Monday, February 8, 2016

Raising a kind child

Whenever my son doesn't get his way, he declares that my husband and I are being mean to him. Of course he does. In his world "mean" is the best word he has to describe the situation. It is horribly mean of us to ask him to follow the household rules, or for us to squash his fun by taking him on errands, or for us to encourage him to finish his morning tasks so we can get to school on time.

I do not want him to focus on the unfair world, though. I want to help him focus on ways to be kind. But in order to do that, I have to show him more kindness.

Researchers who have been studying kindness have created a list of tips to help parents teach kindness. I like this list, because in order to teach it to your child, you have to participate as well. And if we are all acting with kindness, then we are all winning:
  1. Daily repetition. Sounds almost too easy, but it is true. Children who are able to demonstrate being kind or helpful every day, tend to display more of those behaviors on their own.
  2. Zoom in. Children need to feel like a part of something larger than themselves. I won't let my son watch the news, but I do want him to feel like a part of his community.
  3. Strong role models. That would be us parents. We need to show kind behavior and admit when we make mistakes. Our children need to see us as flawed but loving figures.
  4. Manage destructive feelings. We all get overwhelmed in life. But those of us who go for a walk, learn to release stress or have a creative outlet are modeling better behavior than those who let their feelings out at the dinner table.
What activities do you participate in to teach your child kindness? Tell me in the comments.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Practice doesn't make new

There are a lot of things we practice in our household (like politeness and shoe tying), because - after all - practice makes perfect. That is not a phrase my son likes to hear. He (like most children) gets frustrated when he is unable to master something on the first try.

We've all been there.

But this article in the New York Times makes an excellent point: Practice may make perfect, but it doesn't make new. As in: Originality never came through repetition.

So how do we foster creativity and original thinking? The article points out that households with creative-minded children had a lack of rules in them, allowing children to forge their own behaviors. (It wasn't a land of chaos; families that lived that way put emphasis on values over rules.) 

I, for one, am not sure that I could live in a household where my son chooses his own bedtime.

Luckily there are other ideas, like allowing your child to choose their own passions in life, rather than force them into structured music lessons or hand them over to a high-strung coach who promises to mold your little one into a world-class athlete. And that is an idea that I can support: I can help my son pursue his interests instead of forcing him into my own.

What activities does your child really enjoy that they found on their own? Tell me in the comments.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The next generation of parents

My husband once shared an interesting observation about our generation's way of parenting. He said that we tend to make changes for our children based off what we didn't like about our own childhoods:

We remember the long boring car trips and put televisions in the cars to help with backseat boredom. We remember injuring ourselves on the monkey bars and created safer playgrounds. We grew up in a time when school shootings were a real threat and had to go through metal detectors to get into our classrooms; toy guns don't seem appropriate to us.

Yes, every generation makes changes to (they hope) improve the world they leave to their children. And we are just starting to see the impacts that millennial parents may have on the world. A study by Crowdtap recently explores what effects the first generation of digital parents have on their children. The list includes:
  • Being wary of social media distracting from family life
  • Moms considering themselves to be the decision makers for their families
  • Appreciating technology's role but still wanting their children to go outside and play
What changes will be implemented next as we get more and more of this generation as parents? One item that made me happy to read was that millennial parents still look to one main source for parenting advice: Their own Moms. (Thanks, Mom!)

Who do you reach out to for parenting advice? Tell me in the comments.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Are you an adult?

I am in my mid-thirties. I manage a team of people in a frequently high-pressure industry. I am a wife to a wonderful husband and a mother to a chaotic (aka normal) five year old. But sometimes I do not feel like an adult.

It turns out that adulthood is a fluid concept. It cannot be attached to age or job situation or even to if you've made it out of your parent's house. Some people feel like adults at a very young age. Others go back and forth - depending on their life situations.

My son, for example, likes to tell me that when he is a grown up he is still going to live with me. (And I am OK with that.)

Because here's the thing: Adulthood is a personal state of mind. For everyone. And that can be shocking if you think about it too hard.

When we are children, we look to the adults around us for answers, for guidance and for help. We look to them to make the decisions and tell us how to make sense of the world. We look to them to be, well...adults.

But the truth is, there are days when we do not feel that way. There are lots of days when we are still surprised that we are in charge. We don't have the answers. We are going to want to play, too.

And that is also OK.

At what age did you start feeling like an adult? Tell me in the comments.