Tag Archives: parenting

Program or be Programmed at Webvisions 2011

Programming, along with critical thinking skills, should be taught in K-12 along side reading, writing and arithmetic. Douglas Rushkoff has been making the case, not for jobs, or for just economic concerns, but for a healthy society.

Webvisions 2011: “Douglas Rushkoff: Program or be Programmed”:

If you have a child in Kindergarten, up to grade 12, who has never experienced programming, download MIT’s Scratch. It is free and it opens the gate.

Princess Power

Debra Levin Gelman wrote a terrific post about the princess paradox on Wednesday that I’ve been meaning to comment on here. Toys, clothes, media, just about any kind of consumer good marketed for young girls uses ‘the Princess’ as a hook to get your child to ask you to buy it. Disney and others are using this powerful imagery to reach every younger children in pursuit of purchases and life-long relationships with their brands. Some, like Peggy Orenstein (Newsweek), think these things can actually harm children.

We are pretty much in the same boat as Debra and many other parents – it is almost impossible to avoid the onslaught – so we are forced to find ways to provide our daughter with imagery, stories, media, and other toys and material that can expand and widen her horizons. For us that means a house filled with story books, musical instruments, arts and crafts, Lego Duplo blocks and lots and lots of creative play. It’s fun and I think we’d be doing this whether we were reacting to gender-stereotyped consumerism or not. But I gotta admit – I get mad at times at the marketing of goods aimed at her whose goal seems to be to encourage her to be passive and wait for someone to save her (and yes, I realize there are exceptions).

Related links:

Boing Boing: Gender stereotypes woven into toy ads

The Achilles Effect: Word Cloud: How Toy Ad Vocabulary Reinforces Gender Stereotypes

Smithsonian Magazine: When Did Girls Start Wearing Pink (the Pink/Blue thing is *recent*).

NYTimes on lack of child care pushing some to choose Welfare

The numbers of those on Welfare have been dropping steadily since the 90s. Those numbers look to be rising again as cuts in services that provide tools for those wanting to climb the ladder are being slashed. NYTimes: “Cuts to Child Care Subsidy Thwart More Job Seekers”:

Last month, she lost her job as a hair stylist after her improvised network of baby sitters frequently failed her, forcing her to miss shifts. She qualifies for a state-run subsidized child care program. But like many other states, Arizona has slashed that program over the last year, relegating Ms. Wallace’s daughter, Alaya, to a waiting list of nearly 11,000 eligible children.

Despite a substantial increase in federal support for subsidized child care, which has enabled some states to stave off cuts, others have trimmed support, and most have failed to keep pace with rising demand, according to poverty experts and federal officials.

That has left swelling numbers of low-income families struggling to reconcile the demands of work and parenting, just as they confront one of the toughest job markets in decades.

David Shenk: “Our abilities are not set in genetic stone.”

BBC: David Shenk: “Is there a genius in all of us?”:

It would be folly to suggest that anyone can literally do or become anything. But the new science tells us that it’s equally foolish to think that mediocrity is built into most of us, or that any of us can know our true limits before we’ve applied enormous resources and invested vast amounts of time.

Our abilities are not set in genetic stone. They are soft and sculptable, far into adulthood. With humility, with hope, and with extraordinary determination, greatness is something to which any kid – of any age – can aspire.

Play to teach self-control

NYTimes: “Can the Right Kinds of Play Teach Self-Control? “

NPR.org: “Creative Play Makes for Kids in Control”

Do you encourage play time with your children along these lines or have them involved in a preschool that operates with a similar program? I admit I have not – Emma’s play is either directed – baking, arts and crafts, or games, or non-structured free time. So can’t attest to how well the work. What these programs are attempting to improve or instill is important.

And BTW, I gotta agree with the author of “What should a 4 year old know” for what is truly important. Compassion towards others, and self control, are both in that mix.

Related:

The New Yorker: Jonah Lehrer: “The secret of self-control.”

YouTube: “Kids & the Marshmallow Test”:

Parenting while plugged in – don’t do it

I am guilty as charged and with Richelle’s help, changing my ways: NYTimes: “The Risks of Parenting While Plugged In”:

…children in higher socioeconomic homes hear an average of 2,153 words an hour, whereas those in working-class households hear only about 1,251; children in the study whose parents were on welfare heard an average of 616 words an hour.

Part of the reason the children in affluent homes she studied developed larger vocabularies by the time they were 3 is that “parents are holding kids, the kids are on their lap while the parent is reading a book,” Dr. Hart said. “It is important for parents to know when they’re talking to kids, they’re transferring affection as well as words. When you talk to people, there’s always an implicit message, ‘I like you,’ or ‘I don’t like you.’ “

Three to inspire

While the three following stories are not related, each spoke to me this week. From growing up without a father and without decent male role models, to finding a path out of homelessness, to just trying to figure out what it means ‘to be’.. great stuff here:

R.O.O.T. Webzine: @SheIsAnarchy003: “I’m Not Sleeping: Compassion, Respect and Bono”

gapingvoid: @avflox: “”a child would not hesitate to pack up a sleeping bag and sleep on a pier under the stars with you”

YouTube: “Vignette from Project H.O.M.E.’s 20th Anniversary Gala (Employment)”:

“Life shows up, and this time I was there”

On “games that increase children’s brain power 100-fold” Pokemon and Princesses

The Daily Beast: Po Bronson: “Why Dumb Toys Make Kids Smarter”:

Our son taught me an extremely valuable lesson. When it comes to kids, we often bring moralistic bias to their interests. There’s a pervasive tendency in our society to label things as either good for children or bad for children. Cultivating children’s natural intrinsic motivation requires abandoning all judgment of good and bad content. Society has a long list of subjects that we’ve determined they should learn. But learning itself is kick-started when enmeshed and inseparable from what a child inherently loves. How many parents are ignoring this, pushing flash cards and phonics cards onto their kids, attempting to trigger learning in an amotivational situation?

My previous book, What Should I Do With My Life?, was a portrait of a generation that had spent the first two decades of life ignoring their intrinsic motivations. They were bright and talented, but had spent so many years doing what was expected of them, and studying what society told them they should study, that they were no longer in touch with their natural desires. They’d been praised endlessly, told they were smart, and had no internal compass when it came to making career decisions. Learning to recognize their own passions was incredibly difficult and stunted. It had been drilled out of them as children.

It’s important to underscore that this isn’t a philosophical argument–it’s a neurological argument. Motivation is experienced in the brain as the release of dopamine. It’s not released like other neurotransmitters into the synapses; instead, it’s sort of spritzed into large areas of the brain, which enhances the signaling of neurons. The motivated brain, literally, operates better, signals faster. Kids learn better.

Links on thinking, parenting, teaching, creating for October 4th, 2009

Boston.com: Inside the Baby Mind:

One of the most surprising implications of this new research concerns baby consciousness, or what babies actually experience as they interact with the outside world. While scientists and doctors have traditionally assumed that babies are much less conscious than adults – this is why, until the 1970s, many infants underwent surgery without anesthesia – that view is being overturned. Gopnik argues that, in many respects, babies are more conscious than adults. She compares the experience of being a baby with that of watching a riveting movie, or being a tourist in a foreign city, where even the most mundane activities seem new and exciting. “For a baby, every day is like going to Paris for the first time,” Gopnik says. “Just go for a walk with a 2-year-old. You’ll quickly realize that they’re seeing things you don’t even notice.”

Boston.com: Thinking literally: The surprising ways that metaphors shape your world:

Metaphors aren’t just how we talk and write, they’re how we think. At some level, we actually do seem to understand temperament as a form of temperature, and we expect people’s personalities to behave accordingly. What’s more, without our body’s instinctive sense for temperature–or position, texture, size, shape, or weight–abstract concepts like kindness and power, difficulty and purpose, and intimacy and importance would simply not make any sense to us.

NYTimes: Can the Right Kinds of Play Teach Self-Control? :

In the end, the most lasting effect of the Tools of the Mind studies may be to challenge some of our basic ideas about the boundary between work and play. Today, play is seen by most teachers and education scholars as a break from hard work or a reward for positive behaviors, not a place to work on cognitive skills. But in Tools of the Mind classrooms, that distinction disappears: work looks a lot like play, and play is treated more like work. When I asked Duckworth about this, she said it went to the heart of what was new and potentially important about the program. “We often think about play as relaxing and doing what you want to do,” she explained. “Maybe it’s an American thing: We work really hard, and then we go on vacation and have fun. But in fact, very few truly pleasurable moments come from complete hedonism. What Tools does — and maybe what we all need to do — is to blur the line a bit between what is work and what is play. Just because something is effortful and difficult and involves some amount of constraint doesn’t mean it can’t be fun.”

NurtureShock: Are Time-outs for Tots Conditional Love? :

The real problem with Kohn’s articles is that, already, there is a lot of confusion about when to praise, and his pieces just add to it. They give the impression that parents must make a choice between unconditional love on the one side, and praise and punishment on the other. And that’s just not true.

Most research finds that kids need rules and structure – not as a form of prison, but a scaffold of autonomy they can build on.

Oberlin College professor Nancy Darling has surveyed thousands of adolescents, in the US, the Philippines, and Chile. She’s found that when parents set no rules, or when parents fail to enforce rules they’ve set, it sends a message that parents simply don’t care about their kids’ well-being or the kids’ actions. The adolescents think the parents just can’t be bothered by their transgressions.

While combining praise with a statement of love is problematic. For example, “You’re such a smart girl, and I love you,” sends a child a message that if she’s no longer is smart, the love will stop. But there’s nothing in the research that says parents should stop saying, “I love you.” It just that they should stop combining displays of love and affection and praise for achievement. Keep them separate. Once again, this isn’t an either or situation.

Stanford professor Carol Dweck’s perspective on praise is that – when we praise or punish – we need to make it clear that we are responding to what a child does, not who they are. We shouldn’t say “Bad Boy!” when the kid breaks a vase, and we shouldn’t say “Boy Genius!” when he made a vase in art class. Both “Bad Boy” and “Boy Genius” are wild overstatements of what we really think.

Instead, we can simply say, “You know you shouldn’t play ball in the house,” and “You worked really hard on that vase, didn’t you?” those are fine.

Beyond the moment, they teach children that we pay attention to what they are doing, and that we can be trusted to give them a fair and accurate response when they need it. Lessons we want them to remember when they’re 17, and they have a broken heart or just had a fender-bender.

As I said earlier, we just don’t have to make a choice between praise, punishment and unconditional love. That’s just a false choice.