Friday, April 18, 2014

Volunteering

I have the most fun when I volunteer in my son’s class, helping the teachers with whatever activity or going on a field trip. Do your children’s teachers ask this a lot of you, as a parent? This year, between reading news about this and witnessing it first hand, schools are asking a lot more of parent volunteers than ever before.  The caveat here is that this may apply to the younger grades more than the upper grades.

For example, in pre-K and Kindergarten classes, a lot of schools are requiring a minimum number of hours from parents regarding volunteering in the classroom. Whether this is about needing the extra help or schools wanting parents to become more involved, it does strike me as a little odd.

When I was a child, my parents rarely volunteered at school. There were a group of room parents, and they had every parents phone number if those were needed. Most of the time, these 3 room parents covered every out of class moment or in class party, and then the teachers maintained control of the rest of the class. I cannot recall a “center” that needed parent help, or a lesson that was almost contingent upon parental involvement.

The underlying assumption is that because parents want the best for their kids, they will be volunteering and helping in class whenever they can. This does not match the realities of parenting and working in this time, does it? I have seen parents struggling to juggle work and their children’s schedules, and demanding volunteer time beyond what a parent can give seems a bit excessive.

Overall, I would not argue with increasing parental involvement in classrooms. Typically, the more a parent is willing to do this, the more committed to the learning process their children become. But what happens when schools demand this of parents instead of leaving it optional? Are schools using this to not hire teacher’s aids?


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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Being a man

There was an interesting story in Major League Baseball recently, of a New York Mets baseball player taking a few extra days off to be with his wife after their baby was born. This sparked an internet debate about paternity leave and about the role and responsibility for men in the birth and care process around babies.

Let me be blunt about this. Anyone who does not support paid paternity leave is a mean person with outdated notions about what makes a man a man. If civilization is to advance, it needs to grow up out of the teenage infancy that keeps societies locked in perpetual peeing contests instead of fueling real growth and evolution. We have evolved in so many areas, why aren’t men capable of evolving into caregivers and providers, not just providers?

I suspect the real reason for the backlash against this player is the lack of understanding as to the role of men in the evolving society. In some facet, the traditional role for men is being redefined and changed in an enormous way. Take for example the new statistics that show that in 51% of US households, women are the primary breadwinners. This points to a shift in spending patterns, household income, and what kind of political and economic climate our country will be working towards.

Another new way the role for men is changing is in the realm of parenting itself. There are a growing number of men who are making the choice to raise their children and let their wives go back to work and be the breadwinners. Is this a sign of something negative, or are we finally coming to the terms with the fact that we are all just human beings, doing the best we can. People have different levels of drive, ambition, responsibility, and it is not always men that carry these inside of them.


I would love to see the time come when after a baby is born, it is not out of the ordinary for men to get mandatory 12-week paid leave to take care of their children and families. It is important for society that families bond together and build good habits together. People forget that the family unit we have is the basis and structure for our society, and if we encourage men to take a backseat in the child-rearing process, how can we not expect our children to have complicated and strange ideas about what that role of gender is?

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Monday, April 14, 2014

Luca loves his Grandma!


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Friday, April 11, 2014

When is it bullying?

In following up from Wednesday’s train of thought, where kids deal with their differences appropriately, I think the underlying issue is that you wonder when does it become bullying. When does it go from playfully calling a playmate a “baby” to outright demeaning and taunting? Here are some primers for parents trying to decide between letting their kids handle a situation, or getting involved to prevent bullying.

1. Are kids crying?
If someone is legitimately crying and hurt, then whatever was said did hurt some feelings, and if it was done intentionally, then it needs to be nipped in the bud. Emotional bullying is just as bad as any physical altercation, oftentimes worse.

2. Is it getting physical?
When kids get frustrated with each other, boys especially, it is not hard for the confrontation to get a little physical. Some pushing, pinching, and other assorted physical ticks could start, and the adults need to get involved before the situation gets worse.

3. Don’t let your emotions cloud your judgment
When bullying is occurring, or is about to occur, it is important for the adults to not let their own emotions get the best of them. Some, like myself, were bullied when they were younger, and will often overreact in these situations. People who were bullies will typically turn a blind eye and not react at all, another mistaken behavior. Get involved, but only to a point!


We need to watch out for any circumstances that could lead to bullying, without being too helicopter-ish about your parenting style. Bullies need to be cut off before they become a problem later in their lives, and kids who get bullied need a helping hand before any self-defeating thoughts enter their heads.

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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

So, you're not my friend?

So for the last few weeks, I have noticed that in my son’s class, the children have started doing something that I forgot from when I was a child. That being, saying things to each other that put friendship in the balance. Like, “If you play with that person, we won’t be friends”…or if you do something they don’t like, they disinvite you. The funny thing is, I don’t remember kids doing this when I was a kid, but I was painfully shy as a boy, while my son is pretty popular and in the middle of everything already. Yes, he is only 4 and in Pre-K, but the intricacies of children’s friendships is pretty fascinating. So, as a parent, how do you handle these situations?

1. Leave it alone
Kids need to work things out amongst themselves, at a certain point. There is a pecking order and a playtime atmosphere that the children create and should be in charge of, and too often adult involvement will backfire. Letting kids handle their own difficulties also teaches real world lessons in dealing with difficult people.

2. Get involved- to a point
If there is some danger to the situation, or feelings are going to be crushed, then adult involvement is probably necessary. Even after the initial situation is taken care of, adults need to take a step back again. Children need to remain in some control of the difficult situation or else neither child will ever learn the right behavior.

3. Remove the kids from each other
If difficulties and differences cannot be resolved, then the kids are going to have to removed from each other, and this does include heavy adult involvement. It’s the last thing any child wants, and it embarrasses everyone, so this needs to be the last recourse.


What other advice do we have for when children argue, disagree, and need help?


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