The Marshmallow Test
December 7, 2010 · Posted in Discipline, Education, K-5 Kids, Mental Health, Parenting, Preschoolers · Permalink · Comments Off on The Marshmallow Test
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Dr. Walter Mischel’s study of impulse control in the 1960’s and 1970’s using a marshmallow and the directive to wait-and-you-will-get-two has turned out to have incredible predictive ability and teaches an important lesson to parents. The ability to delay gratification at age four predicts higher SAT scores, school success, and successes in life such as relationships, employment and healthier weight.

Making children wait, helping to handle not getting what they want and delaying gratification has profound positive effects. So go ahead, just say no!!!!!!!!!!!!

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An Apple (iPhone) A Day for Your Toddler?
October 26, 2010 · Posted in Parenting, Preschoolers, Technology, Toddlerhood · Permalink · Comments (3)
My favorite toy is my iPad. My second favorite toy is my iphone. I have a hard time not playing with them – even when in a conversation with someone. I am 50. So what about little kids playing with their parents iPhones? In Toddlers Favorite Toy: The iPhone, Hilary Stout takes on the pros and cons of allowing young children to use these amazing gizmos. I have a lot of sympathy for parents today. When I was at the park with my young children, I didn’t even have a cell phone! I had no choice but to settle in and be there. Had I been able to whip out my iPad or make a call I am sure I would have. I feel thankful that wasn’t an option- it pushed me to either pay attention or at the very least use my imagination to occupy myself if I felt bored, annoyed or uncomfortable.
If grown ups have such a hard time limiting themselves, we have to acknowledge how addictive these devices really are. So the idea of toddlers playing with these “toys” is giving crack to a baby. Here’s some information and strategies to help you either prohibit or limit your young child’s time on an iPhone.
1. There is no way this is good for a kid’s brain. No child development expert, unless on Apple’s payroll will say that this is good use of a child’s time.
Jane M. Healy, an educational psychologist in Vail, Colo. said: “Any parent who thinks a spelling program is educational for that age is missing the whole idea of how the preschool brain grows. What children need at that age is whole body movement, the manipulation of lots of objects and not some opaque technology. You’re not learning to read by lining up the letters in the word ‘cat.’ You’re learning to read by understanding language, by listening. Here’s the parent busily doing something and the kid is playing with the electronic device. Where is the language? There is none.”
2. Imagine your parent saying, “Ok cutie, you play with the 500 dollar Tiffany vase. If it breaks we can just get a new one!” These are very expensive items! Use common sense.
3. Screens are so rivieting we can’t help looking at them. Consider what your child will miss out on if constantly glued to the phone.
Tovah P. Klein, the director of Columbia University’s Barnard College Center for Toddler Development (where signs forbid the use of cellphones and other wireless devices) worries that fixation on the iPhone screen every time a child is out and about with parents will limit the child’s ability to experience the wider world.
4. Your children will have their whole lives to use computers, phones and screens of all kind. They don’t need to have them as their little brains are developing.
Again, I have trouble limiting myself on these toys, so all power to you if you can not allow your children to use them. It is probably a healthier choice.
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Don’t Let Picture Books Fade Away
October 14, 2010 · Posted in Education, K-5 Kids, Parenting, Preschoolers, Pressure on Children, Toddlerhood · Permalink · Comments Off on Don’t Let Picture Books Fade Away

This is the sorry state of the MIS-education of our children. The New York Times article, Picture Books No Longer A Staple, October 8th, 2010, reports that publishers are scaling back a staple of early childhood, illustrated picture books.

Parents have begun pressing their kindergartners and first graders to leave the picture book behind and move on to more text-heavy chapter books. Publishers cite pressures from parents who are mindful of increasingly rigorous standardized testing in schools.

“Parents are saying, ‘My kid doesn’t need books with pictures anymore,’ ” said Justin Chanda, the publisher of Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. “There’s a real push with parents and schools to have kids start reading big-kid books earlier. We’ve accelerated the graduation rate out of picture books.”

The magic of learning to speak, let alone read, happens when words as a sounds and symbols come to represent objects. Much of the early intellectual dialogue between parents and children begins with a child on the lap and a picture book in hand.  From infancy into elementary school listening to, looking at and reading picture books with a grown up or alone sets the stage for the love of reading later in childhood. Do not drink the Kool-Aid. Read picture books with your children!

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We All Have Little Mean Girls Inside
October 12, 2010 · Posted in Bullying, Communication, Discipline, Education, K-5 Kids, Mental Health, Parenting, Preschoolers, Pressure on Children · Permalink · Comments Off on We All Have Little Mean Girls Inside

Mean girl bullying is showing up in younger and younger age groups. An article by Pamela Paul, in Sunday’s New York Times tackles this complex topic. Let’s look at some of the key issues. First, is the labeling of “mean girls”.

Paul writes,

A kindergarten teacher at one of New York City’s top private all-girls schools observed, “The mean girls are often from mean moms.”

Now that is a pretty big statement. Mean girls, mean moms. Nice girls, nice moms.  Seems too broad and more importantly, what do we do with that?

Who of us has not made many a snarky comment about how someone looks or acts? Or not had zillions of mean thoughts about someone?  Not you, not me. All of us have a mean part. Too often we label the whole person by looking at just one of their characteristics. No one is defined by one quality- we are all made up of a multitude of parts. A care-taking part of our personality, a sad part, a courageous part, and a part that lashes out.  This mean part develops to protect us- to make us feel better and to shield us from feeling shame, rejection, or loneliness.

Take this scenario: You show up at the park with your kids and see two mothers from school sitting together on the bench talking. You automatically feel nervous because you are a lone adult and would love some company. In a nano second the following inner experience takes place: You wonder if you should approach the two mothers. You think one of the women sees you but turns away. Immediately, the mean part jumps out to protect you by thinking, “They are such snobs, and their kids are out of control. At least I pay attention to my kids in the park!” You walk to the other end of the park.

When looking at it closer, that mean part just doesn’t want you to experience those uncomfortable feelings. It wants you to feel strong, better in fact. The same is true with children. Imagine the same scenario at the writing center at school. The mean part in a little kid is just as protecting as an adult, and an intimidated child will likely have the same reaction.

Talking to kids about their mean parts -not telling them that they are mean- will help them to stop bullying.

But here’s the really tough part.

“The mean girls are often from mean moms.”

Parents of kids that bully or condescend to others need to hold up a mirror to their own behavior. One-upsmanship, criticizing others for not being as smart, as rich, as pretty, as athletic, etc. in an ongoing way will create children who feel they have the freedom to do the same. Parents that have a strong mean part will most likely have kids that develop one too. So the first step in combatting relational bullying is to shine a light on your own need to put others down. Take that mean part in hand, recognize that it is protecting you and help that part of you to stop hurting other people.  This is the key to making our children safe psychologically, emotionally and physically.

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It’s Not Their Character, It’s Their Behavior
September 14, 2010 · Posted in Communication, Discipline, K-5 Kids, Parenting, Preschoolers · Permalink · Comments Off on It’s Not Their Character, It’s Their Behavior

Raising children is the most emotional work you will do. When your children act up, act out, or go through a new stage it is hard not to equate that behavior with their whole personality. Mothers of young toddlers testing limits will say, “She’s so manipulative all of a sudden. “A preschooler who is clingy in the first weeks of school’s parent will say, “He’s a totally different child, he’s usually so confident.” The parent of a sulky teenager will lament, “He’s such negative person!” It is so hard to keep perspective that these new phases or behaviors are just that — behaviors. They are not your child’s character, they are not even their whole self at this time.  They are parts of your children. A curious mischievous part, a worried part in need of reassurance, a solitary part that wants privacy.

No one part of our child defines them. We just have an easier time with the parts of them that are gratifying and not challenging.  The reactions to negative behaviors can be kept in perspective when we remember that we WANT our children to show us all the parts of themselves. That way we can help the parts that are struggling rather than try to stamp them out.

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Depression In Preschoolers
September 7, 2010 · Posted in K-5 Kids, Mental Health, Parenting, Preschoolers · Permalink · Comments Off on Depression In Preschoolers


The New York Times Sunday Magazine ran an article entitled  Can Preschoolers Be Depressed? by Pamela Paul on August 29th.  In this piece Paul, author of Parenting Inc., thoughtfully explores the prevalence of mood disorders in children. While there is controversy and difference of opinion about the treatment of these children, there is widespread agreement that dperession in young children exists, and that many adult with depression can trace their depression to youth. The article is hopeful in that it reminds us how malleable and plastic the child brain is in childhood and the benefits of early intervention. The entire range of developmental difficulties including autism and behavioral issues are helped immensely by early recognition and treatment.

If your child has prolonged lethargy, lack of interest in play, a consistently pessimistic outlook, chronic complaints about unhappiness or negative beliefs about themselves, don’t necessarily chalk it up to a stage. You know your child and if you have a feeling that something is not right speak to the preschool teacher or pediatrician and ask for a referral to a child specialist. There is no harm in looking carefully at your child’s mood. Many children feel a great sense of relief when their parents take steps to address their sadness and worries.

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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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Praise is Pressure
August 3, 2010 · Posted in Communication, K-5 Kids, Parenting, Preschoolers, Pressure on Children · Permalink · Comments Off on Praise is Pressure

Low_Pressure_Capsule_GaugeHow could praising your child be anything but good for them? Here’s how. It turns out that praising a child’s intelligence or performance too much backfires in several different ways. With too much performance focused praise – kids will start to shy away from doing things that they are not naturally good at. They begin to see their worth in terms of stellar accomplishment and fear the loss of approval if they perform in a mediocre or poor manner.

The other is that they start to relate accomplishments to their intrinsic abilities and not effort. In a sense, the idea that effort has to be made is seen as negative or unnecessary. In many developmental studies, children whose effort is praised over ability actually do better on tasks.

Of course all praise isn’t bad. Sincere, specific, praise like “You can climb like a fast monkey on those bars!” or “Your paper is so well-written, awesome job!” does make children feel seen, appreciated and loved. Just don’t overdo it!

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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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