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Experience and explore the great outdoors with your child — it's good for her!

Whether you grew up in a suburb, on a farm, or in a big city, you probably spent a lot of time playing outside, getting dirty, and coming home happy. Maybe you watched ants making anthills in your backyard, climbed trees in the park, or simply lay in the grass contemplating the drifting clouds. Unfortunately, young children today do not have as many direct experiences with nature, and it's taking a toll. Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, maintains that this disconnect from the natural world is producing ill effects in both mind and body. But he's optimistic that well-meaning, forward-thinking parents and educators can close the kid-nature gap. "We should not think of a child's experience in nature as an extracurricular activity," says Louv. "It should be thought of as vital to children's health and development." The editors of Scholastic's Parent & Child talked with Louv about his book.

Parent & Child: Why do children need a meaningful relationship with nature?
Richard Louv: Research suggests that a connection to nature is biologically innate; as humans, we have an affinity for the natural world. When children spend most of their time indoors, they miss out. Problems associated with alienation from nature include familiar maladies: depression, obesity, and attention deficit disorder. Kids who have direct access to nature are better learners. Exposure to nature has been shown to reduce stress and increase attention spans.

When a child is out in nature, all the senses get activated. He is immersed in something bigger than himself, rather than focusing narrowly on one thing, such as a computer screen. He's seeing, hearing, touching, even tasting. Out in nature, a child's brain has the chance to rejuvenate, so the next time he has to focus and pay attention, perhaps in school, he'll do better.

But even if kids don't have any of the specific problems mentioned above, kids who don't get out much lack the sense of wonder that only nature can provide. I've taken kids into the woods who've never been there. At first, they're scared because it's unfamiliar, but then you can see them open up and start exploring.

P&C: What's changed over the past generation or so that's caused this disconnect with the natural world?
Louv: There are some obvious reasons, such as the fact that many families are overscheduled, which chips away at leisure time. Parental fears — of traffic, of crime, even of nature itself, such as with Lyme disease or the West Nile virus — also play a big role in keeping kids indoors. What's unfortunate is that these fears have been over-amplified by the media, and the overall effect is that kids spend more time in their homes, or very close to home.

In many places, children's access to nature has been cut off. The woods at the end of the cul-de-sac were made into a new subdivision. New neighborhoods are carefully planned, and as a result, they often dramatically restrict what kids can do with nature. Even parks are manicured — there may be a nice smooth soccer field or a baseball diamond but no rough edges. Rough edges are the places children gravitate toward to explore, where they find rocks and weeds and bugs. Efforts to provide nice-looking and safe outdoor spaces are well intentioned, but they give kids the message that nature is not something you go out in to get your hands dirty.

P&C: Don't children in rural areas still have access to nature — and haven't city kids always been restricted from participating in it?
Louv: Interestingly, the answer is no to both questions. These days, kids in rural areas are just as indoor focused as their suburban peers, and for the same reasons — parental fears, less unscheduled time, an emphasis on computers and other indoor activities. And while we might think that, historically, kids in cities have had limited contact with the natural world, it's not always true. In older cities, especially, there are lots of green spaces, lots of unplanned areas like vacant lots. Sure, it's not the woods, but when we talk about nature it's not about the kind of nature, it's about children having the opportunity and freedom to explore what's out there in their surroundings. That may mean a city park, a farm, a patch of woods in a suburb — even a tiny roof garden counts.

P&C: What can parents do to help their children get the safe outdoor experiences they need?
Louv: You would think it would be ideal to let kids run loose and come back dirty and happy at end of the day, but in reality this is not likely to happen anymore. We have to come up with new ways for kids to have direct contact with nature. This probably means parents have to get out there with their kids, and explore with them. Schools, too, including preschools, can incorporate natural surroundings. In many schools in Western Europe, nature is incorporated into the design of child care centers and schools, and there have been positive results in terms of kids' attention spans and stress levels.

A lot of parents are already doing the right thing, almost instinctively. Perhaps they remember how they used to play, and strive to provide the same thing for their kids. While they may not let their kids roam free in the neighborhood, they do take their children hiking or let them run around in the local park.

P&C: What are some easy ways to experience nature with preschool-age children?
Louv: The best thing you can do is to be enthusiastic about nature yourself. Go out in your backyard. Instead of a manicured lawn or garden, leave some spots untamed so kids can dig in the dirt and find rocks or interesting weeds. If you have a vegetable garden, have your child help you plant seeds or pick tomatoes. Even walking to your local park can be a nature walk to a preschooler — he can collect leaves, you can point out trees and bushes and show him the bugs crawling along the curb. Let your kids get down in the dirt so they can see at eye level the whole universe there. Nature is good for everyone's mental health. Nature isn't the problem; it's the solution.

**Courtesy of Scholastic Parent & Child Magazine

Everyone has had the feeling on occasion that they just can’t sit still. Some even refer to it as having “ants in the pants”. Can you imagine feeling like that all day, every day of your life for about two years? That undeniable urge to move, to go, and to do something…anything, is almost impossible to resist.

From the first steps, your child is on the move and it is a daily race for parents to keep up! Toddlers are alive with curiosity and have the energy to feed the intrinsic need to explore and discover. They do not do it through reading about it….it is accomplished through doing, through movement.

At the same time, toddlers are entering a period of language development which will be unequalled for the rest of their lives and they begin to develop more social awareness. In this time, we begin to see the unfolding and blossoming of another beautiful personality which has been added to the world and we get to hear all about it – even if we can’t quite understand it all just yet. Brain based research has demonstrated the link between language development and acquisition and the amount of movement and physical activity a child engages in during this truly explosive time of learning.

The Meliora School teachers and staff are rested, ready and able to take your child’s hand and move with them through this truly amazing time. They will help your child to harness this energy and absorb all of the fantastic discoveries that await them from our world…inside and out! All the while, keeping them safe and loved.

A report about the importance of music, drama, dance, and drawing and painting in the classroom

Think back to when you were in elementary school. In between doing all the dittos and spelling tests and times tables, there were specials (and aptly named, too). Nothing was quite as exciting as the gleeful anticipation of putting on your smock for art class or pulling out the wooden recorders for music. And when it was time for the class play, just forget it. Whether you starred as Snow White or donned a furry costume as Woodland Creature #7, school couldn't get much better. And that was the whole point.

These days, however, not only are many kids lucky if they have art-on-a-cart, but when they do, proponents often have to justify the programs in relation to students' performance on standardized reading and math tests. Because in the age of No Child Left Behind (NCLB), few things matter more than test scores. Well, the bad news first: Although kids who are involved in the arts do tend to test better, there's no direct cause-and-effect evidence that participation actually helps raise scores.

This sounds like awful news and justification to slash school arts programs even further, right? But "dismissing the arts if they don't directly boost scores is a big mistake," says Richard Kessler, executive director of the Center for Arts Education in New York City. "In fact, plenty of research shows that children who spend time in school doing visual art, performing music or dance, or even acting in a play gain a whole set of creative and analytical skills that are quickly disappearing from the rest of the curriculum."

That's because in the majority of public schools, the emphasis is on test prep, which means lots of memorization, rote learning, and following directions. In fact, many have more than doubled instructional time in math and English language arts (ELA) since NCLB was enacted in 2002. More math and reading instruction might sound like a good thing -- that is, until you realize what's being eliminated to make room for it. Those same schools have cut arts education by an average of 35 percent. Ideally, children should have an hour of each arts discipline once a week. But few schools make the grade. Twelve percent of school districts don't offer any arts instruction at all.

And it's not like putting all the focus on nonstop test-prep is having the desired effect. Test scores have failed to rise as hoped. Meanwhile, Hong Kong as well as Japan, Canada, Finland, and five other countries that consistently outperform us in math and reading all require extensive education in the arts without narrowing their curriculum, according to a new report from Common Core, a Washington, DC, educational research and advocacy organization. For example, national guidelines in Hong Kong recommend that fourth-graders visit artists' studios and study great works of sculpture and painting; in Ontario, Canada, learning musical composition and conducting are standard for eighth-graders. "The situation here is extremely frustrating," says Lynne Munson, Common Core's executive director. "We have lots of proof that a broad education that includes the arts works better than what we're doing -- and yet we're ignoring it."

All of this has education experts worried indeed. It should also worry parents. "It's not as easy to test the skills that children learn from the arts, but that doesn't make them any less important," says Kimberly Sheridan, Ed.D., coauthor of Studio Thinking: The Real Benefits of Visual Arts Education. According to a recent study she conducted with colleagues at Harvard's Project Zero, an educational research group, participating in a school arts program increases a child's ability to:

  Observe the world carefully and discard preconceptions
  Envision something and then create it
  Go beyond just learning a skill to express a personal voice
  Problem-solve and persist despite frustration and setbacks
  Reflect on the results and ask what could improve them

What's more, other research using brain imaging along with behavioral assessments has established strong links between the arts and specific cognitive skills. In a landmark 2008 study by the nonprofit Dana Foundation, neuroscientists at seven universities found that:

  Musical training improves reading by helping children distinguish the sound structure of words
  Acting boosts memory and the ability to articulate ideas
  Strong interest in a performing art leads to better attention and memory

But perhaps most crucial of all, the arts foster creativity and innovation far beyond the classroom. "Art gives kids a chance to learn by doing instead of just being lectured to," says Jeff Gonzalez, a middle school art teacher in Dobbs Ferry, NY. "There's no right answer in art, which means they can explore, connect new ideas, and learn from what they feel were their successes and failures without negative consequences. They just can't get all that in math or history." This is why our current educational strategy is so shortsighted. The arts have definite practical applications for our kids' futures. A recent survey of business leaders rated creativity as a top skill that will only increase in importance. And as First Lady Michelle Obama said in a recent speech, "My husband and I believe strongly that arts education is essential for building innovative thinkers who will be our leaders of tomorrow."

The Obama administration is starting to act on this belief by launching a new survey to assess the state of arts education. Results aren't expected until 2011, but in the meantime some schools are proving that wonderful things can happen when arts are a valued part of the curriculum. When administrators at Middle School 223 in New York City's South Bronx realized that art classes were a big draw, they began to schedule them on Mondays and Fridays, when attendance was typically lower. Attendance went up immediately, says principal Ramon Gonzalez. More than that: "Once we got the students engaged and feeling confident in art, we were able to use that as a bridge to build engagement and confidence in other subjects. For example, we see that kids who don't normally like to talk in class will discuss their painting or hip-hop routine passionately, and this new skill spills over to other areas." That's one reason Gonzalez goes against current practice and eliminates periods of math, English language arts, and other subjects on a rotating basis to make room for 12-week blocks of visual arts, drama, dance, and both instrumental and digital music. "The academics haven't suffered," says Gonzalez. "Instead, the whole school has improved."

Across the country, in Flagstaff, AZ, third-grade teacher Diane Immethun incorporates music into her lessons as part of Keeping Score, a program that trains classroom teachers to enhance learning through music. "I'm not a music teacher, but ever since I began using music, I've noticed an immense improvement in my students' logical thinking, creativity, and writing skills," says Immethun. "Music enhances their imaginations. I'll have them listen to Stravinsky's 'Rite of Spring' and make up a story. Their writing is much richer than it was before. Or I'll use 'Flight of the Bumblebee' to teach them how a composer gives a voice to a musical instrument and how that's similar to the way an author gives a character a voice in a book. It's a sophisticated concept for third-graders, but music helps them make the connection."

The Creative Connections Arts Academy, a K-8 charter school in North Highlands, CA, has taken things even further. In addition to providing classes in music, drama, dance, and drawing and painting, the school has integrated the arts into almost all academics. In social studies, students act out plays or create drawings about the people they're studying; in math, they make the connection between quarter- and half-notes and fractions. In total, students are involved in the arts for a whopping four to six hours each day. "Kids get tired of rote learning, but they never get tired of the arts," says principal Joe Breault. "We have a wide variety of students, including kids with learning disabilities, but we have no trouble engaging any of them." And -- surprise! -- standardized-test scores have risen at all three of these schools (Immethun even warms up her students' brains on test days by having them sing rounds). "Research might not always be able to prove a direct connection to higher scores, but there's no doubt that an arts program makes kids better at everything they take on," says Breault. "It helps them become well-rounded, well-prepared thinkers and citizens of the world -- and that should be our main goal."

Arts programs are expensive-so they're often the first thing to go. But they don't have to fall victim to the budget ax, especially if parents take action. Last spring, when the San Diego Unified School District decided to cut its art programs, parents organized and spent several hours pleading before the school board. The result: The board reversed its decision. "Parents have much more power than they realize," says Richard Kessler of the Center for Arts Education. "But they have to use it." How to do just that:

Find out what the law says. Contact your school board and state department of education to learn how many hours of arts education your state mandates. Then look at your child's schedule to see if that's what he's getting. Unfortunately, it's common for schools to ignore the law without repercussions.

Reach out to the principal. If you'd like to see more arts on the school schedule, gather a group of like-minded parents and ask the following questions: Does every grade receive arts instruction every week? Is there a budget for the arts? Is there a designated arts teacher for each discipline?

Speak up. Show how much you value arts education by sharing your child's experience at school-board meetings, and encourage other parents to do so. A few voices can go a long way.

Go public. Let your local news reporters know immediately if your school's arts program is being threatened. Another effective strategy: Submit a letter to the editor or an opinion piece about the importance of arts education.

By Nancy Kalish, Parenting.com

What do you think is the greatest predictor of happiness for your children? Could it be having a stable home, loving parents, enough food to eat, fun activities, experiencing success in school or sports? Certainly these things and many more affect your children's happiness.

But what is the best predictor of happiness? In his book, Brain Rules for Babies, Dr. John Medina reports "The greatest predictor of happiness is having friends."

Friends really are that important. While you can't control how your children and their friends interact, you can help your child develop key friendship skills.

Teaching Your Child Friendship Skills

One of the most heartbreaking things is to see your child struggling to make and keep friends. Your child might be shy and easily ignored by other kids, overly sensitive, intimidating other children, or be the vulnerable child who is continually being picked on. What can you do to help your child develop the skills needed to make good friends?

Many of the rules of friendship are unwritten and some kids easily catch on to those rules while others struggle. In their book The Unwritten Rules of Friendship: Simple Strategies to Help Your Child Make Friends, Elman and Kennedy-Moore define the characteristics of 10 types of children who often have problems with friendships. They describe the typical behaviors that these kids exhibit that turn their peers off. They then list the unwritten friendship rules that this type of child is missing and how you can help your child develop those skills.

Some of the unwritten rules include things like:
  There is no such thing as a perfect friend.
  If you hit someone, odds are they'll hit you back harder.
  Dwelling on bad feelings makes them worse.
  When someone says "Stop", stop.
  Staying out of harm's way is wise.
  You don't have to stay around people who are unkind to you.

The book provides excellent ideas for guiding your child to learning these rules. If your child is struggling with friends, this book may hold the key to helping your child figure out how to successfully navigate friendships.

Helping Your Child Practice Friendship Skills

After attending one of my presentations at his son's elementary school, a dad wrote me about his 10-year-old son's struggle to make friends. "While the kids play together, he has not made any fast friends yet. We thought that this would change when we moved to this new school but I have not seen any progress. Rather, his experience in school is not great and he is constantly targeted by the popular kids and often shunned by them when he makes an attempt to mingle."

His son was increasingly satisfied just to stay home playing his XBOX instead of going out with friends. This dad decided to try a number of ideas to help his son build his friendships:
  Planned an outing to a swimming pool and allowed his son choose someone to invite along.
   Invited a friend over to their house for a couple hours to help build a fort.
   Started attending a YMCA family night where his son met new friends.
   Encouraged his son to join the school band where he also made friends who shared his interest in music.

When your children are young, you will be involved in speaking to the other parents to arrange activities. As your children get older, it's important that they reach out initially to their friends about getting together. You can then follow-up by talking with the parents to finalize the details.

Navigating Social Groups and Friendships

In their book, Best Friends, Worst Enemies, the authors describe the importance of social groups for kids.

"Groups are the highways of childhood. Our kids are swept along, going at the same speed as the majority of the traffic. If the other children in your child's school are going fifty-five miles per hour, then your child can move among them at a safe speed. If the other students are traveling at seventy-five miles an hour, it will be difficult - and socially dangerous - for your child to go fifty-five. So he or she will speed up to stay alongside his peers and may not dare to pull over to the side of the road for a break, as it feels too dangerous when the traffic is moving that fast."

They go on to describe how interacting with friends compares to being part of the group. "Friendship, by contrast, resembles the side streets and back roads of childhood. Friends can go at their own pace; they can stop when they want to; they can get away from the speeding traffic. A girl who likes makeup and boys when she's at school can stop and play with dolls with an old friend who reminds her of that recently abandoned pleasure. In the shelter of friendship, children can move at their own developmental pace."

When your children are in the company of their good friends, they are on that welcoming, calm side street. It will take time for your children to discover their real friends and even then these relationships will undoubtedly run into a few twists, turns and potholes along the way.

However, developing strong friendships is worth the effort. Having good friends where your children can be their authentic selves is a key ingredient to their true happiness.

Are you a praise-aholic parent? Beware, new research shows the wrong praise can decrease kid self-esteem, motivation, effort, and achievement. How to use praise the “right way.""

“Atta girl!” “Super, sweetie!” “Good job!” “You’re sooo smart!” Sound familiar? All you have to do is attend any kid sporting event-hockey game, volleyball, soccer, football, swim meet-and you’ll get my drift. Parents are there to support their kids-and yay that they are-but the accolades and praising for any effort is so predictable. Don’t get me wrong, there’s no harm in giving kids praise every now and then–just as long as you recognize our words are not always beneficial in improving their behavior, motivation or self-esteem. In fact, too much praise of any sort can be unhealthy, and several recent studies from prestigious institutions reveal that the wrong kind of praise can backfire and even impede our kids’ progress. That was what I shared on the TODAY show and here is more information on those important studies.as well as the right way to acknowledge our kids.

How Praise Can Backfire

Our wrong words can create self-defeating behavior and lower our children’s motivation. Many experts feel that the biggest culprit behind kids who appear less resilient is hearing the kind of wrong praise from their parents. Here is just a sample of research findings of how using the wrong kind of praise can backfire and reap the wrong results in our child.

  Curbs kid effort: Praising kids for their intelligence (“You’re smart”) or for the end product (their grade or score) can short-change kids from learning the gloriously essential quality of persistence as well as reduce their resilience muscle and desire to take on challenges. Colombia University and Stanford University.

  Lowers grades: When researchers tried to raise the grades of struggling college students by showering them with comments aimed to feel better about themselves their grades got worse not better. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology

  Reduces kid motivation. By age 12 kids believe that earning praise from a teacher is not a sign you did something well-but actually lack the ability. In fact, teens discount praise so much (perhaps because they’ve been so over-praised) that they believe it’s a teacher criticism-not praise-that really conveys their positive belief in a student’s ability. Wulf-Uwe Meyer Study.

  Triggers shame and lowers self-worth: Praising kids-especially those with lower self-esteem-for their personal qualities (“You’re such a great person!”) rather than their efforts may make kids feel more ashamed if they fail and lower-not raise-their self-esteem. University of Netherlands.

4 Signs Your Kid May Be Over-Praised

In all fairness, for years parents have been encouraged to “praise” their kids — and to do so lavishly. Reams of parenting books stress the value of giving kids all those accolades and acknowledgements–al those “Good job!” comments help our kids develop self-esteem! In fact, this weekend I picked up a flyer from at a parenting event with this advice: “Praising kids is the best way to boost their self-esteem. If you catch yourself saying a negative comment, remember the 5:1 Formula. ‘Kids need five positive comments for every negative comment they hear.” (I strongly advise you not to ignore that advise). Most of us are guilty of over-praising so how do we know if we’re praising our kids too much? Here are signs of over-praising I shared on TODAY.

1. Self-Centered: “I did great, Mom! The child is frequently praised individually so he forgets the contributions of others in the group or his team effort. Instead, he focuses on his plays, efforts, goals, etc. Listen for the pronouns of “Me and I” instead of “He, she, you, or we” in the child’s vocabulary.

2. Praise-Dependent: “Do you like it mommy?” The child is so used to hearing adults praise that he now depends on those accolades to jump start his effort and needs your approval for self-maintenance.

3. Expects Accolades: “Aren’t you going to tell me, ‘Good job?’” The child has heard your “Good job” so frequently that the praise no longer is meaningful. The child just expects you to say, “Atta boy!” regardless of whether it’s deserved.

4. Over-Competitive: “But I’m better than her and got a higher grade.” The child has heard praise so often and needs the accolades to maintain her own self-image. The danger is that the child can begins to tear others down to feel better about herself.

The Right Ways to Praise

Words do matter – and by and large praise issued the right way can be an effective, positive motivator for our children. The right praise motivates our kids to learn, stretches persistence and boosts resilience. The good news is there are simple ways to turn ineffective praise around. Just a simple word switch may seem subtle but can have a big impact on children’s development.

So let’s suppose you admit you’ve become a “Praise-aholic” or you have an over-praised kid on your hands? Don’t despair, there are strategies you use can to wean you and your kid from depending on praise. Cutting back from an over-praising habit is often hard for the parent and child. I warn you: the two of you may go through a bit of “praise withdrawals.” Consistent commitment to switch how you praise your child is crucial to success. First, remember three simple but important components of effective praise. I call them the 3S’s.

3 S’s of Effective Praise

Be Specific. Generic “Good jobs!” don’t help kids learn to recognize what they right so they don’t know what to do to improve. But by highlighting what the child did right he is more likely to repeat the behavior. Just add “because” to your praise takes your words up a notch and helps the child know exactly what he did right: “Good job because you read all the directions this time before you started.” “Atta boy—you hit a double because you kept your eye on the ball.”

Be Short. The amount of praise isn’t what makes the difference on kids. One sentence delivered the right way can motivate behavior.

Be Sincere. Beware of back-handed praise of empty flattery. Only young kids, under the age of 7, take praise at face value. Kids do pick up on our false praise. Be sincere in your delivery and make sure the child’s earned the accolade. The very next time your kid does something noteworthy, try one of these tricks that nurture your kid’s internal motivation by putting the success back inside her corner. The right words can stretch our children’s motivation, resilience, and persistence and even have kids more likely to take on challenges and not give up! The key is to help our kids develop internal motivation and not wait for us to pat them on the back and say “Good Job.” Here are the four ways to do it:

Stress Effort (Not Smarts or the End Product)

A Columbia University study of more than 400 fifth graders olds found that when kids were praised for their intelligence (“You’re so smart!” they became less likely to attempt new challenges. But when praised for their efforts (“You’re working so hard!”) they actually worked longer and harder. The reason?Kids don’t feel they have control over their intelligence-so why bother, but effort they put into the task is something they can control. Whether your kid is doing a math task, practicing violin, or working on his karate chops stress effort – not their intelligence. The key is to emphasize your child’s effort and hard work, and not the end product (like the grade, score or abilities). So instead of saying: “What was your grade?” Say: “You’re working so hard!” Or instead of: “You’re so smart!” Say: You’re improving because you’re putting in so much effort.”

Use a “Praise-Free” comment

State what you see with a simple that describes your child success: “You rode your bike all by yourself!” or simply, “You did it.”

Ask questions

Instead of praising, find out what pleased your child about her achievement “How did you learn to balance yourself without the training wheels? Or “What was the hardest part about writing that report?” Nothing else needs to be said.

Switch from “I” to “you”

The simple pronoun switch in your praise takes the emphasis off of your approval and puts more on the child regulating her actions. Instead of saying: “I’m really proud of how hard you worked today.” Switch to: “You must be really proud of how hard you worked today.” And when you do break yourself of the over-praising habit, remember to do one last thing: pat yourself on the back and tell yourself, “Good job!” (I’ll send you a trophy if you need one!)

by Kathryn Kvols

Recently, I read about a father, Paul Wallich, who built a camera-mounted drone helicopter to follow his grade-school-aged son to the bus stop. He wants to make sure his son arrives at the bus stop safe and sound. There’s no doubt the gizmo provides an awesome show-and-tell contribution. In my mind, Paul Wallich gives new meaning to the term “helicopter parent.”

While I applaud the engagement of this generation of parents and teachers, it’s important to recognize the unintended consequences of our engagement. We want the best for our students, but research now shows that our “over-protection, over-connection” style has damaged them. Let me suggest three huge mistakes we’ve made leading this generation of kids and how we must correct them.

1. We Risk Too Little

We live in a world that warns us of danger at every turn. Toxic.High voltage.Flammable. Slippery when wet. Steep curve ahead. Don’t walk. Hazard. This “safety first” preoccupation emerged over thirty years ago with the Tylenol scare and with children’s faces appearing on milk cartons. We became fearful of losing our kids. So we put knee-pads, safety belts and helmets on them…at the dinner table. (Actually I’m just kidding on that one). But, it’s true. We’ve insulated our kids from risk.

Author GeverTulley suggests, “If you’re over 30, you probably walked to school, played on the monkey bars, and learned to high-dive at the public pool. If you’re younger, it’s unlikely you did any of these things. Yet, has the world become that much more dangerous? Statistically, no. But our society has created pervasive fears about letting kids be independent—and the consequences for our kids are serious.”

Unfortunately, over-protecting our young people has had an adverse effect on them.

“Children of risk-averse parents have lower test scores and are slightly less likely to attend college than offspring of parents with more tolerant attitudes toward risk,” says a team led by Sarah Brown of the University of Sheffield in the UK. Aversion to risk may prevent parents from making inherently uncertain investments in their children’s human capital; it’s also possible that risk attitudes reflect cognitive ability, researchers say.” Sadly, this Scottish Journal of Political Economy report won’t help us unless we do something about it. Adults continue to vote to remove playground equipment from parks so kids won’t have accidents; to request teachers stop using red ink as they grade papers and even cease from using the word “no” in class. It’s all too negative. I’m sorry—but while I understand the intent to protect students, we are failing miserably at preparing them for a world that will not be risk-free.

Psychologists in Europe have discovered that if a child doesn’t play outside and is never allowed to experience a skinned knee or a broken bone, they frequently have phobias as adults. Interviews with young adults who never played on jungle gyms reveal they’re fearful of normal risks and commitment. The truth is, kids need to fall a few times to learn it is normal; teens likely need to break up with a boyfriend or girlfriend to appreciate the emotional maturity that lasting relationships require. Pain is actually a necessary teacher. Consider your body for a moment. If you didn’t feel pain, you could burn yourself or step on a nail and never do something about the damage and infection until it was too late. Pain is a part of health and maturity.

Similarly, taking calculated risks is all a part of growing up. In fact, it plays a huge role. Childhood may be about safety and self-esteem, but as a student matures, risk and achievement are necessities in forming their identity and confidence. Because parents have removed “risk” from children’s lives, psychologists are discovering a syndrome as they counsel teens: High Arrogance, Low Self-Esteem. They’re cocky, but deep down their confidence is hollow, because it’s built off of watching YouTube videos, and perhaps not achieving something meaningful.

According to a study by University College London, risk-taking behavior peeks during adolescence. Teens are apt to take more risks than any other age group. Their brain programs them to do so. It’s part of growing up. They must test boundaries, values and find their identity during these years. This is when they must learn, via experience, the consequences of certain behaviors. Our failure to let them risk may explain why so many young adults, between the ages of 22 and 35 still live at home or haven’t started their careers, or had a serious relationship. Normal risk taking at fourteen or fifteen would have prepared them for such decisions and the risks of moving away from home, launching a career or getting married.

2. We Rescue Too Quickly

This generation of young people has not developed some of the life skills kids did thirty years ago because adults swoop in and take care of problems for them. We remove the need for them to navigate hardships. May I illustrate?

Staff from four universities recently told me they encountered students who had never filled out a form or an application in their life. Desiring to care for their kids, and not disadvantage them, parents or teachers had always done it for them.

One freshman received a C- on her project and immediately called her mother, right in the middle of her class. After interrupting the class discussion with her complaint about her poor grade, she handed the cell phone to her professor and said, “She wants to talk to you.” Evidently, mom wanted to negotiate the grade.

A Harvard Admissions Counselor reported a prospective student looked him in the eye and answered every question he was asked. The counselor felt the boy’s mother must have coached him on eye-contact because he tended to look down after each response. Later, the counselor learned the boy’s mom was texting him the answers every time a question came in.

A college president said a mother of one of his students called him, saying she’d seen that the weather would be cold that day and wondered if he would make sure her son was wearing his sweater as he went to class. She wasn’t joking.

This may sound harsh, but rescuing and over-indulging our children is one of the most insidious forms of child abuse. It’s “parenting for the short-term” and it sorely misses the point of leadership—to equip our young people to do it without help. Just like muscles atrophy inside of a cast due to disuse, their social, emotional, spiritual and intellectual muscles can shrink because they’re not exercised. For example, I remember when and where I learned the art of conflict resolution. I was eleven years old, and everyday about fifteen boys would gather after school to play baseball. We would choose sides and umpire our games. Through that consistent exercise, I learned to resolve conflict. I had to. Today, if the kids are outside at all, there are likely four mothers present doing the conflict resolution for them.

The fact is, as students experience adults doing so much for them, they like it at first. Who wouldn’t? They learn to play parents against each other, they learn to negotiate with faculty for more time, lenient rules, extra credit and easier grades. This actually confirms that these kids are not stupid. They learn to play the game. Sooner or later, they know “someone will rescue me.” If I fail or “act out,” an adult will smooth things over and remove any consequences for my misconduct. Once again, this isn’t even remotely close to how the world works. It actually disables our kids.

3. We Rave Too Easily

The self-esteem movement has been around since Baby Boomers were kids, but it took root in our school systems in the 1980s. We determined every kid would feel special, regardless of what they did, which meant they began hearing remarks like:

  “You’re awesome!”
   “You’re smart.”
   “You’re gifted.”
   “You’re super!”

Attend a little league awards ceremony and you soon learn: everyone’s a winner. Everyone gets a trophy. They all get ribbons. We meant well—but research is now indicating this method has unintended consequences. Dr. Carol Dweck wrote a landmark book called, Mindset. In it she reports findings about the adverse affects of praise. She tells of two groups of fifth grade students who took a test. Afterward, one group was told, “You must be smart.” The other group was told, “You must have worked hard.” When a second test was offered to the students, they were told that it would be harder and that they didn’t have to take it. Ninety percent of the kids who heard “you must be smart” opted not to take it. Why? They feared proving that the affirmation may be false. Of the second group, most of the kids chose to take the test, and while they didn’t do well, Dweck’s researchers heard them whispering under their breath, “This is my favorite test.” They loved the challenge. Finally, a third test was given, equally as hard as the first one. The result? The first group of students who were told they were smart, did worse. The second group did 30% better. Dweck concludes that our affirmation of kids must target factors in their control. When we say “you must have worked hard,” we are praising effort, which they have full control over. It tends to elicit more effort. When we praise smarts, it may provide a little confidence at first but ultimately causes a child to work less. They say to themselves, “If it doesn’t come easy, I don’t want to do it.”

What’s more, kids eventually observe that “mom” is the only one who thinks they’re “awesome.” No one else is saying it. They begin to doubt the objectivity of their own mother; it feels good in the moment, but it’s not connected to reality. Further, Dr. Robert Cloninger, at Washington University in St. Louis has done brain research on the prefrontal cortex, which monitors the reward center of the brain. He says the brain has to learn that frustrating spells can be worked through. The reward center of our brains learns to say: Don’t give up. Don’t stop trying. “A person who grows up getting too frequent rewards,” Cloninger says, “will not have persistence, because they’ll quit when the rewards disappear.”

When we rave too easily, kids eventually learn to cheat, to exaggerate and lie and to avoid difficult reality. They have not been conditioned to face it. A helpful metaphor when considering this challenge is: inoculation. When you get inoculated, a nurse injects a vaccine, which actually exposes you to a dose of the very disease your body must learn to overcome. It’s a good thing. Only then do we develop an immunity to it. Similarly, our kids must be inoculated with doses of hardship, delay, challenges and inconvenience to build the strength to stand in them.

Eight Steps Toward Healthy Leadership

Obviously, negative risk taking should be discouraged, such as smoking, alcohol, illegal drugs, etc. In addition, there will be times our young people do need our help, or affirmation. But—healthy teens are going to want to spread their wings. They’ll need to try things on their own. And we, the adults, must let them. Here are some simple ideas you can employ as you navigate these waters:

1. Help them take calculated risks. Talk it over with them, but let them do it. Your primary job is to prepare your child for how the world really works.

2. Discuss how they must learn to make choices. They must prepare to both win and lose, not get all they want and to face the consequences of their decisions.

3. Share your own “risky” experiences from your teen years. Interpret them. Because we’re not the only influence on these kids, we must be the best influence.

4. Instead of tangible rewards, how about spending some time together? Be careful you aren’t teaching them that emotions can be healed by a trip to the mall.

5. Choose a positive risk taking option and launch kids into it (i.e. sports, jobs, etc). It may take a push but get them used to trying out new opportunities.

6. Don’t let your guilt get in the way of leading well. Your job is not to make yourself feel good by giving kids what makes them or you feel better when you give it.

7. Don’t reward basics that life requires. If your relationship is based on material rewards, kids will experience neither intrinsic motivation nor unconditional love.

8. Affirm smart risk-taking and hard work wisely. Help them see the advantage of both of these, and that stepping out a comfort zone usually pays off.

Bottom line? Your child does not have to love you every minute. He’ll get over the disappointment of failure but he won’t get over the effects of being spoiled. So let them fail, let them fall, and let them fight for what they really value. If we treat our kids as fragile, they will surely grow up to be fragile adults. We must prepare them for the world that awaits them. Our world needs resilient adults not fragile ones.

By Tim Elmore, Author of Generation iY: Our Last Chance to Save Their Future

The summer period is here again, when the weather is warm and friendly. A very important and fun filled time for kids and teen, when they take a break from the hardwork and school activity to spend time relaxing, discovering and enjoying the social, natural and practical development of life outside the school environment.

This year's summer promises to be fun as Meliora School of Lawrenceville and Meliora School of Bouldercrest; a school focused on learning, child care in a safe environment which engages its students in exploration and play, is hosting a summer camp program. With the increasing popularity of summer programs, we have a long list of activities to make this year summer camp standout leaving you with great memories to always remember.

Some of the activities include:

1. Hawaiian Hullaballo: Campers will learn the Hula and make special Hawaiian treats which will be served at our Luau. All the campers will be dressed in Hawaiian skirts and hats along with garlands made by them. We will recreate the Hawaiian beach on our porch.

2. Pirate Ahoy: Students will create treasure chests, eye patches and many more fun crafts. They will enjoy visiting the inside of a Pirate ship that will be architecturally created by them. Stories about famous pirates abound…fiction and non-fiction. Our buccaneers are ready to set sail for pirate adventure this summer.

3. The campers go back in time and learn about how the wheel was invented. They also collect pictures and make collages about how the different modes of transportation have changed over the years. This week includes a special field trip to the railway museum.

4. Students will learn about development, design, production, operation and use of aircraft during aviation week. This week includes a field trip to the Delta Flight Museum.

5. Campers will play the role of a paleontologist by creating site maps based on fossil findings. Through our weekly field trip ,and crafts students will travel back to the Mesozoic Era.

6. The students will learn about famous inventions and inventors every day. Ranging from the light bulb to the iphone, the campers will analyze and make projects on each invention and their relevance in our daily lives.

7. The campers will learn about scientific concepts like gravity, decantation, metamorphosis, magnetism, simple machines, and more while participating in hands- on experiments. Get ready to explore the scientific method in a variety of ways!

8. For five days, campers will choose a daily country / culture and explore the unique traditions, music, food and costumes. There will be cooking, dancing, music, folk tales and lots of dress up. Parents are welcome to come share their unique culture with their child's class.

9. All things musical await our young explorers from composers to music styles throughout history. Students not only learn about music composition…they get to try their hand at writing their own. A week full of songs, instruments and “note-able” experiences awaits our young Mozarts.

10. Crafty campers of all shapes and sizes are invited to explore the creative world of arts and crafts. With a week loaded with projects, projects and more projects, children experiment with all types of artistic media to create one of a kind masterpieces.

Why You Need To Enroll You Child For Our Summer Camp

The importance of summer camp is of huge significance, that's why we'll like to list some benefit of summer camp for children.

1. It helps build self-confidence and self-esteem.

2. It provides the opportunity for them to make true friend, improve their social interaction and self expression.

3. It allows them to feel home away from home. During summer camp, when kids meet new friends who they can talk, play or do almost everything together, they tend to adapt to that environment quickly which helps them to grow more independent.

4. Development of skill: with the list of activities for the summer camp, it will help them discover and build their skill which might end up being a life long skill

5. Summer camps builds good memory for the future. Wonderful memories of the environment, nature, their new friends or some of the activities at the camp. All these makes growing up memorable.

Haven listen the above benefits, and some of the activities, a summer camp like ours will be of immense benefit for your child.

For more enquires and information, please call:

Meliora School Lawrenceville 770.995.9400
Meliora school Bouldercrest 404.381.9300

Website: www.melioraschool.com; info@melioraschool.com

For February, I thought I would write about a little known gem to help you understand your kids better. Do you know how your kids receive love from you? Do you know the best way to show your kids that you love them? Do you know that each of your children will likely need to be shown and give love differently? The Five Love Languages of Children by Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell gives worthwhile insight into loving your kids. I have recommended this as a bedside reading to many of the parents with whom I worked in my practice over the years with raving reviews and results.

Obviously, I cannot cover an entire book in one short article, but I will give you the basic principles behind discovering your children’s love languages, and what each love language looks like in application. Primarily, you want to learn which love language your child has (or they may be bi-lingual if they tie), how to show them love in their language, and note the way they show you love if it differs from your primary love language. This will lead to feeling more in tune with your kids, and to ensure that they always know that they are loved, regardless of the manner in which it was displayed.

Something that I think is important to mention before I get into the five languages is food for thought about loving your kids. I recently read of a study where they asked parents of children under the age of ten what they want their kids to say about them as parents in 15 years (all of the kids would be close to 18 or older at that point). Most of the responses included traits such as supportive, loving, understanding, compassionate, etc. Then the researchers asked the parents to list what they think their kids would say about them as parents right now. Many were surprised to recognize that in the present day to day, their kids would likely say more negative things about them, and they realized the need to ensure that they communicated love more effectively.

The five love languages are Quality Time, Words of Affirmation, Physical Affection, Gifts, and Acts of Service. Here are brief summaries of each.

Quality Time: This child wants to spend lots of time with you. He enjoys just being with you, regardless of what you do. This love language is especially important to recognize if you have more than one child. A child with a Quality Time language will feel very neglected and ignored without enough individualtime with you.

Words of Affirmation: This child needs to hear that you love her. This would, of course, include say the words, “I love you” frequently. But, it would also encompass telling her that she is working hard, figuring things out on her own, that you believe in her, etc. She wants to be told how much she means to you, in daily doses.

Physical Affection: This child craves touch. He will love to cuddle, hug, hold hands, sit close to you, have his back rubbed, etc. This is kind of a combination language, as you really can’t give physical affection unless you are spending time with him. However, it is more about you actually being in physical contact with him than it is about being in his presence.

Gifts: This child needs to receive things from you to feel loved. It can be simple things, such as notes in the lunch box, her favorite flavor of ice cream from the grocery store, etc., but she will need tangible things to know you care. This will of course go along with holidays being extra special for this child when she receive gifts in large doses.

Acts of Service: This child needs you to do things for them. This does NOT mean things that they are capable of, or household chores, but rather going on a field trip with his class, shining his bike when it gets dirty, making his favorite cookies, washing his favorite shirt before school picture day, etc. Things that you know are important to him that you can do to show him you care will help this child feel loved.

An important element to keep in mind is that your love language may match one or more of your children’s, making it very easy to give and receive love with them. If yours does not match, it will be more important to really focus on making an effort to do what they need, even if it doesn’t feel natural to you. In other words, you may be a Words of Affirmation person, while your child is a Gifts person. You can tell them you love them all day, but until you give them something tangible like a new book to read to them at night, they will think you do not care about them. The opposite is also true – they may give you flowers they picked in the yard, but never actually say the words, “I love you”.

The more you understand how your child gives and receives love, the closer you can become. Also, the more you practice showing love in their languages, the more natural it will become to you. If you purchase a copy of Chapman and Campbell’s book, the appendices have assessments to learn the languages of yourself and your kids. I would encourage you this Valentine’s Day to really show your kids how much you love them, no matter how that needs to happen.

As a final note: They recently released The Five Love Languages of Teenagers if your kids are older.

by Brenna Hicks (Courtesy of thekidcounselor.com)

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