TIME Parenting

How News Coverage of the Boston Marathon Manhunt Affected Local Kids

Explosions At 117th Boston Marathon
Women and children are evacuated from the scene on Boylston Street after two explosions went off near the finish line of the 117th Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013. Bill Greene—Boston Globe/Getty Images

You may not be surprised to learn that children who attended the 2013 Boston Marathon were six times more likely than non-attendees to suffer from PTSD. Given the carnage and panic wrought by the bombs, which caused 3 deaths and 264 injuries, you’d expect more trauma symptoms from those on the scene. But a new study reports that kids who had up-close views of the ensuing manhunt were just as likely to suffer PTSD as those with near exposure to the bombing. And kids who may not have had first-hand experience of either—well, the more news coverage they watched, the more mental health disturbances they suffered.

The study, published online June 2 in Pediatrics, surveyed 460 parents of children who lived within 25 miles of the marathon or of Watertown, where the manhunt took place. They were asked about their children’s experiences during the week of the attack and about their psychological and social functioning in the following six months. The investigators, led by psychologist Jonathan Comer, formerly of Boston University and now at Florida International University, were interested in the impact both of the bombing and of its ripple effects afterward. They also wanted to measure both PTSD and less severe mental health issues such as conduct and peer problems, hyperactivity and inattention. Interestingly, they found an even stronger link between broad mental health problems among the kids with dramatic exposure to the manhunt (hearing shots, having their house searched, for example) than among kids with similar sensory experience of the bombing itself.

The investigators also measured both the time the children spent glued to the set and whether parents had tried to limit their news viewing. Overall, the kids watched an average of 1.5 hours of attack coverage and more than 20% watched for over three hours. “Two thirds of the parents did not attempt to restrict their children’s viewing at all,” Comer says. “Yet we saw after Oklahoma City and 911 that TV exposure can have negative mental health effects on children, both near and far.”

Experts on children and media tend to agree that restricting children’s media exposure to violent events is critical. Casey Jordan, a criminologist and justice professor at Western Connecticut State University, says that adults can put in context the sensationalism of media coverage designed to create a sense of danger. But children generally cannot. “The best rule,” he says, “is TURN IT OFF unless you really have a suspect on the lam in your neighborhood.” Just get the basic facts, he suggests, and do so by Internet if possible.

Parents can help their children through these scary times by speaking to them honestly but calmly about what is happening and letting them express their reactions and fears. “It’s important to reassure them that they are safe,” says psychologist Daniel J. Flannery, who directs the Begun Center for Violence Prevention Research and Education at Case Western Reserve University. “Explain,” he says, “that the event was very unusual, and sometimes bad people do bad things but not everybody is like that. Their sense of normalcy has been taken away from them, and they need to get that back. “

Calm matters, agrees Jordan. “Do not go off on a tangent about ‘those people’ or a rant about who is to blame,” he says. “Children are sponges, they will learn from parents’ own reaction to crime and chaos, and absorb all the fall-out from what they hear and see.”

This new study suggests that parents be alert to changes in their kids even months after—and miles away from—a violent incident. Are they eating or sleeping less—or more? Are they more withdrawn or anxious, acting out at school or with friends? The children may not have been personally involved in the traumatic event, suggests this research, but they may still be suffering trauma. “The reach of terror and associated fear,” write the authors, “is not confined to the boundaries of an attack itself.”

MONEY Shopping

SPF? UVB? PhD! The Complex Science of Sunscreen Shopping

Woman in swimsuit applying suntan lotion or sun block
Tom Merton—Ocean/Corbis

If you're not worried about choosing the wrong sunscreen, you haven't been paying attention.

Everybody knows that they should wear sunscreen to avoid sunburns and skin cancer. But apparently, you can’t just slather on any old product. These days, the risks of using the wrong sunscreen are said to include hormonal imbalances, nanoparticle inhalation, and the outside chance of setting oneself on fire.

Hey, we were just getting the hang of the traditional acronyms associated with sunscreens—SPF (sun protection factor), UVA, UVB (the two varieties of ultraviolet rays). Now we also have to think about oxybenzone, avobenzone, and titanium dioxide, just to name a few. Because many of these scary-sounding chemicals are, indeed, tied to legitimate health concerns, the question is not Should I wear sunscreen? but, to paraphrase a Slate writer, Which sunscreen won’t kill my kid?

In light of all the complications, the common-sense approach might just be to go with a well-known brand like Coppertone. In a post for the St. Louis College of Pharmacy, Abby Yancey, an associate professor at the school, explained that’s what she did, sending a double pack of Coppertone spray with her child to daycare.

Then Yancey got an e-mail from the daycare service stating that children should not bring sunscreens containing oxybenzone. Sure enough, there was oxybenzone in the Coppertone. And when Yancey went back to Target, there was oxybenzone in pretty much every sunscreen in the store. What’s so bad about oxybenzone? Yancey didn’t know, so she Googled it—yes, even pharmacy college professors have to Google this stuff—and found out that it’s absorbed into the skin, and some people “believe oxybenzone can cause hormonal imbalance” in users.

So there you are: Even pharmacists are flummoxed. Which would be reassuring if it weren’t also frightening.

There are plenty of other sunscreen-related concerns to freak out about not mentioned by Yancey. Like, oh, the possibility that using spray sunscreen could mean you’ll burst into flames, or at least get a bad burn—not a sunburn, a regular fire-type burn—if you’re near an open flame, such as a barbecue grill. That’s according to the FDA, which warns that because many of these products contain alcohol, which is flammable, “if you apply certain sunscreen sprays and then come close to a source of flame, you may risk the sunscreen catching fire and giving you a serious burn.”

As for some other basics, such as the proper distance for applying spray sunscreen—again, far away from any open flames!—the experts aren’t always on the same page. Yancey’s post recommends that users “be sure to hold the container 4 to 6 inches from the skin.” In the June issue of Health, meanwhile, Joshua Zeichner, M.D., the director of cosmetic and clinical research in the department of dermatology at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York, says, “Hold the nozzle 1 to 2 inches away from the skin.” At least everyone agrees that you should rub in the sunscreen after applying. (Ideally, not while you’re also flipping burgers on the grill.)

Experts also tend to agree on something that seems rather disconcerting to the consumer who doesn’t want to spend more than three seconds picking out a sunscreen: A lot of what’s on store shelves should be avoided.

In the latest tests of 20 sunscreens by Consumer Reports, only two of the products provided the SPF protection claimed on their packages after the wearer was immersed in water. One of the sunscreens tested offered only half the claimed SPF after being in water.

After running its own tests, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) issued a guide promising that “Sun Safety Gets Easier,” while offering a dire warning about the majority of products on the market:

Two-thirds of the sunscreens in our analysis don’t work well enough or contain ingredients that may be toxic. American stores are still stocked with inferior products.

The EWG “Easier” guide features page after page of alarming info, including the idea that many high SPF claims are misleading (SPF100 isn’t twice as effective as SPF50), that Vitamin A, found in 20% of sunscreens, “may speed the development of skin tumors and lesions,” and that mineral sunscreens, which are generally zinc oxide and titanium dioxide-based, and which actually get a favorable rating from the EWG and most experts, are of concern because they contain nanoparticles, which are dangerous if inhaled. (Side note: The FDA has also issued warnings about the dangers of inhaling spray sunscreens. And Consumer Reports notes that zinc oxide and titanium dioxide “have been linked to reproductive and developmental effects in animals.”)

Even so, deep within the EWG guide, you’ll find the seemingly straightforward recommendation: “Zinc oxide is EWG’s first choice for sun protection.” Overwhelmingly, however, the EWG hammers home the point that every effort should be made to limit sun exposure and sunburn. “Don’t depend on sunscreen,” the study states. “People who rely on sunscreens tend to burn, and burns are linked to cancer.”

Likewise, there’s this shocking finding from CR:

Research shows that people who rely on sunscreens alone tend to burn more than those who stay in the shade and wear long sleeves.

Wow. Who would have guessed?

Seriously, for those who feel compelled to escape the shade occasionally, and who want to buy a sunscreen without having to get a PhD in chemistry, do the bare minimum and be sure the product has an SPF of at least 15, and that the FDA-approved phrase “broad spectrum” is on the label. That should help protect you from the most harmful rays. And take CR’s helpful, common-sense reminder to heart: “Using any sunscreen is better than using none.”

MONEY Tourism

How Theme Parks Are Killing Spontaneous Fun

A child shows excitement at the entrance to Disneyland Paris, France. Image shot 07/2009. Exact date unknown.
Howard Sayer—Alamy

Nowadays, going to a theme park on a whim means you'll pay through the nose and spend more time on line than the folks who booked in advance.

Carefree, spontaneous family fun? It’s been a long time since a visit to a popular theme park fit that description. Nowadays, showing up out of the blue, with no prebooked reservations or admission tickets, to Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, SeaWorld, or pretty much any other major theme park is unwise, to put it mildly.

The savvy mouse-ear-hat-wearing enthusiast would laugh at the idea of arriving at a big theme park on a whim. At wdwinfo.com, one of dozens of unofficial Disney park web guides, the #1 rookie mistake (among a dizzying 20 possible mistakes listed) is the failure to plan ahead. To give you an idea of how seriously folks take this, another Disney-focused site calls itself wdwprepschool, where parents can study up and do reams and reams of homework on how to have a relaxed, leisurely vacation.

What’s so bad about just crashing the gates of the Magic Kingdom? For starters, it will cost you. Earlier in 2014, Walt Disney World in Orlando raised its walk-up single-day price $99 ($105 after taxes), up from $89 a year earlier. Universal Studios followed up immediately with a price hike of its own. More recently, Disneyland in California raised its prices, hitting the $150 mark for a one-day Parkhopper pass good for entrance to Disney’s two area parks.

While the price hikes usually affect all manner of admissions—multi-day, season passes, etc.—the promotional structure increasingly rewards travelers who buy multi-day tickets in advance with an array of discounts and benefits. (There’s a good counterargument about the foolishness of spending a ton of money over the course of several days in order to cut one’s average per-day costs, but let’s not get into that now.)

The most recent example of theme parks pushing aggressively to make customers buy admissions ahead of time comes from SeaWorld, which raised its one-day walk-up price to $95, while also introducing a new advance-purchase discount that knocks off $15 (for weekends and holidays) or $30 (most weekdays) to guests buying online ahead of time.

One common argument in favor of raising theme park prices says that doing so benefits park visitors by providing them with more elbow room. SeaWorld, for one, says that it has deliberately lowered visitor numbers by way of higher admissions prices, in order to make the experience better for visitors who have paid top dollar to see Shamu and the rest.

Then again, price hikes can be explained in a simpler way: Theme park operators charge more because they can. Each year, prices inch up by a few bucks, and each year, the tourists keep showing up in strong numbers. Until theme park enthusiasts start staying away in droves, there’s no business justification for slowing the rise of admissions prices.

While paying extra for a spontaneous theme park visit is annoying, visitors arguably pay a much steeper cost in terms of wasted time by doing what comes naturally on vacation: just wandering around, casually looking for fun. As the Orlando Sentinel reported, SeaWorld just added a new feature to its mobile app, allowing guests to buy its QuickQueue line-skipping service, for $19, via smartphone, even when waiting in a line at SeaWorld.

The app feature is one of a long line of services and guest options that not only make it possible to plan nearly every minute of one’s theme park visit in advance, they make it seem foolish and wasteful to not plan nearly every minute of one’s theme park visit in advance.

From line-skipping passes and wristbands, to dinner reservations and character breakfasts that must be booked months ahead of time, to the walk-up admission price premium, the goal of theme park companies is clear: They want guests to visit multiple days rather than one random day at a time, and they want guests to plan and pay for their big trips long in advance.

Is this what park guests want? The theme parks don’t really care, so long as people keep showing up.

TIME

How Genealogy Became Almost as Popular as Porn

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Andrew Bret Wallis—Getty Images

Believe it or not, Americans are obsessed with ancestry, which has spawned a billion-dollar cottage industry

Alex Haley, author of the hugely popular 1976 book Roots, once said that black Americans needed their own version of Plymouth Rock, a genesis story that didn’t begin — or end — at slavery. His 900-page American family saga, which reached back to 18th century Gambia, certainly delivered on that. But it also shared with all Americans the emotional and intellectual rewards that can come with discovering the identity of your ancestors.

No one knew it at the time, but Haley’s best seller — and the blockbuster television miniseries that aired a year later — were the beginnings of a genealogy craze that would sweep the nation.

Four decades later, genealogy is the second most popular hobby in the U.S. after gardening, according to ABC News, and the second most visited category of websites, after pornography. It’s a billion-dollar industry that has spawned profitable websites, television shows, scores of books and — with the advent of over-the-counter genetic test kits — a cottage industry in DNA ancestry testing.

During and after the 2008 presidential campaign, the press had a field day researching the family histories of Barack and Michelle Obama. Indeed, the winner of that election first came to the public eye as the author of Dreams From My Father, what he called an “autobiography, memoir, family history, or something else” that was essentially the tale of a young man desperately trying to find his own identity by exploring his unknown family past.

Genealogy has always had a following in the U.S. But prior to the civil rights movement, which encouraged racial and ethnic minorities to embrace their previously marginalized identities, the study of family history was largely the province of white social climbers and racists. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with millions of southern Europeans arriving on American shores, white elites often sought to maintain their social status by promoting a definition of whiteness that excluded newcomers. Genealogy became a way for them to prove their credentials and gain entry into such hereditary societies as the Daughters of the American Revolution, which was founded in 1890 and stood for, in the words of its president general, “the purity of our Caucasian blood.”

By the late 1960s and early 1970s, such bald-faced white supremacy was in retreat, the vibrant immigrant identities of the early 20th century had largely been assimilated, and the women’s movement was challenging old-fashioned gender roles. In other words: the very institutions that once defined our ancestors’ identities were very much in flux.

All this tumult is what made identity crisis and finding yourself household terms. The publication, production and popularity of Roots were part and parcel of a newfound need to locate oneself in uncertain cultural terrain.

The great irony is that many Americans — particularly those who were several generations removed from the immigrant experience — were trying to find personal meaning in their ancestry long after their heritage ceased to play a meaningful role in their lives. In 1986 psychologist Roy F. Baumeister concluded rather cynically that genealogy’s popularity stemmed from the fact that it was the only “quest for self-knowledge” that boasted a “well-defined method,” whose “techniques were clear cut, a matter of definite questions with definite answers.”

Religion and technology helped make the search for those answers even easier. In the 1960s, the Mormon Church — which espouses the doctrine of baptism of the dead by proxy and encourages its members to research their unbaptized ancestors — opened branch genealogical libraries throughout the country. In the 1970s, these libraries began to receive more and more non-Mormon patrons.

In the 1990s, digital technology and the Internet revolutionized the way large amounts of information could be reproduced, transferred and retrieved. Moving genealogical databases online then made it possible for tens of millions more Americans to research their families in the comfort of their own homes. A hobby once dominated by persnickety elites was now fully democratized and focused on identity rather than pedigree.

A few years ago, my father spent a year researching his family roots. At the end of his journey, he presented each of his children with an ornate album containing his findings, which reach back to the early 18th century in what is today Chihuahua, Mexico.

While I admired the work he’d done and thought most of what he’d found pretty cool, none of it struck me as having the power to change the way I saw myself in the world. But that was before I looked more closely at the photocopy from the 1900 census he had placed under a laminated sheet. It was then that I discovered that my great-grandfather Federico Rodriguez, who worked as a smelter in a large copper mine in eastern Arizona, had arrived in the U.S. as early as 1893. Before, I had thought both my mother’s and father’s families came to the U.S. in the 1910s during the Mexican Revolution. We hadn’t known much about the paternal side of my dad’s family.

But suddenly, there it was: proof that my dad’s grandfather was living and working and raising a family in Arizona 19 years before it became a state of the Union.

It’s silly, I know, but every time I fly to the Grand Canyon State, I’m tempted to get off the plane wearing one of those black Pilgrim hats with buckles. Now I understand why so many millions of Americans love it. Genealogy is fun.

Gregory Rodriguez is the founder and publisher of Zocalo Public Square, for which he writes the Imperfect Union column. This piece originally appeared at Zocalo Public Square.

TIME Media

‘Sexy’ Toddlers In a New Diaper Ad Kick Up Controversy

Israeli parents protest a provactive new commercial for faux-denim diapers

A new diaper campaign in Israel is stoking criticism for putting toddlers in sexy poses.

The video ad, produced by McCann-Erickson, hocks Huggies new denim diapers, which they posit are fashion forward enough to build little outfits around. In the video, child models accessorize their underpants-jeans with sunglasses, straw hats and guitars. A girl baby adjusts a boy’s bow tie. Another sticks her chest out in one shot, and poses with legs apart and finger in her mouth in another. The 20 second spot is set to music that sounds like a rip-off of Madonna’s 1990 hit, “Vogue,” and had this been shown to me without a timestamp, I’d have guessed the ad was produced around the same time, rather than now.

These little kids seem to move more awkwardly than sexually, as small people tend to do, but that’s not how some Israeli parents feel about the ads.

One local father compared the baby models frozen on billboards to the come-hither pose of Israeli model, Bar Refaeli on a nearby advertisement, according to Vocativ. One Tweeter said the campaign belongs in the Red Light District, while another simply said “@huggies WTF?”

Maybe selling something on the backs of provocatively dressed little people is new for Israel, but not for America where, since the 90s, we have become quite skilled at it. JonBenet Ramsey begat TLC’s Toddlers and Tiaras, which has long had the dolled up toddler crown on lock. That fixation produced the beloved Honey Boo Boo, whose unique brand and zany family earned her a show of her own.

Not long ago, Vogue Paris was skewered for a spread that depicted little girls in kitten heels, makeup and sultry pouts. Gwyneth Paltrow drew ire over an exclusive line of ruffly kiddie bikinis designed for her lifestyle bible, Goop. Dolls from Barbie to Bratz have been deemed too sexualized for child’s play, but they’re still available for purchase.

Compared to all of the above, these poorly produced Huggies ads seem distasteful, yet tame.

TIME Family

Dads Who Wash the Dishes Raise More Aspirational Daughters

Father and daughter sitting at table in kitchen
Getty Images

New research finds that daughters of men who help out at home tend to select from a broader range of career options than the daughters of families in which chores are not equitably shared

Dads who want their daughters to aim for prestigious professions should start by doing the dishes or loading the washing machine, a new study suggests.

The study, to be published in the journal Psychological Science, found that fathers who perform household chores are more likely to bring up daughters who break out of the mold of traditionally female jobs and aspire to careers in business, legal and other professions, CTV reports.

Alyssa Croft, lead author of the study, and a doctoral candidate at the University of British Columbia, said the study suggested “girls grow up with broader career goals in households where domestic duties are shared more equitably by parents.”

The study involved a survey of 326 children, between 7 and 13 years old, and at least one of their parents.

[CTV]

TIME Parenting

16 Experts for Every Parenting Problem

There is no fail-safe formula for good parenting, but that hasn’t stopped generations of psychologists, pediatricians, bloggers and scientists from claiming to know the secrets of raising happy, well-adjusted kids. There are, of course, the classic experts like Benjamin Spock, Penelope Leach, William Sears and Richard Ferber. But every year there are new gurus–recently, we’ve heard about the French way, the Tiger Mom way, the mindful way and the Slacker Mom way to parent.

To help you sort through the noise, we’ve put together a diverse list of voices on parenting at all stages—from infant sleep issues, to toddler food struggles, teen cliques and technology quandaries at all ages. And if they can’t help, there’s always your community, says Wendy Sue Swanson, a parenting blogger and author. “The most influential parenting voice these days is the tribe,” she says. “It’s the aggregation of parents and professionals you listen to on Facebook or Twitter.”

  • Ellyn Satter: Ending Power Struggles Over Food

    Ellyn Satter Author
    Courtesy of Ellyn Satter

    Nutritionist Satter offers strategies and advice to guide parents and children toward a diet that’s diverse and healthy. Her signature Division of Responsibility in Feeding manifesto helps parents avoid the negative power struggles that lead to stressful mealtimes, unhealthy diets and longtime picky eaters. Satter has written several books on child nutrition, including Child of Mine: Feeding with Love and Good Sense and Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family: How to Eat, How to Raise Good Eaters, How to Cook.

     

  • Jennifer Senior: The Challenge of Being a Modern Parent

    Ecco

    In the introduction to All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood, Senior warns readers that her book is not intended to be a manual of child-rearing advice. “Tilt your head and stare long enough, and it’s possible you’ll make some out. But that is not my primary objective.” Instead, Senior’s book strives to explain why and how modern American parenting has become an all-consuming, stressful task that, too often, is no fun at all. The book is a deep and thorough study of the effects of children on parents and a reminder that often the happiest parents make the best parents, so moms and dads should take care of themselves as well as their children.

     

  • Rosalind Wiseman: Understanding the Social Angst of Teenagers

    Rosalind Wiseman
    Courtesy of Rosalind Wiseman

    Best known for writing Queen Bees and Wannabes, the book that became the movie Mean Girls, Wiseman’s contention that adolescent girls and boys have different problems—and need different strategies for finding success and happiness—has changed the way parents and educators view teenage angst and discord. After her blockbuster book on girls, Wiseman published a parallel book on boys in 2013, Masterminds & Wingmen. Wiseman bases her conclusions and advice on interviews with real live kids and her down-to-Earth guidance is as accessible as it is sensible.

     

  • Paul Tough: Building Character

    Tough is the author of Whatever it Takes, a book about Geoffrey Canada’s effort to pull kids out of poverty through the Harlem Children’s Zone, an education-focused non-profit organization in New York City. In his latest book, How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character, Tough writes that kids who can adversity and overcome it are best prepared for success and happiness. Writing about poor and rich kids, Tough contends that making home environments more supportive but less insulating creates kids with character, the most important ingredient to success later in life.

  • Heather Armstrong: Connecting Parents, Creating Community

    NBC/Getty Images

    Armstrong is the original mommy blogger. Her blog, Dooce, got her fired from her day job in 2002 and turned into a full-time gig she’s been working every since. Chronicling the events, problems and day-to-day hilarity of managing her family—along with her postpartum depression—Armstrong has attracted millions of readers and become a flashpoint in the debate over the pitfalls and benefits of sharing personal stories online. In 2009, she launched The Dooce Community, an online forum where her readers ask questions and offer advice to each other. The forum provides an outlet for Armstrong’s loyal followers and a resource for all parents looking to connect.

     

  • Marc Weissbluth: Ending Sleep Deprivation

    Marc Weissbluth Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child
    Ballantine Books/Random House

    It’s been 15 years since Weissbluth’s Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child was published, yet the book is still one of the most popular baby sleep books on the market. While Weissbluth’s book emphasizes the critical importance of sleep for babies—offering strategies and programs for achieving great nap schedules and nighttime rest—parents turn to the book for their own shut-eye needs as well. Moms and dads trapped in the fog of sleep deprivation often have trouble designing sleep plans that work. They can find relief in Weissbluth book—if they can stay awake long enough to read it.

     

  • Wendy Sue Swanson: Practical Medical Advice

    A pediatrician at Seattle Children’s Hospital, Swanson started blogging in 2010 and has since gained more than 20,000 Twitter followers. Her must-read blog, SeattleMamaDoc.org, doles out advice on everything from vaccines, autism (and why the two are not related) to commentary on news events related to parenting and health. Swanson gave a TEDx talk in 2013 on how doctors can use the internet and social media to connect with patients and kids and published her first book, Mama Doc Medicine: Finding Calm and Confidence in Parenting, Child Health, and Work-Life Balance, earlier this year.

     

  • Harvey Karp: Soothing Fussy Babies

    Karp published his seminal book, The Happiest Baby on the Block, back in 2002, but his advice on how to calm fussy babies is still guiding millions of new parents across America. Ever wonder why seemingly every baby registry includes a sound machine and a swaddling blanket? Thank Karp. His five-part prescription for soothing colicky babies and getting infants to sleep has grown into an empire. Karp published a follow-up book geared specifically to parents of toddlers and frequently travels to lecture parents and health professionals on how to care for babies and small children.

     

  • Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish: Family Communication

    How To Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish
    Scribner

    Faber and Mazlish have been giving parenting advice for more than three decades and are still revered as some of the most accessible and sensible experts on how to communicate with children. How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk was first published in the 1980s and has since been reissued and translated into some 20 languages. Educators and counselors often recommend Faber and Mazlish’s book for its lessons on how to handle conflict, connect with kids and respect their feelings while building strong family relationships. Faber and Mazlish’s also wrote another well-known tome, Siblings Without Rivalry.

     

  • Wendy Mogel: Raising Resilient and Self-Reliant Kids

    Although her book, Blessings of a Skinned Knee, links lessons in parenting to Judaism, parents of all faiths will find useful wisdom in Mogel’s highly regarded volume. Mogel is a clinical psychologist and teaches strategies for raising resilient children. Blessings offers a counter balance to the trend of parents scheduling too many activities for kids and jumping in to save them from every minor pain or moment of adversity. Sometimes it’s fine to just back off and let kids figure things out on their own, advises Mogel. Amen.

     

  • Madeline Levine: Quelling the Urge to Over-Parent

    HarperCollins Publishers

    Because the over-parenting movement has become so pervasive, it seems necessary to highlight a second expert trying to reverse the tide. Levine’s Teach Your Children Well tells parents that raising happy kids is just as important—and maybe even more important—than raising kids that are high achievers. In fact, she argues that focusing on achievement over all else may produce more unhappiness than pride in accomplishment, while also setting kids up for devastating disappointment if they stumble along the way. Levine is a psychologist and offers advice on how to avoid these pitfalls and encourage children to find success and contentment that’s deep and sustaining.

     

  • Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman: Parenting With Science

    Po Bronson Ashley Merryman Nurtureshock
    Ahsley Merryman and Po Bronson attend the WIRED Business Conference: Think Bigger at the Museum of Jewish Heritage on May 7, 2013 in New York City. Brad Barket—Getty Images

    Bronson and Merryman’s Nutureshock upended much of the conventional wisdom that has guided parents for generations, beginning with their revelation that praising kids often does more harm than good. From neuroscience to studies on relationships between parents, children and siblings, the book uses research to explain some of the most vexing problems parents face in the modern age. Bronson and Merryman aren’t parenting gurus in the traditional sense; their collaboration also produced a book on the science of winning and losing. But their journalistic approach to parenting occupies an important space in the cannon of child-rearing manuals.

     

  • Deborah Roffman: How to Talk About Sex With Kids

    Talk To me First by Deborah Roffman
    Da Capo Lifelong Books

    Of all the challenging and seemingly critical moments in parenting, having the sex talk may be the most awkward. Roffman is here to hold parents’ hands as they navigate this terrain. She’s written two books on communicating with kids about sex—Talk to Me First: Everything You Need to Know to Become Your Kids’ “Go-To” Person About Sex and Sex and Sensibility: The Thinking Parent’s Guide to Talking Sense about Sex. Roffman is a consultant for educators and teaches sex ed at a school in Baltimore.

     

  • Daniel Siegel: Brain Development

    Written with co-author Tina Payne Bryson, Siegel’s The Whole Brain Child explains how various steps in a kid’s brain development lead to specific feelings and behavior. The authors combine this explanation with strategies for cultivating emotional intelligence in children. Siegel, also an expert in mindfulness, has written or co-written several other books on parenting including Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain, published in January, and No-Drama Discipline, set to be published later this year.

  • Catherine Steiner-Adair: Navigating the Screen-Time Wars

    Many parenting struggles remain stubbornly the same generation after generation, but digital technology and smart phones have created a truly new paradigm and loads of confusion about how to manage everything from social media to screen time. Clinical psychologist Steiner-Adair is in the less texting, more talking camp, evidenced by her book on the subject, titled The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age. In the book, Steiner-Adair, who lectures and consults on the topic of digital technology and kids, warns that this new world is damaging interpersonal family relationships and offers advice about how to manage the phones, computers and tablets that are here to stay.

  • Bruce Feiler: Managing Family Dynamics With Business Strategies

    Bruce Feiler
    Courtesy of Bruce Feiler

    In his book, The Secrets of Happy Families, Feiler recounts what he learned from experts in industries unrelated to parenting. Borrowing techniques and strategies used in business, the military and other organizations, Feiler offers advice on how to have productive family meetings, argue well and cultivate creativity and resilience in kids. A best-selling author of books on Christian topics and other matters, Feiler’s advice is clear and simple.

     

TIME Family

Emma Thompson Thinks Moms Should Take a Year Off From Work

Jameson Empire Awards 2014 - Inside Arrivals
Emma Thompson arrives at the Jameson Empire Awards 2014 at The Grosvenor House Hotel on March 30, 2014 in London, England. David M. Benett—Getty Images

The British star is just the latest actress to offer unsolicited parenting advice

Emma Thompson, who recently starred as the Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers in Saving Mr. Banks, took a year-long break from her acting career to spend time with her 14-year-old daughter and recommends other mothers do the same.

“You can’t be a great mum and keep working all the time,” she said in an interview with the Daily Mail published Saturday. “I wanted to spend more time with my family. A year off was my birthday present to myself. I didn’t actually act or write. I was just a mum.”

Thompson said she spent time teaching drama at her daughter’s school and cooking. “I highly recommend others to do the same if they can afford it.”

Luckily for the Love Actually star, she can afford it: Thompson is reportedly worth roughly $50 million, according to Page Six. Not all moms have that luxury, and some even argue that balancing work and family life makes you a better mom. Working moms are understandably upset by Thompson’s comments: “It doesn’t matter if you work, as long as you show your child that you’re engaged when you are home,” Laura Deutsch, a mom of two and co-founder of Mommybites, told Page Six.

Thompson’s comments may feel a little tone deaf — especially when taken out of context — but she’s just the latest actress to stir up controversy with her parenting advice. Gwyneth Paltrow came under fire recently for implying that mothers who work nine-to-five jobs have it easier than genetically-gifted actresses with lifestyle brands.

In fact, Angelina Jolie seems to be the only celeb mom who can make a comment about the trials and tribulations of motherhood without causing an outrage.

“I’m not a single mom with two jobs trying to get by every day,” she told the New York Daily News.”I have much more support than most people, most women in this world. And I have the financial means to have a home and health care and food.”

“When I feel I’m doing too much, I do less, if I can,” she said. “And that’s why I’m in a rare position where I don’t have to do job after job. I can take time when my family needs it.”

TIME Family

Divorce: Shared Custody of Kids is on the Rise

Custody to moms only may soon be a thing of the past

Fewer mothers than ever are being given sole custody of their children as shared custody is on the rise.

A new study of Wisconsin Court Records published in Demography shows that from 1988 to 2008, the percentage of mothers who were awarded sole custody of their kids plummeted from 80% to 42%, but that was accompanied by a steep rise in joint custody arrangements. Over the same period of time, equal shared custody rose from 5% to 27% and unequal shared custody rose from 3% to 18%. Father-only custody stayed roughly the same the whole time, hovering around 10%.

The study doesn’t cover kids who are born into single-parent households, just households that have gone through a divorce, which is why it might seem a bit misleading– 45% of American babies are born to unmarried mothers, but those custody arrangements aren’t studied here.

TIME Parenting

How to Be a Better Parent: 3 Counterintuitive Lessons From Science

Strict Parenting
Getty Images

Excerpts from my interview with Po Bronson, New York Times bestselling author of NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children, about how to be a better parent.

1) Peer Pressure Can Be A Good Thing

Myth: Peer pressure is always bad, just leading kids to drinking, drugs and vandalism.

Fact: The same instinct that makes some kids so vulnerable to peer pressure also makes them better students, friends and, eventually, partners.

Po Bronson:

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.

2) It’s Okay — Even Good — To Fight In Front Of Your Kids

Myth: It’s bad for kids to see their parents fighting.

Fact: It’s good for kids to see parents fight — as long as they also see them resolve the problem. This is how children learn to stand up for themselves while also preserving a relationship.

Po Bronson:

The kids who see conflicts resolved in their homes are ones that are able to do that with their peers, with their teachers. It empowers them terrifically for their life.

Most kids never see their parents making up. Even if that never happens, it’s really important for parents to say, “I know you saw us arguing and that’s fine.” On the ride to school. “I want you to know how we resolved it. Mom said this. Dad said this. We resolved to do it this way. We worked it out.”

3) Teens Who Argue Are Good Teens

Myth: Teens who argue are rebellious and need to learn their place.

Fact: Teens need to learn to negotiate and they need to be rewarded for being reasonable. Parents with zero tolerance for “talking back” teach kids that lying is the only way to get what you want.

Po Bronson:

We have a generation of parents who were raised on Dr. Phil. “No must mean no.” Which is fine if we are talking about a three year-old talking about getting his binky or something. We are talking about teenagers who are mature human beings who need to know how to compromise and reconcile.

Actually, the scientists are the opposite of Dr. Phil: “If your child is negotiating with you in a reasonable way and they are earnest and make a really good point, give in.” Giving in rewards them for being reasonable and you will have an increasingly reasonable teenager instead of an unreasonable one. It’s when you don’t give in even when they are being reasonable that you are denying them the power of reason itself and the power of being friendly. You are not rewarding them for this good negotiating behavior and it leads them to try other drastic stuff.

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.

What The Research Taught Him About Being A Dad

Po Bronson:

Like a lot of parents, I was trying to manipulate my child’s perception of the world so that it would be for his or her own advantage. It was still manipulative. I could get caught at one point. I just realized the most important thing was that my children see me as a parent as credible, as telling the truth and being honestly able to help them. Not being full of gas or inflated statements or using scare tactics but to have integrity and honesty to be the rule of that relationship.

Maybe a kid would be asking about something that was much more adult. You don’t have to tell them everything. You give them an appropriate amount. Tell the truth. If you tell the kids the truth they will love you for it. You build the foundation of that relationship. That’s what is guiding me. I have tried mostly not to lie to my kids. Use honesty first. In the long term that is what has guided me.

Po interviewed about NurtureShock on WNYC:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PaxAlbNNbJM

Curious to learn more?

For my extended interview with Po, join my free weekly email update here. In the extended interview Po explains:

  1. The simplest method for boosting a baby’s verbal ability.
  2. A technique that reduces child lying by 75%.
  3. Why teaching your kids about gratitude may backfire.

Join here.

Related posts:

Good Parenting Skills: 7 Research-Backed Ways to Raise Kids Right

How To Have A Happy Family – 7 Tips Backed By Research

Parent myths: How much of what your parents told you was wrong?

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

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