Category Archives: Ages 13-15

GCP: Back in Action, Back to School

Greetings GCP‘ers!  Hope you enjoyed your summer break (we certainly did) and are settling back into your fall parenting routine. We at GCP have been spending a good bit of our break focusing on ways to improve this site and create a stronger and more interactive GCP parenting community. Stay tuned, upgrades coming soon.

So much to focus on for our boys as school begins! As you work on getting your school aged guys back in the groove of early morning wake-ups and full days of school, there are lots of ways to make sure they are getting the best back to school start possible. Here are some:

Parent Tool Kit: Check out the Parent Tool Kit, found here. It is chock full of resources to help you monitor and support your son’s academic and personal development. Download the new free Parent Tool Kit app so you can keep track of his progress and receive helpful parenting tips from your smartphone.

Common Sense Media Back to School Guide: Common Sense Media, a great site that provides parents with information, advice, and tools to support their children’s safe and positive use of media and technology, offers a guide to help parents answer the many questions that commonly come up at the start of a school year. This guide, found here, addresses issues for children of all school ages.

Help Your Kindergarten Son Get a Great Start to School: Common Sense Media also shares tips for helping your kindergarten son make the adjustment to “big boy school”. Check out “Get Ready for Kindergarten with Practical Tips, Tricks, and Tools” found here and “5 Teacher-Approved Apps to Get Your Kid Ready for Kindergarten” found here.

Secrets to Raising Really Smart Kids: In August 2014 Essence Magazine published “Secrets to Raising Really Smart Kids”, found here. This very thoughtful article gives parents “Achievement Prescriptions” for helping children of all ages reach their academic potential.

Easing the Back to School Transition: There are lots of resources on-line to help you guide your son through the tough transition back to a school schedule with a minimum of stress. The National Association of School Psychologists shares“Back to School Transitions: Tips for Parents”. PBS Parents’ offers “Back to School Tips for Parents”. Scholastic has an impressive assortment of back to school articles and resources for parents in “Back to School: Start Smart”, found here.

SchoolHouse Rock Lives!!: Couldn’t resist sharing this blast from the past: Remember SchoolHouse Rock, those delightful cartoon video shorts aired on ABC on Saturday mornings which taught us about grammar (“Conjunction Junction”), history (“I’m Just a Bill”) and other subjects using really catchy tunes? On Sunday September 7th, ABC will celebrate this beloved series with a new special, “The ABCs of SchoolHouse Rock”. LOVE SchoolHouse Rock!! When my kids were little I found a DVD of these videos, and this became our go-to car entertainment. To this day any one of us can belt out ” Interjections” upon command. This is undercover learning at its best. If you don’t know about it, run over to YouTube and check them out. And watch this ABC special!!

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Can’t get back to GCP blogging without mentioning the horrific killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson and its aftermath. We have watched every parent’s (especially every Black parent’s) nightmare come to life with the tragic death of an unarmed young man at the hands of the police. So much has been said about this already. So much analysis, so much anger, so much angst. We are encouraged by the news that the Justice Department has just launched a broad investigation Thursday into the police department in Ferguson, Missouri in addition to its ongoing investigation of the killing of Michael Brown.

As always, GCP must ask: How do we talk to our sons about Michael Brown and dealing with the police? We will address this in an upcoming post. Stay tuned. Welcome Back!!!

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Filed under Academics, Ages 13-15, Ages 16-18, Ages 5-7, Ages 8-12, Parents, Resources

Are We Ruining Our Boys?

In a recent New York Times Motherlode blog post, the author confesses “I’ve Ruined My Boys” as she describes how she has “over coddled” her 6, 9 and 11 year old sons to the point that they are unwilling to do much of anything for themselves around the house. In her post, found here, she confesses that she has “reveled in having them need me so much” but has decided that she is through with waiting on them hand and foot, but worries that it might already be too late.

This post struck a responsive chord. However I have succeeded as a mom, I have definitely failed in teaching my children to fend for themselves domestically. I did not enforce the chore chart or give stars for taking out the garbage. I know my children know how to make up their beds (at least I got that far with them) but they never got gold stars for doing it (or punishment for not doing it). They will wash dishes (i.e., put dishes in the dishwasher) if reminded, but only if reminded. Why is it so hard for some of us moms to teach our children to do things for themselves?

Perhaps some of us, like the blog post author, secretly enjoy being needed. We feel wonderfully efficient and useful when we can quickly dispense with a chore rather than wait have to for our sons or daughters to do it in their own fashion and timespan. As our children grow older and more independent from us perhaps we want to feel that we are still indispensable to them. But if we continue to do the simple things for our children, how will they learn to do it themselves? (Truth be told, they ultimately do learn to do these things for themselves when they have to. But we won’t see it because they only have to when we are not around doing it for them.)

I am sure some of you parents will read this and be completely unable to relate. Your children grew up doing chores, and you were determined to make sure all of them, the boys and the girls, became very responsible domestic citizens and great cleaner uppers. Kudos to you, and please leave comments letting us in on the secrets of how you did this.

But the rest of us can take solace in knowing that we are not alone (and perhaps feel a tiny bit cheered if we are not quite as indulgent as the blogpost author). Knowing how and when to make our kids do things on their own is one of the tough journeys of parenting. We will look further into this issue and provide some tips in an upcoming post.

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Filed under Ages 13-15, Ages 16-18, Ages 5-7, Ages 8-12, Parents

Good News from Chicago’s Urban Prep Academy: College Edition

As many of you regular GCP readers may know, for the past 5 year Chicago’s Urban Prep Academy has been sending 100 percent of its high school graduates off to college. (See “Good News on the College Admissions Front”, April 16, 2014.) Recently Urban Prep Academy celebrated another milestone, as the first class of those high school graduates graduated from college. Watch this video of Krishaun Branch receiving his diploma from Fisk University, listen to him talk about his journey to college graduation and be very impressed, especially when you learn of his future plans. See the video here. Keep the tissues handy, you’ll need them.

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Filed under Academics, Ages 13-15, Ages 16-18

Do Violent Video Games Desensitize Our Sons to Actual Violence?

As the shootings in schools, malls, and other public places seem to be happening more and more frequently these days, parents are once again wondering if violent video games, especially the “first person shooter” games which allow the player to travel armed throughout the game and “kill” everyone in sight, contribute to actual gun violence. In the aftermath of these shootings we have often heard the profile of the shooter as a young man who spent a great deal of time holed up in his room playing these games. Are these games, which our children can play for hours, encouraging them to look for violent solutions?

For every study that suggests that there is some causal connection between video games and gun violence there is another which assures us there is none. And considering the millions of games like these sold annually in the US alone, if the connection was absolute the violence would be much more staggering than it is. But as a recent New York Times article found here notes, two new studies strongly suggest that when children play these games regularly over time they become less horrified by violent scenes and have less empathy for people who are affected by violence. A study conducted by Dr. Jeanne Brockmyer of the University of Toledo has determined that teens exposure to violent images over long periods of time can mute the areas of the brain responsible for empathy. And a study recently released by Canada’s Brock University has determined that long term exposure to images in violent video games can stunt a child’s “moral maturity” and take away a child’s ability to feel empathy for people who have been in violent situations in real life.

The natural question for parents of boys who play these games is: how much exposure to these games is too much? Is once a week for two hours a day ok, but three times a week too much? Even though none of the studies have been able to determine this, parents should keep a watchful eye over how much time their children are spending with these games. Common Sense Media (commonsense media.org) has a ratings system for video games that breaks down what will be found in the videos (e.g., violence, sex, language, etc.) and suggests an appropriate age for the players. They also have kids reviews and parents reviews of the game side by side, so that you can read what each generation thinks about it.

GCP readers, what rules do you have in your house about violent video games? Does hearing that continued playing of these games might reduce your sons’ capacity to empathize affect your interest in letting him play as much? If you play these games, how does that impact your feelings about your children playing them? Let us know.

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Filed under Ages 13-15, Ages 8-12, Entertainment

Thank A Teacher!

Although Teacher Appreciation Week (May 5-9) has come and gone, it is not too late to show your appreciation for special teachers in your son’s life. In fact, the end of the school year is a great time to thank teachers for the hard work they have put in all year on your son’s behalf. Looking for cute year end gift ideas? Check out these Pinterest boards here, here and here.

Be sure to involve your son in the process of figuring out what to do for his favorite teachers. It will help him understand the importance of showing appreciation and celebrating great teachers if he participates in the purchase or making of a teacher’s gift. As you focus on year-end gift giving, please note that teacher’s gifts are much more about the thought than the price tag. In fact, many schools have dollar limits on what you can spend on a teacher’s gift. Check with your Parent’s Association/PTA reps for this information. And don’t forget about the people who work hard in your son’s school outside the classroom to make sure he has a good day, like the security guard or the school nurse. They should be appreciated as well!!

As you talk with your son about the teachers he wants to thank, talk to him about some of your favorite teachers. Not only is it fun to share your stories, but by sharing your memories of teachers you had decades ago, you will help him appreciate how important and influential a good teacher can be.

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Filed under Academics, Ages 0-5, Ages 13-15, Ages 16-18, Ages 5-7, Ages 8-12, Parents, Resources

Hit the Road! Vacationing with Kids

As summer approaches, thoughts turn to family vacations. We at GCP love hitting the road with the kids, and have been doing so since they were tiny tots. Family vacations can provide some of the best times of your life. Whether it is a road trip of a few hours or a journey to another part of the world, introducing your children to different places and cultures at an early age helps hone their powers of observation and understanding, and gives them great memories of family fun.

Here are a few tips culled from a variety of sources (including our own GCP wisdom) to help make your family vacations into fun adventures:

1. Start with a Positive Attitude: Some parents refuse to consider taking their little ones on the road for fear that the children will be terrible travelers. One of the best ways to avoid this fear is to start traveling with them early, so that they grow up understanding how to behave on the road. Sure, you will have to plan long trips carefully and bring lots of fun activities to distract them on a lengthy trip. But be sure to believe in your children’s ability to be good travelers!!

2. Keep Them Busy On the Road: Bring lots of fun things on the road: books, toys, stickers, educational games, portable DVD and game players, books on tape, and music CDs to sing along with. Make age appropriate activity travel bags for each child. Be sure to include a few surprises in the bag. Save the bag for when the first signs of fidgeting appear.

3. Leave the Special Toy at Home: Rather than take the favorite bunny or lambie on the road, better to buy a special friend for the trip a few weeks before. Nothing threatens to spoil a trip more than discovering that Bunny didn’t make it out of the last hotel.

4. Bring the Medicine Cabinet: Be prepared for any emergency, big or small. Make a trip to the local drugstore and load up on everything you could possibly need for everything from a minor boo-boo to a major head or tummy upset. Here’s an unusual but useful tip: stick a packet of ground coffee in your bag. If the little one happens to throw up in an enclosed space (on the plane, in a car), coffee grounds mask the smell pretty quickly.

5. Plan Realistic and Flexible Days: Don’t try to fill every waking hour of a trip with activity, even if it is child friendly activity. Children tend to tire easily on the road, so take your cues on the length of the day from them. Maybe you won’t be able to hit every spot of interest in every port of call, but better to have a shorter day than have to drag a cranky little one around. And be prepared to make stops that your children request that you might not have included in the original itinerary. In the early days we visited more wax museums than I could ever have imagined (or wanted to imagine). But we had a blast, and still talk about those museums, so many years later!

You can take your sons and daughters on the road and have a great time! Start planning now.

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Filed under Ages 0-5, Ages 13-15, Ages 16-18, Ages 5-7, Ages 8-12, Entertainment, Holidays, Parents, Resources

New Report: Time to Focus on Reading

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Common Sense Media has recently issued a report on children, teens and reading. While the report found here has some good news about children and reading, some of its findings relating to boys of color are particularly troubling.

First, the good news: Reading is still a big part of many children’s lives. Young children read or are read to for an average of between 30 -60 minutes daily, and 50 percent of parents with children under 12 read with their children every day. 60 percent of children 8 and under read daily. (Where do you and your children fall with respect to these statistics?) Reading scores among children and young teens have improved steadily between 1971 and 2012.

Now the not-so-good news: There continues to be a persistent and significant reading achievement gap between white children and Black and Hispanic children. Only 18 percent of black and 20 percent of Hispanic fourth graders are rated as “proficient” in reading, while 46 percent of white fourth graders earn this rating. Even more troubling is the fact that the size of this reading achievement gap has been largely unchanged over the past two decades. And there’s more bad news: There is also a gender gap in reading time and achievement, as girls read for pleasure for an average of 10 minutes more per day than boys. This gender gap persists as the children get older, and has remained statistically the same over the past 20 years.

What Can Parents Do? Common Sense Media’s report suggests that there are specific things that parents can do in order to increase their children’s reading frequency: They can keep print books in their home, spend time reading themselves, and set aside time daily for their children to read.

How do you encourage your son to read? GCP wants to know!!!

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Filed under Academics, Ages 13-15, Ages 5-7, Ages 8-12, Books

Tell Your Sons: Tech It Off — October 10th, 8-9pm

Diane Primo, founder and chairman of marketing company IntraLink Global and mother of three (a daughter and two sons), challenges us all to help our children thrive by encouraging them to Tech It Off–turn off all devices–for one hour, on October 10th, 2014, from 8-9pm.

Primo is greatly concerned that our children, our beloved Millennials, who
are consuming media for 18 hours a day, are stuck in a high-stress, constantly plugged-in, sleep and time-deprived culture. She worries that their addiction to their devices will limit their effectiveness, productivity, and growth, and may well ultimately block their ability to truly thrive.

Inspired by Arianna Huffington’s new book “Thrive”, which explains how we need to expand the definition of success beyond monetary or material measures to include empathy, compassion and caring, Primo wants us all to consider how we can help our technology-obsessed children understand the importance of having uninterrupted think-time, getting enough sleep, and caring about others. When will they have time to focus on these important values if they are plugged in and preoccupied for all of their waking hours?

Primo’s suggestion: Tech It Off. Devote one hour on a specific day, worldwide, to going tech-free. She wants us all to Tech It Off on October 10, 2014, from 8-9pm in every time zone. She acknowledges that asking our children to de-tech for just one hour is a baby step, but notes “Baby steps start the conversation”. If we start with this one hour, and help our children understand that stepping away from their devices for periods of time will help reduce their stress and restore balance to their lives, she believes, “this simple act can start to change their lives, and ours, for the better”.

Read Diane Primo’s challenge to Tech It Off in full here. We at GCP are big fans of this idea. What do you think? Can you, will you, encourage your sons and daughters to Tech it Off on October 10th, 2014??

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Filed under Ages 13-15, Ages 16-18, Ages 8-12, Entertainment, Resources

Inspiration from the Sports World for our Sons

Some inspiration for our boys from the world of sports:

Princeton Renaissance Athlete:

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Caraun Reid, a December 2013 Princeton graduate, is a two time All American and an N.F.L. prospect who some predict could become Princeton’s highest draft pick in over 30 years. As reported in a recent New York Times article found here, Reid, a 305 pound defensive tackle who didn’t play organized football until his freshman year in high school, isn’t just a talented football player awaiting his fate in tomorrow’s draft. He is also a talented singer, who regularly performed with a Princeton a cappella group; a musician who had regular gigs with his jazz band (he plays guitar and drums); a gospel singer and an executive board member of the campus ministry program. Small wonder that one of his challenges as he headed into draft season was convincing scouts that he was sufficiently serious about football. But his stellar performance in a pass rushing academy and the Senior Bowl convinced them that he was N.F.L. material.

Reid’s parents, both immigrants from Jamaica, encouraged their son to maintain balance in his life by combining athletics with music, schoolwork and worship. His father, Courton Reid, explained, “We believe in that — we believe our children should be well-rounded. We’d say you never know what could be your niche.” Good advice for life, and refreshing to hear in a world where athletic boys are trained to be singularly focused on their sport from an early age. Hope things go well for him in tomorrow’s draft.

Kevin Durant, NBA M.V.P:

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Grab a box of tissues and your son and watch Durant’s speech as he accepts the league’s Most Valuable Player Award. Not only does he give a heartfelt personalized shout out to each of his teammates, he saves the highest praise for his mom, thanking her for the many sacrifices she made to raise him and his brother, and calling her “the real M.V.P.”. Great speech from a thoughtful young man with some good home training. You can watch the long-but-worth-it speech here.

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Filed under Ages 13-15, Ages 16-18, Ages 5-7, Ages 8-12, Parents, Sports

Talk to Your Sons About The L.A.Clippers

It has been front page news for a few days now: L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling allegedly made some outrageously offensive racist comments about Black people to his Black and Hispanic girlfriend. Talk to your sons about this situation, and ask them what they would do if they played for or were the coach of the L.A. Clippers.

The team decided to play yesterday’s game, and staging a silent protest during warm-ups, and they are playing again on Monday night. Would your son have decided to play the game? Talk about the issues that probably came up during a team discussion: whether they should forfeit the playoff game that they’d been working all season to get to play in, or whether they should continue to play for an owner who appears to have made blatantly racist comments. Talk about all the competing pressures on the team: the instinct to walk away from the game, likely supported by outraged family and friends, versus the urge to prove to themselves that they have the ability to win, coupled with the potential economic consequences of refusing to play, and how much does that matter under these circumstances?

Certainly you have had may versions of these conversations with friends and co-workers over the past few days, conversations which will continue as the playoff games continue and the NBA Commissioner attempts to authenticate the recording of these comments and determine the league’s response. But take the time to talk with your sons about this situation, and keep talking with them about it as events unfold. More importantly, keep listening to their thoughts about these events. Ask them what they would do going forward if they were a Clippers player, if they were the NBA Commissioner. Keep talking, and keep listening.

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Filed under Ages 13-15, Ages 16-18, Ages 8-12, College Bound Students, Parents, Saving Our Sons, Sports