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Aha! Parenting Moments Weekly 4-10-16

How can you raise a smart child who loves to learn? Many people believe that intelligence is static; either you're smart or you're not. But it turns out that intelligence is like a muscle: it can be developed with use. What's more, if you believe that's true, your brain has more potential!

Stanford researcher Carol Dweck ran an experiment with junior high schoolers. If they helped the kids to think they could develop their intelligence, would the kids' math grades improve?

In less than two hours over eight weeks, they taught the students concepts such as: Your brain is like a muscle that can be developed with exercise; just as a baby gets smarter as it learns, so can you. The results were astonishing: the brain-is-a-muscle students significantly outperformed their peers in a math assessment, without additional math teaching.

So our goal as parents is to raise kids who believe in their ability to build mental muscle.

Instead of worrying about whether they're "smart" enough, these kids know they can get smarter, just by working at it. When they have the experience that every child has when learning something new -- "This is hard; I'm not getting this, maybe I'm not that smart..." these kids are able to manage their anxiety because they know that they can grow their brain by grappling with hard concepts. They become perpetual learners who can learn what they need to in new situations and are motivated and curious to learn more.

Although intelligence is often equated with scores on IQ tests, most scholars now believe that IQ tests assess only part of a person’s intelligence. Traditional IQ tests basically measure the child's retention of verbal and mathematical knowledge. Unfortunately, this limited dimension is then equated with the child's intellectual potential.

Experts also question the obsession in our culture with ....

Ages and Stages

Children function best with structured schedules. Toddlers and preschoolers, especially, feel small in the world. Most things happen TO them. They crave predictability, knowing what will happen, because it gives them some sense of control. A predictable routine allows children to feel safe, and to develop a sense of mastery in handling their lives.

Kids who understand the routine, rather than feeling pushed around by what seems like arbitrary circumstance, are more likely to cooperate. Creating a regular routine is an essential way to give toddlers the security of knowing "what happens next" in their day. It also develops the prefrontal cortex, the planning and executive function part of the brain.

Having a plan for the day can also be important for adults caring for kids. True, many of us love the freedom of deciding on the spur of the moment what comes next, and sometimes that is the basis of creativity. But that works best when WE decide what rules to break. Without a routine, life with children can overwhelm and derail us, leaving us feeling run over by life, rather than in charge.

To help your toddler feel secure....

Question OF THE WEEK

Dr. Laura...My daughter just turned 14 today. Last October I got a family cell phone plan. The phone's original intent was for emergencies only. Then I got talked into text messaging plan and call display so her part of the bill is $50 a month.

Last night I found a message on her phone regarding me and some very poor language that I just don't tolerate. I found this after I caught her taking personal calls on the cell phone. We have pooled minutes and she was told no personal calls. Well in 4 days she has racked up 30 min.... I feel like she is taking advantage of me. She doesn't contribute to the family in any way, most of her time is on the phone, computer or playing guitar hero....

You certainly have your hands full! This is why parents often dread the teenage years. The kids get too big to order around, and if they don't have a good reason to obey us, they simply don't.

Your primary question seems to be whether to take the cell phone away from your daughter, as your ex-husband suggests, or whether to simply change your plan so your daughter doesn't have the "extras" (text and call display). You are also unhappy with her using the phone for personal calls.

But your problem is actually much bigger...

Blog Post of the Week

"My 7 year old daughter has started wanting to make other people (mainly her brother) hurt when she is emotionally hurt. So something happens that hurts her feelings and immediately she wants to lash out and try to make others feel like she does. She steps on a toy, her foot really hurts, she’s crying and it was my fault or her brother’s fault."

Lashing out when we’re upset and blaming others for our distress are completely normal human reactions. Most of us gain the ability to refrain from these almost automatic reactions as we get older, but we all know adults who seem to go through their lives with a “chip on their shoulder” blaming others, and reacting angrily to real or imagined slights.

What’s this all about, and how can we help our children (and ourselves) grow out of it?

All mammals, when they’re in distress, go into fight, flight or freeze. So when your child steps on a toy and it hurts, she’s plunged into distress, and she goes into “fight.” She lashes out at whoever is closest, or even throws the toy. Or, something happens that hurts her feelings. Again, she’s in distress, so she goes into “fight.” She lashes out.

It isn’t because she wants to make others feel as bad she does. At that moment, she isn’t even considering others. In fact, when she’s in “fight, flight or freeze” she can’t think straight or access her empathy. She’s lashing out because she can’t bear her own feelings of hurt, fear and sadness. To fend them off, she gets angry.....

Quotes of the Week

"When your mother is mad and asks you, "Do I look stupid?" it's best not to answer her."--Meghan

"Slow parents give their children plenty of time and space to explore the world on their own terms. They keep the family schedule under control so that everyone has enough downtime to rest, reflect and just hang out together.... Slow parenting means allowing our children to work out who they are rather than what we want them to be." -- Carl Honoré

"Adam and Eve had many advantages, but the principal one was that they escaped teething." -- Mark Twain

"Setting an example is not the main means of influencing others; it is the only means.” -- Albert Einstein

"Usually we try to figure out what we think would make us happy, and then try to make those things happen.  But happiness isn't circumstance-dependent.  There are people who have every reason in the world to be happy who aren't.  There are people with genuine problems who are.  The key to happiness is the decision to be happy." -- Marianne Williamson

"Siblings are the people we practice on, the people who teach us about fairness and cooperation and kindness and caring – quite often the hard way." – Pamela Dugdale

DR. LAURA'S Sibling Book
"Indispensible Reading Material for New/Young Families...My spouse and I have a newborn and a 2.5 year old at home, and this book has been our go-to tool for dealing with sibling relationship... We also own and have read Siblings Without Rivalry, and the content, while very complimentary and respectful, is NOT the same. The two books are different, offer different perspectives and content, but are still in the same vein. As others have said, this book is especially good for kids under 4 or 5, and for tips to use when adding a new baby to the family. I am SO glad I found this book when I did and wish I had purchased it sooner in pregnancy (2nd trimester - I didn't get to use a lot of the tips for pregnancy sadly).

We practice RIE and Montessori parenting philosophies and this book is very complimentary with those "respectful parenting" approaches. I especially love the author's use of concrete details and examples - you will walk away from this book with MANY phrases and responses to fall back on to use in a variety of situations." - Livingston on Amazon