Teaching Values and Coping Skills

[amazon asin=0062196847&template=thumbleft&chan=default]Madeline Levine, author of Teach Your Children Well.
Why values and coping skills matter more than grades, trophies, and “fat envelopes.”
Issues: Learning to shift our focus from the excesses of hyperparenting and the unhealthy reliance on our children for status and meaning to a parenting style that concentrates on both enabling academic success and developing a sense of purpose and well-being.

Sleep Deprivation and Its Effect on Bad Behavior

Dear Mr. Dad: In one of your recent columns you talked about how sleep deprivation can affect women’s fertility. During the summer, my kids get plenty of sleep, but during the school year they’re almost always tired. What are the effects of sleep deprivation on children?

A: There’s no question that sleep deprivation is bad for adults. Besides affecting fertility, is also increases the risk of depression, anxiety, diabetes, cardiac problem, and car accidents (about 100,000/year are caused by drowsy drivers), and decreases our ability to fight off infection. The effects on children are just as bad. Two new studies underscore just how important sleep is by showing how the lack of it influences children’s behavior and food choices.
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Five Reasons Why Breakfast Really Is the Most Important Meal of the Day

eating breakfast is importantWashington, D.C. — In honor of National School Breakfast Week (March 4 – 8) Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign reveals five fast factsabout the role a healthy school breakfast can play in changing lives. 

1)      STUDENTS DON’T EAT BREAKFAST: Even though more than 21 million low-income kids in the U.S. rely on a free or reduced-price school lunch, only half – about 11 million – are also getting a school breakfast. [FRAC School Breakfast Scorecard, 2011-2012]

 2)      TEACHERS SEE HUNGER: Nearly two-thirds (62%) of K-8 public school teachers said they had children in their classrooms who regularly came to school hungry because there wasn’t enough to eat at home. [No Kid Hungry’s “Hunger In Our Schools” survey, 2012]

 3)      BREAKFAST IS KEY TO LEARNING: Teachers said school breakfast led to increased concentration (95%), better academic performance (89%) and better behavior in the classroom (73%). [No Kid Hungry’s “Hunger In Our Schools” survey, 2012]

 4)      BREAKFAST CHANGES LIVES: According to an analysis of the long-term impact of school breakfast, this morning meal does more than simply provide children with essential daily nutrition. On average, students who eat school breakfast have been shown to achieve 17.5% higher scores on standardized math tests and attend 1.5 more days of school per year. These factors are linked to a child’s improved chance of getting a high school diploma, and high school graduates are more likely to be employed, earn higher wages and see greater self-sufficiency as adults. [“Ending Childhood Hunger: A Social Impact Analysis,” 2013]

 5)      YOU CAN HELP MORE KIDS GET BREAKFAST:  The No Kid Hungry campaign has found that innovative ways of serving breakfast – like moving it from the cafeteria to the classroom – can give many more kids a chance to benefit from breakfast at school. Increasing participation in school breakfast is just one way No Kid Hungry is making sure all kids get the food they need every day, and you can help. We’re building an online map that paints a virtually unprecedented view of school breakfast programs across the country. We’re asking people to call a school(s), ask three simple questions about school breakfast and report their findings into our online map. VisitNoKidHungry.org/Breakfast to get started.

Good Grades—Nice to Have, But at What Cost?

Dear Mr. Dad: I’m really worried about my 9-year old daughter. She’s very smart and does well in school but lately she’s become obsessed with grades. A lot of her classmates have private tutors and she’s feeling more and more pressure from her teachers to study all the time. It’s gotten to the point where she doesn’t play with friends, rarely reads anything that’s not assigned, and almost never does artwork, which was something she used to be passionate about. Worst of all, she just doesn’t seem happy any more. Is there something we can do to get her back the way she was?

A: One of the most frustrating tasks of parenthood is to get our kids to do their homework, so being in a position where you feel that your child is studying too much, feels weird, doesn’t it? But you’re absolutely right to worry. Our obsession with grades and performance (in and out of school) has gotten too far out of hand. And the consequences are pretty severe.

First, it may actually be having the opposite effect than the one we hope for. A number of recent studies have found that the qualities that are most correlated with success in life are innovation, collaboration, and creativity. And the best way to nurture those qualities is to allow people unstructured time to think. Some of the classic examples of this include: Google, where employees can spend as much as 20 percent of their time on projects that could benefit the company’s customers. Google says that about half of its new products (including Adsense and Gmail) come from that 20-percent time. And Microsoft has its Garage program that gives employees a physical space—and permission—to work together to develop side projects. Branding expert Dan Schawbel says that 99 percent of Garage projects either ship as part of a Microsoft product or remain internal. Unfortunately, schools’ insane focus on grades leaves kids little or no time to let their minds run free. As a result, they’re becoming less and less creative.

Second, the focus on grades is literally making our kids sick—and worse. Young people today—and by “young people,” I mean kids from elementary school through college—are five to eight times more likely to have symptoms of anxiety and depression than they were 50 years ago. Worse yet, the U.S. suicide rate for kids under 15 has quadrupled since 1950, and the rate for young people 15-25 has doubled, according to Peter Gray, author of “Free to Learn.” Gray also points out that anxiety and depression levels are very much associated with how much control people feel they have over their own lives. “Those who are in charge of their own fate are much less likely to become anxious or depressed than those who believe they are victims of circumstances beyond their control.” Schools that are laser focused on grades over all else are definitely not allowing kids the freedom they need to thrive.

Now, as for what to do to help your daughter, start by talking with her teachers and the school administrators. Explain the downside of the pressure they’re putting on kids and encourage them to lighten up. But don’t expect much change. Your best approach is going to be to help your daughter understand that there’s a lot more to life than grades, and that by giving herself the freedom to play, draw, or just hang out with friends, she’ll actually do better in school and in life.

3 Ways Social Media Can Help You Succeed in Classes

What? Social media can help kids succeed in class? Well, if the kids in question are in college, there’s a good chance there’s a better-than-even chance that they’re using social media all the time anyway, so all we can do is show them how to put their social media chops to good use. In this guest post, educator Justin Miller shows us how.

It might seem counterintuitive—social media actually improving your grades and and music skills?—but is doesn’t have to be. Social media outlets can be wildly effective tools for planning parties, but these networks can also be helpful when it comes to acing the hands-on components of your courses, particularly when it comes to music. There are some uses you might not even expect.

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Debunking the Mozart Effect

We are parents of two kids, 6 and 8, and our closest friends have kids the exact same ages. These friends swear that they can increase their children’s IQ by playing certain kinds of music. I think they’re full of it. But could they possibly be right? Does music actually increase a child’s intelligence?

Remember the Mozart Effect’the wildly popular idea that listening to music by Mozart would boost children’s IQ? Don Campbell, who took the Effect out of the lab and into the shopping mall, sells all sorts of products that supposedly will make your child smarter. Turns out, though, that the Mozart Effect does nothing of the kind (although that hasn’t stopped Campbell and others from making a ton of money).
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