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Parenting Wars

Found a really good article from the Irish times (found below):

“A COUPLE OF months ago in the UK there was a furore over parents who allowed their children, aged six and eight, to cycle the short journey to school each day unaccompanied. Parents of other children were so upset at this that they made official complaints to social services, which escalated when the parents refused to change their behaviour. The case caught the attention of the national media and opened a polar debate about the rights and wrongs of the parents’ decision. Whatever the risks of cycling to school at a young age, the case certainly highlights the increased scrutiny that modern parents are under and the pressure to conform to certain child-rearing practices. Whereas in the past, parenting differently was tolerated, there is now a belief that there is only one “right” way to parent, and parents seem to be quicker to judge rather than support one another.

Parenting is embroiled in major controversies such as the issue of stay-at-home versus working mothers or the tug of war between following your babies’ demands and getting them into a sleep routine at an early age. Rather than being polite debates, these discussions often become more like “parenting wars”, and are driven by very strongly held views with little tolerance for differences. This trend represents the emergence of “competitive parenting” as a feature of modern child-rearing. More than ever, parents feel under pressure and are anxious about getting their parenting right. They labour under the false idea that there is a single “best way” to bring up children, and they therefore can easily become defensive and be quick to judge anyone who parents differently. At the heart of this competition is insecurity. If someone is doing something different, this makes us question whether what we are doing is wrong, so we can either become insecure in our parenting or rush to defend it at all costs. Parenting brings out strong feelings, and we feel we must defend our way of parenting at the expense of accepting other people’s. A more balanced view is to realise that most differences in parenting are not right or wrong but reflections of different values and culture, as well as of the different needs of parents and children.

 

While not the choice for every parent, allowing young children to cycle to school reflects a respect for independence and could be a boost to a child’s self-esteem if it suits their needs and what they are able for. At the heart of this is the fact that parents, children and families are different, and that these differences are okay – there is no one-size-fits-all approach in parenting. Parents come with their own specific needs and personalities. For example, some parents seek to establish their children’s early independence as a means of achieving the right balance for themselves, while others value a closely connected relationship with their children as a means of making the sacrifice of parenting bearable.

As a clinician, I see many parents in difficulty who have been pushed into choices that don’t suit their own needs or values. These can include mothers who feel pressured to achieve a routine with their child when they would be much happier responding to demand, or mothers who are worn out by their babies’ demands and would be better to prioritise their own needs more. It also includes mothers who become depressed when they stay at home to mind children and neglect their need to work outside the home, as well as fathers who, driven by the pressure to be “a provider”, become depressed in work when they would more naturally fit the nurturing role of caring for their children at home.

 

The first principle of good parenting is to be aware of your own needs as a parent and as a person, so you can then more freely attend to your children. In addition, children are different and come with their own personalities and temperaments. Good parents tune into their own needs and those of their individual children, and try to find a match between them. In my work, parents often come to see me when there is a mismatch between their needs and those of their children – for example, an independent parent bringing up a fussy child who needs much more reassurance than the parent naturally gives, or a very self- reliant child who battles for independence from a parent who prefers to be much more connected. In those cases, my work focuses on helping the parent to reflect, and to tune into their child’s different perspective, so they can find a way to meet both their needs. There are many different ways to parent that are “good enough” and allow children to grow into happy, well- adjusted adults.

The key is to find a synergy between your own needs as a parent and those of your children. This is very important, as the biggest gift we can give our children is that we enjoy being with them and we enjoy being their parent. If we choose parenting practices that leave us resentful, depressed or unfulfilled, then we serve neither their interests nor our own. As a result, an overly competitive approach to parenting that makes mothers and fathers judgmental or insecure in their own parenting should have no place in society. My hope is that we will establish a more compassionate culture of parenting. We need to call a truce in the parenting wars and see the different sides of the debate as both contributing a valued perspective. Then we can begin to create a more supportive culture of parenting that values diversity and gives parents the space and support to make the right choices for themselves and their children.”

Financial Affordability & Children

Had a great weekend, and loved spending Halloween taking my God Children trick or treating(I wish I could put up pictures).  On Halloween(before I took my God Children trick or treating) I had deep discussion with a friend of mine who is engaged to be married and who is really anxious about having children.  The conversation centered around how much she believes she needs to make in order to have children ASAP.  She believes that all you need is love, a steady paycheck(even if it’s slightly above minimum wage), shelter, and supportive family and friends. I agreed but also stated that she should at least make enough to afford the basics, and to also provide a good solid foundation for the child. This was a hard pill to swallow for her because admittingly she isn’t at all financially prepared for a child–like most young twenty somethings she has student loans, debt, and a below-median salary which doesn’t really afford her many luxuries and also barely keeps her afloat. Her fiance is in a similar position. Needless to say when she found out I was taking my God Children trick or treating I could sense in her voice that the topic was a very sensitive point for her–knowing that she wants to have children, hearing about me spending time with children, but also being aware that she isn’t in the position(realistically) to have children. She claims that at 24 her biological clock is ticking and that it depresses her that she isn’t able to have a child(sooner rather than later).

Later on that night, after I was done trick or treating I talked to my best friend(the mother of my God children) about the conversation I had with my other friend(the one who is engaged). She was on the side of my “engaged” friend. This is probably because she had her children with the idealist approach that all you need is: love, a steady paycheck, and support. Yet she is very much struggling right now and isn’t at all where she thought she would be financially. So listening to these two give their opinions about why you don’t need to be completely “stable” before having children was really intriguing to me. These were some of the reasons that they believed that having a kid even when one isn’t completely financially prepared is okay:

1. Babies don’t need very much(they only need love)

2. Hand-me-downs, used baby furniture, and baby showers are good enough for covering the basics (in other words, she won’t have as much out-of-pocket expenses by relying on these things).

3. She can build wealth later on(she already has her degree and is in the beginning of her career).

4. She can cut corners the first 4 years of the baby’s life(i.e. breast feeding instead of buying formula, using clothe diapers, living in an apartment, relying on family members to watch the child to avoid daycare costs, and so on).

5.  You can never be financially prepared for a child.

 

All of this sounds nice and I’m now on the fence. A part of me thinks that is possible for a financially unstable person to “wing” it by doing the things listed above though another part of me(the more cynical side) feels as though this sort of thinking is far too idealistic and does the parent and the child a disservice.

What is your opinion?

 

Parenting Style Influences the way a child eats

Have you ever wondered why certain children are overweight? Well according to experts a child’s weight has a lot to do with not only their genes, and what they eat, but HOW they eat, and the way their parent raises them. Read below to find out more:

“A child’s development is influenced in a number of ways. The same is true for eating behaviors.

Among these, research has suggested a connection between parenting styles and children’s eating behaviors, attitude toward food, and body weight. At about age 2, children move away from eating solely for reasons of hunger, to eating that is influenced by their environment and parental influences.

Although there are numerous ways to describe parenting, a body of research has proposed four general categories of parenting styles. These patterns of parenting are defined based on degrees of demandingness/behavioral control or responsiveness/warmth/supportiveness. They include authoritarian, permissive, uninvolved, and authoritative.

Authoritarian style, parents are extremely strict and controlling when it comes to behavioral issues, such as eating. They tend to be less sensitive to their child’s emotions and instead stress authority and obedience. There is little to no discussion between parent and child. Parents are more directive and demanding. They do not expect their child to disagree with them.

When it comes to feeding, authoritarian parents may focus on food restriction, or pressure the child to eat. They make decisions about the type and amounts of food the child eats. The child has little room for self-expression. Punishment may be involved if the child does not comply with the parent’s wishes. Interestingly, authoritarian parents are often not good role models when it comes to healthy eating and body weight.

Numerous studies suggest that this style of parenting results in a greater risk of the child being over- or underweight. The thought is that children raised in this fashion do not learn how to self-regulate eating. They have more trouble recognizing internal hunger and fullness cues. They may also demonstrate more food obsessions and cravings. Additionally, the stress of this parenting style can promote emotional eating.

The permissive style of parenting involves few rules. Parents tend to be more indulgent, accepting, and warm, while imposing little control and minimal limits. There are few demands on behavior by the parents. Children establish their own rules and schedules.

When it comes to eating, children with permissive parents have trouble with impulse control. They tend to be more immature and less likely to accept responsibility. In general, permissive parents also tend to be poor models of healthy eating. Their children are also at risk for being overweight or obese.

Uninvolved or disengaged parents are not demanding and respond minimally to their children. Healthy foods may not be as available in the home and mealtimes may not be planned. Extreme cases may include neglect and rejection of the child. Children raised in his manner may feel insecure about food/eating and may become overly focused on food. Such parents often have other issues taking up their time and focus besides attention to the quality and quantity of their child’s eating.

The authoritative or moderate style of parenting tends to be the most effective for promoting healthy eating behaviors and body sizes in children. Parents using this style set limits but take into consideration the feelings of the child even if they do not agree. They usually take the time to explain the reasons behind their rules around eating. They are firm with kindness and warmth. There are expected, age-appropriate standards and some structure around meal and snack times.

In this style, food intake is monitored and guided through reasonable limit-setting. There is consistency in reinforcement of known guidelines — meaning the rules do not change — so the child behaves accordingly. For the child, this promotes independent thinking and self-regulation. Parents are more likely to model healthy eating behaviors, consistent with their beliefs and expectations for their child.

So what are some guidelines for parents that increase the chance of raising a child with healthier eating behaviors and body weight? Setting clear, reasonable rules around eating that are consistently enforced helps the child learn self-control. It is important to listen to the child, respect his or her ideas, and share the reasons behind the rules. Parents should also model healthy eating behaviors.

It is the parent’s role to provide an inventory of healthy foods in the home. It is the child’s role to decide if, how much, and which foods he or she will eat at the designated meal and snack times. This allows the child to practice decision making within the boundaries of healthy eating choices. The child then feels independent and empowered.

A child’s body weight should not be compared to another’s, or the child demeaned because of body size. A parent should try to avoid making rules that are allowed to be broken at times — such as when the parent is tired, stressed, or falls prey to a child’s pleading — because the child receives mixed messages. This may also occur if healthy eating is promoted, but less healthy foods are used as a reward. Additionally, there may be confusion if there are multiple caregivers or if the parents have different parenting styles.

Obviously, parents are human and may exhibit each of the above parenting styles at one time or another. Based on the majority of research to date, however, the more closely they follow the authoritative style of parenting, the more likely they are to have children with healthier diets, a better body weight, and a more positive attitude toward food.”

Article found on seacoastline.com

Halloween Candy Management.

Halloween is approaching, and I don’t know about you but I’m VERY excited.  Beyond the awesomeness of picking out a really fun Halloween costume, and playing “Monster Mash” while your child dances around with excitement at the prospect of joining their friends singing the chant “Trick or Treat” as they go from home to home–there is also the awesomeness of having to deal with the aftermath of it all. You know–the butt-load of candy that your child has in their candy bag? The fact that by eating such an amount of candy the child is more susceptible to a bellyache, a sugar rush, a choking hazard, and a cavity.  So what are some ways to make the “candy binge” more manageable? Look below at some really nice tips I’ve gotten from the LA Times:

Go easy on the stomach. To avoid digestive upset, agree in advance on how many treats your child can eat on Halloween night. Let him pick out those two or three favorite pieces of candy and immediately put the rest aside.

Don’t eat during trick-or-treating. Make sure kids come home with their loot so you can inspect it before they dig in. Feed them a healthy dinner before they go out so they’re not as tempted to snack.

Beware of choking hazards. Very young children shouldn’t have small, hard items such as chewing gum, peanuts or hard candies. Older children should be sitting down when they eat, not running around or wrestling with each other.

Spare the braces. Sticky, chewy or hard candy can bend or break wires in a child’s mouth. Kids with braces should stay away from treats such as jawbreakers, caramel candies, nut-filled chocolates, taffy, licorice, gummies and chewing gum.

Throw out unwrapped treats. Also avoid anything with loose or torn wrappers or small holes in the packaging; when in doubt, throw it out. And stay away from homemade treats unless you know the person who made it well.

Control leftovers. Limit kids to about two pieces a day from their stash of goodies, or have them trade in their candy for a toy, book or family outing. You can save the candy for a special occasion – a birthday party pinata, for example – or put it out in a bowl at work. Many dentists also offer buy-back programs.

Young kids watching too much television

I found an article on MSNBC.com, about preschoolers watching far too much television than what they should be, look at the article below, and tell me what you think:

“Young kids are watching too much television, some averaging more than five hours a day, a new study suggests.

The findings include screen time at home and in different child care settings.

And nearly 70 percent of the preschool-age children exceeded recommendations by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) for limiting screen exposure (including TV, DVDs, computers and video games) to one to two daily hours. The recommendation is based on research linking screen time with adverse effects, including language lags, obesity, possibly aggressive behaviors and decreased academic performance, according to study researcher Dr. Pooja Tandon of the Seattle Children’s Research Institute and the University of Washington.

“A majority of children under the age of 5 years in the United States spend almost 40 hours a week with caregivers other than their parents, and it’s important to understand what kind of screen-time exposure children are getting with these other caregivers,” Tandon said.

Tandon and her colleagues will detail their findings in a forthcoming issue of the Journal of Pediatrics.

TV tallies
The team looked at data collected from nearly 9,000 preschool-age children (4 to 5 years old) along with their parents and caregivers who took part in the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Birth Cohort (ECLS-B). The ECLS-B has followed a nationally representative sample of 10,700 children born in 2001. The sample is meant to represent about 4 million children of the same ages and demographics.

Results were grouped by child care setting: home-based care (in the child’s home or a relative/non-relative’s home), commercial day care centers, Head Start programs and no child care arrangement (parents only).

 

Overall, children stared at TV screens 4.1 hours a day, including 3.6 hours at home and the rest in child care. Kids in home-based care showed the highest screen time, about 5.5 hours a day, with 1.5 of those hours in front of screens during child care. TV time for kids in commercial day cares was the lowest, at 3.2 daily hours. Kids cared for by parents only were exposed to 4.4 daily hours, and Head Start kids got 4.2 daily hours of screen time.

Tandon said the results aren’t that surprising. “When children are at home, whether with parents or another caregiver, it’s easier to turn the television on,” Tandon told LiveScience. “Many of those settings are not regulated or licensed; many tend to be less structured.”

As for the overall abundance of TV-watching among the tots, parents’ hectic lives may be partly to blame. From her own experience as a parent as well as anecdotal evidence from friends, Tandon said, “there are times when the television is used as a babysitter in a sense.”

Part of the problem is that parents aren’t as comfortable sending their children outside to play on their own. And with so much media available, kids are spending more and more time indoors, she added.

TV tips
Since TV and other media are here to stay, Tandon recommends screening quality shows. “For children over 2, I think programs that teach things like numbers, letters, different languages, [those] that have positive messages like sharing and respecting diversity,” Tandon said, adding that programs such as “Dora the Explorer,” “Blue’s Clues” [s1]and “Sesame Street” would be considered positive shows.

Tandon offers tips for limiting screen time :

  • Use DVDs or on-demand television, because when the show is over, it’s over. “The problem with television is it keeps going,” Tandon said. These media also eliminate advertisements, which tend to promote unhealthy foods, she added.
  • Set rules for screen time early in children’s lives.
  • Turn off the TV during meal times.
  • Take TVs out of bedrooms. (Tandon mentioned research suggesting a certain percentage of preschoolers have TVs in their rooms.)
  • Watch television with kids, and discuss the shows and the messages put forth.

And the take-home message from the study, Tandon said, is for parents to loop caregivers in — let them know what the recommendations are for TV time. If parents are in the know about how much screen time they soaked up during the day, television at home that day or week can be tailored to keep it at a dull roar.”

 

Smart Parents, Happy Kids

I found a really good article on Time Magazine online, thought it was a bit inspirational and cute as well. The article is below:

“There is a great moment in the movie Parenthood in which Keanu Reeves’ character says something to the effect of “You need a license to catch a fish, but anyone can become a parent.”

That is absolutely true. In this issue we explore some of the many illnesses and chronic conditions with which children can struggle, along with the progress that’s been made in diagnoses and treatments. Yet while science has made spectacular strides to the benefit of countless children, a definitive manual for a human being’s ultimate responsibility — bearing and rearing our young — remains elusive. Ironically, when we look to the educational, medical and social-work establishments, there is more guidance and reference material about children with challenges and problems than those without. As it pertains to the “average” child, there is less emphasis on how to keep healthy kids well and detect problems as they arise.

My wife Lisa and I have four children. We had our first when we were in our early 20s. Through the challenges of raising them, we’ve learned a lot — mostly from our own parents and children but also by observing the parents of our children’s friends. Never underestimate what you can absorb by watching and conversing. My training as a physician tempted me to look at every situation as a medical riddle. It took my wife’s gentle guidance to show me that children don’t often present those kinds of problems (except when they might need stitches).

Over time we realized that smart parenting is like guiding your child on the boat ride of life down a long, unpredictable river. You help control the canoe’s direction and speed, while your youngsters sit back and take in everything around them so they can learn to steer on their own. Your goal is to teach your passengers enough about the river so that you can eventually pass them the paddle. This includes explaining everything you see and telling them what they need to know about the boat itself — their bodies, their genetics, their family history. You also need to fill them with enough self-esteem and awareness of their strengths and weaknesses so that they will navigate wisely and well.

These insights became the foundation of our new book with Dr. Michael Roizen, You: Raising Your Child. To tackle many of the debates on parenting, we surveyed some top child-development specialists and pediatricians who happen to be parents. Here are some of our practical insights on how to be a smart parent:

You can be the greatest parent in the world by not being the greatest parent in the world. While it’s no surprise that an absentee parent isn’t healthy for kids, the 180-degree turn is also bad. An adult who overparents can actually hinder development. It’s better to be somewhere in the middle, giving children enough attention but also knowing that exploration and independence are crucial to their learning. Let them run the canoe close to the embankment periodically or they won’t learn how to recover from failure.

Pretend you’re a 3-D-movie maker. A child’s brain is like a sponge, so parents need to make the biggest mess they can. Spill everything: words, sounds, tastes, colors, shapes and smells! This will help nudge your child in the directions in which they 1) have the most interest and 2) have the most potential for success.

Kids are copycats. Parents need to be strong role models. Children will treat themselves much the way you treat yourself, and that should give us all pause. If you are overweight, your child has a 40% chance of being obese. If both parents are heavy, the odds rise to 80%. Taking care of yourself helps them learn the same skills.

Playtime teaches life lessons. “Play with your kids” is my favorite bit of advice. In our home, we hold frequent Oz Olympics — a mix of challenging physical and mental games — with all the kids to see how they respond to stress. I also adore telling bedtime stories, because the children are getting tired and so are more willing to listen. Within the stories, I embed allegories of life lessons. Stories and playtime are teachable moments. Never underestimate their value. They are the language our children speak.

For my fellow parents: You are better at this than you think. For future parents: You will be better at it than you expect and enjoy it more than you’d ever guess.”

Read more: http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,2026672_2026707_2026709,00.html#ixzz131icp4eM

What’s wrong with Hand-Me-Downs?

I’m a godparent to two of my best friend’s children. They are 2 and 3. As much as I love my friend, there is one thing we disagree with: clothing.  For some reason she and her husband are really into dressing their children in expensive name brand clothing. This wouldn’t be much of an issue(even if I disagree with spending that much money on children that grow very quickly) if she had the money to invest in this sort of clothing. But she doesn’t. For all intent and purposes she is considered “poor”.  She is still in college and works part time, her husband is unemployed. They barely make ends meet for there three children, and themselves–especially in expensive Chicago. But when they do get any sort of income(whether it be taxes, student loan money, or money from parents and friends) they often spend it on their children and buy a ton of name brand outfits.

When I was growing up, my parents weren’t nearly as poor as my friend is and yet my mom had no problem taking her hard earned cash to a second-hand shop and buying us nice “hand-me-downs”.  In her mind there was no point in spending a ton of money on our clothing, especially when you consider the fact that most children grow tremendously from the time they are born until they are 6 or 7.  Buying a ton of name brand clothing that will only last for 6 months just didn’t make sense. Yes every now and then she may go on a splurge and buy one or two outfits that were outside of the budget, but for the most part there wasn’t an emphasis placed on “name brand clothing” in our home.

And up until my best friend got married, she didn’t really wear name-brand clothing either. Yes she WANTED to but could not afford name brand clothing and her parents weren’t willing to buy it for her either(even when we were in high school). So where this mindset comes from–I’m still not sure, but I can only think that it’s a result of the man she married who places a large level of importance on his kids ONLY being dressed in name brand clothing. Which is a shame since they can barely afford to put food on the table half the time.

Nonetheless as a Godparent I love to spend a little cash on my Godchildren and with their birthdays coming up I’ve decided to buy them winter coats since my friend has stated that they really need coats at this time. When I asked her how much I should budget for, she told me $80-100 should be fine. When she told me that I nearly reeled in surprise. And of course she made a point of telling me the store where she would prefer I buy the coats from (a store notorious for name brand clothing). I was baffled that she was asking me to spend that amount of these coats when clearly she wasn’t able to spend that much herself. But anyway I’ve pretty much decided that I’ll be going to Target, TJ Maxx, Walmart or a second hand store(all of these places offer coats for $20-25 per kid and will last the kids through the winter and through next winter).  My budget is  between $45-55 for the GRAND TOTAL of both coats. When I told her this she was offended and a bit put off. She also didn’t appreciate me telling her that she should consider second-hand stores for clothing since she is broke. This really made me wonder: what is wrong with hand-me-downs if that is what you can afford?????

Maybe I’m too frugal when it comes to kid clothing, but I’ve always wondered why there is such a negative stigma to buying inexpensive “used” children’s clothing.