The week's best parenting advice: May 4, 2021
Here comes summer camp, understanding bullying, and more
Summer camp 2021
Summer is approaching, and for many families, "camps have never been more needed," says Paul McEntire, chief operating officer of the Y.M.C.A. of the U.S.A. The good news is that most overnight and day camps plan to open this summer, reports Melinda Wenner Moyer at The New York Times, and early research suggests camps that employ COVID-19 precautions see low infection rates. Masks, distancing, and increased ventilation will be priorities. The CDC strongly recommends anyone who is eligible receives the vaccine before attending camp. Most activities will take place outdoors. It's also possible parents won't be able to visit, Wenner Moyer says. Groups will probably be smaller, mingling between bunks will be discouraged, and some beloved activities will be scrapped. "We're not going to have the loud, raucous dining hall filled with incomprehensible yelling," says Dr. Dipesh Navsaria, a pediatrician at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health who is helping create coronavirus protocols for camps.
Why kids bully
When Claire Gillespie found out her son was the victim of bullying at school, she tried to solve the problem swiftly, but hit a common obstacle: "His school saw the incident as conflict, not bullying, and tried to deal with it using mediation strategies. That simply didn't work," she writes at The Week. The bullying stopped — eventually — but Gillespie wanted to understand why kids bully in the first place. Experts told her some kids pick on others because they're victims of abuse themselves. "They may seek a sense of control or an outlet for their emotions at school," licensed mental health counselor GinaMarie Guarino says. Others may have unaddressed behavioral issues and "turn to bullying as an outlet for their stress and energy." Parents and educators should avoid labels — "if we label a child a 'bully,' we send the message that the behavior is fixed and unlikely to change over time," Gillespie says. "The reality — backed up by research — is that many children who bully may also be the victim of bullying behavior themselves."
Embracing messy play
For parents who love a clean house, muddy puddles "can set the stress signals off," write Kristin Gallant and Deena Margolin at Big Little Feelings. But research suggests that letting kids explore freely in nature helps strengthen their attention span, increase confidence levels, promote social skills, and cultivate compassion. A muddy puddle or a pile of sand can do the trick, but you could also just let kids play with natural elements like sticks and rocks. "Anything involving nature is key," Gallant and Margolin say. If you're not thrilled about consciously allowing your kid to make a mess, or the idea of being in public with a mud-soaked toddler gives you hives, start in your own backyard. Or go on a nature walk. Gradually add elements of play. "Use a paint brush and water to 'paint' rocks for example. Keep increasing little by little from there." The more you "practice" messy play, the better you'll get at managing the cleanup. And remember the mantra: "Hands can be wiped. Clothes can be washed."
Young kids sure do love to ask "why?" And that makes sense: They're encountering many things for the very first time, and they want to understand how it all works. As a parent, you want to do your best to encourage their curiosity, but "sometimes, after the sixth or seventh, 'But, why?,' you're simply out of answers," writes Meghan Moravcik Walbert at Lifehacker. During times like these, here's a "godsend" tip from a parent of a 4-year-old who posted about it on Reddit: Turn the question around. Ask your child what they think could explain their quandary. "Not only does it let you, the parent, off the hook when you don't know the answer or your brain simply can't conjure one up — it also lets them practice thinking critically without you brushing them off," Moravcik Walbert writes.
Good cop/bad cop
In an ideal world, parents would always be on the same page about how to raise — and discipline — their children. Of course, this isn't the case. Disagreements are common and natural. Unfortunately, "when parents don't appear to be on the same page in parenting decisions and discipline," there can be some undesirable side-effects, writes Patrick A. Coleman at Fatherly. Partners who openly contradict one another risk creating a "good cop/bad cop" dynamic in which "one parent is seen as the hero and the other is seen as the villain." The good news is you don't have to actually agree about everything — "you just have to fake it," Coleman says. His rule for creating a united front on parenting is to let your partner's parenting decision stand, even if you disagree with it. "Unless life, health, or safety is on the line, deference should be made to the parent who first engaged in the discipline."