Let's Talk Kids

Raising children?  Have to deal with someone else's?  Considering a family?

Let's talk kids!

Claudia Quigg hosts this weekly reflection on best practices, experiences, and research related to child rearing and parenting. 

Thursdays at 12:50 PM and 7:50 PM.

Claudia Quigg headshot
mattpenning.com / WUIS / Illinois Issues

Helpful advice has been offered to parents in every generation.  In 1916, the author of The Mother and Her Child advised parents they should be careful to “handle the baby as little as possible.  Turn it occasionally from side to side, feed it, change it, keep it warm and let it alone; crying is absolutely essential to the development of good strong lungs.”

Claudia Quigg headshot
mattpenning.com / WUIS / Illinois Issues

Morgan is a typical teenager in many respects.  He has a passion for sports, a wicked sense of humor, and the usual teenage angst when it comes to matters of dealing with girls.

But in one regard he’s different from many teens.  Morgan’s mom, formerly a high-energy mover like her son, has spent the last year crippled by pain.  Her time has been spent in doctor’s offices, hospitals, and lying on the couch trying to cope with the unrelenting discomfort she faces.

Claudia Quigg headshot
mattpenning.com / WUIS / Illinois Issues

A plaque on my desk reminds me of one of the most important lessons I’ve learned in my work:  “What people need is a good listening to.”  While there’s often lots of talk in families, there is sometimes a mismatch as we fail to really “hear” what’s being said.  Most families I know could sharpen their communication skills by learning to do a little OPERA listening.

No, I’m not referring to listening to Carmen or The Marriage of Figaro, although there are certainly merits to that activity.

Claudia Quigg headshot
mattpenning.com / WUIS / Illinois Issues

Garrison Keillor closes his “Prairie Home Companion” broadcasts by signing off from Lake Wobegon, where “all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.”

This tendency of parents to celebrate the positive is admirable, but it doesn’t tell the whole story of a family’s experience.  Because for every child—no matter how lovely—the day will come when he disappoints his parents.

Claudia Quigg headshot
mattpenning.com 2010 / WUIS/Illinois Issues

At birth, we humans learn to breathe air, to eat and digest food, to move our limbs in space.  Simply existing in this very different environment with its bright lights and loud noises is a gargantuan task for one so small.
This challenge demands of us a certain self-centeredness as we figure out who we are. But immediately we become aware of the people outside with us whose voices we heard from the inside.  And so for these first months of life we’re contented in our family’s cocoon.  Our world is very small.

Claudia Quigg headshot
mattpenning.com / WUIS / Illinois Issues

The London Daily Telegraph reported research about kids asking questions.  One study showed preschoolers ask the most questions, with four-year-old girls weighing in with an astonishing 390 questions per day.

Claudia Quigg headshot
mattpenning.com 2010 / WUIS/Illinois Issues

A recent study quantified the hours spent by moms and dads with their children aged 3-12 during the years 1965-2010.  In 1965, moms spent 10.5 hours each week engaged with their kids and dads spent 2.6 hours each week engaged with their kids.  In 2010, moms spent an average of 13.7 hours each week and dads spent 7.2 hours.  The study concluded that mothers spending more time with children is not necessarily linked to kids’ success.

Claudia Quigg headshot
mattpenning.com 2010 / WUIS/Illinois Issues

Mothers do many things.  They wash, wipe, pick up, put down, stack, mix, measure, talk, sing, read, play, redirect, and laugh.  And that may be in the first 15 minutes of the day.  Most mothers are veritable whirling dervishes of activity.

And yet a mother’s most important job may look deceptively passive.  A mother’s most significant task may be to simply look at her children.

A mother sees subtle changes from day to day. She notices those newly-braced teeth shifting before the first week is out. She’s first to observe when a child is about to outgrow his shoes.

Claudia Quigg headshot
mattpenning.com 2010 / WUIS/Illinois Issues

He refuses to brush his teeth, adamantly opposes wearing clothes, and falls to the floor with a tantrum when you ask him to pick up his backpack.

And that’s all before breakfast.

Some children experience everything in their lives with such intensity that their reactions understandably exhaust parents.

At the same time, other children move through their days with little reaction at all.  These easy-going kids take life as it comes and rarely throw a fit.

Claudia Quigg headshot
mattpenning.com 2010 / WUIS/Illinois Issues

When we think about “prenatal development,” we mostly refer to the amazing process whereby a fertilized egg becomes a newborn.  That journey is nothing short of miraculous when you consider the rapid progression of what resembles a tadpole turning into a fully functional person with a heart that beats, lungs that breathe, arms and legs that move, and a brain that processes an astounding amount of information.  

Claudia Quigg headshot
mattpenning.com 2010 / WUIS/Illinois Issues

Winter can be wicked, but the softer days of spring follow as a comfort.  The hyacinth peeking out of the thawing earth demonstrates that universal truth that joy follows pain, sun follows rain, and some satisfying resolution follows most every difficult experience.  If life teaches us anything, it should be to hope for better days.

Claudia Quigg headshot
mattpenning.com 2010 / WUIS/Illinois Issues

High holy days for a number of world religions are celebrated this time of year.  The Jewish Passover, the Buddhist Theravada New Year, the Baha’i Ridvan, and the Hindu observances of both Ram Navami and Hanuman Jayanti.

The names of these holidays may seem foreign to many of us, but they represent significant family practices, based on centuries of beliefs and traditions.  More familiar may Easter—the highest holy day for those who practice the Christian faith—also observed this time of year, and celebrated by many Americans.

Claudia Quigg headshot
mattpenning.com 2010 / WUIS/Illinois Issues

It was midnight when our toddler awoke with an astronomical temperature.  We hated to wake him, but our pediatrician responded eagerly, as though he’d been sitting by the phone waiting for our call.  Dr. Chiligiris listened patiently as we frantically described her fever, then assured us he would wait while we put down the phone and went to check on more symptoms.  After a short time, he’d talked us through a frightening episode, helped us plan a course of action, and bid us a peaceful goodnight.

Claudia Quigg headshot
mattpenning.com 2010 / WUIS/Illinois Issues

On a plaque marking Abraham Lincoln’s birthplace near Hodgenville, Kentucky, is recorded this scrap of conversation:

“Any news down t’ the village, Ezry?”

“Well, Squire MacLain’s gone t’ Washington t’ see Madison swore in, and ol’ Spellman tells me this Bonaparte fella has captured most o’ Spain.  What’s new out here, neighbor?”

“Nuthin’, nuthin’ a’tall, ‘cept fer a new baby born t’ Tom Lincoln’s.  Nuthin’ ever happens out here.”

Claudia Quigg headshot
mattpenning.com 2010 / WUIS/Illinois Issues

During that bumpy journey of growing up, kids need a soft place to land.  The arduous trek through infancy, toddlerhood, childhood and youth is scattered with potholes which threaten to knock us off course and cause us to lose courage.  The dependable concern of a loving adult cushions the hurt and gets us moving again in the right direction.

Claudia Quigg headshot
mattpenning.com 2010 / WUIS/Illinois Issues

The young mom’s eye’s glistened as she recounted the tale: “My grandma was in high school in 1932.  Her dad bought her a Model A Ford so she wouldn’t have to ride several miles to and from school on horseback. When slogging home on rainy days, Grandma would drive the car until that inevitable moment when her wheels (not tires, wheels) would get stuck in muddy ruts. She would then have to walk home, hitch up a team of horses, and ride back to tow the car home.”

Claudia Quigg headshot
mattpenning.com 2010 / WUIS/Illinois Issues

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) announced a new policy directing pediatricians to encourage reading to babies.  Pediatricians are urged to use each contact with families to promote reading aloud and conversation from the earliest weeks of life, according to Dr. Pamela High who wrote the policy. 

Claudia Quigg headshot
mattpenning.com 2010 / WUIS/Illinois Issues

Parents of multiple children complain that siblings’ squabbling is the most annoying challenge of parenthood.  There is almost no slight too insignificant to launch a new outbreak in the ever-simmering civil war between siblings

The basis of the issue is competition for their parents’ affection.  Children sense the possibilty that Mom or Dad may love the other better and must be ever vigilant so as not to lose their edge.

Claudia Quigg headshot
mattpenning.com 2010 / WUIS/Illinois Issues

In Bill Murray’s old romantic comedy “Groundhog Day,” the television weatherman awakens everyday to the same date on the calendar.  All the same things happen each day, so that he wishes more than anything for a new day.

Contrast this experience with young children who see every new day with a fresh set of expectations.  They wake up wide-eyed every morning, ready to notice every new experience the world has in store. 

Claudia Quigg headshot
mattpenning.com 2010 / WUIS/Illinois Issues

A couple was discussing the holiday festivities their family would enjoy.  They mentioned a large gathering they would attend, and remembered they would once again hear Uncle Henry’s stale stories, repeated at every holiday meal. At this recollection, they raised their eyebrows and rolled their eyes.

Claudia Quigg headshot
mattpenning.com 2010 / WUIS/Illinois Issues

In my occupation of watching babies, I’ve noticed newborns actually reach for things that captivate them.  My studies had earlier taught me that reaching is achieved by four-month-olds, but sure enough, newborns exhibit a sort of primal reach for just a few weeks which extinguishes and then comes back a few months later.

Claudia Quigg headshot
mattpenning.com 2010 / WUIS/Illinois Issues

Most families I know struggle with screen time.  Televisions, phones, computers and iPads—a plethora of electronic communication and entertainment devices lure children and their parents.  The use of electronics is an issue that begs for management control from this generation of parents.  Obesity, sleep issues, behavioral problems, impaired academic performance, and a desensitization to violence have all been tied to over-exposure to electronics.

Claudia Quigg headshot
mattpenning.com 2010 / WUIS/Illinois Issues

The most significant change in family functioning I have seen in my nearly thirty years of working with families is the changing role of dads.  By some estimates, over the last twenty years, the amount of time fathers spend with their children has doubled.  And most of that increase is spent in real caregiving tasks, like feeding, bathing, and the other daily tasks of raising children—even when they require an adjusted work schedule. In some families, dads are staying at home to raise kids.

Claudia Quigg headshot
mattpenning.com 2010 / WUIS/Illinois Issues

When an older child leaves home for college or career, second born children often blossom in one way or another.  Parents would do well to be prepared.

Two families I know are experiencing this phenomenon right now.  In one family, an older sister left for college in August.  She’d been a challenging teen, but her younger sister was more compliant. 

Claudia Quigg headshot
mattpenning.com 2010 / WUIS/Illinois Issues

Worry represents our deep investment in our offspring whose health and happiness mean the world to us.  But there’s a steep cost to worry if it robs us of our enjoyment of our children.  A worried parent may be so consumed with fear that she’s unavailable to be present with her kids. 

A worried mom can’t celebrate her son’s learning to walk for fear that he’ll fall.  A worried dad feels sick at his daughter’s graduation, agonizing about her leaving for college.  Each development calls up a whole new set of troubles to anticipate.

Let's Talk Kids - "Design for Success"

Oct 9, 2014
Claudia Quigg headshot
mattpenning.com 2010 / WUIS/Illinois Issues

I’ve noticed something about my alarm clock:  If I set it for 4 a.m., it goes off at 4 a.m. every time.  It doesn’t sometimes sound at 4 and other times at 9.  It always goes off at 4.

It was designed to respond the way I’ve instructed it to when I set it.  For me to expect it to function any other way would be silly.  And yet sometimes, we expect people to function differently than they were programmed to function.  Here’s an example.

Kids and Water

Jul 3, 2014

In the months before we’re born, we swim peacefully in our amniotic sac. Born to be aquaphiles, we gravitate to water for all of our time on this planet (which happens to also be about 75% water.)

Infants sleep better after baths which seem to drain tension away from their tiny bodies.  Toddlers and preschoolers delight in their baths, using them as opportunities for physics experiments. Teenagers drain their families’ hot water tanks with marathon showers, which are about much more than getting clean.  And adults soak away their day’s troubles in a hot bath.

Social Surrogacy

Jun 26, 2014

They’re calling it “Social Surrogacy,” this new practice of affluent parents delegating the tasks of pregnancy and childbirth to another person.  Social Surrogacy is for women who could carry a child, but choose not to because of perceived risks to their productivity or physical image.

The price?  Social surrogacy represents at least a $100,000 investment.  And yet, I’m convinced that this cost is grossly understated.  The physical costs of pregnancy and childbirth are only the beginning of the toll paid by parents, like the ante required to get into the parenting game.

Cousins!

Jun 19, 2014

Closer than classmates, more sensational than siblings, cousins are a boon to growing up.

While I never lived in the same town with my own cousins, I remember how I loving family get-togethers.  Even for cousins I saw rarely, our play would pick up right where it left off the last time we were together.

My older cousins were someone to look up to.  My younger ones tickled me with their cuteness.  We always managed to fill the hours with games and adventures that each of us could relate to.

In my family, the first time we see a child after school lets out for the summer, we HAVE to say, “School’s out, school’s out, teacher let the monkeys out!”  A great deal has changed in the world since I was a student, but this remains true:  The last day of school represents a real transition for children, for teachers, and for parents.

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