Monday, July 6, 2015

Do you really want a child prodigy?

I consider my son to be smart. He is a great reader, communicator, budding scientist and explorer. I love the way he tackles new topics that interest him, and I don't mind when he bails on subjects that bore him. He has that kind of crazy chaotic nature that all five-year-old boys display, but is able to focus on building with his Legos for hours.

I am so happy that he is not a prodigy.

Let me explain: Although it would be wonderful for him to have some sort of natural, ingrained talent within a particular field, I am not sure I could handle the dedication and sacrifice it would take to nurture that talent. After reading this article on what it takes to be the parent of a high-achieving child, I am not sure I would be willing to move our family, take on a second job or become a training coach in addition to the normal set of daily parenting duties.

There is an intensity to the family dynamic in that linked article - those parents have dedicated their lives to their children - that I am not sure I could sustain. (I remember taking ballet for more than 12 years before giving it up and my Mom's disappointment at that - and I was no prodigy. Sorry, Mom!) I also can't imagine what the family dynamic is like if you have more than one child but only one of them is the family prodigy.

There's enough pressure on being a child already.

So, I will continue to let my son try any sport he wants, to make paper airplanes on weekends and to see if he can ride his bike faster than Mommy can run. I am happy with our life full of a little bit of everything.

What is one talent that you wish you were able to nurture more? Tell me in the comments.

Friday, July 3, 2015

That time I got burnt by a sparkler

As the Fourth of July arrives, I am filled with childhood memories of summer: going to camp and catching fireflies, of riding bikes and when Dad fired up the grill because it was too hot for Mom to use the oven every night. I can even remember the one summer there was a lunar eclipse and I was allowed to stay up and watch it.

What I don't remember is the time that I got burnt by a sparkler. As the story goes, it was the Fourth of July and there was a celebration at our house and all the children were given sparklers. At one point, a lit sparkler went down my shirt and there was a lot of screaming and a rush of adults trying to help. To this day I have no memory of this event or any scars from the sparkler.

Which makes me lucky, I guess. And because I've heard the story so many times, it also makes me wary: I haven't given my son sparklers at any point in his life so far, and am probably not going to start anytime soon. For him, the Fourth of July means that there will be fireworks that can be watched from the backyard, lots of glowsticks to wear and brighten up the night and (hopefully) a giant squirt gun battle with family in the backyard. No sparklers required.

What I'm trying to say is: Be safe this holiday.

Do you have any holiday mishaps to share? Tell me about them in the comments.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

You gotta stick with your lie

My son is not a good bluffer. Every time we play UNO, he lets out shouts of  "yes!" and "you guys are going down!" in reaction to the cards that he is dealt. And when I do catch him in a lie, he has at least a dozen little fidgety facial ticks and moves that gives him away.

Yes, we teach our children the importance of being honest; yes, they lie to us anyway. But there is an upside: Lies may help boost a child's memory.

Let's break this one down: A good liar needs to think on their feet, remember details, sound convincing and - above all - stick with their lie. And that requires a good memory. So it isn't all that surprising that research reported in the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology found that children who were skilled liars tested higher in memory and verbal creativity tests.

Children lie for a variety of reasons - to avoid blame, to get out of conversations and even to avoid hurting someone else's feelings. The important thing is to make honesty a cornerstone of your family. Here are some tips to pave the way:
  • Don't lie to them. If you want them to be honest with you, be honest with them.
  • Don't scold for telling the truth. Even if they are in trouble, point out that you are glad they told you the truth.
  • Differentiate between truths and lies. Especially those gray areas.
  • Teach them better language. "Thank you for the sweater," is a much nicer statement than "I think this sweater is hideous." Both may be true, but only one is more appropriate to say to your Great Aunt Bessie.
  • Give them creative outlets. Bolster their memories through storytelling, games and other forms of expression.
  • Cut them some slack. They are going to lie to you. It happens. Move on.
 What have you caught your little angel fibbing over recently? Dish the dirt in the comments.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

You give a little, you get a lot

Every Sunday morning, I give my son his allowance. He does a little song and dance he made up and races to his room to put the money into his three jars. So far, he's completely understood the purpose of his spend and save jars, but we haven't done much with his give jar. He knows that he has that jar in order to give back to the world, but we were waiting for enough funds to make an impact.

So after a few months of allowances, I invited him to choose a project from donorschoose.org to spend his "give" money on. I told him that Mommy and Daddy would match the amount of money he decided to give to teachers. And he ended up choosing a project for one of the teachers in his school.

The idea of giving is an important one for me. We aren't a religious family, so we don't give back to a church. Although we do support some community programs, there hasn't been something that my son gets to interact with and support until this. And, as researchers are discovering, the act of giving may make us healthier overall. After playing a few games with children so they could earn tokens, researchers gave children the opportunity to give some of their hard-earned tokens away to children who weren't there. They discovered a few things:
  • Children who had poorer backgrounds gave away more tokens than those from wealthier backgrounds.
  • The children who gave away more tokens had a greater sense of calm about them.
I'm not saying that altruism is the key to ultimate health, but I am interested in helping my son understand that he has a responsibility to take care of the world that he lives in.

What organizations do you encourage your child to support? Let me know in the comments.