Soon after we brought our newborn daughter Caroline home from the hospital, her five-year-old brother Michael wanted us to take her back. I know that because that’s exactly what Michael told me and his mother.
My wife said, “OK.” And then she started to wheel Caroline in her stroller out of our apartment.
“Where are you going?” Michael asked.
“I’m taking your sister back to the hospital, just as you said you wanted,” she said. “But then I’ll have to stay there with her.”
Michael looked at his mother with a confused expression on his face. “You’ll have to stay with her?” he asked.
“Oh, yes,” my wife said. “Of course I will. She’s too little to take care of herself.”
We could see Michael giving this whole idea some really deep thought.
“Oh, OK,” Michael declared. “She can stay.”
And that was that. And so Caroline stayed.
Since then, Michael has changed his tune. In fact, he’s always looked out for Caroline. Early on, he would stand alongside her crib, his hands on the railing. Look, he seemed to be thinking, I have a little sister. One time, at a nearby McDonald’s, Caroline, then about five, crawled into one of those long tube slides and disappeared from sight. We waited for her to come out, and then we waited some more, until we started to wonder if she had somehow gotten trapped. Finally, without being asked, Michael climbed into the tube, saw that she was just hanging out in there, and coaxed her out.
Another time, while Caroline was still little, she kicked Michael in the legs—for no apparent reason. Her brother could easily have kicked her back, and probably kicked her harder than she could kick him, but he refused to do that. Caroline got the message, and never kicked him again.
And so it went with our son and daughter. They would be in a restaurant with us, and Michael would curl his right arm around her shoulder to bring her close to him, as Caroline pressed her forehead against his cheek. And we have photos that show much the same. Michael and his one-year-old sister floating in a bathtub foamy with bubbles, happy just to be together. Michael during a summer vacation, holding her from behind, his left arm around her waist, as Caroline smiles broadly, looking as if she feels protected from the water in his embrace.
That’s how it is in photo after photo all through the years, because that’s how it goes with Michael and Caroline. Jump ahead five years, then 10 years, and the story stays the same. Michael’s always ready to watch over her and keep her safe. And Caroline would do no less for him.
I’ve done the math here. First Michael came along. Then Caroline joined us. And now they’ve created something else. I can see how much they mean to each other, how much they belong together. In the end, it’s really as if one plus one somehow equals three.
Bob Brody, a New York City executive, essayist and father of two, is the author of the memoir Playing Catch with Strangers: A Family Guy (Reluctantly) Comes of Age.
As a toddler, our son Michael came into our bedroom at night to sleep on the carpet near our bed. He never knocked on the door or asked to come in or tried to climb into our bed with us. He always conked out on the side near his mother. Obviously, just being near us—or, rather, her—gave him a sense of security.
I’m sure my wife felt flattered by his wish to be close to her, though she never said so. Who could blame Michael, really? I mean, there he was—what, two, three years old?—in his room down the hall from us, thinking, Hey, it’s dark in here and I’m all by myself. And then I can imagine his just deciding, Look, enough of this alone-in-the-dark stuff. I want my Mom.
All around, it was really cute.
Michael’s habit of silently slipping in to join us lent our nights an aura of mystery and suspense. I remember waking up and wondering, Is he here yet? He would make his entrance at different times, most likely whenever he felt the need, rather than going by any regular schedule. And then I might look down, and there he would already be, sprawled out with his eyes closed and his head on a pillow, all tucked under his blanket. And so night after night in he would come, our reliable little visitor, bundled in his baby-blue pajamas, the three of us sleeping together in the stillness and the quiet until morning.
This little ninja routine of his brought its problems, though. For example, I would get up at night to go to the bathroom and either almost step on him or trip over him. So we had something of an issue there: I wanted to avoid hurting him—and myself.
And then, Michael turned four, and I started to wonder how much longer he planned to be our nighttime roommate. I suspected he was getting a little too old to depend on our company all night. And of course, the older he got, the more he grew, creating a larger obstacle.
Now, please understand. I loved having our little guy there. Some nights I would kneel down next to him in the shadows and look at his beautiful face, just watching him breathe. But I was concerned about squashing him, and said so to his mother.
“Maybe Michael should sleep through the night in his room from now on,” I said. At a certain point he would need to learn to sleep by himself, just as everyone does, and maybe the sooner the better. I wanted only what was best for him.
“It’s fine,” his mother said. “It’s no big deal. He’ll stop coming in when he’s ready to stop coming in.”
Naturally, I worried about what the future might hold if we took this course of action with no cutoff point. Michael would be sleeping with us in our bedroom at the age of 10, and then at 20, and then at 30. He would graduate from college, start a job, get married, even have kids, but still there he would be, sleeping on the carpet next to our bed. And all along my wife would be saying “It’s fine; it’s no big deal. He’ll stop coming in when he’s ready to stop coming in.”
But one night only months later, I looked next to the bed and four-year-old Michael was nowhere to be seen. And the next night, too, and then the night after. And eventually I went to his bedroom to check on him and there he was, warm under the covers, at last secure enough alone to stay put.
And for just a quick moment, proud as I felt of our son, I wanted to invite him to come back.
Bob Brody, a New York City executive, essayist and father of two, is the author of the memoir Playing Catch with Strangers: A Family Guy (Reluctantly) Comes of Age.
By Caroline Knorr, Parenting Editor, Common Sense Media
As parents, we have a natural instinct to choose who we want our kids to be friends with -- and who we'd rather they not hang around. The same instinct kicks in for media role models. We like Doc McStuffins because she's smart and kind. SpongeBob? Maybe not so much.
In today's 24/7 media environment, in which kids may be spending more time with media than they are with their parents, choosing positive role models is more important than ever. By the time kids are in middle school, they start to look to their peers for a sense of what's socially acceptable or desirable. Parents may remain the primary influence in their kids' lives, but the competition starts to get fierce at this age. This separation is entirely age appropriate. But when the media comes into play, the values you want to pass down to your kids may be competing against, say, Homer Simpson's. Or, folks like Logan Paul, who's YouTube channel has millions of followers and is hugely influential (for all the wrong reasons).
In fact, the stars of social media are just as likely to be role models as traditional celebrities. These so-called influencers reach out to kids via TV, YouTube, video games, Twitter, and music -- all of which are broadcast or easily accessible 24 hours a day. And as we all know, not all the characters or people who gain popularity through these channels have stellar role-model credentials.
The good news is that there are plenty of positive role models you can point to that may influence your kids to make healthy choices, learn to respect others, achieve goals, and avoid anti-social behavior. Negative role models -- especially ones who don't suffer consequences for their actions -- can encourage anti-social behavior, stereotypes, and even cruelty. Help your kids choose positive media role models who embody the values you want to pass down.
Tips for parents of young kids
- Limit screen time. Kids grow and thrive best through personal interaction. Spending time with them, playing, and reading are great ways to build a foundation to impart your values.
- Find age-appropriate content. Kids ages 2-7 should be exposed to media featuring good role moles, racial and gender diversity, and no stereotypes. Check out some of the positive role models on YouTube.
- Encourage positive socialization. Look for role models who impart positive social lessons, like sharing and being a good friend.
- Respect differences. Encourage kids this age to accept and respect people who are different by exposing them to media that includes people of diverse backgrounds.
Tips for parents of elementary-aged kids
- Avoid stereotypes. Point out strong female characters or male characters who share their feelings. Try not to reinforce stereotypes in media selection (i.e. princess movies for girls and truck videos for boys), since that can reinforce societal imbalances. Take a look at our lists of Positive Role Model TV for Girls and Movies with Incredible Role Models for Boys.
- Reinforce your values. Point out words and behavior in popular TV shows, websites, and music that are both positive and negative examples of what you do and don't want your kids to model. What you say to your child is up to you, but have the discussion.
- Flag antisocial behavior. Children like to imitate and pretend to be their favorite characters. When characters say mean things or behave cruelly, discuss the consequences.
- Go with the good stuff. Kids will be inspired by great historical figures, athletes, or TV stars. Take advantage of that adoration by pointing out their good traits, as in, "George Washington was honest. Honesty is an important quality." Not: "Lying is bad. Children who lie get in trouble."
Tips for parents of older kids
- Embrace what they like. Rejecting your kids' love of popular culture can close off avenues of communication. Embrace their world, but establish clear boundaries about what you find acceptable and appropriate. Talk about celebrities that cross the line.
- Help teens balance their need for rebellion and self-expression with an appreciation of acceptable social action. Kids need to understand how to communicate and use media wisely and ethically. If they engage with media that includes antisocial behavior, make sure they understand the impact and potential consequences.
- Let older kids see things you don't agree with. But then discuss exactly what you don't like with them. Since we won't always be around, we need to make sure to instill critical-thinking skills in our kids.
- Don't shy away from pointing the finger. If your kids (or their schoolmates) are heavy media users and they demonstrate or are on the receiving end of any antisocial behavior or experience eating disorders, addictions, low school performance or depression, connect the dots -- and disconnect the source.
Common Sense Media is an independent nonprofit organization offering unbiased ratings and trusted advice to help families make smart media and technology choices. Check out our ratings and recommendations at www.commonsense.org.
I was having breakfast recently with the appealing young woman who used to be my little girl, when she suddenly looked across the table and, out of the blue, began reminiscing about a game we used to play when she was in the first grade. "Remember how you'd put the cereal boxes in a circle on the kitchen floor,” she asked, “and then spin me around until I stopped in front of one of the boxes, and that would be the one I had for breakfast?" I smiled, flashing back to the hurried mornings when that game had been the only way I could make sure she didn't spend a precious five minutes pondering her cereal choices and wind up missing the school bus.
So many conversations with my children today start out with the words: “Do you remember...?” The question always delights me. It feels as if they are extracting some happy detail from their childhood and presenting it to me like a gift. After all, kids are the repositories of our parental pasts, and when their memories are good ones, we can feel gratified.
Our children often remember the little things that we, their parents, may not. So, just as I will never forget sitting on my father’s lap raptly listening to his nightly stories about a made-up, Orphan Annie-like character he called “Garbage Can Mary,’’ my grown-up daughter remembers how I pretended my fingers were “tickle bugs” and used them to tickle her awake in the morning. And just as I can still picture my mother hand-delivering trays of tea and toast to me whenever I was sick in bed, my son fondly recalls how I sat on the floor of his room and read him a book—about a mighty steam shovel, or a courageous dog, or a legendary first baseman—every night of his young life.
Of course, our kids are bound to remember the times when they felt we were mean or unfair. I have many such misdemeanors on my rap sheet, and have found that the best way to deal with them is to either express regret, if I think they have a good a case against me, or explain myself, if I think they don’t have all the facts.
So, when my daughter, at the age of 18, accused me of refusing to get her the American Girl doll she claims she begged me for when she was 10, I speculated that I probably hadn’t taken her request seriously since, as I remember it, she never liked dolls and wouldn’t play with the little girl next door who did. While I ultimately did say I was sorry she’d been disappointed about the doll, I immediately went on to enumerate some of the half million other things she’d asked for that (often against my better judgment) I had bought her.
Despite my daughter’s complaint, I’m convinced that it’s not the American Girl dolls and the X-boxes that count most with our kids, but the daily time and attention, comfort and fun we give them as regularly as we give them dinner. At least these are the things that seem to spring into their minds most often— treasured memories that fit into their pockets and that they carry out into the world, where they become signposts for their own behavior as parents.
I wish I’d grasped this essential truth earlier on. I might not have fretted so much about not getting them every little thing their hearts desired. Maybe I didn’t listen hard enough to my own childhood memories. If I had, I would have realized that I knew all I needed to know about which ones matter the most. I only hope I’ve passed that lesson along, intact, to my children.
Bette-Jane Raphael is a journalist and a writing coach at The City College of New York. She has two children.
With the new year upon us, re-energizing your student about learning can seem challenging. With the right tactics, however, motivating your child to tackle 2018 doesn’t have to be a source of conflict. Techniques like promoting leadership or discovering your student’s preferred learning style can help both you and your child start the year strong.
1. Experiment with different learning styles
According to Howard Gardner, there are seven types of intelligence, also known as learning styles: interpersonal, intrapersonal, kinesthetic, linguistic, logical, musical, and visual. Gardner’s theory states that each student learns differently. For this reason, identifying which styles suit your student best can help her feel more confident. For example, she may absorb material more effectively when it is written on the chalkboard during class or on paper during homework time.
One key component of motivating your child is helping her feel confident in her abilities. Talk about how she prefers to interact with information, or experiment with several ways together. Discovering her individual learning style (or styles) can help your child begin the year motivated to tackle what lies ahead.
2. Encourage leadership skills
Is your student in fourth or fifth grade, or middle school? If so, it can be very helpful to urge him to take leadership of his education and any projects he may face in the coming year. Yes, you will still be present to assist when necessary. But if your child feels that he is in control of his education, he may be more likely to excel.
Allowing your student to practice leadership can take many forms, such as letting him choose which homework to tackle first. This may sound like a simple decision, but it is important to promote positive decision-making skills in your student’s everyday life. Discuss any areas where he would like to exert more leadership skills—perhaps he would like to help his little sister with reading or he would like to choose his extracurricular activities for the spring.
3. Foster an outside connection to learning
Your student will learn a great deal in the classroom, but engaging in activities outside school that continue this learning can be very beneficial. There are many ways you can strengthen your child’s connection to learning, both inside and outside your home. She could conduct simple experiments if she is interested in science, or write short stories if she is intrigued by the arts. Ask her about her interests and gauge what she might find exciting.
Another great way to motivate your student is to take field trips to local learning centers, museums, and historic sites. If your child is struggling with science, one way to get her excited about the subject might be to take her to a science museum and let her explore. She may find connections to information she has learned in the classroom and, in turn, may gain a better understanding of the concept. For example, if she is studying weather in science class, but cannot fully grasp the concept, she could explore the weather exhibit at a local science center. This idea can work for other subjects and locations as well, such as art museums and libraries. Speak with your student about areas where she is struggling or would like to delve deeper, and research how you can incorporate an outside learning connection into her education.
Motivating your student in the new year doesn’t have to revolve around helping him set resolutions. If you initiate an open dialogue about your child’s strengths and weaknesses, you can successfully motivate him to succeed in 2018.
Caitlin Grove is an Associate Content Coordinator for Varsity Tutors, a live learning platform that connects students with personalized instruction to accelerate academic achievement.
On a recent evening of baby-sitting, I put my two-year-old grandson in the tub for what I thought would be a quick bath. By the time I’d soaped him up and rinsed him off, however, he’d become so absorbed in pouring water from one plastic cup to another that you’d have thought he was panning for gold. When I suggested that it was time for him to come out and get dry, he shook his head vehemently. Seeing that he would not be dislodged, I sat down on the edge of the tub and let him continue prospecting.
After 10 minutes of watching him fill and spill and refill an assortment of containers, I began to wonder why I felt so unhurried, even serene, when only hours earlier I’d wanted to scream because the guy on line ahead of me at the bank chose to waste my time buying himself a money order!
It took me a moment to realize that I had entered what I used to call Toddler Time, a continuum that passes very differently from that of Standard or Daylight Saving Time. I remembered it well, having been there many times when my kids were small.
Like harried new mothers the world over, I’d tried at first to fit my little ones into my pre-parenthood conception of time, i.e., the idea that there is only a certain amount of it in any given day, and that amount has to be divided into segments of varying duration so that all necessary activities can be accomplished. The trouble was that seeing time as rigidly finite made me want to hurry, while children, I found out early on, are not programmed to hurry. They’re programmed to learn, and whether the lesson is how to pour water into a cup or button a sweater or catch a ball, it can’t be timed. Mastering the skill in question takes however long is necessary for any particular child, and “however long” is impossible to predict. Once I understood this, I decided that whenever possible I would put other obligations on hold and take time to watch my children learn at their own pace.
So, when my 18-month-old son made it clear that he didn’t want to be fed anymore—that if anyone were going to shove mashed potatoes into his mouth, it would be himself—I handed over the spoon. The result was that his dinnertime, which until then had taken maybe 10 minutes, could now take, well, forever. But what a rich time it was for both of us! He got to simultaneously make a mess and fill his tummy by his own hand, and I got to savor his increasing ability to deposit the food in his mouth instead of his nose.
I learned not to interfere with my children’s self-teaching, stifling my impulse to, say, show them how holding a crayon the “right” way would make it easier for them to control. I saw how much more satisfying it was for them to figure out stuff like that for themselves.
I remember watching my daughter one afternoon when she was just shy of two, struggling to slide colored rings down a stick attached to a pedestal. This particular pedestal, instead of sitting squarely on the floor, rocked back and forth, so that every time she tried to slip a ring onto the stick, it eluded her by tilting to one side or the other. I waited for her to explode with exasperation, ready to jump in and give her a hand, when she picked up a red ring, slipped it on the stick with exquisite care, and watched it slide smoothly all the way down, just as it was meant to do. I saw her stare at the toy for a second, as if surprised at her success, and then clap her hands together the same way I did whenever I applauded her efforts.
The awareness kids form that they can work things out for themselves becomes more and more precious as they grow up and the things they have to work out become trickier and more complex. The belief in their own abilities gives them the sort of confidence that nobody else can, along with a necessary tolerance for frustration. They learn to accept the fact that not everything comes easily, but that hard-won successes can be especially satisfying.
Entering Toddler Time is like stepping across a magic threshold into outer space—where the hassles of everyday life momentarily vanish—and of course none of us can go there whenever we wish. We can’t spend twenty minutes watching a 2-year-old pour water into cups when we have a 5-year-old in the living room determined to paint the dog’s toenails, or a 35-year-old in the kitchen who’s had a terrible day and needs to talk. When life calls, we’ve got to get the kid out of the tub and put an end, sometimes an abrupt and much protested end, to the lesson.
Whenever that happened and I felt I’d short-changed one of my offspring, I’d stave off guilt by reminding myself that they had to learn the world did not revolve around them, at least not all the time. It’s a fact of life that can’t be self-taught. Kids have to find it out from us, their parents, and it might just be one of the most important lessons they ever learn. I know it has proved useful to my own children practically every day of their lives—particularly on the days they have stand in line at the bank.
Bette-Jane Raphael is a journalist and a writing coach at The City College of New York. She has two children.
When my sister Ursula turned one, our mom, Madeline, bought her a big, red plastic ball. It cost ninety-nine cents and delighted her more than any other gift she received. For years my mom has told friends: “When your child (or grandchild or niece or neighbor) turns one, get the big plastic ball.” And everyone who’s followed the advice gets the same big-smiled result.
When that same sister was 30, six months pregnant, and living across the country, I flew her back home as a Christmas surprise for my parents. My own small children were thrilled to help sneak her into the house and wrap her, mummy-like, from head to toe with yards of snowflake wrapping paper while she stood stock-still without laughing for a good half hour. When we told my parents to come open their gift right away as it was perishable, they marveled for a while at this wrapped totem, trying to guess what it could be. Honestly, they had no clue; we’d all spent the run-up weeks lamenting a Christmas without Ursula. “A tree?” said my mom, to which my dad said, “No, it’s giving off heat.” They tried and tried to guess until my kids demanded, “Unwrap it already!” I think that was the year I realized that it’s more fun to give than to receive.
So, what makes a good gift? It’s all about age, stage, delight, and surprise. Add in “thoughtful and unique,” says Mia Galison, founder of eeBoo, a company that makes crafts, toys, and activities for kids. Last year I gave chilled cookie dough, alphabet cookie cutters, and a container of icing to my five-year-old cousin. For her child’s friends’ birthdays, my colleague Beth pairs books with significant props—Pippi Longstocking with zippy, striped socks, or The Last Crayon with a large new box of 64 crayons.
There’s a lot to consider in coming up with the right present. First, if it isn’t age appropriate or doesn’t speak to a child’s developmental stage, the gift will be a dud. “Children’s development, skill level, and how they play change as they grow,” says Tovah Klein, Ph.D., author of the book How Toddlers Thrive. “Think about where the child is in terms of development when you’re picking a toy for him,” she says. “Playing should be fun, and toys should support his development.” An expensive stuffed animal may be handsome, but probably not as much fun to play with for a one-year-old as the wrapping paper it comes in. Given this reality, you may want to wrap gifts for the very young with easy-to-tear paper, keeping the gift itself on the inexpensive side. Klein’s motto? “The simpler the toy, the better.”
Once you’ve nailed the age and stage question, experts agree that what kids play with should support exploration, learning, and growth. ”Matching games that ask children to find a connection between pictures, like a dog and a leash, are perfect for the 3+ set,” says eeBoo’s Galison, “because they are a delightful way to sharpen memory and focus.” Klein, a psychologist, is a fan of open-ended toys, which require no “right” or “wrong” ways to play. “They allow children to have their own ideas, to think, create, imagine, and make what they want,” she explains.
As children get older, they develop specific interests that gifts can complement. A preschooler who loves trains will be happy with new train cars, or even a miniature accessory that can add to an existing set. A six- to eight-year-old who is into art will appreciate a cool dot-to-dot book, or, if more sophisticated, a learn-to-draw book, such as the wonderful Illustration School series by Sachiko Umoto, including Let’s Draw Cute Animals. For more bang, pair with colored pencils in a cool tin.
It’s fun to get creative when it comes to tapping into kids’ passions. A preschool dinosaur fan might love a 3 ft. high inflatable T. rex, while an older budding paleontologist can appreciate a daytrip to the natural history museum followed by frozen hot chocolate at a special café. Got a game player in the house? Give a classic like Candy Land (3+), Trouble (5+), or Parcheesi (7+), along with coupons that guarantee your spot at the table as an opponent. You might enhance the package with a book like Who Was Milton Bradley? When you acknowledge a child’s passion, you affirm her individuality—a big esteem booster.
Whatever age you’re buying for, go for the “Wow”; presents must delight their recipients. My poor son Jamie used to unhappily refer to Christmas as the “shirt holiday” due to the number he received from well-meaning relatives at a loss for other ideas. It’s good to differentiate what kids need from what they’d like. A bike is a present. A bike helmet is not. “Unless,” says Galison, “you have fun with it.” Like my friend Jenny who gave her son Theo kneepads first and the skateboard second. “You said no so many times to that board,” Theo told his mom. “I never thought you would get it for me.”
Personally, I’ve become a fan of experiential presents over the years— tickets, edibles, a workshop. But children love to open presents, so if you’re giving tickets to, say, a special show or concert, wrap that little stub of paper in layers of different paper, Bubble Wrap, and boxes so there’s some fun in opening your gift-to-be-redeemed at a later date. And consider throwing in a related but inexpensive add-in to go with that dance class or music lesson (think: a little tutu or harmonica) to be enjoyed on the spot.
Also, include your kids as you plan gifts for others so they learn the joys of giving. “Making a card for a friend is a way to introduce preschoolers to the idea of giving to others,” Tovah Klein says. Older kids can help pick out gifts for friends or sibs, though before ages five or six you shouldn’t expect them to express the selflessness it takes to shop for anyone else.
Include them, too, in charitable giving. As my children grew, holiday time gave me an opportunity to impart my values as I gave to toy drives or made year-end contributions to nonprofit organizations. “When they are eight or above,” Klein suggests, “you can involve them in donations, explaining that you are helping others who may not be able to afford holiday gifts this year.” When they are younger, says Klein, they don’t quite understand what it means that others have less. “In fact, it can sound scary that some children don’t have clothes or toys or their own bed to sleep in. If you help out a neighbor or donate books to the library, your child will see that giving is part of what you do.”
For me, the adage “It’s the thought that counts” are words to live by. Some years, when I’ve been flush, I’ve spent a lot on gifts; other years, not so much. But always, always, I think of the recipient as unique and so, too, the present I give.
Pam Abrams has written for and about children for many years, and currently serves as Program Director for Jacob’s Digs, a nonprofit organization in New York City. She has two children.
Studying can be a true challenge for children—for some, the thought of having to sit at a desk for hours alone causes dread. It can be difficult to think of ways to help make your elementary school student’s studying less tedious, so here are three creative ways to help.
Role-playing can easily energize a study session. Many children already use this strategy during their free time, so the association of role-play with an exciting activity can work to increase positive energy around studying. Role-play suits any character, but it can be particularly helpful to ask your child to be a teacher. You can be the student. Children can learn a great deal when they teach material to someone else. Speaking through it helps them to articulate concepts and ideas. It also reveals gaps in their knowledge, which they can use to better target their review. You can ask questions that a student would ask in order to test your child’s knowledge of the material.
You might also try bringing other characters into the mix. Examples include Kermit the Frog or Hermione Granger—any persona that would be fun!
While studying is traditionally associated with sitting down at a desk or table, this doesn’t suit every learning style—particularly kinesthetic learners. But kinesthetic learning, which focuses on physical activities, isn’t just for kinesthetic learners. Nearly every child can benefit from associating study material with movement. If the weather is nice, go outside and take a walk with your child. The change in scenery can reinvigorate his study time, and the elements in the environment and in specific movements can strengthen the associations his brain makes with concepts. For example, try quizzing him—or have him quiz himself—while hopping or jumping. This can provide a new way to access information; your child can recall “the topic I studied while hopping.”
This strategy can involve any type of art. Drawing, painting, sculpture, and sketching are all great ways to visualize information that might otherwise stay stagnant on the page. Encourage your child to represent new concepts or ideas in as many ways as possible: mind maps, tables, webs, etc. Perhaps there’s one specific type of visualization that she gravitates toward. This method can help her understand facts and relationships that might otherwise be hard to describe verbally. You might also have your child try different mediums beyond paper and pencil, marker, and crayon. Keep in mind that they don’t even need to be permanent works of art. Perhaps she would like to practice math problems with shaving cream in the bathtub, or spell words using magnetic letters on the refrigerator. Maybe you could create a story together around specific terms or vocabulary words that she needs to remember.
Finally, studying can be both more enjoyable and productive with a buddy. That buddy might be you, a willing sibling, or a friend.
Lisa Low is a contributing writer for Varsity Tutors, a live learning platform that connects students with personalized instruction to accelerate academic achievement.
In school, our children are focused on learning facts, how to do math, and how to write. This type of intelligence helps propel them forward in school, earning high grades and college acceptances. But…what if IQ alone isn’t enough to make your child successful in life?
Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is the awareness of one’s feelings and the feelings of others. It is the ability to understand and manage one’s emotions and utilize this knowledge to connect with others. Empathy is a central element in EQ.
In the 2017 Highlights State of the Kid™ survey, Highlights asked 2,000 kids ages 6 to 12 what it means to “put yourself in another person’s shoes,” and 67 percent of responders understood the idea of empathy (with only 14 percent, higher among younger kids, responding that they did not know). This is promising news! So, as adults, how do we continue to encourage empathy in our children?
Parents and other trusted adults are the main sources of information in a child’s life. We are the role models, and as such we can start the empathy conversation by displaying an awareness of our own feelings. Children are not born with an innate ability to name a feeling and connect that to an action or experience. But we can help teach them. When rushing to work in the morning, let your child know, “I am worried about getting to work on time, and I am sad that we don’t have time to play a little longer.” When we make a mistake, like forgetting something at the store, we can tell our child, “I am mad at myself for forgetting the milk at the store, and I am frustrated that we will have to go back.” This allows your child to recognize feelings and the situations that cause them, the first step in building empathy.
You can also start a dialogue when you see your child having a feeling. For example, “It seems that you are feeling sad/mad/frustrated. Am I right?” Starting the conversation about your child’s feelings provides an opportunity to validate his experience and can lead to brainstorming possible solutions and/or coping skills. Identify. Validate. Implement skills. Let your child know that a feeling is never wrong. Though once we are able to identify it, we can then choose how to move forward. Do we need to take an action? Do we need a distraction? Helping your child identify what he may need in response to his feelings can make a situation seem more manageable.
We don’t always have to be focused on the less favorable emotions either. We can ask our children how it felt when they earned a special award in class or when a friend asked them for a playdate. Encourage recognition of feelings such as pride, happiness, and contentment.
The next step is connecting this knowledge with respect of feelings toward others. A great way to start is by sitting with your child as she watches a movie or a television show. Talk to her about how a character may be feeling, why she might be feeling that way, and what might help her in the moment. Using real-life examples is also a perfect way to teach children how to observe others in a nonjudgmental and open way.
Creating a loving and safe environment for your children will allow them the space to explore their emotional process and in the end, be better equipped to connect and respond emotionally with others.
Sasha L. Ribic, Psy.D. is a licensed clinical psychologist in Columbus, Ohio. She provides psychotherapy for children, adolescents, and adults, and provides varied psychoeducational programs and parenting seminars within Central Ohio....
It was the morning rush and, as usual, we were racing the clock. The children were slow to put on their shoes, I left my coffee on the steps, and we got stuck behind a garbage truck. When the car in front of us stopped in the middle of the street, I honked my horn and swerved around the double-parked car, muttering unsavory remarks under my breath.
My first-grader piped up from the backseat. “Mama,” he said. “That wasn’t very kind of you.”
I looked in the rearview mirror and, as his big brown eyes met mine, felt a wave of shame. He was absolutely right; I had been unkind. My mind flooded with excuses, but before I could piece words together, his small voice interrupted my thoughts. “Light’s green!” he announced.
I returned my eyes to the road. My children chattered cheerfully the rest of the way, but I remained silent, still struggling to formulate a response to explain my unkind behavior. We pulled up to school with seconds to spare and my children scrambled out of the car. As they sprinted to the door, I called out my routine farewell: “Bye. I love you! Be helpful. Be kind.”
The car door closed with a slam, snapping me to attention. My words hung in the air and echoed in my thoughts for the rest of the day. I tell my kids it’s important to be kind nearly every day. But when I myself was unkind, I was at a loss for words. Why is it so easy to tell them to be kind, but so hard to speak when I myself am not?
Like most parents, I aspire to model kindness for my children. Yet, this wasn’t the first time my children had seen me act unkindly and I am certain it won’t be the last. There are inevitably times when we don’t live up to our own expectations. In fact, most kids see adults acting in unkind ways, as the 2017 Highlights State of the Kid™ report demonstrates. In these moments, we need to be gentle with ourselves, remember that we are human, and reset our intention to be kind.
But we can’t stop there. It is these moments, perhaps, that are the most critical to talk about with our children. Like my son, children are keen observers and they notice when our words and actions don’t align. Instead of staying quiet, I could have been honest with him. “You’re right,” I could have said. “That wasn’t kind. I was so frustrated that I lost my temper.” I could have said I’ll try to do better next time. These moments offer an opportunity to reaffirm our values deliberately and intentionally.
These days, there is no shortage of people acting in unkind ways. Kids see adults treat each other with disrespect in cars, on sports fields, and in the media. It’s not enough to remind our children to be kind and then let these moments go by unnoticed. We need to call out unkind behavior when we see it. We need to show our children examples of standing up for what is right, even when it’s hard.
That way, someday I will meet my son's eyes without flinching, and know I did my very best to show him that I strive for kindness always, that I admit I’m unkind sometimes, that I want him, like me, to be his best kind self as much as possible—and that we’ll always be able to talk about it.