Posts Tagged ‘parenting’

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:

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!


Is Technology Wiring Your Child for Distraction?

November 21, 2010 Leave a comment

Is it possible that the constant stimulation from technology available to children today could be rewiring their brain in such a way that they become less able to focus and stay on task? This idea made front page news today in the New York Times.

The articles interviews a group of teens who are having trouble staying focused on schoolwork while facing constant temptation from texting, Facebook, YouTube, and the myriad of other technologies at their fingertips (often simultaneously). The kids interviewed for the report blame falling grades on their use of technology, noting that it zaps their time as well as their interest for the comparatively bland alternative of schoolwork. So that piqued my interest, given that just last week I was wondering in my blog post whether any research had been done on this very subject. The following studies were discussed in the article:

Computer time worse than TV
In a 2007 study conducted at the German Sport University in Cologne, researchers found that playing video games before bedtime led to significantly lower sleep quality and reduced ability to remember vocabulary words. TV watching only decreased sleep efficiency (ratio of time slept to time spent in bed). The researchers hypothesize that it is the stimulating nature of video games that leads to different results. Video games can induce emotional (e.g., frustration, surprise) and physiological changes (e.g., increased heart rate, adrenaline release) that television usually does not. I imagine Facebooking and texting could potentially have similar results, especially in the context of teens, but that was not tested.

The brain needs downtime
Studies in rats suggest that periods of rest are important in order for the brain to make new connections. When rats are allowed to explore unfamiliar areas, brain patterns show that persistent memory is only made after the rats take a break from exploration. Furthermore, recent imaging studies of the brain that show activity in major cross sections of the brain during rest periods have also supported the view that downtime enables the brain to synthesize information. And plenty of scientists are concerned about the apparent loss of downtime to the brain, although no reports were made of related research.

“Downtime is to the brain what sleep is to the body,” said Dr. Rich of Harvard Medical School. “But kids are in a constant mode of stimulation.”

Not only are kids constantly stimulated, they are also multitasking. The kids interviewed for the Times article note doing homework while facebooking and texting. While not mentioned in the report, I have also read a study by UCLA that multi-tasking affects how you learn, making it more difficult to retrieve information learned.

The NY times report indicates that there is some evidence that technology has some negative effects related to the ability to learn. But is it really rewiring the growing brains of our children for distraction? I have not seen the proof yet. In fact, if you read the comments to the NY Times article, you will see that there are plenty of parents whose kids have thrived after significant exposure to technological distractions. Maybe it just comes down teaching our children the good old adage: everything in moderation……….

The Myers-Briggs Test for Kids (free version)

November 17, 2010 Leave a comment

While on the topic of testing temperament, I also thought I would mention that there is a free version to test your child’s personality based on Myers-Briggs. It is intended for children 7 to 12 years old and is very fun to do:

Test Your Child’s Temperament (and it’s free!)

November 16, 2010 2 comments

In addition to reading a lot of books about parenting, I also like to read blogs. So when I find interesting elements, I will share those here as well. If I find the entire blog interesting to following long-term, I add it to my blog roll to the right of the screen.

While browsing tonight, I found an interesting quiz to improve your understanding of your child. Psychologists Alexander Thomas and Stella Chess have come up with nine typical traits that make up a person’s temperament (a few other theories exist as well):

1. Activity level (physical energy)
2. Distractability (tendency to get distracted by events in environment)
3. Intensity (energy level of a positive or negative response)
4. Need for physical routine (predictability in biological functions)
5. Sensory sensitivity (reaction to sensory changes in environment)
6. Initial reaction (approach/withdrawal to a situation)
7. Adaptability (how long a child takes to adjust to a new situation)
8. Persistence (attention span)
9. Usual mood (general tendency toward happy or unhappy demeanor)

You can test your child’s temperament for these 9 traits here:

You can also test your own temperament to see how it matches your child’s. The site ( also has other interesting information on temperament. Knowing your child’s temperament can help you reframe how you look at your child’s behavior and address their individual needs.

Listening with Empathy

November 11, 2010 Leave a comment

One of my very favorite parenting books, which I received as a gift from my father-in-law, is Haim Ginott’s Between Parent and Child. It is a classic that was published over 35 years ago (although I just saw on Amazon that his wife released a revised edition some years back).

I have been trying to remind myself lately to really, really listen to each of the kids so that they feel heard. Sometimes that is all that they seem to need. Not for me to solve their problems, but to just listen. I try to practice active listening, reflecting back what the kids tell me, and really trying to understand where they are coming from.

One step further than active listening, Ginott emphasizes the need to empathize with a child when listening. This requires some interpretation andIt is hard to do under stress (I almost find it impossible to do when running late), but when done, it really does connect you with your child in amazing ways. Examples he gives are:

1) Respond to feelings rather than a reported event. For example, if a sister is asking why her brother received more presents, she is likely asking about the love the parent has for her rather than more presents. So a good response would be to ask whether she is wondering if he is loved more than her because he received more presents. Then let the conversation flow and reassure. Or when a child comes home to complain about a friend or teacher or his life in some other dimension, respond to his feeling tone rather than obtain details. It is more comforting for them to be understood and that their feelings are normal than for the parent to devise a solution. So if your child comes home saying he hates his teacher, you could respond by saying emphatically, “you had a really rough day!” and then let him spew.

2) Accept ambivalent feelings. Children can feel two ways about people – e.g., they can love them and be angry at the same time. When we acknowledge these feelings (e.g., you seem to feel two ways about your teacher, you like him and dislike him). Our calm acceptance of these feelings makes them realize that they are understood and that is something others feel from time to time as well.

3) Mirror emotions. Rather than judge an emotion that your child is having (e.g., there is nothing to be afraid of, don’t be sad, etc.), however well-intended, try to just help your child label their feelings. To the child, this will be experienced as very comforting. Once calmed down, the child might be ready to explore solutions. Not only does this convey to the child that you are willing to take the time to understand him, it also teaches him how to problem solve, rather than having the parent do so.