TIME Parenting

How to Parent Like an FBI Agent

Jose Luis Pelaez; Getty Images/Blend Images

No, you won't need any bugging devices

Ever feel like parenting would be a lot easier if you just had a full-time security team at your beck and call? And maybe an interrogation room?

You might not be able to swing that on this month’s budget, but Jack Schafer, a psychologist who and former FBI Special Agent, says parents can benefit from the tips of his trade. Here’s what he learned during 15 years conducting counterintelligence investigations – and how it applies to parenting.

Create the Illusion of Control
FBI agents are trained to de-escalate conflicts by giving subjects a choice, which helps them to feel like they’re in control. And “the feeling they have some control over a situation can work wonders, even for children,” Schafer writes in his recent book, The Like Switch: An Ex-FBI Agent’s Guide to Influencing, Attracting, and Winning People Over. Parents can do this, he says, without giving up any true authority. The trick: offer kids a choice between two options that both work for you. They can’t have anything they want for dinner. But do you know in advance you’re going to pick up food on the way home? Give them the option to choose between two good options.

Follow the Scarcity Principle
FBI profiling shows what many parents already know; that people tend to like things they can’t get much of. If you tell your kids not to do something, they want to do it even more. So how can a parent set clear boundaries without making kids eager to cross them? Let your kids know you trust them, Schafer says. When his daughter brought home a boyfriend she knew Shafer wouldn’t like, instead of forbidding her to see him, Shafer told her he trusted her to make the right decision. The boyfriend never made a reappearance.

Ask Indirect Questions
Especially as they get older, kids get suspicious they’re being interrogated, even when their parents don’t really work for the FBI. So asking direct questions isn’t always the best way to get the answers you’re looking for. Instead, use a classic FBI interrogation technique. “The best way to find out how your children really feel… is to ask them from a third-party perspective,” Shafer says. So if you want to know what your kids think about a sensitive topic, try bringing it up indirectly. Instead of asking, “Have you been drinking?” try starting a conversation with a hypothetical: “My friend’s son got caught drinking. What do you think his parents should do?” You might not get the answer you were looking for. But you’ll get to know your child.

Show Empathy
Another way FBI agents get people to open up is by letting someone know they understand what he or she is experiencing. “Demanding, threatening, or cajoling a response typically ends in a shields-up reaction” from kids, Shafer says. But empathetic statements, he’s found, can be much more effective, like: “You look like you are thinking about something pretty serious. You look as though something is really bothering you.” Greeted with this kind of empathy, kids will often share their thoughts freely. “Most teens want to tell their parents what’s bothering them,” Shafer says. “They just need a little encouragement and the belief that talking to you is their choice.”

Work the Case
The biggest thing parents can to connect with their kids? Just hang in there. In Shafer’s work, he’s observed that “The more time you spend with a person, the more influence they have over your thoughts and actions.” If parents aren’t around, kids start to take their cues from other kids. But “the more time parents spend with their children, the more likely the parents will be to influence them.”

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TIME year of the man

More Sex—and 7 Other Benefits for Men Who Help Out at Home

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8 reasons why it's good for men to embrace their inner feminist.

As Sheryl Sandberg likes to say, if a woman can’t find a partner, she should consider another woman—for the sake of equality, of course. Study after study shows that same-sex couples are more egalitarian, meaning they split chores, decisions and finances more evenly than the rest of us.

Us hetero gals aren’t so lucky, at least not yet. While the men in our lives may want to be all 50/50 when it comes to work and chores (and indeed, some of them are) it just doesn’t usually happen that way in practice. Gender roles run deep, and women still do the vast majority of the domestic work.

But if 2014 was the year of the female protagonist, then this will be the year of male feminist as icon. I’m not talking about men marching down Fifth Avenue (though I’d welcome it) but subtly adapting to the way things ought to be: New research shows there are more stay-at-home dads now than ever; and men of all walks are demanding more in the way of work-life balance, even if it means ridicule from their peers (or ignorant talk radio hosts).

Men are suiting up for more than just the rec football league—they’re suiting up in the kitchen. And if they’re cooking, it means they’re probably cleaning too, which would explain why proud fathers and sensitive betas are suddenly dominating the ad world, too. (Swiffer? A guy’s gotta mop the floor. Nissan SUV? It’s for shuttling kids to soccer practice, obviously.)

Now they’re entering the feminist Public Service Announcement circuit, which typically gets very active around this time of year. (It’s Women’s History Month, after all.) There is a new film, The Mask You Live In, that tackles our narrow definitions of masculinity. (It’s available for screenings in schools). There is a three-day conference—the first ever to take on “masculinities studies”— in New York City the first weekend in March. There is a campaign from the United Nations, He for She, to engage men on the topic of gender equality. You may remember the rousing opening speech to the campaign, from non-man but one of that gender’s favorite people, Emma Watson.

And now there is Lean In Together, a partnership between Sheryl Sandberg’s women’s nonprofit, LeanIn.org (where, in full disclosure, I am a contributing editor) and the NBA, to encourage men to support women at home and work. As Sandberg and business professor Adam Grant put it in a New York Times op-ed, the final in a four-part series on women and work, “equality is not a zero-sum game.” In other words: It’s good for men, too.

It’s easy to understand how women benefit from men doing their share both at home and at the office. When men chip in at home, women thrive at work (and feel less resentful and guilty). When men advocate for female colleagues in the office, women rise up. Yet beyond the obvious—that, uh, it’s the right thing to do—how do men benefit from the extra effort?

From raising healthier daughters to more sex at home, here are eight reasons why men supporting women is actually good for men.

1. Sex. You’ll Have More of It.
Call it the economics of choreplay: women are turned on by the idea of a man with his elbows up to suds. Sure, maybe they have a Mr Clean fetish, or maybe they’re just freaking exhausted, and not having to do the dishes for one night might put her in the mood. These days, women are the primary or co-breadwinners in two-thirds of American households, yet only 9% of dual-income marriages share childcare, housework and breadwinning evenly. Which means that when the first shift (work) is over, the second shift (home, dinner, laundry, dishes) begins. Which puts this next statistic into context: When couples share chores and breadwinning more equally, divorce rates go down. Men who share in dishwashing and diaper changing have happier wives, and more stable marriages.

When marriages are happy, couples, ahem, have more sex. So, the laundry: strip down and toss it in.

2. Your Daughters Will Have Higher Self-Esteem.
Engaged fatherhood is good for all kids: tots of more involved dads are better off cognitively, emotionally, socially and, ultimately, educationally and economically. But fathers have a particularly measurable impact on girls, whose self esteem develops —and then often falls—as early as middle school. Daughters with active fathers have more autonomy. They are more empowered. And if they watch their dad do chores, they’re actually more likely to aim higher. As Sandberg and Grant write, a study by a University of British Columbia psychologist found that when fathers shouldered an equal share of housework, their daughters were less likely to limit their aspirations to stereotypically female occupations (like nurse or teacher). “What mattered most was what fathers did, not what they said; no amount of saying ‘you can do anything’ is as compelling for a daughter as witnessing true partnership between her parents,” they write. For a girl to believe she has the same opportunities as boys, it makes a big difference to see Dad doing the dishes.”

3. You’ll Breed Feminist Sons.
And that will start the cycle over, as studies have found that boys who grow up in more equal homes are more likely to create equal homes as adults. As Sandberg and Grant point out, the flip is true too: sons reap rewards when their mothers have meaningful roles at work.

4. You’ll Be Happier.
This one’s for dads: Employed fathers who spend more time at home with their kids actually feel greater job satisfaction and less work-life conflict, according to a recent study. They’re also less likely to consider quitting their jobs.

5. You’ll Live Longer.
Caring for kids has been shown to make men more patient (ha!), empathetic and flexible, as well as lower their rates of substance abuse. Fatherhood has also been linked to lower blood pressure and lower rates of heart disease. But also: there’s longevity, even if you don’t have kids. Studies have found that there’s a longevity boost for men (and women) who provide care and emotional support to their partners.

6. You’ll Be More Successful At Work.
Know this, male bosses: diverse teams perform better. And when it comes to women specifically, here are a few attributes: they put in more effort, stay longer on the job, take fewer unnecessary risks, and collaborate more. (It’s no surprise, perhaps, that successful venture-backed start-ups have more than double the median proportion of female executives to failed ones.) But this isn’t just about women: companies that have family-friendly work environments are actually more productive, and higher employee retention.

7. Your Company Will be More Profitable.
Companies with more women in leadership perform better — full stop. Twenty-five percent of U.S. GDP growth since 1970 is attributed to women entering the paid workforce, and economists estimate that bringing more women into the workforce could raise GDP by 5%.

8. You’ll Get a Free Pass to the Revolution.
And free passes rock.
Jessica Bennett is a contributing columnist at Time.com covering the intersection of gender, sexuality, business and pop culture. She writes regularly for the New York Times and is a contributing editor on special projects for Sheryl Sandberg’s women’s nonprofit, Lean In. You can follow her @jess7bennett.

TIME Parenting

8 Simple Ways to Avoid Raising Spoiled Kids

savings jar
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First up, get rid of that piggy bank.

No one intends to raise spoiled brats, but it’s sometimes hard to see the consequences of your actions several years down the road.

Ron Lieber, personal finance columnist for The New York Times, offers his advice on the subject in his new book The Opposite of Spoiled: Raising Kids Who Are Grounded, Generous and Smart about Money.

Here are his eight most practical tips:

Hand out on a regular allowance.

Commit to doling out the funds once a month or once a week, and offer raises on birthdays.

But there’s a catch: Allowance money shouldn’t be given to children as a reward for chores completed.

“If they do (their chores) poorly, there are plenty of valuable privileges we can take away, aside from withholding money. So allowance ought to stand on its own, not as a wage but as a teaching tool that gets sharper and more potent over a decade or so of annual raises and increasing responsibility,” says Lieber.

Instead, let allowance work as “practice money,” and let children learn about finances by controlling their own allowance.

Keep their money where they can see it

The cover of Lieber’s book shows three mason jars labeled spend, save and give. This is his preferred method for helping children track their finances.

“I hate piggy banks, and the problem begins with the metaphor itself. Pigs are dirty, and they eat a lot, so piggish behavior isn’t something to aspire to,” writes Lieber. “Meanwhile, ceramic or metal containers are problematic, since we want kids to be able to see what’s inside and watch it grow.”

Let them spend

Allow for a little bit of impulse, but also teach your children the difference between wants and needs. Show them where to draw the line between high quality and high dollar.

“My wife and I are still debating exactly where we’ll put the line,” Lieber writes. “I’m making the case for a broad-based ‘Land’s End Line.’ If we adopt it, that means we’d pay whatever Land’s End (my definition of a suitably mid-priced merchant that sells quality clothing) would charge for any clothing needs, even if an item comes from some other designer or shop. Anything with a price to the right of the Land’s End Line would be a want.”

Help them save, but only to a point

Money in the savings jar should be collected with a goal and timeline in mind, Lieber writes.

For younger children, the concept of time and goals are already fuzzy enough, so keep it short and specific.

For teenagers, their savings goals might be a bit loftier – it might be earmarked for a first car or senior class trip – and they might outgrow the jar system. Help them establish a savings account and transfer their allowance there automatically.

Use an app

Use Allowance Manager to make automatic weekly payments to your children’s accounts. They can spend their money with prepaid Allowance Cards and track their purchases with mobile and desktop apps.

Lieber also recommends FamZoo, another family banking app that also offers prepaid cards and money tracking functions. It also has an IOU feature that lets parents owe money to children and vice versa.

Show them how you use your money

Accordine to Lieber, a remarkable “64% of kids said they had no idea what their parents were giving, if anything,” so he suggests parents make an example of their charity while also giving kids a chance to get involved.

Let children help decide where mom and dad should donate money and time and teach them how to vet the worthiness of charities asking for money by evaluating if they provide essential services or goods to those in need.

Throw around less cash but more imagination

Lieber pokes at the problem with elaborate birthday parties and bar mitzvahs (for example, this stage show in honor of one Texan youngster) and Tooth Fairy inflation. It can all lead to materialism. But he offers some advice: Do things more modestly, but make them more special.

The Tooth Fairy can (and should!) visit to stay in line with lore, but Lieber encourages parents to put their own twist on the tale. Maybe your Tooth Fairy leaves glitter on the windowsill or gets caught on camera.

Birthdays are still cause for celebration, but in lieu of expensive gifts, Lieber suggests requesting party guests’ parents spend about half what they normally would and donate the other half to charity. This also eliminates the envy-inducing gift opening ceremony.

Finally, let grandparents break all the above rules

Accept that grandparents are the X factor. They’re bound to come through with the North Face jacket your teen is dreaming of while you’re striving to tow the Land’s End Line.

“We’ve found that grandparents will gleefully disrupt this attempt at standard setting with spontaneous bursts of generosity,” write Lieber. “Still, as long as it doesn’t happen too often, the continuum will hold if we parents apply it consistently.”

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TIME Family

Mother of Toddler With Rare Disorder Fights Daughter’s Cyberbullies

The mother says her daughter is "not a monster"

A 2-year-old girl with a rare condition that affects her appearance, learning abilities and motor skills has become the target of Instagram cyber bullies.

Mariah Anderson recently celebrated her second birthday in Summerville, South Carolina, and was all smiles throughout the occasion, reports WCBD. So when the girl’s mother, Kyra Pringle, shared a shot online from her beaming daughter’s big day, she never imagined there would be a negative reaction.

Anderson was born with Chromosome 2p duplication syndrome, a condition that has affected her development and physical appearance. Unfortunately, when some Instagram users saw Pringle’s picture of her daughter, they did not celebrate the toddler, but instead teased her.

Several users posted memes using Pringle’s photo that poked fun at the toddler’s looks, insinuating that Anderson was ugly or resembled a leprechaun. Sick of seeing her baby girl being bullied by online trolls, Pringle decided to speak out against everyone making the memes and those enjoying them.

“The smile that you guys think is funny or the smile that you guys are comparing to a leprechaun,” Pringle told WCBD. “The things you guys are saying about my child, she’s not a monster, she’s real.”

Pringle hopes her words will help put an end to the harassment so she and her family can return to enjoying their time with Anderson which, because of her condition, could be limited.

“She’s just a joy, it’s a joy to have her right now,” said Kyra Pringle.

This article originally appeared on People.com.

MONEY Wealth

The Super-Rich Have a Racial Wealth Gap, Too

Even at the top end of the economic scale, the financial differences between blacks and whites are big — and they've changed little in 30 years.

TIME Family

My Father Transitioned When I Was a Kid and It Was Nothing Like Transparent

xoJane.com is where women go to be their unabashed selves, and where their unabashed selves are applauded

When I was four years old, my father transitioned. I wish I could’ve watched a TV show show about a family like mine

xojane

Suddenly, my childhood is trendy. My childhood won a Golden Globe Award. ABC Family is making a reality show about it. But I really knew that my time had come when the Kardashians got in on the action.

Back when it was still indie, back when prejudice was cooler than tolerance, back when the term “cis gender” didn’t even exist, I had a transgender parent. That gives me street cred in the alternative family scene. I can roll my eyes at the fictional, entitled, awful hipsters on Transparent and tell them that freaking out because your father is transitioning in 2015, when you’re adults, is pathetic.

My father transitioned when I was just four years old. I have a few vague, half-formed images of a man with a beard, but no real recollections of the person my mother thought she married, a person who, according to current gender theory, never really existed. That man was just a façade.

I remember that one day my mother told me that my father liked to play dress up, just like I did and that she had started wearing women’s clothes. It made sense to me. Dressing up was fun and boys were yucky, so of course my dad would rather be a girl. The fairytales we read to little girls are stories of transformation: a prince who is trapped in a frog’s body, a pumpkin that turns into a coach. A man becoming a woman struck me as far more plausible.

Eventually, she moved out and my parents got divorced. That was it. There were no family therapy sessions or dramatic confrontations. My mother has always prided herself on being progressive and open-minded. I think she felt that if she allowed herself to express any anger or sadness at the end of her marriage, she would be a bigot. So she took the attitude that it was no big deal. I took my cues from her.

In retrospect, she was too busy trying to pay the bills to dwell on her emotional state. For non-celebrities, transitioning has economic consequences. My father was starting out in academia, which today is one of the most transgender friendly workplaces, but back then, it was career suicide. All of her research appeared to be written by somebody else.

My mother had been out of the workforce since I was born, and had difficulty finding work. We fell out of the middle class temporarily. She hustled multiple part-time jobs until she finally found a full-time position in her field right before I started high school.

There was no vocabulary in existence to describe my relationship with my father. I called her by her first name, which sidestepped the issue of exactly who she was to me. In my mind, she was my father and she was a woman, and those two facts were in no way contradictory.

Other than her gender, she was like a lot of my friends’ fathers in that she was someone who I occasionally saw on the weekends and gave my mother a small check every month. I didn’t particularly enjoy her company, which had little to do with her being trans and a lot to do with her having a lousy personality. She was cold, intellectual, and humorless. She was one of life’s little annoyances, like having to wear complicated orthodontic appliances.

But as I grew older, I transformed from a happy, overachieving kid to a mopey, insecure, overachieving teen. I began to feel self-conscious about my family. I thought I was the only person on earth with a transgender parent. It was about five minutes before the Internet went mainstream, and with a couple of keystrokes, you could discover a subreddit full of people who shared the very thing you thought made you unique.

On the rare occasions that gay people were on TV, they were either dying tragically of AIDS in a very special episode or on daytime talk shows where they were pitted against evangelical Christians who thought they were going to burn in hell. Transgender people were considered outright freaks, if their existence was even acknowledged. I realized that, in the eyes of most of society, I was a freak too.

I felt terrible about the fact that it bothered me, because I didn’t want to be prejudiced. I didn’t have anyone to talk to about it. I was certain my loving but pragmatic and unemotional mother would consider it yet another case of me being a melodramatic drama queen.

In fact, when, as an adult, I told her that I thought maybe my relationship with my father had some sort of lasting psychological impact on me, she was genuinely perplexed. She said, “Why? It was a little weird, but it wasn’t like anyone hit you.”

If I could have watched a reality show about the sort of pretty, vapid, mean girls that I outwardly despised but secretly envied who had a transgender father, it would have made me feel so much better.

I wish I could say that eventually I forged a close relationship with my father. The opposite is true. After I graduated high school and was accepted into the fancy schmancy east coast college of my dreams, we had lunch. She told me that she had deliberately kept her distance from me as a child because she didn’t feel comfortable around children, but now that I was older and smart enough to get into a prestigious school, she wanted to get to know me better.

I was less than excited about the prospect.

In my freshman year, she wrote me a letter berating me for not sending her a thank you note for the $20 she sent me for my birthday. She informed me that since she was paying a portion of my tuition, I owed her regular reports on my life.

She was right. I was a thoughtless, self-absorbed college student. But I had decided that college was the time to reinvent myself. I was going to give up both red meat and my father. I wrote an angry letter back telling her to get out of my life. Half the people I know had similar fights with their families in college and made up a couple months later, but this one stuck.

We never contacted each other again, other than a bizarre incident years later when she wrote a letter to my boss requesting she send her, a complete stranger, an essay about my life. That solidified my belief that severing ties with her was the right decision. But I felt a lot of guilt and shame that maybe I wouldn’t have cut off a cis-gendered relative for inappropriate behavior that impacted my career.

Whenever the subject of my father came up, I just said that my parents were divorced and my mother raised me on my own.

The world has changed so much so fast. The president acknowledged transgender people in his State of the Union address. When he was running for president, he didn’t even support gay marriage. Laverne Cox is a fashion icon. Beneath the sensationalist headlines, most of the coverage of Bruce Jenner’s possible transition has been respectful.

And then there’s Transparent. I could write a separate essay about what a mindfuck it was to watch that show. Suffice it to say that it’s brilliant and that there are eerie superficial similarities between my family and the Pfeffermans. However, the show’s conceit that the children of a transgender woman all have their own gender and sexual issues is so far from my experience that it inspired me to share my story to provide a counterpoint.

Having a transgender parent made me aware at a very early age that there is a wide variety of sexual and gender identities. I knew that I wouldn’t be disowned no matter what mine turned out to be. As it turned out, I could not be more boring.

I am straight and cis gender. I am downright girly. I love getting manicures. I’d dress like Taylor Swift leaving the gym all the time if I had the money. I don’t even have any fetishes. I have never had a moment of doubt about my sexual orientation, nor do I think that my fondness for lipstick and high heels is in any way a reaction to having a transgender parent.

Sometimes I wonder if the reason why I haven’t had many longterm relationships is because of some deep-seated childhood issues. It’s possible. It’s equally likely that I’m single because the dating scene is horrible in L.A.

I do credit my father for a lot of my positive traits. She gave me the gifts of resilience and self-reliance. She taught me not to make assumptions about people based on their outward appearance. Most importantly, she taught me that I could transform myself into whoever I wanted to be. That gave me the courage to conquer my shyness and pursue my most grandiose dreams.

Writing this has been scary. I’m worried that my friends will think I’m a liar and a coward for hiding this aspect of my life for so long. I’m worried that I’ll be branded transphobic by the Internet for saying that my individual experience with my specific parent was not as wonderful as a basket of puppies sitting under a rainbow, or that I’ll be accused of mis-pronouning for using the phrase “my father.”

I’m concerned that potential dates will google me and be scared off. Based on past experience, the quickest way to get rid of a guy is to tell him. My theory is that it touches on every man’s fear of something happening to his penis.

But I hate the idea that a deliberately awful fictional family is going to be the image that most Americans have of the children of trans parents. I also realize that my fears are largely irrational and that keeping this one part of my life secret has, in a very Oprah way, kept me from being my authentic self.

Sara Bibel wrote this article for xoJane.

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 Family

Dad Will Raise Quadruplets Alone After Wife Dies in Childbirth

MOTHER-DIES-QUADRUPLETS
Nicole Todman—AP These photos provided by Nicole Todman shows quadruplets born to Erica Morales at a Phoenix hospital on Jan. 15, 2015

"I went from having the best day of my life to the next morning experiencing the worst day of my life"

For one father, the happiest day of his life quickly turned tragic.

Carlos Morales, 29, was left devastated when his wife, Erica, died of blood loss on Jan. 16 while giving birth to their quadruplets two months prematurely.

“I went from having the best day of my life to the next morning experiencing the worst day of my life,” said Morales. “My four babies came into the world and then my wife died.”

But all four babies, though tiny at between two and three pounds apiece, were healthy — and Morales has since been taking baby-care classes at a local hospital. “I need to be prepared,” he said.

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Read the entire story at People.

TIME Parenting

6 Things You Should Know About Young Girls in School

girls-holding-hands-classroom
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One day your child feels like part of the gang; the next she’s been elbowed out of the lunch table or left off the invitation list for a birthday party. Here’s what you need to know to get her through the clique years—and endless exclusive photo tagging—with fewer scars.

1. Cliquishness is ingrained—and it starts early. “We come from a hunter-gatherer society,” says Julie Paquette MacEvoy, an assistant professor of psychology at Boston College who studies children’s social and emotional development. “There was a greater chance of survival if you were part of a group. The urge to form cliques is evolutionarily ingrained.” By toddlerhood, this behavior starts to show up. A 2014 study published in Psychological Science showed that children as young as two will mimic their behavior to match that of their peers so they don’t stand out from the crowd. And not long after toddlerhood, we’re able to pinpoint the person in our group with whom we’re closest. “I don’t think we ever stop using that label [best friend],” says Rosalind Wiseman, a parenting educator and the author of Queen Bees and Wannabes ($10, amazon.com). Why are we so attached to it? “We need to have the sense that we matter. If we have a best friend, that means we count to someone.” And though children today certainly won’t perish if they don’t have a core group of buddies, there are benefits, like a boost to self-esteem and a sense of belonging, says Wiseman. Also, it just feels good to be included. That’s why it’s so painful to be left out.

2. There are two types of dominant personalities. They typically emerge during middle school: one is positive and fun to be around, and the other is influential but also manipulative, says Brett Laursen, a professor of psychology at Florida Atlantic University. If your child hangs out with a manipulative leader, she may feel demeaned fairly frequently. What helps: emphasizing the importance of thinking for herself and being her own person, not merely the sidekick of a bossy pal. “Have conversations about when it’s OK to give in and when it’s not,” says MacEvoy. For example, it’s fine to let the group’s leader decide which movie to watch if you don’t care, but it’s not OK for the queen bee to determine on her own who’s invited to go to the movie. If you happen to have a child who’s the leader of her clique, you can help her cultivate empathy by regularly asking her how her friends are feeling and doing.

3. Cliques can be physically painful. Research shows that exclusion triggers activity in the same part of the brain that controls physical pain, says Judith V. Jordan, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. For some kids, ejection from a friend group can be more painful than being rejected by a crush because that pain involves only one person. “When you’re pushed out of a clique, that’s an entire group of people who don’t value you, care about you, or want to hang out with you,” says MacEvoy.

4. Your child’s pain is easy to downplay—but don’t. Yes, you know clique trouble is a universal experience and we pretty much all survive. But it’s important to take your child’s grief seriously. If the situation seems to demand it, ask teachers for help in making sure the exclusion isn’t overt or cruel. (Have them keep an eye out for bullying and name calling.) At home, listen to your child’s daily recaps (if she’s willing to share) and empathize, says MacEvoy. Tell her you understand why she’s so upset and that you would be, too. But don’t go that extra step of disparaging or belittling other kids. As much as it may feel good to both of you in the moment, it sets the wrong example and could make reconciliation difficult for your child later.

5. Role play at home will make school easier. To help make the days ahead feel surmountable, ask your child if she would like to talk through hypothetical social scenarios. What should your child do if she has to eat lunch by herself? (Maybe she can read a book while she eats, or you two can talk about who else she could approach.) What should she do if one of the girls says something mean to her? (Walk away.) For younger kids (up to around age 11 or 12), this exercise tends to feel empowering, says MacEvoy. Teenagers may find it cheesy; offer them an ear instead. If there’s potential for your child to patch things up or make amends, discuss the reasons for the exclusion in the first place. “Often it involves a member of the opposite sex—especially in adolescence—or just sheer jealousy,” says MacEvoy. If your child offended just one member of her clique (and the rest of the girls are excluding her as an act of solidarity), encourage your kid to talk to the person with whom there’s a real problem. If they can make up, it may be possible for the whole group to get back together, albeit with a bit of tension in the ranks.

6. Sometimes you just have to find new friends. When a group has truly caused pain—or formally ousted your child—she may have no choice but to leave it behind and seek out new friends. If she’s feeling intimidated (and who wouldn’t be?), talk about trying to make just one new friend rather than entering a whole new clique. Think about it: There’s a world of difference between eating lunch alone and eating lunch across from someone else. Having additional friends is great, too, but children are much less lonely when they have even one supportive friend, says Steven R. Asher, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University, in Durham, North Carolina. It’s ultimately up to your child to find this new buddy (or buddies), but you can lay the groundwork. Nudge her toward a club, a sport, a volunteer activity, or even an after-school job where she can meet peers with similar interests. And take heart in the knowledge that this lonely state isn’t forever. Faris and his colleagues conducted an eight-week study in which they asked kids in the 8th through 12th grades to name their best friends every few weeks. “We found a shocking amount of turnover,” he says. In other words: Your child may feel excluded on Friday, but that doesn’t mean she’ll still be on the outs come Monday morning.

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This article originally appeared on RealSimple.com.

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MONEY TV

Nickelodeon Thinks You’ll Pay $6 a Month for a Netflix for Preschoolers

Blue's Clues
Nick Jr. Blue's Clues

If you think your toddler needs more screen time—and if you somehow don't already have more than enough child-friendly streaming options—Nickelodeon has the product for you.

This week, Nickelodeon announced that it is launching a new app for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch, available at Apple’s App Store starting March 5. The app will be a subscription video service called Noggin—the same name of the cable TV channel that was a predecessor of Nick Jr.—and it will offer as much ad-free viewing of “Blue’s Clues,” “Little Bear,” and other preschooler fare as your little one’s eyeballs can handle, at a price of $5.99 per month.

As Variety noted, “Nickelodeon continues to grapple with ratings declines at its traditional TV network, owing to viewers seeking video content on new kinds of screens.” In a recent week, Nickelodeon’s ratings among kids were down 35% compared to the same period a year ago. So you can’t blame the Viacom-owned network for trying to do something to boost its audience and revenues.

But who is going to pay $5.99 a month this service? Starting at just $2 more monthly, you can be a subscriber to Netflix, which has plenty of content for children of all ages—it’s even been adding reboots of kids’ shows like “Care Bears,” “Magic School Bus,” and “Inspector Gadget”—as well as movies and shows for adults. The vast majority of consumers who are intrigued with streaming already subscribe to one or more service, such as Netflix, Amazon Instant Video (free for Prime members), or Hulu Plus, all of which have sections full of kids’ content. There’s also plenty of free kid-friendly streaming video out there (PBS Kids, for example). Finally, if you have a pay TV subscription that includes Nickelodeon, as most packages do, you can download the Nick Jr. app for free and watch unlimited, ad-free full episodes of “Dora the Explorer,” “Bubble Guppies,” and such.

It’s unclear, then, why all that many families would need to pay another $6 a month for yet more preschooler streaming content.

If there’s a parallel in the industry, it’s CBS All-Access, the subscription streaming option that also charges $5.99 per month—and that many observers assume will fail. At least the CBS product is targeting adults, most obviously folks who are big fans of the network’s shows, such as “The Good Wife” and various versions of “CSI” and “NCIS,” as well as older programs like “Brady Bunch” and “Star Trek.”

CBS All-Access has some hope of attracting grownup subscribers who are picky about what they watch and who like CBS’s programming. But how many preschoolers do you know are picky about what they watch? Most of the kids we know are more than happy to be allowed to watch something—anything—on the iPad while their parents enjoy their meal at the restaurant.

TIME Parenting

How to Parent Like a German

mother rushing son to school
Getty Images

An American mom finds some surprising habits

The first time I went to a playground in Berlin, I freaked. All the German parents were huddled together, drinking coffee, not paying attention to their children who were hanging off a wooden dragon 20 feet above a sand pit. Where were the piles of soft padded foam? The liability notices? The personal injury lawyers?

Achtung! Nein!” I cried in my bad German. Both kids and parents ignored me.

Contrary to stereotypes, most German parents I’ve met are the opposite of strict. They place a high value on independence and responsibility. Those parents at the park weren’t ignoring their children; they were trusting them. Berlin doesn’t need a “free range parenting” movement because free range is the norm.

Here are a few surprising things Berlin parents do:

Don’t push reading. Berlin’s kindergartens or “kitas” don’t emphasize academics. In fact, teachers and other parents discouraged me from teaching my children to read. I was told it was something special the kids learn together when they start grade school. Kindergarten was a time for play and social learning. But even in first grade, academics aren’t pushed very hard. Our grade school provides a half-day of instruction interrupted by two (two!) outdoor recesses. But don’t think this relaxed approach means a poor education: According to a 2012 assessment by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, German 15-year-olds perform well above the international average when it comes to reading, math and science while their more pressured American counterparts lag behind.

Encourage kids to play with fire. A note came home from school along with my excited second grader. They were doing a project on fire. Would I let her light candles and perform experiments with matches? Together we lit candles and burned things, safely. It was brilliant. Still, she was the only kid whose parent didn’t allow her to shoot off heavy duty fireworks on New Year’s Eve.

Let children go almost everywhere alone. Most grade school kids walk without their parents to school and around their neighborhoods. Some even take the subway alone. German parents are concerned about safety, of course, but they usually focus on traffic, not abductions.

The facts seem to be on the Germans’ side. Stranger abductions are extremely rare; there were only 115 a year in all of America, according to the most recent U.S. Department of Justice study. And walking around without parental supervision, or “independent mobility” as the researchers call it, is good for kids.

Party when school starts. One of my Berlin friends once told me that the three biggest life events are Einschulung (starting first grade), Jugendweihe (becoming a young adult) and getting married.

In Berlin, Einschulung is a huge celebration at the school—on a Saturday!—that includes getting a Zuckertute—a giant child-sized cone filled with everything from pencils to watches to candy. Then there’s another party afterwards with your family and friends. Einschulung is something children look forward to for years. It signals a major life change, and hopefully, an enthusiasm for learning.

Jugendweihe happens when a child turns 14. It involves a similar ceremony, party, and gifts, marking the next stage of growing up. With all the negativity heaped on adolescents, there’s something to be said for this way of celebrating young adulthood.

Take the kids outside everyday. According to a German saying “there is no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing.” The value of outside time is promoted in the schools, hence the “garten” in Kindergarten. It’s also obvious on Berlin’s numerous playgrounds. No matter how cold and grey it gets, and in Berlin it gets pretty cold, parents still bundle their kids up and take them to the park, or send them out on their own.

Which brings me back to that dragon—since moving here, I’ve tried to adopt some of the Berlin attitude, and my 8-year-old has climbed all over the dragon. But I still hesitate to let her walk alone in our very urban neighborhood.

I’ve taken one small step. I let her go to the bakery by herself. It’s just down the stairs and one door over. The first time she did this, she came back beaming, proudly handing me the rolls she bought herself.

I figured there was no need to tell her that her American mother was out on the balcony, watching her the whole time.

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