Friday, September 25, 2009

Mojo Mom Podcast with The Curse of the Good Girl

This week I had the pleasure of welcoming Rachel Simmons to The Mojo Mom Podcast. You've probably heard about Rachel's work with girls and her previous book, Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls, and now she has a brand-new book, The Curse of the Good Girl: Raising Authentic Girls with Courage and Confidence. I highly recommend her work, especially if you have a daughter; but even if you don't, Rachel's insights shed interesting light on adult female interactions. And if you have sons, it can be helpful to understand what is going on behind the scenes in girl culture, too.

Listen to the podcast now:

Amy and Patty talk about upcoming developments in Amy's work as Mojo Mom, which will be more fully announced in October.

Then Mojo Mom interviews Rachel Simmons, a respected author, educator and coach who helps girls develop their authentic selves. Rachel's new book is "The Curse of the Good Girl," which fascinated Amy as a guide to helping young women develop, and a reminder that grown-up women may still have some relationship skills to learn, especially when it comes to dealing with conflict.

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Two weeks to be Amy rather than Mojo Mom

I am writing today to declare that I am taking a two-week break from blogging, to regroup as Amy as well as Mojo Mom.

I am carving out some time to focus on my family (yay!) and I need to unplug from the internet and get back in touch with the here and now. Blogging takes time to write, of course, and also involves extensive immersion in online news, which to be honest is starting to melt my brain. I feel like I've become porous and vulnerable to being really upset about the news stories such as Jaycee Dugard and Annie Le. This is genuinely important news but I feel myself becoming too porous, taking in too much, and taking it personally.

As a writer there is a fine line between thinking and brooding, and it's clear to me that I need some time to shake off my brooding mood, have some fun in the here and now, and be ready to redirect and get ready to launch a new Mojo Mom project in two weeks.

You can expect me to be back full-strength on the blog on Wednesday, October 5th, and you'll be hearing a little bit from me before then, as I will have a new podcast with author and educator Rachel Simmons this Friday. We'll discuss her new book The Curse of the Good Girl: Raising Authentic Girls with Courage and Confidence, which I highly recommend to you as a parenting and personal resource. As I was reading her book, I found that the skills Rachel talks about for girls apply to us, too.

It feels like a relief to unplug for a bit. I encourage you to think about creating an opportunity for you to reclaim your mind space and recharge your batteries, too.

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Friday, September 18, 2009

HOW to raise a Free-Range Kid

Last Sunday The New York Times explored the question "Why Can't She Walk to School?" looking at the modern trends that have resulted in many kids leading highly-supervised, sheltered lives. The article tells one story about a well-meaning neighbor who drove a 7-year-old girl home from a playdate only five houses down the block, on the same side of the street. We are starting to talk about these issues and how we might change, thanks in large part to the Free-Range Kids movement started by writer Lenore Skenazy. I appreciate Lenore's work and the feeling that it's time to turn things around, empowering our children to explore the world. After all, that is the work of growing up, isn't it?

However, there is an incredibly important piece to this puzzle that calls for more attention: the information and skills that parents and kids need to develop, in order to let kids experience more freedom.

I asked my mentor, Kidpower International Executive Director Irene van der Zande, to co-author a response to the NY Times piece with me. Kidpower has just celebrated its 20th anniversary, and has provided personal safety training to over a million people worldwide. I am very proud to play my part in bringing Kidpower training to my home state of North Carolina. Here are our thoughts about the vital skills component needed to raise a Free-Range Kid:

How to Raise a Free-Range Kid

The Free-Range Kids movement is making an impact, leading parents to realize that most important question they should be asking is not whether or not to allow their children to walk to school, but how to prepare their children to do so safely and successfully.

If we lock our children up too tightly in a misguided attempt to protect them, they lose out on the chance to develop the capabilities they need to grow into competent, independent young adults. However, just letting children go on their own in the hopes that they will know how to protect themselves from potential dangers puts them at unnecessary risk.

The reason that parents feel so unsafe that they are driving children home from play dates down the block is because they need better information about how to teach their kids to navigate the world independently. This is why Kidpower International has worked tirelessly for twenty years to teach personal safety skills to over one million people worldwide. Our approach is skills-based, success-based, and never uses fear as a motivation. Instead, we practice role-playing the safest choices in a wide variety of situations.

Parents tend to focus on fears of kidnapping, but there are many more common child protection issues that are related to the scenario of walking home from school: crossing guards, safe sidewalks and roads, and the significant yet often ignored issues facing millions of children who return to empty houses, where they are left unsupervised until their parents come home from work.

It is too easy to forget the downside of not letting our kids develop independent skills. Kids may be so protected from situations in which they have to say “no” to bad things that they do not have many opportunities to say “yes” to good things. What they need is plenty of opportunity to practice, little steps at a time, in situations that are safe to explore.

Sleepovers, summer camp, kid-organized sports games, experiences with babysitters, visiting family, and community service outings can all be steps to independence if we give our kids the skills to handle these activities without hovering over them.

When we keep our eyes on the future, the path toward independence becomes clearer. When you look at a ten-year old girl, you can picture her in six years, getting into a car to go on a date with a classmate whom her parents might not know well. This is actually a high-stakes situation, one in which she will need to be able to assertively state what she wants, be prepared to take care of herself, and even be ready to ask for help if things go awry.

We want her to be ready for dating when that day comes, and the practice steps along the way don’t have to be scary. Independence may not look just like it did when we were kids. The days of Mom shooing kids outside to let them roam, saying, “Come home when you hear the dinner bell ring” are probably over.

But that makes it all the more important for parents to look for opportunities to practice. Parents of younger kids can teach children how to state what they want by ordering their own ice cream cone or slice of pizza. We can consciously make a plan to teach our kids how to walk to a friend’s house or school, rather than being complacent in our habit of driving everywhere. We can preview the route, walk with them at first, and talk about ways they could get help if they needed it. Then we can take the brave and conscious step of letting them do it on their own.

We will never eliminate uncertainty from life, but there is an answer to that worried parent’s question, “How can you argue against ‘just in case’?”

We can tell children and ourselves, “We are going to practice until you are ready to do this on your own!”

Irene van der Zande is the Executive Director of Kidpower International. Amy Tiemann, Ph.D., is the author of "Mojo Mom: Nurturing Your Self While Raising a Family" and Center Director of Kidpower North Carolina.

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Mojo Mom Podcast with Neat Freak Professional Organizer Perri Kersh

The Mojo Mom Podcast welcomes friend-of-the-show expert guest Perri Kersh to share her her professional organizing tips that are especially useful during this month of Back to School transition.

Here's the podcast:

It's time for fall cleaning. Amy and this week's co-host Patty Ayers talk about letting go of clutter, as Patty has done in a major way by moving to Mexico and embracing a life rich in experiences that is not weighed down by possessions.

Then Mojo Mom turns to "Neat Freak" professional organizer Perri Kersh for her tips for creating a landing pad for your family's belongings. As school gets into full swing it's a good time of year to look at the flow of informaiton and "stuff" into your household, and the small step of creating a landing pad can help with that process.

Listen to the podcast now:

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Monday, September 14, 2009

Kim Clijsters, Comeback Mom of the Decade!

I am so inspired by Kim Clijsters and her remarkable comeback run to win her second U. S. Open tennis title. After retiring two and a half years ago, she's not only bounced back from injuries and burnout, she's the mother of an adorable toddler. She's the first Mom to claim a major tennis title since Evonne Goolagong won at Wimbeldon way back in 1980. During the tournament's rain delays, they replayed parts of Clijsters' 1999 match with Serena Williams, and it was evident that with her comeback, Clijsters is now playing better than ever.

I had to post this photo, because it's amazing, and also because it was taken by one of my former high school students, Josh Haner, who now works for The New York Times. I am proud of his stellar career...and more than a little jealous that he got to cover the tennis finals. But thanks to him we now have this indelible image to mark Kim Clijsters' victory.

Whether you are a tennis player or not, it's worth thinking about how Kim Clijsters' unconventional and highly successful comeback can inspire us all.

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Friday, September 11, 2009

Mojo Mom Podcast with Michele Borba's Big Book of Parenting Solutions

This week I am excited to welcome Dr. Michele Borba to The Mojo Mom Podcast to discuss a wide range of parenting issues, as she introduces her latest parenting resource, The Big Book of Parenting Solutions. You've probably seen Dr. Borba on one of her many Today Show segments. I really appreciate her thoughtful, experienced, research-based approach to child-rearing and developing parent leadership. My favorite book of her previous works is 12 Simple Secrets Real Moms Know.

Listen to the podcast now:

Amy has been writing on her Mojo Mom Blog about the range of experiences students should have before they get to college. She and Patty Ayers talk about the important balance between exploration and knowing where you are going.

Then Mojo Mom welcomes leading parenting expert Dr. Michele Borba to the podcast. Michele Borba is the author of 23 books and a regular contributor to The Today Show. Her latest release is "The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries." This encylopedic guide is organized by topic to give parents the specific solutions they need to address a wide range of issues for kids ages 3 to 13.

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Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Illegal school strip searches in Iowa

This is the first week of school for millions of students across the country. I wish I had a happy Back to School blog post, but something timely, important and disturbing has just come up. Lynn Harris' Broadsheet post alerted me to an illegal strip search by school officials at Atlantic High School in Iowa. This blatantly illegal search was done on five high school girls in an effort to find $100 that went missing during gym class. You can read more about the case in The Des Moines Register's reporting (link via Pandagon before it got to Broadsheet).

For once I agree with parents bringing in lawyers. Even if someone had stolen $100, that is no reason to strip search one, much less five students. And the Supreme Court has already ruled against unreasonable school strip searches in a case earlier this year (see analyis on SCOTUS blog), so the school is truly beyond the pale. Even I knew that from reading the news, and I currently do not work for a school? How stupid and uninformed can a school be?

I am preparing my daughter for many contingencies in life, but I absolutely hate to think that it's necessary to teach her how to resist an unlawful strip search by school officials. I don't think that would happen at our school but it's absolutely unacceptable for it to happen anywhere.

The quote that disturbed me most: "The older sister of one of the girls said the teen took off her bra and underwear after specifically asking if she had to do so. She complied because she did not want to cause a scene, the sister said."

Schools have such inherent authority authority over students that when they misuse their power, it's very hard for students to resist complying with an unreasonable request. I really hate to think that we need to train our kids to say, "I'm not doing anything until my parent are here and I've spoken to a laywer," but in these cases it's necessary, in order to get schools in line with the laws and precedents that are already on the books.

I have been planning to write about Kidpower, the personal safety organization I am affiliated with, and I really need to fast-track that post. This case shows that we need to teach young people individual personal safety skills, but also to get all of society on the same page--a safe page--when it comes to these issues.

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Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Should college be more than an exploratory playground?

This week's Yoder & Son column "Is It Too Soon to Think about a Career?" struck a nerve with me. In this weekly Wall Street Journal column, Steve Yoder and his son Isaac have intergenerational dialogues about financial issues. As Isaac heads off to college, he wonders whether he should already be thinking about a potential career path. His father balks as he wonders:

Have I been giving Isaac bum guidance? I've never pressured him to think of college as vocational training. If anything, I've encouraged Isaac not to fixate on a career goal too early. "Study broadly," I told him as autumn approached. "That's the great gift of a liberal-arts campus."

Even as Steve contemplates the fun of choosing among classes such as "The City in Europe, 1100-1789" and "Masculinity in Modern Japanese Fiction and Film," he also begins to wonder:
Am I setting Isaac up for unrealistic expectations about what life holds after graduation? Karen and I will be spending well over $100,000 to send him to school in the midst of a high national unemployment rate. Should we expect Isaac to identify some plan for how he will recoup that investment in the job world?

Personally, I think we need to move beyond the era that viewed college as a liberal arts educational playground. I don't necessarily think that first-year students need to have a fixed career goal in mind, or even know for sure what they will major in, they should have a clue why they are there. Why pay $20,000 to $50,000 a year to grow up? Why not travel or work for a year or two before heading to college, earning money and perhaps even accumulating some academic credits along the way? These days it seems utterly crazy to go into debt to pay for a college education before you have a solid idea of what your educational goals are.

I was as green as they came my first year of college. My roommate had graduated from a Catholic girls' school in Providence, but she spent a year in India before starting college. As a result, she had much more of a clue about the world than I did. Back in the late 80's, though, you could graduate with any major and most likely find a job. But these days, a job is no longer a given. Grads need to have solid, practical skills and experience that will make them stand out as potential new hires.

I turned out just fine, finding a true interest in Neuroscience my sophomore year that led me to a grad-school scholarship. It does seem ironic now that here I am, living a writer's life, something many a liberal arts major could relate to. It turns out that there was no academic roadmap or ladder to predict the path I ultimately carved out for myself. Each step I made the best decision I could, and learned something valuable along the way. Importantly, I was also willing to make significant detours from a laid-out plan when necessary. I completed my Ph. D. in Neuroscience, followed my love for education to teach high school for three years, then channeled my teaching mojo into writing after my daughter arrived. I also discovered my entrepreneurial spirit so that I could create my own job, something I wish all undergrads would learn about, especially women. You could be a layer, a vet, or a farmer: you never know when you'll need to take your career into your own hands.

But even though I've seen for myself many different ways that life can work out just fine, I still worry about today's new college students, many of whom seem even more sheltered and inexperienced than I was. When the time comes, I am going to encourage my daughter to question the typical "4X4" academic ladder of 4 years of high school straight into 4 years of college. I've been truly inspired by Maya Frost's excellent new book, The New Global Student, that shows just how much you can accomplish (and how much money you can save) by exploring a whole variety of educational options, with an emphasis on international education.

She's been blogging on these issues, including "Grad School Won’t Turn Clueless Kids Into Self-Directed Adults" which takes a look at what happens after college graduation if students don't become internally motivated, directed and self-reliant. I am not saying that the Yoders are headed for this situation (Isaac sounds like a pretty smart guy) but I bet they'd be interested in reading what she has to say.

I know there is a lot of room for debate on these issues, and I'd love to hear your thoughts.

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Friday, September 04, 2009

The Mojo Mom Podcast returns with NurtureShock

It's hard to believe that we're kicking off the fifth season of The Mojo Mom Podcast. It's been such a rewarding project and I am happy it's time to start the new season. This fall we have some big changes and a great guest lineup developing.

Listen to the podcast now:

On this week's show:

We wish a fond farewell to co-host Sheryl Grant who is starting grad school full time. Amy welcomes her new co-host Patty Ayers. Amy and Patty have worked together behind the scenes for many years and are excited to talk about current issues together on the podcast. In this episode they talk about Patty's empty-nester move to Mexico (you can see photos on Patty's blog) and then discuss the controversy that erupted this week about a breastfeeding mother who was fired by the Totes/Isotoner corporation for taking "unauthorized" breaks to pump her milk.

Then Mojo Mom talks to Po Bronson, co-author of NurtureShock: New Thinking about Children. In this important new book, Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman bring to light new scientific findings that can change the way we view child development.

I am really excited about NurtureShock. You can read my full review. The book has reactivated the curious scientist in me. As Po Bronson says on his NurtureShock website, "The central premise of this book is that many of modern society’s strategies for nurturing children are in fact backfiring – because key twists in the science have been overlooked." It's this new lens that interests me most, beyond any specific findings, which will of course keep evolving. I want to see us sharpen our ability to pick parenting strategies that work, based on a willingness to question conventional wisdom and take new findings into account--as well as relying on our own parental common sense and confidence that we know our children. I look forward to the ongoing conversation that will be sparked by NurtureShock.

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Thursday, September 03, 2009

Recommended videos: The Curse of the Good Girl, and Saying Goodbye to College Kids

There were two video segments on The Today Show this week that I wanted to recommend to you:

First is Rachel Simmons, author of the new book The Curse of the Good Girl and the older book Odd Girl Out, talking with Dr. Roni Cohen-Sandler, author of Stressed-Out Girls, about what it takes to raise authentic daughters. The conversation got very "Mojo Mom"-esque at the end if I do say so myself, as they talked about how we as Moms can show girls what it means to have authentic selves.

The second segment features Dr. Michele Borba, talking with Meredith Vieira about saying goodbye to college-bound kids. A real tear-jerker, and full of good advice. Dr. Borba's new book is The Big Book of Parenting Solutions, and she's going to be my guest on The Mojo Mom Podcast next week! I think she's so smart and right on target with her approach to parenting.

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Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Email response from Totes/Isotoner

Here's the response email I received from Totes/Isotoner's customer affairs department. I am not satisfied. They have a customer relations nightmare on their hands here and I hope they are more proactive and convincing in their defense. The Ohio court rulings seemed shaky at best, full of twisted logic. I wish we knew more of the facts of the case because now it sounds like she said/they said.

Dear Amy,

Thank you for your note and concerns regarding the Ohio Supreme Court Ruling regarding the termination of a temporary employee.

As a matter of policy, totes»ISOTONER is not able to provide specific
information surrounding the employment circumstances of any employee. What we can share is that based on the circumstances involved with this specific temporary employee, the totes»ISOTONER employment decision has been supported by the Butler County Court of Common Pleas, the Ohio Court of Appeals for the 12th District and the Ohio Supreme Court. And while we cannot specifically address the Ohio Supreme Court Ruling, we can share several of our workplace practices:

· totes»ISOTONER absolutely supports employees, whether full-time, part-time, or temporary, who are also nursing mothers.

· totes»ISOTONER does provide time for nursing mothers to pump their breast milk and many employees have taken advantage of this accommodation. In the case presented to the Supreme Court, we did provide this accommodation.

· totes»ISOTONER is a company committed to supporting our employees. Because females account for approximately 70% of our work force, we are very attuned to and supportive of the needs of working mothers.

Again, thank you for your note and expressing your views on this issue. We take great pride in our culture of being a family oriented company, and can only indicate there were other factors involved in this particular situation which led to the company’s decision in this case. We appreciate your having been a customer in the past and hope you will reconsider your decision in this regard going forward.


Vickie Fightmaster
Human Resources Manager