The Parent-Teacher-Child Connection: November 2011

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Consider your child's motivation - Part 2: Attention

You've heard it many times before: "Ignore him, he's just looking for attention."  JUST looking for attention?  Don't we all crave attention of some sort?  Women like to receive flowers once in a while "JUST because."  Men JUST want a pat on the back for a job well done within their job description, whether at home or at work.  Everyone JUST wants to be recognized as a person who is appreciated by those around them.  Why are children any different?  They may look for positive attention in negative ways because they don't know any different.  When they throw a temper tantrum, the well-meaning parent may give the child plenty of attention by yelling right back at her.  A better approach would be to give negative attention for negative behavior (walk away and ignore the tantrum!)  Then when the child is doing something right no matter how small (like coloring within the lines), it's our job as parents to recognize the little successes in life so children learn that they can get positive attention for positive behavior. 

ATTENTION - Consider this scenario:  Many years ago, I was at the home of my daughter's friend and his younger sister.  Their mother had gone off to work, leaving two teenagers at home to fend for themselves (more on that topic in another blog!)  The big brother made dinner - a steak on the barbecue with a baked potato and a salad.  Not bad for a 16-year-old boy!  He set the plate down in front of his sister and that's where the trouble began.  She said, "Would you cut my steak?"  She was 14 and totally capable of cutting her own steak.  He retorted, "Cut your own (bleep) steak."  She whined back, "Pleeeese?"  The converstion repeated like a stuck sound track.  At that I could see a nice dinner turning into a shouting match, so I pulled my daughter's friend aside and explained about motivation.  I told him that she didn't really want her steak cut. "Yes, she does," he responded. "Not really," I said. Then I told him that she simply wanted her older brother to take care of her in a way that their mother was  not doing at that time.  He misted up then went in and silently cut his sister's steak.  I left and he later told me that they actually enjoyed their dinner together. Crisis averted!  To this day, if his own children seem to be demanding undue attention, he'll look at me and say, "They want their steak cut, right?"  I simply smile and nod. 

The most common reason children misbehave is to get attention. When adults don’t give children needed attention, they will try to find other ways to get it.  Unfortunately, we don’t always see the positive things children do to get attention, like making good grades in school or doing their chores at home. Instead, we are most likely to notice them when they do something that we don’t like. Children would rather have negative attention than no attention at all. If we give children attention only when they act up, we teach them that misbehaving is the best way to get our attention, and they act up even more. If we give children attention only when they are doing things that please us, we teach them that behaving is the best way to get the attention they want. If you feel annoyed, irritated, or guilty by your child’s misbehavior, the child probably is seeking attention.  So, ignore the negative attention-getting devices and reward (hugs, recognition, etc.) the positive attempts to gain parental attention. 

Happy Parenting!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Consider your child's motivation - Part 1: Power

Children misbehave in a variety of ways, but they have only four common motivations for misbehavior: Power, Attention, Revenge, and Withdrawal. When a child acts up, consider the motivation, and you'll be better able to handle the behavior. I'll look at each one separately over the next four posts. 

POWER - Yesterday, I witnessed the following exchange between a mother and her daughter in the gym locker room... Mom wanted Julie to put her shoes on. Julie refused, whining she wanted Mom to put them on for her. (That last sentence is the clue to the motivation for the misbehavior.) Mom insisted that Julie is quite able to put her own shoes on. Julie became even more irate. Finally, Mom picks up Julie in the ultimate control move. Angry Mom and angry Julie leave the gym with Julie wailing and Mom stomping. How might that scenario have changed? If Mom had realized that Julie simpy wanted to regain control for some reason (sometimes we never know the reason, but we can see the motivation), then she should have stated her position, given a reason, and then offered choices: "Julie, you need to put your shoes on because your feet will get cold on the concrete outside. Which shoe do you want to put on first? (Or ... which shoe do you want to put on? I'll put on the other.) I'm willing to bet a million dollar inheritance that both would have left the gym hand in hand!

 Children may misbehave to show that they have control over their lives. Children want to do things for themselves and to think for themselves. If parents don’t let children have some power to make decisions when they are ready, children may misbehave by going against what their parents want them to do, as Julie did in the above scenario. If you feel like winning the fight or proving that you are the boss when your child misbehaves, the child is probably seeking power. There’s nothing wrong with a child wanting power over her parents – that’s a perfectly natural way for kids to behave. How you react as a parent determines how that power struggle will turn out. Look for a win-win compromise where both the child and the parent can feel in control. That usually happens with the guided choice I illustrated above.

This happens in classrooms and at home.  Too often, the teach dictates (yes, that's a form of the word dictator) what will happen next:  take out your books, do this worksheet, fill out this lab report, write down your homework assignment, line up for lunch, etc. etc. etc.  Teachers, think if ways to give control back to your students and I think you'll find that you'll regain some classroom management control in the process!

Happy Parenting and Happy Teaching!

Monday, November 28, 2011

10 games to play on car trips

With the holiday season approaching, many families travel many miles to be with family.  Here are a few games to keep the kiddies amused for a while from

Car trips. They can be every parent’s worst nightmare when travelling with kids. No one can ever seem to coordinate wanting to stop to eat at the same place or the same time, everyone has to go to the bathroom at different times, and it’s inevitable that you will hear someone say “I’M BORED” at least a hundred different times. Not to mention even siblings who are the best of friends outside of the car can turn into the worst of enemies on car trips, enticing fights with each other by hogging seat space or finding various ways to annoy their backseat companions. Even the shorter car trips can seem inexplicably long when you have kids fighting with each other and endlessly complaining. And as much as we hate to admit it, after hours in the car listening to bickering and bantering, our worst sides tend to pop out and we utter phrases we used to hate hearing our own parent’s yell at us, such as “If I have to pull this car over …” and “Do NOT touch your sister again!”.

Yes, car trips. They’re an unavoidable fight just waiting to happen. So what can you do to pacify your kids and ease your own mental pain for at least part of the trip? Play car games, of course! When the hours of driving boredom are setting in it’s a great way to have some fun, break up the tension, and getting everyone involved. After a few minutes you’ll see even the most reluctant participants cracking a smile and chiming in with their contributions.
  1. I Spy… Probably the most famous of car games, I Spy has pacified kids for years upon years of car trips. It’s also incredibly easy to play – you just appoint the person doing the “spying” and pick out an upcoming object. In a sing-song voice you declare “I spy something… (insert color)” and your kiddos will start frantically looking around trying to figure out which landmark or sign you’re looking at that has the defining color, shouting out answers until someone stumbles on the right one.
  2. The Alphabet Game - This was a favorite from my own childhood. With this game participants start with the letter “A” and look for the letters on license plates, billboards, restaurant signs, and anything with words on it and call out the letters of the alphabet and the word you found in which you found the letter in order until they reach “Z”. While some letters are easier than others to find, it’s always a hunt as to who can find something with the letter “J” in it and other obscure letters not often used. For instance, if there was a McDonald’s sign and you were on the letter “M” you’d call out “M! On the McDonald’s sign!”
  3. The Counting Game - Playing the counting game is great for teaching small children how to count – you just pick a certain thing to count – such as cows, black trucks, number of Taco Bells, etc. – and then start counting as you pass by them. You’ll be amazed how many of the same things you see over and over on the roads.
  4. Celebrity Name Game - With this game you start with a certain celebrity, such as Angelina Jolie, and the next person has to name off another celebrity whose first name starts with the first letter of the previous person’s last name. So in the case, if you started the game with “Angelina Jolie” the next person could respond by saying “Jennifer Aniston”, and then the next person would say “Anne Hathaway”, etc. This game is good for older kids and you can apply the same principles to other things such as states or cities.
  5. The License Plate Game - Since there is an infinite number of license plates on the road this is an easy and fun game to play to pass the time. You start by calling out the letters on a license plate and then making up a silly string of words to go with them. So if the license plate had the letters WJQ on it you could yell out “Water Jumping Quickly”! Each person can come up with a different combination of words for the license plate’s letters, making it a fun game that involves everyone in the car.
  6. 20 Questions - Who doesn’t love a good game of 20 questions? Pick a person to be the answerer of the questions and then have them pick an object, animal, etc. Traditionally players will start off the game by asking if it’s an animal, vegetable or mineral. So if the question answerer picked a cow they would answer that it’s an animal. From there the other participants can ask questions that dictate a “yes” or “no” answer until someone guesses the correct answer.
  7. Fortunately-Unfortunately - This fun game also involves everyone in the car and is a good way to break up the time. A player will start by saying something ridiculous like “Unfortunately a dinosaur is coming to eat us” and another player will respond by saying “Fortunately I brought an invisibility cloak to hide us”. Players alternate who says the “unfortunately” scenario and who answers. Aside from being a fun way to pass the time, kids will also learn to look for the good in situations.
  8. My Father Owns a Grocery Store… You will have fun testing memory skills with this game. A player will begin by saying, “my father owns a grocery store and in it he sells (something that begins with the letter A, such as artichokes)”. The next person will then follow with, “my father owns a grocery store and in it he sells artichokes and (something that starts with the letter B, such as beets)”. The game continues with each player repeating what the others have said and adding on something that starts with the next letter of the alphabet.
  9. The Storytelling Game - One person will start this game by giving the first sentence of a story, and then the next person will follow with another sentence adding onto the storyline. Each person in the car will keep adding in their own tidbits to the story, and your family will love all the different twists and turns that each person will add to the tale.
  10. The Theme Song Game - A player will hum a theme song to a popular song – it can be a children’s song, one from a TV show, etc. – and the other players will have to guess which song it is. For example you could hum the tune of “Happy Birthday” for a few verses and then the other players would have to guess the song you’re humming. This is a great game for little kids to play with their parents on trips.
Car trips may invoke feelings of dismay when you first start out, but they don’t have to be something that everyone dreads. Instead get the whole family talking and laughing by playing one or more of these popular car games. Not only will it keep everyone happy, but it will make the time fly by and before you know it you’ll have reached your destination and everyone will still have a smile on their face.

Happy parenting and happy traveling!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

8 Reasons to Love your stubborn child

Parents of a stubborn child can find it exasperating. They will obstinately refuse to do what they’re told and defy discipline with a steely determination. What most people fail to see is how stubbornness can be a positive attribute. There are many ways headstrong children can have an advantage over the more docile counterparts. Here are 8 reasons to love your stubborn child.
  1. Perseverance – A stubborn child is going to be much better at accomplishing difficult tasks because they have perseverance. If at first they don’t succeed they will keep trying until they get the results they desire. From learning to tie their shoes to figuring out a complicated math problem, these kids will doggedly keep trying until they get it done. This is a great advantage over other children who tend to give up easily.
  2. Can’t be bullied – Childhood bullies have gotten to be a big problem, so stubbornness can give a kid the toughness they need to stand up for themselves. No playground bully is going to push them around. The defiance they show to their parents easily translates to other situations, so the local bully doesn’t stand a chance.
  3. Mental fortitude – This toughness will also help kids to develop the strong mental fortitude they need as they grow from childhood to adults. Mental toughness will help them to succeed in many aspects of their lives and make it easier for them to cope with stress or traumatic events. The demands of college, the military or a prestigious career are more easily met by the people who used to be stubborn kids.
  4. Schoolwork – Children who give up easily are going to have a harder time learning difficult problems in their schoolwork than those who are more resolute. Whether this results in getting better grades depends on each child’s mental capabilities, but stubbornness can be an advantage to even learning disabled children. Teachers and parents should encourage stubborn kids to channel their determination into their homework.
  5. Employment – Once kids get old enough to get a job, the stubborn ones will be more likely to find employment and keep it. It takes strong perseverance to find work in a bad economy, especially for teens. If their determination pays off, their employers will be pleased if they apply their stubbornness to their work ethic. Stubborn kids can be good workers.
  6. Sports – Another way a headstrong kid can excel is in sports. What they may lack in physical ability can be made up for with sheer determination. Stubborn kids are very competitive and will not give up until they make the team or are the best in their field. They can channel their obstinacy into succeeding at whatever sport they choose.
  7. Successful career – That successful doctor, lawyer or actor you admire probably used to be a stubborn child. The bullheaded kids are much better equipped to succeed at whatever careers they choose. Their ability to persevere will vault them to the top of the corporate ladder.
  8. Survival – Another reason being stubborn can be good for a kid is pure survival. Whether it’s illness, injury or a natural disaster, those who aren’t willing to give up will overcome any obstacle to survive. Stubbornness is a key element in personal survival.
So the next time you encounter your child’s stubborn streak, turn the negatives into a positive. Parents would be wise to recognize the potential of their bullheaded kids and help them to use their stubbornness to their advantage. By channeling that willful determination, these children are much more likely to succeed in life. In this dog eat dog world, survival of the fittest reigns supreme. The stubborn kids are better equipped to deal with whatever comes their way.

Thanks from the folks at for this insightful blog post!

Happy Parenting!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Politically Incorrect Fairy Tales

I've never been a proponent of fairy tales and nursery rhymes (Down will come come baby cradle and all - really, folks?), so when I found this marvelous tongue-in-cheek analysis of common fairy tales at, I had to share their thoughts on my blog.  The message is strong: When you read to your children or students, make sure you help them understand about sexism, ageism, sizeism, and any other assorted forms of discrimination that you find.

The famous fables and fairy tales that earlier generations of children grew up with are being re-written or are completely falling out of favor with those who aspire to “Political Correctness”. What people don’t realize is that many of these tales have been “sanitized” repeatedly over the years, having started as truly gruesome stories. In early versions of the “Cinderella” tale, the two cruel sisters mutilated themselves in order to fit into the slipper, and the two of them ended up as blind beggars when birds pecked out their eyes.

Most stories and lore evolve over time, and fairy tales are no different. Here are some examples of old stories that have come under the modern microscope.
  1. Rapunzel – This grim tale from the brothers Grimm is too dark, say many people today. They point out that this story contains violent imagery, blatant sexism, and criminal child abuse. Imagine, a little girl being given up for adoption by thieving parents, only to find that the poor child is then placed in solitary confinement, and only a man can save her.
  2. Cinderella – In a corrected version, Cinderella might not be burdened by cruel sisters and the sexist drudgery of menial housework. Instead, she might end up stuck in a dead-end office job, just like everyone else.
  3. Goldilocks and the Three Bears – Another potential “Amber Alert” situation, though there does not appear to be any great hue-and-cry over a missing girl’s whereabouts. Didn’t anyone in the olden days have any parents (historical note: when some of these tales were first written, life-expectancies were only in the 30s, so there probably were a lot of parent-less children)?
  4. Jack and the Beanstalk – Why is it never “Jane and the Beanstalk”? Well, it is probably just as well. Jack turns out to be a little thief who doesn’t follow his mother’s instructions very well. He steals from an ogre, and then kills the poor guy to boot. In today’s version, Jack might have just gone out to get a job so he could help his poor mom out, and he certainly wouldn’t have jeopardized his future by stooping to thievery and murder.
  5. Sleeping Beauty – Another motherless story, this one also involves probable nudity. When the king forbade the spinning of all materials in order to thwart a witches curse, the realm probably ran out of clothing for the citizenry. This is another one where it’s a guy rescuing a girl in trouble, instead of maybe the other way around.
  6. Hansel and Gretel – Wrong in so many ways, this tale involves child-abuse, spousal abuse, inhumane treatment of captives and poor nutrition. The modern version might have the cottage windows made of Splenda rather than clear sugar.
  7. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs – The term “dwarf” has come under fire in recent years, but “Frozen Caucasian Water and the Seven Altitude Challenged People” isn’t a title the folks over in Marketing are looking for.
  8. Red Riding Hood – “Sam ‘The Sham’ and the Pharaohs” admonished Red, singing that she shouldn’t “. . .go walking in these spooky old woods alone”. Good advice for a small child who was sent, unattended by a parent, to visit an aging relative who was probably in need of 24-hour in-home care. Of course, there is also the wolf, a stalker and an abuser of the elderly.
  9. The Pied Piper – The Piper of the tale was obviously a cult-leader who had lured not only the rats, but also the children of the beleaguered township of Hamelin. The Pied Piper obviously had anger-management issues, which might have been addressed with classes and counseling in a modern version of the story.
  10. The Emperor’s New Clothes – This tale has a pair of swindling tailors hoodwinking a vain emperor into thinking that the “nothing” they have made for him is a fine suit of clothing. A little kid busts the scam wide open, but the emperor is held out as the selfish patriarch that he is.
Almost every story has elements that may not suit future generations. Who knows, in a few hundred years, Cinderella’s step-sisters may turn out to be kind and gentle care-givers.

Happy Parenting and Happy Teaching!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

10 Common Ways That Kids Show Disrespect For Their Nanny or Babysitter

This guest blog comes from, but the advice applies not only to nannies, but also to babysitters and a step-parent.  Disrespect should never be tolerated with anyone.

Even the most well-behaved child can have trouble adjusting to a full-time childcare provider, especially if they’re accustomed to having a parent at home during the day. Here are some signs that your youngster may be finding the adjustment difficult.
  1. “You’re Not My Mom!” – Kids know how powerful a weapon this phrase can be, and will not hesitate to use it if they get upset enough. If it’s brought to your attention that this is becoming a problem, it may be time to sit down with your child and have a talk about what’s causing the behavior.
  2. Going Over Nanny’s Head – As tempting as it is to solve the problem that an unhappy child presents, it’s important never to undermine your nanny’s authority. Once this precedent is set, it will be nearly impossible for her to regain control.
  3. Ignoring or Defying Commands – Defiant behavior and deliberately ignoring requests to do chores or homework is one of the most common ways a child displays their lack of respect for the person in authority. Be sure to keep an eye out for signs of this behavior, as it can be very difficult to correct if left unchecked for too long.
  4. Blatant Disregard For Rules – If your child knows bed time is at eight, but is still running wild when you get home at nine, it may be time for a conversation with your nanny. If you find that there’s an established pattern of flagrant rule-breaking, this could be a sign that there are respect issues between your child and the nanny.
  5. Invading Personal Space – Your live-in nanny’s quarters are often the only place that she can view as a sanctuary. It’s very important to explain to your children that Nanny’s space is her own, and is off-limits unless they’ve been invited. A child that frequently ignores this request is being disrespectful of the boundaries you and your nanny have set in place.
  6. Ignoring a Live-In Nanny’s Off Hours – Much like her personal space, your nanny’s free time must be just that. Children that don’t respect their nanny will often place unfair demands on her, such as expecting her to attend to their needs when she’s off the clock.
  7. Breaking Curfew – A child that has no respect for their caregiver will often ignore curfews and time limits. Aside from creating a stressful work environment for your nanny, it may be dangerous for the child.
  8. Lying – One of the most common signs of disrespect, habitual dishonesty can cause chaos in a household. Untrue statements made by a child to a parent about the nanny’s behavior may injure the trust that parent has, straining the relationship and even leading to the loss of the nanny’s services. Try to give your nanny the benefit of the doubt, at first, especially if your child has a history of stretching the truth.
  9. Frequent Temper Tantrums – A child that throws themselves on the floor to scream every time they’re gently reprimanded or asked to complete a task is a nanny’s worst nightmare. Most children will only attempt this behavior with people they think will allow it, but it can also be a sign of defiance.
  10. Talking Back and Arguing – This is par for the course with most teenagers, but if your younger child is in the habit of arguing with your nanny or talking back to her, it’s a clear sign of disrespect.
While good communication is a key part of your relationship with a childcare provider, it’s also important to be observant. A nanny with a soft heart may be hesitant to “tattle” on your child and may not be developing the respect needed; also, acting out can be a sign that your child is under stress. Either way, quietly keeping your eye on the interaction between your child and their caregiver is imperative.

Happy parenting!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Little Beggars

I support the Girl Scouts when they sell cookies (I donate my portion to the troops.)  I support the Boy Scouts when they sell popcorn (I donate those boxes to the troops, as well - I don't need all those carbs anymore!)  I even support the local high school band boosters when they sell their $20 discount cards.  But I have a huge problem when organizations stand by the door to the supermarket or WalMart with a bucket, expecting handouts.  I look at it this way.  If a sports team needs money, their participants are strong enough to work for their donations, right?  If the soccer team canvassed our neighborhood at this time of year and offered to rake my yard for $X, I'd gladly pay what they charged.  I'd be happy, my yard would be leaf-free, and the kids would have money for their trip to the soccer competition.  I'd even be more likely to donate to the cheerleaders if they did one of their routines in front of the store. Or to the football team if they helped carry my bags to the car. 

When did it become acceptable for children to become beggars? What does this teach them?  That begging on a street corner will get them free money for doing nothing at all except smiling at the people walking by who have money in their wallets.  Did I say begging on a street corner?  Last summer, the girls' softball team had a coin toss in the middle of town on Memorial Day weekend, catching all the unsuspecting shore traffic as people sped through town on their way to vacation.  Not only does this send the wrong message to the kids, it's downright dangerous! 

So, leaders and coaches, listen up - teach your young participants the value of hard work or getting something (anything!) for your money rather than begging for money.  I will refuse to donate to you every time if you beg; offer me something and I'll support your effort!

Happy coaching!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Stop bullying your children

We all do it - we yell at them when we're tired, we order tem around, we tell them what's in their best interest, and we expect them to follow us around like little serfs.  If you observed this behavior on the playground, you'd likely haul the child into the principal's office and accuse him of bullying the other kids.  Is it any wonder, then, that bullying has become epidemic around the world?  Instead of helping children to stop bullying, perhaps we should educate the parents on how to stop bullying their kids.  When children have positive role models that don't bully them, they will be less likely to bully others. 

Families where discipline is inconsistent and where there is little warmth and adult attention are more likely to raise children who bully. The children in those families are looking for positive attention for negative behavior.  Conversely, families where discipline is harsh and unwarranted, are also more likely to raise children who bully. That's the role model scenario - a child who is physically or emotionally abused knows no other way to get what he wants from his peers than to use the same behavior as his parents. 

Hmmm... there must be a happy medium between inconcistent and harsh discipline, right?  There is - it's called democratic parenting.  Consistent, fair discipline teaches self-control and responsibility. Warmth and time spent together teach connection and empathy. 

Yes, I know it's difficult at the end of your own difficult day to deal with quarreling kids, but you must adjust your mind set from yelling at them to stop fighting to asking them to sit down and calmly discuss their differences.  Yep, I know that's not always going to work, either.  However, when the children see that you calmly react to their problem, they'll be more likely to calmly react in the future and on the playground with their peers. 

Do you use sarcasm?  (I'm going to start buying you baby clothes because that's how you're behaving.) This teaches kids that verbal bullying is acceptable.

Do you call your kids names? (Don't be so stupid!)  This is another example they can follow for verbal bullying.

Do you slap or spank your children?  This sets them up to accept physical bullying.

Do you get even with your kids? (Fine, if you're going to be like that, then I won't ....) This shows them that retaliation is an effective means to gain cooperation.

The bottom line is that your own bullying, whethere with your kids, their coach, or their teacher, will provide a negative role model for them.  So, when your child's principal calls and says your child has been bullying another student, don't look at the child's behavior, look at your own! And then change your parenting style to be more supportive, understanding, and accepting of your child's inevitable mistakes.  Spend quality time with them so they know they are wanted and needed by the persons who matter the most to them.  Show them how a non-bullying person reacts to a disagreement.  You'll be glad you did when they are adults!

Happy parenting!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Thirty-one years after my identical twin girls were born, I hold these truths to be self-evident...
  1. No matter how hard you try to make them into individuals, the magnetic pull of twinism is always stronger than momism. (Example: When they met each other at a spa weekend for their 25th birthday, one traveled east from NC, the other traveled west from AR and they met within only ten minutes of each other at the spa in Nashville, despite my recommendations on when to leave!)
  2. There will always be one dominant twin and one submissive twin, although the relationship may reverse occasionally. (That's why I sent the submissive twin on an outward bound camping trip when she was twelve.  To this day, she says it's the best thing I ever did to foster her independence.)
  3. In a family with three children, the twins will always form a united front against the third, or their parents, or their grandparents. (Like I said, it's a strong bond!)
  4. When they're younger, identical twins don't like to do anything the same - dress the same, have the same hair, etc. so their friends can tell them apart.  However, when they get older, they may unintentionally do things in an identical manner.  (Example: When one visited the other for the first time in her new home, they discovered that they had purchased the exact same sofa in the exact same fabric from two different furniture chains in two different states.  What are the chances of that happening?)
  5. They will always watch each others backs. (Example: When you go to college and nobody knows you're a twin, you can easily study for one test, trade IDs and retake the test for your sister!)
  6. Watching identical twins grow and mature into responsible adults has been an interesting voyage of love and amazement!  I am so glad I was blessed with identical twin girls and an older child who paved the way for them.  
For suggestions on how to help identical twins mature independently, read my related article: Declaration of TWINdependence

Saturday, November 19, 2011

School Lunches vs. Government

First, read this article in the New York Times:

Now consider the ramifications....

In the twenty years that I taught at a local high school, I gained 60 lbs, which I managed to lose over the past two years since retirement.  I ate the school lunches much of the time while my girls were little and I had no time to prepare a fresh lunch for myself.  So, in the interest of time, I ate the breaded (translate that to fried) chicken sandwich (see all the carbs?), french fries (more carbs), and a can of soda from the faculty room vending machine (not diet - I don't like the aftertaste, so yes, more carbs).  As a Family Consumer Sciences teacher, I should have known better, but I disregarded my education in the interest of convenience.

Young bodies are still getting the same very poor nutritional choices at lunch.  Is it any surprise then that our children are overweight?  We force them to sit all day long in their seats, then feed them fat and carbs at lunch.  Their only exercise is during their gym classes and walking through the hallways.

I'm sure a creative cafeteria manager could develop ways to serve nutritious foods that children won't discard while that person also considers the cost to the school district.  I agree that carbs are inexpensive foods. Protein in the form of meat and dairy products is more expensive.  And fresh fruits and vegetables the most expensive. Why is it that the healthiest foods are the most expensive?  I don't have a good answer for that question.

Perhaps the Federal Government should be considering ways to subsidize only the healthy parts of the school lunch program.  Districts would pay full price for the carbs, fats, and sweets while the government subsidizes the healthier proteins and fresh produce.  Hmmm... nifty idea - think it would fly?

In addition, schools need to implement healthy eating programs in much the same way that they implement anti-bullying and character development programs.  After all, the health of our future citizens is in the hands of bureaucrats more worried about their support bloc than the health of the children of their constituents. 

What's more important - economy or health?  Personally, I don't think we should have to decide!  So until the government gets its priorities straight, I recommend something I should have done thirty years ago:  Get up fifteen minutes earlier to prepare a health bring-to-school lunch for you and your children.  Here are some helpful links:

Happy parenting and Happy teaching!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Top Ten Reasons Parents Choose a Nanny over Day Care

When parents are considering childcare options, daycare centers will generally be one of the possibilities on the list. There are several reasons why a family may choose a nanny to meet their childcare needs instead of a daycare center. Here are the 10 top reasons that parents give.
  1. Work schedules – Finding a daycare center that has hours which fit variable work schedules for two spouses can be difficult to do. With a nanny, a schedule of hours can be determined ahead of time that will fully meet the parent’s needs.
  2. Safety – Even though licensed daycare centers are limited in the number of children per worker that are allowed, some families still are uncomfortable leaving their children in the care of individuals that are caring for a large number of children at the same time.
  3. Convenience – The fact that parents don’t have to take the children out of the house in the morning or pick them up again at the end of the day is a great convenience and time saver for the parents.
  4. Exposure to illness – Daycare centers, like schools, are places where viruses and germs are often shared among the children, no matter how hard the daycare provider attempts to prevent these situations. Keeping the children in the home, limits their exposure to illness.
  5. Personal attention – A nanny has no other children to attend to (in most cases) than your children. Parents can be assured that their children’s personal needs are not being overlooked.
  6. Chauffeuring kids – Parents want their kids to have the opportunity to participate in extra-curricular activities. A nanny can also serve as the kid’s chauffeur to these activities or to and from school, a service not available through most daycare centers.
  7. Flexibility – When engaging a daycare, parents are told what the rules are and how the daycare handles situations. With a nanny, a family has more flexibility in coming up with an agreement that fits their specific needs.
  8. Specialty needs – Children with special physical needs cannot always be accommodated at a traditional daycare center. A nanny working in the home will have everything she needs to care for the child, right in the home.
  9. New infants – Most daycare centers do not accept newborn infants. For parents needing childcare help during the early weeks, a nanny can provide professional care for the infant and professional support to the parents.
  10. Extra duties – Many nannies are contracted to perform some light household duties along with their childcare duties. This is not an option available when using a daycare center.

There are many advantages for a family that chooses a nanny to meet their childcare needs. The personalized service of in-home childcare can hardly be compared with the setting of a daycare which is providing services to many different families at the same time.

This is a guest blog from  Their website is filled with helpful suggestions regarding nannies and basic child care.

Happy parenting!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

10 Things a Nanny Just Can't Do in Public to the Kids

by Ken (guest blogger from
changediaper 10 Things a Nanny Just Can’t Do in Public to the Kids
Yes, you’re right; in many of these cases it isn’t a matter of public or private, they shouldn’t be doing them at all. But for any nanny out there that thinks they can do what they want with the kids, when their parents aren’t watching, there are other people watching who care about kids too.
  1. Change their diapers – Now this may not seem like a big deal, but diapers do not need to be changed in a public place. A public restroom would be acceptable, but laying the child down in the middle of the shopping mall to change their diaper is not appropriate.
  2. Physical punishment – Hitting, spanking or slapping a child is not an appropriate disciplinary measure for a nanny under any circumstances. It can generally be assumed that if she uses physical punishment on the children when they are in public, she certainly is using it behind closed doors.
  3. Leave them unattended – Leaving children in a car in the parking lot or sitting by themselves in a restaurant booth, while the nanny runs an errand or attends to other personal needs could be considered child endangerment, which is a crime. The nanny’s number one priority needs to be the welfare of the children at all times.
  4. Berate them – Belittling kids for any reason is not appropriate for any mature adult. It is inexcusable from someone who is supposed to be a trained childcare provider. This is certainly as true in a private setting as it is in a public setting. Words hurt!
  5. Claim them as her own – Why a nanny would do this is hard to fathom, but her working relationship to the children should always be made clear if it is questioned in a public or a private setting.
  6. Complain about their parents – Although there may be times when a nanny has legitimate frustrations with her employers, she should be responsible and mature enough to avoid voicing those frustrations and complaints to other individuals, when she has the children with her. The conflict between parents and nanny can be a very confusing issue for children.
  7. Take on parental roles – When a nanny is in public with the entire family, children and parents, the nanny’s role becomes secondary to that of the parents. A nanny should never usurp the role of the parents in a public setting where the parents are available to handle their children themselves.
  8. Expose them to inappropriate situations – Taking children into any establishment that might expose them to lewd behavior, vile language or adults who are intoxicated would never have a reasonable excuse. Endangering children’s minds and well-being would be a reason for immediate dismissal of a nanny.
  9. Leave them in the care of strangers – A nanny should never trust the care of any her charges to a stranger in a public place. Even in an extreme emergency, calling on law enforcement would be a better choice than a complete stranger who happens to be willing and available.
  10. Ignore parent’s rules – If the parents have set rules for their children, while they are in the home, such as rules about behavior or what can be consumed, a nanny does not have the freedom to ignore those rules, when she is outside of the home with the children.

The thought of any nanny exposing their young charges to any of these items in public can be a horrifying thought. Of course, thorough background checks and checking of previous references are the parent’s best security against hiring a nanny who would operate in such an unprofessional manner.

For much more information, link to

Monday, November 14, 2011

Three kinds of childen

Recently, as an author in Author's Alley at the NJEA convention, I watched the children as they approached my neighbor's table that had a bowl of candy to entice visitors to view her book.  Some teachers brought their children with them and this is what I found:
  1. There's the "Snatch and run."  Those are the children who thought we had the treats out for their benefit, as if it were Halloween all over again, according to one little visitor.
  2. Then there were the kids who took a piece, and then were reprimanded by their parent to ask first before taking and then reminded the child to thank the bookseller.  (I wonder how many times the parent said that, considering we were near the end of the row!)
  3. Finally, you have the polite child who stands drooling in front of the candy.  He looks squarely at the person behind the table, asks permission to have a piece of candy, and then thanks her.  All this happened while Mom was talking to someone else.  AH!  The child, somewhere in his first twelve years, has internalized proprietry. 
How does this happen that some children are so incognizant of other people's feelings while others consider the other person first?  It all goes back to parental counseling and courtesy.  If the parents are kind enough to ask a child for his or her belongings before taking them for whatever reason, that child learns that this is the way you're supposed to behave. 

Bottom line: Behave as you want your children to behave to be a strong role model for maturity!
What kind of child do you have?

Happy parenting!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Airplane antics

One of my favorite classroom activities to get children moving is called "Airplane Antics."  This activity involves a minimum of effort by the teacher, but a maximum of effort by the students.  Here's how it works: 
  1. Take enough pieces of lined or unlined paper for each student in the room.  Provide a different label for the top of each page. (See the examples below.)
  2. Tell the students to answer or respond to the key word or words at the top of the page.
  3. They fold the paper into an airplane.
  4. On your cue, they sail the plane across the room.
  5. Another child picks up the airplane, unfolds it, then provides a new comment or answer.
  6. Repeat the process 3-6 times depending on the available time and interest level of your students.
  7. Collect the papers and review the answers.
How easy is that!

Here are some examples of possible labels for the top of the paper.  The examples provide only one label of many that you would put at the top for each session.  For example, in the math activity, you would have twenty different numberes for the twenty students in the class. For the animals list, you might also include wild animals, pets, poisonous animals, etc.)
  • 15 (students provide different equations for the number at the top of the page)
  • Green (students write or draw something that is green)
  • Farm animals (students write or draw a different farm animal)
  • Vegetables (students write or draw different veggies)
See how that goes?  What categories can you develop for this activity?  For more ideas, see my book, The Kinetic Classroom: Activities that Move Students to Learn.

Happy teaching!

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Holistic Child

Holistic education: a system postulating that the human mind must be studied as a unit rather than as a sum of its individual parts.

People are complex.  Children are also complex.  Why then, do we treat children within the framework of their current situation?  In school, they are learners.  In sports, they are competitors.  With their friends, they are supporters. At home, they are, well, all of the above!

Isn't it time that teachers and parents develop the whole child, not simply one of many parts?  The teacher who sees a child crying in the middle of a test may send her to the nurse or guidance office for assistance...or she may allow her to finish the test then ask to speak with her after class.  The child who is constantly disappointed with less than an A+ might certainly be the stellar student, but might he also be frightened of the consequences of a B at home?  Or the child who cuts gym class to help her friend with a problem ... does she deserve a detention or a star for her compassion?  See what I mean?  Kids are complex and need a holistic approach to their education.

What are you doing to promote holistic education in your classroom?  While no specific strategy is the solution to any given challenge, Antheil Elementary in Ewing, NJ has implemented initiatives to improve the overall development of their students. Some of these same initiatives may be the answer you’ve been looking for in your school:

  1. Closing Achievement Gaps: Through strategy distribution within the kindergarten grade level, students with lower reading levels were able to progress to learn at the same level as their peers at higher reading levels. Antheil brought in early literacy work and reading recovery programs and included the same alphabet in each classroom of the same grade level to provide consistency in classroom instruction.
  2. Parent Involvement: Antheil Elementary brings in all 1st-grade parents in January and teaches them how teachers work with the children and demonstrate with the children how the teachers use their specific seven strategies for reading. This allows parents to go home and help their children with what the children are already learning in school, and through the same method.
  3. Collaboration: Teachers at Antheil participate in common planning periods within every grade level every day.
  4. Measure Twice, Cut Once: Teachers and school leaders are constantly monitoring and assessing the learning levels of children on a whole, not just through testing, making sure they’re on track.
  5. Constructing a Community: The school worked to develop a relationship with the community to promote involvement with adult community members beyond parent participation.
WOW! What forward-thinking concepts!  My new series, The EntleTronsTM helps children learn STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) topics with character education in the literacy curriculum.  Parents and teachers can use these books to springboard discussions using the free learning guides available on the website:

Happy Teaching!

    Wednesday, November 2, 2011

    Listen to your children...

    I copy this quote from a friend with three wonderful children: Listen to your children. Allow them to believe that they have the right to a voice, and that their ‘voice’ is valued. By listening to the thoughts, ideas and contributions of children we can help them to achieve their full potential by valuing their participation in matters that affect their lives. I couldn't have said it better myself!

    Too often we spend our lives telling our children how to lead theirs: Make your bed, eat your breakfast, do your homework, get your cleats on, finish your dinner, go to bed, etc. etc. etc.  However, more important than being a dictator parent like that is being the Father Confessor parent by listening, truly listening to their problems, complaints, and yes, their sins.  When you take the time to listen with the heart of a parent and the ear of a friend, you'll find that your children have the amazing ability to solve their own problems when given half a chance to do so!

    Here are some tips for actively listening to your children:
    1. Stop what you're doing when you child approaches you.
    2. Look directly at your child.  If you're standing, sit together so you're on nearly the same level.
    3. Be quiet while your child explains the problem or simply tells about his or her day.  
    4. Use simple responses like, "Go on," "What else happened" or "Tell me more" that show your interest in the topic.
    5. Listen for and reiterate the feelings you hear: "I sense your frustration with math" or "You must be really disappointed that you lost that critical game."
    6. Ask, don't tell, your child what you can do to help.  
    7. Never ever tell your child that his thoughts, feelings, or opinions are wrong or invalid by saying, "You don't mean that."  If she didn't mean it, she wouldn't have said it!

    When you start this process when your children are little, you'll be glad you did when they become teenagers.  Those teenagers will tend to share more than you really want to know, but that information becomes very helpful in guiding them into responsible adulthood.  I know!  I've been there!  Any kids are now awesome adults!

    Happy Parenting!

    Tuesday, November 1, 2011

    What to do with all that Halloween candy!

    Unless you live in an area that got snow this Halloween (!!), you're probably overstocked with chocolate and other candy that rots teeth and destroys children's temperaments.  Here are some ideas for recycling the sweet stuff so you don't overdo it in November:
    • Freeze it.  Dole out one or two pieces a day, when the child earns a treat.
    • Crunch it.  Bits of candy that has been ground in a food processor make great additions to cookies and cakes during the holiday season.
    • Donate it.  Some local communities collect candy to distribute to the troops overseas.  
    • Sell it.  Some dentists participate in Operation Gratitude, which also sends candy to the troops, but the dentists add a twist - they pay the kids a minimal amount for their candy per pound.
    • Save it. Freeze and save it for decorating this year's Gingerbread House or in the pockets of an Advent Calendar.
    Or better yet... throw out a piece of candy every once in a while so your kids won't notice the change and will eventually have less to ingest.  Don't feel badly about discarding perfectly good candy.  (You don''t feel badly about tossing out fat from the George Foreman grill do you?)  Caution ... some kids know exactly what's in their goody bag!  In that case, simply ask what piece you can have every once in a while, then instead of eating it, discard it furtively ;-)

    Above all, remember that the candy belongs to your children.  Don't toss, donate, freeze, sell, or save it without discussing your plan with your children first.

    Happy Parenting!

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