Friday, April 25, 2008

Getting in the Spotlight

While this blog has primarily been set up as an informational resource for parents, mentors & families of the kids participating in the KooDooZ beta, I have decided to include a very indepth interview with the founder of REGARD VENTURES, Steve Beauregard, who has been a guiding light in shaping, funding & incubating KooDooZ.

It is my sincere hope that anyone who has the stamina to take their amazing ideas into the public light will have someone as good as Steve to guide them. None of us really does anything completely alone.

There are always helping hands, inspiring ideas and a community behind the achiever.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

To Treat Fair…is to Treat Different

I watched with amusement as my friend broke a chocolate-chip cookie in half, and counted how many delicious milk-chocolate chunks were on one side versus the other.

“What are you doing?” I asked, as she nibbled a jagged edge off one half. “Walking a tightrope,” she said. “No matter how equal I try to make things, somehow the kids tell me I’m not being fair.”

I had to laugh. I’d been there, and had learned that the cookie crumbles differently every time. It’s never perfectly fair, or perfectly equal. Nor is life, for that matter.

A parent’s attempt to judiciously allocate, divide, and share everything equally does not offer balance – it does the exact opposite. Kids are given the false impression that “fair” is synonymous with “exactly the same,” and instead of discouraging sibling rivalry, we accelerate it.

“How often do your kids NEED exactly the same amount of any one thing at the same moment?” I ask my friend. I squint, as though this will somehow bring my pointed question into focus for her, and I punctuate it with the shake of my head. “Almost never,” I answer my own query.

The point is, children benefit from their parent’s ethical act of keeping the needs of the individual child balanced against the kid's (and the sibling’s) perception of what is fair. Alas, so many perceptions are in the eye of the beholder.

"It's not fair" is all too common an outburst of school age children. So ingrained is that sentiment, that it was reported the average teenager will say "it's not fair" 8.6 times a day! (see source).

There's a way to dimish, if not eliminate that statement all together.

Treat your children differently – based on who they are and what they need. In doing so, you will treat them fairly.

Like it or not, your kids are different – from each other, and from you. Based on who they're becoming, and the stage of life they’re in, their levels of patience, stamina, independence, need for approval, desire to be alone, sense of humor, and perception of self… are different. This is what sets them apart as individuals.

As you make decisions about who gets what when and for what reason. Don't forget that beyond our individual drivers, that tricky little quirk known as "human nature,” can occasionally cause actions and reactions which contradict individual values. In certain situations – such as being presented with two halves from which to choose – the instinct to compare and measure what’s offered is inevitable. (And this becomes magnified when the other recipient is a sibling or rival, regardless of want or need!)

Most everyone I know is eager to get the biggest slice of life -- not to mention the bigger half of a chocolate chip cookie!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Soles with Soul

It’s always a pleasure to attend a fund-raiser for a “company of conscience” – and TOMS is just that. Founded just two years ago, the company has been serving children living in poverty by donating a pair of shoes to a child in need for every shoe that is purchased. Derived from “Shoes for Tomorrow,” TOMS has already given away more than 58,000 pairs of shoes and last November the band, HANSON, joined them on their second shoe drop, delivering a whopping 50,000 pairs to children in South Africa.

This year, TOMS plans to give away 100,000 pairs of shoes to needy children in Ethiopia and even more to children in the United States.

TOMS is the brainchild of Blake Mycoskie, known by his peers and friends as the “Chief Shoe-Giver.”

As for the actual shoe, TOMS are modeled after alpartagas, which are made by the natives of Argentina. The shoe is made with a light canvas and is offered in a wide variety of styles. TOMS Shoes has won the “People’s Design Award,” an award sponsored by Target and awarded to the company with the best design as voted by the people.

Keeping in-step with their charitable grassroots efforts, TOMS has a “Style Your Sole” fundraiser across the country at 45 universities, sponsored by Hope For Africa. This gives students the opportunity to design their own shoes with their unique style & flair.

So... if you have soul, support TOMS -- whose “sole” purpose is to give.


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

How To Bridge The Gap

The gap between today’s parent & child is digital in nature.

As long as they’ve been alive, the world has been a connected place. They text, they IM, their iPods are continuously in their ears… if they’re not watching their favorite show on TV, they’re watching it on the net. This is the generation of young people who prefer to learn by doing rather than being told what to do.

Poor parents. Most of us don’t truly “get” the phenomenon that our kids can be standing just a few feet away from each other, and still choose to text or IM rather than walk over to initiate a conversation. Adults are less likely to value an online interaction the same way we would a face-to-face conversation.

Sociologists refer to these kids as “iGeneration” (born after 1996), “Generation Z (born after 2000)” and “Net Gen” (born between 1977-1997). They only know digital, and are growing up with easy access to information.

Even though some of our future “Zeds” have not been born yet, experts understand the key challenges they will face in their life, and can predict their key traits. For example, because this generation will be exposed to marketing at a young age, they will demand relevance.

I recently read an article which stated that babies 6-months of age can recognize mental images of a company’s logo. This means that brand-loyalties can be established at the age of 2-years, and when these children go to school, high numbers can recognize these brand logos. (see article)

But I digress.

The point of this blog entry was to take a closer look at how to bridge the gap.

When it comes to children, any degree of risk is seen as “unacceptable.” Today’s parent lives in a “risk-averse culture” and it has been argued that children’s immersion into the “virtual world” is partly due to the limited encounters of today’s children outside the home. If our kids can’t play alone outside, they shouldn’t venture unaccompanied on the internet. (see “Safer Children In The Digital World") Correct?

Yes. But while aiming to protect our children, we might actually be thwarting their developmental need to socialize and establish risk identifiers, assessment and management skills that can help keep them safe. (see Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Pyramid)

In an interview with Larry Rosen (author of “Me, MySpace and I: Parenting the Net Generation”) he spoke to the importance of proactive parents. The challenge, Rosen said, is that most parents he talks with “have absolutely no idea what their kids are doing. They don’t even understand what MySpace is and what function it plays.” As a result, too many parents skew to extremes. They ban video games based on parental buzz, rather than knowledge. (see full interview)

Few parents believe that online games encourage collaboration among players and provide a context for peer-to-peer teaching. Most are of the opinion that online gaming is addictive and dangerous. Don’t forget, just shy of a year ago, the American Medical Association tried to label video-game addiction as a mental illness. (According to a Harris Interactive Poll conducted last year, the average “tween” plays 13-hours of video games each week.) The “Zeds” look at gaming as a social outlet. They are playing in groups, online communities form around games, and players literally “add to” existing games to share their vision with others. (see more about “Net Gen”)

The reality is, computer-based activities play a central role in today’s youth culture. As parents, what we need to do is find a healthy way for kids to blend these two worlds. And until KooDooZ is ready for you to bridge that gap, there are a few simple things you, as parents, can do:

  1. Knowledge is power. With the internet, 80% of it is going to be parenting, and 20% of it is going to be your understanding of it. Parents need to do their research – just like they would check out any other activities your kids were selected in the real-world. Not all sites are dangerous, not all games are bad -- but some are. Set limits & rules that your kids can understand... monitor them!
  2. Don't dismiss their way of doing things. If your kids text, then use that tool as one way to communicate with them. (See the 04/16/08 article “Text messaging improves parent-teen relationship”)
  3. Play games with your kids – board games and interactive. Learn to appreciate the age-appropriate online games your kids like as much as the board or card games that you grew up with. (43% of parents who have gamer children never play along)
  4. Learn to see the kid in front of you, not the kid you wanted to have. The aspirations of your kids are unique to them. Take a moment to stop & listen to their dreams.
  5. Promote a sense of family by making the kids responsible for specific household decisions and chores. A dinner for example can involve a kid's participation in the shopping and preparation as well as enjoying the meal with you.