Category Archives: Parenting
I’ve found it a bit difficult to explain the concept of evolution to a child below the age of 10. You run into a problem defining all those “things” involved – like DNA and reproduction and population and deep time. Those are tough for kids to grasp (especially “populations”, I’ve noticed). Check out this video with adorable graphics and rather easy to understand explanations. Read the rest of this entry
This is the first of a few posts I’m trying on parenting in a rational way, informed by science. It’s free of old wives tales, what your Mom used to tell you, and all the nonsense you find in online Mommy forums and supermarket women’s magazines. Things are complicated. The answer is not always easy and there is not one answer for everyone. But if Jenny McCarthy, an actress, can dish out advice just because she has been endowed with the holy “mommy instinct”, I can tell you about some of the things that worked for me with my kids. Maybe they are right for you too.
So, for whatever it’s worth (and I’m no expert), here goes.
Don’t do drugs. They are bad.
This is a year of speaking “firsts” for me. I never did a panel. But my first workshop/panel went great (at TAM). I never talked to kids before but my trip to the local elementary school’s third grade with my bag of rock samples went splendidly.
Back in March, our local YMCA asked parents to volunteer to be guest speakers for their teen summer camp. I suppose most adults are called in to talk about their jobs or their hobbies, but I saw an opportunity to talk to kids about critical thinking. Specifically, about the 2012 Mayan apocalypse. My own daughter (13 at the time) had expressed curiosity about the Mayan calendar and the end of the world prediction. She revealed that lots of her friends believed in strange stuff she KNEW (from me) was nonsense, including the 2012 scenario. Kids get their information from media and their peers (who share even more media with them). They are influenced by what they see on TV. It shapes their idea of what is normal and accepted in our culture. I can hardly imagine other kids talking to their parents about paranormal and mystical topics and I shudder to think what information they might get in return. Not many families apply skepticism to their daily lives as openly as mine.
I could not pass up this outreach opportunity for a captive audience of just the right age (11-14).
What follows is some detail on how to do these kinds of talks just in case you ever get the opportunity to do one yourself. Even if it’s not about 2012, you can still talk to kids about how to think about psychics, ghosts, alternative medicine, whatever. THIS is the age you can make an impact. They are interested in knowing. What strikes them, they remember.
When I tell people what I do (geologist), most will say, “I’ve never met a geologist before. That’s so interesting.” While I don’t do what people probably imagine a geologist might do, the foundation is important. I still consider myself a scientist.
This report is about a study that says parents apparently want to encourage their kids in science but don’t feel they are equipped to do so. From Science Daily: Parents Need Help Encouraging their Kids in Science http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100510092004.htm
I have never been asked to speak at my kids school. I never get asked to speak at community events. People don’t typically inquire at my workplace about meeting scientists or having them speak to groups. I’ve been asked to speak about specific issues, but not about a job in science. Therefore, I believe most people think they have never met a scientist but we are really all around them. It’s not some esoteric subject. It’s a shame that our culture has stereotyped scientists as the brainy, socially inept white male in a lab coat with unkempt hair. That’s really inaccurate.
Here is where TV can help.
I know. TV is bad. It mostly is. But shows like Mythbusters have made science into family fun time. There is no excuse for parents not to be introducing their kids from ages 4 and up to Mythbusters as a gateway into thinking about how the world works. That is science. So, for parents that feel sleepy at the thought of watching David Attenborough documentaries, cue up Mythbusters on the tube to watch and talk about together. Then, get outside and look for bugs, fly a kite, put Mentos in soda, count the birds, look at the stars, examine dirt with a magnifying glass, hike a nature trail, watch the clouds, collect things at the beach, plant seeds, start a rock collection, identify wildflowers… I could go on and on. Just get out there and observe the world. It’s not that hard.
Last month, my Grandma died. She was 94. We were very close. Even in her 80s, she would travel with my Dad to our house for visits and events. When she was in a nursing home, we visited her when we were in town and my young daughter, aged 6, would cavort around the nursing home saying ‘Hi’ to everyone and decorating Great-Grandmas room with pictures and decorations.
When she died, it was not a question between my husband and I that the kids would attend the funeral. It was their first funeral – the first time someone they were close to (their Great-Grandmother) had died. My older daughter, aged 11, expressed some nervousness. The little one had a nervous tummy on the trip there – always a sign she is apprehensive.
I prepared them for what they would see at the funeral home – telling them where the casket would be, that it would be open and that Great-Grandma would likely not look like they were used to seeing her. They didn’t have to go up to see if they didn’t want to. I went through what we would do there, how long we would stay and how they should act. I reminded them that this is a quiet place but they should be prepared to be greeted by relatives they didn’t remember and so they should try to be polite. There would be no running or playing.
Funerals and weddings are the way our spread-out families get together these days so the evening was a family reunion of sorts. My parents were thrilled to see their precious grandkids, dressed all pretty. Big hugs all around. The kids, surprisingly, did not hesitate to go to the casket. They were not disturbed. Then they sat down with us. It must have been boring for them but they paid attention and were cordial with visitors. The elder smiled at those amazed at how grown-up she was, the younger tolerated with a smile Aunt Sarah pinching her cheeks. To pass the time, they discovered mints in my purse, made a trip to the water cooler and drew pictures in a notebook. All the time, being quiet and respectful.
I was amazed that none of my other cousins with small children brought theirs along but chose to leave them with babysitters. This felt wrong on many levels. Mostly, it seemed disrespectful to Grandma. One remarked that her son was more interested in doing something with his friends. The point about this occasion was lost. Unknown to them, we are a nonreligious family. The kids don’t go to church. But, I could not imagine them missing this event, regardless of the religious tone. There are some things you are obligated to do.
The next day, they went to the church, the cemetery and then the dinner afterward. The younger was Miss Social Butterfly (and got pinched out of sheer cuteness again by Aunt Sarah). From my parents to my second cousins, I received compliments about how wonderful they looked and behaved. It seems as if good behavior from children shocked people. I was extraordinarily proud as they tried to follow along with the church service and did not fidget once.
It’s not that hard to model good behavior for children. You have to start early, keep firm rules and reward them. Rewards of praise and hugs are typically enough. They understand that.
My children now know what it’s like to attend a funeral and a church service. They were also exposed to the religious-themed language and ritual that in which we are rarely involved. I would say this was a critical learning event in their lives that they will remember for MANY reasons. Also, I learned how valuable this was as a social ritual for our immediate and extended families. Even though we are nonreligious, I felt no qualms that I decided to include my children in this important cultural event. It also meant a lot to others who were there to see respectful children who said a dignified goodbye to someone they loved.
That creepy picture of JesusJayZombie is freaking me out so I needed a post to bump it down.
I should be reading some papers for school but I’m not. They are BOR-ING. Why is academic writing so boring? I can read some long-haired stuff but, man, this crap puts me to sleep.
I’m in the process of starting yet another blog. But, it’s not very bloggy just yet. I am constructing a web site for kids (middle readers) about monsters and spooky stuff. Read the rest of this entry
The skeptical movement is blossoming. This is good and bad. It used to be sort of easy to keep up with things. Now, there are so many new blogs and interesting forums to follow, one can’t possibly participate in all of them. I can just about keep up on all the podcasts!
Read the rest of this entry
Many of today’s kids, at least my kid, seems to think it’s perfectly OK to have fun believing in ghosts, unicorns, witchcraft, demons, UFOs, vampires, and the like. They appear to understand that much of this is by choice and strictly for entertainment purposes only. It seems fair to think that childish things will eventually be discarded.
But, I’m concerned. Read the rest of this entry
I liked this article today from NY Times.
This is our parenting style. We don’t sign the kids up for endless activities, we don’t buy them tons of toys or spoil them with expensive things. They use their own money for the ice cream man and things they want in the story. They entertain themselves when they are bored. I let them play outside in the neighborhood. Read the rest of this entry
Jamie Lynn Spears’ pregnancy provides parents of girls between 7 and 14 with a golden opportunity to talk about birth control. Just do it. It’s easy. It’s absolutely necessary.
Abstinence isn’t going to cut it. That’s actually been proven. Let’s face it – kids that are too young still have sex. If you are a wise and caring parent, you encourage them to be smart about relationships but you also teach them about birth control so they don’t derail their lives with a child before its time. The young girls in poor neighborhoods don’t have the resources that the Spears’ have to care for a child (though I would question celebrity parental skills). A 16 year girl living in relative poverty may not be able to graduate and establish her independence with a child in tow. It’s very sad. She may become a burden to society instead of an asset.
Just to add, I’ll highlight the complete disregard that the fundamentalist religionists have for the life of these young women. Nothing is so telling about the health and prosperity of a society than the status of its women. If it were left up to the fundamentalists (of all religions) women would be relegated solely to the role of broodmares, subservient to their husbands. Their religious texts support this view. I deeply resent that. Ask your Presidential candidates ‘what is the role of a woman in society?’. Their answers may be very telling.