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In Quotes: Janet Yellen

October 31, 2014 by Alyssa Haywoode

“The first of these cornerstones I would describe more fully as ‘resources available to children in their most formative years…’ One of the most consequential examples is early childhood education. Research shows that children from lower-income households who get good-quality pre-Kindergarten education are more likely to graduate from high school and attend college as well as hold a job and have higher earnings, and they are less likely to be incarcerated or receive public assistance…

“[A]ccess to quality early childhood education has improved since the 1990s, but it remains limited — 41 percent of children were enrolled in state or federally supported programs in 2013.”

Janet L. Yellen, Chair of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, speaking at the Conference on Economic Opportunity and Inequality, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, October 17, 2014

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What's So Bad About Bribing Your Child?

“I’ve been very careful to
not use bribery with my child, but there have been times when I’ve said
‘If we all get buckled into the car, we can have time for a book before
we eat lunch’… or something like that, and I’ve wondered if I had just
used bribery. What’s the difference between bribery and helping them to
move towards the next thing with a little incentive?” – Julie

It’s a well-accepted tenet of parenting that bribes are a bad idea, used only by desperate parents. But why do “experts” always give this advice?

1. Because children shouldn’t be “rewarded” for behavior they should do anyway.

I
don’t find this reason convincing. All of us need some incentive to do the
right thing and give up something we want. Just because your child
“should” obey you instantly without an argument the first time you tell
him it’s time to leave the playground doesn’t mean he will.  There
are lots of things we “should” do that we’re more likely to do if we
see that there’s something in it for us. For young children, that might be
looking forward to a book before lunch. 

Conclusion: Looking
for a “Win/Win” solution that meets both our desires and our child’s
desires is not bribery. The key is to offer the “reward” in advance, to make the situation work for everyone. Don’t offer the reward in the middle of misbehavior, because that trains kids to misbehave to get the reward.  (What about physical incentives, like toys? See
#4 below.)

2. Because when kids get older, they won’t get rewards for doing what they’re supposed to do.

Actually,
they’ll get a paycheck for doing their job. They’ll get a tax break for
donating to a good cause. If they eat right and take care of their
bodies, they’ll be rewarded with good health. So this objection isn’t
always true. Even if it’s true that the world doesn’t necessarily reward
good behavior, there’s a fundamental flaw in the argument. Just because
we’re preparing kids for a cold, cruel world, we don’t make them sleep
without blankets. We raise them to be the kind of person who’s empowered
to create more warmth.

Conclusion: Not a convincing reason to refrain from rewards. Again, the caveat holds that these rewards are established in advance, not pulled out under duress when a child is misbehaving.

3.
Because when children are rewarded for a desired behavior (sharing,
reading, eating broccoli) they actually do less of the behavior!

Now,
this is convincing. Research shows that rewarding a child for a
behavior communicates that the behavior must be unpleasant, since you
“have to be rewarded” for doing it. Unfortunately, this is true not only for material rewards but even for the reward of praise (“Good sharing!”)

This seems to be because kids focus on the
reward, so they never experience the inherent rewards of the activity
itself: Sharing can give you a good feeling, reading can be entrancing,
and broccoli can taste good!

Conclusion: Using
bribes or praise to get kids to repeat a desired behavior can backfire. Luckily,
there’s an alternative. We can point out the result of the behavior and
empower our child to decide if she wants to repeat it: “Sam was so happy when you shared your truck with him!” (If you figure out a way to use this to get your child to eat broccoli, please let me know. One family says that “Your belly was so happy when you gave it that broccoli” produced happy smiles.)

4.
Because when children get used to constant rewards for doing what we
ask, we’re training them that the reason to do what we ask is because
they’ll “get” something.

As children get older, they learn that once we’re offering them a reward, they can negotiate it upwards. So if your child ever says “What do I get if I do that?
you know you’ve taken rewards way too far. And as we established above, if you offer your child a
“reward” for stopping “bad” behavior, you’re actually training him to
misbehave in order to get future rewards.

Conclusion: 
We’ve all pulled out an enticement on an airplane, or at Grandma’s
house, hoping to distract our child from an impending explosion. And
that’s fine; think of it as triage. Just know that your child still has
all those feelings pent up inside looking for an outlet, and be sure you
invite those feelings later, even if it means a meltdown. And for this strategy to be effective,
you have to resist using it except in “emergencies.” While a peaceful
Thanksgiving dinner at Grandma’s may qualify as an emergency, the
supermarket check-out line probably doesn’t, simply because it happens
so often, and your child will learn how to use it to extort bribes. It’s better in the long run to just to walk away and leave your shopping cart than to use a bribe once your child is demanding one.

What if you’ve been using material bribes, like toys,
to get your child cooperating? I haven’t seen research that this does any harm if it’s time-limited and very specific, such as small prizes for potty training. True, your child is learning to manage his body’s urges because he wants
another piece to his train set. But he is learning, and his new habit
will continue even after your bribes stop.

What about a more
general trend of paying your child off with small toys every time she
cooperates with you? You’re setting yourself up for extortion. What’s
more, you’re ignoring a red flag. Why does your child need a toy to
cooperate with you?  Is she feeling a bit disconnected?

To dig yourself out of that hole, try an experiment. Dispense with the bribes, and substitute some giggly roughhousing every day for a
week. Your child will feel so motivated by her deepened connection to
you that her requests for bribes will just melt away. Because the
reward your child really wants is you.

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Accepting the Gift of Help

When you’re raising kids on your own, you are a downright super hero. Making sure everyone gets to where they need to be, with all of their equipment and paperwork and lunches and gym shoes, is absolutely a Herculean effort. Even an average Tuesday can rock the socks right off of you at times.

I know you’re strong and quite capable, but when is the last time you let someone help you out and do you a favor or two? I hope you are saying yes to offers of help and not letting pride prevent you from experiencing one of the greatest joys we can receive—help in times of need. I have been a single parent for many, many years.  One of the main reasons I’ve come through to the other side is because I chose to accept the kindness of friends. Here’s a short highlight reel.

When my boys were small, we lived in a terrific neighborhood and had quite possibly the best next-door neighbors. An older couple with adult kids, Meg and Gene loved my babies so much; they practically fought over who got to hold them. Many a Saturday afternoon was spent passing one of the boys over the fence for them to love up and cuddle. If my mower quit, Gene had his over for me to borrow before I could ask. On long, dark winter nights, they would ring me up to come over so I could get a break from entertaining my boys. Many a late Sunday afternoon, Meg would hand me—right over my white picket fence—a tart glass of Chardonnay, covered in plastic wrap and secured with a rubber band to be sipped luxuriously after the boys had gone to bed.  While you could say I was lucky to have them next door (and I was), I also had to do my part:  being open to receiving their friendship and generosity.

Sometimes, I had to get out of my own way first.  For instance, while we didn’t stray too far from home those days, as it honestly felt like more work than it was worth, we did venture on some road trips to see friends and family. My college roommate lives about four hours away, but making the trip felt like going across the country. However, once we got there, it was worth it!  Having an extra set of eyes on my boys was a huge relief. One of my favorite memories was the time Kristi insisted I retreat to the master bath to spend some time in the luxurious whirlpool bathtub. She filled the tub with fragrant bubbles, placed a full glass of wine of the edge of the tub and sent me upstairs with strict instructions to soak for a good long time, while she and her family played with my boys.

During the 2009 recession, when the boys were teens, I went through a job layoff. I limped along with unemployment and my life-saving emergency fund; but money was extra tight, and I had two hungry teenage boys at home. One night at church, my dear friend Deb was admiring my Bible cover. She asked to see it and while she was checking that out, I got distracted, talking to some other friends. It was only later that I discovered Deb faked her interest in my Bible in order to slip a few gift cards into it for gas and groceries.  I wept upon discovering her act of kindness when I could have refused it by insisting she take them back, knowing money was tight for her already.

Yes, I have been extremely blessed by the love and thoughtfulness of those around me. But I also had to be willing to accept acts of love and service with an open heart and a smiling face.  I know my sons have witnessed all of this goodness and my response to it.  It has shaped their hearts into being givers themselves. We pay it forward when we can, spreading love and kindness to others going through their own rough patch. So promise me this: stop being stubborn; let others help you, knowing that we are all here to support and uplift each other.

Renee Brown is the tired yet happy mother of two young adult sons, Sam and Zachary. Almost an empty nester, she loves sharing her single parent experiences with the goal of providing hope and encouragement to those struggling on that “long and winding road.” Renee lives in Minneapolis, works in advertising, and also blogs for Your Teen magazine.

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What's So Bad About Bribing Your Child?

“I’ve been very careful to
not use bribery with my child, but there have been times when I’ve said
‘If we all get buckled into the car, we can have time for a book before
we eat lunch’… or something like that, and I’ve wondered if I had just
used bribery. What’s the difference between bribery and helping them to
move towards the next thing with a little incentive?” – Julie

It’s a well-accepted tenet of parenting that bribes are a bad idea, used only by desperate parents. But why do “experts” always give this advice?

1. Because children shouldn’t be “rewarded” for behavior they should do anyway.

I
don’t find this reason convincing. All of us need some incentive to do the
right thing and give up something we want. Just because your child
“should” obey you instantly without an argument the first time you tell
him it’s time to leave the playground doesn’t mean he will.  There
are lots of things we “should” do that we’re more likely to do if we
see that there’s something in it for us. For young children, that might be
looking forward to a book before lunch. 

Conclusion: Looking
for a “Win/Win” solution that meets both our desires and our child’s
desires is not bribery. The key is to offer the “reward” in advance, to make the situation work for everyone. Don’t offer the reward in the middle of misbehavior, because that trains kids to misbehave to get the reward.  (What about physical incentives, like toys? See
#4 below.)

2. Because when kids get older, they won’t get rewards for doing what they’re supposed to do.

Actually,
they’ll get a paycheck for doing their job. They’ll get a tax break for
donating to a good cause. If they eat right and take care of their
bodies, they’ll be rewarded with good health. So this objection isn’t
always true. Even if it’s true that the world doesn’t necessarily reward
good behavior, there’s a fundamental flaw in the argument. Just because
we’re preparing kids for a cold, cruel world, we don’t make them sleep
without blankets. We raise them to be the kind of person who’s empowered
to create more warmth.

Conclusion: Not a convincing reason to refrain from rewards. Again, the caveat holds that these rewards are established in advance, not pulled out under duress when a child is misbehaving.

3.
Because when children are rewarded for a desired behavior (sharing,
reading, eating broccoli) they actually do less of the behavior!

Now,
this is convincing. Research shows that rewarding a child for a
behavior communicates that the behavior must be unpleasant, since you
“have to be rewarded” for doing it. Unfortunately, this is true not only for material rewards but even for the reward of praise (“Good sharing!”)

This seems to be because kids focus on the
reward, so they never experience the inherent rewards of the activity
itself: Sharing can give you a good feeling, reading can be entrancing,
and broccoli can taste good!

Conclusion: Using
bribes or praise to get kids to repeat a desired behavior can backfire. Luckily,
there’s an alternative. We can point out the result of the behavior and
empower our child to decide if she wants to repeat it: “Sam was so happy when you shared your truck with him!” (If you figure out a way to use this to get your child to eat broccoli, please let me know.)

4.
Because when children get used to constant rewards for doing what we
ask, we’re training them that the reason to do what we ask is because
they’ll “get” something.

As children get older, they learn that once we’re offering them a reward, they can negotiate it upwards. So if your child ever says “What do I get if I do that?
you know you’ve taken rewards way too far. And as we established above, if you offer your child a
“reward” for stopping “bad” behavior, you’re actually training him to
misbehave in order to get future rewards.

Conclusion: 
We’ve all pulled out an enticement on an airplane, or at Grandma’s
house, hoping to distract our child from an impending explosion. And
that’s fine; think of it as triage. Just know that your child still has
all those feelings pent up inside looking for an outlet, and be sure you
invite those feelings later, even if it means a meltdown. And for this strategy to be effective,
you have to resist using it except in “emergencies.” While a peaceful
Thanksgiving dinner at Grandma’s may qualify as an emergency, the
supermarket check-out line probably doesn’t, simply because it happens
so often, and your child will learn how to use it to extort bribes. It’s better in the long run to just to walk away and leave your shopping cart than to use a bribe once your child is demanding one.

What if you’ve been using material bribes, like toys,
to get your child cooperating? I haven’t seen research that this does any harm if it’s time-limited and very specific, such as small prizes for potty training. True, your child is learning to manage his body’s urges because he wants
another piece to his train set. But he is learning, and his new habit
will continue even after your bribes stop.

What about a more
general trend of paying your child off with small toys every time she
cooperates with you? You’re setting yourself up for extortion.  What’s
more, you’re ignoring a red flag. Why does your child need a toy to
cooperate with you?  Is she feeling a bit disconnected?  

To dig yourself out of that hole, try an experiment. Dispense with the bribes, and substitute some giggly roughhousing every day for a
week. Your child will feel so motivated by her deepened connection to
you that her requests for bribes will just melt away. Because the
reward your child really wants is you.

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35 States Apply for Federal Preschool Development Grants

October 30, 2014 by Alyssa Haywoode

Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Last week, the U.S. Department of Education announced that 35 states and Puerto Rico are applying for federal Preschool Development Grants. The program will distribute $250 million in funding to “25 high-need communities in approximately 12-15 states.”

This welcome announcement shows a sweeping national desire to invest in preschool programs that help children thrive.

The goal of these grants is to help states build, develop, and expand “voluntary, high-quality preschool programs in high-need communities for children from low- and moderate-income families,” according to a press release.

Jointly administered by the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services, the grants “will lay the groundwork to ensure that more states are ready to participate in the Preschool for All initiative proposed by the Obama Administration.”

Across the States

Nine states, including New Hampshire, are applying for the program’s “development” grants, designed for states with little or no preschool infrastructure. And 27 states, including Massachusetts, are applying for “expansion” grants to build on preschool efforts that are already in place.

This week, Tom Weber, commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care, told us, “The commonwealth’s Preschool Expansion Grant proposal would provide more than 750 4-year-olds in five high-need communities with a high-quality preschool experience.”

He adds: “The proposed model builds on a decade of quality advancements by EEC and the field, tightly aligning local EEC-licensed programs with the public schools behind the common goal of providing our young learners with a strong foundation for lifelong success.”

In California, the grant application “emphasizes inclusive preschools: high-quality programs and supports for children, including those with diverse needs such as children with individual education programs, English learners, and migrant children,” according to the Pasadena Independent.

In Indiana, Governor Mike Pence decided not to apply for the federal grant. In a statement quoted in The Indianapolis Star Tribune, he says: “Federal funding does not guarantee success. This is not about the money; it’s about our children, and we have an obligation to get it right.”

Others disagree, the newspaper adds, reporting, “Many major early childhood education supporters, including large Indiana businesses Eli Lilly and Co. and Kroger, said Pence erred in stepping away from the grant opportunity.”

And in Missouri: “… we know that there are families with need in every community obviously, but there are concentrated areas of need in both of the major urban areas, in Kansas City and St. Louis, and then in the southeast corner of Missouri in the bootheel region, that’s where the majority of our high-needs communities we identified are,” Stacey Preis, Missouri’s Assistant Commissioner for the Office of Early and Extended Learning told public radio station KBIA. “If we’re able to reach all of the children that we have estimated that there is a need to be served, it would be just under 2,000.”

The Federal Perspective

“Expanding access to high-quality preschool is the single most important step we can take to improve the future of our children,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in the press release.

“The brain research is clear: investing in the earliest years is critical for our children and our future economy,” Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell added. “Preschool Development Grants along with Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships and Home Visiting programs will help provide more children with the building blocks of healthy and productive lives.”

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