Category Archives: Ages 5-7

Black Boys Lose Assumption of Innocence at an Early Age

Black boys as young as 10 years old are more likely than their White peers to be mistaken as older, less innocent, and more appropriate targets for police violence if accused of a crime, according to research conducted by UCLA psychologists. In their study, abstracted here, the researchers examined “whether Black boys are given the protections of childhood equally to their peers”, and tested three theories: 1) that Black boys are seen as less childlike than their White peers; 2) that characteristics associated with childhood are less frequently applied in thinking about Black boys relative to White boys; and 3) these trends would be more obvious among people who dehumanized Black males by associating them with apes. The researchers conducted studies of 4 different groups (including police officers and college students) which supported and confirmed their theories.

“The evidence shows that perceptions of the essential nature of children can be affected by race, and for black children, this can mean they lose the protection afforded by assumed childhood innocence well before they become adults,” said co-author Matthew Jackson, PhD. “With the average age overestimation for black boys exceeding four-and-a-half years, in some cases, black children may be viewed as adults when they are just 13 years old.” You can read a more detailed description of this study and the results here.

Most alarming were the results of the police officers study, as the researchers determined that those officers who dehumanized blacks in psychological questionnaires (associating them with apes) were more likely to have used force against a black child in custody than officers who did not dehumanize Blacks. While the researchers noted that further study was necessary to clarify this finding, this study supports our gut instinct to instruct our sons, even our little boys, about how to behave during any encounter with the police.

As blogger Christopher “Flood The Drummer” Norris in The Good Men Project website notes here, the sad essence of these findings is that our young boys don’t get to be young and innocent for long. As Norris notes, “Black boys aren’t so different; they want what every other adolescent has: the ability to make mistakes.” If our boys are consciously or unconsciously being held to a higher standard by the adults they interact with, small wonder that they can have a hard time meeting it in school and in the world.

What can we parents do at home to counteract this? We can give our young sons time and space to be “boys”, guide them but try not to make them “little men” too soon. We can also focus on how negative media images of young Black men can distort public perception and make people more comfortable with their negative thinking. Check out “Media Portrayal of Black Youth Contributes to Racial Tension” here, and check out the Opportunity Agenda website here for lots of information about media images of Black males.

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Filed under Ages 0-5, Ages 5-7, Parents, Saving Our Sons

Obama Launches “My Brother’s Keeper” Initiative Today

This afternoon President Obama will announce the launch of an initiative to provide greater opportunities to African-American and Hispanic young men of color. His “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative has already received a $150 million commitment from a group of foundations and businesses who have pledged an additional $200 million towards this effort. The White House initiative seeks to intervene in the lives of boys at key points: by providing pre-kindergarten education, lifting third-grade reading proficiency, leading schools away from “zero tolerance” disciplinary policies that kick misbehaving students out of school, and convincing businesses to train and hire young men of color.

The President will also announce the creation of a new inter-agency “My Brother’s Keeper Task Force” headed up by Broderick Johnson, the cabinet secretary and assistant to the president. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Attorney General Eric Holder, Labor Secretary Thomas Perez and other senior officials will also work with this task force. You can read more about this initiative here and here.

Kudos to the President and his staff for using the power of his office to bring attention, funding and opportunity to our young men in need. GCP looks forward to receiving and sharing more information about “My Brother’s Keeper” and its progress.

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

Summer Camp Info

Hard to imagine as frigid temperatures and snow continue to plague us on the East Coast and elsewhere around the nation, but now is the time to focus on Summer Camps. If you are interested in finding out about summer camp options, don’t wait any longer to start your research, as Summer Camp research and sign-up season is well underway. New to the world of camps, and wondering how to find the best one for your son or daughter? Here are some good places to start.

Tips on Trips and Camps (www.tipsontripsandcamps.com) is a free advisory service that provides advice on overnight camps, trips and summer programs for children from 8-18. They recommend “carefully screened, quality summer programs” in the USA and abroad. Once you register on the site you can choose to receive brochures and DVD’s directly from camps or work with an advisor to determine the camps in which your child might have an interest. Spend some time looking around the site to get a good idea of the many different types of camps available.

Time Out NY Kids offers “Summer camps for kids 2014: Day camps, sleepaway camps and more” found here. This is a comprehensive listing of all sorts of camps in the New York, New Jersey and Connecticut area.

Wondering if your son can handle sleepaway camp? Here are some articles that can help you figure this out.

Take Parent magazine’s “Quiz: Is Your Child Ready for Sleep-Away Camp?” found here for some guidelines to use to determine if your child is ready for this experience .

“Is Your Child Ready for Sleepaway Camp”, found here, offers parents thoughtful advice on this topic.

The Washington Post’s “When is a Child Ready for Overnight Camp”, found here, discusses how parents can make this determination and how they can prepare their children for their first overnight camp experience.

Good luck with finding the best summer experience possible for your son!

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Filed under Ages 13-15, Ages 16-18, Ages 5-7, Ages 8-12, Parents, Resources, Summer Camps and Programs

Raising “Soft” Sons in a Hard World

Ted Wells’ report to the NFL on the Jonathan Martin/Miami Dolphins harassment case presents Martin as an NFL rookie who was tormented both by his teammates and his own inability to fight back. As New York Times columnist Bill Rhoden notes in his column about the report, found here, “The question that repeatedly came to my mind as I read the Wells report is, Why didn’t Martin retaliate? Martin wondered why as well. As Wells wrote, ‘Martin came to view his failure to stand up to his teammates as a personal shortcoming.’”

According to Wells’ report Martin believed his privileged background (his parents met at Harvard as undergraduates) and education hindered his ability to stand up for himself. He blamed “mostly the soft schools” he attended in middle and high school and the “white private school conditioning, turning the other cheek” for reinforcing his self-image as a pushover. Offering tacit support for Martin’s perspective, Martin’s father Gus acknowledged in a text message to his son that he had “punked out many times” when confronted by whites who used the “N” word.

Who among us with African-American sons in predominantly white schools isn’t chilled by Martin’s perspective? And how much are we parents promoting the conditioning he complains about? Many of us have worried about how our energetic and lively boys make their way in schools where their white classmates and teachers may be burdened with perceptions of young black men born of negative media stereotypes: the bad boy, the troublemaker.
We encourage our sons to keep their cool in their response to ignorance or insult; tell them not to give in to an impulse to retaliate with harsher words or fists. We want them to know that they may be perceived differently from their white classmates in and around school and that this is important to remember if trouble arises. We want to shield them from unexpected harm as best we can.

But Martin’s story suggests that these messages can have unintended and terrible consequences. According to the NFL report, Martin reveals to his mother in a text message in late 2013 “I used to get verbally bullied every day in middle school and high school, by kids that are half my size. I would never fight back, just get sad & feel like no one wanted to be my friend, when in fact I was just being socially awkward.”

One can’t know now how much of his memory of these bullying episodes is clouded by his recent troubles. But it is sad and disturbing that he waited all these years to reveal any bullying and its impact on him. And why didn’t his middle and high schools focus on this bullying and alert his parents? His mother flew to Miami as soon as she understood the depth of his mental anguish as a member of the Dolphins, and encouraged him to get professional help. Had she known about this pervasive bullying when he was young (or even his perception of it) you have to believe that she would have tried to get help for him earlier.

We have to do all we can to get our sons to talk to us about their school and social lives, especially when they are in the formative middle and high school years. We also have to spend as much time as we can in their schools, forming our own perspectives of their friends and their life there. And the schools need to see us there, to know that we are focused on all aspects of our sons’ school life. Stories like this make it clear how important it is to do all we can on our own and through the schools to understand what is going on with our boys.

And what if they do tell us they are being bullied? In his column Rhoden recalls that his mother gave him boxing lessons to help him deal with a local bully when he was young. The concept of teaching our sons to stand up for themselves seems instinctively right, but telling them to stand down in the face of trouble feels like a safer way to go these days.

No parent wants to raise a son who is perceived as “soft” because of the difficulties that this can bring him. But for many reasons we also don’t want our sons to start swinging at every slight. As Jonathan Martin’s mother reminded her son in one of their text exchanges, “It takes more strength actually to avoid confrontation.” But we don’t want to have our boys’ self esteem damaged by the feeling that they don’t know how to fight back.

Talk with your son about how he handles disagreements with his friends, classmates, and the mean guys at school. Observe him interacting with his friends, and talk with him about his relationships. Have a casual conversation with him about any interactions that seem troublesome to you. Listen carefully to his perspective. If you sense he is having trouble handling situations, continue to talk with him about them (in a non-judgmental manner) until you can assess whether you need to take further action. Remember that stepping in too soon can give your son (and his peers) the impression that he can’t handle things. But keeping the conversation going at home can give him the platform and the confidence to come to you if he needs help.

Raising confident sons with strong self-esteem is a complicated and continuing concern for all of us, which GCP wants to address. Stay vigilant, stay focused, and stay tuned.

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

Resolve to Stay Involved With Your Son’s School

As the new year begins, it is a great time to focus on being involved at your children’s school. Here at GCP we can’t say enough about the importance of parental involvement in schools. See, for example, our earlier posts “Back to School for Parents”, September 13, 2011 and “Parents Resolve to Get More Involved in 2012”, January 2, 2012. Being a visible presence at your son’s school benefits you and your son throughout the school year. But how to do this, given your crazily busy life? A recent Buzzfeed.com list suggests “18 Ways To Get Involved at your Kids’ School”, many of which can be helpful even for the busiest parent. Find this thoughtful list here.

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

Tips for Encouraging Thankfulness

With Thanksgiving but a few days away, we focus on gathering with our families and being thankful. In preparation for the holiday, children are encouraged in school to think about what they are thankful for, and often families will encourage everyone around the table to say what they are thankful for as they sit down to dinner. But what can parents to do help our sons (and daughters) be more grateful and feel less entitled on a regular basis? Here are a few Tips for Encouraging Thankfulness:

Explain Why Gratitude is Important. Children can tend to believe that people (especially their parents) are supposed to help them, rather than recognizing that they should be grateful for assistance. When you go out of your way for your child, make sure he understands that it is a choice you are making, and that he should be thankful for that choice. Explain that everyone who helps him (especially his parents) is doing it out of the kindness of his or her hearts, not because it is the law of the land. This message will be heard more clearly if you deliver it with lightness and humor, rather than in a tone which tries to make your child feel guilty for not saying thanks.

Stay Vigilant on the Hand Written Thank You Notes. As soon as he can write, insist that your son send a thank you note whenever appropriate. In the early school years, if your son has any big birthday parties with lots of presents, make sure he writes a thank you note for each present he receives from his friends. You can buy “fill in the blank” thank you notes if necessary. Sit with him (or on him) until he gets them done. It is important to get him into the habit of thanking people for their gifts and kindnesses. Resist the temptation, even as he gets older, to sanction thank you notes via email. Hand written notes take more time, and more effort, but it reinforces the importance of gratitude far more than a quickly dashed off email. Besides, people still really appreciate the effort of writing and mailing a note.

Volunteer with your Children. Working side by side with your children to help others brings out the best in everyone. Helping others makes you and your family feel purposeful and good, you experience the gratitude of the people you help, and your children are bound to be more thankful for what they have in their lives when they help others who are less fortunate. We at GCP know a mother and daughter who have been spending Sunday mornings delivering Meals-on-Wheels for many years. The daughter is now a teenager. We marvel that regardless of whatever friction may exist between them in any given week, their Meals-on-Wheels time together is friction-free. Investigate how you and your children can volunteer to help others in your neighborhood.

Model Grateful Behavior. Gratefulness begins at home, and it begins with parents demonstrating gratitude by thanking people (including our children) for their help. Showing your children that you are thankful motivates them to act and feel the same way.

Be Patient and Consistent. Vigilance is key when trying to grow grateful children. Do not be discouraged when despite your best efforts, your son demonstrates “ungrateful oaf” behavior from time to time. Just keep working with him, and remember to be grateful when he remembers to say thank you!

Happy Thanksgiving to you all from GCP.

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

How To Let Boys Be Boys

Any parent of a boy and a girl will quickly tell you that there are many developmental differences between the sexes that are evident almost from birth (apart from the obvious physical ones). We recently ran across an interesting article from Eleanor Reynolds, author of a series of books on guiding young children, which suggests that mothers should acknowledge these differences and “let boys be boys”. Ms. Reynolds has spent 25 years in early childhood education, and is a strong proponent of the “problem-solving” child-centered philosophy of education and care. The problem-solving approach encourages “kids to do what kids do” as they learn to take responsibility for their words and actions.

In the article “The Problem Solving Parent: Boys Must Be Boys”, found here, Ms. Reynolds offers suggestions to parents (mothers especially) of ways to enrich the lives and futures of their sons:

Boys need intimacy as much as girls, but boys must learn intimacy; it doesn’t always come naturally. Baby boys may not seem to invite as much cuddling as girls, but they still need it. Hold, carry, rock, make eye contact, sing to, and coo with your baby boy as much as possible.

Teach your boy by showing him how to do things. When putting away his toys, be his partner and do the task together. Get down to his eye level, take his hand, and guide him. Don’t assume he’ll respond to verbal cues.

Help your son learn how to express his feelings in ways that are natural for him. Boys take their time expressing their feelings, sometimes repressing how they feel which leaves them with only one acceptable emotion: anger.

Encourage your son to take risks, not only physical risks but mental and emotional risks as well.

Boys prefer to take charge and solve problems. Learn how to use the problem-solving approach so you can help your son make the most of his innate skills. When there is a dispute, ask both kids to think of ideas to solve the problem. This helps children to use their thought processes and verbal skills in place of physical force.

Accept your son’s level of physical activity. Give him space to run, jump, wrestle, make noise, and be a boy.

If your boy is in child care, choose your provider cautiously. Search for a warm and nurturing setting that offers numerous physical activities when children are indoors as well as out.

While many of Reynolds’ suggestions are applicable to girls as well as boys, she is focused upon encouraging parents to embrace the “boy” in their sons, acknowledging that this may not always be so easy to do. What do you think, GCP readers? Is this helpful information? Does it paint a too stereotypical picture of boy behavior? Do you find her suggestions valid? Let us know your thoughts.

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

“Is My Son in Trouble?” Tips for the Tough Parent-Teacher Conference

Navigating those parent teacher conferences for our sons in the lower grades can be really stressful if there are behavior issues to discuss. We ran across these helpful tips for a successful parent teacher conference for parents of younger children with behavior issues from “What Did My Son Do Now?”, an article in Early Childhood News, and want to pass them along. The article, found here, suggests that successful parent teacher conferences require both the teacher and the parent to work as partners and be well prepared and skilled at communicating and solving issues, especially when there are behavioral issues to address.

Here are the tips, annotated by GCP in italics:

1. Bring the other parent or another relative with you for support, feedback, and strength. Make sure he or she knows to stay calm cool and collected during the conference.

2. Ask the teacher to describe your child’s best qualities before she describes the problems.

3. State your own concerns about your child; they might be different from the teacher’s concerns. Let the teacher know how you handle any non cooperative behavior at home.

4. Ask the teacher to be specific about your child’s problems and to limit your discussion to the three most important problems. This avoids a lot of vague and petty complaining.

5. Ask what strategies the teachers use to set limits or help your child negotiate with other children.It is highly likely that they have encountered some of these issues before and they should have a plan to deal with them.

6. If the teacher asks you to change your parenting strategies at home, be open-minded and cooperative, but also ask how it will actually improve your child’s behavior. Take notes and agree to consider the suggestions.

7. If needed, ask the teacher for a referral for medical, psychological, or cognitive evaluation.

8. Thank the teacher for her concern and the extra time and effort she has contributed to have this meeting with you.(Teachers need your support!)Plan a followup conversation before you end the conference.

Any other tips? Please share them with us.

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Give Your Child a Head Start on Life: Tune In, Talk More, and Take Turns

Did you know that the number of words a child is exposed to between ages 0-3 is significantly related to that child’s ultimate intellectual and academic success? Studies have shown that the more parents talk to their children, the faster children’s vocabularies grow and the higher the children’s IQ test scores are at age three and later.  

These studies have also revealed a significant inequality in children’s early language environments: children from families of lower socioeconomic status hear approximately thirty million words less than their peers from higher income families.  This means that socioeconomically disadvantaged children can walk into their very first classroom less prepared than their classmates, and the achievement gap only grows from there. Dr. Dana Suskind,  founder of the Thirty Million Words Initiative, is determined to help parents level the playing field.

Dr. Suskind presented her Thirty Million Words Initiative in a  “Master Class” during the NBC News Education Nation 2013 summit last week.  Dr. Suskind, who is also a  Professor of Surgery at the University of Chicago and Director of the Pediatric Cochelar Implant Program, developed a program to help parents learn how to use language skills to optimize their child’s brain development and ability to learn. As noted on the Thirty Million Words’ website, found here, Dr. Suskind and her team believe that neither genetics nor a lack of potential lie at the heart of this problem; rather, the thirty million word gap is a function of parental knowledge. Many parents are simply not aware of the power of talking to their babies and young children.

The Thirty Million Words (TMW) Initiative seeks to inform parents and help them close this gap.  They have developed a TMW curriculum  which uses education and technology to give parents the ability to use their words to grow their babies’ brains. This curriculum breaks down the science of brain development into easily understandable concepts and uses videos of parent child interaction to demonstrate the simple real life application of these concepts.  Parents also have access to a device which tracks the weekly number of words a child hears, which gives them the ability to monitor their progress and track their personal goals. This curriculum has been introduced to control groups of parents on Chicago’s South Side with very positive results, and successful trials have been conducted with groups of caregivers as well. TMW is planning a community-based rollout and a citywide initiative as their next steps, but hope to launch this curriculum nationwide as soon as possible.

In her master class Dr. Suskind suggested three simple things that every parent should do to ensure that his or her baby is hearing as many words as possible:

Tune in:  take the time to interact with your baby away from all distractions and devices.  (All you parents and caregivers, put those phones away while you are pushing those strollers!  This is a great time to talk with the baby about the world around you! That call/text/email can wait!)

Talk more:  Make a concerted effort to talk to your baby about anything and everything.  There is so much of the world for him to see, hear and understand. You can help him filter and absorb more of it by talking to him about what you both are doing and seeing.

Take turns:  Talk, but then listen to your baby’s response.  Babies learn to communicate well before they master language, and it is important to interact  or “converse”with your baby, not just give them commands.

Simple things that can give all of our children a head start in life. Pass them on to all the parents of young children you know.

 

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

Diversity Matters: American Promise and ISDN

Greetings GCP’ers! Today we focus on several opportunities to examine and explore the impact of race on our sons’ education.

American Promise: We hope by now you have heard about “American Promise”, the Sundance Grand Jury prize winning documentary which follows the journeys of two African-American boys and their families from kindergarten through high school graduation. (Check out our earlier post on this, “’American Promise’: A Work In Progress”, February 27, 2012) The film, which will be opening in theaters on October 18, provides a rare look into Black middle class life while exploring the common hopes and hurdles of parents navigating their children’s educational journeys. (It will also air on public television stations in 2014.) Husband and wife filmmakers Joe Brewster and Michéle Stephenson recently published an Op-Doc video (an Op-Ed piece on film) in the New York Times called “An Education in Equality”, a companion piece to their film, found here. Read and view their personal account of why and how they made this film.

In conjunction with the film the makers of “American Promise” have launched a national engagement campaign, working in partnership with trusted organizations around the country to mobilize young people, families and educators to identify ways that Americans can better support black boys’ social and emotional needs and encourage people to consider the role they play in advancing success for all children. Go to http://www.americanpromise.org for more information about this endeavor as well as the film’s release.

Independent School Diversity Network (ISDN): GCP‘s very first post featured the great work that Wendy Van Amson and Esther Hatch are doing with ISDN in New York City. (“What Parents Can Do: Wendy Van Amson”, February 7, 2011). ISDN is an alliance of parents and educators dedicated to developing and supporting diversity, equity and inclusion in school communities. It creates opportunities for interschool partnerships in the New York City area and provides parent support as well as student empowerment/leadership programming. This week ISDN is launching an exciting new parent group in NYC which promises to be interesting and informative called “Why Do We Need To Talk About Race?” This parent group will meet in the evening once a month starting Wednesday October 2 to focus on the following issues:

How do race and privilege affect children in school?
How can we address and focus on the issues of race in our communities as well as acknowledge the multiple identities of people of color?
Why are discussions about race important for ALL students?
How can parents work with their schools to create more inclusive communities for families?
How can parents best communicate with schools and become allies with educators in order to improve all students’ school experience?
How can we promote cultural competency in our communities?
How can parents support each other?

If you live in the NYC area and want to join this group, please go to www.isdnetwork.org for details and more information. If you live outside of the NYC area, consider organizing a parent group in your community to discuss these issues. The NYC parent group is structured following the principles of the “Undoing Racism” workshops offered nationally by The People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond. ISDN suggests that participating in a workshop is highly recommended if you would like to organize (or participate most effectively in) a parent group. You can find out more about these workshops and when one will be offered in your area by going to the institute’s website here. Parent groups like these are safe spaces to share experiences, and talk about the difficult and sometimes uncomfortable issues of race and privilege. If you decide to start a parent group, please let us know how it is going.

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