Jeremy Olson writes about children and families, and is an overscheduled father of two. His blog tackles the best and worst of parenting, families, health and love. He wants to hear from you - what's going on in your house?

Final edition: parenting books I didn't have time to read ...

Posted by: Jeremy Olson Updated: August 16, 2013 - 3:39 PM

After a 3-year run, the Daddy-O blog is winding down as I move from the children and families beat at the Star Tribune to the health and medicine beat. Thanks to readers for all of their ideas and comments that kept this lively blog cruising! As part of the transition, I am once again sorting through the massive pile of parenting self-help books that come my way.

So here is my third and final installment of "the best parenting advice I gleaned from books I only had time to skim!"

From socialsklz :-) for success by Faye De Muyshondt, regarding the importance of eye contact in an introduction:

Be sure that your kids are making eye contact for the entire introduction. Explain that it's not always easy to make eye contact, but that it is an important indicator of both confidence and respect, and that it also conveys engagement in the interaction. Ask your child to hold eye contact with you or a sibling for 15 seconds and count as you look at each other (also let them know that they can blink, so that it doesn't turn into a stare down!) This exercise bolsters confidence in making eye contact for future introductions.

From Teach Your Children Well, by Madeline Levine, about teaching children the value of hard work:

Do model enthusiasm around hard work. Some parents are so overwhelmed that their kids get the message that all hard work brings is stress and tension. Who wants to join that club? Let your kid know that when you work hard, you feel a sense of accomplishment and pride. Not every moment, but often enough to make your hard work feel worthwhile.

From The Big Disconnect, by Catherine Steiner-Adair, about the growing importance of family communication:

Family is the language lab of the digital age. Children's tech-connected socializing has taken them out of face-to-face conversations and limited their opportunities to build the basic skills for live dialogue and that entire dimension of interpersonal communication. It is essential that families create ways of coming together and talking about all kinds of issues, matters of the heart, fights, plans for the weekend -- the family equivalent of circle time in school that can offer an opportunity for thoughtful conversations and a process by which they can talk about the things that are really important to them, feel heard, respected and helped.

From The Parent Backpack for Kindergarten through Grade 5, by ML Nichols, about one of the five mistakes parents make with teachers:

Undermining the teacher at home or gossiping. It's not uncommon at the elementary level for things that are said or heard at home to leak back to the classroom. This happens more than you know. A teacher can often tell from a child's words or reactions when parents are not supporting her efforts or are speaking disrespectfully about her. Beware of 'little big ears.'

From The Last Boys Picked, by Janet Sasson Edgette, about what to do if a child refuses to go to a scheduled sport or activity:

Parents worry that by relenting they risk losing their credibility and power. If that happens, then it's more likely to be a function of the quality of the relationships within the family than the parents giving in. With a few exceptions, a person's credibility and power to influence loved ones are suitably robust to stand up to any one bad decision or action. I think parents in healthy relationships with their children stand to gain their respect and establish even greater credibility when they make comments such as, 'I'm not sure what to do here. I don't feel right making you participate in something that you so dislike, but it is important to me that you are involved in something outside the home where you have opportunities to interact with kids your age. Let's figure out a better solution.'

From Raising Financially Fit Kids, by Joline Godfrey, on dealing with peer pressure and money decisions for tweens:

This is the stage when, for kids, the stakes seem huge. To be in or out of the popular crowd matters. To be unique but just like everyone else is the impossible quest, and to be 'cool' is imperative. It is at this point that parents become a critical counterbalance to the power of peers. Just because your daughter says everyone is buying Prada jackets doesn't make it essential for her to have one. And just because that new motorized bike is appearing in every driveway doesn't mean you need to rush out and add one to all the toys already taking up room in your garage. In spite of the rolled eyes and the world-weary 'Whatever,' many kids would be perfectly happy to be out of the preadolescent rat race if their parents would just take them off the hook. If a kid can say to his friends, 'My dad is a jerk and won't allow (fill in the blank),' you get to be the bad guy, and he can still seem cool. Parents who let their kids run the show, abdicating their prerogative as grown-ups, give kids no place to hide from their peers.

 

Apparently nobody does the car seat thing properly ...

Posted by: Jeremy Olson Updated: July 24, 2013 - 11:28 AM

I'll admit, in all of my efforts to ignore the Royal Baby hoopla, I did notice a picture of the young prince in his car seat and thought, "Gee, doesn't the strap on that car seat look a little loose?!" I passed it off as either a British thing, or the faded memory of a dad whose kids are a decade removed from infant car seats.

 

But the pictures didn't avoid scrutiny, and bloggers across the globe complained that the strap was loose, that the receiving blanket shouldn't have been between the baby and the safety harness, and that the handle wasn't pushed back before the car drove away. Today, even manufacturer Evenflo got in on the publicity with a press release reminding that 85% of car seats are installed improperly in the U.S. and that road injuries are the leading causes of preventable deaths and injuries in children.

"I wouldn't have been allowed to leave the hospital with my daughters had they been strapped in like that!" said one mother on a BabyCenter forum on the subject. "They would have fixed it before allowing us to leave. Not sure if all hospitals are that serious about carseat safety but the one i had my girls at was."

Abortions neared record low in Minnesota in 2012 ...

Posted by: Jeremy Olson Updated: July 1, 2013 - 11:36 AM

Abortions continue to decline in Minnesota, reaching levels not seen since 1975, the first year the state started keeping track.

The state reported 10,701 pregnancies that were electively aborted in 2012, which is 3 percent lower than the total in 2011 and is the lowest annual total since 10,565 procedures in 1975.

The number of abortions involving women 19 and younger has nearly been halved in five years — down from 2,137 in 2007 to 1,229 last year. While survey data has shown a slight increase in sexual activity among Minnesota high schoolers over the past decade, the decline in teen abortions matches historic declines in teen pregnancies and births in the state.

Increased access to birth control, particularly hormonal birth control pills for young women, explains why births and abortions are declining while sexual activity is increasing, said Judith Kahn, executive director of Teenwise Minnesota, an advocacy group seeking to prevent teen pregnancies. She also credited the increase of "comprehensive" sexual education programs, which teach about birth control and abstinence, but also encourage teens to plan for their futures.

"We know when young people have a sense of their own future, and that they can get to that future, they make fewer decisions that can get in the way of that," she said.

Abortions neared record low in Minnesota in 2012

Posted by: Jeremy Olson Updated: July 1, 2013 - 11:33 AM

Abortions continue to decline in Minnesota, reaching levels not seen since 1975, the first year the state started keeping track.

The state reported 10,701 pregnancies that were electively aborted in 2012, which is 3 percent lower than the total in 2011 and is the lowest annual total since 10,565 procedures in 1975.

The number of abortions involving women 19 and younger has nearly been halved in five years — down from 2,137 in 2007 to 1,229 last year. While survey data has shown a slight increase in sexual activity among Minnesota high schoolers over the past decade, the decline in teen abortions matches historic declines in teen pregnancies and births in the state.

Increased access to birth control, particularly hormonal birth control pills for young women, explains why births and abortions are declining while sexual activity is increasing, said Judith Kahn, executive director of Teenwise Minnesota, an advocacy group seeking to prevent teen pregnancies. She also credited the increase of "comprehensive" sexual education programs, which teach about birth control and abstinence, but also encourage teens to plan for their futures.

"We know when young people have a sense of their own future, and that they can get to that future, they make fewer decisions that can get in the way of that," she said.

Duluth injuries show escalator risks for kids ...

Posted by: Jeremy Olson Updated: June 27, 2013 - 11:51 AM

I've always been a helicopter parent when it comes to escalators. Maybe it's because of the time as a kid when I gouged my knee and bled all over the escalator at Ridgedale mall. (OK, I was walking down the up escalator, but that's not important right now!)

So my curiosity was drawn to the headlines about four children and one adult being injured badly enough on an escalator in Duluth Wednesday to require hospital care. (WDIO has video of kids being wheeled out of the Wells Fargo building, where the incident occurred around 1 p.m.) Can't you just picture it? A line of day-care kids, all tethered together on a safety rope, going down an escalator when one of the kids gets scared and doesn't get off. All of the kids go tumbling and then everyone else coming down the escalator has nowhere to go.

Duluth police described a "chain reaction," and reported that one of the children suffered a significant ankle injury. These incidents seem rare but grab headlines -- like the 2005 incident in New York in which more than a dozen children were injured on a movie theater escalator.

A database maintained by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission indicates an estimated 11,609 people suffered injuries on escalators or moving walkways in 2012. About 1,400 of the injured were children 14 or younger. Descriptions of the 2012 incidents on the federal database include:

On January 26: "4 YO F, C/O RT FOOT PAIN S/P HER RAIN BOOT GETTING CAUGHT IN ESCALATOR AT COURTHOUSE AT 4:30PM, BOOT HAD TO BE CUT OFF, DX FOOT CONTUSION

On April 6: "3 YOM FELL BACKWARDS AND HIT HIS HEAD WHILE RIDING ON ESCALATOR AT BARNES HOSPITAL. DX: ABRASION SCALP. "

On June 4: "14 YOM INJURED KNEE WHILE RUNNING UP ESCALATOR AT MALL INTERNAL DERANGEMENT OF KNEE."

There were also a few reports of kids injuring their arms or elbows because their parents were pulling them up the escalators. 

The injury rate is fairly small, considering an estimated 90 billion escalator rides take place annually. But the federal safety commission nonetheless issued safety tips in 2008:

- Make sure shoes are tied before getting on an escalator.

 

- Stand in the center of the step and be sure to step off of the escalator at the end of your ride.

 

- Always hold children's hands on escalators and do not permit children to sit or play on the steps.

 

- Do not bring children onto escalators in strollers, walkers, or carts.

 

- Always face forward and hold the handrail.

 

- Avoid the sides of steps where entrapment can occur.

 

- Learn where the emergency shutoff buttons are in case you need to stop the escalator.

 

Kids and lawn mowers ...

Posted by: Jeremy Olson Updated: June 25, 2013 - 2:45 PM

Count the mistakes made in May 2012, when a St. Paul home day-care provider allowed two children in her care to ride on the back of a lawn mower driven by another adult, and then worked in her garden instead of supervising the kids, according to state reports. One of the children fell off, and the adult then backed the mower over the kid, who had all five toes on one foot amputated due to the injury. The day-care provider then failed to immediately report the injury to state and county licensing authorities, who temporarily shut the day-care down in July 2012.

The case was resolved last week, when the provider agreed to surrender her child care license, according to state Department of Human Services documents that were released today. But the case got me thinking more broadly about the risks this time of year of children being injured by lawn mowers. Turns out, about 17,000 kids are hurt every year in the U.S. by lawn mowers -- with half of those injuries involving children riding on lawn mowers or playing with power mowers. The rate of hospitalization of these kids doubles the hospitalization rate for other consumer-product injuries.

The American Academy of Pediatrics just teamed up with two professional surgical associations to issue guidance to families on kids and mowers. Here are some of the key recommendations:

  • Only use a mower with a control that stops the mower blade from moving if the handle is let go.
  • Children should be at least 12 years of age before operating a push lawn mower, and age 16 to operate a driving lawn mower.
  • Prevent injuries from flying objects, such as stones or toys, by picking up objects from the lawn before mowing begins.
  • Do not pull the mower backward or mow in reverse unless absolutely necessary, and carefully look for children behind you when you mow in reverse.
  • Do not allow children to ride as passengers on ride-on mowers and keep children out of the yard while mowing.

 

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