Monday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

I couldn’t stop thinking about Whitney Houston’s death this weekend. As I mentioned yesterday, I loved her songs since I was a kid. Here is a couple new developments surrounding her death, according to the New York Daily News: it appears that she drowned in her bathtub in a drug-induced haze. Also, her daughter Bobbi Christina was rushed to the hospital after learning of her mother’s death. What a sad story all around.  

In non-Whitney news: Mitt Romney won the Maine Republican caucuses, and once again, failed to garner even half of the votes, according to the Washington Post.

Washington state legalized gay marriage. I was especially moved by this Republican legislator’s testimony.

As I have mentioned here before, one of my concerns of running outdoors by the freeway is inhaling too much air pollution. In a timely article, Moms Clean Air Force had a guest post with advice on how to avoid high levels of air pollution while running outside.

In “water is wet” news: here is yet another article on how spanking increases aggression in children.

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


Wednesday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

There are nurse-ins scheduled at more than 100 Target stores covering 35 states at 10 a.m. local time today. After a Houston-area woman was told by workers at a Target store to stop nursing, 4,500 moms got together over Facebook to coordinate the nurse-ins. For more information, check out the Best for Babes website.

The Boston Globe republished a column from 2007 on how to have the strategies of a preschool teacher to deal with your preschooler. I am glad the newspaper republished the column, I did read it and have been using some of the strategies, like making more eye contact with Eli and giving her more time as opposed to rushing her. For example, I liked the tip of telling a child, “You have time to see one more TV show,” as opposed to, “You have 15 minutes.” It seems minor, but I can see where that can make a big difference. What other tips would you add to this list?

Another column I read was at Parents magazine: “Four Ways To Discipline Ungrateful Children.” This came up a lot on Christmas Day when I heard a couple children — not just in our family — complain about not “getting anymore gifts.” I can say that this is not an issue with Ari, who saw children his age sell candy in the street in Honduras. He knows better than to complain about not getting enough stuff. But our preschooler and other kids we encounter? Yes, I read this column, too. How do you instill gratitude in your children?

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


What Do You Say to “Busy Bodies”?

This recent letter in Emily Yoffe’s aka “Dear Prudence’s” column struck a nerve with me.

One of the shocking things I learned when I became a parent is how judgmental and unhelpful onlookers could be. I’ve been lectured, for among other things, letting my baby cry. (I forgot his pacifier.) One mom at the YMCA accused me of “torturing” my daughter by pulling her hair while I washed it. Now that was one ugly, ghetto fight.

At least a few times, strangers told me I was letting my kids wander too far. I felt for this mother:

My two year old has started throwing tantrums. She drops on the floor and flaps her arms and legs wildly and screams at the top of her lungs. On the advice of my wise MIL I respond with “okay Bella mommy is going to go now, bye” then take a few steps away and pretend to be busy with something else. After a short period of wailing she will begin to calm down, pick herself up, and toddle over to where I am with a reconcilatory hug. I find this approach works beautifully, as her screaming usually escalates if I try to force her to stop. My problem is that when her tantrums happen out in public, some onlookers glare at me and even criticize me openly for either failing to discipline a naughty, screaming child or neglecting a toddler who’s distressed. One elderly woman was horrified when I pretended to walk away, thinking I was actually going to abandon my child in the middle of the supermarket. How do I respond to such nosy adults? Signed Good mom.

Oh yeah. I’ve done the “I’m leaving now” schtick to get my kids to calm down. Thankfully, no one has lectured me on that. Here is what Prudie had to say to “Good mom”:

“I’ve found the less attention she gets, the faster this will be over.” And how wonderful to hear someone say that her mother-in-law is wise and gives helpful advice!

That’s a good response. I will have to tuck that one away. Don’t get me wrong. I love it when strangers come up to us and offer help during a trying situation. But lecture me? Mind. Your. Own. Business.

Have you been lectured by strangers? What did you say?


No Tolerance for ‘Zero Tolerance’

Newsweek had a disturbing short article about the fallout of “zero tolerance” polices in public schools.

As it turns out, the courts are not the best place to discipline children. (Duh!)

The failure of this idea is clear in New York, where zero-tolerance policies have lead to arrests for gun possession on school grounds, but also for relatively minor offenses like shoving. Even nonviolent incidents—doodling, throwing food, back-talking—have landed kids in court, where last year New York sent more than 1,400 minors (average age: less than 16) to correctional facilities. According to a series of recent reports—by the Justice Department and the state Office of Children and Family Services—the institutions don’t help. Nearly nine of 10 occupants commit additional crimes. It’s a “school-to-prison pipeline,“ says Judith S. Kaye, the state’s former chief judge.

She hopes the negative publicity will provide a push toward alternative modes of justice (like youth courts, where peers hear the cases of peers), more civics classes (where kids learn the virtues of sociability), and level-headed adjudication—where detention doesn’t always involve a cell.


A Different Generation

I jumped on the Mad Men bandwagon a little later than everyone else. After reading such great reviews and speaking to a lot of my friends that were big fans, I had to tune in for myself.

The show did not disappoint. I am amazed at how different life was just a few short decades ago. The racism. The sexism. The discrimination. It’s hard to wrap my head around the fact that this was how people lived less than 50 years ago. And yet, a lot of it was uncomfortably familiar. Too familiar.

I am from the generation of children that was “seen and not heard.” We “didn’t speak unless we were spoken to,” and were more of a possession than an individual. Our opinions didn’t matter, and more often than not, we were sent out of the room so that the adults can talk. The mothers were always “numb” with either alcohol or some form of prescribed sedative, such as Valium, and the fathers were never home because they commutted to work and left before you woke up and got home after you went to bed. It’s a wonder families managed to stay together!

When I was a kid, I hated not knowing what was going on and promised myself that I would treat my children differently. I would get to know them and their budding personalities as they were forming. I am constantly working to assure that my children know that their opinions matter. That they matter. If they have questions about anything, no matter how uncomfortable it might be, I want them to know that they can come to me for the answer. I want them to know and to believe that they are the most important people in my life. I want them to feel validated.  

What about you? How does the way you were raised compare with the way you are raising your children? What do you remember about your parent’s generation? How does it differ from our generation?

Mad Men is like an onion and I can’t wait to get to the next layer! Season four is scheduled to premier on July 25th, and I for one can’t wait. Will you tune in?


Late-Night Liberty: “Because I Said So” Edition

Here is a page from the obvious file. Eight out of 10 of today’s mothers admit that they use the same cliches as their own parents to discipline their children, according to a study covered by the UK’s Daily Mail.

Top of the list of phrases they used was the simple, yet infuriatingly effective response to a child asking why they have to do something: ‘Because I said so.’

It was followed by the answer most often used to deal with impatient children pestering to find out when something will happen: ‘Wait and see.’

And in third place was that other favourite that stops most children in their tracks: ‘If someone asked you to jump off a cliff, would you do it?’

To poor Ari’s chagrin, the cliche I have often resorted to is No. 15 on the list: “Back in my day…”

Most recently for Thanksgiving, Ari asked to fly rather than drive to Orange County. “When I was little, Abuelo and Abuela would pack all six of us in a station wagon and we had to drive for two days from Miami to Pennsylvania!” I let loose. “There was no money for plane tickets.”

What I forgot to add is we didn’t have TV in the car or portable video games to keep us busy either. J/K! I will definitely keep this story in mind next time I get on my childhood soapbox like my parents did with us.

What cliches from your parents do you find yourself repeating?


Vindictive behavior – WWMTD?

I am at wits end trying to come up with a way to curb DS2’s vindictive streak.  If he gets hit, poked, nudged, anything, he has to give it back at least equally if not double.  His brother is the favored target, of course, but anyone can be on the receiving end.  No matter whether the original offense was deliberate or accidental, he feels entitled to payback.  He’s always been this way; as a preverbal toddler he would bite his brother hard, then run to the timeout chair and stare at me defiantly.  

I have not been able to come up with any consequence that makes the least bit of difference to him.  I have tried to reason with him and talked myself blue in the face, with no effect.  I’m not a big punisher but I’ve tried that too, even disproportionately to the offense, but it doesn’t affect the way he’ll respond next time.  He doesn’t care about anything except getting his justice.  And it’s not limited to the impulse of the moment; if I interfere and impose a cooling off period he is likely to simply wait for an opportunity.  In his mind he deserves to do this.

This bothers me a lot, especially since I see no signs he’s growing out of it.  I see this as a potentially serious character flaw in an otherwise pretty nice kid.  What would MotherTalkers do?


Free Breakfast Program Tied to Student Focus

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram had a pretty good feature article on the free breakfast program in some Texas schools.

The principals at those schools are finding that children are more likely to behave themselves and focus on their studies when they eat breakfast.

This year his school is one of four in the Fort Worth district participating in a free program that offers breakfast to each of his 450 students, most of whom are economically disadvantaged.

The change at his school has been remarkable, (Principal Marion) Mouton said. “Discipline problems are down, and student focus is up,” he said….

The Child Nutrition Act, which mandates the federal school breakfast and lunch programs, is set to go before Congress in the spring for reauthorization. The School Nutrition Association is pushing for increased funding for the breakfast program, spokeswoman Diane Pratt-Heavner said.

Pratt-Heavner said research has shown that students who have breakfast regularly have fewer discipline problems, score better on tests and visit the school nurse less.

Those who skip breakfast have trouble concentrating and memorizing work, she said.

“Breakfast is important to academic performance,” she said. “So many schools try to bring in breakfast on high-stakes testing days. We certainly think it’s important for them to get breakfast every day.”

The one part in the article that made me sad was that many families in Texas choose not to participate in the program because of the stigma that they are poor. That is why policy experts prefer programs, in which every student can receive a free breakfast.

This week, the Food Research and Action Center reported that about 8.8 million low-income students ate breakfast at school on an average day, more than in years past. But the number is still less than half of the 18.9 million students who qualify for free or reduced-price meals.

In Texas, 54.7 percent of such low-income students had breakfast at school, the 10th-highest in the nation, according to the report. The center said that many students do not participate in the breakfast program when it is not free for everyone because of the stigma of being labeled poor. It estimated that in 2008, nearly 1 in 4 children in the nation lived in a household struggling with hunger.

Does your child’s school have a free breakfast program? How is it implemented?

For more stories on the politics of school food, check out this post.


Wednesday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

Tiger Woods was slapped with a $164 fine and four points against his license for careless driving, according to the Washington Post.

The number of law schools offering animal rights courses has increased from 9 to 100 this decade, according to a press release by the Massachusetts School of Law in Andover. (Again, I have no clue how I get on all these lists!)

In somewhat related, although very disturbing, news: Two-thirds of store-bought chicken harbor salmonella and/or another bacterial cause of foodborne disease, campylobacter, according to Consumer Reports. The publication recommended cooking chicken at at least 165º F and to prevent raw chicken or its juices from touching any other food.

My heart breaks for this mom. An Egyptian mom on her way to show off her 4-week daughter to relatives accidentally smothered the baby on the flight when she fell asleep while breastfeeding, according to the Daily Mail of the UK.

The New York Times had one of those trend stories about parents taking a page from the show The Dog Whisperer to raise their children.

And taking a page from the studio that released the Harry Potter movies, the studio making the Twilight movies is thinking of splitting the final book, Breaking Dawn, into two movies, according to Variety. The movie based on the second book of the series, a New Moon, has grossed $481 million in just two weeks.

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


An Expert Talks About Timeouts

This Mamapedia article by Amy over at Pretty Babies gave helpful tips on how to give timeouts. Amy, who has worked at a residential facility for kids with mental retardation and behavioral disorders, said the timeout should NOT be used as a tool for punishment. Instead, she said:

The time out serves two purposes.

  1. It removes the misbehaving child from whatever stimulus or situation is causing the misbehavior (so, if little Sally is hitting little Johnny, it removes Sally from Johnny’s presence, which interrupts the hitting behavior).
  1. It reestablishes parental authority (in other words, it reminds the child who is in charge).

I did know that timeouts should be limited to one minute for each year of the child’s age. Right now, Eli receives 2-minute timeouts. (A threat of a timeout is enough to send Ari cowering in shame so he rarely, if ever, gets a timeout.)

But there was a lot I did not know — like how to properly give a timeout. I will definitely keep these tips in mind next time Eli acts up:

Child is misbehaving. Parent says, “Child, if you do not stop doing X, you’re going to get a time out.“ Child continues to misbehave. Parent says, “I’m sorry you’re choosing to do X, you need to come take a time out.“

You then remove the child to the time out area. We started with the crib, but now we do them at the bottom of the stairs (on the lowest step or on the rug in front of the stairs – and you all just thought I was weird for having a bath mat at the bottom of the stairs!!). I don’t believe in having a single place (like a “Naughty Chair“) to take time outs. First, because if you say, “You will sit THERE“ you get into a power struggle. If you say, “You can take your time out here or there,“ you’re still allowing the child choices, and you’re less likely to get into a senseless power struggle. Second, because if the child is used to a single chair, what do you do when you go out? Take it with you? Stairs and rugs are common enough, though, that you can find them virtually anywhere, and having multiple locations makes it easier for the child to generalize when you’re at Grandma’s, say, and you have to do time out on a chair instead of a step.

Assuming that the child goes willingly (I’ll get to unwilling children in a second), you start a timer and say, “Good job. You’ve got two more minutes.“ If the child wants to scream and cry and freak out, that’s ok. In addition to removing them from the situation that causes the misbehavior, allowing them to scream and holler allows them to release some of the frustration/tension that the situation has caused. This is healthy. The place where I worked required the children to be “calm and compliant“ before the time out countdown started, but I think that’s crazy. I don’t care if MG cries the whole two minutes, as long as she is on the step or the rug.

Anyway, you sit there for the two minutes with them, giving comfort with your presence but not talking to them (except to maybe remind them to stay in the time out area, or say, “It’s ok,“ or “You’re doing fine,“ or “Calm down,“ occasionally). This is not the time to have a discussion about what happened. Just give them that two minutes to get control of themselves. Be encouraging and supportive, but not too much. A word or two here or there is all you need. A lot of parents talk too much, in general. That’s another post…

When the timer beeps, get down on the child’s level and give her a hug. She needs reassurance that you still love her, no matter what she did. Then you explain, in terms that she can understand, why she got the time out. “Child, you did X, so I had to give you a time out. Next time when you feel Y, instead of doing X, you could try doing Z instead.“ (Next time you feel frustrated, instead of hitting your sister, you could try walking away, instead.) You are Teaching here, not punishing.

Good advice. Do you give your children timeouts? How do you implement them?