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IMG_1768I’ve been traveling on business a lot lately, which means I’ve been spending a lot of time finding my way through airports and figuring out menus in restaurants.  Every airport situation is different – but traveling through them involves a very specific and common set of solutions – find your flight, determine your gate, go through security, get some coffee, and wait to board.  It’s a process, with which I am familiar – just like going to the market, or eating in a restaurant, or visiting the pediatrician.

Something that I continue to notice on this trip is how totally consistent little children are.  No matter where I’ve been – London, Oslo, Munich, Hamburg, Lviv (in the Ukraine), or even L.A., it doesn’t matter how up-tight or logistically focused their parents may be, kids just seem to be dancing, singing, and passing the time in their own little wonderful world.

Mother And Baby At Airport.It is heartwarming to know that kids all over the world seem to be essentially the same.  For toddlers, everything is fascinating.  People bustle by, a cell phone rings, a big person is plays peek-a-boo – so much action, so much distraction…their heads swing around from sudden interest to studied stare.  It’s truly a pleasure to watch as they interact with the world and soak in new things.

As a parent, what’s clearest to me is how their unbridled curiosity and playfulness makes them completely dependent on us to protect and to guide them.  We are, after all, the people who make them safe – upon whose presence they can depend so that they can drift through their day soaking up one experience after another.  This means that we’re the ones who know our way around an airport, who know where to get food, who know where the bathrooms are, etc. etc.  Most importantly, even if we don’t know our way around, we know how to read the signs and use the tools we have to be able to solve those problems.  We have been through the process.  Our life experience is what makes us qualified to be parents…and it’s what our kids are counting on.

ChildAirportWDadThe same is true for our children at home.  As much as we might believe they know what we might expect, or that they appear to “want to do it themselves”, we are the ones who know best.  Communicating this – whether it’s about bedtime, diet, hygiene, or courtesy, lets our children know that we have answers – that if they stick with us (as they must at the airport) they will be protected by our knowledge and hopefully, good nature.  It is in this way that they learn the process from us.

Letting children make their own rules is not doing them a favor.  Imagine one of those toddlers wandering around the airport – hungry, tired, in need of a bathroom – how would she find her way?  Most likely she’d be crying for her mommy or daddy because she doesn’t know the process and doesn’t know what to do.  When mommy or daddy arrive, this little girl isn’t going to check their qualifications – she’s just going to be happy to see the person (or people) who can offer her the security of knowing.

DFW TaxiIf you got into a cab and the driver admitted being lost, you wouldn’t have a very comfortable or relaxed ride – would you?  Now imagine that your kids are in your cab – and remember that you need to believe you know the process and behave as though you know exactly where you’re going so that they can, while buckled into their seats, relax and continue soaking up the world around them.

Raising children is just like being at  the airport – it changes all the time, but you’ve been there before and you can figure it out.

Essentially, if you have a plan, and you know what your values are, you can stay calm and never need to get overexcited in the first place.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-vienna/latest-parenting-trend-ctfd-method_b_3588031.html?utm_hp_ref=email_share

ignoranceinactionMy mother had a poster by her favorite chair.  It read, “There is nothing more frightful than ignorance in action.” – Goethe

It appears that, despite proven facts (as opposed to other facts), Jenny McCarthy continues to believe that vaccinations are bad for our children… I wonder how she feels about Polio?

http://www.cnn.com/2013/07/17/opinion/perry-jenny-mccarthy-autism/index.html?hpt=hp_t4

happiness_boy-300x214Ever since my time in the closet ended my terror of the dark, I’ve used the same method to address other fears.  I’m what psychologists call a “counter-phobe.” When I was afraid of needles, I gave blood.  When I worried about not knowing anyone at a party, I forced myself to go. It worked!

I’ve encouraged my children to confront their anxieties in the same way.  Problem-solving builds self-esteem, and real growth often occurs during our least comfortable periods.

But I’m also aware that not all fears can be addressed like this.  Some things can’t be confronted head-on.  Those are the things that parents sometimes tend to stress about that aren’t really within our immediate control, which is a tendency we should try to resist.  Bovine growth hormone, the chemical content of fabric softener – yes, perhaps these are genuine long-term concerns, but they’re not worth ruining “today” for our children.  Kids already have many worries that don’t even hit our radar: “Is Johnny going to be mean to me?” Will I be picked for a dance solo?” “Does my teacher like me?” Adding to their anxiety by being anxious ourselves is a big mistake.

In the late 1940s, Dr. Theodore Woodward, a professor at the University of Maryland Medical School, told his students “When you hear hoof beats, think of horses, not zebras.”  Since horses are common in Maryland and zebras are rare, one should expect that hoof beats are probably made by a horse.  This expression was accepted in medical circles to mean that the most simple explanation is probably the most likely – and one shouldn’t necessarily look (or think) beyond the obvious problem for some bigger problem.  The same goes for things we choose to worry about.  Or not worry about.  Keep your worrying simple – the anxiety spread by being overly concerned about the radiation from a cell phone is probably worse than the effects of the radiation itself.