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Protecting the Child, Preserving the Family, and Honoring Life

Welcome to the Blog page of the American College of Pediatricians, which we call Scribit Veritas.  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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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?

______________________

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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Dating

datingMy husband is a little crazy.  Well, okay, he is a lot crazy!  When our oldest daughter turned sixteen, we gave her permission to start dating – double dating, that is.  No single dates until she was eighteen.  When her date came to the door to pick her up, my husband answered it, dressed like a Viking and carrying a big axe. He asked the young man how much he valued his car, and mentioned how much damage that axe could do if his daughter was a minute late returning home.  And of course, he’d better not touch her. My daughter later mentioned that at one point during the night, this boy accidentally brushed up against her and immediately jumped way back, stammering an apology.  For some strange reason, he never took her on a second date.  

What makes the thought of your teenager dating so frightening?  Several things come to mind:

  • Your child is becoming an adult, which means they might not need you as much.
  • Your child could get hurt – physically or emotionally.
  • Being alone opens the door to sexual activity.
  • Sexual activity might lead to pregnancy or STDs.
  • Since you marry who you date, this person your child is going out with just might be your future son-in-law or daughter-in-law.  What if you don’t approve of them?

Dating is a scary prospect for parents.  There are so many questions and concerns to be dealt with and you need to be prepared to answer them. Here are some questions to consider – sooner instead of later.

  • At what age should you allow your children to begin dating?  Should they be allowed to date one-on-one, or only in groups?  Are they allowed to have a steady boyfriend or girlfriend?  
  • What time should curfew be?  Are curfews negotiable?  Who is going to be driving?  Where are they allowed to go?  
  • Should your teen check in with you periodically?  What consequences will there be if your teen breaks the rules?  

And here are a few really important ones.

  • Does your teenager feel comfortable talking to you?  Are you comfortable talking to them?
  • Do they really want to date or are they feeling pressured?  If something isn’t quite right, can your teenager come to you for help and support?
  • Do they know you love them and that you will listen? Have you let them know they can call you and asked to be picked up, no questions asked?

Focus on the Family offers this advice:

“Teens that date often experience rejection. Be sensitive to their pain. Listen. Shows like The Bachelor promote lies, betrayal and pain — not the life-long commitment of marriage. Help teens establish personal boundaries by encouraging them to respect their values and their bodies. Discuss sexual temptation and ways to avoid it. Offer safer options like double dating in public.”

There are many other websites that can help you to prepare for this rite of passage event.  Here are a few:

When all is said and done, probably the most important things to remember are to keep the lines of communication open and to let your child know that you love them and that you are always there for them.  Oh, and go get yourself a Viking hat and an axe!

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Do Unto Others

do unto othersI was out driving and approached a busy intersection.  Cars traveling north and south had stop signs, and had to give the right-of-way to the east-west traffic. Unfortunately for me, there was a car stopped at the intersection ahead of me.  I could see from the back of her head, that it was an elderly woman, and she was obviously intimidated at the number of cars flashing past, as well as their speed.  Several times, I felt that the opening in traffic was more than adequate for her to pull out, but she didn’t budge.  I sat there fuming and wishing that someone would just remove all the “idiot” drivers on the road.  Finally a huge hole in the traffic appeared and she turned the corner.  As she did, I saw her profile and recognized her as a good friend of mine from church, a sweet lady whom I had known for years.  My anger disappeared instantly.  I said to myself, “Of course she took a long time.  She’s quite old and her reflexes are slower.  She needs to be extra careful, for her own safety and the safety of other drivers.”  I was quick to find good reasons for her behavior and to forgive her for inconveniencing me.

 I thought about the incident for most of the day.  Why is it that we can feel so much anger toward a stranger?  After all, no matter who was driving the car, they probably had the same good reasons for taking so long to pull out.  I don’t know why any more than I knew the reasons for my elderly friend.  But I can certainly venture a guess.  I can try and put myself in their place and try to envision how they are feeling.  What if that person who cuts you off really did check the rearview mirror, but just didn’t see you?  What if that person driving fast and weaving in and out of traffic is on their way to the hospital, hoping against hope that their loved one is not going to die before they can say goodbye?  What if you greet someone and they ignore you because their mind is miles away, worrying about the huge fight they just had with their spouse?  There are a thousand excuses that we could come up with for bad behavior, and when the perpetrator is someone we know and like, most of us make that effort and easily forgive.

Shouldn’t we do the same for strangers?  And for those we know, but not necessarily like?  Most of us have been taught some form of the message, “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.”  We would want other people to understand and forgive us.  When I sit behind another driver who is making me feel impatient, I now like to think to myself that maybe, just maybe, if I got to meet them and talk to them, they might become my friend.  And I will treat them that way.  

Image retrieved from: http://thesalesblog.com/blog/2010/07/21/two-quick-thoughts-about-your-behavior-off-the-field/

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Good Enough

good enoughI have a daughter who has always been naturally studious and hard-working.  During high school, it was her normal routine to come home each day, sit at the kitchen counter, pull out her books, and start on her homework.  She would moan and complain about how difficult many of the assignments were, but she would tackle them right away.  She  seldom needed any help from me, but I was there as her support and cheerleader.  After her freshman year, she was first in her class in academic standing.  As parents we were so excited that we might have a future valedictorian in our family.  She was excited, too, and continued to work hard to meet her dream.  

As each year passed, our daughter became more and more stressed, pushing herself, taking all AP classes, spending more and more time hitting the books.  We continued to remind her how it would be worth it when she finally achieved her goal.  Then one day, as she sat down to choose which classes she would take in her senior year, she broke down crying.  When we asked what was wrong, she told us that she really wanted to take drama.  It sounded fun.  But if she did, she would automatically take herself out of the running for valedictorian, since the class only gave her 4 credits instead of 5.  She said that she knew how much this meant to us and she didn’t want to be a disappointment.  As parents, we were shocked.  We had thought that this was her goal and we were just supporting her to the best of our ability.  And yet, somewhere in the last two years, it had become only our dream and not hers.  At this point we gave her a hug, told her we loved her and knew how smart and good and amazing she was.  If she wanted to take drama, she should take drama!  

We want our children to set goals and achieve them.  We want them to be successful and to be someone we can be proud of.  How often have you heard a child say that they were going to grow up and be a doctor, a lawyer, a movie star, a pro athlete, a beauty queen, or President of the United States?  Parents often ingrain these thoughts and aspirations into their children’s heads, pushing them to be the best.  There is nothing wrong with wanting them to be the best.  But we need to be careful that we aren’t pushing our goals and aspirations onto our children, without considering what our children want and need.  

Dr. Dale Atkins, PhD., a licensed psychologist has said, “Our kids come to us to find out who they are and if we’re not letting them know they’re perfect as they are, they’re going to wonder, what do they have to do to be good enough.”  Needless to say, none of us are perfect. Still, sometimes we need to be reminded that we don’t need to be.  Let’s let our children know that they are loved, that they can be whatever they want to be, and that they are more than “good enough”.  

[1] https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/singletons/201410/how-push-parenting-becomes-child-abuse

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Hidden Gifts

hidden gift“I’ll never be as good as Beth!”  These were the words I was hearing from my younger daughter, Annie.  In her eyes, she had the misfortune of having to follow in the footsteps of a very talented big sister.  Beth had an amazing voice, played the piano well, excelled in school in both language arts and math, was well liked by all of her teachers, kept her room immaculate, and was obedient to the rules of the house and, consequently, was seldom in trouble.   What an act for her to follow.

Every child is unique and has gifts and talents of their own.  Some of these gifts are obvious and make a child stand out from the crowd.  We notice the child with musical talents that has a chance to perform or the artist who has work on display.  Likewise we give honor to star athletes whose games we are able to attend.  Those who have a gift for acting or speaking are also given a venue to display those talents.  Academic honors and scholarships are awarded to those who excel in school.  But what about the child with gifts that are not so obvious?

Annie was very different from her sister.  She was an average student, preferring to work on set designs rather than act in the school plays.  She tinkered around at the piano, played the clarinet in the band, not practicing much and so never excelling in that field either.  Her room was a disaster and her teenage years were mark by incredible mood swings, making contention in the home the normal state of affairs.  She could see no good in herself, no matter how much I tried to point out her strengths and assure her that she was just as talented and loved as her sister.  Here is what I saw in my daughter.  Annie could charm any animal and any child. She was everyone’s favorite babysitter.  Wherever she went people surrounded her.  She was excited to see them and made them feel special, so naturally they would be drawn to her.  She was an excellent cook and frequently made treats to take to school to celebrate a friend’s birthday or to congratulate them for accomplishments.  She listened to people when they needed a shoulder to cry on.  She could make up the funniest stories, especially for children, and had everyone laughing.  She made you feel good about yourself.  

Several years later, when my daughters were married, we chose a small church for Beth’s reception, with seating for about 100, which was more than enough space.  When Annie was married, I reserved a place that could hold 500.  My husband questioned why I would be doing that.  I looked at him and said, “Do you have any idea how many close friends your daughter has?  Do you know how much she is loved?  I’m not sure that it’s big enough!”  And I was right.

When I hear a child say that they will never be as good as someone else, I think of my two daughters, so different and yet both so accomplished.   We need to not only recognize each of our children as unique and special, but we need to help them recognize this themselves.  

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Love at Home

love at homeLast Saturday I was doing yard work, and watched my next door neighbor interact with his family.  He was washing his car and his 6-year-old son was riding on a little push car, up and down the driveway.  Occasionally the boy would get too close to the car, or stop on the hose, or bump into his dad’s legs.  Each time this happened, the father would express impatience and irritation, until finally he yelled for his wife to come and get him.  As his wife came outside, he asked her when breakfast would be ready, and reminded her that he couldn’t be late – again showing irritation and impatience.  As he finished washing the car, a neighbor came by walking his dog.  As he stopped to chat, the dog was doing its share of misbehaving, tangling my neighbor in the leash and then using the lawn to “do his business”.  Amazingly enough, he never complained, smiled the whole time, and accepted the neighbor’s apologies in a very gracious manner.  

After watching these interchanges, I spent the week being more observant of how people treat total strangers or acquaintances, as opposed to how they treat the ones they love.  Why is it that most of us are kinder and more polite to everyone else, but treat our own spouses and children with rudeness?  Do we think less of them?  Aren’t these the people we profess to love the most?  Do we think them undeserving of common courtesies?  Is it because we feel we can let down our guard and just relax and be our worst self with family?  

I have decided to begin with myself, and try to be as polite with my family members as I am with others.  I will say, “Please” and “Thank you”, “I’m sorry”, “Excuse me” and “Let me help you with that.”  I will actively remember what I love about each one of them.  When I am feeling impatient or angry, I might try to think, and really picture in my mind and heart, just how sad or lonely I would be if they were no longer in my life.  I will try, every day, to be grateful for the love and blessings that they bring to me. 

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Keeping Promises

promiseMy daughter wanted to go to Knott’s Berry Farm. She had attended with her school class, and the amusement park had given them “free” admission tickets for a return trip, which, of course, could only be used if they were accompanied by an adult.  How kind of them!  My daughter asked if I would take her, and I said, “Sure.  That would be fun.”  And then I forgot all about it.

“But you promised!”  It was now June, a very busy season (long, long lines!) and the certificate was due to expire soon.  I sighed inwardly, dreading every minute of the trip, but put on the big fake smile and took my daughter.  After all, a promise is a promise!  

Why is keeping a promise so important?  This is what it teaches:

  • Integrity and honesty.  Keeping your promises helps children to learn that lying is not okay.
  • Trust and dependability – Children depend on us to keep our word and we want them to do the same.
  • Respect – both giving respect to others and getting respect in return.
  • Reputation matters.  If a company has a bad reputation due to broken promises, they lose customers.  As parents we need to maintain a good reputation and teach our children the benefits of being respected and trusted by others, in both our personal and business relations.  
  • Your children matter to you – they are important and loved.

An important factor to remember – don’t make a promise that you can’t keep!   I once told my son that if he didn’t stop crying by the time I hung up the phone, he could not go to the store with me.  When I was done with my phone call, he was still crying.  He was too young to leave on his own, there was no one else to watch him, and I had to go to the store.   So I took him with me and have paid the price for not keeping my word.  If I threaten him with a punishment, he has no reason to believe that I would follow through on that punishment. I now keep my word and he has slowly come to realize that. Is is so important to “say what you mean and mean what you say.”

There are times, through no fault of our own, when we have to break a promise.  Make sure that you explain why, apologize, and ask forgiveness.  Offer an alternative.

Remember that it might not seem like much to you, but in the eyes of a child, keeping promises is a very big deal.   

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