Category Archives: Kids

Another alarmist, unnecessary toy recall

From my most recent post for the Independent Women’s Forum:

Another toy has been recalled after the Consumer Product Safety Commission said it was too dangerous for kids. Only trouble is that as the government watchdog admits, no one was actually hurt by playing with the Go Gaga Squeeze & Teethe CoCo Monkey teething toy. This is the point of silliness to which we’ve arrived in alarmist America……

It is also useful to consider the language used by the CPSC. This toy is a potential hazard. Last night at dinner my six-month old gagged on a spoon. Should we stop using spoons in my house? In fact, it might just be good for him to gag once in a while so he learns not to shove things too far into his mouth. That’s what we call learning and aren’t we supposed to be encouraging that in our children?

Read the rest here

Lose the rules, free the kids

“The great paradox of cotton-woolling children is it’s more dangerous in the long-run.”

Let me translate this wisdom for my North American audience: Bubble-wrapping our kids hurts them more than it helps.

And where’s the proof for this seemingly counter-intuitive observation? An elementary (primary) school in New Zealand where the principal agreed to remove the playground rules and discovered that there was less bullying, less destruction, less trouble than before.

A university researcher wanted to study the effects on children of removing all the anti-bullying, overly-regulated recess rules. It turned out that liberation has made the kids much happier, more creative and  reduced playground injuries.

“When you look at our playground it looks chaotic. From an adult’s perspective, it looks like kids might get hurt, but they don’t,” says school principal Bruce McLachlan.

“The kids were motivated, busy and engaged. In my experience, the time children get into trouble is when they are not busy, motivated and engaged. It’s during that time they bully other kids, graffiti or wreck things around the school.”

And parents were happy because lo-and-behold their kids were happier.

It is also so important to use this case as evidence of the harm done to kids (especially boys) when schools reduce recess, put kids in straight-jackets of zero-tolerance policies and even eliminate certain games and recess altogether.

As “The War on Boys” author Christina Hoff Sommers explains, “as early as pre-school and kindergarten, boys can be punished for behaving like boys. The characteristic play of young males is “rough-and-tumble” play. ”

This is exactly the type of play that has been eliminated from school playgrounds all over America. And it is exactly the type of play, along with imaginative play that girls and boys need to keep them focused when they go back into the classroom.

Research also shows that these types of child-generated games are an important part of kids’ social development.

Three cheers for the Swanson School in Aukland and here’s hoping that schools here in the US start getting the message and freeing their students to climb trees, skateboard and just have fun.

Big thanks to my husband Ben for bringing this great news story to my attention.

 

 

Mom schools her son’s school on standards

A Florida mom has pointed out the obvious to her son’s middle school: Making Cs and Ds shouldn’t get you on the honor roll. The mom, Beth Tillack had to make a stink with the school and the media, for middle school Principal Kim Anderson to agree that the grades should matter, that receiving failing grades should disqualify him for honor roll and that certainly her son shouldn’t be seeing encouragement like “good job” and smiley faces next to those poor results.

“I immediately assumed it was a mistake. It was glaring in the fact that it said ‘good job’ and then there was a D,” complained Tillack. And she added that the school trying to gloss over her son’s bad grades was only making her job harder as a parent. “How can I get my child to study for a test,” she explained, “when he thinks he’s done enough.

Indeed. As I commented to reporter Liz Fields for this story:

Schachter says the case is also symptomatic of the development of the ‘self- esteem movement,’ or the fact ‘You can’t say something negative because their feelings will be hurt and they won’t overcome a rejection or criticism.’

“The teachers are not doing students any favors by falsely encouraging students,” she said. “They shouldn’t discourage them, but failing to let them know when they are underachieving is not promoting growth. 

Between 45 and 50 percent of students at the school in Dade City, Fla. are on the honor roll, which should have made it glaringly obvious to the principal and other administrators that there was a problem. If half of all students are on the honor roll, standards are obviously too low. Good for this newly initiated “captain mommy” for telling her school to do better.

Making lunch a test for parents

The Wall Street Journal has a story on how making school lunch has gotten too complicated:

Why does packing a kid’s school meal often leave parents feeling frazzled?

With food allergies on the rise, many schools have barred all nut products, not just peanut butter, and sometimes other foods like soy and dairy. More schools also have candy and soda bans. A growing awareness of childhood obesity and nutrition means more parental anxiety around choosing the “right” foods—and making sure it’s stuff the kids will actually eat…..

“I pack [my son] a lunch every day and I hate it,” says Amy Hood, a stay-at-home mother of three from Charlestown, R.I. “It is like laundry. You’re never done.” In January, she tweeted that she had slipped a Kit Kat into her 11-year-old’s lunch: “This is (voice of doom) AGAINST THE RULES. Told him to eat the evidence if confronted.” Her son’s school has a no-candy policy. And while Ms. Hood says she generally packs a healthy lunch, she says she doesn’t “see the problem in a little fun stuff.” (The Kit Kat wasn’t confiscated; her son ate it.)

A Kit Kat is a crime?

We read so often about how badly most Americans eat. We go out too often, or bring in take-out, and we never make our own food. This is supposedly why we are all so fat and will die early of heart disease, diabetes and cancer. We are supposedly killing our kids with the junk food we buy them or the fast food they buy with the money we give them because we are too busy working to make dinner.

Now we learn that instead of trying to encourage parents to make healthier, homemade lunch for their kids, schools are bearing down on parents with all sorts of rules for what they can and can’t send. Schools will now monitor what the kids are bringing from home and confiscate the lunch if it doesn’t comply with government-set standards.

Worse yet, some schools are banning homemade lunch altogether because the school can’t control what the kids are getting.

“Nutrition wise, it is better for the children to eat at the school,” said Chicago’s Little Village Academy Principal Elsa Carmona. “It’s about the nutrition and the excellent quality food that they are able to serve (in the lunchroom). It’s milk versus a Coke. But with allergies and any medical issue, of course, we would make an exception.”

But the food in school is terrible. First Lady Michelle Obama came up with new school lunch menus that are forced on public schools and students. The lunch program is so heavily subsidized that schools can hardly resist. Only it turns out that the kids hate the food (and use, ahem, colorful language to express themselves), they throw a ton of it out and are costing schools hundreds of thousands of dollars as a result. Several hundred schools, in fact, have opted out of the national school lunch program because the students hated it so much and it was costing districts thousands.

“Some of the stuff we had to offer, they wouldn’t eat,” said Catlin, Ill., Superintendent Gary Lewis, whose district saw a 10 to 12 percent drop in lunch sales, translating to $30,000 lost under the program last year. “So you sit there and watch the kids, and you know they’re hungry at the end of the day, and that led to some behavior and some lack of attentiveness.”

Instead of fighting parents and punishing kids, educators and administrators should be grateful when kids bring their own food and encourage more parents to do the same. So what if there’s a bag of chips with the bologna sandwich. At least the school didn’t have to pay for it and the kid is getting fed. Besides, aren’t schools meant to focus more on what’s going into the kids’ brains rather than their stomachs?

Socializing through play

From my post for National Review’s Home Front:

How often do you read an article and then have the author’s assertions prove to be correct the very next day? “Rarely, if ever,” would have been my answer before I saw evolutionary psychologist Peter Gray’s piece “The Play Deficit.”

Gray explains that kids today are having a hard time successfully growing into adulthood because they are overprotected, over-pressured, and are not given enough time for free play. It is a grim assessment that caused me — the mother of four young children — a lot of anxiety. But the very next day after reading the article I found that something Gray described actually happened among my kids. It was a revelation…..