Early Childhood Development

by Louise

The book described sounds interesting.

The article has taken a political turn but I don’t want to put it on the political page or turn it into a political discussion. This is about our children, families and the role of parents, with emphasis on a mother’s role.

Once I had kids the demands of a job and those of the kids clashed. I couldn’t lean in as much as I wanted to. My own parents had busy work and social lives. They were unavailable. Many times as a teen, I wished my mother was home more like the mothers of my friends just to talk things through.

Totebaggers share your experiences, observations and opinions.

The Politicization of Motherhood

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Postponing ‘adult behavior’

by MooshiMooshi

This pretty much sums up my two teen boys. At 15 and 17, neither one dates, drinks, or drives. Their friends are all the same. They don’t even seem to have any interest in girls (or boys). I thought teens were supposed to be a hotbed of hormones. Was it something in the water?

Not drinking or driving, teens increasingly put off traditional markers of adulthood

Dress up for kids

by L

I thought we could talk about dress-up clothes and behavior for kids (since it is on my mind). How many Totebaggers’ kids have been in weddings? How old were they? From where were their outfits sourced? What would you consider “too much” to spend on a flower girl or junior bridesmaid dress? Or a navy blazer for boys? Do you let your kids run wild at weddings and/or get their fancy clothes filthy?

The last time one of my kids was in a wedding was when #1 was 2, and I borrowed a dress for her that time and had to walk with her down the aisle. Now all 3 of ours will be in our nanny’s wedding next year, so I will have to buy all their outfits.

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