Friday, March 26, 2010

Lylah on Fox News: Infants in the workplace

Here's a link to the segment from this morning's "Fox & Friends" on the Fox News Channel:

Video: Infants in the Workplace

The segment was a lot shorter than I'd been told it would be, probably because there really wasn't much to whip into a "Fair and Balanced" debate: Both Karel Ares, the executive director of Prevention First, and I agreed that after a certain point -- around 5 months of age, when the baby becomes more active -- bringing your baby to the office just doesn't work well. We also agreed that there are many different types of work environments; at her's, a non-profit that does a lot of work with teens, it would be far easier to work with your baby nearby than it would at mine (an active and busy newsroom).

The discussion is still going on at The 36-Hour Day! Go there (or stay here) and let us know: Do you think bringing baby to work is really as family friendly as companies think it can be? Would you rather bring your 3-month-old to the office or would you prefer to work, with your baby, from your home?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Babies in the workplace? No, thank you

I'll be on Fox News's national morning program Fox & Friends tomorrow (Friday, March 26) at 7:50 a.m. (NEW TIME!), discussing babies-to-work programs and why I think there are other ways companies, parents, and kids can benefit without bringing infants in to the office. If there's a link to the program after it airs, I'll be sure to update with it here!

Today's post at The 36-Hour Day is about the same subject. Here's an excerpt:

My youngest children are 5 and 3 years old now, but for the first two years of my 5-year-old’s life, she commuted to and from my office nearly every day after my maternity leave was over. But she rarely spent more than a couple of minutes at the office. My husband worked in the same building; my shift ended at 5, his shift started at 5, and we usually met in the parking lot and just switched cars.

When our youngest was born, my husband switched to a day shift just as my maternity leave came to an end, and we had to deal with daycare for the first time. Would I have preferred to take my then 6-month-old son with me to the office, to save on daycare costs or to make breastfeeding easier? Absolutely not. Even at 6 months, my son was active. And, frankly, hilarious and a lot of fun. I would never have been able to get anything done at the office with him there — and neither would any of my coworkers. ... [More]
I know I'm lucky in that my main employer has a very generous maternity leave policy -- generous in terms of holding my job for me for as long as 26 weeks instead of the "up to 12 weeks" mandated by the Family and Medical Leave Act, I mean (the leave is unpaid). I was lucky, too, to be able to cobble together vacation and sick time so I could continue to draw most of a paycheck while I was out of the office -- essential for my family, since I'm the breadwinner. Even if I had been limited to a 12-week leave of absence, though, I doubt I would have taken my babies to the office with me, for the reasons I mention in my post. More likely, my husband would have continued to work nights for a bit longer, and I would continued to work days, and we would have kept up with our parking lot (and local playground) rendezvous.

The discussion is already heading up at The 36-Hour Day... check it out and weigh in: Did you (or would you) go back to work early and bring your newborn with you to the office? Why or why not?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Health Care Reform: Power vs. Politics

I'm over at The 36-Hour Day, discussing why I think the problem with the Health Care legislation signed into law this week is more about power than it is about politics. Here's an excerpt:
For the most part, the people who are angriest and most vocal about it are people who aren't currently in power, or whose representatives aren't currently in the majority, or who feel that their authority has somehow been threatened by the Obama administration. And, interestingly enough, they aren't all politicians.

As former Bush speechwriter David Frum points out, "Conservative talkers on Fox and talk radio had whipped the Republican voting base into such a frenzy that deal-making was rendered impossible." Frum writes on his blog: "By mobilizing them with hysterical accusations and pseudo-information, overheated talk has made it impossible for representatives to represent and elected leaders to lead. The real leaders are on TV and radio, and they have very different imperatives from people in government."... [More]
Head over to The 36-Hour Day to read the rest of that post.

Still here? Good. I'm also intrigued by the 13 states that are filing lawsuits in response to the newly signed health care law, and wondering if that's a show of power as well. (News reports are quick to point out that 12 of the 13 Attorneys General are Republicans; the lone Democrat, from Louisiana, was asked to file suit by Republican Governor Bobby Jindal.) Legal experts say the lawsuits don't have much of a chance: The health insurance mandate is an individual rights issue, not a matter of state soveriegnty, and while there's no wording in the Constitution about health care being an unalienable right, the federal government absolutely does have the right to levy fines and taxes, so suing over the penalty to be imposed on individuals who choose not to buy health insurance doesn't make sense. While the question of who will pay the increased Medicaid costs is very valid, similar lawsuits (over the Voters Rights Act and Social Security) were struck down and could be used as legal precedent in this situation. And, in general, federal law supercedes state law anyway. So why spend taxpayers money on lawsuits now, other than to make a statement?

Personally, I think that anyone who is or has ever been on Medicare or Medicaid and anyone currently collecting Social Security has no business complaining that this new law puts us on the path to socialism. And it's interesting, to me, that many of the same people who are jeering the President's plan lauded the nearly identical one Mitt Romney imposed on his citizens in 2006, when he was governor of Massachusetts. (As Salon points out, he's the only governor in American history ever to set a legal mandate for individuals.) But, for the most part, I think I agree with David Frum, who points out on his blog that the biggest winners here are in the media. The TV and radio talk-show feeding-frenzy now has plenty of fodder -- and maybe even more power over politics than before.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Tricking myself with my to-do list

Last week, I felt defeated by my to-do list.

I slogged through it, item by item, until my eyes were crossing and I was desperate for a break. But by then it was time to head home, and the list, with so many lines still not crossed off, taunted me for my entire commute.

Until I turned in to my driveway and realized that at least half of the things on the list were things I wanted to get done, but couldn't possibly do at work.

Sure, I worked a little of that working mom magic -- namely, I wrote down a couple of things I'd already done that morning and crossed them off a nanosecond later (put gas in the car? Check!). But the laundry? Thawing the meat for dinner? Vacuuming the family room? How could I possibly get those things done from my desk, 40 miles away from my house? Just putting them on my plate was setting myself up for failure -- or, at least, for feeling like one.

I inadvertently sabotage myself like this all the time. Often, it's via my to-do list; in addition to expecting the impossible, I also tend to list things that I want to get done sometime in the near future but can't realistically get done that day, even if I really had a 36-Hour Day at my disposal (example from last week: the six things I need to do to complete a project that's due in late April, for instance). But other times I sabotage myself by thinking I haven't done any work when, really, I've been working non-stop.

I did that just this morning, in fact.

While driving in to the office, I glanced at the clock and wondered how I could have been up for more than four hours already and still have accomplished nothing.

But... I'd actually done a lot with my day already. I'd gotten the kids dressed and fed, their lunches and their school bags packed, and taken them to school. I'd dropped off the dry cleaning, picked up the other dry cleaning, and gone to the bank. I'd cleaned out my (totaled) minivan, signed it over to the insurance company, and extended the contract on the car I was renting. And then I'd started in on my commute. Just because those other tasks weren't part of my paid jobs doesn't mean I didn't get any work done.

When I got to the office, I started writing out my to-do list, as usual. But this time I listed all of the unpaid work I'd already done this morning, and added only the things that I a.) really need to do today and b.) could actually do while at work.

And you know what? The already-completed tasks outnumber the things I have left to do. So instead of feeling defeated, for the first time in a long while I actually feel ahead of the game.

How do you reign in your to-do list?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Are you pursuing your work passion?

According to Nancy Anderson, author of Work With Passion: How to Love What You Do for a Living, there are several secrets to becoming passionate about your job. As my friends at The 36-Hour Day know, in this economy, having a job at all is worth celebrating; having one you truly love may be the Holy Grail of Employment.

A recent poll by of more than 6,800 business executives found that, in this economy, 58 percent said that they'd take any job they could get if they were unemployed right now. About 17 percent said that they'd go back to school, and 6 percent said they'd wait for the economy to get better, but about 18 percent said that they would "pursue their passion."

Which is all well and good, if money is no object. But how do you pursue your passion without falling behind on your mortgage payments?

I think you have to start by figuring out what your passion is. If you're really lucky, you're already doing what you love -- even if it's not for pay, even if it's technically not your "job."

In my case, it's writing. At least, I think it is, right now. I don't have a manuscript tucked away in a drawer or under my bed, though I do have an outlines for a cookbook or two gathering dust on what's left of my desk, and I can't sustain a plot line long enough to write a short story, let alone a novel. That's not the kind of writing I mean. That's the kind of writing real writers do, and I've never thought of myself as a real writer. It's just that I can't not write. I've been that way since I was old enough to hold pencil to paper. I feel better when I can get my thoughts out of my brain and onto the page -- or, for the past decade or so, the screen.

I know that I lose sight of it often. Sometimes, when there's a break in my work-housework-laundry-mom-stepmom-wife-freelance-life juggle, all I want to do is sleep, not contemplate my interests. It's hard to follow your stream of consciousness anywhere when the kids and bills have taken control of the boat.

But if you don't pursue your passion, at least here and there, at least a little bit, what's the point? It's more than "me time" or figuring out what to do with all that leisure time we working moms are supposed to have at our disposal -- it's a matter of doing the thing that makes you tick, the thing that makes you you.

What's your passion? And how to you make time for it?

Friday, March 19, 2010

Dental care and day care

Last month, a new Massachusetts regulation went into effect requiring caregivers to brush the teeth of kids who spend more than four hours a day in their care.

Now, I'll be honest here: I don't always manage to make my two youngest kids brush their teeth before I send them off to preschool each morning. And by "don't always," I mean "only rarely, if ever." My big kids are 16, 14, and 11 -- more than old enuogh to manage their own mouths, when they're with us -- but my 5- and 3-year-old's teeth are still my responsibility. If I can't get them to the sink before school, how will their teachers do it with so many more kids (and chaos) to condend with?

I wrote about the issue in February for The Boston Globe Sunday Magazine. Here's the piece:

Reality bites
A new regulation calls for dental care at day care.

By Lylah M. Alphonse

I’d like to say that my kids brush their teeth before bed and after every meal. But while the former is true, an after-breakfast brush is rarely on my radar. And after lunch? I don’t even brush my own teeth after lunch.

Last month, a new state regulation went into effect requiring that kids who spend more than four hours in day care or eat a meal there also have their teeth brushed by a caregiver. Parents can opt out, but day-care providers who don’t comply could lose their licenses. (No word on what happens if the kids don’t comply.)

The reasoning is straightforward: Tooth decay is the most common chronic childhood ailment, five times more common than asthma, according to the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care, the agency that regulates care providers. Bad teeth can cause a host of health and other problems, including socialization and
self-esteem issues, the agency says.

The American Dental Association recommends that children brush at least twice a day, and experts like Dr. Steve Colchamiro of Harvard Dental School and the Brookside Community Health Center in Jamaica Plain say that the extra sink time wouldn’t hurt. While baby teeth aren’t permanent, they still need to be taken care of, and they last longer than their name implies. “Yeah, the baby teeth do fall out, but the back ones don’t fall out until the child is an average of 12 years old, sometimes even 13,” Colchamiro says. “So, if you get a 3-year-old with a cavity, there’s a pretty
good chance that before that tooth falls out, it would cause pain and infection.
That’s why you want to prevent them.”

My big kids (ages 16, 14, and 11) are old enough to mind their own mouths. But if I can’t manage to make my youngest children, 5 and 3, brush after breakfast, how are their teachers going to manage that for them and all the other kids in their care? They say they don’t mind -- they’re teaching life skills! -- but the details are daunting: Toothbrushes must be labeled, they can’t touch, they can’t be electric, and they must air-dry. Toothpaste can’t be fruity, must be locked up, and can’t be
dispensed directly to the toothbrushes. And that’s just for managing the equipment, not the kids.

But if they have to do it, I have no excuse. I’ll step up to the plate (I mean sink) and do a better job of brushing -- for my kids and myself.

When I interviewed Dr. Colchamiro for the story, I asked him if he'd ever seen a patient who had damage caused by brushing his or her teeth too much. "I've never seen one, and I don't think anybody else has," he told me. Pre-Kindegarteners could probably manage to brush their teeth themselves, but the new rules require caregivers to swab down the toothless gums of infants as well. "That's awful hard to ask of a daycare provider. Some parents struggle with that," Dr. Colchamiro pointed out. "If you get a 1-year-old that doesn't have a whole lot of teeth, that's going to be a challenge."

How often do your kids really brush their teeth each day?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A journalist's take on the mom blogger vs. media controversy

There's a fair amount of outrage right now over the New York Times piece that ran this weekend: Honey, Don't Bother Mommy. I'm Too Busy Building My Brand. I'm over at Work It, Mom! and The 36-Hour Day, looking at the controversy from the perspective of both a journalist and a mom who blogs.

In the article, Jennifer Mendelsohn (a mom blogger herself) attended Bloggy Boot Camp -- a blogging and social-media how-to conference for women -- and ended up offending mom bloggers across the country with what some people saw as snarky quips and condescending comments about the very thing that keeps their families afloat.

Three small things I have to mention about the way things work at a big-name newspaper, things I haven't seen mentioned yet in any of the reactions I've read so far. First, the writer almost never has anything to do with the headline. Second, anything that runs in the New York Times (or any other major metropolitan publication) goes through several layers of editing -- much of it without the writer's input -- before the piece hits the page. And, third, the writer rarely, if ever, has any input into the accompanying graphics or photos, and usually doesn't even see them until the article is published.

That said...

I'm straddling a fine line here, but as both a journalist and a mom blogger I think that the problem has less to do with being a mom, and more to do with being a blogger.

Yes, moms are a hot commodity right now -- a coveted demographic, one that marketers and advertisers pursue to such an extent that mainstream media outlets are either creating niches that specifically target moms or buying up existing websites that do so. But newspapers in particular were slow to get on the blogging bandwagon, and many editors still view it as something less important than what appears on the printed page, despite the obvious advantages of being able to post online. Also: While no one disputes that there is some extremely well-written blogs out there, there's an ongoing discussion/argument in the newsroom about whether blogging can be considered journalism, as well as some fear over the feeling that professional, trained journalists are obsolete or easily replaceable. There's also a disconnect between what many mom bloggers do (offer up valuable information, perspective, and networking, as Liz points out in a great post at Mom-101) and what many people think they do: Why would "that kind of content" (personal, the assumption is, and probably much too much so) warrant SEO optimization or a media kit?

Journalists are supposed to be unbiased and impartial, and there's an ongoing battle between the newsroom and the ad department over the way ads are increasingly affecting the presentation of the news. So I wonder: If more bloggers were more vocal about turning down requests from companies who insist on undisclosed, positive reviews of their products, maybe the mainstream media would take them more seriously?

In the comments for my post at The 36-Hour Day, Christy of Quirky Fusion points out that most bloggers do turn down such requests. "I think there are plenty of bloggers turning down undisclosed, positive reviews. In fact, I think most of us are. Are there “bad apples?” Yes. But that’s true in traditional media outlets as well. Mom bloggers aren’t the first to be given swag and trips. We won’t be the last."

Personally, I thought the illustration that ran with the article was far more offensive that the article itself. It showed harried moms neglecting their cranky, crying kids in favor of their computers and smart phones at every turn -- underscoring the misconception that all moms blog in order to escape their unrewarding, isolated stay-at-home lives. No image of a mom trying to pay the bills. No image of a mom at or on the way to her office. No image of a mom with teens or tweens. No image of a mom trying to juggle work and family. That, in my opinion, is a better example of the ignorance and attitude women in general, and moms in particular, are up against.

"There is still no excuse for the NY Times or any other media outlet to continue to bash women in general, and sometimes mothers in particular, for not sticking to their “mommy” roles," commented Joanne Bamberger, who blogs at Pundit Mom. "The headline suggested mothers who are interested in building their businesses and maybe making a buck were neglectful, egocentric mothers. Fathers doing the same thing would be described as entrepreneurial breadwinners. And, in my opinion, the way mothers are described is just an extension of how women political candidates are described by MSM. Sexism is sexism."

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Does abstinence education work after all? Study: Yes. Critics: No.

Right on the heels of the news that teen pregnancy and abortion rates have gone up for the first time in a decade (an uptick that researchers blamed on the Bush-era emphasis on abstinence-only sex education and purity pledges, as I mentioned over at's Child Caring blog last month), a study released Feb. 1 seems to show that certain types of abstinence education may help teens delay sexual activity after all.

The latest study, which appeared in Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine, a monthly journal published by the American Medical Association, focused on 662 African-American 6th and 7th graders in Philadelphia. The students were randomly assigned to one of five sex-education programs: an eight-hour program in which they were encouraged to delay having sex "until they were ready," an eight-hour program about safe sex, an eight-hour program that did both, 12-hour program that did both; or an eight-hour program focused, not on sex, but on teaching other ways to lead a healthy lifestyle, such as eating well and exercising.

Within two years, 33.5 percent of the students who took the class that encouraged them to delay having sex had lost their virginity, compared to 48.5 percent of those who attended the class on other ways to be healthy and to 52 percent of those who were only taught about safer sex.

"This takes away the main pillar of opposition to abstinence education," Robert Rector, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation who wrote the criteria for federal funding of abstinence programs, told The Washington Post. "I've always known that abstinence programs have gotten a bad rap."

That may be, but there are a few things about the study that raised red flags for me.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Been in a car accident? Do these things immediately

A couple of weeks ago, I was in a car accident. I'm fine, the guy who hit me is fine, his car is basically fine, my car is not, but cars are fixable and replaceable and people aren't, so in the grand scheme of things, everything is going to be OK.

The insurance companies are duking things out, and we're looking to see what we can afford (my minivan was totaled). But while I wait for more information about the value of my van (or lack thereof), I thought I'd share a few tips for making sure things go smoothly after an accident. These were posted at The 36-Hour Day last week:

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Why is race still an issue? Because we continue to make it one

With minority births on track to outnumber white births, one might think that we're getting closer to the point where people can be accepted as people and race doesn't really matter. But, as I explain this week in a post at's Child Caring blog, I don't think we're there yet.

A few months ago, I received a press release about a new children's book featuring "an ethnic elf princess." Imagia and the Magic Pearls is an adorable story, and I'm sure my 5-year-old daughter would love it -- but not because of the way the main character looks.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Juggling the workload when your kids are sick

The preschool called before noon on a Tuesday, saying that my 3-year-old son had a fever and needed to be picked up. I was working from home that day -- I had a feeling something like this might happen, since he seemed off but OK and eager to go to school -- and so I made the 5-minute drive to get him, and settled him on the couch for a cuddle and a nap.

Thanks to N1H1, any temperature higher than 100 degrees is considered send-home worthy (the cutoff used to be 101 degrees), and kids who are sent home can't return until they've been symptom-free for 24 hours (which was always the case). My husband and I divvied up the rest of the week -- it took three days before our little guy was able to go back to preschool.

Over at The 36-Hour Day and at's Child Caring blog, I'm asking my readers: How do you handle sick days?

We're really lucky. We have paid sick time to tap into (which we almost never use when we're the ones who are sick, of course) and enough seniority to have some flexibility at work. And we also have colleauges who have been there, done that, laundered the germ-infested T-shirt; it's not convenient for them when we have to juggle like this, but they understand because they've had to do it themselves.

Plenty of people have none of that -- no support, no flexibility, and no paid sick time. How are they supposed to cope when this happens to them?

Monday, March 8, 2010

Couple neglects infant while "raising" virtual child

Korean authorities last week arrested a couple for allowing their 3-month-old daughter to starve to death while they nurtured a virtual child online. While people are quick to blame internet addiction for the death, I'm at's Child Caring blog, wondering if there's more to the story.

Kim Yoo-chul, 41, and his partner Choi Mi-sun, 25, both of whom were unemployed, immersed themselves in a role-playing game called Prius Online, where they were "raising" a perfect little girl named Anima; in real life, their daughter, who was born prematurely and never named, was left at home alone and fed once a day, when they took breaks from their 12-hour-long game-playing shifts at a neighborhood internet cafe, The Telegraph reported. After one such 12-hour shift in September, the couple came home to find their baby dead and called the police. An autopsy determined the cause of death to be prolonged malnutrition; the couple went into hiding soon after.

It's easiest to blame an obsession with the internet and online gaming -- after all, more than 70 percent of the people in South Korea are online, 96 percent of the population there considers internet access to be a fundamental right, and 83 percent of South Koreans say they feel the government has no right to regulate any of it, according to data from the BBC. Online gaming teams have corporate sponsors, and neighborhood high-speed internet cafes are open 24/7. But while a countrywide acceptance of online gaming must have played a large part, I can't help but think that there's more to the story.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Breastfeeding the someone else's baby? It really does happen

Thursday night on NBC's hit TV show The Office, fans welcomed Jim and Pam's new baby and watched in amusement as the sleep-deprived new dad picked up the wrong baby in the shared hospital room and handed her to his groggy wife to nurse.

In real life, though, the results aren't so funny. Back in February, I wrote a post for's Child Caring blog about an Illinois couple who is suing a hospital for making a similar mistake last year:

A Chicago couple is suing a hospital for negligence after the new mom was handed the wrong newborn to nurse.

According to an article in the Chicago Sun Times, Jennifer Spiegel was awakened by an Evanston Hospital staff member at about 4 a.m. the day after she delivered her son. A hungry baby boy was brought in, and Spiegel started breastfeeding him.

Soon after, a nurse walked in and told her that it wasn't her baby. "She said, 'The baby you're feeding isn't yours,' " Spiegel, 33, told the Sun Times. "It was just an awful, internal feeling."

Awkward? Sure. Awful? Possibly. But worth suing over? I don't think so. ... [More]

Now, this may be too much information for some, but even though the only children I've breastfed are the ones I gave birth to, I would have considered nursing someone else's baby. As I mention in my piece -- which I'm thrilled to find was picked up in yeseterday's New York Times -- breastfeeding someone else's baby used to be considered fairly normal: Wet nurses were popular in Europe, and in the United States, black slaves were routinely forced to nurse their white owner's babies instead of their own. In 19th-century Brazil, people placed ads in local newspapers, looking to purchase or rent slave women to act as wet nurses ("In the street behind Rua do Hospicio No. 27 we have for sale or for rent a black woman of the Mina nation with a six-day-old child, with very good milk and healthy..." reads one ad from a 1827 edition of Jornal do Comercio).

Click through to Child Caring to read my entire post, but if you're already a bit squicked out by the idea, consider this: There's little fuss over babies who are given breast milk that had been donated to a milk bank -- even hospitals bank breast milk for premature or sick infants -- which seems to indicate that the issue isn't about milk vs. formula, but bottle vs. (another mother's) breast. Is it the fact that our society still views breasts as sexual objects? Or is it about relationships -- would it more acceptable to nurse your niece or nephew instead of a stranger's child?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Winning the parenting Olympics

This week at "In the Parenthood," I'm musing about how parenting could (or maybe should) be an Olympic sport. Here's an excerpt from the column, which is in today's Boston Globe:

Like most people, I was glued to the Olympics for days. And while watching world records fall and medal counts rise, I thought that parenting should qualify as an Olympic sport.

It’s definitely an endurance challenge - much more so than cross-country skiing in the most adverse winter conditions. As your kids get older, you encounter more obstacles than a competitor on a slalom course. If you have a partner, you have to work on coordinating your routine perfectly, and if you don’t, you’re skating every part of every routine by yourself. ... [More]
Read the rest at And, for the record, my parents are currently gunning for gold in the Adult Child Division of the competition: Now that all three of their kids are parents and the whole "I hope you grow up and have a child who's just like you" thing has come true, we -- or, at least, I -- call every so often to apologize for anything I said or did during high school.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

What if your child is the bully, not the victim?

Massachusetts is cracking down on bullying after the January suicide of 15-year-old Pheobe Prince of South Hadley. Last month, an 11-year-old Waltham girl was charged with assault and battery in three bullying incidents at her elementary school, and a trio of Newburyport teens were charged with identity theft in a cyberbullying case.

There's been lots of advice about what parents should do if they find that their child is the victim of a bully, but last month I took a look at another side of the issue in a piece I wrote for The Boston Globe's Living/Arts section: What about when a parent discovers that his or her child is the bully? Here's an excerpt:

It can be easy to dismiss bullying as an inescapable part of childhood and adolescence. Connie Kennedy remembers when her youngest son, Mike, was being bullied two years ago by fellow fourth graders. The Alabama educator and mother of five knew that the physical and verbal abuse could continue as long as the boys attended the small Catholic school together, so she confronted the parents of the three bullies. The parents of two of the boys were horrified by their son’s behavior. The third merely laughed.

“ ‘Oh, you know [he] plays football,’ ’’ Kennedy remembers the mother saying. “ ‘The guys are just playing around. Boys will be boys.’ ’’

Parents are biologically wired to assume that their children are behaving normally, says Dr. Elizabeth Englander, director of the Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center at Bridgewater State College and the mother of three boys. While antisocial behaviors can be a warning sign of abuse or neglect, bullying in general is “not necessarily about abuses in the home, but with parents who are not responding to the fact that their child is showing signs of developing antisocial norms of behavior,’’ Englander says. “They think it’s just a stage, that they’re just being kids.’’ ... [More]

Along with the article, I wrote a sidebar about the red flags that parents can look for and questions kids can ask themselves to determine if they're engaging in bullying behavior. You can read the entire sidebar at, but here are the bullet points:

Red flags for parents

1. Look at how kids behave with their siblings. Whereas a normal sibling relationship “is an ambivalent relationship, it runs hot and cold,’’ MARC's Dr. Englander says, ongoing abusiveness of one child toward another is cause for concern.

2. Look at how your child treats his friends. Has he dropped old friends whom he’s played with for years? Does she talk about her old friends in a condescending or derogatory way?

3. Look at how they respond to troubling situations. If they’re watching a movie in which a character is being picked on, does your child respond with empathy, or do they justify the bullying behavior?

4. Tell the child how you would feel if you were the parent of the bully. If you find that they’re responding to a situation unsympathetically - saying “That loser deserved it,’’ for instance - tell them that no one deserves abuse.

Questions for kids to ask themselves

Jennifer Castle, creator and producer of “It’s My Life,’’ a website for tweens, offers simple questions for kids to ask to determine whether they’re being a bully:

1. Does it make you feel better to hurt other people or take their things?

2. Are you bigger and stronger than other people your age? Do you sometimes use your size and strength to get your way?

3. Have you been bullied by someone in the past and feel like you have to make up for it by doing the same thing to others?

4. Do you avoid thinking about how other people might feel if you say or do hurtful things to them?

And, over at Work It, Mom!, I have a different article on the subject, offering tips for helping your child, whether he or she is the bully or the victim:

Think of the word "bully" and two sterotypes often spring to mind: Big, burly,
meat-headed adolescent boy or pretty, popular, cruel "mean girl." But anyone can
be a bully -- and anyone, even seemingly secure or well-liked girls and boys, can be the victim.

"We're really big on labeling kids," says Peggy Moss, author of anti-bullying children's book Say Something and the mother of 12- and 9-year-old girls. "And it's really important to acknowledge that your child may have been a target yesterday, will be a bystander another day and is going to be a bully one day and we have all played all of those roles. I think we do kids a real disservice by putting them in boxes." ... [More]

I heard many stories from people who were bullied as children, but considerably fewer people -- parents or not -- felt at ease enough to talk about having a child who is a bully, or having been the bully when they were children. Do you have a bullying experience you'd like to talk about? How did you handle yours, and what advice would you give someone else?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Best jobs for women: The ones they don't have?

In the interest of "finding the best jobs women haven't yet discovered," ForbesWoman last week published a list of 20 best-paying careers that women aren't in. The ones they picked were based on a 2008 Department of Labor list of jobs in which women make up less than a quarter of the field, and data about earnings by occupation.

Number one on the list? Chief Executive.

As if women could just walk in to a company and apply for that job, but haven't because they just don't know about it yet.