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Simplifying Childhood May Protect Against Mental Health Disorders

When my Dad was growing up he had one jumper each winter. One. Total.

He remembers how vigilantly he cared for his jumper. If the elbows got holes in them my Grandma patched them back together. If he lost his jumper he’d recount his steps to find it again. He guarded it like the precious gift it was.

He had everything he needed and not a lot more. The only rule was to be home by dinner time. My Grandma rarely knew exactly where her kids were.

They were off building forts, making bows and arrows, collecting bruises and bloody knees and having the time of their lives. They were immersed in childhood.

But the world has moved on since then. We’ve become more sophisticated. And entered a unique period in which, rather than struggling to provide enough parents are unable to resist providing too much. In doing so, we’re unknowingly creating an environment in which mental health issues flourish.

When I read Kim John Payne’s book, Simplicity Parenting one message leapt off the page. Normal personality quirks combined with the stress of “too much” can propel children into the realm of disorder. A child who is systematic may be pushed into obsessive behaviours. A dreamy child may lose the ability to focus.

Payne conducted a study in which he simplified the lives of children with attention deficit disorder. Within four short months 68% went from being clinically dysfunctional to clinically functional. The children also displayed a 37% increase in academic and cognitive aptitude, an effect not seen with commonly prescribed drugs like Ritalin.

As a new parent I find this both empowering and terrifying. We officially have a massive opportunity and responsibility to provide an environment in which our children can thrive physically, emotionally and mentally.

So, what are we getting wrong and how can we fix it?

THE BURDEN OF TOO MUCH

Early in his career, Payne volunteered in refugee camps in Jakarta, where children were dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder. He describes them as, “jumpy, nervous, and hyper-vigilant, wary of anything novel or new.”

Years later Payne ran a private practice in England, where he recognized many affluent English children were displaying the same behavioural tendencies as the children living in war zones half a world away. Why would these children living perfectly safe lives show similar symptoms?

Payne explains that although they were physically safe, mentally they were also living in a war zone of sorts, “Privy to their parents’ fears, drives, ambitions, and the very fast pace of their lives, the children were busy trying to construct their own boundaries, their own level of safety in behaviours that weren’t ultimately helpful.”

Suffering with a “cumulative stress reaction” as a result of the snowballing effect of too much, children develop their own coping strategies to feel safe. Parents and society are conscious of the need to protect our children physically.

We legislate car seats, bike helmets and hover in playgrounds. But protecting mental health is more obscure.

But, sadly, we are messing up. Modern day children are exposed to a constant flood of information which they can’t process or rationalise. They’re growing up faster as we put them into adult roles and increase our expectations of them. So, they look for other aspects of their life they can control.

THE FOUR PILLARS OF EXCESS

Naturally as parents we want to provide our kids with the best start in life. If a little is good, we think more is better, or is it?

We enroll them in endless activities. Soccer. Music. Martial arts. Gymnastics. Ballet. We schedule play dates with precision. And we fill every space in their rooms with educational books, devices and toys. The average western child has in excess of 150 toys each and receives an additional 70 toys per year. With so much stuff children become blinded and overwhelmed with choice.

They play superficially rather than becoming immersed deeply and lost in their wild imaginations.

Simplicity Parenting encourages parents to keep fewer toys so children can engage more deeply with the ones they have. Payne describes the four pillars of excess as having too much stuff, too many choices, too much information and too much speed.

When children are overwhelmed they lose the precious down time they need to explore, play and release tension. Too many choices erodes happiness, robbing kids of the gift of boredom which encourages creativity and self-directed learning. And most importantly “too much” steals precious time.

PROTECTING CHILDHOOD

Similar to the anecdote of the heat slowly being turned up and boiling the unsuspecting frog, so too has society slowly chipped away at the unique wonder of childhood, redefining it and leaving our kid’s immature brains drowning trying to keep up. Many refer to this as a “war on childhood”.

Developmental Psychologist David Elkind reports kids have lost more than 12 hours of free time per week in the last two decades meaning the opportunity for free play is scarce. Even preschools and kindergartens have become more intellectually-oriented. And many schools have eliminated recess so children have more time to learn.

The time children spend playing in organized sports has been shown to significantly lower creativity as young adults, whereas time spent playing informal sports was significantly related to more creativity. It’s not the organized sports themselves that destroy creativity but the lack of down time. Even two hours per week of unstructured play boosted children’s creativity to above-average levels.

PARENTS TAKE CHARGE

So, how do we as parents protect our kids in this new “normal” society has created?

Simple, we say no. We protect our kids and say no, so we can create space for them to be kids. No, Sam can’t make the birthday party on Saturday. No, Sophie can’t make soccer practice this week.

And we recreate regular down time providing a sense of calm and solace in their otherwise chaotic worlds. It provides a release of tension children know they can rely on and allows children to recover and grow, serving a vital purpose in child development.

We filter unnecessary busyness and simplify their lives. We don’t talk about global warming at the dinner table with a seven year old. We watch the news after our kids are asleep. We remove excessive toys and games from our toddler’s room when they’re sleeping. We recreate and honour childhood. Our children have their whole lives to be adults and to deal with the complexities of life, but only a fleetingly short time in which they can be kids. Silly, fun loving kids.

Childhood serves a very real purpose. It’s not something to “get through”. It’s there to protect and develop young minds so they can grow into healthy and happy adults. When society messes too much with childhood, young brains react. By providing a sense of balance and actively protecting childhood we’re giving our children the greatest gift they’ll ever receive.

Parents, Get Realistic About Your Expectations For Young Kids

Your two-year-old refuses to share his toy with your friend’s child. He snatches back his Thomas train. You are embarrassed, send him to his room for a time out, and tell him to come out when he’s ready to apologize. Once in his room, your child throws a full-fledged tantrum, complete with loud crying and kicking the wall. Now he’s really in trouble and will have to be punished, but were your original expectations fair?

According to a recently published survey of parents of young children conducted by ZERO TO THREE and the Bezos Family Foundation, the answer is no. The study reveals there is a sizable expectation gap between what child development experts know to be true and what parents assume their very young children can do. And the consequence is great frustration for parents and too much punishment for children.

Sharing:

Many parents and even some preschool educators often have unrealistic expectations that young children should be able to share and take turns. As an early childhood educator, I often observed a negotiation that goes something like this. The adult tells the child she may use the toy for a certain amount of time (often, a timer is used) and then she must “share” and give another child a turn. The most common result is for the child to refuse to relinquish the toy when time is up, followed by tears and consequences. For this reason, early childhood programs have multiple copies of the same toy in their youngest classrooms.

Because 43 percent of parents think children can share and take turns with other children before age two, however, many of young children are punished or labeled as selfish. In fact, this skill develops between 3 to 4 years, so what is interpreted as bad behavior is really a matter of development.

Impulse control:

As a preschool director, I often talked to parents who were angry with their little ones for not following rules. Some tried positive reinforcement techniques like sticker charts or resorted to bribes. Unfortunately, most relied on some form of punishment, most commonly putting their children in time outs for infractions. To their dismay, their children often repeatedly broke the rules regardless of the parents’ disciplinary technique and warnings.

Brain science research teaches that for children under age three, it is developmentally appropriate for them to be unable to control their impulses. Yet 56 percent of parents believe two-to-three year olds are being defiant when they break rules, and 36 percent believe this to be true for their children under age two. The truth is that children just start to develop the ability to control their impulses between 3.5 to 4 years, without it being consistent until much later.

Controlling emotions:

Crying and tantrums drive most parents up the wall. This often leads to lectures, yelling, and punishment such as the traditional time out and/or isolation in a room. (Hopefully not spanking the child, but I’m sure that happens too.) While leaving a child alone in a safe environment until he calms down may work, tantrums often happens in public where there is no place to do this. Becoming angry and even hitting a child in this state is like pouring fuel on the fire.

What parents don’t understand is that it is unrealistic to expect children younger than 3.5 to 4 years old to control their emotions. 24 percent of all parents of one-year-olds believe that children have the capacity to control their emotions, and 42 percent of parents believe their children should have this ability by two years. Thus, according to the survey, the majority of parents of very young children think they should not have tantrums and emotional outbursts. Once again, I suspect many kids are punished for something they can’t control.

Assume most parents love their children:

According to the study, the good news is that most parents (91 percent), regardless of race, ethnicity, income and education level, believe their children are their greatest joy. They think they are adequate parents but also want to improve their parenting skills. The parents surveyed felt if they knew more about child development and appropriate expectations, they would be better parents. They wished they had more positive parenting strategies in their arsenal. And they understood the importance of the first five years of life.

The majority of those surveyed are really “good enough” parents, but they shared these important goals for improving their parenting skills:

  • Manage their own emotions as a model for their children
  • Have more patience
  • Not lose their temper or yell at their kids

In order to achieve these goals, there needs to be a greater understanding of how expectations are often at odds with developmental ability. Perhaps this disconnect between what we want children to do and what they are actually capable of is fueled by the growing expectations we as a society have for very young children. The increasingly academic orientation of our early childhood and lower elementary classrooms is a perfect example of this phenomenon.

10 Things That Changed Me After the Death of a Parent

ALEXANDERNOVIKOV VIA GETTY IMAGES

I don’t think there is anything that can prepare you to lose a parent. It is a larger blow in adulthood I believe, because you are at the point where you are actually friends with your mother or father. Their wisdom has finally sunk in and you know that all of the shit you rolled your eyes at as a teenager really was done out of love and probably saved your life a time or two.

I lost both of mine two years apart; my mother much unexpected and my father rather quickly after a cancer diagnosis. My mom was the one person who could see into my soul and could call me out in the most effective way. She taught me what humanity, empathy and generosity means. My father was the sarcastic realist in the house and one of the most forgiving people I have ever met. If you wanted it straight, with zero bullshit; just go ask my dad.

Grief runs its course and it comes in stages, but I was not prepared for it to never fully go away.

  1. My phone is never more than 1 foot away from me at bedtime, because the last time I did that I missed the call that my mother died.
  2. The very thought of my mother’s death, at times, made me physically ill for about six months after she died. I literally vomited.
  3. Their deaths have at times ripped the remainder of our family apart. I did my best to honor their wishes and sometimes that made me the bad guy. The burden of that was immense, but I understood why I was chosen. It made me stronger as a person, so for that I am grateful.
  4. I’m pissed that my son didn’t get to experience them as grandparents. I watched it five times before his birth and I feel robbed. He would have adored them and they him.
  5. I would not trade my time with them for anything, but sometimes I think it would have been easier had you died when I was very young. The memories would be less.
  6. Don’t bitch about your parents in front of me. You will get an earful about gratitude and appreciation. As a “Dead Parents Club” member, I would take your place in a heartbeat, so shut your mouth. Get some perspective on how truly fleeting life is.
  7. It’s like being a widow — a “club” you never wanted to join. Where do I return this unwanted membership, please?
  8. Other club members are really the only people who can truly understand what it does to a person. They just get it. There is no other way to explain it.
  9. Life does go on, but there will be times even years later, you will still break down like it happened yesterday.
  10. When you see your friends or even strangers with their mom or dad, you will sometimes be jealous. Envious of the lunch date they have. Downright pissed that your mom can’t plan your baby shower. Big life events are never ever the same again.

Here I sit eight and ten years later and there are still times that I reach for the phone when something exciting happens. Then it hits me; shit, I can’t call them.

Their deaths have forever changed me and how I look at the world. In an odd way it has made me a better parent. I am always acutely aware of what memories can mean to my son and how I will impact his life while I am on this earth. He deserves to know how much he is loved and when I am gone, what I teach and instill in him now, will be my legacy.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lisa-schmidt/10-things-that-changed-me-after-the-death-of-a-parent_b_7925406.html

Police Department Offers Special ‘Tip’ For Parents With Kids In Crowds

“Taking your young child to a big event, theme park, or other busy location?”

Summer is upon us, and many parents will be taking their children to outdoor events and attractions with large crowds, like theme parks, local festivals, zoos and carnivals.

A California police department offered some advice for parents who want to be prepared in the event of a separation. Last week the Clovis Police Department posted a special “#TipOfTheDay” on Facebook for parents with young kids.

“Taking your young child to a big event, theme park, or other busy location?” begins the post. “Write your phone number on their wrist and cover it with liquid band aid in case you get separated.”

The post — which features instructional images from mom and blogger Cherise McClimans — also advises parents to “take a photo of them using your cell phone the morning of the event so you have their clothing, hair style, and up to date photo. #BePrepared.”

According to the Clovis Police Department, this advice is a repost of a #TipOfTheDay they shared back in September in anticipation of a local festival. With over 7,000 shares, the post was “one of our most popular ever,” they explained. “[S]o we decided to post again!”

This repost has reached over 10,000 shares and 3,000 likes.

While it’s hard to anticipate the unthinkable, it’s clear that this attitude of preparedness has resonated with many parents. And of course, taking such measures does not mean families should forgo vigilance in large crowds.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/police-department-offers-special-tip-for-parents-with-kids-in-crowds_us_57693dbee4b0853f8bf219dd

Why It’s ‘Self-Reg,’ Not Self-Control, That Matters Most For Kids

“Self-regulation is about identifying the causes and reducing the intensity of impulses and, when necessary, having the energy to resist,” psychologist Stuart Shanker writes in his book, Self-Reg: How to Help Your Child (and You) Break the Stress Cycle and Successfully Engage with Life.

LA Johnson/NPR

As parents, it can be natural enough to conclude that when our kids act up or act out — at home, at school, away at the beach or park on family summer vacation — we should tell them to calm down and be sure they follow through.

After all, isn’t it our job to teach our kids to learn some self-control?

But what about the kids who not only can’t calm down, they have no idea what it means to calm down? What about the kids who are continuously over-aroused, stressed to the point where their nervous systems need not words but step-by-step embodied guidance to even begin to calm?

In the just-published Self-Reg: How to Help Your Child (and You) Break the Stress Cycle and Successfully Engage with Life, psychologist Stuart Shanker of York University and the MEHRIT Centre in Canada asks us — parents, teachers, coaches, anyone who mentors kids — to think not in terms of self-control but of self-regulation.

Shanker writes: “Self-control is about inhibiting impulses; self-regulation is about identifying the causes and reducing the intensity of impulses and, when necessary, having the energy to resist.”

Looking at five domains in a child’s life — biological, emotional, cognitive, social, and prosocial — and how they interact, we can begin, he says, to reframe our own perceptions of what’s going on with our kids, as a starting point to help them gain greater calm and attention, and also empathy for others.

Self-Reg
Self-Reg

How to Help Your Child (and You) Break the Stress Cycle and Successfully Engage with Life

by Stuart Shanker and Teresa Barker

Hardcover, 307 pages

The biggest lesson that I’ve taken from Self-Reg is that when a child insists that a teacher’s voice is harsh, or a restaurant or classroom is unbearably bright or loud, we need to recognize (even though we might not experience things that way at all) that the child is very probably not lying, exaggerating or trying to be oppositional. Instead, the child’s biological sensitivities may make her exquisitely reactive in a way that triggers a constant cycle of over-arousal-crash-over-arousal as she tries to cope. That’s where Self-Reg comes in, with strategies for regulating the out-of-whack nervous system.

And the worst thing we can do is to ask our kids to calm — or even go to sleep — by playing with computer or gaming devices. That sort of activity only feeds brain and body hyperactivity, and when the child eventually becomes depleted, he will crave even more arousal.

Stuart Shanker and I have collaborated on research and writing projects in anthropology and psychology. Last week, after I read Self-Reg, I asked him some questions via email:

I was very struck by your point that many young children today simply don’t know what the sensation of “calm” feels like. How did we get to this point, and what are the first steps that parents and teachers can take, in turning that around?

Kids get stuck in what neuroscientists call a “higher set point” — think of a car with a higher idling speed — and seek out experiences to keep their engine racing. They become so accustomed to this state that they find slower-paced activities aversive. They push their nervous system to its limits, crash, then push to the limits again. Parents need to slow things down with them. Find shared calming activities — like going for a walk, listening to music, baking — where the reward is being in this state together. The big thing is, they need to feel what it’s like to be calm, not be told to “calm down.”

The “Interbrain” is a key concept in your book. Can you talk a bit about what it is and why it matters so much?

The Interbrain is like a wireless brain-to-brain connection that operates, not just between a “higher-order brain” that possesses self-regulating skills and a developing brain just acquiring them, but throughout the lifespan. Our need for strong Interbrain connections is a biological imperative, and when that need wanes, this is a sign that the stress-load is too great. The old “genetic” way of thinking about the brain as an isolated organ governed by ancient mechanisms actually describes what human functioning is like when social engagement has broken down because of heightened stress.

Do parents or teachers ever snort disbelievingly at your insistence that there are no bad kids, or tell you, “look, these kids need to toughen up — if we fix for them every little sensory annoyance they’ll never function in the real world?” I think it can be hard for all of us, at first, to grasp the idea you write about, of an escalating cycle of over-arousal that may be set off by sensations that — to a hyper-sensitive child — aren’t small at all.

One of the most rewarding experiences has been to see teachers who did more than just snort go on to become Self-Reg champions. We place so much emphasis on how a child’s learning of “calm” has to be experiential, but the same point applies to Self-Reg: You have to feel and not just read about the changes that occur when you help a child self-regulate in order to get past your initial resistance. What you are describing in your question is that true empathy for children that is our species’ greatest strength.

It seems a profound realization for all of us as parents to hear what you say in Self-Reg: “All too often we confuse our needs with the child’s. We seek to make children more manageable, rather than self-managing.” Your program aims to change that, and has caught on not only in Canada but internationally. Why do you think this shift from managing kids to helping kids with self-reg is touching such a chord?

I think there are two reasons. The first is, because the stress that children are under today has become far too great, and for that reason, we are seeing so many problems in mood, behavior, and attention as well as a sharp rise in physical health problems. To understand why this is happening we have to recognize the many different kinds of stress that kids are under, hidden as well as overt, and learn how to distinguish between misbehavior and stress-behavior.

But the second part of the answer is that our own stress drops dramatically when we shift from trying to enforce compliance to reducing the causes of challenging behaviors and teaching kids how to do this for themselves.


http://www.npr.org/sections/13.7/2016/07/07/484910409/why-its-self-reg-not-self-control-that-matters-most-for-kids

Help Protect Your Child from Sexual Abuse

You can help to protect your child from sexual abuse by teaching the following crucial Body Safety Rules.

1. From an early age, teach your child that their body is their body and it belongs to them. Explain that they have the right to say “no” if they don’t want to be kissed or hugged by someone.

In a greeting situation, encourage your child to offer the person a high-five or a handshake (or, with people they know well they could blow them a kiss instead). Other adults may be offended by your family’s stance on this issue, but the best option is to explain your family’s reasons behind this practice.

Keep in mind it is our job as parents and carers to empower our children and not to pacify the occasional disapproving adult and/or relative.

2. Help your child to create a Safety Network. A Safety Network is made up of three to five adults that your child trusts. These are adults your child could tell anything to and they would be believed. The people who have the honor of being on your child’s Safety Network should be adults who will listen to your child’s concerns, who will always believe them, and who are accessible. Remember, it is your child’s choice who they place in their Safety Network.

3. Talk to your child about their Early Warning Signs. Explain that if they feel worried or unsafe, their body will let them know. Their Early Warning Signs may include feeling sick in the stomach, feeling shaky, their heart racing, etc. Explain to your child that if they feel any of their Early Warning Signs, they must tell an adult on their Safety Network straightaway.

4. Always call your child’s private parts by their correct names. Explain that no child, teenager or adult can touch their private parts, that they should never touch another person’s private parts even when asked, and that they should not view images of private parts.

Explain that if any of these things happen, they have the right to say, “no” or “stop,” and then they must tell an adult on their Safety Network straightaway. If that person is not available, they will need to tell another person on their Safety Network. Reinforce that your child needs to keep telling until they are believed.

5. Discourage secrets. Explain that your family has “happy surprises” instead of secrets because happy surprises will always be told. Explain that if someone does ask them to keep a secret, they should tell that person that they don’t keep secrets. Reinforce that if someone does ask them to keep a secret that makes them feel unsafe or uncomfortable, they must tell an adult on their Safety Network straightaway.

A few final hints!

1. Decide on a “family word.” For example, “pickles.” So if your child is somewhere without you or in a situation where they can’t speak up, and they feel unsafe, they can call or shout out “pickles.” This will alert you to the fact that they feel unsafe and need to be removed from the situation immediately.

2. Educate yourself in Body Safety; this includes signs of child sexual abuse and the grooming process. Remember, sexual predators groom both parents and children.

3. Encourage your child’s school to teach Body Safety! And if they don’t, please ask why not.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/help-protect-your-child-from-sexual-abuse_us_5878261be4b03e071c14fbc8

13 Children’s Books That Encourage Kindness Towards Others

Kindness is one of the most important character traits, but sometimes kids need an extra reminder about the best ways to be kind to others or why kindness matters. These books provide that reminder in creative and appealing ways. Happy reading!

1. We All Sing With The Same Voice by J. Philip Miller and Sheppard M. Greene

What It's About: This is a song book that connects kids around the world. The verses highlight differences between kids, illustrated on the pages of the book. The chorus brings all of these kids with many differences together, singing 'We all sing with the same voice. The same song. The same voice. We all sing with the same voice and we sing in harmony.' Why It's Important: Not only will the music engage kids as young as three, but it also encourages global awareness and connection at a young age. Everyone is different and unique, and this book celebrates those differences while singing together as friends.

What It’s About: This is a song book that connects kids around the world. The verses highlight differences between kids, illustrated on the pages of the book. The chorus brings all of these kids with many differences together, singing “We all sing with the same voice. The same song. The same voice. We all sing with the same voice and we sing in harmony.”

Why It’s Important: Not only will the music engage kids as young as three, but it also encourages global awareness and connection at a young age. Everyone is different and unique, and this book celebrates those differences while singing together as friends.

2. Have You Filled A Bucket Today? A Guide To Daily Happiness For Kids by Carol McCloud

What It's About: This book introduces an idea that everyone has an 'invisible bucket.' These buckets are used to hold your good thoughts and feelings about yourself. When you do something kind, you help fill someone else's bucket.Why It's Important: This provides kids with a visual representation of the importance of kindness. It focuses on social interactions and how our actions positively or negatively affect other people. This book would be especially beneficial as kids begin to develop empathy towards others.

What It’s About: This book introduces an idea that everyone has an “invisible bucket.” These buckets are used to hold your good thoughts and feelings about yourself. When you do something kind, you help fill someone else’s bucket.

Why It’s Important: This provides kids with a visual representation of the importance of kindness. It focuses on social interactions and how our actions positively or negatively affect other people. This book would be especially beneficial as kids begin to develop empathy towards others.

3. A Sick Day For Amos McGee by Philip C. Stead and Erin E. Stead

What It's About: This story is about a zookeeper who is great friends with all of the animals and takes the time out of his day to do what they like with them. One day, he is too sick to go to work and the animals decide to come and visit him. Why It's Important: This sweet story shows how kind actions towards others are repaid. The animals all take care of Amos when he needs a friend, which shows children how important continual kindness towards others is.

What It’s About: This story is about a zookeeper who is great friends with all of the animals and takes the time out of his day to do what they like with them. One day, he is too sick to go to work and the animals decide to come and visit him.

Why It’s Important: This sweet story shows how kind actions towards others are repaid. The animals all take care of Amos when he needs a friend, which shows children how important continual kindness towards others is.

4. Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson

What It's About: This story is about a new girl at school, named Maya and how Chloe, who has gone to the school for a while, reacts when she arrives. Chloe is not welcoming towards Maya, and excludes her from the group games. Maya leaves and Chloe is left feeling full of regret.Why It's Important: This story does not have the happy ending that so many books do, but teaches a critical lesson. Every choice we makes affects others in either a positive or negative way, and we do not always have an opportunity to fix our negative actions.

What It’s About: This story is about a new girl at school, named Maya and how Chloe, who has gone to the school for a while, reacts when she arrives. Chloe is not welcoming towards Maya, and excludes her from the group games. Maya leaves and Chloe is left feeling full of regret.

Why It’s Important: This story does not have the happy ending that so many books do, but teaches a critical lesson. Every choice we makes affects others in either a positive or negative way, and we do not always have an opportunity to fix our negative actions.

5. Last Stop On Market Street by Matt de la Pena

What It's About: This 2016 winner of the Newbery Medal follows a young boy, CJ, and his grandmother on their way home one day. CJ spends most of the journey asking 'How come...?' questions about everyone and everything. His grandmother answers each question with patience and eventually they leave the bus to volunteer at a soup kitchen.Why It's Important: CJ is asking seemingly simple questions throughout the book, but his grandmother's responses always elicit empathy towards the other characters throughout the book. It serves as a reminder that everyone we encounter has skills and a story, but we must be kind and open-hearted in order to hear it.

What It’s About: This 2016 winner of the Newbery Medal follows a young boy, CJ, and his grandmother on their way home one day. CJ spends most of the journey asking “How come…?” questions about everyone and everything. His grandmother answers each question with patience and eventually they leave the bus to volunteer at a soup kitchen.

Why It’s Important: CJ is asking seemingly simple questions throughout the book, but his grandmother’s responses always elicit empathy towards the other characters throughout the book. It serves as a reminder that everyone we encounter has skills and a story, but we must be kind and open-hearted in order to hear it.

6. Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts

What It's About: In this book, we see a young boy dreaming about getting a pair of really cool shoes. Unfortunately, his family does not have the money for this dream to become a reality. He eventually finds the shoes in a thrift shop in near perfect condition and buys them even though they are too tight. Another kid in his class can't afford new shoes either, and his feet would fit in the cool shoes when the narrator's would not. So, the narrator decides to give his shoes away.Why It's Important: This book highlights the importance of giving and making difficult decisions. We see the narrator struggle to decide if he can really give his shoes away, but when he decides to, both he and the boy who receive his shoes end up happier than they were before.

What It’s About: In this book, we see a young boy dreaming about getting a pair of really cool shoes. Unfortunately, his family does not have the money for this dream to become a reality. He eventually finds the shoes in a thrift shop in near perfect condition and buys them even though they are too tight. Another kid in his class can’t afford new shoes either, and his feet would fit in the cool shoes when the narrator’s would not. So, the narrator decides to give his shoes away.

Why It’s Important: This book highlights the importance of giving and making difficult decisions. We see the narrator struggle to decide if he can really give his shoes away, but when he decides to, both he and the boy who receive his shoes end up happier than they were before.

7. Horton Hears A Who by Dr. Seuss

What It's About: A classic Dr. Seuss, this book is about an elephant who discovers an entire community living on a speck of dust. With his big ears, Horton is the only animal in the jungle who is able to hear the Whos. Despite being made fun of by the other animals, Horton stands by Whoville because he knows it is the right thing to do. Why It's Important: Not only is Horton doing the right thing, he is doing the right thing while everyone around him is bullying him to give up. This teaches an important lesson about standing by what you believe in, no matter what you face. With older children, you can also use this book to discuss the importance of advocating for those who do not have a voice

What It’s About: A classic Dr. Seuss, this book is about an elephant who discovers an entire community living on a speck of dust. With his big ears, Horton is the only animal in the jungle who is able to hear the Whos. Despite being made fun of by the other animals, Horton stands by Whoville because he knows it is the right thing to do.

Why It’s Important: Not only is Horton doing the right thing, he is doing the right thing while everyone around him is bullying him to give up. This teaches an important lesson about standing by what you believe in, no matter what you face. With older children, you can also use this book to discuss the importance of advocating for those who do not have a voice

8. Enemy Pie by Derek Munson

What It's About: This is about a boy who is having a great summer until Jeremy Ross moves in down the street. Jeremy excludes people from birthday parties and laughs when they strike out in baseball. The narrator's father makes enemy pie to help defeat Jeremy Ross. In order for enemy pie to work, the boys have to play together all day. By the end of the day they are good friends and enjoy the pie together. Why It's Important: This tells a classic story of judging a book by its cover, or making judgements about people based on insignificant details. After spending quality time together the two enemies learned that they actually got along quite well.

What It’s About: This is about a boy who is having a great summer until Jeremy Ross moves in down the street. Jeremy excludes people from birthday parties and laughs when they strike out in baseball. The narrator’s father makes enemy pie to help defeat Jeremy Ross. In order for enemy pie to work, the boys have to play together all day. By the end of the day they are good friends and enjoy the pie together.

Why It’s Important: This tells a classic story of judging a book by its cover, or making judgements about people based on insignificant details. After spending quality time together the two enemies learned that they actually got along quite well.

9. Ordinary Mary’s Extraordinary Deed by Emily Pearson, Fumi Kosaka

What It's About: This story is about an average girl who decides to pick some blueberries for her neighbor. The neighbor bakes blueberry muffins and gives plates of them to five other people. This good deed turns into a chain strangers doing kind things for other strangers. Eventually, Mary has someone do something nice for her whose kind actions can be traced back to Mary's blueberry picking.Why It's Important: This is another book that shows the important your actions can have on others, but it also shows the ways your actions can ripple out to affect total strangers.

What It’s About: This story is about an average girl who decides to pick some blueberries for her neighbor. The neighbor bakes blueberry muffins and gives plates of them to five other people. This good deed turns into a chain strangers doing kind things for other strangers. Eventually, Mary has someone do something nice for her whose kind actions can be traced back to Mary’s blueberry picking.

Why It’s Important: This is another book that shows the important your actions can have on others, but it also shows the ways your actions can ripple out to affect total strangers.

10. The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig

What It's About: This sweet book tells the story of Brian, a quiet boy who never makes a fuss or much noise at all. He feels invisible compared to the other children who are the center of the teacher's attention by being loud, or the children with lots of friends who get picked first for sports. When a new kid comes to school, he makes Brian feel a lot less invisible. Why It's Important: All kids are different. Some are outgoing and some are quiet. This book celebrates those differences while teaching the importance of welcoming all types of kids to play and participate.

What It’s About: This sweet book tells the story of Brian, a quiet boy who never makes a fuss or much noise at all. He feels invisible compared to the other children who are the center of the teacher’s attention by being loud, or the children with lots of friends who get picked first for sports. When a new kid comes to school, he makes Brian feel a lot less invisible.

Why It’s Important: All kids are different. Some are outgoing and some are quiet. This book celebrates those differences while teaching the importance of welcoming all types of kids to play and participate.

11. The Three Questions by Jon J Muth

What It's About: This book is about a boy named Nikolai who wants to be a good person, but is not always sure how. He wants to discover the answer to the three questions: When is the best time to do things? Who is the most important one? What is the right thing to do? His three animal friends help him answer these questions, but they all have slightly different approaches. He eventually learns that the right time is now, the important one is the one you are with, and the right thing to do is good. Why It's Important: This book takes a more conceptual approach to helping others, but would serve as an extremely useful tool for starting a discussion with older children about why kindness is an important character trait.

What It’s About: This book is about a boy named Nikolai who wants to be a good person, but is not always sure how. He wants to discover the answer to the three questions: When is the best time to do things? Who is the most important one? What is the right thing to do? His three animal friends help him answer these questions, but they all have slightly different approaches. He eventually learns that the right time is now, the important one is the one you are with, and the right thing to do is good.

Why It’s Important: This book takes a more conceptual approach to helping others, but would serve as an extremely useful tool for starting a discussion with older children about why kindness is an important character trait.

12. Rude Cakes by Rowboat Watkins

What It's About: This book is about a cake, who is, very rude. He never says please or thank you, never listens, and doesn't share well. One day a giant cyclops takes the rude cake and wears him as a hat. The cyclops has great manners, but the cake hates being a hat. After finally getting away from the cyclops, the cake becomes much more polite.Why It's Important: Although this book is quite out there, it teaches how far good manners and behavior can go toward getting what you want.

What It’s About: This book is about a cake, who is, very rude. He never says please or thank you, never listens, and doesn’t share well. One day a giant cyclops takes the rude cake and wears him as a hat. The cyclops has great manners, but the cake hates being a hat. After finally getting away from the cyclops, the cake becomes much more polite.

Why It’s Important: Although this book is quite out there, it teaches how far good manners and behavior can go toward getting what you want.

13. The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

What It's About: A familiar book to many, this book tells the heartfelt story of a boy and a tree who loved each other very much, but the boy ends up taking parts of the tree until the tree is worn down into a stump. At the end of the book, the boy (now an old man) just needs a place to sit, so he and the stump sit together. Why It's Important: This book shows the continual generosity and kindness of the tree, and how much the actions of the boy affected the tree. It can be used to teach children that kindness is important, but you should never give up so much that you suffer. You can also use it to teach give and take, the importance of a healthy and mutually beneficial relationship.

What It’s About: A familiar book to many, this book tells the heartfelt story of a boy and a tree who loved each other very much, but the boy ends up taking parts of the tree until the tree is worn down into a stump. At the end of the book, the boy (now an old man) just needs a place to sit, so he and the stump sit together.

Why It’s Important: This book shows the continual generosity and kindness of the tree, and how much the actions of the boy affected the tree. It can be used to teach children that kindness is important, but you should never give up so much that you suffer. You can also use it to teach give and take, the importance of a healthy and mutually beneficial relationship.

https://www.buzzfeed.com/emeynardie/13-childrens-books-that-encourage-kindness-toward-26paw?utm_term=.nkpjWjlBaY#.nabQNQVWbZ

Have American Parents Got It All Backwards?

The eager new mom offering her insouciant toddler an array of carefully-arranged healthy snacks from an ice cube tray?

That was me.

The always-on-top-of-her-child’s-play parent intervening during play dates at the first sign of discord?

That was me too.

We hold some basic truths as self-evident when it comes to good parenting. Our job is to keep our children safe, enable them to fulfill their potential and make sure they’re healthy and happy and thriving.

The parent I used to be and the parent I am now both have the same goal: to raise self-reliant, self-assured, successful children. But 12 years of parenting, over five years of living on and off in Japan, two years of research, investigative trips to Europe and Asia and dozens of interviews with psychologists, child development experts, sociologists, educators, administrators and parents in Japan, Korea, China, Finland, Germany, Sweden, France, Spain, Brazil and elsewhere have taught me that though parents around the world have the same goals, American parents like me (despite our very best intentions) have gotten it all backwards.

Why?

We need to let 3-year-olds climb trees and 5-year-olds use knives.

Imagine my surprise when I came across a kindergartener in the German forest whittling away on a stick with a penknife. His teacher, Wolfgang, lightheartedly dismissed my concern: “No one’s ever lost a finger!”

Similarly, Brittany, an American mom, was stunned when she moved her young family to Sweden and saw 3- and 4-year-olds with no adult supervision bicycling down the street, climbing the roofs of playhouses and scaling tall trees with no adult supervision. The first time she saw a 3-year-old high up in a tree at preschool, she started searching for the teacher to let her know. Then she saw another parent stop and chat with one of the little tree occupants, completely unfazed. It was clear that no one but Brittany was concerned.

“I think of myself as an open-minded parent,” she confided to me, “and yet here I was, wanting to tell a child to come down from a tree.”

Why it’s better: Ellen Hansen Sandseter, a Norwegian researcher at Queen Maud University in Norway, has found in her research that the relaxed approach to risk-taking and safety actually keeps our children safer by honing their judgment about what they’re capable of. Children are drawn to the things we parents fear: high places, water, wandering far away, dangerous sharp tools. Our instinct is to keep them safe by childproofing their lives. But “the most important safety protection you can give a child,” Sandseter explained when we talked, “is to let them take… risks.”

Consider the facts to back up her assertion: Sweden, where children are given this kind of ample freedom to explore (while at the same time benefitting from comprehensive laws that protect their rights and safety), has the lowest rates of child injury in the world.

Children can go hungry from time-to-time.

In Korea, eating is taught to children as a life skill and as in most cultures, children are taught it is important to wait out their hunger until it is time for the whole family to sit down together and eat. Koreans do not believe it’s healthy to graze or eat alone, and they don’t tend to excuse bad behavior (like I do) by blaming it on low blood sugar. Instead, children are taught that food is best enjoyed as a shared experience. All children eat the same things that adults do, just like they do in most countries in the world with robust food cultures. (Ever wonder why ethnic restaurants don’t have kids’ menus?). The result? Korean children are incredible eaters. They sit down to tables filled with vegetables of all sorts, broiled fish, meats, spicy pickled cabbage and healthy grains and soups at every meal.

Why it’s better: In stark contrast to our growing child overweight/obesity levels, South Koreans enjoy the lowest obesity rates in the developed world. A closely similar-by-body index country in the world is Japan, where parents have a similar approach to food.

Instead of keeping children satisfied, we need to fuel their feelings of frustration.

The French, as well as many others, believe that routinely giving your child a chance to feel frustration gives him a chance to practice the art of waiting and developing self-control. Gilles, a French father of two young boys, told me that frustrating kids is good for them because it teaches them the value of delaying gratification and not always expecting (or worse, demanding) that their needs be met right now.

Why it’s better: Studies show that children who exhibit self-control and the ability to delay gratification enjoy greater future success. Anecdotally, we know that children who don’t think they’re the center of the universe are a pleasure to be around. Alice Sedar, Ph.D., a former journalist for Le Figaro and a professor of French Culture at Northeastern University, agrees. “Living in a group is a skill,” she declares, and it’s one that the French assiduously cultivate in their kids.

Children should spend less time in school.

Children in Finland go outside to play frequently all day long. “How can you teach when the children are going outside every 45 minutes?” a recent American Fulbright grant recipient in Finland, who was astonished by how little time the Finns were spending in school, inquired curiously of a teacher at one of the schools she visited. The teacher in turn was astonished by the question. “I could not teach unless the children went outside every 45 minutes!”

The Finnish model of education includes a late start to academics (children do not begin any formal academics until they are 7 years old), frequent breaks for outdoor time, shorter school hours and more variety of classes than in the US. Equity, not high achievement, is the guiding principle of the Finnish education system.

While we in America preach the mantra of early intervention, shave time off recess to teach more formal academics and cut funding to non-academic subjects like art and music, Finnish educators emphasize that learning art, music, home economics and life skills is essential.

Why it’s better: American school children score in the middle of the heap on international measures of achievement, especially in science and mathematics. Finnish children, with their truncated time in school, frequently rank among the best in the world.

Thou shalt spoil thy baby.

Tomo, a 10-year-old boy in our neighborhood in Japan, was incredibly independent. He had walked to school on his own since he was 6 years old, just like all Japanese 6-year-olds do. He always took meticulous care of his belongings when he came to visit us, arranging his shoes just so when he took them off, and he taught my son how to ride the city bus. Tomo was so helpful and responsible that when he’d come over for dinner, he offered to run out to fetch ingredients I needed, helped make the salad and stir-fried noodles. Yet every night this competent, self-reliant child went home, took his bath and fell asleep next to his aunt, who was helping raise him.

In Japan, where co-sleeping with babies and kids is common, people are incredulous that there are countries where parents routinely put their newborns to sleep in a separate room. The Japanese respond to their babies immediately and hold them constantly.

While we think of this as spoiling, the Japanese think that when babies get their needs met and are loved unconditionally as infants, they more easily become independent and self-assured as they grow.

Why it’s better: Meret Keller, a professor at UC Irvine, agrees that there is an intriguing connection between co sleeping and independent behavior. “Many people throw the word “independence” around without thinking conceptually about what it actually means,” she explained.

We’re anxious for our babies to become independent and hurry them along, starting with independent sleep, but Keller’s research has found that co-sleeping children later became more independent and self-reliant than solitary sleepers, dressing themselves or working out problems with their playmates on their own.

Children need to feel obligated.

In America, as our kids become adolescents, we believe it’s time to start letting them go and giving them their freedom. We want to help them be out in the world more and we don’t want to burden them with family responsibilities. In China, parents do the opposite: the older children get, the more parents remind them of their obligations.

Eva Pomerantz of the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign has found through multiple studies that in China, the cultural ideal of not letting adolescents go but of reminding them of their responsibility to the family and the expectation that their hard work in school is one way to pay back a little for all they have received, helps their motivation and their achievement.

Even more surprising: She’s found that the same holds for Western students here in the US: adolescents who feel responsible to their families tend to do better in school.

The lesson for us: if you want to help your adolescent do well in school make them feel obligated.

I parent differently than I used to. I’m still an American mom — we struggle with all-day snacking, and the kids could use more practice being patient. But 3-year-old Anna stands on a stool next to me in the kitchen using a knife to cut apples. I am not even in earshot when 6-year-old Mia scales as high in the beech in our yard as she feels comfortable. And I trust now that my boys (Daniel, 10, and Benjamin, 12) learn as much out of school as they do in the classroom.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/christine-grossloh/have-american-parents-got-it-all-backwards_b_3202328.html