Friday Frivolity - Parent Rap

First there was the Swagger Wagon, and now there's The Parent Rap, a more recent viral video of parents rapping about life with "the shorties." The Parent Rap makes saying things like, "don't make me count to 1, 2, 3..."or "Keep your hands to yourself!" or "Don't make me stop this car!" sound maybe, a tiny bit cool. Or maybe not. Either way, its fun to watch. Many thanks ot Amy for sending it along to us.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Will "character training" be the next parenting trend?

The discussion of developing children’s non-cognitive skills, also known as character, seems to be cropping up everywhere these days, not just as an antidote to the Rug Rat Race. Last week's episode of This American Life covered exactly this topic: the role of resilience, adaptability, persistence, self control in acheivement, and featured much of the work behind Paul Tough’s new book, How Children Succeed. Find the pod cast here.

While the This American Life coverage focuses on economic and policy implications of developing children's character, I wonder how it will alter the parenting landscape in the suburbs where I live. Will it lead to a rebellion against the drilling and coaching and pushing and prepping, inciting parents to wantonly unschool their children? Will it drive parents to incorporate adversity into their children's lives, having their children walk to school in the snow, sit through long, boring meals, or (gasp!) make their own beds? Of course, the most likely scenario is that it will spawn a new generation of books, seminars, and classes on how to build character in your children. This change would probably be a positive development, all around, assuming families don't pursure "character building" with the myopic intensity typically applied to math drills, early reading and youth sports. I shudder to imagine strip mall franchises designed to teach our children "character" in 45 minutes classes. So convenient, if you can manage to squeeze it in between gymnastics and math tutoring. Kumon for character, anyone? 

Resisting the Rug Rat Race

The phrase "Rug Rat Race" has to be one of the more alliterative labels for the hyper-parenting we all recognize, bemoan, and debate. When I first heard it, thanks to the recent Wall Street Journal piece,  "Opting out of the Rug Rat Race" I was taken with the cleverness of the term - even a tad jealous not to have coined it myself - and of course immediately hooked into reading the article. 

In the story, author Paul Tough lays out something glaringly obvious yet rarely delineated so scientifically: building strong cognitive skills, through early reading, math, or academic drills does not necessarily lead to lifetime success and hapiness, but qualities like resiliency, curiosity, persistence and self-control do. Having some freedom and autonomy builds life skills. Helicopter parenting does not. The author even goes so far to say, "... it seems, the most valuable thing that parents can do to help their children develop noncognitive skills—which is to say, to develop their character—may be to do nothing." Yes! We've said it before: sometimes it's best to do absolutely nothing. Yet, we could not be more gratified to see it espoused publicly.

With a 7th grader in a new school, with a new mobile phone, and 45 minute bus ride each way, I find myself newly tempted to engage in hyper-parenting. At 2:45pm on a week day, I might find my fingers twitching to text a reminder: "don't forget your gym bag!" but I pause, hear those chopper blades thrumming, and think to myself: put the phone down, you helicopter parent, you. Seems like I'll need to excercise a little self control if I want to foster all those life skills like resiliency, curiosity, persistence and, oh, yes, self-control.

P.S. For the record, the term "Rug Rat Race" was coined in 2009 by economists Garey Ramey and Valerie A. Ramey in a paper for the National Bureau of Economic Research - not that I'm ambitious enough to have actually read such an academic paper on parenting. I just like to give credit where credit is due.

With Abercrombie and Justice for all...

It was bound to happen eventually.  Some day, the modern daughter who had never noticed her clothing in her life (unless it itched), was going to wake up and listen when her peers started talking about Abercrombie, Justice and the mall.  The modern mother knew that one day the modern daughter would want to visit those places and wear clothes from there.  The modern mother just didn't know it would be last week.

The good news is: the music was so LOUD in Abercrombie Kids that neither mother nor daughter could stand it.  Now, one assumes, the brilliant marketing minds at Abercrombie Kids know what they are doing and despite how repelling the music is to one demographic (people with ears) there is presumably a swath of the credit card carrying population that does not mind this incredible noise.  Indeed, a quick search on the Google revealed a number of intelligible answers to the question "Why is the music so loud in Abercrombie Kids?" Our favorite response was: "There have been scientific studies showing that loud music makes you make rash decisions, mainly because you are not thinking as clearly as you would be if there was no loud music."  Other hypothesis included "The loud music will distract you from the prices." and "It's tragically hip."  

Then came the store Justice.  In the interest of full disclosure, it should be noted, that many a mother had warned the modern mother about how awful Justice was.  So much like The Blair Witch Project it appeared less scary than it might have.  But it was sparkly, it was neon and there was just so, so much of it.  Lots of it was too skimpy.  Some was just not age appropriate. 

You can go with this... Party Dress from Justice 

None of it seemed well made.  But there were a couple of pairs of shorts long enough for some and short enough for others and two tops that provided coverage where coverage should be.  So, a detente was reached and they proceeded to the register.  At this point the modern mother nearly had a heart attack.  Even with the first time shopper 40% discount the total for four items came in at more than twice what the modern mother had been expecting.  Never mind what she could have done with that kind of cash at Pears and Bears or some trunk show. After all, there is no point dwelling in the past.  

Or you can go with that... Kayce Hughes/Pears and Bears
N.B. Perhaps a certain type of modern mother might have nixed the whole outing to the mall in the bud.  However,  it is our limited experience that "You gotta know when to hold 'em.  Know when to fold 'em.  Know when to walk away.  Know when to run..." and it is our hope that by exposing the modern daughter to the options available in conjuncture with our own example she will find her own path which we personally hope will be be more boho chic and less hoochie mama.

Back to school, back to school involvement?

Labor day is past. The seasons are changing. School is here. Shall we all breathe a sigh of relief? Or shall we shudder with dread considering the coming onslaught of curriculum nights, school fundraisers and other opportunities for parental involvement?

The prospect of selling raffle tickets, bringing in 40 sliced apples for “healthy snack” or even baking for the archetypal bake sale might seem like a good way to “get involved” as your first child enters kindergarten, but it is a universal truth that parents become weary with too much volunteering.  Some parents have careers that keep them tied up for most of their waking hours, others have passed one too many afternoons as cashier at the book fair, others might be training for their next triathalon. Whatever the reason, a seasoned parent might begin to dread the onset of the school year and the concomitant calls to “get involved” through extensive volunteering.

Conveniently, the New York Times recently published a story addressing the forever angst-ridden topic of school involvement.  While we encourage you to read the whole story, we applaud the astonishing simplicity of the closing recommendations for parental involvement. They are: (1) Meet the teacher (i.e., introduce yourself, show your support for their educational mission and open the lines for communication); (2) Ask good questions (i.e., really talk with your child about his or her experiences at school); and (3) Put your children to bed (i.e., don’t let them stay up to all hours because you’re too lazy to turn off Glee or stop blogging and enforce bedtime.) These recommendations are sensible, sane, and above all, polite. Since they focus on treating others (child and teacher) with respect, setting appropriate limits, and civil interactions, these recomendations no doubt come naturally to all our well-mannered readers, but are refreshing to read, nonetheless.

Wishing you all a smooth transition back to school. Happy September!

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