TIME Parenting

What Parents Can Learn from the 7-Year-Old who Survived a Plane Crash

Fund for Sailor Gutzler A Facebook fundraising page for Sailor Gutzler

Kids Are Capable of More than Adults Realize

No one can believe the bravery and pluck of 7-year-old Sailor Gutzler, the little girl who survived the crash of the small Piper PA-34 plane that killed her parents, sister and cousin, and then scrambled her way through the deep, dark woods to a stranger’s house for help on Dec. 2.

With a broken wrist. And no moon to guide her. And dressed for sunny Florida, but wandering through the chill of a Kentucky winter’s eve.

Her injuries were minor and she was released from the hospital to relatives the next day, but her story is still making headlines.

An expert on one of the talk shows said that in times of extreme stress, adrenalin kicks in, enabling us to go way beyond our normal capacities. As if Sailor was somehow beyond herself in that moment. Superhuman.

Because no one can imagine a 7-year-old being just, plain competent.

Sure, what she did was fantastic. But maybe ALL our kids are capable of being smart and resourceful, if only we give them a chance.

The thing is: we don’t. Underestimating kids has become our national pastime. We think they need us to wait with them at the bus stop, to organize their social life, to solve all their problems. An article in Parenting told parents never to let two friends play together unsupervised, even if they’re old enough to stay home alone: “You want to make sure that no one’s feelings get too hurt if there’s a squabble.”

That’s right. We’re told our kids can’t even handle a squabble without parental intervention.

With this kind of advice being shoved down our throats, I don’t blame parents for overprotecting. I do blame the fearmongering media for insisting that almost everything—a plastic bottle! a bad grade! a bike ride!—could somehow cripple our kids.

When, ironically, the ones really being crippled are the parents. Crippled with fear. Obviously, kids are more competent than we allow them to be: Until modern times, the parents were 13 year olds! They kept the species going! And to this day, says David Lancy, author of The Anthropology of Childhood, between 40 and 60% of the world’s toddlers are cared for by their older siblings, who may be just a year or two older than they are. We forget this when we worry that our kids need mom to pick up her 8 year old from the playdate a few blocks away.

There’s only one way I’ve found to fight that fear, and that’s with reality. In fact—promo alert— I’m about to host a reality show, World’s Worst Mom, starting Thursday night, Jan. 22, on Discovery Life.

Here’s what fear looks like: One mom I visit follows her 10-year-old daughter not just into the public bathroom, but into the stall, to keep her safe. Another wants to put videocameras throughout the house so she can make sure her six kids, aged 0-13, don’t sneak outside to play, even in the yard.

These aren’t bad moms, just terrified. They have no idea how competent their kids really are, because they’ve never let them go.

So my job is simple. I take the kids away from them. The 10 year old? I sent her to the park across the street park with her 12-year-old brother—something they’d never been allowed to do.

The kids of the mom who didn’t want them to go outside? I sent the three tweens down their suburban block, beyond where mom could see. Then I kept her in the house, while they set up a lemonade stand.

When all these kids came home—happy, sweaty, thrilled to have finally had even the most modest of adventures—I thought maybe the moms would be mad. Instead, they were out of their minds…with joy.

They were so proud of their kids, one of them actually grabbed me in her arms and twirled me around.

Now, obviously, it takes a lot more to get yourself out of a plane wreck than to run a lemonade stand. But at base what we’re talking about is this: Our kids are way more competent than we think. We cheat them—and us—when we don’t let them prove it.

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TIME ces 2015

This Gadget May Change Parenting Forever

BlueMaestro The Pacif-i Smart Pacifier

A smart pacifier that tells you where your kid is

If the Pacif-i Smart Pacifier does all it promises to do, it’s going to take a lot longer for parents to wean their kids off their pacifiers.

Blue Maestro’s Bluetooth-connected smart pacifier, on display at CES this year, beams data to your Android or iOS device, measuring your kid’s temperature and recording when medication was administered. With an app on your smartphone, Pacif-i timestamps and graphs your kid’s temperature. Perhaps most importantly, the $40 smart suckable allows parents to monitor the pacifier’s location, so you can be alerted when your kid wanders away with the pacifier in his mouth.

Pacif-i has a battery life of more than one year. But if you find yourself replacing the battery, maybe it’s time stop giving your kid a pacifier, even if you don’t want to. It’s scheduled for early 2015 release.

Read next: The Science of Why Your Kids Can’t Resist ‘Frozen’

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TIME Television

Like Your TV With Strong Female Characters? Thank Murphy Brown

Murphy Brown cover
Cover Credit: FIROOZ ZAHEDI The Sept. 21, 1992, cover of TIME

Gender issues on TV get lots of media attention, but we've forgotten to give credit where credit's due

This week brings the debut of ABC’s Marvel’s Agent Carter, an action series starring Hayley Atwell as a woman who’s underestimated by her male colleagues despite her incredible acumen as a spy. It’s a period piece, set in the 1940s, but one hardly needs to look back that far to find women on TV whose strength in the workplace and self-confidence defined them and befuddled critics.

Murphy Brown, the hardworking, single title character of a CBS sitcom starring Candice Bergen and the subject of a 1992 TIME cover, had been on-air for three seasons when, in 1991, she discovered she was pregnant and decided to keep the baby. It was a predicament not just for the character but for a TV show that, though unafraid of political controversy, was now going far beyond traditional parameters. TIME compared Bergen’s character to Lucille Ball’s on I Love Lucy after Murphy decided to keep the baby: “And to think, Lucy couldn’t even say pregnant on TV.” Even despite the electoral gains by women in the Senate that got 1992 dubbed “the Year of the Woman,” Brown may have been the most-talked-about female political figure of the year.

Murphy Brown’s televised pregnancy and her decision to raise her child as a single mother were a flashpoint in the 1992 election — and changed the role of women on TV. Today, from Scandal to The Good Wife, TV’s packed with strong and complex female characters; thanks, Murphy! Though Murphy Brown is rarely watched or invoked today, the high point of its relevance made a lasting impact on the way we talk about television, and about motherhood.

The show had made waves in the years before Murphy Brown’s pregnancy with, as TIME critic Richard Zoglin put it in May 1992, “the smarts and the moxie to take pokes at everything from gossip-mongering tabloids to the Anita Hill hearings.” Bergen’s character, a recovering alcoholic working for a Washington-based TV news magazine show, was unafraid to be unlikable; the show, and its dependence on sharp, pop-culture-centric comebacks, struck Zoglin as “cleverly written, but in a smug, soulless, metallic way.”

Viewers disagreed. Murphy Brown went into its big fourth-season pregnancy plot line in the Nielsen ratings top ten and with a shelf full of Emmys, including one for best comedy and two for Bergen’s performance. But while viewers and critics were accustomed to the show’s sharply political tone and its acidity, the pregnancy plot touched upon a third rail of sorts. The show foregrounded the question of working motherhood, with a fictional baby shower for Murphy attended by real-world TV news stars from Katie Couric to Joan Lunden. It was a pointed argument that work-life balance was possible (though Zoglin hastened to point out, in his May 1992 take, that more serious journalists like Diane Sawyer, the ones “who Murphy is really modeled after,” skipped the shower).

The fourth season ended with the birth of baby boy Avery — but the controversy was only beginning.

In a May 1992 speech about the breakdown of the American family in San Francisco, Vice President Dan Quayle decried Murphy Brown’s decision to raise her child alone: “It doesn’t help matters when prime-time TV has Murphy Brown — a character who supposedly epitomizes today’s intelligent, highly paid professional woman — mocking the importance of fathers by bearing a child alone and calling it just another ‘life-style choice.’”

Quayle came in for more criticism from Hollywood — and from TIME. Zoglin characterized the treatment of the incumbent veep, up for re-election, at the 1992 Emmy Awards as “a Rodney King beating by the Hollywood elite,” noting that Bergen thanked Quayle sarcastically in her third best actress speech. The show’s creator, Diane English, told TIME that Murphy Brown was “a liberal Democrat because in fact that’s what I am” and lead actress Bergen described Quayle as “Bush’s buffoon” in the TIME cover package.

But this sort of rhetoric was nothing new: Earlier that year, President George H.W. Bush had urged American families to be “a lot more like the Waltons and a lot less like the Simpsons.” But even The Simpsons were, at the end of each episode, a traditional nuclear family; they even went to church. Murphy Brown was making a reproductive and family decision that stood in opposition to far more than mere matters of taste: As Zoglin pointed out in a June 1992 piece responding to Quayle’s complaint, “prime-time TV these days is boosting family values more aggressively than it has in decades,” citing everything from Home Improvement to Roseanne. It turned out that Murphy Brown was worth highlighting in a Vice-Presidential speech not because it represented the state of television and the culture in general but because, in the particulars of Murphy’s choice, it was so far outside the mores of its day.

But — in a twist that did not go unremarked-upon at the time — once one got past the specifics of how baby Avery came into the world, Murphy Brown was not so outside the mainstream at all. It was a show that followed the vogue at the time in portraying the family bond, however one found it, as an ideal. “It took a Top 10 network series that will undoubtedly be around for years to grab the Vice President’s attention,” wrote Zoglin. “Now he needs to do some channel switching.”

There’s no question that Murphy Brown was attention-grabbing — but, decades later, the show is markedly absent from much of the discussion about great television of the ’80s and ’90s. Perhaps it was the ties to Quayle, and to Bush I-era Republicanism, that spelled a slow death for Murphy Brown, a show whose central mother-son relationship, after all, was as life-affirming as anything on Home Improvement. The show was hardly in immediate danger of cancellation. And yet Quayle’s speech, which TIME columnist Michael Kinsley called in 1994 “the best-remembered speech of the Bush presidency” may well have consigned Murphy Brown to be remembered within the context of the Bush presidency. The show lost some heat off its fastball once the President and Vice President left office in the middle of the fifth season. Every subsequent season fell lower and lower in the ratings — not shocking for a long-running TV series, but proof positive, perhaps, that Murphy Brown’s formula of explicit political discourse, something the series indulged more and more post-baby, was a turn-off for some.

It’s hard for pathbreakers. By the time it left the air, Murphy Brown was a footnote. But two months after its cancellation, Calista Flockhart appeared on the cover of TIME in service of her character Ally McBeal, a single woman whose pursuit of a career hardly stood in the way of her desire to be a mother. Indeed, Ally’s biological clock was the very text of Ally McBeal. And two years after that, the women of Sex and the City would be on TIME’s cover, asking “Who Needs a Husband?” (Soon enough, cover subject Cynthia Nixon’s character Miranda would carry a baby to term without the intention of getting married.) Today, the (anti?-)heroines of Scandal and How to Get Away With Murder define themselves through their acuity at work, with the biological clock left entirely aside; Claire Underwood of House of Cards is the most fascinating character, male or female, on television, and one whose decision not to have a child is presented matter-of-factly and with little agonization.

Neither Ally McBeal nor Sex and the City – nor Desperate Housewives, whose star, Teri Hatcher, played a single mother and appeared on TIME’s cover in 2005– would end up becoming political talking points the way Murphy had. Carrie Bradshaw is the one who still makes news, but someone had to blaze a trail. Later series just learned that specific political references burn quickly – and benefited from Bergen’s character going through a political maelstrom so none of them had to.

TIME Parenting

How to Help Your Kids Keep Their Resolutions

Don Mason/Blend Images—Getty Images

...and learn some persistence, darn it

New Year’s resolutions. We’ve all broken so many that they serve more as a punchline for jokes than a way to actually change.

But setting goals, and plugging away at them, is a crucial part of life. So we talked with Dr. Laura Markham, expert in child development and author of Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids, for tips on how to start conversations with kids that will help them set and meet their goals.
For all kids, Markham says it’s important to make sure we’re helping them meet their goals—not ours. “Parents have goals for kids,” she says. But meeting a goal always takes effort, and “if you’re trying something hard, you need to have some motivation to overcome. And that can’t just be to please parents.”

Parents can help elementary age kids start to think about their goals by having low-key conversations, Markham says. “Ask questions like, ‘What do you like doing? What do you like about your life?’” And listen, Markham adds. Often, kids will spontaneously express interest in anything from a sport to an instrument to helping pick up trash at the park.

By the time kids reach middle school, most of them already know what it’s like to miss a goal, Markham says. And it bothers them at least as much as it bothers their parents. So instead of focusing on what’s gone wrong, parents can help kids focus on what’s right, with questions like, “What am I good at? What is good in my life?” A focus on the positive, Markham says, can actually set kids up for more success. “People shift into a positive frame of mind when they feel they’ve been successful,” she says. “It allows us to rise to the situation and fight.”
High school kids are in a position to get practical. For older kids working towards a goal, “it can be worth noticing what got in your way,” Markham says. But parents can help them to stay practical even as they face tough realities: “Instead of beating yourself up about it, get the support you need to do it.” And think small, Markham advises, by breaking big goals down into manageable pieces, with questions like, “What’s gotten in my way? What support do I need to move forward? What’s the next step I can take?”

But setting a goal is only half the battle. What can a parent do when kids get discouraged?
Markham says the research shows that perseverance in children doesn’t come from a “get tough” approach. It comes from empathy. Kids of all ages are less likely to give up when they feel that someone listens and understands their feelings.

So at every age, acknowledging all the feelings kids have as they try, fail, and succeed, is key. In fact, giving them room to talk about how they feel may be just as important than strategizing the next step.

“Your job as a parent is to empathize and hold the light so kids can see the way out of the box they’re in,” Markham says. “You can never see the whole road, but you can see the next step to take. And whether it’s learning to play the violin, or feeding the hungry, when you take one small step, then you’ll be in a new place.”

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TIME Parenting

Here’s How to Trick Your Kids Into Thinking They’ve Stayed Up Until Midnight

With a little help from Netflix

Got children determined to stay up past their bedtimes on New Year’s Eve? You may be able to fool them into going to sleep at a reasonable hour thanks to Netflix.

In a recent study from Netflix and Wakefield research, 34% of parents admitted to celebrating the New Year early with their kids. To help these parents pull off this ruse in 2015, Netflix is offering a Madagascar-themed celebration video. King Julien the lemur leads a three-minute, animal-filled countdown to midnight. But since parents can play the video at any time, midnight can come a few hours early.

For those feeling guilty about tricking their offspring, just remember you convinced them a large bearded man brought them presents last week. And kids who otherwise would fall asleep before the ball drops can revel in their adulthood, while parents celebrate the real New Year with a glass of champagne in peace. Everybody wins.

But remember to change the clocks around your house if you pull this trick!

TIME Parenting

This New Year’s, I Resolve to Accept My Kids for Who They Are

82087964
Tom Grill—Getty Images

Claude Knobler is the author of the forthcoming book More Love (Less Panic): 7 Lessons I Learned About Life, Love, and Parenting After We Adopted Our Son from Ethiopia.

I've realized that we simply cannot turn our rambunctious adopted Ethiopian boy into a quiet, neurotic Jew, no matter how hard we try

More times than I care to count, I have been seduced into buying pocket size notebooks, leather bound journals and, God help me, the occasional fountain pen. I buy these things because of the reoccurring fantasy that I will finally make myself into the sort of person who writes profound insights onto perfect, clean sheets of paper, in beautiful script, alongside elegantly drawn sketches illustrating the details of my life.

It never works. Eventually I toss the mostly unused journal filled with illegible blather and stick figure drawings into the closet next to all the other notebooks I’ve bought. In the end there is just something about a clean slate that tends to defeat me.

Which brings me to the new year. So unblemished and filled with hope and promise. I hate it.

Not 2015, for which I have great hope. No, what I hate is the belief that human beings can be tinkered with by the force of our will. It’s not so bad when I’m thinking about what I’d like to change about myself. Yes, I would love to believe that this is the year I’ll finish Moby Dick, but I know myself pretty well at this point. I’m well aware that Moby Dick is my own personal great white whale since I’ve started it no less than 10 times without ever finishing. And so it is with all my bad habits, personal defects, and faults.

I find it useful to remind myself that change rarely results from gritting my teeth. And this is especially important to remember with regard to the people who surround me. You see, like so many parents, I harbor the not-so-secret belief that the best way to inspire my kids to change is to nag them.

I have three children, including my youngest son who we adopted from Africa when he was 5 years old. The fact that Nati and I didn’t speak the same language when he came home with me, and that he’d spent five years of his life living oceans away in a world beyond my understanding, gave me a pretty keen sense that people, adults and children change in their own ways and on their own schedules. If nothing else, trust me on this; you simply cannot turn a rambunctious 5-year-old Ethiopian boy into a quiet, neurotic Jew, no matter how hard you try. And so, though the new year is upon us, I will not insist that my youngest son vow to become neater, that my daughter resolve to give up needless worry, or that my eldest son become an earnest writer of “thank you” notes. I’ve already spent far too much of their lives believing that my job was to transfer qualities I deemed necessary into their brains, like a mad scientist in a 1950s horror movie. If my family and I spend all of 2015 with our personalities unaltered, I will be content. We are not perfect, and yet, I am perfectly fine with who we are.

Besides, I know that change does happen, but it is often unexpected, unplanned, and wholly out of my control. One way or the other, my family and I almost certainly will grow and improve this year, but we will do so in fits and starts and not under any self-imposed schedule. People are like that, I find. Indeed, if I’m not mistaken, this sort of change is what we mean when we talk about “grace”: unearned, undeserved, and the source of much of life’s joy.

And that’s fine. Because while I have never managed to fill an entire notebook with brilliant life-changing observations, written in flowing longhand, I have filled up hundreds of Post-It notes and pieces of scrap paper with all sorts unimpressive but wonderful things. I have written grocery lists for dinners I made my family and I have drawn lopsided-looking hearts on the bottom of birthday cards. I have written down directions to parties and reminders for school events. That is, in the end, what life is: sloppy and imperfect. The first day of the first month of the new year is but one of 365. My job is not to cajole, demand, and resolve myself, or my family, into perfection. It is, I believe, nothing more or less than to learn to enjoy the time we spend together as life slowly, and without our permission, teaches us all to grow and evolve.

Though it may not be worth writing about in any of the leather-bound journals cluttering my closet, I spent 2014 enjoying my imperfect family while procrastinating, eating gluten, and reading Facebook posts instead of Melville. I won’t resolve to do the same, but if it happens to work out that way, I won’t mind a bit.

Claude Knobler is the author of the forthcoming book More Love (Less Panic): 7 Lessons I Learned About Life, Love, and Parenting After We Adopted Our Son from Ethiopia.

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

TIME Parenting

Tips for Every Age: How to Raise Grateful Kids

Carlina Teteris—Getty Images/Flickr RF

How to talk to your kids without sounding preachy

The weeks after the holidays can feel like a big let down. After all the expectation—and stress—of the season, both parents and kids may feel a sense of disappointment after all the gifts are opened and the treats are eaten.

But is it possible to flip that script? Can parents encourage kids to stop thinking “what have we got to look forward to now?” and start concentrating on everything they’ve just enjoyed?

We talked with Christine Carter, director of the Greater Good Science Center Parenting Program at UCBerkeley, and author of Raising Happiness: 10 Simple Steps for More Joyful Kids and Happier Parents, to get her practical tips on unleashing the power of gratitude.

The list of the benefits of gratitude is so long “it’s almost ridiculous,” Carter says. “People who are consciously practicing gratitude sleep better, have more energy, and feel more connected to other people.” One study has even proven that kidney function improves when people practice gratitude. And the good news is that it’s contagious. “If I’m feeling strong positive emotion, and I’m sharing that with somebody,” Carter explains, “those emotions spread person to person” through the whole family.

So how can parents get the gratitude conversation started? These are her tips, for any age.

Elementary school kids may be too young to think in terms of classic gratitude, which requires remembering something from the past. But “they understand what a good thing is,” Carter says. “Don’t worry about the time frame. Just ask them to name three good things about their day.” And no matter how old or a young a child, don’t correct them when they express gratitude. “Let them be grateful for whatever they’re grateful for.”

Middle school kids have often learned to be grateful for material things, because they’ve been trained in the etiquette of writing thank you-notes. So it’s good for parents to model being grateful for intangibles, like health and family, or a beautiful day. And as kids mature, questions about what they’re grateful for become more complicated, Carter says. If a parent asks, “what are you grateful for?” a child may feel burdened by everything they owe their parents. So non-verbal expressions can be helpful at this age, Carter suggests, like art projects that focus on gratitude. And parents can also help kids to focus on what they’re grateful for beyond the family, by helping them express words of appreciation about other people around them, with questions like, “What do you enjoy about your friends? Or your teachers?”

High school students can begin to think of gratitude in a much larger context. And context, Carter says, is actually key to gratitude. Relative to many other cultures, many children in the U.S. “live in tremendous abundance,” she points out. And that creates what researchers call an abundance paradox. “We’re much more likely to feel disappointed or even resentful when we don’t get what we want,” Carter explains, “than grateful when we do.” How to cut this knot? Studies have shown that “gratitude only arises naturally without cultivation under conditions of scarcity,” Carter says. So high school kids who have been exposed to scarcity, by doing activities like serving at a homeless shelter, will far more grateful than those who don’t.

And it turns out, sad old truth that it may be, the best way for all of us to feel grateful may be to give, rather than to get.

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TIME Family

Why You Should Friend Your Child on Facebook

Laptop
Plainview—Getty Images

New research shows that connecting on multiple platforms can lead to a happier parent-child relationship

This article originally appeared on RealSimple.com.

Move over, landlines—it’s time to embrace more modern forms of communication. New research published in Emerging Adulthood suggests that reaching out to your children through multiple platforms can ultimately lead to a better relationship.

Jennifer Schon, a doctoral candidate in communication studies at the University of Kansas, had previously studied how communication technologies improved friendships, and took those findings to hypothesize that it might have the same effect on parents and their adult children. She surveyed 367 young adults between 18 and 29 years to find out which platforms they used to connect with their parents, how often their parents used that technology, and how satisfied they were in their relationships with mom or dad. Communication technologies ranged from landlines to emails to social networks like Facebook and Snapchat.

(MORE: Why Do Children Lie, Cheat, and Steal?)

Adding just one additional mode of communication correlated to increased relationship quality and satisfaction, Schon found. Most reported using an average of three channels to communicate with parents—the most common being cell phone, text messaging, and email. Many parents also connected through landlines and social networking sites. For parents who already email, text, and call their children frequently, the occasional Facebook message might only serve to improve communication.

“A lot of parents might resist new technologies. They don’t see the point in them, or they seem like a lot of trouble,” Schon said in a statement. “But this study shows while it might take some work and learning, it would be worth it in the end if you are trying to have a good relationship with your adult child.”

(MORE: Mother-Daughter Relationships)

 

TIME Parenting

Kids Who Eat More Fast Food Get Worse Grades

Christopher Robbins—Getty Images

Study says the difference in grades may be as much as 20%.

Fast food is cheap, filling and of course, fast. That makes it a lifesaver for some parents. But it’s also incredibly unhealthy and now a new nationwide study suggests that eating a lot of it might be linked to kids doing badly in school.

Researchers at the Ohio State University (OSU) and University of Texas, Austin, found that the more frequently children reported eating fast food in fifth grade, the lower their improvement in reading, math, and science test scores by eighth grade.

The difference between the test scores of kids who didn’t eat any fast food and those who reported eating a lot was significant: 20%.

“There’s a lot of evidence that fast-food consumption is linked to childhood obesity, but the problems don’t end there,” said Kelly Purtell, lead author of the study and assistant professor of human sciences at (OSU). “Relying too much on fast food could hurt how well children do in the classroom.”

While eating a lot of fast food is oftentimes a marker for poverty, and poorer students generally don’t do as well on standardized tests for a whole battery of reasons, these results held steady even after researchers took into account other factors, including how much the kids exercised, how much TV they watched, the other food they ate, their family’s socioeconomic status and the characteristics of their neighborhood and school.

“We went as far as we could to control for and take into account all the known factors that could be involved in how well children did on these tests,” Purtell said.

The results, which are published online in the journal Clinical Pediatrics, used data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Kindergarten Cohort, a nationally representative study of 11,740 students who started school in the 1998-1999 school year.

The kids were tested in reading/literacy, mathematics and science in fifth as well as eighth grades, and also filled out a food consumption survey in fifth grade. Slightly more than half the kids reported eating fast food between one and three times in the previous week. Almost a third had had no fast food that week, while a full 10% reported having it every single day and 10% four to six times a week.

“We’re not saying that parents should never feed their children fast food, but these results suggest fast-food consumption should be limited as much as possible,” said Purtell, who added that while her study cannot prove that fast-food consumption caused the lower academic growth, she and her fellow authors are confident fast food explains some of the difference in achievement gains between fifth and eighth grade.

Previous studies have shown that fast food is low in such nutrients as iron that aid in cognitive development, which may explain some of the gap in learning. Moreover, diets high in fat and sugar, both of which fast food tends to have in abundance, have been shown to have a bad effect on immediate memory and learning processes.

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TIME Family

Just in Time for Your Family Gathering, the 4 Steps to a Good Apology

woman-holding-apology-note
Getty Images

Think about the their needs, and not yours

Apologies are on everyone’s mind these days, what with Amy Pascal and Scott Rudin at Sony groveling for sending racially-charged emails speculating on our President’s fave movies; Greenpeace International sniveling sorrowfully about defacing a sacred Peruvian site; and a Korean airline magnate begging forgiveness for his 40-year-old daughter’s flight-delaying macadamia-nut-based tantrum.

Thankfully, your own faux pas may never happen on quite so international a stage. But since it’s the holiday season—full of spiked-nog-infused lapses in judgment, gift-induced hurts, office party pitfalls, and inter-familial tensions—odds are good that you’ll have to apologize for something in the coming days. And as co-founder of SorryWatch, our nation’s premier web site for apology education, I’m here to tell you how to do it right.

HEALTH.COM 9 Signs You’re Headed for a Holiday Meltdown

Name your sin

In an initial statement, reported by the New York Times, the airline exec’s daughter said, “I seek forgiveness from those who were hurt by what I did”—but didn’t actually name what she did. You have to tell the person you’ve wronged exactly what you’re sorry for to prove that you truly understand your offense.

HEALTH.COM 19 Natural Remedies for Anxiety

Fully acknowledge that you screwed up

Amy Pascal said her emails were “not an accurate reflection of who I am.” Um, nope. If you said it (or wrote it in an email), you have to own it. No weasel-y “I was kidding” or “this was so unlike me” or “I never meant for you to find out.” Offer no excuses; step up and own what you did.

Along the same lines, apologize for your actions, not how they “may have seemed” or “might have looked.”Greenpeace International expressed regret that “we came across as careless and crass.” No, they werecareless and crass.

Make it about them, not you

Apologize in the way you think the other person would most prefer, whether that’s in person, in a phone call, or in an email—even if it’s awkward or inconvenient for you. Think about their needs and desires, not yours.

HEALTH.COM 18 Habits of the Happiest Families

Make reparations however you can

Pay for dry cleaning if you drunkenly tossed red wine all over your host, send flowers to your mom for calling her a meddling helicopter parent, or make a donation to your colleague’s favorite charity if she overheard you gossiping about her. And spell out what steps you’ll take to make certain that whatever you did will never happen again.

One last thing: Don’t ask for forgiveness. That’s the other person’s holiday gift to give.

HEALTH.COM 10 Nervous Habits That Hurt Your Health

This article originally appeared on Health.com

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