The Play Date Dance Card
September 6, 2010 · Posted in Discipline, K-5 Kids, Play, Preschoolers · Permalink · Comments (1)

moravia3With the start of the school year iphones, filofaxes and blackberries are in high gear on the play date scheduling front. Here are some things to think about to make play dates smoother and more enjoyable.

1. Preschool and Kindergarten: a 45 minute play date is optimal.

2. School age: Kids can manage about 2 hours.

3. An even number of children work better than odd numbers.

4. Require all kids, yours and guests, clean up near the end of the play date.

5. Do not worry if the kids seem to be playing on their own -parallel play is a great way to be together and have some space at the same time.

6. Expect drama! There is usually a tiff over sharing, bossiness, ignoring, etc on a play date. That is par for the course and how kids learn important lessons.

7. The end of play dates are often hard. Stop the kids midway and go over the rules for saying goodbye:  no running and hiding, no tantrums, and a big goodbye from each child. This may or may not actually happen but it is a good goal and needs to be reinforced every time.

8. Pay attention to you child’s needs. Moms often do not want to part company if they too are on a play date–your child may need to leave much earlier than you–end it on their time, not yours.

9. Be sensitive to your host. If they start saying things about “getting dinner going”, or “needing to do homework” with an older child–they are politely asking you to leave. Pick up on cues and wrap things up.

10. If the kids are off on their own for a long time, check in. Kids need some supervision even if they are good at playing independently.

Remember, not all children want play dates and that is fine! School itself is a lot of socializing so don’t fret that your child will be a social misfit if she is not a social butterfly.

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It’s That Time Of Year Again!
August 31, 2010 · Posted in Discipline, Education, K-5 Kids, Media, Parenting, Preschoolers · Permalink · Comments (2)

As August light fades and the end of summer coolness sets in, we all, no matter how old, still get that back to school feeling.  The combination of sadness at the summer slipping away mixes with the anxiety tinged excitement at the thought of a whole new year. Remember that great feeling of a new back pack, lunch boxes, and pencils? It’s time for a fresh start!

To capitalize on this feeling have one or two family meetings before school starts. Get a big calendar to go over the general schedule. Who has what when. Visual reminders are helpful for childrenKids like to see things concretely and it helps them organize in their mind to see it on paper.

Make a list of what needs to happen in the mornings before school and before bed. You can use words or pictures depending on the age of your children. Kids love lists and charts!

It is also a good time to go over any chores you want the kids to have and put it on a chore list.

This is an important time to reiterate rules about behavior. Get your kids involved by thinking about their goals for the year. What do they want to work on?

This is the perfect time to make new paramaters about “screen- time”.  TV, computer, PSP, vand the Wii are all the same activity, besides using the computer for homework. If your kids are moving into school age many families make rules about no screens in the morning, or only after all homework is done, or only computer during the week and TV and video games on the weekend. Think about what works for your family and then tell the kids the new rules at the family meeting.  “Screen-time” is also a priviledge that can be revoked as a consequence for negative behaviors.

Adults also need limits on screen-time. Many families have instituted a “no screen zone” from say 6 PM-bedtime for EVERY member of the family! No email checking and Blackberry texting.

You can also set goals for the year–ask your children what they want this new year to be like–what would they like to add or subtract. Set goals for yourselves as well – less yelling, more individual time with each child, making evening family time a priority.

Again, the back to school month of September is a great time to rededicate yourselves as a family to the coming year with goals and rules and an empowered start to a new year!

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Discipline: Stop Before Entering
July 15, 2010 · Posted in Communication, Discipline, K-5 Kids, Parenting, Preschoolers · Permalink · Comments Off on Discipline: Stop Before Entering


Children need clear limits and guidance. From the end of the first year of life on, setting parameters about what is, and what is not appropriate behavior is the bulk of your job. Setting limits and clear expectations is not a punitive action – it is teaching. The goal is to raise a person who uses good judgment.

Proactive discipline-telling your child what is expected of them up front, increases the likelihood of their following the rules. We often go into situations “hoping” our kids will behave instead of telling them what goals, expectations and consequences exist right off the bat.

For example, before you go into the playground with your four-year old, have a quick conversation:

“Ok, so remember the rules: No hitting, no pushing, no throwing sand. If you do that you will have to sit on the bench with me for a little while. If you do it again then we will have to leave the playground. So what are the rules?”

“No hitting, no throwing sand and no hurting!”

“Right! So let’s go in and have fun.”

Your child has a clear road map of what is to come. The rules, the expectations, and without anger, the consequences. Chances are, your child will not be able to follow those rules on many occasions–that’s part of childhood, they are learning. Your job as a parent is to teach them the rules and follow through on the consequences.

After the upset has died down and everyone is calm, talk about the experience. Hear their perspective and feelings. Let them know that even though they make mistakes, break the rules, have trouble controlling themselves, that there is an open forum to talk about their grievances. Clear rules coupled with deep conversation later helps to stay connected and allows children to understand and control their behavior.

So, worst case scenario you had to take your child from the park kicking and screaming. Next time you go say, “Remember what happened last time when you threw sand? We had to leave.” They will vividly remember. “Follow our rules and we won’t have to go home early!” You’ve got a better chance of follow through on their part this time. This example of limit setting can be applied to almost every situation and activity in your young child’s life. After repetition, you will begin to see their automatic recognition of what is acceptable behavior. Keep in mind – your children are counting on you to guide them.

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Phoebe Prince’s Death: A New Look At Bullying
April 8, 2010 · Posted in Bullying, Child Abuse, Communication, Discipline, K-5 Kids, Media, Mental Health, Parenting, Pressure on Children, Relationships, Social Action, Technology, Teens · Permalink · Comments (1)

bullyingPhoebe Prince, the high school girl who hung herself last week, was purportedly “bullied” to death. Tortured is more like it. Hounded, cursed, humiliated in school and on-line. Defining bullying clearly is critical. Many adults think of bullying as a rite of passage in childhood. Clearly there is a difference between being picked last in gym class and being targeted by an individual or group of kids whose aim is to intimidate and shame.  Today’s landscape for children is also markedly different in that Facebook and email amplifies and exacerbates the intensity of peer relationships.We need to take a fresh look at bullying.

“Peer Abuse” is a phrase that more clearly defines the difference between teasing and belittling. “Peer Abuse” includes not only the physical aggression most associate with bullying, but also the verbal and emotional abuse that are a part of situations like Phoebe’s.

“Peer Abuse” are repeated acts over time of physical assault, psychological manipulation, name calling and using social power to ostracize an individual or group. This goes against our commonly held belief that bullies are loners, having been rejected socially. New research shows that it is often popular kids that use subtly abusive tactics to put down others to maintain their social status. Becoming the victim of malicious bullying can happen for a variety of reasons.

The message here for parents is that any of our children can, and most likely will be aggressive or cruel to other children at some point. Make this an open discussion in your family: Model respectful behavior, take seriously claims that your child is being bullied, talk about the pressure and responsibilities that come with popularity. Teach your child to speak up and stand up if someone is being abused. Adults need to do the same. The stakes are too high to be complacent.

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Can’t Spank? Then Scream.
February 23, 2010 · Posted in Child Abuse, Communication, Discipline, Fatherhood, K-5 Kids, Mental Health, Parenting, Relationships, Teens · Permalink · Comments (1)

screamingThe New York Times article, For Some Parents Shouting is the New Spanking, by Hillary Stout,  bravely shines the light on a slightly taboo topic. In many parenting circles, spanking is a discipline tool of the past.Whether or not parents actually resort to spanking is another story.

When it comes to screaming, however, it often seems accepted as a matter of course. Everyone  has a reflexive, knee jerk stance based on family of origin. If you came from a family of screamers, yelling might feel completely normal. Many people feel it is an ethnic rite or genetically encoded behavior. Others remember their parents yelling and screaming and the fear that it engendered. These parents do a yeoman’s job of controlling their tempers, but nevertheless find themselves overtaken by fury and frustration at times. Some grew up with simmering issues but no communication, so “letting it all out” can feel like a healthier way.

The problem is that yelling and screaming can feel so damn good while you are doing it. You feel powerful, like you are someone to be reckoned with, self-righteous and entitled.  After all, what human being can cope with the amount of badgering, whining, and defiance that kids dish out. In actuality, the desire to yell actually comes from the opposite place: a place of helplessness, feeling overburdened and incompetent. Screaming and yelling bring false empowerment. True power is when parents control themselves, for example, putting their child in their room without yelling or ranting or being able to take away privileges in a three word sentence like “No TV tomorrow!!”

Unfortunately, the nature of children and the culture we live in has the deck stacked against parents. Kids need repeated reminders, often years of reminders to do things like saying please and thank you, coming to the dinner table and not smashing their siblings. Our culture is all about getting what you want by taking no prisoners.  Given those forces, staying respectful calls for a kind of determination, focus and self control that seems only a zen master could muster. The good news is that self control can be learned. Start with this rule. Screaming, name calling, ranting and shaming is NOT ALLOWED. It is a boundary violation and something to avoid. Remember, it is not our right as a parent.

Since most people are not zen masters, realistically you probabaly will yell or scream when you are in your most helpless and overwhelmed state. Treat it as if you had hit your child. After you calm down, apologize. Remind them that it wasn’t OK, and that you are really focused on learning to control that behavior, just like they are.

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Tweens, Teens and Technology
February 2, 2010 · Posted in Communication, Discipline, Media, Parenting, Technology, Teens · Permalink · Comments (2)

TextMessageA recent article in The New York Times, If Your Kids Are Awake They’re Probably Online, reported powerful data regarding children and their “screen time”.

“The average young American now spends practically every waking minute — except for the time in school — using a smart phone, computer, television or other electronic device, according to a new study from the Kaiser Family Foundation. Those ages 8 to 18 spend more than seven and a half hours a day with such devices, compared with less than six and a half hours five years ago, when the study was last conducted. And that does not count the hour and a half that youths spend texting, or the half-hour they talk on their cellphones.”

While technology is here to stay –for good or bad– parents should not give up their role in limiting media use and monitoring what is going on online.

Here are some basic tips for keeping tabs and limits on your children’s “screen time”:

  • Know how to use all technology. Stay current and educated about how to text, use Facebook, ichat and skype. Stay in the loop on the kinds of communication systems your child and their friends are using. One way to get closer to teens is to have them teach you — let them be the expert and you be the student.
  • All teens are on Facebook and many adults are as well. Starting your own Facebook page and being “friends” with your teen — even if they block you from seeing some information, will keep you tuned in to what is going on with them. Even if they resist and think you are “creepy and old”, it will become commonplace and accepted after a while.
  • Make sure your kids are not sleeping with their phones. Texting becomes addictive and kids are often texting late into the night long after you are sound asleep. Maybe make a family charging station where all phones are charged at night and retrieved in the morning. Protect your child’s sleep!
  • Set time limits for TV, computer and video game use. You do not have to allow your child to use media eight hours a day!
  • Make rules that children and adults adhere to at home. No texts, email, phone or TV at dinner, or when you are walking children to school. Set a good example.
  • Have a healthy distrust for new technology but embrace it as well. It is here to stay and if you can’t beat ’em-join ’em with care!
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Snack Attack
January 26, 2010 · Posted in Discipline, Feeding, K-5 Kids, Preschoolers, Toddlerhood · Permalink · Comments Off on Snack Attack


Kids snacking and having “treats” throughout the day has exploded in the last decade. The article  Snack Time Never Ends in the The New York Times, January 20, 2010 presents data that, “between 1977 and 2002, the percent of the American population eating three or more snacks a day increased to 42 percent from 11 percent.”

From 2002 to 2008, one needs only to look around the playground to know that the trend has increased. Food is ubiquitous and adults and children are presented with constant eating opportunities. Add in the generational fear and antipathy to saying no to one’s children and you’ve got haggling and caving going on all day long!

Ellyn Slatter, dietitian and family therapist, is quoted in the article, “The parents’ job is to do the what, when and where of feeding,” she said, “and it is up to the children to do the how much and whether of eating. In order to have successful family meals, you have to structure the snacks.” Her book, Child of Mine: Feeding with Love and Good Sense, has long been one of Soho Parenting’s favorites.

Here are a few tips to curb snacking and unhealthy eating:

  • Snacks should be given at “Snack Time”: A scheduled time and place and not on the run. As Slatter wisely says “End grazing.”
  • A good snack is anything you would be happy to see on a child’s plate at a meal. Goldfish on the dinner plate? Fruit Roll up for breakfast? No?
  • No more than 2 snacks a day.
  • A snack and a treat are two different things. Treats are desserts, snacks are tiny meals.
  • Keep “treats” treats by offering them less often.
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Discipline…In Hindsight
December 8, 2009 · Posted in Adult Children, Discipline, Parenting · Permalink · Comments (1)


The following is a piece by Laura Stephens, program coordinator for Soho Parenting and editor of Parentalk.  Laura gives us the young adult perspective on life after being launched.

I turned twenty five yesterday.  With a quarter century under my belt I can look back at my childhood with a more grown up perspective.  Here at Soho Parenting I see how much thought and energy parents put into thinking about discipline and limits for their children.  Half-way between being a child and being a parent myself is an interesting time to reflect on the way my parents approached discipline.

I really gave my parents a run for their money, constantly doing things I wasn’t supposed to.  My parents never wavered in their belief that consequences should always follow breaking the rules.  Their punishments evolved as I grew up.  “Now I’m going to give you three spanks”,  turned to “time out!”, and then switched to,”No friends after school”.  Some punishments felt unbearable – no phone calls or instant messenger for 3 weeks, losing the privilege to have my beloved dog sleep in my room.

As a typical teenager I despised their rules, but in hindsight, I see that somehow those rules gave me a sense of security. That may sound strange, but it is so true.  Unlike my friends who could guarantee that despite a two week grounding they would surely be at the party Saturday night, I always knew my consequence was set in stone.  My parents were steady and firm. Though I made my best attempts to get out my “sentences” it was to no avail.   When it came to deciding and executing their ‘punishment strategy’, they took time to calm down, they consulted together before responding and made the terms very clear. Most importantly they stuck to their word -EVERY time.

I responded to this like any adolescent would – with complete abhorrence.  I would become furious when they insisted on waiting for the other to come home before telling me the details of my punishment.  I hated how specific they were when defining my ‘grounding’ – a sign that they had thought this out and would stick to it.  But I am so glad they did. Bottom line was that despite how much I hated the immediate effects, I could rely on my parents as trustworthy, dependable people.  My family life, though far from perfect, provided me with stability.  I could rely on my parents;  their word was my truth – and this knowledge as a child and then a teenager was monumental.

I am sure this capacity to be a reliable source for my future children – especially when disciplining – will be greatly tested.  If my kids are anything like me, the process will be tough.  It will feel easier to be lax here and there – retract a punishment by a few days to avoid a tantrum.  But like me, all children desperately need to know they can trust and feel safe with their parents. I know that the benefits of the hard work of sticking to your guns far outweighs the immediate relief.

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Outsourcing Manners
November 5, 2009 · Posted in Discipline, K-5 Kids, Parenting, Preschoolers, Spoiling · Permalink · Comments (3)

table+mannersA business card tacked on to the bulletin board at the pediatrician’s office advertises a new service: classes for children and manners. Surely you have to admire the entrepeneurial spirit of this business person, but is this service necessary?  Are we really at a time where we need to hire people to teach our children basic manners? Can’t we do this one ourselves? Teaching manners is on the parental job description.

In the eighties and nineties, parenting advice was so focused on the child’s needs that some specialists suggested that making your children say they were sorry when they didn’t authentically feel sorry was incorrect. Manners were seen by many as old-fashioned and rigid, not to be imposed. Fast forward to today.  Pick up any parenting magazine (the two that are left), and you will see an article every month about how to raise children that are not so entitled, disrespectful and unmannerly. I guess that old way of thinking didn’t really work out too well.

Social graces that were deemed sexist in the seventies and beyond, like holding a door open for a woman or giving up your seat were banished. Couldn’t we just have mandated everyone do it for each other to eliminate the sexism quality but keep the graciousness?  Now you can’t find a good feminist who doesn’t also say chivalry is dead with wistfulness.

Manners: “please”, “thank you”, “excuse me”, “I’m sorry”, “let me get that for you”, “after you”, are the lubricants of civilized social interaction. They are kind, respectful and much appreciated habits that we must teach our children by basically drilling them into their heads for years.  It is a parents job to remind, prompt, model and teach these nicities over and over and over again until they become automatic. This takes years. Kids will eventually learn these manners and will be able to to use them in public, in school, at a friend’s house.  With you, unfortunately it will take the longest and rudeness will die the hardest, becuase you are the parent. That’s on your job description too.

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No Is Not A Bad Word
October 22, 2009 · Posted in Discipline, K-5 Kids, Parenting, Preschoolers, Toddlerhood · Permalink · Comments (1)


“NO” has gotten a bad rap! Some child rearing advice in the last twenty five years has given the idea that if you don’t use the word “no” with young child they in turn will not use it back to you in defiance.

We would like to officially debunk that myth. It is a misguided and false idea that comes out of a culture of overly permissive parenting.  We know how well that has worked.  Children will learn to say “no” regardless of whether they hear it from their parents – and they need to hear it from their parents.

Now, we are not advocating that your child’s world be overly encumbered with reprimands and prohibitions. Childhood should be a time of exploration and discovery and should have many “yeses” in it.  However, it is equally imperative that your child begin to learn about boundaries and limits.  In fact, it is an important hallmark in their own developing sense of self, ushering in the awareness that they have their own separate wishes, wants and opinions about things.

Behaviors including self-control, restraint and caution are learned by hearing the word, “no”.  Children learn how to tolerate frustration and regulate intense emotions by learning to accept “no”. When you see a child who is behaving in a disrespectful, whiny and demanding manner, there is a good chance that child is desperately in need of clear limits. Without your “no” your child is left to push until he finds these limits. Our advice? Do not hold back from thoughtfully and appropriately saying “No” to your children.

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