Q&A With Financial Expert Jean Chatzky

I recently had the pleasure to interview Jean Chatzky, a financial expert who is also a contributor to BabyCenter.com. Considering that raising a child costs an estimated $227,000, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, we discussed ways families can save to raise their “recession generation” babies.

MotherTalkers: How can someone living paycheck to paycheck afford to have a baby?
Jean Chatzky: There are so many people living paycheck to paycheck. More than half of the people in this country are living paycheck to paycheck, yet they’re having babies all the time. It is possible. You have to (take inventory) of how much money you are bringing in and where your money is going….When you do, you can view your budget line-by-line and say, “this is how I am going to save on groceries. This is how I am going to save on gas.”

MT: How much of our inability to “afford” children is that our country offers no middle class women subsidized or free childcare or health care?
JC: I think it’s very, very difficult to blame the fact that a lot of people cannot afford to have children or pay for college on (any one thing). You have to look at the landscape….People also have to look at what they’ve got and they have to make priorities….Maybe you can’t afford the new car and the vacation this year. This is the choice that parents and non-parents have to make in their lives.

MT: The other issue I see compared to previous generations is that many college-educated women are saddled with student loans and other debt.
JC: More women now than in previous generations are getting out of college that they pay for with student loans. The cost (of a college education) has gone up three times the rate of inflation! It is a great thing that the money (to borrow) is available, but more and more we have to ask ourselves if “the cost of this education and the job I anticipate is worth it.” (She quoted another expert who said): “You only borrow what you will make in your first year out of college.” You can also go to a community college for two years. There are a lot of strategies like that.

MT: I hear mixed things about parents being able to “afford” to stay home with their children. On the one hand, I hear that staying home is only for privileged couples. On the other hand, I also hear that some women can’t afford childcare and opt to stay home instead. What’s the real story?
JC: I think the real story is that there are a lot of ways to afford to stay home if that’s something that you want to do. The stay-at-home spouse can be a huge advocate for the family budget and live cheaply. The question becomes are you willing to live on one salary when you are used to two? Have you shopped around for daycare in your neighborhood? The nine months during pregnancy is the time to road-test it and see if you can live on one salary.

MT: The nine-month road test is a good idea.
JC: Thank you!

MT: What I tell women who are considering staying home is to make sure they budget the occasional haircut or something nice for themselves. Being a stay-at-home mom is hard work. At least that’s my litmus test as to whether someone can afford to stay home. What’s your litmus test?
JC: I would tell you that the research we did for BabyCenter showed that most people are not splurging on themselves, they are splurging on their kids. It is important to take care of yourself. Taking care of yourself doesn’t have to cost any money. For me the de-stressor is going outside to exercise.

MT: Are there tax breaks and/or government programs that parents can take advantage of to help them with child-rearing costs?
JC: There are a lot of tax credits and tax breaks….Parents leave them on the table all the time. Get TurboTax. Those programs take you by the hand.

JC: Elisa, we are out of time.

MT: One last question: what are other cost-saving tips do you have for families?
JC: At Babycenter.com, I wrote a wonderful list of 10 tips. I say it is wonderful even though I wrote it. (Laughter)

MT: Okay, one last question (really!): college savings or retirement?
JC: Retirement, hands down.


Q&A With Dr. Martha Howard

Hi all, In an attempt to bring you original content, I conducted a question and answer session with holistic Dr. Martha Howard from Chicago Healers. Dr. Howard was particularly interested in taking our questions regarding our children’s exposure to toxins.

Please feel free to drop your questions here as she will follow up later this week. Thanks! -Elisa

MotherTalkers: I have a son with allergies to grass, weeds and oak trees. Is there a way for me to naturally get him accustomed to these things without allergy shots?

Dr. Howard: He can take allergy drops, under the tongue. These need to be made for him by an allergist who does this as part of their practice.

From Shenanigans in California: Aren’t those non-chemical sunscreens using nanoparticles? Do you have any concerns about nanoparticles on skin or in the environment? For example, we use sunscreen in the river, which is water used for fish and crops that are consumed by people, so nanoparticles that came off in the water would end up ingested in short order.

Dr. Howard: Nanoparticles means simply very small particles. The non-chemical sunscreens have zinc and titanium in them, both minerals which occur naturally in the earth and are not harmful. On the other hand, the gender-bending chemicals in the other sunscreens do not occur naturally, cause changes in the hormonal cycles and the genitals, and are very harmful.

From baker baker in Pittsburgh, PA: I’ve heard that fluoride for kids is bad, but why? I don’t give my kids fluoride treatments, and their toothpaste is fluoride free. We have a reverse osmosis filter for our tap water, so I’m assuming it filters out fluoride from the city water. But is this a good thing?  

Dr. Howard: Fluoride is bad because it replaces natural dental enamel with more brittle enamel and makes it easier for teeth to crack. There are many more reasons it is harmful, which can be found on many online sites.

MotherTalkers: What do you see as the biggest toxin children are exposed to today? Why?

Dr. Howard: I think there are three worst toxins, rather than one. The first one is the chemicals like avobenzone, homosalate and octylmethoxycinnamate, all in sunscreens. This is especially harmful because parents believe that in using them for themselves and their children, they are protecting them. However, these chemicals have been shown to cause smaller penises in male children when used by pregnant women, and their estrogenic effects are thought to cause earlier onset of menstruation (sometimes as early as age 7 or 8) in girls. The second is MSG. It is hidden in many foods, including, for example, most common brands of canned tuna. The label says “vegetable broth” and somehow we are supposed to guess that this “broth” has MSG in it. MSG has been labeled a neurotoxin by Russell Blaylock, MD, a board certified neurologist, neurology professor, and author of the comprehensive book Excitotoxins: The Taste That Kills. It is well worth checking out this book to see all of the toxic effects on the brain from MSG, and my third worst chemical, aspartame (Equal, Nutrasweet, etc.) the artificial sugar. Both of these chemicals are widespread in foods, and have not been limited in any way by the FDA, despite their proven harmful effects. Again, people think they are simply making their food taste better, or using a calorie-free artificial sweetener, when in reality they are exposing their brains to harmful chemicals. Both of these chemicals, according to Dr. Blaylock, actually cause your brain cells to pop and die (the medical term for this process is “apoptosis.”  I don’t know about you, but I believe that I need every brain cell I have!

MotherTalkers: The EPA is considering rules to regulate mercury emissions in our air. What can moms do to  help pass this rule?

Dr. Howard: Moms can initiate email campaigns to their state and national Senators and Representatives, and to their Governors, and to the President. And media-savvy moms can create public awareness on social media and YouTube.

MotherTalkers: Pertaining to question No. 5, what can moms do to limit their children to air mercury and air pollution in general?  

Dr. Howard: Air pollution is a tough problem. Knowledge is power, so it is important to find out about mercury emissions in your area. If they are an issue, the best temporary “fix” is to filter your indoor environment.  

Here is a list of coal-powered plants, the No. 1 source of mercury emissions in the country. -Elisa


Seeking Out Questions for MT Interviews

Hi all,

I’ve been experimenting with various ways to conduct interviews at MotherTalkers. I have done live-blog chats, but the downside to those is there is a limited window to ask questions.

So I am wondering if I can seek out questions ahead of time for a Q&A instead? That way, people can drop them throughout the day here, on Facebook, or at my e-mail: elisa at mothertalkers dot com.

I would like to interview Dr. Martha Howard of Chicago Healers, practitioners of holistic medicine. Her e-mail caught my eye because she offered these tips to protect our children from indoor pollution:

Formaldehyde in new clothes, carpet, wallboards and furniture made of particle board or with particle board backing.
Lead paint and other toxic paints. Children’s rooms should be painted only with non-toxic no-VOC paints. Even latex paints can emit toxic fumes over a long period of time, worsening allergies and asthma.
Mercury in any form—especially as a preservative in vaccinations, or in dental materials
Food dyes, additives, and artificial sugars. The so-called “generally recognized as safe” food dyes are made of coal tar. MSG and aspartame are neurotoxins (see Russell Blaylock MD’s comprehensive book, Exitotoxins: The Taste that Kills.)
Plastics that contain BPA
Fire retardant chemicals in pajamas and bedding
Sunscreens with “gender bending” chemicals like homosalate, octylmethoxycinnamate, octocrylene, oxybenzone. Use California Baby hypoallergenic sunscreen, Desert Essence sunscreen, or Aubrey Organic Sunscreen on all children (and on adults too!)
Shampoos and lotions are full of chemicals. Desert Essence makes a good line of shampoos, conditioners and lotions that are chemical free.

There are many things you can do to not only avoid indoor chemical pollutants but also keep your kids healthy in general.

Good indoor air filtration (with charcoal and zeolite in the filters, not just HEPA filters) can help limit exposure to airborne pollutants.  
Drink filtered water
Give children fresh, mostly organic unprocessed foods. This doesn’t have to be complicated. A turkey sandwich with whole grain bread, Applegate Farms or Hormel natural turkey (no additives, MSG, nitrites or nitrates—both big causes of cancer), and an organic apple are a great lunch, rather than packaged “cracker and cheese” or many of the items that are currently offered in school lunches.
Become active in advocating for better indoor air quality and better food at your child’s school
Stay informed about air and water quality and pollution hazards in your neighborhood and your town.

As someone with a son that has allergies, I am wondering what I can do to build his tolerance of his allergens. For example, I was told that offering him locally grown honey may help him “outgrow” his allergies of local grass and weeds. I wonder if there is any truth to that. What other questions do you have for Dr. Howard?

The other doctor I am interested in interviewing, is Dr. Michael Goldberg, an expert on children with autism. (See the photo of his book on the right.)

His office recently reached out to me with this advice for summer:

  1. Have a behavior chart just like at school. A smile can be used for good behavior, or a big frown just like the teacher would give for bad or aggressive behavior.
  1. Avoid daily bribery.
  1. Keep a regular sleep schedule, even if it is lighter outside because of the longer summer days. Be soothing yet firm.  
  1. Recruit siblings to help. Explain that their sibling is ill and they can help make that person feel better. Siblings can be the best therapists.
  1. Work with the child fifteen to twenty minutes a day on the computer to keep up academically and reward them with something they enjoy if they do that.
  1. If the child is in a special needs class, make sure he/she are also spends time with role models who are not developmentally challenged.

Summer Eating:
Dr. Goldberg advocates omitting certain foods from an autistic child’s diet. Doing so can have a positive impact on their behavior.

Foods to Avoid:

  1. Dairy
  1. Chocolate
  1. Whole Wheat
  1. Whole Grains
  1. Limited Amounts of Sugar

Do you have a child with autism or work with children who are autistic? What would you like to ask Dr. Goldberg?

Finally and lastly, there is Michelle Rhee, renowned “education reformer”, er teacher union buster. Despite my many disagreements with her, I am attending one of her events this Friday to try to understand the buzz around her. I have a lot of my own questions, but wondered if you have a burning desire to ask her anything? If yes, please drop that here, or on Facebook, or at my e-mail at elisa at mothertalkers dot com. Thanks!  


Monday Morning Open Thread

First of all, Happy Memorial Day! I hope you all are enjoying a day off from school and/or work. We are having one of those unusual — but welcome — days of doing NOTHING. A lot of our friends are out-of-town so we’ve had the rare opportunity to hang out as a family. What are you up to today?

In other news: Michelle Rhee, self-described education reformer and controversial figure in the politics of public education, will be speaking next Friday in nearby Mountain View, California.

I have read and written so much about her and despite my trepidation, I RSVPed for the event. I will definitely fill you in!

I am wondering how all her work on the road is actually helping students. Also, I wonder what brings her to California. If you had the chance to meet her, what would you ask her? Thanks in advance!

Now that I got that off my chest, I want to rant about something that’s been bugging me for a while: calling the Democratic Party the “mommy party”. Really, what is wrong with that? Apparently everything to certain quarters of our country.

Most recently, the conservative Texas Civil Justice League disseminated a flyer that read “Don’t Expand the Nanny State,” and had a graphic picture of a child suckling a woman’s bare breast, according to the Texas Tribune. The group has since apologized for the “inappropriate” image, but what most irks me is this thinking that being caring, nurturing — gasp, a mother! — is somehow undesirable. Eff you, Texas Civil Justice League!

On the flipside, this ABC News clip at Mombian had me in tears. ABC News sent actors pretending to be gay parents and a homophobic waitress at a diner in a conservative part of Texas. Contrary to a similar experiment in New York City, an overwhelming number of Texans stood up to the waitress in support of the gay family. Go Texas!

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


Late-Night Liberty: Latest Parenting Research Edition

Salon writer Lynn Harris ran an informative book review and interview with Po Bronson, author of NutureShock: New Thinking About Children.

Apparently, Bronson’s book crunches and analyzes what recent child-centric research has to say. I was particularly taken by a couple passages. One had to do with the way we praise children and the other had to do with how some ornery teen behavior may just be sleep deprivation.

Check it out:

I’d like to compliment the book, but I want to make sure I do so without undermining your self-confidence. What is the basic problem with the way parents tend to deliver praise?

Only kids about 7 and under are still taking praise at face value. But otherwise, the basic problem is that telling kids they’re “so smart” conveys the idea that intelligence is something you’re born with. Parents think saying that is going to give their kids confidence, like this little angel on their shoulder saying, “Don’t back down.” But instead what it teaches them is this idea that you’ve either got it or you don’t. When we’re telling kids they’re smart all the time, effort gets stigmatized. They come to think that effort is proof to the other kids in class that you can’t cut it on your natural gifts. And they also become averse to academic challenges that put them at risk of not looking so smart….

Can you explain why teenagers are not actually as malevolent as one might think?

There are a few reasons. The average high schooler in America is getting about 6.65 hours of sleep a night, about an hour less than we got 30 years ago. That lost hour shows a lot of cognitive, hormonal and behavioral disruption that has its own set of consequences. So when people say that teens are moody, disengaged, depressed, withdrawn — those are all classic signs of sleep deprivation. There is one mother in the book who helped change the local school start time to one hour later, and, in her opinion, she got her son back. I have not done a cross-comparison of the history of adolescence with the history of sleep, but some would say that we’ve both extended adolescence and exacerbated it with teens getting less and less sleep, making them more and more into the caricature of the recalcitrant, rebellious teen — without realizing that the classic explanations for what’s going on with them are missing one big variable: how much they sleep.

There’s also lying. Seventy-eight percent of American parents think their teens tell them everything. They expect them to tell them everything, or that they should be able to. And that’s a dangerous proposition. Because the science of teen lying suggests that even the teens who lie least to their parents still lie about on average five of the 36 things that teens normally lie to their parents about. It’s naive to expect that you’re hearing the whole truth. Their lying is motivated by not wanting to get in trouble, of course. But it’s also their need for independence. They’re soon going to be autonomous people in the world, and they’re practicing. To always come to your parents for advice and help is psychologically emasculating, proof that you can’t handle it on your own. Teens are really prone to telling their parents what they want to hear and then going and doing what they want. If they tell the truth, they usually know there’s going to be an argument. Parents find that arguing really riles and rattles them; they think it’s destructive. But they don’t realize that the other option is lying.

That’s why teens are more likely to find arguing productive. There’s a difference between arguing over the parents’ authority to set the rules (“You have no right to tell me what to do!”) versus arguing about a rule itself, where the kid might be saying, “It’s one thing when it’s a matter of safety, but this is about what I’m wearing to school, so butt out.” What makes teens rank arguing as problematic is when they never get any concession. Those kids are the ones who get frustrated and turn to lying more. The mistake is thinking there’s a trade-off between strictness and honesty. More permissive parents don’t actually hear more truth. The ones who do are the ones who set a few rules and enforce them consistently, and when they hear a good argument for bending them they occasionally give in. And when a parent knows how to negotiate and compromise, the kid learns how to do that in peer and romantic and friend relationships as well.

What say you, MotherTalkers?


Salon Q&A With Free Range Mom

In case you missed it, Salon’s Katharine Mieszkowski interviewed Lenore Skenazy, a syndicated columnist who just penned the book, Free-Range Kids: Giving Our Children the Freedom We Had Without Going Nuts With Worry.

She made headlines a year ago for allowing her 9-year-old son to take the subway alone.

Here is an excerpt of the interview:

What are the statistics about crimes against children? What is the news that we’re not hearing?

The crime rate today is equal to what it was back in 1970. In the ’70s and ’80s, crime was climbing. It peaked around 1993, and since then it’s been going down.

If you were a child in the ’70s or the ’80s and were allowed to go visit your friend down the block, or ride your bike to the library, or play in the park without your parents accompanying you, your children are no less safe than you were.

But it feels so completely different, and we’re told that it’s completely different, and frankly, when I tell people that it’s the same, nobody believes me. We’re living in really safe times, and it’s hard to believe.

But if crimes against kids have fallen, now that we’re keeping them cloistered, won’t some people think, “Great! It must be working!”?

Crime stats are falling across the board. It’s not just because children are inside, because [crime stats] are falling inside, too. Crimes against children, even by family members and acquaintances, are falling, according to the Crimes Against Children Research Center.

We don’t tolerate sex crimes. There’s just much less tolerance of any kind of abuse of kids. Those people are prosecuted very aggressively, to the point where a lot of them are behind bars now.

But if other parents aren’t letting their kids walk to school, or wait at the bus stop by themselves, if you buck the trend, doesn’t that make your kid more vulnerable, because other kids aren’t doing it, too? If everyone was doing it, wouldn’t there be safety in numbers?

There would be safety in numbers, and I wish everybody would do it. My big idea is: “Take Our Children to the Park and Leave Them There Day.” I think that would be a great thing for our country.

Maybe the 7-year-old will walk the 5-year-old home, and nobody would say: “Oh my God, where are the parents? Let’s arrest them.” Perhaps your child is in .00007 percent more danger, but the danger is so minute to begin with. There is a 1 in 1.5 million chance that your kid would be abducted and killed by a stranger. It is hard to wrap your mind around those numbers, and everybody always assumes: What if it’s my 1 in 1.5 million?

If you don’t want to have your child in any kind of danger, you really can’t do anything. You certainly couldn’t drive them in a car, because that’s the No. 1 way kids die, as passengers in car accidents.

This interview was a page turner, er, clicker. Skenazy said Australia and England also share Americans’ paranoia when it comes to child safety. At the other extreme are Japan and Switzerland where the kids walk to school without parents as early as 5 years of age.

I thought the questions posed to Skenazy were good and agreed with Skenazy that the 24-hour cable networks’ coverage of violent crime contributed to our fears. But I still disagree with her that parents walk their kids to the bus stop or pick them up at school solely because they are afraid of kidnappers.

Where I live, many parents work and their children are watched by nannies or enrolled in after school activities monitored by adults. As we have discussed here before, statistically, those children do better in school than kids who are home alone all afternoon. In fact, one of the arguments for after school programs is that adolescent crimes are most common during those hours when kids are left unsupervised. I can’t help but think “helicoptering” varies in our country depending on the availability and wallets of the parents. This is something I would have liked for Skenazy to address.


Mother of Runaway Teens Speaks Out

Salon ran a fascinating Q&A with Debra Gwartney, the mother of four daughters, two who were runaway teenagers.

She shattered a lot of stereotypes of families whose children run away from home and live in the streets or shelters, although she received a lot of flak in the thread, too.

What did you make of the well-meaning people who helped your daughters by giving them free food or clothing or blankets when they were living on the streets?

It’s such a double-edged sword for me. Of course I’m grateful to the people who gave my daughters food and money and clothes so that they weren’t in terrible shape. And, yet, I really despise those people at the same time, because I think: “If you had just not given them all those things, maybe they would have come home sooner.”

There’s a federal law that was signed in 1974 that decriminalized running away, and that was resigned into law in October 2008 by President Bush, and basically it provides funding for shelters for kids, and educational facilities for street kids, and a national network that they can call, and get help. There is a little bit for parents, but not very much.

I think that there is a misunderstanding in this country — not every kid who runs away from home is running away from an abusive home with abusive parents. That is the assumption that is kind of built into the system. If your child leaves you, you must have done something terrible to chase them away.

You got very little help in looking for your daughters — basically none — from the police. Why? Is it because running away is decriminalized?

It is.

The police have no mandate to find runaways. I found that they don’t really want to, because if they expend all this energy to find a runaway kid, return that child home to her parents, then she runs away a week later, they’re looking for her again. I went to quite a few police stations and asked for help, and they all told me the same thing: “We don’t do that. Sorry.”

And you got a similar reaction when you went to these centers for homeless youth?

Right. They would say: “We’re here to help the kids, and in helping the kids we cannot tell you if your child is here. We protect them, and that’s part of the protection.”

What about truancy laws with schools?

They’re all gone too. In fact, when I called the school district and said: “Isn’t there a truancy law, can you help me out with this?” They said: “No, in fact, we could arrest you for negligence for not getting your child to school.”

What other steps did you take to find the girls when they were missing?

I hired a private investigator, finally, to search for them. He was a former Los Angeles cop, and he had a reputation of being able to find kids pretty quickly. He found them within 24 hours, and I put them into a wilderness therapy camp, which lasted about a month.

She eventually sent the girls away to a boarding school in Colorado. They never lived at home again, which was bittersweet for Gwartney. She said she still tears up when she sees a mom with her teenaged daughters at the grocery story.

She now has a good relationship with all four of her daughters, who are in their 20s. She even wrote her latest memoir, Live Through This with the blessing of her oldest daughters.

What I found frightening about the interview was the suggestion by Gwartney that this situation can happen to anyone — even the “good” parents — and it happens with much more frequency than we think. Perhaps, this is why she struck a nerve at Salon.

But she did say that she had gone through a divorce and moved the girls to a place they had not fit it and did not know anyone. I would think it would be extremely difficult to parent four children — two teens — on your own. Shudder.

You really make it clear that you don’t blame society for your family’s problems, but what do you think could be done differently socially to help the families of runaways in addition to the runaways?

It would be great for federal lawmakers to talk to parents about what is going on. The statistic that they use says that 95 percent of kids on the street report that they’re abused at home, and that’s why they ran away. And I absolutely do not believe that figure. I just don’t.

I just think that the parents need to be allowed to communicate more about what they’re going through, and how difficult it is to find help. I just wish that more of that federal funding went toward support groups for parents, family counseling. I’m not against the shelters. I think that’s really important that shelters are out there, and that schools are offered to runaway kids, but I think that more could be done to help the parents and not leave them so frustrated and alone.

Why do you think the parents haven’t had more of a voice? Is it because of the cultural shame — like you’re a bad parent, and you should be able to control your own kid?

Absolutely. People have said to me, “Oh, this is because we spoil our children, they feel all this privilege. It’s the weak parents that are sending the kids out on the streets.”

I think, well, “OK, maybe we have a whole culture of privileged children, but that doesn’t mean it’s OK for 3 million kids to be living on the streets.” That’s what it is now — 3 million kids on the streets, and I think that we need to figure out why that is happening.

I do agree with her that parents need more support in this country. Still, stories like these freak me out. Yikes!


Can Children Be Grateful?

Everyone understands the selfish impulses of children — hell, selfishness of adults — just by counting the number of tantrums at the candy aisle. But are children capable of feeling grateful?

Cookie magazine recently raised the question in a Q&A with mother and child development specialist Betsy Brown Braun who called raising grateful children today’s parents’ biggest challenge.

C: Are parents always to blame?
BBB: It’s such a complicated issue. We live in a time when everyone is busy. We come home from work and we don’t want our child to be crying or upset, because we have only two hours to be with him. For that reason, we don’t say no. We give in and let him have stuff. The time factor squeezes us–though that’s not the problem–and we end up sabotaging our ability to cultivate an attitude of gratitude, because we always give him what he wants.

C: How can we cultivate an “attitude of gratitude”?
BBB: There are two parts to showing gratitude. One is the well-mannered behavior we want our kids to learn: If someone gives you a present, you need to say thank you, whatever it is. The second is genuinely feeling appreciative. Genuinely. When those two intersect, bingo.

C: In your book, you talk about the importance of no.
BBB: Parents want everything for their child so badly, they take away the child’s ability to struggle to get anything. That’s one of the biggest problems today. Parents are afraid to say no and stick to it. The piece that seems missing in the gratitude story is the longing. Children don’t long for things anymore. And longing is tremendously powerful stuff. It motivates. Thomas Paine said, “What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly.” Only through struggle and working hard and making mistakes do kids learn and raise their self-esteem. Struggle is a good thing.

C: Can we really expect a small child to feel grateful?
BBB: Grandma gives little Billy a pair of Diego underpants for Christmas, and he says, “Underpants? I hate underpants!” And Grandma is crestfallen. Little Billy doesn’t have the ability to know that she thought, “Well, you’ve just been toilet trained, and so you must love undies, and you love Diego.” So she went to six different Targets because they didn’t have his size. He doesn’t know that. And we can’t expect him to–he has to learn that. He has to have experience, like someone saying, “You know, this is what Grandma did to get you those. And it would make her feel so good if you said thank you.” Instead, we’re yelling at him: “You ungrateful so-and-so, after all I did for you…!”

Brown lit into “helicopter parenting,” which she says is taking away the independence of children. “College kids walk out of classrooms and call their mommies to tell them how they did on their tests. Stop!”

While most of the advice seems sound, the last part was rather harsh. I remember calling my parents and grandparents to share good news whether it was an “A” on a hard test or scoring a new job. It’s called having an adult relationship. We share stuff with one another.

But reigning in immediate gratification, insisting that our children say “thank you” — all sound reasonable to me. Something else we do in our household is explain to Ari that he should not waste food, for example, or should be grateful for the things he has because there are many, many children in the world who have very little.

How do you instill gratitude in your own children?