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The Home Front

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

Kids Don’t Care About Color



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You may have heard about the Cheerios commercial that stirred up some racists in this country. It was referred to as a controversial commercial by some — including the makers of the video below – but most folks had absolutely no problem with the ad and thought it was adorable. (Yes, count me in.)

The lesson we should have learned from the popularity of the musical South Pacific decades ago still rings true: Kids don’t see any problem with an interracial couple.

Now, can we take the overwhelmingly positive response to this video as an indication that the claims of racism at every corner — especially in the past few days — are exaggerated? It’s definitely food for thought.

 

Newsroom: Like Watching the Inner Lives of People who Hate Me



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I was recently asked to write a weekly article following HBO’s Newsroom, a drama about an anchorman who apparently — in the first season — decided to save network news by telling the truth and covering only “important” stories. I’d heard from friends that the show leaned left. Really, left.  However, since it was by Aaron Sorkin, the creator of West Wing, I decided to give it a chance. 

Here’s why I turned down the job, and why you — quite literally — can’t pay me to watch another episode.

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On the Baby Front



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Trying to prevent the deaths of infants left in their car seats.

An emergency c-section leads to a greater risk of a stillbirth in the next pregnancy, and a non-emergency c-section leads to more difficulty conceiving.

A computer-based analyzer of a baby’s cry can detect what the human ear can’t and is able to determine health issues.

Eating fish during pregnancy lowers anxiety levels.

Walking the walk: Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R., Wa.), the only woman to give birth to two children as a congresswoman, is about to break her own record as she is expecting her third child.

In anticipation of the pending birth of a royal baby, some interesting naming trends in the U.K.

 

 

So What Happens When All Birth Control Is Free and Easily Available?



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Apparently, many women still use abortion over and over again as a means of preventing motherhood.

Such is the case in the United Kingdom, where contraceptive coverage is universal, according to The Telegraph [emphasis mine]:

Official statistics for 2012 reveal that a record 37 per cent of all abortions performed in England and Wales last year were repeat procedures.

The figures include more than 4,500 women who underwent at least their four abortions, 1,334 on at least their fifth and 33 women who have terminated nine or more pregnancies.

The story also says that the number of abortions in the U.K. has dropped slightly, more sharply among teens, but that the number of late terminations and those on the grounds of fetal abnormalty rose. Almost half were chemically induced, rather than surgically, and 91 percent were prior to 13 weeks gestation.

 

Why Are Parents So Reluctant to Have Their Kids Enter Politics?



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Certainly there are many reasons why 64 percent of American parents, according to a Gallup poll taken earlier this month don’t want a child — neither a son nor a daughter — to go into politics. But, unfortunately, Gallup didn’t ask for specific reasons.

It’s probably largely because congress is viewed so negatively these days; it’s less likeable than root canals and used-car salesmen. And women in general are less inclined to enter the fray of politics themselves, so it’s no surprise that they are even less likely than men to want their children to do so.

I find it interesting that, when you view the demographic breakdown, Republican parents are less likely than Democrats to want a child to seek political office. 

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So I pose the question, “Why?” – not because I don’t understand all the reasons not to encourage your child to run for a political position, but because I think there is a great need for good leaders. People are currently seeking office for all the wrong reasons. Good conservative leaders could help turn things around. Of course, the political arena is full of pitfalls. Of course, no one wants to see their child dragged through the muck. But we have to take back what it means to be servants of the people. There is no way that is going to happen if good parents who are raising good leaders steer them clear of legislative positions. Public offices will be dragged down to even further depths.

It would be hard for me to say whether my own children could withstand the slings and arrows. I would like to think that with our support they could. But I refuse to summarily rule it out just because too many politicians are doing the job wrong. We must be fearless or surrender to those who will prevail without merit.

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Dept of Ed Supports Pregnant and Parenting Students



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A couple of weeks ago the Department of Education released new Title IX guidance geared to support the academic success of pregnant and parenting students. The National Women’s Law Center took note:

It has been 40 years since the passage of Title IX and 22 years since the Department of Education last released guidance related to pregnant and parenting students. While pregnant and parenting students are protected by the non-discrimination provisions of Title IX, many students and school administrators need a strong reminder of what is required by Title IX. The educational attainment statistics for pregnant and parenting students are staggering:

  • For female students, pregnancy is the most common family-related reason for dropping out of high school;
  • Twenty-six percent of young men and women who have dropped out of high school — and one-third of women — said that becoming a parent was a major factor in their decision to leave school;
  • Only 51 percent of young women who had a child before age 20 earned their high school diploma by age 22; and
  • Only 2 percent of young women who had a child before 18 earned a college degree by age 30.

The lack of educational support puts pregnant and parenting students in a precarious situation — often unemployed or underemployed, earning less, and having to rely on government benefits.

The Law Center went on to say that they receive weekly calls from students dealing with these kinds of issues, and that hopefully these new guidelines will help schools recognize their obligations to help support these students and their families.

Feminists for Life also applauded this development, as they have been advocates for the rights of pregnant and parenting students on campuses for some 19 years. They work with colleges and universities across the country in developing local resource guides, holding forums with staff and students, and offering their committed support.

Learn more about FFL’s efforts – and how you can send a pregnancy resource kit to your alma mater’s campus – here.

 

Mom Heads Org Dedicated to Preventing Kids’ Sports Injuries



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In anticipation of all the sports camps this summer, the Washington Post highlighted an organization which is headed by a mom who has seen her own daughter face the challenges of a sport injury.

More than 38 million children and teens play sports in the United States each year, according to Safe Kids Worldwide, and it’s taking a toll. About one in three kids playing team sports is injured seriously enough to miss practice or a game. Those who play multiple sports that put pressure on the same body part are at an increased risk for injury.

Kate Carr is president and chief executive of Safe Kids. She says [her daughter] Ally is trying to condition her knees to better withstand the pressure that volleyball and softball put on them.

Her organization, which works to prevent childhood injuries, is trying to raise awareness of youth sports injuries and teach children, parents and coaches how to prevent them or minimize their effects.

“We [need to] begin to help our children understand that if you want to have a lifetime of being active, you have to protect your body while you’re young,” Carr said. “If you don’t, it will either limit your ability to play this sport that you love or it will cause a lifetime of damage.”

 The story also includes a list of the causes, signs, and symptoms, as well as treatments, for the most common sports ailments and injuries.

 

Large Families Have Health and Social Benefits, Are Not as Expensive



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Colin Brazier, the British author of an upcoming release — and father of six himself — teamed up with a Swedish researcher to test some of the old theories about large families.

Not only did they find that raising children was much less expensive with each addition, but there were many health and social benefits as well. 

[R]ecent studies showed growing up with a sibling was a shield against some food allergies and serious illnesses such as multiple sclerosis and some cancers, but did not explain why there was not more protection for children who spend a lot of time with others in day care or school.

In a previous piece for the Daily Mail, Mr Brazier said: “One study, of half a million Army conscripts, revealed that one in ten only-children developed asthma. In the largest families the figure was closer to one in 200.”

He argued that children in larger families learned to walk and talk earlier than only children because they are encouraged by their siblings, and show greater emotional intelligence. He also said they are better at waiting their turn.

“Some of the most recent evidence even suggests that a child with a brother and/or sister will have more evolved language skills and do better at exams,” he wrote.

As a mom of seven, I am clearly biased on this one. And I sincerely believe that everyone knows what number is right for them, whether it be zero, one or 19. I also sincerely believe that too many parents buy into the prevailing sentiments that having a large family is too expensive, or that children from large families don’t get enough attention. As Clare Halpine wrote so accurately on The Corner today, we have to “re-think our negative assumptions” about raising children in today’s world.

Obviously, large families present certain limitations and have their own challenges, but if parents feel a calling to expand their family — either through another pregnancy or through adoption/fostering — they should consider letting go of the conventional constraints. They should follow their hearts.

The Lone Ranger: “Cynical. Bankrupt. Brutal. Anti-American. A Catastrophe.”



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After writing about Monsters University below, I thought I’d pass along this review of The Lone Ranger. I’m not sure, but I don’t think the author liked it. Here are the clues:

When the film first brings together the man who will be the Lone Ranger, the horse who will be called Silver and the Indian called Tonto, there’s a sequence with Tonto leading Silver and the unconscious Ranger unceremoniously dragging behind. Then the horse stops to pass excrement — before dragging the Ranger’s head right through the pile of poop.

There, in a nutshell, is the movie’s attitude toward its source material.

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One of the most head-scratching things about this movie is that Disney had the gall to debut such explicitly anti-American fare over the Fourth of July holiday. Consider a set piece with the band playing “The Star-Spangled Banner” under a banner reading “A Nation United” at a railroad ceremony as Tonto commandeers one of the trains, in the process tearing the bandstand to pieces and ripping down the “Nation United” banner. The heroes almost literally pull apart the united nation in order to stop the bad guys.

I haven’t seen the movie, nor am I planning on seeing it.  However, I wanted to pass along the review in case you moms and dads were considering taking the kiddos.  After all, you don’t want to waste your day off from work on something that might work against the values you’re trying to instill in the kids this Independence Day weekend.

Read the whole review here.

Monsters University Is Far from Leftwing Propaganda



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Like many of you, my husband and I packed up our three kids and headed to the movie theater this weekend to see the latest Pixar movie, a sequel to Monsters, Inc. called “Monsters University.” It was a delightful little film – maybe without as much heart as other great Pixar flicks like Wall-E, Finding Nemo, or Up – that the whole family enjoyed. That’s why I was surprised to read an article by Inside Higher Ed’s Kevin Kiley who portrayed the movie as leftwing propaganda:

But more than a comment on college, Monsters University is a film about diversity, the innate differences between individuals, and the institutions and situations that help foster connections and understanding between those individuals. Which makes it fitting that the film is released today in the shadow of a potential landmark Supreme Court ruling on affirmative action expected to come next week.

The movie is about the challenge of limited talent and the realization that hard work can only take one so far – and sometimes not even as far as people who are just “born with it.” But it’s also about what students in the social and intellectual crucible of college can learn from each other and how those interactions shape worldviews and change lives.

One can walk away from the movie with the impression that the administrators and faculty at Monsters University would happily join in the amicus brief filed in the affirmative action case by a group of private university administrators who said “a diverse student body adds significantly to the rigor and depth of students’ educational experience. Diversity encourages students to question their own assumptions, to test received truths, and to appreciate the spectacular complexity of the modern world. This larger understanding prepares . . . graduates to be active and engaged citizens wrestling with the pressing challenges of the day, to pursue innovation in every field of discovery, and to expand humanity’s learning and accomplishment.”

It’s like we didn’t see the same movie. The French family felt the film was a nice send up of the modern university’s self-importance – a mockery most conservatives would applaud.  [Spoiler alert!] 

Mike Wazowski is the little one-giant-eyed green monster lovingly voiced by Billy Crystal. When he was a kid, he wanted to become a “scarer,” a monster who harnessed “scream energy” from frightened children. (The fact that this G-rated movie was able to pull off this plot without scaring my five year old was pretty impressive indeed.)  But the university professors and administrators didn’t believe he was born with the natural talent required to become a scarer. Student James P. Sullivan (John Goodman), who goes by the nickname “Sulley,” is the exact opposite of Mike. Sulley is lazy, rude, and floats by on his good name and inherent confidence.

What I loved about the movie is what Kiley disliked:

The other surprising lesson from the end of the film (Spoiler Alert) — and where it arguably makes its biggest departure from the current understanding of higher education – is that, after getting expelled from MU, Mike and Sulley manage to achieve success without earning their degrees, by working their way up the bureaucracy at Monsters Inc.

That notion certainly plays into the popular zeitgeist that questions the value of a college degree, reinforced with the Gateses and Jobses and Zuckerbergs that have captured public imagination. But it is an ending that certainly runs counter to the data. While several prominent college dropouts have made names for themselves by starting companies and creating innovative products, the idea that, in the modern economy, a pair of college dropouts could work their way up from the mailroom to the scaring floor in the world’s largest corporation strains credulity.

I guess I should admit now that I’m one of those stories that “strain credulity.”  I’ve dropped out of three colleges, my highest degree is from Henry County High School in Paris, Tennessee, yet I’ve managed by the grace of God to create a writing career with two books on the New York Times best seller lists. I almost can’t believe it either. But the idea that hard work can propel you into success is hardly leftwing propaganda. Rather, this is a deeply American idea – one that my parents taught me and their parents taught them. (In fact, my dad is another example of what I call an American success story – he dropped out of high school six times before joining the Army, getting his GED, and later getting his college degree in his fifties. Perhaps there’s hope for me yet!)

Kiley described this denigration of college as “the biggest departure from the current understanding of higher education,” which might be true.  Perhaps in some circles, the “current understanding” of college is that it’s a necessary step after high school that students must take to ensure future success. However, as college costs skyrockets “beyond credulity,” many are taking a second look at actual value of higher ed. The currently bad state of the economy doesn’t necessarily suggest that people should keep spending tens of thousands of dollars at college, only to get spat out into a faltering, jobless market. Clever students might wisely choose another route. (This would have the added benefit of avoiding the rampant liberal indoctrination prevalent in colleges today.)

Far from being propaganda, Monsters University is a delightful film about believing in one’s dreams and working hard . . . and it’s a great story regardless of one’s political affiliation.

Parents’ Fitness Has Little Effect on Their Children’s



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The important caveat in this study was that the results were based on questionnaires, as opposed to objective observation, but the findings are interesting.

Many parents think they’re setting a positive role model for their teens by exercising and staying fit, but the kids don’t seem to care, a study in the Journal of Adolescent Health suggests. . . . The study found there was little correlation between teens’ fitness levels and whether the teens had one or both parents who regularly engaged in physical activity.

Having a normal-weight father or a mother who was physically active on a regular basis didn’t significantly influence adolescent fitness, the study found. Physically active siblings also had little effect on teen fitness.

More here.

 

Salted with Skepticism



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American women are skeptical about government’s ability to positively influence our living habits, according to a recent poll by the Independent Women’s Forum. Twice as many women believe that government’s efforts will be useless or counterproductive than believe they will be succeed at encouraging healthier choices.

Yet even this finding may overstate what women believe government should be doing on our behalf. That’s because women often have only a small part of the story when it comes to health information. 

Take salt and attitudes toward the government’s role in trying to encourage Americans to reduce their salt intake. In the IWF poll, women were asked whether they believed government should tax salt to discourage its use, regulate the amount of salt that can be included in food products, or do nothing. American women were about split on whether government should take action: 46 percent were for regulations, 5 percent for taxes, and 46 percent wanted government to do nothing. 

Given that Americans have recently been bombarded with alarmist headlines blaming excess salt consumption for millions of deaths, it’s pretty amazing that only about half of American women see a role for government in regulating salt.

And when IWF asked that questions again, with the preface that “new research on the topic has questioned the relationship between salt intake and cardiovascular (heart) disease,” just 29 percent of women agreed with the statement: “Government still should try to reduce how much salt and sodium people eat” while 52 percent said, “It is best to wait to study the issue more before the government reduces how much salt and sodium people eat.”

In other words, support for government intervention fell by about 40 percent when women knew that the science of salt isn’t settled. And in fact, this question could have included much stronger cautions about the health impact of attempts to reduce salt intake. Some researchers believe that it might not just be unnecessary for a large segment of the population to reduce their salt intake, it may actually be bad for them in terms of their health. Government-recommended levels of sodium may actually be too low for some, causing health problems, and attempting to rid sodium from one’s diet could encourage over-eating of other foods.

Responsible media and public officials who actually want to encourage better health outcomes for Americans should keep this in mind. While Americans distrust both the media and politicians, the information they have does have an impact on their support for policies.

Honey, You Know What You Should Do . . .



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. . . is stop giving unsolicited advice, apparently.

Advice giving, especially unsolicited, is tricky. Being on the receiving end can be annoying and make us defensive. But giving advice can be frustrating, as well, particularly when the intended beneficiary of our wisdom makes it clear it isn’t welcome – or takes the same recommendations we’ve been giving for months from someone else. The whole advice issue is typically hardest to navigate with the person we know the best: our spouse or partner.

In a series of six studies that followed 100 couples for the first seven years of marriage, researchers at the University of Iowa found that both husbands and wives feel lower marital satisfaction when they are given too much advice from a spouse, as opposed to too little. And – surprise! – unsolicited advice is the most damaging kind. The most recent study was published in 2009 in the Journal of Family Psychology.

Other interesting findings include what happens when too little advice is given, how men and women differ when offered advice, and how we should explain to our spouses exactly what we are seeking from them.

More here

Good and Bad News about Paternity Leave



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More companies are offering it, but new dads are not really using it. 

Yahoo Inc. announced in April that new fathers can take eight weeks off at full pay. Bank of America Corp. offers 12 weeks of paid leave, and Ernst & Young a few years ago bumped its leave policy from two weeks to six. Fifteen percent of U.S. firms provide some paid leave for new fathers, according to a survey from the Society for Human Resource Management to be released on Father’s Day.

It sounds like progress, but in reality men are reluctant to take time off for a variety of reasons, ranging from a fear of losing status at work to lingering stereotypes about a father’s role in the family.

The overwhelming majority of the 85 percent of fathers who do take leave only stay home for one or two weeks. This despite the fact that 60 percent of fathers in double-income families feel conflicted about work vs. family responsibilities. However, there is often a stigma attached to taking longer leave and many feel pressure or resentment from coworkers.

A forthcoming paper from the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management found that men who are active caregivers get teased and insulted at work more than so-called traditional fathers and men without children.

Active fathers are seen as distracted and less dedicated to their work – the same perception that harms career prospects for many working mothers, said Jennifer Berdahl, the study’s lead author, adding that such men are accused of being wimpy or henpecked by their wives.

This is truly sad in light of the fact that there are long-term benefits from parents’ taking longer leaves.

A 2007 study from researchers at Columbia University found that fathers who take longer leaves are more involved in child care months after returning to work. And a paper by a Cornell University graduate student Ankita Patnaik earlier this year examined leave-policy reforms in Quebec and found that more generous and equitable parental-leave policies led to a greater likelihood that mothers will return to their employers after maternity leave.

More here.

 

 

Bad News for Families: Flexible Work Options Stagnate



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After years of slow but steady progress, it looks like flex options in workplaces are being pulled back. Last year it was Bank of America, and this year Yahoo! and Best Buy have reined in workflex for their employees. The choice made by the new Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer– said to be the first Fortune 500 tech CEO to run a company while pregnant – seemed to really cut working mothers to the quick. And the two working moms who developed Best Buy’s workflex program were floored.

[Best Buy is] sending a clear message that they are more concerned with having leadership excel at monitoring the hallways, rather than building a leadership team that excels at defining clear, measurable results, and holding people accountable for achieving those results. While we agree that Best Buy must take drastic measures to turn their business around, moving back to a 20th century, paternalistic ‘command and control’ environment is most certainly not the answer

In fact, any so-called leadership team can effectively get ‘all hands on deck’, dictate hours and delegate tasks, while their people brag about how many hours they put in ‘at the office’. That’s easy. But only true leadership has the ability to get ‘everyone on point’ with a workforce vs. a workplace that’s fluid, nimble and focused on what matters: measurable results.

A recent employee-benefits survey by the Society of Human Resource Management has shown a statistically insignificant change in all measures of flexible-work options, despite the positive effects, such as fewer employee absences, that these options provide.

Despite the the rise of cloud technology, completely distributed companies, and more modern company cultures, there’s been almost no change over the past four years.

Still, there’s a hope for gradual progress. Another 4% of employers say they’ll offer some telecommuting options within the next year.

Charts and more here.

 

 

Google Glass Turns Regular Mom into ‘Super Mom’



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Via Business Insider:

This Kleiner Perkins VC Says Google Glass Turned Her Into A Super Mom

Well, being a partner at Kleiner Perkins is already pretty super. Let’s read about the amazing properties of her glasses:

Trae Vassallo wants to “dispel the myths” about Google Glass.

Vassallo is a Glass owner and a general partner at venture capitalist firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.

She was talking about wearable tech on stage today at the Bloomberg Next Big Thing Summit.

Vassallo often wears Google Glass in “sunglass mode” with darkened lenses. She tends to wear them on top of her head, not over her face, unless she’s driving or running around outside with her kids.

Vassallo admitted being “mortified” the first time she wore Google Glass in public. But since then, she’s become a fan. She said the device’s built-in video and still cameras have made her a ”superparent.”

“I’ve taken thousands of photos of my kids and amazing video,” she said. With Glass, she’s captured moments that would’ve slipped away if she’d had to reach for a camera. 

Likewise, Vassallo feels more efficient. Using Glass, she can do research and book appointments, even while driving, without taking her eyes off the road.

Call me crazy, but I’m pretty sure booking appointments while driving using your glasses is a distraction — and adding extra distractions while driving with your kids in the car is what they call “bad parenting,” not “super parenting.” And taking pictures without having to reach for your phone to take a picture or video does not exactly make one a “super mom.” 

Oh, and I’m sure it was a simple oversight that Business Insider didn’t mention that Kleiner Perkins is in a partnership with Google Glass.

Super mom — Super VC — same difference?

Mommy Guilt: It’s an Industry



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Recently, I forgot to send the registration form to the folks running a summer camp that I knew my oldest would love.  It’s now full so he’s out and I feel guilty. 

My middle child recently got a new bike, but I unknowingly bought one that is far too heavy and much too big for his slight frame. So, this summer he’ll learn to ride on a terrifyingly large bike. He probably won’t take to it and I feel guilty. 

My youngest has an aggressive streak. He’s well known on the playground for pushing down pink-clad girls with grosgrain-ribbon-tied pigtails. I suspect it’s because I spent less time with him as a baby. Yup, I feel guilty. 

Do I rely too much on television?  Would we have clean clothes and a relatively orderly house if I didn’t? Are they reading enough? Saying “may I” instead of “can I”? Are they polite, respectful, appropriately daring and courageous yet sensitive, empathetic, and kind to animals? Do they play well with others when out of my view? Probably not. More guilt. 

Guilt is a mother’s best friend. It never leaves her side. It is always there talking to her, needling her, nudging her, keeping her company. This emotion connects all mothers. We women may differ in all sorts of ways – race, income, career choices, likes and dislikes, political opinions, child-rearing techniques – but we all have this one thing in common: mommy guilt.  

In fact, according to a national online survey just released by the Independent Women’s Forum, “mommy guilt” is pervasive among women. According to the poll, two-thirds of women say they sometimes feel badly about not doing enough to eat right and live healthily. Sadly, its single mothers – arguably the mothers who deal with the most stress – that experience the most guilt.  

This news will be reassuring to many women. After all, misery loves company and there is genuine comfort in knowing you’re not alone. Yet, women should be aware that their guilt is proving to be a goldmine for many environmental and public-health organizations that capitalize on mommy guilt in order to further certain regulatory goals.This mommy-guilt industry is made up of organizations that present themselves as moderate voices working to ensure the health, safety, and happiness of families, yet they actively work to make life more difficult for overwhelmed mothers by spreading outright lies about perfectly normal and inexpensive products. 

Take for instance the recent “investigation” conducted by the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families Coalition (a harmless-sounding alliance of dozens of separate radical environmental and public-health nonprofits) which found that “hazardous chemicals” can be found in children’s rain gear. 

To a busy mother, this might seem like a legitimate issue. But hopefully some mothers will realize that while most children’s raincoats are in fact made of vinyl (which does contain chemicals), kids aren’t actually eating their shiny, yellow raincoats – which is the only way these “toxic” chemicals could cause any sort of harm. Of course, this little detail isn’t mentioned by the activist group, leaving mothers with yet another reason to panic (and clean out the coat closet).  

So, what would make these groups make such preposterous charges against something as innocuous as a child’s raincoat and rain boots? 

I’ve got a hunch: money has something to do with it. After all, what parent wouldn’t want to support an organization standing between their child and the harmful and toxic products sold in stores. 

It’s time for moms to start ignoring these alarmist claims of danger around every corner, tucked into every closet, and under every kitchen sink.  

 

For Busy Parents: Not Quite Like Mom Used to Make



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I only worked outside the home as a mom for a few years, but I still feel for the working parents of today (along with very busy stay-at-homes) who want to give their kids something better than take-out or highly processed dinners. Thankfully, the “nearly homemade” market is booming.

This moment may sound familiar: It’s 4 p.m. on Wednesday, and you realize the dinner you had been planning to make isn’t going to work out.

It’s one of the most stressful points of weekday life, according to consumer research. Now in response, packaged-food companies and grocery stores are developing meals that aim to strike a delicate balance. They are quick and simple to prepare, but still feel like cooking a homemade meal.

The target market is a lucrative one. Companies say these are homes where women – and increasingly men – like to cook when time allows, and they generally spend more on groceries. They often feel guilty relying on frozen foods or boxed meals, but a busy day can back them into a prepared-food corner.

Companies are concentrating on meals that include just the right amount of steps, take just the right amount of time to prepare, and can include a little bit of fresh product that the consumer can add. These meals are an attempt to strike the balance between simplicity and activity, so parents can get a nice meal on the table without feeling like they’re “cheating.”

More here.

 

A Closer Look: Why Teens Are Prone to Peer Pressure



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As is evidenced by the positive effects that peer pressure can have, a new study suggests that teens are influenced by others not so much because they are less capable of making rational decisions, but because they crave social acceptance more than adults do.

Peer pressure is often seen as a negative, and indeed it can coax kids into unhealthy behavior like smoking or speeding. But it can also lead to engagement in more useful social behaviors. If peers value doing well in school or excelling at sports, for instance, it might encourage kids to study or train harder.

And both peer pressure and learning to resist it are important developmental steps to self-reliance, experts say.

The research also suggests that you should get to know your kids’ friends early – and cut your older teen some slack.

Peer influence during adolescence is normal and tends to peak around age 15, then decline. Teens get better at setting boundaries with peers by age 18 according to Laurence Steinberg, a psychology professor at Temple University.

And an earlier school of thought about teenage brains is being challenged.

In years past, people thought teens didn’t have fully developed frontal lobes, the part of the brain critical for decision-making and other more complex cognitive tasks. But a growing body of work seems to show that teens are able to make decisions as well as adults when they are not emotionally worked up. Instead, the key may be that the reward centers of the brain get more activated in adolescence, and seem to be activated by our peers.

The research has also found the key factors of resisting negative peer pressure: being popular, having a family with low dysfunction, and having good communication skills. 

Much more here.

 

U.S. Colleges Produce Poorly Prepared Teachers



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U.S. News & World Report has published the results of a study by the National Council on Teacher Quality, a nonprofit advocacy group. It is the first comprehensive review of the education programs for elementary and high-school teachers at U.S. colleges. The report, as examined by the Wall Street Journal, is not good.

U.S. colleges of education are an “industry of mediocrity” that churns out teachers ill-prepared to work in elementary and high-school classrooms. . . . The [NCTQ], which has long promoted overhauling U.S. teacher preparation, assigned ratings of up to four stars to 1,200 programs at 608 institutions that collectively account for 72% of the graduates of all such programs in the nation. . . . 

The council included criteria such as the selectivity of the teacher programs, as well as an evaluation of their syllabi, textbooks and other teaching materials. It said fewer than 10% of the programs earned three or more stars. Only four, all for future high-school teachers, received four stars. About 14% got zero stars, and graduate-level programs fared particularly poorly. . . .

As evidence mounts that teacher quality is one of the biggest determinants of student achievement, critics have complained that teacher-training programs have lax admission standards, scattered curriculum, and fail to give aspiring teachers real-life classroom training. The report echoes the complaints, saying many graduates lack the necessary classroom-management skills and subject knowledge needed. The report contends that it is too easy to get into teacher-preparation programs, with only about a quarter of them restricting admissions to applicants in the top half of their class. The typical grade-point-average to get into undergraduate programs is about 2.5, it said.

The report also found that 75 percent of the programs were not preparing their graduates to teach reading to young students.

More here.

 

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