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Cap’ n Crunch vs Cartoons and Screen Time

Cap’ n Crunch vs. Cartoons and Screen Time

By

James L. Casale

Dear Parents,  14 October 2019

Do you ever read the obituaries? I have been reading them for years but I am particularly attracted to the ones in the Wall Street Journal which chronical the lives of iconic business professionals, scientists, and other obscure figures I never heard of. Their lives and accomplishments are intriguing and fascinating. Have you ever heard of Kenneth Mason?

Mr. Mason, the former president of Quaker Oats suffered the criticism of many for his company’s sugary cereal, Cap’ n Crunch which was deemed unhealthy and rotted children’s teeth. Mr. Mason responded to his critics by replying that Saturday morning cartoons were rotting children’s minds and TV producers needed to come up with more intelligent programming. His comment were prescient.

These days, professional educators and organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics are warning against the deleterious effects of too much screen time for children. Screen time now includes much more than TV. Electronic entertainment devices have changed and, along with TV, include: computers, x-boxes, cell phones, and other hand- held devices that seem to consume too much of our children’s time.

David Gelernter, professor of computer science at Yale University opines that,” Many children will settle down with the latest I stuff, each like a happy dog with a big bone and all those pads, pods, smart phones, video game machine and computers look like useful fun. We ought to group these machines with alcohol and adult movies. They.re fine for grown-ups but no good for children under 13 except for on-line learning when they are at home and simple cell phones when they go out.” Mr. Gelernter believes that these digital toys represent a “mental purgatory” that harms a child’s ability to concentrate. He is in good company, namely with the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics).

The AAP guidelines recommend establishing a family use media plan, banning all electronics at mealtimes and after bedtimes and eliminating TVs from children’s bedrooms. According to Marjorie Hogan, author of the AAP recommendation and a pediatrician, “excessive media use is associated with obesity, poor school performance, aggression, and lack of sleep.”

The evidence is clear and now it is decision time. As John Gardner, former Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare under president Lyndon Johnson, has stated, “The smallest school in America is the family.” Parents can control the environment and  culture in their  own homes. Equip yourselves with a positive attitude and accurate information and forge ahead to be an effective parent.

Dr. Casale is a state and national award-winning educator, a published author, and a national speaker.  Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. His website is http://www.commonsenseparenthood.com.

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Is There a Secret to a Successful Charter School?

Letter to the Editor, (WSJ) 9/21/19

Robert Pondiscio’s, The Secret of a Charter School’s Success? Parents, is no secret. Parent participation in a child’s education has been an established fact well before the results of the 1966 Coleman Report. The largest study of its kind up to that point concluded that more resources, even for disadvantaged children, was not the best determiner of school success. The best determiner of school success was and is the “quality of the family.”

Success Academy’s demanding protocols coupled with some parent requirements are possible because charter schools can act independently from state regulations and teacher unions which strangle the standard public school.

However, there is no magic in establishing a charter school. Many of them fail for the same reason that public schools fail; teachers and administrators who staff charter schools are selected from the same talent pool eligible to be hired by private and public schools. There are never enough outstanding teachers and principals.

The first year my grandchildren were enrolled in a charter school in Florida, was a year of achievements and success. The parents were happy too. When the dynamic principal left for a better opportunity, her replacement, with the same faculty, did not enjoy the confidence of the staff or parents and there was a lot of grumbling.

The X factor, no secret, that contributes to a child’s success in school and life are parents who accept their sacred responsibility as their child’s first teachers and role models. They don’t rely on schools to raise their children.

James L. Casale, Tequesta, Florida

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Parents, Leadership, and Humility

Parents, Leadership, and Humility

by

James L. Casale

Humility is a leadership trait. Parents are, for better or worse, leaders who can influence their children and their children’s children. Sam Walker, writing in the WSJ,offers searing evidence that heroic individuals who act calmly in life-or-death situations do so because they are true leaders who are knowledgeable, composed, collaborative, and confident. And at the end of it all, they are humble. Parents need to model all of these leadership traits to be successful and raise successful kids.

Mr. Walker cites three examples, two airline pilots and one mine foreman, who, due to their heroic actions, saved hundreds of lives. All three had similar leadership qualities that parents should emulate.

Thirty years ago, Alfred Haynes, a former Marine aviator and commercial pilot, put on a “crisis management masterclass” as he guided his DC 10 to a crash landing that saved hundreds of lives. The tail engine had blown apart, and the shrapnel from the explosion had disabled all the hydraulic lines controlling the rudder and flaps. There were no brakes. He had to land the plane at twice the normal speed.

Upon landing, the plane broke into four pieces. No one was expected to survive. However, 184 out of 296 did survive, including the crew. At a subsequent news conference, Captain Haynes said that there were no heroes, “just a group of people who did their jobs.”  Calm, humble, composed, and knowledgeable are words that easily describe the pilot.

A more recent example that captured the world’s attention is the heroics of Chelsey Sullenberger, who, in 2009, landed his commercial jet on the Hudson River without a single loss of life. “We were simply doing what we were paid to do,” said the modest pilot.

The third example is less well known. Luis Urzua was the foreman of a group of miners trapped in a Chilean mine that caved in. This calm and quick-thinking man remained with his men for 10 weeks before they were rescued. He insisted on being the last man out. Afterward, he said, “ We learned to keep our composure.”

Parents don’t usually find themselves in life-or-death situations that may affect hundreds of people, but those of us who are raising kids are no strangers to crises or potential crises. Jimmy falls out of a tree. The house is on fire. Grandma trips and falls. Joey swallows a dishwasher pod. Stephanie falls into the pool. The family car with everybody in it is rear-ended. Need I go on? Are you ready?

Even if you feel you command the safety police at home, stuff happens. While you may never be accused of negligence, like the couple who somehow lost track of their toddler who fell into the gorilla’s zoo enclosure in Cincinnati or the man in New York City  who forgot to drop off his children at the daycare and left them in a hot car for eight hours, no one is immune to unforeseen events.

Do you know how you will act in a crisis? Are you aware of the qualities you need to mitigate dangerous situations? Do you fully understand your role as the leaders of your family? Is humility, knowledge, composure, confidence, and collaboration part of your repertoire, and are you modeling it for your children? The following leadership qualities must be evident if you expect to be an effective parent:

Composure: Somebody has to be in charge. It helps if it’s the adults in the room. Your kids are watching and learning.  How you act in a crisis will have a lasting effect, and it is easier to stay calm and emotionally in control if you know what to do and have some basic knowledge other than calling 911.

Accurate Information: Heroes who save hundreds of lives, like pilots, boat captains, or mine foremen, are experts in their field. First responders save lives daily and later claim they were only doing the job they were trained for.

Ordinary citizens who save lives in a crisis act instinctively to help others. They run into burning buildings or pull people out of cars in devastating accidents. When interviewed afterward, none consider themselves heroes.

Parents often act instinctively, too, but accurate information about how to act in specific situations will honor your legacy as a parent. Take a first aid course,  safety-proof your house, collaborate with first responders, and keep those important telephone numbers handy.

Collaboration: If the other head is available, two heads are better than one. If only one parent is present, be sure to have immediate access to one or two other heads you can confer with. It could be your spouse, doctor, neighbor, relative, or friend. Again, keep those emergency numbers handy and stay composed.

Confidence: Your kids get their confidence from you. How you conduct yourselves as parents and model your expectations are the cornerstones of raising successful kids. Staying connected to your kids is critical. This requires that you believe in yourself and your abilities. Confidence is rooted in knowing what you are doing and putting this knowledge on display for all to see. Your kids are watching and learning.

Conclusion

Ignorance is never bliss; it’s dangerous and can be fatal. Read the papers or watch the news if you are not convinced. Anybody with kids can claim to be a parent, but successful parents fully understand their sacred and primary responsibility: the safety and security of their children.

It’s never too late to be a more effective parent. Effective parents depend on strong beliefs and accurate information and dedicate themselves to modeling expected behaviors. They understand that their leadership roles require composure, accurate information, collaboration, and confidence. And yes, humility and modesty count.

(Mr. Walker’s article appeared in the WSJ on 7/27–28/19. I recommend it highly.)

Dr. Casale is both a state and national award-winning educator: Florida Teacher of the Year and National School of Excellence Principal from Harrison, NY. He is a published author and a national speaker.  His website is www.commonsenseparenthood.com. Follow him on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

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Dear Parents Who May Be Sending Their Children To College

Dear Parents, 8/28/19

If you have recently sent your child off to college or will soon, please read this most informative article in the WSJ (8/24-25/19) by Drs. Anthony Rostain & Janet Hibbs, Is Your Child Emotionally Ready for College?

https://www.wsj.com/search/term.html?KEYWORDS=Is%20Your%20Child%20Emotionally%20Ready%20For%20College%3F&mod=searchresults_viewallresults

As a grandparent who has three grandchildren in college and as an author of three parenting books, five critical pieces of information are worth noting but I urge you to read the entire article.

  1. “Students who haven’t faced adversity are usually the least prepared for it.”
  2. “Self -restraint is one of the best ways to avoid derailing a college career.”
  3. A parent’s” job is to promote true independence, partly by volunteering to reduce their control.”
  4. “One of the most important implications of an 18th birthday is that parents no longer have legal authority over a student as a patient. Federal privacy laws govern a college student’s medical and mental health treatment and educational records.”
  5. “Healthy attitudes and better coping skills can make these sometimes stressful years the best of their young lives.”

Summary

There is so much more to this article that parents will appreciate knowing. I have written often about the parent’s role as first teachers and role models and that the “quality of the family” is the best determiner of a child’s success in school and life. Love them unconditionally but don’t coddle them. Kids need to learn from their mistakes, experience adversity, understand sacrifice, be part of a team, and know that they will not receive everything they want.

Sincerely,

James L. Casale

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My Child’s Room Is a Pigpen: Three Strategies That May Clean It Up

My Child’s Room Is a Pigpen: Three Strategies That May Clean It Up

by

James L. Casale, Ph.D.

Your child’s room is neat, clean, and always tidy. You never have to remind him or her about taking care of their personal space. Good for you. Read no further.

I use the word child in the title because children who refuse to tidy up their rooms or help out around the house are not bound by gender. My son slept on top of his bed so he didn’t have to make it in the morning. The rest of his room was tidy except for the moss growing in the dust on every flat surface.

The condition of my daughter’s room caused us to contact FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) and apply for funds to hire a cleaning service. When we were showing off our new home to friends, Stephanie’s door remained closed and posted with a “Do Not Enter” sign.

Even after endless reminders, demonstrations, and bribes, the following conditions prevailed: clothes, shoes, and sneakers strewn on the floor, dresser drawers ajar, bed unmade, enough dust to be scooped up with a shovel, other unidentifiable things on the floor including books and pencils (at least she tried to do her homework), and a closet so full of her stuff that it defied entry. If any of these sound familiar, these three strategies will help and may just lead to spending less money on a cleaning service.

  1. Be specific and start small. What exactly does “clean up your room” mean? Do not use general terms when explaining your expectations for a tidy room. And don’t expect to conquer Mt. Everest in one day.Choose what vexes you most and start there. Will it be to make your bed each morning, bring all your dirty clothes to the laundry room, vacuum the floor, dust all surfaces, hang up your clothes, or place all books on the shelf or desk? If she has a private bathroom, that might not be the place to begin her metamorphosis. But learning how to properly clean bathroom surfaces can become a lifelong skill.
  2. At all costs, remain calm and civil. Avoid screaming, yelling, and throwing things. If she needs demonstrations or directions, provide them in a calm manner. Show her where the vacuum cleaner is stored and how to use it. Show her where the washing machine is located and where to place her soiled clothes. Again, start small and be specific.
  3. Provide choices and consequences. Do not clean her room or pick up after her again. For example, if her dirty clothes are not brought to the laundry room, they will not be washed. Anything on the floor that does not belong there will not be picked up by anyone but the room’s resident slob. New clothes, shoes, or accessories may not be a future option for someone who does not take proper care of what she already owns.

Stephanie: “Mom, I need a new outfit I saw at Urban Outfitters. I want to wear it to Debbie’s party next week.”

Mom or dad: “First you need to learn how to take care of the clothes we have already purchased for you. You can start by picking up the clothes from your floor, bringing the soiled ones to the laundry room, and organizing your closet.”

Let’s Review

I read a story about a mom who convinced her husband and sons that each night, they had to set the table. Then and only then would she make dinner. It went as planned for a while, but soon dad and the boys started shirking their duty.

 When the table was not set, mom did not cook. The arrangement soon returned to the original agreement as mom reminded them of their pact and dad and the kids were hungry. This was all accomplished with a calm and civil tone.

It’s never too early to teach your children to be responsible not only for their own space but as a family member and part of the team. Before I was ten, my mother showed me how to make a bed with hospital corners, sew a button, and mop a floor. Of course, that was in ancient times, but teaching responsibility never goes out of style.

Parenting is a struggle, but it can be rewarding as you teach and model expectations for the next generation. However, it requires a positive attitude, courage, determination, a modicum of leadership skills, and a plan. Everything else is boring. Go for it.

Dr. Casale is a state and national award-winning educator: Florida Teacher of the Year and a National School of Excellence Principal. He is a published author and a national speaker. His website is www.commonsenseparenthood.com. Follow him on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

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Why School Choice Matters But Not to Teachers’ Unions

Why School Choice Matters But Not to Teachers’ Unions

By

James L. Casale

Five catholic schools are closing their doors in New York City.The parents are sad; the students are sadder. These parents don’t trust public schools to protect their children. Parent José Marin said, “Public school is very dangerous. Here (St. Rose of Lima Elementary School), everybody’s safe. At another school, you’re just a number.” Another parent, Marilu Rodriguez (St. Brigid Elementary School), added, “It’s horrible. It’s affecting low-income families. Now we’ll have to deal with the public schools.”

The archdiocese of NY currently operates 91 schools and serves 28,000 students. They are especially affordable for poor parents (about $300 per month for elementary schools) who are seeking alternatives to public schools. And students do not have to be Catholic.

Who is against school choice?

 Teachers’ unions and their Kool-Aid-drinking-members are against anything that infringes on the status quo, their turf, and their obsession with mediocrity. The charter school movement and the voucher system, which permits parents to choose a private or parochial school, are testaments to parent dissatisfaction with local public schools. Throughout the country, there are pockets of successful public schools. Charter schools are not always successful, and neither are private and parochial schools, but shouldn’t parents who are seeking safer environments and a better education for their children have a choice?

Who is for school choice?

 Joel Klein, former chancellor of the NY City School System, and Rahm Emmanuel, the mayor of Chicago, have different views on the charter school movement than the teachers’ unions. Their opinions are anathema to the liberal cities they represent. In Joel Klein’s book Lessons of Hope, he reveals that “poor parents deserve options for their kids; smaller schools are better than large schools, the self-esteem movement does not provide the tools and knowledge kids need, teacher preparation programs are weak, and teachers’ unions and their contracts that include tenure are obstructionists to progress.” This is not a revelation. His comments were true 50 years ago.

Mr. Emmanuel recently commented on the teachers’ unions in Los Angeles and West Virginia, who are going on strike to protest charter schools. He stated, “The brain-dead debate between charter schools and neighborhood schools should be replaced with a focus on quality over mediocrity.” He gets it.

Charter schools are an affront to the culture of mediocrity, and they have been perpetuated by teachers’ unions for as long as I have been in my profession as an educator—more than 50 years. If you need more evidence about the debate, view the award-winning documentary, Waiting for Superman.

 Dr. Casale is a state and national award-winning educator. He is a national speaker and the author of two five-star-rated parenting books. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. His website is http://www.commonsenseparenthood.com.

Raising Kids

Is Your Child Safe at School: What Did Parents Learn from the Parkland Massacre?

Is Your Child Safe at School: What Did Parents Learn from the Parkland Massacre?

Is Your Child Safe at School: What Did Parents Learn from the Parkland Massacre? 

By

James L. Casale

The recent interview in the Wall Street Journal with Andrew Pollack, the father of Meadow Pollack, who was murdered by a psychopath at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Valentine’s Day in 2018, is must reading for every parent who has a child in any type of school, from pre-school to college.*

The facts surrounding the horrific event that killed 17 people, 14 students and three adults, reveals the ignorance, negligence, incompetence, stupidity, and cowardice of those we entrust with the safety of our children. In this case, it was the police officers who would not enter the building, the sheriff’s deputies who were well acquainted with the killer, and the school district officials who, for want of federal dollars, bought into the Obama administration’s foolhardy program called Promise (Preventing Recidivism through Mentoring, Interventions, Support, and Education), a politically correct attempt to protect all types of miscreants and lawbreakers on school campuses and spare them a police record. When the federal government waves dollars in front of school districts, the districts usually take the money without scrutinizing the details and/or repercussions.

If parents don’t wake up, smell the gunfire, and accept their sacred responsibility to protect their children and hold accountable those they think have their children’s best interests at heart, this will surely happen again. Parents must be proactive and should not rely on others.

Three Strategies

First, obtain accurate information, starting with copies of all the safety and security policies and protocols of the institution your child is attending. If you have concerns, don’t limit yourself to the principal’s office or whoever is in charge of the campus. The BOE, via the superintendent, determines school policies. They are more culpable than the principal if updated policies are not in place. There is an enormous amount of solid information on the internet. Start with NCES (National Center for Education Statistics).

Second, as an individual or with a group of like-minded parents, do your homework and compare what is going on in your school to the “best practices” statewide and nationally. Keep written records and official documents of your search and prepare questions ahead of time before any meetings are scheduled.

Third, collaborate with those who work for you and are paid with your tax dollars. Meet with school staff and local police and fire departments to make sure the school district protocols and procedures reflect the best practices.  If possible, join safety committees and make your voice heard.

There are no guarantees that anyone is ever safe from a deranged psychopath, bully, thief, or predator, but you do have control over what is in place to best protect your child.

Flashback to the Mid-Eighties

When I became the principal of Purchase School in Harrison, New York, in 1984, I was immediately besieged by faculty and staff about the number of strangers wandering the halls of our school looking for the main office and seeking directions for local addresses. Our school’s large parking lot on the corner of two busy streets was easily accessed by anyone, including the drivers of large commercial trucks, to stop and ask for directions. I was determined to put an end to our school’s AAA service.

Though school shootings like Columbine, Sandy Hook, and Parkland were still yet to come and school violence in a quiet suburb in 1984 was unthinkable, protecting students and staff was always the top priority.

My first response was to secure all entry points after the children entered the building and maintain only one during the school day. Signs were installed to direct visitors to the only point of entry. My next step was to install a system that required visitors to buzz in and state their name and business before they were allowed to enter and report to the main office. I also wanted a camera installed for visual identification, but this was denied by the superintendent. If you were merely looking for directions, no entry was provided, and we tried to accommodate the person through the intercom.

This system might have been groundbreaking at the time. All the schools in our district soon followed suit, but by today’s standards, it was only a baby step in the right direction. According to a recent study, more people have died in mass school shootings in the United States in the past 18 years than during the entire 20th century.

Current Safety Examples

 In early January, 2019, I visited four local high schools to deliver college scholarship applications courtesy of the Sons and Daughters of Italy Lodge in Tequesta, Florida. At one school, I had to pass through an attended gate and show my ID, which the attendant made a copy of. Then I was allowed to park and enter the campus. At the second school, I was met by a security guard in a golf cart. He asked me about the purpose of my visit before allowing me to park and enter the campus at the main office. The last two schools had similar precautions. I was able to park my vehicle and approach the main office without being accosted. Both campuses had tall chain-link fences at the entrance preventing anyone from entering the student section without passing through the main office. In all four locations, not being acquainted with the layout, I would not have been able to tell if other access points were secure. Which of these examples appears safest to you?

Parent Report Card

How much responsibility do parents inherit in order to keep their kids safe and secure? The only environment parents can fully control is their own home. When students have access to other places such as outdoor areas in the neighborhood, other kids’ homes, parks, malls, recreation centers, shopping areas, and schools, parents must remain diligent by learning about and assessing the risks of each venue. Have you noticed those street signs, with accompanying graphics, posted in local neighborhoods that warn drivers to “Drive like your kids live here” or “Slow Down”? These parents have concerns and have taken action.

Parents must always be alert to potential danger wherever their children roam. But that is not sufficient. Get smart. Become proactive. Work cooperatively with likeminded people and local authorities. Don’t be shy. Nothing trumps the health, safety, and security of your child. Never let the schools or any organization that assumes responsibility for your child off the hook. You are accountable, and so are they.

*You can read the full interview here: https://www.wsj.com/articles/a-parkland-fathers-quest-for-accountability-11547249451

Dr. Casale is both a state and national award-winning educator, speaker, and the author of two highly praised parenting books. The third book in his Common Sense Parenting trilogy will be released later this year. His website is www.commonsenseparenthood.com.

Raising Kids

Are Parents Too Soft on Their Kids?

Are Parents Too Soft on their Kids?

By

James L Casale, Ph.D.

 

Part 1-Three True Stories

Part 2-What to Do? What to Do? (coming soon)

 

Part 1- Three True Stories

 

Story # 1

While dining in one of our favorite restaurants in Juno Beach, Florida, my wife and I observed the following episode:

A mom, accompanied by her toddler son, the boy’s grandmother, and the child’s humungous toy fire engine, were seated at a table near us. The boy placed the fire engine directly on top of the table, leaving little room for anything else.

The server arrived to take their order. The server may have assumed that the toy truck would no longer be on top of the table when she returned with the food. WRONG, the toy remained on the table and the server had to figure out where to place the food other than on top of the heads of mom and grandma.

Where are the adults in this situation? Who is teaching whom? What is this kid learning?

  1. Casale’s Rule # 17-No toys, games, or electronics are allowed at any table anywhere when food and family conversation are being served.

True Story #2

A kindergartner was in the principal’s office with his parents listening attentively to the principal and the teacher. These two professional educators were calmly explaining the reasons why this child should not be taking things from other kids’ desks and claiming them as his own. When the conference concluded and the participants were leaving, the mother was overheard saying to her child, “It’s no big deal.”

What is this boy learning? What goes on in this home? Dr. Casale’s Rule # 2-No stealing.

 

True Story #3

A young man in his early twenties decided that it would be nothing more than a prank to throw a live alligator through the drive-in window at a local Wendy’s. He easily qualifies as a moron, even though, when being interviewed by a local TV organization outside the police station, he appeared to be sane as well as remorseful.

He was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and theft. When his mother heard the charges, she thought them to be extreme and said. “Well, I mean, how could you not think that something like that was a prank.” 

This young man lives with his parents and has never heard of Dr. Casale’s Rule # 7; Don’t be stupid even if your parents will defend you at the gates of hell.

 

Dr. Casale is a state and national award-winning educator, author, and national speaker. His popular podcast, COMMON SENSE PARENTING, airs each Thursday at 2:00 PM on w4wn.com (The Women for Women network). All shows are available on iHeartRadio.His website is www.commonsenseparenthood.com. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

 

 

 

Parenting

Profiles in Attitude: Effective Parenting Begins Here

Profiles in Attitude: Effective Parenting Begins Here

By

James L. Casale

 

If you think parenting is a struggle, and mostly an uphill one, you are correct. However, you may need an attitude adjustment. There’s a reason that Norman Vincent Peale’s The Power of Positive Thinking sold five million copies. He was onto something so basic that all of us can identify with it: attitude not only matters; it’s the building block for the experiences that follow. Without it, parents have no starting point for their parenting journey. Hopefully, the following vignettes will inspire and encourage parents with the “I can do it” mindset.

You Must Believe in Yourself and Your Abilities

On September 11, 2014, a baseball thrown by Mike Fiers crashed into the left side of the batter’s face at 88 miles per hour, resulting in broken bones, smashed teeth, and unimaginable pain. How did the batter survive the physical and mental trauma, return to baseball the next season, and, in 2017, become the MVP and hit 59 home runs?

Other men hit by errant baseballs above the neck never returned to the “bigs,” and if they did, they were not the same players. But Giancarlo Stanton overcame his physical and mental injuries with exceptional resolve, courage, determination, and grit, all based on a foundation of believing in himself and his abilities. He had and still has attitude. He did make a minor adjustment to his batting helmet, which indicates lesson learned and good judgment.

Alvin Hall is probably unknown to you as one of the many thousands of thalidomide babies born with physical deformities. He was born without arms. This handicap did not deter him, because he still had a fully functioning brain and an ample supply of attitude. He did not grow up feeling sorry for himself. He charged ahead with the same determination and resolve that Giancarlo demonstrated and taught himself to play the drums and piano with his feet. He also became a motivational speaker.

Tom Dempsey, despite his physical handicaps, made history and was admired for what he had to overcome: a deformed right foot with no toes and a right hand with no fingers. He not only played in the NFL but was a star. On November 8, 1970, his 63-yard field goal as time expired won the game 19–17 for the New Orleans Saints over the Detroit Lions.

Have you ever heard about the Major League pitcher with no right hand? In 1986, he was presented with the United States Sports Academy’s Mildred “Babe” Didrikson Zaharias Award for his courage in overcoming adversity to excel in sports. A year later, he won the Golden Spikes Award for being the best amateur player in the United States. In 1992, he was presented with the Tony Conigliaro Award, given annually by the Boston Red Sox to a Major League player who has overcome obstacles and adversity through spirit, determination, and courage. I will unabashedly substitute the word “attitude” for the word “spirit.” Oh, by the way, James Anthony Abbot also pitched a no-hitter for the New York Yankees against the Cleveland Indians in 1993. Yes, he was a good fielder too. He believed in himself and his abilities. He exuded attitude.

Have you seen the movie The Darkest Hour? Have you read the book? Winston Churchill was a rock of self-confidence, determination, commitment, and courage in the face of possibly being destroyed by the Nazis. He listened to advice and his critics but didn’t waver from his position of not giving in to Hitler’s demands. He would not capitulate, and later, during WWII, his famous words would resound around the world: “Never, never, never, never give up” He didn’t. He won. Hitler lost.

J.K. Rowling’s first Harry Potter book was rejected 140 times. You know the rest of the story. Taylor Swift had her mom drive her around to every country radio station in the English-speaking world so she could give the disc jockeys a copy of her homemade CD. You know the rest of that story too.

 

Effective parenting is not brain surgery; it’s harder. But you are not alone. Accurate information is available in a variety of forms: books, magazines, research studies, podcasts, experts, websites, and sometimes grandma and grandpa. You chose to have children; your children didn’t choose you. Raising lifelong learners and men and women of character and virtue within a family culture that emphasizes kindness, respect, self-control, responsibility, and humility is your sacred duty. And it requires a positive attitude.

 

 

 

Raising Kids

Was It the Gorilla’s Fault the Kid Fell into the Zoo Enclosure?

 

Commentary:  (May 2016) A three-year-old at the Cincinnati Zoo fell into a gorilla’s zoo enclosure. This incident or lack of judgment made national headlines. The police were considering charging the parents with negligence. They didn’t. The boy was unharmed but the rare gorilla was executed.

An article in the Palm Beach Post by a clueless author prompted my response which was also published in Palm Beach Post on 13 June 2016. A local police chief sent a lengthy email to me supporting my position.

Was It the Gorilla’s Fault the Kid Fell into the Zoo Enclosure?

A recent article in a local newspaper titled, The Shame of Parent Shaming, reveals a total lack of understanding about a parent’s first mission; the safety and security of your child. The author’s dismissive and flippant remark; “If it hasn’t happened to you, your parental helicopter must be low enough to clip the tops of trees.” proves the point.

The author continues to shield the parents of the three- year- old that fell into the Gorilla’s enclosure by recounting her own horrific experience. Her 14- month- old child, standing next to mom, slipped through the railings of a bridge and landed in the creek below. The good news regarding both incidents is that both children were rescued unharmed and returned safely to the arms of their parents. The bad news is that these incidents happen too often with tragic endings.

Losing track of your child near a potentially perilous situation is not to be taken lightly. In fact, if you are one of those parents who lost sight of your toddler in a supermarket or big box store, the potential for danger is real if the child wanders out into the parking lot. Speaking of parking lots, I have witnessed- on numerous occasions- the “la dee da” body language of parents who are not properly connected to their toddlers while strolling through parking lots.

A critical component of watching out for your child is the parent’s ability to assess possible harmful situations. Pools, parking lots, amusement parks, beaches, playgrounds, and zoos are examples of the locations where helicoptering is appropriate. Remember that the toddler’s world of suspecting and assessing danger does not exist. Parents are the first teachers and role models who are charged with protecting their children as well as teaching them about harmful situations.

Bad things happen when parents are not paying attention to their number one responsibility. Witness the number of children who are left to suffocate in cars because of the ignoramuses that are in charge. These stories and others tell the tale of neglect and abuse. Some outcomes are happy and some are tragic. But let’s not give these parents a pass because, as the author quotes one of her sources that, “Children are attracted to the forbidden and are the consummate escape artists.”  Even gorillas and mama bears know better than that.