Scribit Veritas

Protecting the Child, Preserving the Family, and Honoring Life

Welcome to the Blog page of the American College of Pediatricians.  Each issue of the Blog is intended to assist parents, encourage children, and enrich the family.  Read our most recent issue below, and scroll to the bottom of this page to read earlier issues.

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Overscheduled!

overscheduledWhen our three boys were 6, 8, and 10, we had them signed up to play T-ball, baseball, and soccer, as well as piano lessons and Cub Scouts.  Every day after school, we were loading them up in the minivan and taking them to practices, lessons, or meetings, rushing through homework, chores, and frequently getting fast food to eat.  Family dinners had become a rare occasion and unstructured playtime was a thing of the past. Every Saturday was devoted to attending three different games, sometimes having to split up to have family representation, because two games were happening simultaneously. After one particularly hectic day, we sat down to have a talk with our boys.

“Just how much do you want to play soccer (the current sport)?”  They all answered that they wanted to continue. “The cost to sign up is $50 each, plus uniforms, shin-guards and soccer shoes.  Would you be willing to do extra work around the house and in the yard to earn the money to pay for this?”  Two of our boys quickly answered in the negative.  “I don’t want to play that much!”  My first thought was, “Then why have we been doing this?”  Only the youngest said that he would be willing to work because he really loved the sport.  The other two gave up all sports, and never expressed any regrets.  In fact, they both told me later that they really enjoyed having time to just relax, play in the backyard, or read a book.

As parents, we want the best for our children and we want to give them the opportunity to try new things, build new skills, and experience as many aspects of life as possible. We sign them up for dance, music lessons, drama, gymnastics, sports, art, and whatever else is offered.   However, children need time to just play, to use their imaginations, or even to do nothing.  According to http://kidshealth.org:

“Sooner or later, kids who are too busy will begin to show signs. Every child is different, but overscheduled kids may:

  • feel tired, anxious, or depressed
  • complain of headaches and stomachaches, which may be due to stress, missed meals, or lack of sleep
  • fall behind on their schoolwork, causing their grades to drop”

So before we schedule our children for multiple activities, just because their friends are all doing it or because we think it is good for them, why not first schedule in some play time and some family time.  Being able to just relax a little and spend time with our families is more important than any soccer game.

 

 

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Befriending Children’s Friends

Befriending Children’s Friends               While traveling a few weeks ago, my husband and I stopped at a fast food joint to get a bite to eat. While sitting down eating our meal, I couldn’t help but notice the peculiar group sitting next to us. The group consisted of about six teenage boys and one middle aged woman. After picking up a few lines of their conversation I learned that the woman was mother to one of the teenage boys and the rest of the boys were his friends. What I found interesting was the way the boys and mother were talking. It was as if they were all friends with each other. It didn’t seem weird to any of them that a mom was hanging out with them. At first I thought to myself that this was a weird situation but after thinking about it, I realized that this wise mother was on to something.

        When you know the people your child spends time with it can give you a unique window into who your child is. You may learn more about your child’s interests, communication skills, fears, and dreams. Befriending your child’s friends might also be beneficial because you can rest assured that you know what types of people are influencing your child.

        Growing up, my parents would oftentimes sit down with me and my friends and have a conversation about just about anything. Later, after my friends had left, my parents would talk to me about each individual friend and ask questions about them, being careful not to be too intrusive.

        While befriending our children’s friends can be very beneficial, there are certain things we need to be cautious about. Dr. Gwen Dewer writes about how parents need to be an authority figure first and foremost and then a friend. She says, “Parents can build close, personal relationships with their kids and still remain responsible adults. Not every friendship is based on sharing equal status.” The same is true when befriending other children. To them, you need to be a parental figure first, and then a friend.

 

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He’s Breathing My Air!

teasing

He won’t leave me alone!”  “She started it!”  “Did not!”  “Did too!”  “He touched me!”  “Well, she’s breathing my air!”  “Don’t look at me!”

Ah, the beautiful sounds of my children spending time together, playing together nicely, and communicating their love for each other. According to the Center for Parenting Education, there are several myths about sibling relationships:

  • Siblings shouldn’t fight with each other.
  • Siblings should know how to play fairly.
  • Siblings should act lovingly toward each other.
  • Siblings should be able to manage their anger toward one another.

If you believe this, you might want to give yourself a reality check. Sibling rivalry is inevitable. But you can work to reduce the frequency and intensity of the conflicts that naturally arise.

  1. Be a facilitator instead of a judge – Ask questions such as, “Why are you mad?”  “What do you think he really wants?”  “What do you think is fair?”  “What do you think that your brother/sister thinks is fair?”  “Do you have any ideas how to solve this?”
  2. Stay calm yourself. When you yell, you set a poor example for your children to follow
  3. Don’t allow them to physically fight. Separate them, sit them down, and explain (calmly) that we don’t ever physically hurt others. Ever!
  4. Don’t compare your kids. Comparisons make a child feel unloved and unappreciated. If you say, “Why can’t you be more like your brother?” the child will build resentment toward you and toward their sibling.
  5. Recognize each child for unique talents and abilities.
  6. Plan fun activities to do together. This helps them to create bonds and memories to share.
  7. Plan one-on-one activities with each of your children. This will help to build self-esteem, knowing that they are individually important and helps to reduce jealousy over the time you spend with the siblings.
  8. Treat children fairly, not equally. Instead of giving children the exact same toy, give them different toys that suit their interests and ages. Punish according to what works best and is fair for each child.

Remember, sibling rivalry has a plus side, too. Children learn to negotiate and compromise. They learn to assert themselves. They learn when they have gone too far, a very important social skill. They learn to be resilient. They learn to recognize that others have feelings. And when they see a sibling being attacked by others, they come to their defense, because, after all, they really do love that annoying pest.

http://centerforparentingeducation.org/library-of-articles/sibling-rivalry/will-two-cut-ins-outs-sibling-relationship/

Image retrieved from http://www.michaelwilliamscounseling.com/wp- content/uploads/2014/07/sibling-rivalry.jpg

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It’s Not a Competition

competitionIn my family, like in many others, my husband and I share different roles. Generally I’m the nurturer and he’s the provider. There are also different tasks we complete. For example, I cook and deep clean while he folds laundry and bathes the baby. When things get stressful and tiring we oftentimes find ourselves playing the “who does more?” game. Of course this leads to frustration and feeling unappreciated on both sides.

To help your marriage run more smoothly try getting rid of the competition. When you feel inclined to stack up your efforts against your spouse’s, instead recognize what they are doing. Tell them you notice and appreciate what they do. I recently started writing down small things I notice my husband doing to help our family to function throughout the day. It has changed my perspective tremendously. I am noticing things I had never appreciated before. As I have shown more appreciation for my husband, my feelings have been reciprocated too.

In marriage, you and your spouse are teammates, not rivals. If we work together, the things we can accomplish are great.

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Family Councils

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I grew up in a family of ten children. We were all involved in different activities and had different schedules. Now that I have a family of my own I realize how difficult it must have been for my parents to keep track of everyone’s weekly activities. A great way to keep everybody on the same page is family councils. My parents discovered family councils when I was in high school and it made a huge different in the function of our family.

M. Russell Ballard has said, “In a family council we talk about the needs of the family and the needs of individual members of the family. It is a time to solve problems, make family decisions, plan day-to-day and long-range family activities and goals. It is a time to share one another’s burdens and joys and counsel together, to keep each family member on the right track…” Family councils are a great way to involve children in family decisions as well. It almost seems like a natural response for children to gripe a little bit when asked to do chores. During councils you can have your children help decide what needs to get done which may help them feel more enthusiastic about chores and such.

Family councils can be very helpful for stepfamilies. There are many families working hard to blend together. My family was a blend of 7 of my dad’s children and 3 of my step mom’s daughters. In family councils we were able to bring up thoughts and concerns about our new family. We could brainstorm ideas that would make everyone more comfortable. Family councils really helped bring us together.

My husband and I love to use a template for our family councils. A great example of a family council agenda can be found here.

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Don’t Just Do It – Talk Them Through It

black father with babyI talk to myself all the time and have been teased about it over the years.  I used to be embarrassed by this trait and would try hard to not speak out loud when I knew someone else was in the house.  When I had my first child, I was glad to have a built-in excuse for talking out loud, babbling constantly with my little newborn.  “Oh, we need to change your diaper.  Let’s put you on the changing table.  Ooh, nice kick!  Look at your toes.  You have ten of them.  Let’s count them. (Which I then proceeded to do)  Where’s your nose?  There it is!  Nose, eyes, mouth, ears, etc.”  You get the point.  It was non-stop all day.  

A recent book, Thirty Million Words, is now validating my constant babbling.  Professor Dana Suskind, MD, is a cochlear implant surgeon who has studied the impact of early language on a child’s brain development.  According to the publishers,  “A study by researchers Betty Hart and Todd Risley in 1995 found that some children heard thirty million fewer words by their fourth birthdays than others. The children who heard more words were better prepared when they entered school. These same kids, when followed into third grade, had bigger vocabularies, were stronger readers, and got higher test scores. This disparity in learning is referred to as the achievement gap.”

Professor Suskind encourages parents to use what she calls the “3 Ts”.  

  • Tune In by paying attention to what your child is communicating to you.
  • Talk More with your child using descriptive words to build his vocabulary
  • Take Turns by encouraging your child to respond to your words and actions.

Following these suggestions won’t guarantee a child will turn out to be a genius, but increasing your child’s vocabulary and teaching language skills from the very beginning has been proven to help children in school.  What parent wouldn’t want that?  So go ahead.  Talk….and talk….and talk some more.  And when your child can talk, take turns.  

Hart, B., & Risley, T. R. (1995). Meaningful differences in the everyday experience of young American children. Baltimore: P.H. Brookes.

http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/316983/thirty-million-words-by-dana-suskind-md/9780525954873/

http://thirtymillionwords.org/

Photo retrieved from http://ohanadoulas.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/dad-talk-to-baby.jpeg

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Save, Spend, Share

Image retrieved from: http://babies-2-toddlers.com/kids-and-money-teaching-children-to-save/

Image retrieved from: http://babies-2-toddlers.com/kids-and-money-teaching-children-to-save/

When I was a little girl, my mother gave me a little wallet that she had sewn herself.  It contained 3 pockets that could snap shut.  She told me that this little wallet was for me to keep my money in and to learn how to budget.  The pockets were labeled:  Save, Spend, and Share.  She instructed me to put half of everything I got into the “Save” pocket.  Then at least 10% was to go into the “Share” pocket.  The rest was mine to spend.  When the “Save “ pocket was too full to hold anymore, I would give it to my mother and she would put it in the bank in a savings account that she had set up for me.  This was money to be saved for long-term goals, such as a college education, or for purchasing a car or a house.  The “Share” money was to be given away.  In my case, it went into the tithing fund of my church.  This taught me to be willing to sacrifice and think of the needs of others. I was always able to put in more than 10% if I wished, but my mom said that 10% was the minimum.  And then, the “Spend” pocket was mine to spend in any way that I wanted.

Children need to be taught how to handle money.  Teaching a child to understand the different currencies and how to calculate change are just the basics of finance.  When you teach your child to save and to share with others you are building character traits of responsibility, self-reliance, thrift, patience, sacrifice, caring, and love.  These principles can be taught at a very young age.  My mother gave me my “wallet” when I was about 5 years old.

Here are some tips on teaching a child to budget:

  • Give them a source of income. Whether it is an allowance or extra work around the house, children can’t learn to budget money if they don’t have any.  Don’t just give them money.  They need to know that they have to work for it.  
  • Give them a place to keep their money.  It helps to have 3 different containers, or pockets, or piggy banks, so that they can separate it into the categories.
  • Teach your child to count money, how to figure out percentages such as one-half or one-tenth, and how to figure out proper change for transactions.  
  • Help your child set financial goals.  If your child wants to take their “Spend” money and buy candy every time they go to the store, then they do not learn how to be patient and work toward a distant goal.  Have them choose a special book or toy that they would like to have and save for that purchase.  
  • Give your child opportunities to practice handling money.  Take them shopping with you and have them purchase an item, pay for it themselves, and check that the proper change was given.  
  • Have your child choose where to give away money.  Talk to them about the poor and needy and how we have an obligation to help them.
  • Teach them about the cost of things, such as electricity, water, gas, phone service, and a mortgage, so they have a greater appreciation for the cost of living.  This helps them learn to take care of things – and hopefully to turn off the lights!
  • Let older teens open up a joint checking account with you and learn to manage and balance a checkbook.  
  • Set up a computer spreadsheet to track income and expenses and have your child learn to use it.  

It is never too early to start teaching your child the financial skills they will need to be a self-reliant, responsible, and caring adult.   

Image retrieved from: http://babies-2-toddlers.com/kids-and-money-teaching-children-to-save/

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Family Finances

family financesMy husband and I discussed finances a lot over the duration of our courtship and engagement. We came from different financial backgrounds with parents who dealt with finances contrastingly. Because of this our financial perspectives did not line up. My husband is very conservative with money whereas I’m more of a flyer. By gaining knowledge and experience and by vowing to be equal partners in finances, we have been able to get on the same page about money.

Why is it so important for couples to see eye to eye when it comes to finances? According to the Institute for Divorce Financial Analysis, money issues are the third leading cause of all divorces. We don’t need research to tell us how serious money issues can be though. The proof is all around us. The best thing you can do to overcome financial stress in marriage is to be flexible and willing to see eye to eye with your partner and be able to set money goals and expectations together. The first step you can take is to learn each other’s money personalities. You can find them out at http://themoneycouple.com/money-personality-profile/.

Whether your money personalities are similar or contrasting, you can work together to build an enduring life together. There are still times when my husband and I struggle with finances. We play the “my money, your money” game which only leads to contention. The point is to never give up though.

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Comparing Milestones

babyI will never forget the day my daughter was born. The first words that popped out of my mouth were, “She is perfect!” I didn’t start looking for flaws. I didn’t immediately compare her to other newborns.   I didn’t wonder if anything was wrong with her. I just knew that she was perfect.

Unfortunately it didn’t take long for me to start the infamous game of comparing children.. My  daughter has a cousin who is three months older. It was easy to compare how they achieved their milestones. If my niece had smiled at two months of age shouldn’t my daughter? If my niece could roll over at 4 months why couldn’t my daughter?   Was something wrong?  I even began googling each milestone my daughter should have reached at various ages.  I wanted to know what I could do to speed up her development.

It is easy to compare our children to their peers but every child is different.  Although children with significant delays need intervention, we need to stop pushing perfection.  Many of these developmental milestones have broad ranges of when they normally occur.   We need to stop focusing on pushing our children too much as long as they are in the range of normal.  Instead we should appreciate how wonderful they are at each stage of their lives.  Lauren Drobnjak, a pediatric physical therapist explained:, “ kids are all wired to develop at their own pace.” As I foster an environment of love and growth, my baby will develop at the pace that is right and comfortable for her.  So too, can each of your children.

 

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Helping our Children Choose Role Models

role modelIn a famous 1993 Nike commercial featuring the former NBA basketball star, Charles Barkley, he states, “I am not a role model. I’m not paid to be a role model. I am paid to wreak havoc on the basketball court. Parents should be role models. Just because I dunk a basketball doesn’t mean I should raise your kids.” There was much controversy at the time this aired, because many argued that professional athletes are role models whether they like it or not. Impressionable kids are excited by the thought of celebrity, fame, riches, and respect and will be emulating the behavior of their heroes, whether it is good or bad. And with the pervasiveness of media, role models and heroes are ever present – on television, at the movies, on our computers, and on our phones and tablets.

How do you direct your children toward good role models? The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry has a few suggestions:

  • Have your child identify what qualities he admires in his role model
  • Give examples of people in your community who you feel have positive qualities and are a good influence on others
  • Talk about people you look up to for guidance and inspiration
  • Encourage your child to become involved in activities that reflect your values, such as religious programs, athletics, after school programs, clubs and volunteering.
  • Remind your child that he or she does not have to do everything that the role model does. Your child can copy what he or she likes but still be him or herself.

Another important step is to talk to your child about negative role models, possibly those celebrities that have demonstrated poor behavior and made mistakes.

  • Remind your child that all people have good and bad qualities and that anyone can make a mistake. Explain that it is important to apologize and to learn from our mistakes.
  • Ask your child what he thinks of the role model’s behavior.
  • Ask what he would have done differently in the situation.
  • Give example of more positive and healthy ways to handle the situation. (2011)

Charles Barkley certainly had one part right in his famous commercial. Parents are the ultimate role models and are the ones who raise their children. Children watch you and copy what you do. In the movie, “42”, there is a scene that really hit home with me. It takes place at the ballpark, as the crowd begins to boo Jackie Robinson, the first black man to play in major league baseball. As the harassment begins, the camera zooms in on a father and son. The boy looks to his father for a cue as to how he should behave. After all, the Brooklyn Dodgers are his team, and Jackie Robinson is a player on his team. You can see the indecision on his face. His father joins in the booing and name-calling, and this young boy follows suit, confident that he has made the right choice. After all, he is only copying his dad, the greatest and most important role model in his young life. CAUTION: Video contains the “N” word so viewer discretion is advised.

As a parent, what example are you setting? What values do you teach your children through your actions?

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1 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nMzdAZ3TjCA

2 http://www.aacap.org/AACAP/Families_and_Youth/Facts_for_Families/FFF-Guide/Children-and-Role-Models-099.aspx

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