Friday, October 31, 2014

Teaching value of money

Radio Commentary

How can parents draw the line for their children in our materialistic culture, and teach them the values of thrift and common sense?

There are several good approaches.

One mother makes her children use their own money, from allowance or chores, to buy the toys or goods that they pressure her to buy.
She said:  “I find my children don’t always want it if they have to pay for it.”

Another good idea is to involve children at an early age in the family’s charitable acts.
When it comes to school items, it sometimes helps to set a budget and let children get what they want within that budget.

Even if they would rather have one pair of jeans with a big brand-name label and stick with their frayed T-shirts, they’re learning to make choices about what money can buy.
It’s also important for parents to be flexible.  Maybe you can give in to your children on one less expensive fashion item — such as colorful mechanical pencils, which cost a little more than the basic No. 2 variety of pencil.

But in return, you could stick to your guns if you are being lobbied for expensive designer shoes.

There are no hard-and-fast rules when it comes to teaching values.

The best advice, always, is to live by the values you want your children to have.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Role models

Radio Commentary

If you think your children aren’t watching your actions, you’re mistaken.

Children watch adults all the time — especially their parents. And children often imitate what adults do.

So here’s a good tip: Try to model whatever you would like your children to pick up.

If you want your children to be polite, then let them see you being polite in a variety of situations. That’s how they learn.

Next time you’re prone to express some frustration while in the car with your children, stop and remember that they will pick up on how you express anger.

If you yell, you can bet that sometime, in another situation, your children will be doing their own interpretation of your performance.

Whether it’s a young child trying to make sense of adult behavior, or a teen trying on a variety of personas, young people are more watchful than you realize.

It can be helpful to remember that the spotlight is always shining. Many parents find they benefit in the process, by modifying their behavior for the better.

Of course, no one can be perfect. If your children see you act in a way you would not like them to behave, take the time to talk and explain the situation.

Remind them that even adults act impulsively and regret their actions at times.

Learning is a never-ending process. 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014


Radio Commentary

Halloween comes this Friday, and it is a favorite day for young and old alike.
However, adults should take precautions to make sure that the children who go out “trick or treating” have a safe, enjoyable evening.
For starters, parents should make sure children wear well-fitted clothing and shoes.  Children should be encouraged to use makeup rather than masks that can obstruct their vision in the dark.

Children should also carry flashlights, and wear light-colored costumes that can easily been seen by drivers.

Children should be selective regarding the homes they visit, and it’s best to have at least one adult accompany each group of children.
If children are old enough to be out on their own, parents should know the general path they plan to take. All children should have a specific time limit for when they are to return.

There are also several “don’ts” for children to heed:  Children should not enter any home; they should stay outside, on the front steps.
They should go only to homes that have lights on. They should not eat any candy before an adult inspects it. Unwrapped items should be pitched.

Make sure children know to be on the lookout for cars when they cross streets and driveways.

Finally, adults should remember to take extra precautions when driving on Halloween night because children will be everywhere.

It can be a safe, harmless, enjoyable evening for all who take part if simple precautions are followed.  

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

THRIVE Santa Barbara County attends StriveTogether National Conference

News release

Representatives from THRIVE Santa Barbara County joined more than 400 educators, elected officials, community leaders, business executives, nonprofit professionals, and policymakers at the fifth national StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network Convening from Oct. 15-17 in San Diego, California.

“Through this convening, all of the cradle to career partnerships have the opportunity to network and share collective impact lessons from around the country,” said THRIVE Leadership Roundtable Chair, Paul Cordeiro, superintendent of the Carpinteria Unified School District. “We are excited to have this opportunity to share our experiences and to learn what others are doing. Candid discussions about successes and challenges help us all to provide the maximum benefit to our students and communities.”

The StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network brings together cross-sector leaders who are committed to improving educational outcomes for children. Representing more than 50 community partnerships in 28 states and Washington, D.C., attendees at the sold-out event discussed best practices and experiences to unite communities around shared goals, measures, and results in education. StriveTogether’s Cradle to Career Network connects more than 8,000 organizations throughout more than 50 partnerships. Together, the Network impacts more than 5.5 million students. During the past year, StriveTogether’s collective impact approach has gained national attention from the Stanford Social Innovation Review, the U.S. Department of Education, and the White House.

THRIVE Project Manager Laura Camp said, “We are honored to be one of the cradle to career efforts recognized nationally for our work, and to be supported in Santa Barbara County by people with long-term vision and dedication to improving educational outcomes for our children.”

THRIVE Santa Barbara County marks the first time public schools, government agencies, public charities, businesses, private foundations, and other key stakeholders have come together in a long-term partnership to focus on achieving systemic change that will ensure the success of all children in Santa Barbara County. THRIVE offers the leaders of the many excellent youth programs and organizations throughout the county a structured way to share data and align resources around common outcomes so that all children will have the best opportunities in life.

Key outcomes for success on the THRIVE pathway: Kindergarten Readiness, English & Language Arts Literacy, Mathematics Proficiency, College/Career Readiness, Post-Secondary Enrollment, and Post-Secondary Completion.

For more information, contact Laura Camp, THRIVE Project Manager at 964-4710, ext. 4400 or, or visit

Reaching kids

Radio Commentary

There is a quote I really like that says: “Either we teach our children, or we abandon the future to chance and nonsense.”

You don’t have to tell that to parents or educators. Both groups are well aware of the responsibilities they shoulder.

A Gallup Poll on Americans’ attitudes toward public schools reconfirmed a perception that has held steady for more than two decades: the public gives only average marks to the nation’s public schools, but predominantly As or Bs to the schools their own children attend.

We hear reports about the demise of public education, but what parents see for their own children — for whom they are the world’s harshest critics — they rate above average or excellent. Think about that.

Educators recognize that challenges remain, and that until all students reach their potential, closing the achievement gap, work remains.

The one irrefutable truth we have learned from educational research over the years is that every child learns differently. Some must read information to “get” it. Others must hear it, and others need hands-on approaches.

Still others do much better in small groups, while some require the one-to-one attention of a teacher or tutor. Most need a mix of techniques.

The trick for educators lies in identifying the needs for each student and providing strategies to meet those various needs. Not an easy task.

Reform efforts continue. I’ve always considered teachers our unsung heroes and heroines for the work they do, every day, to reach and teach our children. They deserve our support.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Parent role

Radio Commentary

It’s good to remember that parents can play a major role in helping prepare children for the challenges of homework and class work:
  • Make sure your child begins each day with a good breakfast, and arrange to have snacks and other meals at regular times. This helps small bodies adjust and react at maximum capacity.
  • Inform your child of your schedule at home and on the job. This helps establish a sense of time, consistency and order.
  • Read with your child every day that you can. Newspapers, short stories, and books can all be the basis of enjoyable shared experiences.
  • If possible, set aside a specific time each day for homework.
Tell your child that homework is a number one priority, and make sure you mean it. But also remember to be flexible if soccer practice or band tryouts fall during homework time.  Together, set a new time for that day.

Don’t do your children’s homework, but be sure he or she knows you are available for help.  Serve as a “consultant.”

When your child is studying for a test, discourage “cramming” the night before.  Instead, ask your child to bring a textbook home every other night and teach you what he or she has learned in school.
The most important point for parents to remember, at all times, is that their own positive attitude toward homework, teachers, and school can have great influence on their child’s success.

And that’s the bottom line for all of us. 

Friday, October 24, 2014


Radio Commentary

Leadership and service aren’t limited to public roles, according to author Marian Wright Edelman, president of the Children’s Defense Fund.

In fact, she argued that the strongest leadership and most effective service can come from the way individuals handle themselves, day to day, in their normal interactions with others.

In a book for her children, she wrote: “Be a quiet servant-leader and example. You have a role to exercise ... every minute of the day.”

She explained how in the most common of circumstances we can seize the opportunity to resist what is negative and set an example for what can be positive.

She wrote:  “Have you ever noticed how one example — good or bad — can prompt others to follow?

“How one illegally parked car can give permission for others to do likewise?

“How one racial joke can fuel another?

“How one sour person can dampen a meeting?”

Edelman writes that the opposite is also true. “One positive person can set the tone in an office or school. Just doing the right and decent thing can set the pace for others to follow.”

We could all benefit by being one of those people who models positive behavior.
Edelman writes: “America is in urgent need of a band of moral guerrillas who simply decide to do what is right, regardless of the immediate consequences.”

This is wonderful advice for young and old alike.

Thursday, October 23, 2014


Radio Commentary

A very serious threat to the well-being of children is one that many parents still know too little about: cyber-bullying. Its effects can be devastating.

We have all read news reports of young suicide victims, bullied into believing life was no longer worth living because of relentless attacks over the Internet.

One can only imagine the ripple effect these tragedies have had on the victims’ families, and their communities, and even on the perpetrators.

Most young people who take part in cyber-bullying do it as a joke, and don’t pause to consider the impacts. Throughout human history, young people have shown they can be mean to each other, but the Internet has provided them with the tools to be truly cruel.

Many parents are simply not up to speed when it comes to social network sites or the online places their own children visit. New sites seem to emerge each day.

Add in the presence of text messages and video messages, and it all means that parenting in the age of cyber-crimes is more challenging than ever.

It might seem like a good idea to give a young child a cell phone with Internet access, but parents should consider the trade-offs they are making when they do so.

Yes, children will be able to stay in touch; but the risk is real, especially with young children whose judgment and decision-making skills are not yet fully developed.

Our office is working in partnership with District Attorney Joyce Dudley to address and reduce incidents of cyber-bullying. Parents need to be active partners in these efforts as well.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Voting remains our shared responsibility

News column

As the world situation becomes ever more worrisome, we are reminded once again what sets us apart as one of the greatest powers on earth — our democratic system of governance and our freedoms. Neither comes without a price — and that price is the responsibility to vote. We all know voting is our right. We sometimes forget it is our duty as well, as citizens in a democracy.

Throughout history people have sacrificed their lives for the freedom to vote, and throughout our shrinking world they continue to do so in an effort to elect leaders and influence policies. Yet many in our communities continue to take that right for granted, or relinquish it all together. Statistics from the last California primary show that only 18 percent of registered voters took part in this important civic responsibility.

On Tuesday, Nov. 4, or by absentee ballot in the weeks leading up to that date, citizens will once again have the chance to make their choice among candidates for federal, state, and judicial offices, as well as school district, special district, and city offices. The ballot will also contain important state and local measures. Once again, apathy or lack of participation will be the greatest threats to the outcome.

I view elections and initiatives through the lens of what is best for children. Because they can’t vote, it is up to us to determine how best to ensure a strong, healthy promising future for this next generation.
Many of the candidates have very clear-cut positions on children’s issues and programs. Plus, several ballot measures and propositions will have direct impact on the children of this state and our community. Several school board seats are also up for election, with direct influence on local school districts.

Parents and adults who advocate for young people can make sure, by their vote, that government will make children a priority in policy matters. As Thomas Jefferson said, “In a democracy, agreement is not essential, but participation is.”

What kind of a nation would we become and what kind of government would we have if people no longer participated?

As we cast our votes for candidates and initiatives, we will be setting priorities for this decade and beyond.

As an educator, I am a strong supporter of school districts’ efforts to support and serve the children and young people in their charge. In this election, several school bonds will appear on the ballot, including Carpinteria, College, Montecito, Santa Maria-Bonita, and Santa Barbara City College. Some of the state propositions will also have a direct or indirect effect on school districts. I urge you to get the details of the measures that will affect your family, and cast an educated vote on the various measures.

Santa Barbara County Clerk Recorder Joseph Holland maintains an informative voting website at The California League of Women Voters also provides current voting guides at

I urge all members of our community to learn the positions of various candidates and the details of the various measures, and to use that knowledge to take part in this important aspect of our democracy. Exercise your right to vote and encourage others to do so as well. It’s the price we pay for our freedoms.

Firearms at home

Radio Commentary

More than 22 million U.S. children live in homes with firearms.
In 43 percent of those homes, the guns are not locked up or fitted with trigger locks, according to a national survey.
The study, reported in the "American Journal of Public Health," analyzed gun storage practices in six thousand nine hundred households with children.

The study found that nine percent of homes keep firearms unlocked, and loaded. Those homes represent 1.7 million children.
Another 4 percent of the homes have guns that are unlocked and have ammunition nearby.
That means that about 2.6 million homes had firearms stored in a way most accessible to children.

Researchers found that many parents know guns should be locked up but there is a disconnect between knowledge and action.
They may think the top shelf of a closet or a sock drawer is secure. But children are notoriously curious and may find them anyway.
Experts say parents should look at their own firearm storage and ask pointed questions about weapons at their friends' homes as well.

This is one area where it’s not possible to be too cautious. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Balanced eating

Radio Commentary

Many experts feel that far too much attention is placed on the body shape. This can translate into eating disorders for young teenage women.

It is also true that being seriously overweight can cause long-term health problems that should be avoided.

Parents can help children maintain a healthy balance. If they aren’t hungry at mealtime, don’t insist they clean their plates.

Parents should also observe how their children signal true hunger.

Sometimes young people will ask for food or say they are hungry when they are merely bored, lonely, or frustrated.

Try to determine whether the child is truly hungry. If not, help him find other ways to address boredom or frustration.

It’s also important to encourage physical activity. Discourage long hours spent in front of the TV or computer. Enjoy activities with your children. They are more likely to take part if you play along with them.

Also, be a good role model. Eat healthy foods and avoid inactivity. Children with overweight parents are twice as likely to become overweight as well.

Remember, though, to strike a balance in paying attention to weight. Too much focus can backfire and cause an eating disorder.

As always, moderation is the key.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Calendar habit

Radio Commentary

Which people are the most successful in life? Sometimes we see that it is not necessarily those who are the brightest or the most highly educated or the most well-intentioned.

Sometimes success is simply a function of being well-organized and staying the course. Woody Allen made famous the quote that “80 percent of success is showing up.”

Whether a child is in school or outside the classroom, being organized before showing up is an important trait that can make a real difference.

One good way to help children get in the habit of being organized is to buy them a big calendar. It should have lots of space to write on each day. The bigger, the better.

Encourage children to write key dates on the calendar, such as birthdays, school holidays, medical appointments, and planned outings.

Have them mark the dates they have to be somewhere regularly, such as after-school sports practices or music lessons.

Next, have them add the due dates for homework assignments, especially those that will take time to complete. And be sure they write in dates for exams.

Help children get into the habit of checking the calendar every weeknight for the next day’s activities. Talk about what needs to be done to prepare. Sunday night is a good time to check on what’s happening throughout the following week and to add new things that are coming up.

In many families, a calendar has proven to be the key to helping children schedule time wisely and stay organized — a habit that proves valuable throughout life.

Friday, October 17, 2014

College visits

Radio Commentary

The search for colleges can be very stressful. Parents can help in the decision-making process by planning visits to campuses.
They can also help students prepare questions to ask during the visits. Here are some suggestions:

What are the strongest departments and most popular majors at the school?

What is the average class size? Is it different for freshmen?

How do I compare academically with students already attending the school? What kinds of cultural, athletic, or literary activities are offered on campus?

What kind of housing is available? How many students are members of fraternities and sororities?

What support services are available to students? General counseling? Health care? Tutoring?

Are there any overseas or exchange programs?
What percentage of students receive financial aid?

Do you consider this a safe campus?

What do most students do after they graduate? What kind of student is generally happiest at this college?

Selecting a college that will provide a good “fit” often rests on intangibles – a feeling students get when they walk around the campus.

But answers to these questions can help students narrow down whether a particular college might be right for them.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Annual Opportunities Expo highlights opportunities

News release

The Annual Opportunities Expo will take place on Thursday, Oct. 23 from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the Veteran’s Memorial Building, 313 W. Tunnel Street, Santa Maria. The purpose of the Expo is to highlight the many opportunities available in northern Santa Barbara and southern San Luis Obispo Counties to help students with disabilities become working and contributing members of their community.

This one day public event hosts venders, educators, and businesses that support special education programs, and provides information about getting jobs and living in the community. Parents, guardians, friends, educators, and members of the community are invited to attend. Each year local businesses are honored for their contributions and exceptional students are acknowledged for their achievements.

October is also National Disability Employment Awareness Month. In his recent proclamation President Obama stated, “Americans with disabilities lead thriving businesses, teach our children, and serve our Nation; they are innovators and pioneers of technology. During National Disability Employment Awareness Month, we celebrate the Americans living with disabilities, including significant disabilities, who enrich our country, and we reaffirm the simple truth that each of us has something to give to the American story.”

More information is available from Cheri Spencer, Vocational and Transition Manager at 922-0334, or

Self-esteem tips

Radio Commentary

There was a time when no one even considered a child’s self-esteem. Shame and blame were acceptable forms of child-rearing and schooling. Feelings were never considered.

Then several studies showed that children with higher self-esteem actually performed better. They were less afraid to ask questions if they didn’t understand. They had more courage to tackle difficult problems.

They had more perseverance when things went wrong. And they generally were more successful as a result of this.

Then the tables turned again.

Somehow, efforts at building self-esteem were blamed for low test scores. Building a child’s self-esteem took a back seat to drilling the basics.

The truth is that self-esteem is important, and those who have it are happier and still outperform those who don’t.

So here are some tips for parents who want to help develop their children’s self-esteem:

  • Give your child responsibility. Encourage volunteerism. Doing good makes one feel good.
  • Develop a social network that includes family, friends, school, and the community. 
  • Never humiliate your child. Try to use only constructive criticism, emphasizing that no one is perfect and that everyone can learn from mistakes. 
  • And finally, let your love be unconditional, based on your child’s worth, rather than on specific “successes.”

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Free and reduced-price meals provided in national school lunch program at two community schools of the county education office

News release

Peter B. FitzGerald Community School and El Puente Lompoc Community School, both programs of the Santa Barbara County Education Office’s Juvenile Court and Community Schools program, announced the policy for providing free and reduced-price meals for children served under the National School Lunch Program. Each school or central office has a copy of the policy, which may be reviewed by any interested party.

The household size and income criteria that follows will be used to determine eligibility for free, reduced-price, or full-price meal benefits. Children from households whose income is at or below the levels shown are eligible for free or reduced-price meals.

Children who receive Food Stamp (FS), California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs), Kinship Guardianship Assistance Payments (Kin-GAP), or Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR) benefits are automatically eligible for free meals regardless of the income of the household in which they reside. Eligibility for a foster child is based on a separate application and solely on the amount of the child's “personal use” income.

Income Eligibility Guidelines - click here

To apply for free or reduced-price meal benefits, households must complete an application and return it to the school for processing. Applications may be submitted at any time during the school year. The information households provide on the application will be used to determine meal eligibility and may be verified at any time during the school year by school or program officials.

Requirements for school officials to determine eligibility for free and reduced-price benefits are as follows: For households receiving Food Stamp, CalWORKs, Kin-GAP, or FDPIR benefits – applications need only include the enrolled child(ren)'s name, Food Stamp, CalWORKs, Kin-GAP, or FDPIR case number, and the signature of an adult household member.

For households who do not list a Food Stamp, CalWORKs, Kin-GAP, or FDPIR case number, the application must include the names of all household members, the amount and source of the income received by each household member, and the signature and corresponding Social Security number of an adult household member. If the household member who signs the application does not have a Social Security number, the household member must indicate on the application that a Social Security number is not available.

Under the provisions of the free and reduced-price meal policy, the determining official(s), as designated by the sponsor/agency, shall review applications and determine eligibility. Parents or guardians dissatisfied with the eligibility ruling may discuss the decision with the determining official on an informal basis. Parents may also make a formal request for an appeal hearing of the decision and may do so orally or in writing with the sponsor/agency’s hearing official. Parents or guardians should contact their child(ren)’s school(s) for specific information regarding the name of the determining official and/or hearing official for a specific school, agency, or district.

If a household member becomes unemployed or if the household size increases, the household should contact the school. Such changes may make the children of the household eligible for benefits if the household's income falls at or below the levels shown above.

Households that receive Food Stamp, CalWORKs, Kin-GAP, or FDPIR benefits may not have to complete an Application for Free or Reduced-Price Meals or Free Milk. School officials will determine eligibility for free meals based on documentation obtained directly from the Food Stamp, CalWORKs, Kin-GAP, or FDPIR office that a child is a member of a household currently receiving Food Stamp or FDPIR benefits or an assistance unit receiving CalWORKs or Kin-GAP benefits. School officials will notify households of their eligibility, but those who do not want their child(ren) to receive free meals must contact the school. Food Stamp, CalWORKs, Kin-GAP, and FDPIR households should complete an application if they are not notified of their eligibility within 10 calendar days.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture prohibits discrimination against its customers, employees, and applicants for employment on the bases of race, color, national origin, age, disability, sex, gender identity, religion, reprisal, and where applicable, political beliefs, marital status, familial or parental status, sexual orientation, or all or part of an individual’s income is derived from any public assistance program, or protected genetic information in employment or in any program or activity conducted or funded by the Department. (Not all prohibited bases will apply to all programs and/or employment activities.)

If you wish to file a Civil Rights program complaint of discrimination, complete the USDA Program Discrimination Complaint Form, found online at, or at any USDA office, or call (866) 632 9992 to request the form. You may also write a letter containing all of the information requested in the form. Send your completed complaint form or letter to us by mail at U.S. Department of Agriculture, Director, Office of Adjudication, 1400 Independence Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20250-9410, by fax (202) 690-7442 or email at

Individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing or have speech disabilities may contact USDA through the Federal Relay Service at (800) 877-8339; or (800) 845-6136 (Spanish).

Further information is available from the Santa Barbara County Education Office, Mark Leufkens, Juvenile Court and Community Schools, at 964-4710, ext. 5213.


Radio Commentary

We’ve made a lot of progress in reducing the number of children who are accidentally poisoned each year. Much of the credit is due to public education on the topic.

In the 1960s, more than 450 children under the age of 5 were dying from accidental poisoning each year. That total has fallen to about 30. But it’s still too high.

Simple precautions remain critical:

  • Keep medicines in their original child-proof containers, stored out of reach.
  • Follow the doctor’s instructions carefully when giving medicine to children.
  • Store household cleaners safely — a high percentage of poisonings involve everyday cleaning products, cosmetics, cough and cold remedies, antibiotics, and vitamins.
  • Teach children never to eat anything you haven’t approved. 

A typical household contains products such as bleach, fertilizers, or paint stripper that can be fatal to a child.

If your child swallows a poison, you must act quickly and calmly:

If the child is conscious, determine exactly what was swallowed. The child could lose consciousness at any time.

Call 9-1-1 or the local poison control center.

Have the container on hand so you can tell the center the exact contents of what was swallowed. If the child must go to the hospital, be sure to take the poison container with you for the doctors there.

Stay calm and give the professionals short, precise answers, because time is often critical.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Fire drills

Radio Commentary

This is a good time of year for families to brush up on fire-escape strategies.

First, plan an escape route for everyone in the home. Outline at least two escape routes per room. Practice with the lights out, since most home fires occur at night. Children must understand not to hide from fire under their beds or in closets.

Set off the smoke alarm so everyone will recognize the sound.

Have children practice crawling, which is the best way to escape a smoky room or hallway. Emphasize that they should keep their heads within 12 inches of the ground, which helps them avoid the smoke in the air and the toxic gases that can be even closer to the floor.

Show them how to test a door that is closed: If it is hot, do not open it.

If it is not hot, open it cautiously, but if smoke rushes in, quickly close the door and exit through a window instead.

Remind children, if they ever are trapped in a fire, to keep doors closed and to stuff door cracks and vents with clothes or towels. Then wait at a window for firefighters.

Make sure children can give the family’s name and full address, and know how to dial 9-1-1 to report a fire. Agree in advance on a place where the family will meet once everyone escapes.

Finally, practice “stop-drop-and-roll” with all family members. This is the best response if someone’s clothes catch fire.

And remember: Safety practices are strengthened by constant reinforcement. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

New babies

Radio Commentary

This is a special message for first-time parents.

If you have a new baby in the house, you are no doubt a very proud parent.

You probably feel excited but also a little nervous about taking care of something so small and seemingly fragile. If so, you are like most parents. It is very normal to have those feelings.

To start with, newborn babies don’t usually look like the cute babies in diaper ads. Newborns’ heads are often more pointed than round. Their skin may be wrinkly and reddish. This is completely normal.

You’re devoted to your new child, and it’s good to know that even in the first few days of life, your baby is starting to find out who you are.

Research has found that even very young babies know the difference between their parents and strangers.

There are many changes that take place and new things to learn when you become a parent. It doesn’t happen overnight.

Be patient with yourself. The love you have for your baby will help you learn to become a good parent.

Just as no two babies are exactly alike, no one takes care of a baby in exactly the same way. Remember to ask questions whenever you need help.

Be a loving parent. Do your best. Enjoy your baby. Everything else will follow in due course.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Safety instructions

Radio Commentary

Concepts of trust and danger, which are virtually meaningless to a two-year-old, make perfect sense to older children.
It is critical that parents use safety instructions appropriate to a child’s age if they want them to be followed.

For example, two-year-olds respond to rules and are old enough to know that certain actions bring their parents’ disapproval. Express strong disapproval if a child wanders away at the mall. Two is also a good age to plant the idea that some actions require permission.
Three year olds begin to understand the concept of trust. Tell them exactly who they can turn to for specific kinds of help — the babysitter, a neighbor, etc.

Four-year-olds are risk takers, so it is an important time to reinforce safety rules and step up supervision. Children at this age can begin to understand that not every person they meet is trustworthy.

At five, children start school and interact with many new people, including older children who could be intimidating or unkind. It’s a good time for parents to reinforce positive perceptions of people.

By six, most children have begun to develop intuition. This is the time to encourage them to trust their own instincts:  if something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.

Using instructions appropriate for a child’s age helps make sure the directions will be followed. 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Setting TV limits

Radio Commentary

When you consider Saturday morning cartoons, computer games, advertising, and movies, it can be worrisome to think about the media’s impact on children.

How can you set family standards for violence and other questionable content?

A resource called “Parenting in a TV Age,” published by the Center for Media and Values, answered some of these questions.

First, parents should take charge of children’s TV watching or computer-game use by setting limits on how much they will be allowed to watch or play. Typical limits include two hours a day, or 10 hours on a weekend.

Parents should also encourage daily alternatives, such as sports, games, hobbies, reading, chores, and playing with friends.

It’s also a good idea to get a locking device on your TV to bar access to certain cable channels and to consider similar filters for online sites.

Parents should decide ahead of time what “strings” to attach to viewing a popular show that may contain troublesome content. For example, children might be allowed to watch a certain program only if they agree to spend 15 minutes afterward discussing it with you.

Perhaps most important of all, parents sometimes forget their critical role as a model for their children. Be willing to set limits on your own viewing.

Model the media behavior you would like your children to follow.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Public servants safeguard our nation

News column

So much of what makes our country great has been in short supply in recent years. Politics as the art of compromise is long gone. Civility in public discourse has almost disappeared. Respect for the scientific method, and the supremacy of facts over feelings, is no longer abided. We choose our own news channels according to what we already believe to be true. This nation of immigrants now devalues the concept.

Much has been turned on its head, but nothing strikes me as quite as misguided and dangerous as the demonization of public servants — those who serve the public — including law enforcement officers, firefighters, teachers, public safety workers, those who answer our questions and provide our basic services. These individuals are lionized when we need them and then treated with disdain when their services are not in urgent demand. When did this happen? Why did this happen?

Most individuals who go into public service sacrificed higher pay and far better working conditions to make their communities a better place. Many have a high degree of education and specialized training, which means they had many career options. They chose to serve the public.

All perform vital tasks that make their neighborhoods safer places — road repair crews, bus drivers, park rangers, and those at every level who work every day for the public good. Compared with equivalent jobs in industry these individuals are not especially well paid. But the work is steady and the benefits tend to be reliable. That was the bargain we made with them long ago.

I am closest to teachers and those who work in the educational profession, so I am particularly concerned about the way they have been treated. In many countries teachers are revered and compensated highly. Those countries tend to have the highest achieving students. That is not a coincidence.

Some people criticize teachers because they “only” work from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. That allegation could only be made by someone totally unfamiliar with a teacher’s workload. Most teachers work till late into the night, grading materials, preparing lessons, talking with parents, keeping up with curriculum and instructional strategies. They work over weekends, holidays, and summers, refining their professional abilities, gathering materials, and evaluating student work. The job cannot be done without these efforts.

We don’t begrudge athletes or entertainers high salaries, though their work seasons are very short and their work does not always contribute to the public good. But some people then turn around and disparage teachers, nurses, firefighters, police officers, and all those whose work is so vital to our community and our nation. Many of these public servants struggle to get by on their full-time salaries.

Military veterans receive pensions after completing a term of service. Surely we should not deny them access to health care, mental health services, or quality facilities. We should be particularly grateful for those who serve our nation.

Certainly there are areas that need reform in the public sector, just as there are in the private sector. Let’s make those needed reforms while remembering who the true heroes are among us.

Why have these hard-working, sacrificing public servants become the target of contempt? Who gains from scorning educators and nurses and first responders?

Generally those quickest to criticize our community heroes are those whose agenda has to do with dismantling public institutions. The guiding force behind that agenda seems to be that individual taxes would be lower if we didn’t have to pay our public servants. Oliver Wendell Holmes once famously said that taxes are the price one pays for civilization.
If we continue to degrade public service jobs, who will teach our children, tend to the sick, keep our streets safe, and fight our fires?

Also, it seems clear that those who attack teachers and public education in general seem to be fueled by special interests who want to dismantle the system and privatize education. Where would our democracy be without free universal public education for all? We would devolve into a system of “haves” and “have nots,” like the aristocracy of old Europe. Is this what we want for our country?

I say again, shame on those who denigrate the true heroes in our communities, or remain silent while others do it. We should all rise in indignation that our country is being diverted from its roots of freedom, fairness, and justice for all. In the end, it is our public servants who safeguard these founding values. We should support and thank them for their service to all of us. We could not be a great nation without them.

Empathy important

Radio Commentary

Understanding others begins with empathy. It is the act of putting yourself into another’s shoes.

Often teenagers can have difficulty in this area because their own problems seem to loom so large in their minds. The teenage years are the period when it is hardest to genuinely feel the emotional plight of others.

To help develop empathy, it is important to be a really good listener. When your children are speaking to you, regardless of the topic at hand, always listen to them with respect.

React to your teenager as you would to an adult friend. Make a real effort to listen as much as you talk.

When you have information to convey on an important topic, speak for half a minute or so, and then stop and let your child have a chance to react.

Accept the fact that most teens will complain sometimes. Let them air their grievances fully and completely. Try not to interrupt while they are expressing their feelings.

Most importantly, take time to have relaxed conversations alone with each of your children on a regular basis.

Frequent talks will help you spot difficulties before they become real problems.

It’s important that all involved be encouraged to talk AND to listen.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Tips for busy parents

Radio Commentary

As the school year moves into full swing, here are some tips for busy parents who want to be involved with their children:

At dinner, start a sentence the whole family must finish. For example, “The most interesting thing I learned today was ...” or “One of the things I did well today was ...” Let everyone take a turn finishing the sentence and discussing each person’s contribution.

Keep a small pad handy to write a brief note of thanks to the teacher when your child shows new skills or excitement about school. You could also use the notes to ask questions.

Ask teachers for a good time to call for 5 to 10 minutes about any specific concerns you might have.

If your child is struggling with something, resist any urge to blame the teacher. It only strains relationships, and often delays the constructive resolution of a problem.

Instead, join forces with the teacher to reach the common goal of helping your child find success. Identify an area of challenge and then plan together how to overcome it.

Don’t hesitate to ask your child’s teacher for advice. He or she can help with behavior problems as well as homework hassles.

Teachers can provide insights based on their experience.  But then it’s important to make a good-faith effort to follow that advice.

Small steps can often make a big difference.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Ensuring world leadership

Radio Commentary

Modern technology has made the concept of a “global village” quite real.
We can communicate with people in other nations and watch events occurring anywhere on the globe almost instantaneously.

This means we must make sure that our children have an education that prepares them to excel in this global marketplace.

Many industrialized nations continue to invest heavily in education. Important keys to development overseas have been sound public education, extensive school-to-work transition programs, and continuous worker training and education.
The former executive director of the North American Institute for Training and Education Research wrote that other countries have earned a global competitive edge by making sustained investments in education and training for all their citizens.
He asked: “Is it not time for America to do the same?”

We talk a lot about the importance of education, but the truth is that we still have not yet put together the national will to provide the resources and support that would truly make a difference.

People often say, “This isn’t the time.”  That begs the question, “If not now, when?”

Friday, October 3, 2014

Views of parent conferences

Radio Commentary

From a child’s standpoint, a parent-teacher conference brings two important parts of the child’s life closer together — school and home.

Children usually feel good that their teacher and parents know each other because they are all such important influences and role models.

As a result, after the conference, parents usually are better able to help their children with school work.
During the conference, teachers can show parents the learning growth that has taken place for their children. Plus, teachers can pass on enjoyable details or special concerns about learning.

In turn, parents can learn of special services available for children who need them.
They can find out how individual differences are taken into account in teaching, and how that can apply to their child.

For their part, parents can help teachers learn more about home activities and situations that may affect learning.

The teacher can be more effective when positive feelings exist between home and school. For this reason, parent-teacher conferences create a win-win situation that goes far beyond the specific exchange of information that takes place.

They set a tone of cooperation and support that can be very influential on a child’s attitude toward learning.

They also establish lines of communication that can prove critical in times of challenge. It’s a win-win for all involved.