Category Archives: Parenting

Who is your parenting guru? (part 2)

Following up on yesterday’s post, the remaining five parenting experts recommended by Raising Arizona Kids e-newsletter subscribers:

KEVIN LEHMAN

Kevin Lehman, Ph.D. is an internationally renowned psychologist and New York Times bestselling author of more than 30 books offering techniques, tips and insights on parenting, marriage and relationship issuesMaking Children Mind Without Losing Yours is the one that first comes to my mind when I think about Lehman, the father of five children and a resident of Tucson. His other books explore topics like birth order, childhood memories, single parenting, the importance of dads and even marital sex.

“I have found sound advice, natural-consequence education, responsibility training and humor in reading Dr. Kevin Leman’s work,” a Valley teacher wrote. “His practical approach to child-rearing and even couples work as a unified entity in parenting is superior in my book. All of this work is presented in a straightforward and highly humorous way. He’s engaging and knows exactly what challenges we as parents face on a day-to-day basis. I have yet to see his presentation in person but hope to very soon.”

LAURA MARKHAM

Clinical psychologist Laura Markham, Ph.D.  is the founding editor of the website AhaParenting.com. Her relationship-based parenting model is based on the premise that children who feel connected want to cooperate, that children need guidance — limits with empathy when necessary — but never punishment.

“I follow her daily posts and receive emails,” wrote the mother of a 2-year-old son. “She is brilliant, and every bit of advice she offers is relevant and realistic. Many parenting advice experts are impressive and great but it is practically impossible to follow through on their advice. She actually relates advice to real people who have jobs and busy lives.”

Here’s an appearance Markham did on CNN’s Joy Behar Show, where she responded to questions about scare-tactics discipline:

KIM JOHN PAYNE

Kim John Payne, M.Ed. is the author of the book Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier and More Secure Kids.

Kim John Payne. Photo courtesy of SimplicityParenting.com.

The book blames “too much stuff, too many choices and too little time” for the fact that so many children become anxious, have trouble with friends and school, or are even diagnosed with behavioral problems. Payne has been a school counselor, adult educator, consultant, researcher, educator and a private family counselor for 27 years.

I have to admit that I’d never heard of Kim John Payne until I got this recommendation from a reader who happens to be a trainer for this approach. As someone who feels no small amount of stress from the constant struggle to simplify and prioritize my own time, tasks and overcrowded email queue, this philosophy sounded very appealing to me. As our world gets more complex and technology makes it possible for incredible amounts of information to reach our consciousness, I truly believe that the successful people of the future will be the ones who can quickly assess it, determine what to let in and know what to dismiss as irrelevant noise.

JOSEPH CHILTON PEARCE

Joesph Chilton Pearce‘s  book, Magical Child, was a national bestseller. Pearce focuses on the importance of emotional development, parent-child bonding and imaginative play.

From a 1999 interview with Journal of Family Life: “Children’s emotional experience, how they feel about themselves and the world around them, has a tremendous impact on their growth and development. It’s the foundation on which all learning, memory, health and well-being are based. When that emotional structure is not stable and positive for a child, no other developmental process within them will function fully.”

“Joesph Chilton Pearce is beyond recommendation or discussion,” one Valley educator wrote.

JOHN ROSEMOND

John Rosemond has worked in the field of family psychology since 1971. He has written 14 parenting books and his columns are syndicated in 225 newspapers nationwide. His mission, as described on his website, is “to help America’s parents claim loving leadership of their families.”  His first of four faith-based books, Parenting by The Book, promises that “any parent who so desires can grow children who [are] happy, emotionally-healthy children who honor their parents and their families with good behavior and do their best in school.”

“His books are timeless and he speaks directly to parenting issues with humor and examples,” one reader wrote. “The opportunity to invite a parenting guru such as John Rosemond to speak in the Valley would be an event not to miss,” wrote another.

That brings us to 10. After I’d already decided to limit the list to 10, I got an email yesterday from someone who was wondering if it was too late to suggest another.

“I’m curious to know if anyone suggested Larry Winget, the Paradise Valley author of Your Kids Are Your Fault: A Guide for Raising Responsible, Productive Adults,” she wrote. “I realize his style is significantly different from most ‘gurus’ but he speaks in a down-to-earth practical tone that is refreshing.”

Larry Winget. Photo by Daniel Friedman.

We actually have some experience with Winget, who appeared in our June 2010 magazine. Read Dan Friedman’s interview and listen to the podcast.

I decided not to take some of the remaining suggestions too seriously. I’m not sure I’d consider the Duggar family (from the TLC show, “19 Kids and Counting”) to be the best resource. And then there was this suggestion:

“My first choice would be God or Jesus, and…those two are definitely unavailable for a speaking engagement.”

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If you’d like to get our e-newsletter, send your email address to debbie@raisingarizonakids.comPut “OPT IN” in your subject line.

Who is your parenting guru? (part 1)

Two weeks ago I posed that question to the 15,000 readers who subscribe to our e-newsletter. It was wonderful to watch my in-box as many thoughtful responses came back.

It all started when Marketing Director MaryAnn Ortiz-Lieb came to me with a unique opportunity. One of her clients has proposed partnering with us to bring a notable parenting expert to the Valley to speak. We wanted to find out who, in an ideal world, that person should be.

As I reviewed the responses, I realized that the list of suggestions is in itself a tremendous resource for parents. So as we take the next steps — contacting these people to determine their availability and fees — I wanted to share our readers’ “Top 10″ list of parenting gurus, in alphabetical order. Five are listed today; five more will come tomorrow.

NAOMI ALDORT

Naomi Aldort is a self-described “parenting guide,” an internationally published writer and public speaker. Her book, Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves: Transforming parent-child relationships from reaction and struggle to freedom, power and joy, promotes the idea that children need love and validation, not control and behavior modification. Her perspective is considered “attachment parenting friendly,” according to her website, though she does not use the word directly because of “its multiple and contradictory meanings.”

I watched the following video, where Aldort offers some insightful perspectives when a parent believes “my child doesn’t listen to me.”

JAMES DOBSON

James Dobson, Ph.D. founded Focus on the Family as a non-profit organization, established to strengthen Christian family values. What began with a radio program on a few stations in 1977 has grown to a network of more than 3,000. He gives advice on Christian marriages, families and parenting through the ministry of Family Talk radio.

ADELE FABER AND ELAINE MAZLISH

Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish, authors of How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will TalkSiblings Without Rivalry and several other books. Their work, based on the philosophis of renowned child psychologist Haim Ginott, Ph.D., suggest ways of communicating that make a profound difference in relationships with children. (Both MaryAnn and I are huge fans of these books, which were widely referenced back when we were both taking parenting classes.)

JIM FAY AND FOSTER CLINE

Jim Fay and Foster W. Cline, M.D. developed the Parenting with Love and Logic approach from 75 years of combined experience working with and raising kids. Like their books, Love and Logic seminars provides simple, practical techniques to help parents have more fun and less stress while raising responsible kids of all ages.

One of our readers, who has children 8 and 10 years old, wrote to share the fact that she is reading the Parenting with Love and Logic book. “It has really changed the way we parent and everyone in the family is more respectful to one another,” she write. “Our children are taking more responsibility and learning from their behaviors. [Fay and Cline] also have a website with an email newsletter that I receive weekly, which reinforces the book and reminds us how to parent. I would definitely go to a seminar led by these authors and I would tell my friends about it.”

Here is a sample from one of Jim Fay’s presentations:

STEVEN HUGHES

Steven J. Hughes, PhD, LP, ABPdN, is an assistant professor of pediatrics and neurology at the University of Minnesota Medical School and maintains a private practice in St. Paul, where he specializes in the assessment of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder and other learning and behavioral problems.

A parent himself, he chose Montessori education for his own family and is a frequent guest lecturer at the Montessori Training Center of Minnesota and a Montessori schools around Minnesota and Wisconsin. In his talks, Hughes describes how Maria Montessori’s brain-based approach to education “provides an unparalleled foundation for the development of academic, social, and executive functions critical for advanced problem solving and lifetime success,” according to his website goodatdoingthings.com. A book is coming out soon.

Tomorrow: Five more parenting experts our readers recommend.

Editing your kids’ work

A friend once sent me an email asking how much I helped my sons with their writing assignments.

“They surely sought out and valued your editing skills as they moved through school,” she wrote.

I wish! I think because I am an editor my kids were very self-conscious about sharing their work with me. Once they got past elementary school, I rarely saw a writing assignment. It was only begrudgingly that my sons allowed me to look at their college application essays.

My oldest son Andy got all the way to his senior thesis in college before he finally asked for help — and that was only because he wanted his paper squeaky clean and recognized the fatigue factor in catching your own typos and grammatical errors. David managed to get all the way through college — including a thesis of his own — without a single parental eyeball on his written work.

It is so hard to read your own child’s writing. They are writing at their developmental level. You are reading at yours. You may know ways to make something “sound better” and you may have great ideas for a smooth transition but really, is that the kind of help you should be offering?

I opted for a hands-off approach. I followed my sons’ lead and didn’t get involved unless help was requested. I do, however, have some specific suggestions for those of you whose children may be more willing than mine were to ask for your input.

• Bracket areas you think are confusing and add notes like “maybe there’s a better way to say this?” or “I’m not sure I understand what you meant here.”

• To make suggestions about flow, bracket entire sections and note that “this might go better closer to the top” or “It seems like this section belongs with the point you made about [whatever].”

• Circle typos, grammatical errors and punctuation errors but make your children correct them so they [hopefully!] remember the next time. (My sons consistently made errors with there/their/they’re…it drove me crazy!)

Both of my sons managed to become excellent writers without me, so we either lucked into great teachers or they simply got better as they got older. My advice is that you ask your children how much they want you to nitpick. Do they want feedback on whether they have made their point? Whether the flow is logical/easy to follow? Whether particular phrasing is effective? Or do they just want you to look for obvious errors in typing, spelling, grammar and punctuation? Let them set the ground rules.

Beyond that, I think it’s much more effective to help your child find a neutral adult with whom they can seek feedback, whether it’s a teacher, tutor, family member or friend. I used to read a lot of my friends’ kids’ college application essays. Criticism is always easier to take from someone who’s not your mom.

Putting boundaries on “reader engagement”

When we started providing online content in a blog format that allowed reader comment, we had to decide how quickly we wanted that feedback to appear.

Most news media entities allow comments to post immediately. The advantages of instant gratification and a “real time” dialog are important when the conversation is evolving with a real-time crisis or controversy. The disadvantages, however, are significant.

When you allow readers free access to voice their opinions about what you write, you’re giving people a platform to spread everything from (much-appreciated) thoughtful perspectives and interpretations to outrageous, uninformed and mean-spirited opinions. And you’re giving them a sizeable audience they wouldn’t have on their own.

As a company devoted to providing resources and support to parents, we didn’t feel the need to compromise appropriateness for speed. Comments on our blogs must be approved by the writer, or me as the editor, before they appear live on our site.

Never was I more grateful for that decision than yesterday, when I posted a brief blog linking to two articles I thought exemplified extraordinary writing under the deadline pressure of continuously unfolding events in Tucson. I wasn’t making any kind of political comment; I was complimenting remarkable writing.

A comment I saw in response this morning was completely inappropriate. “Vitriolic,” as Pima County Sheriff Clarence W. Dupnik  might call it. Certainly ill-informed.

Thankfully, no one saw it but me.

Child development experts will tell you that out-of-control children crave boundaries. Out-of-control adults need them, too.

Reassurance for new parents in an atmosphere of play

Marline Pena (left) during a home visit with Demaris and Gethzemany Chavez of Mesa.

Marline Pena has a play date once a month at the Chavez home in Mesa. It’s part of her job.

She’s a developmental specialist with the Child Development Department at Cardon Children’s Medical Center in Mesa. And while it may look like she’s just playing with baby Gethzemany (the “g” is pronounced like an “h”), her trained eye is doing much more.

She’s watching for signs that he’s on track in terms of physical development and communication skills. She’s modeling age-appropriate play techniques and adult-child interaction that nurtures a baby’s physical strength and emotional engagement. And she’s answering questions from Gethzemany’s proud mother, who seeks reassurance (as all mothers do) that her baby is doing exactly what he should be doing for his age.

Gethzemany Chavez and his mom, Demaris.

Gethzemany is the third child of Demaris Chavez of Mesa and her husband; they also have an 8-year-old daughter and a 6-year-old son whose portraits are displayed throughout the family’s cozy, immaculate home. The baby is 9½ months old, but because he was born prematurely, his developmental age is 8 months. That’s what flagged attention at Cardon Children’s and made his family eligible for participation in a First Things First-funded parent education program called Pregnancy, Parenting and Play.

I got to see the program in action yesterday, when I visited the Chavez home with Nick Calderone of Reel Stories, Multi Media Production and Training. I first met Nick nearly a decade ago, when he worked at KPNX-TV Channel 12 and was the multimedia journalist assigned to produce weekly “Raising Arizona Kids” segments. Now an independent journalist and film producer, he agreed to create the first video in a new family health series we will be co-producing over the next year with Cardon Children’s.

Gethzemany Chavez.

I don’t always go along on video shoots but I was eager to reconnect with Nick and see the home visit for myself. “I won’t get in your way,” I promised Nick. “But let me know if there is anything I can do to help.”

An unexpected challenge popped up during the shoot. Two of the Chavez family’s smoke detectors started chirping as Nick set up his equipment. Goldie LaPorte, manager of the Child Development Department at Cardon, ran to the store to buy some 9-volt batteries. Being a few inches taller, I volunteered to install them. It didn’t stop the chirping. Goldie got up on the stepstool and tried again. Still no luck. So Nick went about the shoot, getting some great footage of happy, gregarious Gethzemany, his mom and Marline playing and interacting on thick blankets on the floor.

Toward the end of the shoot, as we were interviewing Goldie, Nick got on the stepstool himself and discovered that I’d installed the batteries backwards. So much for my attempt to help!

Since it began a year ago, the Pregnancy, Parenting and Play program has provided a slew of support services for 250 families in Mesa, Gilbert and Queen Creek. The program caters to the needs of pregnant and parenting teens, parents of infants born prematurely and families in crisis.

Including the monthly home visits from developmental specialists like Marline, the program provides access to prenatal education, support for doctor visits, information about free resources for families, monthly support groups and more. You can’t help but wonder what would happen if every new parent could have this kind of supportive guidance — and an expert’s answers to the onslaught of questions we all face about the many other aspects of raising a healthy child.

Watch Nick’s piece on RAK Video.

Goldie LaPorte and Marline Pena of Cardon Children's Child Development Department.

Girls just gotta have fun

In the 24 years I’ve been parenting two sons and the 21 I’ve been building a business, I’ve had (and seen) a lot of different experiences with “raising Arizona kids.” But there was always one experience I felt had been denied: the chance to feel a mother-daughter bond.

For the last five months, I’ve been blessed with even that.

My pretend niece Andrea (20) with my real niece Mandy (10) at one of Mandy

My husband and I welcomed my second cousin Sheryl’s daughter to our home this semester as she took a brave step in self-growth. Andrea, who grew up in Erie, Pa. and had never lived anywhere else, decided to transfer to ASU. She’d fallen in love with Arizona after a couple of week-long visits to “Aunt Karen’s.”

Though I worried a bit beforehand about how this arrangement would work out, I can honestly say her presence in our home — and in my life — has been tranformational.

With Andrea, I have had the best of a mother-daughter relationship because it came without the complicated layers and threads that bind real mothers and daughters. I could enjoy this young woman without a cloud of history — parenting through divorce, fighting through the teenage years or worrying when she stayed out too late. With this daughter-who-is-not-my-daughter I could truly be myself, without the second guessing and self-censorship that often comes with navigating tricky parent-child boundaries.

Best of all, I could laugh with someone who really “gets” me. After a lifetime with two brothers, a husband and two sons, that daily, joyful dose of female companionship in my home was exquisite.

Last week, Andrea wrapped up her finals, achieving a 4.0 GPA despite a tough course load that included organic chemistry. Courtney, her “best friend since first grade,” flew out from Erie to spend a few days with us before both girls flew home yesterday.

I got 24 text messages from Andrea yesterday and sent as many myself. It’s a girl thing.

Andrea worked with me at Camp Fair in February...

...where she got to meet a new friend of the reptilian variety.

Bonding with cousin David and "Uncle Dan" on the beach in Santa Barbara.

Hiking with Jess, a friend from ASU, in the Phoenix Mountain Preserve.

Tubing down the Salt River with lifelong friend Courtney.

Saying goodbye to my girls before we left for the airport yesterday morning. Andrea would want me to add that it was very early and "I'm not a morning person."

Time for climbing trees

This morning, after I checked my email, looked at my personal Facebook page, looked at the Raising Arizona Kids Magazine Facebook page, perused the latest postings on the RAKmagazine Twitter account and logged some tweets in my personal Twitter account, I sat down on the couch to read the morning papers. My husband and I get both the Arizona Republic and the New York Times. (We used to get the East Valley Tribune before they stopped delivering to our area. Now, sadly, they’re not publishing at all.)

I don’t always make it through both papers but I try to at least scan the headlines. Today I was struck by the irony on the two front pages.

If your kids are awake, they’re probably online, warned a headline in the center of the Times. Thanks to remarkable multitasking abilities, children ages 8 to 18 are packing up to 11 hours a day of media activity into their daily routines, according to the story. “The average young American now spends practically every waking minute — except for the time in school — using a smart phone, computer, television or other electronic device, according to a new study from the Kaiser Family Foundation.”

Then I turned to the Republic, where I saw that More K-12 classes [have been] approved for online instruction. So now, in addition to “every waking minute” outside of school, children can spend even more of their day staring at a screen?

I’d be a hypocrite if I didn’t admit that I love the efficiencies of today’s electronic devices. I can get a lot more done in the same eight-hour work day than I used to be able to do. But every time I’ve upgraded my personal technology arsenal — from pager to cell phone, from cell phone to iPhone, from one email account to several, from no social media to Twitter and Facebook — I pay a price. These tools allow me to do more in a day, so I feel compelled to do more. And my internal expectations, instead of shrinking, are growing exponentially.

Online learning serves a great need in today’s society and Arizona has many fine schools that specialize in it. Many of these “virtual” schools (which we list in our 2010 Schools, etc. guide to education) are already free, public charter schools.

Increasing access to online learning within our regular public school districts has me feeling a bit uncomfortable. What is the effect to a child’s imagination and inherent need for contact with the natural world when even school time is spent online?

I am reminded of a recent conversation with a career educator. Piya Jacob is the founder and director of Desert View Learning Center in Paradise Valley, a small private school my own two sons attended during grades K-3.

Piya described a conversation she’d had with two parents who were debating whether they should enroll their child as a kindergarten or first-grade student. The mom was leaning toward a kindergarten start; the dad insisted the child was academically ready for first grade.

“What is the goal?” Piya gently prodded. “Is the goal to get this child to into the work world that much more quickly? Because we all have plenty of time to work. We have such precious little time to be children.”

In another story, she described a parent a who was watching students during independent reading time. One child (perhaps her own? I don’t remember) finished reading a book, then ran outside to climb a tree. “Why do you allow them to climb trees during reading time?” this parent asked Piya. “Why don’t you make them read more books?”

“Because,” Piya replied. “They need to climb trees.”