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The tooth fairy may soon be as big a "holiday moment" as Christmas or Easter, if the toy industry has its way. Here, Claudia Raymond, dressed as the tooth fairy, examines a preschooler's shiny teeth looks at a Laporte, Ind., elementary school as part of a local Give Kids a Smile program. (AP Photo/The Herald-Argus, Bob Wellinski)

Tooth fairy: Toy industry wants to monetize the "holiday moment"

By Guest Blogger / 07.17.13

For children, losing one’s baby teeth is an important rite of passage. It marks a child’s departure from early childhood and entry into middle childhood – a time when, among other milestones, a child’s belief in magic begins to recede.

Because of this, there’s something precious about the myth of the tooth fairy. Our children’s belief that the tooth fairy is real is a sign that they are still little, that they’re not growing up too quickly, that they’re still innocent. Children love the strange idea that a tooth will be whisked away in the night by a fairy, with money or a small token left in exchange: It’s a fun, harmless fantasy.

Unlike the holidays of Christmas and Easter, which also have their own beloved fantasy figures attached to them, there is no predicting when an individual tooth will fall out. Waiting for a loose tooth to wiggle its way out takes patience – and once it’s out, it can be nerve-wracking for a child to keep it safe until the tooth fairy can collect it.

Perhaps because losing a tooth is such a personal, individual event, it has not been commercialized in the way that collective holidays and their fantasy figures have been. In the U.S., for example, millions of Christian families spend months gearing up for Christmas, anticipating the joy and the gifts it will bring. Marketers do everything they can to encourage people to spend a lot on the holidays; sales and specials encouraging purchases seem to begin earlier every year, and a fairly uniform image of Santa Claus is widely used in these promotions.

But with children’s teeth on their own individual timetables, marketers have never tried to monetize this milestone… Until now.

Susan Linn of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood reports that The Real Tooth Fairies, LLC is working hard to colonize the tooth fairy myth. Founded in 2011 by seasoned toy industry executives, The Real Tooth Fairies takes the open-ended, family-centered tooth fairy tradition and subjects it to a heavy-handed marketing makeover.

The way its marketing team sees it, “Each tooth is really a holiday moment” – in the same way that Christmas, Easter, Valentine’s Day, and Halloween are holiday moments: moments that can be commercialized, packaged, and sold to consumers. In fact, they explain, “It’s just a massive opportunity.”

In the world of the Real Tooth Fairies, there is not just one tooth fairy; there are six tooth fairies who have been coronated by a tooth fairy queen. Why six? The brand is copying the formula for success experienced by other popular girls’ brands, such as Disney Princess, the Disney Fairies, Bratz Dolls, and the Spice Girls. Like the characters from those marketing success stories, each fairy has a different look: their hair color and skin tones vary – but not their body types; they all fit the Barbie mold. They also have different interests, ranging from animals to math to rock music – though without fail, each one of them has a handsome boyfriend. And a tiara.

In addition to these seven characters, the brand also serves up a short, stout, eyeglass-wearing, hairy-legged “wannabe” tooth fairy called “Stepella” who, like Cinderella’s ugly stepsisters, is clearly meant as a counterpoint to the tall, pretty, real fairies. Unfortunately, her existence perpetuates a negative stereotype that (like so much about this brand) is not age appropriate, and which our girls don’t need: She suggests that any girl who doesn’t achieve a stereotypically beautiful appearance is unworthy of love and acceptance – unwanted. Although the brand claims to promote kindness, Stepella is excluded from the group.

Real girls, called “Earthies” on the Real Fairies site, are expected to identify with one specific “real fairy” from the main group of six, and then make requests on the web site for things that their parents will have to pay for – everything from personalized letters from a favorite fairy (starting at $0.99) to birthday party packages (costing $379).

So much for the tooth fairy myth’s innocent simplicity.

In fact, the brand grafts together components from nearly every popular girls’ brand: fashion (Barbie and Bratz), music (Hannah Montana), fairies (Tinkerbell and friends), royalty and romance (Disney Princesses), a pro-social “kindness” message (Monster High), and so on. It’s a transparent effort to push every button possible in hopes the brand would sell.

Susan Linn agrees with this assessment. ”It’s like an amalgam of the worst trends in the toy industry,” she said. “It contains every known money-making ploy in a pseudo-sweet ambiance, but it’s full of gender stereotyping and sexualization.”

Although the brand was launched in December 2011, it has recently grown dramatically in popularity: In April 2013, it boasted 7.1 million unique viewers. It has already been funded with $3.9 million. With these promising viewing trends, the owners want to raise an additional $4 million to expand it; they’re seeking to add a boys’ section to the site (with time-traveling action-adventure elves, because apparently fairies are too “girly” for boys) and get licensed products into stores – so they created a pitch video for potential investors.

The company’s pitch video recently came to the attention of CCFC. Upon seeing it Linn, was disgusted. “The pitch to investors epitomizes the worst of the toy industry,” Linn said. “They’re cloaking themselves as doing something good for children, when really it’s about making money.” 

While corporations often feign that their product is meant to do something good for children – e.g., Monster High’s claim that it teaches kindness, which The Real Tooth Fairies, LLC has also copied – there’s something particularly problematic about the way it is playing out here. Linn points out that the tooth fairy has always been in the public domain, and beliefs about the tooth fairy have been very diverse. Families have enjoyed devising their own tooth fairy rituals for generations – and, Linn fears, The Real Tooth Fairy, LLC hopes to put an end to that.

“This is a major assault on an area of childhood that has been unbranded,” Linn explained. “It’s an assault on the imagination. Families have always made up their own tooth fairy rituals, and it’s egregious to stultify children’s imaginations in that way.”

To help CCFC save the tooth fairy, visit their web page or sign their petition

Follow Rebecca Hains on Twitter or Facebook. 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. Rebecca Hains blogs at rebeccahains.wordpress.com.

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The writer's grandson No, 2, Stefan, smiles for a picture taken 13 years ago when he was five-years-old and still loving the backyard playhouse. (Richard O'Mara)

A kids' backyard playhouse and their arsenal of weapons plays on a granddad's memories

By Guest Blogger / 07.17.13

The house outside may be facing the end of its days. It presents a skeletal image now of what it once was. Only one wall remains, the one in the back; the roof is gone, probably blown off during a storm. This enabled the pines to deposit about an inch of their needles onto the floor, a mere four and a half feet square. Now, when the sun comes through the trees after a rain they shimmer like new copper, or a hoard of fool’s gold.

It was to be Nicholas’s retreat from the world of adults. His father, Pat, and I, built the thing on four posts, to hoist it about three feet off the ground, necessary in this low terrain so close to the sea.  We attached a three-step ladder to get into it. When we finished we told Nick to share it with his younger brother, Stefan, my second grandchild, and with his cousins, my three other grandchildren, when they come down here to enjoy the beach with us. Nicholas, when he got a little further on in his life, didn’t bother with it much. “It’s for kids,” said No. 1 Grandson, as he pushed off on his skate-board down the road toward the beach, lugging his surfboard.

Nick doesn’t know that I identify him in my mind by a number. I got the idea from Charlie Chan, the fictional character in old movies, a Chinese American detective with a frozen, unhappy smile, yet operating effectively in an American milieu. He was like Confucius, wise and out of his time. Charlie called his first born “No. 1 Son,” which suggests to me that he expected others would follow.

After Nick, came Stefan, No. 2 in our family; Lily followed as No. 3; then her brother Finnegan, No. 4, and finally No. 5, Lukas: what a talker!  I don’t tell any of these children about their numbers. I do it because it just helps me keep their names adhered to their faces.

They all played in and out of the house over the years, rough and loud sometime. Stefan, for instance, once took a hammer and a bag of nails and pounded them all into this playhouse; maybe he thought his father and grandfather had built a rickety unstable retreat. We didn’t.

One of Stefan’s siblings, bright Finnegan, suggested that all those nails might draw lightening our way. Stefan gave thought to that, and the next time I saw him with the hammer in his hand he was sitting on the ground breaking up a concrete block.  Why? Maybe he felt a need to create something: rubble, perhaps.

Lily (No. 3) favored sedate tea parties. I once saw her climbing into the house with both Stefan and Finnegan trailing behind her with crockery in their hands. Lily poured her tea, and peace reigned. She calmed the boys with her softness and her tea – for a while at least, until the boys’ friends showed up in the yard and they all began shooting one another. Together they had an arsenal that would have impressed Muammar el-Qaddafi.

They had pistols, machine guns, hand grenades to throw at each other, rubber knives, even scimitars, ancient weapons to stab and slash with long blades made of pure sponge. One day, while sitting on the porch of the main house, I kept hearing “Bang! Bang! Bang! You’re dead!” Over and over.

I’ve never felt comfortable having weapons around the house, so I never did. Even fake weapons such as ours. More than once I said to myself, “It’s not a gun. No, it’s not a gun; it’s a symbol of a gun. A toy. Harmless. Yes, right?” But occasionally I would shout at them: “Don’t shoot so loud,” I’d say. “You’re disturbing the peace!”

There came the moment when my mind took a turn in a different direction: I began to think the toys were not completely harmless; they were everywhere: floating through the Internet; on display in shops all around our town.

I looked in on Wikipedia and learned that in our country more people own firearms than those in any other country in the world. Also I learned that 40 percent of our nation’s households have guns in them, one or more. Comforting?

I’ve been in many countries as a travelling journalist. I’ve watched children playing on green fields and in dry rust-colored spaces in Asia, South America, the Middle East, Africa, and other places distant from here. But I have never seen them waving plastic guns that look very much like the real thing. More often than not, the noise, the joyous shouts and screams were made by kids chasing and kicking soccer balls.

One day, having heard “Bang! Bang! Bang! You’re dead!” too many times around my house, I decided to seize their arsenal. And, unfortunately, their pleasures. “No more guns around here, I declared.” And they disappeared, just like that. The next day I uncovered one or two of them, one that looked very much like an AK-47. They were stashed behind a tree. With great ostentation I threw them in the trash. And I discovered some more in the house outside, which encouraged me to tear it down. But no, the smaller ones, Finny and Lukey are still in and out of it.

Maybe I’ll give it another year or so.

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Royal baby due date is this week, says a family member. Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, after an official visit to Naomi House near Winchester, England, April 29. (AP Photo)

Royal baby in July? One royal says she knows royal baby due date

By Andrew AverillCorrespondent / 07.16.13

The royal baby due date has passed, but one royal recently hazarded an updated guess: The baby will be here by the end of the week.

Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, gave a spontaneous speech earlier today whiling touring Cornwall with Prince Charles

"We are all just waiting by the telephone," she said, according to news.com.au. "We are hopeful that by the end of the week he or she will be here."

Although no official due date was announced, it was largely expected that the baby would be born in mid-July and a number of media organizations pegged the 13th or 14th as the day. But firstborns tend to be born late – this seems like folklore, but there is actually data that backs it up.

A computer science professor in Massachusetts analyzed Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey data from 7,643 women and 9,148 births. He found, according to livescience.com, that firstborn babies were born late 15 to 16 percent of the time while second-born, third-born, etc., had a less than 10 percent chance of being born late. 

But due dates are not an exact science. They are a helpful prediction. A mother is not considered to be overdue unless she goes into labor two or more weeks past her due date. 

That leaves some wiggle room for the little heir or heiress. 

Astronaut Karen Nyberg made a video showing how she washes her hair in space. Here, she prepares the first step: squirting warm water from a bag onto her hair at the scalp-line. (Inside ISS screengrab)

Astronaut Karen Nyberg washing her hair: Who knew it could bring us together? (+video)

By Correspondent / 07.15.13

It's officially a thing now: Astronauts on the International Space Station posting videos and racking up huge YouTube audiences in the process. Chris Hadfied's cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity" is the reigning champ of the genre, but this week the spotlight shines on astronaut Karen Nyberg, who demonstrates how to wash your hair in space. It's a process that involves squirting water into your hair at the scalp-line and then essentially combing and rubbing it through to the ends, assisted by a towel. It sounds weird – and it is weird – but it's a surprisingly powerful piece of video.

The impact of the clip lies with how seemingly mundane the task is. Washing your hair is something so simple and so universal – but to see it transformed by a lack of gravity gets the imagination going. "What else is different in space...?" is a good starting point, and then you circle outward from there: "What would it be like to live in space all the time?" "Will humanity ever get to live in space, or on other planets? Or will we have to...?"

It's actually the everyday-ness of these videos – washing hair, playing the guitar, eating meals – that set the mind alight.

The importance of all this? That unless we want to go extinct with the sun (or far before that, depending upon the way we pollute and/or deplete our planet) our future lies in space. Space travel and colonization, despite how fantastical they sound, will in fact be something humanity will need to learn and master if it would like to stick around for more than another few thousand years. That message is easily lost, and that's the point – you can sell an existentially heavy message best by starting with something seemingly trivial.

That the trivial can be profound is of no surprise to anyone who has ever raised children. Daily experiences like sleeping, meals, and baths become fraught with (at least personal) significance. And as culture seems more and more caught up inside of its own head, sharing personal neuroses on Twitter and replacing face-to-face heart-to-hearts with Snapchat, it's nice to find the antidote: someone doing something ordinary, in a weightless environment, bringing us all a little closer together in the process.

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Kate Middleton is on the move. Keep up with her with our weekend roundup. Britain's Prince William stands next to his Kate Middleton as she leaves the King Edward VII hospital in central London in December. (AP Photo)

Kate Middleton on the move, but the baby's not here yet (+video)

By Andrew AverillCorrespondent / 07.15.13

Kate Middleton is on the move. 

The Duchess of Cambridge and the royal baby bump left Kensington Palace for her parent's house in Bucklebury, a city in the Berkshires an hour west of London, Us Weekly reports. The couple's residence in the palace's Nottingham Cottage, apparently, does not have air conditioning. 

England recorded its highest temperature this year two days ago – 89.4 F.  

"It was just too warm in Nott Cott," a source told Us Weekly, referring to the Nottingham Cottage within the palace where Kate Middleton was staying. Fact: The Nottingham Cottage is a temporary home for the couple while their four-story, 20-room home at the estate is under construction.  

For more royal baby facts, read our top 10 list about what could be the least traditional royal baby yet. 

E! Online laid out what they know about the yet uncompleted royal baby nursery: Middleton may have hired interior designer Kelly Hoppen, who has worked for celebrity couples like Victoria and David Beckham as well as the Queen mother herself. 

The nursery will be gender-neutral, E! says, painted not in the common blue or pink but in browns and shades of sage. 

For baby photos and portraits of modern monarchs, from the rolly polly Queen Victoria to the dad-in-waiting Prince William, see our royal baby photos and Prince William through the years posts.  

And finally, why is there all of this hullabaloo around the birth of a baby who, if he or she inherits the throne, will be a leader of the country in symbol only. Do monarchies still matter? See our post. 

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Tom Stocky's Facebook post about paternity leave left this blogger with the takeaway that dads are not heroic. They're just ordinary people doing what is expected of them. Here, Norm Morin lends his hat to his daughter as they play together on Father's Day, June 16, 2013, in Virginia. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

I'm a dad, not a hero: Thoughts on Tom Stocky's Facebook post

By Guest Blogger / 07.12.13

Tom Stocky, a Facebook executive, reflected on paternity leave and gender inequality in child-rearing in an essay on Facebook. More than 7,000 people have liked it. It seems that many more will like it before it runs its course – the essay raises a number of great points about work-life balance, the parent-child bond, and the relationship between work and family, popping the top off of an awful big can of philosophical worms in the process.

Reading his essay, it struck me that he'd posted it somewhere else, in an edited form, and I was half right: there's also a recent Slate essay entitled "I’m Not a Hero for Taking Care of My Kids." It's by a different author who nails many of the same points – all of which resonated for me, incidentally, as a freelancer dad who splits childcare with his self-employed wife. In short: dads taking care of kids is ordinary, not heroic, and it's important, and needs to be supported as a new status quo.

Although the publication date of these essays is coincidental, it's no surprise that the sentiment is being expressed right now. Questions about family structure, the male role in child-rearing, and workers' rights are all hot right now.

People are starting to ask whether it makes sense for the United States to be part of the Lesotho-Papua New Guinea-Swaziland Axis of No Mandated Paid Maternity Leave and to what extent paid paternity leave should enter the discussion, too. America's pro-capitalism (and "capitalism") bias has resulted in a culture of work where it's considered fortunate if we manage a couple weeks of paid leave each year, and support for childcare is a gift, not a right.

And people are starting to ask whether it makes sense that society's expectations label a mom delinquent if she works full-time, or label a guy  admirable for actively taking care of his kids.

Before having my son, I'd regard this whole discussion as overly abstract and/or implausible. But in the three short months since having Josiah, I've met a number of people who regard my contributions to my son's care as somehow wonderful or unusual. I've also encountered the flip side while hanging out with older men at family gatherings, where childcare (particularly infant care) is seen as the sole province of women. More than one older guy has told me, proudly, that they never changed a single diaper.

Speaking personally, I like changing diapers. Let me restate that: I take satisfaction in changing diapers. Since breastfeeding isn't an option, it's an aspect of childcare where my own limited talents can contribute, if not actually shine. I like the post-diaper smiles. And I like taking my son on walks, and being around to catch all those silly-but-significant little developmental milestones. But most of all, I like knowing that I'm participating actively in raising him – we've been having dude time together since he was born, something that I hope continues for the rest of my life.

I don't feel oppressed by contributing to my son's care, I feel blessed. Except when there's a diaper blowout. Then I don't feel blessed.

Humor wielded by a child can be hit or miss. Children may not understand the context behind why a joke in certain settings is funny and in others strictly taboo, or why a pie in the face is thrilling for some, middle, but not for all, left and right. Pie eating content, May. (AP)

My 5-year-old called a German boy "Hitler:" Teaching context and humor to kids

By Guest Blogger / 07.12.13

A few weeks ago my son Cai was playing soccer with another boy, who I'll call Peter. More than a year younger than Cai and considerably shorter, Peter turned out to have a ferocious competitive streak not yet tempered by the "winning doesn't matter" ethos. He was bossy and shouted frequently, and finally Cai shrugged his shoulders and said, "You just can't deal with these Hitler people."

If you haven't already figured it out, Peter is German, we're Jewish, and the boys are pre-school classmates at the Jerusalem American International School. My husband came home and described what happened to me when Cai was out of earshot.

"He didn't say that," I insisted. "He didn't."

"He did," my husband assured me, adding that Peter's father had been standing nearby and heard every word.

Webster's dictionary defines mortification as "a sense of humiliation and shame caused by something that wounds one's pride or self-respect," and that's a fairly accurate description of what I felt at that moment. Like most things that have nothing to do with me, I quickly made the incident about myself. 

"You can't make jokes about Hitler," I told Cai later that evening after I'd pulled myself together. "It makes people feel bad. Peter's father heard what you said and you might have hurt his feelings." 

"It's OK," Cai assured me. "Because it wasn't him. It was his ancestors." He waved his hand behind him extravagantly, as if to indicate that entire centuries separated Hitler and the present.
 
Amazing, I thought. Only 5, and he instinctively understood that "tragedy plus time equals comedy," a quote attributed to two American comedy greats, Carol Burnett and Woody Allen.
 
"You're right," I agreed. "If you made a joke about the Vikings to the Swedish kids in your school, that would be funny. But this isn't." 

I explained to Cai that the second world war ended less than 70 years ago. I told him that it's still a sensitive subject because a lot of bad things happened, and some Germans might still feel ashamed about it. And for good measure, I suggested that he also not make any Hitler jokes to Bubby and Saba, his grandparents.

Cai said he understood, stored the information somewhere in his 5-year-old consciousness, and then started talking about an episode of Phineas and Ferb.

After he went to sleep, I was left to wonder why I had felt such shame. I think it's because I blamed myself for Cai's ad hominem attack against Peter. I was raised in a home where the Holocaust was remembered, talked about, analyzed, personalized, and meditated upon more than any other topic. We boycotted German products, wouldn't dream of stepping foot on German soil, and just hearing someone speak German filled me with terror. I don't blame my family for this upbringing – my grandfather's entire family was killed in Auschwitz. But as a member of the third-generation, I believed that I was raising my son in a different environment, a more universal one, less about blame and recrimination and focus on the past, and more about love and acceptance and living in the present. But here was proof that my high-minded aspirations were all a sham.

"No," my husband assured me. "It's me. I make jokes about Hitler all the time."

In Britain, he explained, Hitler jokes are a national pastime. Placing two fingers above your lip to simulate a mustache, while raising your hand in 'heil' and simultaneously goose-stepping was just something that kids did for fun.

He's not making this up. When Germany hosted the World Cup in 2006, a British Football Association official had to warn fans traveling to see the matches that "doing mock Nazi salutes or fake impersonations of Hitler – that's actually against the law in Germany." John Cleese and Prince Harry are among the more famous Hitler and Nazi mockers.

In light of all the British levity around the subject, my husband speculated that perhaps he'd mentioned Hitler a few too many times around Cai without offering the proper context.

If he were older, I might try to explain to Cai that sometimes it is OK to joke about Hitler, like in the play and film "The Producers" by Mel Brooks. A Der Spiegel interviewer once asked Mel Brooks if he thought that a dancing and singing Hitler was "a bit tasteless." Mr, Brooks replied, "Of course. But it’s also funny, isn’t it?"

Cai, however, is still 5 years old. The subtleties of the proper context for Hitler jokes are still a bit beyond him. We've since apologized to Peter's father. We'll have to make a play date with Peter soon. I think we'll leave the soccer ball at home.

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High school juniors, members of a charity group of teens fighting the global sex trade of children, promote their cause at a screening of a film about sexual exploitation of girls in the US called "Very Young Girls" at Suffolk University Law School. File, 2008. (Melanie Stetson Freeman/The Christian Science Monitor)

Teen sexual harassment: What you can do about it in your daughter's school

By Guest Blogger / 07.11.13

“We learned pretty quickly to stay away from that particular stairwell.”

As we sat with a group of six female high school students from an affluent community, they shared their freshman year experiences with us: “Ten or so senior boys would line up at the stair balcony during class changes – calling girl’s names, trying to look down their shirts, and even spitting on some girls – which was disgusting.”

RECOMMENDED: Top 5 bullying myths

Although school administrators were aware of the problem and sometimes even went to the area where it occurred, nothing changed. “A teacher might just tell them to quiet down, but that was it.”

“It was scary and intimidating…. We just did our best to avoid going to classes that way.”

Some facts on sexual harassment

The research confirms what these young women told us during that recent What’s Your Brave interview circle. According to studies[i], sexual harassment is part of everyday life in middle and high schools and is experienced by almost half of students. (More girls than boys, but boys account for 40 percent of that number. Non-gender conforming adolescents are particularly vulnerable to harassment).

Examples of harassment include:

  • Verbal harassment (unwelcome sexual comments, jokes, or gestures) make up a majority of the incidents.
  • Physical harassment also happens regularly – touching girls’ breasts, a boy rubbing his penis against a girl’s buttocks, etc.
  • Hallway “gauntlets” similar to the one articulated above
  • Sexual harassment by text, e-mail, Facebook, or other electronic means such as using derogatory language to spread a sexual rumor about a girl.

Perhaps, like many of us, you think this is not something that would happen in your local school. Unfortunately, no particular demographic makes your school or town exempt. As just one example, the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center (BARCC) recently conducted surveys in a cross-section of schools including middle class, at-risk, affluent, and academically high-performing. All cities and towns reported similar incidents.

The Impact

This harmful environment takes a toll on girls – in particular – resulting in increased absenteeism, trouble sleeping, and decreased productivity and academic performance. As Melissa articulated, it also gives the girls a clear message that has a ripple effect on their lives in general: “There is no place for me. I have no say over my body. I do not have power over my life.”

As parents, it is hard not to feel helpless … or if we are honest, ready to take someone down, when reading these statistics and hearing first-hand accounts of the realities of daily school life for many young women. But before you get in your car to drive to your daughter’s school, take a breath, because there is some good news and you can help.

Change is Possible

That’s right. There is hope and a significant amount of it too. There are many experts and professionals working hard to change this culture. For example, Nan Stein, a well-regarded researcher in this area for preteens and teens, has developed programs that are proving to be effective in significantly decreasing sexual harassment and violence in our schools.

Building safety practices provide the biggest positive impact: temporary school-based stay-away orders, assignment of school faculty and safety personal to monitor unsafe areas, and the use of posters for education. In conjunction with building safety, a classroom curriculum adds to the reduction of sexual harassment and violence. Topics covered in the classroom emphasize consequences to the harasser, communicating boundaries, and the role of the bystander.[ii]

And most importantly, students have suggestions too – allowing them to anonymously report a problem was at the top of their list. Also high on teens’ lists are enforcing policies and punishing harassers.[iii]

What really struck us about these solutions is how much adults can impact the culture, and further how uncomplicated they are to implement and enforce.

Parents Need to Be Part of Solution

As parents, we can step up to create a tipping point. (A tipping point is the point at which the buildup of minor changes or incidents reaches a level that triggers a more significant change – the cultural shift on smoking in public is one good example.)

Isn’t it time to stop suggesting that our daughters find another hallway to get to class?

If you’re in, let’s get started. Take just a few minutes to complete one or both of the Take 5 actions below.

What you can do right now: Two practical take 5 actions

1. Observe your own attitudes and language about sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape. Think about your own attitudes about sexual harassment and violence. What messages are your actions and attitudes projecting to your daughter? Do you ever find yourself judging or criticizing women based on their appearance? Do you give the indirect or direct message that the survivor of sexual assault or harassment is wholly or partially to blame because of the way she was dressed, how she acted, where she was, etc.? Just asking a question about what a victim is wearing, for example, sends a blaming message.

2. E-mail or call your daughter's school and simply ask for a copy of their sexual harassment policy. If you have a student handbook, you may find it there. Being respectful, polite but direct will yield the best results. An initial e-mail can be as simple as:

I (we) have started to educate myself (ourselves) on sexual harassment and assault in middle and high school. I just read that research shows how a strong and well-enforced school policy on sexual harassment and violence can drastically reduce its occurrence. After seeing that, I realized that I should be more familiar with what our school's policy is in this area. Would you please send me or let me know where I can find our school's complete policy on sexual harassment and assault?

Thank you so much for your help on this matter and all that you do to support our children's wellbeing. 

Hint: Enlist a few other parents to join you if this feels intimidating. Knowing someone has your back is empowering. 

IMPORTANT NOTE: Please remember that this blog series is not meant to replace professional support for you or any individual. If you have any concerns whatsoever about your welfare and safety or that of anyone around you, please seek medical or other professional help immediately.

RECOMMENDED: Top 5 bullying myths

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. Paula Grieco blogs at What’s Your Brave .

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Two boys from the Cal Ripken Little League in Heritage Harbor, Fla., stand on the pitcher's mound before the start of an exhibition spring training baseball game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Baltimore Orioles, March 24, in Florida. (AP)

Youth sports pledge: Parents, stay in your seat, leave the ref alone

By Jeff ShafferGuest Blogger / 07.11.13

Here’s some parenting advice I honestly believe can’t be contradicted. It’s aimed at all moms and dads who are about to have their initial experience with youth sports.   

In many cases there will be a pre-season meeting to get everyone acquainted and go over practice schedules and other details. At this gathering there should also be a serious discussion about spectator conduct. You all need to be on the same page about what is, and is not, acceptable behavior. And then everyone should make a collective pledge. Raise your hands or take a voice vote but you must all vow to never, ever hassle any officials during a game.

Yes, this sounds like the oldest broken record in the world. News stories about parents behaving badly at Little League games were common when I was growing up in the 1960s. It’s a tradition nobody is proud to support that stubbornly defies it all efforts to quash it. But that doesn’t mean we should stop trying, and I think the best window of opportunity is when families take the first step into organized team competition.

The most important fact everyone has to accept is that the refs and umpires are in charge, period. Sometimes you won’t agree with their decisions, and sometimes they will make bad calls. It’s not a perfect world, right? Mistakes happen and they always will. Just keep in mind that when those moments of consternation occur, sarcastic wisecracks and rhetorical questions like, “What’s up with that?” aren’t going to improve the situation.  

A policy of "Respect the Ref" shouldn’t put a damper on parental enthusiasm or stifle competitive spirit. Cheer all you want, enjoy the excitement, but reject any impulse to go negative. The people who referee and umpire for youth leagues are performing a difficult task with minimal pay and hearing trash talk from the sidelines only makes the job more stressful.

The one area where parents do have a legitimate reason for questioning an official is safety. If you think the other team is playing too rough, or the field conditions are hazardous, whatever your concern may be it should be handled by the coach. Be sure to include a safety rundown at the initial team meeting. There are rules about many situations, such as how many batters a pitcher can hit in one inning before being removed. Everyone needs to be absolutely clear on these details before the season begins.

Do you agree with everything I’ve said up to now? It’s possible some people don't, and that’s why having a conversation about this subject is so important. The success of any policy depends on the temperament and personality of each participant, and I do appreciate the notion of, “I’m not going to just stand by and say nothing if I see something that’s not right.” But there are times when you simply must put that attitude on hold, and watching from the sidelines while your kids are on the field is one of those times.

During the past 30 years the concept of "polite society" has taken some big hits. Television has helped transform confrontation and outrageous behavior into popular entertainment. In the online world, insulting and abusive comments are spewed out by the minute. As a parent, taking a pledge of good conduct during youth sporting events is one way you can push back against these trends. Just say "no" to being snarky. While the kids are in action developing their athletic skills, all grownups in attendance have a great opportunity to practice their social skills.

Give it your best shot.

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Royal baby watch: From left to right, painter Kaya Mar poses with a painting of Kate Middleton; media pass the time across the street from St. Mary's Hospital; a fake Queen Elizabeth II stands with the odds for the name of the royal baby. July. (AP)

Royal baby watch: Related to Jay-Z and Beyonce's baby? Teetotaling gynecologist?

By Andrew AverillCorrespondent / 07.10.13

The royal baby watch is nearing the end, but the atmosphere around the hospital where Kate Middleton plans to give birth to her child is full of publicity hogs and rumor.  

A prankster posed as Queen Elizabeth July 3 and appeared alongside a fake British Guardsman in front of weary photographers who have been stationed outside St. Mary's Hospital in London for more than a week. The impostor was clearly not the Queen, but photographers snapped a few photos when the guardsman held up a sign displaying the betting odds for the royal baby's name. The pair was taken away by police.

A staffer from the British parenting magazine Mother & Baby pitched a one-person tent with an image of the British flag on top and handed out free copies of the publication on July 4. An artist posed with a painting of Kate Middleton on July 2 and of a naked President Barack Obama the next day, NBC News reported. 

For everyone seeking attention, some felt the media (at least 60 photographers were counted) should do something more productive with their time. An elderly woman screamed at a photographer, "Why don't you get a real ******* job?," according to NBC News. 

The royal gynecologist, Marcus Setchell, is rumored to be refusing alcohol for the entire month so he has not even a brief shake in his hands come game time, People reports.

Kate Middleton is apparently practicing yoga to help her deal with the final days of her pregnancy, the Daily Mail Online reported. 

And the most farfetched headline? The royal baby will reportedly be related to Beyonce and Jay-Z's daughter Blue Ivy. From The Mirror: "William and Kate’s first child will be the 23rd cousin twice-removed of Beyonce and Jay-Z’s baby, Blue Ivy, according to ancestry researchers.

Family tree website findmypast.co.uk also claims to have found distant links between the first-born of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and celebrity couples such as Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner, whose three children will be 11th cousins with the royal baby.

And the little prince or princess will be 27th cousins of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt’s six children."

Less farfetched, maybe surprisingly so, is that MTV's Jersey Shore starlet and new mom Snooki wrote an open letter to Kate Middleton with tips and encouragement: "I couldn't wait to wake up in the middle of the night to take care of my little prince Lorenzo.... But that lasts for about a few days. Then it's like, 'I love you, but OMG stop crying! I'm exhausted.' The lack of sleep you will get used to – just do your makeup, put a tiara on, and you'll look beautiful as usual.... Anyway, music calms them down. I'm pretty sure you can have anyone you want over to sing to your little one … maybe a lullaby from Elton John?"

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