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Archive for August, 2012

Encouraging Your Child to Read

August 28th, 2012 - Category: Kids and Reading

Do you ever feel like you have to drag your child away from the video games to grudgingly get your kids to read? Reading may seem like a past time in your home, but with the benefits it can bring to your life, and your child’s life, it shouldn’t be.

The more you read the more you know.  Encourage your child to always have a book they are reading, whether for class or outside of class.

Find times that would otherwise be wasted and offer them a book to read instead of being bored.  Keep a couple of books in the car for drive time.  Stash one in your purse to pull out while waiting for appointments.  Everyone’s ready to go but mom?  Instead of turning on the TV for five minutes, have some books left out on the end table, ready for kids to read.

Reading can be more fun if your child chooses the book they want to read.  Encourage them to stay within their reading level, and you can offer suggestions based on their interests or needs at the time, but ultimately, they are more likely to read if it is something that they choose.  The more your child reads the better their vocabulary, the higher their test scores, and the better they will be able to think themselves through classes and situations.

Reading will enrich your child’s life, strengthen their mind, and help them better understand themselves and others.  Reading is the price for success in school, work, and life.  Kids and reading should go together more often.  It always helps when they get rewarded for reading.  Consider using and reward their reading in any amount.

Enjoy a book yourself.  If your child sees you reading it will rate higher on their priorities as well.  It’s never too late to learn something new.  You’ll probably enjoy it more than you thought.

Reading a book together will also strengthen your relationship with your child.  It will give you opportunities outside of the normal parent/child scope of conversation, where you can relate to, and question their thoughts and reactions to the book.  A struggling relationship can be nurtured by talking about items that aren’t among the things you usually fight about.

The two words, kids and reading, may not be in your families vocabulary, but investing some time in encouraging them to read may reward you, and them, with a brighter future.  If you don’t believe me, read a book, and see for yourself!



Back to School is On the Calendar

August 21st, 2012 - Category: Organization

We all love the dog days of summer.  The laid back attitude of no where to go and no place to be.  But with school around the corner, schedules and routines are in sight once again.

No more sleeping in and lounging around in your pajamas all day.  There’s breakfast to eat, lunches to make, hair to be fixed, chores to finish, backpacks to load and all in record time.  Then the chaos resumes after school with homework to finish, piano to practice, soccer practice to attend, dinner to make, clean up and chores, and then on to bedtime routines if it’s not already too late.  I’m tired just thinking about it.

Returning to school brings routine back into our lives with time schedules and due dates.  Keeping track of it all will help you keep your sanity and where better to do that than on the calendar.

A family calendar, whether on the fridge, your smart phone, or the latest and greatest idea out there, can keep life flowing.   Writing down appointments, schedules, and chores can keep everyone on the same page.  It helps you remember and it informs the rest of the family of your whereabouts.

Be specific with the name of the event, the time and place it will occur and who will be involved.  Sometimes adding specifics like “bring a green salad” or “casual dress” will help you remember the little things.  Use the Note Section of your calendar for specific addresses, cross roads, or phone numbers that may otherwise get misplaced.  Use the alarm reminder on your phone 15 minutes prior just in case you forget.

Even if it’s something that happens every week, writing it on the calendar will help you make sure it gets done.

Using your calendar for periodic chores will also help you remember to get them done.  You can assign them out or do them yourself, but those chores that only need to be done every once in awhile are sure to be forgotten if they aren’t kept track of.

Try using your calendar for other tasks as well.  Record when your next oil change is due, when it’s time to change the air filters in your home or when a particular warranty runs out.

Don’t be afraid to turn those pages and schedule things out months in advance.  Yes, something may come up and an appointment may have to be rescheduled every once in awhile, but having it on the calendar will ensure that it doesn’t get forgotten.

Use your calendar better and save yourself lost time and money with better scheduling.

Praise Kids

August 17th, 2012 - Category: Communication

Have you ever had one of those days when you look back and can’t remember if you said  thank you to your son for taking out the garbage or if you praised your daughter for getting an “A” on her report?

We all know that kids as well as adults like to be praised.  Praise can lift our spirits and encourage us to do more and do better.  It gives us an idea of what the other one expects and if we have met those expectations.

Kids want to please their parents.  If they feel like they are a failure or they can’t do anything right, they may shut down or stop trying.  As a parent, making sure our children know they are doing what is right, and that they are pleasing us keeps them on track and headed in the right direction.

Here are some easy ideas to help you increase the praise in your home.

Praise them verbally.  Tell them what a great job they did and be specific.

Give praise immediately if possible, but later is better than not at all.   They will still be aware that you noticed and you were impressed.

Say “thank you”. Even though chores are expected to be done, children like to know that what they do, is appreciated.

Point out when they have done something without being asked, or when they have gone above and beyond what was expected of them.

Put notes in their lunch.   Even something as easy as writing with a sharpie on their sandwich bag, means that you took the time to acknowledge them.

Use a window marker and leave notes on their bathroom mirror.  Leave it there for a couple of days so that others can see it too.

Praise them in front of others.

Text your child.  Older kids aren’t home as often, but even if they aren’t home and you realize they did a great job at something, let them know when you notice.

Leave a note on My Job ChartMy Job Chart has a place where parents and children can leave notes for each other.  Use the “Note From Parent” feature to praise and acknowledge what your child has done and what a good job they did.

And lastly, be sincere.  Even children can tell when you aren’t telling the truth.  It may take some thought, but there is always something that deserves praise.  Give it generously.

The Little Money Circles

August 1st, 2012 - Category: Money

My son Spencer is almost three years old. During the first two years of his life, when I wasn’t trying to catch up on sleep or doing laundry, I was writing a book about the history and nature of money, especially the tactile stuff. You know: cash. I had decided to investigate whether it makes sense for society to keep cash around. It’s expensive, germy, deliciously useful for criminals, and most costly for the poor. Details on all that some other time.

Don’t get me wrong: I still respect cash’s purchasing power. If you have it in mind to buy a copy of my book with a fistful of greenbacks, by all means—have at it. I also don’t think we could ditch cash tomorrow or even in 2016. We need to be able to tip waiters and street musicians, and we don’t yet have an equally fast and widely accepted medium of exchange to turn to in the event of a three-week blackout. Still, I wanted to put cash in the hot seat, while also exploring the monetary frontier. Now, for better and for worse, I am the Cashless Guy.

So it was something of a stunner the other day to hear Spencer ask—no, begged—to play with the “little money circles.” Since when does this little blond stegosaurus-worshipping monster of mine have an interest in what economists call “physical representations of sovereign currency in various denominations” and that the rest of us call cash?

In retrospect—and I say this as a absolutely neutral observer—I think Spencer’s descriptor was ingenious, considering he has been with us here on firma terra for all of 33 months. Yet when he first said those words, it took me a moment to realize what he meant. As for where the sudden obsession with little money circles came from, it’s safe to say that, like every cold, chewed wood chip, or endearing expression like “GO AWAY,” he must have picked it up at daycare. He certainly didn’t come to it at home.

I said yes to his request, of course, and proceeded to rummage for a few coins that had long ago sunk to the bottom of a mug on my office shelf. (An Australia dollar, a 2-ruppee piece from India, and a Canadian quarter, for those of you keeping tabs.) I also decided that, because he’s a youngin’, I would spare him further discussion of what I’d learned while researching The End of Money. Soon enough–maybe when he’s four?—we can knuckle down for a chat about how emperors debased currencies of old, why it’s impossible for Americans to have a level-headed conversation about retiring the penny, and the inane fact that the US Mint currently produces pennies and nickels at a staggering loss. $0.026 and $0.11 per unit respectively, the last time I checked.

But just so you don’t think I’ve gone completely overboard with this cash v. cashless stuff, let me pause briefly to add that the whole “money circles” thing was fun. It’s not like I loathe coinage per se; what I dislike is uncritical thinking. In fact, when I was a kid I found coins to be pretty interesting, and my dad was something of a collector, at least for a few years during his childhood.

This moment with the money circles taught me that it’s never too early to think about and begin planning for how we are going to teach our children about money. The word money is an easy enough stand-in for notes and coins; we adults use it all the time. But we often lose sight of the fact that cash is merely one form of money, a thing representing the idea of monetary value. And it is the idea that we need to teach, and teach well.

Spencer’s seemingly simple request also got me wondering about what scientists and social scientists know about when and how children develop an understanding of such abstract ideas like money, value, and debt. (I’ve sent out some feelers to a couple of academics who can speak to this question and will follow up when those conversations bear fruit.)

Very little kids are just curious about the objects, sure, and it doesn’t take too long to grasp the concept of payment: I give you this much money and you give me an ice cream cone. But when and how do they start to build an understanding of the relationship between money and the world around them, and come to see money as necessary for a.) essentials like food and shelter, and b.) leisure and, well, all the fun stuff that kids care about? Perhaps most of all, I want to know how I can gently steer Spencer toward the discovery that work and money are inextricably linked—and provide him with lessons that will help him be responsible with both.

One thing I can already tell is the need for more precise vocabulary. Earning points for chores instead of just an amount of money, for instance, is a huge step in the right direction as far as disentangling the meaning of money from value. I was in Toronto to give a talk two weeks ago, where I met a woman who not only loves cash, but even dreams of having a bathtub full of $100 bills. She’s certainly not alone in this wish, I realize. What fascinated me, though, was how convinced she is that a bathtub full of ornate pieces of rectangular paper equals wealth.

So I told her this story about a counterfeiter. A man I’d recently written about had done this same thing, surrounding himself with a mountain of paper money. He would be the first to tell you, though, that he wasn’t a penny richer because the paper has no value. She didn’t want to talk about the mysteries of value, though, or the silliness of money as end goal. Not that I expected to convince her. The Beatles hadn’t (“Can’t Buy Me Love”), and it’d doubtful she has ever snuggled up with a copy of The Philosophy of Money by famed German philosopher Georg Simmel. I wish she would. Simmel illuminates how money is all about motion, and that when it ceases to move—to be exchanged—it ceases to be money.

After all, we work hard to earn it to so that we can do with it, or set it in motion: spend, donate, invest, treat, share, and more. How to elegantly and effectively deliver that kind of message to our children is no easy feat. Those little money circles, I suppose, might be as good a starting point as any.

David Wolman is a contributing editor at Wired and the author, most recently, of The End of Money: Counterfeiters, Preachers, Techies, Dreamers – and the Coming Cashless Society (Da Capo Press, 2012). He tweets at @DavidWolman.