want-want-want, spend-spend-spend trap that has been set for them. In this kind of atmosphere, how are parents to teach their children the value of saving?
Just as teaching a child to choose healthy foods starts at a very young age, helping a child learn how to save should also start early. As soon as children become aware of the process of exchanging money for items they want, they are ready to understand the basics of saving. Because very young kids live in the “now”, don’t start out with expectations of building a college savings with them—they simply can’t identify with goals that are so far-reaching.
Start with a Moneybox
Instead, start with a little moneybox where they can see the coins they deposit. With my three kids, I taught them from an early age to save for a special toy or small outing—something that can be accomplished within a few weeks. As a result, one of my son Dylan’s favorite toys remains the Anakin Skywalker figure from Star Wars, because it was the first toy he worked towards buying with his own money.
Match their Savings
To spur the excitement, parents can match their savings. For every quarter the child puts into the bank, the parents also deposit one. Kids see their savings build quickly that way. It also helps reinforce the value of saving. You are in essence rewarding them for their attempt to save money. You might tape a picture of what they are saving for next to the
bank to help them stay focused on why they are saving. Where does their money come from? Simple, with my three I keep a chart with stickers next to the fridge, which they earn for keeping their toys picked up or for helping out with other little daily chores. This reward system lets them learn as they earn. Be creative and make this fun for both the kids and adults.
Open a bank account
By the time children are in third or fourth grade, they may be ready to open a bank account. It can be very disturbing to a child who is used to seeing their money accumulate in their moneybox to have it suddenly disappear. So, it is up to the parents to teach them how banks work. Their money is being kept some place safe; but it is still theirs! When Dylan was ready to get started we made a point of visiting our local bank so he could see the building in which his money would be kept.
Make interest the reward
Just as you matched their funds when they were younger, you can make a plan to chip into their savings. Interest rates are so low now, it is difficult for children to see their savings build, so this extra reward for saving helps keep their focus.
Sit down and discuss with your kids what portion of their allowance should be put in their savings. Set a minimum percentage that is always devoted to their account. They can always put in more, but should be discouraged from putting in less. You may also want to set rules for withdrawals and the minimum amount kept in the account.
The older kids get, the easier it is for them to plan for a goal further in the future. By their early high school years at the latest, they should be setting their sights on college savings and it is something I will be encouraging in my brood. Statistics show that young savers are more likely to go to college, even if that isn’t what they are saving for!
Courtesy of Motivated magazine; used with permission. Photo from www.seniorliving.org; used under CC-SA license.
Linda and Richard Eyre, Teaching Children Joy
Adults often bristle when someone remarks that they are “just like so-and-so.” We like to think of ourselves as unique, different, and one-of-a-kind, which is how it is meant to be. It is good to remember that there is much more to what makes a person a unique individual than, for example, the obvious characteristics of a person’s astrological sign, their interests, the number of children they have, or the type of clothes that they wear.
In a similar fashion, parents should learn to appreciate the uniqueness that each child brings to their lives. Each child needs to feel special and important in his or her own right. Seeing each child as an individual with varying likes and dislikes, will help to make the child feel loved for who he is and is meant to be.
Here are some tips on how we can encourage our children’s unique qualities and
Ponder: Take time to reflect on each of your children’s qualities and strengths. Make a list of these qualities and focus on encouraging and praising your children for them.
Text courtesy of Motivated magazine. Used with permission. Photo by Patrick via Flickr.
By Beverly K. Bachel, adapted
Most of us think about what we want to accomplish and set goals for our
lives. But are our kids doing the same? It’s fun for kids to imagine the
amazing things they might achieve someday—but are they doing anything
right now to make their dreams come true? There’s no better time than
the present to help our kids become real goal-getters. Anyone can learn
to set goals, and research shows that kids who set goals feel better about
themselves; have increased motivation; get better grades; and are more
satisfied with their lives.
Here are 10 tips to help kids get on the goal-setting track and into the fast lane to
reaching their dreams:
1. Make them SMART. Make sure kids’ goals are:
Not-so-SMART Goal: “Get an A+ in math.”
SMART Goal: “Boost my math grade by at least one letter by the end of the semester.”
Not-so-SMART Goal: “Get a new bike.”
SMART Goal: “Save up for a new bike by the end of the year.”
2. Write them down. Have kids write their goals and the date by which they want to
achieve them on a piece of paper. Have them post it on their wall, on the computer, on the refrigerator, or somewhere else where they’ll see it often.
3. Think positively. Attitude is everything when it comes to kids’ future success. Help
them make a list of their good qualities, remember compliments, and appreciate what
they have. Also remember that if kids see a good example of a can-do attitude, they’ll be more likely to think positively.
4. Find time. Help kids cut down on time wasters, like watching TV, surfing the
Internet, or talking on the phone, so they can free up time to focus on their goal.
5. Take 10. Set a kitchen timer or stopwatch for 10 minutes and encourage kids to use that time to work on their goals. They may find themselves motivated to keep working on their goal even after the 10 minutes are up.
6. Give a reward. When kids take a step toward their goal, reward them with a movie,
their favorite meal, a weekend off from their chores, or another affordable incentive that will keep them motivated.
7. Visualize success. Minds produce what they dwell on. If kids see themselves
reaching their goals with ease, they’ll be far more likely to succeed. Ask questions at
dinner or while driving them to school to get them talking about their goals.
8. Set “anti-deadlines.” These are the opposite of rewards. Have kids tell
themselves, “If I don’t do it by 5 p.m. I can’t go out with my friends tonight.”
9. Ask for help. Let kids know they don’t have to do it alone and that people in their
lives (family, friends, teachers, coaches) will want to help in whatever ways they can.
Offer to introduce them to a role model or take them on a field trip to learn more about a career they’re interested in.
10. Be a role model. If we talk to kids about our goals and the steps we take to
accomplish them, and they see us following through on our commitments, they’ll be
more likely to do the same.
Article courtesy of Motivated magazine. Used with permission.
Middle school students are getting assigned more and more homework all the time and it is important that they form solid study habits early on. Parents can help them form study skills by supporting and helping their child with homework and other assignments. This can be done by letting your child know that you consider their homework to be important - not just by making them do it, but by participating in the process and doing what you can to help.
Set a Time
Setting a regular time for studying is fundamental for homework success. If other commitments require you to be flexible, plan things a week at a time and keep up with the schedule. Write it down or make a chart for the refrigerator door. Help your child stick to the plan.
Find a Place
Give your child a place of his or her own to do their homework. Make sure there is good light, adequate space and all the materials they will need for projects. The place should be private enough that they can leave things undone and come back to them, without having to clean up the materials at the end of each homework period.
Control the Environment
Make sure there are no distractions. Turn off the television and prohibit telephone calls during homework time. Background music can be helpful, but favorite pop songs are not a good idea. Total isolation may not be a good idea as some children find comfort in the sounds of family life going on around them and actually study better when they are part of things. Listen to your child and observe their behavior at homework time. Try to strike the balance between what they want and what they need in a study environment.
Join in the Fun!
If at all possible, start and maintain a study project of your own. This will help your child see learning as a useful, positive thing with a purpose outside of school. And it will help them to see that school is just a small part of a life-long education over which they will someday have control. If your child sees you sit down to a book each night, they will feel partnership in their own efforts. Also, it will keep you accessible if they have questions or to monitor progress.
Show interest in their school life by asking your child what they are studying. Help them to accept the need to do the things they may not like and get the most out of the things they do enjoy. Find out about your child’s day, what made them happy or what troubled them. As much as possible, get involved in their homework without doing it for them. A little interest from mom and dad goes a long way to forming the good study and homework habits that will serve your child throughout their academic career.
Parents teach their children how to read, ride a bike and tie their shoes because they know their kids will rely on these important skills throughout life. For exactly the same reason, they should also teach their children how to be frugal.
But parents must be careful how they approach these lessons. Going overboard with frugality can send the wrong message. Think twice before buying cheap raisin bran cereal in bulk and spending hours picking out the raisins -- as one Reddit user did with his son -- simply because it's cheaper than individual boxes of raisins. Doing so probably won't be a cherished childhood memory for your kid.
Lecturing your child to be frugal might not be much better. No matter how many times you explain that turning the lights off after leaving a room will lower the electricity bill, it's unlikely to get the job done.
"The most important thing is parents need to lead by example," says Dr. Taliba Foster, a child psychiatrist who has a private practice in Ardmore, Pa., a suburb of Philadelphia. "Being frugal is more of a lifestyle, not a lesson. It has to be part of the family lifestyle."
Instead of telling your child that saving money is a good habit, show them why and how. Delaying gratification is one way to show kids the benefits of saving money. Take the money you would use buying a toy that your children beg for at the store and save it for a family vacation several months down the road.
Parents have many other ways to teach their children about saving money. Here are 10 easy lessons you should try:
Set a savings goal. By itself, a savings goal doesn't sound like much of a way to be frugal. But a goal, such as saving for a vacation to Disneyland, can be a way to get kids to see the benefits of saving money for other purposes. Foster, who has an 8-year-old daughter, says she uses this when her daughter wants something at the store. If they decide it's a "want" instead of a "need," Foster will point out that the money would be better saved by the family for a Disneyland vacation.
Since children want to please an authority figure during preadolescence, it's a key time to try to teach them smart financial habits, she says. "Right now, they're really ripe for following rules, the difference between right and wrong," Foster says.
Get a library card. Going to the library to check out books and DVDs is a habit every family can use to save money. It saves on buying books and renting movies, even though it may take a few weeks on a waiting list to get the latest releases.
Kristen Hagopian, a talk-show host in Philadelphia with two children, ages 9 and 6, estimates that a family of four will spend $720 a year if they share a tub of popcorn and two large sodas while watching a movie at the theater once a month. The same family will spend $180 a year, she says, if they buy a $15 DVD each month. Watching movies for free at home is clearly a lot cheaper.
No drinks. When you do go out to eat, show your children the price difference when you order water with your meal instead of buying a drink like soda, juice or lemonade. Jamie Ratner, founder of Certifikid.com, a deal site for parents, says she never ordered drinks when she was growing up. Now when she takes her children, ages 4 and 6, out to restaurants they have free water. "We save a fortune on our tabs at meals just by getting water," Ratner says.
Price comparison. Showing a child that time is worth money can be difficult, but comparison shopping can help get that message across to them. The more money saved, the less you'll have to work for that money. The less you have to work, the more time you can spend with your family or doing other things you enjoy.
"Teaching your child that their time is a currency, just like money, can be very powerful," says Denise Winston of Bakersfield, Calif., who owns the website MoneyStartHere.com. "Taking a few minutes to research a product to find the best price, and if it gets good reviews, translates into money saved that you don't have to earn. This also helps you plan for purchases and teaches delayed gratification."
Shop from the low shelves. The grocery store is full of money lessons, and is an excellent place to practice math skills. Sherry Thomas of Boca Raton, Fla., president of Palm Beach Etiquette, a life skills training business, says she used supermarkets to teach her children, now 17 and 19, to find the best bargains on the lower shelves.
"The supermarkets make more money if you purchase what costs more," Thomas says. "We tend to buy what is within our sightline. So, if we don't see it, we don't buy it. Thus, the savings are usually lower on shelves that are more difficult to see."
She also had her children pick up a 1-pound bag of rice and a 2-pound bag, comparing which would cost less for the long term. Sometimes two 8-ounce cans of a particular food costs less than one 16-ounce can, for example.
Stay organized. Leaving piles of things around the house not only leads families to become messy and disorganized, but it can also cost them money. Teaching your children the habit of putting clothes, toys and other items where they belong helps you keep track of your belongings, which saves you money because you don't have to replace them or buy more stuff because you can't find what they already own, says Sarah Mooers, a professional organizer who owns a business called Organized Efficiency in Ambler, Penn.
"In one small office, I reorganized their stationery and supplies closet, and their spending on stationery went down dramatically for six months while they worked off the piles of paper and envelopes they didn't even know they had," says Mooers, whose children are 8 and 3. "The same is true in homes -- women who cannot find all their winter shoes when winter rolls around again have to go out and buy new ones."
Save a little of everything you earn. It can be as simple as having a family coin jar that everyone drops their change into at the end of the day so they can save for a meal out. Or it can mean taking your child to the bank each week to deposit half of an allowance into his or her savings account.
Ozeme Bonnette of Fresno, Calif., has been saving a portion of everything she earns as part of a family lesson her grandfather started by teaching her dad when he was a boy. The savings lesson has helped family members afford buying something on a whim or handle an emergency. Bonnette's daughter, 10, saves 10 percent of her weekly allowance and money she gets at birthdays and Christmas, which has helped her amass hundreds of dollars in savings.
Thrift store shopping. Like shopping at a grocery store, shopping for deals at thrift stores, yard sales and flea markets can be frugal lessons that will stick with kids even after they become an adult. Kenyetta Kelley, owner of Luvvy Public Relations, doesn't have children yet, but says she learned as a kid how to find quality, long-lasting items at thrift stores.
"I do remember buying children's books as a kid at these places, but I didn't enjoy going back then as much as I do now," says Kelley, who lives in Dothan, Ala.
Set an allowance. As soon as children can grasp the concept of an allowance -- for some, this is as young as age 3 or 4 -- it's a good idea to have them to do chores at home so that they learn the responsibilities of being part of a family, says Kim Abraham, a mental health therapist in Flint, Mich., who specializes in treating families and children. Abraham gives her children "responsibilities" not "chores," and they're paid for as much work as they do.
If they're not earning money, children can get a sense of entitlement from parents who enjoy the good feeling of giving them something, she says. "The only thing the child is learning is the joy of receiving," Abraham says.
The worst case is raising a child who is either too dependent on their parents for everything and never wants to move out of the house, or an independent child who doesn't have empathy and doesn't work well on a team.
"What we really, really want is to raise interdependent people" who trust others and work well with them, she says. Earning an allowance with responsibilities at home can help get them there, she says.
Don't buy something just because it's on sale. If you don't need something, it's not a bargain. Instead of saving 50 percent when something's on sale, save 100 percent by not buying it at all. It's a lesson that Alina Adams, who writes about being frugal in New York City for Examiner.com, has instilled in her children, ages 14, 10 and 7.
"My grandfather used to say, 'When they have a 100 percent sale, call me,'" says Adams, who first encountered the concept of sales and having a choice in what to buy when she emigrated from the Soviet Union to the United States in the 1970s. Her children now accept the lesson.
"They've internalized it to a point where, when one says they 'need' something, another will pipe up to say, 'Or do you just want it,'" Adams says. "And then, when we decide the item isn't really necessary, one of them will observe, 'We've saved 100 percent!'"
Of all of these frugal lessons, maybe the best is to value time, not just monetarily, but with the time you're able to spend with your children. It's invaluable and spending time with your children teaching them smart money habits, instead of buying them a book or new gadget, is time well spent.
Courtesy of Yahoo News
Edwin J. and Alice B. Delattre, book excerpts
Our children deserve to learn important lessons from us and to acquire important habits with our help. They need help in learning what matters to us. We want our children to grow up to be responsible adults. We want them to learn to feel, think, and act with respect for themselves and for other people. We want them to pursue their own well-being, while also being considerate of the needs and feelings of others.
Many parents will also want to share with their children deeply held religious and moral convictions as a foundation for ethical behavior. This booklet discusses habits of fairness, respect, courage, honesty, and compassion that responsible people share, and it can be used by parents with different beliefs.
As parents, we can give our children the best in us by helping them acquire habits and character traits that they can rely on in their own lives. If we help them learn to take pleasure in thinking and behaving well, they will have the best chance to lead good lives as individuals and as citizens in the community. This will be true no matter what unpleasant situations or bad influences they come across.
What do we mean by responsibility?
None of us is born acting responsibly. A responsible character is formed over time. It is made up of our outlook and daily habits associated with feelings, thoughts, and actions. Responsible people act the way they should whether or not anyone is watching. They do so because they understand that it’s a fight and because they have the courage and self-control to act decently, even when tempted to do otherwise.
We want our children to appreciate the importance of being responsible. We also want them to develop the habits and strength to act this way in their everyday lives. Learning to be responsible includes learning to:
Respect and compassion for others
As part of being responsible, children need to respect and show concern for the well-being of other people. Respect ranges from using basic manners to having compassion for the suffering of others. Compassion is developed by trying to see things from the point of view of others, and learning that their feelings resemble our own.
Respect for others also includes the habit of treating people fairly as individuals, regardless of race, sex, or ethnic group. As we mature, respect includes realizing that not all our obligations to others, such as caring for a family member who is sick, are chosen freely. And it includes tolerance for people who do not share our beliefs or likes or dislikes, as long as they do not harm others.
These habits are especially important because many of the wrongs people commit result from indifference to the suffering they cause.
Honesty means telling the truth. It means not misleading others for our own benefit. It also means trying to make decisions, especially important ones, on the basis of evidence rather than prejudice. Honesty includes dealing with other people and being honest with ourselves.
To understand the importance of being truthful to others, our children need to learn that living together depends on trust. Without honesty, trusting each other becomes impossible.
Honesty with ourselves involves faring up to our own mistakes and biases, even when we have to admit them to others. It includes self-criticism. The point is to learn from our errors and to do our best to correct them, not to dwell on them.
Courage is taking a position and doing what is right, even at the risk of some loss. It means being neither reckless nor cowardly, but faring up to our duties. It includes physical courage, intellectual courage to make decisions on the basis of evidence, and moral courage to stand up for our principles.
Courage does not mean never being afraid. It can involve trying to overcome our fears, such as a fear of the dark. But our children also need to learn that sometimes it is all right to be afraid.
Courage becomes especially important by the time children become teenagers. They often have to stand up against peer pressure to do the wrong thing, such as using drugs.
Self-control is the ability to resist inappropriate behavior in order to act responsibly. It relates to all of the different aspects of responsibility mentioned so far, including respect and compassion for others, honesty, and courage. It involves persistence and sticking to long-term commitments. It also includes dealing effectively with emotions, such as anger, and developing patience.
People with self-respect take satisfaction in appropriate behavior and hard-won accomplishments. They don’t need to put others down or have a lot of money in order to respect themselves. People who respect themselves also view selfishness, loss of self-control, recklessness, cowardice, and dishonesty as wrong and unworthy of them. As they mature, if they have learned the lessons of responsibility, they will develop a good conscience to guide them.
In addition, people who respect themselves respect their own health and safety. Similarly, they are unwilling to be manipulated by others. Patience or tolerance does not mean allowing others to mistreat us.
While we help children have high standards for themselves, we also need to let them know that failure is no embarrassment when we have done our best. For example, losing a game when we have played our best, and our opponents have simply played better, is no disgrace.
How Can Parents Encourage Responsible Behavior?
Especially when they are young, children learn best about responsibility in concrete situations. What they do and what they witness have lasting effects. Most of the activities described in this book are for you and your child.
We are always teaching our children something by our words and actions. They learn from seeing. They learn from hearing. They learn from overhearing. They learn from us, from each other, from other adults, and by themselves.
All of us acquire habits by doing things over and over again, whether in learning to play a musical instrument, to pick up after ourselves, to play games and sports, or to share with others. The best way to encourage our children to become responsible is to act as responsibly as we can in their presence. We must genuinely try to be the sort of people we hope they will try to become.
We can show them by our words and by our actions that we respect others. We can show them our compassion and concern when others are suffering. They need to see our own self-control, courage, and honesty. They need to learn that we treat ourselves, as well as others, with respect, and that we always try to do our best. As they grow older, they should have the chance to learn why we live as we do.
As our children watch us daily, as we talk to them, encouraging their questions and trying to answer them thoughtfully, they begin to understand us—and we begin to understand them. Understanding each other well is the best way to teach our children respect for our ideals of good character.
Using literature and stories
Children learn about responsibility through many activities, including reading stories. They learn by identifying with individual characters or because the message from a favorite story strikes a particular chord. Children can be touched deeply by good literature, and they may ask to have things read to them again and again.
Children can learn all sorts of lessons from stories. They might learn about courage by reading about David standing up to Goliath. Or they might learn the value of persistence and effort from The Little Engine That Could.
When they are older, reading can help prepare children for the realities and responsibilities of adulthood. It is usually better for children to read a good book about such things as war, oppression, suicide, or deadly disease before seeing these things up close.
Developing Judgment and Thoughtfulness
Judgment on ethical issues is a practical matter. Children develop their capacity for judging what is a responsible act, just as they come to appreciate the meaning of responsibility, through practice. Especially when they are young, children need to see moral questions in terms that are meaningful to them.
We can also help our children develop good judgment by talking through complicated situations with them. One way is to help them understand the long-term consequences of different choices. If they tell us about a story they have read, we might ask them to imagine what the result might have been if a favorite character had acted differently.
Sometimes, it can be difficult to know the difference between acting bravely and acting recklessly or how to balance duties when they conflict. As parents, we can help by making it clear, through what we do as well as what we say, that it is important in such situations to think carefully and honestly about what should be done, as well as to keep in mind how others will be affected by what we do.
Your child’s ability to reason about different issues, including ethical ones, will improve as your child matures. Just as reasoning can lead to a more thoughtful understanding of responsibility, or what actions to take in complicated situations, it may also become easier to rationalize selfish or reckless behavior. But if you have helped your young child develop strong habits of considering the welfare of others, honesty, courage, and admiration for worthy accomplishments, your child will have a solid foundation on which to build.
Just remember one thing: teaching our children about responsibility doesn’t mean that we can’t laugh or that we have to be grim. Our children should see that we can be serious about our principles, while still being able to play and have fun.
Excerpted from Helping Your Child Learn Responsible Behavior. U.S. Department of Education Office of Educational Research and Improvement. 1993
By Gregory M. Lamb, Christian Science Monitor
Parents want their kids and teens to care about others—whether at school, in their community, or in need a continent away.
The good news is that children “are sort of hard-wired” to want to help others, says Michael Ungar, author of “The We Generation: Raising Socially Responsible Kids.” “They want to take on responsibility.”
While adults do wonderful things to help others, even more amazing is the number of children and teens who are “making a difference,” too.
"Childhood projects are a great time to sort of step back and let the child develop those skills, from time management to seeing the impact on others if they don’t fulfill their obligations," says Dr. Ungar, a family counselor and professor of social work at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
The bottom line: Support, but don’t shove. “Our kids are really watching us,” he says. “If we’re showing empathy to others, if we’re cooking a casserole for a neighbor who’s fallen down and broken her hip, if we’re doing those small things in our community,” kids will notice, he says.
Below, we highlight five outstanding young differencemakers—children and teens who have turned their care for others into impressive actions. They show that there’s no age barrier to becoming a force for good.
Wyatt: Making clay wiggle to save the oceans. Wyatt Workman was conducting his phone interview from a closet in his house.
It apparently was the 7-year-old’s private office, a place to speak with an inquiring reporter in some confidentiality.
The second-grader from Glendale, Calif., is a budding environmentalist, clay sculptor, book author, blogger, and auteur. His colorful, six-minute clay-animation movie (“Save the Sea from the Trash Monster!”) is attracting hits on YouTube and at his website, wyattsworks.com.
Next spring he’ll show his film at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, Calif., and speak on his favorite topic: cleaning up the world’s oceans.
"They want me to talk about the ocean," Wyatt says. "It’s going to be a big process!"
He’s contributing the proceeds from all his various artistic ventures to Oceana, a nonprofit ocean advocacy group (oceana.org).
Wyatt attends Wesley School in North Hollywood, Calif., which emphasizes community service.
As a 6-year old, he came home with an idea.
"I said ‘I want to make a movie,’ and my mom, like, freaked out," he says.
"He knew exactly what he wanted to do," says his mother, Timathea Workman. "He had me sit down for about 3-1/2 hours one evening while he dictated to me.
"He wanted me to write down all the things the characters would say and what would happen. Then he would work on the clay."
When Wyatt was ready, he’d call her in to take a photo with a camera, since his hands were covered with clay. The photos then were pieced together to create a stop-motion movie. (His cats—Chewie, Toulouse, and Marie—“helped out” by jumping up and making holes in the clay with their paws.)
Wyatt’s clay modeling (he’s made more than 70 sculptures of animals that he hopes to sell to fund ocean cleanup efforts) and moviemaking have led to additional ideas.
"I said, ‘we need one more thing to be cool,’ " Wyatt tells his interviewer. "And my mom said, ‘What’s that?’ And I thinked and I thinked and I thinked…. [Finally] I said, ‘I want to have a book.’ "
True to his word, still images from the movie will be published in book form, too.
"I want to be like Martin Luther King Jr. and do something to make the world a better place."
Alexa: Building schools for the disaster-struck. Alexa Peters loves drawing—and her dog, Cooper.
Now she’s turned that into a way to help others. The 12-year-old from Andover, Mass., has illustrated a picture book for children called “Cooper and Me,” the story of a young girl very much like Alexa who longs to take her dog with her to her first day of school (cooperandme.com).
Three dollars from the sale of each book goes to the Happy Hearts Fund (happyheartsfund.org), created by fashion model Petra Nemcova to improve the lives of children in countries hit by natural disasters. (Ms. Nemcova herself barely survived the tsunami that struck Indonesia in 2004. Her fiancé was swept away by the floodwaters and perished.)
Alexa hopes to raise $10,000 to help build three schools in Haiti through Happy Hearts. “We came upon the Happy Hearts Fund through a friend,” says Monique Peters, her mother, who wrote the story for “Cooper and Me.” Last February, they contacted Nemcova, and she eventually visited Alexa’s home. Nemcova was so impressed that she made Alexa the youngest “ambassador” for her program.
In June, Alexa and her mom went to Peru to visit three schools supported by Happy Hearts. The children “love going to school. It’s their safe haven,” Ms. Peters says. Homes often have no running water, refrigeration, or indoor plumbing. “They appreciate everything. They have so little,” she says.
Alexa is planning to illustrate a new book, with the story set in Peru. It may center on a 12-year-old boy they met named José, who walks for an hour each day to a larger city to sell candy to support his family.
Alexa’s advice for others who want to make a difference: “Keep going. And if it’s something you’re passionate about, really follow that dream, and you can be successful.”
Dylan: ‘One Starts Many’ to clean up the Gulf. Dylan Stock was in first grade when the Gulf oil spill began last April.
His class at The Principia School in St. Louis studied the spill’s effect on birds. He even went to a hair salon to gather human hair to be used on booms to capture the spreading oil in the Gulf of Mexico.
But Dylan wanted to do more. He created a website, onestartsmany.com, with help from his mother, Carrie Silver-Stock. “I was really worried about the sea creatures,” Dylan says. “My mom asked me if I wanted to make a website, and I said ‘sure’. And I came up with the name One Starts Many.”
The website includes Dylan’s ideas on how to protect the oceans.
At a November fundraiser he collected $1,145 to send to two Gulf charities, Kids in Need During Disaster (kindd.org), which buys clothing for children in a fishing town hit by the oil spill, and the Audubon Institute in New Orleans (auduboninstitute.org), which treats stranded and injured marine wildlife.
With support from WitKids (witkids.org), a program that supports kid-based projects (its motto is “whatever it takes to make the world a better place”), Dylan traveled to the Gulf last summer on his own “fact-finding” mission, which included meeting New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu.
In September, the 7-year-old spoke to first-graders through fifth-graders at his school to tell them about his trip. He also invited them to become members of his new Ocean Club, which he established at the school.
The club already has helped to clean up a local creek.
"It’s inspiring for us that he felt like he could make a difference," says Mrs. Silver-Stock. She and her husband, Steven Stock, wanted "to nurture that in any way that we can," she says. And Dylan says he isn’t done.
"I think I’ll stay interested in the ocean for a while," he says.
Danielle: A kid-run network spreads peace. Danielle Gram spent her childhood in Maryland in the years following the 9/11 attacks.
"I really didn’t understand why people from different cultures wanted to kill each other," says Ms. Gram, now 21 years old and a senior at Harvard University.
After her family moved to Carlsbad, Calif., she continued to think about the concept of peace and how to achieve it. She read the nonviolent philosophy of Mohandas Gandhi and studied what Buddhism and Christianity had to say on the subject.
In 2006, together with Jill McManigal, a mother of two young children, Gram, then 16, founded Kids for Peace (kidsforpeaceglobal.org), a nonprofit, child-led group that inspires kids to work together toward a more peaceful world.
Today Kids for Peace has more than 75 chapters in several countries. In August, its Great Kindness Challenge, where children try to see how many acts of kindness they can perform in a single day, drew thousands of participants in 50 countries.
Members also sign a six-line “peace pledge” in which they promise to “speak in a kind way,” “help others,” “care for our earth,” “respect people,” and work together.
Beyond that, kids in each chapter design their own projects.
"We really want the kids to be the leaders," Gram says.
"The passion to create a less violent world has really followed me throughout my life," Gram says. But a family tragedy last year brought it closer to home. Her only brother was murdered while on vacation.
"The police still have no idea what happened," she says. "He was found stabbed to death on the side of a road…. It’s certainly been a struggle for all of us. But every single one of my immediate family members has a deeper conviction that nonviolence is the way to respond. We see my brother’s death as just more of an inspiration to make sure that no other family has to experience this."
Jordyn: Removing dangerous drugs from homes. Jordyn Schara was shocked “to see the insane amount of medication people have in their homes that have been lying around waiting to be abused or stolen.”
Unused drugs create two huge problems: They are abused by teens trying to get high, who then can become sick or even die. Or they are flushed down the drain and creep into drinking water. “It means men are taking birth control [pills] and children are taking heart medications,” she says. “It’s definitely not a good thing.”
But when the 14-year-old in Reedsburg, Wis., asked state officials what she could do to help, they told her she was too young.
That didn’t stop Jordyn. She founded a Wisconsin branch of Prescription Pill Drug Disposal (p2d2program.org). She organized a drug drop-off day for her town, and recruited pharmacists and police officers to supervise the event.
The drug return day was “extremely successful,” she says. “People lined up around the block to get in. That was just a really great feeling to know that people were willing to participate.”
Hauling away and incinerating the drugs costs about $2 per pound.
"I had to get a lot of donations and grants to support the cost of this program," says Jordyn, who is now a 16-year-old high school sophomore. "I was the youngest person [at 14] to apply for and receive a state grant in Wisconsin" to help fund her project, she says.
The Save a Star Foundation (saveastar.org) in Highland Park, Ill., donated a prescription drug drop-off box, the size of a street-corner mailbox, that’s been installed at the police station. Her project has now become an ongoing part of the community.
"Sometimes it’s hard as a teenager. You think that people don’t listen to you or don’t pay attention to you," Jordyn says. "But, honestly, if you do a service project, people will start listening."
Described below are the steps of a program devised by Dr. Malcolm Williamson and myself when we were both serving on the attending staff at Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles. The system is useful with boys and girls between four and eight years of age; it can be modified in accordance with the age and maturity of the youngster.
a) [Your chart should list] responsibilities and behaviors which the parent may wish to instill. [The items on your list may] constitute a much greater degree of cooperation and effort than most five-year-old children can display on a daily basis, but the proper use of rewards can make it seem more like fun than work. Immediate reinforcement is the key; each evening, colored dots (preferably red) or stars should be placed by the behaviors that were done satisfactorily. If dots are not available, the squares can be colored with a felt-tip pen; however, the child should be allowed to chalk up his own successes.
b) Two pennies [or the amount you agree on] should be granted for every behavior done properly in a given day; if more than three items are missed in one day, no pennies should be given.
c) Since a child can earn a maximum of twenty-eight cents a day, the parent has an excellent opportunity to teach him how to manage his money. It is suggested that he be allowed to spend only sixty to eighty cents per week of these earnings. Special trips to the store or toy shop can be planned to provide a handy source of reinforcement. Of the remaining 1.16 to 1.36 (maximum), the child can be required to give twenty cents to some charitable recipient; he should then save about thirty cents per week. The balance can be accumulated for a long-range expenditure for something he wants or needs.
d) The list of behaviors to be rewarded does not remain static. Once the child has gotten into the habit of hanging up his clothes, or feeding the puppy, or brushing his teeth, the parent should then substitute new responsibilities. A new chart should be made each month, and Junior can make suggestions for his revised chart.
This system provides several side benefits, in addition to the main objective of teaching responsible behavior. Through its use, for example, the child learns to count. He is taught to give to worthy causes. He begins to understand the concept of saving. He learns to restrict and control his emotional impulses. And finally, he is taught the meaning of money and how to spend it wisely. The advantages to his parents are equally impressive. A father of four young children applied the technique and later told me that the noise level in his household had been reduced noticeably.
Excerpted from The New Dare to Discipline, Dr. James Dobson, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. 1996
I am a CEO. I do not have a special parking place. I do not get bonuses. As a matter of fact, I haven’t had a paycheck in 12 years. My job description includes landscaping, house cleaning, accounting, shopping, and general clerical work. But my job-critical tasks are teaching, counseling, nurturing, and disciplining.
I am not always popular. But that’s okay because it is not part of my job to be popular. I am my Children’s Executive Officer.
I’ve been entrusted with raising three children to be adults. It’s not vitally important that they become successful in the way that we often define success—lots of money, fame, a specific career. But I do want them to succeed in the way Webster describes it, “to turn out well.”
I heard a mom say recently, “I don’t have time to discipline.” Of course we’ve all had moments when we’ve caved in. But a key part of helping my children to turn out well is to teach them that there are consequences for both good and bad behavior.
For instance, I was in the grocery store with my then 3-½ year old. He was in a phase of not wanting people to look at him. But how were these poor shoppers to know that! Of course, a woman looked at him and he stuck his tongue out at her. I asked him to apologize. He said no. I took the cookie out of his hand and again explained that that was not acceptable behavior and asked him to apologize. Nothing doing.
This saint of a woman, perhaps a veteran parent herself, patiently stood by supporting our Public Behavior 101 class. This went on and on for at least a couple of minutes until he finally apologized. I thanked her for her patience and turned my back from him to get some English muffins.
At that point he declared so the store could hear, “I don’t like you, Mom.” I turned back to him and calmly said, “You don’t have to like me, you just need to obey me.” The man stacking bread on the shelves said, “Wow, that’s good…. I like that.”
Discipline, which Webster describes in part as “to train or develop by instruction and exercise, especially in self-control” is a large part of parenting. It’s teaching your child to learn self-control, to accept responsibility for his actions, to think clearly, and make good choices.
I’ve realized that if I do too much of this for my children, they will not learn it for themselves. I often ask myself, how do you teach the children what is appropriate behavior? And the answer comes back, by behaving appropriately yourself. Every parent’s heart has soared when a child demonstrates what Mom or Dad has strived to teach. The same parents have cringed when they have seen or heard their little ones mimic their less than acceptable behavior. Is this the reason to despair and give up? Absolutely not; it should inspire us to do better.
Childhood needn’t be a boot camp. But it’s not a free-for-all either. There’s a balance to be found. My role is to help them be intelligent but not arrogant. I want them to be peacemakers, but not doormats. I want them to be good but not naïve, wise but not suspicious. I want them to be obedient but not subservient, patient but not apathetic. I want them to have respect for themselves. I want their presence in a room to bring light, not shadows.
I will retire some day from being a CEO. And it’s right that I do. There will come a time when my children will be adults—and executive officers of their own lives.
Jonatha Holland is a mother of three and lives in Carlisle, Mass. Article courtesy of Christian Science Monitor.
We can change the world by improving the lives of those around us, through deeds of kindness and consideration, and by showing faith in them. Here are some practical tips to help get you started changing your part of the world, one heart at a time.
Build up excellence. Try to think of at least one thing that you find outstanding in your child, and then make it your task to let them know. Don’t be shy; they won’t get tired of hearing it. What you’re doing is building confidence in that one area, and as they gain confidence, they will start to improve in other areas as well.
Share the responsibility. Give your children responsibility in the areas in which they are strong. Make them feel trusted, needed, and appreciated.
Appreciate who they are. Appreciating your children for what they do is important, and children like to be thanked and acknowledged for it, but being appreciated for a personal trait feels a lot nicer than only being appreciated for the outcome of that trait.
Slow down. It takes time to see people in a new light. Go slower in your interactions with your child and give God a chance to reveal His perspective.
Let go of the past. Everyone dislikes being labeled or put in a box. Be willing to see who your child is today or the potential of what they can be tomorrow.
Adapted from article in Activated magazine.