Toy guns might seem harmless for children to play with. But the issue of guns and children is a serious one.
As the one-year anniversary of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary nears, gunplay has never been more controversial. Earlier this fall, an 8-year-old Florida boy was suspended for pointing his finger like a gun.
In this video, hear what the experts are saying about whether you should allow your kids to play with toy guns.
The other day I was sitting in a dark closet (as I do when playing hide-and-seek with my kids) when I had a realization. It changed the way I think about myself as a parent, as well as what it means to be creative.
In my life before parenthood, I associated the term “creativity” with the arts. Painting was a major part of my identity. In the years before my first son was born, I’d immersed myself in encaustics, mixing painting and collage with colored beeswax. With the busy day-to-day demands of raising kids and running a business, it’s been ages since I’ve made my own art — and I miss it. My encaustic supplies are covered in dust, and I can hardly recognize my art studio, now filled with toys. Sometimes when I pass by the studio-turned-playroom, I whine to myself about not having enough time or space to use it. Other times I just feel a little ache in my heart, thinking longingly about how good it feels to be creative.
But during that hide-and-seek game I took a deeper look at all the ways my life has changed since starting a family (consider the joys of sitting in a dark closet for fun, for one thing). I realized that the act of parenting itself is inherently creative, and that my family is actually my latest muse and medium— a collaborative work of art. I’m not talking about making craft projects with my kids, though I do add a mental marble into my ‘good parenting’ jar when I break out the art supplies. I’m talking about the fact that all parents constantly create, innovate and artistically problem-solve their way through family life.
Keeping it all together, fostering more ease, harmony and connection, is an amazing creative process.
Parents are creative experts — getting out of the house with shoes on all feet, throwing together that tasty soup made from fridge scraps, or hiding cauliflower in the mac and cheese. We fix broken toys and invent new ones, make up bedtime stories and song lyrics, lead nature explorations, and build family rituals that can hold all the pieces together. We face and solve almost any imaginable schedule conflict, carpooling issue or sibling frustration.
Truly, the essential ingredient to family flow is creativity. And these everyday moments, when parents call forth their creative selves to power their own unique family dynamic, are masterpieces. This colorful, spirited, quirky, always-in-progress family personality is a work of art.
If you follow education, by now you've probably heard about the importance of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) to prepare our kids for 21st century jobs. There is a dearth of qualified applicants for STEM-related jobs and a dearth of women and minorities in STEM careers, yet STEM is a crucial area of job growth.
Note, there is some debate here.
A 2011 Georgetown University study suggests that STEM jobs will only make up 5 percent of all U.S. jobs by 2018. According to the study, the deeper problem, beyond the shortage of STEM workers to fill STEM jobs, is the need for STEM-related skills across a broad spectrum of occupations.
To an extent, the new Common Core State Standards, which emphasize reading and understanding informational texts across disciplines, including science, social studies and technical subjects, are an attempt to address this growing skill requirement.
Meredith Baxter just got married! I feel a tiny personal stake in this, which is mostly ridiculous because she is one of the icons of my childhood and I am just me. I am over-the-moon delighted for her and for her partner.
Not quite a year ago, Meredith Baxter wrote me a letter, creating for me one of the most important object lessons I could give to my kidlets, a reminder to say the nice things out loud. (In every role, she really was the best mom ever.)
Because my ignorant children had no idea who or what Meredith Baxter or Family Ties were, I had to come up with a this-generation star to drive my point home. Claire Dunphy, of Modern Family, was the obvious parallel.
Imagine you said a nice thing, I told them. And all of a sudden, there was Claire Dunphy in your inbox! Worth it, amirite?
My state, Washington, passed a marriage equality law last November. This development made me think some things that I almost didn’t say. The things were about the language we use around marriage, and the unexpected gift, for little ol’ heterosexual me, that my gay pals brought to that language. And I almost didn’t say them for the usual reasons — What if it’s corny? What if people think I’m weird? and so on.
But that did not matter even one bit. Because the things I said, which were nice, got read by Meredith Baxter. Who then said her own nice things. She could have just sat at her kitchen table with her lovely partner and said, “Gosh, I liked that article. Here, do you want to read it? I only dropped a little jelly on it.” And left it at that, which is almost certainly what I would have done. But Ms. Baxter took the time and said the things, and that has been a lasting gift to me.
I share her letter here. Because it is lovely. And because you might have grown up with her, too. I realize this feels a bit oh look what I did, and I wish I could think of a way around that. But I found her words and her story so astonishing, and I want everyone to join me in being so delighted for Meredith Baxter. I think you'll agree that, in addition to her other talents, she is an absolutely gorgeous writer.
Every parent dreads the nights when bedtime seems to last forever. We go through our bedtime routine, read books, snuggle and say goodnight, and within minutes they are back up. The list of bedtime requests can be seemingly endless, from a drink of water to a missing snuggle to a suddenly discovered splinter. I believe one time our daughter asked if we could make the birds stop chirping. Sometimes, you can even watch them ponder what they should ask for next.
As I mentioned in a previous post on GROW Parenting, there is a bit of a mismatch between parent and child needs at this time of the day. Parents are ready to say goodnight, get their own chores done and possibly have a little time to relax. Kids are finally winding down, have enjoyed the connection with us during bedtime and want more of that special time together.
While periods of bedtime whack-a-mole are absolutely normal, they can make for frustrated parents and exhausted kids. Often, it’s a matter of providing some gentle reminders to our children on what bedtime and nighttime are for and some boundaries to help them stick to their part of the solution. Here are some tips to help you through this common parenting challenge.
Start with a conversation
Before kids (and adults) are willing to try something different, they need to feel heard. Therefore, starting off with a conversation where you listen, empathize and validate what your child might be feeling, is critical to gaining their cooperation.
Ask questions that help you understand your child’s perspective. You can show empathy by sharing a time when you had a hard time sleeping or when you felt lonely, or when you were a child and didn't want to go to bed. Stick to how he might be feeling/how you felt at first. Our tendency is to quickly move on to how their actions impact us. By taking the time to listen first, we are much more likely to invite cooperation instead of rebellion.
Find a solution together
Now that your child has had some time to feel heard at a calm time, you can move on to problem solving together. Remind your child about the problem with a quick validation of feelings:
"Remember when we talked about what might be hard for you about going to bed/staying in bed? We totally get it, and we can't make you sleep. That is totally up to you. We do need to figure out how we can solve this problem though. Parents have their chores to do after bedtime so our family can be ready for the next day, and during the night we need our sleep so we are rested and ready for a good day."
Then you might ask, "You are really good at solving problems. I wondered if you had any ideas of how we can solve this problem of needing lots of things at bedtime and wanting us to come in during the night?"
Depending on the age of your child, they may come up with some great ideas by themselves, or you can offer a few possible solutions. Here are some favorites that have worked for many families I have worked with, including my own.
1) Create a bedtime box. Share with your child that while they may not be able to go right to sleep, perhaps a box of special items to play with while they get ready to sleep could help them stay in bed. Find a shoebox and decorate the outside together. Then, have your child pick out some special items to have in their bed so they have everything they need to feel safe and cozy at bedtime. Maybe a few books, a flashlight, a favorite toy or two and a lovey. At bedtime, ask them what they can do if they are having a hard time sleeping. Likely, they will be excited to have their new special bedtime box and that will keep them occupied for a few nights and break the whack-a-mole cycle.
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