As America leads the world in bronze medals, parents and kids are seeing more of what America's top athletes and the games are made of, finding that all that glitters at the Sochi Olympics is not gold.
“We won third place! Yay!” my son Quin, 10, hollered when skier Julia Mancuso went into wild celebration over her bronze medal.
One of the my older sons rolled his eyes, telling him not to celebrate when somebody wins third place.
“Well, she’s super happy about it,” Quin said pointing to Ms. Mancuso’s reaction, which was on instant replay on NBC. “If she’s happy, I’m happy.”
The lesson here is count your blessings.
The US is arguably in its worst winter Olympics since 1988. “U.S. athletes have won the second-most medals in Sochi (16), but the team ranks seventh in the overall medal count (which is determined by golds),” according to USA Today.
Winning a gold medal is amazing, and this time around we are seeing just how hard a task that is.
Perhaps for the sake of our kids, we need to transcend the blame game being played out in the media, which has focused on places to lay blame, rather than celebrating the athletes' tenacity and spirit.
I am guilty of poking a lot of fun at the games because President Vladimir Putin’s politics make me want to send him down the skeleton in a pink tutu.
As a parent, I needed to pay more attention to the value of these games that can be found beneath the politics.
Lesson No. 1 was right there in front of us when Olympian Heidi Kloser arrived at the opening ceremonies in a wheelchair, knowing that would be her only Olympic event after a training injury.
According to Yahoo, Ms. Kloser's dad, Mike, wrote on his Facebook page, "When she was in the ambulance, she asked Emily and me if she was still an Olympian...We said of course she is!"
Kloser won the hearts of viewers when she struggled up out of the wheelchair to take the long Olympic walk on crutches and won the games without ever entering an event.
It was all uphill for our Olympians from there.
This time around, for America at least, it’s become about the back stories of the athletes and seeing them revel in a comeback from injury, personal loss, or failure.
Reebok’s commercial featuring the theme song from the cartoon "Underdog" running throughout these games has inadvertently become the new Olympic theme at our house. When we hear the "Underdog" theme, we know it’s time for the Olympics. We have gravitated to the underdogs.
Our family rooted for Andrew Weibrecht in the Super-G, knowing nothing more about him than the fact that an announcer basically said he’s not supposed to be here.
“They call Weibrecht the workhorse,” the NBC announcer said while making the race call, as Mr. Weibrecht was not the expected winner. He took home the silver in the Super-G.
Bode Miller, who is a fan favorite, and whose brother died last year after a snowboard incident, took home an emotional win with a bronze medal, also in the Super-G.
Our living room erupted as if they’d won gold, because we related to their struggle.
Perhaps the most important lesson in our house came as the result of what has been named the "Golden Olympic Spoilers Rule." That rule includes the following stipulation – never tell Mom who won.
The kids heeded that rule, but hubby blew it.
After a day spent with my phone alerts, TV, and radio off so I could watch ice dancing last night and experience it in the moment, my husband walked in and said, “We win. Now can you come help me in the shed?”
Quin looked at the old man in wonder, perhaps to see if he would burst into Olympic flames.
Instead, I experienced a very rare girlie moment, so frustrated that I burst into tears.
Quin gave me the one vital lesson to be found in any games.
“It’s OK,” he said. “Everybody cries at the Olympics.”
The kid’s right, of course. If you look at the athletes on and off the medal stand they are crying due to frustration, pain, relief, disappointment, or joy. The NBC athlete profiles and commercials about moms are also tear-jerkers. In this Olympics, we are learning that it's OK to cry tears of joy over a bronze medal. Not because the alternative is coming home empty-handed, but because just the effort to make it to the Games in the first place make the athletes and their families all deserve medals.
Valentine’s Day means drama for many kids who will come home from school to report they had either the “best” or “worst day ever,” as the result of either being recognized or ignored by the object of their affection.
Today, parents get to explain to their kids a few things about human nature, such as the commercialization of love, how some parents may have forgotten to put valentines in their kid’s backpack, spiritual resilience, and that true love isn’t on Hallmark's schedule.
Because the giving and receiving of candy pellets stuck to commercialized, politically correct cards has become such a social imperative for younger kids these days, I try to make sure my four sons aren’t accidental heartbreakers.
Boys need a support crew for Valentine’s Day when they are younger, more so than girls who seem to be more socially mature, even in pre-school.
To that end, I inspected my troops last night and this morning to make sure they were on point for V-Day today.
My youngest, Quin, 10, had scrawled his name on 24 packs of Skittles valentines. We had been giving only cards until last year, when we learned that the rest of the moms in the posse had upped the ante to include candy with the cards.
For Quin, now in fifth grade, Valentine’s Day is a test, a critical puzzle to be solved.
“Valentine’s Day is my Kobayashi Maru,” Quin explained.
The Kobayashi Maru is known to "Star Trek" geeks worldwide as the no-win scenario taught to command-track cadets at the Starfleet Academy in the 23rd century.
According to a Star Trek Wiki, “It was primarily used to assess a cadet's discipline, character and command capabilities when facing an impossible situation, as there is no one answer to the problem.”
I think Quin's description fits Valentine's Day to a T.
For the last three years, poor Quin has either been ignored or openly rejected by the object of his affection, to be left open for teasing by bullies in his class.
No matter what approach he has taken to the problem, he has gone down in flames.
As a parent, I long ago failed the Valentine's Day Kobayashi Maru when I chose not to supply my oldest son Zoltan, now 20, with little valentines for his Pre-K class. In my efforts to not jump the gun, I apparently broke the hearts of 17 little girls that day.
A pack of Tiger Moms circled and confronted me the next day.
Each one told me off, with the general theme being, “Didn’t you ever have a boy ignore you on Valentine’s Day?”
In fact, I had been the chubby girl who never ever got valentines except from my mother and grandmother, resulting in me vowing that my son would be a great valentine giver.
My stumbling block had been the timing.
My husband informed me that boys have zero awareness or needs in the cupid department until middle or high school. Girls apparently develop full-blown cupid radar as early as "Mommy and Me" classes.
I hadn’t realized that Valentine’s Day cards had the potential to create chaos so early, for the giver and the potential receiver.
In my effort to avoid setting my son up for disappointment by asserting adult expectations on kids, I disappointed a bunch of kids and made my son a social outcast for the rest of the year. No win.
As a result of years of trying every scenario possible, I was happy to see that at least my older sons were taking on the Valentine's Day test solo this year.
Avery, 15, has his first girlfriend. When he heard me talking to Quin, he came in and made a preemptive strike.
“I got this covered,” Avery said, with his hand in the “Talk to the hand” position. “I found this awesome necklace. Got a really cool box and, yes, before you even ask, I made a card.”
Zoltan texted me last night to tell me he’s finally found a girl and he’s taking her out to dinner tonight. “Yes, before you ask, I made her a really cool card.”
Ian, 18, who has a long-term girlfriend, eyed me with deep suspicion this morning.
“We’re good to go for Valentine’s Day,” he said before I could get a word in edgewise.
Still, there’s Quin, armed with his 24 little packets, a special one for the girl he likes.
This morning, I told him that no matter what he sees on TV and what other kids say, this is not the only day someone can love you.
“Today isn’t a test," I said. "If it was, it would be the 'Star Trek' kind with no right answer. It’s more like an experiment to see how different elements react. You can’t fail by giving someone candy; they can only fail to appreciate how awesome you are.”
These words of wisdom were the result of parental polling data that I had gathered days ago from Ian and Zoltan.
I asked if there was ever anything I’d told them on Valentine’s Days past when they had been rejected by a girl that helped them to get over it.
“Nothing’s going to make it 100 percent better, but it helps to have you tell us things like ‘If she didn’t see what’s good about you, she just wasn’t the right one,’” said Zoltan today.
Ian said, “What helped me get over a bad Valentine’s Day? The day after Valentine’s Day when you realize you made it out the other side.”
It’s Valentine’s Day and we’re going in. See you all on the other side.
There are many ways to say “I love you,” sang the late, great Mr. Rogers. One of the best is having a meal with a friend. On a typical Valentine’s Day, the National Restaurant Association estimates, a quarter of all Americans dine out.
But sometimes, especially when the family is young, you want to stay home and wrap the parental love around the children, including them in on the meal, too, romance notwithstanding. Who else is going to eat your two dozen cupcakes topped with pink icing and red jimmies?
In our house, the sweetest Valentine’s memories are of annual candlelight dinners for two, served in the living room by the fire, on the white linens and the good china, with Mozart in the background. All this was staged and delivered up by the children – no lie – the oldest by around age 7 ceremoniously presenting a main dish, flanked by his conscientious little sisters processing in with items that wouldn’t spill.
As with the Mother’s Day breakfasts in bed, sometimes this meal took a long, long time to appear on the table, and it often was preceded by some startling sound or commotion coming from the kitchen, where I was not permitted. I have no recollection of what food was served. Nor where the whole ritual came from. Surely my husband was involved.
In the grown up world, it’s hard to make a meal for a friend, what with the calorie counting, the gluten, the fact that few of us have the Barefoot Contessa’s culinary aplomb, let alone her herb garden. And it’s not easy having someone cook for you, either. After all, dining has become a litany of what’s banned: no butter, eggs, or cheese; no red meat, whole milk, or breadstuffs; no shell fish, sugar, or desserts. “I’ll just have four stalks of asparagus, a little vinegar on the side, please.” Surely, nature must have graced us with some as-yet-unidentified substance that is unleashed by the bonhomie of the table, something that temporarily negates the alleged devastation to the body linked to food.
It feels so good to feed another, doesn’t it? Though it takes a lot of time not always allotted to things domestic, the payback is big. In both directions. It really does bond you. Baking bread for someone, in the most basic sense, nourishes them and gives them life. Breaking it together completes the circle. Culture recognizes this – in holiday customs, in literature, art, and film. Religion has the manna in the desert and the apostles in the upper room. Rituals as diverse as the Hindu puja, the Christian communion, and the Jewish Passover make the meal central.
Our Valentine’s dinner squad has moved to their own kitchens. But memorable meals continue here. Sometimes – well, often – someone will even ask to come to dinner, and invariably that someone turns into eight or nine someones. One of them asked me recently “How do you get stuck with all that cooking?” But it’s not like that. What better sound is there, really, than ten people sitting around the table, happy, hungry, grateful, having bursts of laughing, then joking, telling stories, and laughing some more? So that, by the end of the evening, the candles have burned all the way down and still no one is leaving the table? I love that.
Every now and then – and not necessarily on Valentine’s Day – I’ll get a call from one of my children, now young adults: “My friend had a bad day, Mom. How do I make her some chicken?” Or “How much sweet sausage do I need to buy for two?” And then: “What should I do with it?” There are variations on the theme: the impromptu get-acquainted dinner organized by one of the kids for the dorm, the cajoling of an estranged friend into coming along for dinner with the group, and thus rejoining the fold. As a mother, these are among my favorite kinds of calls. They get it. They know what a gift it is.
Perhaps a sparkly something in a Tiffany box is in the works for you this Valentine’s Day. Or maybe you’ll be surprised with a getaway to a place in the sun. But, if your life is really good, you’ll have the chance to make a little meal for a friend – or nine. Or maybe someone will make one for you. Everyone will be full. Guaranteed.
Caffeine consumption in kids is shifting: What once may have consisted of a can of soda at a birthday party now includes sucking frosty coffee beverages from a straw. And while energy drinks are relatively new on the caffeinated scene, they have already earned favor in the eyes of college kids.
A new study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics delivered the latest research numbers on caffeine intake for US kids. While the consumption of caffeine hasn't necessarily increased in recent years, the sources have shifted – from mostly soda to also including coffee and energy drinks.
The study, tracking research from 2000 to 2010, reports that 73 percent of young adults consume caffeine every day. Even in pre-school age children, caffeine consumption is equal to roughly 10 milligrams (half a can of soda per day) due to drinking soda, tea, or chocolate-flavored milk. This amount is slightly less than a decade ago.
The increased sources for kid caffeine consumption, including the milk-shake tastiness of frozen coffee drinks, should encourage parents to consider their own drink choices as they aim to help their kids set healthy habits.
According to an Associated Press report, Stephen Daniels, chairman of the American Academy of Pediatrics nutrition committee, says that caffeine has no nutritional value and that there is no good data on what amount, if any, is safe for kids.
While parents often monitor the beverage choices for young kids, most teens are attracted more and more to flavorful coffee drinks - like the Starbucks Frappuccino, McDonald's Frappe, or the Dunkin' Donuts Coolatta.
Mark Pendergrast, author of “Uncommon Grounds,” a book about the shift in coffee perceptions through the years, told The Wall Street Journal's Market Watch blog, "Teenagers, who may not have acquired a taste for a straight black cup of joe, can instead get a fix by stopping by Dunkin’ Donuts to get a frozen Coolatta or passing by Starbucks to pick up a Frappuccino."
For college-age young adults, the attraction to energy drinks accounts for roughly 10 percent of their caffeine consumption. According to the study results, energy drinks did not exist in the data from 1999-2000, but increased to nearly 6 percent of caffeine intake in 2009-2010.
While the overall numbers for caffeine consumption have remained relatively stable over the last decade, the prices for caffeinated beverages have not. A can of soda will set you back roughly one dollar at a convenience story, while a Frappuccino will cost upward of four to five dollars, depending on where you live.
Getty Images and Lean In have worked together to curate this antidote for the objectification of the female image in media via a new stock collection of photos devoted to the powerful depiction of women, girls, and the people who support them.
Lean In is a women’s empowerment nonprofit founded by Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook and author of "Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead." The Getty Images collection boasts "over 2,500 images of female leadership in contemporary work and life," according to the Getty Images website. The female leadership includes women and girls of all ages, at home, in school, at work, and outside.
The collection aims to remove the cliched images of girls and women used in stock photography for marketing campaigns. The images are powerful, arresting, and beautiful, without the normal objectification found in many fashion spreads and Sports Illustrated swimsuit issues.
Pam Grossman, director of visual trends at Getty Images, commissioned a study to track the changes in the representation of girls and women in the media, leading to the new collection.
The hope is that by offering these stock images, photographers will be inspired to create even more that convey positive images of women.
“This is such a big passion project for all of us, and cheesy as it sounds, by showing people powerful images of women, we thought maybe we could actually change the world,” Ms. Grossman told BuzzFeed.
As the wife of a visual journalist (my husband is the assistant director of presentation at The Virginian-Pilot newspaper) and the mother of four boys, this collection resonates with me.
My sons have been raised to pay extra attention to the photos that newspapers and other media outlets select.
As a mom who works from home, I am always trying to impress on my sons that my role is just as impactful as the role of those parents who work outside the home.
Still, my youngest son, Quin, 10, regularly floors me with his patently sexist visualization of the female role in society.
Yesterday, he said to me that he viewed a girl as cool for not being like a boy. When I asked him to expand on that comment, he said, “You know, girlie – pink tutus, braids with colorful ribbon stuff in them, hates math, loves books about unicorns."
As I sputtered at him, he giggled, “What? Come on, you know it’s true.”
What I know is that despite all the careful child raising my husband and I have done – aiming to nurture him as a warrior for inequality – he has still been seduced by the dark side of media imagery.
He delivered the coup de grâce this morning when he asked, “When’s take your son to work day? I want to see what it’s like to be at Pop’s office and have a real job.”
A “real job.”
What is it going to take for kids to understand that being a parent is as much of a "real job" as any other office position?
Working from a computer in the home often requires even more skill sets than doing the same “real job” in an office environment, because at the office nobody’s asking you for juice, clean socks, or to play Pokemon when you’re on deadline.
Although, I suppose if you’re working at a tech start-up in Silicon Valley or as a kindergarten teacher, those things might happen at your office.
Realistically, I don’t think that one collection of photos is going to completely reverse the impression of billions of images impacting our kids. However, it is a brilliant place to start.
It reminds me of Shoot for Good, an organization in Norfolk, Va., that holds events each year that encourage photographers of all levels to photograph and share acts of good in their community. All the photos from the Shoot for Good events are curated and posted online so we can all see the good in the community. The idea was created by local Norfolk photographer Stephen M. Katz and his colleagues Steve Remich and Jennifer Ditona.
Getty Images and organizations such as Shoot for Good are cutting the path for others to follow when it comes to shifting the perceptions of what we view everyday and consider normal. As Getty Images and Lean In celebrate photos capturing the innovation, beauty, strength, and character of women, we can launch a discussion with our kids that explains that "one size does not fit all" and that what makes us beautiful is our unique qualities, no matter how that looks.
With this lesson, hopefully my home workspace will finally be seen as an office, my writing as a "real job," and my beauty as more than the mom who makes sure you make it to school everyday.
We’ve all read books and watched films that have transported us and changed us, that have catapulted our imaginations into lives vastly different from our own. Think of a movie like "City of God," which reveals the violent world of two boys growing up in the shantytowns of Rio. Or the novel "To Kill a Mockingbird," with its classic line “You never really understand another person until you consider things from his point of view – until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”
These are the kinds of books and films that take us on unforgettable empathic journeys, enabling us to step into the shoes of strangers and look through other people’s eyes. It’s what I refer to in my new book "Empathy: A Handbook for Revolution" as “armchair empathy” – a kind of travel you can do from the comfort of your own home.
But where can we find the very best examples from amongst the overflow of online information, book reviews, and movie guides? That’s why I’ve just founded the world’s first online Empathy Library, a digital treasure house where you can discover inspiring and powerful novels, non-fiction books, feature films, and video shorts all about empathy.
I wanted to create a place where anybody, anywhere in the world, could find the best resources for helping us escape from the narrow confines of our own experiences and enter the realities of different cultures, generations, and lives.
So how does the Empathy Library actually work? Although it doesn’t contain items to borrow or view, there are reviews and ratings of over 100 books such as Toni Morrison’s "The Bluest Eye" and George Orwell’s "Down and Out in Paris and London," alongside movies like "Gandhi" and "Avatar." The library collection also includes dozens of fantastic books and films for children and teens. Visitors can search the collection and view Top Ten Charts, and join up to add their own favourite items and comment on others.
It’s a growing and vibrant global community. Thousands of people have already come through the virtual doors of the library since its launch – around half from the United States, and some 10 percent from both Britain and Brazil – and have been adding to the collection every day. It has caught the attention of librarians in Australia, school teachers in Canada and India, and social entrepreneurs in the Netherlands.
Why all this interest in the Empathy Library? One major reason is that empathy is a more popular concept today than at any time in human history. Everybody’s talking about it, from the Dalai Lama to agony aunts, from business gurus to happiness experts. And it’s not surprising, since in the last decade neuroscientists have discovered that 98 percent of us have empathy wired into our brains. The old story that we are basically selfish, self-interested creatures has been debunked. Our selfish inner drives exist side by side with our empathic other half. We are homo empathicus.
Crucially, there has also been an avalanche of recent neuroscience and psychology research showing that we can learn to empathise, and that entering other people’s lives through books and films is one of the best ways of doing it. As the novelist Ian McEwan put it, “Imagining what it is like to be someone other than yourself is at the core of our humanity. It is the essence of compassion, and it is the beginning of morality.”
Part of my inspiration for starting the Empathy Library is personal. I have five-year-old twins and have always been on the lookout for great ways to teach them the core elements of emotional literacy such as empathy, cultural tolerance, and mutual understanding. My internet searches for quality resources sometimes yielded results but proved frustratingly random. So I dreamed up the Empathy Library to help solve the problem and bring the most moving, memorable, and fascinating empathy books and films under a single digital roof.
My hope is that teachers and other educators will discover a wealth of materials to use with young people in their endeavours to teach them empathy, a vital life skill that is now being taught through education programmes worldwide such as Roots of Empathy and Ashoka’s Start Empathy initiative (both official supporters of the Empathy Library).
Beyond this, the Empathy Library is designed to provide a host of ideas for reading groups, film clubs, and empathy projects in community organisations and workplaces. And it is also somewhere you can go to find an engaging book to read your kids or a classic movie to watch on a Friday night.
Ultimately, the aim of the library is to create an online community resource for the planet’s empathic thinkers and activists. Think of it as Goodreads for the empathy revolution.
So come and visit the Empathy Library and allow your mind to enter another world. Give yourself a glimpse into what it might be like to be a child growing up in Tehran, or to be born without sight, or to be a soldier fighting someone else’s war. These are the imaginative journeys than can both change ourselves and the societies we live.
This article originally appeared on the Startempathy.org blog, published by the Start Empathy project from Ashoka.
Administrators at a high school in Rockport, Mass., who have enforced a ban on yoga pants and leggings are yet another reason why Americans need to get over the tendency to objectify the wearer rather than celebrate the body, mind, and spiritual benefits of comfortable attire.
It's possible the administrators and faculty at Rockport High School may have needed to meditate on this decision around girls wearing yoga pants a little longer, especially as teen girls at the school report feeling objectified in the decision as they were blamed for distracting their male classmates.
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This harkens back to recent coverage of Lululemon creating shoddy ultra-sheer yoga pants and then blaming it on women by saying some were just too chubby to wear them.
How does something as soothing as comfortable pants designed for the practice of meditation and fitness become such a regular hot button issue?
In the case of Rockport High, it seems the principal reacted under pressure from faculty, who “expressed concern that students were not following the dress code,” according to Yahoo.
The principal decided to re-enforce an already existing dress code banning yoga pants and leggings on girls, according to the report.
Instead of shifting the focus from yoga pants to academics, the action taken by the school zeroed in on the girls and their fashion choices. It seems that rather than addressing disciplinary problems, more girls felt blamed for wearing “distracting” clothing in class than being reminded of the standing dress code.
The onus of making boys pay attention in class and be good students has apparently shifted to the female population, who should perhaps dress in potato sacks in order to solve the issue of teenage hormones.
"It's called attention to something that no one even thought about," said Rockport senior Aidan Wright, according to Yahoo. "I don't appreciate having to be responsible for a boy paying attention or even being told that it's my responsibility to not distract someone with my body. I don't like being objectified in that way."
On Friday, 20 female students who protested the decision by wearing the pants were punished with written warnings and sent home to change their clothes.
Concern over boys being unable to concentrate in class ultimately resulted in girls being yanked from the learning environment, missing school work and learning time. Well, they did learn something when they were sent home. They learned that even adults get easily tied up in knots about superficial issues such as clothes, and that they can succumb to peer pressure (in this case faculty pressuring the principal).
RECOMMENDED: School dress code: Top ten offenses
In yoga, there is a practice of bowing to others and saying, “Namaste.” Nama means "bow," as means "I", and te means "you." Therefore, "namaste" roughly translates to, "I bow to you."
It is a way to take a moment to acknowledge that no matter how we appear on the outside, we should focus the deeper qualities beyond our outfits.
Dress codes are hopefully built with the interest of all students in mind, supporting their abilities to make mature decisions, such as appearance. When enforced, that same thoughtfulness should apply, helping students understand why the rules are what they are, versus blaming a population of students.
Here’s a timely suggestion for parents of young children: As the kids grow up, do whatever you can to help them develop an appreciation for water.
The chemical spill in West Virginia and severe drought conditions in California have focused a lot of national attention on the subject recently. By the time today’s toddlers are in college it’s likely that water will be a hot-button issue for every person on Earth.
A lot of Americans have grown up during the past half-century assuming that water is always available, in any amount. That belief starts early. As infants gain awareness of their surroundings, they often become intrigued and then fascinated by plumbing fixtures. Mom or dad turns a knob and liquid flows out of a metal tube and just keeps going and going, almost like magic.
I’m not suggesting the immediate implementation of strict rules for every faucet in the house. A nice full bathtub and toys that float create wonderful childhood memories. I have plenty of them myself.
But at some point, you need to control the flow and it’s a habit that can be hard to change. I know several people who still have that semi-magical attitude; they believe water will always stream out of the tap in unlimited amounts because, for them, it always has. Every household in the US needs to send this notion down the drain.
By the time kids have finished elementary school, I think they should have practical knowledge about the everyday world around them, and parents should be providing a lot of that information. So if your children suddenly asked you where the household water comes from, do you have the answer?
Knowing the source is important because it opens the door to lots of other water questions kids should be thinking about. One good starting point is to take a close look at one day of water use in your household. You don’t have to take measurements. Just grab a pencil and paper and make a mark every time someone washes their hands, gets a drink, rinses out a glass, fills the dog dish, or uses the bathroom.
Look at the result and then consider all the other people in your area who are also tapping the same source. Think about how much water is used all over your city every day, in all of the restaurants, supermarkets, car washes, drinking fountains, and fire hydrants. The number of water users in every community is enormous.
Thinking about water use may be the most important realization every family needs to make about water: In each city, a whole lot of users are sharing a limited supply and all of them have a stake in making sure it gets used wisely.
Notice I haven’t said anything about looking for ways to change household behavior and cut down water use. That discussion is one that families should have among themselves and set their own priorities.
I like to point my water-saving advice toward taking basic steps. Try to get everyone focused on turning off faucets promptly. Don’t run the dishwasher if it’s only got a few items on the top rack. Think about the source every time water is flowing into your house.
It’s also compelling to ask your kids this question: What if we turned on the tap one day and just a small trickle came out? What’s the absolute minimum amount of water you would need to get through the day?
Two excellent books are available for anyone who wants to learn more about water and how we use it. The first, “Water: A Natural History” by Alice Outwater, looks at how the settlement of North America and the growth of cities has changed natural water systems and created serious pollution problems.
The second book, “Drinking Water” by James Salzman, shows how water has played a crucial role for cities throughout history and how public perceptions of drinking water have changed during the past 50 years.
You can say the same thing about water that realtors like to say about beachfront property: nobody’s making any more of it. It plays a crucial role in our lives every day, but having water available when we want it isn’t a guarantee. The subject is as vast as the oceans, and your kids will be wading into it someday. Help them get their feet wet.
Whenever you are setting rules with your children you can use this rule of thumb. Every rule you make should fall into one of these three general rules:
- Respect Yourself
- Respect Others
- Respect Property
If your rules do not fall into one of these categories, they are likely to be arbitrary and may seem unfair or illogical to your children, hence will not be followed without a power struggle.
For example: "No hitting" falls under both rules of "Respect Self" and "Respect Others." Doing chores or jobs around the house comes under "Respect Others" and "Respect Property," as does "No throwing in the house," or "No kicking the dog."
However, a rule like "Homework must be done before any gaming time" is tricky. It isn’t about respect as much as it is about obedience, which children don’t always understand. Homework time is often more of a scheduling issue. Be sure not to send the message that "You have to do homework when I say so because I don’t trust you." It always backfires when children feel they have to prove themselves to their parents.
To make a homework rule effective, you want to ensure that it follows the “Respect Yourself” rule, which means that homework time should be considered as managed mostly by your child with your help and involvement. Your child must have the right to decide what his needs are after school hours. In other words, if you insist on homework being done first thing after school (so it’s out of your hair and you don’t have to worry about it), that is being disrespectful of your child’s needs.
Your child may need to chill out for a while after a long day at school and have an hour of video gaming, or playing outside, or whatever before homework, which they might rather do after dinner. In the same vein, the rule "Respect Yourself" means that you as the parent can say, “I am available for help and questions at these times only,” allowing your child to consider that offer when choosing when to do homework.
Similarly, rules around bedtime and physical hygiene might be easier managed if you are clear about them falling under the "Respect Yourself" rule. Then be sure that you don’t expect your child to understand the importance of self-care until they are much older. Some rules in this area are still best to be set by parents when the child is too young to know what is needed to care for and respect their body.
This is when I suggest calling on the "Parent Card." This is a good example of you being respectful of your child. “I don’t expect that you will know and understand how much sleep you need to be healthy and strong/the importance of brushing your teeth/maintaining a clean body. That’s what I’m here for. It’s a parent’s job to make sure that things you don’t care about yet get done.”
Then respect for your child is shown by giving some choices about how these things get done. “What song shall we sing for marching up the stairs tonight?” “Do you want to brush your teeth or get in pajamas first?” “Shall we read two long books, or three short ones tonight?” “Which three days of the week do you want to take your shower? Morning or evening?”
We must never forget the importance of modeling respect for our children, for their desires, and for their ways of looking at things. In order to respect our children, it is imperative that parents have an understanding of the developmental needs and wants of their children at different ages as well as their specific temperamental needs. Getting angry at a 2-year-old for grabbing a toy away from another child and expecting him to apologize is being disrespectful to him.
Expecting a 13-year-old to understand and care more about you and your needs than their own will lead you right into disrespect. We can quickly label a child as disrespectful of us if we don't take time to see an issue from their angle. Rather than disrespect, it is far more likely that the child is focused so intently on what they think they look like, or what someone at school said to them yesterday than what you asked them to do for you.
That doesn’t mean let it go, because of the general rule of "Respect Others." But it does mean that as a parent, you can show your child respect by understanding that they are NOT showing disrespect. They just need reminders of what is being asked – without tones of disapproval and disappointment.
Respecting our children goes miles toward gaining their consideration and appreciation, not to mention their respect of others' needs and rights as they grow. We just need to know how to set our expectations in a way that is respectful of their stage of development and individual temperament.
We can set limits, problem solve in order to hold our children accountable for their unacceptable behavior, and express our anger all with full respect and consideration of our children. Take the rest of today and watch yourself communicating with your child. Ask, "Am I being respectful?" with everything you say. Ask yourself, "How would I like hearing what I’m saying right now?"
For information on development, anything from the Gesell Institute is a good resource. Also, authors Frances L. Ilg and Louise Bates Ames write books for each age, "Your One Year Old," "Your Two Year Old," on up through the teen years. For temperament, a great resource is Mary Sheedy Kurcinka’s "Raising Your Spirited Child: A Guide for Parents Whose Child Is More Intense, Sensitive, Perceptive, Persistent, and Energetic," whether your child is spirited or not.
The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best family and parenting bloggers out there. Our contributing and guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor, and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. Bonnie Harris blogs at www.bonnieharris.com.
Last week, I got out of my comfort zone by making a traditional Mexican dish called “pollo en adobo.” I did my research on YouTube, inherited some spices from my mother-in-law’s capable hands, and assembled all the necessary ingredients.
Finally, I had prepared a traditional Mexican meal for my husband after meeting him nearly five years ago.
I must’ve watched the YouTube recipe video at least ten times, making sure I was doing every little step exactly right. As my timer ticked down for the last couple minutes that the chicken and sauce needed to simmer, I realized I was so nervous I was sweating.
When the dish made it to the table, my husband lifted the spoon to his lips, took a sip, and smiled.
I had never attempted to make authentic Mexican food before now because – as weird as it may sound – I’m white. As in, basic meat and potatoes culinary skills, turns lobster-red after a day at the beach (no matter how much sunscreen I put on), kind of white.
I just figured that I couldn’t possibly make real Mexican food without somehow screwing it up. I know, it’s irrational, but that’s how I felt.
What inspired me to take a shot at it? Thinking about our daughter. I realized that if I was going to limit myself to only cooking typical American dishes I was most familiar with, I would be setting a bad example for her. I want her to feel infinitely capable of making any kind of food she wants from both sides of her family.
Having the opportunity to deeply explore another culture’s gastronomy is one of the best perks of my interracial marriage. It’s surprising to think that just two or three generations ago, interracial marriage was illegal in some states, until the 1967 Supreme Court decision Loving v. Virginia nullified all laws prohibiting it.
Now, interracial marriage is becoming more and more common in the United States. A study published in 2012 found that 8.4 percent of all marriages in the US are interracial, making that about 1 in every 12 couples, up from only 3.2 precent in 1980.
But still, interracial marriage remains a controversial issue. Just last May, there was intense backlash on YouTube and other websites when Cheerios aired its commercial featuring a family that had a white mom and black dad. The follow-up ad depicting the same family ran during the Super Bowl, and also prompted many racist comments on Twitter and other social media platforms.
A recent Huffington Post article titled “Why I Can’t Be My Son’s Mother” shared actress mom Shannon Shelton Miller’s struggles with never being cast in commercials as the mom of her son, since he has whiter skin that she does.
According to Ms. Shelton Miller, “Corporations will happily cast a rainbow of Caucasian, Hispanic, Asian, and African-American actors for their commercials in the name of diversity, but they're rarely cast together. I seethed last year when I read one casting call for a major retailer requesting "real" Caucasian and African-American families, and then, in capital letters in the next sentence: ‘NO MIXED FAMILIES.’ ”
While America has come a long way in embracing a diverse range of skin tones, there’s still a pronounced stigma against mixed families.
I’ve experienced both ends of the spectrum. My mixed family has been stared at many times, waiters have asked if we wanted separate checks, and airline ticket counter attendants have told me to go wait my turn when I approach the counter with my husband, not realizing that we’re together.
We’ve also been treated with a level of normalcy that is refreshing, especially among our peers. A friend over for dinner recently remarked, “Babies from mixed parents are so beautiful and well-behaved. I think having to balance two cultures makes them more flexible, too.”
Balancing two cultures helps kids realize that they can’t be smushed into a limited box, and neither can anyone else – we all have a diverse background and range of experiences that shape who we are.
We are all better off when there's more diversity in society, which includes interracial marriages. As it gets more difficult to answer the question “What’s your background?" we become more alike because we realize we are all from mixed backgrounds.
If my daughter is asked to answer that question, she will have a long list of countries to remember, including: Mexico, Ireland, Poland, Spain, France, and England as part of her ancestral roots. Most importantly, she will be able to state that she is from the United States of America.
Like Coca-Cola's Super Bowl ad titled “It’s Beautiful” pointed out, America is beautiful largely because of its diversity. And not diversity that can be organized into neat little boxes, but diversity that includes diversity within it, constantly challenging what assumptions we come to adopt. When those assumptions are left behind, compassion begins.