The week's best parenting advice: August 2, 2022

A house where teens are welcome, there's nothing wrong with a little childish competition, and more

(Image credit: Illustrated)

1. A house where teens are welcome

If you'd like to transform your house into the teen hangout spot, start by "being the parent who offers," writes Meghan Moravcik Walbert in Lifehacker. "Offer car rides to school, offer to pick a couple up on the way to the pool, offer to open up your backyard to a slew of newly minted middle-schoolers," writes Walbert. Over time, they'll let their guard down around you, and feel comfortable spending time in your home. Create a space in your home that is specifically for kids to hang out. It doesn't need to be fancy, but "the key is to provide them a reasonable amount of privacy and something to do." Keep your pantry and refrigerator well-stocked with snacks and beverages, of course. And then leave the teens alone. "Provide the space, provide the entertainment, provide the food, and then go do your own thing," writes Walbert.


2. There's nothing wrong with a little childish competition

If you're a little worried about your child's competitive streak, don't be, writes Jessica Grose in the New York Times. Human competitiveness likely has evolutionary origins; during periods of history when resources were more scarce, siblings literally had to compete to survive. And the explosion of competitiveness that occurs between the ages of three and six is to some extent the byproduct of healthy development. "Many competitive games…require the participants to understand other people's motivations and create strategies in order to beat them," which are important skills. "Children wanting to compete and win isn't necessarily a bad thing; it only curdles when they can't handle losing," writes Grose. So instead of encouraging kids to stop being competitive, teach them to have empathy for their opponents, to always display good sportsmanship, and that competing has value even if you don't win.

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The New York Times

3. Don't panic about monkeypox

Many parents are understandably worried about sending their kids to school as monkeypox circulates, but there's little reason to panic, writes Emily Oster in ParentData. "Given what we know about the data, fears of in-school spread are misplaced," writes Oster. "Notably, the spread of the virus so far seems to be through prolonged close, skin-to-skin contact (largely but not exclusively sexual)." The overwhelming majority of cases, both in the U.S. and elsewhere, are among men who have sex with other men. That doesn't mean it can't spread to other demographics, including kids, through prolonged close contact. But at the moment, "it seems clear that the virus requires sustained close, skin-to-skin contact to spread. Contact much closer than would be expected in schools or in casual interactions," writes Oster.


4. The key to self-motivation is self-esteem

Self-motivation is rooted in self-esteem, writes Christian Dashiell in Fatherly. "Self-motivated kids have a core belief that they can do hard things or things that might feel unpleasant, even when they fail at first," says educational psychologist Richelle Whittaker. One way to help kids build that sort of confidence is to allow them to help around the house — even when it's inconvenient. Encourage kids when they take an interest in a new activity, and if possible, join them in the challenge and model the persistence involved in mastering a new skill. It's fine to use treats or screen time to boost a child's motivation, but remember that the "incentivization that works best for developing self-motivated kids focuses on effort, initiative, and persistence — not simply on task completion," writes Dashiell.


5. Baby talk is universal

Parents in western societies are notorious for speaking to their babies in breathy, high-pitched tones and barely intelligible vocabulary, but it turns out that this sort of baby talk is universal, reports Michel Martin in NPR. Researchers at Harvard analyzed recordings of adults speaking and singing to both babies in communities across the world. What they found is that even within indigenous communities like the Hadza people of East Africa, who have no exposure to the Internet, radio, and TV, "people engage in the same sorts of vocalizations — raising the pitch of their voice and speaking in a more rhythmic way when they address infants." It's not exactly clear why baby talk is so common, but it may be an evolutionary trait that helps children learn speech, regulate their emotions, and control their behavior and mood.


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