MR. SMITH (AND FAMILY) GO TO WASHINGTON D.C.

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Forget Mr. Smith.  I think the whole family should go to Washington.  Why?  Because it is awe-inspiring.  By the way, Mr. Smith goes to Washington is an old Hollywood classic (yes, I do watch AMC and TCM in the middle of the night).

If you look beyond the politicking and lobbying that occurs in Washington D.C., and just look at the city itself, I gotta say it is amazing.  There is no better way for school-age kids to jump into learning history than to visit the presidential memorials.  Standing at the foot of the Thomas Jefferson memorial and reading excerpts from the Declaration of Independence is, unquestionably, inspiring.  “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men all created equal…”  Also, reading the Gettysburg Address out loud, while Abraham Lincoln’s statue smiles serenely near us, is great fun.  At the FDR memorial, the depiction of the Great Depression offers many teachable moments about humility.  And there is so much more…

Speaking of U.S history, recently, I watched an interview of David McCullough on 60 minutes.  Mr. McCullough is a Pulitzer prize-winning historian (by the way, I highly recommend reading his biography of John Adams.)  During the interview, he talked about early American thinkers and politicians who shaped the country’s past and present.  At one point, he talked about today’s college students saying they lacked fundamental knowledge of U.S. history.

His comments got me thinking, especially since July Fourth is approaching.  This holiday is more than backyard barbecues, pool parties, and fireworks.  I think Fourth of July is about reminding us (the older generation) to teach our children about our country’s history.  Traveling to Washington D.C. is a great way to develop their interest.  Watch a group of people protesting in front of the White House and your kids will recognize the true meaning of free speech.  Tell me which historical sites (local or national) you have been inspired by and why?

How Not To Clean the Binky

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Woops…there goes the pacifier…onto the floor.  I watch as a mom picks it up, puts it in her mouth, and then back in the baby’s mouth.  I am perplexed.  I see a lot of parents doing this.  I suppose parents think that the pacifier will be “cleaner” with a spit-wash.  Honestly, I would rather put the pacifier back on the floor.  Five second rule, right?  The 3 second exposure of an adult mouth makes the pacifier a lot dirtier and germ-infested than the floor.  That is not the environment you want your child’s teeth to grow into.

A simple solution is to buy the pacifier clip-on.  The binky (pacifier) stays attached to the child’s clothing.  So no more binky clean up to worry about.  At the end of the day, hand wash all the pacifiers and clips and you are good to go for the morning.

Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

WHAT’S IN YOUR BACKGROUND?

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“You can only watch TV on the weekends,” I remind my little one after school.  “Okay,” she sighs and she begins to play with her blocks.

I give myself a mental pat on the back for sticking to my guns.  TV is not good for her little brain.  I would much rather she engage in creative play or a learning activity.

Ha, little do I know.  What I thought to be minimal TV exposure is not so “minimal” in reality.  Yes, she is reading or coloring, but the TV is often playing in the background.  Whether it is CNN or Project Runway or Indian soap operas, the TV is literally “on” for hours.

A recent study showed that kids in the U.S. are exposed to about four hours of background TV.  Add that to the 2 hours of TV kids watch actively.  Six hours — that is equal to the time they spend learning in school.

In my practice, I always talk about the health and behavioral problems caused by kids watching too much TV.   But, what about us parents?  Could our media addiction be harming our children indirectly?  My parental intuition says, “Without a doubt.”

What are your thoughts on this disturbing statistic?

TWEEN SENSE

“Oh… I really hate middle school.” I can’t tell you how many times I hear this from parents. Why such strong feelings? If you have a middle schooler at home, you probably know why. The mean kids, the hormones, the changes…the list goes on and on. In the tender tween age of 11 to 14, middle schoolers are probably the most confused age group on Earth. Just like toddlers, until you understand their psyche, you cannot get through to them. So, how can you help? Just understand them.

1. Know that they are going to be more and more self-centered. They cannot help it. Preoccupation with the mirror, their clothes, their friends, and their things is the norm now. Parents, try to find subtle ways to discuss inner beauty with them. When it comes to body image, use words like “healthy,” not pretty or skinny. Help them understand that many children do not have the advantages they have. Perhaps they can volunteer with friends for a local charity.

2. Gone are the days when you were the “cool” mom and dad. Now, you are just barely acceptable. Accept it. You don’t need to be their best friend anymore. That’s fine, but perhaps you can subtly direct them to friends who would be a good influence.

3. They blow things up (in their mind). A run-of-the-mill comment or situation can magnify and become a big deal to them. Their emotions are not in their control. Step into their shoes, understand the breadth of their feelings, and teach them coping skills for the kind of situations they deal with socially.

4. They are dreamers. They are doodlers. Their head is in the clouds. That’s understandable, since they are trying to figure out who they are. Parents, encourage their imagination and creativity. Let them dream big.

Finally, understand that this is a stage of life. With time, their thought process and mind will mature and become more reasonable. In fact, in a few years, you will have a good laugh about all their middle school drama. So parents, don’t hate middle school. Be ready for it.

PARENTS: HOW ATTACHED ARE YOU?

Well, Time magazine sure got our attention. The May cover depicting a mom breastfeeding her almost-four year old son threw out a challenge. Essentially it asked, “Are you mom enough to try attachment parenting?”

What is attachment parenting? It is a philosophy advocated by Dr. Bill Sears, which focuses on the seven B’s: Bonding, Breastfeeding, Baby-wearing, Bedding (co-sleeping), Being wary of baby trainers, and creating a Balance. On the whole, attachment parenting advocates parent-child closeness and full attention to the child at all times.

Looking back at my childhood, I realize that I am a product of attachment parenting myself. Yes, I think it works. But it only works if it holds true to your family structure and your family values. Nobody ever taught my East Indian ancestors or my parents about “attachment parenting.” They just raised their kids based on what worked for the previous generations and the advice just passed on from one generation to the next.

I can think of many reasons why attachment parenting does not work in this day and age. Working moms, small families, living far away from extended family etc. On the contrary, I can think of many ways this parenting can work for today’s moms. As a working mom, I have a moderate approach to the one outlined by Dr. Sears. I believe that bonding, breastfeeding, holding, and cuddling my kids will never spoil them or make them weak or dependent as adults. I advocate sleeping in the same room (not bed) for the first year for nursing moms. I say no just as often to my kids as I say yes. I don’t believe in hovering over the kids at all times. But if they need me, I am right there. And if I don’t know how to handle a situation, then I think, “What would my mom do?” And voila, I always have the right answer.

The parenting philosophy that matters the most is your own and it is up to you to tailor it to your family. No matter what anyone says.

Photo: Courtesy of Time Magazine