Policing the Internet

by Lianne Castelino www.whereparentstalk.com

Had the most intriguing chat with a business acquaintance a few days ago.  He is not married, and doesn’t have children.  But at one point the conversation turned to parenting.  He brought it up. I listened intently, agreeing and shaking my head in affirmation (inside my head of course), so as not to appear overzealous about what was perplexing this person and why I agreed so completely with his stance.

Whether parents want to admit it or not, and frankly it doesn’t really matter what age your child is, the innappropriate content that exists online and the ease of access to it is, in a word, frightening.

Firewalls, restrictive software, YouTube disclaimers, scoldings and warnings only get so far.  The question that this gentleman and I (many times especially in recent years) are asking — why is porn not being policed on the net? 

In a world where homemade bombs, terrorist plots, jihadist training, murderous plans and schemes, cyberbulling seem to preoccupy the waking moments of many of us, it seems that butt naked men and women performing unspeakable acts have eluded our attention.  It is most definitely time to shed light on this growing concern.

As the parent of two teen boys and a nine-year-old girl, this topic is on my radar.  Not because I have had to address it in my household so far (goodness help us if and when that time comes), but because it is part of the reality of parenting in 2013.  Period.  If you do not come to grips with the p-word, it just may put you in a vice grip and have you flailing helplessly.

Regardless of your opinion on the existence of porn in the world at large, children of any age SHOULD NOT have access to it.  

Add that to the idea that children these days seem to know too much from a young age, then add to that the idea that they seem to mature at a rapid rate, throw in the reality that girls seem to mature at a more accelerated rate than boys and you suddenly have a pretty potent mix.  Once you throw in unrestricted access to porn on the internet — CRINGE, we all should cringe.

I don’t pretend to know the answer but whatever that answer is has to be quite stern and sweeping in nature.  No exceptions.

This is serious stuff.  It deserves our undivided attention.  Especially because kids, by and large, learn much by modelling behaviour they see. 

What is scary is when they feel the need to model behaviour that they likely do NOT understand.

Enough said.

Those Competitive Juices

by Lianne Castelino www.whereparentstalk.com

The more experiences I accumulate (code for: ‘the older I get’!), the more this concept is evidenced to me.  The concept?  There are primarily two types of people in the world — those who compete with others and those who compete with themselves.  There are many who exhibit bits of both, however, one approach to competition usually dominates in those individuals.  Nothing wrong with competition whatsoever, provided it is fair and healthy.

What I have learned is regardless of what competition camp you fall into, one side really does not understand the others’ view.  I happen to be part of the ‘competing with myself group’.  Time and again, in every aspect of my life — especially in parenting — I have been stunned and amazed by people I have met from the ‘competing with others camp’ who just don’t understand those of us in the ‘competing with ourselves/myself’ group.  What a loss.

I’ve observed that by and large, the individuals who relish competing with others, end up sowing the seeds for ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ in their children.

The world we live in is already rife with competition.  Most of it unhealthy and unfair.  Do we really need to be feeding the beast by raising children from embryo to adult who spend more of their time concerned with what everyone else is doing rather than themselves?

Stop and think about it.

These seeds are sown in thtug-of-ware smallest and biggest of ways. Smallish example.  Your kid begs you for the latest gadget.  You may ask, “why do you need it”. He or she presents a litany of arguments but one will definitely be — “because Bobby or Katie has one”.  Guilt consumes your brain.  Perhaps a little competitive fire fuels that guilt and the next thing you know you trot down to the gadget store to buy your 9-year-old a Blackberry.  Ridiculous when you read it, however, it happens all the time.

My husband and I have been that parent. Our approach to the question ‘so and so has one’ has always been “we don’t really care what Bobby or Katie have, you are our child and we are concerned about you.”  Depending on the age of the offspring, you may have to deal with a minor tantrum, the silent treatment, some kind of rebuttle, but they come back down to earth and resume normal behaviour.

If parents today spent more time worrying about what is going on under their roof and less time worrying about the Joneses’ possessions and the Joneses’ kids possessions — you would likely get more parents who would be more present in their own children’s lives.

If we celebrate each others’ successes rather than use them as a lightning rod for competition, our kids may actually understand the idea that what you have is really not important at the end of the day.  What is important is who you are and how each of us treats each other.

Art Imitates Life?

by Lianne Castelino, www.whereparentstalk.com

Several years ago, while catching some sun by the pool in the Dominican Republic, my husband and I made a curious discovery.   It came to our attention, almost simultaneously that we were different from almost everyone at that bustling resort.  How?  We hadn’t defaced our bodies.  No designs, no artwork, no full-fledged murals.  No tattoos.
Such nerds are we?!!

This topic disturbs and fascinates me all at the same time.  The number of people — young and old — who have chosen to sacrifice blood, undergo pain and otherwise relinquish clean skin real estate for the sake of a a tattoo simply amazes me.  tattoos

There are the understated small tattoos strategically crafted on hidden parts of the body — usually intensely personal in significance.  And then there are the all-out, full-arm or half-neck variety that cannot be good in job interviews among other places.

I admit that if one of my children was ever delusional enough to come home with a tattoo or ask for one, I would want my parental license stripped from me immediately.  Why on earth?  What did we do wrong?  My self-analysis would likely start with one of these two thoughts.

A good friend of mine with two sons, now in their late 20’s and early 30’s told me about the day his son came home with two full-arm tattoos.  This friend is a progressive thinker, far from anal.  He had to be supported to prevent from keeling over.  He recounted how disappointed he was with his son and told him as much.  But it was too late.

As it turned out, that son was looking for a job shortly thereafter and had a lot of trouble finding one.  He ended up regretting his design decision and began working on having the tattoos erased.  All I could think about is how much blood was involved in that whole transaction.

A more well-known story is that of Texas Rangers star Josh Hamilton, whose lived a few lives during his 30 years on this planet.  During a dark period that included an addiction to crack cocaine and alcohol – Hamilton used to hang around a tattoo parlour.  He ended up getting a series of large, dark, highly visible tattoos — 26 in total.  Since cleaning up his act, and returning to the game to earn MVP and home run king honours a few seasons ago, Hamilton has gone to great lengths to hide the memories of his ugly past — except they are emblazoned on his arms and neck.  Thank goodness for long sleeves and turtle-necks.  Josh Hamilton, Texas Rangers

I just want to understand why?  I guess I never will.

I love art.  Drawing and painting are among my favorite hobbies.  But I prefer canvas, thank you.

If it becomes an issue in our house, I will defer to my husband, while I go pass out in another room.  I feel so strongly about it, I wouldn’t react rationally.

It’s just that they are so darn permanent, when most other things in life really aren’t.

By the way, please don’t get me started on piercings.

The Vicious Cycle

By Lianne Castelino www.whereparentstalk.com

It is absolutely stunning to me the number of families I see mired in centuries-old thinking.  You know, where the husband or male head of the house is the ‘breadwinner’ and by virtue of that title does not engage in many (if any) household activities.  And where the female, second head of the house, is either a stay-at-home parent or works (full-time or part-time) and is still fully responsible for the childrens’ needs, household chores and meal preparation.

The resentment is evident.  The seething apparent.  The sarcasm — masking nothing.   And it is so unfair to all parties involved —- especially children.  Father and daughter homework

There are exceptions of course, and thank goodness.  Those families who endeavour to work as more of a team should be applauded.

It’s a vicious cycle in my opinion that starts with parents who allow their kids to be dependent or who are inconsistent in instilling a sense of independence in their children — and there is a difference.  The old adage is “don’t do for kids what they can do for themselves.”  Makes perfect sense, doesn’t it?

Otherwise you may end up with a 40-year-old male or female that cannot assemble a meal for themselves or their kids, clean a bathroom or (horrors) go grocery shopping without getting a play-by-play on the phone from their other half.

My informal study of this issue has found that boys, in particular, will gladly allow girls, women, their mothers to run circles around them (cooking, picking up after them, ironing, laundry, you name it), if these women choose to do it.  Who can blame the boys?  I would do the same.  So ladies, moms, grandmothers — STOP IT.  You are feeding the behaviour and it’s producing virtually helpless men.

What’s worse is this behaviour, in many cases, becomes modelled by children.  So history, in all likelihood, will repeat itself.  The cycle of frustration and resentment will prosper and flourish, producing frustrated spouses who may have visions of placing their spouse at the curb when the men in the big truck stop by in front of their house (!!!).  The humour aims to lighten what is an absolute reality and the source of disagreement and in some cases divorce many families.

The solution seems simple, “stop doing for children, what they can do for themselves.”

Of course it is easier to do things for them — it’s faster, less frustrating, more neatly or properly executed — but what does that teach them?  Dependence? A double-standard mentality?

The good news is THEY WILL LEARN.  It make take a while, but THEY WILL GET IT.   And you will be, hopefully, laying the foundation for an independent, non-dependent thinker.  Yeah!  And, hopefully, that will eliminate the whole collection of 30 and 40-somethings who feel they “can’t” cook, dust, do laundry, clean a bathroom, mow the lawn, barbeque, use a screwdriver, take care of their children by themselves.

And for couples hoping to have children, don’t think the arrival of a newborn will FIX the issue.  It will only make it worse so be forewarned.

Not only is this kind of dependence or helplessness irritating and an excuse, it is at the very core a shining example of disrespect.  It takes all members of a family working together to keep things running smoothly.  Just like the minivan.

The days of gender-specific tasks were done a few decades ago now.  Good riddance.

So please stop complaining and break the cycle.

Related video:

Stay at home or go to work?

Selfless Acts of Kindness?

by Lianne Castelino http://www.whereparentstalk.com

There are so many wonderful reasons to take part.  The joy of contributing, making others feel better, meeting new people, learning a skill, putting a smile on a strangers’ face, leadership development, selfless giving.

Volunteering is a richly rewarding experience, no matter your age, gender, background or religion.

I’ve done it and continue to do so in a variety of areas of my life and encourage my kids to do the same.  Not everything in life has to be tied to a tangible or monetary reward.

I do have a question though.  When did volunteering become so political?  You know offering one’s services with the goal/desire/explicit intent of getting something in return.

It’s pretty pervasive, selfish, unfair and frankly, irritating.  

Volunteering is not a vehicle for parents to pave the way for their kids success.  It’s not a means of scoring points with key decision-makers.  Nor is it a tool to wield against others to gain the upper hand on them.

Individuals who choose to use volunteering for any of the above purposes are, as far as I’m concerned, engaging in bullying tactics. After all isn’t bullying largely about influence and power?

Whatever happened to giving willingly, without expecting anything in return?  Let us resurrect that, shall we.

We talk a lot about the “age of entitlement” these days amongst the younger generation.  I say the parents of these kids take a look in the mirror.  Sure there are exceptions, those people who epitomize the true meaning of contributing a selfless act of kindness — but there are others who feel the time, effort or expertise they donate should be compensated.   This is a service, most certainly not volunteering.

And one more thing, parents who are in denial about the true spirit of their acts of kindness need to understand that their kids are watching, listening and taking notes.  The last thing the world needs is more self-absorbed people.  Wouldn’t you agree?

Of Loss and Life

by Lianne Castelino http://www.whereparentstalk.com

My heart goes out to the family of Mandi Schwartz.

Mandi Schwartz

Parents Rick and Carol.  Brothers Jaden and Rylan.  Fiance, Kalem Prefon

taine.  Please accept my deepest condolences.  I truly hope you find the courage and strength to persevere through this unimaginable pain.

My eyes welled with tears this morning at the story of a life snuffed out.  A vibrant, valiant, athletic, well-loved 23-year-old girl who fought and battled til she had nothing left.  Mandi died yesterday morning after a two-year battle with leukemia.

I first heard about Mandi’s struggle a few years ago.  Her story was conveyed by her

brother Jaden, a member of Canada’s World Junior hockey team.  The strong family bond was evident from the get-go.  She was so deeply cherished.

The line in the article that I keep hearing in my mind is this:  “The Schwartz family fought hard for her survival.”

Mandi’s parents took a leave from their respective jobs to support their daughter through treatment in both Canada and the U.S.   They scoured the continent and beyond for a stem cell transplant to help her fight the aggressive blood and bone marrow cancer

Mandi Schwartz battling leukemia

that she was first diagnosed with.   The Saskatchewan native, forward for the Yale Bulldogs and former student at Notre Dame College in Wilcox, Sask., was in remission but relapsed in April 2009.

A stem cell transplant in September at the University of Washington Medical Center could not fight off the cancer.

Mandi was to be married in the summer of 2012.

How horrifying to lose a child, at any age.  The Schwartz family did everything they could for their daughter.

Life is too short.  Most of us know it, some of us say it, few of us live it…..until it’s too late.  What’s worse is we all take it for granted.  Stories like this really hit home the importance of those things most dear to us and how it is up to each of us as parents, daughters, sons, aunts, uncles, whatever to live for the moment.

A few years ago, I began practicing this in my own life on a more consistent basis.  Find your passion, follow it through, don’t put off til tomorrow what you can do today, live without regrets.  This is my mantra.  It’s not always easy, but it is important.

As they say, “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift, that’s

The Schwartz family

why we call it the present.”    Mandi’ suffering is finally over.  Her family’s pain will never heal.

It appears Mandi made the most of her time here, with her family by her side.  Something we should all marvel at.

Seeing is believing

by Lianne Castelino www.whereparentstalk.com

How many times have we not all watched tv and had this experience —- believing something is real when it isn’t.  You know a commercial that looks and sounds like it could be a a true story.   You may become entranced while watching it, moved by the visuals, words, or both and then SLAM – you realize it is a masterfully-created advertisement.  It probably happens more than we all think.  Now imagine how a young child would process the same messaging?

It’s an interesting thought and one that many parents strongly consider when they decide 1. to restrict tv viewing, 2. not buy cable/satellite, 3. hide the tv remotes during certain hours, 4. place parental controls on their tvs, 5. not have a tv in the house.

These days the sheer power of advertising is something to behold – largely because it is everywhere we turn.  Billboards, mobile phones, internet,  airplanes.  You can even buy a refrigerator with a built-in tv screen if you are so inclined.

Advertising to children has long been a hotly-debated issue with some gains made, but more ground still to cover.

Kids tend to love commercials.   And as is the case in my family, they somehow are able to remember the minute details of commercials whether they like them or not.  That’s great news for the creative minds that concoct them, but it is cause for reflection for those of us viewing them.

Junk Food advertising and kids

Junk Food advertising and kids

Advertising junk food to kids under 13 is an interesting case and point.  A private members’  bill will be put forth today by NDP MPP Rosario Marchese calling for a ban on these types of ads.  This will be Marchese’ second attempt at banning unhealthy food ads to kids in this age group.  The first came in 2008.

It will be interesting to see the reaction this time around.

After all, the alarms have been sounded, and if you listen closely you can hear them ringing right now.  One in 4 kids in Ontario is Ontario.  The statistics become increasingly grim as you move nationally and across North America.

How in the world can we expect kids to discern what this type of advertising is telling them?  The bright, inviting colours, catchy music, toys, games, freebies, cartoon characters — whatever medley of goodies featured in these ads or used to promote them is what most kids focus on.  No need to study it, get a professional opinion or anything else.  That’s just basic common sense. The more they are exposed to it, the more they will want it and ask for it —- likely not understanding or unable to comprehend the nutritional value, or unhealthy elements in these food items.

Kids and advertising

Kids and advertising

We all eat junk food.  There is no crime in that.  However, unhealthy choices have to be the exception and healthy choices – the rule — for a host of  obvious reasons.

Junk food advertising is one of many contributors to obesity.  Why not be proactive and address the symptom rather than the problem.

The litany of health and other issues linked to being overweight or obese costs each of us money, every second of every day.

These junk food advertisers will be just fine if they are prevented from promoting unhealthy foods to kids, thank you.  Present and future generations of children however, will not be if it’s allowed to continue.

This is a no-brainer.

A little respect

by Lianne Castelino, www.whereparentstalk.com

Yes, I have a huge bee in my bonnet.  Actually it’s more of an elephant at this point, so bear with me.

The uproar, frustration, analysis over headshots and violent hits in hockey is on the operating table, being poked, prodded and studied by anyone and everyone – players of all ages and sizes, coaches, referees, medical professionals, the C-suite, and parents.

We are all focused on scrutinizing the outcome – concussions – but what about the symptoms?

I’m of the firm belief that the root of this increased violence in the sport is an inherent lack of respect — for the opponent, for the game, for each other.

Talk to any NHL oldtimer — and you don’t have to go back that many decades – and they’ll likely agree.  They played in an error of strategy, skill and little equipment.  It was all about bettering the opponent within the rules.  The fierce competition, physicality, sheer will to win were not the least bit compromised because of an underlying respect.

More and more though the respect component in hockey is being eroded.  I see it at different levels and it is disturbing.  Respect is being elbowed out by one main culprit – money.  It’s couched in a variety of ways  of course —- “a win at all costs’ attitude, pandering to companies/corporations who write paychecks or provide funds, a greater emphasis on entertainment to sell tickets and the ever-famous parent/coach/staff member who is living vicariously through their kids/players.

Parents should be concerned.  Minor hockey associations should be concerned.  The NHL should be concerned.

Respect takes a long time to earn and very little time to lose.

There are plenty of respectful people playing, coaching and supporting hockey at all age levels, capabilities and leagues.  They should be applauded for their conduct.  The professionals though set the bar.  A flagrant cheap shot, headshot, bodycheck is a blatant lack of respect – period.  The trickle down effect is well underway whether we want to believe it or not.

We simply pay lip service to conduct and the rulebook if we don’t follow it or enforce it.

I really don’t see what else needs to be analyzed here.

Imagine for a second what a violent check in hockey looks like.  Pick one – Zdeno Chara on Max Pacioretty, Matt Cooke on (fill in the blank).  Now imagine the same hit with neither player wearing equipment.  Different perspective, powerful point.

At the end of the day, it’s about how we treat each other — at home, in the rink, in our cars, on the street.  Anything outside of respectful conduct, is simply an excuse, and a cheap one at that.

Related content – Web Video interviews:

Hitting & Headshots in Hockey

Teaching Kids Civility

Bank on this

by Lianne Castelino, www.whereparentstalk.com

The topic is everywhere we turn.  At both a macro and micro level.  Debt reduction, budgeting, Wall Street, financial crisis, world economy, saving and spending.  Our society, and rightly so, is obsessed with how money is spent.  Too bad we all weren’t this conscientious during the ‘good times’.   Now, for the most part, money seems to be harder to come by.  People living beyond their means is fairly commonplace.  Credit has created many monsters, tons of hardship and less and less accountability.

I remember the days and they weren’t that long ago, when you could stroll through a university campus and find tables set up with banks/financial institutions flogging credit cards for students.  You literally had to have a pulse and you got approved.  What a stunning mistake.  (I haven’t spent much time inside a college or university campus of late, so perhaps it still happens.)

The bottom line?  Never has there been a greater need for kids to be educated properly about money.  And not all parents are equipped to do this.  Save and spend seem to be fairly simple concepts until crisis strikes and the item you need to buy exceeds your ability to pay, or you’ve ‘absolutely’ got to have something ev

Kids, Saving and Spending

Kids & Money Management

en though you don’t have the money for it.

It is not easy teaching children about money in a generation of self-entitlement and instant gratification.  In our household, we constantly preach patience — prudent but utterly exhausting.

The conversation usually goes something this:   “I want to buy a XXXX, mom”.  The response?  “Okay, why do you need it?”  Silence follows.  “Everyone else has

one.”  Pause.  “That’s really not a good reason.”  Another try.  “But why can’t I have it.”  Deep breath.  “I’d like to win the lottery or take a long vacation, but I can’t.”  Silence.  Huffing, muttering, grumbling.  It may not be the best strategy according to parenting experts, but it works in our house.  They go off and think about the conversation and end up understanding they don’t have to have something right away.

Since just before Christmas one of my kids has been after us for an ipod touch.  If this kid does not end up in public relations, I will be shocked!  His powers of persuasion and spin are something to behold for a tween and his tenacity is becoming legendary.  We’ve remained steadfast.  “You don’t need an ipod touch.  You don’t have the money to buy one.  Save your money and then we can look at it.”

I can cave in and be spineless with the best of them when it comes to certain requests my kids make, believe me.  But over the years I’ve learned that doesn’t pay off in the long run — for them or us.

He keeps coming back for more.  We repeat the same refrain.  The bottom line is —- we have all survived.  Saying no isn’t always easy, but when it comes to money it usually makes sense and cents.

Bestselling author, financial journalist (www.moneyville.ca) and television host, Alison Griffiths, preaches just that.  Basic common sense.  If you can’t pay for it, you cannot buy it, which means you can’t have it.

She offers parents some basic tips about how to teach kids about money management.   Watch our interview Alison Griffiths:  http://whereparentstalk.com/

In this world of fleeting wealth, where the middle class is getting stretched further by the minute, where the chasm between rich and poor is expanding, and where many people are re-evaluating their needs and wants based on what they can afford, it makes sense to start kids off on a solid financial footing — which usually means equal parts of common sense and accountability.

by Lianne Castelino, http://www.whereparentstalk.com

The topic is everywhere we turn.  At both a macro and micro level.  Debt reduction, budgeting, Wall Street, financial crisis, world economy, saving and spending.  Our society, and rightly so, is obsessed with how money is spent.  Too bad we all weren’t this conscientious during the ‘good times’.   Now, for the most part, money seems to be harder to come by.  People living beyond their means is fairly commonplace.  Credit has created many monsters, tons of hardship and less and less accountability.

I remember the days and they weren’t that long ago, when you could stroll through a university campus and find tables set up with banks/financial institutions flogging credit cards for students.  You literally had to have a pulse and you got approved.  What a stunning mistake.  (I haven’t spent much time inside a college or university campus of late, so perhaps it still happens.)

The bottom line?  Never has there been a greater need for kids to be educated properly about money.  And not all parents are equipped to do this.  Save and spend seem to be fairly simple concepts until crisis strikes and the item you need to buy exceeds your ability to pay, or you’ve ‘absolutely’ got to have something even though you don’t have the money for it.

It is not easy teaching children about money in a generation of self-entitlement and instant gratification.  In our household, we constantly preach patience — prudent but utterly exhausting.

The conversation usually goes something this:   “I want to buy a XXXX, mom”.  The response?  “Okay, why do you need it?”  Silence follows.  “Everyone else has one.”  Pause.  “That’s really not a good reason.”  Another try.  “But why can’t I have it.”  Deep breath.  “I’d like to win the lottery or take a long vacation, but I can’t.”  Silence.  Huffing, muttering, grumbling.

Since just before Christmas one of my kids has been after us for an ipod touch.  If this kids does not end up in public relations, I will be shocked!  His powers of persuasion and spin are something to behold for a tween and his tenacity is becoming legendary.  We’ve remained steadfast.  “You don’t need an ipod touch.  You don’t have the money to buy one.  Save your money and then we can look at it.”

I can cave in and be spineless with the best of them when it comes to certain requests my kids make, believe me.  But over the years I’ve learned that doesn’t pay off in the long run — for them or us.

He keeps coming back for more.  We repeat the same refrain.  The bottom line is —- we have all survived.  Saying no isn’t always easy, but when it comes to money it usually makes sense and cents.

Bestselling author, financial journalist (www.moneyville.ca) and television host, Alison Griffiths, preaches just that.  Basic common sense.  If you can’t pay for it, you cannot buy it, which means you can’t have it.

She offers parents some basic tips about how to teach kids about money management.   Watch our interview Alison Griffiths (www.whereparentstalk.com)

In this world of fleeting wealth, where the middle class is getting stretched further by the minute, where the chasm between rich and poor is expanding, and where many people are re-evaluating their needs and wants based on what they can afford, it makes sense to start kids off on a solid financial footing — which usually means equal parts of common sense and accountability.