TIME Parenting

What Does It Mean to ‘Be A Man’?

Maria Shriver is a mother of four, a Peabody and Emmy Award-winning journalist and producer, a six-time New York Times best-selling author, and an NBC News Special Anchor covering the shifting roles, emerging power and evolving needs of women in modern life. Jennifer Siebel Newsom is a filmmaker, advocate, and President and CEO of the non-profit organization The Representation Project, which inspires individuals and communities to challenge and overcome limiting gender stereotypes.

Our boys are in crisis, and it’s time to do something about it.

“Man up.” “Don’t be a sissy.” “Don’t cry.” “Talk like a man.” “Act like a man.” “Be a man.”

Millions of boys hear these words, these phrases, these commands, almost every day of their lives. They absorb the words and then spend a lifetime dealing with their effects. For our young boys, the path from boyhood to manhood is strewn with harmful words and stereotypes.

Our new film, The Mask You Live In, explores the confining stereotypes that boys are exposed to as they become men. Through personal narratives and expert commentary, the film delves into the destructive and often conflicting messages that boys are being subjected to on a daily basis. Messages that favor dominance over empathy. Physical strength over compassion. Violence over kindness. Sex over love.

It’s a hard time to be a boy, and the facts are something that should give us all pause. Today, boys are more likely to be expelled or kicked out of school than girls. Young men are only 43 percent of enrollees in post-secondary institutions. Boys are more likely to engage in violent crime, binge drinking, and drugs. Male campus sexual assault is commonplace, and mass shootings involving boys and men have become an epidemic. Jails are packed to the rafters with men. And men commit 79 percent of all suicides in the United States. The status quo is unacceptable.

We both have worked for women’s empowerment, and we are both mothers of boys. For years The Shriver Report has chronicled the shifting American family, revealing that the traditional dynamic has changed and both sexes now need a new language with which to communicate, and a new understanding of how to get along. Through our separate work with Miss Representation, The Representation Project and A Woman’s Nation, which produces The Shriver Report special editions, we’ve come together to tackle this next subject because we believe it’s no longer enough to just elevate our daughters. Boys and girls benefit when each is empowered and encouraged to be their most authentic selves.

Starting today, you can bring The Mask You Live In to your community by hosting a screening. Visit The Representation Project website for details. Our mission is to make the film available for all people to see, so these complex topics can be discussed in schools, businesses, foundations, community organizations and homes.

We hope the film spurs a national debate about how we can help our young boys. It’s incumbent upon all of us to better understand the pressures they face, the mixed messages they receive, and the lack of guidance that is available to them as they traverse the narrow path towards manhood.

The Mask You Live In is not about shaming men or telling them what to do. It’s about bringing us all together to support our boys and to address the alarming statistics around the ‘boy crisis’ in America.

We’ve come a long way since women were on Venus and men were on Mars. But we need to go further towards creating a more compassionate, caring, conscious culture for our girls and our boys. This is about understanding what is beneath the surface of our boys’ tough facades, helping them to “take off their masks,” asking them the questions to find out what’s really going on—and being strong enough to accept them for who they really are.

Our goal is to work towards a society of gender respect—adopting new language, throwing out stereotypes, and helping boys to share their true feelings. This can only help us move forward in the right direction.

We’ve taken the first steps – now we’re asking parents, teachers, coaches, and anyone mentoring young boys to join us.

Maria Shriver is a mother of four, a Peabody and Emmy Award-winning journalist and producer, a six-time New York Times best-selling author, and an NBC News Special Anchor covering the shifting roles, emerging power and evolving needs of women in modern life. She is the founder of A Woman’s Nation, which has produced a series of Shriver Reports that chronicle and explore seismic shifts in American culture and society affecting women today. She is also an Executive Producer of the Academy Award-winning film Still Alice, which tells the tale of a woman affected by early onset Alzheimer’s disease. In the coming weeks, Shriver will announce Maria Shriver’s Campaign to Wipe Out Alzheimer’s in partnership with A Woman’s Nation, the Alzheimer’s Association and a Global Community of Women.

Jennifer Siebel Newsom is a filmmaker, advocate, and President and CEO of the non-profit organization The Representation Project, which inspires individuals and communities to challenge and overcome limiting gender stereotypes. Her first film, Miss Representation, is an award-winning documentary which exposed the underrepresentation of women in positions of power and influence in America. Her second film, The Mask You Live In, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2015. She is also an Executive Producer on The Invisible War and The Hunting Ground. She is married to California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, and is the mother of three young children.

Read next: How To Shake Up Gender Norms

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TIME Family

Dad Will Raise Quadruplets Alone After Wife Dies in Childbirth

Quadruplets born to Erica Morales at a Phoenix hospital on Jan. 15, 2015
Nicole Todman—AP 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

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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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TIME Parenting

How to Parent Like a German

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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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TIME Parenting

A Different Way of Talking to Kids About What They’re Wearing

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For parents, talking to kids about clothes usually involves questioning the warmth, propriety, cleanliness or sanity of what they’re wearing. But there’s another, less familiar — and possibly more useful — way to discuss an outfit.

Kelsey Timmerman, author of Where Am I Wearing? A Global Tour to the Countries, Factories and People That Make Our Clothes, wanted to see where his clothes came from. Reading the label on his favorite T-shirt took him to Honduras, where he met workers at the factory that made it. Trips to Cambodia, where his favorite jeans were made, and China, the source of most flip-flops, followed. “It doesn’t come from somewhere,” he says. “But from someone.”

Talking to kids about where their clothes came from can make something abstract — life in other countries — more concrete. And it’s a fun way to engage kids of all sorts of ages in a discussion about the world.

Timmerman and his elementary-school daughter have a bedtime tradition of looking at where her clothes are made. “It’s a simple act, just looking at the label, and letting your mind open up to think, these pajamas came from Bangladesh, which is on the other side of the world,” Timmerman says. “You’re never too young to be amazed by that, and explore what it means.”

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Middle-school students “can go a little deeper,” Timmerman says, using the labels on their clothes as an opportunity to learn about the demographics of other countries. Parents can ask questions like “How do you think life is different than it is here?”

High school students, Timmerman finds, are ready for conversations about the deeper implications of global commerce, like child labor, and the big differences in income between different countries. A great conversation-starter there, he says, is photographer Peter Menzel’s Material World, which shows families from different countries photographed with all their possessions.

Students can sometimes feel powerless when they confront these realities, so Timmerman says it’s important to let them know they can make a difference. In the past, schoolkids have helped bring fair-trade practices to athletic gear and school uniforms. “Students,” says Timmerman, “have really led the way on a lot of these issues.”

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TIME Family

The Dad 2.0 Summit: Making the Case for a New Kind of Manhood

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"Traditional ideas of masculinity can get in our way of being the kind of fathers we want to be”

At the fourth annual Dad 2.0 Summit, Dr. Michael Kimmel reviews the four classic rules for what it means to be a “real man”:

  • No sissy stuff.
  • Be a big wheel.
  • Be a sturdy oak.
  • And give ’em hell.

Or so they say. “Traditional ideas of masculinity,” Kimmel says, “can get in our way of being the kind of fathers we want to be.”

This summit, nearly double the size it was in 2012, has been at the forefront of an ongoing revolution in how America perceives fatherhood. The new dad, the kind Kimmel’s talking about, is one who is sexy and strong because he’s involved and nurturing — just as capable of being a parent as Mom is and happily doing half the work. The attendees that Kimmel is giving his keynote speech to in San Francisco are the kind of daddy bloggers (and mommy bloggers) who have raged against the “bumbling father” stereotypes, as well as the many, many sponsors who subsidized their tickets.

For all the progress the revolution has made, Kimmel, executive director at the Center for the Study of Men and Masculinities at Stony Brook University in New York, is here to spread the message that it’s not time for back-patting yet, that men need to do more to support other men if America is really going to redefine what masculinity looks like (e.g., not just a big emotionless tree).

Young fathers today are more involved than previous generations. They are doing more housework. They are doing more of the child care. Yet, Kimmel says, the fact that a generation of men is doing more than their fathers did — which might have been financially supporting the family and never touching a diaper — can lead to “premature self-congratulation” that belies how much work there is left to do. Since 1965, according to the Pew Research Center, women have nearly tripled the amount of paid work they do each week, and while fathers are doing more to help with the house and kids, they’re still doing half what the moms are. Millennial and Gen X fathers often say they believe in having absolutely equal, 50-50, split-down-the-line relationships, but the reality is that more of the caregiving is still falling to Mom.

One of Kimmel’s core culprits when it comes to that gap is parental leave, as well as the lack of men taking it when it is available. Some companies that are dying to be on the cutting-edge of employee care, like Google and Facebook, are handing out three or more months of paid paternity leave, and some cities are working to mandate time off for moms and dads. But the U.S. is sorely lagging. Unlike almost all industrialized nations in the world, the American government does not mandate paid parental leave. Only about half of first-time moms are able to take paid leave. And according to the Society for Human Resource Management, only 12% of U.S. employers offer any paid paternity leave. So staying home in the early days, with or without pay, more often falls to the women.

The cycle of Mom staying at home in the first few weeks or months while Dad works can lead to a storyline like this: Man and woman believe they’re in a completely equal relationship. Man and woman have child. Woman takes maternity leave while Dad works. She gets more practice at child care. More child-care tasks start falling to her. Over the years, thing after thing related to the household and family falls to woman, many times unnoticed. A little cleaning here. A little appointment-scheduling there. Eventually, the relationship is decidedly unequal, even though that’s not what either of them planned. Opening his speech, Kimmel showed a picture of his son holding up a sign. It read, “I need feminism because it’s easy to ignore sexism when it works in our favor. #ItsOnUs.”

In his work with corporations, Kimmel was early on told that many men weren’t taking paternity leave when it was offered. So where’s the need the offer it?!, the corporations said. This is where the men-supporting-men thing comes in. Kimmel went and talked to men who hadn’t taken leave when their children came. What he found out was that when they told male colleagues they were considering it, they got responses like, “Oh, so you’re not really dedicated to your career.” Another man was told, “Oh, that’s great. You should go. We’ll just put you on the daddy track.” (Read: Not up for the next promotion.)

Upon finding out that one man was considering leave, a partner at his firm leaned over to him and said that he was 64 years-old with three grown kids and he didn’t know any of their birthdays; men have to make sacrifices at home. In many cases, this kind of anti-dad response was enough to keep men from taking the benefits they could. A fella doesn’t have to be a major league baseball player missing games to be with a newborn in order to be derided for putting family ahead of work.

“For the past 40 years, women have been coming out as workers,” Kimmel said toward the end of his speech. “Now men have to come out in public, in our workplaces, as dads.”

Joseph Fowler, a 38-year-old father at the summit, has gone all in and is staying at home with his two kids, a 5-year-old girl and 3-year-old boy. He’s walking around the sponsor room at the summit, where radial saws are being touted next to apple sauce, where the Lego displays are crowned with red flags and pink umbrellas. Fowler says that the lessons he learned about how to be a man from his father were precisely the rules that Kimmel laid out in his speech — to be tough, to be stoic. He looks tough, with broad shoulders and a giant ring he got after the college-football team he coached went to the Orange Bowl. And he says he’s trying to raise his son with a different idea of what it means to be a man. “You can be manly and compassionate,” he says. “And it’s O.K. to show your emotions.” He calls himself a “dad advocate” and says he’s mentoring other dads in the same vein, teaching them that it’s masculine to be a present, responsive father.

The brands at the summit, in far greater number than 2012, are clamoring to be on the right side of people like Fowler. Esquire is live-streaming dad talk at the summit. Lee is giving dads a custom-fit pair of jeans. Kia is letting them test-drive cars. Lego is throwing a party at LucasFilm studios with actual storm troopers walking around. The primary sponsor of the event continues to be Dove Men+Care, which ran a much-talked-about ad during the Super Bowl that featured loving fathers who exemplified “real strength” (which was also the wi-fi password at the summit). These ads for a new generation of dads have been pushed in part by conferences like this, and they’re going to help make it harder for men to scoff at other men who want to put home on par with, or before, the office. General Mills wants to be the official “cereal of dadhood,” which is a 180 from the 2012 Huggies commercial — which showed dads with babies in the vein of monkeys with typewriters — that prompted protest among (and got tons of attention for) the dads at the first Dad 2.0 conference.

At one point the head marketer at Unilever, Dove’s parent company, takes the stage. Behind her flash pictures of men playing with their kids and holding their kids. “This is what being a strong man looks like,” says Jennifer Bremner. “Showing emotion, helping a friend, consoling a child.” She tells the crowd that she has been in marketing a long time and her brother had never much commented on her career, until he saw their ad with the same message that played during the Super Bowl. The text she got from him had two words on it, she says: “About time.” The crowd filled the hall with claps of approval.

TIME Parenting

8 Ways to Help Cure Your Teen’s Screen Addiction

Teenagers using cellphones
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Tips from a former advertising insider

Parents welcome technology devices in the home as helpful tools. (Who doesn’t want a homework assistant, a boredom killer, or a virtual chaperone a pre-installed geo-tracker for their teen?) But without parameters, technology is like the obnoxious houseguest who overstays his welcome, while consuming all the snacks in the fridge. Current research reported by the National PTA suggests that the typical American kid devours more than six hours of screen time each day. But parents don’t need studies to know that.

So how do teens reform their technology habits? Author and voice actor Bill Ratner is probably the last person any parent would consult as an expert on the topic. The man made a career out of lending his voice to some of the most aggressive advertising powerhouses around. But Ratner is also a dad. And his lifetime of work in the industry make his perspective a useful one. Consider these eight guidelines based on Ratner’s recent book, Parenting for the Digital Age

  1. Give teens a voice. When they’re part of the decision making process of how and when their household uses technology, teens are more likely to take ownership of the plan. And since teens know technology so well, chances are they’ll help families make better decisions:

“They are familiar with kids who are game-addicts, textaholics, and Facebook freaks. Use the wisdom of your kids to help knit together a strategy to deal with media screens in your home,” says Ratner.

  1. Teach teens to pick up on marketing ploys. Teens who are wise to the ways marketing, advertising, and the media work, are also more keen to tricks of the industry.

“Remember that [teens] have been lured to their screens by masters of their craft, highly paid communication experts whose sole responsibility is to secure kids’ eyeballs and keep them watching day and night,” writes Ratner.

Ask your kids questions about the advertisements they see, questions like: What’s being sold? How is the selling done? Who does the advertiser want to entice? That type of conversation encourages critical thinking in place of passive viewing.
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  1. Resist the cool stuff = cool person image. Teens sometimes connect technology devices with social status. Make it clear that a person’s value isn’t related to the things they own.

Ratner says, “The challenge for parents is to find ways to affirm children’s self-esteem and their membership in their group of peers while making sure that they know the difference between self-worth and simply owning a smart phone or t-shirt. “

  1. Remember that technology use is not an all or nothing matter. Every rule is malleable. Don’t be afraid to adjust a rule that doesn’t quite fit. Each family needs to find the formula that works for them.

“You can negotiate cellphone-free hours at home, web-free spaces in the house, TV-free portions of the week,” says Ratner.

  1. Find allies in other parents. Connect with families from the neighborhood, school, and local place of worship and find out what other parents do to manage technology use in the home.

“. . . Each family must determine the principles and practices that will work for them . . . But there is so much we can learn from the opinions of others,” suggests Ratner.

  1. Don’t just limit media use. Find activities to replace it. And be creative about it. Ratner, and his family enjoy homegrown cabarets as entertainment at their family gatherings and also go to professional storytelling events:

“Confronting the obstacles for families in our digital age can either be a battle or a creative challenge. I find that with a little improvisation, creativity, and the desire to try new things like storytelling, we can lighten our load and inject fun into our lives in simple ways,” prescribes Ratner.

  1. Be O.K. with the backlash that comes with setting parental limits. This is one of those simple and timeless parenting principles. Find which rules work and stick to them. Don’t cave to slammed doors and sucked teeth:

“Psychologists say that when our children shout their demands and complaints at us, they are rehearsing to get their way in the world. Parents are the easiest and safest targets for them to practice on. Will we cover our ears, or will we take the opportunity to teach, guide, and protect?” questions Ratner.

  1. Find ways to make technology habits productive. A technology obsessed teen might be finding a passion. Channel that and put it to work. Enroll that kid in a programming, animation, or app design class.

As a mother and professor whom Ratner interviewed said, “For our family, it wasn’t about restricting access to a computer; it was about educating our kids about what a computer is for, what it’s capable of. In order to survive in the workplace, our kids were going to have to be computer literate. Why not teach them early?”

For additional ideas on managing teen technology habits, visit these online resources:

Common Sense Media — CommonSenseMedia.org
National Institute on Media and the Family —
http://www.ParentFurther.com
Media! Tech! Parenting! —
http://www.MediaTechParenting.net

TIME Parenting

How to Talk to Your Kids About Rejection, at Every Age

Phil Boorman—Getty Images/Cultura RF

Hint: don't minimize their pain.

Did your kid have a less-than-stellar Valentine’s Day? The exact phrase “hurt feelings” exists in many languages, according to psychologist Guy Winch, author of Emotional First Aid: Healing Rejection, Guilt, Failure and Other Everyday Hurts, because rejection activates the same centers as physical pain in the brain. It actually does hurt.
So what can parents say to kids who are dealing with the sting of rejection, from romantic disappointment, to slights from friends, to a party invitation they never got?

Winch says the crucial thing for parents to let elementary age kids know is that rejection always hurts–and that that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with them. Parents can also help kids focus on other peers who do love and accept them, asking question like, Who enjoys spending time with you? Who likes to have fun with you? They might also create more opportunities to spend more time with those friends.

Middle school kids, Winch says, are old enough to begin to respond to negative feelings of rejection with positive thoughts about themselves. “If they’ve been rejected socially, they can think about what they bring to the table socially,” Winch says. Parents can help replicate an exercise shown to alleviate the pain of rejection by asking kids, What do you think would make you a good friend? What do you think you have to offer in a friendship?

High school kids are more likely to be dealing with romantic heartache. And it’s important for parents to take that seriously, even when kids are young: Winch says the research shows it’s easy to underestimate how much rejection hurts another person. But parents can help kids recover from romantic rejection by asking questions like, What do you think would make you a good boyfriend or girlfriend? He encourages kids to make a long list, and then focus on one especially important quality, like being a good listener, or having a good sense of humor, and go deeper with questions like, What are some ways a sense of humor is valuable? What are some reasons that someone might love being around a good listener?

All of these are ways, he says, for parents to reinforce two powerful messages: to remind kids how much they bring to the table. And to encourage them that even if someone didn’t see that this time, someday, someone else will.

TIME Parenting

5 Things One Mom Wishes She’d Been Told Before Adopting her Black Son

Alexander Landau, 21, was hospitalized when he was 19 years-old after he was stopped by Denver Police. Landau at his attorney's office, Tuesday May 3, 2011, was given a $795,000 settlement after beating during a traffic stop by police. RJ Sangosti, The De
RJ Sangosti—The Denver Post/Getty Images Alexander Landau

Alex Landau’s mother Patsy Hathaway believed that love was enough when it came to raising her adopted black son—until he was beaten up by Denver police in a routine traffic stop. Landau says he was attacked after asking for a warrant; police say they thought he was reaching for one of their guns.

“Had I prepared Alex properly, he would have suffered less,” says Hathaway today, five years after the 2009 incident. “I regret this. But he would not have become the leader that he is destined to be either. Alex is in a position to help reduce others’ suffering, as well as to expose injustice and racism.”

Landau, who was given a settlement by Denver Police in 2011, is now a student and an activist. His mom wants everyone to know what she learned: a list of ways adoptive parents of kids can better support their children of a different race throughout their lives.

  1. “Preschoolers experience prejudice. So teach younger children the best you can [about racism], in simple language. Lessons can become more elaborate as kids mature.”
  2. “Children should deeply understand that racism is not their fault; there’s nothing wrong with them. Try to explain that without vilifying others.”
  3. “Universalize it. Talk about white slavery in Greece, the Jewish experience, the struggle that Hispanics face. It’s not just blacks who have suffered; it’s a problem of how people treat each other. You don’t want children to feel that it’s just their race, or who they are.”
  4. “Talk about the movement, the civil rights leaders and how they made a difference. Introduce people your children can identify with and want to emulate.”
  5. “When kids are older, parents need to get practical about how to handle potentially dangerous situations like police stops. Make sure your kids know their rights and that they understand the recommended way to handle themselves with the police. We want our kids to live to become peaceful agents of change.”

Hathaway’s story is part of Time’s special report on interracial adoption, available exclusively to Time for Family subscribers here.

TIME Parenting

The Key to Making Your Kid a Star Athlete: Back Off

Muddy legs of soccer players
;Getty Images

Ted Spiker (@ProfSpiker), the interim chair of the department of journalism at the University of Florida, is the author of DOWN SIZE: 12 Truths for Turning Pants-Splitting Frustration into Pants-Fitting Success.

Parents, lay off the pressure and just encourage your little athletes to play.

When my twin boys began their first high school lacrosse season last week, I took a few minutes to rewind my mind’s highlight reel to relive my kids’ days playing pee-wee this or that—the high-fives, the hustle plays, and the little moments that only parents can remember.

Even with all the good that can come from watching our kids compete, we sideline-squatters know that the mood of a youth sporting event can morph from pure to toxic in less time than it takes to yell “C’mon, Zebra, stop the home-cooking!”

So when David Epstein, author of The Sports Gene, visited the University of Florida recently as part of our Science Journalist in Residence program, I was anxious to hear him talk about what sports science tells us we get wrong when it comes to youth sports. Epstein spoke to classes, public groups, faculty members and others about the relationship between hardware (our genetics) and software (our training). During Epstein’s visit, I sat down with him to ask about the adjustments that parents, coaches and even our kids can make as they develop as athletes.

For Parents: More Play, Less Pressure

Perhaps because they think that focusing on one sport will get their kids on a college coach’s radar, many parents push for year-round specialization. Besides the risk of overuse injury, that approach also means your child is less likely to find the sport that he or she loves—and is good at. A better strategy: Encouraging your kids to experiment.

“Diversification doesn’t just mean playing multiple sports,” Epstein says, “but it’s also allowing a playful environment where implicit learning happens.” Epstein likes the “learn like a baby” model of sports development. A baby learns language skills by babbling and playing with no fear of failure, he says. Once the early skills are learned implicitly, that’s when you can start teaching the rules of grammar. In today’s sports culture, Epstein says, we’re teaching the grammar before our kids are implicitly learning and playing with basic athletic skills. “What the sports science suggests we’re doing for kids in sports is that we’re doing it backwards,” he says.

Epstein points to UCLA data that shows athletes on college scholarship don’t specialize in one sport until the average age of 15.4, while high school athletes on college club-level teams specialized at the age of 14.2. That data suggests that diversifying is linked to higher skill levels as the athlete ages.

“If a kid is a quick biological maturer, that’s different than them being the next LeBron James,” Epstein says. “The path that most elite athletes travel is the Roger Federer path, his parents forcing him to play basketball, badminton and soccer, not the Tiger path. That’s an exception.”

For Coaches: Clap, Don’t Correct

In one discussion Epstein was having on campus, he mentioned that positive feedback is linked to higher performance. He cited research by sports psychologist Christian Cook in which subjects performed better and were less likely to repeat mistakes when they were given positive feedback (as testosterone increased).

“I don’t know if it’s counterintuitive that positive feedback works, but it’s not the intuitive way for [coaches] to act,” Epstein says, explaining that coaches naturally identify what’s wrong and instruct athletes how to improve.

“If you had to choose between needing feedback when we did something wrong or when we did something right, I’m convinced now it’s when we did something right. And that’s when people don’t give feedback,” he says. “They pay attention to what’s wrong.”

For Kids: Play, Then Think

One trait that seems to be a hallmark for high-level performers: reflection. The athletes who reflect on their performance are able to self-evaluate what they can do better. This is largely based on the work by Marije Elferink-Gemser of the Netherlands, who believes that reflection (while more natural for some kids than others) can be taught, Epstein says. One way: By encouraging young athletes to ask themselves questions that will facilitate that kind of thinking. What did I do well? What didn’t I do well? Who are the people who can help me get there? “[Elferink-Gemser] is moving to saying the single most important role of the coach is facilitating the role of examining weakness and looking at remediating them, in that athletes are orchestrators of their own development, especially as they all get better and better,” Epstein says.

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.

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