Category Archives: Ages 5-7

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

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

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

Family Ties: How Can Parents Help Create Them?

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A good male friend recently described the relationship between his two teen sons as “non-existent”. Different social circles, different schools, unconnected lives living in the same house. If one is away for a while, the other will eventually ask about him, but only casually, and he certainly doesn’t want his brother to know that he cares. My friend assures me that his boys are going through the normal stage of wanting nothing to do with one another, and that he is sure they will reconnect down the line.

He had to assure me of this, because I’ve not experienced a phase where any of my three children didn’t get along fairly well with each other. The fact that several years separate each of them (3 years between my first two, then 4 years between the second and third) could be a big factor. They had to spend a good deal of time together when they were young, of course, but they were always at different developmental stages, so the competitive level generally stayed pretty low.

I am sure that my friend is quite right about his sons, and he is wisely adopting the “don’t sweat the small stuff” parenting approach. But I have to confess that it would bug me if my children weren’t close. I am not talking “we don’t need any other friends” close, but at least “I’m cool with hanging with you around the house” close. This leads me to wonder: what, if anything, can parents do to promote friendship among their children?

“How to Get Siblings To Get Along” in Chicago Parents, found here, had some good suggestions. I particularly liked the following:

Encourage an Expectation of Closeness: Katie Allison Granju, a mom of five kids and author of Attachment Parenting, suggests that parents have a baseline expectation within the family that siblings will be friends, and subtly make sure that everyone understands that expectation. Encourage your children to view each other as allies. As Pat Shimm of the Barnard Toddler Center says, your ultimate goal is to have your children join forces together against you, the “management”, for that is how their bonds form and grow.

Support Each Other’s Activities: Insist (where reasonable) that your children attend some of their sibling’s activities and games. It involves them more in each other’s lives and gives them an opportunity to cheer for (or console) one another.

Family Conversations: I groan a bit at any forced encounters (like a planned “family meeting”) but making time for family conversations, be they around the dinner table (a great place to promote togetherness) or in the car, allows your children to listen to one another’s thoughts and ideas. Enforcing rules that everyone has to be polite and not interrupt will help keep the conversation civil and productive. It also gives everyone an opportunity to laugh together, which is always good.

Don’t Compare: A surefire way to poison sibling relationships is to play favorites or suggest that one child should act more like another. Don’t do it, even if one seems to have all the common sense (smarts, talent, whatever) in the world and the other none. Nothing good comes from your saying “Why can’t you be more like your brother/sister”? Nothing.

Establish Family Traditions: Chicago psychologist Dr. Mark Sharp notes that anything that helps kids identify as a part of the family is particularly helpful. “Family traditions, family rituals, these experiences create a sense of bond. That helps create a shared identity, which helps them feel closer.” When my children were young we established Fridays as Pizza Night, which ensured that the three of them (and often all of us) would enjoy yummy casual dining at the end of the week. Even now if one of the older two is home from college on a Friday, he or she expects to see the pizza boxes on the counter and whatever sibling is home seated at the table.

These are suggestions, not prescriptions. Sometimes no matter what you do your children will refuse to get along, and will seem not to care about one another. But it certainly won’t hurt to focus on some of these tips, and it could even help.

What do you do to encourage your children to strengthen their family ties to one another? Please share your tips!

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Filed under Ages 0-5, Ages 13-15, Ages 16-18, Ages 5-7, Ages 8-12, Parents, Saving Our Sons

Are You Focused on Your Son’s Arts Education? You Should Be.

Does your son’s school offer arts education? If it is a New York City public school, there is a good chance it doesn’t, according to a report recently released by the NYC Comptroller’s office, and covered here by the New York Times. The report shows that 20 percent of NYC public schools lack any arts teachers, including roughly one out of seven middle and high schools, even though state law requires arts instruction for middle and high school students.

As the report, found here, notes, arts education has long been recognized by teachers and parents for its positive impact on students in and out of the classroom. In 2012 the National Endowment for the Arts analyzed the relationship between arts engagement and students’ academic and social outcomes. They found that that high students who had were deeply involved with arts programs in school:

Had higher GPA’s than students with lower levels of arts engagement;

Enrolled at higher rates in competitive and four year colleges than students less involved in arts programs; and

Were 3 times as likely than their peers without arts training to earn a bachelor’s degree.

They also found that students with low socioeconomic status and a history of high arts engagement had better grades and higher college enrollment and attainment rates than students’ not involved in the arts.

So what can parents do if your son’s school, in NYC or anywhere else, is lacking in arts education? GCP will be focusing on this in more depth in a later post, but here are some immediate steps:

Do Your Homework: Check out websites that focus on what parents can do to encourage their children’s arts education, like PBS Parents’ Art Education site, found here, which has lots of information and great links.

Do-It-Yourself: Many websites also provide instruction for parents who want to encourage and develop their child’s creativity in the absence of a school arts program. Scholastic.com has tips to “Make Sure Your Child Gets an Arts Education”, found here. In “Parents Teach Art: A DIY Approach to Elementary Arts Education”, found here, an enterprising parent has put an art curriculum on line for others to use in their schools.

Work With Other Parents to Bring Arts Education to your Son’s School: The Center for Arts Education has a Parent Toolkit which gives advice and instruction on how to convince your school that an arts program is critical. Learn more about it here. Visit the CEA website, found here, for parent guides which include information about how you can support arts education at home and at school.

Arts education is a critical part of our sons (and daughters) development, and we can’t stand by and let a school’s limited budget deny them this opportunity for growth and engagement. Check out what your son’s school offers, and if it is not enough, start figuring out how to help your son get more!

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

Is Your Sitter Paying More Attention to Her Phone Than To Your Child?

Have you thought about how much time your babysitter spends with your child vs. her device? We all know how tempting it is to have your connection to the world at your fingertips, calling to you with its rings, dings and whooshes every few minutes. How can you be sure your babysitter isn’t heeding the calls of her device over the needs of your son or daughter? Common Sense Media addressed this question in a recent post, “How to Stop Your Babysitter from Sexting, Texting, and Tweeting on the Job“. Here are some tips from them and us on this topic:

Set the Rules, Clearly and Simply: Young people who have grown up with a device in their hands are not always aware that their regular use of it may bother you or could interfere with the performance of their job. Be clear about your expectations, and set the rules before you give them the job. Don’t want any tweeting or texting on the job? Be sure to tell them up front. GCP pet peeve: We’ve lost count of the number of sitters (and moms and dads) seen on the street who are preoccupied with their devices while pushing their toddlers along. Not only is it potentially quite dangerous, you’ll also miss golden opportunities to chat with the little one about interesting things along the way. And we all know (or should know) that toddlers benefit tremendously from talking and having conversations. They need to hear as many words as possible at this age, and chatting with them on a stroll is a great way to increase their vocabulary. So be sure to tell your sitter to reserve any non essential phone time for when your toddler is napping in that stroller.

Privacy and Social Media: We live in a world of shared digital experiences. Pictures of cute babies, puppies and kittens abound on all social media. Is it ok for your sitter to post pictures of your little one on her Facebook page or Instagram account, or upload an adorable video of him singing onto YouTube? Whether your answer is yes or no, have this conversation up front, so that there are no surprises. If the answer is yes, set limits for what can be shared. If instead you want to be the only one deciding what adorable views of your pumpkin the world can see, then make that clear from day one. Be compassionate about the instinct: you have an adorable child, and a loving caretaker could easily have the urge to post a great pic of him. But be very clear about this: if Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, etc. is off limits, let the sitter know before she is tempted to post.

Playtime with the Phone: Also discuss the degree to which you want the sitter to allow your toddler to play with devices, be they her phone or the baby’s own iPad. Giving a fussy little one an electronic plaything to distract and preoccupy him is tempting, we all know, but we also know it is not a good idea to use an electronic device as an ever present pacifier. Help her understand your thinking on this, and set clear limits.

Tech is Not All Bad: When you are having a crazy day at work, having a babysitter who is tech-savvy can save the day. She can send you a picture of your child to show you a special moment you’d otherwise miss, or perhaps to show you a rash that might need immediate attention. She can text you questions or clarifications quickly and efficiently. She may also have suggestions for cool apps that might serve useful for the both of you when managing daily tasks before you arrive home. So rather than make the device the enemy, talk about its productive uses.

It’s Never Too Late to Have This Chat: We live in a digital age where everyone is or is soon to be wired. So if you did not initially spell out these rules with a long time sitter, or your sitter is a relative newcomer to the digital world and you sense a shift towards device preoccupation, have the conversation now. Remember, you are the employer. As your employee, your babysitter should make every effort to adhere to your rules.

The bottom line is you want to do everything you can to ensure that your babysitter is actually spending quality time with your child! These are crucial years to foster positive reinforcement and development. She can’t do that if she is constantly updating her status.

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Filed under Ages 0-5, Ages 5-7, Parents

Black Folks Are Missing From Children’s Books

Celebrated children’s and young adult book author Walter Dean Myers has a great essay asking “Where Are the People of Color in Children’s Books?” in this past Sunday’s New York Times. In his essay, found here, Myers responds to a recent report that only 93 of the 3,200 children’s books published in 2013 were about African Americans. He describes how important it is for children’s books to feature people of color, not only to inspire young boys and girls of color, but to help all readers understand and appreciate that moms and dads and doctors and lawyers and engineers and teachers and neighbors can come in all colors.

Myers tells the story of working in a personnel office under a boss who tried to eliminate a black chemist applicant for a position because as he told Myers, “That black guy’s no chemist”, even as he looked at the candidate’s resume filled with chemist training and experience. Myers understood that this was a more complicated brand of racism. He explains, “I realized that we hired people not so much on their résumés, but rather on our preconceived notions of what the successful candidate should be like. And where was my boss going to get the notion that a chemist should be black?” If Black people, including Black professionals lived in more children’s books on a regular basis, all children would have a chance at having a more realistic (and less biased) perception of the real world.

We’ve got a long way to go, with our boys in hoodies getting profiled in stores, stopped and frisked and even shot and killed because the way they look is what people know from TV, hip hop and publicized perp walks to be the look of someone up to no good. We’ve got to do all we can to find books for our children, and for their friends of all colors, that show the world the way it multiculturally is, not the way it looks so often on TV, and as we now know, in children’s books as well.

How do we find these books? We can start with the Brown Sugar and Spice Book Service, found here, which features “True Stories about People of Color”. But we need as many resources as we can find. GCP readers, send us your favorite children’s books featuring people of color! We’ll keep looking for recommendations as well.

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Filed under Ages 0-5, Ages 5-7, Books, Parents