Secret’s Out: A Review of “What They Won’t Tell You About Parenting”



Parents are busier than ever.  Most tell me they are too busy to read. Tom Limbert’s latest book, What They Won’t Tell You About Parenting, is the perfect antidote.  This quick read is packed with thoughtful advice that speaks to the heart of the matter.

Using references and anecdotes from leaders in a variety of fields, Limbert establishes why it’s important parents recognize they are the ones who set the tone in their homes.  He writes, “You can’t let a toddler or a teenager having developmentally appropriate tantrums or mood swings affect your mojo.”  Limbert’s straight-talk is hard to deny.  I couldn’t agree more when Limbert argues, “What they won’t tell you is that it all starts and ends with you.”  Yes, it’s a huge responsibility, but one every parent needs to embrace.

As far as Limbert is concerned, “The single most important quality of good leaders is their energy.”  Now, I know what you’re going to say, you don’t have any.  I get that, I do.  I’m no stranger to exhaustion, but as Limbert points out, energy feeds confidence and enthusiasm, both of which are necessary if parents are going to inspire action.  Using thoughtful comparisons to inspirational coaches, Limbert demonstrates the importance of attitude, whether it’s trying to figure out how to get your kid to clean up after himself or finish his homework.

Granted, Limbert acknowledges that sometimes it’s hard to be enthused about parenting for three hours, much less three days, but he argues most jobs work that way.  Therefore, the sooner you understand that your “emotions are contagious” the better.  This is why a major theme in What They Won’t Tell You About Parenting is empathy.  He makes no excuses for disrespectful behavior, but Limbert does advocate for parents to accept that their children have their own stressors in their life.  He writes, “You want your child to listen? Be likeable. You want to be likable? Listen more.”

So Limbert walks parents through how to communicate effectively, how to respect others, and how to manage emotions.  I enjoyed how Limbert compared nipping disrespectful behavior at every turn to pruning beautiful flowers.  “We have to remember; the egotistical monster is inside us all.  It’s not your child’s fault.  But here is something from the ‘What They Won’t Tell You about Parenting’ file: it is your fault if you allow your child to be a disrespectful brat.”

That’s the kind of tell-it-like-it-is take on parenting you’re going to get in Tom Limbert’s latest book.  I found it refreshing.  A friend of mine often says she wishes she took some education classes in college because she feels like it would have helped her tremendously as a parent.  While 23 years of teaching experience hasn’t given me all the answers by any means, my kids have benefitted from my classroom experiences with boundaries, discipline, and motivation.  So I like how Limbert encourages parents to constantly think about how best to teach their child.

Limbert believes, “If you are indeed going to teach your child to be healthy and safe and to respect others, you will make your child cry.”  While most teachers and therapists know this, it’s hard for many parents to accept.  And when kids cry, it’s even more important to be a leader.  If your child senses you are spinning out of control, so will she.  It’s not going to be easy, but luckily, Limbert’s book offers parents a variety of practical strategies to promote your child’s cooperation.

If you think parenting has gotten too complicated, then I recommend you read What They Won’t Tell You About Parenting by Tom Limbert for secrets to simplify your life.



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Setting a Course: Bruni’s “Where You Go is Not Who You’ll Be”



As an English professor for the Virginia Community College System, I deal with the issues confronting higher education on a daily basis. However, having a daughter in eighth grade has given me new insights into the insanity that is now college admissions process.  Therefore, I was eager to read Frank Bruni’s book, Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be.

Bruni explains, “College is a singular opportunity to rummage through and luxuriate in ideas, to give your brain a vigorous workout and your soul a thorough investigation, to realize how very large the world is and to contemplate your desired place in it. And this is being lost in the admissions mania.”  Unfortunately, while I share Bruni’s view of the college experience, many don’t, and I worry that what’s being lost by this new mindsight costs far more than the exorbitant price tag.

How did we end up in this predicament? According to Bruni, “What’s happened at these schools is straightforward: The number of slots for incoming students either hasn’t expanded significantly or hadn’t risen nearly as much as the number of young people applying for them, and that surge in applications reflects a confluence of developments.”

A record number of applications are being submitted by prospective students, thanks to convenient technology like the Common Application. Bruni notes, “A quarter century ago, only one in ten college-bound students applied to seven or more colleges. Now, more than one in four do.”  This shift impacts a college’s perceived worth because selectivity is a factor when colleges are ranked.  Bruni explains a lot – from how foreign applicants, whose affluent families can pay the bill, to “primary legacies” influence admissions. If you’re interested in learning more about the negatives of the U.S. News & World Report Rankings, this is a good resource.

According to Bruni, “Roughly 75 percent of the students at the two hundred most highly rated colleges come from families in the top quartile of income in the United States.”  He explains this is in part because of families’ investment in the process.  Bruni references Mark Sklarow, the chief executive of the Independent Education Consultants Association, who said over a decade ago approximately 1,500 professionals worked as full-time college consultants and by 2014 there were about 7,500.

Still, Bruni gives many effective examples to illustrate his point that it’s what you put in to college, not where you go, but I particularly liked this quote from makeup mogul, Bobbi Brown, who switched colleges three times, “If you can identify and stick with something you’re genuinely passionate about, you’re ahead of the game,” regardless of where you go to school.

Bruni insists, “If you’re a parent who’s pushing your kids relentlessly and narrowly toward one of the most prized schools in the country and you think you’re doing them a favor, you’re not.” As far as he’s concerned, “You’re going to get into a college that’s more than able to provide a superb education to anyone who insists on one and who takes firm charge of his or her time there.  But your chances of getting into the school of your dreams are slim…To lose sight of that is to buy into, and essentially endorse, a game that’s spun wildly out of control.”

When I speak to my college classes about this issue, I compare it to Weight Watchers.  Just because someone pays to join and attends meetings, that doesn’t mean he or she is going to lose weight.  Results are determined by the person’s commitment every day.

So check out Frank Bruni’s antidote to the college admissions mania. He paints a convincing picture that hard work, and what my family refers to as “chutzpah,” is what’s required to succeed, not the name of the degree.

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Guiding Girls into Grownups: A Review of Untangled



Need help guiding your girl into a grownup?  Untangled by Lisa Damour argues there are predictable patterns when it comes to our daughters’ development.  She believes, “Life with your teenage daughter doesn’t have to feel like a tangled mess.”  Based on her experiences as the director of the internationally renowned Laurel School’s Center for Research on Girls, Damour outlines the seven transitions girls experience as they move into adulthood in her new book.

  1. Parting with Childhood: Damour explains, “Girls’ efforts to part with childhood are both conscious and not.”  That’s why your daughter may “bristle” when you ask a question at the wrong time or be mean unexpectedly.  Damour recommends parents “accept that girls part with childhood gradually and embrace opportunities to do things for her, with her, and to stand by to admire her when she’s doing more and more for herself.” Furthermore, Damour warns parents not to view development as a race.  She writes, “When they want to grow up too fast, it’s our job as parents to slow them down by pulling back.”
  2. Joining a New Tribe: According to Damour, the significance of a girl’s tribe cannot be stressed enough. “Teenagers aren’t just looking to make friends, they are replacing the family they’ve withdrawn from with a tribe that they can feel proud to call their own.”  My 13 year old daughter’s tribe is her gymnastics team. She counts down until her next opportunity to be with them. While there are often times when I want to weigh in on the drama at the gym, I resist the temptation because, as Damour explains, “The more you bite your tongue, the more she may be willing to share and the more impact your advice will have when you give it.”
  3. Harnessing Emotions: “Parents who are surprised by their daughter’s dramatic ups and downs can lose sight of the fact that she is pretty shocked, too,” Damour explains. I particularly like this section of Untangled for it distinguishes the difference between complaining, which implies someone else should fix things, and venting, which serves as a means for unloading distress. Damour encourages parents to compare it to an adult grumbling about work during dinner. If someone who cares about you hears you out, you often feel better.  That’s all your teenager needs.
  4. Contending with Adult Authority: Damour compares this step to seeing behind the curtain in the Wizard of Oz. She reminds parents that the goal isn’t to raise a sheep, who follows any adult. The ability to evaluate authority figures is essential for future success. Damour maintains, “Teens watch adults closely and soon notice that many of our edicts are, in fact, hypocritical, nonsensical, or simply self-serving.” Therefore, your teenager is likely to test your arbitrary rules.  That’s not to say teens don’t need boundaries because they do, but Damour encourages parents to assess and acknowledge their limitations. It will make for a better relationship with your teen.
  5. Planning for the Future: Throughout Untangled, Damour offers good advice for negotiating technology, but I really liked her explanation of how our teenagers are about to create a digital record of their adolescence. No one is expecting perfection. “Put the emphasis where it belongs,” Damour recommends, “On your role as her ally in the effort to ensure that none of her regrettable impulses follow her indefinitely.” And seek help from older teens with experience in such matters for greater impact.
  6. Entering the Romantic World: In this chapter, Damour tries to help parents make the most of be limited opportunities to guide their daughters through the complex world of romance since most girls can be intensely private about such matters. Damour’s advice, “[Remember] you have three jobs: to alert your daughter to the fact that she has an inner compass, to support her in asking for what she wants, and to make sure she knows how to express what she doesn’t want.” She explains that part of the problem is that many parents don’t know how they feel about teenage relationships so, once again, getting a handle on your own emotions will help you handle your daughter’s.
  7. Caring for Herself: I love how Damour explains, “Girls can listen and roll eyes at the same time.” Still, I’m sure it comes as no surprise that girls don’t like to be lectured. (Who does?)  As a result, the best bet is modeling good behaviors, for Damour explains the research shows that girls who had high body satisfaction had parents who “exercised, encouraged their daughters to be fit, and emphasized healthy eating.”


Ultimately, Damour argues, “It’s often time to worry when a teenager’s behavior isn’t all over the map – when she hangs out at one extreme or the other.”  And parents who expect teenagers to be difficult and immune to adult influence are the ones most likely to have misbehaving teens.  Damour believes, “Once a girl believes that her parents understand where she’s coming from, she’s usually willing to consider their advice or find her own solutions.”

Untangled offers a host of wonderful suggestions for dealing with social media, sleep patterns, drinking, and drugs.  Arguing about school work?  There’s advice on that and embracing the growth mindset too. If you want insights into your growing girl so you can raise a healthy and happy young woman, then check out Untangled by Lisa Damour.  It’s filled with great information on how to connect with your daughter.



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Help for Having It All: A Review of Getting to 50/50


Trying to have a great career, marriage, and family?  I selected Getting to 50/50: How Working Parents Can Have It All by Sharon Meers and Joanna Strober to see if I could get some insights into all three.  These authors believe everyone benefits when both women and men have full careers.  Using a good balance of research and anecdotes to support their argument, the authors devote at least half the book to explaining what children gain when both parents work.  According to Meers and Strober, “Independence, self-confidence, cognitive and social skills, and strong connections with two parents – not just one.”

Apparently, in 2006, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development concluded, after 15 years of research, that “child care is not the thing to worry about.” Meers and Strober explain, “How you parent is.”  Having previously been a part-time stay-at-home mom, I knew exactly what they meant.  Just because someone is “home” with their children that doesn’t mean they are actually meaningfully interacting with them.  In fact, Meers and Strober explain research indicates that “working moms spend only 20 percent less time than their at-home peers in ‘social interaction’ with kids – playing games or reading books versus making dinner while the kids run around outside.”

It seems “while the majority of kids felt they got enough time with Mom (whether or not she worked),” Meers and Strober report research from the Families and Work Institute which showed, “40 percent said they had too little time with their other parent: Dad.”  Therefore, if you want your children to do well, it’s in their best interest to spend time with both parents.  I’ve been teaching in the evenings and working online for years, so while I didn’t need any more convincing about how valuable time with dad is, the authors continued building their argument.

Meers and Strober looked specifically at how kids performed after kindergarten and found “having an at-home parent was not a factor, but Mom’s and Dad’s approach to parenting – what they believe and how they behave – was quite significant.  It turns out that children with the greatest academic and social competence have mothers (and dads) who let go.  That does not mean a parent should be detached, but letting a child do for himself builds self-confidence and problem-solving skills.  The only other factor with equal strength: having a good marriage.”

I’m not sure I really thought about it before, but according to Meers and Strober, the research indicates that sharing roles lowers divorce risk a lot.  This probably won’t surprise you, but Meers and Strober explain, “When women start arguments at home, it’s about division of household tasks 80 percent of the time.”   As a result, two-thirds of all divorces after age forty are initiated by women, the authors report.  This makes finding a way to 50/50 even more important.


How can you get to fairness without a fight?  Meers and Strober recommend the following:

  1. Create a master plan.
  2. Give notice.
  3. Change expectations.
  4. Do what comes easy (which may mean skip it).
  5. Telepathy is overrated: Ask for what you need (and be specific)
  6. Be direct – not directive
  7. Barter, accrue credits, and cash them in (meaning cover for each other when you can)
  8. If you can’t agree, call an expert
  9. Sneak off with a special someone – your spouse


Expanding on strategies such as these, Getting to 50/50 offers advice on tapping into your best resource – your spouse.  This morning, my husband spearheaded the taking down of the Christmas decorations, and in less than two hours, everything was packed up. It might be the best gift my family gave me this holiday season.

Meers and Strober explain, “The happiest working couples are those who build a community around themselves – one made up of friends, family, colleagues, and other working parents who support what they do.”  So start the New Year off by resolving to make choices that will move yourself into a better, more equal world.  Then, check out Getting to 50/50: How Working Parents Can Have It All by Sharon Meers and Joanna Strober.



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Good Intentions Gone Awry: Review of How to Raise an Adult


“Why did parenting change from preparing our kids for life to protecting them from life?” Julie Lythcott-Haims asks in her book, How to Raise an Adult: Break Free from the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success. While this title references many of the titles reviewed by Parenting by the Book – Free-Range Kids, The Price of Privilege, and The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother – it does a great job of bringing all of the resources together for a persuasive argument against helicopter parenting.

According to Lythcott-Haims, “A heightened level of parental involvement in the lives of kids obviously stems from love – unquestionably a good thing.  But by the time I stepped down as dean at Stanford in 2012 I had interacted not only with a tremendous number of parents but with students who seemed increasingly reliant upon their parents in ways that felt, simply, off.”

She explains that “if anything, today’s childhood feels dystopian, like some futuristic story where parents’ overprotection, overdirection, and hand-holding have been taken to their (il)logical conclusion.”  Given everything I read and experience (both as a parent and professor), I must say I’m inclined to agree.  Perhaps, this is why I wasn’t surprised when Lythcott-Haims shared how “in a 2013 survey of college counseling center directors, 95 percent said the number of students with significant psychological problems is a growing concern on their campus.”

For all parents scheduling to ensure that kids have every opportunity, Lythcott-Haims maintains, they are actually limiting their children’s future opportunities for success.  Students lack the commitment, persistence, and problem solving capabilities they need to thrive due to a lack of free-play in which they are the masters of their own destiny.  The fact that Lythcott-Haims reports the findings of a 2014 study from the researchers at the University of Colorado-Boulder, which was “the first to correlate a highly structured childhood with less executive function capabilities,” only serves to illustrate this point.

That is what this book does.  It tackles everything from what we’re doing now to why we must stop overparenting to how to parent differently based on effective research and moving anecdotes.  Essentially, Lythcott-Haims argues the heart of the problem is “the student’s inability to differentiate the self with the parent.”  Without the space to learn how to survive on their own, students lack confidence in their abilities and are unable to deal with failure.

Lythcott-Haims shares how psychologist Dr. Madeline Levine explains that parents may be overparenting and unwittingly causing psychological harm when they do the following:

  1. do for their kids what they can already do for themselves;
  2. do for their kids what they can almost do for themselves;
  3. and allow their parenting behavior to be motivated by their own ego.

These actions result in Millenials being called ‘orchids’ and ‘teacups’ due to their fragility.  Lythcott-Haims actually believes the best metaphor was coined by educator Joe Maruszczak, who dubbed them ‘veal’ since as Lythcott-Haims explains, “they’re raised in a controlled environment and led, metaphorically, to slaughter.”

And there’s no denying that overparenting stresses us out, too.  According to Lythcott-Haims, “American parents are depressed at twice the rate of the general population.”  Essentially, our failure to normalize struggle causes greater stress on our children and ourselves.

Lythcott-Haims argues, “Being able to do so much for our kids is very much a function of extra money and leisure time.  When we do everything for our kids, we do so with the best of intentions.  But when it comes to getting ahead in life, skills like getting to places on time, being in charge of your own backpack or briefcase, and knowing how to cook turn out to be as important as schoolwork, piano lessons, and competitive sports.”

I particularly liked how Lythcott-Haims claims if we really want to help our children then we need to take up the task of teaching our kids to think – to figure things out for themselves – at home.  She explains, “Chores matter a great deal.  Yet children today spend significantly less time doing chores than did previous generations.  A 2008 study from the University of Maryland found that children between the ages of six and twelve spend only twenty-four minutes a day doing housework, which is a twenty-five percent decline from 1981.”

Twenty-six minutes!  This statistic really moved me because sometimes I find myself feeling bad for requiring my children clean up after themselves at the end of a long day.  But when I think of it in those terms, it’s really nothing in the grand scheme of things.  In fact, how will I ever instill a work ethic in my kids if that’s all the practice they’re getting on a daily basis?  Granted, they are at school and on homework, but, as Lythcott-Haims explains, “a work ethic is about taking care of more than number one” and this is something few middle-income children have practice in these days.

So if you’re worried that your good intentions may have gone awry, I recommend How to Raise an Adult by Julie Lythcott-Haims.  It offers practical strategies to parents, who struggle with letting their children learn from their mistakes.


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The Tools to Improve: A Review of Different Learners



This November, parents across the country will be sitting down at conferences to discuss children’s strengths and weaknesses; therefore, as a teacher of twenty-three years, I decided to feature Different Learners: Identifying, Preventing, and Treating Your Child’s Learning Problems by Jane M. Healy in the hopes of aiding the process.

While Healy addresses learning disorders, Different Learners offers parents a comprehensive guide to a plethora of learning problems.  Using scientific research, Healy not only suggests solutions but also offers preventative measures to combat the consequences of “today’s fast-paced, stressed-out lifestyles.”

Healy explains that a large data analysis in 2000 by Jean M. Twenge found that normal children in the U.S. reported more anxiety symptoms than child psychiatric patients in 1950.  A big part of the problem, according to Healy, is that almost half of American adults are “extremely stressed” from trying to meet the demands of work and family activities.  Healy explains that in an attempt to give their child every advantage these parents, ironically, may also be giving their child a learning problem.

“Chronic stress creates a smoldering neutral firestorm that can disrupt logical thinking, memory, and attention, not to mention motivation and self-esteem,” argues Healy.  “It can worsen or even cause learning deficits and ADHD symptoms.”  This situation is compounded by two factors.  First, most Americans no longer engage in the most common form of stress relief – exercise.  Second, many children are exposed to violence in media, and since they have not outlet to relieve the stress caused by these arousing visual images, it causes the “brain to respond physiologically to viewed violence as if the viewer were a first person participant.”  As a result, Healy explains brain scans revealed that “heavy exposure to media violence reduced brainpower in areas associated with self-control and attention.”

Healy offers parents a variety of buffers for stress as well as addressing the fact that many parents are “confused by unsubstantiated hype about a need to accelerate learning in order to cope with our rapidly changing technological age.”  While it’s good to have high expectations, Healy urges readers to remember that parents must be sure that they are grounded in reality.

Also, Healy explains how “scientific evidence is mounting that many learning, behavior, and mood disorders stem at least in part from careless or uninformed food choices.”  She urges parents to do their kid’s brain a favor by becoming nutrition-conscious.

In addition, “brain function is the first casualty when a child isn’t getting enough sleep.  Research documents a strong relationship between insufficient sleep and children’s learning, memory, mood, and attention problem,” Healy maintains. “Yet teachers cope every day with tired, mentally listless, or hyper students who arrive at school chronically sleep deprived.”

Are your kids getting sufficient sleep?  According to Different Learners:

Infants up to 6 months need 16-20 hours

6 months-2 year olds need about 15 hours

2-6 year olds need 10-12 hours

7-13 year olds need 9-11 hours

14-18 year olds need 8 ½-9 ½ hours

This is consistent with the research on “The Lost Hour” in Nurture Shock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merriman, which I blogged about previously.

Finally – at the risk of sounding like a broken record for I feel like every month I’m saying, “Read. Read. Read” – Healy reiterates the importance of reading.  She reports estimates indicate that 80 to 90 percent of children in need of special services require assistance with reading so you may wish to check out my posts on The Book Whisperer as well as Summer Reading 101 for more tips.

Different Learners does a good job of showing parents that “most learning problems are variations in normal development.”  Healy encourages parents to keep in mind that “each child is a complex, growing, learning system who develops as part of a much larger system.”  Unfortunately, until our culture becomes aware of what kids’ brains really need, Healy believes there will continue to be trouble in our classrooms.

So if you’re interested in learning more about the tools necessary to improve every child’s ability to learn, then check out Different Learners by Jane M. Healy.

You may also want to check out my posts on Healy’s previous book, Failure to Connect.

The Wonderful World of Writing: A Review of The Write Start


Need a guide to help you nurture young writers in your house?  The Write Start by Jennifer Hallissy, a pediatric occupational therapist, is a wonderful resource, which offers parents not only an explanation of the path to writing readiness, but it also details 52 creative activities to assist help children of all ages with developing the skills they need to succeed.  Separated into Scribblers, Spellers, Storytellers, and Scholars, Hallissy provides parents with the information they need to raise confident writers.

Why there are so many reluctant writers?  This was a question driving Hallissy’s research and what she realized was that reluctant writers of all ages lacked the same basics:  “How to hold a pencil.  How to sit upright in a chair.  How to use one hand as a stabilizer while the other is at work. How to memorize the movements that make up each letter of the alphabet.”

Once Hallissy was able to improve the foundational skills that support writing, she maintains, “My reluctant writers actually wanted to write.”  Therefore, it became her mission to catch kids before they fell behind.  (Hence the 52 activities in this book.)

Hallissy explains, “Thinking and learning are not one and the same.  Thinking is a passive pursuit; learning is active.”  And, according to Hallissy, “Writing is thought in action,” as it offers children the opportunity to make knowledge their own.

TheWriteStart_PBBOct15What Hallissy hopes parents will come to understand is that “writing often precedes reading…because, like spoken language, it’s self-generated.”  Therefore, by placing an emphasis on writing skills from an early age, parents are actually providing a link to academic success in a variety of ways.  Why?  According to Hallissy, “Since efficient writers don’t have to focus their attention on the mechanics of writing, they are able to focus on what really matters – meaning.”

So Hallissy explains to parents what they need to know at each stage of writing – scribbler, speller, storyteller, and scholar – and then offers the proactive parent tips on guiding young writers at every stage.  Hallissy also outlines the tools, materials, and spaces that promote writing.  For example, Hallissy points out how parents are often quick to exhibit art work but neglect to decorate with “print.”  I’ve been teaching English for over twenty years, and while I’ve hung up my children’s writing on our frig, I’ve never thought to permanently display it.  I’m already sizing up where I might hang something on the wall.

The remainder of the book is full of interactive writing tasks, each with a variation for the different stages of writing.  Some unique activities I intend to try are as follow:

  • Table Talk – Did you know there is such a thing as chalk cloth? I didn’t.  But I love Hallissy’s idea to create a tablecloth out of it so kids can perform everything from sketches to spelling to math calculations on it.
  • Show-Me-the-Money Ledger – My nine year-old definitely needs to keep a piggy-bank balance, as she squandered all her savings this past summer on Shopkins and was crushed when she realized what she’d done.
  • Food for Thought – My thirteen year-old is always asking me, ‘What’s for dinner?’ She even created a mini menu board out of a picture frame (thanks to Pinterest) so she’d know, but I never got around filling it out.  Guess who’s going to be in charge of that job from now on?

Hallissy reiterates what more and more research confirms, “Neglecting old-school writing education in favor of its high-tech counterpart is a serious mistake with far-reaching consequences.”  So if you’re interested in engaging your child in the wonderful world of writing, then check out The Write Start by Jennifer Hallissy for just the right combination of fun and functional skills development.




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Go Wild: A Review of the National Parks: A Kid’s Guide


Got a fourth grader? Here’s a great title to read in conjunction with the ‘Every Kid in a Park’ initiative, which gives families with fourth graders free access to national parks, national forests, national wildlife refuges, and national historic sites throughout the 2015-2016 school year.  With twenty-one parks in Virginia alone, it’s a wonderful way for your children to learn about history, culture, and the great outdoors.

National Parks: A Kid’s Guide to America’s Parks, Monuments, and Landmarks by Erin McHugh is a colorful book, divided by region and loaded with interesting information.  It reviews each state “By the Numbers.”  For example, there are 199,017 acres in the Shenandoah National Park.  It also highlights “The Great American Birdwatch,” like the Bobolink seen along the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina, and “Amazing but True” facts, such as Frederick Douglas was also an early suffragist.  This title is a fabulous resource, certain to help children appreciate our country’s natural treasures.  Some destinations highlighted in the book include:

Shenandoah National Park

With seventy-five overlooks, over one million visitors stop annually to take in the beautiful rolling hills along Skyline Drive.  There are more than 500 miles of hiking trails and a variety of overnight options from lodges to cabins to camp grounds.  History buffs will also enjoy a visit to Rapidan Camp, the recently restored summer retreat of President and Mrs. Herbert Hoover.

Booker T. Washington National Monument

In 1856, Washington was born a slave on a 207-acre farm in Franklin County.  By exploring his birthplace, families can see how Washington’s past impacted his future as the most influential African American of his time.

Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site

Restored to its 1930s appearance with original family pieces, Maggie Walker’s house commemorates the life of a progressive and talented African-American woman.  She achieved success in the world of business as the first woman in the United States to charter and serve as president of a bank.  The National Park site includes a visitor center detailing her life and the Jackson Ward community in which she lived and worked.

The U.S. National Park Service has an annotated index of all twenty-one national parks in Virginia. 

So whether you want to stay local and visit the Richmond National Battlefield Park you keep seeing the sign for on Route 295 or you have the time to venture out to Assateague Island, the ‘Every Kid in a Park’ program can help get you there.

Don’t have a fourth grader?  Sign the ‘Every Kid in a Park’ pledge and get a free Parks for Play: 35 National Park Adventures for Kids of All Ages.  It not only highlights Virginia parks, such as Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania Military Park, but it also provides information on sites that might fall into your short road trips category, such as Harpers Ferry National Historic Park in West Virginia and Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee.  I’m thinking that a trip to Virgin Island National Park is in order, but while my husband appreciates the estimated $80 the ‘Every Kid in a Park’ initiative can save families with fourth graders, he insists it’s not enough of a cost savings to justify a trip to St. John.  Luckily, there’s plenty to keep us busy close to home.

For more info on Every Kid in a park click here.


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Helping Introverted Children Thrive: A Review of Quiet Kids



In this noisy world, introverted children are often misunderstood.  Therefore, Quiet Kids by Christine Fonseca offers parents not only an understanding of introverted kids but also how best to teach them to thrive in an extroverted world. Using tip sheets, checklists, and workbook-style tasks, Fonseca presents parents with insights into helping their introverted child succeed.  Everything from society’s assumptions about introversion and extroversion to how introversion plays out in the educational setting is addressed with not only scientific explanations but also relevant anecdotes, which makes for a good resource.

Fonseca begins by addressing the negative connotations often associated with introversion and how the Western world favors extroversion.  Then, she explains how introversion is actually a matter of hardwiring.  Fonseca claims it’s not a personality trait one acquires; rather a temperament one inherits.  (Think nature versus nurture.)  Once parents (and teachers) recognize the different temperaments in their households (and classroom), they can do a better job of meeting children’s needs.

At the end of each chapter, Fonseca provides readers with answers to common questions related to the topic.  For example, can someone be both extroverted and introverted?  Fonseca advises, “Think back to a time when you were emotionally spent.  What did you crave in that moment?  Solitude?  Time to think, process, or reflect?  Or did you want to talk with a friend?  Run and be active?  The answer to these questions can help you determine your dominance.”

According to Fonseca, both temperaments have positives and negatives.  She explains, “Extroverts can burn out from the overreliance on the sympathetic nervous system and the resultant desire for continuous stimulation.”  Whereas, Fonseca adds, “Introverts can become overly withdrawn when left alone for too long…[or] agitated when they have to spend too much time in social situations.”  An introvert can teach an extrovert to relax and an extrovert can help an introvert to socialize.  The key is seeing the value in both temperaments.

Unfortunately, introverts are often misunderstood in school.  They are frequently mislabeled as shy or viewed as narcissistic.  When in reality, Fonseca argues, “They are deep thinkers interested in deep feelings and beliefs.  In this way, they can be strong contributors to groups if their need for a calm environment can be met or when the groups can be managed to maintain a small number.”  however, in this peer-share and group tasks era, Fonseca believes introverts are pushed to speak more, which actually limits their creativity since it reduces the “downtime” they require.  That’s why Fonseca believes it’s important for parents become advocates for their introverted children.

By focusing on an introvert’s strengths, the positive aspects of introversion can be incorporated into a classroom or home.  Balance.  Variety.  Choice.  These are themes that reoccur throughout Quiet Kids.  Allowing introverts to pick how they participate in educational activities will help reinforce the difference being the temperament and the personality trait of shyness.  For example, Fonseca explains that shyness can be “situation-specific behavior or something that is exhibited in multiple settings.”  This is in contrast to introversion, which Fonseca insists is “dependent on context and environment.”

Setting a foundation for predictability is the best way to reach introverts.  Fonseca writes it allows for organized periods of rest.  My younger daughter is introverted like my husband, and I’ve learned over the years that if I periodically block off hours, afternoons, and days for quiet time everyone gets along much better.  Fonseca also encourages parents to establish “personal space” and promote “privacy” so that all members of the household get some “alone time.”  Doing so will allow introverts to recuperate from otherwise busy lives.

Otherwise, as Fonseca notes, introverts are left feeling stressed and this might leave them unable to cope.  She explains, “Pressures felt during a test may be enough for them to shut down and withdraw or become overly agitated.”  Therefore, Fonseca offers parents relaxation methods to teach their children as well as stresses the importance of talking with your children about whether they are relaxed.  Fonseca also examines how introverts learn and her ideas on shifting the focus from results to process are helpful.

Essentially, Fonseca explains what’s important for parents (and teachers) to keep in mind is that “introverted children are highly resistant to change.”  She claims, “They would rather suffer through an unpleasant situation than risk taking action and having a worse scenario.”  As a result, Fonseca insists that we must help introverts become comfortable in developing a tolerance for change if they are going to be successful.  So if you’re interested in learning more about helping your introverted child thrive in an extroverted world, then check out Quiet Kids by Christine Fonseca for further insights.


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Plugged In: A Review of Growing Up Social



“These are amazing days when you can videoconference Grandma in a different country in real time.  But if you don’t minimize and monitor screens in your child’s life, when your son finally meets Grandma face to face, he may not know how to simply sit and visit,” argues Gary Chapman and Arlene Pellicane, authors of Growing Up Social.  If you’re interested in raising relational kids in a screen-driven world, then I highly recommend reading this book.

Chapman and Pellicane explain screens are not the problem; rather, it’s the “free time equals screen time” mentality that’s negatively impacting children.  Therefore, after examining the issue of “too much, too soon,” the authors tackle five different skills, such as appreciation and attention, related to technology before providing parents the tools to initiate change.  This title is loaded with persuasive statistical information as well as practical advice for taking back your home.

One of the biggest issues, according to Chapman and Pellicane, is that a world dominated by screens is false.  It’s designed to please your child instantly, and since the real world doesn’t revolve around your child, a dependence on screens sets your child up for a frustrating life.  Essentially, “The art of patience is lost,” explain Chapman and Pellicane.  As a result, children often give up when things get difficult.

A consequence of the screens’ instant gratification is a society scrambling to please children.  For example, Chapman and Pellicane point out, “Children today are rewarded even if they don’t perform well.”  You know what they’re referring to – the endless certificates, ribbons, and trophies for participation.  What’s the motivation for a kid to do their best if everyone is going to be recognized?  According to Growing Up Social, “He grows up with a false expectation that whatever effort he puts forth – excellent or poor – will be rewarded.”

Another big problem with screens is that with children in elementary school now being exposed to social media it “teaches kids that the road to popularity is paved by likes and the number of comments and online friends one has.”  Chapman and Pellicane maintain, “It’s hard enough for adults to deal with disparaging comments…imagine how hard it is for children who don’t yet possess the emotional maturity to cope with the digital world.”  Every kid wants to be liked and by limiting her social media, Chapman and Pellicane believe, “You will help your child find the answer in real people who can shower her with affection instead of an online community that can be fickle and cruel.”

What can you do so screens add value to your family instead of erode it?  

  1. Own up to your responsibility as a parent.

Chapman and Pellicane believe to accuse your child of poor decision making is in effective.  It’s the parents’ job to set appropriate limitations.  And, they argue, “Giving a child the responsibility of browsing the Internet safely is an unreasonable expectation.”  The message you’ll take away from this book: If we are going to give our children access to electronics, we need to be prepared to monitor their use.

  1. Teach the skill of appreciation.

Chapman and Pellicane warn, when your child claims, “But everyone else has one!” it is never true and “We do a great disservice when we give kids everything they want.”   They suggest thinking of screen time the way you might the other freedoms you extend families to decide what’s best for them.  Doing so, they claim, will enable you to accept the choices you’ve made for your family without any guilt.  (Easier said than done, I know, but important nonetheless.)

“Realizing that others have gone out of their way to help doesn’t come naturally to a child, but they can learn,” Chapman and Pellicane insist.  They suggest parents focus on how our kids get to wear clothes, go to school, and participate in activities that most children in the world would treasure.  By making a conscious effort to emphasize this perspective, it will help out children feel grateful in our world of plenty.

  1. Teach the skill of managing emotions.

“One of the problems with technology for kids is that the screen allows an anonymity that can cushion the user from suffering any consequences.  Children may not say hateful, angry words to other children to their faces, but they can log on to their computers using a pseudonym and leave angry posts or send nasty emails,” explain Chapman and Pellicane.  Therefore, they suggest you keep in mind that if your child is old enough to send a text or email, then they are old enough to practice common courtesies, such as greetings and compliments.  Apologies, however, are better suited for face-to-face.  Growing Up Social illustrates how many teens are communicating personal messages via text or instant messaging.  Hiding from these difficult situations shortchanges them, for they can’t learn how to handle awkward interactions with others.

  1. Teach the skill of attention.

“In the year 2000, before mobile phones and computer apps were popular, the average person’s attention span was twelve seconds.  Since then, our attention span has dropped by 40 percent,” according to Chapman and Pellicane.  Deep reading, in particular, has become more difficult, as our brains have grown accustom to evaluating and navigating the distractions of the Internet.  As a result, our brain now needs to make a concerted effort to fully understanding a text online.  In addition to being mindful of how the Internet impacts our brain, Chapman and Pellicane also stress the importance of devaluing multitasking, as it reduces the quality of your work, changes the way you learn, creates skimmers, and wastes time.

  1. Create digital-free zones.

Chapman and Pellicane recommend no televisions in bedrooms as well as the collection of all devices by a designated time each night.  They suggest no screens at the table or in the car and encourage scheduled non-screen activities until the behavior becomes habit.

  1. Model good screen behaviors.

According to Chapman and Pellicane, “What we model digitally is more important than what we say about screen time.  If we as parents are totally consumed all our waking hours with electronic media of any kind, we are communicating, “This is what life is about.  This is the norm.  Too often parents give the right message but in the wrong manner.”

  1. Think outside the screen.

Try not to lose sight of the fact that the electronic device that connects you to others can isolate you as well.  Since most of the time, Chapman and Pellicane claim, parents report that screen time gives them a chance to complete chores, screen time is not the “family time” it’s often advertised as.  More than likely, Chapman and Pellicane point out, families are spread throughout the house lost in their own electronic worlds.

Therefore, consider your own variation on this clever game, Chapman and Pellicane report some disenchanted young adults are now playing:  “When dining in a restaurant, they stack their phones in the middle of the table.  Whoever reaches for his phone first during the meal has to pay the tab for the table.”  Doing so, Chapman and Pellicane believe, might just help you teach your kids to live with screen time, not for it.





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