Monday, April 29, 2013

The Wiener Debate

Increasingly among mama circles, I'm hearing the discussion whether to use the true anatomical names for our more private parts, or to take the traditional route with cutsie names.  Here's one.  There are strong arguments around  leaving behind the "dirty" connotations, to avoid sexual abuse, and to encourage healthy identity with sexuality paving the way for the future. Fantastic, count me in!

I am all for my children knowing their anatomical parts and names for areas less spoken in our culture.  However...I strongly believe that dirty connotations comes from the tone and intent of the person using them more than word choice.  And, language, both for private and non-private subjects, needs to take into account maturity of the child.  "Did you know there are many names and nicknames for your body parts!" is a great segue to learning additional names when the child is interested.

What if giving your young child the anatomical names for their body parts and requiring them to use the names appropriately lead them to believe that their anatomy is complex, boring, and a bit scary.

Think of other examples where we use nicknames to simplify language for the early years.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Open Source

Rodney Mullen is equally legendary to Tony Hawk in skake boarding progression since its beginning.  He did a TED talk.  He’s a pretty goofy guy and has a good talk.  There’s two points I pulled out that I found most intriguing.  He described it from a skate board perspective, and the progression of that skill, but he applies it to any skill or technology that one may know so well.

13:50 “Open Source basic ethos of it - take what other people do, make it better, give it back so that we all rise further.”

15:40 “What continues to drive you, it's not just the mind, to bring it to another level?  Not fame, fame is fleeting.  It’s peer respect that drives us.”

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Internet: Purposeful!

Media is a tool.  It seems prudent to teach its use from the perspective of a tool.  Think of tools such as a telephone, refrigerator, or knife.  Tools are essential, powerful, purposeful, has boundaries of use, and require respect.

Refrigerators empower a child to get themselves a snack from the bottom shelf.  Wohoo! One step closer to productive independent citizens of the world!  If they leave the door open, the food spoils.  If they fill it full of dirt from the garden, that's gross.  If they get stuck in a fridge, they suffocate.  It's just a fridge, everyone needs one, and we teach our kids how to use it.  Have you noticed yourself teaching fridge lessons?

In teaching the internet, let's start by calling out great opportunities for its use with our kids.  Here are some ideas on how to do that:

  • "Hey kids, I'm in the kitchen and I'm trying to cook a tasty meal.  I'm not exactly sure how I want to season the salmon tonight, so let me grab the tablet (laptop, phone, ect) and search for some ideas."  Share with them the site you go to, the words you search, the results you get, and why you pick one site over another.  There's no age too young to talk about this, get yourself in the habit. Eventually, you can involve them in doing the searching without wiping your hands.
  • "I need to pay the electric bill.  I'm going to log onto our bank site, and create an automatic transfer."  The point isn't to teach them how to pay the bill, rather, that it's a tool that can help.  Use this example to talk about where electric comes from.  If they're old enough, play a naming game of what does and does not use electric around the house. 
  • "Grandma would love to see the holiday pictures while she's visiting, let's show her".  If they don't already know how, teach them to navigate to pictures and drive the "slide show".  Teach them how to scroll slow/fast enough for others to enjoy what they are being shown, and to share stories about the pictures if they can.  Caution: be prepared to segue away from the electronic, pictures are bedazzling.
  • If you are texting, checking email, or many of the other activities that make up the "at least once per hour" statistic, vocalize to your children what you are doing if you are in their presence.  "I'm replying to our friend Mary, she's interested in coming over for dinner on Thursday." or "I'm checking my email, because I'm waiting for a very important message about my schedule tomorrow."   This helps me be more mindful when I choose to check my devices, and occasionally, I realize my reason is not that important.  Use this opportunity to describe the purpose of text messages or emails.
  • Another great one, particularly if you have Facetime, Skype, or other video phone system, let your child be involved in talking to friends or family over the phone.  What aunt doesn't enjoy a dizzying view up your child's nose!?  Teach them how to point, and show them where they can see their own image.  This part of the conversation involves a dual effort to teach good phone/video habits. Older kids can learn how to initiate phone calls, turn on and off the video feature, ect.
  • Think up some other ideas and post them as comments.  The internet is vast, my examples are few!
Once the job is done, teach putting the electronic away.

Time is the Greatest Currency

One of the most important lessons for new internet users and parents alike: time is your most precious resource. So much content, services, social tools, ect are available free of the cost of money.  The cost of your time and attention is being spent.

Time spent using electronic devices
Time spent using certain content

Learning to identify value-adding vs value-reducing time spent.

Let's start with time spent using electronic devices.  Left by themselves, most kids will use the TV, internet, or smart device indefinitely.  They might even forego a potty break than to break their attention from the device.  Where I use the word "kid", also substitute "parent", fortunately our bladders are bigger.  This lesson is relevant to any user of media.  There's more than one right way to teach this, but I find that willful surrender of the media upon rational request is essential.

  1. Establish a time-box or use based on levels played, shows watched, content consumed, defining a duration offered to use the media.  The hard part is holding yourself to them uphold their end of the bargain.  
  2. Setting the expectation that willful surrender is equally important as the duration of use.  Crying, clutching, throwing the device, or the like, results in a temporary loss of future use, for example.
  3. Pick some days of the week that are media free.  Begging and whining after a gentle reminder during media free territory also result in a temporary loss of use.
  4. I also strive to be mindful of my own media usage.  Do I convey an unintended importance toward media with my behavior? 
I am a big fan of gentle reminders.

Next up, lessons around time spent using certain content....

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Internet for Beginners

Many children have access to smart phones and iPads at a very young age. They know how to flip through a picture album, shrink, zoom, and probably delete.

Common Sense Media is a fantastic resource for age appropriate apps.  There are apps for learning colors, numbers, patterns, puzzles, math, spelling, that are free, cheap, and well-rated.  I highly recommend finding some that are specific to your child's development stage.  Spend some time with them, letting them show you how the game is played, and give a little help if they need it.

Cautions: Some apps have ads on the screen that may be accidentally tapped, sending your toddler off onto some content that may not be ideal or offer purchase power.

It's not essential that you have a smart device your toddler can use, but it's also not essential that your toddler knows their ABC's until kindergarten.  I strongly believe that mobile devices are essential tools, and there are smart ways to introduce them.

Age Appropriate Internet

Facebook requires users to be 13 to create an account; there are several community chats that debate whether that is too young or not young enough.  I'm not interested in this debate.  But, I am aware that my children know how to use an iOS system better than I do, that commerce and job applications are predominantly online, and that education surrounding the internet is extremely relevant!

I will use this blog to piece-meal together a curriculum for children, starting as young as the Otter box sheaths your smart phone.  My credentials for this content is that I work in software, my job doesn't exist without an internet connection, and that I am as resourceful as anyone else to raise the questions.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Relational Aggression

I was reading an excerpt from a book called NurtureShock (by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman).  It has a great description of something about kids entertainment that I've been trying to put my finger on for 6 years.  

Relational Aggression! 

Fine, so Nemo isn't inherently a violent movie, there's no Batman fights. However, it has constant flow of examples of relational aggression, that is, social exclusiveness, and subtle meanness (or snarky) in character interaction, behavior that treats another character as unworthy, or incapable, for example.  And while Disney movies, Clifford, Sponge Bob and many other popular kid shows may (infrequently) have a redeeming lesson to the relational example, young kids often miss it.  

This book also cites a study that finds kids are 2.5 times more likely to behave relationally aggressive than they are physically or verbally aggressive who watch shows (they pick up these other aggressive behaviors from shows too, just less).  96% of all children's programming includes this behavior, including educational shows.  I wonder how much of adult programming has it, and how often we mimic the behavior as adults?

So there's a name for this underlying disdain I have for child entertainment. Wohoo!  ...Not that I think it's the cause of poor behavior on its own, it's just not contributing to desirable behavior.

I am what I think

I find the more that I am absorbed in teachings and sound materials, the more creative and flexible I can be in the ebb and flow of life.  The more content I encounter that does not uphold these values, such as most television shows, some conversations, ect, I struggle more.  That is also in part motivating me to study skillfully.  


I wish to provide my children a way to recognize their own inner leading, to give them tools for life that enable them to be happy and define their own success, and importantly, do so in a way that reinforces the same tools, practices, thought processes, and content that supports my connected-ness with my inner leading, and defining my own success. Taking that journey together through life.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Mission Statement

Our children are born competent whole people.  Parents are competent whole people.  

This Circle promotes immersion into the subjects surrounding the parent (and partners) we wish to be, giving us support to stay in the mindset we wish to have, and the creativity to match our behavior to our beliefs.  As we are faced with challenges and new frontiers, we have a proactive tool belt with which to utilize.

The tool belt to strive for that 1% better, all the time.