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Filtering by Category: Parenting

A Truly Great Parenting Book

Jordan Rhodes


Since I was a little girl the thing I’ve always loved to do most is read books. To me nothing is more exciting than starting a new one that you just can’t put down, one that transports you to another place or another time. I also love books about parenting because let’s face it, I definitely need tons of help in this department. So when my sister-in-law Betsy sent me Love That Boy by Ron Fournier after raving about it, I knew it was a must-read because not only is she a parent, she is also an avid reader, as well. And she was spot-on with this recommendation – I devoured it. Fournier is a well-known political columnist who began his career under Bill Clinton in my home-town of Little Rock, Arkansas, then spent many subsequent years in Washington covering the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations. It was fascinating to gain insight into this world, but the bulk of the memoir is about his youngest child, Tyler, who was diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome. At the beginning of the diagnosis Fournier struggles with things like popularity, athleticism and acceptance for his child, but as he embarks on this journey to understand his son, he realizes, (largely from encounters with these former presidents as well as fellow parents of children with autism), that parents need to shift their focus more to things like character and kindness. It’s okay to be different. It’s okay to do things differently than other kids. The smiles and tears I felt page after page made me want to write down several of the sentiments, as well as important statistics, which I’ve shared below, but I hope all of you will go out and buy this book because I in no way listed everything I learned. And you do not need to have a child on the autism spectrum to benefit from the parenting points Fournier makes:

“We should measure our children not by the mountains they conquer but by their efforts to climb."

"The next parent who Googles ‘Is my 2-year-old gifted?’ should get a curt response: ‘Your 2-year-old is a gift.'”

A 2014 University of Virginia study lead by Joseph Allen “found that…’cool’ teens had a 45 percent greater rate of problems due to substance use by age 22, and a 22 percent greater rate of criminal behavior, compared with the average teen in the study…(and) they never developed the skills needed for deep, durable friendships.” Fournier also reports Allen saying “there is a quiet majority of adolescents who are destined to be far more socially functional at an older age than their in-crowd peers.”

“One of every five 18-year-olds has suffered major depression, and nearly 9 percent of adolescents have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder…the consensus of experts is that the rise is strongly linked to parental expectations.”

“Modern child behaviorists are united in the belief that parents should embrace the fact that a child’s future depends chiefly on the child. Focus on the moment, build a loving relationship, and redefine the perfect outcome. Don’t limit yourself to standard measures of a child’s success, such as grades, trophies, and acceptance letters from elite preschools and graduate schools. And don’t swaddle your kids in praise and privilege.”

“Privileged kids are more likely to develop stress, exhaustion, depression, anxiety (etc)…You might think you’re avoiding this trap by praising your kids – telling them they’re the smartest, funniest, and best-looking of all children – or by shielding them from failure and responsibility. You would be wrong. Praise begets pressure. And it can be counterproductive.”

“The best approach, according to decades of studies, is to be what child development experts call an ‘authoritative parent.’ These mothers and fathers are involved and responsive. They set high expectations but respect their kids’ autonomy. They are the Goldilocks of parenting – not too hard (clinically defined as “authoritarian”) or too soft (“permissive”) – and they tend to raise children who do better academically, psychologically, and socially than their peers. The children of Goldilocks parents don’t get trophies just for showing up. They’re allowed to fail. A Goldilocks mother would never declare, ‘You’re going to an Ivy League school,’ nor would she shrug and say, ‘I don’t care if you go to college.’ A Goldilocks father doesn’t second-guess his daughter’s academic and career choices, doesn’t push his son into sports, and doesn’t fret over his daughter’s choice for a husband.”

“People who focus on living with a sense of purpose are more likely to remain healthy and intellectually sound and even to live longer than people who focus on achieving feelings of “happiness” via pleasure…Raising kids, working through marriage troubles, and volunteering at a soup kitchen may be less pleasurable (than a fun meal or night out), but these pursuits provide fulfillment – a sense that you’re the best person you can be. Researchers call this “hedonic well-being” and link it directly to lower levels of cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and other maladies. The research appears consistent at every income and education level, and among all races.”

Fournier then sums up parenting with some final thoughts (and make sure you buy the book because he goes into further detail):
• Don’t parent for the future; parent for today
• Guide, don’t push
• Don’t beat yourself up
• Celebrate all victories
• Slow down
• Make different cool
• Be a spouse first, a parent second
• Share even the bad news
• Fight for your kids
• Channel your inner Aspie (some traits include loyalty, honesty, wittiness, dependability, integrity)

“In his or her own way, every child is lucky enough to be different.”



Tips for Flying with Kids

Jordan Rhodes


I'm not going to lie. I dread flights with my kids. They cry, throw food, kick the seats in front of them, stare awkwardly at the people behind them. During boarding, I literally run down the aisle to our seats and avoid all eye contact with my fellow passengers, because I know, at some point, they are going to hate me, and I can't bear any type of interaction beforehand or I begin to feel guilt (okay, I'm being a bit dramatic - there are always a few tolerant, helpful passengers who are, themselves, parents, and to them, I could not be more grateful. But I emphasize the word "few.") Even when traveling on a private plane a parent does not have the luxury of taking it easy.
However, that is not going to stop me from traveling with my family. Because to me, exploring the world, learning about other cultures, giving my children life experiences, and teaching them at an early age that they are blessed, is one of the most important things my husband and I can do for them. So, in an effort to help other parents view it the same way, I have compiled a list of helpful tips for airplane travel, for both commercial and private flights. Read it with an open mind and a glass of wine for courage.

1) Book flights as early as possible
This way you can pick seats close to the bathroom if you are in the toddler phase, and you will be able to reserve a coveted bassinet on longhaul flights if traveling with infants - typically only a handful are available, and allotted on a first-come, first-served basis. Plus, needless-to-say, tickets booked early tend to be cheaper.

2) Try to book domestic flights in the middle of the day
This way kids will not have to get up extra early or stay up late, thus disturbing that ever important necessity we parents call a schedule. And if your kids still nap, hopefully they will do it on the plane.

3) For red-eye flights, comfort is key
Pack a pillow, blanket, pajamas, loveys - whatever will help them get into a semblance of their nighttime routine. Never forget a swaddling blanket for newborns or a beloved stuffed animal for toddlers.

4) Get to the airport early
There is nothing worse than being late for a flight and having to rush. We all know how slow kids are - they're doing this on purpose, aren't they?? - and ample time will be needed to get them through security (especially if strollers are involved,) stop for juice, milk or forgotten snacks, make them use the restroom one more time in case taxiing to the runway takes a while, and get them situated on board. Rushed parents and kids equals stress.

5) Bring a carry-on full of surprises
The biggest issue we face flying with kids is boredom. I like to bring a variety of brand-new toys and simple objects, and pull out a different one each time I start to see movement. These can range from iPads loaded with movies and games, to coloring books and crayons, to thin, paperback picture books or stories. Even completely random items will do the trick, like a mirror from your handbag or a calculator from dads briefcase. Kids will take anything they think is a "present."

6) Snacks, snacks, snacks
A well-fed kid is a happy kid. So I have NO problem whatsoever plying them with goldfish, fruit pouches, pretzels, you name it. Plus there's the chance they will pass out after a meal.

7) When all else fails? Benadryl
Controversial? Perhaps. A desperate solution? Absolutely. Many parents swear by it - I'm merely suggesting what I've heard (promise...)

On a serious note, here is one final, helpful piece of information. I have traveled with my kids dozens of times, overseas and back, and I promise that once the flight is over and they have had one night adjusting to a new time zone, they will bounce back to the delightful kids you once knew, and you will immediately begin to enjoy your vacation. It's getting through the flight that is the hard part. Don't let that stop you. They serve wine.