via ResearchGate: Children with harsh parents were more influenced by the opinion of their peers.

In a study that tracked 1,500 students beginning in seventh grade, researchers found that those who were parented harshly were more likely by ninth grade to place more importance on their peer group than other responsibilities, including obeying their parents’ rules. This meant they were more likely to engage in risky behaviors in eleventh grade, with males seeing greater delinquency like hitting and stealing, and females more frequent early sexual behavior.

We spoke to lead author Rochelle F Hentges about the study.

ResearchGate: What motivated this study?

Rochelle Hentges: We wanted to better understand how and why some children leave education early, either by dropping out of high school or not completing college. Prior research has indicated that children growing up in harsh or adverse environments are more likely to drop out. But we’re still not sure what it is about these environments that affect educational achievement. Evolutionary theories have suggested that, because harsh environments can make survival uncertain, individuals growing up in harsh environments are primed to try and capitalize on immediate rewards rather than focusing on long-term goals or outcomes. For example, research has found that children growing up in harsh or unstable environments are more likely to take a smaller, but immediate reward (two M&Ms) instead of waiting to get a larger reward (five M&Ms). Many of the messages that children get about why education is important are related to long-term goals, like getting into a good college or getting a better-paying job. I hypothesized, based on this evolutionary theory, that children growing up in environments with harsh parenting would be less likely to complete high school or go to college.

RG: What do you consider to be harsh parenting?

Hentges: In our study, harsh parenting was considered to be acts of verbal or physical aggression, such as yelling, name-calling, shoving, or threatening the child.

RG: What were the results of your study?

Hentges: We found that harsh parenting in seventh grade (around age 12-13) predicted an extreme peer orientation in eighth grade. An extreme peer orientation means that the child is more influenced by what their peers think or want instead of their parents. For example, they’re more likely to blow off doing homework if a friend calls and wants them to hang-out and they’re more likely to disobey parents’ rules if it means going along with what their friends want to do. This extreme peer orientation predicted higher delinquency for both boys and girls and early sexual behavior for girls in eleventh grade. For boys, higher delinquency predicted lower educational attainment at age 21, while for girls it was early sexual behavior that predicted lower educational attainment. When we ran our analyses, we controlled for prior standardized test scores, GPA, and students’ beliefs about how important school was to them. We also controlled for other potential contextual factors that might have influenced educational attainment, like race, family income, and the parents’ education level.

RG: How did you conduct the study?

Hentges: We used a pre-existing dataset from the Maryland Adolescent Development in Context Study that had collected information from close to 1,500 students beginning in seventh grade. The sample was collected in a large county in Maryland near Washington, D.C. and was diverse in terms of race, income, and geographical location (urban, rural, and suburban).

RG: How does the peer relationships of children with harsh parenting differ to those without?

Hentges: We used a continuous scale of harsh parenting that ranged from very little to a lot. We found that children who were exposed to higher levels of harsh parenting were more likely to say that it was okay to break their parents’ rules in order to keep their friends and that they spent more time on activities with friends instead of other things they should be doing, like homework or chores. So children with harsher parents may be more susceptible to peer pressure.

RG: What do you think schools can do to increase the engagement of these students?

Hentges: Something that is unique about evolutionary life history theory is that it tries to explain why children in harsh environments would focus on immediate rewards instead of long-term goals. If the future is uncertain, there is a certain adaptive value to capitalizing on what’s in front of you rather than putting a lot of resources toward something that might not pay off. So telling students that education is important for their long-term success may motivate children growing up in stable environments with warm, supportive parents. But for other children, this message may not mean as much because they’re focused on surviving and getting through their day-to-day life. One thing that schools may be able to do to increase engagement is to make education more rewarding and fulfilling in the short-term. For example, students often report that they enjoy working with and learning from peers and hands-on projects or experiences, like going to museums and zoos. Importantly, these sorts of classroom activities tend to decrease from elementary to high school. But if we can make school more enjoyable in the short-term, we may be able to keep students engaged in education for longer.

via Ideas.Ted : Moms and dads often feel like they can’t win. If they pay too much attention to their kids, they’re helicopter parents; too little, and they’re absentee parents. What’s the happy medium that will result in truly happy, self-sufficient kids? Here are five tips.

1. Give your kids things they can own and control.
“Enlist the children in their own upbringing. Research backs this up: children who plan their own goals, set weekly schedules and evaluate their own work build up their frontal cortex and take more control over their lives. We have to let our children succeed on their own terms, and yes, on occasion, fail on their own terms. I was talking to Warren Buffett’s banker, and he was chiding me for not letting my children make mistakes with their allowance. And I said, ‘But what if they drive into a ditch?’ He said, ‘It’s much better to drive into a ditch with a $6 allowance than a $60,000-a-year salary or a $6 million inheritance’.“

— Bruce Feiler, writer and author of The Secrets of Happy Families

2. Don’t worry about raising happy kids.
“In our desperate quest to create happy kids, we may be assuming the wrong moral burden. It strikes me as a better goal, and, dare I say, a more virtuous one, to focus on making productive kids and moral kids, and to simply hope that happiness will come to them by virtue of the good they do and the love that they feel from us. I think if we all did that, the kids would still be all right, and so would their parents — possibly in both cases even better.”

— Jennifer Senior, writer and author of All Joy and No Fun

3. Show your kids that you value who they are as people.

“Childhood needs to teach our kids how to love, and they can’t love others if they don’t first love themselves, and they won’t love themselves if we can’t offer them unconditional love. When our precious offspring come home from school or we come home from work, we need to close our technology, put away our phones, look them in the eye and let them see the joy that fills our faces when we see our child. Then, we have to say, ‘How was your day? What did you like about today?’ They need to know they matter to us as humans, not because of their GPA.”

— Julie Lythcott-Haims, former dean of freshmen at Stanford University and author of How to Raise an Adult

4. Teach your kids to help out around the house — without being asked.

“We absolve our kids of doing the work of chores around the house, and then they end up as young adults in the workplace still waiting for a checklist, but it doesn’t exist. More importantly, they lack the impulse, the instinct to roll up their sleeves and pitch in and look around and wonder, How can I be useful to my colleagues? How can I anticipate a few steps ahead to what my boss might need?”

— Julie Lythcott-Haims

5. Remember that the little things matter.

“Quite small things that parents do are associated with good outcomes for children — talking and listening to a child, responding to them warmly, teaching them their letters and numbers, taking them on trips and visits. Reading to children every day seems to be really important, too. In one study, children whose parents were reading to them daily when they were five and then showing an interest in their education at the age of 10 were significantly less likely to be in poverty at the age of 30 than those whose parents weren’t doing those things.”

— Helen Pearson, science journalist and author of The Life Project

What are your thoughts when it comes to a dad who can cook, clean and change diapers?

The society has long perceived that changing diapers or parenting roles at home are too feminine for man and will make a man appears less “manly”. But it is time for us to end the gender stereotypes about parenting!

Multiple studies have shown that men who share parenting roles with their partners do not just appear more attractive to women but will benefit their kids in many ways!

Watch this video now for all the benefits your kids are getting when you share parenting roles with your partner.

Do you share parenting roles with your partner? Comment below to share with us!

Dads and moms should share parenting roles. — Nev Schulman

Posted by ATTN: on Saturday, August 5, 2017

“Good job!” “Say sorry.” “Share.” “Do you want a time out?” Do these sound familiar to you? If so, you have probably picked up the “Parentspeak” without yourself even noticing it.

We might have started the “Parentspeak” with a good intention but little do we realise what it does to our kids.

According to Jennifer Lehr from WSJ, “Parentspeak” demands of compliance from kids rather than helping parents with their understanding on their kids’ feelings.

Check out this video now to find how you can speak to understand your kids’ feelings instead of giving them parents’ instructions to comply to!

What is your parenting philosophy? If it is about raising a happy child, you might want to reconsider it after watching this video.

Dr. Shefali shared a surprising parenting myth: which is “parenting is about raising a happy child”.

Dr. Shefali said that life is not just about happiness. Life is to experience in every nuance as it presents itself in them as is.

As parents, it is our sacred obligation to not teach our children to run away from life as it is. Therefore, it is inevitable to teach rejection to our kids.

Do you agree? Comment your thoughts below now!

Mommy’s note:

Note to myself, to give more positive attention to my kids in order to promote positive behavior.

Your kids want attention all the time. How do you know if you are giving them the right amount of attention? How sure are you if you are giving them the right kind of attention?

In this video, Jason Kreidman explains the 3 types of attention in parenting psychology:

  1. The positive attention which is used to rewards our kids
  2. The negative attention when they misbehave
  3. No attention when we ignore them

The key is to cut down on the negative attention given to your kids. Giving kids positive attention will reinforce the positive behavior.

Watch this video now to learn how could you raise well-behaved kids using attention!

Via WebMD: 10 Commandments of Good Parenting

You know the checkout line scenario: 3-year-old child wants this toy, this candy, this something — and she wants it nooooow! The crying starts, escalating into a full-blown tantrum.

In his new book, The Ten Basic Principles of Good Parenting, Laurence Steinberg, PhD, provides guidelines based on the top social science research — some 75 years of studies. Follow them, and you can avert all sorts of child behavior problems, he says.

After all, what is the goal when you’re dealing with children? To show who’s boss? To instill fear? Or to help the child develop into a decent, self-confident human being?

Good parenting helps foster empathy, honesty, self-reliance, self-control, kindness, cooperation, and cheerfulness, says Steinberg. It also promotes intellectual curiosity, motivation, and desire to achieve. It helps protect children from developing anxiety, depression, eating disorders, anti-social behavior, and alcohol and drug abuse.

“Parenting is one of the most researched areas in the entire field of social science,” says Steinberg, who is a distinguished professor of psychology at Temple University in Philadelphia. The scientific evidence for the principles he outlines “is very, very consistent,” he tells WebMD.

Too many parents base their actions on gut reaction. But some parents have better instincts than others, Steinberg says. Children should never be hit — not even a slap on a toddler’s bottom, he tells WebMD. “If your young child is headed into danger, into traffic, you can grab him and hold him, but you should under no circumstances hit him.”

Ruby Natale PhD, PsyD, professor of clinical pediatrics at the University of Miami Medical School, couldn’t agree more. She offered a few of her own insights. “Many people use the same tactics their own parents used, and a lot of times that meant using really harsh discipline,” she tells WebMD.
A parent’s relationship with his or her child will be reflected in the child’s actions — including child behavior problems, Natale explains. “If you don’t have a good relationship with your child, they’re not going to listen to you. Think how you relate to other adults. If you have a good relationship with them, you tend to trust them more, listen to their opinions, and agree with them. If it’s someone we just don’t like, we will ignore their opinion.”

Steinberg’s 10 principles hold true for anyone who deals with children — coach, teacher, babysitter, he says.

The 10 Principles of Good Parenting

1. What you do matters.

“This is one of the most important principles,” Steinberg tells WebMD. “What you do makes a difference. Your kids are watching you. Don’t just react on the spur of the moment. Ask yourself, ‘What do I want to accomplish, and is this likely to produce that result?'”

2. You cannot be too loving.

“It is simply not possible to spoil a child with love,” he writes. “What we often think of as the product of spoiling a child is never the result of showing a child too much love. It is usually the consequence of giving a child things in place of love — things like leniency, lowered expectations, or material possessions.”

3. Be involved in your child’s life.

“Being an involved parent takes time and is hard work, and it often means rethinking and rearranging your priorities. It frequently means sacrificing what you want to do for what your child needs to do. Be there mentally as well as physically.”

Being involved does not mean doing a child’s homework — or reading it over or correcting it. “Homework is a tool for teachers to know whether the child is learning or not,” Steinberg tells WebMD. “If you do the homework, you’re not letting the teacher know what the child is learning.”

4. Adapt your parenting to fit your child.

Keep pace with your child’s development. Your child is growing up. Consider how age is affecting the child’s behavior.

“The same drive for independence that is making your three-year-old say ‘no’ all the time is what’s motivating him to be toilet trained,” writes Steinberg. “The same intellectual growth spurt that is making your 13-year-old curious and inquisitive in the classroom also is making her argumentative at the dinner table.”

For example: An eighth grader is easily distracted, irritable. His grades in school are suffering. He’s argumentative. Should parents push him more, or should they be understanding so his self-esteem doesn’t suffer?

“With a 13-year-old, the problem could be a number of things,” Steinberg says. “He may be depressed. He could be getting too little sleep. Is he staying up too late? It could be he simply needs some help in structuring time to allow time for studying. He may have a learning problem. Pushing him to do better is not the answer. The problem needs to be diagnosed by a professional.”

5. Establish and set rules.

“If you don’t manage your child’s behavior when he is young, he will have a hard time learning how to manage himself when he is older and you aren’t around. Any time of the day or night, you should always be able to answer these three questions: Where is my child? Who is with my child? What is my child doing? The rules your child has learned from you are going to shape the rules he applies to himself.”

“But you can’t micromanage your child,” Steinberg tells WebMD. “Once they’re in middle school, you need let the child do their own homework, make their own choices, and not intervene.”

6. Foster your child’s independence.

“Setting limits helps your child develop a sense of self-control. Encouraging independence helps her develop a sense of self-direction. To be successful in life, she’s going to need both.”

It is normal for children to push for autonomy, says Steinberg. “Many parents mistakenly equate their child’s independence with rebelliousness or disobedience. Children push for independence because it is part of human nature to want to feel in control rather than to feel controlled by someone else.”

7. Be consistent.

“If your rules vary from day to day in an unpredictable fashion or if you enforce them only intermittently, your child’s misbehavior is your fault, not his. Your most important disciplinary tool is consistency. Identify your non-negotiables. The more your authority is based on wisdom and not on power, the less your child will challenge it.”

Many parents have problems being consistent, Steinberg tells WebMD. “When parents aren’t consistent, children get confused. You have to force yourself to be more consistent.”

8. Avoid harsh discipline.

Parents should never hit a child, under any circumstances. “Children who are spanked, hit, or slapped are more prone to fighting with other children,” he writes. “They are more likely to be bullies and more likely to use aggression to solve disputes with others.”

“There is a lot of evidence that spanking causes aggression in children, which can lead to relationship problems with other kids,” Steinberg tells WebMD. “There are many other ways to discipline a child, including ‘time out,’ which work better and do not involve aggression.”

9. Explain your rules and decisions.

“Good parents have expectations they want their child to live up to,” he writes. “Generally, parents overexplain to young children and underexplain to adolescents. What is obvious to you may not be evident to a 12-year-old. He doesn’t have the priorities, judgment or experience that you have.”

An example: A 6-year-old is very active and very smart — but blurts out answers in class, doesn’t give other kids a chance, and talks too much in class. His teacher needs to address the child behavior problem. He needs to talk to the child about it, says Steinberg. “Parents might want to meet with the teacher and develop a joint strategy. That child needs to learn to give other children a chance to answer questions.”

10. Treat your child with respect.

“The best way to get respectful treatment from your child is to treat him respectfully,” Steinberg writes. “You should give your child the same courtesies you would give to anyone else. Speak to him politely. Respect his opinion. Pay attention when he is speaking to you. Treat him kindly. Try to please him when you can. Children treat others the way their parents treat them. Your relationship with your child is the foundation for her relationships with others.”

For example, if your child is a picky eater: “I personally don’t think parents should make a big deal about eating,” Steinberg tells WebMD. “Children develop food preferences. They often go through them in stages. You don’t want turn mealtimes into unpleasant occasions. Just don’t make the mistake of substituting unhealthy foods. If you don’t keep junk food in the house, they won’t eat it.”

Likewise, the checkout line tantrum can be avoided, says Natale. “Children respond very well to structure. You can’t go shopping without preparing them for it. Tell them, ‘We will be there 45 minutes. Mommy needs to buy this. Show them the list. If you don’t prepare them, they will get bored, tired, upset by the crowds of people.”

“Parents forget to consider the child, to respect the child,” Natale tells WebMD. “You work on your relationships with other adults, your friendships, your marriage, dating. But what about your relationship with your child? If you have a good relationship, and you’re really in tune with your child, that’s what really matters. Then none of this will be an issue.”

Via Psychology Today: When to Push a Child and When Not to

We all want the best for our kids, and these days there is a growing chorus of voices telling us that this means pushing them to work harder. Just about every aspect of a child or teen’s life these days is a competition. But to excel at school, sports, the arts, spelling, debating, social media, even texting (yes, there is a US National Texting Competition), means going that little bit further than others are prepared to go.

And the difficult question – for parents and teachers alike – is knowing when it’s good for a child to be pushed and when it’s not.

Previous generations had a ready answer this question: It’s always good. The assumption was that children need to learn how to persevere if they are going to succeed in life, and no one ever said this was going to be easy. The problem, however, is that we are seeing too many kids these days that are falling by the wayside: struggling with anxiety, poor concentration, or health issues, shying away from challenges, choosing to be endlessly entertained. Is this telling us that they haven’t been pushed hard enough, or that they’ve already been pushed too hard? This is such a difficult question for parents.

With a son who grew up playing small-town hockey, I’ve met my share of hockey parents. So many of them were desperate for their child to play on a premier team. So many disappointed that their child lacked the perseverance shown by the kids who made those teams. And so many who saw their child’s poor performance as due to a lack of effort. So, they set out to push their kids to try harder. And some of them – quite a few of them – got a little carried away.

I’ve seen parents tear a strip out of their child the moment he came off the ice, and sometimes, even while he was still on. I’ve seen parents offer extravagant “rewards” to motivate their child – or for that matter, the coach. I’ve seen parents stuffing their child with candy before tryouts. And I’ve seen far too many talented young players quit the second they were old enough to have a say. But this isn’t about the perils of minor hockey, or any of the other countless areas where this is happening today (everywhere)? This is about reframing perseverance: about why we immediately jump to the conclusion that we’re dealing with is a motivation problem – and the consequences of such a mindset (reframing).

At the end of the day, hockey, like all extracurricular activities, is about a child’s wellbeing in all five of our Self-Reg domains: physical, emotional, cognitive, social, and prosocial. Hard as it is for parents to admit, there are times when the activity is not that good for the child; maybe the reverse. Times when a child’s enjoyment of the game or activity languishes; when other aspects of the child’s life – school, health, social life, mood – begin to suffer.

Don’t get me wrong: I am not questioning the benefits of competition. I love what hockey has done for our son – the way it has instilled self-discipline and self-confidence. And the benefits of being on a team are incalculable. If anything, my question is how we might assist our children to realize – and when needs be, manage – their dreams. But what is far more important is to enjoy the process, and for that matter, the dream itself, should it actually come to pass. And this is where reframing comes in: understanding when perseverance turns into something vastly different, with far from salutary effects.

The difference here is between perseverance and compulsion. In terms of the “Triune Brain” metaphor, perseverance is what is referred to in Self-Reg as “Blue Brain” behaviour. Perseverance is fueled by interest and desire: we press on, despite the unpleasant feelings – fatigue, boredom, discomfort, failure – because we so badly want the goal. The key is: we choose to keep going, despite the difficulties and the setbacks. Compulsion is a Red Brain phenomenon: i.e., behaviour driven by a sub-cortical “expectation of reward.”

For neuroscientists, the latter is a function of three major factors: the positive benefits associated with a “reward” (e.g., a burst of energy, feeling soothed); incentive salience (the size of the anticipated reward); and the positive sensation produced by the “seeking” itself (i.e., by dopamine, which produces a pleasant, “energizing” sensation). In the case of compulsion, we do not choose to keep going: a “limbic prime” forces us to do so, and it dulls our awareness of the costs.

Hunger and thirst are examples of innate limbic primes: they direct behaviour so as to keep homeostatic systems running within a functional range. The processes driving us to obtain the “reward” (e.g., slake our thirst) are regulated by the hypothalamus. Someone crawling in the desert in search of water will keep going until they collapse. A “reward” in this sense is not something that one earns by one’s efforts but rather, something that causes us to keep going.

So many of the limbic primes that drive a child or teen are acquired: induced by parents, peers, educators, coaches, culture, advertisers! But no matter how much we exhort them every child reaches a point where they say: Enough! Some much earlier than others. The kid, for example, who stops skating during practice before all the others, and insists “I don’t care” if rebuked by the coach. All too often, the problem isn’t that the child isn’t motivated enough, but that he has experienced a neural shift from Blue Brain to Red Brain. Such a child isn’t guilty of not trying; his actions are constrained by limbic braking.

Limbic brakes kick in when glucose levels in the bloodstream dip below a certain threshold. In the hockey example, this might happen because of the energy the child has expended trying not to fall, stop, turn, avoid other players, keep the puck on her stick. Maybe there are other aspects of the game that she finds stressful: the fear of appearing foolish; trying to remember the rules; being yelled at by her parents in the stands.

All of these stresses burn energy: that, after all, is the defining feature of “stress.” Just wearing the equipment can be a big stress for some kids. (Think of Richard Branson’s crusade to get men to carry round a pair of scissors to cut off their neckties.) And, of course, the child might not be feeling well that day; or she might have arrived at the game late and already over-stressed; or she’s worried that she’s going to be kicked off the team.

Limbic braking is completely different from laziness or indolence. The latter are Blue Brain phenomena: i.e., the child is fully capable of going further but opts instead to quit. But in the case of limbic braking the hypothalamus – which oversees glucose levels in the bloodstream – sends an order to Cease and Desist. Stop skating! Stop working on the math problem! Stop practicing piano! This is entirely non-conscious: a primitive, sub-cortical mechanism designed to prevent excessive wear and tear. But then, limbic brakes can be over-ridden. The question is: ‘How?’ And more to the point: ‘What is the cost of doing so?’

The only way to override limbic brakes is with a sudden input of energy. This is the reason why, in popular advertising, an exhausted athlete is shown suddenly reviving with a glucose-laden drink. But sans drink in hand, the “energy kick” comes from us. We may try to “up-regulate” the child: i.e., use our own energy to give the child the needed boost. Or maybe we resort to fear or anger; for going into fight-or-flight provides the burst of energy needed to override the limbic brakes, while at the same time muting the PFC systems that subserve self-awareness.

This is the reason why we shout or threaten a child or teen when they want to give up (I’ve done it myself on occasion when my own passions were running a little too high). We do so in the hope that the child will internalize this external “motivation.” But what we are really doing is priming the child’s limbic system: i.e., programming the child to resort to fear or anger on his own to override his limbic brakes.

Children can be trained to override their limbic brakes – or, at least, some of them can, some of the time. There are “energy reserves” that serve this purpose. (Hence the rise in cortisol, which unlocks the energy contained in fat cells.) The effect of overriding limbic brakes is comparable to driving a car when the engine has gone into the red zone. The occasional redlining doesn’t harm a motor. But do this too much or go well past the rev limiter and this can cause damage.

The same is true for pushing children to override their limbic brakes too hard or too often. Do it judiciously and it might help build the child’s “stress tolerance.” Overdoing it, however, has quite a different effect.

The danger here is not only that the parasympathetic nervous system is strained and recovery is compromised, but that the child will come to have strong negative associations with the activity in question. Read through the memoirs of individuals who have succeeded because they were compelled (first by others and then by themselves) and what comes through loud and clear is how much they came to hate the activity in which they ultimately excelled. (The beginning of Andre Agassi’s autobiography, Open, is a striking case in point [Agassi].) This is an aspect of the debate over perseverance that rarely gets mentioned, but it should.

The point here, however, is not that parents are confronted with a difficult decision in regards to their child’s future: viz., success-at-a-cost versus failure-at-a-different-cost. The whole point of reframing perseverance is that it presents us with a very different dichotomy: viz., between compulsion and flow [Flow]. Where compulsion is a Red Brain phenomenon, flow is Blue Brain.

Where compulsion is exhausting, flow is energizing. The former is dogged, the latter creative. The former leaves you shattered and disillusioned, the latter, calm and inspired.

The concept of flow is tied to the concepts of absorption, euphoria, and most important of all, effortlessness. What it is not tied to is success. Both compulsion and flow involve a loss of any sense of space and time; both are tied to a dissociation of sorts. But the motivation for flow comes, not from the lure of status or prestige, but the joy of the experience itself. One does not strive for flow in order to obtain a reward; flow is its own reward. And there is a flow to flow itself, which is where Self-Reg comes in.

The great American biopsychologist Robert Thayer discovered that motivation naturally varies according to one’s energy and tension level [Thayer]). We are most motivated to obtain a goal when our energy is high and tension is low (HE/LT); least motivated when energy is low and tension is high (LE/HT). What this means is that we try harder, for longer, and feel more positive when we’re in HE/LT. In which case, the better we can help children recognize when and why they are slipping into LE/HT, and what they need to do to restore, the better they can return to a flow state.

One of the finer aspects of parenting and teaching is knowing when you’re dealing with a child who needs encouragement and when it’s a case of limbic braking: i.e., a situation in which gentle yet firm support is not going to keep the child going, and pushing too hard is going to send them into Red Brain.

But where Self-Reg is especially important is not just in recognizing limbic braking for what it is, but helping us to recognize the onset of limbic braking before it occurs: e.g., in a child’s voice, eyes, posture, movement. And eventually, helping the child or teen learn how to do the same.

The upshot of this reframing is that we need to distinguish between what we want for kids and what we’re prepared to inflict on them. Or what is worse still, what we seek to prime kids to inflict on themselves. That must never be our goal as parents or educators. Our goal should be that children love hockey at the end of the season as much as at the beginning. Constantly pushing them to override their limbic brakes – because of the antiquated and misguided assumption that this builds character – is the surest way there is to prevent them from experiencing flow in whatever captures their interest and imagination.

Via Smart Parenting: What a Famous Psychologist Told Us About Raising Smart and Happy Kids

Dr. Peter Gray, a world acclaimed evolutionary psychologist, was a panelist in a forum when he was asked why play was important. He answered, “Because it makes children happy.” He was ignored for the rest of the discussion. In a succeeding forum, he was again asked the same question. This time, he responded differently: “Because it’s how children learn.” It got him more speaking time to elaborate on the developmental benefits of play.

The above goes to show that when it comes to matters about children, one will only get a room’s avid attention when you talk about how to make children smart, rather than happy. But child development experts like Dr. Gray wants us to remember that our kids learn the most when our little ones are happy.

We got the opportunity to catch Dr. Gray speak after asked me to attend the Jumpstart 2017 Early Leadership Symposium. It was organized by Rethasia International and Miriam College and held at the Henry Sy Sr. Innovation Center in Miriam College.

Dr. Peter Gray, who is a research professor at Boston College, author of the book Free to Learn, and writer for the blog “Freedom to Learn” for Psychology Today, speaks passionately about the need for children to play. He backs it up by citing studies he conducted with his colleagues and other researchers.

There was so much process to process after his talk. But here are three main takeaways I feel he would like all parents to know.

#1 Let kids learn how to explore and entertain themselves

Dr. Gray prescribes “self-directed play” where children can choose what to do during play time. Play-based schools who promote self-directed play give their students the chance to freely explore the classroom with subjects like Dramatics Play, Blocks, Science, Math & Manipulatives, Reading, Art & Writing. Here, they engage and learn to resolve social conflicts, craft artworks or stories for fun, or figure out how to solve the structural problems of a spaceship they made or complete a puzzle.

At home, he advises parents to let children play independently as well as with other children. Having the time to join others in playgrounds or playgroups has countless benefits, especially when they can choose their games and make up the rules.

Gray had also emphasized that imagination is developed through self-directed play. Children need the chance to create stories, build castles, experiment with water, sculpt clay figures, read about things that interests them, or play dress up. All these develop their creative side, a quality that is not only important among artists, but all industry leaders who are looking for individuals who can think out of the box and come up with novel and unique ideas.

#2 Academic skills is good, but another set of skills that may be better

Parents who are overly concerned about their children’s intelligence should, according to Gray, learn the difference between academic and intellectual abilities. The former can be taught in schools “using demonstration, recitation, memorization and repeated practice.” The latter has to do with “reasoning, hypothesizing, exploring, and understanding.” Intellectual abilities are mainly developed by the child through self-initiated activities. Parents can help by providing nurturing environments, like when we read to children or play games that involve numbers and measuring. But for intellectual abilities to truly develop, children need to be happily engaged and motivated.

Gray believes that for our kids to become successful and happy adults, we need to focus on the intellectual rather than the academic skills. He also warns focusing on academic skills can negatively affect the development of a child’s intellectual skills. It puts on a lot pressure for children who have difficulty with memorization tasks and are shamed into thinking they are slow or stupid. These kids begin to think there is something wrong with them and begin to withdraw, give up or misbehave.

Source: iStock

#3 Parents need to create an environment where their kids can play

It’s not only in school that children are having less time to play. Thanks to homework, extra-curricular activities, safety and health fears of parents, and lack of accessible neighborhood play spaces, children are not playing together as much anymore.

Over the years, we’ve been seeing an increase in anxiety, depression, and suicide rates. Narcissism is on the rise, because people are missing the chance to develop empathy. Children aren’t filling up neighborhood parks anymore and missing out on inventing games and rules of play that are fun, creative and fair. They have less and less opportunities to learn how to win and lose gracefully. Specialists are correlating the rise in depression to the decline in play and happiness in childhood.

We, grown-ups, know how play makes us feel. We’re aware of how it ignites our interests in things that we will pursue with a passion. In my experience as a teacher, I have had students who made glorious messes in the art area, and they turned out to be artists who will sell their beautiful work. I had a student who loved being a Power Ranger and is now a US Marine. I had two little girls who always played with animals and plants and grew up to study Environmental Science.

With play, children have the chance to ignite a spark that will fuel them to do something meaningful and satisfying with their lives. Why would we, as a society, consciously deprive our children of play – of the chance to be happy while they are young and lead satisfying lives as adults?
At the start of the day, Dr. Gray told us to be skeptical about whatever he said. “You don’t have to take everything I say at face value…Question it.”

While we question Dr. Gray’s teachings, let’s also question ourselves. We all want what is best for our children, but what is more important to us, for our children to be happy and smart or to be school smart? If we sat in a room and were told how play makes our children happy, would we care? Or would we only tune in when the speaker starts to tell us how we can make our children smarter?

Via The Good Men Project: Positive Parenting Tips: Be the Parent You Want Your Children to Become

One of my goals for my website is to read and review some of the most recent academic literature on positive parenting tips and then summarize it for a more general audience. To that end, I am excited to tell you about an article that was published in Developmental Psychology journal in January 2015 called “The interpersonal antecedents of supportive parenting: A prospective, longitudinal study from infancy to adulthood.”*

The authors of this study followed a cohort of children from the time they were three months old into their adulthood when they, themselves became parents. What they found was strong evidence for a connection between our own parenting and how we were parented, ourselves. The authors were interested in trying to figure out how what they call “intergenerational transmission of parenting practices” actually worked. How is it that most of us treat our children the same way we were treated when we were young?

When the children in the study were three months old, trained observers told their mothers to play with them like they normally would – just act natural. These play situations were repeated when the children were 6 months old, 24 months old and 42 months old. Starting with the children’s second visit (at 6 months old), the playtime included problem-solving tasks, each of which was more and more complicated. The researchers wanted to see whether the mothers stepped in to help their child, and if they did, exactly how they did so.

The observers rated the mothers for how positively involved they were with their children as they tried to solve the problems. To what extent did the mothers try to help the child feel comfortable? Did they provide a “secure base” for the child when they were frustrated?

Later, when the children had grown and started going to school, the researchers gathered information from their teachers, asking them specifically how competent they seemed to be in social situations. Did other children want to play with them? Did the children demonstrate an ability to play with others in a way that was kind and inclusive?

Even later, when the children were adults, the researchers interviewed them about their romantic relationships. They wanted to know how healthy their history of romantic partnerships was. Did the relationships consist of mutual care, trust, emotional closeness, concern, and sensitivity? Were the relationships faithful, loyal and honest?

Finally, the researchers visited the children once again, to ask them about their own parenting practices. The researchers were looking for parenting that involved what was described by Carl Rogers, the great humanistic psychologist as “unconditional positive regard.” The researchers were looking for signs of “positive emotional connectedness,” a feeling of personal interest by the mother in the well-being of the child, and a general practice of giving the child warmth and affection. On the negative side of things, the researchers noted any signs of hostile parenting (berating, abusing, etc.).

Positive parenting tip of the day

Now, the wonderful news: There is a pathway of influence from how your own parents treat you, all the way through how you parent your own children. Specifically, it appears that when your parents treat you with empathy, and teach you how to see things from another person’s perspective, and when they teach you how to resolve conflicts without violence or ridicule, communicating through a problem with grace and style, you internalize these methods of being in the world, and they become your go-to tools for interacting with others in the future.

The way the children’s parents treated them when they were very young was related to how well-liked they were as children, and how good they were at being good friends to others. That social competence as school-aged children was related to how positive and caring their later romantic relationships were when they were adults. And those romantic relationships were then associated with how much warmth and affection they gave their own children.

Now, some of you may be thinking – “Wait a minute! This doesn’t sound like a positive parenting tip. My parents didn’t interact with me this way. I guess my children are in trouble.” Well, at first glance, that could be true. If the children’s parents were more hostile or neglectful when they were brought in for the play sessions, their later social competence was negatively impacted, as was their later romantic relationships, and their own parenting.

So where is the good news? What exactly is the positive parenting tip? The good news is related to the main message that I wish to communicate in all of my articles; that is, you have tremendous power as parents to influence your child’s entire future! Even if your parents treated you harshly, or didn’t have enough time for you; even if your mother or father was emotionally or physically abusive, you have the power to break the cycle!

This is what I mean when I talk about “parenting on purpose.” When you think about how your parents raised you, have the courage to recognize when their methods were inadequate or even wrong. Your child’s life depends on you thinking about this cycle that affects so many new parents – the cycle that just repeats the parenting practices that came before without thinking – and making adjustments. Be intentional about the kind of child you want to raise, and the kind of parent you want to be, and then strive to improve upon the work your parents did with you.

The way your parents treat you predicts your own parenting, and this is regardless of your parents’ education, money, or what age they were when they had their children. The same goes for you as a parent – how you treat your children predicts major aspects of their entire life.

Here is the model I would like you to think about for your own parenting:

  1. When you use unconditional positive regard with your child, you teach him how to empathize with others, how to see things from someone else’s perspective, and how to resolve conflicts successfully.
  2. These lessons you teach your child makes her a good friend, and people whom others want to be friends with.
  3. The lessons she gets from these high-quality friendships teach her how to care for others, how to receive care from others, and how to deal with the positive and negative emotions that come with friendships as they come and go in and out of her life.
  4. These lessons can make her a good romantic partner, and attract people who are good for her. Your child is far less likely to choose a string of romantic partners who are hostile to her, or incapable of treating her well, if the model she has is your warmth and affection.
  5. The high-quality relationships that your child will have in his life can provide a buffer for handling the stresses of parenting, so that he can pay forward your great example, and treat your grandchildren with love and care.

And it all starts with you! How can you change your parenting, starting today, so that your legacy of unconditional positive regard can live on? I look forward to hearing from you if you care to share.