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                Parenting Basics 101

                                    Learn how to be a better parent using tried and true methods

Parenting Blog

I post here from time to time as issues come up, or in response to parent feedback and questions

Parenting Blog

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The Value of Mistakes and Failure

Posted by Dave on April 25, 2010 at 8:55 AM

If you’re one of those parents who push their kids to seek perfection in all things, you’re missing the point. The most valuable lessons are learned when things go wrong. Those lessons are also the ones that stay with us longest.


Kids need to make mistakes, and yes, even fail, from time to time. The ability to learn from mistakes, recover, and move on is crucial to future success. It’s not only good for learning, but helps build a stronger and more resilient person.


Those who never learn how to fail and recover in the relative safety of school and home are at a significant disadvantage when they hit the “real world.” The first time something goes wrong in college or on the job, they don’t have the skills to learn, regroup and take another shot at it. Many become paralyzed and unable to cope.


Treat mistakes and failures as teachable moments, but keep it low-key. Kids don't like having their faces rubbed in their mistakes any more than adults do.


Learning to build on the lessons learned from mistakes and failures is critical to real-world success. The ability to figure out what went wrong, learn what to do differently next time, and to put the changes into action is an invaluable skill regardless of which career your child chooses.

Ingredients for Success

Posted by Dave on April 24, 2010 at 6:50 PM

A common misconception is that talent is a key element in success. Actually, numerous studies indicate that perseverance and a passion for the subject or goals are far more important. Talent can help, but a burning desire and a refusal to give up are more likely to yield positive results.


One worry is that fewer kids are able to muster the kind of perseverance necessary for success. Our instant gratification culture where everything is delivered right now, on demand, means that kids aren’t as used to making sustained long term efforts as kids were even 20 years ago.


I’m all for kids feeling a little frustrated from time to time. It teaches patience, humility, and most important, the value of perseverance. The next time your child wants something “right now,” especially something they don’t really need but just want, try giving them a little “vitamin N” – “NO.” Put it off for a while, or make them earn it instead.

Unneccesarily Nervous Parents

Posted by Dave on June 29, 2009 at 9:00 AM

Most folks think we live in dangerous times and need to make extra special efforts to protect our children. Many parents won’t let their kids out of sight for even a moment for fear something bad will happen to them – not might - WILL.


The result is that kids are more fearful of almost everything. We’re raising a generation of scaredycats, and psychologists report an increase in the number of children suffering from anxiety and depression – some of which is probably due to stress from almost constant parent-induced fear. In addition, kids aren’t getting the kind of outdoor play and exercise they so desperately need. While 70% of moms say they played outdoors every day as children, they also report that only 31% of their own kids do.


Are things really worse than they were 30 or more years ago? The answer is no. The crime rate in 2009 is no higher than it was in the 60s and 70s. Some forms of crime are actually lower. Violent crime did peak for a short while in the early to mid-nineties, but it didn’t last long. This was mostly attributable to gang violence and drug-related activities, mostly in big city ghettos.


Why do we think the dangers are greater now than ever before? In a word – media. Remember, stuff that happens every day rarely makes the news. It’s the rare events that really grab the attention of the press and the public. Let some child be abducted or murdered by a stranger in any corner of the civilized world and it will be front page press for weeks or months. Some even hang around for years, dragged out of the film vault every time news gets slow – think Adam Walsh, Kaylee Anthony, and Jon Benet Ramsey.


Milk cartons and the back of junk mail postcards often feature pictures of missing kids. However, the information with those photos seldom tells you why they ended up there in the first place. Only a tiny percentage of these kids are abducted by strangers. The vast majority were taken by a non-custodial parent. A much smaller number are runaway teens. Most return home or are found safe and sound in a short time, and were never in any real danger.


Add to that the dozens of crime-based TV dramas that make their money by playing to a parent’s worst fears. Law and Order – Special Victims Unit is a prime offender, but don’t forget CSI and pretty much every cop n’ crime show for the last fifteen years. Add in the twenty-four hour news cycle, and you can see how we are bombarded daily with images of childhood danger.


According to the Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the number of children who are abducted by strangers has been pretty much the same for many years – approximately 1 in 1.5 million. That’s about .00007 percent.


Those numbers don't put it into perspective for you? Okay, let’s say you WANTED your child to be snatched from the side of the road. How long would she have to stand there for it to become likely? 750,000 years! (That information comes from an analysis of FBI statistics done by the University of New Hampshire.) If you wanted them to be killed in the bargain, you'd have to wait 1.5 million years.


To put it further into perspective, in 2003 about 22,000 kids between 1 and 14 were struck by vehicles, and 2,343 were killed in traffic accidents. In that same year, 115 kids were abducted by strangers, and fewer than 20 killed. To listen to the press, so-called child protection experts, and some parents, you'd think it happened every day in every town. Clearly, this is far from the case. Very, very far.


Even Internet related crimes against kids are rare. Study after study has proven that kids are seldom taken in by (or are even interested in) the fairly rare overtures of creepy adults. Over the last ten years, kids have become pretty savvy Internet citizens. Nearly all of the kids who have gotten into bad situations were already at risk for other reasons, did not have supportive relationships at home, and were looking for attention, love, and affection in all the wrong places.


Our kids are really pretty safe. Parents should pay attention to the more likely problems. Make them wear seatbelts in the car, helmets on a bike or skateboard, and lifejackets in a boat. Then send the little darlings out to play and tell them to be in when the streetlights come on.

Book Recommendation: Generation Me

Posted by Dave on June 11, 2009 at 6:45 PM

Author Jean Twenge, Ph.D., a member of the generation she researchs and writes about, is echoing what some older researchers, psychologists and educators have been saying for years: the so-called self-esteem movement has got to go! Her book discusses her research from the last few years, but it certainly isn't a thick, boring academic tome at 249 pages. Her prose is witty and readable - and sprinkled with rather earthy language. It's an easy and enjoyable read.


Twenge and I agree that the self-esteem craze of the last decade or so has done far more damage than good. A few years ago as a Scout leader I had to constantly fend off parents who didn't want us to let their sons make mistakes - any mistakes, or take even the smallest risks - for fear of hurting their self-esteem. They failed to understand the importance of making and learning from mistakes as part of the educational process, and the critical role of accurate, constructive feedback. Criticize a child's performance or attitude? Correct mistakes or poor behavior? Require them to actually EARN an award? Horrors!!


In her book, Twenge chronicals the dramatic rise of clinical narcissism, the decline of academic performance, the increase of disruptive behavior in the classrooms, and the problems of students who feel they are entitled to more or special instruction or priveleges than other students. Her data clearly ties it to the simultaneous rise of the self-esteem movement.


She also talks about kids who first enter the workplace and crumble the first time a boss criticizes their performance. They've never learned to deal with criticism and correction, and fall apart - or self-destruct - when their boss does his or her job.


This is a book that every parent, teacher, and empolyer needs to read - before we do any more damage to our young people.


2006 Jean M. Twenge, Ph.D. - Published by Simon & Shuster, Free Press Division. Available from