Skip to: Content
Skip to: Site Navigation
Skip to: Search

Modern Parenthood

President Obama and Jay-Z share common interests: raising their daughters and fundraising for the president's reelection campaign. Jay-Z, right, speaking at a campaign rally for then-Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Obama in Miami, Nov. 2, 2008. (AP)

Obama and Jay-Z swap parenting advice

By Correspondent / 10.22.12

President Barack Obama isn't just talking about the economy and Libya these days, or even about the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. No, the leader of the free world, in a tight re-election battle, has another topic in mind – at least when he chats with his friend and supporter, rapper Jay-Z: Parenting.

RELATED: Are you a 'Helicopter Parent?' take our QUIZ!

And not just parenting, but parenting a baby. A girl baby.

If you recall, Jay-Z and his wife, pop star Beyonce, welcomed daughter Blue Ivy Carter this past January. (Other patients at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York certainly remember;  the celebrity couple reportedly paid well over $1 million to seal off a wing of the facility and hire a fleet of security guards, sparking annoyance among other families trying to visit their loved ones.)

Since then, Jay-Z has talked regularly about how head-over-heels he feels toward little Blue Ivy. Soon after her birth, he wrote the song "Glory," which featured her crying and landed on the Billboard Top R&B/Hip Hop songs chart, with lyrics like: "The most amazing feeling I feel/ Words can't describe what a feeling, for real/ Baby I'll paint the sky blue/ My greatest creation was you."

(The song also has the line: "You don't yet know what swag is but baby you was made in Paris," but whatever.)

Then Jay-Z made the modern daddy announcement that really what he wanted to do was to stay home from work for a little bit and just soak up his baby girl. The moms out there swooned.

Still, during a recent interview with Cleveland, Ohio radio station Z1079, Mr. Obama said that he had told Jay-Z to make sure that he was doing his part to be a hands-on dad.

"I made sure that Jay-Z was helping Beyonce out and not just leaving it all to mom and the mother-in-law," Obama said. This isn't because the Dad-in-Chief - father of Malia, 14, and Sasha, 11 - has any worries about Jay-Z. It's just what he talks about with his guy friends, he explained.

"I've gotten to know these guys over the past several years," Obama said about Jay-Z and Beyonce. "We talk about the same things I talk about with all my friends. We talk about kids, and they just had a new baby, they have a new daughter."

All politics aside, it's hard not to appreciate the father focus here. There has been so much rhetoric about moms this election, it's nice to hear about dads – even in a limited, celebrity-style way.

And really, regardless of your Romney-Obama preference, wouldn't it be cool to get some parenting tips from the Oval Office? I wonder what the prez would say about Baby M's sleep problems these days.

But in case you didn't feel a wee bit envious that these new parents get advice from POTUS, check out this other recent celebrity news about Beyonce and Jay-Z: They, apparently, have date night.

RELATED: Top 5 bullying myths - What you don't know about bullying

Now we're really jealous.

The annual Orionid meteor shower was visible starting Oct. 17, 2012 in streaking fireballs over the Montebello Open Space Preserve in Palo Alto, Calif. (Phil Terzian/AP)

Orionid meteor shower: Wake the kids, make a memory

By Guest blogger / 10.20.12

This weekend astronomers at NASA have promised Americans a rare glimpse of a heavenly event – the Orionid meteor shower – and with it, the opportunity for parents to join their children in a sense of wonder they may not have experienced since their own childhoods.

Some parents undoubtedly remember, as kids, waking up in the middle of the night, stepping outside into the forbidden dark, wrapped in robes and blankets for a once-in-a-lifetime view of Halley's Comet passing across the sky. That was 1986 and Halley's Comet won't be visible from earth again for 50 years.

QUIZ YOURSELF: Are you a helicopter parent?
However, this week, fragments of the famed comet have started to splash across the night sky. They started appearing on Oct.17, but are expected to peak tonight and early into Sunday morning dropping as many as 60 visible meteors an hour (visibility, of course, depends on weather).
For families, the shower brings a chance to break from routine and share a profound experience.

It does not matter if parents know that the shooting stars are chunks of frozen rock that originated somewhere past the distant star Betelgeuse as part of the annual phenomenon called the Orionids.

Kids always ask questions – that’s what children do. While adults frequently feel that they should be ready with answers, sometimes a simple "I don't know," can be just as instructional as a researched response.

The admission of ignorance from a respected adult can be liberating for children who spend a large portion of their day memorizing facts. Those three little words, "I don't know," are a reminder that the world as a whole is unknowable. While children easily learn to regurgitate facts that have been handed to them in neat little packages, true learning, and ultimately understanding, is a process that begins with inquiry.

Happenings in the night sky have piqued human curiosity for centuries, providing our ancestors with temporal scaffolding and a celestial backdrop for ritual and religion.

Today, however, in a world where it seems that the answer to everything lies at the end of a Google search, the heavens have receded into the distance. The pinpoints of light shed by stars pale in comparison with the lure of the glowing screens of televisions, laptops, and cell phones.

Tonight, parents have a chance to recapture their children's attention.

Because light from the moon makes it difficult to see the meteors, the best view will be after the moon sets around 11 p.m. EST; a time children rarely get to see. Waking them up in the middle of the night in and of itself creates a tone for the event, setting the stage for a magical moment that will probably last their lifetimes.

That moment, however brief, when parent and child gaze in awe as remnants of a distant world cross over into theirs, sharing gasps, locking astonished eyes, squeezing hands in exhilaration, that is the stuff that memories are made of.

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.

Read entire post | Comments

Binders full of ....appointees. This is the binder produced in 2002 by the Massachusetts Government Appointments Project, listing names of potential female candidates for high-level positions. During the second presidential debate former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, referred to the MassGAP notebook in saying that he was sent "binders full of women," a comment which touched off a wave of social media parodies. (Massachusetts Women's Political Caucus/AP)

Binders full of women: Inane office supply focus misses the point

By Correspdondent / 10.19.12

It’s not just Mitt Romney. I, too, have binders full of women.

OK, not binders. But lists, certainly. They are scattered on different word-processing documents and live in the far corners of my computer, generally connected with the strange variety of story topics I’ve covered over the past few years. They tend to include names and phone numbers and reasons why the women in question might be helpful for me to interview. And, for the most part, they remain out of sight, not even on my desktop.

Parenting-style quiz: Are you a helicopter parent?

But if I had a campaign staff – or, perhaps more accurately, the bipartisan Massachusetts Government Appointments Project (MassGAP), which actually did the hard work of putting together the now-famous Romney binders – you can be sure I’d have those lists in hard copy form. My binders would even be color coded. Container Store style. With a nice, pleasing Fall palate, of course.

Which makes me wonder: Do we have any info on whether Mr. Romney’s binders full of women looked like?  Maybe that could be the next hot campaign topic.

Because, if the past few weeks are any indication, when it comes to politics about women and kids – demographics both sides swear up and down are super duper important – the more inane the subject matter, the more buzz it gets.

The binders, of course, are the latest example. These notorious paper products (or were they plastic?) came up during the second presidential debate when presidential hopeful Romney answered (ish) a question about pay equity for women. He said that as governor of Massachusetts, he noticed that none of the applicants for his Cabinet were women, and that he asked women’s group to find qualified people. They, then, “brought us whole binders full of women,” Romney said.

(The way this actually went down is a bit contested, with some saying that the women’s groups – notably MassGAP – were the proactive ones in promoting gender equity in the State House.)

The Twitterverse responded immediately, with snarky comments and memes reminiscent only of... Big Bird. (Remember that Romney comment? The one about how he liked Big Bird but would still pull funding for public television? The spin after that was equally empty. Forget substantive talk about early childhood education or educational programming for underprivileged kids; let’s pit Big Bird against Oscar The Grouch.)

Democratic pundits are still criticizing Romney for the binders comment, with President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden taking their own shots on the campaign trail this week.

“We don’t have to collect a bunch of binders to find qualified, talented, driven young women,” Mr. Obama said.

“The idea that he had to go and ask where a qualified woman was, he should have just come to my house. He didn’t need a binder,” Mr. Biden said.

Of course, because this is politics, others have jumped in on defense.  The binders represent a concerted effort to find qualified female candidates, they say.  They show that Romney cares about women.

Meanwhile, others are wondering what it would be to work in a place where people bring you binders full of useful information, and maybe even a cup of coffee now and then.

But seriously, folks, this is silly. Political institutions, from the White House to your city council, have “binders” of some form or another on just about everything.  You could argue that if Romney hadn’t checked out a binder full of women then he wasn’t doing his job. (Whether the binders themselves led to equity is another issue – women’s groups have pointed out that the percentage of women serving under Romney dropped significantly throughout his time as governor.)

Rather than debate this – or Big Bird, or Michelle Obama’s and Ann Romney’s matching pink outfits, or even the extent to which Mitt Romney values a home-cooked meal – maybe we could have more public back and forth about the substantive policy questions related to women and families.

We’ve noted a few of these in past posts.  But to get your policy juices flowing, consider:

Access to sick days. At the moment, 80 percent of low-wage workers and 40 percent of private-sector workers do not have access to even a single earned sick day to take care of themselves or to care for a child, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Surveys have shown this to be a big deal for moms, who are often the ones who take the workplace hit when baby (or an older kid) needs care. But is this an issue for government to resolve?

Maternity leave.  Yes, we’re mentioning this again.  As we’ve noted, the U.S. is one of the few countries in the world in which the federal government neither provides nor mandates paid leave after a birth of a child. This is a clear economic issue: according to the U.S. Census Bureau, some 40 percent of new moms take unpaid maternity leave, and many take on new debt or otherwise struggle financially because of it. (A small Human Rights Watch survey in 2011 found that about two-thirds of parents who went on unpaid leave took on debt.)  There is some research that even connects women’s higher bankruptcy rate to maternity leave. Again, is this an issue for government to address? How?

Parenting style quiz: Are you a helicopter parent?

These are just a couple of the important topics, from pay to contraception, that should be at the forefront of the political debate this year. Binders? Not so much.

I suggest, in fact, that we simply leave them behind.

Unless, of course, someone wants to work on mine. 

Read entire post | Comments

Rescue dog Albie hangs out in the car – ready for the next adventure in his “dog’s life.” (Courtesy of the Zheutlin family)

Rescue Dog: Albie leads a “dog’s life” – in a good way

By Correspondent / 10.19.12

Albie, our rescue dog, and I have a favorite place to walk: a beautiful series of trails that run along the Charles River on land owned by the Massachusetts Horticulture Society called Elm Bank. 

RELATED: Top 5 bullying myths - What you don't know about bullying

Now, in autumn, the trails are covered in soft yellowish pine needles and the woods are laced with red, gold, and orange leaves. When the sun filters through the trees, and you see them doubled by their reflection in the water, you feel as though you’ve landed in an impressionist landscape rendered by Monet, or in Winnie the Pooh’s Hundred Acre Wood, though I’m not sure Albie fully appreciates nature’s handiwork unless it comes in the form of a small critter he can chase over fallen trees, under bushes and along the river banks.

Albie can go off-leash at Elm Bank (well, technically no, but the rules are flouted by almost everyone with a dog and it’s a popular spot for dog owners and their charges). And once he’s released, all bets are off.

I haven’t seen this kind of irrational exuberance since Alan Greenspan warned that the stock market was getting frothy at around 6,000 on the Dow. He runs with complete abandon; the image of pure, unbridled joy.

When I lose sight of him I worry, but he never fails to return, though he often emerges from the woods from an entirely different location than I expect given his most recently observed trajectory.

He’s also indiscriminate in choosing his spots when he decides to plunge into the river for a drink. He still shows no signs of being able to swim, but he often emerges from some mucky pool covered in mud to his haunches.

From a distance he looks like a yellow lab on top and a black lab below. Then the challenge is to lure him back into a cleaner, free running spot in the river where he can return to his original color before hopping onto the beige leather back seat of my car. 

If I’d known I’d soon have a dog I’m not sure I’d have bought a Volvo with beige leather seats; I probably would have gone with a more rustic vehicle I could have ordered from the Eddie Bauer catalogue.

I think one of the things people love about their dogs is the perspective we get on our own troubles and travails from being with them. A dog’s life seems relatively simple, their needs few, and their joy, when those needs are being met, complete.

RELATED: Are you a 'Helicopter Parent?' take our QUIZ!

The expression, “it’s a dog’s life,” seems at odds with Albie’s reality. But Albie is one of the lucky ones. In the short time he’s been with us we’ve met dozens of rescue dogs – all from the south – and for each one of them now living in comfort and with love, there are dozens if not hundreds more languishing in kill shelters or fending for themselves on city streets or in the wild. For them, “a dog’s life” is no picnic.

For us, Albie is the gift that keeps on giving: every day we derive enormous pleasure from his presence in our family. We give him a lot of love, but he’s given back as much as he’s received and then some.

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.

Read entire post | Comments

A new bullying study suggests 80 percent of American high school students see cases of bullying each week, adding to the anti-bullying movement momentum. Vicki Carlson, owner of Ink & Thread, shows an anti-bully t-shirt she designed to sell in West Branch, Mich., Sept. 27, 2012. (Detroit Free Press/AP)

Bully study hype? Do 80% in high school really see bullying weekly?

By Correspondent / 10.18.12

There’s a new study out today about bullying in American high schools, and at first glance, the numbers from this one are shocking:

Scouring data from more than 50,000 teens across the country, researchers with, a social action organization for young people, found that more than 80 percent of American high school students see bullying every week. Only a tiny percentage – three percent – said that bullying at their school was “not an issue at all,” and fully half of teens said they rarely or never see their peers intervene. (This despite almost everyone saying that the best way to combat bullying is to have other students, rather than teachers or parents, intervene.)

Also, contrary research by the Pew Internet and American Life Project and other cyberbullying studies, the survey found that the most commonly reported location of frequent bullying was online: more than two out of three students reported frequent online bullying. (In contrast, 67 percent of teens in Pew research reported that bullying and harassment happens more offline.)

All in all, it is a grim look at the state of teenage life in our country’s high schools.

But before the hand-wringing gets too intense, let’s take a closer look at “The Bully Report.” Because as we have written here before, there is a lot of hype surrounding the growing anti-bullying movement, and it’s all too easy to get wrapped up in sound bites.

First of all, not even the study authors are suggesting that the data garnered from this massive survey is scientific. The numbers come from a Facebook app that launched in partnership with the movie "Bully" – a film that has received its own share of controversy for what some advocates say is a simplistic, and even reactionary, way of portraying a complicated topic.  (Take a look at some of our earlier posts about the ambiguities of the growing anti-bullying trend.) designed the Bully App to be active for eight weeks, with hopes that 15,000 people would take part. More than 21,000 people installed the application and graded their schools within the first 10 days. The organization decided to let the data keep coming in, and within five months, 183,525 people had used the app to report on their experiences and perceptions with bullying.

So right away, the researchers knew that they were dealing with students who were not simply online, but students who had Facebook pages.  (And there has been research showing that teens who spend a lot of time on social media sites are more likely to encounter online bullying.) 

Eventually, researchers cut the responses they would evaluate by half, after eliminating college students and adults reporting retroactively on their experiences, and by cross checking Facebook identifications with the responses users gave about their schools, ages, and so on.

Still, “the content of the Bully App was casual by design – prompts within the app were chatty and at times leading – and all the participants self-selected to take part,” the report states. But due to the large volume of data captured, it continues, and because it correlates with findings from other more scientific studies, the survey is still valid.

And that may be.  But even so, the student answers to many of the questions don’t paint quite as dire a situation as the soundbites about the survey suggest.

That whole issue about nobody intervening? There’s another question in the survey that asks “When you have seen people intervene in bullying at your school, who usually steps up?” Only 9 percent of male students and 10 percent of female students answered “no one.”

And to the question of “Do you think bullying is a problem in your school?”, while only two or three percent of respondents answer “No way. Not an issue at all,” 54 percent answered either “Not really, it doesn’t cause problems for us” or “I don’t know if I’d say ‘terrible,’ but it happens.”

Now this isn’t to suggest either that the study should be discounted – it shouldn’t – or to say that it paints a rosy picture of harmony and kindness at high schools across the United States. It doesn’t. The survey is massive, and the fact that more than 180,000 people were compelled to share their own experiences about bullying on Facebook may say as much as their answers.

But with the amazing amount of attention these days to bullying and anti-bullying initiatives, it is important to parse studies and initiatives carefully. The risk, of course, is that shocking soundbites and potentially inflated numbers lead us astray from finding fixes to the sort of bullying that is very real, and emotionally and physically traumatic. 

At the end of the report, researchers write that “immediate steps should be taken by school officials to address bullying in their schools.” But this is the big question for school administrators and parents: What, exactly, can they do? 

Despite the growing number of anti-bullying laws and increased pressure on schools to have anti-bullying policies, much research has found that most institution-designed interventions are not particularly helpful, and sometimes even counter productive.

It is tricky even defining bullying.  The survey is a case in point. The Bully App described bullying to users as “a repeated, awful action that makes someone feel bad about themselves. It takes on many forms – like nasty texts, physical harassment, insults, even dirty looks.”

This description might be narrow enough to exclude television anchor Jennifer Livingston as a bullying victim. (Check out our story on that bully breakdown.)  But it is far broader than most academic-based definitions of bullying, which include the crucial component of a power imbalance between victim and perpetrator.

RELATED: Test yourself on the top 5 bullying myths

Bullying is, clearly, a problem. Research on top of research has shown all sorts of long term negative results from this sort of meanness between children. But as any school administrator knows, it’s a tall order to determine which behavior is “awful,” or to stop “dirty looks” that make someone feel bad. 

Bullying, it turns out, is just not as simple as it seems. Even on a Facebook app.

Read entire post | Comments

A new study in the journal "Pediatrics" found that even a half-hour of extra sleep shows a positive difference in kids' behavior that teachers can actually detect. (Photo illustration/Staff)

Kids need sleep: Study shows the difference a half-hour makes

By Correspondent / 10.18.12

A little bit of sleep goes a long way. 

That’s the message from a new study published this week in the journal “Pediatrics,” in which researchers found that even a small increase or decrease in shut-eye can have a major impact on the behavior of otherwise healthy children in elementary school. 

RELATED: 5 top childcare options  value and cost from nanny to day care

In this study, 34 children ages 7 to 11 were divided into two groups: one whose parents put them to bed an hour later than normal, the other whose parents turned off the lights an hour earlier. The researchers monitored the children’s sleep, to make sure they were actually snoozing because of the early bedtimes. Then, the students’ teachers – who did not know whether their pupils were getting more or less sleep – evaluated the children’s behavior over the course of a week.

The results were clear: A cumulative extension of sleep duration of about 27 minutes meant detectable improvement in behavior, while a cumulative restriction of sleep of about 54 minutes led to a deterioration in children’s restless-impulsive behavior and general emotional wellbeing, as determined by their teachers.

Simply put, the kids who slept less were grumpy. 

(I’m sympathetic.)

This is not the first study to show the importance of sleep for children. A study of high school students in the 1990s, for instance, showed that those teens who slept an average of 25 more minutes a night got better grades than their night owl peers. 

But what’s telling about this new research is the short amount of time – only five days – that it took for teachers to notice a significant difference in children’s behavior. Additionally, the child participants in the study did not have any prior sleep problems, and regularly slept at least 8.5 to 9.5 hours a night. 

It doesn’t take much, the data shows, for sleep – or lack thereof – to have an impact.

“Given the positive impact of moderate sleep extension and the negative impact of moderate sleep restriction, it is important that parents, educators and student are provided with sleep education featuring data on the critical impact of sleep on daytime function,” the researchers wrote. “Sleep must be prioritized, and sleep problems must be eliminated.”

Easier said than done, some parents say. Sleep is one of the major battle grounds for parents and their kids; check out our earlier post about new research on the controversial "cry it out" method. 

The Maine earthquake on Oct. 16, 2012, rattled our mom blogger into some preparedness. While she's not going as far as these Tokyo first graders, shown here in a 1999 file photo, she is definitely getting some extra diapers and a working flashlight. (AP/File)

Maine earthquake rattles mom into preparedness (sort of).

By / 10.17.12

Here in my new home state of Massachusetts we don’t usually have to worry about earthquakesDrivers, yes. Snow, definitely. But ground tremors that shake the house and send pictures rattling off the wall?  Not so much.

So last night, as I sat in my home office and wondered whether a helicopter was actually about to land on our house, and then whether it was possible that a rare earthquake was hitting New England (yup), I had a revelation:

I had carefully put those little plastic thingies into all of our electrical outlets, I had cleared the living room of sharp corners and tippable furniture, I had even installed a dubious plastic strip that is supposed to keep our oven closed to little prying toddler fingers. But I was totally, completely, unprepared for taking care of our family in a natural disaster.  I actually had to do visualization exercises to figure out whether something heavy could fall on my daughter in her crib. 

(Nope. Point 1 for Mommy! I thought. Until I read on some earthquake preparedness websites that cribs should not be placed near a window where children can be hurt by broken glass. Sigh.) 

So bring on the parental guilt.  And, once again, the feeling of panic that, despite regular admonitions from the Red Cross, the Centers for Disease Control, the National Center for Disaster Preparedness – even the ASPCA, for goodness sake – we have no Plan. Not even a working flashlight.

Sure, last night’s quake, which the U.S. Geological Survey says was centered in Lake Arrowhead, Maine and measured in at a 4.0 magnitude, might have seemed like child’s play to those tectonic veterans over on the West Coast. And the fact that it was one of the biggest quakes here in decades might make you think that I could relax in my preparedness slackerdom.

But no. Check out this info from the Geological Survey’s website: 

“Earthquakes pose significant risk to 75 million Americans in 39 states,” it reads. Significant risk! A phrase to get the helicopter parent in all of us churning.

And sure enough, go to the USGS's earthquake list and you see that earthquakes are happening everywhere all the time. (That’s a little exaggeration, but not much of one. Seriously, there have been more than a dozen this morning already, in Alaska, Oklahoma, Texas, not to mention the Dominican Republic and Japan.)

And this from the Northeast States Emergency Consortium:

“Believe it or not, the Northeast US is earthquake country!” it reads. And then it talks about the Pilgrims, because that’s what people here do. (They apparently felt their first earthquake in 1638.) It also describes “big ones” that have occurred in this part of the country over the past few centuries, and how one might happen again.

Now, this isn’t because there is a major fault line waiting San Andreas-style to send buildings crumbling. Seismologists say they don’t exactly know the cause and mechanisms of earthquakes in New England. The plate tectonic explanation applies to California, but not here, where we live on the middle of a plate. The geology, actually, is totally fascinating, and if I were on my game it would be an awesome teachable moment.

But I’m the mom who doesn’t have working batteries, remember? So first things first.

I checked out the tips from, which even if you do not live in earthquake territory has a list of potential disasters (from wildfires to “space weather”) that will freak out any nervousness-inclined parent:

First, it suggests you prepare your home for a possible earthquake.  You know all those heavy items you’ve been meaning to bracket to the wall? Time to do it.  Repair deep cracks in your foundation and ceilings. Make sure the water heater, refrigerator and furnace are strapped to wall studs and bolted to the floor.  Locate safe spots in each room under a sturdy table or against an inside wall. And my personal favorite: “Be sure the residence is firmly anchored to its foundation.”  Gotcha.

During an earthquake, it says, drop to the ground, cover by getting under something sturdy, and hold on until the shaking stops. Stay away from glass, windows, and outside doors and walls.  Don’t go outside until the shaking stops – research shows that most injuries occur when people inside buildings attempt to move to a different location.

There’s more, but ... whoa. 

I live in New England. This is way over my head.  And freaky.

RELATED: Are you a helicopter parent? Take our quiz!

I decided that I’d start at a more basic level: the emergency preparedness earthquake kit.  This, according to disaster organization websites, should at minimum include a few days' worth of food and water for each family member (dog and cat included), a first aid kit, and some diapers. And yes, a flashlight with working batteries.

Consider it on my to-do list. This, at least, could work with snow storms, too.

Baby Jessica rescue: Was it the birth of helicopter parenting? (+video)

By Lisa SuhayCorrespondent / 10.17.12

When the little girl known as Baby Jessica was pulled from a Texas well 25 years ago, covered in mud and blood, we should well have marked the date not only for celebration but perhaps as the birth date of the helicopter parent. I realized today that it was one of the memory keys that has influenced my parenting.

RELATED: Are you a helicopter parent? Take our quiz!

The event was one that united the nation as people of all ages, whole families pressed each other for news of Jessica McClure, 18 months, as hundreds of rescuers worked around the clock for almost 59  hours during the national ordeal.

According to the Associated Press, Jessica fell into the well at 9:30 a.m. on a Wednesday while playing with two other children in the backyard of the McClures' Midland, Tex.  home.

I remember the workers digging the parallel shaft and flying in oil drilling heavy equipment to try and get her out. I remember them singing to her down that dark shaft and telling her stories and nursery rhymes. I recall some fool college student making the lame and inappropriate joke, “Hope they’re not reading Alice in Wonderland!” as the other students all crowded around the TV in the college newspaper office where I was a news editor.

We learned that when the little one fell, her right leg became wedged alongside her body in the tight space, pushing her foot next to her head.

The details poured out of the television set and I, a journalism major a year from being wed, drank them in and filled my parental reservoir of “What not to do.”

I can trace back every time I checked the yards and parks where my sons visited or played, like some kind of hovering home inspector. I learned, as did everyone who watched and later became a parent, that you can let your imagination get carried away about the dangers, terrors, tragedies, that might be right in your own backyard.

If, heaven forbid a million times, a similar situation were to happen today, there would be a lot more harsh judgement for the mom than there was back during Jessica's saga. Helicopter parents, today would look at each other and say, “Who doesn’t know to check their yard for holes?”

RELATED: Are you a helicopter parent? Take our quiz!

Parenting pre-Baby Jessica took a lot less helicopter fuel, but for those of us who have learned to balance the borrowed fear from Mrs. McClure to become more vigilant parents, there is cause to remember her sad fall and exhilarating rescue.

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.

Read entire post | Comments

Montana hikers were found safe Monday in Glacier National Park, shown here in a photo from Oct. 7, 2012. A mom back in the hikers' home state, Virginia, learned hiking Rule 1 while they were missing and her son went astray: Stay put and wait for help when you get lost. (AP)

Montana hikers found as one mom and son learn hiking Rule 1 (+video)

By Lisa SuhayCorrespondent / 10.17.12

On Sunday, Quin, eight, ran ahead on a state park trail and wasn’t at the end waiting for us when we arrived and thoughts of the two adult hikers, from Virginia, lost in a Montana's Glacier National Park sprang to mind. In the 90-minutes it took to find our son, I repeatedly wished we’d taken precautions beyond bug spray and a restroom break, before we embarked on the trip. We'd taught him self-reliance, but learned later we should have taught him enough faith in us to stay put and wait to be found.

RELATED: Are you a helicopter parent? Take our quiz!

Come Monday, the parents of Neal Peckens, 32, Herndon, Va., and Jason Hiser, of Richmond, Va., who had been missing for more than three days in Glacier, were reunited with their families. I thought about the moms waiting at the airport to greet their adult children and wondered if they too had spent time regretting not having taught them more.

We went to the Sandy Run Regional Park at Lake Occoquan in Lorton, Va. to root for our eldest son as he rowed for Virginia Commonwealth University, in the Occoquan Chase event. The trail seemed so simple, to an adult, that when my husband and I headed for the outdoor stadium, and I had fell behind, my husband stopped to wait for me. He told Quinny to go on ahead to the outdoor stadium ahead.

Later, there would be much discussion on this point of order. Moms hold on and dads push little boys to greater deeds, but this was the wrong time and place to do the latter.

The trail would split ahead and Quin had never been told to follow the water and so he followed his spirit of adventure instead. He’s a little boy and a trail that goes steeply up is more fun than a flat trail ahead because it means that later you can zoom down a big “mountain.” Kid logic often trumps parent logic by a country mile and about 90-minutes. It takes no time for a child to get lost in the woods, but every minute the child is missing feels like a lifetime.

We hadn’t thought to do any of the things I would later learn from Kathy Kupper, a spokesperson for the National Parks Service in Washington, D.C. are mission-critical for families heading into any regional, state, or national park.

“Before you arrive at the park give young child a whistle to wear around the neck, make sure they have a granola bar and a little bottle of water in their pockets,” she told me. “Drum it into them that Rule 1 is: stop and wait to be found.” This, she emphasized, goes for adults too.

“The moment you realize you’ve gone wrong and might be lost, sit down on the spot and wait,” she said. “Don’t go on getting more lost and don’t try and retrace. Just stay put.”

Only in cases where you are lost deep in the woods with no trail should you try to follow water to civilization. That’s extreme lost for hikers vs. lost kid on a maze of trails.

The battle parents face is that this thinking flies in the face of all things kid. When you’re afraid, you want to get to help faster. “Wait” is to a lost 8-year-old, as “don’t panic” is to a parent who has just absorbed the reality that the child is not appearing as time evaporates.

Ms. Kupper warned, “I don’t like to scare people, but when a child is lost they start running and it’s just too easy to slip and become fatally injured by falling down steep inclines or into water.”

So we must impress upon those we love that they have to have faith and trust.

“You have to let people find you,” Kupper said. “You have to trust the seekers. Rangers will find you faster and easier if you stay put.”

She added that one of the things that can work against children who have been taught about stranger danger is to ask a passing adult for help. Our son actually ran across an adult who asked, “Are you all alone here?” Quin, fearing telling a stranger he was alone and vulnerable, said, “My Papa’s right down the trail there.”

Fortunately, this was one of the times his having Autism Spectrum Aspergers Syndrome may have played a small role in helping him get found because he went into logic mode instead of panicking and getting off the trail. Having a very good memory, he carefully retraced his steps, counting turns, ups and downs until he got far enough back that he met my haggard husband on the trail. However, as we all know now, had he stayed in one spot and waited, the find would have been much faster.

No matter what age our children are when they go missing we, as parents, feel we should have done more, been better to prevent it. In this case at least there is a bit more nagging we can do to help.

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.

Read entire post | Comments

Social media profiles have kids managing their own public personas. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg talks about the social network site's new privacy settings in Palo Alto, Calif, May, 26, 2010. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

Social media kids: 'Perfect profile' may help with college

By Guest Blogger / 10.16.12

High school students are displaying serious online spin control skills in their college quests. It’s more like “public image management” than the reputation management so often referred to in online-safety discussions. In an interview for, a high school teacher in Reno, Nev., called it “admissions jiu jitsu,” referring to his students’ workarounds for college and university admissions offices’ growing scrutiny of students’ social media profiles.

RELATED: Top 5 bullying myths - What you don't know about bullying

Though this is getting more and more parental and political attention, it isn’t new. I first wrote about the fictionalizing of social network profiles back in mid-2008, picking up on a paper by UK researcher and psychology professor Sonia Livingstone, who noticed that in many cases what’s seen in a profile is more a “placeholder” in a string of interaction between members of a peer network than a self-portrait or act of self-disclosure. The ReadWriteWeb piece (or its source) suggests that profile embellishing is a kind of deception, as in gaming a system in which adults are “digging for dirt” in what students see as their personal lives. Deception could certainly be the aim in some cases, but – as Dr. Livingstone shows – that view comes from the self-portrait perspective (that many adults have), the belief that a social network profile is just self-presentation. It doesn’t factor in other key properties of social media – the very individual, contextual, and dynamic nature of using it (expressed in Livingstone’s placeholder observation) – which point to a whole spectrum of intention and non-intention.

Array of image-management tactics

Beyond embellishment, a number of other image-management tactics have emerged. One is having another profile altogether – the “ideal-self profile.” Others include hiding one’s profile behind an alias or “amping up privacy settings,” as ReadWriteWeb put it. Some students deactivate their accounts for a while – leaving all their data and contacts intact but just unfindable for that period of time (which we’re now seeing can also raise suspicion about what they might be hiding). Social media researcher danah boyd described another, extremely short-term deactivation tactic that wasn’t aimed at college admission at all, but rather control (not just of privacy): A student would deactivate her Facebook account every time she logged off, so that “no one [could] post messages on her wall or send her messages privately or browse her content,” danah wrote in 2010.

Expert views cited by don’t discourage such workarounds. “College applicants shouldn’t shut down their various social media accounts.” What they should do is “heavily edit their online comments, photos, and videos.” The article pointed to fresh data on admissions practices, showing that “the percentage of applications that had been negatively affected by social media searches had nearly tripled, from 12% in 2010 to 35% in 2011.”

Have a presence in social media

Note the point about not shutting down social media. ReadWriteWeb heard the same thing from its sources: “Facebook is still popular enough that a college admissions official will raise a red flag if a kid claims he or she isn’t on Facebook.” Not using social media isn’t something to be (or act) proud of, where admissions and scholarships are concerned.

And scholarship providers are checking profiles too. A survey of members of the National Scholarship Providers Association found that one-quarter had “searched Google and social media sites such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and LinkedIn for information about applicants [though usually only on finalists],” one-third “denied a scholarship to a student based on their findings,” and one-quarter of the scholarship providers doing those searches “gave a scholarship based on information gleaned online,” reports.

RELATED: Are you a 'Helicopter Parent?' take our QUIZ!

Seeking positive more than negative

The positive part of that was seen by Bridgewater State University psychology professor Elizabeth Englander too, when she looked into admissions offices’ approaches. She found that, “although college admissions officers did say they looked applicants up online, they said they were generally looking for positive things about the kids [emphasis hers], and that that’s what they usually found,” she wrote in an email. “The negative problems that they really reacted to were the more extreme problems – evidence of serious substance abuse, or having joined a hate group, or posting videos of themselves engaging in crimes or violence.”

Related links

  • Weekly review of global news and ideas
  • Balanced, insightful and trustworthy
  • Subscribe in print or digital

Special Offer

Become a fan! Follow us! Google+ YouTube See our feeds!