Are You Raising Nice Kids? #Empathy #Parenting

53ea5e223a5c0.preview-300

(The following post Are You Raising Nice Kids?A Harvard Psychologist Gives Five Ways To Raise Them To Be Kind by Amy Joyce recently appeared on washingtonpost.com. To view it i its original format click on the link below.)

Earlier this year, I wrote about teaching empathy, and whether you are a parent who does so. The idea behind it is from Richard Weissbourd, a Harvard psychologist with the graduate school of education, who runs the Making Caring Common project, aimed to help teach kids to be kind.

I know, you’d think they are or that parents are teaching that themselves, right? Not so, according to a new study released by the group. (Chat with Weissbourd here.)

About 80 percent of the youth in the study said their parents were more concerned with their achievement or happiness than whether they cared for others. The interviewees were also three times more likely to agree that “My parents are prouder if I get good grades in my classes than if I’m a caring community member in class and school.”

Weissbourd and his cohorts have come up with recommendations about how to raise children to become caring, respectful and responsible adults. Why is this important? Because if we want our children to be moral people, we have to, well, raise them that way.

“Children are not born simply good or bad and we should never give up on them. They need adults who will help them become caring, respectful, and responsible for their communities at every stage of their childhood,” the researchers write.

The five strategies to raise moral, caring children, according to Making Caring Common:

1. Make caring for others a priority

Why? Parents tend to prioritize their children’s happiness and achievements over their children’s concern for others. But children need to learn to balance their needs with the needs of others, whether it’s passing the ball to a teammate or deciding to stand up for friend who is being bullied.

How? Children need to hear from parents that caring for others is a top priority. A big part of that is holding children to high ethical expectations, such as honoring their commitments, even if it makes them unhappy. For example, before kids quit a sports team, band, or a friendship, we should ask them to consider their obligations to the group or the friend and encourage them to work out problems before quitting.
Try this
• Instead of saying to your kids: “The most important thing is that you’re happy,” say “The most important thing is that you’re kind.”
• Make sure that your older children always address others respectfully, even when they’re tired, distracted, or angry.
• Emphasize caring when you interact with other key adults in your children’s lives. For example, ask teachers whether your children are good community members at school.

2. Provide opportunities for children to practice caring and gratitude
Why? It’s never too late to become a good person, but it won’t happen on its own. Children need to practice caring for others and expressing gratitude for those who care for them and contribute to others’ lives. Studies show that people who are in the habit of expressing gratitude are more likely to be helpful, generous, compassionate, and forgiving—and they’re also more likely to be happy and healthy.
How? Learning to be caring is like learning to play a sport or an instrument. Daily repetition—whether it’s a helping a friend with homework, pitching in around the house, or having a classroom job—make caring second nature and develop and hone youth’s caregiving capacities. Learning gratitude similarly involves regularly practicing it.
Try this
• Don’t reward your child for every act of helpfulness, such as clearing the dinner table. We should expect our kids to help around the house, with siblings, and with neighbors and only reward uncommon acts of kindness.
• Talk to your child about caring and uncaring acts they see on television and about acts of justice and injustice they might witness or hear about in the news.
• Make gratitude a daily ritual at dinnertime, bedtime, in the car, or on the subway. Express thanks for those who contribute to us and others in large and small ways.

3. Expand your child’s circle of concern.
Why? Almost all children care about a small circle of their families and friends. Our challenge is help our children learn to care about someone outside that circle, such as the new kid in class, someone who doesn’t speak their language, the school custodian, or someone who lives in a distant country.
How? Children need to learn to zoom in, by listening closely and attending to those in their immediate circle, and to zoom out, by taking in the big picture and considering the many perspectives of the people they interact with daily, including those who are vulnerable. They also need to consider how their
decisions, such as quitting a sports team or a band, can ripple out and harm various members of their communities. Especially in our more global world, children need to develop concern for people who live in very different cultures and communities than their own.
Try this
• Make sure your children are friendly and grateful with all the people in their daily lives, such as a bus driver or a waitress.
• Encourage children to care for those who are vulnerable. Give children some simple ideas for stepping into the “caring and courage zone,” like comforting a classmate who was teased.
• Use a newspaper or TV story to encourage your child to think about hardships faced by children in another country.

4. Be a strong moral role model and mentor.
Why? Children learn ethical values by watching the actions of adults they respect. They also learn values by thinking through ethical dilemmas with adults, e.g. “Should I invite a new neighbor to my birthday party when my best friend doesn’t like her?”
How? Being a moral role model and mentor means that we need to practice honesty, fairness, and caring ourselves. But it doesn’t mean being perfect all the time. For our children to respect and trust us, we need to acknowledge our mistakes and flaws. We also need to respect children’s thinking and listen
to their perspectives, demonstrating to them how we want them to engage others.
Try this:
• Model caring for others by doing community service at least once a month. Even better, do this service with your child.
• Give your child an ethical dilemma at dinner or ask your child about dilemmas they’ve faced.

5. Guide children in managing destructive feelings
Why? Often the ability to care for others is overwhelmed by anger, shame, envy, or other negative feelings.
How? We need to teach children that all feelings are okay, but some ways of dealing with them are not helpful. Children need our help learning to cope with these feelings in productive ways.
Try this
Here’s a simple way to teach your kids to calm down: ask your child to stop, take a deep breath through the nose and exhale through the mouth, and count to five. Practice when your child is calm. Then, when you see her getting upset, remind her about the steps and do them with her. After a while she’ll start to do it on her own so that she can express her feelings in a helpful and appropriate way.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/parenting/wp/2014/07/18/are-you-raising-nice-kids-a-harvard-psychologist-gives-5-ways-to-raise-them-to-be-kind/

Frightful Facts About Sugar #Food #Health

 

 

It seems we pay a heavy price for our sweet tooth. Not only do we eat a lot of sugar and make ourselves ill, but it has no nutritional value at all. No vitamins, no minerals, no enzymes, no fiber. (Honey and molasses lovers could make a teeny tiny case for their sweeteners, since they do have trace amounts of a few nutrients.)

 

Sugar tastes good. Humans crave sugar right down to their DNA. “Sugar is a deep, deep ancient craving,” Daniel Lieberman, an evolutionary biologist at Harvard University recently told Business Insider. Early humans looked for sweet fruits and vegetables because they contained the natural sugars that give us energy. Of course, cavemen were never tempted by Ring Dings or Snickers bars. How badly do we crave sugar? Here are (some of) the shocking statistics:

 

1. Americans consume, on average, 765 grams of sugar every five days. To put that in perspective, in 1822 we consumed on average 45 grams every five days. That is equal to one can of soda. Now we consume 17 times that, or the equivalent of 17 cans of soda.

 

2. Americans consume 130 pounds of sugar every year. Our 1822 predecessors ate under 10 pounds of sugar a year. 130 pounds a year means about three pounds a week. That equals about 3,550 pounds in an average lifetime—approaching two tons of sugar.

 

3. More on that last one: 130 pounds of sugar equals about 1,767,900 Skittles. Or just fill an industrial a dumpster with Skittles.

 

4. The American Heart Association recommends we consume less than 10 teaspoons of sugar a day. The average adult American misses that mark by a lot. Like about 12 teaspoons. The average American gobbles down on average 22 teaspoons a day. And the average child? 32 teaspoons. Pretty sure none of us needs that much to make the medicine go down. Mary Poppins, it seems, was an enabler.

 

5. Our sugar consumption is both in plain sight and hidden, ingested from the most unlikely places. Sugar in cookies seems obvious. Sugar in potato chips not so much. And ketchup and TV dinners and soup and crackers and just about every other processed food out there. Who are the biggest baddies? Soft drinks lead the list at 33% of our sugar consumption (drink water instead of coke and you’ve already made a huge dent). Candy and other obvious sweets, 16%. Baked goods like cookies and cakes, 13%. Fruit drinks 10%. Sweetened yogurt, ice cream and milk almost 9%.

 

6. One can of Coke, 12 ounces, contains 10 teaspoons of sugary goodness. That’s more sugar than two Frosted Pop Tarts with a Twinkie thrown in.

 

7. The average American consumes 53 gallons of soda a year. Let’s do the math. 128 ounces in a gallon times 53. That’s 6,784 ounces. Or just to simplify it, that’s 565 cans of soda a year.

 

8. If you took away all the sugar in an average American diet, you would subtract 500 calories a day. Of course, since we are not taking it away, that means sugar adds 500 calories a day to our diet (and waistlines). That is like eating 10 strips of bacon a day. Even bacon-loving Americans might stop short of that.

 

9. So, given all the bad stuff: Diseases, bad teeth, expanding waistlines. Zero nutrition. Why do we keep consuming sugar? Well, there is that DNA connection. Sugar is how we are wired for energy, but evolution never took processed sugar into account. Sweets eaters survived because they ate more energy-efficient fruit and veggie sugar that metabolizes slowly and doesn’t kill us.

 

Sugar is as addictive as cocaine. Brain scans after sugar consumption, are very similar to when we do blow. Dopamine floods the brain and, boy, do we feel good. And of course it is a lot easier on the nostrils…unless you’re snorting your sugar… Hello. My name is Larry, and I’m a sugar addict.

 

So what does a poor American do? We can start by being conscious of the sugar we are consuming. The stuff comes in many disguises. It’s like the Peter Sellers of ingredients. Sugar, cane juice, cane syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, fruit juice concentrate, honey, molasses, malt syrup. Those are its favorite masks. If we are at least aware of what we are chowing down or chugging, we have a fighting chance. Increase the water intake, decrease the soda intake. Check out the ingredients on the labels. Opt for reduced sugar products. Awareness is a good start. As Daniel Lieberman said: “We need to realize that our bodies are not adapted to the amount of sugar that we are pouring into them and it’s making us sick.”

 

Larry Schwartz is a Brooklyn-based freelance writer with a focus on health, science and nutrition. He works at Scholastic Inc. in the classroom magazine division on Superscience and Science World.

http://www.alternet.org/food/9-shocking-facts-you-need-know-about-sugar 

#Meghalaya: The Wettest Place On Earth

s_c01_eghala15

(The following excerpt from Meghalaya: The Wettest Place On Earth recently appeared on theatlantic.com. To view it in its entirety click on the link below.)

Photographer Amos Chapple returns to our site once once again, bringing amazing images from the state of Meghalaya, India, reportedly the rainiest spot on Earth. The village of Mawsynram in Meghalaya receives 467 inches of rain per year. Laborers who work outdoors often wear full-body umbrellas made from bamboo and banana leaf. One of the most fascinating and beautiful features in the region are the “living bridges” spanning rain-soaked valleys. For centuries, locals have been training the roots of rubber trees to grow into natural bridges, far outlasting man-made wooden structures that rot in just a few years. The bridges are self-strengthening, becoming more substantial over time, as the root systems grow. Chapple has previously showed us St. Petersburg From Above, a view of Stalin’s Rope Roads, and took us on a trip to Turkmenistan. [18 photos]

Photographer Amos Chapple returns to our site once once again, bringing amazing images from the state of Meghalaya, India, reportedly the rainiest spot on Earth.

What’s Spawning Gigantic #Urban #Spiders?

images-3

(The following excerpt from What’s Spawning Gigantic Spiders? recently appeared on aol.com. To view it in its entirety click on the link below.)

Terrifying City-Dwelling Spiders Are Bigger And More Fertile

If you live in a big city and somehow weren’t a little creeped out by spiders before, you definitely will be now.

According to a new study out of Australia, spiders get bigger and multiply faster when they live in the city. Cue the giant spider nightmares.

Researchers from the University of Sydney found that golden orb weaver spiders like this one living near heavily urbanized areas in Sydney tend to be larger, better fed and have more offspring than their country-dwelling counterparts.

To come to this terrifying conclusion, the study’s authors collected 222 female golden orb weavers from different places around Sydney and measured each area’s urbanization based on qualities like leaf-litter cover, grass coverage and amount of hard surfaces, such as concrete.

The researchers then measured the spiders’ body size, fat reserves and ovary weight to determine their reproductive capacity. And, sure enough, the more urban the area, the bigger, fatter and more potentially fertile the spiders were. Lovely.

One of the study’s authors told The Atlantic’s City Lab they believe two factors present in most cities are responsible for this so-called superspider trend.

First, the hot microclimates sustained by a paved-over city makes for an ideal environment for spiders to grow and thrive.

And second, thanks to the massive amount of artificial light in cities, they attract an abnormal amount of insects to the area. Translation: the spiders are never without a plentiful food source.

Now, this may seem like bad news all around for city dwellers. But as gross as spiders are, they’re actually good to have around.

They eat insects we consider to be annoying pests, like flies and mosquitos, and keep their populations down. And they’re also an important food source for other creatures, including frogs and toads. Ah, the circle of life.

While the research in Sydney was confined to just one species of spider, the study’s authors say other types of spiders are probably reaping the benefits of city living too. You can check out the entire study in the journal PLOS One.

Terrifying City-Dwelling Spiders Are Bigger And More Fertile If you live in a big city and somehow weren’t a little creeped out by spiders before, you definitely will be now.