And The People Cried

Horror – disbelief – anger – grief – sadness

People across this country and around the world experienced a wide range of emotion as news emerged of the indescribable tragedy in Connecticut. I, like many of you, reacted on many levels. I’m a mother, grandmother, and family life educator. I’ve spent a career working with families. I know personally the pain of sudden loss of life in my own family.

During the weeks and months ahead we will hear much about what causes these acts of violence and what should be done to prevent more. School safety systems, gun control, and mental health services will be hot topics of discussion. Politicians, law enforcement personnel, faith community leaders, and school administrators will attempt to define the problems and strategize solutions. Each of us has the opportunity and responsibility to weigh in on these important issues.

However, here in this blog, I want to focus on our roles as parents and grandparents. I want to bring the conversation into your home. Here is where we impact our children. As engaged parents, we must “be there” for our children. We use love and limits; we monitor their activities and whereabouts; we give them hope and aspirations for their future; we seek help when their needs surpass our abilities. We give soulful consideration to how we address violence – our language; interactions with others; choice of television shows, movies, games. And in doing so, we become part of the solution.

You will find many people offering ideas on how to help children. Let me suggest a few resources. Loss and grief- talking with children is an extension resource found at: http://www.extension.org/pages/9044/loss-and-grief-talking-with-children

Also check out these readings.

I would close my thoughts with the wish that you make your home a safe place. When everything and everywhere else seems scary, children need to know the comfort of a loving home. How are you providing comfort for your family in the aftermath of this recent tragedy?

Donna Donald

Donna Donald is a Human Sciences specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach who has spent her career working with families across the lifespan. She believes families are defined by function as well as form. Donna entered parenthood as a stepmother to three daughters and loves being a grandmother of seven young adults.

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It’s Not the Same as Spoiled

Wow – I think we struck a note (or nerve) with the opening podcast on overindulgence. Some people are responding with humor and others are seriously questioning what it means. And on occasion, I’ve heard “that surely doesn’t include a doting aunt, grandparents, and so on.”

I confess, I’ve been known to spoil my grandkids now and then. And I’m guessing some of you parents have given in to your child’s desire for that special something. That’s not what we’re talking about with overindulgence which is a pattern of behavior with too much, over-nurture, and soft structure.

Let’s start with one type of overindulgence which is material. That is having too much (toys, clothes, privileges, entertainment, activities) and not knowing what is enough. Researchers use a test of four to determine if there is an overindulgence issue. If one clue is present, then it’s time to stop and see what’s going on.

  1. Does the situation hinder the child from learning the tasks that support his or her development and learning at this age?
  2. Does the situation give a disproportionate amount of family resources to one or more of the children?
  3. Does this situation exist to benefit the adult more than the child?
  4. Does the child’s behavior potentially harm others, society, or the planet in some way?

Do these questions make sense? Have you thought about any of these questions as you make decisions in your family?

Note: As with all our podcasts we intend to share studies and research. Then our blogs are a further look into the topic from our perspective and we encourage your comments. I invite you to check out the research listing on the www.overindulgence.info web page. Links take you directly to research being done by Dr. Bredehoft and others. Another suggested reading is Study 6: Connections between Childhood Overindulgence and Adult Life Aspirations – A Preliminary Report by David J. Bredehoft and Chelsae Armao, 2008.

Donna Donald

Donna Donald is a Human Sciences specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach who has spent her career working with families across the lifespan. She believes families are defined by function as well as form. Donna entered parenthood as a stepmother to three daughters and loves being a grandmother of seven young adults.

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Pushing and Shoving

First we celebrate Thanksgiving with family and friends. Everyone is on their best behavior and we return home with full tummies and counting our blessings. Then comes Black Friday! The news will be filled with reports of people pushing and shoving and fighting – all in the name of buying gifts for the holidays. Am I the only one who sees the disconnect?

So parents, think about what you are teaching your children – both in words and actions. The simple niceties – waiting your turn, saying please and thank you, letting someone else go first, being patient, having a sense of humor – are good manners. They are also ways we show respect to other people. And these people are not just our family and friends. The respect is also extended to the tired clerk, the overwrought young mother, the waiter working extended hours, and the mall police person. If we stop and think for just a minute we can empathize what it is like to be in their shoes. We can appreciate the work they are doing and how it impacts our lives.

During the craziness that can bubble over this holiday season, lead by example. A smile and a kind word will make everyone feel better. And while you’re teaching your children, you are also teaching other adults that manners, empathy, and respect are important in a civilized society.

Donna Donald

Donna Donald is a Human Sciences specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach who has spent her career working with families across the lifespan. She believes families are defined by function as well as form. Donna entered parenthood as a stepmother to three daughters and loves being a grandmother of seven young adults.

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Brush Up on Table Manners

Several major holidays are just around the corner. Many people will attend family gatherings that usually include food. Or in the case of Thanksgiving – the holiday seems to revolve around the food. So are you a little nervous that your kids who eat way too many meals on the run may not know how to behave at the table? Is it time for a quick lesson on table manners?

A few gentle reminders at the breakfast table, in the car on the way to school, or as you’re fixing the evening meal, can do the trick. We aren’t trying to turn the kids into walking advertisements for Emily Post. But we are attempting to teach a few basics that will help relieve some of the stress for everyone when kids are placed in social settings.

Here’s the list I used with our girls.

  • Ask someone to pass the mashed potatoes. Don’t reach across two people to get the bowl.
  • Chew with your mouth closed. Save the gross “look at me” games for home.
  • Eat and then talk. It’s hard for Aunt Tina to understand you with your mouth full of green beans.
  • Try, try, try to sit up in your chair and keep your elbows off the table. We used to sing a song about this because everyone forgets.
  • Compliment the cook on something you like (can’t get enough of the noodles) and keep quiet about Uncle Rob’s dressing you couldn’t make me eat.
  • Say “please” and “thank you.” This will get you big points for being well mannered.

So what’s the point of all this? In the podcast Lori talked about how manners are a way for society to keep things pleasant. Observing basic table manners will make meals go more smoothly. When children, and adults, use their manners they are showing respect for the people gathered around the table.

What table manners do you teach your kids?

Donna Donald

Donna Donald is a Human Sciences specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach who has spent her career working with families across the lifespan. She believes families are defined by function as well as form. Donna entered parenthood as a stepmother to three daughters and loves being a grandmother of seven young adults.

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BFF

BFF – do you have one? I see kids of all ages using this notation. And at the time they really are sure it’s true. I had a best friend all through my grade school years. Then in high school we quickly drifted apart and I found new groups of friends. Some stayed with me through college. Three are still a part of my life. As an adult I’ve accumulated many more friends. Some I consider BFFs.

The point is – friends move in and out of our lives. Sometimes as parents we get upset over the friends our children choose. But unless something dangerous is going on, trust your child’s choice in friends. Your son or daughter will pick friends who have shared interests – for example sports or music. Maybe they will be in a club together. Then as interests change, the friends may change too.

As a parent it’s hard to watch this friendship dance. But if you are patient, most of the time the kids will handle things on their own. They learn the “give and take” of friendship and how to work out problems.

One thing you can do is encourage a wide network of friends and provide opportunities for kids to be together. Then stand back and watch the magic of BFFs unfold.

Does anyone want to share a friendship story?

Donna Donald

Donna Donald is a Human Sciences specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach who has spent her career working with families across the lifespan. She believes families are defined by function as well as form. Donna entered parenthood as a stepmother to three daughters and loves being a grandmother of seven young adults.

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A Note from the Teacher

“I have a note for you from my teacher” are not the words a parent usually likes to hear from their child. Or perhaps you get an email asking you to stop by the school. Before your radar sets off, take a deep breath. Sometimes teachers contact parents if their child has done really well. Other times the call comes because there is a problem. It’s important to remember your child’s teacher will have information about what aspects of her work are creating a problem. The teacher can tell you if your child is not paying attention, not participating in class, or not completing homework.

It’s also a good idea for you to initiate a conversation with teachers early in the school year about expectations. Find out how often homework will be given, when it is due, and how you will find out your child’s progress. Some teachers have a system they follow for assigning homework – assignment notebooks, folders, sign-off sheets. Discover what the teachers want and then do your part to be supportive.

I hear parents talking about how much homework their children have and if it’s a reasonable amount. That’s a good question and can vary depending upon school systems, teachers, and children’s ages. Harris Cooper, Director of Duke’s Program in Education says research is consistent with the “10-minute” rule” suggesting the optimum amount of homework a teacher should assign. Before anyone gets too excited, let me explain. It is a commonly accepted practice in which teachers add 10 minutes of homework as students progress one grade. For example, a first grader would have 10 minutes of homework while that 6th grader could handle 60 minutes.

What do you think about the 10 minute rule? Have you had a conversation with your child’s teachers about homework expectations this school year?

Donna Donald

Donna Donald is a Human Sciences specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach who has spent her career working with families across the lifespan. She believes families are defined by function as well as form. Donna entered parenthood as a stepmother to three daughters and loves being a grandmother of seven young adults.

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The Dog Ate My Homework!

Ok, maybe your kids haven’t used that excuse, but homework has a way of getting lost. Misplaced homework is often the result of not having an organized study space for kids. My guess is that you purchased school supplies and some new clothes for back-to-school. But did you help your child create an inviting spot to study?

I remember doing my homework at the kitchen table and any reading in my bedroom. That seemed to meet my needs for concentration. Students have different needs. Some are easily distracted. Others don’t seem to be bothered by noise or activity. Talk with your child about his preferences. Add in what you know about him and then together set up the study area.

Kids need a desk or table with a comfortable chair. It’s important to have enough space for a computer, books, papers, and any other materials being used. Be sure there is good lighting and some type of storage. Perhaps you can designate a book shelf, filing cabinet, specific drawers, or even plastic containers. Then add the necessary school supplies – pencils, pens, markers, tape, glue, rulers, etc.  – so everything your student needs is in one place.

If this is a “dedicated” study space, think about adding color with wall paint, pictures, or posters. The idea is to make this an inviting place.

Would you want to go to work every day and not have a place to do your work? I’m guessing the answer is no. What ideas do you have for creating a study spot for your child?

Donna Donald

Donna Donald is a Human Sciences specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach who has spent her career working with families across the lifespan. She believes families are defined by function as well as form. Donna entered parenthood as a stepmother to three daughters and loves being a grandmother of seven young adults.

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We Did It!

The first Science of Parenting webinar aired Monday night. We enjoyed interacting with parents, grandparents, and others about Helping Your Child Succeed in School.

We recorded the webinar and it is now available for you to watch at your convenience. Just go to the top of this page and click on the “webinars” button on the left side.

At the end of the webinar we asked participants to share ideas for topics they would like to see addressed in future podcasts, blogs, and webinars. Your ideas are always welcome. Just send them via a blog entry.

Donna Donald

Donna Donald is a Human Sciences specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach who has spent her career working with families across the lifespan. She believes families are defined by function as well as form. Donna entered parenthood as a stepmother to three daughters and loves being a grandmother of seven young adults.

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You Go Girl

Boys and girls are different – well, that’s not news. But have you stopped to think about how boys and girls are different when it comes to sports. They have different attitudes about sports and they often feel differently about their physical development.

Let’s start with the attitudes. Boys really focus on their skills – how far they can throw a football, how hard they can hit a baseball, or how fast they can run. The boys work at constantly improving their skills to be a better player. Girls are people oriented. They want to be on the same team with their best friends. And girls don’t like being compared to others; they don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings.

Boys are proud of their physical development. My grandsons are constantly showing me how tall they are, how big their muscles are, and how much they weigh. I notice the granddaughters are a bit more reserved about their developing bodies. The recent Olympics gave girls an opportunity to see physically fit women play sports with pride. That is a great model for girls and young women.

Data about successful women who participated in sports indicates they learned how to be authoritative, work on teams, set individual and team goals, and to be mentally tough.

What differences do you notice between boys and girls when it comes to sports?

Donna Donald

Donna Donald is a Human Sciences specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach who has spent her career working with families across the lifespan. She believes families are defined by function as well as form. Donna entered parenthood as a stepmother to three daughters and loves being a grandmother of seven young adults.

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Take Him Out!

We’ve all been there – cheering at the game and having fun watching the kids play. Then somewhere out of the stands comes that loud voice yelling, “What are you thinking, take him out,” or “Ref, how could you miss that call?” Then the tirade continues for the entire game alternately aimed at the coach, kids, and referees or umpires. Embarrassing – yes. Helpful to anyone – no.

I’m going to tackle (ok, its football season) the sensitive topic of adults and sportsmanship. It’s easier and safer to focus on the kids. But the truth is that adults can become overly involved. I am including all adults, not just parents, in this discussion. There’s no age limit, gender, or relationship that precludes an adult from “losing it” at a sporting event.

So what’s an overly involved parent or adult? Here are some questions to ask yourself.

  • Do I get in arguments at my child’s sporting event?
  • Do I object to calls and possibly cuss at the referees or umpires?
  • Do I insist my child go to practice or play in a game even if she is sick or hurt?
  • Do I complain to the coach about the amount of my child’s playing time?
  • Do I insist my child is much better than others on the team?
  • Do I tell or show my child how to play dirty?
  • Do I show more approval when my child plays well?

Ok, it’s gut check time. Did any of these questions make you squirm just a little? Did some of them hit close to home? We’re not perfect and it’s easy to get caught up in an intense game.

But remember, as a parent you are ALWAYS a role model for your child. Sports help character development and what are you teaching your child when you lose control of your emotions and actions. What do you do to keep calm at your child’s games?

Donna Donald

Donna Donald is a Human Sciences specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach who has spent her career working with families across the lifespan. She believes families are defined by function as well as form. Donna entered parenthood as a stepmother to three daughters and loves being a grandmother of seven young adults.

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What Did You Work On Today?

You just picked your kid up from volleyball practice or your teen is home from an early morning football scrimmage. With the beginning of a new school year just around the corner, practice for fall sports is already in full swing.

You’re curious about how things are going but Cassie is texting a friend or Jonathon is ready for a shower and nap. What’s a parent to do? How can you be supportive but not overly involved?

Most kids need a little down time after a practice or game. Then over a snack or meal, you can initiate a conversation. There’s a great question I found useful with my daughters and I now use with the grandkids.

“What did you work on today?” This question requires more than a “yes, no, or okay.” Let’s say Cassie answers with, “We worked on serving the ball.” Then you can follow up with, “Are you serving better than last year?” And even, “Do you want to practice some after supper? I should be pretty good at serving.”

Encouraging – helpful – appropriate. What great adjectives to describe a sports mom or dad.

What have you found that’s a good conversation starter with your child when it comes to sports practices and games?

Donna Donald

Donna Donald is a Human Sciences specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach who has spent her career working with families across the lifespan. She believes families are defined by function as well as form. Donna entered parenthood as a stepmother to three daughters and loves being a grandmother of seven young adults.

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Under the Stars

The hot weather has sent people scurrying indoors to the AC. It’s just been too uncomfortable to enjoy many of the usual outdoor family fun activities. The temps normally cool down in the evenings so maybe we could look for some fun under the stars.

I remember my mother talking about when she was a child back in the 1930s. It was so unbearably hot in the house that at night they pulled mattresses outside to sleep, hoping for a cool breeze. When our girls were young we laid blankets in the front yard. Then we would stretch out for some rest punctuated by lots of giggles and interesting conversations.

This is a family fun activity that parents and kids of all ages can enjoy. Grab some blankets, cool drinks (maybe even a snack), and head outside. Allow everyone to get situated and then see what happens.

Use this as a chance to talk about the stars. Don’t worry if you’re not up on what is where – there’s an app for that on your computer or smartphone or stop by the library for a book.

As the mood quiets and the night grows deeper, just be present and allow the conversations to go where they may. There is something almost magical about a beautiful summer night that allows people to share their thoughts and feelings.

When was the last time your family spent time under the stars? Why not tonight?

Donna Donald

Donna Donald is a Human Sciences specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach who has spent her career working with families across the lifespan. She believes families are defined by function as well as form. Donna entered parenthood as a stepmother to three daughters and loves being a grandmother of seven young adults.

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Mystery Car Rides

“Get in the car!” When those words are spoken adults, kids, and even dogs know it’s time to go. Our vehicles are a means to get us to work, school, church, sports, lessons, shopping, and just about anywhere we want or need to go. Car rides can also be a way to have a little fun.

Summer is a great time for mystery car rides. Start by having one parent and one child pick a secret destination. Everyone else is along for the ride. Pass the travel time with the rest of the family trying to guess where you are going and what you will do when you get there.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Drive to a roadside stand for fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Drive to an ice cream shop for treats.
  • Drive to the store and get a new game for the family to play.
  • Drive to the park and have a picnic.
  • Drive to the county fair, state fair, or a community festival.
  • Drive to lake for some fishing.
  • Drive to the pool for a family swim.

As the wheels of your car roll towards exciting summer adventures, it’s essential to remember that occasionally, unforeseen issues may arise, even with trusted vehicles. Amidst the joy of planning mystery car rides and exploring new destinations, it’s wise for car owners to be aware of their rights and protections, particularly when it comes to potential defects in their vehicles.

Whether you’re cruising to a roadside stand for fresh produce or embarking on a family swim at the pool, it’s crucial to have GMC lemon law information at your fingertips. Being informed about lemon laws specific to your vehicle can provide valuable insights and guidance should you encounter persistent issues or defects with your GMC. In the pursuit of carefree and enjoyable journeys, knowing your rights ensures that your family adventures are not dampened by unexpected vehicular challenges.

Okay – you get the idea. Mystery car rides can be an easy way to add some family fun without a lot of planning or expense.

In fact, why not take a mystery trip tonight? Wait until it’s about bedtime and and then say, “Get in the car.” Grab some blankets and then head to a drive through for ice cream cones. Don’t forget the dog! You’ll be having fun as a family and making some memories along the way.

Donna Donald

Donna Donald is a Human Sciences specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach who has spent her career working with families across the lifespan. She believes families are defined by function as well as form. Donna entered parenthood as a stepmother to three daughters and loves being a grandmother of seven young adults.

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Can We Focus Please

Do you ever having trouble remembering something you just read? Or you’ve already forgotten what you did five minutes ago or plan to do next? Happens to me way too often and I’m always telling myself, “Focus Donna.”

When I listened to the podcast I heard the “focus” word loud and clear. We’re told that focus has a lot to do with what we remember. In the classroom the teacher has to first get a child’s attention before he can teach a new concept. As a parent you have to get your child’s attention before you can even have a conversation.

Then the next step is to do something to elaborate on what was learned. This points out the need for enrichment activities to take learning to a higher level.

For example, let’s say your child just learned fractions. What can you do to enrich the concept? One idea is to have him help you bake his favorite cookies. He will soon be using those fractions with the measuring cups and spoons. Perhaps an older child is wrestling with active and passive verbs. She can elaborate on the definitions by writing a short story.

Focus and enrich – two simple words and concepts that are so important when it comes to learning. First we must remember and then we use or practice what we learned. What do you do to help yourself focus and remember? What have you found helpful in extending and enriching your child’s lessons?

Donna Donald

Donna Donald is a Human Sciences specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach who has spent her career working with families across the lifespan. She believes families are defined by function as well as form. Donna entered parenthood as a stepmother to three daughters and loves being a grandmother of seven young adults.

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The Country School Coatroom

Picture a country school filled with students 1st through 8th grades. Hear the murmurs coming from the coatrooms. Imagine yours truly sitting cross legged on the floor next to a beginning reader.

This is the world I experienced for the first eight years of my education. I attended a large country school with three classrooms and three teachers.  We studied hard and played hard. And when you finished your assignments you got to be the teacher’s helper. This is where the coatroom enters the picture.

I would take a student from a lower grade to the coatroom. Then we would settle in under the jackets or coats and between extra shoes and boots. The little student would open up her reader or pull out math problems and we would go to work. I would listen, explain, and teach. When our time was up we returned to the classroom; both of us knowing just a little more.

My story is not just a walk down memory lane. Rather it serves to illustrate a critical point made in the podcast about learning. It is important to have overlearning which is well past the initial learning. And one of the best ways to do this is by teaching someone else what you have learned. When I was helping a student pronounce a big word or work through a multiplication problem, I was reactivating my knowledge. I was learning again and again.

My class was the last one to graduate from this country school. Today, education looks and feels quite different. But the concepts of how students learn remain the same. We constantly relearn what we’ve learned before and each time it gets faster.

What can you do this summer to help your child relearn prior lessons?

Donna Donald

Donna Donald is a Human Sciences specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach who has spent her career working with families across the lifespan. She believes families are defined by function as well as form. Donna entered parenthood as a stepmother to three daughters and loves being a grandmother of seven young adults.

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