Let's Talk Kids

Content from Let's Talk Kids.

Capturing Memory

Dec 27, 2013

Stars glittered in the mother’s eyes as she described her family’s recent drive west through the Rockies.  They stood in wonder at the foot of beautiful waterfalls.  They marveled at the girth and height of some enormous trees.  They thrilled at their quick glances of shy moose and elk.

Mom and Dad are convinced they’ll never forget this experience, but they have a concern.  The youngest member of this journeying family is only three. How will she ever remember the experience?

The Race is On

Dec 20, 2013

The middle-aged woman’s excitement was palpable as she described the lovely gifts she had just purchased.

Her two grandchildren would be in her home at some point for the holidays, and she’s planned to recreate every holiday tradition her family’s ever enjoyed.  She’ll bake each cookie recipe in her family cookbook.  She’s arranged a visit from a friend who owns a Santa suit. 

And the gifts!  She’s bought every toy these children might possibly desire, and looks forward to showering them with her love on December 22.

A Firm Foundation

Nov 14, 2013

Each morning my little dog and I venture out in our neighborhood for a brisk walk.  She employs her excellent nose to read messages from other dogs, and I try to notice things a little higher up.

Yesterday for the first time I noticed each home’s foundation.  These foundations are primarily concrete of a non-descript color, so as not to take anything away from the lovely paint and siding colors and architectural details of the homes. 

"We've done it all wrong!" moaned the mother. "We've mishandled bedtime, and now we've taught our son the wrong way to go to sleep. Will he ever learn the right way now?"

How old is their son? Four whole weeks.

You don't get too far into the parenting game without questioning your choices. Second-guessing ourselves is a steady occupation for most parents.

Emergent Empathy

Oct 31, 2013

There’s one resource every parent needs:  a close friend or family member to stand beside them in the trenches. 

Dr. Victor Bernstein from the University of Chicago teaches that “Relationships take the edge off chaos.”  When we find ourselves in the midst of trauma, chaos or disorganization, a relationship with someone we trust has the power to soothe and settle us.

Better than You Think

Oct 24, 2013

Parents despair over their children’s disappointing behavior, but here’s some good news:  Odds are, your children are probably turning out better than you think at every point along the way.

The trouble with grownups is that we’ve seen the results of bad decisions and anticipate the consequences of every mistake our children make.

Normal and Novel

Oct 17, 2013

It’s one of those enigmas of child-rearing: In order to flourish, children need a complex mix of events that are both normal and novel.

Normal events include reliable routines which structure a child’s day.  Going to bed and getting up at the same time everyday may sound a bit boring.  And yet, this predictable pattern helps children develop healthy sleep habits.

Likewise, a consistent daytime schedule builds a child’s feeling of competence as he anticipates what comes next throughout the day.  This regularity breeds trust and reduces stress for kids.

Recent reports about women choosing not to bear children has brought the “Childfree Choice” into the spotlight. Time Magazine reports that in 1976, only one in ten American women in her forties was childless, compared to the current statistic of one in five.

Some say our world is in such a mess they cannot in good conscience bring a child into it.  Others describe their own sad upbringing and fear making the same mistakes their parents did.  Still others say they could never be as good at parenting as their parents were.

Parents long to know what’s on their kids’ minds, but getting kids to talk about those things can be a tough nut to crack.

But there’s one time when kids are likely to have a great deal to say, and that’s when in they’re smack-dab in the thick of an interesting experience. If you want to hear your kids talk, plan to be present with them when something’s going on.  Here are some ideas:

There were never two parents raising the same child anywhere who ever agreed entirely about how to do it.  When adults care about the same child, a certain amount of “gatekeeping” is bound to happen, in which each adult thinks he or she knows best about how to parent. 

Here’s an example:  Adam says, “Eve, you should make that boy behave.”  Eve says, “Adam, he’s doing the best he can. Quit riding him all the time.”  Years down the road, Cain slays Abel, and the finger-pointing commences.  “I told you we were doing it wrong!”

Parking Lot Pathos

Sep 19, 2013

It was a recent blistering hot afternoon.  A weary mother marched across the discount store parking lot with her three little boys.  She firmly grasped the hands of two of the stair-step tykes while the third trailed solemnly behind.

The two boys whose hands she held howled in complaint as she spoke to them seriously under her breath.  Noticeably, no bags of purchases accompanied this small group.  The purpose of the trip had obviously been aborted while the beleaguered mother dealt with the misbehavior of her sons.

Let's Talk Kids archive...

Amazingly, a wide variety of parenting styles produce healthy adults.  But the divergence of those styles may make for disagreement with other parents.

A young mother recently described a play date with her college roommate who has a baby about the same age as hers.  Amber had long anticipated getting their babies together to play, fantasizing about introducing these little girls to a life-long friendship. 

Far From the Tree

Sep 5, 2013

Recently I wrote about children seeming to absorb by osmosis the characteristics of their families during the years of growing up.  But a new book explores the other possibility: Children sometimes turn out very differently from their parents.  In his book Far from the Tree, psychiatrist Andrew Solomon shares stories of hundreds of families whose children have very different lives from their parents.

Southwind Park in Springfield is on the NPR accessible playground list, Playgrounds for Everyone.  Do you know of other accessible parks in the area?

Sunrise, Sunset

Sep 2, 2013

Among my favorite memories is a lovely evening in late May of 1984.  Just home from the hospital, I sat outside with my newborn son, listening while his two older sisters and dad played in the yard.  Other happy memories stand out around this little boy, including his third birthday where he sang “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” wearing a football helmet and one of his sister’s ballet tutus. 

Blind Trust

Aug 22, 2013

A recent summer storm provided an object lesson for a family I know.  Making their way along an interstate highway on a weekend outing, the family drove into a violent storm moving erratically across the state.

Within minutes, hailstones pelted the car along with heavy rains.  Visibility was seriously compromised.  The parents prayed for safety and watched for an exit where they could get off the road to wait out the storm. 

Meanwhile, the four-year-old in the back seat was alarmed by the noise of the pounding rain and hail.  She asked her parents if they were safe.

Raising an Heir

Aug 15, 2013

Every parent worries about making mistakes in raising children.  Imagine the pressure you would feel if you were raising the future King.  This is high-stakes parenting, indeed.

And yet William and Kate have started down this path with little Prince George, and they are doing it under a microscope through which they are being viewed by the whole world.

Starting Preschool

Aug 8, 2013

Preschool provides a safe venue for kids to learn some hard lessons about the world.  Is your preschooler ready?

Lesson# 1:  What do you mean you’re not going to stay?  For kids who’ve been home with parents, preschool may represent their first major separation.  You can prepare your child with visits to friends, playdates in other homes and seeing the classroom before the first day of school.

As summer winds down, parents see the start of another school year lurking around the corner. Summer freedom has been a blast, but academic expectations lie just ahead.  Here are a few suggestions to rev up your kids’ learning power.

Unexpected Gifts

Jul 25, 2013

A family of five I know has had a heck of a year.  They’ve lost a grandfather, suffered the loss of a job, and now struggle with the serious illness of their mother. 

This family’s three children have missed out on the carefree days of youth in the last year.  Instead, they’ve attended a funeral and mourned the loss of one who played a significant role in their lives.

They’ve listened in as their parents strategized about how to make do with less in the face of a lost salary.

“Don’t sweat this deadline,” commented the longsuffering contractor.  “It’s not a matter of life and death.”

Reflecting on his words, I was thinking about how we use that phrase—“a matter of life and death”—to denote the singularly most essential issues in our lives.  Our very language respects the importance of the experiences of life and death, but this honor dims in the reality of our expectations sometimes.

I Pledge Allegiance

Jul 4, 2013

Recently I attended a fifth grade “graduation” ceremony.  Stuffed like sardines into the hot multi-purpose room typical of public schools, proud parents and grandparents grinned and waved as their kids walked across the stage.

The plane had touched down, but the young mother was still flying high.

She was traveling through three airports with her one and four-year-old children to visit relatives several states away.


Hauling a diaper bag, car seat, and other paraphernalia needed for two little ones, this mother had her hands full.  She had thoughtfully prepared snacks, activities and everything else she could think of to make their trip go smoothly.


So an unexpected encounter with a fellow traveler was especially gratifying to her.


Dads Matter

Jun 13, 2013

It was surprise to me when I heard a gifted young man comment that he will never be successful because he’s just “not smart enough.”

Startled by his observation, I asked him what he meant.  By the end of his explanation, I learned his father had raised him frequently observing that he really wasn’t “smart enough.”

Being the Baby

Jun 6, 2013

Two-year-old Gabby strode confidently into the play group.  When I asked where her big sister was, she replied soberly, “At ‘chool.”  Gabby was more than glad to have a “’chool” of her own to attend that day.

As a “little sister” myself, I understood her angst.  Its the work of the baby in every family to watch from the sidelines as older siblings leave home and do exotic-sounding things like go to preschool.


May 23, 2013

From our first breath, we seek connection. Newborns blink against the bright lights, then scan their surroundings until they catch sight of their parents' faces. Their eyes light up as they fix their gaze on a loving countenance, investing themselves in this growing bond.

They use their hearing in the same way, listening through the noisy din to recognize the sounds of familiar voices they have come to know already.