The week's best parenting advice: August 18, 2020
The case for paying parents, a clever sleep hack, and more
Should we pay parents to teach?
The pandemic has revealed the true value of two key roles in our society: parents and teachers. Both are either unpaid or, in many cases underpaid, and as many students stay home this semester due to the pandemic, "it's time to pay parents to teach our kids," writes Lindsay Powers, author of You Can't F*ck Up Your Kids, at Yahoo. There are obvious community health benefits here: "Keeping people who might be infected with COVID-19 at home can save more lives," Powers says, and parents are more likely to keep sick kids home if they aren't afraid of losing their income. This plan isn't perfect: Mothers are more likely to be the ones staying home, and this could hurt their post-pandemic career prospects. But having this option could help keep families afloat in the short term. "In the long term," Powers writes, "it places a value on caregiving in America, which is woefully behind other rich, industrialized nations."
That's the ticket
"Kids get really creative when trying to delay bedtime," writes Kara Newhouse at Mindshift. They say they're hungry, thirsty, scared, want the light on, etc. When parents give in to the stalling, they reinforce the behavior. But there is some middle ground, says Lynelle Schneeberg, a pediatric sleep psychologist and author of Become Your Child's Sleep Coach. Try giving your kids "bedtime tickets," Schneeberg suggests: two or three index cards or sticky notes they have to trade for stalling tactics. Need a new blanket? That'll be one ticket please! When all the tickets are gone, it's lights out. "That lets your child know that you'll do a couple more things for them … But you won't do 17 things. You'll do two things," Schneeberg says.
You drive me crazy
We've all been there: Our offspring, whom we love very much, are driving us up the wall. We feel a pang of guilt for resenting the kids. But don't feel bad: It's normal to find your children annoying — and it helps to identify their motivations. "When kids are engaging in a certain type of behavior, they are getting one of four things out of it: attention, escape, sensory stimulation, or some other tangible reward," explains child psychologist Jessica Myszak at The Week. "Attention ... could be from a sibling, and a reaction as subtle as a snort, giggle, or sigh is often enough to keep a child engaged in what they're doing," Myszak says. Once you know what's motivating their irritating behavior, you can either ignore it or address it. But remember: If you ignore a behavior, it sometimes gets worse before it gets better, Myszak warns. "Kids essentially dig in their heels to try harder to get your reaction before they give it up, so be prepared for this.”
The tiniest of hacks
Families are spending a lot of time together right now — but quantity doesn't always equal quality. "A general sense of chaos" reigns in Beth Skwarecki's home, as her three children "fend for themselves while we work." Instead of expecting quality family time to materialize, she took matters into her own hands and "declared the 10 minutes between 5:50 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. to be 'family time,'" she writes at Lifehacker. The rules are simple: The family gathers in the living room, electronics are put away, and everyone is allowed to share one thing. "It seems silly," Skwarecki says. "The tiniest of hacks." But it has lasted for over a month because her kids love it. If you don't want to do this daily, you could turn it into a weekly thing, says Meghan Moravcik Walbert. Weekly family check-ins offer "a chance to slow down, look each other in the eye, and ask, 'How are we all doing?'"
U of M&D
While many universities are forging ahead with in-person classes this semester, "every day, it seems, another college abandons in-person plans," writes Courtney Rubin at NYT Parenting. Can parents whose kids will be attending classes from the family home recreate some parts of the college experience? "Try to give your children at least some of the independence they would have had if they'd gone away," Rubin writes. Offer up a guest bedroom, or rearrange their room, maybe even get them a mini fridge or new bedding to mark the new phase. You can foster independence by encouraging them to do their own laundry, and "they should also be responsible for the cleanliness of their own spaces." While you'll likely be more privy to bad behavior — like sleeping through class — than you would be otherwise, "before you step in, pause and ask yourself whether this is information you would have if your student were in the dorms," Rubin says. "If it isn't, back off unless it threatens their health or safety."