Friday, April 22, 2016

10 things for parents

Radio Commentary

A booklet called “The National PTA Talks to Parents” includes 10 items PTA members feel could be helpful for all parents.

It says parents should be involved in their children’s education. Parents should provide resources at home for reading and learning —items such as books and magazines that children can read each day.

The PTA says parents should set a good example by showing they believe reading is enjoyable and useful. It also helps if parents encourage children to do their best in school.
Parents should help children set goals that are reachable, and avoid getting children over-involved in extracurricular activities.

Academics should be a family’s first concern, according to the PTA. Then should come workforce preparation and involvement in extracurricular activities.
The PTA booklet says parents should support school rules and goals, taking care not to undermine school discipline. They should also encourage children to do their best, but avoid applying too much pressure.
It’s also best if parents exercise responsibility and don’t expect the school or teachers to take over their job. Teaching basic discipline is, at base, a parental responsibility, according to the PTA.

Parents should also call teachers as soon as a problem comes up so that they can take action right away. These are common-sense tips that make a difference for young people.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Bucking peer pressure

Radio Commentary

Parents can help prepare their children to fight peer pressure, especially when it comes to drugs and alcohol.

It helps to role-play about how to say “no.” Act out ways that your child can refuse to go along with friends without becoming a social outcast.

You can’t envision all the circumstances that might arise, but you can cover typical examples of when young people find themselves in awkward situations.

For example, you could say to your child:  “Let’s play a game. Suppose you and your friends are at Andy’s house after school and they find some beer in the refrigerator and ask you to join them in drinking it.

“You know that the rule in our family is that children are not allowed to drink any alcohol, right? So what could you say to your friends in that situation?”

If your child comes up with a good response, acknowledge it and reinforce how it can be effective.

If nothing springs to mind, offer options. He could say: “No thanks. Let’s play Nintendo instead,” or “No thanks. I don’t drink beer. I need to keep in shape for basketball practice.”

Or, even better: “That doesn’t sound like fun to me. Let’s go outside.”

The actual response doesn’t matter, as long as your child feels comfortable saying it.

Stress the point that real friends respect each other’s feelings and opinions. And that people who make their friends do harmful things aren’t really friends at all. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Birth to one

Radio Commentary

Babies grow and change dramatically during their first year.

They begin to develop some control over their bodies — they hold up their heads, roll over, sit up, crawl, and some even walk.

They also become aware of themselves as separate from others. They learn to look at their hands and toes and play with them. They recognize their own names, and they may cry when their parents leave.

Communication and language skills also begin to form in the first year. First, babies cry and make throaty noises. Later they babble and make lots of sounds. Then they begin to name a few close people and objects.

Playing games becomes an important part of child development.

They begin by playing with their hands and then show an interest in toys by banging them together. Eventually, they carry around dolls or stuffed toys.

During this critical first year, babies require a loving caregiver who responds quickly to their cries and gurgles.

They need someone who gets to know their special qualities and can keep them safe and comfortable.

They also need opportunities to move around and practice new physical skills, along with a supply of safe objects to look at, grab, bang, pat, and roll.

They need safe play areas and the chance to hear people talking as they learn to make their own sounds.

It’s a time of rapid growth, and loving caregivers make a real difference.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Abstract thinking skills

Radio Commentary

Throughout childhood and adolescence, children’s brains are developing in important ways.

One sign of this development is the ability to think about abstract concepts, such as “truth” and “justice.”

During middle school, children become better at abstract thinking, but they still need guidance.
Parents can initiate activities and conversations that involve these skills. Here are some examples that have worked for others:

  • Challenge accepted ideas. Ask, “Why shouldn’t athletes cheat?” or “Why don’t children go to school on the weekends?”

Making young people support their accepted beliefs helps them understand the concepts behind those beliefs.

  • Talk with your child about imaginary situations. Ask: “What if you won the lottery?” or “What if eating ice cream became illegal?”
  • Do science experiments, and have children guess what will happen. Ask: “If we shine a lamp on this plant, will it grow faster or slower?”
  • Play games that require thinking ahead. “Battleship,” checkers, and chess are good examples of games that require some strategy.
  • Let your children make choices. It’s OK if they make minor mistakes, such as spending their allowance too quickly. Use real-life situations to help your children learn from their choices.
  • Play “Twenty Questions.” Use categorical questions in general terms. Ask: “Is it a city?” instead of “Is it Miami?”

All these strategies help children develop their critical thinking skills. 

Monday, April 18, 2016

Building esteem

Radio Commentary

Building self-esteem in children can be the most lasting gift an adult can give.

Take a tip from Thomas Edison, who had thousands of failed experiments when trying to invent the light bulb.

With each failure, Edison said he learned something that didn’t work, so he was one step closer to finding something that did.

That attitude can be found in most successful people. They don’t seem to think in terms of the word ‘failure.’ They talk about a ‘glitch,’ a ‘problem,’ or a ‘snag.’

And even when something doesn’t work as planned, they try to learn from the experience.

We can all help teach this mind-set to our children.
When they don’t succeed, we should help them find something to learn from the experience.
A good question to ask is: “What would you do differently next time?”
Sometimes that lesson is more important than the task that didn’t get accomplished.

We should always let our children know we’re proud of them for trying. That support gives them the confidence to try again.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Childproof yards

Radio Commentary

While exploring the outdoors, curious youngsters can sometimes face hazards in their own backyards.

So take a look at the yard where your child plays and check very carefully for any danger spots.

Make sure wading pools and buckets are emptied after use to prevent drowning or bacteria growth.

Make sure all pools are surrounded by a fence and a self-latching gate. Check all locks and latches to make sure they are functioning properly.

Also check that the spaces between railings in a fence are narrow enough to prevent children from getting their head stuck between them.
Also check for thorny or poisonous plants. And make sure clotheslines are out of reach. They are appealing play items but have proven harmful.

Store all lawn tools and chemicals out of reach of young hands.

Make sure deck stairs have child guards and that all furniture is kept away from deck railings, to prevent young climbers from getting into trouble.

Finally, make sure wooden decks or chairs are free from splinters. What might not affect an adult can be quite painful or even harmful to young skin.

Using common sense is the best rule of all.

Thursday, April 14, 2016


Radio Commentary

Trust is an important issue with preteens and teenagers. Parents often wonder how they can question their children without being accused of doubting their judgment.

Checking up on your children’s outside activities may not be met with enthusiasm, but it is important.

Many parents have heard the refrain: “I can’t believe you don’t trust me.” This can be a young person’s way of keeping parents at a distance and feeling more independent.
It is not uncommon for young people to feel invincible and to resent interference with their social life.

One author recommends that parents respond to this resistance by saying, “We trust you, but we are concerned about the situation you’re going to be in.”

This response shows you’re concerned not with the child but with the circumstances that could occur.

Point out to your children that they won’t always have control over what can happen when they’re at a friend’s house without adult supervision.

Ask questions in a calm, non-confrontational way.

Safety issues top the priority list for parents. Young people are more likely to accept questions and supervision when it is framed in this context. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Internet contract

Radio Commentary

Parents tell children, “Don’t talk to strangers.” With wide use of the Internet, the possibility of talking to strangers in cyberspace is now an issue as well.

But it doesn’t need to be. Children can make very good use of the Internet without using chat rooms or interactive forums that bring them in contact with strangers.

Parents can help keep their children safe by setting rules and enforcing them. Remember, even if you don’t have a computer at home, your children can still use online services at a friend’s house or even a public library.

So help your child understand that online activity is a privilege. Children should also agree to:

  • Limit time online to 8 hours per week.
  • Never give out their name, address, phone number, school, or password to anyone online.
  • Report to you anyone online who asks for personal information.
  • Tell you if someone sends messages that are uncomfortable or inappropriate.
  • Never arrange to meet friends they have met online, unless you are with them.
  • Never spend time in adult chat rooms or newsgroups.
  • Refrain from using bad language or sending cruel messages.

Build in natural consequences. If any of these agreements are broken, children generally should lose online privileges for one week per broken promise. Remember: safety online is as important as safety offline.