against? What will schools look like in 40 years? How will recreational activities be handled? Will future children get one bowl of gruel per day and a sound beating for being dyslexic? Will they complain that they didn’t have parents, just friends who happened to be biologically related? Will it be Tom Brown’s School Days?

Credit cards for kids

by Finn

I can see the light in the tunnel that is the approaching train of DS graduating from HS and heading for college. Some time before that, I should get him a credit card so he has a chance to learn how to use it before he leaves for college.

When do you plan to get your kids their first credit cards? What kind of card will it be? Will it be just his or her name, or will it be connected to your account? Do, or will, you let your kids use your card before they get their own?

DS has used my card a couple of times, on a trip. We sent him across the street from the hotel to get some breakfast for us, and there was no problem with him using my card.

Flying Alone

by Sky

At age 8, my father took the train alone over 100 miles, and transferred trains in New York City, to get home from summer camp.

At age 14, I flew cross country by myself, with transfers, in the days before cell phones.

When do you think kids should be allowed to travel alone?

When would you (or did you) allow your child to fly, or take a city bus, subway, or train without an adult accompanying them?

What limits have you set with your tween/teenage kids about traveling by themselves? What were you allowed to do?

The dance recital

by Mémé

We often spar on the Totebag about what is Middle Class, invoking regional and educational differences in raw income numbers and in cultural markers of that status. But recently someone remarked about dental health that an astounding percentage of US kids now have braces at some point in their lives. So straight teeth are a fairly universal middle class marker.

I recently had the opportunity to observe another of those universal middle class markers. The end of year Dance Recital.

20150625.TDanceRecital

A neighbor suggested that they take my eldest granddaughter to dance class along with their same aged girl. Her Cambridge/Portland alternative style parents had no idea what they were getting into. Coco and Ella (assumed names) ended up on stage for 130 seconds of a 2 ½ hour extravaganza in 50 dollar gold and sequined tutus stomping their tap shoes to a cover version of The Lion Sleeps Tonight. I knew enough to bring several wrapped and beribboned roses for presentation to the young performer.

The school is clearly the secondary “fun” one in their area – the only marginally competent numbers were adult tap and the break dancers. But all was forgiven after the chubby mentally handicapped teen with glasses and a diaphanous gown glided across the stage with her group as best she could to Every Little Thing You Do is Magic.

Totebaggers, please share your recital stories from your children’s or your own life. Parents of physical or mind sport athletes, feel free to weigh in on sports banquets and the like.

Rich or Poor – Can You Teach It?

by AustinMom

Will Your Child be Rich or Poor? 15 Poverty Habits Parents Teach Their Children

This came through my Facebook feed as it likely did for other totebaggers. I found the initial list of items of how the rich differ from the poor as interesting. However, the author then provides a list suggesting what we (parents and schools) should teach our children. I was expecting some level of parallelism between the two lists, but to me it seems that he went on to suggest what he thought was important. I noted that he did not suggest that parents attend back to school night, encourage academic achievement in order to make the honor roll, or instruct their children on proper flossing habits. What did you think of the list? Do you have other things you think are more important than the list the author provides?

Middle School And Beyond

by Louise

Totebaggers – I need a middle school and beyond road map. Basically what exams, classes and camps to look out for. I am swimming upstream not knowing when to sign kids up for PSAT/SAT and other exams, how to have kids prepare etc. Now all school information for parents is online, so if I don’t look carefully I am afraid I’ll miss things.
I know for instance there are 8th grade placement exams – what does that mean?
Not having been through this school system facing decisions on what to have kid take, I value the Totebag collective wisdom.

Dating And Marriage Across The Lines

by Louise

My children are first generation Americans. As they grow, I wonder what advice I should give them about dating and marriage. In the home country, marriages that used to last till death do us apart, are increasingly coming apart at the seams. So, advice on this topic is hard to impart.

Here, it seems that there are invisible lines. I wonder how other families would feel at having a first generation Asian boy/girl dating their kids. At school and in their lives my kids are surrounded by other Totebagger type families of all stripes. I am presuming it is most likely they will date/marry Totebagger Junior.

How have your kids handled dating/marriage. What about dating across lines? What advice do you have for kids?

The ‘Dadbod’

by Grace aka costofcollege

What Is the ‘Dadbod’? What Does It Mean?

… The dadbod is a physique characterized by undefined muscles beneath a light layer of flab, usually topped off with a beer belly. “The dad bod says, ‘I go to the gym occasionally, but I also drink heavily on the weekends and enjoy eating eight slices of pizza at a time,'”…

Do you (or your partner) have a Dadbod?  What about your peers?  Do you work hard to fight against the Dadbod, or do you embrace it.  What’s the female version?  Are we more accepting of Dadbods than of Mombods?

Were you told to suppress your high ambitions?

by Grace aka costofcollege

Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and one of the most successful women in the field of technology, has urged women to “lean in” to achieve ambitious career goals.  She wants us to break down barriers, both external and internal, so that more women will be represented in leadership positions of business and government.

A truly equal world would be one where women ran half our countries and companies and men ran half our homes.

I was struck by Sandberg’s own struggle with self doubt.

My entire life I have been told, you know, or I have felt that I should hold back on being too successful, too smart, too, you know, lots of things.

She grew up in an affluent household, the daughter of a doctor and a college teacher.  Presumably she enjoyed many advantages and abundant encouragement from that upbringing, yet she remembers being told to tamp down her ambitions.

I am a bit older than Sandberg and grew up in different circumstances, lacking the advantages of her upper-class upbringing.  Yet I don’t remember being told to hold back on my accomplishments.  Sure, there were times when I was discouraged from pursuing lofty ambitions, but it seems those were the exceptions.  It’s a bit puzzling why Sandberg felt so constrained and I did not.  Was I just oblivious to the negative messages all around me?

Have you or the women you know been told to hold back on being too successful?  Do you think you may be sending that message to your daughters or other young women?  Does society send that message?  If so, why do some women seem to ignore this negative directive?

Should we be encouraging women to lean in to create a society where they run half our countries and companies while men run half our homes?

Sadly, Sandberg’s husband died unexpectedly earlier this month, leaving her a widow with two young children.  She has returned to work on a modified schedule.  She “will not be doing any traveling for the time being and will adopt a slightly modified schedule that fits with when her children are at school”.

Kind Criticism

by Louise

In a world where everyone gets a trophy how do we offer constructive but kind criticism?

With my kids a tug of war has ensued over my feedback of their Lego projects. An honest opinion from me is termed as being “too negative”. Too negative? Ha! Good thing they didn’t grow up in the home country where a few people told me, that I needed to watch my diet and get more exercise. It was true that compared to my peers I was fat.

How do you give criticism that is kind but effective? How can the receivers absorb the message yet not take offense? Let’s hear it for kind criticism.

What Works For Children Of Divorce?

by Anonymous

Almost everyone has been touched by divorce. Many of you are divorced, some remarried, some have step-kids. If you’re blessed to have been happily married to only one person, you probably have a friend who was not so lucky. Or maybe your parents or your friends’ parents are divorced.

My question to you today: What is really best for the kids? What custody sharing arrangements have worked (or not), in the same town, across the country, or somewhere in between? What strategies worked (or not) to help children with the transition to separate homes? What worked (or not) in planning for expenses, like extracurriculars, cars/insurance, and college? Please share both the successes and failures you have had or observed with co-parenting.

Sex Ed

by saacnmama

My son recently brought home a paper from school:

Your son/daughter will be receiving instruction about AIDS/HIV/STDs in the 7th grade. Because of the present lack of a medical solution to AIDS/HIV/STDs, prevention has been identified as the only viable alternative for controlling AIDS/HIV/STDs. Education is the first step to prevention.

The six areas of study will be

• Abstinence
• Facts concerning AIDS/HIV/STDs
• HIV and the immune system
• The transmission of AIDS/HIV/STDs
• Risk behaviors and preventative practices
• A general overview of other sexually transmitted diseases
• Peer pressure refusal skills

Emphasis will be placed on abstinence from sex and drugs as the most effective ways to prevent AIDS/HIV/STDs.

This unit will be taught in Science class. They are just wrapping up a unit on mitosis and meiosis, so this follows logically. Over the years, I have answered lots of questions from my son. Our approach has always been biological. Explaining that the reason sex feels good so that people and animals will do it and procreate, but they sometimes do it “extra” because of that good feeling, makes sense to me as long as he sees no other reason for it. I do not know if the state we live in (Florida) is one of the states required to focus on abstinence, but that would not surprise me. This article gives some interesting information on abstinence teaching and why it may not be most successful at reducing disease and teen pregnancy. The approach it seems to suggest would be very hard to implement as just one parent, because it involves societal values.

The days of the biological scientific approach are limited. His schoolmates apparently give him plenty of examples of sexual desire at work, and he reported that one of the principle ways girls at the first and only school dance he’s been to danced was running their hands up and down their own bodies. I am sure it will not be too long until circuits are connected and his lights and buzzers start going off. He has already begun to ask me questions about my own experiences (beyond the initial “you did that once? I know you did, to make me”). I have far more experience than I think is healthy to discuss with him. I have already mentioned that I did not do a good job picking out a husband or his father (to which he snorted and agreed), that I do not want him to follow in my footsteps, that I want him to have a long and good relationship with his partner. Right now, the system is powered down and this sounds good to him. When his questions become more detailed and insistent, my plan is to switch to “don’t kiss and tell”, including how girls’ reputation, more than boys, can be ruined by this, and that he should never discuss what or he someone else has done sexually.

All of us have been through this ourselves, “in the Dark Ages”, and many of you have guided one or more youngsters through it. What do you recall, and what recommendations can you make?

Cars For Kids

by Finn

In a recent post, Fred mentioned that he might be buying a car for his DS in the near future.

Providing cars for our kids is not something we’ve discussed much here, and this seems as good a time as any. This is especially the case for us, as DS now has a learner’s permit, DW and I are getting tired of driving him to his activities and would like him to be able to drive himself, and DW has talked about getting a new car for herself and letting DS drive her current car.

Totebaggers with kids at or above driving age, have you provided cars for your kids? If so, what kinds of cars? What responsibilities did you tie to the use of cars?

If not, how did you juggle your existing vehicles to allow your kids to drive? Or, did your kids just not drive during HS?

Many years ago, a coworker told me he had his kids pay their own insurance premiums to drive, and educated them on how moving violations would affect those premiums, and how his kids were extremely careful as a result. Would you consider this?

Peeps Must Die

by saacnmama

We’re having a party! This Saturday, ‘saac is inviting his nerdiest friends over to destroy Peeps, a la http://www.toadhaven.com/Peep%20Science.html or the website peeped search dot com. The “science” will be entirely tongue in cheek, but the humor and creativity should be full-on.

I haven’t figured out yet if it will be indoors or out. If they’re indoors, they would be in the kitchen, where they could heat the suckers up on the stove (or in the oven), nuke ’em, and pour various things over them in the sink. Outside, we’d probably go to the shelter next to the pool. We’d take a bucket or two of water, and they could use the charcoal grill. When they’re done grilling, I could make Providence’s pizza while they jump in the pool. I’m not knocking myself out for this one, but am very open to your suggestions on how to make it easy and fun.

The Cost of Extracurricular Activities

by Louise

Kids’ Extracurricular Activities May Cost More Than You Think

Totebaggers – I was talking to a lady who was spending approx. $350/month on dance lessons for her two daughters. This didn’t include recital, costumes or other fees. Her daughters had been in dance since they were little but now as high schoolers their interest had waned and they were on the fence about continuing lessons. Their mother decided to cut the lessons out. “I’m tired and spending too much money”. There was some drama but the parent wanted a firm exit rather than continue to pay and have the kids not go.

Totebaggers, what do you think of all the activities your kids have been involved in ?
Worth it or not ? Are we collectively spending too much time and money ?
We have new parents who may benefit from the advice.

A New Mom’s Questions

by Rhode

I’m returning to work next Monday. My husband is taking 8 weeks paternity leave starting today.

How did moms and dads handle the transition between leave and return to full-time work? Any tips?

Also, now that my mom is moving, I’m staying with my in-laws when visiting NJ. I’m not terribly comfortable there. It is emotionally draining to be a better version of myself. With my mom, if I want to cry in a corner I can. With my mother-in-law, I need to be stoic and bite back any strong emotions. I don’t even feel comfortable enough to wear my pajamas to breakfast. Any tips from Totebaggers on how to get comfortable in their home? Any tips on how to let them help me parent my son?

April Fool’s Ideas?

by Tulip

Just throwing this one out there, but I never do anything to “celebrate” April Fool’s Day. I suppose there’s been some conversation at school because my DD came home a few days ago asking if I’d do something to fool her for the day. I think the fact that she asks for it and expects it sort of defeats the idea, but that’s an entirely different issue! At any rate, I could google and search pinterest and be in way over my head, but I am guessing that other totebaggers have some low-investment ideas for April Fool’s pranks to pull on the kids?

Emotional Intelligence

by Louise

Totebaggers have often mentioned social skills, emotional intelligence, soft skills – call it what you like.

Emotional intelligence (EQ) is the ability to identify, use, understand, and manage emotions in positive ways to relieve stress, communicate effectively, empathize with others, overcome challenges, and defuse conflict.

The one aspect emotional intelligence covers is how to communicate effectively with others. This is an area that needs working on for many people.

What tips can you share with other posters on how to apply emotional intelligence in different situations?

There are a few of us who are academics, lots of lawyers, engineers and other professions – what social skills have your students, coworkers, managers, employees displayed that you have been impressed with ?

As a parent what advice would you give to your children about this topic? I’ve come to realize that this is covered at my kids’ school in guidance class.

Discuss!

Ask The Totebag: A Parenting Surprise

by Anonymous

Fellow Totebaggers: I am asking your advice anonymously, as my question involves my child. I suspect it will be easy to figure out who I am, but I’d appreciate it if you’d maintain the fiction for my kid’s privacy. Thank you in advance.

Today, my kid (teen-aged) told me that s/he is bisexual, and I don’t want to screw this up.

If you figure out who I am, you will know that I have no problem with this, either philosophically or religiously or politically or any other “-ly.” I am just surprised and unprepared (and surprisingly unprepared), because I had not seen any signs; all prior teenage crushes had been opposite-gender, and while my kid could have been covering, they seemed convincing to me.

I am also not entirely sure this is, for lack of a better word, “permanent”; recently, 4-5 kids in class have come out as gay/bi, and this group of friends is very into gay rights; hard to tell if it is my kid finding an accepting peer group that allows him/her to be him/herself, or if it’s my kid trying to fit in with a peer group/trying on different identities like every other adolescent. But I also know that one standard parental response is to find excuses why that can’t be their kid. And whatever my kid might feel at 25, this is who s/he is right now — s/he has told me, directly, and it is my job to assume that s/he means it. It took a lot of guts for my kid to tell me this, and it was something s/he had obviously worked up to over some period of time. It would be unfair and disrespectful to assume I know better, to treat this as a phase or something that s/he will outgrow.

So where I am now, after a grand total of four hours of thinking it through, is that it’s my job to support, not question. These are some new waters for both kid and parents (for one, the idea of sleepovers just got a lot more complicated), and I need to help my kid learn how to navigate them, on top of all of the other adolescent pressures and insecurities. This is the part that I don’t want to screw up.

For the moment, I just said “you’re always safe with us” and gave the kind of half-hug you can give while driving, then asked if there was a particular crush involved (there is, although like the earlier opposite-gender ones, this one also doesn’t seem to know my kid exists). Now I just need help with the next conversation. And the one after that, and after that. . . .

Do Schools ‘Require’ Helicopter Parenting?

by saacnmama

Teacher sends father a stern note scolding him for his daughter’s ‘unhealthy’ pack lunch of ‘chocolate, marshmallows, a cracker and a pickle’ – unfortunately for the school, dad’s a doctor

We’ve had lots of sideline chatter about “requirements” to be helicopter parents recently. If we want to bring it front and center, this is as good a starting place as any.