TIME Education

How Classroom Curriculum Can Impact Children’s Friendships

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Getty Images

Simply placing children with and without disabilities in the same classroom will not guarantee peer acceptance or friendships

Friendship is often described as a major outcome of early childhood inclusive classrooms that support all children, irrespective of their abilities.

Friendships provide children with joy, laughter and comfort. They may also prevent later bullying and support smoother transitions into kindergarten for children with a range of disabilities. Friendships are considered a vital developmental milestone for all children.

Yet, developing close relationships may be difficult for some children. This is especially true for children who enter school without well-developed social-emotional skills. About 40% of children with disabilities, for example, enter kindergarten without developing age-appropriate skills in this area.

So, what impact does curriculum have on the development of friendships for children with disabilities? And how can teachers help nurture these friendships?

Investigating the impact of curriculum

To answer these questions, we conducted a study that included 110 kindergarteners, 26 of whom had disabilities, within six classrooms across a Midwest and a New England state.

This study took place as part of another longer-term research project in which teachers were randomly assigned to use either a “disability-awareness curriculum” or a modified science curriculum.

In our study, curricula included similar components of class-wide book readings and teacher-led discussions, “cooperative learning groups” (a teaching strategy that brings together groups of students with different abilities), and a classroom lending library to promote shared reading at home.

These curricula were chosen because they were alike in some ways. Both allowed teachers to focus discussions on similarities between the book content and kindergarteners. And both could include the three core components (ie, book reading, cooperative groups, and home literacy).

What we found surprised us. The number of close friendships among children with disabilities significantly increased in classrooms where the science curriculum was implemented.

Examining the results more closely

Implementation of the two curricula was designed to create similar opportunities for interactions between children with and without disabilities.

In their classrooms, children participated in similar activities: they were read books and encouraged to participate in discussions either about disability or science-related topics. Each week, children were able to take one of the books home that was read to them at school.

However, the cooperative learning groups were designed differently. In the cooperative learning groups for the science curriculum, children focused on science activities that were more outcome-orientated (eg, making bird nests, measuring worms).

In the cooperative learning groups for the disability-awareness curriculum, children participated in play-based activities with open-ended materials and toys (eg, farm animals and a barn, pretend kitchen set and food).

Our observations of children’s play during the cooperative learning groups suggest that participating children with disabilities may not have had the skills needed to fully engage in the group’s play.

For example, some children struggled to enter into ongoing play. During one such activity, a child was playing with a “pretend cash register” and another child with a disability wanted a turn with it. The child asked his peer if he could play with it. However, the peer said no.

In response, the child repeated his same question again and again, receiving the same response from his peer. The child with a disability did not have a broad repertoire of social or play skills to try other strategies such as asking if he might have a turn when the peer was done, or if he could trade roles with the peer (eg, become the cashier and suggest the peer become a shopper).

It seems that cooperative play is an area in which advanced or higher-level skills are needed to be successful. These skills include sharing materials, assisting peers, entering into ongoing play or offering a storyline for imaginative play.

The results from this study on friendships suggest that without these skills, children’s contributions to play may have been less successful, and peers may have viewed children with disabilities as less than ideal play partners.

In comparison, the science experiences such as making bird nests together, painting group posters with each child’s handprints on them and measuring the length of worms may have provided children with outcome-oriented tasks and the support needed to participate in ways similar to peers.

A shared activity with a common goal may have provided the structure that some children with disabilities needed to successfully participate alongside peers. In this arrangement, peers may have viewed classmates with disabilities as competent contributors to the group task.

Taken together, this could have been the reason for the increase in close classroom friendships for children with disabilities who participated in the science curriculum.

What can we learn from this?

First, there has been a lot of discussion focused on how play is no longer a valued part of kindergarten education in the United States. Also, kindergarten schedules leave very little room for play or for supporting the development of social-emotional skills.

Our results provide support for creating opportunities for children to learn through playful interactions. These findings also acknowledge that some children may enter school with limited social-emotional and play skills that are needed to form friendships. These children need teacher support and repeated classroom opportunities to master those skills.

Second, the debate of whether kindergarten classes should have either an academic or social focus must stop.

We believe that the structure of the science-based cooperative learning groups in our study may have served an important role in supporting the development of close friendships, especially for children with disabilities.

We also believe that social-emotional skill development, and the development of friendships, can occur across the school day depending on how teachers structure their classroom environment and schedule, and support learning outcomes.

What can teachers do?

Early childhood teachers can support the development of friendships by the way they structure activities in their classroom.

For example, teachers can purposefully place more social children next to quieter children during group activities. They can pair children who already have a budding relationship to do an activity together, or they can create activities in which small groups of children can interact while completing a project together.

Teachers can support the development of social skills through large and small group instruction. Also, teachers can provide individualized social skill instruction based on student needs, and on an individual basis as necessary.

Inclusive classrooms are a trend increasing in the United States. Teaching children how to share, how to handle anger and conflict, how to express their emotions and how to enter into ongoing play situations are all important skills for young children to learn. Some children might need more support than others to develop these skills.

Simply placing children with and without disabilities in the same classroom will not guarantee peer acceptance or friendships.

This article originally appeared on The Conversation

The Conversation

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Parenting

5 Lessons I’ve Learned from People Who Stare at My Daughter

They probably don't intend to be rude or mean, so I've learned to give them grace, and to teach them

We knew after our 20-week ultrasound our soon-to-be daughter would have many health issues, but we pressed on.

There were many questions of if there was cleft palate or cleft lip, as well as if her eyes would be wider or nose flatter. We knew to prepare ourselves ahead of time for the questions and stares. We stared ourselves, getting familiar with the intricately woven fabric of her face. Her slightly slanted eyes were wider than most. Her small nose was open on one side due to her cleft palate. She has a wider set chin and neck.

But she was ours and she’s perfect, and we’d tell the world about her and we would be fearless in sharing and teaching others about our daughter.

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It was when I took her to our local hospital for labs with her home health nurse that the stares began. I distinctly remember a couple stepping in line in front of us at the admissions desk, acting as if we were invisible, which was hard to believe considering they looked right at us. As we left the admissions area, the same couple walked past my daughter in her stroller, decked out with a home ventilator, oxygen saturation monitor and numerous other pieces of equipment that made her life at home possible. They gave us a side-long disapproving glance.

I was shocked. I didn’t know what to say or think, but on the inside, I was fuming. Didn’t this couple know all people are created unique and different? That society has placed way too much emphasis on what is considered “normal” by simply judging one’s outward appearance?

I didn’t know what to say that day. And the truth is, I’m still not exactly sure what to say.

What I do know is I’m still struggling myself with what to say to others with disabilities. What I do know is on that particular day, my mama-bear instinct came out and I wanted to lecture this couple on appreciating the beauty in each and every person, regardless of their disability or uncommon features. I wanted to set them straight and tell them their behavior was unacceptable. I wanted to yell at the world for thinking there’s a right way and a wrong way as to how people should look. That it actually is okay to have a cleft lip that’s not fixed yet, and it’s on her to-do list — right behind open heart surgery.

jodie-gerling-daughter
Jodie Gerling

But over the last few months, as we’ve ventured out more with our delicate daughter, I’ve learned in the beginning that I felt a sense of entitlement. I thought I could tell someone their response to my daughter was wrong and set them straight on how to treat others. However, I’ve since learned some new life lessons as I navigate these new waters.

1. Give them grace.

Know they’ve probably never had many opportunities to interact with children like my daughter. Give them grace that they might not know what to say, or how to look, or if it’s okay to stare. Acknowledge they’re trying, even if it’s not quite what I want to hear. Then give them the grace to walk into an uncomfortable conversation in hopes of bringing comfort to them on this topic.

2. Forgive often.

In the beginning, I took offense to so many things, thinking no one understood. But that’s just it: many don’t understand. And that’s okay. We’re in this together to learn together. Our family doesn’t have this all down, and our family and friends are learning right beside us. Before we had our daughter, we were these people too. People are going to say the wrong things, especially at the wrong times, like after a long day of appointments. But most of the time, they don’t know what they’re saying is wrong, they’re just trying to show support. It’s true many people don’t understand our journey, but that just means it’s our joy to help them understand, not to be offended and shut them out.

3. Be willing to talk.

I’ve learned to be willing to open up and say to a stranger staring at my daughter, “Isn’t she beautiful? It’s okay to stare at beauty like that.” Then I smile and ask if they have questions or would like to talk about her. Be willing to be the one to open the door of communication. Often times others are too scared to ask questions for fear of offending.

We’d rather they say, “I’m sorry, I don’t mean to stare,” so we can say, “We want you to take in all of the beauty in her, not to look away as if to say she’s not worthy.”

4. Be ready to teach.

We have this bag we call the “Bunny Bag.” It has a big bunny stuffed animal in it, along with the book “Audrey Bunny” by Angie Smith, about a bunny with an imperfect heart, and a short picture book called “Mattie Breathes” by Tracie Loux, about what a tracheostomy is in children’s terms and concepts. We’ve lent them to friends and to our kiddos’ playmates so they can learn more about our kids’ little sister. We’re teaching our friends, and they’re teaching their friends. Nothing makes our hearts soar more than when our friends say, “Will you teach me about Chloe?”

5. Be courageous enough to keep on keeping on.

At times, we’ve wanted to shut ourselves in and not venture out anymore due to the many stares, the comments and the sidelong glances. But what does that solve? It doesn’t help teach. It doesn’t help our daughter to thrive and grow. It doesn’t encourage our other children that it’s OK to look different. So we keep on keeping on. We continue to share pictures of her and share her life with others.

jodie-gerling-family
Jodie Gerling

We don’t have it all figured out and we haven’t rehearsed some sort of speech to give each person who does a double take on our daughter. We’ve learned it’s not about feeling entitled to correct someone who says something wrong, but more about giving them grace and space to learn how to treat others with differences and disabilities. It’s more about gratitude for their desire to learn than it is about calling them out on the injustice of saying or doing the wrong thing.

Kindness goes a long way, and when it comes to teaching others about disabilities and differences, grace and kindness go much farther in the long road of changing the world’s view of what is considered normal.

This article originally appeared on The Mighty

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TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

MONEY Saving

More Than Half of Americans are Delaying Major Life Events Because of This

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Some say money doesn’t buy happiness, but a lack of money might actually delay it.

A new study shows more than half of Americans have put off major life events like retirement and marriage because of financial worries in the last year. And that number has grown significantly since the recession, according to a poll from the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA).

When asked whether they delayed an important life decision because of money woes, 51% of respondents answered yes, up from only 31% in 2007.

A closer look shows the number of Americans putting off certain life events for financial reasons has more than doubled. For example, 24% put off going back to college last year, up from only 11% before the financial downturn, and 18% put off retirement, compared with only 9% in 2007.

Many also put starting a family on the back burner: 12% put off getting married, compared with 6% in 2007; 13% delayed having kids, up from 5%; and 22% put off buying a home, compared with 14% before the housing bust.

The number one financial worry that held people back from these milestones? A lack of savings, cited by 60% of survey respondents.

“If you don’t have adequate savings in place or you’re having trouble paying your bills, it may make sense to hold off on major life decisions until you’re on more solid financial footing,” explained Ernie Almonte, chairman of the AICPA’s National CPA Financial Literacy Commission.

But there are many ways people can make sure financial worries don’t get in the way of life goals, Almonte added. Among them: sticking to a monthly budget to keep you living within your means, starting an emergency fund to help with unexpected costs, and increasing the amount you save from each paycheck.

 

TIME animals

Watch This Dog Getting First Dibs on a Water Slide

The line for the water slide is a dog-eat-dog world

Ladies first. Respect your elders. Blah, blah, blah!

These societal courtesies are nice and all, but manners are moot when water slides are involved.

Even man’s best friend ditches his loyal nature when confronted with the inviting, wet plastic of an inflatable slide.

In this clip, a water-loving Labrador named Milo dives down the slide and then eagerly runs to the steps to take the trip again. Instead of waiting for his turn, Milo decides he is top dog and bowls through the line of patient children on the stairs.

The things you can get away with when you have an adorable fluffy face and a limited comprehension of time.

This article originally appeared on People.com

TIME Family

8 Iconic Children’s Book Authors Reveal Their Favorite Picture Books

Page-turners that children are sure to love

  • Hug Machine by Scott Campbell

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    Atheneum Books for Young Readers

    “At a time in picture book publishing when so many illustrators seem to be mimicking television, or digital animation, and lacking individuality, it is refreshing to see art that is so personal and fresh. Mr. Campbell’s enormous talent is bursting off each page. I really want to HUG him.”

    Recommended by Tomie dePaola, author of Strega Nona and 26 Fairmont Avenue. The Magical World of Strega Nona: A Treasury ($35, amazon.com) comes out in October.

    To buy: $17, amazon.com.

  • My Bus by Byron Barton

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    Greenwillow Books

    “With few, carefully chosen words and simple, brightly colored illustrations, My Bus is a gem of a picture book. It has everything a preschooler could want—dogs, cats, a boat, a train, a plane, and of course, a bus. The ending is a joyous, perfect surprise, but perfection is no surprise from Bryon Barton.”

    Recommended by Kevin Henkes, author of Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse and Kitten’s First Full Moon. His next book Waiting ($18, amazon.com) comes out in September.

    To buy: $17, amazon.com.

  • A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin by Jen Bryant

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    Knopf Books for Young Readers

    “Not enough children’s books address the subject of creativity as this book celebrates the power of our imagination. Melissa Sweet’s energetic and clever illustrations invite a child to explore the rich details of each page. Sadly, as the arts disappear from our nation’s schools, books like this are a valuable way to show children that creativity is all about connecting things.”

    Recommended by Marc Brown, author of the Arthur book series. He is the illustrator of The Little Shop of Monsters ($17,amazon.com), which comes out in August.

    To buy: $18, amazon.com.

  • When You Are Happy by Eileen Spinelli

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    Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

    “This may seem like nepotism, but my wife’s picture book is my favorite. It gets my vote as ‘World’s Most Beautiful Book’ as it scores top marks in three categories: text, illustration, and message. Rarely has so much humanity been packed into so few pages.”

    Recommended by Jerry Spinelli, author of Maniac Magee, Wringer, and most recently, the picture book Mama Seeton’s Whistle ($17, amazon.com).

    To buy: $19, amazon.com.

  • The Incredible Painting of Felix Clousseau by Jon Agee

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    Square Fish

    “My children responded enthusiastically to this fanciful story about the extraordinary canvases of an exceptionally gifted painter. They may, in part, have been reacting to my own enthusiasm for this clever, well-told tale. It is accompanied by illustrations that are both charming and comical, and are perfectly suited to the story’s Parisian setting.”

    Recommended by Chris Van Allsburg, author of The Polar Express, Jumanji, and most recently, The Misadventures of Sweetie Pie ($19, amazon.com).

    To buy: $8, amazon.com.

  • My Pen by Christopher Myers

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    Disney-Hyperion

    “On the cover of this stunning book, a hand is drawing a boy on a newspaper boat. What young child doesn’t dream this dream—to be the captain of your every fate—to draw yourself into your own universe? My Pen sweeps readers into the beautiful world of pen and ink drawings and minimal text, letting the pictures tell the story. Love it!”

    Recommended by Jacqueline Woodson, author Miracle’s Boys and most recently, the memoir Brown Girl Dreaming ($17, amazon.com).

    To buy: $17, amazon.com.

  • Fraidy Zoo by Thyra Heder

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    Harry N. Abrams

    “It’s a very clever twist on alphabetical animal picture books with fun and creative illustrations, and a really funny surprise ending. I admire how Heder shows the whole family playfully animating animals they made themselves out of found, everyday objects. It’s inspiring to read a book that encourages children to get up and make things and to actively use their imaginations.”

    Recommended by Laura Numeroff, author of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie and the upcoming book series, Work for Biscuits.

    To buy: $17, amazon.com.

  • The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt

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    Philomel Books

    “My granddaughter can’t get enough of this book. What I love about the idea of crayons having personalities is this is how all kids see and use the various colors of crayons. Totally original and hilarious!”

    Recommended by Rosemary Wells, author of the Max and Ruby series, Noisy Nora and most recently, Use Your Words, Sophie! ($17, amazon.com).

    To buy: $18, amazon.com.

    This article originally appeared on Real Simple.

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TIME viral

These Are the 5 Elements of a Viral Video

It's an art form

You see it on your newsfeed, your Twitter account, even sometimes through email from an older relative: a video that suddenly has millions of views. What is it about that video of a cat playing the piano or a man falling off a ladder that makes the Internet go crazy? Well, there are lots of reasons, but here are just 5 elements of a video gone viral.

TIME Family

4 New Parenting Tips That Will Make Your Kids Awesome

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Getty Images

Eric Barker writes Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

Parenting tips are everywhere but most have zero legitimate research behind them. So what does science have to say? And how can you remember what’s important so you actually use it?

Remember to WACC your kids.

No, I’m not saying to hit your kids. “WACC” is a good acronym to help you keep in mind 4 things that come up in the research again and again:

  • Work on yourself
  • Autonomy
  • Communicate
  • Community

These four things can make a big difference in whether you end up saving college money or bail money.

Let’s break down the how and why on these parenting tips so that your kids end up healthy, smart and happy.

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1) Work On Yourself

This is what many of the parenting books ignore — and it may be the most important.

Want happy kids? Then make sure you’re keeping yourself joyful. Happy parents make for happy kids and parental depression causes child behavior problems.

Via Raising Happiness: 10 Simple Steps for More Joyful Kids and Happier Parents:

Extensive research has established a substantial link between mothers who feel depressed and “negative outcomes” in their children, such as acting out and other behavior problems. Parental depression actually seems to cause behavioral problems in kids; it also makes our parenting less effective.

And this is not merely due to genetics.

Via Raising Happiness: 10 Simple Steps for More Joyful Kids and Happier Parents:

…although the study did find that happy parents are statistically more likely to have happy children, it couldn’t find any genetic component.

So other than feeling good about you own life, what’s key here? That ol’ work-life balance.

In fact, what’s the #1 thing kids wish for when it comes to parents? They wish you were less tired and stressed.

Via The Secrets of Happy Families: Improve Your Mornings, Rethink Family Dinner, Fight Smarter, Go Out and Play, and Much More:

In a survey of a thousand families, Ellen Galinsky, the head of the Families and Work Institute and the author of Mind in the Making, asked children, “If you were granted one wish about your parents, what would it be?” Most parents predicted their kids would say spending more time with them. They were wrong. The kids’ number one wish was that their parents were less tired and less stressed.

Your stress isn’t just your stress — it’s their stress too. When you’re stressed out it hurts your children’s intelligence and immune systems.

Via The Secrets of Happy Families: Improve Your Mornings, Rethink Family Dinner, Fight Smarter, Go Out and Play, and Much More:

…Studies have shown that parental stress weakens children’s brains, depletes their immune systems, and increases their risk of obesity, mental illness, diabetes, allergies, even tooth decay.

Yup, you are a role model. So the first step to taking good care of your kids is taking care of you.

Via 100 Simple Secrets of Happy Families:

Studies of young adults find that more than seven out of ten regularly measure themselves against their parents in terms of either their career or relationship status. – Glasman 2002

(For more on the research-backed ways to raise happy kids, click here.)

Okay, so you’re taking good care of yourself. What else do many of the parenting tips miss?

 

2) Autonomy

Tiger moms and helicopter parents: your children thrive when they have some room to be individuals.

Kids do better when they make plans themselves or at least have a say.

You should even allow them to pick their own punishments. It creates greater motivation to obey the rules.

Via The Secrets of Happy Families: Improve Your Mornings, Rethink Family Dinner, Fight Smarter, Go Out and Play, and Much More:

Scientists at the University of California and elsewhere found that kids who plan their own time, set weekly goals, and evaluate their own work build up their prefrontal cortex and other parts of the brain that help them exert greater cognitive control over their lives. These so-called executive skills aid children with self-discipline, avoiding distractions, and weighing the pros and cons of their choices. By picking their own punishments, children become more internally driven to avoid them. By choosing their own rewards, children become more intrinsically motivated to achieve them. Let your kids take a greater role in raising themselves.

Which kids say they like going to school? The ones who get to pick which extracurricular activities they’re involved in.

Via 100 Simple Secrets of Happy Families:

Children who regularly participate in structured extracurricular activities (including clubs and sports teams) of their own choosing are 24 percent more likely to report that they like going to school. – Gilman 2001

You don’t have to overschedule kids or be involved in every moment of their lives. Unstructured play has huge positive effects on children.

Via Raising Happiness: 10 Simple Steps for More Joyful Kids and Happier Parents:

Researchers believe that this dramatic drop in unstructured playtime is in part responsible for slowing kids cognitive and emotional development… In addition to helping kids learn to self-regulate, child-led, unstructured play (with or without adults) promoted intellectual, physical, social, and emotional well-being. Unstructured play helps children learn how to work in groups, to share, negotiate, resolve conflicts, regulate their emotions and behavior, and speak up for themselves.

(For more scientific tips on how to make your kids smarter, click here.)

So everybody always talks about communicating with kids… but what’s that actually mean?

 

3) Communication

You know much real conversation happens at family dinner? 10 minutes.

I interviewed Bruce Feiler, author of the New York Times bestseller, The Secrets of Happy Families and he said the research shows most of the talk at the dinner table is “Take your elbows off the table” and “Please pass the ketchup.”

So what’s the best way to make use of those 10 minutes? Here’s Bruce:

So number one, the first big thing to be aware of is that parents do two-thirds of the talking in that ten minutes. And that’s a problem. So your first goal should be to flip that and let the kids do more of the talking. So that would be issue number one. Number two, I would say a great thing to do in that ten minutes is to try to teach your kid a new word every day. There’s a tremendous amount of evidence out there that one of the biggest determinants of success in school has to do with the size of vocabulary.

And I asked Bruce what he would recommend if he could only give one piece of advice.

He said: “Set aside time to talk about what it means to be a part of your family.”

Ask yourself: “What are your family values?” In business-speak: Develop a mission statement for your family.

Here’s Bruce:

Initiate a conversation about what it means to be a part of your family. Sit down with them and say “Okay, these are our ten central values. This is the family we want to be. We want to be a family that doesn’t fight all the time.” or “We want to be a family that goes camping or sailing” or whatever it might be.

Research shows whether a kid knows their family history was the number one predictor of a child’s emotional well-being. Here’s Bruce:

…researchers at Emory did this study that showed that the kids who know more about their family history had a greater belief that they could control their world and a higher degree of self-confidence. It was the number one predictor of a child’s emotional well-being.

Not having family dinner together? You might want to start. It has huge benefits.

Via The Secrets of Happy Families: Improve Your Mornings, Rethink Family Dinner, Fight Smarter, Go Out and Play, and Much More:

A recent wave of research shows that children who eat dinner with their families are less likely to drink, smoke, do drugs, get pregnant, commit suicide, and develop eating disorders. Additional research found that children who enjoy family meals have larger vocabularies, better manners, healthier diets, and higher self-esteem. The most comprehensive survey done on this topic, a University of Michigan report that examined how American children spent their time between 1981 and 1997, discovered that the amount of time children spent eating meals at home was the single biggest predictor of better academic achievement and fewer behavioral problems.Mealtime was more influential than time spent in school, studying, attending religious services, or playing sports.

Doesn’t work for your family’s schedule? It doesn’t have to be dinner. And it doesn’t have to be every night.

Via The Secrets of Happy Families: Improve Your Mornings, Rethink Family Dinner, Fight Smarter, Go Out and Play, and Much More:

Many of the benefits of family mealtime can be enjoyed without sitting down together every night. Even the folks at Columbia University’s center on addiction, the ones responsible for a lot of the research on family dinner, say having joint meals as infrequently as once a week makes a difference.

I know what some of you are thinking: isn’t all that talking going to mean more fighting? Yes. And that’s a good thing.

Moderate conflict with teens produces better adjustment than none.

Via NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children:

University of Rochester’s Dr. Judith Smetana, a leader in the study of teen disclosure, confirms that, over the long term, “moderate conflict with parents [during adolescence] is associated with better adjustment than either no-conflict or frequent conflict.”

When I interviewed Po Bronson, author of the bestseller NurtureShock, he said more arguing means less lying:

In families where there is less lying to the parents, there is more arguing. Arguing is the opposite of lying. Arguing is the way the kid decides not to lie. “I could lie to my parents and just do it. Or I can tell the truth and argue it out.” Those are the choices the teen has.

And what’s a quick trick for getting your kid to be honest? Po has an answer.

Say: “I’m about to ask you a question. But before I do that, will you promise to tell the truth?”

Via NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children:

In Talwar’s peeking game, sometimes the researcher pauses the game with, “I’m about to ask you a question. But before I do that, will you promise to tell the truth?” (Yes, the child answers.) “Okay, did you peek at the toy when I was out of the room?” This promise cuts down lying by 25%.

(For more on how to have a happy family, click here.)

Final tip. What else do you need to do? Well, really, it has nothing to do with you…

 

4) Community

Tons of research shows religious families are happier. Why is that?

Further study has shown it’s the friends that a religious community provides. A community of ten supportive friends makes families happier.

Via The Secrets of Happy Families: Improve Your Mornings, Rethink Family Dinner, Fight Smarter, Go Out and Play, and Much More:

The most comprehensive study ever done on this topic, in 2010, gives some clues about why this might be. After examining studies of more than three thousand adults, Chaeyoon Lin and Robert Putnam found that what religion you practice or however close you feel to God makes no difference in your overall life satisfaction. What matters is the number of friends you have in your religious community. Ten is the magic number; if you have that many, you’ll be happier. Religious people, in other words, are happier because they feel connected to a community of like-minded people.

What influences your kids more than you do? Their peer group.

We usually only talk about peer pressure when it’s a negative but research shows more often than not, it’s actually a positive. Here’s what Po had to say:

The same kids who were very vulnerable to peer pressure turn out to have great grades, do well in high school, and go to college. As they get older in life they have great relationships with their best friends, their partners, and their parents. It turns out that thing that makes a kid in seventh grade very attuned to the thoughts and feelings of others around them is what makes them feel peer pressure. It turned out that peer pressure was dragging kids toward risk behaviors but it is also dragging them to do well at school, to care what their teachers thought, to care what their parents thought, to care what the school thought, and to care what society thinks. These kids that are invulnerable to peer pressure turn out to have low GPAs. Their motivation to study just wasn’t strong enough. It was entirely based upon themselves because they didn’t care what society thought.

And your kids need more family in their lives than just their parents and siblings.

Via 100 Simple Secrets of Happy Families:

Studies of boys and girls find that the presence of a trusted nonparental adult increases feelings of support and life satisfaction by more than 30 percent. – Colarossi 2001

If you had to make sure one family member was consistently there for the young ones, who should it be?

Grandmom. Scores of studies show the incredible benefits that grandmom brings, like teaching kids to cooperate and to be compassionate.

Children who spend time with their grandparents are more social, do better in school and show more concern for others.

Via The Secrets of Happy Families: Improve Your Mornings, Rethink Family Dinner, Fight Smarter, Go Out and Play, and Much More:

Countless studies have shown the extraordinary benefits grandmothers have on contemporary families. A meta-analysis of sixty-six studies completed in 1992 found that mothers who have more support from grandmothers have less stress and more well-adjusted children… So what are these grandmothers actually doing? They’re teaching children core social skills like how to cooperate, how to be compassionate, how to be considerate. Researchers at Brigham Young University in Utah interviewed 408 adolescents about their relationship with their grandparents. When grandparents are involved, the study found, the children are more social, more involved in school, and more likely to show concern for others.

(For more of the latest research on good parenting skills, click here.)

Time to round all this up and add in that last ingredient that makes your kids love you back.

 

Sum Up

Remember to WACC your kids:

  • Work on yourself: Increasing your own happiness and reducing your stress have big effects on your kids.
  • Autonomy: Want them to be successful adults? Make sure they have a say in what they do — starting now.
  • Communicate: Family meals make a big difference. Tell them their family history. More arguing means less lying.
  • Community: Their peers have more influence they you do. Make sure Grandmom is around if you want compassionate children.

One last thing you need to keep in mind if you want a close relationship with the kiddos:

Love. Don’t just be guider, protector and enforcer. Kids are nearly 50% more likely to feel close to those who show them affection.

Via 100 Simple Secrets of Happy Families:

People are 47 percent more likely to feel close to a family member who frequently expresses affection than to a family member who rarely expresses affection. – Walther-Lee 1999

They’re the next generation. They have the potential to be better than we are, so give them every chance. As Dr. Seuss said:

“Adults are obsolete children.”

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This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

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TIME Parenting

There’s No Such Thing as a Perfect Mother

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Getty Images

So how about we stop striving to be one?

There’s this mom at the pre-school where my son goes who, I used to think, was the perfect mother.

She’s one of the few stay-at-home-moms who shows up at school every day wearing something other than a uniform of yoga pants, a t-shirt and comfy shoes. She’s always well groomed and not wearing remnants of her children’s breakfast or runny noses all over her shirt. She volunteers in the classroom multiple times a week and spends the moments before school starts gently reading to her child. When there’s a bake sale, her brownies look mouthwateringly delicious, unlike my tray which gets avoided like the plague. Nothing seems to faze her, and from the moment I spotted her, an imaginary halo seemed to dance atop her head.

Last spring, one of the other school moms generously held a book launch party at her home for me. I read a chapter from my book out loud and held a Q&A, followed by some snacks and chatting. I gratefully smiled at the people I knew and got introduced to some faces I recognized from drop-off and pick-up but had never met. It was a wonderful evening and I was grateful to be surrounded by so many real life Scary Mommies. And then suddenly, out of nowhere, I saw her — The Perfect Mother — coming towards me. What on earth was she doing here, I wondered. Like she could relate to anything I wrote, little Mrs. I Do Everything Right.

“I have to tell you how much I loved your book,” she greeted me with. “I could have written almost every word myself. It was so me.”

Huh? Say what?!

What on earth in my book could she relate to? She was the one I referenced when talking about the foreign perfection I’d never in my life hope to achieve. She was the one who looked like a million bucks all the time and who always seemed to handle everything that came at her with grace. While everything I did was merely good enough, everything she touched was perfect with a capital P. Had she picked up the wrong book? What author had she mistaken me with?

Unfortunately, those were not thoughts in my head. Unable to contain my shock and awe, that’s exactly how I responded to her, sounding certifiably insane, since we’d never officially met and she had no idea she’d made such an impression on me. She burst out laughing.

“Me? Perfect?” She laughed until she snorted – LOUDLY – the imaginary halo slowly tumbling off of her head.

She went on to explain that the only reason she showered in the morning was to wake herself up, because without that jolt of cold water at 7AM, she’d never peel herself out of bed. She wears Spanx under her jeans and steers clear of yoga pants because the cellulite on her thighs shows through them so clearly that she can’t stomach it. She reads to her kid in the morning because she’s too spent at the end of the day to do it and he falls asleep watching a DVD most nights. And those brownies I’ve drooled over? Her mother makes them because she can’t cook to save her life.

Hello, nice to meet you, my new favorite person on earth! I think I love you.

Sadly, her son went off to kindergarten last fall, so I stopped seeing her in the lobby and at school events, but I think of her often, this not so perfect mom. Every time I make a snap judgment or feel inferior to some other mother I bear witness to, I envision that halo falling down and the sound of her unglamorously snorting echoes in my head. That interaction was one of the single greatest parenting lessons I’ve learned.

Turns out there is no perfect mother. Really; there’s not. So how about we stop striving to be one, and instead settle for something much more realistic?

Being ourselves.

This article originally appeared on Scary Mommy.

More from Scary Mommy:

TIME United Kingdom

Why Three British Sisters Took Their Children to Join Jihadists in Syria

Bradford sisters syria
Paul Ellis—AFP/Getty Images Akhtar Iqbal, husband of Sugra Dawood, left, and Mohammad Shoaib, husband of Khadija Dawood, react during a news conference to appeal for their return, in Bradford, northern England on June 16, 2015.

“Zohra told me this country was changing too much, and that she was going to take her daughters away because she didn’t see their future here anymore,” a neighbor of one sister tells TIME

The two-story sandstone house at the corner of Hope Avenue, a quiet cul-de-sac in the northern English city of Bradford has been empty for months. Last fall, Zohra Dawood, 32, left the house with her two daughters and moved into her father’s home a little over a mile away. Her husband stayed on for a few weeks before returning to his own father’s home, 4,000 miles away in Pakistan. Neighbors say Dawood changed the locks soon after, but never returned. What happened between members of the family in that house may provide clues for police and relatives who have spent more than a week trying to understand why Zohra Dawood and 11 other family members went missing and are believed to be in Syria.

Dawood, along with her two sisters, Khadija, 29, and Sugra, 34, and their nine children first left the U.K. at the end of May for a pilgrimage to the Saudi city of Medina. They reportedly boarded a flight to Istanbul, Turkey on June 9 instead of flying back to Bradford as planned on June 11. According to a smuggler working for the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) quoted in BBC reports on Friday, the family of 12 has already crossed into Syria in two separate groups.

They are not the first Bradford locals to attempt to travel to Syria. The sisters’ younger brother, Ahmed Dawood, 21, has reportedly been fighting alongside extremists there for more than a year. And on Wednesday, a court heard the case of Bradford teenager Syed Choudhury, 19, who plotted to join ISIS and pled guilty to preparing acts of terrorism.

Situated 200 miles north of London amid Yorkshire’s rolling hills and wild moorland, Bradford is home to some of England’s most deprived neighborhoods, with high unemployment and lower levels of education than the national average. Its golden era as the center of the Victorian wool trade – which helped build the towering neo-Gothic buildings at the heart of the city – is long gone. In 1995, American travel writer Bill Bryson opined that Bradford’s sole purpose “is to make every place else in the world look better in comparison.”

Bradford Britain
Phil Noble—ReutersA woman walks along a terraced road in Bradford, Britain, June 18, 2015.

Back when Bradford’s textile industry was booming, the city drew waves of immigrants from South Asia. Now, more than a fifth of Bradford’s 526, 400 people are Pakistani by origin, the Dawood family among them. The streets of the Little Horton area of Bradford where they live are dotted with sari stores, mosques and bakeries selling naan bread and South Asian sweets. It’s not hard to see why the city has earned the nickname “Bradistan.”

The siblings’ parents – Mohammad Dawood and his wife Sara Begum – have at least eight children, all born and raised in Bradford. In a statement, the members of the family still in Bradford said they were devastated by the news and that they did not “support the actions of the sisters leaving their husbands and families in the U.K. and of taking their children into a war zone where life is not safe to join any group.”

Although there are numerous cases of foreign fighters taking children with them to ISIS-controlled territory, the sisters and their children constitute the largest family group known to have left the U.K. to join the extremist group in Syria. The three women seemingly defied the wishes of their parents and husbands in following their brother to Syria. Khadija, Zohra and Sugra apparently felt stronger ties to one another and their brother in Syria than to the family members they left behind in Bradford.

“An essential aspect of extremism is that it has to have social support,” says Arie Kruglanski, a professor of psychology and co-founder of the Center of Terrorism at the University of Maryland. “It’s very important that these women left as a group, as a network of sisters supporting their brother. Groups tend to polarize around values, and as a result, they tend to be much more extreme than individuals,” he says. Because families are very close-knit, it’s especially difficult for European security agencies – who are already facing a diverse array of threats – to penetrate these networks.

John Horgan, incoming professor of Global Studies and Psychology at Georgia State University, adds that there is relatively little security officials can do to prevent entire families from traveling together. The idea that the nine Dawood children could soon become “cubs of the caliphate”, as ISIS dubs its junior recruits in internal and external propaganda, is an unsettling prospect, but Horgan believes there will be more such cases in the future. “ISIS is preparing for the future and what they’re trying to do is groom the next generation of fighters,” he says.

One aspect of the radicalization process that experts know relatively little about is timing. “There has to be some kind of push factor,” says Horgan, who has been studying terrorism for twenty years. “A family dynamic, a trigger factor in a personal relationship, something ­­ to make someone leave the sidelines and actually consider going out there.”

Whether there was a series of triggers or if the disappearance of their younger brother was enough to motivate the women to leave their Bradford homes is not yet clear. During an emotional appeal to their wives at a press conference on Tuesday, Akhtar Iqbal appealed to his wife, Sugra, and five children aged between three and 15. “I miss you, I love you, I can’t live without you,” he wept. Khadija Dawood’s husband of 11 years, Mohammad Shoaib, also broke down as he begged his wife to bring their 5-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter home. “We had a perfect relationship, we had a lovely family. I don’t know what happened,” he sobbed.

Zohra Dawood’s husband, Zubair Ahmed, was absent; he was in Pakistan. If he had been present Ahmed would have been unlikely to speak of having a perfect relationship with his wife. His marriage to Zohra Dawood had broken down several months earlier. Reached by telephone on Wednesday, he told the BBC he had moved back to Pakistan after his wife “shunned” him and that he did not know of her plans to leave for Syria.

In conversations with TIME, Zohra Dawood’s neighbors paint a portrait of a private woman who likely turned to her siblings for support once her brother left the country and her marriage broke down.

Zoota Khan, 74, who lived next door to the couple since they moved onto the street in 2009, says the trouble all began once Ahmed Dawood left for Syria. “He was her most important brother and she was very upset,” says Khan, whose own family comes from a village in the same northern district of Pakistan as Zubair Ahmed. He tells TIME that Ahmed came over directly from Pakistan for his arranged marriage to Dawood, his first cousin.

Few Hope Avenue residents say they knew Zohra Dawood well but neighbors describe her husband warmly, saying he was a kind and caring father. “The wife kept indoors. It was the dad who was around, who’d give you the time of day,” says Sharon Wood, 43, who has lived on the street for 10 years.

Alex Firth, 37, says she only ever saw the couple together if they were getting in the car to go somewhere. “For a while, I thought Zubair was a single dad. He used to play outside with the girls, help them with their schoolwork, even do their hair. He really did everything. I never really saw any sign of affection from their mother.”

Another neighbor, a 31-year-old Pakistani woman who asked to remain anonymous for fear of backlash from the community, says Dawood had confided in her last summer that she was unhappy in her marriage and that she and her husband no longer shared a bedroom. She says Dawood also mentioned that she was planning to move to Saudi Arabia. “Zohra told me this country was changing too much, and that she was going to take her daughters away because she didn’t see their future here anymore.”

It remains unclear what finally prompted Dawood to leave her husband last fall. Ahmed told his neighbor Khan it was a misunderstanding and he was praying she would come home. In November, a few weeks after his wife left, Ahmed returned to his hometown of Tajak, about 60 miles west of Islamabad, to take care of his elderly father, who suffered a stroke. “He calls from time to time to ask if I have seen the children, how they are doing,” says Khan.

The Pakistani neighbor who asked to remain anonymous, says her children regularly attended Quran classes in Dawood’s home and were upset to hear the news of Dawood’s disappearance. “Zohra had real Islamic knowledge. She knew much more than us,” she says. By all accounts, the couple were religious. But whereas Dawood usually wore a headscarf with Western clothes, once she moved back into her father’s home she was only ever spotted wearing a full veil and gloves.

Surprising as it may seem, Horgan says research on radicalization has shown that sibling bonds trump ideological bonds time and time again. Psychologists tell TIME that strained personal relationships can often strengthen sibling bonds. The fact that the Dawood sisters always lived within walking distance of one another – and both Zohra and Khadija even shared the same family house for the past seven months ­– make it more likely that they saw themselves less as part of nuclear family units with their husbands and children, but rather as part of an extended family network. Understanding these bonds may well be essential to making sense of what drew the sisters together as they made their decision to leave for Syria,

As this sprawling saga plays out, more and more questions will emerge. Many will likely never be answered. And for the husbands devastated by the disappearance of their wives and children, it’s all too clear that the ties that bind a family can quickly become the ties that destroy them.

TIME Parenting

What Parents Can Learn From Inside Out

disney, pixar, inside out, amy poehler, mindy kaling, lewis black, movies
Pixar/Disney Amy Poehler stars as the personification of Joy, left, with Phyllis Smith starring as the voice of Sadness.

It's the anti-helicopter parenting movie

All parents want their kids to be happy. I mean, obviously. But for most of history in most of the world that has meant keeping them from hunger and death and physical bodily harm. What happens when those threats aren’t quite so looming? Pixar’s new movie is an examination of our modern obsession with keeping our kids in a permanent state of delight. It could be the ultimate anti helicopter-parenting movie.

Of course, like all Pixar movies, it’s also about eccentric characters going on an unlikely adventure. In this case, our heroines are exploring the inner workings of that undiscover’d country, the brain. And those heroines are Joy (voiced by Amy Poehler, this generation’s go-to embodiment of spunk and optimism) and Sadness (voiced, with wonderful melancholy, by The Office’s Phyllis Smith).

Joy is a type-A workaholic, running around manically to make sure the little factory that is the brain of Riley, a Minnesotan girl who has recently moved to San Francisco, is always fully stocked with upbeat feelings. She tries to keep her co-workers, Anger, Fear and Disgust in line. But most of all she wants to sideline Sadness. Sadness’s chubby little blue hands are not allowed to touch any of the childhood memories that roll like marbles into Riley’s brain.

Especially precious are the more brightly gleaming marbles that represent the core memories. When one of those arrives in the processing room and it’s blue, not chatreuse, meaning it’s sad, not happy, Joy takes extreme steps to prevent it from finding its permanent place in the brain. And ultimately, that puts Riley at risk.

The parallels with modern parenthood are hard to miss here. Feeding and protecting kids from existential threats is no longer the absorbing task it once was, but the instinct to raise happy kids doesn’t go away. So parents try to stave off any potential source of distress—a failure, a loss, a heartache—by flooding the zone of childhood with delight.

For a start, this is exhausting—anyone with less energy than Amy Poehler would just lose her mind—and secondly, it’s counterproductive. Without sadness or failure, kids can’t build resilience. The little islands of security that Joy has built in Riley’s brain, with very little input from Fear, Anger, Disgust or most of all Sadness, prove to be quite fragile and not very colorful.

In his book on building resilience in kids, Grit, Paul Tough quotes the principal of a prestigious U.S. school: “The idea of building grit and building self-control is that you get that through failure. And in most highly academic environments in the United States, no one fails anything.” Spoiler alert: Joy comes to understand that sadness has its place too, that it’s a useful and necessary emotion.

Inside Out doesn’t just gently and comically suggest that perhaps we are making our kid’s lives unhappier by trying to make them happy, it offers an alternative: Riley’s actual parents. Her dad has moved to San Francisco for a startup and is obviously under a bit of stress. Her mom is distracted by the stress of finding a missing truck with all their belongings. (Some Pixar peeps clearly have their issues with moving companies.) But they’re there for Riley. They ask if she wants them to take her to her new school; she doesn’t, so she goes alone. They find a new hockey league for her, but don’t make her join. They make a fool of themselves to support her, when that seems appropriate.

They don’t notice her unhappiness, and she makes a few ill-conceived decisions, but, of course—spoiler alert again!—she realizes her error. Pixar has always made movies for adults cleverly disguised as movies for kids, and and Inside Out is no exception. It simplifies certain concepts in brain science, but it illustrates others in a way that almost anyone could grasp —the dream studio is a particularly inspired sequence—and that may make it simpler for grownups and kids to realize why they’re feeling as they do. As Tough says, “Any time you need to use the term hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal in order to make your point, you’ve got trouble.”

One note of warning. Some people have labeled the movie PMCIFOTC. (Parents May Cry In Front Of Their Children.) Adults should be accompanied by an understanding minor.

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