Teaching Kids Kindness: Richard Weissbourd

Posted on August 14, 2014 at 8:00 am

I am a big fan of Richard Weisbourd, author of The Parents We Mean To Be: How Well-Intentioned Adults Undermine Children’s Moral and Emotional Development, and I was especially impressed with his thoughtful comments on teaching children kindness — not just how to be kind but why kindness matters.

He says that instead of teaching children that happiness is their goal (or ours for them), we can do better by making kindness the priority, and communicate that by praising good examples and being good examples ourselves. That means showing friendliness and gratitude to all the people our lives touch and reaching beyond our usual circles to create opportunities to expand empathy and understanding.

And I recommend using the movies and television you watch to create teaching moments. When the characters show especially kind — or unkind — behavior, point it out. Ask what they were thinking and how their actions made those around them feel. My book, The Movie Mom’s Guide to Family Movies has lists of films especially well suited for helping families have those discussions.

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Parenting Preschoolers Tweens

Free for a Limited Time: 121 Best Books for Children

Posted on August 7, 2014 at 9:14 am

Copyright DALS
Copyright DALS

The wonderful folks at Dinner A Love Story have kindly made their 121 Books: The Greatest Kid Books of All Time ebook available for free for a limited time, so grab it right now.

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Colbie Caillat’s Wonderful New Video

Posted on July 12, 2014 at 4:43 pm

The video for Colbie Caillat’s new song, “Try,” from Gypsy Heart Side A, shows her struggle to be true to herself in a world that expects women, especially performers, to conform to a narrow and highly polished idea of beauty. Watch it — and show it to your daughters.

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Criticwire Survey: Should You Look Down on YA Movies?

Posted on June 14, 2014 at 8:00 am

The folks at Criticwire have a weekly survey of questions for movie critics.  This week’s question is especially important.

Q: Many of the positive reviews for “The Fault in Our Stars” boil down to either “It’s good for what it is” or “It gets the job done.” But in an essay at Slate that deals in part with John Green’s source novel, Ruth Graham says that one of the reasons more adult readers have turned to Young Adult novels is because it offers the pleasures of literary fiction without its challenges: “Adults,” she writes, “should feel embarrassed about reading literature written for children.” So, as a critic, what’s your feeling about measuring a movie—whether it’s “The Fault in Our Stars” or “X-Men: Days of Future Past” — against what it sets out to do as opposed to what it could do? (Likewise, do you damn “Orange Is the New Black” for not being “Oz”?) Do you take it on its own terms, or do you set your own?

My answer:

One of the reasons more adult readers have turned to Young Adult novels is that they are so damn good. There is a reason that YA and graphic novel sales are flourishing while what is considered traditional “literary” fiction is collapsing on itself, smothered by its preciousness, pretension, and neurasthenic post-modernism. It is often said that if “The Catcher in the Rye” was published today, it would be categorized as a YA novel. And yet it is still read with thoughtful appreciation for its art and depth, even by those who believe they confine themselves to work with literary aspirations.

This is not to say that best-selling YA books are all literature, any more than best-selling books for adults meet that standard. But too often books are put in the YA category just because they are about teenagers. Well, so is “Romeo and Juliet.” Stories are about teenagers for the same reason that stories are about war and death and vampires and zombies and MacGuffins that have to be found or the world will explode in 24 hours. As Augustus says in “The Fault in Our Stars,” it’s a metaphor. The heightened emotions and discoveries of that time of life intensify the elements of a story to provide a dramatic framework.

Graham should be ashamed by trying to embarrass anyone who is moved by a work of fiction. One of the most liberating discoveries of my life was learning that no one’s childhood is long enough to read all of the great books written for children and teenagers. I reread my favorites with increased pleasure and deeper understanding. I read new authors with great appreciation, and keep in mind that one generation’s low culture is quite often understood to be literature by the next.

That said, all movies should be measured against their own aspirations and the expectations of the intended audience. Otherwise, all movie reviews would read: “Well, it’s not ‘Citizen Kane.'”

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A Book on Every Bed: Amy Dickinson

Posted on December 18, 2013 at 3:51 pm

I love Amy Dickinson’s idea of “A Book on Every Bed,” a wonderful way to start Christmas (or any other special occasion).

Here’s how it works: You take a book (it can be new or a favorite from your own childhood).

You wrap it. On Christmas Eve (or whatever holiday you celebrate), you leave the book in a place where Santa is likely to find it. When I communicated with David McCullough about borrowing his idea, he was very clear: Santa handles the delivery and places the book on a child’s bed.

In the morning, the children in your household will awaken to a gift that will far outlast any toy: a guided path into the world of stories.

I know this for sure: No matter who you are or what you do, reading will unlock untold opportunities, mysteries and passions.

When you have a book and the ability to tell, read and share stories, you gain access to the universe of others’ imaginations. And avid readers know that if you have a book, you are never alone.

Please start this tradition with your family.  It will give your children the enduring pleasure of the magic of books.

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