What The Screen Time Experts Do With Their Own Kids

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By Anya Kamenetz for nprEd

Parents today struggle to set screen time guidelines.

One big reason is a lack of role models. Grandma doesn't have any tried-and-true sayings about iPad time. This stuff is just too new.

But many experts on kids and media are also parents themselves. So when I was interviewing dozens of them for my book The Art of Screen Time, I asked them how they made screen time rules at home.

None of them held themselves up as paragons, but it was interesting to see how the priorities they focused on in their own research corresponded with the priorities they set at home.

House Rules for the research pediatrician:

Dr. Jenny Radesky is the lead author of the most recent revision of the guidelines on media and children from the American Academy of Pediatrics. She is also the mother of two young boys, and as she says, "We're not a tech-averse household."

She and her husband both grew up watching "tons of TV" and playing video games. "We have a big flatscreen TV," Radesky says. "I have a smartphone."

In fact, she says, as a doctor she may be more prone to distraction than he is: "My husband's really good. His stuff is always just on the kitchen counter and he hardly checks it unless it rings. But if I'm on call I have my pager on. If something is an emergency that's how I can be found."

For the kids, since they started school, the rule is "no media on weekdays." They unplug at family dinner and before bed. They have a family movie night on Fridays, which is an example of the principle Radesky touts in her research, of "joint media engagement," or simply sharing screen time.

On weekends, they allow the kids cartoons, apps and games like Minecraft. But more than just limiting time, says Radesky, "I try to help my older son be aware of the way he reacts to video games or how to interpret information we find online." For example, she tries to explain how he is being manipulated by games that ask him to make purchases while playing.

House Rules for the sleep researcher:

Lauren Hale is a sleep researcher at Stony Brook University in New York. She sums up her findings from over a decade of research: "As kids and adults watch or use screens, with light shining in their eyes and close to their face, bedtime gets delayed. It takes longer to fall asleep, sleep quality is reduced and total sleep time is decreased."

Hale is also the mother of two young children. She strictly enforces these rules: No screens in the hour before bed, no screens in the bedroom and no screens as part of the bedtime routine. It seems to be sinking in. When he was 4 years old, her son told his grandmother: "You don't want to look at a screen before bed because it tells your brain to stay awake."

House Rules for the anti-obesity doctor:

Tom Warshawski, a pediatrician in Canada and founder of the Childhood Obesity Foundation there, has been involved in education efforts to get parents to cut back on media time.

His materials promote the formula 5- 2- 1- 0. That means five servings of fruits and vegetables a day, no more than two hours of screens, one hour of physical activity, and no sugary beverages.

He and his wife, also a doctor, split their pediatrics practice when their son and daughter were young so that one of them could always be home.

"We limited TV to an hour on weekdays after all other homework was done," he says. "We said categorically no video games — my daughter didn't care, but my son thought it was extremely oppressive and unfair. Then he resigned himself. Ultimately, both of them have thanked us."

House Rules for the media and violence researcher:

Douglas Gentile, a professor at Iowa State University, has two nearly grown daughters. He says when they were younger, he "pretty much followed AAP guidelines: one hour a day in elementary school, two hours as they got older. But I'm much more strict on content than I am on time."

Not surprisingly, he doesn't rely on ratings. Instead, he would watch something himself before allowing his girls to see it. They were big fans of the Harry Potter books; they would wait for each movie to come out on video and then watch it in short bits, fast-forwarding through the scary parts.

But, he says, being the strict dad did once backfire in a funny way. He's a huge Star Wars fan. "I was 13 when the original movie came out. I waited 10 years, ever since she was born, to share this pivotal, important movie with my older daughter."

Based on his description, though, she wasn't having it.

"She says, 'No. All they do is fight all the way through it.'

" 'Oh, please?'

" 'No, Dad.' "

Reluctantly, Gentile saw her point: "She had learned the lesson — if the movie is just about people fighting, it's not going to make her feel happy. She's not going to enjoy it."


On Having an Only Child

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By Joanna Goddard for A Cup of Jo

How many children do you hope to have? For some families, one is the magic number. So! We asked nine parents about having only children — the pros, cons and how they decided — and here are their thoughtful, funny answers…

Prioritizing Space

Shirim (Eli, 15):

Am I allowed to say we like our two-bedroom apartment and did not want to be cramped? In truth I always grew up wanting two things: to live in an apartment, not a free-standing house, and to have only one child. I have never, ever regretted either.

I have been lucky not to have had pressure from friends or family to have more kids. Economically, it also did not make sense to me. My husband would have liked another, but was a good egg about it. Having cousins live so close has been really helpful for Eli in terms of having sibling-like relationships.

Trusting Your Gut

Erin (Reed, 3):

I guess the main thing is: We feel like our family is whole with our son. People often say the second or third or fourth child was the final piece of the puzzle. I’ve always felt as if we have all of our pieces. 

Chris (2-year-old son):

My husband and I became fathers to our amazing son through domestic open adoption. Is it weird that the phrase only child now bothers me? When people say it, they lean into the only. I am a gay man in my early 40s. Even one child is so much more than I ever expected to have a few years ago, and more than my teenage self would have said I had the right to ask the universe for. Then our son’s birth mom chose us to be dads, and everything changed for our family.

Stacey (Dash, 7):

I was never one of those women who always knew I wanted a baby. My son wasn’t really planned, but we weren’t working hard to *not* get pregnant, either. After having Dash, we’d have brief conversations about more children, but they were mostly around my not wanting to push my luck after having such an awesome kid.

I don’t know about the rest of the world, but here in Brooklyn people love to comment on everything. It’s like constantly being booked on a talk show. My least favorite is when someone says something to Dash like, “Don’t you want a little brother or sister?” Not up to you, person, and not up to my seven-year-old, either! I guess the headline here is there is no right answer, so trusting your instinct is enough.

Raising a Child With Special Needs

Kate (Ocean, 7):

When Ocean was born, we were so in love with him, but it was hard. He was the kind of baby who needed to be held upright and bounced all the time. He didn’t sleep much. Nursing was hard. He dropped off his weight curve around six months. I had concerns about his development. He was so adorable and joyful, but there were red flags. 

When Ocean was one, I remember sitting John down one night, shaking. I was terrified of having sex because I couldn’t go through it all again: pregnancy, but especially that first year. I was worried that John would be disappointed, but he got it.

Our pediatrician suggested physical and occupational therapy, and I began to scramble down the rabbit hole of special education. As Ocean evolved into the extraordinary and challenging person he is, I couldn’t see room in our lives for more. I felt completely fulfilled and completely overwhelmed at the same time. I’ve become his advocate. Our family feels just right. 

People did ask a lot at first. I’ve always been ready with one-liners. First it was: “Well, this one was a miracle, so…” Then: “Having Ocean is kind of like having two kids.” Now it’s just: “Yup, one and done!” with a big smile showing off my wrinkles.

Reagan (Piper, 10):

I grew up in a big Mormon family, so I was surprised myself when stopping after one felt so right. It made more sense the more I thought about it, and letting go of that expectation gave me a lot of sweet relief.

My child also has serious physical disabilities that prevent her from being able to live at home with me, so I do sometimes mourn the loss of having a more typical family setup. For a long time, I thought having more kids would help heal some of the heartbreak of what she and I have gone through and what we’ve missed out on, but it feels too scary and uncertain to do.

The pro is that I get to have a very special relationship with Piper, and devote as much time as possible to her. Anything left over can go to my relationship with my fiancé, my career and any projects I feel passionate about.

The decision was also tricky at first because of my Mormon family. When I was little, having children was my main goal in life. There are tons of Mormon kids’ songs about motherhood, and I remember singing this one at four years old: “Of all the jobs, for me I’ll choose no other. I’ll raise a family. Four little, five little, six little babies of my own.” Many of the lessons I was learning at my church heavily emphasized developing motherhood skills — sewing, cooking, organizing, cleaning, crafting, even decorating. It was a challenge to break out of those expectations, versus what I really wanted.

Striving for Balance

Janna (Harley, 3):

My husband and I both come from two-child households, and before becoming parents we talked about having two. And then there was that huge recalibration of life that occurs after you have a child. It took us years to get into the groove where we each got the family time, alone time and social time that we needed to thrive. For us, this balance is what makes us good parents.

With one child, we can be spontaneous. When we take turns being on duty, the other gets to be totally off duty. We’re able to be present for Harley when we’re together — he has all of us. We live in a family-filled neighborhood, so he has playdates constantly. He is very independent, and he’s comfortable with a group of all adults or kids. We also can travel more easily with one child. We went to Barcelona for a week and ate and drank our way through the city, just the three of us. We had a blast.

I do often wonder if I’ll regret not having another child, and there’s no way to know. I’ve sought counsel from older friends who have only one child, and their continued happiness with it makes me feel confident in our decision.

Confronting Infertility

Melissa (Sammy, 7):

It took seven years — and five miscarriages — to have our child. When our healthy baby boy was born, we felt like we’d hit the jackpot. Going through the stress of trying to have another seemed absurd to us. My husband and I felt like our dreams had finally come true. I will say that our son LOVES being an only child and getting all the attention, and actually begs us not to have any more. (I’m 47, so I tell him not to worry!)

Sandy (Margot, 4):

Raising an only child was never my plan. My daughter was born in early 2013, and I conceived her sibling a year and a half later. But as I neared the end of my first trimester, I learned something: my baby’s heart had stopped beating at nine weeks gestation. That little love of mine had let go. I was pregnant one day, and then, without any prior warning, suddenly the next I was lying in an operating room while my uterus was hollowed out by a team of masked professionals. Six months later, I was diagnosed with secondary infertility. 

I’ll never forget the moment my next-door neighbor commented on the size of our house, telling me we needed to have more kids to fill up the bedrooms — nor the time when a woman next to me on a plane assured me that even though I’d lost a baby, another one would come soon enough. “No, unfortunately, I’ve been told that won’t happen,” I replied.

As for pros, my daughter gets every ounce of my attention, and I get to bury her in a thousand kisses every single day. My daughter is my heart on two feet, and there’s not a con in the world about getting to raise that sweet person!

I’ve learned over these past three years that grief is anything but linear. I can go weeks with my head held high, and then, out of nowhere, a pregnant woman’s swollen belly or the sight of two car seats in the back of a car knock me right over. 

But never until now have I typed this or said it aloud: I’m just now finally feeling the light of acceptance warming my face. It’s new, it’s unfamiliar, and it’s a beautiful thing.


A Guide to the Moral Development of Preschoolers

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By Amy Morin, LCSW for Very Well Family

As your little one grows, he’ll develop a sense of morality—those principles that affect how he treats other people and how he views justice. His core beliefs, temperament, and life experiences are just a few things that will influence his sense of morality.

Every day, your preschooler is surrounded by people and situations that will guide his moral development. Whether it’s another child on the school playground or a plot line on a favorite TV show, his experiences shape his views.

As a parent, you probably want to have some influence on how he develops his sense of right versus wrong and instill the values that you deem to be important. However, it’s not always easy to know what’s age-appropriate when it comes to guiding your child morally—or even how to start.

What Parents Should Know About Early Moral Development

Around age 2, children start to feel moral emotions and understand—at least somewhat—the difference between what’s right and what’s wrong. Your child might also start to feel empathy if he sees another child who is upset, though that development is more likely to appear closer to age 4 or 5.

Toddlers and preschoolers are motivated by the threat of consequences. Therefore, early on in their moral development, you might see that they’re more concerned about being punished rather than the feelings of another person.

Don’t worry if your toddler doesn’t seem to care if he hurt someone.

With some guidance from you, empathy will come in due time.

How to Recognize the Moral Choices Preschoolers Make

 

Although preschoolers aren’t making life-altering life decisions, they do make small moral choices every day. Here are a few moral decisions your preschooler may be faced with:

  • Do I share my toy with a friend even though I don’t want to?
  • Do I hit the person who won’t play with me?
  • Should I take my sister's toy from her because I want to play with it?
  • Do I cut in line because I don’t want to wait my turn?
  • Do I sneak a cookie when Dad’s not looking?

While your child will violate your moral codes quite often, each time he steps out of line is an opportunity to help him learn. The discipline strategies you employ, combined with the proactive strategies you use to teach him right from wrong, will guide your preschooler’s moral development.

Be Clear About Morals

Research shows kids begin to understand the 'moral of the story' around age 5 or 6. But, preschoolers are less able to grasp a life lesson from a story about someone else. The concept is too abstract.

So it's important to be very concrete about morals. Say specific things like, "We don't take other people's belongings because it's wrong to take things that don't belong to us. It hurts other people's feelings when we do that and our job is to be kind to people, not hurt them."

As your child's understanding of morals increases, begin to ask him to identify the life lessons in a story. Read books and watch stories with various moral lessons and check for your child's understanding of how he can generalize that lesson to his own life.

Additionally, monitor closely what your child is exposed to. TV shows, books, or video games that violate moral codes without teaching a lesson may have a negative influence on your child.

Instill Guilt, Not Shame

When your preschooler violates a moral code by hurting other people, he should have an emotional reaction to it. And while guilt is a sign of a healthy conscience, shame can be a sign of low self-worth. Here's the difference:

Shame stems from thinking, "I am bad."
Guilt stems from thinking, "I did a bad thing."

As a parent, you want to guide the child into feeling guilt rather than shame.

A child who feels guilty may recognize she's still a good person who is capable of making better choices in the future.

Guilt is a normal, healthy reaction. It means your child regrets what he’s done—and that can motivate him to make amends. Guilty feelings may also prevent him from making the same mistake in the future.

Shame, on the other hand, may cause your child to believe she’s incapable of doing the right thing. And it may take a toll on the decisions she makes in life. A child who feels shame, for example, may not resist peer pressure or may not stand up for herself when her rights are violated.

Reprimand Your Child for Bad Choices, Not for Being a Bad Person

As a parent, you can influence whether your child experiences shame or guilt after he makes a mistake. If you express anger at your child or become standoffish, he’ll be more likely to feel shame.

So avoid reprimanding your child's character by saying things like, “Bad girl!” or “I’m so disappointed in you.” Instead, focus on your child's actions by saying things like, “You made a bad choice,” or “I’m disappointed you made a bad choice.”

Additionally, correct your child’s behavior, not the emotion. So instead of saying, “Stop getting so mad,” or “There’s nothing to be upset about,” say things like, “Use an inside voice. It bothers people when you yell inside.”

Make it clear that feeling sad, mad, excited, or any other emotion is OK. But hitting people, calling them names, or treating them poorly isn’t acceptable.

Offer Praise for Prosocial Behavior

Praise your child for what she does, rather than who she is. So instead of saying, “You’re a good girl,” say, “Great job helping Grandma carry groceries. That was a kind thing to do.”

Be on the lookout for times when your child decides to share, console someone else, tell the truth, or help others. When you point out positive choices, your child will become more motivated to keep up the good work.

Teach Your Child About Feelings

Your child won't be able to understand other people's feelings and how his actions affect others until he has a clear understanding of his own feelings.

Use feeling words in your everyday conversations. Label your child's emotions by saying things like, "It looks like you feel angry right now," or "I understand you are sad that we can't play outside right now."

When your child understands his emotions, he'll be able to start understanding that other people have feelings too. And you can begin talking about how his behavior influences how other people feel.

Teach Empathy

Teach your child how to consider someone else's emotions and how one person's behavior can impact another person's feelings. Take situations from books, TV or movies and ask your child how a person in that scenario might feel.

To really reinforce the point, ask your child to show you how the person might feel. When your child makes a sad face to reflect how a character might feel after getting hurt, he’ll actually feel sad for a second. That can reinforce to him that other people have emotions too.

Model Good Morals

As the saying goes, practice what you preach. If you don’t want your children to tell lies, don’t let them see you lie. Even if you think it’s a little ‘white lie,’ your child will think dishonesty is OK.

If you want your children to help others, make sure they see you helping others. And point out what you’re doing by saying things like, “We’re going to help Grandpa clean the garage today because we love him and it’s a nice thing to do.”

Your child will learn a lot more from what you do, rather than what you say. So make sure your actions match your words.

Schedule Activities That Teach Your Child Your Morals

As long as you accompany them, your preschooler can volunteer and help others in a variety of ways. Whether you feed cats at the local SPCA together, or you collect canned food to donate to the food pantry, emphasize the importance of making the world better.

Even simple acts of kindness go a long way in developing a good moral sense. For example, make a “get well soon” card together for a neighbor who’s feeling under the weather. Then, deliver it together with a Tupperware of chicken noodle soup.

Hold Your Child Accountable for Breaking Moral Codes

Everyone makes mistakes, so it’s important to make sure your child knows that it’s OK. However, you can’t just let it go—hold your little one accountable.

Verbalize why his behavior was wrong when he makes a mistake. Say, “We don’t hit people because it hurts their feelings and their bodies.” Then, give him a consequence, such as placing him in time-out or taking away his favorite toy for the afternoon.

Forcing him to apologize isn’t likely to be helpful. He may not actually feel sorry so telling him to apologize to his brother may just be lip service.

But, you can role model how to apologize. When you make a mistake, tell your child that you’re sorry. Say something like, “I am sorry I didn’t get home in time to take you to the park. I tried to get home as soon as I could but it’s too dark to go now.”

Remember, guiding your child’s moral development isn’t something that happens in just a couple weeks. This will be a process that will last long into your child’s elementary school years and beyond.

There will be times your child will make mistakes that make you wonder if anything you’re doing actually resonates with him. Don’t worry—he hears you. With consistent guidance from you, he’ll develop a clear moral compass.


Decoding the Mysteries of a Child’s Developing Brain

By Jenna Gallegos of The Washington Post

It’s back-to-school season. Parents mark their youngsters' height on the wall and marvel at how much they’ve grown, but what’s going on just below the pencil line in that child’s brain?

We know brain development continues from infancy to adulthood, but many parents underestimate how much a child’s brain changes from year to year and how those changes can influence behavior.

Decades of scientific studies have shown even an immature brain is capable of extraordinary feats. Yet a fully developed brain is necessary for actions that adults take for granted, such as risk assessment and self-control. According to developmental psychologists, parents who better understand the stages along the way can help guide their child over the hurdles.

Babies are surprisingly good at communicating

Babies are looking, listening and imitating from the time they are born. Stick your tongue out at a baby, even one just hours old, and he or she may do the same back at you, said Sarah Lytle of the Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences at the University of Washington.

Yet many parents don’t realize how quickly infants begin to develop social and emotional awareness, said Ross Thompson, who is president of the child development organization Zero to Three and a cognitive psychologist at the University of California at Davis. “Parents underestimate how sensitive a child is to their own emotions,” he said. As early as 6 months of age, a child can be affected by a parent’s depression or anxiety and by marital squabbles.

Babies also look to their parents for guidance in uncertain situations. If you’re on a subway and start interacting with the little one next to you, the baby may turn to the parent to see how to respond to you. This process is called “social cognition” or “social referencing,” and it’s not very different from when adults at a party wait to respond to a joke when they’re unsure whether others will find it funny or offensive.

To help infants learn, parents should frequently look at what they’re talking about and change their gaze slowly, Lytle suggested. This important social cue helps with language development, she said — with babies who follow gazes closely having a more diverse vocabulary by the time they’re 2.

All languages sound the same initially to a newborn, and then a tuning process begins. By about 10 months, babies start to specialize in the language they’re used to hearing. It’s important to talk to your child during the first year, especially using “parentese,” Lytle said. This infant-directed speech is not “baby-talking,” despite its typical singsong tone and repetition, but uses real words in grammatically complete sentences.

While we typically underestimate babies' ability to understand and communicate before they begin speaking, we tend to overestimate the brain power of walking, talking toddlers.

Toddlers are mentally incapable of sharing and self-control

In a survey conducted by Zero to Three in 2015, nearly half of parents believed their children could learn to share by the time they are 2. But according to the cognitive psychologists at Zero to Three, this skill does not typically develop until a child is 3 or 4. That may be because they haven’t yet developed what’s known as “theory of mind.”

Theory of mind is the ability to differentiate one’s own perspective and preferences from someone else’s. A classic experiment in theory of mind is known as the Sally-Anne test, in which a child is told Sally has a basket and Anne has a box. Sally puts an object in her basket, then leaves. While Sally is gone, Anne moves the object to the box.

The child is then asked where Sally will look for the object when she returns. Correctly answering that Sally will look in her basket signals the child understands they have a perspective that is different from Sally's.

Theory of mind is important for developing empathy, making friends and even doing well academically, Lytle said. Parents can help their children develop perspective by talking them through scenarios like the Sally-Anne test or reading books that help them to build cognitive parallels, she said. For example, in a book where a character goes to a doctor, they can compare the situation to when the child went to the doctor and discuss how the experiences were similar or different.

According to that 2015 survey, the majority of parents also believed 2-year-olds can control their emotions and impulses. Yet children have very limited self-control abilities until they are about 4. When toddlers won’t stop throwing a fit, do something forbidden or refuse to share, “they’re not being willfully obstinate,” Thompson said. “Many parents overestimate a child’s capacity for self-control.”

Thompson recommends helping young children with self-control — for example, by distracting them with a favorite toy while passing candy in the grocery store checkout aisle. And when dealing with a tantrum, acknowledge a child's feelings by putting them into words. “A lot of their frustration is the feeling of being misunderstood,” he noted.

He also suggests giving the child the impression that they have some control. In his own case, when his young son didn't want to go to bed, Thompson would ask the boy whether he wanted to play for a few more minutes. Yes, a distinguished professor in psychology was on his knees, negotiating with a 3-year-old, but Thompson says parents who understand how their toddlers' brains work (or don’t work) will find it fairly easy to outsmart them. It’s good to tell a child “no” because they’re learning language, he added, but you can’t expect them to change their behaviors.

Teenagers don’t think with the same parts of their brain as adults

For some parents, a seemingly erratic teenager can make those long-ago toddler days seem like a walk in the park. Frances Jensen, neuroscientist at the University of Pennsylvania and co-author of “The Teenage Brain,” suggests understanding how teens think can improve the experience for both sides.

Connections in our brain develop from the back to the front, and those important for higher-order thinking continue to form and strengthen into a person's 20s. “Teenagers have good connectivity up to about their ears,” Jensen explained. And at this age, the midbrain, important for emotion, sexual function, learning and memory, is hyperactive.

As teens transition into adulthood, connections in the front of their brain are strengthened while those in the other regions are pruned. A fully developed frontal lobe is essential for planning, decision-making, impulse control and risk avoidance.

These stages of development showed up in a 2006 imaging experiment. Researchers discovered adults trying to identify fearful facial expressions used more of the front of their brain, while teens used the emotional centers in the midbrain — meaning teens literally think using different parts of their brain.

The finding might explain why some teen behaviors surprise adults. “Teenagers are actually more susceptible to stress,” Jensen said. If your teen comes home distraught because someone made fun of their hair, you might be tempted to say it’s no big deal. But the activity in their brain likely resembles an adult brain's response to news of a major international incident.

The plasticity of teen brains — their ability to lose, form and strengthen connections — also makes adolescents especially susceptible to addiction to everything from video games to cocaine, Jensen said. Activities such as binge drinking and chronic marijuana use can be especially damaging at this age.

Jensen recommends giving teens a “frontal-lobe assist” by helping them to plan, prepare and even rehearse for situations that require higher judgment. Help them develop and learn phrases to use as excuses to avoid making a bad decision amid social pressure, for example. And if they do make a bad decision, she suggests using the situation as a teachable moment instead of lecturing or alienating them.

Throughout a child's life, parents who understand some basics of brain development can adjust their expectations and better come up with strategies to prevent frustration for everyone. In other words, a little understanding goes a long way.


Supplements for Pregnancy & Nursing: What I Take

By Katie at Wellness Mama

Important Note: These are the supplements I chose to take after consulting with my doctor, thyroid specialist and midwife. I share these for informational purposes only and not in any way as a suggestion of medical advice. This post is strictly informational and should only serve as a starting point for a conversation between you and your medical provider about the best supplements for pregnancy in your specific case.

Why Supplements for Pregnancy?

Pregnancy and nursing are times of a woman’s life when it is important to be vigilant about getting enough nutrients to nourish her little one and supplements can be helpful. There are also some supplements that are important to avoid during pregnancy and nursing and any pregnant woman should work directly with her care provider to make sure she is taking the correct supplements for her body and pregnancy.

As someone who has quite a bit of experience being pregnant and nursing over the last decade, I’ve seen first hand how supplements can make a pregnancy (and delivery) easier!

Each woman’s dietary and nutrient needs will vary, but as a general rule, a nutrient-dense diet is the most important factor in her ability to get enough vitamins and minerals during pregnancy and supplements can’t take the place of a healthy diet and good lifestyle habits.

When I am pregnant, I focus on consuming the following:

  • Lots of high quality protein from high quality sources like grass-fed beef, free-range poultry and eggs, and wild, caught, sustainable seafood (smaller fish preferable). Organ meats from grass fed sources are also wonderful for pregnancy and nursing and can help reduce the chance of anemia.
  • Large amounts of vegetables, especially green ones! Green veggies have folate, which is important for fetal growth, and are also high in many other nutrients. They help prevent the constipation that can sometimes occur during pregnancy, and are great for making sure nursing moms are getting enough vitamins. During pregnancy, I live by the motto of “When in doubt, eat more veggies.”
  • Healthy Fats galore! Pregnancy and nursing are not times to skimp on healthy fats. Quality fats are absolutely vital for baby’s brain development, organ and tissue growth, and good milk production for mom. Sources like healthy meats, coconut oil and coconut products, olive oil, avocados, and nuts are especially good during pregnancy.
  • Other high nutrient foods like homemade bone broth, soups, fermented vegetables like homemade sauerkraut, fruit (especially berries) and green smoothies are also great for pregnancy and nursing.

 

Supplements for Pregnancy: 

Even with the most solid diet, it can be difficult to consume enough of the necessary nutrients for pregnancy, especially with our modern food supply. For this reason, I take certain specially selected supplements while I am pregnant or nursing:

  • Folate: The supplement folic acid is commonly recommended, but there is substantial difference between folic acid (the synthetic form) and folate (the natural form). This article explains the difference in detail. The dosage is also slightly different, and some sources recommend as much as 1200 mcg of folate per day for maximum benefit. This amount should include the amount in multivitamins and any additional folate supplement (be sure to check multivitamins, as many contain the synthetic form!). Folate is one supplement that has been extensively studied for use in pregnancy and is extremely effective at preventing neural tube defects. It is also very inexpensive and easy for every pregnant woman to take. NOTE: People who have a MTHFR defect will need to consult with a specialized practitioner and will probably need to take L-5-MTHF which is the methylated form of folate. I explain more in this post.

  • Prenatal Multivitamin: There is some debate on if a full multivitamin prenatal is necessary during pregnancy or not. While I don’t routinely take a multivitamin, pregnancy and nursing is one time that I do. A deficiency in a vitamin or mineral won’t make a tremendous, immediate impact on an adult in most cases, but during the intensive developmental phases of pregnancy, a nutrient deficiency can have lasting consequences for baby. A high quality prenatal is an “insurance policy” or sorts to guard against deficiencies but should accompany a high nutrient diet! Many prenatals contain iron, though this isn’t necessary if you are consuming red meat from healthy sources and organ meats. Just make sure it doesn’t contain folic acid (but folate or methyl folate). This is the brand I use.​

  • Probiotics: Probiotics are critical, especially during pregnancy. During the birth process, babies culture their beneficial gut bacteria from what the receive from mom when passing through the birth canal and from nursing in the months afterward. Unfortunately, this process doesn’t happen in the same way with cesarean deliveries, but research is finding ways to help facilitate this process. Quality probiotics (I take these) help ensure that baby will get a good dose of beneficial bacteria during a normal vaginal delivery, which can reduce risk of ear infection and illness in the first few years. Good gut health also has a tremendous impact on lifelong health, and this is one of the most important things you can do for your baby’s health. Probiotics also help mom avoid illness and constipation during pregnancy, and might reduce the risk of Group B strep. Since baby’s gut bacteria continues to culture during the nursing time, it is good for mom to continue to take probiotics during this time as well.
  • Vitamin D3: There is a lot of emerging research that Vitamin D can help reduce the risk of many pregnancy related complications including gestational diabetes. It is important for baby’s bone and hormone development and helps support mom’s immune system during pregnancy. Some research suggests that nursing babies may be able to obtain Vitamin D from the mother’s milk if mom is getting more than 5,000IU/day. I take 5,000 IU/day while pregnant or nursing, unless I’m able to get 30 minutes or more of midday sun.

    When supplementing, I only take Vitamin D3 with K2 and I occasionally test blood levels of vitamin D to make sure my levels don’t get too high.

 

 

Things I Avoid:

  • Artificial Sweeteners
  • MSG or Chemical Additives
  • Diet Sodas or foods
  • Vegetable oils and trans fats
  • Any herbs, drugs, or medicines without approval from your midwife or doctor
  • BPA and plastic containers
  • Aluminum in antiperspirants
  • High fructose corn syrup
  • Artificial dyes or colors in food
  • Chemicals in laundry detergent, personal care products, and household cleaners

Rethinking Toddler Nutrition

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By Katelyn Philipp for Parenting

Fruits and veggies are a good start, but most toddler diets are missing a key nutritional element.

Family meals should feel more like bonding opportunities than chores or ordeals. But to make mealtime more positive, you have to serve foods that both meet your kids' nutritional needs and are tasty enough for children to actually eat and enjoy.

Proper nutrition involves more than fruits and vegetables, says Dr. Scott Cohen, a pediatrician, father and author of "Eat, Sleep, Poop: A Common Sense Guide to Your Baby's First Year." He says DHA is another critical component. DHA is an omega-3 fatty acid beneficial to brain development and cognition.

"Eighty-five percent of brain growth happens in the first three years of life," Cohen says. Infants receive vital nutrients through breastfeeding and fortified formula, but their supply dwindles when children begin eating solid food.

In fact, toddlers only average 25 percent of the recommended daily DHA intake, which is 70 to 100 milligrams. It can be easy to reach the allowance, but DHA-rich foods aren't popular items on toddler's plates. Major sources include fish, such as tuna, salmon and trout. 

To improve your child's nutrition, Cohen recommends a five-item nutrition checklist:

1. Find a DHA source that works for your family

Increasing DHA in your child's diet doesn't have to be difficult. Cohen recommends trying DHA-friendly options, such as fish, or DHA-fortified foods such as pasta and milk. "One size doesn't fit all," Cohen says. "Any way toddlers can get it is good."

2. Say cheese

Cohen says toddlers should consume two to three dairy sources each day for strong bones, muscles and teeth. Common child favorites include milk, yogurt and cheese, but fortified orange juice can also do the trick.

3. Concentrate on protein

"A lot of kids don't like typical protein sources," Cohen says. Look at protein alternatives instead of battling over eggs, fish or meat your picky eater won't try. Soy products and beans are subtle substitutes.

4. Teach healthy habits

While each meal can be a step in the right nutritional direction, Cohen recommends looking at the big picture. "It's more important to teach healthy eating habits than to concentrate on volume," he says. Proper routines set children up for a lifetime of nutrition success.

5. Mix it up

Introduce a variety of food to children beyond standard favorites. "Offer three or four different options in the hope that they will eat one of them," Cohen says. Don't give up if children resist at first. It can take 10 to 12 tries before they develop preferences. "They might like it next week," he says. "The bottom line is not to stress too much. Every healthy child grows, no matter what."


Is It Safe to Lift Weights While Pregnant?

By Amy Rosoff Davis, Charlotte's Book

Q—CHARLOTTE’S BOOK READER

I’m pregnant and definitely want to keep working out, but I’m curious: is it safe for me to use weights?

A—AMY ROSOFF DAVIS, CELEBRITY TRAINER

Yes! I used 2-3 pound weights almost five days a week my whole pregnancy. Whether you do exercises or just take those things on a brisk walk with you, it’s good to keep strong arms (you will need them to hold your baby) and a strong core (which you need during delivery). While you don’t want to attempt to build muscle, it’s important to build stamina (which is also needed for delivery)!

Lifting weights also helps keep your body toned, and helps your body maintain a healthy weight. All good things! I also did a bunch of arm dancing both on my own and with clients during my pregnancy. Arm dancing is also great for stamina (remember to keep breathing through the pain) and also keeps long lean and toned arms. Arm dancing is also a great postpartum exercise—you can do it sitting in bed!


10 Mistakes Parents Make With Newborns—And How To Avoid Them

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By Sandee LaMotte, CNN

Bringing a new baby home can be nerve-wracking for any parent. If it's your first, the fear of making a mistake can be overwhelming. It's inevitable you won't do everything just right, but read on and you can cross these common mistakes off your list.

1. Car seat safety

Some parents make the mistake of not practicing various baby care chores before the baby comes. While how to change a diaper many be intuitive for most, not everything is. Take car seats, for example. "Since hospitals require you to take baby home in an appropriate car seat, be sure you have it installed before delivering," said pediatrician Dr. Jennifer Shu, co-author of "Heading Home with Your Newborn." "Enlist the help of a child passenger safety technician, if needed."

Figuring out how to correctly -- and safely -- install car seats can be a real challenge for many parents, so much so that many fire stations used to help parents with it. Today, fewer do so, but you can find a trained technician through the National Child Passenger Safety Certification site.

But even while parents may have purchased the seat, and even learned how to install it properly, birth educator Polly Gannon finds that some haven't gone to the trouble of using it before the baby comes.

"Some parents haven't even put a stuffed animal in there before the baby comes so they know how to get a newborn in there comfortably," said Gannon, who works at Calabasas Pediatrics in Calabasas, California. "Most hospitals, for legal reasons, cannot put the baby in the car seat for you, or even show you how to use it."

A 2016 study of nearly 300 families, published in the Journal of Pediatrics, found 91% of those parents made serious mistakes while installing their car seats or putting their newborns into those seats. Eighty-six percent of those errors were in positioning the newborn in the seat, and most of those mistakes were "critical" and increased the child's risk for injury in any accident. Over half of the families had older children, which should have given them practice for the task.

For newborns, parents should make sure their infant's head doesn't flop forward, which could restrict breathing. That involves installing the seat at the correct angle to keep the baby's feet up, with the body reclined so baby can turn her head to the side and breathe normally.

If the baby slouches down or to the side in the seat, the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests placing a tightly rolled receiving blanket on both sides of the baby, or using the newborn insert made for that car seat brand -- do not mix or match with other manufacturers. Don't place a blanket or roll across the top of the baby's head or put padding under your infant.

 

2. Back to sleep

The national "Back to Sleep" campaign of the 1990s brought a great deal of attention to SIDS, or sudden infant death syndrome, and other sleep-related deaths among infants. Guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics insist that every baby should sleep on their back, in their own crib, without any toys or soft bedding. During and after the campaign, sleep-related deaths sharply declined, but recent data shows the risk continues. Each year, some 3,500 babies continue to die from sleep-related causes.

A 2015 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found one in five mothers report putting their baby to sleep on their side or stomach, and 39% of mothers said they use soft bedding in the crib with the baby. 


"Wow, that's alarming because you'd think everyone would know the recommended way to put their baby to sleep," said pediatrician Dr. Tanya Altmann, author of the new book "Baby and Toddler Basics." "But what a lot of parents still don't know is that you should not use bumpers anymore, and you don't want pillows, toys or extra stuff in the crib."

 

3. Not feeding on demand

Some new parents make the mistake of letting baby sleep too long between feedings, likely due to exhaustion and their own need to get a bit of rest. But that's a mistake, say experts.

"The first few weeks, the baby does need to be fed ... every two to three hours, even if they don't demand it," said Altmann. "But once they have regained their birth weight and you get your pediatrician's OK, it's fine to cross your fingers and hope that you get a stretch of three to five hours without the baby waking to be fed. But in the first few weeks, babies do need to be woken up."

If you're doing everything right and your baby is growing and developing well, said Altmann, it's perfectly possible to get a baby to sleep through the night by 2 or 3 months of age. But be aware that some babies regress between three and four months and begin to wake up more frequently and feed more often.


"If you jump in and turn on all the lights, start playing with them, and basically have a party in the middle of the night, they will continue to wake up," Altmann said.
"I usually tell parents if every time you wake up there was chocolate cake on your nightstand, you would start eating it every night and you would wake up expecting it," she said. "Same with babies, right?"
 

4. Not burping baby properly


One of the key mistakes many new parents can make is failing to take the time to properly burp their newborn. 
"I think many new parents are nervous about handling their newborn," said Gannon. "They will often put the baby down quickly after feeding because they are scared they aren't holding it properly."

The result of failing to burp is that the baby may spit up and gag, losing some of that precious milk, or wake up in an hour or so screaming in pain. 
"I'm getting calls all the time where parents say that the baby is really peaceful after feeding, but then baby wakes up screaming and is up for the next 2 1/2 hours," added Gannon. "My favorite line is 'cheat the baby, cheat yourself.' If you cheat the baby out of a good burp and fail to get all of that air out, you and the baby are both going to suffer."


There are several burping techniques you can try until you find the one that works best for your baby. In the most well-known, the-over-the-shoulder burp, you place your baby high on your chest with her chin resting on your shoulder and face turned to one side, tummy firmly against the chest. Pat or rub the baby's back gently until she burps. 
"It might take you an additional 10 minutes at the end of the feed," said Gannon, "but the baby will be happy."


Another common technique is to place baby face down across your lap, and pat and rub. Other techniques include baby exercises. Lay them on a blanket on the floor and begin bicycling their legs, or moving their legs up and around in a circular motion in each direction.

Gannon finds that a sitting posture works best for her clients. She places the baby sitting upright on her lap, facing the side. Using one hand to support the baby's head in the front (making sure to avoid holding the neck) she puts her other hand on the baby's back.

"Keeping the baby's bottom firmly planted on my lap I move their whole body in a small, slow circular motion to the left for a while, then to the right for a bit," explained Gannon. "I sit the baby upright a few times, and usually get a good, hearty burp, even without a gentle pat on the back."

 

5. Failing to pre-burp


Most of us think about burping after the baby eats. But experts say that you should also take the time to pre-burp your baby.


"I try to pre-burp baby for at least two minutes before starting any feeding," Gannon recommended. "This helps eliminate the common spitting up and gassy problem that newborns often have for the first 30 days."
"If you start out without gas in the stomach, and then do a really good feed and get the gas out at the end, they are going to be much more comfortable and more likely to be happy and content on their own," added Altmann.

6. Mistakes in mixing formula or breastfeeding​
 

Making a mistake measuring formula and water happens often enough in her practice, said Altmann, that she makes it a practice to quiz parents on how they prepare baby's meals. She asks the same of breastfeeding moms, too.

"When I have new babies come into my practice," said Altmann, "whether they are breastfeeding or formula feeding, I take a step back and ask these questions: 'Exactly how are you feeding your baby -- what do they look like when they are latched on? How are you mixing the formula? How are you putting it in the bottle?'"

On occasion she finds that one of the parents might be mixing formula wrong, by making it too concentrated or dilute.


"Usually, it's too dilute," said Altmann. "Then the baby isn't getting enough nutrition and that's when they fail to thrive. You always want to be sure you're reading and following the directions on the formula properly."
And some moms may not have the baby fully latched onto the breast, so while the baby looks like it's nursing, he or she isn't actually swallowing and feeding, said Altmann.
 

"It's a good idea for breastfeeding moms to check in with a lactation consultant if they have any concerns or pain during feedings," said Altmann. "Then check in with your pediatrician regularly to make sure your baby is gaining weight appropriately."

7. Not enough tummy time

Altmann says an unfortunate mistake many new parents make -- and continue to make as baby grows -- is keeping baby constrained in a car seat, bouncy seat or other sleepers.


"I'll see parents out with their baby, at a restaurant, at the park, talking to friends, and they are carrying the baby in the car seat," said Altmann, who is also a spokeswoman for the American Academy of Pediatrics. "I'm always telling parents, 'Car seats are for cars, but don't carry them to and fro in the car seat.'"
Not only can spending too much time reclining create a soft spot on the back of their head, says Altmann, but not interacting with the baby can cause language delays and other issues due to a lack of stimulation. 
"When your baby is not sleeping or not in the car traveling, they really should be on their tummy or held by a parent," Altmann said. "They shouldn't be strapped down, they need to move, stretch, roll and push their head up."
 

8. Under- or overreacting to a fever

Fevers in newborns can be serious. If your baby is younger than three months and develops a fever of 100.4 or higher, call your pediatrician or medical professional immediately. But when it comes to a fever in babies and children older than that, the advice is more complex.

"For the older babies, I'm usually telling parents not to freak out by what the number says on the thermometer," explained Altmann. "Instead, take a close look at your child to figure out what is happening with them, because not every fever needs to be treated."

Look at your baby and observe. Are they drinking fluids? Are they happy and playing? Are they sleeping OK? Are they having any trouble breathing? Those are the questions to ask yourself, Altmann said. Experts say most fevers are harmless, and likely the result of a mild infection.

"Don't just treat the number on the thermometer," Altmann added. "It doesn't matter if it's 101 or 103.5, it's more important how they are acting."

9. Proper temperature for baby in the home


Another concern for parents: how warm or cool their baby should be. Shu said she is often asked by parents for the proper temperature setting for the home. The answer, she says, depends on the time of year and the insulation of the home, but in general "a thermostat setting around 68 to 72 is probably comfortable for baby."

While Shu says she thinks many parents keep baby too warm, Gannon has found the opposite. At homes in her practice, she said, new parents may have their baby in a T-shirt and diaper, unswaddled. She said a baby's skin should always be warm, not hot or cold, to the touch.


"If the baby is chilled, then his body will need to burn extra calories to raise his body temperature, instead of those calories going toward a healthy weight gain," said Gannon. "So even if the baby is feeding well, he or she may not be developing properly because they have to burn a lot of calories trying to get warm."

Shu warns that newborns don't have good circulation at first, so "having cool hands and feet is normal."

10. Taking newborns into crowded places​

Some parents want to take their newborn to a large family gathering so everyone can ooh-and-awww over their tiny miracle. That could be a mistake, experts said.

"It does scare me a bit when I see newborns out and about, especially during cold and flu season," said Altmann. "The first two months of your baby's life, you really need to protect them from exposure to germs and people that are potentially sick. Your baby's immune system is weak, and still growing and developing."


That doesn't mean you can't leave the house, however. Experts encourage daily walks and say it's fine to sit in your backyard or on the front porch.
"But don't take them to crowded spaces," Altmann said. "That's when you can expose them to people who potentially have the flu or another contagious illness that could spread, even if they are a few feet away."
 


Hiring a Personal Assistant

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Life is busy.  The more hours we work, the more hours we lose for doing personal administration and other important life tasks. Regardless of the lifestyle you lead, more and more people are looking to hire a part time personal assistant to help ease their admin and workload.  But what are the benefits of hiring a part time personal assistant?  Do you need to be a multi-millionaire to afford one?  What gains will you see?

Here is our guide and industry secrets in hiring an incredible part time personal assistant and how it will change your life!

Time is Precious

There are only 24 hours in the day, and unless you’ve created a magic remedy to stop us sleeping, half of these hours are lost to sleep.  The remaining hours consist of family life, work and play.

In modern households, families and individuals look to maximise their time, and most importantly their free time to focus on the things that they enjoy most.  Looking for help and support in the household is a valued and respected request.

Looking for help and support in the household is a valued and respected request. 

For example, families will hire Housekeepers (part time and full time) to look after their homes, Nannies to help care for their children, Chefs to help with daily cooking and Chauffeurs to help with driving.  So what benefit does a part time personal assistant bring?

Flexibility

Hiring a part time personal assistant gives you flexibility.  With a modest budget of £50 a week, you could hire a remote PA to manage 5 hours of your diary/emails and other ‘life admin’ duties.  They don’t have to come into your property, with the digital world we operate in, most things can be done remotely.

The part time personal assistant can dedicate this time to freeing up yours, giving you those precious hours back to spend time with your family, relax or focus on your business and work.  Some clients with a higher budget look to hire a PA for 10, 15, 20 or even 25 hours a week.

Typically in the UK, expect to pay between £10-20 per hour depending on the role and where the position is based.

How to Hire a Part Time Personal Assistant?

Decide what you need.  Is it 5 hours support or 25?  Does the PA need to be based in your property or office, or can they work remotely?  Write down everything you need in the part time personal assistant.
Identify your biggest time drains.  Once these are identified then a part time personal assistant will be able to focus on these tasks in order to best free up your time.
Write a job spec.  It’s important it’s clear and the more detail you include, the easier the candidate will be able to apply. If you are self-recruiting, make sure you check references and fully vet the candidate.  Alternatively, you can work through a professional agency to give you peace of mind.
Interview.  Create a shortlist of candidates and then interview each one.  The part time personal assistant will often represent you – they will be your voice and send emails on your behalf, so it is important you feel that they reflect you and your brand.
Trial.  Give them a short trial.  This is key to identifying if they are the right person for the job.
Offer them a contract.  Give them job security, and in return, they will give you job commitment.  Ideally, you want them to commit to a long term position as it will take your time and energy getting them to speed. And hiring a replacement is also very time consuming.

Some Extra Tips

Always look to develop your communication.  Your part time personal assistant can only be as good as the communication they receive, especially if they are working remotely. It’s vital you clearly communicate what you need and ensure that clear follow-ups are made, otherwise, they could lose precious time doing tasks which aren’t relevant.
Incentivise in positive ways.  This could be small gifts or bonuses or just regular reviews and positive feedback. All personal assistants like to feel they are doing a good job, and if you reward them with your gratefulness they will reward you with hard work!
Do things by the book.  Depending on the country you reside in, guidelines will vary when hiring a part time personal assistant. Make sure you check with your local government guidelines and do things by the book!

So what are you waiting for?  Now is the time to find a wonderful part time personal assistant and see the major difference it can have on your personal and business life.  We’d love to hear from you, so why not drop us a line and we can chat through how best we can help you.

Polo and Tweed


The Phenomenon Of Baby Nurses

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By SARA BERMAN | March 11, 2008
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Tomorrow will be my baby nurse's last day with my family. I'm not sure whom I feel worse for: myself or the baby. Six weeks into this gig, I hope the baby hasn't become completely accustomed to twice-daily baths, around-the-clock attention, careful burping, and long massages. But Nate, like his brothers and sisters before him, will survive on fewer baths, fewer massages, and — there's no delicate way to say this — far, far less attention.

According to an agency that places baby nurses in the tristate area (British American Newborn Care) a baby nurse is a non-medical newborn specialist who is highly experienced in infant care. Baby nurses work in private homes and care for newborns typically from the day the baby arrives home through a period of several weeks or months. Normally, they provide 24-hour care and "assist new and experienced parents in every aspect of newborn care and may also help establish eating and sleeping patterns."

In other words, they're glorified, uniform-clad nannies who diaper, burp, bathe, swaddle, rock, and if you want, feed the baby 24 hours a day. They are not — in case you were confused — nurses.

If there is one peculiar element to having a baby in a certain slice of New York, it is the assumption that you will have a baby nurse. If you type the words "baby nurse" into any search engine, you will see that the majority of the links are in the tristate area. They may have baby nurses in California and Georgia, but those baby nurses are, in fact, likely to be registered nurses — and their employers are more likely to be having triplets than single births.

At roughly $200 a day, though, having a baby nurse can really add up.

"Worth every penny," an acquaintance told me about her baby nurse. "We could barely afford our rent when we had our first child. But neither of us had any family in New York. And neither of us had ever changed a diaper. The grandparents pooled together and gave the baby nurse as a gift. It was the best gift ever."

Cramped city living, not exactly conducive to having the in-laws move in for a week or two, is compatible with a baby nurse, who shares the room with the newborn. Giving the gift of a baby nurse is one way to make nice with your daughter-in-law.

One couple with far greater means never let the baby nurse go. "The baby was going to be a year old," the father of three said about his first child, "and we still had the nurse. The nurse would go on and on about what a hard night she had had with the baby, and I'm thinking, suuure you did. Finally, I convinced my wife that enough was enough. But sure enough, when we had our second child, the same baby nurse just moved back in. This time, she stayed for eight or nine months. I'm pretty embarrassed to admit that," he said, while calculating how much he paid the baby nurse over the course of his three children: at least $200,000.

My question is this: Who assists new and experienced parents in every aspect of newborn care across the rest of the country?

"When I was pregnant with my first, I had heard of people using baby nurses," a friend who had her first two children in Chicago said. "But I didn't really know any myself. My mom came and stayed with us for the first week or two. She showed me how to diaper and bathe the baby. And then my mother-in-law came for a few days. I've never been so sad to see my mother-in-law leave. All of a sudden, I was on my own, and it was pretty brutal."

A mother of three who lived in different parts of the South when she had her children said that no one she knew used a baby nurse. "Having a lot of help is normal in New York, but it isn't in most parts of the country," she said. "That's partially economic and partially cultural. I had help when I had my third baby, but that meant I had someone come to clean my house, or baby-sit my other children."

There are plenty of New Yorkers who'd rather spend the money on anything but a baby nurse. "I don't really understand why people have baby nurses," an Upper West Side mother of three said. "The baby and baby nurse sleep all day, while you cook and clean and look after the other kids. For a lot less, you could find someone who does a lot more."

I happen to think that if you can afford it, a good baby nurse does wonders to smooth the transition for the first few weeks of a baby's life — for the baby and for the entire family.

A few weeks ago, my 5-year-old daughter, Kira, heard the baby nurse coo to Nate, "You are so cute, I could eat you up."

"Go ahead," Kira said, deadpan. When the baby nurse later teased that she was going to take Nate home, you can imagine Kira's response.

"Good," she snarled.

Perhaps it is Kira's mental state that I should be worried about on Thursday — not the baby's.

bababynurses.com 

How to Prepare Your Skin for a Treatment

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article by Gloria Cavallaro for charlotte's book

photo from charlotte's book

The big events in your life require their fair share of prep-work. As such, having a treatment done, particularly of the more intensive kind, like Fraxel resurfacing, medium or VI peelsmedical facials, and dermal fillers, is no exception. And while noninvasive treatments aren’t as monumental as, say, your run in the New York Marathon or the launch of your new company, the days before any rejuvenating aesthetic treatment (even so mild as microdermabrasion) require your utmost attention and preparation, just as well. We spoke with Julie Russak, MD and Dr. Amanda Doyle of Russak Dermatology Clinic in New York City to make sure you get the most of your treatments.

BE MINDFUL OF YOUR INTAKE

Optimal preparation for treatment isn’t limited to external measures, especially when it comes to injectables and other treatments that have a tendency to cause bruising. According to Dr. Russak, “It is actually very important to avoid certain foods and supplements a few days before and after treatment, like fish oil and red wine, which are blood thinners.” She says this because blood thinners increase chances of bruising and slow down the healing process. In fact, alcohol in general has been shown in studies to be a blood thinner, with red wine causing the most negative effects on coagulation. So it’s best not to consume any alcohol, particularly red wine, several days before intensive treatments. But when it comes to facials and peels, there are no food alerts. So, beyond a basic facial or peel it’s best to be cautious and speak with your doctor or esthetician about your routine diet, supplements, and prescriptions to know what you should avoid that might interfere with your treatment.

PLAN AHEAD

Most treatments require small changes in your normal routine, so giving yourself ample prep-time is ideal. Dr. Russak recommends, “Normally, 4 days prior to treatment is plenty of time to prep.” To ensure you’re able to make the necessary adjustments, book your appointment at least a week out, and be sure to ask your doctor or aesthetician about the preparation needed for your specific treatment well in advance.

TAKE A PILL

Certain treatments, like lasers or fillers, can cause minor discomfort, and taking an over-the-counter pain reliever prior to treatment can be very helpful. “Tylenol before a treatment is always a good pain reliever and anti-inflammatory,” Dr. Russak says. But the pros don’t put the responsibility of pain management in your hands alone. “Depending on the treatment, there are many options we offer to provide the highest level of comfort, such as numbing cream and ice packs.” Taking an Advil or Tylenol may give you confidence you need to endure the pain, but be assured that the experts will do their best to maximize your comfort.

SIMPLIFY YOUR SKINCARE

Sometimes, the at-home products that wield that best results are the ones with harsh ingredients that can cause more harm than good when applied before treatment. That is why it’s best to set them aside in the days leading up to your appointment. Do not use Retinoids and stronger HA (hydroxy acids) 3 days prior to a facial. The reason is that Retinoids and HA work wonders but they can make your skin red and sensitive. Even some medical grade facials I combine with peels of varying strength, 30% Lactic, 2% Salicylic, or 20% Glycolic, for example. Peels have so many benefits: great for acne, sun damage, fine lines, and wrinkles. They make your skin softer, smoother, and give you a glow, but if a client’s skin is sensitive, I can’t provide these benefits.


29 Halloween Party Ideas Kids Will Love

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article by Katherine Stahl for PopSugar

photo by Ella Claire Inspired

Hosting a kid-friendly Halloween bash? Look no further for some spook-tacular ideas that will appeal to children of all ages and their parents. While candy and other sweets (we've got you covered more than 100 party-ready Halloween treat ideas) are a must, if you want to make your event truly memorable, it's time to think beyond the candy bowl. From cute ways to turn your home into a not-so-scary haunted house to games featuring monsters, mummies, and more, the following 31 ideas are sure to take your party from "boo" to boo-tiful! Get ready to impress all the little witches, superheroes, and princesses in your life!

1. Mummy Door

Wrap your front door with medical gauze and stick on some big yellow paper eyes for an undead welcome.

2. Monster Toss

Get inspired by this DIY monster toss board, which also makes for a fun cornhole idea!

3. Skeleton Backdrop

No Halloween party is complete without a frightfully fun photo backdrop, and this chalk one is positively bone-chilling.

4. Silly (Not Scary) Food

According to Pinterest, all Halloween food needs to look like severed fingers or mummies. If your toddler is like ours, they won't eat something if it looks at all different than what they expect. For young kids, it's probably better to avoid anything too creepy or outlandish — consider the goal is to keep them fed and satisfied and parents relaxed. Comforting a terrified toddler should not be on the menu.

5. Halloween Books

Sometimes kids need a space to sit back and relax, especially in social settings. Consider having a few Halloween-inspired books out. This will give children a chance to recharge and parents a chance to read and bond with their child over a new story. If you're feeling really generous, these would also make great party favors, so if a book happens to get chewed on a little, it won't be a big deal.

6. Mummy Mason Jars

No need to be crafty for this Halloween project! All you need are a few glass containers, googly eyes, and a bit of gauze to create mummy jars for holding candy or candles or for being centerpieces.

7. Dangling Doughnuts

The kids will love the treats, and you'll get a kick out of watching them try to eat them. See more of the dangling doughnuts game.

8. Bobbing for Apples

Just because it's an oldie doesn't mean it's not a goodie! See more bobbing for apples here.

9. Mummy Pumpkins

Mummy pumpkins are adorable indoors or out. Make them in advance as decor or get your guests involved and turn it into a fun activity.

10. Pumpkin Ring Toss

Pumpkins of any size will do the trick. See more pumpkin ring toss ideas.

11. Balloon Spiders

These giant balloon spiders will scare unsuspecting trick-or-treaters and party-goers.

12. Pin the Spider on the Web

This is an easy DIY, or check out the free printable. See more of the pin the spider on the web game.

13. Decoupage Leaves Pumpkin

Use the abundance of Fall foliage to inspire your kiddo's pumpkin. Let them go on a scavenger hunt for their favorite leaves before crafting their unique decoupage pumpkin.

14. Mummy Hot Dogs

Store-bought dough and hot dogs quickly become edible mummies with this clever recipe from We Know Stuff.

15. Pumpkin and Skelton Balloons

Create these spookily easy jack-o'-lantern, ghost, and skeleton balloons for Halloween party decor that packs a big punch.

16. Witch's Brew

There's no way your little one will be able to resist the radioactive green color of this lime Jell-O and Sprite mocktail. (Skip the vodka, of course.)

17. Doughnut Pumpkins

Not in the mood for carving pumpkins at your party? These doughnut pumpkins are an adorable alternative.

18. Monster Tote

This stylish monster tote bag DIY is perfect for Halloween and beyond and makes the perfect party favor.

19. Spooky Piñata

Just in case the kiddos need an opportunity for even more candy — or an outlet for their sugar-induced energy — consider letting them swing at a seasonal piñata ($52).

20. Barfing Pumpkin With Dip

Give crab dip (or any dip your kiddos love) a fun spin with this exploding pumpkin. It's a little gross in theory, but hey, kids love gross things.

21. Halloween STEM Games

Teaching kids how to think critically is a big element of the Common Core and STEM programs. Just because a party is supposed to be fun doesn't mean you can't dip their toes into the learning pool. Have kids guess the weight of various pumpkins or how many candy corn pieces are in a jar. Prizes and bragging rights will ensure that toddlers will not want to wait for next year's party.

22. Homemade Face Paint

Make your own homemade paints and set up a face-painting station.

23. Pumpkin Halloween Surprise Balls

These adorable little crepe pumpkins hide a sweet surprise!

24. Fang Cookies

Your guests will love sinking their teeth into these vampire-inspired fang cookies.

25. Pumpkin Patch Stomp

The kid who can stomp the most in a certain amount of time wins! Trust us — it's harder than it sounds. See the pumpkin patch stomp game.

26. Pumpkin Lollipop Holder

This creative lollipop holder can be made with a synthetic foam pumpkin and a treat of your choice.

27. Mini Cat Piñata

You know what's better than one big piñata? Three mini ones! Etsy seller CactusPears's mini cat piñatas ($27 for three) mean more of your little guests can get in on the fun. Each piata has a trap door so you can fill it with confetti and candy.

28. Pumpkin Run

Grab a bunch of mini pumpkins and you instantly have a fun activity. See more mini pumpkin games.

29. Skeleton Party Crackers

These skeleton party crackers ($22 for six), made by party company Meri Meri and sold through Land of Nod, will start the Halloween fun off with a bang. Each cracker contains a temporary tattoo, a party hat, and a joke.


How To Order Sushi, According To A Nutritionist

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article by Keri Glassman for charlotte's book

image from charlotte's book

Sushi is generally a low-calorie meal compared to standard Western dinners, and the main components are all nutritious foods. Fish is a good source of lean protein and omega-3s, AKA the healthy fats I love. Many rolls contain veggies like cucumbers, carrots, and avocado (okay, I know, it’s a fruit, but it adds even more healthy fat!), and seaweed, especially nori, is packed with essential vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A, B, C, E, and K, plus calcium and iron.

Those healthy components come with a few caveats, though, and there are many places on the menu where the idea of a totally healthy meal can start to smell a little fishy. American-style sushi can have a lot of calories and carbs from all that rice, mayo-based sauces, and fried veggies or fish (or come in massive, overstuffed sizes).

THE “BAD” SUSHI LIST

Skip anything fried, which is often referred to as tempura, or “crunchy.” Avoid spicy tuna rolls, since the “spicy” sauce is filled with mayo, Philadelphia rolls, which are packed with cream cheese, and any super-sized options.

THE “GOOD” SUSHI LIST

Eat rolls that are made with just plain fish and veggies, and ask for brown rice if the place offers it. Better yet, order a cup of rice and then fill the rest of your plate with sashimi, which is just the plain fish without the rice. This way you can eat your preferred amount of rice throughout the meal. You’ll still get plenty of flavor, especially since you should pile on the wasabi and ginger. Both are filled with antioxidants.

DON’T JUST ORDER SUSHI

Supplement with other super healthy Japanese foods, like edamame, miso soup (which is great for your gut health), seaweed salad, and other salads with ginger dressing, so you don’t end up going overboard on the rolls (and the rice).

KEEP THE MERCURY LOW

If you’re eating sushi once in a blue moon this won’t be an issue, but if you’re eating it regularly, you should try to choose fish that are lower in mercury, like shrimp, scallops, eel, and salmon and avoid or go light on those that are highest, like tuna. The NRDC has a handy list of which fish in sushi has the highest and lowest levels.

The above post was originally published on Keri Gassman’s Nutritious Life Blog, but we thought it was fascinating enough to include here, too. 


8 Reasons Positive Discipline Is Still Discipline

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article by Laura Lifshitz of PopSugar

photo by Aaron Courter

Positive discipline is essentially when you focus on your child's behaviors and choices as good or bad and reward the good behaviors. There is no such thing as a "bad" kid when it comes to positive discipline, and a lot of schools and parents are taking on this way of rearing, raising, and helping kids grow.

But still, there are the naysayers — especially parents of the previous generation — who say that perhaps we are all "too soft" on our kids with this positive parenting nonsense. To the older generation, this is us going too easy on our kids.

"Back in my day, kids behaved the right way!"
"A good spanking got you and your siblings to behave!"

Although each generation of parents tends to have its own unique method of parenting, for some reason the previous generations seem to believe that children can't learn to behave unless they are frightened to death or scared. And perhaps for some kids, the scare tactic approach works. For me it didn't, and for many other kids it doesn't work (in my opinion). I truly think that for positive parenting skeptics, they ought to open their minds to the idea that perhaps children can learn to make great choices without being afraid. That rewarding good choices and focusing on the positives of each individual child can result in a healthy, strong adult.

Need more evidence? Read through for eight reasons positive disciplining is still disciplining.

1. Focusing on the Bad Brings on the Bad; Doing the Opposite Brings on the Good!

Think about it logically. When you focus on something bad that happens to you, the rest of the day seems worse. Do you really think it's any different in regard to behavior? If you focus on all of the bad things your kid does, I can guarantee you your child will do more bad things. Why? Well, he or she will grow to assume that he or she is only capable of doing bad things and therefore is not a worthy person.

When you place your standards and expectations of someone low, he or she is bound to match those standards.

Positive discipline works because it teaches a child that he or she has so much worth and is capable of doing great things. A child who has self-worth is a happy and well-behaved child most of the time.

2. Fear Teaches Kids to Retreat or Fight

If you scream at someone, what happens? The person typically either screams back, runs away, or possibly hits.

Anger only begets anger. Or worse, retreat. Your child will indeed fear you if that's what you want, but how does fear teach a child to develop self-esteem and monitor his or her own actions later in life? Simply with fear. There is a difference between fear and respect.

Respect makes you want to honor a person, even if you don't always agree with him or her. Fear makes you want to avoid, scare, or protect yourself from someone.

Scaring kids into behaving doesn't mean they will become a good adult as time goes on! Positive discipline allows parents, teachers, and caregivers to reinforce good behaviors, extinguish bad behaviors, and maintain respect without weighing on fear to do the job.

The other factor is eventually fear can turn into one of two things: complete avoidance or complete rebellion.

What happens as your child grows older and, in some cases, bigger than you? All of your fear tactics will hold a lot less power as your child grows into a teen. And it would be worse if your child was so afraid of you that in the long run, he or she doesn't turn to you when there are problems and issues in his or her life.

3. Positive Discipline Does Not Reward Bad Behavior

If you shower a kid with negative attention most of the time, that kid is going to behave badly in order to get your focus. When a teacher or caregiver uses positive discipline, the good behaviors have center stage. When you give a child a lot of attention for being good, there is a reward for them to repeat these great choices.

4. Focusing on the Behavior — Not the Child — Teaches Kids to Work on Their Choices

It's not fun feeling like you "messed" up or are not liked or respected. When you use language that focuses on children's choices and not who they are intrinsically as people, you give kids the chance to focus on their actions. The reality is we all have to make a choice each second of each day. So if we and our children feel as though we have opportunities to tweak and build on the choices that we have made, we can then feel good about ourselves in the learning process!

Letting children know that while you love them, you don't always love their choices also lets them feel loved for who they are — imperfect and flawed! If you tell a child she's "bad," do you truly think she will work hard on her choices to change, or will see feel defeated or like a bad person?

5. Positive Discipline Can Teach Logic and Reasoning

If you're talking to a little one about his choices, chances are he will begin to understand the cause and effect relationship between his choices. The more good feedback you can give your child, the better.

6. Cracking the Whip and Getting Kids to Behave at Will Doesn't Create Independent Thinkers

If your child is frightened into behaving or intimidated into behaving, he or she is being given a blueprint for how to behave — always. That child is not given a choice essentially to make choices and learn right from wrong the old-fashioned way: trial and error. Although you want your kids to respect you, fear will only allow a child to behave in a way that reduces him to anxiety.

7. Rewarding Someone For a Good Choice Is a Great Thing For People of All Ages

No one needs a reward every minute of every day — that would keep anyone from having intrinsic motivation — but everyone likes a reward now and then! When someone notices your child being good, whether it's you or a teacher, to reward them for making the right choice is a form of discipline. It's a reassurance and a notification that this choice was indeed a great choice to make.

8. Ignoring or Giving a Consequence For Negative Behaviors Is Discipline, Minus the Fear

If you have ever ignored your child's bad choice — like whining, for example — in order to get him or her to stop, this is a form of positive parenting discipline. In my opinion, it works way better than yelling at the kid to stop.

Giving a child a consequence for a poor choice is also a form of discipline, although, yes, natural consequences that stem from the bad choice itself are sometimes a more powerful discipline tool. It's also much better than using big, bad fear to get your child to never do that again.

Why? Because like I said before, when your child isn't around you — or stops fearing you — the bad choices will begin again.


Interview with Anita Rogers on Goop.com

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article from Goop 

photo from Goop

Anita Rogers, founder of household staffing agency British American, has more than a decade’s experience in pairing families with household staff, from nannies and butlers to personal assistants and estate managers. She’s earned a reputation for finding successful matches–and also for helping to handle any situation that may arise in the working household. Here, she shares her insights on why hiring for your childcare or home needs is profoundly personal, and how a staffing agency can help with the process.

A Q&A with Anita Rogers

Q: What are the upsides to using an agency?

A: An agency helps you determine what kind of help you really need, and devises the way in which you want your staff to fit your lifestyle. It also saves you time and keeps you safe during the interview process. Some families have limited experience interviewing and hiring childcare and household staff, which makes it easy to miss signs of danger, red flags, or dishonesty. We enforce strict standards as we interview thousands of candidates each year. This has allowed us—and other reputable agencies—to become experts at spotting dishonest references and to be able single out specific personality traits and potential challenges. A staffing agency has seen how similar traits have played out with other candidates, which lends to its ability to find the best fit for you, your family, and your household.

Q: What are the biggest misconceptions about household staffing?

A: Both parties must be willing to give and take in order to find the best match. Often people think they can hire a candidate if they offer a competitive or high salary. Or if a nanny or butler has excellent experience, they might assume they can get a higher salary and an ideal schedule. But staffing is a matchmaking process, and both parties must be satisfied with the relationship and the circumstances in order for it to work.

Q: How do you recognize good talent?

A: It’s a long process—and it’s so much more than just a great résumé and reference letters. We look for candidates that have a balance of experience, training, and education in their field and glowing references from past employers. Other indicators we look for include personality, attitude, flexibility, grammar, responsiveness, and confidence.

The résumé is always the first indicator of talent, where we look at formal level of experience, age appropriate childcare experience, the types of homes an individual has worked in, longevity in previous jobs, and demonstrated professionalism and willingness. We screen all résumés and references and do extensive state, federal, and international background checks, as well as a thorough screening of their social media.

Q: What’s the secret to finding a good match between a family and nanny?

A: Everyone must be on the same page from the very beginning of the process. One family’s dream nanny could be another’s nightmare. It’s imperative that the candidate and the family have a similar approach to raising children, as well as complementary personalities. Someone who is really laid back isn’t going to work well in a formal home that thrives on structure. (The reverse is true as well.) The perfect nanny and family pairing has similar philosophies about discipline, education, and responsibilities. There has to be a mutual respect between the parents and the nanny regarding the decisions made concerning the child. As a parent, if you feel like you have to micromanage and instruct your nanny on how you’d like every situation handled, you will become frustrated and resentful of the situation.

One of the most important factors to consider during the process of finding a good match is assessing the needs and expectations of the family. There’s a huge difference between a parent looking for an extra set of hands to help with driving, activities, and meals and a working parent who needs someone to be the child’s primary caregiver. A take-charge, independent, problem-solving nanny with sole-charge experience isn’t going to thrive as a helper. In the same way, a nanny without the confidence to make decisions on his or her own and proactively foresee situations isn’t the best choice for a family where the parents are gone most of the day. 

Q: Once the hiring process is done, what other support do clients typically need?

A: It depends upon the family. Clients will often come to us for help with communicating with their new employee, especially during the transition process while the employee settles in. We always encourage regular, open and honest communication between both parties. On occasion, we will go into the home as a “manager” and help iron out any small issues that may exist. A relationship between a family and their household employees needs to be nurtured and carefully built, as this is a private home, where discretion is of utmost importance. We encourage clear communication and a weekly sit-down between a family and staff.

Q: If a match doesn’t work out, what is your advice for handling a potential change (or parting ways)?

A: We suggest that each party be gentle but honest about their feelings. The parting should be done with kindness and care so that everyone involved understands that it isn’t a personal attack, just a relationship that has outlived its potential. When hiring staff, you are creating a business in your home. I have seen people distraught if something isn’t working out because they don’t want to offend someone, they don’t want to hurt their feelings.

In certain situations, we’ll go into the residence and let the candidate go so that we can assure it’s done with delicacy. Every situation is very different. We’ve learned it’s best to never point fingers and to make everyone feel good. We directly address and try to resolve any problems, serious or minor, that are brought to our attention, and to support the client or candidate. The ending of a professional relationship can be emotional, particularly if it involves an intimate household setting, so we work to minimize any potential animosity a much as possible.

Q: Is there a difference between a nanny and a career nanny?

A: Most definitely. A typical nanny is different from a career nanny in that they often have a lot of experience with families, but no background or education in child development. Other nanny candidates are great with children and may have teaching degrees or other formal education, but limited in-home experience (typically part-time babysitting work).

A career nanny is someone who has chosen childcare as his or her profession. Most often, these candidates have formal education in child development and/or psychology. This can include a college degree in education or or training from previous jobs. Career nannies also have an employment history of long-term placements in private homes, understand the dynmics of working in a home environment and are great with children. A career nanny knows how to anticipate needs, respect a family’s privacy and space, and handle the logistics of high-end homes. Being in a home is very different than working in a school or daycare; there is no way to prepare or train someone for it, it’s something you learn and understand only after having experienced it.

Q: How have staffing agencies changed over the years?

A: Historically, many agencies have been run by only one or two people. Today, the amount of work it takes to verify backgrounds, interview candidates, and create and nurture relationships is impossible with such a small team. This is a time-intensive business, which is why a larger team with modernized and strict processes is essential.

 

http://goop.com/work/parenthood/how-a-staffing-agency-can-help/


How Prince William and Kate Middleton Plan to Break With Tradition in Their Parenting

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Vogue article by Michelle Ruiz

One day after Prince Harry opened up about his struggles following the death of his mother, Princess Diana, Prince William is also speaking out, vowing that the next generation of royals will be open and honest about their emotions and won’t live by the traditional British stoicism. “There may be a time and a place for the ‘stiff upper lip,’ but not at the expense of your health,” he says in a new interview with CALMzine, the publication for British mental health organization CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably).

In this case, the effort will start at home, Prince William says, with his children, Prince George, 3, and Princess Charlotte, 1. “Catherine and I are clear that we want both George and Charlotte to grow up feeling able to talk about their emotions and feelings,” he said, offering a rare glimpse into the royal couple’s parenting style. “Over the past year we have visited a number of schools together where we have been amazed listening to children talk about some quite difficult subjects in a really clear and emotionally articulate way—something most adults would struggle with.”

This philosophy is a sharp departure from the royal family’s now legendary aversion to showing emotion—a tradition for which his own grandmother may very well be the best example. And while William doesn’t mention her or his own upbringing, he does nod to the antiquated British way of thinking in the new interview. “For too long there has been a taboo about talking about some important issues. If you were anxious, it’s because you were weak. If you couldn’t cope with whatever life threw at you, it’s because you were failing,” he said. “Successful, strong people don’t suffer like that, do they? But of course—we all do. It’s just that few of us speak about it.”

Prince William, who, along with Prince Harry and Kate Middleton (or, “Catherine,” as the royals—and only the royals?—call her), is an ambassador for the British mental health charity Heads Together, also spoke about the importance of mental health awareness in a FaceTime chat with Lady Gaga released today (she from her Los Angeles kitchen and he from his study at Kensington Palace, though he promised they would get together in the U.K. soon). He reportedly reached out after Gaga’s open letter about suffering from PTSD after being sexually assaulted at 19 years old.

“It’s time that everyone speaks up,” Prince William told her. And that’s what you call leading by example.


The Tasty, Time-saving Benefits of Hiring a Personal Chef

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article from Sheknows by Ashlee and Sean McCusker

photo by Real Journeys

Why You Need a Personal Chef

Do you find yourself going to the grocery store and feeling overwhelmed by everything that is on the shelves? With the hectic schedules that we all lead today it can feel like a chore to provide a good home-cooked meal for your family. Wouldn’t it be nice to have someone working in your kitchen, providing delicious – and time-saving – family-friendly meals? Look no further: A personal chef is the stress-free answer to your family’s grocery shopping and cooking needs.

A Personal Chef is Not a Luxury

A personal chef service provides stress-free meals prepared to your specifications in your home. Your kitchen is left spotless with a refrigerator full of delicious meals. Having your own personal chef is not a luxury reserved for the rich. A personal chef service can cost you less than eating out at a moderately priced restaurant. Using a personal chef service can free up 10 to 12 hours of your time every week. Personal chefs are responsible for handling all the menu planning, grocery shopping, cooking, packaging and kitchen cleanup! All you have to do is come home, reheat your food, and you're good to go.

Benefits of a Personal Chef Service

Clients who hire a personal chef generally don't have the time or ability to cook for themselves but have the resources to hire someone else to do it for them. Some clients are too busy with their work or family while others may just want to free up time so they can do the things they enjoy more than grocery shopping and cooking in the kitchen. Other clients might simply be tired of restaurant or take-out food and some may not know how to cook and have no desire to learn. Why a personal chef?

Services That a Personal Chef Service Can Offer:

  • Customize menus specifically for you and your family
  • Do all the grocery shopping
  • Buy only the freshest ingredients available
  • Make delicious healthy meals that you will look forward to eating
  • Take into account any dietary restrictions
  • Cook meals that are always preservative-free
  • Package all materials conveniently
  • Label meals for easy thawing and reheating
  • Leave your kitchen sparkling clean

3 Tips for Picking the Right Personal Chef

Each personal chef will bring something different to your table. Here are a few tips to help you decide which personal chef is right for your family.

1. Interview before hiring. When deciding upon which personal chef to hire, it is important to go with one that shares the same values for you and your family. Before agreeing to personal chef services, ascertain the backgrounds of your potential personal chefs. Find out what drew them to become chefs in the first place.

2. Verify liability insurance. An important consideration is to make sure that the chef in question has liability insurance as well as a food-handlers card. Also follow up on references, and ask for a sample menu to determine if the service will be a good fit for your needs.

3. Value involvement in professional chef organizations. Ask your prospective chefs if they are members of any professional organizations. The ones that are demonstrate not only that they are committed to a strong culinary standard and continuing education, but also that they are aware of the latest trends in the culinary world.


How Eleven Madison Park Became the ‘Best’ Restaurant in the World

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article by Alan Sytsma of Grub Street

photo by Melissa Hom

In 2012, a New Yorker profile laid out the ways in which Daniel Humm and Will Guidara were changing Eleven Madison Park — the restaurant they’d bought from their previous employer Danny Meyer the year before — to help its performance on the annual World’s 50 Best Restaurants ranking. That year, they were 10th — a jump from 24th the year before — and in the time since then, as EMP’s place on the list has steadily risen, they’ve made no secret about their goal to ultimately land the top spot. Today, that happened, when the restaurant was crowned No. 1 at a ceremony in Australia.

Critics can point to flaws with the list itself (such as its continued lack of meaningful female representation), but it is nevertheless very well-established that placement on the list has a tremendous impact on business, and each year’s release is closely followed by the industry. Even people with a casual interest in restaurants will refer to the list’s winner as the “best” restaurant, even though it’s also well-established that, as an actual objective measure of restaurant quality, the list is sort of silly.

It is a list of expensive, world-class restaurants — all of which offer exemplary dining experiences — voted on by chefs, restaurateurs, food writers, and “well-travelled gourmets.” As the official manifesto reads, “There is no pre-determined check-list of criteria,” and voters are free to select whichever spots they prefer. As such, the list is a useful guide to eating $800 dinners, sure, but it’s best read as a look into chefs’ standing, and reputations, among their peers.

In other words, the restaurants that have regularly occupied the list’s top spot in the past — ElBulliNoma, or Osteria Francescana most recently — are the restaurants that the industry is most proud of. Humm and Guidara, who host and attend many industry parties and conferences, are extremely respected and well-liked; voters clearly think that holding them up on a pedestal will be good for the world of fine dining as a whole. And EMP’s co-owners are first-rate ambassadors for the world of hyperexclusive dining: Their restaurant is a modern interpretation of the classic big-city dining temple, proof that “fancy” restaurants, even ones like EMP that are firmly rooted in the European dining tradition, can still feel vital and forward-thinking.

Interestingly, the news comes just as the restaurant is set to close for the summer to renovate and overhaul the menu. The timing may seem somewhat inopportune, but it highlights the way chefs constantly rework their restaurants to stay atop these kinds of international restaurant rankings, where stagnation will cause voters to look elsewhere. Yet, in many ways, the new version of EMP sounds like it will be a natural evolution of the restaurant as it is now.

The current iteration of Eleven Madison Park is just about a decade old. Though the restaurant opened in 1998, Humm took over as chef in 2006. (He and Guidara bought the restaurant from Meyer in 2011.) In an interview with the Times, the partners explained that in addition to updating the kitchen, the dining room will get an overhaul — it will be more comfortable, which makes sense, because comfort is the restaurant’s defining feature. 

ElBulli was a showcase for Ferran Adrià’s fearlessly modern technique and open hostility toward the established pace of a meal at a Michelin-caliber restaurant. Noma, meanwhile, grew to epitomize trends like foraging, traditional preservation techniques, and steadfast commitment to local ingredients. (Not to mention all the earthenware plates you see in every single dining room.) EMP, on the other hand, offers a menu that in many ways is a throwback to traditional luxury ingredients and classic European techniques — a signature dish of Humm’s is celery root or asparagus that’s braised in pig’s bladder and served with black truffle; another dish, “eggs Benedict,” is essentially a caviar course served with homemade English muffins — and sets itself apart with unparalleled warmth and familiarity. Dinner at Eleven Madison Park isn’t about boundary-pushing or avant-garde food; it’s an exercise in opulence and pampering.

That m.o. clearly resonates right now with voters, and with today’s announcement, Humm and Guidara are now the faces of fine dining around the world (just as Redzepi has been for the past decade, and Adrià was before that). The accomplishment is a testament to their talent and determination, of course, as much as it is an indication of the prevailing trends at the highest end of the restaurant world. And just as Adrià’s modernist cooking and Redzepi’s New Nordic aesthetic inspired scores of other chefs, the EMP team’s embrace of unpretentiousness (relatively speaking) and unmatched graciousness should continue to influence other restaurants around the world for many years.


How ‘Downton Abbey’ Fueled China’s Demand for Butlers

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article from New York Times by Chris Buckley and Karoline Kan

photo by Gilles Sabrié

CHENGDU, China — Mao once said that a revolution was not a dinner party. But with the communist revolution turning into opulent capitalism, China’s rich are now making sure the dinner party settings are immaculate and the wine is poured just right.

Inspired in part by the “Downton Abbey” television drama, the country’s once raw and raucous tycoons are aspiring to old-school decorum, fueling demand for the services of homegrown butlers trained in the ways of a British manor.

“What they would like to say to their friends is, ‘Look, I have a butler, an English-style butler in my home,’ to show how wealthy they are,” said Neal Yeh, a Chinese-born Briton living in Beijing, who for over a decade has helped train and find jobs for butlers.

“The country now with the biggest trend in butlers is China,” said Mr. Yeh, whose English accent would be at home on “Downton Abbey,” the television series about a blue blood family in England, which was avidly watched in China. “I dare say I have played a part in starting this trend.”

Butler training schools and agencies have been doing business in China for more than a decade, but the number of recruits has grown sharply in recent years, according to those in the business. Most are Chinese and many are women. The International Butler Academy China opened in 2014 here in Chengdu, a haze-covered city in southwest China, and offers a six-week boot camp on dinner service, managing homes and other minutiae of high living.

“The Chinese are vacationing more now than ever in history, and so they’re being exposed to the West more and more,” said Christopher Noble, an American trainer at the academy who previously ran bars in Cleveland. “But Chinese people see that, experience top-class personal service abroad, and they want to experience it here.”

A boom in butler service might seem incongruous as President Xi Jinping campaigns zealously against corruption and extravagance, and an economic slowdown undercuts lavish spending. But China’s rich continue amassing ever greater fortunes and want what they see as the trappings of respectable refinement. Even under Mr. Xi, butlers are finding growing work as symbols of good taste, according to people in the business.

“You read about an economic slowdown, but China’s wealth is still growing,” said Luo Jinhuan, who has worked as a butler in Shanghai and, most recently, Beijing, after learning the job in Holland. “Old money has passed from one generation to the next. But the new money doesn’t have the same quality. You need to help them improve.”

If butlers symbolize maturing Chinese capitalism, the somewhat awkward status they have here also reflects how the rich in China must play by different rules than the wealthy in many other countries.

It often comes down to a lack of trust. Wealth in China, where a cutthroat business culture is pervasive, comes with insecurity about being brought low by resentful employees, rivals, and officials, especially with the continuing crackdown against corruption. That wariness discourages many millionaires from hiring their own Jeeves to run their homes, people in the business said.

“Some of them discover that in reality they can’t trust an outsider to manage the household,” said Tang Yang, a marketing director at the butler academy. “They’re unwilling to have a butler who knows all the information about the family.”

Relatively few graduates of the academy end up as traditional household butlers. Instead, many work in high-end clubs, housing estates and executive floors, serving several clients at the same time — not with the same intimacy as a personal butler.

Promoters of butlers in China often point out that the country has its own tradition of high-end service, and the classical Chinese novel, “Dream of the Red Chamber,” features traditional butlers, called “guanjia,” or “domestic manager,” in Mandarin. But “Downton Abbey” helped rekindle a new romanticized interest in old-school service in China.

Many student butlers here said they had watched and rewatched the show as an instruction video on the self-effacing unflappability of domestic service.

“I only began to grasp this profession of butlers after watching ‘Downton Abbey,’” said Xu Shitao, a 34-year-old Beijing native studying at the Chengdu academy. “I think that in the future this profession will be quite popular and will have a market.”

But Ms. Xu and her classmates have found that, in reality, being a butler is strenuous work.

On a recent morning, they practiced for hours, learning to serve wine and water the proper way. Again and again, the class of eight clasped a wine bottle near its bottom and stepped forward in unison around a dinner table to dispense just enough wine to reach the widest part of a wine glass.

Not a drop was to splash the tablecloth or, heaven forbid, a guest.

“Stretch, pour, up, twist, back, wipe. Try to extend your arm,” Mr. Noble commanded, using his ever-present translator. “You want to be able to extend your arm as much as possible. You’re doing a ballet.”

Students also take classes on serving formal dinners, packing luggage, cleaning house and countless other details of managing life for the rich.

“You have to get the details right to do your job right,” said Yang Linjun, a 22-year-old student in the class. “Your arms get sore and your hands hurt, but this is a lifestyle.”

After they graduate, many hope to attach themselves to China’s growing number of superrich. In return, they may earn monthly wages of $2,800 or much higher as personal butlers, depending on experience and luck — more than for many service jobs.

By 2015, China had 400 billionaires and billionaire families, an increase of 65 from just a year earlier, according to Forbes’ annual list. The country’s richest 1 percent own about one-third of household wealth, a share similar to the concentration of wealth in America.

Manners can be rough in China, sometimes in a warm way, sometimes less so. But that has been changing as people grow richer, travel and live abroad, and bring back a demand for polished, attentive service.

“A decade ago, very few Chinese people stayed in five-star hotels,” said Yang Kaojun, a property manager with the Summit Group, which employs teams of trained butlers who are at the beck and call of residents. “But now many people have, and that’s given them some understanding of what good service is.”

As well as the Chengdu academy, the Sanda University, a private college in Shanghai, has incorporated butler training into its hospitality program. Many Chinese also learn how to be butlers in Europe. And Sara Vestin Rahmani, the founder of the Bespoke Bureau, a British company that finds domestic staff members for wealthy employers, said her company planned to open a school for butlers and domestic staff people in China this year.

The number of butlers in China is hard to determine. There may be hundreds or thousands, especially in Beijing, Shanghai and the prosperous south. Ms. Rahmani said that in 2007 her company found positions in China for 20 butlers; by 2015 that number had grown to 375, including 125 with families. Others reported similar growth.

“We are in actual fact exporting to China a trade which was once their own,” Ms. Rahmani said. “With communism, everything that was refined, unique and upper-class became a distant memory.”

But Chinese employers often treat butlers as expensive all-purpose flunkies who should be on call 24 hours a day. That violated the traditional idea of a butler as a respected manager of the household and above most menial tasks. Ms. Luo, the butler, said her work was far more hectic than she imagined. Her daily routine included overseeing the sauna, cinema, bowling alley and other rooms in a 32,000-square-foot home.

“I feel that when work starts, there’s no time at all to stop and rest,” she said. “It’s a lot harder than working in a hotel.”

The pressure is compounded by employers’ fears that household servants could exploit sensitive information. Butlers are supposed to have a deep knowledge of their employers’ every foible, traditionally recorded in a book. But the worry that information could be used to rob, extort or prosecute them has discouraged many rich people from taking butlers into their confidence.

“Many of our wealthy are the first generation to be rich, and they don’t have a long accumulation of family history,” said Mr. Yang, the student at the butler academy in Chengdu, who works for a real estate company. “You need trust and a long period of adjustment to have another person suddenly by your side.”


Bringing Down Bébé: How One Mother Mistakenly Hoped a Year in Paris Would Transform Her Sons

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article by Danzy Senna for Vogue

photo by Steven Simko

 

Inspired by a spate of books extolling the French way, Danzy Senna hoped a year in Paris would transform her all-American sons into model citizens. Au contraire.

One afternoon, a few weeks after we arrived in Paris, I took my sons to a playdate at the home of two French boys who lived in the neighborhood. Their mother, Christine, was like a poster girl for all I’d heard about Frenchwomen: Tall, thin, and effortlessly stylish, she was raising two sons while managing a career as a lawyer. She welcomed us into her pristine Saint-Germain apartment. My younger son, Miles, age four, raced past her down the hall in search of toys. My older son, Henry, age six, hid behind me, muttering hello only after I’d prompted him. She led me to the dining room, where I found an unfamiliar spectacle: her two sons, the same ages as mine, quietly curled over the table with pens and paper. They were dressed like miniature businessmen, with haircuts to match. The younger one appeared to be drawing a picture. Fine; my kids did that too. But the other one, the six-year-old, was intently writing down a row of math problems in one column and their answers in the other.

“Homework?” I asked Christine.

“No,” she said with a light laugh. “He just enjoys math.”

Her sons rose at the sight of me and, unbidden, held out their outstretched hands to shake. They said their bonjours before lifting their faces so that we could kiss on each cheek. Then Christine told her sons to go play, and they marched off, obediently, to join mine. When she disappeared into the kitchen, I peeked at the page of math problems, perversely pleased to see that many of the boy’s answers were wrong. Christine returned with tea and a plate of brightly colored macarons. We sat together, chatting, and I found myself relaxing. This was just as I’d imagined my life in Paris—me enjoying adult time while my children played independently. I’d imagined civility as something that people, even raucous American children like mine, could catch, like a bug.

The official reason we were in Paris was that my husband had a sabbatical from his university professorship in L.A. We’d decided to uproot the family for the year to give the boys a cross-cultural adventure. We wanted them to grow up worldly and bilingual. And for me, it was more than that. I was not sure I liked the overly precious culture in which I was raising them. In preparation, I felt I had to read Pamela Druckerman’s playground sensation Bringing Up Bébé. I was horrified to see myself in the book’s descriptions of the overindulgent American parent. My kids represented everything that was wrong with our country. They made too much noise in restaurants. They were picky eaters, to the point where I often cooked them two separate meals at night. Their toys lay scattered all around the house, as if to mark the territory they’d won. My husband and I had not had a conversation that didn’t revolve around them in years. I was forever sleep deprived. And long after giving birth I still looked, well, a little bit pregnant. Once, in a yoga class, the teacher asked me if I was expecting. “Actually,” I lied, “I just gave birth.” She congratulated me, and I waited until she was out of earshot to add, “Four years ago.”

Druckerman wasn’t alone in extolling the virtues of the French. In the same way that Julia Child once introduced American women to the exquisiteness of French cuisine, an entire cottage industry has grown around the idea that when it comes to living, Frenchwomen do it better. Consider French Kids Eat Everything; Forever Chic: Frenchwomen’s Secrets for Timeless Beauty, Style and Substance;or the upcoming French Women Don’t Get Facelifts, by Mireille Guiliano, of the original French Women Don’t Get Fat. The list goes on. We’ve always admired their fashion; now it seems they’ve become standard-bearers for every facet of our existence. In contrast to our American child-ruled ways, French mothers apparently practice some elegant form of detachment parenting, which is why they look so much better than we do, and also why their kids are so much better behaved.

At home in L.A., my husband and I were at least aware of the problem. Whenever our sons complained that they were bored, my husband would reply, “This isn’t a cruise ship, it’s your childhood.” But the world outside our door sometimes seemed to be arguing otherwise. One mother I knew admitted she’d taken to asking her ten-year-old daughter on occasion: “How do you think your childhood is going so far? Pretty good?”

I’d always been susceptible to parenting manuals. When the boys were small, I read a book on attachment parenting that convinced me I’d already done them deep psychic harm. I’d failed to give birth to them in a bathtub. I’d failed to wear them strapped to my body all day in a sling while I cleaned and cooked and tended crops in the field. I’d failed to nurse them until they told me it was OK to stop. As a result, I learned they were doomed to be obese, anxious, and somewhat dim.

It was in some ways refreshing to read Bringing Up Bébé—except that it turns out I’d messed up my kids by being too attached. Frenchwomen didn’t believe that hoo-hah about “you’re only as happy as your saddest child.” Frenchwomen nursed for only as long as they felt like it. Frenchwomen didn’t feel the need to follow their toddlers around the park in earth shoes, interpreting their experiences for them. But, according to the book, it wasn’t too late. I could still turn this cruise ship around. And here we were, in Paris, determined to make our kids tough, gritty, independent, and exceedingly polite in two languages. They were going to attend the local public school, where they could put the French they’d been practicing to good use. International schools, I’d been told by the admissions director of a French lycée in Los Angeles, were for wimpy Americans who wanted to just have “a nice year.” We didn’t want a nice year. We wanted a French year.

I nibbled Christine’s macarons and asked her the question posed to Frenchwomen through the ages: How do you do it? I swept my hand around her apartment. Taking my question literally, she explained that she had it all down to a system. She saw the kids on Monday evenings, Thursday afternoons, and then Saturday mornings were reserved for their grandparents, and then. . . .

From the back of the apartment came a loud crash, followed by a scream. The dreamscape was shattered. I rose and followed Christine toward the commotion, trying to think of a way to explain my children. I’d tell her there was something wrong with them, that they’d been officially diagnosed with a mental disorder—something vague but clinical-sounding, like oppositional defiance disorder—and then I’d get us the hell out of there.

But when we reached the back of the apartment, we found her older son straddling his younger brother on the floor, clutching his neck tightly, while the smaller one flailed around beneath him, his face turning scarlet. My two sons stood at the sidelines, each clutching a toy car, watching with mouths slightly open.

“Ça suffit!” Christine shouted, leaning down to pull the one brother off the other. She slapped the older one swiftly several times on his bottom and then helped the younger one to his feet, berating them both in a tone I have yet to master.
If I was looking to the Old World for help with parenting, it was probably because I had no cultural tradition to draw from in my own background. The only tradition in my family, going back on both sides for generations, was to break with tradition. One of my grandmothers was an Irish playwright from Dublin; the other grandmother was an African-American jazz musician from the Deep South; one grandfather was a blue-blood Harvard law professor turned civil rights activist; the other grandfather was a professional lightweight boxer from Nuevo León, Mexico.

I was raised in 1970s cultural chaos. Dinner was tacos one night, spaghetti the next. My mother’s idea of discipline was to occasionally throw shoes at us while shrieking, “I can’t take this anymore!” Other times she just laughed at our misbehavior like an older teenage sister. Once, when I was eight or nine, she told me her theory that everyone had two ages, an actual age and a spiritual age. “For example,” she said, “I’m always going to feel seventeen.” She glanced at me through cigarette smoke. “And you’re always going to feel 40.”

I once saw a sculpture by the artist Charles Ray that seemed to sum up the American family as I’d known it: four naked mannequins—a mother, a father, a young boy, and a toddler girl—standing in a row, holding hands. They appear at first glance to be your average nuclear family, but the artist has slightly enlarged the children and shrunk the parents so that they all stand at equal height. It unsettled me because it spoke so clearly of a land where children were treated as adults and parents acted like children.

Before I knew it, the French school year had begun. From the outside, the boys’ école looked like a huge fortress, the playground a crush of screaming children—kind of like the public schools I’d attended as a kid. The class sizes seemed alarmingly large. I had to remind myself of our mantra—childhood is not a cruise ship—when I left the boys there behind the gates that first day.

At pickup, I leaned down to ask Henry how his first day of school had gone. He told me, his mouth smeared with pain au chocolat, “Weird; I feel like I don’t exist. How many days before we go back to L.A.?”

When I looked for Miles inside the maternelle, I found him sitting in a corral with the other four-year-olds. He looked calm enough, but he was wearing a purple jacket I didn’t recognize with a name tag that read mohammed. I tried to tell his teacher that there had been a mistake, but the elderly M. Rousseau just nodded and said, “Oui, oui.”

I tried to laugh the misunderstanding off, but by the second week it didn’t matter, because Miles had changed his name anyway. He was insistent that everybody call him Oui and he would throw a fit if we dared call him otherwise. He also began to speak in a drunken slur that made him hard to understand. It took me a few days to realize he was trying to sound as if he had a French accent.

When I went to a school official and told her my concerns about the kids’ adjustment, she assured me they’d be fine. “You pay too much attention to them,” she told me. “Keep yourself busy with other things. Enjoy Paris!”

And so, I tried to put away my worries about Henry, a previously sunny, popular child who now played with his hands constantly, making conversations between them. After writing at home in the mornings, I wandered Paris during the days, searching for the city I’d read about in books. I discovered a farmers’ market near our house like nothing I’d ever seen before. And I admit I did forget the children’s woes as I perused the exquisite displays of cheese, the glistening fish, the beautifully arranged fruits. Once, on my way home, I bumped into a neighbor, a Parisian mother of two. I asked her if she, too, shopped at the farmers’ market, holding up my bags proudly.

“Never,” she said, clucking her tongue. “That’s for American tourists. Tomorrow I’ll show you where real French mothers do their shopping.”

The next day she led me to a store called Picard. The logo on the sign out front was a giant blue snowflake. Inside, it looked a little like a morgue—a bare white space filled with rows upon rows of freezer chests. I followed her through the aisles, peering at the boxes and bags of frozen food. The French had found a way to freeze everything: escargot, foie gras, stuffed salmon, tiramisu. Pumpkin soup came in a bag of frozen blocks you just melted in a pan. “Is this what you feed your children?” I asked, thinking of the pressure back home to buy only fresh, local, and organic.

“Every night,” she said, laughing at my expression. “Oh, you didn’t know? This is the little secret of Parisian mothers. We don’t cook. Who has the time? At night I put Picard in the microwave, and dinner is ready in five minutes. Voilà!”
Everywhere I went in Paris, I saw beauty, history, nattily dressed children, and fantasies of America, from the movie posters in the Métro to the names of the French clothing labels—American Vintage, American Retro. It was as if, at this moment of identity crisis, with France’s economic future somewhat uncertain, the country had finally come to appreciate our pioneering spirit. I noticed that the French remained, however, stubbornly attached to quality and tradition, and as I walked the streets, it was impossible not to be impressed by the cut of a silk scarf or the elaborate window display of our local pastry shop. At the boys’ school, it was true that there was a lot more rote memorization than they were used to, but I was glad that Henry was learning to handwrite in the most beautiful cursive, a far cry from the iPads that had been dispensed to every kid in his L.A. kindergarten class.

Whatever Paris’s charms, the boys were deeply homesick. At night, in their twin beds, they whispered back and forth to each other all the things they missed the most about Los Angeles—horrible things, like the garish outdoor mall with the fountains that “danced” to pop tunes, or the Santa Monica Pier, where they’d both shrieked with terror on a ride before throwing up their cotton candy. They missed it all—especially their preschool, which I had affectionately called Kumbaya Academy, where, instead of their being corrected for any mistakes, every smear of paint or mindless utterance was met with “Great job!”

It was fall, and the U.S. presidential elections were in full swing. One evening, I found Henry standing in the living room watching CNN footage of a Mitt Romney campaign rally. He was chanting, “U-S-A! U-S-A!” I switched off the TV and sharply reminded him that we were Obama supporters—but even I could see that wasn’t the point. In bed beside my husband that night, I asked him to remind me what we were doing here with the kids. “Exposing them to another culture,” he said, trying to reassure us both. “They’ll adjust in no time. Remember? Kids are resilient.”

Everything crystallized the next weekend when my husband and I attended an American-fiction festival in Paris. There I met a French photographer who was doing a series on contemporary writers. Sixty-something, gray-haired, he asked me to lean against a wall while he fiddled with his camera. We chatted. I told him we were here for a year with our kids, that we’d put them in French public school. “We’re hoping they’ll pick up French,” I told him.

“Ah,” the man said, nodding. “My parents did that to me when I was seven. We moved here from Sweden, and they dropped me in a French public school without having any French. Because, as they say, kids are like sponges.”

I tried to laugh away my growing discomfort. “I guess it worked,” I said. “You sound French now.”

“Funny you should say that,” he said. “Fifty-five years later, I’m still trying to remember that year. According to my parents, I didn’t speak for the first six months after we got here—not a word. I was rendered completely mute by the shock of it.”

He hid his face behind the camera. “Now let’s start with one of you smiling.”
One Monday morning soon after, Miles pretended to be sick, and I pretended to believe him so he could stay home. As I was walking Henry to school, he tripped on the curb, fell, and skinned his knee. Though the cut was tiny, he began to weep like I’d never heard him weep before. I sat down beside him and held him in my arms, and a memory floated back to me from my own childhood. My father, in the late seventies, in the wake of his divorce from my mother, had sent my sister and me to a black-pride academy deep in the heart of Boston’s African-American neighborhood. The founder’s motto was to “instill racial pride while teaching.” During our time there, we performed in an all-black Christmas pageant called The Black Nativity, learned to sing the black national anthem, and were swatted with a switch by a dance teacher in an Erykah Badu–style head scarf when we forgot our steps.

My sister and I wept each time we were led up the steps into this new world where we were generally ostracized by the other kids. My father had the best of intentions—to make us proud of our black heritage in the midst of a predominantly white city—but in a haze of idealism and political ideology, he couldn’t see the more immediate reality of our daily misery. He inflicted this education on us like a bitter medicine. Someday we’d be proud to be black. Someday we’d reach the promised land of Negritude, and this would all make sense.

Henry sobbed in my arms over the cut on his knee that wasn’t really the problem. I held him and told him, “It’s lonely, isn’t it, being in that school? I’m so sorry. Let’s just stop. OK? Today we’ll go inside and say goodbye to your schoolmates and your teacher. We’ll thank them for having you. Then we’ll leave and we’ll never go back again. I’m finding you a school where people speak English.”

He looked confused for a moment. “Really?”

“Really.”

The following week I had both boys enrolled in bilingual international schools. We weren’t abandoning the language project altogether—half their day would be in French, half in English. But along with French children, there would be other Anglophone children like them.

The first day, I took Henry to his new classroom. We found a group of rowdy American and British boys crowded around a table building a Lego castle. They were neither self-contained nor well behaved. They were everything Bringing Up Bébé claimed French kids were not. I nudged my son to join them.

Afterward, I sat in a nearby Starbucks, drinking a soy chai latte, surrounded by brash Americans. I thought about all the parenting books I’d read over the years, with their shifting and contradictory advice on how to do right by one’s children. My husband and I were still just making it up as we went along. My kids would not go home bilingual, with scarves wrapped artfully around their necks, happy gourmands who greeted visitors with kisses to both cheeks. I wasn’t going home as a French mother, real or imagined. It was shameful to admit, but I was the happiest I’d been in weeks.

Burnished Heart | An Art Exhibition feat. The Rug Company

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On Tuesday evening, September 23rd, clients, friends, and BAHS employees alike gathered in the loft space at 77 Mercer Street to view artist Bryan Christie's exclusive show, "Burnished Heart." The show was crafted exclusively by Bryan for the event, and jointly sponsored by BAHS and local luxury business The Rug Company. Bryan's selected works comprised some of his finest and most thought provoking pieces, from larger silk on encaustic works to smaller works done on paper.

Potential buyers and art enthusiasts moved in and out of the space from 6:30 PM to late into the night, enjoying fine wines and cheeses sourced from local businesses and stimulating discussion on the nature of Bryan's work. The artist himself was in attendance, giving his unique artistic insight to all those interested parties.

The event was a great success thanks to The Rug Company's great eye for design combined with BAHS's beautiful SoHo loft space. BAHS looks forward to hosting more events of a similar nature in the future.

If you are interested in learning more about our events, please email us at events@bahs.com.


Burnished Heart | An Art Exhibition feat. The Rug Company

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Join BAHS and The Rug Company Tuesday, September 23rd for a night of fine art and rugs. Local artist Bryan Christie will be hanging some of his most dynamic pieces in BAHS's front space, and The Rug Company will be bringing a sampling of some of their finest rugs, all of which will be available for purchase. Wine and cheese will be served. Please send all RSVPs to events@bahs.com. We look forward to seeing you all there!


Art Exhibition: Cannon Hersey’s Silk Route

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British American Household Staffing's first major art exhibition event was a great success, with over 50 potential buyers viewing Cannon Hersey's 22 moving pieces.

Starting at 6 PM, guests started arriving to view the art and mingle with fellow fans of the artist’s work.  Friends, family and British American Household Staffing clients alike gathered to see his new work and hear about the creation process and deeper meaning of all of his culturally provocative work.  7 PM marked the private tour that revealed a cohesive and provoking thought process behind all of his diverse body of work.  Wang Rouying was kind enough to play the piano for the event; at only 13 years old, she performed a complex Rachmaninoff piece. The remainder of the event consisted of some wonderful socialization and discussion about the pieces.

How To Order Sushi, According To A Nutritionist

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article by Keri Glassman for charlotte's book

image from charlotte's book

Sushi is generally a low-calorie meal compared to standard Western dinners, and the main components are all nutritious foods. Fish is a good source of lean protein and omega-3s, AKA the healthy fats I love. Many rolls contain veggies like cucumbers, carrots, and avocado (okay, I know, it’s a fruit, but it adds even more healthy fat!), and seaweed, especially nori, is packed with essential vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A, B, C, E, and K, plus calcium and iron.

Those healthy components come with a few caveats, though, and there are many places on the menu where the idea of a totally healthy meal can start to smell a little fishy. American-style sushi can have a lot of calories and carbs from all that rice, mayo-based sauces, and fried veggies or fish (or come in massive, overstuffed sizes).

THE “BAD” SUSHI LIST

Skip anything fried, which is often referred to as tempura, or “crunchy.” Avoid spicy tuna rolls, since the “spicy” sauce is filled with mayo, Philadelphia rolls, which are packed with cream cheese, and any super-sized options.

THE “GOOD” SUSHI LIST

Eat rolls that are made with just plain fish and veggies, and ask for brown rice if the place offers it. Better yet, order a cup of rice and then fill the rest of your plate with sashimi, which is just the plain fish without the rice. This way you can eat your preferred amount of rice throughout the meal. You’ll still get plenty of flavor, especially since you should pile on the wasabi and ginger. Both are filled with antioxidants.

DON’T JUST ORDER SUSHI

Supplement with other super healthy Japanese foods, like edamame, miso soup (which is great for your gut health), seaweed salad, and other salads with ginger dressing, so you don’t end up going overboard on the rolls (and the rice).

KEEP THE MERCURY LOW

If you’re eating sushi once in a blue moon this won’t be an issue, but if you’re eating it regularly, you should try to choose fish that are lower in mercury, like shrimp, scallops, eel, and salmon and avoid or go light on those that are highest, like tuna. The NRDC has a handy list of which fish in sushi has the highest and lowest levels.

The above post was originally published on Keri Gassman’s Nutritious Life Blog, but we thought it was fascinating enough to include here, too. 


8 Reasons Positive Discipline Is Still Discipline

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article by Laura Lifshitz of PopSugar

photo by Aaron Courter

Positive discipline is essentially when you focus on your child's behaviors and choices as good or bad and reward the good behaviors. There is no such thing as a "bad" kid when it comes to positive discipline, and a lot of schools and parents are taking on this way of rearing, raising, and helping kids grow.

But still, there are the naysayers — especially parents of the previous generation — who say that perhaps we are all "too soft" on our kids with this positive parenting nonsense. To the older generation, this is us going too easy on our kids.

"Back in my day, kids behaved the right way!"
"A good spanking got you and your siblings to behave!"

Although each generation of parents tends to have its own unique method of parenting, for some reason the previous generations seem to believe that children can't learn to behave unless they are frightened to death or scared. And perhaps for some kids, the scare tactic approach works. For me it didn't, and for many other kids it doesn't work (in my opinion). I truly think that for positive parenting skeptics, they ought to open their minds to the idea that perhaps children can learn to make great choices without being afraid. That rewarding good choices and focusing on the positives of each individual child can result in a healthy, strong adult.

Need more evidence? Read through for eight reasons positive disciplining is still disciplining.

1. Focusing on the Bad Brings on the Bad; Doing the Opposite Brings on the Good!

Think about it logically. When you focus on something bad that happens to you, the rest of the day seems worse. Do you really think it's any different in regard to behavior? If you focus on all of the bad things your kid does, I can guarantee you your child will do more bad things. Why? Well, he or she will grow to assume that he or she is only capable of doing bad things and therefore is not a worthy person.

When you place your standards and expectations of someone low, he or she is bound to match those standards.

Positive discipline works because it teaches a child that he or she has so much worth and is capable of doing great things. A child who has self-worth is a happy and well-behaved child most of the time.

2. Fear Teaches Kids to Retreat or Fight

If you scream at someone, what happens? The person typically either screams back, runs away, or possibly hits.

Anger only begets anger. Or worse, retreat. Your child will indeed fear you if that's what you want, but how does fear teach a child to develop self-esteem and monitor his or her own actions later in life? Simply with fear. There is a difference between fear and respect.

Respect makes you want to honor a person, even if you don't always agree with him or her. Fear makes you want to avoid, scare, or protect yourself from someone.

Scaring kids into behaving doesn't mean they will become a good adult as time goes on! Positive discipline allows parents, teachers, and caregivers to reinforce good behaviors, extinguish bad behaviors, and maintain respect without weighing on fear to do the job.

The other factor is eventually fear can turn into one of two things: complete avoidance or complete rebellion.

What happens as your child grows older and, in some cases, bigger than you? All of your fear tactics will hold a lot less power as your child grows into a teen. And it would be worse if your child was so afraid of you that in the long run, he or she doesn't turn to you when there are problems and issues in his or her life.

3. Positive Discipline Does Not Reward Bad Behavior

If you shower a kid with negative attention most of the time, that kid is going to behave badly in order to get your focus. When a teacher or caregiver uses positive discipline, the good behaviors have center stage. When you give a child a lot of attention for being good, there is a reward for them to repeat these great choices.

4. Focusing on the Behavior — Not the Child — Teaches Kids to Work on Their Choices

It's not fun feeling like you "messed" up or are not liked or respected. When you use language that focuses on children's choices and not who they are intrinsically as people, you give kids the chance to focus on their actions. The reality is we all have to make a choice each second of each day. So if we and our children feel as though we have opportunities to tweak and build on the choices that we have made, we can then feel good about ourselves in the learning process!

Letting children know that while you love them, you don't always love their choices also lets them feel loved for who they are — imperfect and flawed! If you tell a child she's "bad," do you truly think she will work hard on her choices to change, or will see feel defeated or like a bad person?

5. Positive Discipline Can Teach Logic and Reasoning

If you're talking to a little one about his choices, chances are he will begin to understand the cause and effect relationship between his choices. The more good feedback you can give your child, the better.

6. Cracking the Whip and Getting Kids to Behave at Will Doesn't Create Independent Thinkers

If your child is frightened into behaving or intimidated into behaving, he or she is being given a blueprint for how to behave — always. That child is not given a choice essentially to make choices and learn right from wrong the old-fashioned way: trial and error. Although you want your kids to respect you, fear will only allow a child to behave in a way that reduces him to anxiety.

7. Rewarding Someone For a Good Choice Is a Great Thing For People of All Ages

No one needs a reward every minute of every day — that would keep anyone from having intrinsic motivation — but everyone likes a reward now and then! When someone notices your child being good, whether it's you or a teacher, to reward them for making the right choice is a form of discipline. It's a reassurance and a notification that this choice was indeed a great choice to make.

8. Ignoring or Giving a Consequence For Negative Behaviors Is Discipline, Minus the Fear

If you have ever ignored your child's bad choice — like whining, for example — in order to get him or her to stop, this is a form of positive parenting discipline. In my opinion, it works way better than yelling at the kid to stop.

Giving a child a consequence for a poor choice is also a form of discipline, although, yes, natural consequences that stem from the bad choice itself are sometimes a more powerful discipline tool. It's also much better than using big, bad fear to get your child to never do that again.

Why? Because like I said before, when your child isn't around you — or stops fearing you — the bad choices will begin again.


Interview with Anita Rogers on Goop.com

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article from Goop 

photo from Goop

Anita Rogers, founder of household staffing agency British American, has more than a decade’s experience in pairing families with household staff, from nannies and butlers to personal assistants and estate managers. She’s earned a reputation for finding successful matches–and also for helping to handle any situation that may arise in the working household. Here, she shares her insights on why hiring for your childcare or home needs is profoundly personal, and how a staffing agency can help with the process.

A Q&A with Anita Rogers

Q: What are the upsides to using an agency?

A: An agency helps you determine what kind of help you really need, and devises the way in which you want your staff to fit your lifestyle. It also saves you time and keeps you safe during the interview process. Some families have limited experience interviewing and hiring childcare and household staff, which makes it easy to miss signs of danger, red flags, or dishonesty. We enforce strict standards as we interview thousands of candidates each year. This has allowed us—and other reputable agencies—to become experts at spotting dishonest references and to be able single out specific personality traits and potential challenges. A staffing agency has seen how similar traits have played out with other candidates, which lends to its ability to find the best fit for you, your family, and your household.

Q: What are the biggest misconceptions about household staffing?

A: Both parties must be willing to give and take in order to find the best match. Often people think they can hire a candidate if they offer a competitive or high salary. Or if a nanny or butler has excellent experience, they might assume they can get a higher salary and an ideal schedule. But staffing is a matchmaking process, and both parties must be satisfied with the relationship and the circumstances in order for it to work.

Q: How do you recognize good talent?

A: It’s a long process—and it’s so much more than just a great résumé and reference letters. We look for candidates that have a balance of experience, training, and education in their field and glowing references from past employers. Other indicators we look for include personality, attitude, flexibility, grammar, responsiveness, and confidence.

The résumé is always the first indicator of talent, where we look at formal level of experience, age appropriate childcare experience, the types of homes an individual has worked in, longevity in previous jobs, and demonstrated professionalism and willingness. We screen all résumés and references and do extensive state, federal, and international background checks, as well as a thorough screening of their social media.

Q: What’s the secret to finding a good match between a family and nanny?

A: Everyone must be on the same page from the very beginning of the process. One family’s dream nanny could be another’s nightmare. It’s imperative that the candidate and the family have a similar approach to raising children, as well as complementary personalities. Someone who is really laid back isn’t going to work well in a formal home that thrives on structure. (The reverse is true as well.) The perfect nanny and family pairing has similar philosophies about discipline, education, and responsibilities. There has to be a mutual respect between the parents and the nanny regarding the decisions made concerning the child. As a parent, if you feel like you have to micromanage and instruct your nanny on how you’d like every situation handled, you will become frustrated and resentful of the situation.

One of the most important factors to consider during the process of finding a good match is assessing the needs and expectations of the family. There’s a huge difference between a parent looking for an extra set of hands to help with driving, activities, and meals and a working parent who needs someone to be the child’s primary caregiver. A take-charge, independent, problem-solving nanny with sole-charge experience isn’t going to thrive as a helper. In the same way, a nanny without the confidence to make decisions on his or her own and proactively foresee situations isn’t the best choice for a family where the parents are gone most of the day. 

Q: Once the hiring process is done, what other support do clients typically need?

A: It depends upon the family. Clients will often come to us for help with communicating with their new employee, especially during the transition process while the employee settles in. We always encourage regular, open and honest communication between both parties. On occasion, we will go into the home as a “manager” and help iron out any small issues that may exist. A relationship between a family and their household employees needs to be nurtured and carefully built, as this is a private home, where discretion is of utmost importance. We encourage clear communication and a weekly sit-down between a family and staff.

Q: If a match doesn’t work out, what is your advice for handling a potential change (or parting ways)?

A: We suggest that each party be gentle but honest about their feelings. The parting should be done with kindness and care so that everyone involved understands that it isn’t a personal attack, just a relationship that has outlived its potential. When hiring staff, you are creating a business in your home. I have seen people distraught if something isn’t working out because they don’t want to offend someone, they don’t want to hurt their feelings.

In certain situations, we’ll go into the residence and let the candidate go so that we can assure it’s done with delicacy. Every situation is very different. We’ve learned it’s best to never point fingers and to make everyone feel good. We directly address and try to resolve any problems, serious or minor, that are brought to our attention, and to support the client or candidate. The ending of a professional relationship can be emotional, particularly if it involves an intimate household setting, so we work to minimize any potential animosity a much as possible.

Q: Is there a difference between a nanny and a career nanny?

A: Most definitely. A typical nanny is different from a career nanny in that they often have a lot of experience with families, but no background or education in child development. Other nanny candidates are great with children and may have teaching degrees or other formal education, but limited in-home experience (typically part-time babysitting work).

A career nanny is someone who has chosen childcare as his or her profession. Most often, these candidates have formal education in child development and/or psychology. This can include a college degree in education or or training from previous jobs. Career nannies also have an employment history of long-term placements in private homes, understand the dynmics of working in a home environment and are great with children. A career nanny knows how to anticipate needs, respect a family’s privacy and space, and handle the logistics of high-end homes. Being in a home is very different than working in a school or daycare; there is no way to prepare or train someone for it, it’s something you learn and understand only after having experienced it.

Q: How have staffing agencies changed over the years?

A: Historically, many agencies have been run by only one or two people. Today, the amount of work it takes to verify backgrounds, interview candidates, and create and nurture relationships is impossible with such a small team. This is a time-intensive business, which is why a larger team with modernized and strict processes is essential.

 

http://goop.com/work/parenthood/how-a-staffing-agency-can-help/


How Prince William and Kate Middleton Plan to Break With Tradition in Their Parenting

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Vogue article by Michelle Ruiz

One day after Prince Harry opened up about his struggles following the death of his mother, Princess Diana, Prince William is also speaking out, vowing that the next generation of royals will be open and honest about their emotions and won’t live by the traditional British stoicism. “There may be a time and a place for the ‘stiff upper lip,’ but not at the expense of your health,” he says in a new interview with CALMzine, the publication for British mental health organization CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably).

In this case, the effort will start at home, Prince William says, with his children, Prince George, 3, and Princess Charlotte, 1. “Catherine and I are clear that we want both George and Charlotte to grow up feeling able to talk about their emotions and feelings,” he said, offering a rare glimpse into the royal couple’s parenting style. “Over the past year we have visited a number of schools together where we have been amazed listening to children talk about some quite difficult subjects in a really clear and emotionally articulate way—something most adults would struggle with.”

This philosophy is a sharp departure from the royal family’s now legendary aversion to showing emotion—a tradition for which his own grandmother may very well be the best example. And while William doesn’t mention her or his own upbringing, he does nod to the antiquated British way of thinking in the new interview. “For too long there has been a taboo about talking about some important issues. If you were anxious, it’s because you were weak. If you couldn’t cope with whatever life threw at you, it’s because you were failing,” he said. “Successful, strong people don’t suffer like that, do they? But of course—we all do. It’s just that few of us speak about it.”

Prince William, who, along with Prince Harry and Kate Middleton (or, “Catherine,” as the royals—and only the royals?—call her), is an ambassador for the British mental health charity Heads Together, also spoke about the importance of mental health awareness in a FaceTime chat with Lady Gaga released today (she from her Los Angeles kitchen and he from his study at Kensington Palace, though he promised they would get together in the U.K. soon). He reportedly reached out after Gaga’s open letter about suffering from PTSD after being sexually assaulted at 19 years old.

“It’s time that everyone speaks up,” Prince William told her. And that’s what you call leading by example.


The Tasty, Time-saving Benefits of Hiring a Personal Chef

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article from Sheknows by Ashlee and Sean McCusker

photo by Real Journeys

Why You Need a Personal Chef

Do you find yourself going to the grocery store and feeling overwhelmed by everything that is on the shelves? With the hectic schedules that we all lead today it can feel like a chore to provide a good home-cooked meal for your family. Wouldn’t it be nice to have someone working in your kitchen, providing delicious – and time-saving – family-friendly meals? Look no further: A personal chef is the stress-free answer to your family’s grocery shopping and cooking needs.

A Personal Chef is Not a Luxury

A personal chef service provides stress-free meals prepared to your specifications in your home. Your kitchen is left spotless with a refrigerator full of delicious meals. Having your own personal chef is not a luxury reserved for the rich. A personal chef service can cost you less than eating out at a moderately priced restaurant. Using a personal chef service can free up 10 to 12 hours of your time every week. Personal chefs are responsible for handling all the menu planning, grocery shopping, cooking, packaging and kitchen cleanup! All you have to do is come home, reheat your food, and you're good to go.

Benefits of a Personal Chef Service

Clients who hire a personal chef generally don't have the time or ability to cook for themselves but have the resources to hire someone else to do it for them. Some clients are too busy with their work or family while others may just want to free up time so they can do the things they enjoy more than grocery shopping and cooking in the kitchen. Other clients might simply be tired of restaurant or take-out food and some may not know how to cook and have no desire to learn. Why a personal chef?

Services That a Personal Chef Service Can Offer:

  • Customize menus specifically for you and your family
  • Do all the grocery shopping
  • Buy only the freshest ingredients available
  • Make delicious healthy meals that you will look forward to eating
  • Take into account any dietary restrictions
  • Cook meals that are always preservative-free
  • Package all materials conveniently
  • Label meals for easy thawing and reheating
  • Leave your kitchen sparkling clean

3 Tips for Picking the Right Personal Chef

Each personal chef will bring something different to your table. Here are a few tips to help you decide which personal chef is right for your family.

1. Interview before hiring. When deciding upon which personal chef to hire, it is important to go with one that shares the same values for you and your family. Before agreeing to personal chef services, ascertain the backgrounds of your potential personal chefs. Find out what drew them to become chefs in the first place.

2. Verify liability insurance. An important consideration is to make sure that the chef in question has liability insurance as well as a food-handlers card. Also follow up on references, and ask for a sample menu to determine if the service will be a good fit for your needs.

3. Value involvement in professional chef organizations. Ask your prospective chefs if they are members of any professional organizations. The ones that are demonstrate not only that they are committed to a strong culinary standard and continuing education, but also that they are aware of the latest trends in the culinary world.


How Eleven Madison Park Became the ‘Best’ Restaurant in the World

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article by Alan Sytsma of Grub Street

photo by Melissa Hom

In 2012, a New Yorker profile laid out the ways in which Daniel Humm and Will Guidara were changing Eleven Madison Park — the restaurant they’d bought from their previous employer Danny Meyer the year before — to help its performance on the annual World’s 50 Best Restaurants ranking. That year, they were 10th — a jump from 24th the year before — and in the time since then, as EMP’s place on the list has steadily risen, they’ve made no secret about their goal to ultimately land the top spot. Today, that happened, when the restaurant was crowned No. 1 at a ceremony in Australia.

Critics can point to flaws with the list itself (such as its continued lack of meaningful female representation), but it is nevertheless very well-established that placement on the list has a tremendous impact on business, and each year’s release is closely followed by the industry. Even people with a casual interest in restaurants will refer to the list’s winner as the “best” restaurant, even though it’s also well-established that, as an actual objective measure of restaurant quality, the list is sort of silly.

It is a list of expensive, world-class restaurants — all of which offer exemplary dining experiences — voted on by chefs, restaurateurs, food writers, and “well-travelled gourmets.” As the official manifesto reads, “There is no pre-determined check-list of criteria,” and voters are free to select whichever spots they prefer. As such, the list is a useful guide to eating $800 dinners, sure, but it’s best read as a look into chefs’ standing, and reputations, among their peers.

In other words, the restaurants that have regularly occupied the list’s top spot in the past — ElBulliNoma, or Osteria Francescana most recently — are the restaurants that the industry is most proud of. Humm and Guidara, who host and attend many industry parties and conferences, are extremely respected and well-liked; voters clearly think that holding them up on a pedestal will be good for the world of fine dining as a whole. And EMP’s co-owners are first-rate ambassadors for the world of hyperexclusive dining: Their restaurant is a modern interpretation of the classic big-city dining temple, proof that “fancy” restaurants, even ones like EMP that are firmly rooted in the European dining tradition, can still feel vital and forward-thinking.

Interestingly, the news comes just as the restaurant is set to close for the summer to renovate and overhaul the menu. The timing may seem somewhat inopportune, but it highlights the way chefs constantly rework their restaurants to stay atop these kinds of international restaurant rankings, where stagnation will cause voters to look elsewhere. Yet, in many ways, the new version of EMP sounds like it will be a natural evolution of the restaurant as it is now.

The current iteration of Eleven Madison Park is just about a decade old. Though the restaurant opened in 1998, Humm took over as chef in 2006. (He and Guidara bought the restaurant from Meyer in 2011.) In an interview with the Times, the partners explained that in addition to updating the kitchen, the dining room will get an overhaul — it will be more comfortable, which makes sense, because comfort is the restaurant’s defining feature. 

ElBulli was a showcase for Ferran Adrià’s fearlessly modern technique and open hostility toward the established pace of a meal at a Michelin-caliber restaurant. Noma, meanwhile, grew to epitomize trends like foraging, traditional preservation techniques, and steadfast commitment to local ingredients. (Not to mention all the earthenware plates you see in every single dining room.) EMP, on the other hand, offers a menu that in many ways is a throwback to traditional luxury ingredients and classic European techniques — a signature dish of Humm’s is celery root or asparagus that’s braised in pig’s bladder and served with black truffle; another dish, “eggs Benedict,” is essentially a caviar course served with homemade English muffins — and sets itself apart with unparalleled warmth and familiarity. Dinner at Eleven Madison Park isn’t about boundary-pushing or avant-garde food; it’s an exercise in opulence and pampering.

That m.o. clearly resonates right now with voters, and with today’s announcement, Humm and Guidara are now the faces of fine dining around the world (just as Redzepi has been for the past decade, and Adrià was before that). The accomplishment is a testament to their talent and determination, of course, as much as it is an indication of the prevailing trends at the highest end of the restaurant world. And just as Adrià’s modernist cooking and Redzepi’s New Nordic aesthetic inspired scores of other chefs, the EMP team’s embrace of unpretentiousness (relatively speaking) and unmatched graciousness should continue to influence other restaurants around the world for many years.


How ‘Downton Abbey’ Fueled China’s Demand for Butlers

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article from New York Times by Chris Buckley and Karoline Kan

photo by Gilles Sabrié

CHENGDU, China — Mao once said that a revolution was not a dinner party. But with the communist revolution turning into opulent capitalism, China’s rich are now making sure the dinner party settings are immaculate and the wine is poured just right.

Inspired in part by the “Downton Abbey” television drama, the country’s once raw and raucous tycoons are aspiring to old-school decorum, fueling demand for the services of homegrown butlers trained in the ways of a British manor.

“What they would like to say to their friends is, ‘Look, I have a butler, an English-style butler in my home,’ to show how wealthy they are,” said Neal Yeh, a Chinese-born Briton living in Beijing, who for over a decade has helped train and find jobs for butlers.

“The country now with the biggest trend in butlers is China,” said Mr. Yeh, whose English accent would be at home on “Downton Abbey,” the television series about a blue blood family in England, which was avidly watched in China. “I dare say I have played a part in starting this trend.”

Butler training schools and agencies have been doing business in China for more than a decade, but the number of recruits has grown sharply in recent years, according to those in the business. Most are Chinese and many are women. The International Butler Academy China opened in 2014 here in Chengdu, a haze-covered city in southwest China, and offers a six-week boot camp on dinner service, managing homes and other minutiae of high living.

“The Chinese are vacationing more now than ever in history, and so they’re being exposed to the West more and more,” said Christopher Noble, an American trainer at the academy who previously ran bars in Cleveland. “But Chinese people see that, experience top-class personal service abroad, and they want to experience it here.”

A boom in butler service might seem incongruous as President Xi Jinping campaigns zealously against corruption and extravagance, and an economic slowdown undercuts lavish spending. But China’s rich continue amassing ever greater fortunes and want what they see as the trappings of respectable refinement. Even under Mr. Xi, butlers are finding growing work as symbols of good taste, according to people in the business.

“You read about an economic slowdown, but China’s wealth is still growing,” said Luo Jinhuan, who has worked as a butler in Shanghai and, most recently, Beijing, after learning the job in Holland. “Old money has passed from one generation to the next. But the new money doesn’t have the same quality. You need to help them improve.”

If butlers symbolize maturing Chinese capitalism, the somewhat awkward status they have here also reflects how the rich in China must play by different rules than the wealthy in many other countries.

It often comes down to a lack of trust. Wealth in China, where a cutthroat business culture is pervasive, comes with insecurity about being brought low by resentful employees, rivals, and officials, especially with the continuing crackdown against corruption. That wariness discourages many millionaires from hiring their own Jeeves to run their homes, people in the business said.

“Some of them discover that in reality they can’t trust an outsider to manage the household,” said Tang Yang, a marketing director at the butler academy. “They’re unwilling to have a butler who knows all the information about the family.”

Relatively few graduates of the academy end up as traditional household butlers. Instead, many work in high-end clubs, housing estates and executive floors, serving several clients at the same time — not with the same intimacy as a personal butler.

Promoters of butlers in China often point out that the country has its own tradition of high-end service, and the classical Chinese novel, “Dream of the Red Chamber,” features traditional butlers, called “guanjia,” or “domestic manager,” in Mandarin. But “Downton Abbey” helped rekindle a new romanticized interest in old-school service in China.

Many student butlers here said they had watched and rewatched the show as an instruction video on the self-effacing unflappability of domestic service.

“I only began to grasp this profession of butlers after watching ‘Downton Abbey,’” said Xu Shitao, a 34-year-old Beijing native studying at the Chengdu academy. “I think that in the future this profession will be quite popular and will have a market.”

But Ms. Xu and her classmates have found that, in reality, being a butler is strenuous work.

On a recent morning, they practiced for hours, learning to serve wine and water the proper way. Again and again, the class of eight clasped a wine bottle near its bottom and stepped forward in unison around a dinner table to dispense just enough wine to reach the widest part of a wine glass.

Not a drop was to splash the tablecloth or, heaven forbid, a guest.

“Stretch, pour, up, twist, back, wipe. Try to extend your arm,” Mr. Noble commanded, using his ever-present translator. “You want to be able to extend your arm as much as possible. You’re doing a ballet.”

Students also take classes on serving formal dinners, packing luggage, cleaning house and countless other details of managing life for the rich.

“You have to get the details right to do your job right,” said Yang Linjun, a 22-year-old student in the class. “Your arms get sore and your hands hurt, but this is a lifestyle.”

After they graduate, many hope to attach themselves to China’s growing number of superrich. In return, they may earn monthly wages of $2,800 or much higher as personal butlers, depending on experience and luck — more than for many service jobs.

By 2015, China had 400 billionaires and billionaire families, an increase of 65 from just a year earlier, according to Forbes’ annual list. The country’s richest 1 percent own about one-third of household wealth, a share similar to the concentration of wealth in America.

Manners can be rough in China, sometimes in a warm way, sometimes less so. But that has been changing as people grow richer, travel and live abroad, and bring back a demand for polished, attentive service.

“A decade ago, very few Chinese people stayed in five-star hotels,” said Yang Kaojun, a property manager with the Summit Group, which employs teams of trained butlers who are at the beck and call of residents. “But now many people have, and that’s given them some understanding of what good service is.”

As well as the Chengdu academy, the Sanda University, a private college in Shanghai, has incorporated butler training into its hospitality program. Many Chinese also learn how to be butlers in Europe. And Sara Vestin Rahmani, the founder of the Bespoke Bureau, a British company that finds domestic staff members for wealthy employers, said her company planned to open a school for butlers and domestic staff people in China this year.

The number of butlers in China is hard to determine. There may be hundreds or thousands, especially in Beijing, Shanghai and the prosperous south. Ms. Rahmani said that in 2007 her company found positions in China for 20 butlers; by 2015 that number had grown to 375, including 125 with families. Others reported similar growth.

“We are in actual fact exporting to China a trade which was once their own,” Ms. Rahmani said. “With communism, everything that was refined, unique and upper-class became a distant memory.”

But Chinese employers often treat butlers as expensive all-purpose flunkies who should be on call 24 hours a day. That violated the traditional idea of a butler as a respected manager of the household and above most menial tasks. Ms. Luo, the butler, said her work was far more hectic than she imagined. Her daily routine included overseeing the sauna, cinema, bowling alley and other rooms in a 32,000-square-foot home.

“I feel that when work starts, there’s no time at all to stop and rest,” she said. “It’s a lot harder than working in a hotel.”

The pressure is compounded by employers’ fears that household servants could exploit sensitive information. Butlers are supposed to have a deep knowledge of their employers’ every foible, traditionally recorded in a book. But the worry that information could be used to rob, extort or prosecute them has discouraged many rich people from taking butlers into their confidence.

“Many of our wealthy are the first generation to be rich, and they don’t have a long accumulation of family history,” said Mr. Yang, the student at the butler academy in Chengdu, who works for a real estate company. “You need trust and a long period of adjustment to have another person suddenly by your side.”


Bringing Down Bébé: How One Mother Mistakenly Hoped a Year in Paris Would Transform Her Sons

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article by Danzy Senna for Vogue

photo by Steven Simko

 

Inspired by a spate of books extolling the French way, Danzy Senna hoped a year in Paris would transform her all-American sons into model citizens. Au contraire.

One afternoon, a few weeks after we arrived in Paris, I took my sons to a playdate at the home of two French boys who lived in the neighborhood. Their mother, Christine, was like a poster girl for all I’d heard about Frenchwomen: Tall, thin, and effortlessly stylish, she was raising two sons while managing a career as a lawyer. She welcomed us into her pristine Saint-Germain apartment. My younger son, Miles, age four, raced past her down the hall in search of toys. My older son, Henry, age six, hid behind me, muttering hello only after I’d prompted him. She led me to the dining room, where I found an unfamiliar spectacle: her two sons, the same ages as mine, quietly curled over the table with pens and paper. They were dressed like miniature businessmen, with haircuts to match. The younger one appeared to be drawing a picture. Fine; my kids did that too. But the other one, the six-year-old, was intently writing down a row of math problems in one column and their answers in the other.

“Homework?” I asked Christine.

“No,” she said with a light laugh. “He just enjoys math.”

Her sons rose at the sight of me and, unbidden, held out their outstretched hands to shake. They said their bonjours before lifting their faces so that we could kiss on each cheek. Then Christine told her sons to go play, and they marched off, obediently, to join mine. When she disappeared into the kitchen, I peeked at the page of math problems, perversely pleased to see that many of the boy’s answers were wrong. Christine returned with tea and a plate of brightly colored macarons. We sat together, chatting, and I found myself relaxing. This was just as I’d imagined my life in Paris—me enjoying adult time while my children played independently. I’d imagined civility as something that people, even raucous American children like mine, could catch, like a bug.

The official reason we were in Paris was that my husband had a sabbatical from his university professorship in L.A. We’d decided to uproot the family for the year to give the boys a cross-cultural adventure. We wanted them to grow up worldly and bilingual. And for me, it was more than that. I was not sure I liked the overly precious culture in which I was raising them. In preparation, I felt I had to read Pamela Druckerman’s playground sensation Bringing Up Bébé. I was horrified to see myself in the book’s descriptions of the overindulgent American parent. My kids represented everything that was wrong with our country. They made too much noise in restaurants. They were picky eaters, to the point where I often cooked them two separate meals at night. Their toys lay scattered all around the house, as if to mark the territory they’d won. My husband and I had not had a conversation that didn’t revolve around them in years. I was forever sleep deprived. And long after giving birth I still looked, well, a little bit pregnant. Once, in a yoga class, the teacher asked me if I was expecting. “Actually,” I lied, “I just gave birth.” She congratulated me, and I waited until she was out of earshot to add, “Four years ago.”

Druckerman wasn’t alone in extolling the virtues of the French. In the same way that Julia Child once introduced American women to the exquisiteness of French cuisine, an entire cottage industry has grown around the idea that when it comes to living, Frenchwomen do it better. Consider French Kids Eat Everything; Forever Chic: Frenchwomen’s Secrets for Timeless Beauty, Style and Substance;or the upcoming French Women Don’t Get Facelifts, by Mireille Guiliano, of the original French Women Don’t Get Fat. The list goes on. We’ve always admired their fashion; now it seems they’ve become standard-bearers for every facet of our existence. In contrast to our American child-ruled ways, French mothers apparently practice some elegant form of detachment parenting, which is why they look so much better than we do, and also why their kids are so much better behaved.

At home in L.A., my husband and I were at least aware of the problem. Whenever our sons complained that they were bored, my husband would reply, “This isn’t a cruise ship, it’s your childhood.” But the world outside our door sometimes seemed to be arguing otherwise. One mother I knew admitted she’d taken to asking her ten-year-old daughter on occasion: “How do you think your childhood is going so far? Pretty good?”

I’d always been susceptible to parenting manuals. When the boys were small, I read a book on attachment parenting that convinced me I’d already done them deep psychic harm. I’d failed to give birth to them in a bathtub. I’d failed to wear them strapped to my body all day in a sling while I cleaned and cooked and tended crops in the field. I’d failed to nurse them until they told me it was OK to stop. As a result, I learned they were doomed to be obese, anxious, and somewhat dim.

It was in some ways refreshing to read Bringing Up Bébé—except that it turns out I’d messed up my kids by being too attached. Frenchwomen didn’t believe that hoo-hah about “you’re only as happy as your saddest child.” Frenchwomen nursed for only as long as they felt like it. Frenchwomen didn’t feel the need to follow their toddlers around the park in earth shoes, interpreting their experiences for them. But, according to the book, it wasn’t too late. I could still turn this cruise ship around. And here we were, in Paris, determined to make our kids tough, gritty, independent, and exceedingly polite in two languages. They were going to attend the local public school, where they could put the French they’d been practicing to good use. International schools, I’d been told by the admissions director of a French lycée in Los Angeles, were for wimpy Americans who wanted to just have “a nice year.” We didn’t want a nice year. We wanted a French year.

I nibbled Christine’s macarons and asked her the question posed to Frenchwomen through the ages: How do you do it? I swept my hand around her apartment. Taking my question literally, she explained that she had it all down to a system. She saw the kids on Monday evenings, Thursday afternoons, and then Saturday mornings were reserved for their grandparents, and then. . . .

From the back of the apartment came a loud crash, followed by a scream. The dreamscape was shattered. I rose and followed Christine toward the commotion, trying to think of a way to explain my children. I’d tell her there was something wrong with them, that they’d been officially diagnosed with a mental disorder—something vague but clinical-sounding, like oppositional defiance disorder—and then I’d get us the hell out of there.

But when we reached the back of the apartment, we found her older son straddling his younger brother on the floor, clutching his neck tightly, while the smaller one flailed around beneath him, his face turning scarlet. My two sons stood at the sidelines, each clutching a toy car, watching with mouths slightly open.

“Ça suffit!” Christine shouted, leaning down to pull the one brother off the other. She slapped the older one swiftly several times on his bottom and then helped the younger one to his feet, berating them both in a tone I have yet to master.
If I was looking to the Old World for help with parenting, it was probably because I had no cultural tradition to draw from in my own background. The only tradition in my family, going back on both sides for generations, was to break with tradition. One of my grandmothers was an Irish playwright from Dublin; the other grandmother was an African-American jazz musician from the Deep South; one grandfather was a blue-blood Harvard law professor turned civil rights activist; the other grandfather was a professional lightweight boxer from Nuevo León, Mexico.

I was raised in 1970s cultural chaos. Dinner was tacos one night, spaghetti the next. My mother’s idea of discipline was to occasionally throw shoes at us while shrieking, “I can’t take this anymore!” Other times she just laughed at our misbehavior like an older teenage sister. Once, when I was eight or nine, she told me her theory that everyone had two ages, an actual age and a spiritual age. “For example,” she said, “I’m always going to feel seventeen.” She glanced at me through cigarette smoke. “And you’re always going to feel 40.”

I once saw a sculpture by the artist Charles Ray that seemed to sum up the American family as I’d known it: four naked mannequins—a mother, a father, a young boy, and a toddler girl—standing in a row, holding hands. They appear at first glance to be your average nuclear family, but the artist has slightly enlarged the children and shrunk the parents so that they all stand at equal height. It unsettled me because it spoke so clearly of a land where children were treated as adults and parents acted like children.

Before I knew it, the French school year had begun. From the outside, the boys’ école looked like a huge fortress, the playground a crush of screaming children—kind of like the public schools I’d attended as a kid. The class sizes seemed alarmingly large. I had to remind myself of our mantra—childhood is not a cruise ship—when I left the boys there behind the gates that first day.

At pickup, I leaned down to ask Henry how his first day of school had gone. He told me, his mouth smeared with pain au chocolat, “Weird; I feel like I don’t exist. How many days before we go back to L.A.?”

When I looked for Miles inside the maternelle, I found him sitting in a corral with the other four-year-olds. He looked calm enough, but he was wearing a purple jacket I didn’t recognize with a name tag that read mohammed. I tried to tell his teacher that there had been a mistake, but the elderly M. Rousseau just nodded and said, “Oui, oui.”

I tried to laugh the misunderstanding off, but by the second week it didn’t matter, because Miles had changed his name anyway. He was insistent that everybody call him Oui and he would throw a fit if we dared call him otherwise. He also began to speak in a drunken slur that made him hard to understand. It took me a few days to realize he was trying to sound as if he had a French accent.

When I went to a school official and told her my concerns about the kids’ adjustment, she assured me they’d be fine. “You pay too much attention to them,” she told me. “Keep yourself busy with other things. Enjoy Paris!”

And so, I tried to put away my worries about Henry, a previously sunny, popular child who now played with his hands constantly, making conversations between them. After writing at home in the mornings, I wandered Paris during the days, searching for the city I’d read about in books. I discovered a farmers’ market near our house like nothing I’d ever seen before. And I admit I did forget the children’s woes as I perused the exquisite displays of cheese, the glistening fish, the beautifully arranged fruits. Once, on my way home, I bumped into a neighbor, a Parisian mother of two. I asked her if she, too, shopped at the farmers’ market, holding up my bags proudly.

“Never,” she said, clucking her tongue. “That’s for American tourists. Tomorrow I’ll show you where real French mothers do their shopping.”

The next day she led me to a store called Picard. The logo on the sign out front was a giant blue snowflake. Inside, it looked a little like a morgue—a bare white space filled with rows upon rows of freezer chests. I followed her through the aisles, peering at the boxes and bags of frozen food. The French had found a way to freeze everything: escargot, foie gras, stuffed salmon, tiramisu. Pumpkin soup came in a bag of frozen blocks you just melted in a pan. “Is this what you feed your children?” I asked, thinking of the pressure back home to buy only fresh, local, and organic.

“Every night,” she said, laughing at my expression. “Oh, you didn’t know? This is the little secret of Parisian mothers. We don’t cook. Who has the time? At night I put Picard in the microwave, and dinner is ready in five minutes. Voilà!”
Everywhere I went in Paris, I saw beauty, history, nattily dressed children, and fantasies of America, from the movie posters in the Métro to the names of the French clothing labels—American Vintage, American Retro. It was as if, at this moment of identity crisis, with France’s economic future somewhat uncertain, the country had finally come to appreciate our pioneering spirit. I noticed that the French remained, however, stubbornly attached to quality and tradition, and as I walked the streets, it was impossible not to be impressed by the cut of a silk scarf or the elaborate window display of our local pastry shop. At the boys’ school, it was true that there was a lot more rote memorization than they were used to, but I was glad that Henry was learning to handwrite in the most beautiful cursive, a far cry from the iPads that had been dispensed to every kid in his L.A. kindergarten class.

Whatever Paris’s charms, the boys were deeply homesick. At night, in their twin beds, they whispered back and forth to each other all the things they missed the most about Los Angeles—horrible things, like the garish outdoor mall with the fountains that “danced” to pop tunes, or the Santa Monica Pier, where they’d both shrieked with terror on a ride before throwing up their cotton candy. They missed it all—especially their preschool, which I had affectionately called Kumbaya Academy, where, instead of their being corrected for any mistakes, every smear of paint or mindless utterance was met with “Great job!”

It was fall, and the U.S. presidential elections were in full swing. One evening, I found Henry standing in the living room watching CNN footage of a Mitt Romney campaign rally. He was chanting, “U-S-A! U-S-A!” I switched off the TV and sharply reminded him that we were Obama supporters—but even I could see that wasn’t the point. In bed beside my husband that night, I asked him to remind me what we were doing here with the kids. “Exposing them to another culture,” he said, trying to reassure us both. “They’ll adjust in no time. Remember? Kids are resilient.”

Everything crystallized the next weekend when my husband and I attended an American-fiction festival in Paris. There I met a French photographer who was doing a series on contemporary writers. Sixty-something, gray-haired, he asked me to lean against a wall while he fiddled with his camera. We chatted. I told him we were here for a year with our kids, that we’d put them in French public school. “We’re hoping they’ll pick up French,” I told him.

“Ah,” the man said, nodding. “My parents did that to me when I was seven. We moved here from Sweden, and they dropped me in a French public school without having any French. Because, as they say, kids are like sponges.”

I tried to laugh away my growing discomfort. “I guess it worked,” I said. “You sound French now.”

“Funny you should say that,” he said. “Fifty-five years later, I’m still trying to remember that year. According to my parents, I didn’t speak for the first six months after we got here—not a word. I was rendered completely mute by the shock of it.”

He hid his face behind the camera. “Now let’s start with one of you smiling.”
One Monday morning soon after, Miles pretended to be sick, and I pretended to believe him so he could stay home. As I was walking Henry to school, he tripped on the curb, fell, and skinned his knee. Though the cut was tiny, he began to weep like I’d never heard him weep before. I sat down beside him and held him in my arms, and a memory floated back to me from my own childhood. My father, in the late seventies, in the wake of his divorce from my mother, had sent my sister and me to a black-pride academy deep in the heart of Boston’s African-American neighborhood. The founder’s motto was to “instill racial pride while teaching.” During our time there, we performed in an all-black Christmas pageant called The Black Nativity, learned to sing the black national anthem, and were swatted with a switch by a dance teacher in an Erykah Badu–style head scarf when we forgot our steps.

My sister and I wept each time we were led up the steps into this new world where we were generally ostracized by the other kids. My father had the best of intentions—to make us proud of our black heritage in the midst of a predominantly white city—but in a haze of idealism and political ideology, he couldn’t see the more immediate reality of our daily misery. He inflicted this education on us like a bitter medicine. Someday we’d be proud to be black. Someday we’d reach the promised land of Negritude, and this would all make sense.

Henry sobbed in my arms over the cut on his knee that wasn’t really the problem. I held him and told him, “It’s lonely, isn’t it, being in that school? I’m so sorry. Let’s just stop. OK? Today we’ll go inside and say goodbye to your schoolmates and your teacher. We’ll thank them for having you. Then we’ll leave and we’ll never go back again. I’m finding you a school where people speak English.”

He looked confused for a moment. “Really?”

“Really.”

The following week I had both boys enrolled in bilingual international schools. We weren’t abandoning the language project altogether—half their day would be in French, half in English. But along with French children, there would be other Anglophone children like them.

The first day, I took Henry to his new classroom. We found a group of rowdy American and British boys crowded around a table building a Lego castle. They were neither self-contained nor well behaved. They were everything Bringing Up Bébé claimed French kids were not. I nudged my son to join them.

Afterward, I sat in a nearby Starbucks, drinking a soy chai latte, surrounded by brash Americans. I thought about all the parenting books I’d read over the years, with their shifting and contradictory advice on how to do right by one’s children. My husband and I were still just making it up as we went along. My kids would not go home bilingual, with scarves wrapped artfully around their necks, happy gourmands who greeted visitors with kisses to both cheeks. I wasn’t going home as a French mother, real or imagined. It was shameful to admit, but I was the happiest I’d been in weeks.


A Child’s Lifelong Self-Esteem Emerges Earlier Than We Thought

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article from Huffpost

photo from Sleeptastic Solutions

Children may form a sense of their “overall goodness” by preschool.

 

Five-year-old children may only read and write at a basic level, but their sense of self is surprisingly sophisticated. A provocative new study suggests that by kindergarten, a child’s self-esteem is as strong as an adult’s.

The research, published in the January 2016 issue of the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, finds that most children have developed an overall positive sense of themselves by this age — and that sense of self remains relatively stable over their lifespan.

“Some rudimentary sense of children’s self-esteem appears to be already established by age 5,” Dr. Dario Cvencek, a research scientist at the University of Washington and the study’s lead author, told The Huffington Post. “That does not mean it can’t change with life experiences and maturation. We think self-esteem is malleable but we also think that it starts earlier than previously thought.”

The research overturns traditional psychological beliefs about the way self-esteem develops during childhood. Scientists previously thought that preschoolers were too young to have developed an overall positive or negative sense of themselves, according to Cvencek.

“Our new work,” he said, “shows that preschoolers do have a global, overall knowledge of their goodness as a person. It’s a first.”

In previous studies, psychologists relied on verbal self-evaluations to measure a child’s self-esteem, which may have provided unreliable data due to young children’s limited verbal abilities.

So for their study, Cvencek and his colleagues designed a new test, called the Preschool Implicit Association Test (PSIAT), to measure children’s positive feelings toward themselves. The researchers administered the test to 234 five-year-old boys and girls living in Washington state.

Similar to an implicit association test for adults — which asks participants to quickly associate words such as “self” and “pleasant” or “unpleasant” — the preschoolers were asked to associate objects.

The children were presented with several different varieties of flags, which they were taught to divide into two groups: “yours” and “not yours.” Then, the preschoolers completed a task in which they pressed buttons to indicate whether “good” words (fun, happy, good, nice) and “bad” words (bad, mad, mean, yucky) were more associated with “me” or “not-me.” 

The results of this and two other implicit association tests revealed that the children associated themselves more with good qualities than bad ones. 

“Previously we understood that preschoolers knew about some of their specific good features,” Dr. Anthony Greenwald, a psychologist at the University of Washington and one of the study’s authors, said in a statement. “We now understand that, in addition, they have a global, overall knowledge of their goodness as a person.”

The study also revealed that high self-esteem was correlated with strong gender identity and preference for members of their own gender, suggesting that a child’s self-esteem is connected to other formative parts of their personality.

Now that we know that self-esteem emerges early in life, how can parents and teachers foster the development of a healthy sense of self in a child?

The warm, supportive connections a child develops with others are probably the most important factor, according to Cvencek.

“Children who feel loved by others may internalize this to love themselves,” he said. “Our findings underscore the importance of the first five years as a foundation for life.”


The Surprising Effects of Listening to a Baby Cry

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photo from Getty Images

article by Jen Gann from The Cut for New York Magazine

Parents who’ve done any form of cry-it-out sleep training — or all parents, quite frankly — are only too familiar with what happens when their baby cries: It feels horrendous. It feels immediately alarming, as though every nerve ending is suddenly subject to an electrical fire. Yesterday, the New York Times took a good look at some of the science behind a baby’s cry — and our sometimes surprising reactions.

Seeing some of the crying facts laid bare is a little staggering. Normal infants, for example, cry about two hours every day. What the Times calls a “notorious human crybaby” will sometimes cry for two hours, every two hours. Crying, of course, is essential to survival: Infant mice stripped of the ability to cry are ignored by their mothers, and quickly die.

Indeed, we’re hardwired to respond to crying. Researchers have “found that within 49 thousandths of a second of a recorded cry being played, the periaqueductal gray — an area deep in the midbrain that has long been linked to urgent, do-or-die behaviors — had blazed to attention, twice as fast as it reacted to dozens of other audio clips tested.”

What to do with that reaction, when all your attempts to calm a crying baby are met with more crying? Personally, I always rolled my eyes a little at anyone’s claim that I would “learn to decode” my baby’s cries, that the cries would sound different depending on what he wanted (it seemed like most of the time, he didn’t know?). But according to a study summarized by the Times, Spanish researchers have been able to categorize three cry types: anger, fear, and pain.

With their arms and legs pinned to provoke anger, mad babies usually kept their eyes half-open, looking off to the side as they cried. Babies frightened by a loud noise, “after an initial hesitation and tensing up of the facial muscles, emitted an explosive cry and kept their eyes open and searching the whole time.” For babies given a shot, the cries were immediate, forceful, and conducted with shut eyes.

On a more uplifting note, the Times presents some possible evidence against so-called “mommy brain”:

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In another study, volunteers were asked to play a lab version of the popular game Whac-a-Mole by pressing down on an ever-shifting target button as rapidly as possible. Subjects then listened to recordings of babies crying, adults crying or birds singing, and played the game again.

“We saw better scores and more effortful pressing after the infant cries,” Dr. Young said.

Why not try this out at home? Your angry, fearful, or pained baby is primed to give you lots of opportunities.

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