Grandbaby

Jessie meets Isaac
My daughter meets my son for the first time. Photo by Maggie Sebastian, Creative Commons License BY-NC-ND 3.0

Though the big event is still several months away, my hands know the softness, the feel of his healthy pudginess. My arms and back anticipate his weight. The soft, smooth feel of his hair long ago embedded themselves on my soul. Even the texture of the unpleasant, though common, are familiar. The feels of my unborn grandson are already writing themselves to my hard drive.

My nose tingles when I think of the smells. Both virulent and healing aromas weave themselves together in memory and hope. The smell of both rancid and aromatic are equally regarded when they tangle with my already boundless love for the boy to come. Hasn’t he always been? (Jeremiah 1:5)

Impulsive, divine tears and silly grins compete for top bill at the sounds of giggles and gurgles months before the first sound wave reaches my ear. Angst and worry have their moments as well when I well up at shrill sounds of illnesses that will have to be endured by the small one. He won’t understand and my heart will break. My limbs tense into rescue mode as I think about the communication sounds that will burst forth from one so new to earth.

The half-smiles, the pout I’ll love so much, that expression my son used to make that I’d forgotten, and even my grandfather’s nose have already inscribed themselves upon my heart. All of God’s hopes and dreams have conspired to create this winsome sight.

I can taste the boundless joy. My own, that of the remarkable woman who carries him in her womb, my very tall baby boy, and the confident and optimistic God who still believes in humanity.

Ignore the Baby Behind the Curtain

The Baby Bird's head can be seen at the bottom of the image just left of center. Mama Bird is in the
Baby Bird’s head can be seen at the bottom of the image just left of center. Mama Robin is in the branch at the top of the image just right of center. Photo by Tim Graves

When I first approached the tree, I noticed Mama Robin feeding Baby Bird a plump worm. I switched on my camera but I was too late. Mama Bird had spotted me. Counter-intuitively, she abandoned her child and moved to a higher branch. She began to make loud noises to attract my attention. It was as if she were shouting, “Over here! See me! Pay no attention to the baby behind the curtain!” Presumably, this was her way of protecting her youngest.

In a rare moment, Humming Mama stopped moving. Photo by Tim Graves
In a rare moment, Humming Mama stopped moving. Photo by Tim Graves

I’ve observed a similar behavior with the hummingbird nest at my back door. When I open the door,

Humming Mama leaves Tot in the nest and buzzes around my head. When she has my attention, she moves to a branch in the nearby tree. She continues to attention seek until I go back inside.

Neither mother is close enough to me that I could harm them. Their behavior is designed to self-preserve while protecting their vulnerable and weak offspring. Their behavior safeguards the weakest member of their communities.

Maybe we could learn something from the birds.

 ‘I assure you that when you have done it for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you have done it for me.’ Matthew 25:40b CEB

Blaming Fred Rogers for Indulging Children? Hardly.

My son posted this absurd video on Facebook. The issues are similar to my response to a 2007 article in the Wall Street Journal and so I repost.

Jeff Zaslow wrote in a first-person column in theWall Street Journal this week (July 5, 2007) that:


…The semester was ending, and as usual, students were making a pilgrimage to his office, asking for the extra points needed to lift their grades to A’s.

“They felt so entitled,” he recalls, “and it just hit me. We can blame Mr. Rogers.” (Find the whole article here.)

I have to say I was a bit miffed for several reasons:

1.) Fred Rogers’ work with young children was terribly misrepresented and, unfortunately, he cannot defend himself from the grave.

2.) Fred Rogers NEVER advocated in young children a feeling of entitlement unless by entitlement you mean entitlement to kind, caring, loving adults.

3.) The author of this column is just one more person propagating the idea that being sensitive to children means creating a sense of entitlement. This attitude on the part of many–who don’t understand human behavior or child development–implies that the only way to raise responsible children is by continuously “taking them down a notch”.

4.) While Mr. Zaslow used Mr. Rogers as a jumping off point for a discussion of the issue of individuals who have a sense of entitlement, he picked a person who advocated responsibility to blame.

5.) Mr. Zaslow , unfortunately, sees a sense of entitlement only in the generation just now coming of age. Personally, I see it in folks of every generation. Perhaps, there has been an increase in this sense of entitlement. Perhaps, not. Either way, scapegoating a generation is at best lazy scholarship and at worst bigotry.

6.) This opinion piece talked about entitlement but was very lightweight in that he didn’t talk about what early childhood educators know about parenting styles (e.g.; Baumrind’s research) or give the readers any solutions. of which there were many.

So, what does it take to raise children who take responsibility for their actions and yet have a positive sense of self and a strong sense of confidence?

It takes respecting children, providing an environment of unconditional love, kindness, high and yet attainable expectations for behavior, sincerity, and adults who model appropriate behavior. We don’t end up with responsible adults who have internalized rules for living by authoritarian parenting or teaching. We also don’t get responsible adults through permissive parenting or teaching. Rather, we end up with children who become responsible adults when parenting and teaching styles are neither permissive or authoritarian but authoritative. Authoritative parents and teachers empathize with a child’s frustration that caused him or her to hit or bite another child, express that empathy, and still make it crystal clear that no matter how you feel, you cannot put your fist in another child’s face because s/he said something irritating.

We need more adults like Fred Rogers. We need more adults who see the value in each individual, who emphasize to children that even when you feel angry, you cannot hurt others, that every member our communities are important for both the work that they do and for who they are.

Blame Mister Rogers? Hardly.

Well-Parented

Is your child well-parented? I spent some time last weekend with a 9-1/2 month old child who clearly was well-parented. How do I know?

  1. He was happy most of the time but expressed a range of emotions.
  2. His body was relaxed most of the time but stiffened when his emotions dictated it.
  3. I watched his parents allow him some latitude in his explorations…and, yet, there were clear limits.
  4. He was comfortable with strangers after some initial caution.
  5. Both of his parents were involved in his life and they seemed to share the same basic approach to parenting.
  6. His parents were watchful and conscious of where he was at all times.
  7. He checked back with Mom and Dad from time-to-time.
  8. His parents at times gave up adult experiences to focus on his needs often sharing this responsibility by taking turns.
  9. His parents were happy and self-confident individuals who clearly love one another.
  10. He has an extended family and friends who support his family.

There are many possible reasons (e.g.; mismatched parent and child temperaments, health, special challenges, past experiences) that a child might not fit these characteristics through no fault of his or her parents. Yet, at the risk of over-simplifying, in my years working with young children and families, these characteristics are telling most of the time.

Whoa! Hands off Fred Rogers!


Jeff Zaslow wrote in a first-person column in the Wall Street Journal this week (July 5, 2007) that:

…The semester was ending, and as usual, students were making a pilgrimage to his office, asking for the extra points needed to lift their grades to A’s.

“They felt so entitled,” he recalls, “and it just hit me. We can blame Mr. Rogers.” (Find the whole article here.)

I have to say I was a bit miffed for several reasons:

1.) Fred Rogers’ work with young children was terribly misrepresented and, unfortunately, he cannot defend himself from the grave.

2.) Fred Rogers NEVER advocated in young children a feeling of entitlement unless by entitlement you mean entitlement to kind, caring, loving adults.

3.) The author of this column is just one more person propagating the idea that being sensitive to children means creating a sense of entitlement. This attitude on the part of many–who don’t understand human behavior or child development–implies that the only way to raise responsible children is by continuously “taking them down a notch”.

4.) While Mr. Zaslow used Mr. Rogers as a jumping off point for a discussion of the issue of individuals who have a sense of entitlement, he picked a person who advocated responsibility to blame.

5.) Mr. Zaslow , unfortunately, sees a sense of entitlement only in the generation just now coming of age. Personally, I see it in folks of every generation. Perhaps, there has been an increase in this sense of entitlement. Perhaps, not. Either way, scapegoating a generation is at best lazy scholarship and at worst bigotry.

6.) This opinion piece talked about entitlement but was very lightweight in that he didn’t talk about what early childhood educators know about parenting styles (e.g.; Baumrind’s research) or give the readers any solutions. of which there were many.

So, what does it take to raise children who take responsibility for their actions and yet have a positive sense of self and a strong sense of confidence?

It takes respecting children, providing an environment of unconditional love, kindness, high and yet attainable expectations for behavior, sincerity, and adults who model appropriate behavior. We don’t end up with responsible adults who have internalized rules for living by authoritarian parenting or teaching. We also don’t get responsible adults through permissive parenting or teaching. Rather, we end up with children who become responsible adults when parenting and teaching styles are neither permissive or authoritarian but authoritative. Authoritative parents and teachers empathize with a child’s frustration that caused him or her to hit or bite another child, express that empathy, and still make it crystal clear that no matter how you feel, you cannot put your fist in another child’s face because s/he said something irritating.

We need more adults like Fred Rogers. We need more adults who see the value in each individual, who emphasize to children that even when you feel angry, you cannot hurt others, that every member our communities are important for both the work that they do and for who they are.

Blame Mister Rogers? Hardly.

Elevators Trump Disney World

I am “on the road” this month traveling from motel to motel. As I rode the elevator this morning I was reminded of my children’s favorite part of the Disney World experience: the elevator in the hotel. I remember the joy that Jessie and especially the younger Isaac got from pressing the buttons that took us to and from our room.

Perhaps, we need to remember that with young children it is often not the expensive, frenetic, and obvious things that get their attention and that they choose to learn from. Just my two cents from somewhere in Pennsylvania…

Play Your Video Game

The commercial begins with Mom’s voice, “Stop doing those dishes and play your video game!”The commercial proceeds to boast that “…with V-Smile, your child will learn spelling, math, vocabulary, and so much more.”The first time I saw this commercial I got angry; now I simply cringe when it airs.Then I visited the company’s website and read that this toy is intended for children beginning at age three and that this company also has a product called V.Smile that is marketed for children as young as nine months old.Appalled is too tame a word to describe my feelings: mortified, frightened, and livid are other words that come to mind as I seek to describe my feelings.

So, is a video game the best way for young children to “learn spelling, math, vocabulary, and so much more”? Of course not. Empirical research shows that the best way to learn language and communication skills is through interactive relationships with adults and other children.Math is also best learned in the real world of flesh and blood.It requires interaction with real objects in which children repeatedly practice a variety of skills and concepts with a variety of materials and with supportive adults nearby.

What is the “so much more” that children may learn from this video game? The marketers of this toy clearly understand several things:

  • video can be captivating to young children
  • a market exists to make money
  • the earlier you hook someone on a product line, the better chance you have of continuing to sell them products
  • parents worry about whether their children are learning enough, so, if you market a toy to infants andpreschoolers you’d better tell parents it is good for their children

I suggest that the “so much more” that children may learn from this video game is to be consumers and to plug-in to media.Unfortunately, I don’t really think that this is something we need to teach our children.

Click here to view the VTech commercial discussed in this blog entry.

Resources-Tim’s Talk
Blocks & Computers
http://www.trainingwheels4ece.com/talk/
tools_for_learning_blocks_and_computers.htm

Resources-Media Impact
The Impact Of Computer Use On Children’s Development
http://www.aboutkidshealth.ca/ofhc/news/FTR/3742.asp

Understanding The Impact Of Media On Children And Teens
http://www.aap.org/family/mediaimpact.htm

2006 Video Game Report Card
http://www.mediafamily.org/research/report_vgrc_2006.shtml

Resources-Literacy Learning
Learning to Read and Write: Developmentally Appropriate Practices for Young Children
http://www.naeyc.org/about/positions/pdf/PSREAD98.PDF

Continuum Of Children’s Development In Early Reading And Writing
http://www.naeyc.org/about/positions/psread4.asp

Resources-Math Learning
Math and the Myth of 1, 2, 3
http://www.naeyc.org/ece/1997/21.asp

Mathematics through Play
http://www.naeyc.org/ece/2002/09.asp

Early Childhood Mathematics: Promoting Good Beginnings
http://www.naeyc.org/about/positions/psmath.asp

Resources-Learning Through Technology
NAEYC Position Statement: Technology and Young Children—Ages 3 through 8.” www.naeyc.org/resources/position_statements/pstech98.htm

Links to Online Resources on Technology as a Learning Tool
http://www.journal.naeyc.org/btj/200311/links.asp

Resources-Marketing to Children
TV Toy Ad Analysis
http://www.frankwbaker.com/toyadanalysisworksheet.htm

Buy Me That: The Powerful Influence of TV Toy Commercials, How TV Toy Commercials Influence Our Kids
http://www.frankwbaker.com/toys.htm

Teachers Resisting Unhealthy Children’s Entertainment
http://www.truceteachers.org

Mor-ore?

Jessie was two-years-old, it was December, I had a day off, and a credit card.When the forces of nature align like that family legends are born.I went crazy.I bought her clothes, I bought her duplos, I bought her Fisher Price sets, Little Tykes climbers, and a huge rubber ball.Twenty years later, my wife still shakes her head about the rubber ball.I bought her so many lavender outfits that she couldn’t possibly wear them all in one week.(Lavender was really big in the 80s for little girls.)

Christmas morning with our apartment filled with gifts, Jessie began the arduous task of opening her gifts.As she opened each lavender outfit—and pink, pink was also big for little girls in the 80s—she immediately put it on.She had at least five different outfits on, one on top of the other, when she lost control of her bladder and urinated through them all.

Fortunately, the foolhardiness of my actions that year serve as a permanent reminder that I am capable of succumbing to capitalistic impulses rather than Christian impulses at Christmas.

So, why did I do it?

I wanted to show my daughter love in a concrete way?Well, perhaps, but I have always been pretty good at showing my love to my children concretely through time spent with them and interest in their lives.So, no, probably not.

I was well-to-do, worked hard, and had money to spare?Definitely not. We paid for that Christmas for years to come.

She needed those things anyway?Oh, come on, who needs that many outfits?

So, why did I do it?I suspect that even as an American with a modest income (I was an educarer in a child care program and my wife earned only slightly more than I did at the not-for-profit where she worked), I had lost sight of what my children needed and of what Christmas represented.

Children don’t need much in the way of material possessions.

Children don’t need much in the way of material possessions.Yes, they need some clothes (lavender is an optional color), they need food, shelter, and a few toys are nice. But children really don’t need us to spend a lot of money on them.Honest.What they need is our unconditional love and our time.As someone educated in child development, I should have known better.

The “wants” are very normal from children especially around the end of the year when the marketing efforts of retailers go into overdrive and I am not opposed or exempt from taking part in a little “want-meeting” at Christmas.But, how do we encourage a value system that emphasizes needs vs. wants?

Please share your thoughts with us here and check back to see what ideas parents, teachers, grandparents, and others have.