Monthly Archives: August 2011

Parents, Take More Classes

In the US, people have an obsession with classes.  Of course, we begin our class-taking lives before we are even old enough to attend traditional school.  As an infant, you take mommy and me yoga classes, music classes, and Gymboree classes. When you are a child, you take classes to learn how to play the piano, how to swim, and how to paint.  As a teenager, you take Driver’s Education classes to learn to drive and SAT prep classes to learn how to take tests to improve your chances of getting into college. Classes don’t stop when you are an adult either.  As an adult, we take pottery classes, acting classes, power point classes, dancing classes, Lamaze breathing classes when pregnant, and even marriage classes sometimes.  Clearly as a society we enjoy learning new things and find value at perfecting our skills through classes and lessons.  So, can someone explain to me why with all of these classes no one takes parenting classes?

Why in our society is it important to learn how to improve your singing but not your understanding of how to put an infant to sleep?  Why do adults pay to learn to paint with watercolors but not how to read a book to a child?  Why do we learn to perfectly perform the tango at our wedding, but not how and why a child develops they way he does?

I find that many people claim that parenting is innate- something that you are born with the ability to do. Therefore, why should you spend your time and money learning how to do something that is innate?  You learned to walk on your own and look at you now, you can even run if you feel motivated enough!  You don’t take running classes, oh wait… yes, there are running classes offered at running shoe stores across the country, we do take those.  Again I wonder, if we are even taking classes to improve our innate abilities, why not our parenting skills?

Parenting is one of the most important and longest lasting jobs we will ever have.  As parents, we help our children learn everything!  We read to our children to develop literacy, language, creativity, and imaginative skills.  We bring children to parks to help them improve their motor and strength skills.  We talk to our children to help them develop their social, emotional, language, and communicative skills.  We take our children to lessons to ensure that they learn all that they can and perfect their skills as they develop.  We encourage our children to be the best they can be, so parents, lets raise our own bar to become the best parents we can be.  And if that requires signing up for a parenting lesson or a child development class so be it!  It doesn’t mean you are a bad Spanish speaker when you sign up for Spanish lessons, it just means you want to improve.  So parents, lets forget about how it might look to take certain classes and look at the benefits that our children will gain from us having a better understanding of everything child development and parenting related.

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Great Dad, Great Story

I absolutely love overhearing parents positively interacting with their children.  I have written a few times about the poor interaction or complete lack of interaction that I often see between parents and children on the El, but today I have a very positive interaction story.

I was sitting on the el this morning at about 8:30am reading my book when I heard a little boy say, “I want a hot dog” to his father.  Here is how the interaction continued:

Dad: It’s a little too early for a hot dog.
Kid: I want a hot dog.
Dad:  Sorry, it’s not time for a hot dog.
Kid: I want a hot dog.
Dad: Well, I’m sure people on the el would like some ice water.
Kid: I want some ice water.
Dad: (laughing) ahh, thought so.
Kid: Dad, I want a hot dog.
Dad: You just ate a big bowl of oatmeal, how could you possibly be hungry?
Kid: I want a hot dog.
Dad: You just ate
Kid: I not ate
Dad: You just ate a big bowl of oatmeal
Kid: I not ate (8), I’m two!
Dad: (laughing) yes you are right, you are two.
Kid: I’m not two
Dad: Oh boy, I’m not arguing this with you.

This was probably a five minute kid version of Who’s on Second, but it was hilarious and the entire time the dad was patient and enjoying his time with his 2 year old son.  Never once was the little boy wining or the father responding impatiently or shortly, just a simple, calm conversation between parent and child. Clearly this interaction wasn’t particularly educational or full of any kind of complicated phrases (although the word “ate” was complicated for the 2 year old to understand).  But this interaction was a wonderful, and adorable, example of the simple ways parents can interact with their children.  Both parent and child enjoyed the interaction and it made the train ride faster for everyone else.

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Coffee and Cookies

I’m currently sitting a bagel shop drinking my second coffee of the day and reading a new report called Healthy Food Healthy Communities: Promising Strategies to Improve Access to Fresh, Healthy Food and Transform Communities. This report by PolicyLink discusses in considerable depth the issues of obesity, for both adults and children, and the relationship between obesity and lack of adequate healthy food options in low-income neighborhoods.

Some background:  Obesity in the US (and worldwide) is reaching epidemic proportions.  One in three adults is obese and approximately 17% of children and teens are obese (Center for Disease Control and Prevention). The two images copied below show the percent of adults in each state that are obese (BMI > 30).  The first image is from 1990. All states were either blue or light blue which means that 10-14% of the adult population in each state was obese (white indicating no data).  If you look at the second image (2010), you see that nearly the entire country is red, orange, or yellow- meaning that in every state in the US, more than 20% of the Adults are obese and in many states, more than 30% of the adult population is obese.  Click this link to see all other years obesity rates per state.

While the adult obesity epidemic is troubling the childhood rate is heartbreaking.  Look at the equivalent charts of childhood obesity in the US.  Here the light blue states have rates between 10-15% and the dark blue states have obesity rates between 15-20%.  Click this link for larger image.

The Healthy Food Healthy Communities: Promising Strategies to Improve Access to Fresh, Healthy Food and Transform Communities report focuses on the communities in our country that are particularly susceptible to obesity and other related health issues.  The graphs above demonstrate that obesity is a nationwide issue but low-income communities are particularly vulnerable to obesity.  A recent concern for low-income communities is the lack of  healthy food options in their neighborhoods: there are fewer supermarkets and places to buy healthier foods in low-income communities than in wealthier ones , this is also the case for Latino and African-American areas compared to predominately white areas.

The report offers solutions that will lead to increasing access for healthy food for populations who currently have limited access. Some of the recommendations and solutions that are already in place in some communities include: The Fresh Food Financing Initiative, an initiative that provides loans and grants to encourage food retailers to locate in underserved low-income communities and provide fresh food to customers, improve small stores, increase grocery store access in low-income neighborhoods, and increase access to farmers markets.

Teaching young children to select “better for you foods” is one way to decrease the obesity rates in this country, but if youth do not have the opportunities to purchase more fresh, healthy, and “good for you foods” the educational benefit of learning to eat healthy will be wasted.  This report provides crucial information  for policy makers, business owners, and the general public about the issues related to lack of health food choices in America.

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