TIME Parenting

10 Character Traits I Want to Teach My Children

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A list to remind me of what I'm really doing as a parent

To be independent. I want each of my children to have the ability and confidence to live an independent life, making their own choices based on their own values, and not feeling limited by their own fears or insecurities. I have to remind myself of this when it would be easier for me to “fix” one of their problems, than to let them figure it out themselves.

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To reasonably assess risk. Risk management is a huge part of everyday adult life. So whether it be climbing trees or jumping off of the playground, I fight my helicopter-parent instincts every day in the hopes that by allowing my children to self-monitor their own risk-taking (age appropriately, of course) I’m teaching them skills that will last a lifetime. My hope is that these skills will inform them in the future when it comes to making decisions regarding buying insurance, starting a business, investing in property, etc.

To actively practice self-discipline. I intentionally use the word “practice” here instead of just teaching my kids to “be” self-disciplined. I believe that self-discipline is not a static character trait that does or does not exist in someone, but a daily choice regarding our actions that is ever-so-difficult to be consistent about.

To know how to lead, and also how to follow. Being a leader is not just being bossy. I want my kids to really know how to lead well. But we’ve also all been on a team with too many leaders and no followers. I believe it’s vitally important to know when to lead and when to follow. I hope I can teach my children to know the difference, and to do both well.

To deal with discouragement and disappointment and failure. Oh, how I wish I did better with this in my own life. Defensiveness and shutting down are my main reactions to failure. It takes hugely intentional, difficult work for me to persevere in the face of not succeeding at something. I hope I can teach my kids to embrace failure as a learning opportunity by providing a safe, encouraging place for them to fail.

To love reading. Reading teaches empathy by letting us live a world of experiences we never would have had the chance to see otherwise. I want my children to love reading so that they will continually have their eyes and hearts opened to new people, ideas, and places, even if they are limited by finances, location, or occupation.

To seek to continue learning. A new vocabulary word per week; random trivia facts that will probably never come in handy; the capitals of all the countries Central America: whatever it is, I hope that my children will grow up to be adults who love to learn, and never see their education as a task that they have completed or a box to be checked.

To be kind and generous to others. Enough said. We all know that this is an integral facet of a life well-lived.

To work hard. If it’s easy, do better, try harder, and excel. If it’s difficult, persevere, see it through, and buckle down. I want my children to know the value of hard work, to disincline themselves to work hard, and to appreciate the hard work of others.

To know what it means to live their own beliefs. My children may not grow up to hold the same values and beliefs as I do. At the very least, I can teach them what it means to try to live out a set of beliefs and principles, so that they can model that in their own lives as well.

This article originally appeared on Avelist

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TIME Parenting

Why Playing Tag Is as Important to Your Kid’s Future as Reading

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We're sacrificing what kids need the most in the 21st century

Dr. J. Alison Bryant is a former senior research director at Nickelodeon and MTV who now heads up PlayScience, which helps everyone from Disney to PBS better understand how kids play. You probably think you’ve thought a lot about ensuring your kid plays in ways that are productive, healthy and fun — Dr. Bryant has thought about it way more.

Explain the role of play in how kid’s develop, and why it’s important

There’s actual cognitive science about how open play shapes neural pathways. When you take away open play, where kids experiment and learn through trial and error and really focus on a goal and an outcome, the brain develops in certain ways. There was an experiment with rats, where one group played naturally and the other group was kept from playing. The rats that didn’t play were so frightened [by social situations], they wouldn’t come out of their holes and in some cases died. That’s the life-and-death version, but what we’re sacrificing with our kids is, ironically, the kind of learning that actually helps us function in the 21st Century: communication, collaboration, creativity.

How does open play differ from structured play in this sense?

Structured play, play that’s hemmed in, it’s not bad — you should play across the spectrum. But, take bringing a character into play. We did research in our lab where kids brought in their toys so we could see how they played. The boys, in particular, were very, very branded and character-orientated in their play patterns. They were much more likely to bring their Hulk or Avenger. Girls brought teddy bears and had a more open script. Boys would say, “Hulk only wears purple shorts.” It was fascinating. The second you bring structure, even if it’s a character, that’s narrative. Characters have backgrounds. To get back to the first question, what we lose is learning how to be reactive problem solvers, to adapt, think out of the box. Those are life skills kids in the next generation have to have. Seventy percent of jobs today won’t exist when they’re adults.

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When it comes to open play, particularly with outdoor play, how does risk factor in, with, for example things like the so-called “adventure playgrounds” in Europe?

Risk is a part of experimentation. As a culture, risk is more a part of play in parts of Europe than here. Adventure playgrounds, they’re in nascent stages. In the U.S. it will take a while and that’s because we’re so litigious. That trickles down to helicopter parenting, and I think we’re seeing a backlash to that. We just worked with the Boy Scouts to redesign the Cub Scouts. Scouting in the past was a lot more unstructured; it was about getting out in nature and building camps. Over time, there was a move toward safety as an overriding concern, and there’s been a realization that we have to get back to experimentation. It’s OK to shoot a bow and arrow. We thought about, not risk, but how do you bring experimentation back? Risk is a loaded word, so it’s about unstructured, experimental play. It’s about framing for parents, so I don’t use the word “risk.” If you say “experimentation,” they love it.

There’s a public broadcaster in the Netherlands called KRO, which has a producer named Jan Willem-Bult, who created some of the best kids TV programming I’ve ever seen. It’s tied around experimentation and showing kids in a natural habitat. One series, called Piece Of Cake, is about kids cooking. There was one episode with kids making peanut butter; it’s messy and they’re using a blender and there’s no parent. There’s another amazing one with a girl making sushi and she’s straight up using knives. You watch it, and it’s endearing. You can see how kids would love it, and you can also see how they would never show it America.

How does technology factor into open play?

You have a generation of parents in the 80s and 90s that was very tech wary — tech was all one-way, TV and even video games, playing whatever was designed for you. Millennial parents are either tech accepting or promoting, they see that you can have open, creative play [with tech]; they love Minecraft, they see the value of tech and media as providing opportunities but understand it has to be balanced with outdoor play. It’s not one is bad and one is good; it’s that we have to have a balance. That’s healthy. The downside is that, when anything can be bad or good, then it depends on the context or who you use it with. That leads to more ambiguity in parenting.

Who is doing a good job of integrating tech into open play?

Play World Systems uses tech to create playground structures that are built for physical play. It’s a playground with tech built in — you’re red and I’m green, and we have to run to different parts of the structure and press a button and everyone’s running around like crazy chickens. It’s unstructured play with a cool active factor. Of course, you’re seeing wearables, which can have such an impact on traditional outdoor play — Fitbit, things like that but more kid friendly ones. Zamzee, out of San Francisco, does wearables tied into kids games. Gaming isn’t going away, so let’s at least make it more active.

Have you heard about the problems schools are having, with students who can’t play tag on the playground without hurting each other?

My mom was an elementary school teacher with gifted and talented kids and, her last few years teaching in the early 2000s, she said that when they had their recess, these kids were having real trouble knowing how to play. It literally got to the point where she and her faculty had to teach the kids how to play, because they would just stand around and not know what to do. That’s fascinating; we’re getting to the point where there’s so much structure that we have teach kids to be chaotic.

Tag is a great example — the touching piece, how hard, how physical can I be? It’s not surprising that kids might harm each other, because we don’t have rough-and-tumble play anymore. The other side of it is knowing of social boundaries. At Nickelodeon we did research into the value of tech in play. One of the things parents said was that, because of tech, kids didn’t need to know how to make small talk with new people. They always had something to occupy them, so they didn’t have to come up with things to say. But there’s a real social danger in not being able to interact with someone you don’t know. Tag goes into that, interacting with people you don’t know very well in an informal setting. If kids don’t have this social play, and they don’t experiment with social boundaries, they don’t have the skills to do it.

What can we learn about play from other cultures?

The idea of kids as active participants in creating their play. [In the U.S.], it’s more top down; we create play experiences for you to partake in. Other cultures treat kids as agents in their own play. We do so much research, and the kids are so eloquent; they have a lot to say about what they want and what they like, and we don’t listen to them enough. We need to listen more and make them agents in their play so they can make their own decisions.

This interview is part of Fatherly’s first annual 25 Best U.S. Cities For Kids to Play Outside. To read the full report, click here. This article originally appeared on Fatherly

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Mexican Authorities Discover 63 Children Working in Terrible Conditons

The children, ages 8 to 17, were reportedly working 15 hour days

Mexican authorities have discovered 63 children toiling under horrible conditions at a vegetable packing company.

Dozens of children were found working for about 100 pesos, or $6, per day with only a half day off per week, the Associated Press reports. The children were living on mats only steps from where they are suspected to have worked 15 hour days. The ages of the children ranged from eight to 17.

Authorities have moved the children and some adults found working with them to a shelter. Their conditions were reportedly discovered when the father of a young girl attempted to pick up his daughter from the company but was prevented from doing so because she hadn’t completed her tasks.

Mexican law allows for children between 14 and 16 to work, although generally not in agriculture. However, the AP reports child labor is common in the country.

[Associated Press]

TIME Television

Brienne is the Name of 4 Girls Born in the U.K. in 2014

Gwendoline Christie as Brienne of Tarth in 'Game of Thrones'
Helen Sloan—HBO

Khaleesi and Arya are more popular

Brienne is the U.K.’s newest entry to Game of Thrones-inspired baby names for females in 2014, according to data from the U.K. Office for National Statistics.

Last year, four girls were named Brienne, after Brienne of Tarth from the cult HBO television program. The Starks are the most popular Game of Thrones girls names: with 244 named Arya and 6 girls named Sansa.

The data also revealed that 53 girls were named Khaleesi –the royal title Daenerys Targaryen takes when she marries Khal Drogo. Nine girls were named Daenerys in 2014.

TIME Parenting

‘Free Range Parenting’ Too Often Leads to Child Neglect Investigations, Report Finds

Danielle and Alexander Meitiv Are Being Investigated For Letting Their Children Walk Home Alone From A Playground
The Washington Post—The Washington Post/Getty Images Danielle and Alexander Meitiv are being investigated by Child Protective Services for letting their children walk home alone from a playground. (Sammy Dallal--For The Washington Post via Getty Images)

"Parents are swept into the system and labeled at fault when they have made reasonable parenting decisions"

Charging responsible parents with child neglect when they encourage their kids to be independent diverts valuable resources away from true cases of child abuse and negligence, according to a new report.

The Family Defense Center, a Chicago nonprofit that advocates for justice in the child welfare system, said allegations of “inadequate supervision” often arise when children are left unattended for a short period of time, even when the kids are not really at risk and the parents have made a calculated parenting decision to allow them to be on their own. The report, which covered high-profile battles over “free range parenting” as well as lesser-known reports of child neglect, found that allegations of “inadequate supervision” can push responsible parents into the child welfare system, endangering their custody of their children and wasting valuable state resources.

“Parents are swept into the system and labeled at fault when they have made reasonable parenting decisions,” the report says. “Child welfare system resources are currently being devoted to the investigations of neglect allegations, such as inadequate supervision, where children are not at risk. This means fewer resources to investigate and indicate the serious cases of neglect or abuse.”

The report looked at instances where parents were “charged with neglect for common, everyday parental decisions, such as allowing their children to independently walk to parks, play outside, or remain inside a car while the parent runs an errand.”

One high-profile instance they point to is the Meitiv case, in which Maryland parents were charged with child neglect for allowing their two children, aged 10 and 6, to walk home from a local park during the day. The Meitivs were ultimately cleared in June, but their case has become a touchstone in the debate over what counts as a reasonable parenting decision and what is child neglect. Danielle Meitiv lauded the Family Defense Center’s report, praising them for focusing on “cases that didn’t get attention with families who suffered more than ours.”

“The report highlights the terrible irony that the very people who are charged with protecting children end up traumatizing them and their families far too often,” she told the Washington Post.

TIME Children

Picky Eating in Kids Could Be a Sign of Emotional Distress

Child Food
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A small portion of children who are selective about what they eat could have anxiety or depression

CHICAGO — Parents of picky eaters take heart: New research suggests the problem is rarely worth fretting over, although in a small portion of kids it may signal emotional troubles that should be checked out.

Preschool-aged children who are extremely selective about what they eat and dislike even being near certain foods are more likely than others to have underlying anxiety or depression, the study found. But only 3 percent of young children studied were that picky.

Less severe pickiness, dubbed “moderate selected eating” in the study, was found in about 18 percent of kids. These are children who will only eat a narrow range of foods. Kids with either level of pickiness were almost two times more likely than others to develop anxiety symptoms within two years, the study found.

More typical pickiness, including kids who just refuse to eat their vegetables, is probably merely “normal dislike,” said eating disorders specialist Nancy Zucker, the lead author and an associate psychiatry professor at Duke University’s medical school. These are the kids who typically outgrow their pickiness as they mature.

Zucker said young children with moderate pickiness are probably more likely to outgrow the problem than the severe group, although more research is needed to confirm that.

The study was published Monday in the journal Pediatrics.

Dr. Arthur Lavin, a Cleveland pediatrician said picky eating is among the top concerns parents bring to his office, and that the study “helps us understand who we should be concerned about.”

“There’s more going on here than just not wanting to eat broccoli,” said Lavin, a member of an American Academy of Pediatrics committee on psycho-social issues. He was not involved in the research.

The study focused on about 900 children aged 2 through 5 who were recruited from primary care doctors affiliated with Duke’s medical center in Durham, North Carolina.

Researchers did in-home interviews with parents to evaluate kids’ eating habits and any mental health issues. Follow-up evaluations were done two years later in almost 200 children.

Compared with children who aren’t fussy eaters, depression and social anxiety were at least two times more common in kids with severe pickiness; attention deficit behavior and separation anxiety symptoms were more common in moderately selective kids.

Severe selective eating described in the study is akin to a condition called avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder, added in 2013 to the latest edition of a widely used psychiatric manual, the study authors said. It can occur in all ages; some of those affected are extra-sensitive to food tastes, smells and textures.

Zucker said severe pickiness may be the first clue for parents that a child is experiencing anxiety or depression and that they may want to seek help from a mental health specialist.

Moderate pickiness is less concerning but affected kids can make family meal-times a battleground, she said. To avoid that, Zucker suggests that parents try introducing new foods at random times during the day.

TIME pay

Why Rebellious Kids Make More Money Later In Life

JGI/Jamie Grill—Getty Images/Blend Images Boys displaying their messy hands.

Not listening to your parents may be profitable, research shows

Who knew not listening to your parents as a kid could pay off?

New research published in the journal Developmental Psychology found that children who didn’t listen to their parents growing up ended up with a higher income, according to Quartz.

“We might assume that students who scored high on this scale might earn a higher income because they are more willing to be more demanding during critical junctures such as when negotiating salaries or raises,” the researchers wrote in the published study.

Additionally, they noted that those who were more likely to push back against their superiors as children “also have higher levels of willingness to stand up for their own interests and aims, a characteristic that leads to more favorable individual outcomes—in our case, income.”

“We also cannot rule out that individuals who are likely or willing to break rules get higher pay for unethical reasons,” the researchers added.

As Quartz notes, this isn’t the first time a study like this has linked childhood troublemaking to wages in adulthood. In fact, “agreeableness” has been found previously to equate to a lower income.

The research — conducted by the University of Luxembourg, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and The Free University of Berlin — analyzed data from 745 children in Luxembourg from 1968 to 2008.

TIME Parenting

How to Raise Kids Who Actually Understand Money

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Allowance should not be given in exchange for chores

There are parenting books you should read but can’t because you’re too busy parenting, and then there are … pretty much no other kind. So, use our Crib Notes to make sure you always sound like you know what you’re talking about. Next up, The Opposite of Spoiled: Raising Kids Who Are Grounded, Generous, And Smart About Money, from New York Times money columnist Ron Lieber. The book explores ways to think and talk about money with children, and offers some best practices for bringing up kids who are financially savvy without being entitled or avaricious.

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1. Start talking to your kids about money early and often

An understanding of money is no longer optional Your kid will likely grow up in a world where college loans are massive, health insurance is self-provided and retirement savings are ill-defined. At the same time, social media will amplify wealth disparities amongst them and their peers, so they’re at risk of developing animosity or self-esteem issues. On the plus side, there might be hover boards.

Traditional objections to discussing finances with kids are misguided — Talking to your kids about family finances won’t steer them toward greed. To the contrary, money is a great tool to encourage positive traits like curiosity, patience, thrift, modesty, generosity, perseverance and perspective. And, no, that doesn’t mean you should just spend a bunch of it on a life coach for your kids.

What you can do with this

  • Your kids will naturally start to express curiosity about money at some point. When they do, don’t evade them; engage them.
  • Whatever their questions — and the most common are “Are we poor?”, “Are we rich?” and “How much money do you make?” — respond with “Why do you ask?” This will give you and your kid context to explore the more complex answers, and it’s a better response than, “Yes, no and less than that jagoff Alan in accounting.”
  • With older kids, go over some facts and figures about your income and the family’s expenses. This gives them an understanding of the difference between what you make and what’s actually in your wallet, and it keeps them from Googling “How much does that jagoff Alan in accounting make?”, which will lead to all sorts of misconceptions (not to mention an understanding of what jagoff means).

2. Yes, you should give your kid an allowance; No, it shouldn’t be in exchange for chores

Allowances are about teaching kids how to save and spend — A work ethic is something kids should learn outside the home, in school or at a part-time job. Chores are how they gain an understanding of the family unit and the role they play in maintaining it (since Mommy will leave both of you if those Legos don’t get cleaned up).

What you can do with this

  • Start them with $.50-to-$1 per year of age, which means they get a nice raise each birthday and will distract them when you forget to buy them a present.
  • Give them 3 money jars: a “Spend” jar for impulse buys, a “Save” jar for big-ticket items and a “Give” jar for charitable donations. Help them establish how much goes in each, and as they get older give them increasing control over that decision. Establish incentives for saving (like interest) and encourage them to research the charities that they’ll donate to before doing so.
  • When they inevitably want to spend their own money on something stupid, don’t feel obligated to give them a detailed explanation of why you won’t allow on the spot. As the parent, it’s your prerogative to think it over carefully before explaining why sex-worker Barbie doesn’t jibe with the family values.

3. Both spending and giving present opportunities to teach money smarts

Set spending guidelines and model sensible tactics — Your kids are unmolded lumps of clay in their understanding of how money really works, so go beyond simple rules that dictate “what” and provide explanations of “why” you do the things you do with your money, from a practical standpoint but also a values standpoint.

What you can do with this

  • Introduce the “Hours-Of-Fun-Per-Dollar” test. Which purchase will bring your kid more long-term bang for the buck — a $2 deck of cards or a piece of plastic that blares catchphrases from the latest animated blockbuster? And if your kid doesn’t like cards, now’s the perfect time to teach them poker so you can get some of that allowance back.
  • Introduce the “More Good/Less Harm” rule. Does the t-shirt with the fart joke that’s made in an Indonesian sweatshop for the brand with discriminatory hiring practices do more harm than good? Could you buy something from a local business that’s just as awesome and also helps the neighborhood in a tangible way?
  • Explain to them what charitable causes you give to and why. Let them select their own charities for their “Give” jar and always make sure the donation is made in their name. You’ll forfeit the tax deduction, but they’ll establish a personal relationship with the charity that encourages future giving. Also, why do you care about a 2-digit tax deduction, you cheap bastard?

4. Put the kid to work

Little kids like to have jobs to do — Encourage their innate industriousness before they get old enough to realize that work is work. You might change the trajectory of their lives (or you might just get a few more months of room cleaning out of them).

Employment looks good on a resume — There’s a strong correlation between teenagers with part-time jobs and good GPAs and college expectations. Furthermore, college admissions officers are often as impressed by evidence of a work ethic as they are with academic or athletic accolades.

What you can do with this

  • In little kids, the usual: Lemonade stands and collecting and redeeming recyclables. But, also, look around the house and figure out what labor they can subcontract from you — small hands can be surprisingly adept at certain cleaning tasks (like car detailing).
  • With older kids, don’t always prioritize academics over employment. Of course a balance needs to be struck, but recognize the value to their long-term prospects that a good part-time job provides. Also, it will save you money.

5. Don’t let your kids be ungrateful

Foster an understanding of different circumstances — Even if your kids want for nothing, it’s important that they’re exposed to other situations.

What you can do with this

  • If you don’t live in a socioeconomically diverse community, make the effort to ensure they meet kids from other backgrounds through sports, play dates and other activities.
  • Even if you’re not religious, make a ritual of articulating thankfulness at family meals. A secular version of grace isn’t going to assuage the wrath of any vengeful gods, but it’s just as good as a religious one for encouraging kids to reflect on their family’s good fortune.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly

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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.

TIME Massachusetts

Millions Online Seek Answers in Case of Baby Found in Boston Harbor

Girl Found Dead
Suffolk County District Attorney/AP This flyer released on July 2, 2015, includes a computer-generated composite image depicting the possible likeness of a young girl, whose body was found on the shore of Deer Island in Boston Harbor on June 25, 2015.

The Massachusetts State Police released computer-generated image of what the deceased child may have looked like alive

As authorities work to identify a young girl whose body was found on a Massachusetts beach last month, millions of people are immersed in the mystery on social media.

The girl, whom authorities believe was about 4 years old and refer to as “Baby Doe,” was discovered on June 25 by a woman walking a dog on Deer Island in Boston Harbor, officials said. Her body had been stuffed into a trash bag and was in the early stages of decomposition.

The Massachusetts State Police, with help from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, posted to Facebook a computer-generated image…

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

TIME Parenting

4 Kid-Friendly Playlists That Won’t Depress Dads

Soundtracks to inspire singing, dancing, splashing or sleeping—in everyone

There are plenty of parents who cede all control of the stereo during their kid’s waking hours to the Wiggles and Barneys and whatever other high-pitched sounds will delight them, because it sounds like the same high-pitched nonsense that comes out of their own mouths. Then, there are the parents whose music snobbery overrides common sense, and they insist their kid “loves Thelonius Monk,” even as the poor kid’s eyes glaze over while dad gets all hep with it.

You are neither of these parents. You value your sanity too much to succumb to all Rockabye Baby and Kidz Bop all the time; you also genuinely enjoy watching your kid get into music. So, you carefully select songs for those times of day that go best with a soundtrack — when you’re in the car or trying to get them dancing or bath time or bedtime — and hope to hit that sweet spot.

For a snappy roundup of all the best parenting stories from all over the globe, sign up for TIME’s Parenting Newsletter here.

These playlists are curated with you and your kid in mind: 20 songs for each situation that will inspire singing, dancing, splashing or sleeping, no matter how old you are.

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