How We Can Evade Gender Stereotypes By Ignoring Gender-Assigned Colors
August 11, 2015 · Posted in Parenting · Permalink · Comments Off

Liz Greene 300x300By Liz Greene

It was late July and far too hot for me to take my preschool class outside. The kids were starting to get rowdy, so I offered up a question to regain their focus: “If you were a Jedi, what color would your lightsaber be?”

The chorus of colors hit my ears almost immediately: oranges, greens, blues, purples and reds.

From one lone boy, Russell, came the excited reply of pink. Benjamin immediately turned to him and exclaimed, “That’s stupid! Pink is a girl color!” As Russell’s face fell, I was crushed.

How could children so young already have assigned gender to colors?

Where does this pink versus blue idea come from?

From the moment a child is brought into the world, we start imprinting the idea that genders have assigned colors.

From the balloons in the hospital room to the cap the nurse places on his or her tiny head, to the first outfit he or she wears home, everything is divided into one of two camps: pink or blue.

Why? As it turns out, these two colors weren’t favored for babies until the mid-19th century, and not promoted as gender cues until just before World War I.

Most surprising is that, originally, the colors were switched.

“The generally accepted rule is pink for the boys, and blue for the girls. The reason is that pink, being a more decided and stronger color, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.” — Earnshaw’s, June 1918

Our current color mandate wasn’t chosen until the 1940s, and like so much of our culture, it was a direct result of manufacturer’ and retailers’ interpretations of American preferences.

That’s right; this whole idea is based on what marketers think we want.


Why is it a problem?

As a country, we’re moving toward becoming an all-inclusive society.

Every day, our ideas on race, religion, cultural norms, gender identity and sexual orientation are changing, yet we still find ourselves raising our children to be subconsciously sexist.

By reinforcing negative gender stereotypes, we’re doing far more harm than we might imagine.

When children are forced into certain gender roles in order to fit in, they lose the ability to determine their own interests and skills.

It discourages young men from participating in cleaning and childcare, and restricts women from choosing roles seen as traditionally “male” such as engineering and science.

The negative effects can go deeper than emotional harm. There are physical expectations connected with these stereotypes, many of which are unrealistic.

The dolls and action figures our kids play with, the cartoons they watch on television and the Photoshopped models they see on the covers of magazines, all can have a profound effect on the idea of what the “perfect” stereotypical human should look like.

If you think it’s not harmful, look no further than the actors who play live-action versions of popular characters and the physical change they undergo to do so.

Lily James said this of the corset she had to wear to achieve Cinderella’s impossibly tiny waist:

“I couldn’t untie it. I wasn’t able to enjoy a lovely lunch or tea. If I ate food, it didn’t really digest properly and I’d be burping all afternoon … I’d have soup so that I could still eat and it wouldn’t get stuck.”

Chris Evans speaks of the routine it took to get Captain America’s super-soldier muscular physique:

“I’m very skinny naturally. I’m kind of a little bony kid, so getting big is tough, you know. It’s hard to keep the weight on.

“The second you stop filming, you pull the plug, and I don’t even think about the gym for months. It’s a really daunting task gearing back up.”

When children unconsciously try to live up to the standards of these stereotypes, they can do physical and emotional harm to themselves.


How can we change?

Getting rid of gender stereotypes starts with how you personally view gender and the conversations you have with your children.

“We need to take a hard look at the way we think and the messages we give to our children. When I was growing up it wasn’t cool for girls to be good at numbers.

“So when I had the opportunity to learn to code I didn’t take it. That was something boys did.” — Leyla Seka in an article from Desk.com

Children learn by imitating their parents, so avoid reinforcing gender stereotypes when you’re at home. Split chores evenly, rather than on the idea of what is “men’s work and women’s work.”

Your daughter is more than beautiful, and your son more than strong; compliment your children on their behavior, intelligence and spirit as well.

Most importantly, point out and discuss the instances of sexism you see when watching television, reading books or wandering the world at large.


Toys and Clothing

It’s also important take a look at the toys and clothing you’re buying for your children.

Although the aisles in most toy stores are more gendered than ever, try to offer a mixed bag for play. Lego setsbaby dollstoy kitchens and science sets can usually be found in a gender-neutral form.

“More meaningful change will require toy companies to think outside of the gender box — and beyond the limiting colors that signify gender.

“Instead of more pink weapons and building sets, toys should be made using a full spectrum of colors (including pink) and with diverse themes, and they should be marketed to both boys and girls.” — Elizabeth Sweet, in an article from the New York Times

Clothing can be a far trickier beast. There are many stores on the web such as Handsome in Pink and Tootsa MacGinty that offer gender-neutral clothing.

However, if you’re more of a brick-and-mortar shopper, there’s no reason you can’t shop the whole store. As a giant comic book geek, I find most of my favorite t-shirts in the men’s section.

It’s not necessary to go completely gender neutral. For instance, if your daughter loves lace and ribbons, and your son wants some camo cargo shorts, there’s no reason they shouldn’t be able to have them.

There’s also nothing to say your son can’t wear a tutu while your daughter rocks a motorcycle tee.

Ultimately, getting rid of gender stereotypes — and this ridiculous idea of pink versus blue — starts with us.

The more of us who take a stand and push aside these outdated ideas, the more likely the companies manufacturing our children’s clothes and toys are to change the way they do things.

After Benjamin told Russell that pink was a girl’s color, I knew I had to step in. I put my hand on his shoulder, looked him in the eye and said quietly, but firmly, “There is no such thing as boy or girl colors. Colors are for everyone.”

 

Liz Greene is a writer and former preschool teacher from Boise, Idaho. She’s a lover of all things geek and is happiest when cuddling with her dogs and catching up on the latest Marvel movies. You can follow her on Twitter @LizVGreene

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Breathing in Mindfulness
August 4, 2015 · Posted in K-5 Kids, Mental Health, Parenting · Permalink · Comments Off

MeeshTreesblogBy Akanksha Sadana-Raswant, Founder of Wholistic Tutoring 

Mindfulness is a powerful word that surrounds us daily, but what does it really mean?

Mindfulness is purposefully bringing awareness to the present moment, and as a result, paying attention to the full experience. Children and parents can learn to embrace their emotions and deepen their knowledge by spending five to ten minutes a day engaging in mindfulness.

In a city where we constantly live in a New York minute – running from place to place, sipping coffee in one hand while emailing with the other, multitasking within multitasking to create the most efficient day, we rarely take moments to focus on ourselves and notice how we are feeling in the present moment. Children pick up on this energy and become overstimulated and stressed. How do we help children stay calm and positive when the adults in their lives are frantic, overscheduled, and exhausted?

It begins with you, the parent. Much easier said than done, but give it a try!

Start with breathing…big deep breaths. It is hard to imagine, but sometimes we forget to breathe properly within our chaotic-filled days.

While you breathe, try to focus solely on your breath. Notice the movement your breath makes within your body. Is your breath deep or shallow today? Is your heart rate slowing down as you breathe? Be kind to yourself, because paying attention to your breath is difficult! Be patient with yourself, because this process takes time. Try to write down the effects this exercise has on you, or make a mental note on the “before and after” that occurs within your mind and body.

For children, the practice of mindfulness starts with breathing too. Have your child sit on a chair or lie down comfortably with their eyes open or closed. Ask them to place their hand on their heart or stomach while they breathe. Touching a body part is a gentle reminder to keep their attention on the flow of their breath. Reassure them that it is natural for their minds to wander, and the intention of this exercise is to catch themselves when their mind is drifting. The goal is to bring the focus back on the movement of their breath.

Breathing sends a signal to our body to calmly and gently slow down. With this activity, we start to pay more attention to ourselves, becoming more conscious of our body and giving more opportunities to notice the emotions that manifest themselves physically. This is the first step to achieving increased self-awareness and purposefully being present.

Happy Breathing!

 

Akanksha Sadana-Raswant is the Founder of Wholistic Tutoring, a tutoring practice that provides academic tutoring with the option to engage in mindfulness for children in grades Kindergarten through Seventh. For more information, please visit www.wholistictutoring.com

 

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Ode To A Bath
July 29, 2015 · Posted in Infant Development, Parenting, Toddlerhood · Permalink · Comments (5)

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One of the sweetest and most treasured memories of our children’s early childhood is the nightly bath. Although tired and spent from the long day, it is a time to sit down and enjoy the wonderful world of a child in water. Pretend play, bubble fun, talk and laughing not to mention the pleasure of watching your child’s beautiful naked body swim around and get squeaky clean .

The never-ending  domestic duties of parenthood – bathing, feeding, bedtime, dressing, walking to school, running errands, giving snacks, refereeing fights,  all can seem repetitive and mundane. And in truth, these jobs are all of these things–monotonous, hilarious, boring, tender, frustrating, and gratifying. One  rarely gets a thank you or any kind of recognition.  These are the jobs that are tempting to put in a category of custodial, and therefore not  important.

Society in general, and parents in particular, need to value the importance of these tasks. They are the  very fabric of the intimate relationship with your children.  During the bath, the walk to school, or home from ballet or karate, relationships deepen, values get transmitted and children feel cared for and known.  In our busy world “quality time” has become synonomous with special activities. These every day routines are special activities and our involvement with them is  meaningful to our children. We are not  advocating that any one person should have to do all of this with no help from other people, hired or otherwise. But  we are reminding us all that these are not just the tasks to be “outsourced”.  They matter and will have a lasting impact.

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A mom and pediatrician’s 10 secrets for healthy kids (and one happy mama!)
July 20, 2015 · Posted in Parenting, Preschoolers, Toddlerhood · Permalink · Comments Off

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By Tiffany Knipe

One of the first things I learned in medical school is that medicine is, indeed, an art—not a science.

So is parenting.

This is something I learned long after becoming a pediatrician—but shortly after becoming a parent. Having grown up in a home with a mother who is truly an artist (the paint-to-canvas kind)—and my own natural proclivity for all things science—the marriage of science and art was an easy one for me to embrace.

Both parenting and doctoring require life-long learning. I’ve been a doctor for 11 years and a parent for only five, and every day I learn something new about both.

Here are 10 of the most important lessons I’ve learned so far along the way:

1) Be present. Smart phones, iPads, laptops have permeated our worlds. They can enhance our lives—making it easier to reach friends and family across the globe, making it possible to work from the comfort of our own home and to call teenage children when they are out…. But these devices can also diminish our quality of life and undermine our intent to connect. We must disconnect in order to connect with our children. This can be quite challenging, but I aim to find time each day to turn my phone off, put it in another room or just vow not to check it for some period of time. Then I try to forget about it and be present with my children. Try this—I dare you.

2) Be patient. Your child will sleep. And eat. And walk. And stop sucking his thumb. And use the potty. Child growth and development is a process. And it is not a competition. Try not to compare your child’s development with your friend’s children—or even with your own other children. Each child is unique in his or her own way and will follow his/her own unique trajectory for physical and psychological growth. Relish it.

3) Sometimes patience is the best medicine. Whether it is an ear infection, a stomach bug, potty training or learning to walk – sometimes you just have to wait. We can find ways to make our child feel more comfortable, but there is not always a medicine to “fix” what is broken or speed up what seems slow. I know how hard it is to see my own children uncomfortable—whether it is a fever and runny nose from a winter cold or vomiting from a stomach virus. Occasionally, during these times, (when I am thinking more like a mother and less like a doctor), I, too, will seek reassurance. I call my pediatrician-friends and ask them to help me remember that all is progressing normally and to remind me there is, indeed, nothing more to “do” other than to provide comfort and love. (Don’t undervalue these remedies!) The human body is an incredible machine and children are resilient. Sometimes the prescription from your doctor is to just wait. So in a world where we expect immediacy from most everything—make room for patience.

4) Good habits start early. From good sleep and healthy eating, to manners and values: Lay the foundations as soon as possible and build on them. A patient of mine once asked me “at what age should you teach manners?” The answer is from day #1! Children model adult behavior. Treat your spouse with kindness and respect – and your children will naturally learn to treat their friends (and you) the same way. Don’t swear at home – unless you want your 3 year old swearing too. Say your own please’s and thank you’s—and your children will learn that vocabulary from you the same way they learn Mama, Dada, car, house, cookie and other words. Even non-verbal children can learn please and thank you—with hand gestures or sign language. Remember you are the most influential model for your children.

5) Enjoy the moments. Especially the small ones. Even the embarrassing ones. Those moments are beautiful and unique. Of course we oogle and applaud over a child’s first step, or first word. But often it’s the smaller moments that can really tug at our heartstrings—if we just take the time to soak it in. Some of those moments for me are listening to my boys sing in the car. Watching them stop to pick up a leaf on the street then delight in it’s beauty. Their amazement as a firefly flickers on and off in in their hands. The feeling of their arms squeezing me a hug goodnight. Watching them willingly share a favorite toy without being prodded to do so. Hearing their laughter. Reading them books. Listening to their questions. These small moments are what add the beauty and color to life. Don’t take these moments for granted.

6) Be flexible. Compromise. Some parenting rules DO need to be black and white (ex: don’t touch the stove, don’t open the door for strangers, put infants on their back to sleep) but many things don’t. Figure out what matters to your family. Define the lines. Then let the greys in. Whether that means an extra half hour of TV, staying up past bedtime or, as we have been known to allow—having a Nutella and marshmallow sandwich for breakfast. Choose your battles.

7) Be creative. And I don’t just mean being clever about using recycle-ables for art projects. I mean using spontaneous creativity to overcome parenting hurdles. Thinking outside the box in parenting is essential. There are times when planning is good—but also times when “winging-it “ can be better!

Like my husband inventing “The Splinter King” (naturally a friend of the Tooth Fairy) to come and leave coins under our son’s pillow after the successful removal of a splinter. Using “noodle paint” (ie: pesto or tomato sauce) to color pasta for my picky-eating-very-artistic-child. Floating cheerios in the toilet bowl as target practice to make potty-training fun. The list goes on and on. Embrace your own family quirks, allow your unique family culture to emerge, but remember to never stop creating!

8) Ask for help. If you don’t have family nearby to help you, ask friends, neighbors, colleagues, babysitters or your doctor. Raising a child is not easy, no one does this alone and we all need some help and support.

9) Make mistakes. It’s the only way to learn anything—even parenting. Just don’t repeat them and don’t drown in the guilt of whatever error or oversight you may have made. Learn something from your mistake, then move on and do it better the next time. (Remember, children are resilient—physically and psychologically.)

10) Have fun. (And drink coffee.) Being a mother is the hardest fun I’ve ever had. Enough said.

 

Dr. Tiffany Knipe is the founder of Washington Market Pediatrics, a new neighborhood practice that offers parenting groups led by former Soho Parenting therapist Colleen Campo, LMHC. 

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The Challenge of Parenting Teens
July 14, 2015 · Posted in Parenting, Teens · Permalink · Comments Off

logospBy Elyssa Ackerman, LCSW and Founder of Strategic Parent

Communicating with your teen can really test your patience.  One minute your teen is asking you for money or permission to hang with friends, the next they are slamming the door and stomping out. It is no wonder parents of teens find themselves frustrated and confused.

Teens are irrational, and, according to Dr. Mike Bradley, author of Yes, Your Teen is Crazy!: Loving Your Kid without Losing Your Mind, “Adolescents are temporarily brain damaged.” What he means is that the parts of the brain responsible for emotional control, impulse restraint, and rational decision-making aren’t fully formed or connected.  Therefore, teens are confrontational, unpredictable and often overwhelmed by the stresses in their lives.

Your job is to be the bigger person and act rationally.  Try to stay calm and settled while your teen wrestles with his/her feelings. When your teen is rude, disrespectful, and nasty, practice saying “I will not speak to you when you are disrespectful, come to me when we can talk civilly.” Try not to hold grudges. Sound like a big challenge? It is.

The truth is that teens still need us to think the world of them.  It is easy for us to highlight what teens do wrong, so try implementing two positives for every negative.  Refrain from advice giving and moralizing, and listen, really listen.  Put down your phones: don’t text while they are talking to you, email can wait.  Even if you disagree with what they are saying, let them talk. If given the space to do so, they will come to trust you.

Communicate with your teen by setting clear and consistent limits. Try not to yell, and do let them negotiate. Be matter of fact about his/her curfew, responsibilities in the home, and your drug and alcohol (use or no use) policy.  Enforce limits through incentives, not ultimatums, and encourage them to act responsibly. If rules get broken, let them play a part in deciding upon the consequences. They will attain the freedom they so desire by demonstrating their willingness to do their part.

Most importantly, keep connected. If your teen sees that you are interested and available through all the ups and downs, the payoffs are priceless.

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When BFF’s Are Very Different Kinds of Parents
June 24, 2015 · Posted in Parenting · Permalink · Comments Off

Sarah and Laura have been friends since prenatal yoga. Now their kids, Joshua and Tara, are two years old and conflict is creeping into their very cozy foursome.  Sarah feels agitated when they are together with the kids.  She feels that Sarah doesn’t ever say no to Joshua.  He hits and kicks alot and Sarah worries that Tara is going to get hurt. It feels too scary to address it, but she finds herself preoccupied about the issue.

Sound familiar? It often feels trickier “co-parenting” with your best girlfriend than your spouse. Spouses feel comfortable arguing, haggling and critiquing each other. Friends are usually much more respectful. So many disagreements or opposing viewpoints stay underground and simmer. This can cause a great deal of angst and discomfort for friends.  It is normal and natural to have conflict over approach and ideas with good friends. Decisions about raising children are deeply personal and disapproval from friend, family or even foe will be felt keenly. So tread lightly and carefully.

Practicing healthy self -esteem and boundaries with friends about parenting will be critical to preserve friendships.  Here are some things to think about that may help soothe the agitation.

  • Remind yourself that no one person is better than another.
  • Remember that if it is not your child acting out now, it will be soon enough.
  • Do not offer advice unless solicited.
  • Ask yourself how the particular thing bugging you connects to your own childhood.
  • Address the conflict from the “I” position with gentleness

Sarah thought long and hard about why Joshua’s behavior, and her friends approach to it was not just annoying, but preoccupying. When she looked at it’s connection to her childhood she realized that she herself had bullied her younger sister. She was pidgeon-holed in the family as the bossy, domineering one, but got little help in controlling herself.  A lot of guilt and anger remains toward her sister to this day. So in fact, she was identifying with Joshua, seeing Tara as her sister and experiencing Laura as her parents letting her down. This perspective was helpful. Sarah actually started opening up to Laura more about her childhood experience. As their friendship deepened, Sarah was able to say, “I think I get a little worked up when Joshua hit or kicks because it reminds me of ME! I really needed more help from my parents, so If I seem weird when you are dealing with it, that is the reason. I think I get a little over protective over Tara.” Though this was not an easy conversation, Laura also opened up about feeling really confused about how to handle things  with Josh and asked Laura for some help.  What could have been a real rift became  a tender but work-out able situation.

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When Dad’s Play With Kids They help Their Marriage
June 5, 2015 · Posted in Fatherhood, K-5 Kids, Parenting, Work/Family Balance · Permalink · Comments Off
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A study in the Developmental Psychology Journal reports on the correlation between parenting responsibilities and spousal relationships. The study, conducted by Sarah Schoppe-Sullivan, found that the more play time spent between father and child, the more encouraging and collaborative the parenting relationship would be.
Greater father involvement in play was associated with an increase in supportive and a decrease in undermining coparenting behavior over time. In contrast, greater father involvement in caregiving was associated with a decrease in supportive and an increase in undermining co-parenting behavior.
Children greatly benefit when both parents have a role in the custodial duties as well as play time. Here is one way to reduce the tension between shared tasks like meal-time, bathing and getting ready for school. Recognize your inevitable differences and try not to be so critical and controlling of one another. It will be incredibly helpful for the relationship to accept that everyone has their own way of doing things. And for dad’s – watch and learn from the person who has been, for the most part, in charge of caregiving responsibilities. Much benefit will come from seeing what works for your spouse. Along the way, you will adapt your own unique style of parenting that can compliment your wife’s.
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The Benefits of Hiring a Male Nanny
May 21, 2015 · Posted in Caregivers, K-5 Kids, Parenting, Preschoolers · Permalink · Comments Off

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John Brandon is known internationally for founding his first company, NYC Mannies. He has been interviewed on CNN International, Good Morning America, ITV (UK), as well as other major media outlets around the world. Having worked for years as a manny, John brings a unique perspective and passion to the childcare industry. He is a published writer on the subject of caregiving and mentorship. Having grown up without a father, John understands the need for kids to have positive role models in their lives. Visit www.MyManny.com for more information.

 

As the owner of MyManny, an agency for hiring male caregivers, I am often asked why people should hire mannies. I can only answer from personal experience. When I was 14 my father died. I needed older male role models to play sports with me, encourage me, help me with schoolwork, and mentor me as I faced the challenges of growing up.

In 2013, I started working as a manny in New York. I had years of experience working with children as a camp counselor, high school teacher, and babysitter. I wanted to be a “super-nanny” –to teach, educate, mentor, and tutor. My goal was to make a difference in the lives of the kids I was working with. This led me to found MyManny, to provide this kind of service to many New York City families.

Mannies aren’t just great for kids without dads. Most of the parents I work with are married couples that work full-time and need extra childcare support. Mannies are educated and well rounded. They a workforce of young, college-educated men who also tend to be active and athletic. They can tutor in various subjects without charging tutoring rates as well as teach athletics without having to hire a private coach.

Growing up in New York can be challenging. There is so much external stimulation that kids in New York have to navigate. My goal, for myself, and the mannies who work at MyManny, is to form deep one-on-one relationships, help children focus, give them physical outlets and help guide them as they grow. As men, we offer a different and important sense of protection and help to keep children safe.

Being a manny is more than just a job. It’s a chance to make a positive impact on a growing child, and to be a support for the entire family.

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Two Years, 2 Bites-Three Years, 3 Bites
May 18, 2015 · Posted in Feeding, Parenting, Preschoolers, Toddlerhood · Permalink · Comments Off

Toddler and preschool eating can be a source of stress for parents. Babyhood, when parents can often scoop endless spoonfuls into eagerly awaiting mouths, is over. Variety narrows, amounts lessen. This change can be startling and unsettling. Feeding becomes a less gratifying experience for the parent. This nutrition and weight conscious generation can often spend lots of time fretting and battling with their children at mealtimes. Two years, 2 bites-three years, 3 bites is a short but powerful mantra to calm even the most worried parent. Kids need to eat less in the second and third years of life for the healthy growth of their bodies. Nothing is wrong with a toddler who eats less than when he was an infant. So no need to force, chase, or zoom food into their mouths. Two bites is just fine.

The range of food also usually narrows after infancy for a period of time during childhood. Evolutionarily speaking, a little toddling person, who is now away from the watchful eye of their parent, is safer when they eat things they recognize. No poison plants for me! I’ll just stick with what I know. So when your baby goes from the consummate gourmet to a rotation of ten foods, this is normal development – not a reason to worry. Over time, most kids get curious and adventurous again. Three bites of the same old, same old is just fine. Since variety and amount lessen after age one, the best thing you can do is provide healthy food at the times you want them to have meals and leave the amounts to them. Soothe the worried part of yourself by repeating “Two years, 2 bites, Three years, 3 bites!” That’s all they really need.

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Marriage Vows are Really Parent Vows
May 11, 2015 · Posted in Fatherhood, Mental Health, Parenting, Relationships, Teens · Permalink · Comments Off

When times are good with your children, you can’t even imagine not wanting to be a parent. When difficulties arise, from the typical and small, like constant temper tantrums, to the  unthinkable, like a diagnosis of Asperger’s, or juvenile diabetes, or your teenager in the grip of an eating disorder, your mettle as a parent is tested to the limits.

You may wish for an escape–that is natural. You may seriously doubt your capacity to parent, but as with nothing else, you are committed for life. You are on the journey no matter what. This lead me to think that the marriage vows, which can be and are retracted for many of us, really belong to our children.

“I take you______to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love, cherish, till death us do part.”

It is to our children that we make this vow. Everything else in life can really be changed.

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