I can’t play any instruments (unless the recorder counts?). I certainly can’t sing. But my daughter really enjoys music, and there are a whole host of studies showing how playing music benefits children’s brain development. So what’s a non-music playing, non-singing parent to do?
Dr. Wendell Hanna’s new book, the Children’s Music Studio: A Reggio-Inspired Approach, give us SO MANY ways to interact with music with our children. I tried one of her ‘provocations’ with my daughter’s daycare class and I was blown away. Give this episode a listen, and be inspired.
The topic of today’s episode comes courtesy of my good friend Sarah, who fortunately hasn’t yet had any reason to use this knowledge, but asked me to do an episode on how to help children cope with illness, death, and grief, so she can be ready in case she ever needs it.
Dr. Atle Dyregrov joins us from Bergen, Norway. He graduated as a psychologist in 1980 and worked for five years in the Pediatrics department at Haukeland University Hostpital, helping families whose children had died. He also co-founded the Center for Crisis Psychology and served as its general manager for 25 years; he is now its academic director. He has worked particularly extensively with children who have experienced loss and trauma, as well as at the sites of major accidents and disasters both in Norway and abroad, and has written numerous books, book chapters, and research articles on children’s response to death and crises.
It turns out that this ended up being a very timely episode for me indeed: you’ll hear in the show that my mum died when I was young. Not even a week after I did this interview, my daughter was playing with Legos in our living room when she asked – completely out of the blue – “Do you have a mama?” Having done this interview I was well-prepared for a short but straightforward conversation, and was able to shift what would likely have been a very uncomfortable situation for me into something where I felt much more confident in explaining how people’s bodies stop working when they die.
Subscribers to my newsletter will recall that we spent last week in Missouri visiting the very same Sarah who requested the episode, and I had given her a summary of the content and told her about my daughter’s question. A couple of days later Sarah and my daughter found a dead bug on a playground and Sarah said “I think it’s dead,” and my daughter responded “Did it’s body stop working?”. Sarah was taken aback…and amused…and was able to answer the question without losing her cool.
Listen to this episode – we’re all gonna need it at some point!
I actually hadn’t realized what a can of worms I was opening when I started the research for today’s episode, which is on the topic of manners and politeness. It began innocently enough – as an English person, for whom manners are pretty important, I started to wonder why my almost three-year-old doesn’t have better manners yet. It turns out that it was a much more difficult subject to research than I’d anticipated, in part because it draws on a variety of disciplines, from child development to linguistics.
And at the heart of it, I found myself torn between two different perspectives. The parenting philosophy that underlies the respectful relationship I have with my daughter, which is called Resources for Infant Educarers, or RIE, advocates for the use of modeling to transmit cultural information like manners – if you, the parent, are a polite person, then your child will learn about manners. On the flip side of that is the practice of saying “what do you say?” or something similar when you want your child to say “please” or “thank you,” something that I know a lot of parents do. My general approach has been to model good manners consistently but I do find it drives me bananas when my daughter says “I want a [whatever it is]” without saying “please,” and RIE also says parents should set a limit on behavior when they find it annoying. So I have been trying to walk a fine line between always modeling good manners and requiring a “please” before I acquiesce to a demand, and I wondered whether research could help me to come down on one side or the other of this line and just be sure about what I’m doing. So this episode is going to be about my explorations through the literature on this topic, which are winding and convoluted – actually both the literature and my explorations are winding and convoluted, and by the time we get to the end I hope to sort out how I’m going to instill a sense of politeness in my daughter, and how you might be able to do it for your child as well.
Other episodes referenced in this show
Hot on the heels of our last episode on whether only children really are as bad as their reputation, this week’s episode is for the 80% of families (in the U.S., at least) who have more than one child.
How do siblings impact each other’s development? What should we make of the research on how birth order impacts each child? Why the heck do siblings fight so much, and what can we do about it? (Turns out that siblings in non-Western countries actually don’t fight anywhere near as much…)
We cover all this and more with my guest, Professor Susan McHale of Penn State University.
Today’s episode comes to us as a result of a listener named Sylvia who wrote to me saying she and her partner don’t want another child but are worried about the potential impact on their daughter of growing up without siblings. But why would there be a potential impact?
Turns out there’s a slew of information in the popular press about how only children grow up with no way to learn social skills, which makes them simply awful to be around. And everybody agrees – from parents of multiples and children who grew up with siblings, to parents of only children and even only children themselves – that only children are more selfish and not as nice to spend time with as children who grew up with siblings.
No wonder Sylvia is worried!
Personally I don’t have this problem; my own selfishness about not wanting a second child has overridden the issue of growing up without siblings to the extent that I had actually never considered it a potential problem until I received the question. But having pondered it and found that there is some research on it, I decided the time was ripe to find out whether only children really are as awful as popular wisdom says they are and, if so, what I could do about it before it’s too late!