Category Archives: Parenting

Oprah’s Social Lab Work and the Greatest Challenge as a Parent

Recently, I received an email from Oprah’s Social Lab Work (http://www.oprah.com/oprahs-lifeclass/Social-Lab-Work-Empowering-Children-Through-Conscious-Parenting ) where I was asked to participate in a survey regarding conscious parenting.  The first question of the survey was simple, but difficult to answer: “what is your greatest challenge as a parent”.  When I saw the question, I started to think about all the challenges and problems (in a next post, I will list all these) that I am facing as parent.  I realize that like most parents, I don’t face one challenge, but many, too many sometimes.  The question is to identify which one of these challenges is the greatest one.

IMG_0518Children present a variety of challenges depending on their age, temperament, developmental level, learning style and cognitive abilities among other things.  As in any other relationship, parents themselves also affect the parent-child relationship.  Adults can find parenting especially challenging when they are stressed at work, when they are dealing with separation or divorce, or when a child or adult in the family suffers from a mental or physical illness.

So, coming back to the question that Oprah’s people asked me, I would say that now that my son is only 4 ½ years old, the greatest challenge that I am facing is to find ways to help him develop his self-esteem.

Our son is a shy little boy who wants to please everybody.  He thinks that the more toys that he shares with his friends, the more that they would like to play with him. Of course, this is not really true. Sometimes, the friends just want to play with the toys, but not necessarily with him (which is pretty normal).  He has trouble sticking up for himself when another kid pushes him or takes something away from him.  I was at his daycare one day when another kid pushed him, and my son did not do anything.  This was not the first time that this kid pushed my son (and other kids), so I was very upset when this happened. My son, however, did not do anything to defend himself. He just ignored what the other kid and continued playing with his toy. Of course, I was very upset with the situation and immediately complained to the teachers who were just right there but had not seen anything.

I know that it’s not easy to deal with this type of situations when you are 4 years old and every kid is different. But, I just want to make certain that my son knows how to stand up for himself.  As a parent, I think that is essential that we help our children to develop self-confidence and that we teach them how to stand up for themselves.

Any suggestions? What are the best ways to do this?

 

How did your dad influence your life?

I want to celebrate the contribution that fathers and father figures have made to the life of their children by writing an article.  I would appreciate if you can help me with the process by answering 2 simple questions (reply here):

(1) How did your dad influence your life and career?

(2) What is your best memory or moment with your dad?

Please use the comments box OR the link below to submit your answers.

http://tinyurl.com/m8g7yry


THANK you for your Help. Please note that the survey is completely ANONYMOUS.

9 questions that will help to determine if you are becoming a helicopter parent – Quiz

Answer“true” or “false” to the following statements:
1.___ I want my child to feel like I am him/her best friend.
2.___ When my child has a conflict with another child or an adult, I usually find that my child is right.
3.___ I get nervous when I’m not in constant contact with my child.
4.___ If my child were having trouble with a new seating arrangement in her/his class, I would ask the teacher to move my child to another seat.
5.___ I usually find that most of my child’s teachers’ discipline policies are not appropriate for my child’s temperament.  I often feel that my child’s teacher doesn’t understand his/her personality.
6.___ My child generally needs extra help from me or another adult with his homework because of his learning style.
7.___ I have found that my child needs to be busy, otherwise he/she gets bored or anxious when he/she has lots of free time.
8. ___ It’s difficult to find time in my personal schedule for my own activities, interests or friends because my child’s schedule is so full.
9. ___ My child is gifted in many areas, and I spend a lot of time making sure that her/his special needs are met because I know that it will be essential for his/her success in life.
Your helicopter parenting stylecould be described as:
§  Overly responsive to your child, if you answered true to Questions 1, 2, or 3.
§  Overly low demands on your child, if you answered true to Questions 4, 5, or 6.
§  Overly high and overscheduled expectations for your child, if you answered true to Questions 7, 8, or 9.

Bubble Kids & Helicopter Parents: A Risky Business

As Frank Zappa said, “It’s a great time to be alive, ladies and gentlemen.” Despite the gloom and doom of the current economic and environmental concerns, we are fortunate to be Canadians living in relative prosperity. But despite improved access to health care, improved safety, and reduced crime, North Americans would appear to be more stressed now than ever before.
Helicopter Parents
Maybe despite our relative wealth and welfare, we don’t share the same optimism about the future as our parents’ generation did when they were our age. Parents in our generation have come to be known as “helicopter parents,” because we are often seen hovering over our kids as they complete tasks, eliminating or mitigating potential risks for our children. Our over-protectiveness has extended beyond our homes and into our communities and schools: even at the university level, we have parents coming in to speak on behalf of their adult sons or daughters. This is also occurring in the workforce, as discussed in a recent article from global news, where parents are weighing in with employers to defend their “kids.”
We need to be better at detaching
Statistically speaking, our children have never been safer, but with all this added protection, I wonder if we are sometimes doing a disservice to our children and not providing them with sufficient real-world risk-taking that they can learn and grow from. I have to admit that sometimes I feel like Nemo’s father, Marlin, from “Finding Nemo” – always watching what my kids are doing, always protecting, always hovering. As much as “being in the moment” with your children is a very healthy mindful experience, we also need to be better at detaching. We need to let our children “fail” and “fall” now and then, and have confidence and trust that our children will learn from these experiences and triumph over their challenges (a lesson well learned by Marlin, Nemo’s dad).
Our hovering tendencies have had a substantial impact on our schools and playgrounds. We now live in an era where even “tag” is considered too risky for children to play on the playgrounds of most Island schools.  At the beginning of this school year, our 12 years old son came home one day and was visibly depressed.  We asked him what was wrong, and he told us that he was upset that they could no longer play “tag” or “manhunt” at school, as well as other “hands-on” games. We were surprised, because it was not obvious to us how a game like tag could be problematic. The argument was that kids were getting hurt and, in particular, that such activities put younger children (especially kindergarten-age children) at risk. When following up on this issue, we were told that such “hands-off” practices have been in operation for “some time” and part of the school board policy in our province (Prince Edward Island, Canada). Further checking revealed that in fact it wasn’t a school board policy, but “schools were well within their rights to ban such games.” Now, we were not questioning the safety of kids at school, especially younger kids. But how frequently do kids actually get hurt playing such games and could not alternative measures be put in place to mitigate potential accidents to smaller kids (having different recess times, for example)? How can we be worried about games like tag, but yet still sign our kids up for contact sports like hockey, rugby, lacrosse, soccer and basketball?

 
Risk is an important component of child development
Internationally, there is a growing reconsideration of the kinds of playgrounds where unstructured active games like tag have been eliminated in the way they have here on Prince Edward Island. There is also a growing awareness of the need to address the “increasingly sedentary and risk-averse generation of children…,” according to the International School Grounds Alliance (ISGA).  How can children learn to gauge themselves if every “natural” and unstructured active play opportunity is over-regulated or eliminated?  According to Stephen Smith (Associate professor in phenomenology and physical education at Simon Fraser University), “risk is an important component of development in children. It is through the taking of risks that children learn to be competent, to overcome fear, to work with others, and to measure their own capabilities.”
Sometimes of course, children are going to get hurt playing tag, as “tags” can very quickly turn into “shoves” when an intense playground game gets going. Some parents and educators might worry that this kind of experience might have a lasting impact on a child, psychologically and physically.  But, in fact, studies have shown that the opposite is true. When for example, a child is hurt in a fall before the age of nine, that child is actually less likely to develop a fear of heights as a teenager. There is a growing body of research that points to the physical, emotional and psychological value of a bit of physical risk when it comes to child development. Researchers and parents claim that managing the risks inherent in a game of “tag,” for example, can help children with problem solving and conflict management. Unstructured games on the playground, if properly supervised, can teach children about leadership, negotiating and of course they get kids running and building their physical strength.

Like most of us, I am trying to do my best as a parent (without the owner’s manual) and really just asking the basic questions: what are we doing? Why are we doing this? If I could obtain balanced, well-defended/supported arguments, then I may be convinced as to some of our recently adopted policies/practices; however, I think that we are really just being over-protective, over-reactive and, to a certain extent, paranoid. The question is: what longterm impact could this behaviour have on our children?
This is an article that my husband, Sheldon Opps, wrote for a local family magazine. Sheldon is an Associate Professor in the Department of Physics at the University of Prince Edward Island.

Amazing Piñatas for Birthday Parties

My husband is a dedicated father who takes birthday parties very seriously.  He always comes up with unique party themes and bigger and better ways to celebrate the birthdays of our children.  For my step-son who is now 12 years old, my husband selected themes such as dinosaurs, Captain Underpants, Pokemon, Harry Potter, Super Mario and the Legend of Zelda.  For our 4 years old, so far, the themes have been Toupie & Binou, Mickey Mouse & Friends, and Dr. Seuss. 

For each one of these parties, my husband made certain that relevant activities and decorations were prepared or organized for the parties.  This was not often an easy task because we wanted to stay within a certain budget.  An element that was always part of each one of these parties was the piñata.  Of course, finding the proper piñata for a given theme was challenging, forcing my husband to be creative.  Below are some of the amazing piñatas that my husband made for these parties. 

Majora Mask (Legend of Zelda Birthday Party)

Toupie  (Toupie & Binou Birthday Party)



Snorlax (Pokemon Birthday Party)


Kirby (Kirby Video Game Birthday Party)

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Past Emotional Experiences can Influence how you Parent your Children — A Solution

One of the things that I have realized since I am a parent and a step-parent is that there are many, sometimes too many, factors affecting or influencing the relationship with my children.  On one hand, every child is different, with unique combinations of abilities and needs that certainly affect our relationship with them.  On the other hand, the way we were parented also significantly influences the way we view the world and how we come to parent our children.  According to Drs. Tina Payne Bryson and Daniel J. Siegel, research has repeatedly shown that when parents offer repeated, predictable experiences in which they see and sensitively respond to their children’s emotions and needs, their children will prosper —socially, emotionally, relationally, and even academically. But, what is the secret for this?


Using your Past Experiences to Construct a New Future for Yourself and your Children
According to Drs. Bryson and Siegel, “The most important factor when it comes to how you relate with your kids and give them all those advantages, is how well you’ve made sense of your experiences with your own parents”.  In my opinion, this is a very powerful sentence because although many of us are determined to avoid the mistakes that our own parents made, we often times follow in the same trap.  How many times, did you tell yourself, “I don’t want to make the same mistakes that my parents made when I was a child” or “I am sounding like my mother (or my father) now”.  According to the above mentioned authors, if you can make sense of the past experiences with your parents as well as understand your father’ or mother’s wounded nature, you can break the cycle of inherited non-desired parental behaviours.  Of course, this may require hard work on your part, possibly even some help from a therapist.  You will most likely need to deal with hidden or implicit memories that are doing their work on you without you even realizing it.  Clearly, it will not be an easy or short process.  But, if you can make sense of your memories and understand how they have influenced you in the present, you may be able to use this information to construct a new future for yourself, and for how you parent your children.  As the authors said in their article, it is by understanding our own experiences and learning to tell the story of our childhood, the joys as well as the pain, we can become the kind of parent whose children are securely attached and connected to us in strong and healthy ways.

Languages, French Immersion and Brain Development

Our son Elijah will be starting kindergarten in September and the options presented to us with respect to elementary school are simple: English or French Immersion.  After thinking carefully (and discussing all possible sides of the question), my husband and I have decided to enrol him in a public French immersion school.  Personally, I am happy with the decision because I have always been very interested in languages, and really want my son to be bilingual.  But, I have to admit that I am also nervous because I have heard that immersion programs are not always well-designed and ineffective. 
I speak English, French and Spanish and am capable of reading Italian, so languages are important for me.  If I would have more time, I would love to learn other languages, especially Chinese.  Having said this, I have not been very good teaching my son Spanish (or French); even though I believe that young children are the best second language learners.  Many studies have demonstrated the benefits of second language learning not only on a child’s linguistic abilities, but on his/her cognitive and creative abilities as well.  Children who learn a foreign language beginning in early childhood demonstrate certain cognitive advantages over children who do not.  The advantage for younger learners is that they have the ability to mimic closely the native pronunciation and intonation of a new language (so, no accent!).  In addition, literacy skills that are being developed in the native language transfer to the learning of the new language.  According to a research article entitled “The Bilingual Advantage in Novel Word Learning,” published in the Psychonomic Bulletin and Review”, bilingual speakers excel over monolingual speakers in word recognition and recall.  Other benefits of learning another language are the improved ability to focus on two tasks at once.  It appears that bilingual kids think more analytically because parts of their brain dedicated to memory, reasoning and planning are larger than those of monolinguals. For these reasons, several research studies have shown academic gains by students who have begun learning another language at an early age.