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Train a Well-Rounded Athlete

March 27, 2014

By Jose Garcia

A group of girls sit on a bench while watching their team play soccer.

Athletes have always been idolized due to their strength, speed, competitiveness, and teamwork. In our sports-fascinated society, it is understandable to want our children to become the great athletes that we see daily on television.

Unfortunately, recent studies have shown that younger children are beginning to suffer injuries previously seen in teenagers and adults. This trend suggests that younger children are suffering from overtraining and exhaustion, causing injuries that may ultimately lead to long-term consequences.

Just as children should have a well-rounded academic record demonstrating various skillsets, they should have well-rounded athletic experience, too. Set an example for your children’s physical well-being that allows them to value exercise. Here are a few tips on what you can do to support an active and well-balanced physical lifestyle:

Choose sports together. 
Prior to selecting a sport for your children to play, get their input on what kind of sport they would enjoy. Many parents make the mistake of placing a child in a sport the parent themselves like without considering what the child prefers. Not all children are the same— one may like a team sport (football, soccer, baseball) while another may like an individual sport (tennis, track, boxing).

Try a few sports rather than concentrating on one.
It is important for children to have different experiences. Playing multiple sports can help your children meet new friends and learn different techniques that they can apply to other sports. Additionally, it will help your children avoid overusing certain muscles specific to one sport.

Limit practicing to a few hours every day.
One may think that overtraining will create a superstar athlete, but the truth is that it will most likely lead to burn out. Even for a child who loves the sport, overtraining may result in the child viewing it as a chore and potentially disliking it altogether. More severely, overtraining has been known to cause injury, exhaustion, and stress on the body.

Eat healthy foods and rest properly when not practicing or playing.
Children need to know that a healthy lifestyle doesn't end when games or practice are over. They should know that the foods they consume will help their bodies regain the energy they spent and provide the fuel for their next practice or game. Further, children should also know that rest is equally vital. Teach them that proper rest will help them become faster and stronger.

Physical health is one of the core topics YOU Parent considers of most importance in fostering child success. By supporting a healthy, physical livelihood for your children, you are teaching the discipline and skills that they will one day use in other aspects of their life. However, don't push them to the brink of injury; rather, let them play and enjoy the sports they like at their own pace. Doing so will allow them to remain active for many years to come.

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My Story: Choosing a Daycare

March 18, 2014

By Ana Vela

Ana's sonogram

My husband and I live 1200 miles away from our families, work full-time jobs, and are expecting our first child. I never imagined that I wouldn’t have family nearby to help us raise our child. Growing up, my mother raised my siblings and I herself. As a grandmother, she has helped raise my two nieces. Naturally, I had planned for her to help raise our child as well.

I thought this was only common where I grew up, but I was surprised to discover that the U.S. Census Bureau indicates 49 percent of children ages 0–4 with employed mothers were still cared for by a relative. Only 24 percent were in a center-based care facility. It is nice seeing how common it still is to have relatives help with childcare. Since that is not an option for us, we really didn’t know where to begin our search. Here’s what I learned from trying to figure this out.

Discuss what you’re looking for.
Before we started searching, my husband and I decided that we needed to be on the same page about what we want in childcare. We came up with a list of what we are looking for:

  • Budget-friendly childcare
  • English and Spanish language accommodations during care (it’s important for us to promote bilingualism with our child)
  • Convenience and flexibility (hours, location, emergency plan)
  • A welcoming, diverse, friendly, and safe environment

Start researching ASAP. 
I quickly discovered that some childcare facilities have waiting lists now for care that starts in July! Start your search six months prior to needing the care. Ask other parents for recommendations either in person or in online forums, read online reviews, and drive around to find nearby locations.

Look at available resources. 
I discovered that many states have nonprofit organizations that provide online lists of quality childcare resources and referrals in your area. Many of the lists include information such as accreditations, ratings, and years of service. If your employer offers any kind of benefits for childcare, talk to them for information. My husband’s company hosted a childcare fair where he met with several daycare centers to ask questions and get rates.

Understand care options. 
Through research, we discovered there were several options for childcare (listed in order from least to most expensive):

  • At-home daycare
  • Off-site daycare facilities
  • Au pair or nanny services (an au pair is a foreign visitor who lives with you and provides childcare)

Know your budget and stick to it. 
Some employers offer benefits such as flexible spending accounts for childcare, matching contributions, discounts, and priority placement on waitlists at certain daycares. This information helped my husband and I set a budget for childcare. We want to choose care that’s within our budget to ensure we are not stressed over finances and that we have a safety cushion for emergencies.

Visit the options. 
I learned that many sites allow one free day of care for your evaluation. Take advantage and schedule tours to ask questions. Here are some questions you may want to ask:

  • Are you accredited by NAEYC?
  • Do you accommodate cloth diapers or only disposable?
  • How do I provide breast milk for my child?
  • What is the child-to-teacher ratio?

Choosing childcare is a big decision and we are very nervous about it. We still have several visits to make before we make a final decision, but as long as we stay true to our list of needs and wants, we are confident we will make the right choice.

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National Poison Prevention Week

March 17, 2014

By Jessica Vician

Did you know that 50 percent of all poison exposures happen to children under age six? Most poisonings occur from ingesting products that you probably have sitting around at home.

This week is National Poison Prevention Week, which is the perfect time to go through your home and poison-proof it. If you have young children or pets, get on your knees and look around your house. Where are your cleaning supplies and medications? If you can see them or the cabinets they’re in when you’re kneeling at your child or pet’s height, make sure those cabinets are locked and the products are behind the cabinet door.

Poisoning doesn’t just affect young kids, though. If you have any prescription medications, such as pain or sleeping pills, don’t share them with your teenagers and college-aged children. Each dosage for medication—even a prescription-based ibuprofen—is carefully prescribed for you and your condition. Sharing them with anyone else could potentially be deadly.

Click through to this infographic on important statistics and information on poisoning from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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How do I effectively discipline my child without being physical?

March 14, 2014

By YOU Program Facilitator

A child frowns while his mother disciplines him.

Question: I don't want to discipline my kids by spanking them, but my husband does. He doesn’t think there’s another option. How can we effectively discipline our kids without being physical?

Answer: Disciplining a child is no easy task. It’s normal at times to feel desperate, frustrated, and mad. If you or your husband feels the urge to spank your child or act out in anger, take a time-out and breathe. Striking your children will only have negative consequences.

The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly opposes striking a child and discourages any form of physical punishment. Effective discipline is possible without being physical. You and your husband can start by setting limits.

Be clear about your house rules.
It’s up to you to define and make clear what you expect from your children. Discuss house rules with them often, when you are all calm. If your rules are clear and easy to understand, your children will have an easier time following them.

Be consistent.
Every adult who cares for your children should be consistent when enforcing rules and actions. Remember that children model behavior and may not follow rules if you or other caregivers don’t follow them, too. Discipline helps your children learn to behave in the real world with real people.

Be supportive.
When pointing out unacceptable behavior, always communicate that you still love and support your children.

Set measures that are developmentally appropriate.
Each age comes with specific techniques to discipline a child. For example, at the toddler stage, you must ensure safety and limit aggression. Use brief verbal explanations and redirect your children to an alternative activity.

In contrast, while disciplining a teenager, you should explain rules in a noncritical way. Parents shouldn’t belittle the teenager, but instead explain the logical consequences of his or her actions.

Disciplining with love, understanding, and consistency while modeling behavior has much better results in the short and long term than using physical discipline.

For more information on the issues addressed in this question, see the YOU: Your Child's First Teacher book series, specifically Through the Early Years. See page 13 for information about taking time out for yourself, page 38 for understanding the importance of modeling positive behavior and page 56 for information about establishing boundaries for your child.

Do you have a question you would like answered and featured on the site? Submit it here.

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Responding to Aggressive Play

March 4, 2014

By Stephen J. West

A father talks to his son on the playground.

When I’m planning my two-year-old son’s day, I like to schedule activities where he can play with other children. Whether it’s the playground, the mall, or an arranged play date with another child, playing with other children is not only fun for my son, it also helps him learn how to interact and socialize with other children.

Playing with other children presents plenty of opportunities for my son’s emotional development, too. But the laughter and smiles aren’t the only benefits; when he and the other children stop playing nice also presents an experience to learn from—for him and me alike.

Whether it’s a frustration over sharing a toy or not wanting to play a game, confrontations between children are normal. According to Susan Stiffelman, “When a child is frustrated, there are only two possible outcomes: 1) he accepts that he cannot have or do what he would like, or 2) he becomes aggressive toward others or himself.”

Stiffleman believes that “If a frustrated child is able to safely offload his upset—perhaps even by having a cry—he will find his way toward accepting that he can't have the cookie, the toy, or the undivided attention he seeks. Otherwise, his frustration will turn into aggressive behavior.”

When aggressive behavior does take place between your child and another, it’s important to have strategies in your back pocket for helping your child and the other children involved.

Stay calm and explain the misbehavior. Kids need to be taught what isn’t acceptable, and they will usually listen if you calmly instruct them not to touch, hit, or bite. A parent who causes a scene over a child’s actions can inspire further outbursts that will end the play date quickly—and isn’t really modeling the most respectable social behavior themselves.

Give the children involved an exit plan. Whether that means introducing another game or moving your child to another room to play by themselves, distraction—and sometimes distance—can diffuse tension.

Occasionally, your child’s aggressive play might result in another child getting a bump or bruise. In that case, Amy McCready believes that you make sure the other child is okay, but not force your child to give a meaningless apology. “They’ll learn more long-term,” she says, “if you hold them accountable when they’re calm by helping them make amends to the other child.”

The same advice holds true when you need to confront another parent about the actions of their child. If you can, speak to the parent away from the children, even if it’s after the confrontation has been resolved. And when you do talk with them, be conscious of the tone of your voice and your choice of words. If I want my son to learn how to respect others, the way I act when I confront other adults might be the most important lesson I can give him.



In addition to being a father of an energetic two year old, Stephen J. West is a professor, writer, art enthusiast, and collector of bonsai trees. You can follow him on Twitter, where his opinions are his own. 

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