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Are Parents Happier than Non-Parents? My interview on Good Morning America

GMA_Robyn2014webYesterday I had the pleasure of being on Good Morning America talking about a new study that showed that more non-parents than parents got more sleep, were less stressed, got more exercise and were more likely to say they weren’t happy.  Of course, this is only one study and within it, only one segment of non-parents that say they aren’t happy. But the question was, why?

**I received a few questions and comments from two women after the segment stating that they were non-parents and were very fulfilled and happy and therefore found this study offensive.  Please understand that this study– and I– am in no way suggesting that all non-parents are unhappy and unfulfilled!  That would be ridiculous. I know and love many people in the targeted age-bracket who aren’t parents and are still fulfilled, happy and have a wonderful life. And, on the flip side, there are parents who are not happy and fulfilled.  Studies look in generalities not in specifics.  It looks at what can be said for a group, not specific people and their personal lives.

So this report looks into the possible why a larger portion of non-parents, given that they report that their lives are easier and less stressful, still report that they are unhappy.

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Adrian Peterson: Should history repeat itself when it comes to child discipline?

adrian-peterson-mugshot1History tends to repeat itself.  This is often true when it comes to how mothers and fathers parent their children.

I was contacted yesterday by Good Morning America regarding the Adrian Peterson story involving the Minnesota Vikings running back and his 4 year old son.  The 4-year-old told a doctor that Peterson had punished him for pushing his brother off a bike by hitting him repeatedly with a switch.  The “switch” was a tree branch, stripped of leaves.  The beating resulted in many injuries to the child, including cuts and bruises to the child’s hands, legs, back, buttocks and scrotum.  The report also details that the NFL star felt bad about the result of the beating (especially as it related to the child’s legs and scrotum) but was not apologetic about his discipline techniques. “Never do I go overboard! But all my kids will know, hey daddy has the biggie heart but don’t play no games when it comes to acting right.”

Why the switch?

Because that is how he was raised. Peterson fully admitted to police that he had “whooped” his son on the backside with a switch as a form of punishment, and then produced a switch similar to the one with which he hit the child.

Many of us, who are now in our 30s, 40s, 50s and older, were spanked when we were young.  I even had a friend who was belted.  But we now know from numerous studies that spanking can backfire.  Hitting a child can certainly fill a child with fear– scaring him or her to refrain from participating in the negative behavior– but it can also teach the child to hit, harbor anger and hold onto resentment and shame.  What’s more, spanking, while instilling fear, does not often instill understanding and discipline.

Of course, many people still believe it “works.”

Parents often do what they were taught to do by their own parents.  And successful parents can easily and understandably conclude that they came out alright– so they wonder, what’s the harm?  And when your child is acting out, a parent is at his or her wits end and talking to that child doesn’t seem to work, it’s certainly simple to see why a parent might feel compelled to resort to corporal punishment.  That being said, does acting on that impulse it make it right?  Necessary?  Should history repeat itself or, with greater knowledge of the effects on the masses, should we go a different way?

So the question of the day is; what parenting technique have you taken from your own parents and repeated and what parenting technique have you completely pushed aside and rejected?

 

 

 

Mom Leaves Child in Car for Five Minutes and is Charged with Misdemeanor


ABC US News | ABC International News

Kim Brooks left her child in the car for 5 minutes to run into a store and get her child a pair of ear phones.  Her four year old son stayed in the locked car, the windows cracked on a mild day because he didn’t want to go in with her.  It seemed harmless enough but someone was watching– and taping– the incident.  The video footage was turned into the police and Kim’s world was turned upside down for a while.  She was charged with a misdemeanor.

GMA_womanleaveschildWe see this happen all the time — parents leaving children in cars. Thank God it wasn’t a bad outcome for the child. What’s your take on this?

First of all, I feel for this woman. As parents, we juggle so much and we all have lapses in judgment but they are not all caught on tape. So we can debate whether we are too overprotective and how we were all left in the car when we were little and came out just fine but the truth is, we are under surveillance by everyone with a camera on their phone- welcome big brother, 1984. Since we have laws in many states that say it’s not ok to leave a child under 6 in a car alone, that means no matter what your personal view, even if you know in your heart it will be just fine, we have to follow it. It may just be caught on tape.

We also have to realize that while it may seem silly to have to take your child into a store for a 2 minute errand even if the car is only 10 yards away, we need a definitive line.  As Dan Abrams says in the piece, and I agree, how can we be arbitrary?  We can’t say it’s OK to go into a store for 5 minutes but not twelve or to be 10 yards away from the car but not 17.

I think this strikes a cord because so many of us have been in this situation– some may have even left their children in a car when they’ve run in to get their dry cleaning.  This could have happened to a lot of people– this woman is not unusual.

What do you suggest the mother should have done?

I’m a busy mom of a 4 and a 5 year old and believe me, it’s not always fun to bring them into stores. So there is no judgment from me. But here’s the thing: (1) we have to be able to tell our children, “I know you don’t like this, but it’s not a choice. You have to come with me.” And (2) as I’ve done before with a sick child, I left the doctor’s office and went to my local Pink’s pharmacy and had a sick, sleeping child in my back seat- I called them up from right in front of their door and said; can I give you my credit card over the phone and is it possible for you to meet me by my car, my child is sick.

As much as we live in these crazy times, we also live in times when people will help us out. I encourage parents to seek out their help.

*Remember; this is not a bad parent, this was just a lapse in judgment.  And really?  We’ve all had those.  Let’s wish her the best.

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Parents: Boys Are Sexting More Now Than Ever– What You Need to Know


Today_aug2013I was on the Today Show this morning talking about teens and sexting.  A new study suggests that boys are sexting more than ever–  aiming to get the attention of girls in profoundly inappropriate ways.  Here are some questions parents have asked me– and some answers that I hope will be helpful to you as you navigate today’s high tech culture with your children.

(1) Is this the new normal?

This kind of behavior has become a lot more common likely because there is so many messages out there that are telling young people this is the norm. Pornography is just a few key strokes away.  Objectication and sexualization is part of the natural landscape of advertising and marketing to teens today.  (3) Hook up culture is celebrated in many TV shows and reality shows for teens. And don’t forget (4) Real life politicians, sports heroes and entertainers are made into household names for doing it, make excuses for it and are excused for doing it.  These messages happen 24/7 so their frame of reference is, this is the norm.

(2) What should parents do?

When I’m presenting to parents or educators I tell them that they must look & listen, Engage & explain and Be a powerful example.

  • Look/Listen:  What is my child doing?  What is he watching?  What kinds of texts is he sending? What is he saying about girls?  To his friends?  To girls?
  • Engage & Explain: Ask directly. For example; Dr. Robyn was saying on The Today Show that boys are sending texts to girls about hooking up and having sex—is this happening in your world?  What do you think about it? Be very clear that what he is seeing and hearing on the internet and on TV is not the norm.
  • Provide a powerful example: There are too many messages out there that are telling your children that hook up culture is to be expected—so show them what it means to have a meaningful relationship based on respect, kindness and character.

(3) When should parents talk to their children about it?

Parents need to start talking to their children about the power of the media, their bodies and treating people with respect and kindness from a very early age.  This is not one conversation but a series of conversations we have over a childhood so that when we move into sexting, dating, hook up culture and sex, it’s not strained or strange—it is a natural continuation of countless conversations you have had with your child.  We can’t just have “the sex talk” we need to have the relationship talk, the character talk, the technology talk and many others to raise a healthy, respectful child. Conversation not only with boys—but absolutely with girls too who may have more power than they think to change the way boys talk to them and relate to them.

(4) Boys are acting with clueless aggression that is fueled by anonymity so I tell them that a good litmus test is– Would you be embarrassed if this text was seen by your mother or your sister?  If yes, it’s probably not something you should send.

What do you think?  Is this a concern of yours?  How do you deal with it?

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Parenting stress

Bad Parenting Day: 10 Tips for Making Tomorrow Better

Yesterday was one of my worst parenting days.  You ever have one of those?

Coming off a night of tossing and turning I just shouldn’t have gotten out of bed.  But with a 3 and a 4 year old, you really don’t have that option.  So groggy with a bit of cotton-head I got up at 6:45 when my daughter called for me.  Both of my kids always love to get up deliciously early.

My daughter got up on the wrong side of the bed.  Everything from her dreams to her outfit were wrong.  She didn’t even want to wear the underwear I had put out for her.  Really?  “It’s freakin’ underwear,” I could hear myself repeating in my head.

My son had just gotten up with my husband and was playing one of his new birthday games, Hungry Hungry Hippos.  As my kids are allowed to open 2 gifts per day in the days following their special day to control the indulgence avalanche, he was ready to open his second gift.

It was a remote control car.  Harmless enough—but a source of great argument when you have two children who are raised in a home where there is no such thing as a “girl toy” or a “boy toy.”  They both wanted to play with it.

Two extremely “Type A” children, one car, one remote. You see where this is going?  If they weren’t arguing with each other about whose turn it was, they Read more

Oklahoma hurricane

Parents; How to Talk to Your Children about The Oklahoma Tornado

“Hi Robyn; We’re fine. It missed us by 2 street blocks.  We’re fine, our houses are fine. So sorry we weren’t able to call or text during the storm.  We love you guys.”

In the recent past, I’ve written articles about how to talk to children about horrifying events such as the SandyHook, Connecticut shooting and The Boston Marathon bombing.  In both articles, while incredibly concerned, I was not touched personally by the tragedies.  I had lived in Boston for many years (I received my PhD from Tufts University near Boston) and made many friends there—but nobody I knew had attended the marathon and all were perfectly safe during the tragedy.

Yesterday, a massive tornado hit Moore, OK.  I couldn’t believe it when I saw the name in the news.  Moore?  I have a deep personal tie to Moore.  Both my children were born there.  Both of their adoptions took place in Moore.  And most significantly, the birth family of both my children still live in Moore.  Their birth mother, their birth father and their birth grandmother.

Many of you who are constant, devoted readers of my parenting site know that we have an open adoption plan with my children’s birth family.  This is not just on paper.  We are extremely close with the birth family—so much so that none of us regard each other as “birth family” and “adoptive family” (I only use those names here to avoid confusion)—we just call each other family.

I am so happy to report that our family members in Moore are all safe.  The message on the top of this article was left by our children’s birth grandmother.  We have been in contact over the last 2 days and while our whole family had quite a scare, they got out of the storm unscathed.  The tornado passed 2 miles away from my kids’ birth father’s house and a ¼ mile from his girlfriend’s place of work.  He was holed up in a bank vault for safety while my kids’ birth mother took refuge in a Walmart with a hundred other people.  The kids’ birth grandmother literally drove herself away from the oncoming storm.  The whole thing is beyond scary.

The experience has given me a more nuanced perspective of how to talk to children about frightening events such as this tornado in Oklahoma.  Since my children (especially my 4 year old) know about the storm and how it affected our family, it is from this perspective that I write my tips today.

(1) Ensure your children know that this tornado is not a threat to their safety: “Is the tornado coming here” my daughter wondered?  Sometimes just saying; “no, it’s all done” is enough.  Other times, for the very curious child, this may be a good  for a little weather lesson.  You can say; “Just Read more

Martin Richard; boston marathon

Mom & Dad; Are we safe? Talking to your children about scary things presented in the news

As we now all know, yesterday’s tragic bombing at the Boston Marathon resulted in at least 176 people injured.  Nine of them are children—at least 8 of whom are being treated in hospitals.  One child, 8-year-old Martin Richard, was killed during the Boston Marathon explosion while enjoying ice cream with his family. His 6 year old sister lost her leg and their mother underwent brain surgery due to her critical injuries.

There are many other stories of families affected and many of us have been touched either directly or indirectly by this senseless act.  One of my good friends just reported that her son’s friend may lose his hearing because pellets were sprayed from the bomb and got lodged in his head. He was there to cheer his dad on who was running the marathon. The juxtaposition of happy joyous cheering, eating ice cream and enjoying a special outing with the family with the horror of a senseless bombing is hard to fathom.  It’s even harder to explain.

As we talked about during the Newtown Connecticut shootings and other stories of senseless child murder, these are unimaginable acts that are likely to bring about questions.  Some are easy to answer.  Others feel nearly impossible.  Still, we can’t put our heads in the sand, as we want our children to hear the truth in an age-appropriate way from someone who knows them best—and that likely means you. Remember, if you aren’t talking about it and they want to hear an answer, they will go to another source.  It is our job to be the source.

So how do you talk to your children about ugly, scary things that are talked about in the media?  What can we do?

(1) Media exposure should be limited:  Information is best coming from a trusted source who is sensitive to the way your child can best receive it—at a time when is best for your child. You can limit details based on age and maturity—and seeing gruesome photos and frightening video is inappropriate for most children. Information on the news is aimed at adults—not at children.

(2) Let them know that responsible adults are working to keep us safe and healthy: When situations seem unsure, children need to know that Read more

Superheroes

Boy Toys, Girl Toys and What Kids Learn When We Allow Them To Choose

As a parent, I often wonder about how the toys and role models in my children’s lives translate to behavior.  I tend to be the kind of mother who encourages a wide range of toys, games and books.  I am less about banning (unless it is truly counter to our family’s core character-based values) and more about providing a continuum of options so that my children gain experience, choice and understanding.

That means that we have everything from princess dress up and dolls to blocks, science kits, dump trucks and dinosaurs.  And both of my children play with whatever they choose to that day.  Yes, my son has put on a tutu while bouncing and laughing in our basement bounce house and my daughter has crashed Batman and Wonder Woman action figures into a tower of blocks, saving the “little people” trapped inside from disaster.  I’ve played race cars with my son while crawling around on the kitchen floor and my husband has played dolls with my daughter while cuddling in the den. To me, it’s all good.

But I sometimes see that a range is not provided or accepted in households around America and elsewhere.  Boys play with “boy things” and girls play with Read more

Pregnancy By Proxy: The Out Of Body Experience of Open Adoption

In honor of our daughter’s 4th birthday, I am republishing some of my adoption articles. This is the third article in the series. Happy Birthday to our sweet baby girl.

Believe me.  This was not what I had envisioned when I thought about pregnancy for myself.  I was more of a traditional gal—thinking that the whole baby- boarding process would actually be taking place in my own body. You know—baby bump, bloated feet, morning sickness–the whole enchilada. I certainly hadn’t considered the possibility of pregnancy being an out-of-body experience.

But when we decided on adoption, and ultimately, open adoption, that’s what it became. I can say now that I couldn’t be more grateful.  It was one of the most beautiful experiences of my life. But at the start, I thought I might just throw up my lunch.

Look; the 1st trimester is never a sure thing. It’s unpredictable, tenuous, and scary.  I should know; I had lost 4 pregnancies during those 1st 12 weeks.  And yet, here I was willingly and excitedly matched with a birth mother whose baby—no, fetus—was only the size of a pin head and looked more like a baby seahorse than anything human.

What was I doing to myself?  How would I survive the next 35 weeks just watching and hearing updates from the sidelines? The last time I checked, pregnancy was not Read more

The Infertility Club: Shifting My Goal from Pregnancy to Adoption

In honor of my daughter’s 4th birthday, I’m republishing my adoption series.

As you can probably imagine, I felt like the shoemaker’s daughter. I didn’t just work with children and families, I provided parenting tips and tactics to moms and dads around the world…all the while housing a secret that taunted and tortured me every day. I couldn’t get pregnant. Well, that’s not exactly true. I was pretty good at getting pregnant. I just couldn’t seem to stay that way.

After repeatedly bashing myself and feeling every emotion from maudlin inadequacy to stark raving anger, I decided to donate my body to science. Yes, I became a card carrying member of the ever-popular but rarely discussed “infertility club” which allows millions of women to play the role of “the willing pin cushion” in the quest to become a parent. Not that I wasn’t grateful for the possibility—it’s just challenging to keep up your enthusiasm when your hormones are fluctuating between those of a moody adolescent to those of an over-heated menopausal woman. And this was normal. Or so they said.

When you join the “infertility club” you start out thinking that there are certain things Read more