The Home Front

Politics, culture, and American life — from the family perspective.

We All Win when High Schoolers Drop Back In


The bad news: High-school dropouts earn $10,000 less per year than graduates, face a much higher unemployment rate, are more than twice as likely to live in poverty, are 63 times more likely than a college grad to be incarcerated, and will cost society an average of $292,000 in their lifetime.

The reasons why they drop out, according to a 2012 survey:

Absence of parental support or encouragement (23 percent)

Becoming a parent (21 percent)

Lacking the credits needed to graduate (17 percent)

Missing too many days of school (17 percent)

Failing classes (15 percent)                         

Uninteresting classes (15 percent)

Experiencing a mental illness, such as depression (15 percent)

Having to work to support by family (12 percent)

Was bullied and didn’t want to return (12 percent)

The good news: Progress is being made in efforts to help at-risk dropouts return to high school to complete their education, even after they have turned 18.

New data and technologies offer greater opportunity to find and reconnect out-of-school youths than ever before. Educators say emerging intervention models hold promise not just to build credits for an equivalent certificate, but to rebuild dropouts’ academic, social, and emotional foundations for success beyond high school. . . .

Boston is one of a network of cities, including Milwaukee, Philadelphia, and Portland, Ore., that have established “re-engagement centers”—one-stop shops to help returning students find a new school or online classes; connect with social workers and therapists when needed; and plan for college and a career. . . .

Ultimately, Jobs For the Future’s Lili Allen believes dropout recovery will be judged not on whether students get a high school diploma, but on whether they are really prepared for life after graduation: college, careers, family, and a productive civic life.

“There’s a growing recognition,” she says, “that this population needs to not just make it over that first finish line but really needs to make it through postsecondary if they are going to sustain family-supporting careers.”

Policymakers are hoping to attach responsibility to school systems, tying in increased funding to how many of the returning dropouts eventually graduate.


A Better Response to Children’s Complaints of Boredom this Summer


Rather than getting annoyed when your children say they are bored — or feeling guilty that you are not providing them with activities — new research suggests that parents should look at what may be the real problem.

Kids who complain of boredom aren’t necessarily lazy or slacking off, but are actually in a tense, negative state, says a 2012 study in the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science. Frustrated and struggling to engage, they often find themselves unable to focus their attention or get started on satisfying activities.

The overwhelming majority of kids turn to video games when they can’t focus, but overstimulation is the last thing they need. Instead, parents should talk to their kids to determine if anything is troubling them and encourage them to figure out a plan of action.

But for those times when your child really does need to fill their time, planning ahead is key.

Planning in advance can help kids get through the mental paralysis that comes with boredom. Dr. Laura Markham recommends helping a child make a “Boredom Buster Jar,” a bottle of paper slips with the child’s ideas for things to do. Such a tool can also help guide nannies or sitters who need ideas.

Suggesting a little drudgery can spur a child’s imagination, too. Try saying, “I could use a little help cleaning the closet,” Dr. Markham says.

Time to draw up a few lists . . . 



Are LEGO Faces Too Angry?


CNN Money:

Today’s LEGO characters are looking increasingly angry and carrying more weapons, indicating an important shift in the way kids play and interact with toys.

New research by robot expert Christoph Bartneck at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand shows the number of happy faces on tiny LEGO figures is decreasing.

“We cannot help but wonder how the move from only positive faces to an increasing number of negative faces impacts on how children play,” he said in a statement.

And let’s not forget this story from last week: A six-year-old boy was given detention for brandishing a toy gun – a toy gun the size of a quarter from one of his LEGO figurines. Comprehensive LEGO–figurine reform is long overdue, if you ask me, especially when “robot experts” are signaling the alarm. 

I’m joking, of course — except that there’s no way I’d let my kids have this one:







Dove Is Reuniting Military Families for Father’s Day


Get out the tissue NOW.

What a noble venture in honor of military dads serving overseas.


Who Decided My Daughters Are Women?


There are sound reasons why we choose to protect those under the age of 18 with certain legal restrictions. Unfortunately, all those reasons seem to fly out the window when it comes to “reproductive rights.” The Obama administration has decided not to fight a judge’s order to make the Plan B emergency contraceptive available to anyone without a prescription. Although the president himself is said to still be against selling Plan B to underage girls, as are the majority of Americans, apparently he will allow the FDA to simply throw up their hands in defeat.

In a letter Monday to U.S. District Judge Edward R. Korman in New York, who has called the age restrictions “politically motivated” and “scientifically unjustified,” the administration said it would drop its appeal in the case and abide by Korman’s order to make Plan B One-Step contraceptive pills available to women and girls of any age without a prescription.

The age restrictions are “politically motivated”? It couldn’t possibly be that removing the age restrictions is a “politically motivated” response to the abortion lobby, could it? And “scientifically unjustified”? I love it when men with law degrees are given the power to decide which scientific research is valid.

How about just common sense? You can argue all you want about the efficacy of the drug and whether or not it is dangerous when used as directed. We have restrictions on buying drugs that contain pseudoephedrine because of the potential for abuse. Is there no potential for abuse with Plan B?

Those opposed to the sale have mentioned many of the pitfalls that can occur with this policy: Young women could use the drug as their birth control of choice. Over and over. Engaging in unprotected sex, and opening the door to STDs. There is the danger of having the drug slipped to them by a vengeful boyfriend or, even worse, by their abuser.

And just think of the immature mind: “It has to be taken within three days? Hmmm . . . It’s been a week. Maybe if I take, like, ten of them — that’ll do it.”

But the American Academy of Pediatrics thinks a fourteen-year-old is an adult, capable of dealing with the perils of sexual activity. 

Speaking at a news conference, Dr. Cora Breuner, a pediatrician at Seattle Children’s Hospital, said the ruling made her proud “as a woman and as a doctor and as a mother of three children.

“This statement and this ruling are long overdue and especially welcome by all of us at the American Academy of Pediatrics,” Breuner said.

However, she said more needed to be done to be sure the pill was affordable to all women, regardless of their finances. It should be priced so that sexually active women 14, 15 and 16 years old can afford it, Breuner said.

I have daughters who are 16 and 14. They are top students, mature and capable, who can handle adversity. There is no way you could convince me that they would be able to deal with the swirling emotions and complexities of making this serious medical decision on their own. Perhaps they are not as “street smart” as the average girls their age, but is that how we should define the capability to make such decisions?

A certain lobby wants to pretend that there is nothing wrong with pre-teen/teenage sexuality and the use of emergency contraception, but we parents know our daughters. We know this is a battle worth fighting. For them.






Bill Clinton: Father of the Year


Nothing says “Father of the Year” like embarrassing your child’s mother in public.

NBC has the details.

NYC Creates App to Help Teens Find Abortion Services


While Governer Cuomo is doing all he can to make New York state the most extreme abortion provider in the nation, New York City is doing all it can to steer teens toward abortion clinics. Apparently forty percent of pregnancies ending in abortion in the boroughs just isn’t enough.

The New York City Health Department’s NYC teen website now includes an app that teens can download to their smart phones to get information on “sexual health,” including where they can get birth control and abortions.

The app, under the heading “Important Links and Info,” has three main links – Where to Go: sexual health services; What to Get: condoms and birth control; and What to Expect: at the clinic. Under the health services link the user can choose what service they want, including Gold Star clinics (those that offer free birth control and other services), emergency contraceptive or Plan B, and abortion.

If the user picks abortion, they can then choose the area in the city where they want to find services. If the user picks Manhattan, for example, they will be directed to three places that perform abortions – Family Planning Clinic, Harlem Hospital; Planned Parenthood Margaret Sanger Center; and Project Stay – Services to Assist Youth at New York Presbyterian Hospital.

Under the “info” tab on the app, teens are told that New York state does not have parental consent law when it comes to getting sexual health services.

More here.


What You Think You Know about Drowning Is Wrong


If you haven’t seen or read this article making the rounds yet, please do. It could save a life.

Drowning is almost always a deceptively quiet event. The waving, splashing, and yelling that dramatic conditioning (television) prepares us to look for is rarely seen in real life.

The Instinctive Drowning Response—so named by Francesco A. Pia, Ph.D., is what people do to avoid actual or perceived suffocation in the water. And it does not look like most people expect. There is very little splashing, no waving, and no yelling or calls for help of any kind. To get an idea of just how quiet and undramatic from the surface drowning can be, consider this: It is the No. 2 cause of accidental death in children, ages 15 and under (just behind vehicle accidents)—of the approximately 750 children who will drown next year, about 375 of them will do so within 25 yards of a parent or other adult. In some of those drownings, the adult will actually watch the child do it, having no idea it is happening. Drowning does not look like drowning.

The story then goes on to explain the real reactions and signs to look for. Read them here


The U.S. Is Not the Only Nation with Child-Care Problems


The New Republic had a heart-wrenching story about the state of child care in the U.S. While unfortunately it did not address what we can do about so many working mothers having problems securing affordable daycare because of lack of support from the children’s fathers, the article did offer these sobering statistics.

About 8.2 million kids – about 40 percent of children under five – spend at least part of their week in the care of somebody other than a parent…

A 2007 survey by the National Institute of Child Health Development deemed the majority of [child care] operations to be “fair” or “poor” – only 10 percent provided high-quality care. Experts recommend a ratio of one caregiver for every three infants between six and 18 months, but just one-third of children are in settings that meet that standard.

Proportionally, about 9 percent of all reported SIDS deaths should take place in child care. The actual number is twice that. And while overall SIDS fatalities declined after a nationwide education campaign, the death rate in child care held steady.

This isn’t just a problem here. Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry wrote a response for Forbes about the myths of French childcare. He lists these four:

1. MYTH: Every parent has access to a crèche [child care]. . . . Now, to a liberal, that might point to an obvious conclusion: build more crèches! But to a conservative, it points to the quasi law of nature that public provision of valuable services will lead to rationing (and thence, corruption) because public services do not have the built-in mechanism for balancing supply and demand that well-functioning markets do. . . .

2. MYTH: French crèches are a wonderful environment for kids. . . . Regardless of whether “French parenting” is “better” than “American parenting” . . . a public day care system that would conform to the legitimate preferences of American parents would be an even more expensive and unlikely proposition. . . .

3. MYTH: Crèche staff are well paid and highly credentialed. . . . The diploma that is required to work at a crèche is a “CAP” in early childhood. The CAP is a secondary vocational diploma, which is normally taught from ages 15 to 17 . . . [and] while it isn’t technically false to say that French day care workers are paid better [than] in the U.S., it doesn’t seem obvious to me that French child care workers are paid “quite well”, or better than their US colleagues in a significant, across-the-board way.

4. MYTH: French parents get generous tax breaks for hiring nannies. . . . Parents overwhelmingly pay their nannies off the book. This is what the tax break exists to remedy. It helps pay, not for the nanny’s salary, but for the payroll tax that goes on top of the nanny’s salary. So the tax breaks exists. But it’s not really meaningful. And obviously it’s a mandatory 0% loan to the French government. And the fact that the tax break had to be created is an obvious admission that there aren’t enough crèches nor does the government think it can make enough over the long term.

But Gobry feels there is one truth about French child care that the U.S. should emulate: There is bipartisan support in seeking remedies to the problem.

Details here.






Twenty Percent of Women in U.S. Begin Families After Age 35


And many OB-GYNs are warning their patients that may be too late. Too many women over 35 seem to believe that having their first child will be no problem.

Doctors say advances in fertility treatments and media coverage of women conceiving in their 40s and even 50s have led some people to believe they can beat the biological clock. And though more women are pursuing fertility treatments, such as in vitro fertilization, using egg donors and freezing eggs and embryos, experts note that such procedures are expensive, rarely covered by insurance, and offer no guarantee for conception…

“I hear many people say 40 is the new 30. But not reproductively, it’s not the new 30,” says Cynthia Austin, medical director of in vitro fertilization at the Cleveland Clinic. “Our ovaries are aging at the same rate they did 50 years ago.”

Genetics largely determine which women will still be fertile at 40 and which ones won’t. “Fertility is absolutely a wild card,” says Laurie Green, an OB-GYN in San Francisco. “At 30 I start talking to patients. I always tell them that we don’t have a crystal ball, we don’t know who is going to be fertile and who is not.”

The article also explains the increase in genetic abnormalties as women age, and how more and more younger career women are choosing to freeze their eggs at over $10,000 for the procedure.

More here.



Not-So-Swift Attack on Swiffer


Perhaps Swiffer should have known that marketing cleaning products in the age of political correctness is treacherous business. As reported in the Wall Street Journal, Swiffer dared to use the image of Rosie the Riveter to promote a new steam cleaner, provoking a feminist backlash. The company has since pulled the offending ads.  



It seems that while feminists want women to be perpetually incensed that they shoulder more of the burden of household chores, they also want companies selling cleaning products to ignore this reality, and feature images of men wielding the latest cleaning contraption.

Mainstream women may not see such a disconnect between helpful cleaners and women’s empowerment, as exemplified by Rosie. After all, innovations in cleaning – such as washing machines, vacuums, and fast-acting spray cleaners – have played a leading role in freeing up women’s time so that they could pursue work outside of the home. And many women today continue to see keeping a nice home and raising children as a true achievement, and not at all at odds with equality.

Swiffer has quickly noted that a forthcoming television ad campaign will showcase men using their products. That’s a relief, and a big victory for feminists who seem increasingly in search of a cause.

If Enough Troops Stood Up to the Girl Scouts’ Top Ranks...


I’m guessing that their current connections with Planned Parenthood and other pro-abortion groups would end once and for all.

I wasn’t a Girl Scout when I was young, but when my twins’ class needed a Daisy Scout leader years ago, I volunteered. Though I never experienced any controversy at the local level, I would occasionally hear rumblings from pro-life organizations about the GSUSA hierarchy and their beliefs about teen sexuality and abortion. I eventually decided to resign my position and pull my girls from scouting.

I wish I could have stayed and fought.

At the time, I did tell the moms who were leading other troops at my girls’ school exactly why I was leaving. I explained that I wasn’t telling them what they should do — that I understood there was so much on the plus side. But with my strong pro-life beliefs, I just couldn’t participate any longer. I say the same whenever I meet anyone involved in scouting who I think might also have a problem with those liberal stances. And not surprisingly, most reiterate that they have never come across anything objectionable in their scouting activities.

However, the top ranks of the GSUSA do seem to have a very liberal sexuality and abortion agenda that flies in the face of the supposed “neutrality” that the organization claims on this (outdated) page on its website. While trying to say that the GSUSA is only “a seat at the table” of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) – much like the U.S. at the U.N. — they gloss over exactly what is being endorsed at that table. 

The web page makes reference to the 54th Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations held in 2010, which created a lot of buzz in pro-life circles that year, but does not address the Bali Global Youth Forum Declaration from December 2012, or the latest controversy regarding the Women Deliver global conference in May of this year.

The Youth Forum Declaration included calls for “sexual rights,” access to “abortion,”  and “reproductive rights” for children as young as ten years old. It sought to eliminate parental consent and “age of consent” restrictions in all sexual and reproductive matters.

Women Deliver, as mentioned on The Corner by Ian Tuttle, does do great work for women in the Third World. But their conference had the likes of euthanasia advocate Peter Singer (who has proposed legalizing infanticide) and late-term abortionist LeRoy Carhart (who performs abortions after 24 weeks, sometimes with questionable legality) speaking about “family planning.” 

LifeNews has pressed the GSUSA on their involvement in both the Youth Forum and the Women Deliver conference. Basically GSUSA claims that WAGGGS does not speak for all its members. This is interesting, because WAGGGS has declared that they do speak for all their members. Apparently, GSUSA wants to have it both ways, as LifeNews points out:

If GSUSA really objected to being included under the WAGGGS’ advocacy umbrella, which promotes sexual and reproductive rights on behalf all “10 million” members, GSUSA lawyers would lock down WAGGGS’ representations in a heartbeat, to protect the Girl Scouts’ costly re-branding efforts.

The reality is this: GSUSA has not once objected to WAGGGS’ global advocacy on sexual and reproductive issues, nor to WAGGGS’ claims to represent its entire membership, including GSUSA, on those issues. They refuse to disown even WAGGGS’ most radical pro-abortion efforts (e.g., the Bali Youth Declaration). And they continue to fund and support WAGGGS’ global megaphone, as it amplifies “progressive” messages promoting adolescent abortion and youth sexual rights. They will do nothing to impede or even distance themselves from WAGGGS’ pro-abortion, pro-contraception, “sexual rights” advocacy.

So it leaves a tough decision for those involved with scouting. Do you stay, knowing that, while cookie-sale profits stay local, a portion of your annual dues and donations to the Juliette Low Fund go to WAGGGS? Or do you realize that it would be really tough to fight an organization that will more than likely continue its current path, and quit?

Actually there is an alternative . . .



Sex: the Cause of, and Solution to, All of Life’s Problems


When I was in college at NYU, I enrolled in some Women Studies classes, where I learned all kinds of strange philosophies about sex. Mainly that it was a Very Big Deal, and that you have to either embrace your sexuality (if you are female) or overcome your gender bias (if you are male), and also broaden your sexual parameters (if you are a conservative). Everyone talked openly about how many different types of sexual experiences they’d had, shared terrible stories of sexual abuse (almost everyone claimed to be abuse victims or rape survivors), and – of course – identified themselves as hetero, homo, bi, or try-sexual (describing students who’d “try anything”). If there was a male student who had had homosexual relationships, he defined himself as “a gay man”; he wasn’t an architect major who enjoyed bicycling, and who was told he resembles his grandfather in his prime. A female student who had a girlfriend was “a lesbian,” not a girl from Connecticut who hoped to write the great American novel. The class taught me that the Left defines themselves by their sexuality. Their identity resides between their legs.

However, a recent Guardian interview with Michael Douglas showed me I was wrong.

In August 2010, Douglas revealed that he had stage four throat cancer. This week, he revealed he believed oral sex caused his cancer. Reporter Xan Brooks writes in the Guardian:

The throat cancer, I assume, was first seeded during those wild middle years, when he drank like a fish and smoked like the devil. Looking back, knowing what he knows now, does he feel he overloaded his system?

“No,” he says. “No. Because, without wanting to get too specific, this particular cancer is caused by HPV [human papillomavirus], which actually comes about from cunnilingus.”

From what? For a moment I think that I may have misheard.

“From cunnilingus. I mean, I did worry if the stress caused by my son’s incarceration didn’t help trigger it. But yeah, it’s a sexually transmitted disease that causes cancer.”

His spokesman quickly clarified that Douglas’s cancer could’ve been caused by many factors, and that oral sex was simply one of the possible culprits. (According to Fox News, “smoking and drinking alcohol are the main causes of oral cancer, although the human papillomavirus has been linked to one kind of throat cancer. The human papillomavirus is mostly known for causing cervical cancer.”)

When I first heard of this crass claim – from the man who plays a glittery starring role in a new movie about Liberace and his lover Scott Thorson – I chalked it up to my previous calculation: Liberals define themselves by their sexuality, and they perceive all things through that lens. But Douglas went on to say, “And if you have it [this particular type of cancer], cunnilingus is also the best cure for it. . . . It giveth and it taketh.”

Of course, he was alluding to Job 1:21; “the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away.”

My initial calculation about the liberal tendency to elevate sex to the point of one’s identity was way off, because they go much further than that. In Douglas’s case, he has effectively elevated oral sex all the way up to the status of “the Lord.” He claimed oral sex could somehow heal him. 

Brooks takes note of this, presumably not just because it’ll make a good headline: 

I’m still thinking about what he said earlier, about HPV and oral sex and how it can be both cause and cure. Can that last bit be right? A doctor the Guardian later speaks to insists it makes no sense. I had hoped it could be true; it sounded oddly karmic. Douglas has lived not wisely and perhaps not even well – but certainly to the full. He has drunk and smoked and snorted, and had plenty of sex. His appetites brought him to the brink of disaster. It would be nice if they could now be his salvation too.

Brooks has it all wrong, however, because oral sex as salvation wouldn’t be “karmic” or even “oddly karmic.”  Douglas’s strange – and irresponsible – claim is nothing more profound than a rehashing of Homer Simpson’s famous line: “To alcohol! The cause of . . . and solution to . . . all of life’s problems!” In fact, karma is a very bad deal, especially for people who’ve made mistakes (people like Douglas, and all of us). I love how rock star Bono describes it:

Karma is at the very heart of the universe. I’m absolutely sure of it. And yet, along comes this idea called Grace to upend all that “as you reap, so you will sow” stuff. Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I’ve done a lot of stupid stuff… I’d be in big trouble if Karma was going to finally be my judge. I’d be in deep s—. It doesn’t excuse my mistakes, but I’m holding out for Grace. I’m holding out that Jesus took my sins onto the Cross, because I know who I am, and I hope I don’t have to depend on my own religiosity.

Michael Douglas, of course, hasn’t faced challenges of the same scale as the original person who talked about what “giveth and taketh away” so many years ago. Though the actor hasn’t suffered as much as Job, he’s undoubtedly a man on a journey – through cancer, with a wife who battles bipolar disorder and a son imprisoned on drug-related charges. 

Whether or not we acknowledge it, we all need that salvation about which Brooks writes so longingly. May Michael Douglas and his family find it, and may he soon come to know the Great Physician who can ultimately save him from everything that afflicts him. 

And that includes, most miraculously, from himself.

Two More Perspectives on the Rise of Single Moms


The Washington Post had two more takes on the results of a Pew Research Center study that showed that four out of ten U.S. households with children under 18 are headed by a single mom.

First was the inevitable examination of how this emerging demographic will affect presidential campaigns.

What do Pew’s findings mean for politics – especially at the presidential level?

Let’s start with the fact that single moms have been a solidly Democratic group in each of the past two presidential races. In 2008, then-Sen. Barack Obama won 74 percent of single moms – defined for these purposes as unmarried women living in households with children under 18. Obama followed that by winning 75 percent among that group in his contest with former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney in November. In both of those elections, single moms constituted 6 percent of the overall electorate.

The story goes on to say what a problem this creates for the GOP, of course.

And then Kathleen Parker chimed in about how infrequently the bad effects of the absence of fathers are brought up.

Conversations the past few days about Pew’s findings have veered toward practical questions of men’s value. During a recent segment on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” guests – all women except Joe Scarborough, who looked sheepish and mostly kept his own counsel – visited the familiar question: Why do women even need men?

The ladies worked earnestly to find positive roles for their hirsute colleagues, noting that men can be useful in family planning, child-care sharing, working as part of a team. Although a man’s presence was implicit in the hypothetical household, I waited futilely for emphasis to shift to the importance of fathers to their children’s well-being. Father, it seems, has become the new F-bomb. Oh, we’ll say “F#$&” in a 30-Rock second, but “father”? The term, along with the concept, seems to have receded from popular usage, displaced by the vernacular of drive-by impregnators, the inane “baby daddy.”





Teach Your Children Well — to Be Unbiased and Empathetic


Alison Gopnik at the Wall Street Journal had two striking columns recently about racial bias and the development of a moral code in children.

In the first story, Gopnik explained that studies show that the impulse to hate and fear those in other racial groups arises early.

A raft of new studies shows that even 5-year-olds discriminate between what psychologists call in-groups and out-groups. Moreover, children actually seem to learn subtle aspects of discrimination in early childhood.

In a recent paper, Yarrow Dunham at Princeton and colleagues explored when children begin to have negative thoughts about other racial groups. White kids aged 3 to 12 and adults saw computer-generated, racially ambiguous faces. They had to say whether they thought the face was black or white. Half the faces looked angry, half happy. The adults were more likely to say that angry faces were black. Even people who would hotly deny any racial prejudice unconsciously associate other racial groups with anger.

But what about the innocent kids? Even 3- and 4-year-olds were more likely to say that angry faces were black. In fact, younger children were just as prejudiced as older children and adults.

In a second column, Gopnik found research that suggests that children have an “intuitive social theory” that shapes their moral code.

[Researchers] discovered that very young kids could discriminate between genuinely moral principles and mere social conventions. First, the researchers asked about everyday rules – a rule that you can’t be mean to other children, for instance, or that you have to hang up your clothes. The children said that, of course, breaking the rules was wrong.

But then the researchers asked another question: What would you think if teachers and parents changed the rules to say that being mean and dropping clothes were OK? Children as young as 2 said that, in that case, it would be OK to drop your clothes, but not to be mean. No matter what the authorities decreed, hurting others, even just hurting their feelings, was always wrong.

Sounds like good news, right? But further questioning by the researchers showed that if an authority figure told them it was okay to be mean to someone outside their social group, then the children thought it would be acceptable.

More here and here.




Private Kids’ Club in London: This Ain’t No Chuck E. Cheese


You would think that as a family with seven children we would have received lifetime memberships to Chuck E. Cheese by now, but we actually haven’t been patrons of the pizza emporium too often. It was just too tricky with five born within five years, so only classmate or extended-family birthday celebrations compelled us to step in its doors.

But if we’d had the finances to do so, we might have been lured into signing up for an American version of the upscale venture in West London opened by two mums who were frustrated by the poor choices available for a family outing with small children.

A  Daily Telegraph interview with co-founder Maggie Bolger, who is now the sole proprietor, described it thusly:

Small children are delighting in a silvery ball pool; the café area alongside is achingly cool. Silky lattes are served in tin mugs on gingham trays. Dads in black-framed glasses read broadsheets as their kids happily make pretend lunch inside the shabby chic play-hut. . . .

Maggie & Rose’s sales come from a £585 per family membership fee and sales of children’s classes in cooking, dance, art and music.

It would be so easy to sneer at Maggie & Rose as an elitist enclave but there’s no doubt that there’s a philanthropic element to their drive. “It is awesome when parents tell me how much they like spending time here. We currently have 250 members (a membership includes parents, carers and grandparents) and we may reach 400 but we don’t want to oversell. I’m a parent so I’m the key customer. And I’m fussy. Our own kids gauge it. They all come here. I want it to feel like coming to a mate’s house.”

What I really like about this story is that two busy mothers took on this venture when their children were still very young (and in fact, Maggie became pregnant with her fourth child during the start-up process). They blazed a trail as they faced doubtful businessmen, and Maggie remained very hands-on even as she added another venue.

. . . in the long term, what’s the ideal scenario? Does she want to be bought out by a large company for several million in five years time? She looks puzzled. “I’d rather it remained in the family and the kids ran it. I’ve already had my eldest two working on the reception. Businesses that sell out can lose their spirit. I don’t want that. I always say that if you deliver a good product and good service the rewards will come. You can’t be driven by money. We’ve almost lost everything. That’s why our investors support us – they know we’ve been prepared to risk everything to get here.” And every parent sheltering from the rain while their kids burn off some energy, looks immensely grateful that they have.





How I Spent My Summer More Meaningfully


That’s the composition more and more kids will be able to write next school year.

As the end of the school year fast approaches, and families search for ways to keep their students occupied in the summer, many will choose from a variety of hobby-focused camps and summer programs. But in recent years, more teens have been opting for a different kind of experience.

And not only because their high schools make volunteer hours a graduation requirement. As classroom lessons increasingly emphasize civic responsibility, and colleges look for students whose applications stand out, officials at nonprofit organizations and schools have seen a steadily growing interest in service-oriented summer programs.

One director pointed out that parents looking for camps should consider not just the project worked on, but whether the program helps their kids see the bigger picture. 

“I think the service feels more meaningful when there’s an academic component to it, where it’s not, ‘Let’s just go make a meal in a food pantry,’ but, ‘Let’s talk about why this is necessary,’” [Vinita] Ahuja said. “The reflection piece is really key, because it allows the students to be really clear about what their expectations were going in and how maybe their thinking has changed, or what questions they have remaining.”

Now I’m off to research some of these camps . . .

Full story here.




Men and Women ... Different?


Odds are, you’ve seen this or been a party to this:


Parents Ease Teens’ Anxieties by Becoming “Exposure Coaches”


Teens with phobias and social anxiety seem to make more progress when their parents learn techniques to expose them to their fears gradually, instead of just avoiding situations.

[R]esearchers at Mayo, Virginia Tech and other institutions are finding that slowly exposing children to the things they are anxious about, at an early point in treatment, can be highly effective in helping them overcome anxiety. Sometimes, it doesn’t require a long course of therapy.

Dr. Ollendick developed an intensive three-hour session to help children overcome phobias such as riding in elevators or encountering a dog. His intensive approach has been shown to be more effective than treatments that emphasize education about phobias but not exposure to a feared object or situation. Therapists work with parents to reinforce and maintain what the child has learned and to schedule follow-up calls.

In the past, exposure therapy was used later in treatment after employing other techniques such as relaxation skills and “cognitive restructuring.”

More here.




Good News for Mom: Some Short Cuts Don’t Short-Change Kids


One of the biggest challenges that moms face is navigating the expectations game. After seeing friends’ pictures of nut- and berry-filled spinach salads and homemade vegetable ravioli on Facebook, it’s easy to feel guilty for offering my kids yet another bowl of noodles with frozen peas and carrots.

That’s why I was happy to read this piece in the New York Times on all the studies confirming that canned and frozen fruits and vegetables are just as nutritious as fresh ones. In some cases, the packaged produce was found to be even more nutritious because it was preserved at peak ripeness, while fresh produce degrades during transport from the fields to the market to your refrigerator.

This is a welcome reminder to time- and cash-strapped parents that we shouldn’t assume that all short cuts short-change our families. Fresh fruit and vegetables are great, of course, but sometimes, as a parent, it seems that there can be a sort of fetish around fresh foods and that to use anything else is a failure. The facts tell us otherwise.

Unlike many of the moms I know, I don’t enjoy cooking or even preparing food. It’s a chore to me, just like folding the laundry and doing the dishes. I do it because I have to. The idea that only garden-picked spinach and peaches plucked straight from the tree are healthy enough makes me want to give up. That’s not the message we should be sending parents.

Parents ought to hear that they are doing their job of providing healthy food to their kids even when they use frozen and canned products (so long as they pay attention to see if anything has been added to them). All the food nannies out there who are searching for ways to cajole Americans — through regulations, taxes, and taxpayer-financed marketing campaigns — to eat healthier should keep this in mind. Rather than making providing health food seem endlessly complicated, it would be nice for them to remind parents that the cheap frozen vegetable section in their local big-box grocery store can play as much of a role in a healthy diet as their local organic market.

That’s assuming, though, that the food nannies real purpose is to help people be healthier. Is it?



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