Blind Spots
September 21, 2016 · Posted in Communication, K-5 Kids, Marriage, Parenting, Preschoolers, Relationships, Toddlerhood · Permalink · Comments (3)

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Everyone has blind spots. They are unconscious conflicts from the past that creep up on us unexpectedly and influence reactions we have and decisions we make in the present. They are a normal part of the human experience; pockets of feeling or behavior that are hard to explain or understand, and which seem to control us.

In the course of parenting, we all hit up against these blind spots. Something in our child’s behavior or stage of development triggers an overly intense reaction. We may know that we are “over-reacting” but do not know why. Left to our own devises these areas can become repetitive patterns of negativity in our relationship with our child. At Soho Parenting, we help parents learn to identify their own blind spots so they can untangle the past from the present.


Jeff sits in my office looking sheepish as his wife Tina, frustrated and angry, talks about why they have come for some help. She complains that Jeff continually undermines her attempts to control the wild and often disrespectful behavior of their four-year old son Gabe.

“It’s like having 2 children,” she says in exasperation, “I cannot stand to be the only parent. He just cannot say no to him.”
“I’ve tried to be stricter”, says Jeff, “but I hate it when he gets so upset.”

In trying to understand more about why saying no is so hard for Jeff, I ask him to talk about his own upbringing and early experiences of discipline. Jeff looks uncomfortable and then starts to talk haltingly about his own strict and overly harsh father. He describes him as cold and quick to anger, with little patience for childish behavior.

“My father was always flying off the handle. He wanted us to be like perfect little adults. If I didn’t hang up my towel after a bath he’d freak.”

Jeff has sworn that he will not repeat this treatment with his own son and in these first four years he has been very successful in being a warm, affectionate and available father to Gabe.

So where is the blind spot? Jeff has not been able to see that his old hurt from childhood has been keeping him from entering into an arena of parenthood that is critically important for a growing child’s health and development. Discipline. Not the harsh and punitive kind, not the arbitrary and scary kind, but the kind of discipline that teaches you how to be respectful and gives the feeling of safety that comes with knowing that your parent is the adult and will keep you from getting out of control. It was easy for Tina –and anyone else for that matter– to see that Jeff was not providing the stabilizing function of a strong but loving parent. But for Jeff, who was unconsciously avoiding setting limits for fear that he would “become his father”, couldn’t act on his son’s need for boundaries.

Jeff really understood and felt this connection in the session. He knows now that he needs to actively counteract his worry about “becoming his father” and step up to the challenge of being Gabe’s father. He was thankful for the concrete advice about discipline; having a real game plan was reassuring. TIna felt validated and more hopeful about being allies instead of adversaries. A blind spot uncovered and a path made clearer!

For all parents, raising children confronts us with our inevitable vulnerabilities. If we use these discoveries as an opportunity for growth, we can take more control of our behavior, and be more the parents we want to be.

This article first appeared on A Child Grows in Brooklyn.

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Why are our Children Their Worst with Us?
March 24, 2016 · Posted in K-5 Kids, Parenting, Preschoolers, Teens, Toddlerhood · Permalink · Comments Off

 

How many times has your mother-in law said, “She wasn’t like this with me!” Or your nanny comments that your son goes down for a nap like an angel with her. Or you go for a parent teacher conference and the description of the child, “first to clean up, so empathetic to other children, what a helper!” is not the child you know. Parents come in for consultation time and time again embarrassed to report that they are in a deep struggle with their child–but that it doesn’t seem to be going on with caregivers, teachers or with other adults.

This is because our children are at their worst with us! They are supposed to be. Parents are exactly the ones you want your child to be struggling with the most. You mean the most, you are the safest person in their lives, and you are the person that can most teach them lessons about life and relationships.

Why bother struggling with your nanny over nap time? It’s not her that you are fighting sleep to see. Why whine and throw a tantrum with grandma? She is probably giving in to your every whim. Why show your tiredness, worry or frustration in school? Show your mom or dad so they can help without you feeling embarrassed in front of your friends.

The next time the comment tinged with judgement comes, “He was a such doll until you came in!” You can proudly say, “I know, he really knows how to behave out in the world, but with me he can show all his feelings!”

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Getting Unstuck
October 22, 2015 · Posted in Discipline, Parenting, Toddlerhood, Toilet Training · Permalink · Comments (2)

imgresIf you are squeamish about scatological concerns you can stop reading now. If, however, you can take on the tough topics of pee and poop, tushies and penises, read on:

At Soho Parenting our approach to toilet training is gradual, developmentally informed, and child-centered. We encourage parents to start this process somewhere between eighteen and twenty-four months. We suggest they buy a potty, let their toddler be naked and show them by example and clear instructions how this natural process works. Toddlers slowly learn to master this basic body function and have the opportunity to take ownership and pride in this new skill. We teach parents that only a small portion of toilet training is physiological. The lion share of toilet training is the emotional work of growing up and tolerating imperfection. Parents need to introduce the concept, provide the materials, give the support, but accept the inevitable ambivalence that young toddlers have about “letting go” in this way.

For many families, toilet training moves along in fits and starts but without too much difficulty.  Often though we meet parents whose children have come to an impasse in the whole process. Three, four and even five year olds can become embroiled in a long and grueling battle with their parents over using the potty. These children are often using the potty regularly to “pee” but are only “pooping” into a diaper. Having learned to hold their poop for days on end, these children seem to have decided that they just are not going to do it. Whether there has been too much pressure or not enough structure- a “window of readiness” seems to have passed. The child has dug their heels in and the parents have all but given up. They have tried bribes and threats and manipulation and even shame and nothing is working. Parents know that their child “can” do it and just “won’t “ and they often come to us with a mixture of worry and fury.

Catherine Lloyd Burns’ book “It Hit Me Like A Ton of Bricks” a memoir of a mother and daughter poignantly and hilariously  depicts this very struggle and  Burns attributes much of 3 year old Olive’s ultimate success to the advice form Soho Parenting.

“Olive and I are going to a gastroenterologist referred by her pediatrician. She has been taking five tablespoons of mineral oil a day for three months and she’s still constipated.  She can’t make a poopy for days at a time and then when she finally does, it is so enormous, it is no wonder she screams in pain.
 The doctor appears and says, “You must be Olive.”
“I are having trouble making a poopy,” she tells him. He ignores her and interrogates me: her diet, allergies, her delivery, when did the problem start, when was her last bowel movement. Olive wants to talk too, “Well, I drink mineroil,” she interjects, but he is not interested.
 “Is she toilet trained? He asks me instead .
“She uses the potty and she uses diapers.”
“She’s not toilet trained then?”
“She uses the potty and she uses diapers, I repeat. She is a little bit toilet trained.”………..
“There is nothing wrong with her. I want you to give her Senacot for two weeks, and she needs to be toilet trained.” I will never tell Dr Spillman any of this but Olive gets Swedish fish for pooping, period—in her diaper, in her bed, on the potty, anywhere- and she gets a present if she does it on the potty without her diaper. The candy is bad for her teeth and it isn’t really working anyway.

She hasn’t pooped for six days…It is time to pull out the big gun. Lisa Lillienfeld. She costs two hundred dollars but she is always right. (Those of you who know and love our own Lisa will know how happy this last line made her.) She tells me I have to potty train Olive.
“The longer kids go, the harder it is for them to do it. I think Olive needs you to help her get to the next level. Take away her diapers and make a weekend project out of it, stop with the presents, and just do it. Tell her you have complete confidence in her. I really think the whole thing will be resolved when she gets out of diapers.”
“Really?”
“I really do. I think she’s having trouble going there on her own so you have to help  her.”

her.”
That night, after her bath, I tell her that tomorrow we’re going to do a project. No diapers all day and we’re going to work on using the potty. She seems excited about the plan and even reports it to Adam like it is wonderful news. We cancel all of our plans for the weekend so we can stay inside and potty train.


In the morning I take off her wet diaper and when I don’t put on another one she freaks out. She starts kicking and screaming and climbs down and gets a diaper from the shelf and tries to put it on herself. She begs for a diaper.
 “Honey remember what we talked about last night? We’re not using a diaper today. You are going to use the potty whenever you need to make a pee or a poopy.”
“Nooooooo! I want my diaper. I want my diaper.”
“Lovey just for today, okay? We’ll see how it goes. We really think you are ready and can I tell you something?  I would never ever ask you to do something if I didn’t think you were ready.”
“No. I want a diaper. I want a diaper! I want a diaper! She is working herself up into a major lather.
“What are you afraid of, honey? You already use the potty sometimes, we’re just trying to get you to use it even more.”
Through her tears she says’ “ I’m not ready. I’m not ready!”
“Olive honey everyone thinks this is going to help with your poopy trouble and we’re going to try it and see how it works. I know you can do it. I promise you can do it.”
“No I can’t!” she cries. Finally she lets go of the diaper and she cries in my arms. After breakfast she announces she needs to pee and she does. She keeps telling us what happened, “I peed in the potty.” She is very proud. Then she needs to poop. So she does. And she poops five more times, in the potty, before the day is done. It’s done and she is cured. All they need is a little help. All I need is to act like I know how to help her. It’s a confidence game, a charade.”

Burns’  depiction of Olive and her mommy’s toilet training travails reminds us all of how hard, and ultimately, important it is to help our children when they get stuck, by firmly, confidently and lovingly and patiently leading the way to the next level. Children respond with relief and pride to having mastered something they had convinced themselves they couldn’t do.  Parents do too.

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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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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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How to Help Your Child Understand Mixed Feelings
April 9, 2015 · Posted in K-5 Kids, Parenting, Preschoolers, Teens, Toddlerhood · Permalink · Comments Off

Our children’s emotional inner lives are complicated. Even by the beginning of the second year you can see ambivalence emerging. “Pick me up, put me down”, all at the same time. As they grow and develop, blends of feelings, and even opposite feelings can — and do exist at the same time. This can be confusing. Imagine your preschooler wanting to go to a friend’s party and also being scared. Or your school-age child wanting to give up on learning something hard and feeling angry about not getting it easily. How about your teenager wanting to have sex with her boyfriend and worrying about how it will impact the relationship. These conflicts are the stuff of life.

As a parent you can help them by pointing out, “A part of you wants to go, and a part of you is scared.” “A part of you feels like giving up and a part of you is frustrated because this is so hard to learn.” Instead of seeing only one overriding sentiment and overreacting to it, it helps parents to recognize that our child is not, “a scaredy cat”, or a “quitter”, those are just parts of them.

As you teach your child about mixed feelings, they start to find center and are more able to find what they most want to do. “I can hear you have mixed feelings about having sex and I have faith that as you make room for all those feeelings, you will make the best decision for yourself.”  Giving a voice to these different aspects of your children calms them down as they feel known and understood.

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Toilet Teaching
September 30, 2014 · Posted in Parenting, Preschoolers, Toddlerhood, Toilet Training · Permalink · Comments Off

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I just did a toilet training workshop for 30 parents of 2-3 year olds. We had a lot of laughs, since no matter how old you are potty humor is still pretty funny. But when we got down to business, it was clear that the idea of “pushing kids” as being psychologically damaging is still alive and well in the 21st century.
Parents are nervous to take the lead, be the teacher, and guide their children to understand how their body works and how to use the potty. In the effort not to “push,” parents don’t take action but rather the talk, talk, talk, cajole, and talk talk, talk, talk some more. “Sally is in underpants, do you want to wear underpants too? “ “Do you want use the potty?” “Big boys use the potty!” They hope against hope that these toddlers will just come to their senses and agree. Anyone who has toilet trained a kid knows – you can’t just talk them into it. You need to put in the time. Naked time, reading stories on the potty time, hang around the house time. Explaining time, cleaning up accidents time. laughing about butts and poop and penises time. Your approach to potty training should be one of guidance and comfort, but expectations as well. As one mom kept saying, “Oh, so you just keep teaching!?” Correct, teaching it is!

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Will What’s Real About Childhood Please Stand Up?
September 3, 2014 · Posted in Buddhism/Parenting, Parenting, Preschoolers, Toddlerhood · Permalink · Comments Off

by Bethany Saltman

Last night I had the pleasure of sitting with Azalea and reading a fine book called The  World’s Biggest Tea Party. It is about the My Little Pony crew and how on “one bright spring day in Ponyville, a group of pony friends gathered at Sweetberry’s Sweetshoppe.” One pink pony named Rainbow Dash, Azalea’s personal favorite, posed the question of what they should do that day and they came up with the crazy idea of having a tea party, and not just any tea party, but, as suggested by Pinkie Pie, “the world’s biggest tea party!” Azalea was riveted.

It’s such a trip learning who my daughter is—what she likes and how her mind works. And the craziest part is that she really is just four and a half, meaning she’s not faking it. When T and I first got our Siamese cat Jimmy we used to joke that he felt to us so sentient, so totally aware, that he seemed like a human in a cat suit. And when I look at Azalea sometimes I see a grown-up in a kid suit. Not because she acts like an adult, but because I kind of can’t believe that her kidness is so real, so true, even honorable. Azalea really likes cartoons. She loves to put rings on her toes, a scarf around her waist, be tickled, and then jump from the couch to the chair, and then back again. Not only would I rather not do any of those things now, I don’t think I ever let it rip like she does; according to my family, I have always been pretty serious. It is just impossible to imagine myself popping up and down from the dinner table in order to check on my horses in the next room, or hiding under my covers, begging to be found. Again! To people who know what it’s like to feel that type of playful exuberance, perhaps my dawning realization that childhood is real might seem bizarre, or even absurd. But I actually think that we are all parenting based on some pretty funky assumptions about who our kids are and what they’re capable of.

The Buddhist term for these assumptions is conditioning. It often feels like what we believe about the world is utterly personal, idiosyncratic, and sometimes it is. But conditioning also comes from forces larger than ourselves or our families. One of my very favorite books about the cultural conditioning of children is called Preschool in Three Cultures, Revisited: China, Japan, and the United States. In the original edition of this juicy ethnography, the authors traveled (in 1984) to these three countries, spent time in preschools, interviewed teachers about their pedagogy, shot lots of video, then showed video clips to teachers in other countries, asking them to respond to what the other countries’ schools were doing. In the Revisited edition, the authors returned to the schools in 2002, asking the current teachers to reflect on their schools’ past practices, as well as what is presently happening in the other countries via updated videos. What results is a cornucopia of conversations about who we think children are, and should be.

In the 2002 edition, the authors discuss how, as they continued to travel around the world, one incident in the 1984 Japanese classroom persisted as the most controversial. The Japanese preschool was housed in a Buddhist temple, which is typical. The incident of intrigue, however, was not about Buddhism so much as Japanese ideas about children (though the two are certainly related), and involved a boy named Hiroki, who in our great land would have been given a hefty dose of Ritalin (or worse, see the New York Times article on medicating children, from September 1, 2010) right off the bat. He fought with other kids, pulled out his willie during circle, threw flashcards off the balcony, and sang loudly while other kids were trying to talk. And the amazing part is that the teacher did nothing to intervene. She sent the other children to fight their own battles with him and generally ignored his misbehavior. The authors, Western-trained educators, said it took everything within their power to not put their cameras down and tell the kid to cut the crap. Likewise, Chinese and American teachers who watched the video were appalled at the boy’s “spoiled,” disruptive behavior and what was seen as the teacher’s lack of control.

At one point the authors asked the principal of the preschool if the teacher ever punished Hiroki, and he responded by asking, “What do you mean? Like, tie him up or something?”

The Japanese teachers believe that deliberate and respectful waiting is the most effective strategy for working with children, and believe that Hiroki and his classmates benefit from learning how to deal with one another, becoming “more complete human beings.”  While we in the US tend to foster independence, Japanese preschools give kids as much space as possible to discover, for themselves, their amaeru, a word that describes the presumption of benevolence of others, and thus, dependency. Hiroki was not seen as a problem that needed to be fixed, but just a kid exhibiting tereru, the behavior of someone who is ashamed of his wish to be dependent.

When the authors asked the Japanese teachers what kind of children they thought they were shaping, they answered, “Kodomorashii kodomo,” which means “childlike children.” Cultivating child-ness in children. Something for me to consider.

And another thing to consider is how much all these people care. It’s heartbreaking, really. Human beings have wildly different opinions about childhood, education, and adulthood, not to mention radically different resources and capacities. And I think it’s really important to know where we are coming from and where we get our big ideas. And to ask questions. But it’s also incredibly healing to look around and see how many people try really hard to do the right thing for kids. Most educators just want a good life for their students. And parents love their kids! Around the world they get them ready for preschool, ribbons in their hair, favorite shoes on their little feet, little pockets stuffed with random things. Regardless of what I happen to think is real, there is something unconditioned there.

This article first appeared in Chronogram Magazine on September 28, 2010.

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Media in Moderation
June 1, 2014 · Posted in Infant Development, Media, Parenting, Technology, Toddlerhood · Permalink · Comments (1)

 

Media and Children– From The American Academy Of Pediatrics

 

Media is everywhere. TV, Internet, computer and video games all vie for our children’s attention. Information on this page can help parents understand the impact media has in our children’s lives, while offering tips on managing time spent with various media. The AAP has recommendations for parents and pediatricians.

Today’s children are spending an average of seven hours a day on entertainment media, including televisions, computers, phones and other electronic devices. To help kids make wise media choices, parents should monitor their media diet. Parents can make use of established ratings systems for shows, movies and games to avoid inappropriate content, such as violence, explicit sexual content or glorified tobacco and alcohol use.

Studies have shown that excessive media use can lead to attention problems, school difficulties, sleep and eating disorders, and obesity. In addition, the Internet and cell phones can provide platforms for illicit and risky behaviors.

By limiting screen time and offering educational media and non-electronic formats such as books, newspapers and board games, and watching television with their children, parents can help guide their children’s media experience. Putting questionable content into context and teaching kids about advertising contributes to their media literacy.

The AAP recommends that parents establish “screen-free” zones at home by making sure there are no televisions, computers or video games in children’s bedrooms, and by turning off the TV during dinner. Children and teens should engage with entertainment media for no more than one or two hours per day, and that should be high-quality content. It is important for kids to spend time on outdoor play, reading, hobbies, and using their imaginations in free play.

Television and other entertainment media should be avoided for infants and children under age 2. A child’s brain develops rapidly during these first years, and young children learn best by interacting with people, not screens.

 

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