Back to Pink, Kind of.

This is kind of a reblog from Bluemilk, I saw her post referencing the recent article/discussion Girls, Boys, Feminism, Toys: Deborah Siegel and Rebecca Hains Discuss.  The discussion between Deborah Siegal and Rebecca Hains, points to issues with the anti-pink phenomenon, and ways to educate children about media literacy.  

Rebecca: In all honesty, the argument that we need to stop (“or at least pause”) the war on pink didn’t even come off as a rhetorical device to me. I’m sad to say that it just came across as ill-informed. There isn’t a war on pink; there’s a thoughtful, measured argument that while pink isn’t inherently bad, it’s limiting the play worlds and imaginations of boys and girls alike. So “Who’s Afraid of the War on Pink” reads, to me and my colleagues, like a straw man argument. The authors were conjuring up a nonexistent epidemic of myopic thinking, instead of engaging with anyone’s actual writing on the subject of girl culture and the rise of pink.

Check out the rest of the discussion on Girl W/Pen

Sorry Goldieblox

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I just found this article by Katy Waldman in Slate, Goldieblox: Great for Girls? Bad for Girls? Or Just Selling Toys?

If you haven’t yet heard of GoldieBlox toy company, check it out here.   The aim of the company is to guide girls toward a career in engineering, or at the very least get them away from typical girl toys.   While I haven’t had the pleasure of getting my hands on one of the toys, and while the company aims seem at first powerful and legitimate I can’t help but shutter a little at the almost sleazy misappropriation of feminism seen in their video and mission statement, and with it the assumption that girls don’t already utilize home materials, and other toys to satisfy their desire for constructive and creative learning.

I really don’t want to poo-poo on anyones attempt at trying to promote “better” learning for girls (and boys, right?) and while I can even respect understand, the desire to try and make a buck in the name of feminism, this toy company seems to have missed the mark.  In Waldman’s essay she points to many disheartening truths about the toy, and reviewers all seem to agree that while the idea behind the toy is “inspiring” the execution is a, “massive disappointment, Really doesn’t inspire creativity or ‘engineering’ skills, no room for thinking outside the box.” Amazon reviewers. 

In the end, if you want to inspire children to be creative and even to directly push them toward a career in engineering it seems your best options remain in your household.  Tupperware, tape, boxes, blocks, utensils, etc., all of these things promote spacial reasoning, creativity and may even build future engineers.

1-2-3 Magic: Review

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I recently read 1-2-3 Magic, by Thomas Phelan… I know, in the past I’ve talked negatively about mass cultivation of parenting books, mainly because over-reading tends to eliminate personal  authority and experience.  Why trust instincts when a book can tell you what to do? The truth is, sometimes parenting books can be helpful, specifically in reassuring parents and caregivers that what their child is doing is “normal.”

Children are constantly going through dramatic developmental changes, and often with these new and exciting shifts come earth-shattering tantrums. I have been going through this lately, and I must admit, sometimes reading a book can be helpful, mainly in reassuring me that the fits are normal and that the way I’m handling the tantrums is best for all involved.

1-2-3 Magic provides some helpful tips about discipline and motivation, 2 key factors when dealing with a tantrumy toddler.  We need discipline to make sure that during the tantrum phases we aren’t automatically giving into the irrational demands and poor behavior from out little ones.  And we need helpful motivation (for them) to make transitions easier.

What I like about 1-2-3 Magic:  It’s simple and honest, for example: “You’ll never like or get along with your children if they are constantly irritating you with behavior such as whining, arguing, teasing, badgering, tantrums, yelling and fighting.” (11) Here the author displays a simple and honest truth, which most parents don’t want to admit to, that is, it’s possible to not always like your children.  I want to insert here that the author rightly so differentiates between like and love, while you will always love your children despite their terrible behavior, you probably wont like them because of that same terrible behavior.

The counting of negative behavior is simple: Your 5 year-old  Jimmy is throwing a fit because you won’t give him chocolate, you say “1…” Jimmy continues, “2…” He’s still going “3, take 5(alone minutes)”

Promoting Start behavior is slightly more complex, only because there are many ways to see the process through.  You can chart, reward, time them, etc. I like that the author explains the difference between “stop” and “start” behaviors.  This is important because you don’t want to count your child, and negatively reinforce them when trying to get them to brush their teeth on their own.  That will only leave a bad taste in their mouth about brushing teeth (pun intended.)

What I don’t love about 1-2-3 Magic:  The author emphasises a no talk method while counting and even after the child has some minutes alone.  He explains that young children are not logical, reasonable people (true), and that by talking, and explaining details of why certain behavior is “bad” only leads to frustration for both parent and child.  The author thinks it’s best to keep quiet and not explain, simply count. I don’t like this because I think it’s important to *calmly* and *simply* explain why certain behaviors are wrong.  I have often had success by calming talking something out.

I think instead of simply eliminating communication parents and caregivers should be encouraged to both use a tactic like counting, coupled with a follow up explantation, i.e., “You had to take 5 because you hit me, and that hurts.”  The explanation should not be a monologue, it should be one simple, calm sentence.  I think children deserve to know what happened, and why they had a “timeout,” so communication is necessary. We don’t need talk to them like adults, but like people we respect, and whom we want to respect and communicate with us later in life.

One other thing that bothered me…. the author is heteronormative in his language and scenarios.  I’m probably, being overly PC, but it definitely stuck out to me, so if your someone who notices this type of behavior be warned, but also know that it doesn’t seem to affect the potential effectiveness of the 1-2-3 model. It’s just slightly disappointing.

Even Firefighters Go To The Potty: D-

UnknownEven Firefighters Go to the Potty by Wendy and Naomi Wax receives a D- because it’s horribly stereotypical and heteronormative.  As stated in the title, this is a potty training book, but what it really seems to be “training” or instilling in it’s readers is digressive social stereotyping.  Almost all of the professions feature white-males, the only other race imaged in the book is African-American, this is a typical race quota. The race quota can be seen in many late Nineties and early 2000’s shows, where a once all white cast, simply throws in a black person to “diversify.” But really all this does is amplify, and naturalize racism, by assuming that white and black extremes take care of the diversity quota. What about all other races?

The two-African-American MEN imaged in this book fulfill a race stereotype, one is a baseball player, the other is a server.  There might be one woman in the book, but her gender-ambiguity is hard to visually read, especially in comparison with the hyper-masculine male characters.

The ONE (possible)  woman featured has long hair, virtually the only “tell” this might be a woman, all other features are masculine, or hard  to read. In another, more progressive book, I wouldn’t assume this doctor were female, the long hair wouldn’t automatically make me think “female” but in a book that has proved to be socially digressive I’m leaning toward female. Long hair on a guy is just too much.

The possible woman is a doctor… great right? Maybe not, because either the doctor is a male, or the female doctor is, stereotypically unattractive, i.e., looks Vs. smarts. Women, stereotypically are not thought of as being both attractive and smart, you’re either one or the other.

Not every book needs to be ambiguous about gender relations, nor, does every book need to display different races, i.e. books centered around one-race families. The images, alone are to blame for the D- rating this book receives.  They’re so visually digressive that it overshadows any good message which could have been accomplished by simply doing the socially responsible thing of diversifying biological-sex and race through image. In a book which references many different professions including cop, firefighter, baseball player, server, doctor, there should be diversity in biological-sex and race.

Video

Endorse Bad Parenting?

What’s wrong with this commercial? Just about everything. This commercial, in a nutshell, sums up a parenting style I fundamentally disagree with. The commercial implies that our children should not be taken seriously, that we should literally tune them out when they ask questions we are ill-prepared for, or simply too embarrassed to answer. This commercial says: use media distractions as a way to get out of parenting.

Why as a society would we think bad parenting is funny?

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Stamps & Safety?

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Motherlode

A great article by KJ Dell’Antonia on the Motherlode about cartoon stamps, hyper-safety and over-parenting.

“These are the well-meaning attempts of empathetic, concerned, careful, thoughtful adults to protect our children, but it’s striking that, as a culture, we’re working so hard to protect them from exactly the experiences that helped us become adults ourselves. We learn from making mistakes, even big mistakes. We learn from the things that go wrong, that aren’t fun, that leave us thinking hard about how something could be better. A few of us even learned how valuable those helmets and shinguards are by having an accident while not wearing them. If you never learn where your limits are, it’s hard to learn to respect them — or to transcend them.”

Dyslexia and Education

UnknownI just saw this piece on Motherlode by Lisa Ogburn  about raising a dyslexic child in standardized world.  I’m dyslexic, and I just recently talked with my mother about the difficulties she had teaching me how to read, the hours she spent going over sounds and words, phonetically with me, only to have me retain little to nothing the following day.   I don’t remember these hours spent learning how to read, but one day I got it.  I became an avid reader, but continued to have issues with numbers, and to this day I have a hard to sounding words out.

I was home-schooled until high school, when I then attended a huge public school, this may have been a mistake, my mom and I debate over this.  I think going to public school had its benefits, such as, understanding who I was, and the ways that I was smart despite being dyslexic.  That I had a personality, a righteousness I was able to exercise and that set me apart from the other kids who seemed to have none. But there was the obvious downside, which is our education system and the standardized tests which riddle every corner of it.

I remember taking an entrance examine before my freshmen year, everyone had to take it, so as to evaluate what class level they should be in.  According to my scores the school wanted to place me in remedial everything, luckily my mom had the final say and placed me honors classes where I could verbally and inwardly strengthen my learning.

My teachers would say that I was smart, that I performed well on homework and in class discussions but my tests were often confusing for them.  I did well on my homework because I had time at home. For most people testing is difficult, it’s a skill that is learned, for people with dyslexia it can be close to impossible.

The education system often made me feel stupid, it’s a feeling I still struggle with now. Luckily I am an adult now, and I can logically understand that the problem isn’t me, or people like me, it’s a fundamental problem within our society and educational system.

Books Books Books

stack_of_books2293x500In general, I’m not huge on reading parenting books. I think people rely too much on them and forget that they are human beings who have natural instincts for these things.  I’ve looked over and read, what I consider to be a fair amount of parenting books, (yes, sometimes reading parenting books for my employers is part of my job) there are a few problems I find with most parenting books.

1.  Most parenting books consist of long monologues with little information.

2.  It’s nearly impossible to know what books to get, because there are hundreds out there, all claiming to be experts on the same topic.

3.  Most parenting books consist of long monologues with little information… OH, I already said this?

I might take for granted that I know what I know about child rearing, safety, developmental stages, etc. because of all my years of experience, (I should also thank my mom for her amazing educated advice) but I do realize some people go into parenting with no experience, thus making it a little scarier and overwhelming.

It would be hard at this point to trace back all the moments when I learned all of the valuable information I take for granted now, such as, that babies have “sleep signals” to cue us for bedtime, that biting babies nails when they’re infants is easier than using finger nail clippers, that letting your baby run around without a diaper for a few hours is the best way to get rid of a rash…. you get the point.  At some point I did learn all of this, there was a moment when it all clicked, and I learned this through experience, not from a book.

All of this being said: For people with little to no experience, and without a ‘model’ parent for which to ask questions I realize it can be comforting, and informative to read a book….or twelve.  My personal opinion is that we (Americans) over-read on parenting.  So far a few books I would recommend are listed below, keep in mind these books for the most part fit into my “parenting” style, or they are simply information based.

Baby and Toddler 411 by Denise Fields and Ari Brown: These are 2 different books.  The books have factual information about your child’s developmental stages they also have products like car seats, discussed and rated. I rarely look at this for developmental stages but I have referenced it when choosing important products, like car seats and high chairs for my bosses. I like the books because they are simple and to the point, you don’t have to read 12 pages to find the one sentence of actually useful information you wanted about diaper rashes.

Bringing up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman:  A great book about an American woman in Paris, and her discovery, and conversion into French parenting.  When I read this book I was shocked by how similar my “parenting style” is to the French parenting style.  The book helped me to feel more confident in my choices and gave me some more useful tips on sleep and eating.  A great book for someone who is unsure of what parenting style they want to go with!

Baby-led weening by Gill Rapley and Tracey MurkettFor those who are interested in, or want to know more about baby-led weening.

Scooters.

imagesWhy I don’t like scooters for children under 5. 

Scooters are fun.  For children under 5 the scooter should be a toy, an activity limited to the confines of an enclosed park, or pedestrian walkway (that isn’t filled with pedestrians.) The scooter should not be used as a means of transportation.  And while most parents wouldn’t admit they use the scooter to get their kid to scoot, just a little faster, that seems to be the only ‘logical’ motivation behind letting your 2 or 3-year-old speed 40 feet ahead of you, down heavily trafficked streets.

I get it 2 and 3-year-olds move slowly, and sometimes it can be frustrating, but the answer should not be, throwing them on a scooter, which, they do not have control over.

Sure, I have a small scar on the back of my heel from a scooter accident, but that’s not what drives my anti-scooter speech.  The real reasons I don’t think scooters are appropriate for children under 5 are listed below:

2-year-olds don’t stop when they see other babies walking directly ahead of them.  They don’t have the dexterity to swerve, gracefully out of the way, or negotiate their special surroundings, and most importantly they don’t fully understand the dangers of moving, motorized vehicles.  2-year-olds are just learning what the “stop” hand, and “go” walking person mean.  But, both symbols are still abstractions to them.  They simply know to stop or go when they see either symbol, and they often get the two mixed up, or forget to look without our cueing them. 2-year-olds don’t necessarily understand, that the “stop” and “go” symbols could be the thing protecting them from being hit by a car. And 2-year-olds do not understand what being hit by a car entails.

Solutions: If you want your 2-year-old to go faster put them on the scooter while you push them, but don’t let them manage it alone, while on heavily trafficked streets.

Cupcakes and Hoo-Hoos

My Body

The first few years of your child’s life, and of your being a parent, come with many exciting, scary, and even dreaded milestones, like the naming and talking about of your child’s genitalia.  As with a lot of my posts, this, too, is founded on what has become my “parenting style,” that of clear, honest, educated communication.

We are the first teachers our children will have.  While a lot of what they learn is through pure observation i.e., watching and hearing us, talk, walk, socialize, etc. We also coach them in these skills, we have mini “lessons” where we ask them questions or ask them to practice a new skill.  We even make up games and songs, because we are so eager for them to learn that, wheels go round and round and that, doors go open and shut.

One of the most popular teaching songs even delves, lightly so, into anatomy, Head, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes, head, shoulder, knees and toes, knees and toes, eyes and ears and a mouth and nose…. We happily sing this song while touching the corresponding body part, and relish when our little ones can do it all on their own. However, some parents and caregivers do not share the same enthusiasm for teaching their sons and daughters the names of their genitalia.

A lot of parents and caregivers spend little time explaining anything about their child’s genitalia to their child.  I rarely hear adults refer to their baby’s penis or vulva/vagina using the proper anatomical name.  Most commonly babies’ genitals are referred to as just, “down there,” some mystery location, referring to something below the waist: knees, shins, feet?! Some adults adopt some fictional, cutsie name for their baby’s genitalia, such as, cupcake, hoo-hoo, pee-pee, wee-wee, va-jay-jay.

I don’t think vagina is an ugly word.

Oprah Winfrey, unfortunately, helped coin the cutsie term va-jay-jay to replace the “obvious” ugliness “vagina” exudes. It became okay to make up “pretty” names for your vagina, all under the guise of a misrepresented feminism, i.e., a pseudo take back/reclaim your vagina movement, but really only further separates us from our sex and sexuality.  When grown men and women refuse to call their genitalia by the correct anatomical name, they do so out of embarrassment, a feeling I think most can agree should not surround our genitalia, a very important part of our bodies.

Why it can be hard to say P and V:

  • It’s hard for some parents and caregivers to say penis and vulva/vagina because we associate these parts with sex.
  • Our parent’s never said penis or vulva/vagina, so now we can’t say it either.
  • Baby talk: some parents/caregivers have a hard time talking in anything other than baby talk, so knees could become kneesy-weesies without a moments thought.
  • Adults are uncomfortable talking about their own genitalia by the correct names.
  • *Some people think penis and vagina are “adult words.”

*While searching for some examples of cutsie names for genitalia I came upon a web conversation on the site, JustMommies entitled, “G-rated names for penis, vagina, etc.”  Similarly, I searched “body parts Kids” and while there were many diagrams, none of those diagrams included genitalia.  Apparently kids don’t have penises or vaginas.  It seems safe to say we have an overarching problem with how we talk, or rather don’t talk about our genitalia.  The words Penis and vagina do not need a G-rated synonym because they are not bad words. Penis and vagina are anatomical names, just like elbow or collarbone.

Parents’ and caregivers’ inability to say penis and vulva/vagina when referring to their child’s genitalia bothers me beyond the obvious, which is simply that of embarrassment. I believe that at such a crucial learning stage we should be teaching them the correct names for things, in general. Just like we don’t want our kids to use slang or mispronounce words, we shouldn’t want them to use slang for their genitalia. Our jobs as parents and caregivers should be to present them with correct information. If they decide to change the name of their penis or vulva/vagina to something else, that’s fine. But I believe they should be presented with correct anatomical names for these reasons:

Why we shouldn’t make up cutsie names for P and V:

  • Miscommunication:  If you call your daughter’s vulva/vagina a cupcake, she will face confusion when someone offers her a cupcake.
  • Miscommunication: Others will not know what she means when she says “My La-La hurts.”

Why we should say penis and vulva/vagina:

  • Clear communication: Every adult knows what a penis is.
  • Clear communication: Every adult knows what a vulva/vagina is, right?! Vulva refers to the outer genitalia, while, vagina refers to the inner orifice.

I believe, strongly that having an open, and clear line of communication in regards to our bodies is key in creating a well-informed, inquisitive child. A child, who will know how to talk about their bodies without embarrassment, is a child who will also know their body’s limitations. They will be able, later in life, when they hit sexual maturity to make informed decisions, based on those early years of clear and open conversations about their body.

Rest Easy:

You can properly identify your child’s genitalia without sexualizing them. The reality you can take comfort in, is that your babies genitals are not something sexual, and wont be until puberty or after. Even if your baby is touching his/her penis or vagina, they are not doing so out of sexual curiosity.  They are touching themselves out of pure and innocent, A-sexual curiosity, so name those parts the way you do when your baby pulls on their ear and you say “that’s your ear!”

Teaching Moment:

Because we want out kids to learn body parts, we should also acknowledge and help them identify their genitalia and anus.  These areas will gain a lot of interest from your child, especially during potty training, so get comfortable identifying and saying the names.

  • When changing the diaper, simply get comfortable saying something like, “Oh, don’t touch your penis right now, there’s poop on it.”