18
Nov

Spanking Is NOT an Effective Parenting Tool

by Tiffany in Children

Spanking Is NOT an Effective Parenting Tool -naturemoms.com

A child misbehaves by poking, kicking or similarly assaulting another child. The parent grabs him by the arm and slaps him for hitting that child. Hmm… what’s wrong with this picture? Is this effective parenting or something else?

Or maybe a child runs into the street after their parent just told them not too. So the parent drags them into the house by the arm and paddles their backside telling them that they “could” have been hurt. Of course the child is fairly certain they did just get hurt… by their mom or dad…. not by a car in the street. Again… is spanking teaching kids what we think it does???

Spanking teaches children that violence is the solution to problems. It also teaches children that it is okay to use physical violence to control other people and situations. Spanking teaches kids that it is okay to hit the people you love. Spanking teaches them nothing that will be useful or helpful in their adult lives or that will help them to communicate with other people.

Usually when parents talk about discipline they are talking about behavior that they would like to correct in their children. But what is forcing them to do what we want by creating “painful” consequences really teaching them? There is no better way to teach our children then to behave in a way that is considered respectful, fair and appropriate. We need to model the behavior we want our kids to adopt. Slapping or spanking a child is a behavior not considered respectful or even civil so why would we want to subject children to such “behavior”?

Most parents would agree with this simple logic but yet they still spank. Why? Perhaps it is because they were spanked themselves; hence they simply model the behavior of their own parents. Many times though, parents spank because they can’t figure out what else to do. Spanking is quick and usually addresses the problem immediately. Talking, reasoning, teaching, and empathizing all sound good… but they also sound emotionally draining and time consuming. Spanking is easier sure but is it the best way to teach a child? I don’t think so. Many non-spankers have come to call their parenting style the “Get Off Your Butt” method. Parenting is tough and spanking is a weak recourse that is used when you don’t know how to handle a situation.

Our children deserve the best …they deserve parents that have learned creative ways to teach and discipline without resorting to corporal punishment. They deserve parents with a more peaceful approach to discipline.

Why Spanking Doesn’t Work

There are many advocates for corporal punishment (spanking) that argue that children who misbehave (or seriously misbehave) will only respond to spanking and that parents who do not spank such kids “spoil” them. As stated above, spanking teaches kids that violence is a good way to handle difficult situations.

One of TV’s more popular advice experts, psychologist Dr. Phil McGraw, notes on his website (www.drphil.com) that research has shown that “long-term consequences of spanking can include increased aggressiveness, antisocial behavior, and delinquency.”

No matter what immediate benefits that spanking may bring (stopping the misbehavior) to the parents, do they also want to accept the potential long term and disastrous consequences?

In many cases parents spank because they simply don’t have any ideas or approaches to stop the misbehavior that do not include spanking. Many parents simply raise their children in the manner that they were raised. Often times parents do things without even being aware that they are repeating a behavior they were taught as a child.

So how do parents break the “spanking cycle”? A good way is to become informed about the alternative ways of discipline. These alternatives may be more time consuming and frustrating but on one ever said parenting was easy.

Take the time to talk to your child. It may take a while for your child to respond to “talking” but with consistency and firmness in your approach it can be a much more satisfying and educational moment for both you and your child.

Whether the child is 3 or 9, taking the time to express and communicate your displeasure with a behavior is a rich learning moment. It may not feel that way at the time, but by honesty and sincerely expressing your discontent in language that reaches your child, you are showing real concern and engaging your child in a way that teaches him respect and good communication.

The consistent show of respect and patience in listening to your child explain his behavior will teach your child the importance of dignity and compassion during those times when it matters most.

You will be exhausted and it will take likely far greater effort than a spanking, but the benefit will far outweigh the inconvenience of fatigue. You don’t have to be perfect as a parent; you just have to be willing to take each disciplinary experience as a learning one for you and your child. They kids may not be the only ones who needs to learn a thing or two.

Spanking Is NOT Biblical

There is a very large faction of parents that spank their children for religious reasons. They believe that God WANTS them to spank their children. The Bible has lots of excellent advice for parenting and family but the decree from God to spank our children just isn’t there. Christians who opt to spank their kids need to realize that their actions are NOT sanctioned by any passages in the Bible. The decision to spank is a personal parenting decision and nothing more. Don’t use the Bible as justification.

Christians have been taught for years that the scripture at Prov. 13:24 proves that spanking is approved of and even endorsed in the Bible.

He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him – Prov. 13:24, New International Version

There are four basic reasons why using this scripture as evidence that God WANTS us to spank children is pure foolishness.

1. The word rod can literally be translated as a stick or a staff. The “assumption” is that this must be a weapon for hitting but yet when we look at other instances where this word is used we see a rod is NOT a weapon or a hitting implement. The word rod is also used in reference to shepherds. They use rods to guide their sheep and to help lift them when they get stuck or tangled. Shepards did not “hit” their sheep with these rods. If anything we should take the use of the word rod to mean we need to guide our kids, help them when they get lost, and lead them in the way they should go like a shepherd leads their flock.

2. The word discipline comes from the root word disciple. A disciple follows the teachings of someone and to discipline would be to TEACH. Somewhere along the way, various churches and translation groups have decided to make discipline synonymous with punishment and chastisement but the word actually refers to teaching. So when we read in the Bible that we must not withhold discipline it is saying we should not withhold our instruction and guidance. We should not allow our kids to run wild with no parental instruction. A loving parent will teach and guide their child and not leave them to their own devices.

3. This scripture is often changed in various Bible translations. The version you see above is a very close translation, however many other Bible translations have changed the verse to say things like “He who beats his son, loves his son” and “Whoever refuses to spank his son hates him”. How can you trust your Bible or your minister when they have changed the meaning of the scriptures like that?

4. The verse at Proverbs was written by King Solomon who had 700 wives and was not the best example to follow. If we want an example to imitate we should imitate the greatest teacher of all time… Jesus Christ. He disciplined in love and kindness and there are many passages that show how he related to children and he never hit them once.

In short, spanking is not endorsed or suggested in the Bible as many believe. Spanking is not a Biblical directive and Christians need to be aware of that. If anything, spanking does not fit within the overall theme of the Bible. How does causing physcial pain to your child compare to love, being long suffering, kindness, being slow to anger, turning the other cheek, etc? It doesn’t fit and it doesn’t make sense that the Bible or God would endorse spanking.

Now Hold On There Just a Minute…

You may be reading this lens and thinking to yourself that YOU know some parents who have chosen not to spank and their kids are a bunch of wild brats! How do I know this? Well, as a non-spanking parent this is exactly what I hear from other parents, ALL THE TIME. Everyone knows a guy, who knows a guy, whose knows someone, who doesn’t spank, and their kids are straight from the devil!!

Please understand that choosing not to spank does not mean you are choosing to not parent effectively. Adopting a more respectful and peaceful parenting style is not synonymous with lazy, uninvolved parenting. And there ARE many lazy uninvolved parents out there but attachment parents are not among them. There are many parents who may choose not spank because they themselves were spanked or abused as kids. Unfortunately many take it a bit too far and withhold any type of guidance that may be “perceived” by their kids as controlling or authoritarian. They are more concerned with being a friend to their child than being a parent and these kids will often learn that it is they, not their parents, who control the family dynamic and call the shots. Still other parents who do not spank have not consciously chosen NOT too… they just avoid any issues that require effort on their part. It is easier for them to allow their kids to do as they please rather than try to discipline. These parents are not humanitarians… they are just lazy.

Parents who consciously choose a more respectful and peaceful way to co-exist with their kids, such as attachment parents, have chosen not to spank for all the reasons listed on this lens. But they do not allow the family dynamic to be altered so much that the kids run the show and they become the helpless audience. They work with their kids to find compromise that the whole family can live with, they communicate and develop and attachment to their kids so that their kids trust them and confide in them. The children know their needs will be met so they have few reasons to rebel or act out. They do not see control and manipulation being modeled by their parents and so it is not something they see as advantageous to them.

So in short… NO… our kids are not wild, disrespectful brats and here is why. Key aspects of peaceful, attached, connected parenting include:

* Encouraging positive behavior

* Having realistic expectations and an understanding of age appropriate behaviors

* Expression of feelings through words rather than actions

* Helping children to learn acceptable ways to express excitement and frustration

* Using positive communication skills

* Motivating your children through love not fear or intimidation

* Empowering children by acknowledging their ability to assume responsibilities and make decisions

* Disciplining as a teaching method – not as punishment or a coercion tactic

* Helping children to understand that mistakes are inevitable and love is not conditional

* Resolving conflicts in a respectful and peaceful way

* Creating a safe and engaging environment for our children

* Creating a positive learning environment

* Creating a stress free, enjoyable atmosphere for the whole family

Tell Me… What Best Describes Your Parenting Style

  • Authoritarian – I am the boss and I spank when needed
  • Authoritative – Talking before spanking but I am still boss
  • Permissive – Don’t spank but don’t discipline much either
  • Attached – No spanking, lots of comminication, redirection
  • Purely Peacfeul – We treat our kids as we would want to be treated

For more info I highly encourage you to check this awesome infographic on the topic!

Psychology of Spanking
Image Source: Online-Psychology-Degrees.org/

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014

20 Comments

28
Sep

Scholastic Parent & Child’s KidQ App

by Tiffany in Children

We are a pretty tech savvy household. We have lots of techie toys, smart TVs, smartphones, tablets, and so on. While I try to keep a balance in this area and make sure we don’t become to dependent on our “screen time”. I don’t want anyone in the family to feel like they are in withdrawal if they have to sit with their thoughts and little else to entertain themselves. If they do start to get antsy without their electronic devices then I know we need some screen free time.

I also see the value in all these devices. It makes managing everything in life so much easier. I can’t forget a bill I have to pay because my phone and computer notify me when things need to be paid. Same with appointments. I can keep kids entertained on long car rides with games and apps too. They don’t have to mindless games and apps either. There is a whole world of educational apps out there that help us entertain kids in educational and thought provoking ways. One such app I have been using lately is the Scholastic Parent & Child’s KidQ App. It is educational yes but it also has a great twist…

It may seem a bit contradictory but the idea of this app is to help us connect and start conversations with our kids. The KidQ app for iPhone and Android facilitates great conversation between parents and children with fun Q&A’s about the things that kids (and parents!) are the most curious about, like Why do we get goosebumps? and What sea animal is related to the elephant? Each day, users receive a playful question that serves as a conversation starter along with the official answer. Families will have a great time as they compare their answers to these questions. I found it to be great fun, as did my kids.

Ever have a long car ride and you want to get the conversation started and you aren’t sure where to start? Well have one of your kids grab your phone (or their own device) and open this app to start answering some fun questions. I would rather talk to my kids about what lobsters hear and how crazy it is that their teeth are in their stomachs than hear the bleep, bleep, bloop of Angry Birds or the hum of music from a child’s earbuds. This app helps make device time a time of connection between parent and child and that is valuable to me.

As I mentioned you can use it on iPhone and Android and you can download it here, along with other great apps.

I have an Android device and the app installed in seconds. Here are a couple screenshots from my phone so you can see the app in action. Enjoy!

Scholastic Parent & Child's KidQ App

 I was compensated by Scholastic Parent & Child for this post. They are a company I trust and love working with. All opinions are my own.

Sunday, September 28th, 2014

No Comments

18
Sep

Natural Play Dough and Fun Recipes

by Tiffany in Children

Natural Play Dough Recipes -Naturemoms.com

Kids love to get their hands messy and play with good ole fashioned play dough. The stuff in the stores though could have any number of unsavory ingredients. The truth is we don’t know because the major players in the industry refuse to disclose ingredients, claiming that it is proprietary. The uber bright colors are enough to make me worry though because there are lots of toxic nasties in dyes. The powers that be claim are they “perfectly safe”. I say why wonder when you can make your own. Enjoy!

RICE FLOUR PLAY DOUGH
from the Lisa Lewis book Special Diets for Special Kids

1/2 c. white rice flour
1/2 c. corn starch
1/2 c. salt
2 t. cream of tartar
1 c. water
1 t. cooking oil

Cook all ingredients over low heat until you can form a ball.m When cool, store in zipper plastic bag.

COOKED FLOUR PLAY DOUGH

3 cups flour
1.5 cups salt
6 tsp cream of tarter
3 tbsp oil
3 cups water

Pour all ingredients into a large pot and stir constantly over medium heat until a ball forms.  Knead the play dough until the texture matches conventional play dough (1-2 minutes). Add food coloring if you want colored play dough. Store in plastic container.  Should last for at least 3 months.

NOTE:  This recipe is made from edible ingredients it is not intended as a food item.

Peanut Butter Play Dough

18 oz. peanut butter
6 tbsps. honey
Non-fat dry milk
Cocoa for flavor

Mix all ingredients, adding enough dry milk to give make dough pliable. Shape, decorate with edible treats, and eat!

Colored Play dough

1 cup flour
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 cup water
1/2 cup salt
2 tsp. cream of tartar
Natural food coloring

Mix all ingredients in saucepan. Heat, stirring constantly until ball forms. Knead until smooth.

Simple Play Dough

1 cup flour
2 cups oatmeal
1 cup water

Gradually add water to flour and oatmeal in bowl. Kneed until mixed (this dough is sticky, but unique in texture.) Model as with clay.

Salt Dough

Equal amounts salt and flour; then add enough water to make it doughy. Dries hard in a couple of days and then you can paint it.

Related recipes:

Earth Friendly Goo

1 cup water
1 cup cornstarch
4-5 drops fruit juice  like blueberry or raspberry (combine a 1/4 cup of the food with 2 cups water, simmer for an hour. Cool, strain, and use as coloring).

Work the ingredients together and let your kids have fun with this gooey concoction.

Natural and Safe Finger Paint

1/3 cup soap flakes melted with 1/2 cup boiling water
1 cup cornstarch
1/3 cup cold water

A few drops juice dyes (combine a 1/4 cup of the colored food like beets, blueberries, or raspberries with 2 cups water, simmer for an hour. Cool, strain, and use as coloring).

Make Your Own Bubbles

1 qt water
8 tbs glycerin, can be purchased at drug stores
6-8 tbs Ivory dish soap
Mix all ingredients together and use outdoors with bubble blowers.

Make Your Own Silly Putty

2 cups white school glue
1 cup liquid starch

Mix together and set aside until dry. Store in an airtight container.

Natural Play Dough Recipes - naturemoms.com

Thursday, September 18th, 2014

5 Comments

20
Aug

10 Tips for Taking Great Photos of Children

by Tiffany in Children

I am not a professional photographer but I do love to take photos. I especially love taking pictures of my kids. In fact they were what motivated me to buy a DSLR camera. I wanted more professional looking photos (as opposed to candids) but I didn’t have the money to be hiring a photographer several times a year for important events and portraits. It seemed a no brainer to buy a decent but low end digital camera, purchase a few lenses (off-brand), and then learn a trick or two until I could take photos I would proudly hang on my walls. And I do hang canvas photos of my kids throughout our home. When we have guests I often get comments about the gorgeous “professional” photos.

The best photos tell a story and they give the viewer a glimpse of the child’s unique personality. By getting creative with poses, settings, lighting, and background you give your boring photos some pizazz and create something worthy of being framed or set on canvas and then proudly displayed. You are also helping to document a child’s life. Years from now they can look back at the photos you have taken and see a visual storybook that shares the very essence of the little people they were and the unique person they grew up to be. Photos tell stories… they tell the story of the first day of school, the story of their one and only fifth birthday, and the story of their first school dance. More than just capturing the moment, your photos should give insight into the actual person being photographed and what was being felt at the moment you clicked your camera. What stories do your photos tell? I hope they tell great ones! This post has lots of tips for helping the amateur or hobbyist photographer take better photos of children.

1. Crop Your Photos

10 Tips for Taking Great Photos of Children

Many pictures we take of our kids end up being less than stellar because of the background. Perhaps you have a messy room, a cluttered kitchen, or a big tree overpowering your photo. One way to avoid this is to frame the picture in such a way that the area behind your child is free of clutter and then crop the photo to hone in on the subject alone. Or perhaps you want the subject of the photo to be an amazing smile or some other feature of your child and you want to isolate that in the photo. Simply crop the photo to show only what you want to show. Easy!

This particular photo was taken in my backyard. I wanted to frame my daughter’s angelic face and clutched hands and make them the focus of the shot so I cropped out the rest of the photo.

#2 The Rule of Thirds

Adorable young boy

Most newbie photographers like to center their subject but one of the most important rules for better photographs is to use the rule of thirds. It just provides more visually interesting pictures. Divide your imaginary image into thirds vertically and horizontally and place your subject along the intersecting lines. Although not a text book example the photo above shows how you can off center the subject or place them along the imaginary lines that would divide the photo into thirds. I like how you get some of the creamy brown background (which was the dirt from a baseball diamond) in the photo and I find the picture looks better visually instead of a centered image.


#3 Capture Emotion

jumping on bed

Since you are trying to tell a story with your photos it is always a pleasure to capture moments of emotion. Certainly your child goes through life with moments of pure happiness, sadness, bliss, tantrums, fear, etc. Those moments are what make us human. Does your photo convey what they were feeling when you took the shot? Does it tell a story on its own?

In the photo above my two boys were “caught” jumping on the bed during the holidays.

#4 Location is Everything

Young boy walking through grasslands meadow

One of the best ways to take better photos is to get in your car and drive someplace visually interesting and shoot there. Your community likely has many places that are great for photos so there is no reason you need to stay at home and shoot there. Take your mini photo shoot on location!

The photo above was taken at a state park in the tall grass near the entrance. We took many photos that day but this one was of the first and captured beautifully the area we were visiting and enjoying that day and how my little guy felt to be out in the great outdoors.

#5 Don’t Say Cheese – Capture Natural Smiles

Young girl smiling

Some of the best shots are taken when your kids are not posing or even aware that the camera is there. When we ask our children to stop, stand still, and say cheese, we often get awkward faces and smiles. I prefer getting shots of their natural smiles that light up their faces and give me a glimpse into their unique personality. MUCH better than cheese faces!

#6 Capture Their Personality

parker boa

Can you sum up the major aspects of a child’s personality with one photo? It may be a tall order but it is certainly possible. The trick is to catch them doing what they love to do and all those things that make them uniquely them will shine through. I love this photo of my youngest son because it is so HIM!

#7 Take Interesting Photos

paige dolls

When choosing a setting, background, or pose try to think about what will make that shot visually interesting. Instead of taking a photo next to a blank wall can the child lean on it or sit beside it instead? Instead of a boring white wall can you go outside and take a photo next to an old gate or the brick wall of your garage? Get creative and take visually interesting photos. Once you have some practice you will start to develop and eye for this. I love this photo of my daughter because it is unusual and shows some of her favorite toys.

Bonus Tip: Follow photographers on Pinterest and save your fave photos to a photo inspiration board!

#8 Capture Their Favorite Place and Things

payton zoo

One goal of photography is to capture the essence of childhood and a great way to do this to take pictures of the things and places they love. Do you have a photo of your child with their favorite stuffed animal? Do you have a photo of your child at their favorite park? You will always want to remember those things by capturing them. The picture above was taken at one my kid’s favorite places. The zoo!

#9 Use Simple Backgrounds

climbing tree

You probably don’t have professional backdrops but you can still choose a simple background that will add visual appeal while not overpowering the subject.

I like to take photos against painted walls and then blur the background so you can’t tell its a wall. I also like taking pictures with brick walls in the background. I have also been known to drape a sheet on an existing wall to make my own backdrop. I also LOVE making nature my backdrop.

#10 Always Be Prepared to Shoot!

Having fun in the garden

Some of the most interesting photos will be ones you hadn’t planned on taking. Perhaps you see your kids blowing bubbles outside and you have to run and grab your camera or perhaps they run outside to run around in an unexpected rain shower. Always be prepared to take great shots by having your camera nearby. I rarely go anywhere without mine these days.

The other BIG tip I have is to get a good photo editing program and buy some “actions”. These are often sold by professional photographers and they replicate the steps that professionals use to edit their images with the click of a button. I have Photoshop CS5 and the cheaper Photoshop Elements. There are actions available for both.

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

5 Comments

6
Aug

6 Natural, Ancestral Ways To Increase Your Child’s Social Success

by Guest in Children

6 Natural, Ancestral Ways To Increase Your Child’s Social Success

I was a pretty shy kid.

Until I was 13 years old, my parents literally had to coax me out of my bedroom (where I was typically buried in a medieval fantasy novel) to get me to simply shake the hands of our visitors and look them in the eye.

Then I’d quickly duck back into my room.

But somehow I survived college and a modern working environment (barely!) and I’m now raising my twin boys to give them as much social success and social confidence as possible, and today’s article will delve into six natural and ancestrally-based ways that you can do the same.

The Importance of Tribes

Many of our animal relatives spend a great deal of their time wandering or living in tribes, groups, flocks, herds and schools – even going so far as to eat bugs off the body of their friends and families. Although I’m a fan of the burgeoning cricket protein food movement, I’ll admit I am somewhat glad we humans aren’t necessarily social to the extent of grooming via bug-picking. But unfortunately, nowadays we don’t even come close to the tribal attachments displayed in nature or in our ancestry.

But consider this: in multiple studies, relationships and spending time with family and close friends is consistently correlated with amazingly higher levels of happiness and well-being. Despite this fact, the last several decades have seen a significant decline in many aspects associated with tight-knit social circles – including qualities like family and household size, club and social participation, and number of close friends.

Sadly, we’ve instead witnessed an increase in solo or isolated activities such as television, long commutes, the internet, and digital relationships.

In other words, we seem to be making a stark transition from tribe to individual. However, we humans are biologically hard-wired to be social animals. As a matter of fact, we’re such social animals that the mere act of joining a club (e.g. dance club, chess club, bridge club, tennis club, golf club, etc.) halves your chance of death in the next year. Or consider the fact that – as mentioned by Malcolm Gladwell in the book Outliers – living in a close-knit town of three-generation households can singlehandedly lower your risk of heart disease.

So how can you get a jump-start on making your kid ready for tribal interaction that makes them live longer and be happier?

During early childhood development, from birth to 3 years old, much of our neurobiology and core personalities are formed. To increase propensity for social and tribal engagement, increase empathy and decrease risk of anxiety and depression in children, it is during this time that it becomes highly important to simulate the close-knit parent-child bonds displayed both in nature and in the practices of our hunter gatherer ancestors. I realize that was a mouthful, but in a nutshell, we can begin by increasing attachment at an earlier age.

For example, in a recent national symposium, University of Notre Dame psychology professor Darcia Narvaez highlighted six key practices consistent with the concept of attachment parenting (a philosophy originally championed by well-known pediatrician Dr. William Sears). The six practices for increasing attachment are detailed below.

Six Ways To Increase Attachment in Kids

1) Natural birth: Research shows that medical interventions such as C-sections, whisking a baby away from a mother and off into a separate ward for post-birth testing or treatment, and baby formula feedings can inhibit important hormones like oxytocin from being released, which interferes with the natural mother-baby bonding process that jumpstarts the tribal feeling.

2) Breastfeeding: Many of our previous ancestral cultures breastfed their infants for two to five years. This not only helps to form a properly functioning gut-based immune system, but also decreases anxiety and forms important social bonds between a child and mother. Obviously, if you have a high schooler you can’t do much about this, but if you are currently expecting or currently breastfeeding, I recommend you take breastfeeding to at least the two years old level.

3) Cuddling: Along with the nutritional value of breast milk, kids develop a sense of wellbeing from the positive touch that breastfeeding involves. Positive touch has benefits to brain development, hormone-functioning, and appropriate social interactions. For this reason, breastfeeding into later ages is important, as is co-sleeping, and plenty of cuddling. My wife Jessa, me and our six year old twin boys River and Terran often simply lay on the living room couch in a big pile of family togetherness for 20 minutes after they get out of bed – and I can feel that oxytocin surging through my veins.

4) Responsiveness: In most ancient cultures, there was not much value placed in letting a baby fuss or cry. Don’t worry – comforting your child when distressed is not going to ruin their chances of becoming a tough, Spartanesque, future Cross-fit games champion or some other kind of professional athlete (if that’s what you desire in a kid). In contrast, children who have responsive parents tend to develop greater empathy, they tend to develop a conscience earlier, and they will be set to interact more cooperatively with a tribe.

5) Multiple Adult Caregivers: Our early infant ancestors benefited from being cared for not just by mom and dad, but by other adults and tribe members who loved them. Surrogate parents also help to share some of the burden of parenting, helping to prevent parental exhaustion. For this reason, raising up children in some sort of a tribe setting can bestow an incredible advantage to your kids and to you too. This approach can save you work, since with other trusted caregivers around, you have more time flexibility. In many cultures, kids run around everywhere with their parents nowhere in sight. But all the neighbors know each other. There are aunts, uncles and other family members and friends who are keeping their eyes on the kids. As Eric D. Kennedy describes it in his excellent online essay “On the Social Lives of Cavemen”, there is a healthy middle ground between not being allowed to cross the street and a high school house party. As children are allowed to become independent of parents, they are able to do it, but within a trusted support network of family and friends.

6) Free Play (With Kids Of Varying Ages). This concept actually builds on the concept of having multiple adult caregivers. Our ancestors’ children weren’t separated into age-specific play circles, but were instead exposed to kids at different stages of development – thus enhancing the child’s physical and mental growth. I’d highly recommend you read a recent article in The Atlantic (available for free online) entitled “The Overprotected Kid”. The article describes how preoccupation with safety has stripped childhood of independence, risk taking, and discovery, without making it safer. It goes on to describe new kind of free-play, junk-yard type playground. This miniature outdoor city is full of fire, fences, mud, wood scraps, tires, and other random materials where children of all ages spend the entire day exploring, forming tribes and generally being left to “fend for themselves” – but under the watchful eye of older tribe members such as friends, family members and parents who are within close proximity – distant but present.

Contrast these reasonable risks with casual tribal supervision with our modern practice of extreme supervision by parents only, antibacterial hand sprays, plush bumper-guarded playground equipment, shouting at kids not to “run with sticks” and other ridiculous coddling, and it’s understandable why children are not only growing weak and fragile, but more socially anxious, less cooperative, and more picky and judgmental about spending time with anyone outside their peer group.

Practical Steps You Can Take

So from a practical standpoint, what can you do to implement some of the tips you’ve just learned? Try these quick tips:

-Breastfeed to a later age and don’t be embarrassed about it. Cuddle. Be responsive if your child cries or gets hurt.

-Make friends with your neighbors, try to live close to family if possible, kick your children outside to play for long hours, make sure they know it’s OK to play with a mix of older and younger kids, and then quit worrying. They’ll survive.

-Have family dinners. Have dinner parties. Read the good book “Never Eat Alone” and incorporate the same concepts into your childrens’ lives.

-Have your kids spend more time with trusted adults who aren’t their parents. Then do the same for yourself, spending time with the kids of adults who trust you. Hang out with mixed age groups and make sure your kids do too. Have your kids spend more time at older people’s homes or with grandma and grandpa.

-Become familiar with the concept of unschooling (visit Unschoolery.com). Unschooling is simply a rough version of learning that prepares a child for life, for being an entrepreneur, for learning anything, and for being autonomous. Whether your child is homeschooled, in private school, or public school, you can use unschooling concepts to generate important lifelong skills. Pay very close attention to what your children develop a natural interest in, and then teach them to learn about the world through activities, trips, and adventures. For example, our kids have recently become interested in singing. But rather than going out and purchasing formal music curriculum, we started playing a home version of the singing competition “The Voice”, we record songs on the computer with a microphone, we bought an electronic keyboard, and we brought them to a musical.

Ben Greenfield is an ex-bodybuilder, Ironman triathlete, professional Spartan racer, coach, speaker and author of the New York Times Bestseller “Beyond Training: Mastering Endurance, Health and Life” (http://www.BeyondTrainingBook.com). In 2008, Ben was voted as NSCA’s Personal Trainer of the year and in 2013 was named by Greatist as one of the top 100 Most Influential People In Health And Fitness. Ben blogs and podcasts at http://www.BenGreenfieldFitness.com, and resides in Spokane, WA with his wife and twin boys.

Wednesday, August 6th, 2014

5 Comments