Is “Waiting for Superman” worth seeing?

January 13, 2011 2 comments
Pediment showing name of Mearns Street Public ...

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This Monday, “Waiting for Superman” came out in my local, independent theater and I jumped at the chance to see it. If you have not heard about it, the movie traces the failings of the public education from the perspective of a number of families in the system. To be honest, I went into the movie knowing that some things had been left out of the movie (although I chose to find out what after seeing the movie) and I was somewhat bothered that the movie appeared to only cover education from the view of inner city families while appearing to address public education as a whole.

After seeing the movie, however, I was impressed with its ability to move me. While no ideas are provided in the movie on how to make a difference (in fact, it leaves you a little hopeless with respect to public education), I felt my mind reeling on what I could do personally to make a difference.  I keep thinking about how we could try to connect inner city children near our community with resources,  since (which the movie leaves out) it is often resources that are missing for the inner city children that other, more affluent communities do have. Even connecting children with a mentor, much like the Big Brother/Big Sister program, might help some? Anyway, the movie is worth seeing in that sense – it makes you want to do something (which I think is of course is its intention!). And of course, you can make a huge difference in your own school system.

The movie has had me thinking about this topic every day – as there is so much to consider. Today I read this article about it – which bring up even more topics for discussion:

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2010/nov/11/myth-charter-schools/

So I think I am going to use my blog for a while to discuss the issues raised by this movie and get my ideas on paper.

Have any of you seen the movie and what did you think of it?

Want your child to have positive memories of childhood?

January 9, 2011 Leave a comment
Do you find my brain? - Auf der Suche nach mei...

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Apparently the human brain is naturally hard-wired to remember negative experiences. Even when positive experiences outnumber negative ones, the implicit negative memory bank grows faster. We retain negative memories and tend to forget the good ones.

So given that we know that, how can we use that to the benefit of parenting? You can rig your child’s brain for happy memories! Sounds a little creepy, but it actually makes a lot of sense. The remedy is not to suppress negative experiences. Instead, the key is to fostering as many positive experiences as possible and then really let them soak in.  Christine Carter, a psychologist who writes a blog on at the Greater Good Science Center at Berkeley, suggests the following:

1. Teach kids to see all the good around them. Share with them an appreciation for a beautiful day, time spent together, good food, the kindness of others. The idea is turn positive facts that are present all around us into an experience for the child.

2. Draw out and really savor the experience. The idea here is to not only encourage your child to hold the positive idea in mind, but also to remember the emotions. That practice will strengthen the positive associations made with the memory.

3. Let it all sink in. Let your child imagine this feeling sinking into their mind, using methaphors such as the way water sinks into a sponge.

Focusing on good memories in this way can actually overwrite negative ones. Dr. Carter’s uses her personal example of not remembering the pain of being bullied because all the positive attention she received from friends and family created so many positive memories for her that they outweighed the negative.

Do you have an example to support this theory from your childhood?

School vacation is coming up – How to connect with your child

December 15, 2010 Leave a comment
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I can’t believe it is almost Christmas but it is! Nine more days. If your house is anything like mine, the excitement factor is ratcheting up on a daily basis and with it comes some behaviors that can be, ah, rather trying for us parents!!! So when I read this post recently, I remembered the importance of playing with kids as a behavior improvement strategy.

Playtime with kids is a great activity, as everyone is usually very relaxed and happy after engaging in some play time.  Somehow, however,  there always seems to be something else that has to be done. Housework, calls to be made, emails to be sent, errands to be run, work to be completed – you feel the pressure and just want to get it done! But then a conversation with someone who is older (who has had young kids and been there, done that)  is a reminder of how fleeting this time is.

So to remind myself and you, here are some reasons to just play with your kids
(reposted from Positive Parenting Solutions, as I don’t have much time to write these days!):

1. Creating Emotional Connection: Much of the daily interaction between parents and children consists of “ordering, correcting and directing.” (“Don’t forget to drink your milk”, “it’s time to take a bath”, “stop hitting your sister”, etc.) When parents order, correct, and direct, they are in the “Parent Ego State” and this type of interaction often invites the “fight or flight” response in our kids, resulting inpower struggles.

When parents play on the floor and have FUN with their kids – both the parent and child are operating in the “Child Ego State”. The “child” ego state is where emotional connections are made. It doesn’t require a long time to create emotional bonds – but being INTENTIONAL about spending PLAY time each day with your child in the “child ego state” will do wonders for strengthening the emotional connections.

2. Fewer attention-seeking misbehaviors: When parents play WITH their children, they are PROACTIVELY filling the child’s attention basket in positive ways. Children have a hard-wired need for attention. If parents don’t provide sufficient POSITIVE attention, children will resort to negative behaviors to get it – whining, clinging, helplessness, sibling fighting, etc. When parents implement consistent playtime WITH their children – attention-seeking misbehaviors begin to fall off the radar screen!

3. More cooperative children! As parents fill attention baskets in POSITIVE ways and emotional connection increases, children consistently become MORE COOPERATIVE at other times during the day! When the child’s core emotional requirements for connection and attention are met, he doesn’t feel the need to “fight us” to get negative attention and is more cooperative when asked to do things throughout the day. It’s a beautiful thing!

So play board games, wrestle on the floor (this is our family favorite since everyone can join in), do crafts, play tag or hide and seek, go sledding or ice skating- whatever your child enjoys (and it is even better when you enjoy it too!). There is also a great book out there by Lawrence Cohen called Playful Parenting that focuses exclusively on this topic. I highly recommend the book and will blog about that some other time.

And please let me know if you have any good playtime ideas or anything else to add. I would love to get active discussions going on this blog, so please feel free to comment, comment, comment!! :)

 

 

Fun to do this season – chain of kindness

December 5, 2010 Leave a comment
A Danish Christmas tree illuminated with burni...

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Given the materialism associated with the holidays, I am always kind of struggling during this time as how to give more meaning to the season in fun but not expensive ways.  So I thought I would share one in case anyone else is in the same boat.

A couple of years ago I read about the tradition of the good deed paper chain in The Book of Family Traditions.  The book suggests hanging a paper chain up with links for each member of the family. Every morning in December each family member breaks a link and does something nice for the person whose name is on the back of the link. If someone gets their own name, they pass it on to another family member.

We modified the idea a bit.  We build a paper chain as well, but we write random acts of kindness committed by our members of our family on it as they occur in the month of December.  So some days there might be many links made and some days there might be none. It is very fun to watch it grow! We leave it by the advent calendar so Santa can see it. It took a few days to get it going but it has definitely instilled the Christmas Spirit in our house this year!

Three questions to help guide you when disciplining your child

December 4, 2010 Leave a comment

After disciplining one of the kids, I often catch myself evaluating whether I did it “right”.  Part of that feeling is generated by whether I am following my values or whether I just reacted to the situation without thinking.  Of course, as parents we are human and we will never do things perfectly. We are going to lose our cool from time to time and not respond in ways that we wish we had in retrospect. But it often helps to be prepared for situations.

Barbara Nicholson and Lysa Parker, authors of Attached at the Heart, discuss the following three questions to ask yourself as you interact with your child.  At times when it is easy to lose your cool, these three questions can help you be effective in your communication with your child:

  1. Am I treating my child the way I would want to be treated (=take your child’s perspective)
  2. Will my words or actions strengthen my connection with my child?
  3. Will my actions give my child an opportunity to learn from this experience?

I think number 3 is especially key.  I remember reading a story once about a boy who broke a glass vase after having been asked repeatedly to be careful not to run around the house. The boy’s father calmly asked his son to help him clean up the broken vase and save money to contribute to a new vase. The father never yelled or punished the boy. It always struck me how, in that story, the child probably learned many lessons but the connection between the boy and his father was never affected. It is not easy to be that reflective and not let emotions of anger or frustration get in the way, but it is something to strive for.

Could the marshallow test be all fluff?

November 23, 2010 Leave a comment

The only long-term study ever done to test the results of the marshmallow test are in. After reading this article, I learned that the original study was not conducted as well as some have indicated:

http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2010-02-19/just-let-them-eat-the-marshmallow/?cid=hp:beastoriginalsL1

But furthermore, in a follow-up study, the researchers found that how long they could avoid eating the marshallow when they were 4 year olds had zero correlation to IQ or self-control at age 18.  So as is always the case, be critical of what you read!

An anti-depressant for children?

November 23, 2010 Leave a comment
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Image: Felixco, Inc. / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Thanksgiving is traditionally a time to say thanks. Today my daughter came home with a paper listing three things that she is thankful for. But maybe we should have our kids practice the art of gratitude a lot more often than just once a year. Christine Carter, a sociologist and happiness expert at UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center, has noted that recent research is indicating that practicing gratitude is deeply connected with happiness and that this also applies to children. One study found that gratitude in high school students is linked with higher grade point average, life satisfaction, social integration, and absorption, as well as lower envy and depression. Try adding some of the following practices to help your children develop more gratitude:

  • Have your child keep a gratitude journal.
  • Have each family member discuss something that they are grateful for from the day at dinnertime.
  • Have a child tell you what they were grateful for at bedtime.
  • Suggest to your child that they write a letter to someone who has helped them in the past to let them know that they are thankful to have the person in their lives.
  • Document happy memories with photos and journals.

Any other ideas? I am definitely grateful that I can go to bed now :-)

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