Momster

Is It Okay for a Mom to #BreakTheInternet?

Written on November 25, 2014 at 10:00 am , by

Celebrity provocateur Kim Kardashian hoped to create an earth-shattering event when she posed for naked pictures in an attempt to #BreakTheInternet. (Warning: That hot link goes to her Paper Magazine spread, which includes nude photographs.) Her ample derriere was widely posted throughout cyberspace. Reactions seemed to range from disinterest to disbelief and astonishment.

Many people voiced concern about her seeming lack of seriousness related to her role as a mom and the potential long-lasting effects of images like this on her daughter. “Why would a mother want to pose like that?” some asked.

Yes, she is a mother. She is also being mothered by a woman who is her manager and obviously supportive of her recent photo spread.

For me, the underlying issue is not about her being open to displaying herself as a sexual being. She has the right to pose in any way that she chooses. There has not been any suggestion that she is abusive or negligent to her adorable daughter. The exhaustion of motherhood, with its additional responsibilities and time demands, can impact intimacy and sexual desire. Those are two situations that require process and communication—not a photo shoot.

The real issue is the way the media drives our consumption of knowledge around individuals who seemingly do not inject any sense of purpose or additional meaning into our lives. Enough. How great would it be if we could #BreakTheInternet with examples of kindness, generosity and overall goodness?

The positive news: According to the Wall Street Journal, the Rosetta spacecraft’s landing on a comet had more tweets then a champagne glass landing on Kim Kardashian’s rear. Score one for the comet and zero for Kim Kardashian. And that is really big, big, big news.

What do you think about Kim Kardashian’s attempt to break the Internet? Post a comment below and let us know.
 Janet Taylor, MD, MPH, a mother of four, is a psychiatrist in New York City. Follow her on Twitter @drjanet. Read more of her posts here.

Got a question for Dr. Janet? Email her at askdrjanet@familycircle.com.

 

The Most Important Thing You Can Teach Your Daughter

Written on November 21, 2014 at 12:02 pm , by

Being the parent of a teen girl has never been easy. But being a parent of a teen girl in this gadget-driven, video-vixen, text-versus-talk culture can be monumentally difficult. In this guest post, Sophia A. Nelson, author of The Woman Code: Powerful Keys to Unlock Your Life, explains how to rise above pop culture, catty friends and blaring headphones to give your daughter the tools she needs to succeed.

As an aunt of one tween (age 12) and a bona fide teen (age 16), I take some pride in being very in touch with this new generation (Generation Text, Generation Connection or, more fondly, Gen Y) of young ladies. As a speaker, the author of two successful books about women, and a coach for women in corporate America, faith-based communities and universities, I cannot stress enough how important it is for us as moms, aunts, mentors and role models to boldly and honestly take back our girls by teaching them to know their value.

Of all the modern things we struggle with as women of our time, variations on one age-old question still determine how far we will go in life: “Am I good enough?” or “Can I be enough?” or “Am I worth enough?” Our girls struggle with this even more. They are constantly bombarded with images of beauty, overt sensuality and celebrities who make it to the top by way of YouTube—or worse. They experience the world far differently from us. And it’s up to us to be the bridge over turbulent waters to help keep them centered and focused on what matters most: their value.

How? you ask. It’s really simple.

We have got to reengage in old-fashioned conversation (that means speaking and eye-to-eye connecting) with our daughters. Make them put the gadgets down. We have to talk, not text. We have to stop trying to be a friend and start being what our moms and grandmoms were to us: teachers, advisors, protectors and disciplinarians without apology.

Here are five keys I use with my own nieces, and that I write about in The Woman Code. When put into practice, they shift the energy in our relationships as older women connecting with the next generation of young women.

1. Value yourself. Yes, we can tell our girls, daughters and nieces that their value is not defined on a TV set, a YouTube video or social media. We can drill home that it is defined from within. But know that they are also watching how YOU value yourself. So make sure you are teaching and leading by example.

2. Dare to engage in courageous conversations. Don’t duck the hard issues young girls face today. Be open and be willing to listen. You are the adult. Make sure they know you are there to protect and love them, and that you actually were their age once. It’s all about connection and conversation.

3. Teach your daughters to be authentic. Let them know who proper role models are: women like first lady Michelle Obama or singer Carrie Underwood. Teach them to live from their gifts from the inside out, not to be part of a crowd or a follower.

4. Share with your daughters the power of choosing the right friends early in life. I call it “know your front row.” If you see your daughters with the wrong crowd, intervene. Explain why these friends are not going to help them to win in life. Stress the importance of not engaging in gossip, bullying other girls or allowing themselves to be bullied. This is a favorite pastime of girls—tearing down other girls. And it causes great damage for years to come.

5. Prepare them to guard their hearts—not gate them, but protect them so that they will love the right men, surround themselves with the right friends and honor their deepest desires for marriage and family later in life.

 

Sophia A. Nelson is an award-winning author and journalist. She is a noted TV personality and thought leader on all things women. Her new book, The Woman Code: 20 Powerful Keys to Unlock Your Life, is now in stores everywhere. You can tweet her @iamsophianelson.

Clean Your Home for the Holidays in Four Steps

Written on November 20, 2014 at 4:02 pm , by

With November upon us, we’re about to enter prime party season—you know, that time of year when guests are coming over and your home needs to look its holiday finest. No worries! Study up on these quick-clean tips, and your space will be on its way to sparkling in no time.

De-clutter, de-clutter, de-clutter. Before you even pick up a mop or vacuum, best to clear off any surfaces that look messy. Grab a basket or bin and go through the rooms where you’ll be entertaining, collect out-of-place items and stash them in a closet for the time being. Target the coffee table in the family room, and get rid of catalogs and old magazines. Wipe down your downstairs bathroom vanity. Clear countertops are a must in the kitchen, and never leave pots or pans in the sink for company to see. Load and run the dishwasher before the party, even if you don’t have the chance to put everything away. The latest machines, including Samsung’s new Chef Collection model, are whisper-quiet and could even be run during the festivities if need be.

Shine surfaces in high-traffic areas. Guests tend to congregate in a few key places during get-togethers: the kitchen, the family room, the dining area. Whatever your cleaning weapon of choice—microfiber cloth and hot soapy water, disposable wipes or all-purpose cleaner and a rag—the process is the same. You want to focus on any visible surface where dust and grime build up. In the kitchen, run a disinfectant over the counters, stove, sink and island. Do the same in the powder room, wiping the sink, faucet and toilet handle. Spend a little time on the toilet, swishing the bowl with a long-handled brush and disinfecting the seat. Dust off the coffee and side tables in the family room, and make sure you wipe down the dinner table before you set it or lay out a spread of food. Be sure to use clean cloths each time you attack a new surface to avoid cross-contamination. Some pro cleaners even designate particular rags or cloths for certain rooms or jobs—a few for the bathroom, a few for the kitchen and so on.

Fake it till you make it. If you have enough time to mop the floors and dust off all your downstairs light fixtures, ceiling fans and baseboards/moldings, by all means do it. But if you can’t, your best recourse is to vacuum area rugs and give the kitchen floor a quick once-over with a wet mop or steamer. Fluff pillows and cushions on the sofa, and buff away fingerprints on stainless-steel appliances and streaky mirrors. Put out fresh hand towels and a candle in the powder room. Empty the trashcans. It’s all about the illusion of tidiness—that is, until you can actually take the time to do a deep clean, post-party.

Make it fun. Cleaning is a chore, yes, but that doesn’t mean it has to be complete drudgery. Bust out that wireless speaker before the party starts, and check out one of the many cleaning playlists on Spotify. Or crank your own. Make it a point to get through all the songs before you stop.

This post was sponsored by Samsung.  Opinions/content are Family Circle editorial. 

Five Top Parks for Family-Friendly Hikes

Written on November 17, 2014 at 4:23 pm , by

In honor of National Take a Hike Day, we’ve rounded up the top five family-friendly (and warmer-weather!) trail destinations with the help of Foursquare. Users rated the best spots across the country for lacing up your boots and having a good time hitting the trail. Our picks from among those top spots promise tons of picturesque views and lots of entertainment for parents and kids alike, thanks to sights that are a history lesson (see #2), vocab booster (find out what a hoodoo is in #3) and solid workout.

 

View of Stone Mountain in Georgia#5: Stone Mountain Park, Stone Mountain, GA

You’ll trek through woods, along lakeshores, past granite slopes, and by wildflowers on various routes in this park. Opt for the 1-mile walk to the top of the mountain and you’ll get a stunning glimpse of downtown Atlanta and the North Georgia mountains, plus there’s a snack bar and souvenir shop at the summit. After taking a stroll, head to The Great Barn, which has slides and trampolines for even more active fun.

 

View of Lake Austin#4: Covert Park at Mount Bonnell, Austin, TX

You’ll have to climb steep stairs to reach the top of this park, at approximately 775 feet above sea level, but the breathtaking sight of Lake Austin (a portion of the Colorado River) makes it totally worth it, as does the view of the city skyline on your way up. Bring a packed lunch as a reward for your (and your teens’) hard work, or head up later in the day for an ideal seat to watch the sunset.

 

View from the trails at Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah#3: Bryce Canyon National Park, Bryce Canyon, UT

Choose between easy, moderate or strenuous trails (for the super-fit family), each of which boasts Douglas fir and spruce forests, mossy overhangs and tall, natural rock columns called hoodoos. Turn your one-day trek into an overnight stay and you can also take a gorgeous moonlight hike, go on a horseback ride or stargaze with telescopes.

 

View on Lands End hike#2: Lands End, San Francisco, CA

You’ll want to start your journey at the Lands End Lookout—the park’s new visitor center, complete with historical background on this prime Bay Area locale. Then, stroll up the shoreline for photo opps of the Golden Gate Bridge, old shipwrecks and the Sutro Baths—ruins of large, privately owned swimming pools built in the 19th century.

 

View of the LA basin#1: Griffith Park, Los Angeles, CA

With a whopping 53 miles of trails, you’ll never get bored. But for the best scenic route, start at the Griffith Observatory parking lot and climb to Mount Hollywood, the park’s highest point, where you can see the entire LA basin. You can also wander to the famous Hollywood sign for a frame-worthy family pic or make a pit stop at the LA Zoo.

Can’t get to any of these locales? Just slip into your sneaks and take a long walk in your own neighborhood. You’ll still burn calories and enjoy the mood-boosting benefits.

Got a favorite hiking spot of your own? Post a comment below and tell us what it is.

Photos courtesy of Foursquare

Putting an End to Negative Self-Talk in Kids

Written on November 11, 2014 at 5:51 pm , by

A little negativity can go a long way. So when you’ve got a kid who is constantly down on himself, getting him to listen to a positive perspective can seem like an impossible task. A few days ago, the following email from a parent with just this problem landed in the inbox of our parenting expert, Rosalind Wiseman. Here’s her advice for silencing negative self-talk.

 

Q. My 10 year-old son has such a defeatist attitude. He’s always saying, “I’m no good at this or I’m no good at that.” His so-called teammates and friends blame him when they lose games and they never invite him to anything after school. I always struggle to think of the right things to say that my son will actually take to heart. How can I help him?

A. I understand how frustrating this is for so many parents. You feel like there’s nothing you can say to make it better. And if you don’t say, “No honey, you’re great!” you worry that it sounds like you agree with him. So here are my suggestions.

1. Stop using “You’re so great” as your go-to response. It comes across as not listening to your child. Instead, what I find more helpful is to say something like this:

You: I’m really sorry. Will you tell me a little more about why you’re feeling this way? Are there specific things you’re feeling down about?
Your child: I’m so slow. I get teased all the time because I’m the slowest kid in the world. No one has ever been as slow as me in the history of my school.
You: Wow, that’s really hard. I can imagine how annoying that is because it’s not like you want to be slow, and then the kids who tease you make it even worse. There are a couple of things I want you to just consider, not necessarily agree with, but just consider. No one can be good at everything. But the same is true the other way. No one is bad at everything either. I want to make a list of the things you’re good at and the things you’re not so good at. Then you can choose if you want to work on something on your list you want to get better at. Like if you want to get better at running, you can work on that.

2. Consider who’s inspiring these comments. Since classmates or other kids on the team are feeding negative comments to your kid, you might add something like this:

“I know it’s a lot to think about but I want to talk about what’s happening with your friends too. If other kids are mean to you, there are two ways I think you can handle it. Maybe you can think of more. You can laugh it off. Like, if kids on the basketball or track team are teasing you because you’re not as fast as them, you could say: ‘Yes, I’m really slow.’ Sometimes admitting it takes away some of the teasers’ power. Or you could choose not to run in any races or play in any games until you feel more confident. What do you think is a good way to handle it?”

Then listen to your child as he thinks through what he wants to do to have a little control and dignity in this situation.

3. Think about the benefits of being left out here. On the issue of those boys not inviting your son to things: take a step back. I know it feels bad when other children don’t include your child. However, in this case, do you want your son to be in a situation where they could easily ridicule him under the guise of joking around and playing? Overall, what he needs to do is work on the things he identifies for himself that he wants to get better at and then choose genuine friends who make him feel good instead of tearing him down. Even having one friend who treats him well is way better than hanging out with a group of kids who make him feel bad.

How would you handle a kid who’s down on himself? Post a comment and tell me.

Rosalind Wiseman is the author of the new best seller Masterminds and Wingmen as well as Queen Bee Moms & Kingpin Dads. For more info, go to rosalindwiseman.com. Read more of Rosalind’s parenting advice here

Do you have a parenting question? Email askrosalind@familycircle.com.

 

 

When Dads Need Help Understanding Tween Girls

Written on November 3, 2014 at 10:24 am , by

Carpools are supposed to make everyone’s lives easier, but this one ride may have caused more trouble than it was worth. Check out our parenting expert Rosalind Wiseman’s correspondence with a mom who was upset by a dad who made her daughter feel like an outsider.

Dear Rosalind,

The father on carpool duty picked up my daughter and his from dance class and then took them to a party my daughter wasn’t invited to. When he dropped his daughter off, the windows opened, everyone saw my girl and she was humiliated. She is rightfully questioning whether this girl is a thoughtful friend, while I’m left wondering how to talk to the parents about this so the same situation doesn’t happen again. It’s hard enough to navigate new friendships and the party circuit without parents undermining your kid.

Signed,
Disappointed by Carpool Dad

 

Hi, Disappointed,

I am not excusing his behavior, but I always try to understand why a parent would do something that’s insensitive to a child. Once I understand it, it’s easier to figure out how to talk to the parent so it doesn’t happen again.

In this case, I am guessing that the dad didn’t have a clue what was going on until it was unfolding. Even if he did, he probably did what a lot of us do in awkward social situations: pretend it’s not happening. Think about it from his perspective. He’s picking up carpool and when he realizes that your daughter isn’t invited, he’s between a rock and a hard place. If he had called you from the car, that would have been worse for your daughter. If he hadn’t put her in his car, he would have had to leave her at practice. So my question to you is: What would you have liked him to do?

And regarding your daughter’s friends who attended the party, unless they’ve been excluding her in other ways, they could have felt awkward about the whole thing too. I totally understand that your daughter felt terrible and left out. However, I think this is one of those times (unless there is a pattern where the girls are being mean to her) when you acknowledge how crappy the situation is but she’s strong enough to feel those bad feelings, admit them and then move on.

Look forward to hearing back from you and I hope at least some of my advice is helpful.

Best,
Rosalind 

 

Dear Rosalind:

Ideally, I would have liked the father to bring my daughter home before dropping off his daughter at the party. We have seven elementary schools that feed into three middle schools, so there are new faces right now, and new friendships forming/shifting. My daughter was upset not to be invited, but not devastated. She didn’t think much of her friend going on and on about the party in the carpool ride. She interpreted that as rudeness and thought her friend should know better. She was most embarrassed by being seen in the car by friends she did know who were already at the party. She hasn’t let it bother her since and has moved on—a good sign.

Anyway, I resolved this with the parents, by text, and I’ll paraphrase.

Me: With that party, last week was rough on my daughter, so just wanted to let you know that it’s not a problem to shoot me a text or call, even last minute, if it’s not convenient to bring her home, or if plans change, it’s easy for me to come down to the dance studio. I know how quickly plans change with tweens on a Friday evening!

Other mom: I’m so sorry about that. I was away when the last minute request came for my daughter to go to the party and I was trying to communicate everything to my husband but was busy and didn’t think about all the implications.

Me: I absolutely know there was no ill intention, just wanted us all on the same page for the carpool to work for all the girls.

 

Now, here’s my bottom line after the back-and-forth with this mom: What I love about this parent is that she’s role modeling appropriate involvement in her tween daughter’s life. She recognizes her daughter was upset but not devastated. She reaches out to the other parent to share her concern but is clear about wanting to move forward for all the girls. The only thing I would like even more is if the dad was involved as well. We need to bring dads into these situations more often, especially when they are directly involved, as this dad was. I get that this can be hard, but I’d like to encourage dads to be involved in the social dynamics that can come up.

How would you handle this carpool conundrum? Post a comment and tell me.

Rosalind Wiseman is the author of the new best seller Masterminds and Wingmen as well as Queen Bee Moms & Kingpin Dads. For more info, go to rosalindwiseman.com. Read more of Rosalind’s parenting advice here

Do you have a parenting question? Email askrosalind@familycircle.com.

 

Have You Talked to Your Kids About Hannah Graham?

Written on October 7, 2014 at 1:44 pm , by

 

As an 8-year-old thrilled to be in the beautiful, green outdoors of Michigan for summer camp, I learned a lifelong lesson. While splashing in the cool water, I heard a whistle blow. It was a “buddy check.” The piercing sound meant that you had to quickly find your assigned buddy. Panic ensued when it was determined that a camper—my assigned buddy—was missing.

Thankfully, I had been told in advance that this would happen. The camp counselors had planned the exercise to keep the head swim counselor on his toes and teach the campers the importance of looking out for your buddy. Their scheme worked. I have never forgotten the emotion and chaos of that afternoon, as well as the relief when the camper turned up on the sandy shores of the beach.

With my own daughters, I’ve tried to pass along the importance of simply staying in contact with and keeping an eye on friends in social situations, especially late at night. I still say it, tolerating the rolled eyes or silence as they saunter out my door.

Hannah Graham

A few weekends ago I went to visit my youngest daughter, who is now in her fourth year at the University of Virginia. It was the same weekend that first-year student Hannah Graham went missing. Like most of you, I have watched the news coverage hoping that Hannah will be found safe, and feeling heartbroken at the sight of the anguish etched into the faces of her loving parents.

Tragedies have a way of generating what-ifs and identifying ways to prevent them from happening again. One of the more touching tips came from Hannah’s devastated parents, John and Sue Graham, who stated: ”For those students planning to unwind this weekend, please be extra vigilant when you are out and walk with a buddy.”

We can also remind our teenagers to keep their cell phones charged, to let their friends know where they are going, to never leave a party or event with someone they don’t know, to keep their eyes on their cups at all times, and to choose someone to buddy up with and call the police immediately if they can’t locate them. It’s better to raise a false alarm then to lose time in a search.

My prayers and thoughts are with the Graham family and any other families with missing loved ones. May they all return safely.

 

 

 

 

Have you talked to your child about buddying up whether they’re at the beach or on a college campus? Post a comment and tell me what you suggested.

Janet Taylor, MD, MPH, a mother of four, is a psychiatrist in New York City. Follow her on Twitter @drjanet. Read more of her posts here.

Got a question for Dr. Janet? Email her at askdrjanet@familycircle.com.

 

What’s Up with Your Son and His Sneaker Obsession?

Written on October 7, 2014 at 1:06 pm , by

 

 

When little boys get into their first superhero costume, magic occurs. They know they have super powers. They think they can fly, bend steel and outrun the wind. A few years later, when it dawns on boys that maybe their Batman capes don’t give them these powers, they seek out something else. Sneakers.

A boy’s love affair with his “kicks” is intense. If you’ve ever seen a boy lace up his new sneakers (that word moms usually use) and run around the shoe store, you know what I mean. In the right pair, boys believe they will jump higher and run faster. You can see it in the gleam in their eyes—they are invincible.

But there’s nothing new about shoes being a big deal for boys. From Vans to PF Flyers to Chuck Taylors (“Chucks”), shoes matter. The love of kicks is deep. And for this generation of boys, it’s basketball shoes.

The first Air Jordans came onto the market in 1985, right after Michael Jordan first laced up those black-and-red shoes to match the colors of the Chicago Bulls. David Stern, the NBA commissioner at the time, fined Jordan five thousand dollars each time he stepped out on the court because his shoes didn’t have enough white on them. There was nothing David Stern could have done to make Michael Jordan or his shoes look cooler. Jordan was breaking the rules and he looked good doing it.

But why else are shoes such a big deal for boys?

Shoes are the fashion choice that all boys can participate in without being teased. When you go with your son to a store like Foot Locker and the salesperson in that black-and-white striped shirt comes over to your son, what does he ask? Does he ask what size shoe your son wears? No. The smart ones say, “Hey, man, what are your colors?” What other article of clothing could that happen with? Where else could that question be asked without drawing embarrassment from your kid?

The last time I went with my sons, I had a hard time holding back my laughter as I listened to their intense discussion with the salesman. I watched them wander in front of the wall of shoes, saw their intense gaze and subsequent handling of the shoes while they each stared off visualizing their future greatness on the basketball court. The entire thing was completely ridiculous—a fact that I kept to myself.

What isn’t ridiculous and what parents need to be very aware of, is that shoes are a huge indicator among boys about status and money. The shoes boys most covet are heavily marketed to them and extremely expensive. (Nike Kobes are about $170 and LeBrons can go up to $250.) If parents are willing to pay for them, that says a lot about how they’re buying into the marketing campaigns that are targeting our boys and, by extension, our wallets.

Also keep in mind that boys often have judgments about who has the right to wear these shoes. As in, if you wear them but you can’t hold your own athletically, boys are going to make fun of you to your face or ridicule you behind your back.

I am writing about this to suggest that when your son is begging for new shoes and spends hours looking at his various options online, don’t make fun of him or belittle his apparent superficiality. Instead, see this an opportunity to talk about financial responsibility and perception of his image. Tell him how much you are willing to spend. If he still insists that he has to get expensive shoes, tell him he has to use his savings or work to pay for the rest. Then ask him how he thinks his life will be better if he has the shoes he covets and really listen to his answers, because he is giving you a window into his world.

But what if you’re having the opposite experience and your son won’t get rid of his shoes. Are you that mom who’s desperate to buy him new ones because the old ones are so disgusting? The reason he’s doing this may be because he doesn’t want to buy into the materialism of the other kids. Boys can do things for amazing reasons, but it’s hard to see—even when it’s right in front of our eyes. Again, this is an opportunity to look beyond the shoes and ask the boys in our lives why they’re doing things that make so little sense to us. The strange thing is that if we do, we really may learn something.

How does your son feel about his favorite pair of sneakers? Post a comment and tell me.

Rosalind Wiseman is the author of the new best seller Masterminds and Wingmen as well as Queen Bee Moms & Kingpin Dads. For more info, go to rosalindwiseman.com. Read more of Rosalind’s parenting advice, here

Do you have a parenting question? Email askrosalind@familycircle.com.

 

Keep Your Naked Selfie Covered

Written on September 12, 2014 at 5:00 am , by

We’re used to hearing celebrities bare all in interviews and watching them bare all on movie screens. But this month, when news broke of hackers using the iCloud to leak nude photos of stars like Jennifer Lawrence and Kate Upton, many were shocked. How did the hackers pull it off? What other information could be hacked into? Who’s at risk? Aside from the obvious concerns about such a privacy breach, however, another issue loomed. Why take a naked photo?

Maybe it’s because I don’t even like to pose for, much less share, a photo of myself in a bathing suit sans cover-up. So I can’t help but wonder why folks want naked selfies.

One group worth approaching to answer that question: teenagers. Most teens sext to maintain or ignite a relationship, or are pressured into the behavior. A recent study indicated that more than 50% of college students sent sexually explicit texts—with or without photos—as minors. (About a quarter admitted to sending sexually explicit photographs.) These numbers would indicate that among young people sexting is increasing in prevalence. In fact, it has tripled or quadrupled in some ages and categories of teens over the past five years. Boys and girls sext at the same rate, but boys forward more.

As moms and dads, we need to shift our focus to parenting in the digital age. We need to talk to our children and teens about sending pictures, receiving pictures and passing them on. We need to tell them that not everyone is doing it and cyberspace does not have a button for forgiveness. Images that are deleted can be retrieved, and pictures that are sent can be passed along.

The message to our children and teens should be clear and consistent. Do not ever post or send a naked or half-naked selfie to anyone. Ever. They should delete images that are sent to them and not forward them. I want to remind young people that there are many ways to feel good about yourself: practice kindness to others, volunteer in schools and communities, simply contribute to the common good. But keep your naked selfie covered.

Have you talked to your child about sexting? Do you think your son or daughter would ever do it? Post a comment and tell me.

Janet Taylor, MD, MPH, a mother of four, is a psychiatrist in New York City. Follow her on Twitter @drjanet. Read more of her posts here.

Got a question for Dr. Janet? Email her at askdrjanet@familycircle.com.

The Downside of Dress Codes

Written on September 11, 2014 at 5:36 pm , by

A few days before I started sixth grade at a private school, I went with my mother to get my uniforms. While she beamed, I remember miserably pulling the green-and-white-striped dress over my head. My mother, like many parents to this day, believed that uniforms were the answer to stopping social competition among students and contributed to an overall positive school atmosphere.

But here’s the problem: Way too often administrators and teachers enforce their school’s dress code by disrespecting and shaming their students, as with a recent incident involving a superintendent in Oklahoma. Not only is this unethical but it contributes to a school environment where the children don’t trust the adults to exercise their authority ethically. What should be a moment in the hall of “Please take off your hat” or “That skirt is a little short” becomes a humiliating power struggle where the child has no opportunity to learn whatever lesson the adult believes they are trying to teach.

Before I go on, let’s articulate the standard arguments to support school uniforms and dress codes. It is said that they:

1. Set a standard for students that learning environments should be given respect and prepares them for a professional environment as adults.

2. Contribute to students respecting themselves.

3. Decrease materialism and social competition.

4. Stop children from wearing clothes that are offensive or promote illegal or unhealthy substances like drugs and alcohol.

5. Contribute to school spirit and unity.

On the face of it, all these goals are entirely reasonable. Unfortunately, uniforms aren’t a magic bullet to stop “fashion show” competition between students. Kids know who has more money either because the student boasts about it (which is common) or other people talk about it. If it’s important to a student to show how rich their family is, they will figure out a way to do so, from donning $300 headphones to sporting $200 sneakers to bragging about what cars their parents have.

What’s more, no matter how great the school or how well-intentioned the rules are, a dress code and the way it is enforced can mask double standards and abuse of power. For example, the way boys and girls get in trouble for violating dress codes is different. Boys get in trouble for wearing clothes that are “disrespectful.” However they define that (sagging and baggy pants, wearing a hat inside), far too many adults start the interaction with boys by using their power as an adult to dominate them in public (by yelling at them in the hallway in front of their peers). And if the boy doesn’t immediately comply, his behavior is seen as defiant and requiring punishment. I am not excusing bad manners, but adults need to have common sense when they talk to people with adolescent brains. No one likes to be called out in public—especially teens—and when you do that, the teachable moment is lost.

In contrast, girls get in trouble more often for violating the dress code and are usually accused of presenting themselves in sexually inappropriate ways. Girls who go through puberty earlier and/or are more voluptuous are also disproportionately targeted (which also disproportionately impacts African American and Latina girls). Yes, a girl with a voluptuous body can be distracting, but that doesn’t mean the male students around her should be held to such a low standard that they aren’t expected to treat her respectfully. Teaching girls to respect themselves should focus on being proud of who they are—not shaming them for looking sexually promiscuous. This is a teachable moment about your hopes for your girl.

If your kid’s school has a dress code, it’s critical to instruct your child how to accept the responsibility they have as a member of the school community while recognizing that sometimes the way the code is applied is unfair.

Whether you have a son or a daughter, here’s what you can say:

If someone talks to you about being out of dress code, do what they say. If you feel that they have been rude to you, I still want you to do what they say but then tell me and/or tell the administrator you trust the most. But if you’re genuinely confused about why you’re out of dress code, or what you’re wearing is important to you and it’s not communicating something rude or degrading about someone else, you have the right to respectfully ask why you are in violation. If you feel strongly about this, you can research your rights about freedom of expression in school and bring that to the administration. You may not get what you want, but it’s important to know your rights and I will support that.

 

Here’s what you should say specifically to your daughter:

This is difficult to speak about with you, but it’s important to me that I do. Your school has a dress code. For girls, that often means not presenting yourself in a sexual manner. I want you to be proud of your body and I never want you to be ashamed of it. But way more important to me than the dress code is you. You are a smart young woman with a lot to contribute to this world. Like all young women, you’re growing up in a world that dismisses your opinions and rights by trying to convince you that the most important thing about you is your physical appearance. Obviously, you are so much more than that. I want you to be proud and comfortable with how you look. But I also want you to be proud and comfortable about who you are beyond that. So I’d like you to think about that when you get dressed for school. Can you put the clothes you like and that are within the dress code on one side of your closet and the ones that are not on the other side? 

If administrators at your school are shaming girls, you need to speak out against it. Schools can have standards. They can even have standards that you disagree with but need to learn to live with. What you should not tolerate are adults who are responsible for the safety and education of your children to think enforcing the dress code gives them the right to shame and disrespect children.

How do you feel about dress codes at school? Post a comment and tell me below.

Rosalind Wiseman is the author of the new best seller Masterminds and Wingmen as well as Queen Bee Moms & Kingpin Dads. For more info, go to rosalindwiseman.com. Read more of Rosalind’s parenting advice, here

Do you have a parenting question? Email askrosalind@familycircle.com.

 

 

Diet Tell-All: “It’s a Way to Honor Your Body While Slimming Down”

Written on September 9, 2014 at 8:20 am , by

 

By Karmen Lizzul, Family Circle creative director 

I was really excited to try Dr. Fuhrman’s Eat to Live diet, as I had thought of doing it a couple of years ago when I first heard about it. Back then, I was moving and things got really hectic and I totally forgot about it.

The plan has so many of my favorite foods. I love vegetables and fruit and, as suggested, ate as much as I wanted during mealtimes. (Dr. Furhman recommends fasting between meals.) The six-week plan does not include meats or dairy. A salad and four fresh fruits are suggested daily. I loved eating all the fruit I wanted, but I did miss some stuff, like olive oil. I love my olive oil. And I am a creature of habit, so I missed my go-to dishes like poached eggs with whole wheat toast and grilled chicken. I did create a flexible new staple dish where switching up the vegetables let me change the flavor: a stir-fry with light coconut milk, Thai green curry and tofu. I would have it with a salad, and organic fruit for dessert. For a treat, I would bake an apple and sprinkle cinnamon on it.

It was hard at times, I won’t lie. One particularly tough day I was at the shore with friends and everyone was getting ice cream. I admit it: I caved. Dr. Fuhrman would not have been proud. But I still lost weight. I think that’s why this is a way to live more than a diet. It’s not as if I want to go back to eating processed foods, saturated fats and antibiotic-soaked meats. I like knowing that everything going into my body is clean. And even if I detour once in a while, it’s not as damaging as the way I ate before.

If you’re looking for a lifestyle change and a way to eat clean and healthy food, I highly recommend this diet. But I wouldn’t call it a diet. It’s really a new way to look at food and honor your body so it can take you on a long and happy journey.

 

 

Have you ever tried the Eat to Live diet? Post a comment and tell us about it.

Click here to read our feature “Losing It!“ from the October issue or here to see more blog posts from staffers on the diets they tried.

You Make It, We Post It!

Written on September 8, 2014 at 4:29 pm , by

This week’s featured chef is Instagram user @paxregina who made our classic meat lasagna!

Want to be featured here as next week’s chef?

Here’s how: Make a Family Circle recipe, take a photo and share it on Instagram by tagging @FamilyCircleMag and #FCMADEIT.

 

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