Don’t let your little one fall behind, ensure a top college by teaching them young

Academia may seem like a fancy word reserved for educators, but it doesn’t have to be daunting or mysterious. For parents interested in learning more about the college selection process, there are plenty of programs willing to helping. The problem is, many of these programs can cost you thousands of dollars.

If breaking the piggy bank does not interest you, here are some practical suggestions.

Read to Your Children

Educators and child psychologists agree that reading to children is one of the best things you can do for developing brains. When children are presented with words and stories from an early age, it has a way of stimulating neurological functions and developing connections. Our brains are incredibly malleable from the get go. This is why learning more than one language is easiest from birth.

Broaden Their Horizons

Children who grow up participating in a variety of activities, visiting new places, and experiencing a diverse series of relationships gain invaluable life lessons.

And, despite what you may think, it doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Paris does not have the market cornered on cultural enrichment. Everyone has places within driving distance that can be discovered for the fist time.

Activities don’t have to come in the form of hundreds of dollars in registration fees. Take advantage of your local library’s programming, see what your parks and recreation department has to offer, and try out something new like flying a kite, putting together a puzzle, or Geocaching.

Emphasize Education from an Early Age

Now, to be clear, emphasizing education does not mean you must hound, nag, demand, or browbeat. These methods have been tried, and have a poor track record. Placing a healthy emphasis on education means your child knows you care and expect them to put forth their best effort in their studies.

This is a character trait best developed from an early age. Maintaining a balance that allows students to foster of sense of independence and ownership of their studies with appropriate levels of parental accountability is crucial.

When Grades (Really) Matter

Let’s be honest, a report card with straight ‘A’s’ makes everyone’s heart warm. It’s important to remember that, through middle school, students are learning how to learn, creating good habits, developing study skills, and understanding what teachers expect. When students enter high school, the stakes change. Colleges evaluate student transcripts beginning in 9th grade, which is when GPA’s (grade point averages) are calculated.

Parents do well by grooming students along the way, rather than placing unrealistic expectations upon the shoulders of their child on day one of high school. If children are first asked to perform academically in 9th grade, the opportunity to learn lessons without fear of repercussion is gone.

From an academic perspective, colleges evaluate a student’s grades and college placement exams for the purposes of admission decisions. If your student aims to attend a top tier school, they should demonstrate a strong GPA along with supporting ACT/SAT test score. Consistency between GPA and ACT/SAT scores demonstrates a student’s work ethic and natural aptitude – something colleges like to see.

Additionally, admission counselors also evaluate what a student does outside of the classroom. While many choose to try to do “a little bit of everything,” it is suggested that students demonstrate ongoing levels of growth and increasing levels of improvement with more of a singular focus.

Trying to do everything well is an unrealistic challenge for most students. For a student interested in veterinary science, working several years for a local veterinarian and showing increasing levels of responsibility tell a powerful story. A strong recommendation is very helpful as well.

Parents should remember that schools like Princeton, Harvard, and Yale turn down many valedictorians every year. There are plenty of wonderful, rigorous college environments out there. Students should do their research and select a handful to visit in person. Comfort level and fit are incredibly important factors when selecting a college.

And remember, a wise college counselor once said – College is not a race to be won, but a match to be made.

CanaGel Melts

Is Lighthouse Parenting Your Style? Is it Effective?

Each generation seems to have a new style of parenting; currently, the  lighthouse approach appears to be popular—but is it effective?

Parental Evolution

As we evolve as humans, hopefully so does our parenting style. In days of yore, it was commonplace to whip your child if he wasn’t complacent. You could even dole out corporal punishment to other peoples’ kids. Nowadays we call that child abuse. No parents are perfect. And for the most part, the majority of us try our best. Today’s parents tend to want to raise their children a bit differently than the way they were raised. Hence, this “new” concept of lighthouse parenting.

Parenting Philosophies

The idea behind good parenting should be to prepare your child for her independence in society. The goal should be that they become capable adults who manage their lives successfully. How to guide them to that end is a philosophy that will differ from parent to parent. No one can agree that there is one “right” way to parent.

Sociologist an author E.E. Masters listed five parenting styles back in the 1970s. He explained that parents often used a combination of these, depending on circumstances. They are: the Martyr (parents do everything their child wants); the Pal (parents don’t set limits- they’re buddies); the Police Officer (parents make kids obey rules and punish); the Teacher/Counselor (parents are the all-knowing); and the Athletic Coach (parents prepare kids for the game of life.) Parts of this theory still lives on…

Helicopter parenting seems to be dwindling but still exists. The term was coined back in 1969 when Dr. Haim Ginott wrote the book Parents & Teenagers. It became a dictionary entry in 2011. Basically, parents hover over their kids and over-protect them. They don’t allow their children to fail or succeed on their own. How will they fare later in life? Not always so successfully as studies are now showing.

Lighthouse Parenting

Lighthouse parenting sends a message to your kids that you trust them. This leads to their becoming confident and able. Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg has written a book titled Raising Kids to Thrive. He explains this parenting style as us being the lighthouse on the shore. The children are the ships on the sea. We keep an eye on them, but we’re distant helpers.

Dr. Ginsburg asked 500 teenagers across the country how they felt their parents could best protect them. The majority of the kids said parents should be watchful and available, but not intrusive. They don’t want their parents to treat them anxiously or angrily—they prefer calm and stable communication. Parents should have high expectations, but offer unconditional love if and when the child falls.

Gentle reminders and advice are encouraged so that the kids learn on their own, but still, have guidance when necessary. It’s an interesting and certainly an evolved form of parenting. Some of these tips may be worth implementing. Whether it’s effective remains to be seen. And, of course, each child is different as are boats. And no two lighthouses are identical either. Most importantly, let your children know you love them.

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Choosing Assisted Living For A Parent With Dementia

Numerous people have been fortunate to have loving parents who cared for their wellbeing, whilst growing up.  What happens when this role is reversed and the parent needs looking after?  Over 15 million people in the U.S care for their elderly parents each year, with half of that number having a parent who experiences some form of dementia.  What signs are an indication that it is time to seriously consider placing a parent in an assisted living environment?


  • The healthcare becomes too much for the caregiver to manage.
  • Home safety has become an issue with hazardous scenarios like: falling, leaving a stove on, and wandering away from the home and getting lost.
  • Planning the move ahead of time would be an ideal situation but for many this is not a reality.  If there is an opportunity to speak with a parent about the potential move to an assisted living home, this would help with the transition.  If the parent suffers from dementia, breaking the news about the move may be emotionally challenging as the parent may not fully understand.

Choosing Assisted Living For A Parent With Dementia

Consider the following steps in helping tell the news:


  1. If the parent is in the early stages of dementia and still comprehends, discuss after you have conducted all the assisted living research and be honest.
  2. The parent may listen more if the news comes from a professional like a doctor, nurse, or social worker.



For most of their lives, parents have been independent, so being told they are moving to an assisted living home may cause the following:

  • Feelings of abandonment
  • Upset
  • Fear
  • Lack of control


In order to calm their fears, research several care facilities.  Asking or researching the following questions, will ease stress and undeserved guilt to the caregiver:


  • Does the home have a special dementia unit?
  • Is it fully staffed seven days a week?
  • Are there medical personal on hand, and if so, how often are they there?
  • Are they Medicare certified and are all staff licensed?
  • Has the home had any lawsuits filed against it (google search)?
  • How large will their personal living space be is there a green area outside?
  • Are personal belongings and or furniture allowed for a home-like feel?
  • Is there an open door policy?
  • Are there planned activities and outings?
  • Will there be a set daily routine and what does it consist of?
  • What safety precautions are in place for dementia sufferers?
  • Is the location close enough for family and friends to visit?
  • Speak with an onsite financial advisor to discuss payment options.



It will take the parent time to adjust to their new environment, and during this period, the caregiver should consider the following steps:

  • Visit occasionally and for short amounts of time until the parent is settled in their new home.
  • Build a relationship with the staff.
  • Parents with dementia will often ask to go home, which can be very upsetting for both parties. Do not try to reason and explain the situation as this can cause agitation and upset for the parent. Try to reassure, comfort and if need be agree and distract.
  • Not only will the parent have to adjust, so will the care giver.


The decision to move a parent to an assisted living home is one of the hardest choices a person will make.  Do not feel guilty, instead be positive that an assisted living home may open more opportunities for them to socialize, be kept safe and provide medical assistance if required.  Read further on this subject and more at:




How To Have A Positive Parent-Child Relationship (Even When You Feel It’s the Biggest Challenge)

Parenting. Is there a right or wrong way to do it?  Billions throughout the world are parents. Regardless,  all parents have different mindsets on how to do their job. The parent-child relationship is a delicate, yet powerfully significant entity in life.

Clearly, making it a positive force is a challenge. Nonetheless, it’s something that is definitely attainable.

Notably, there are many social and psychological reports. They include explaining the impact of family demographics. Next, these include cultural and economic influences.  Additionally, there are plenty of written guidelines, all which aim to help to produce the “model child.”

Get Your Parent-Child Relationship Philosophy Straight

Realistically, there will be dramas.  And yes, children will answer back. Kids will also be non-compliant. So, how do parents stay grounded and consistent when faced with tough challenges? 

Ask yourself this question:  What makes the closest to an ideal parent?

All the while, parenting is accomplished in many different ways, yet, the answers are roughly the same:

  • Unconditional love
  • A positive role model
  • Advisor
  • Teaching children to be independent

Where Things Can Go Awry

In today’s society, a majority of parents forget the foundations. Ironically, many adults veer off this well-laid path by complicating the way they parent. Unfortunately, things like this may happen:

  • Reduced supervision in the home environment
  • Helicopter parents who hover over the child and rescue them from negative situations
  • Drill sergeant parents who shout instructions and control

Even With the Best Intentions…

Most parents come from the good place of love. Oftentimes, however, their personal traits and insecurities dictate how these influence their child’s behavior.  So then, how does one ensure a positive parent-child relationship while not letting personal issues affect on the optimism of the relationship?

Here are a couple of suggestions to boost the parent-child relationship:

  • Let the child fail. As frightening as this statement sounds, through failure, the child will learn. For example, guide and advise, but do not control.  Sometimes, children need to be able to make their own decisions. This is a skill imperative to their future.  In addition, this will help your relationship and fortify independence.

  • An example of this is homework. Helping (or doing)  the questions, or constantly reminding them to complete the task, may not be helpful. Finally, it may result in them not suffering a natural consequence. Overall, nothing here will be learned by the child. Not academics. Not consequences.


  • Quality time. Switch off the phones, TV, computers, and sit down to talk.  Dinner time is perfect. Obviously it’s not always possible because of activities and jobs.  Most importantly, then, carve out at least 15 minutes a day to have worthy conversation.  It doesn’t have to be about the meaning of life.  But, it could be as simple as asking how the day went. Or, it could even be sharing a joke.  All of these conversations open up lines of communication.  Children need reassurance that parents are always there to talk to. No matter how hectic life can get.

Have Rules and Set Boundaries

Starting from infancy, the parents set the rules. “Don’t touch that, it’s too hot.” “Don’t hit your brother!” “Don’t draw on the walls,” etc.  The list is endless. However, actions following broken rules have a huge validity on the parent-child relationship.

What set of consequences are in place? And, are they adhered to?  If there is threat of action due to a broken rule, correction must follow.  If not, children feel they can break rules again. Unfortunately, this can also lead to insecurities due to lack of boundaries.

Structure as a Necessity

Noteworthy, humans need structure and rules to flourish and feel secure. Numerous studies have shown this to be true. Structure can make interactions with children concrete.  Success in rule-making for the parent-child relationship follows these simple steps:

  • Set simple rules everyone understands.
  • Be consistent and don’t back down.
  • Don’t feel guilty. Most importantly, these rules are in place to ensure children’s safety.
  • Teach respect, and in turn, empathy.

Society as a Factor

Modern day society can be considered complex. For one, it may have us clambering to the top of a competitive pile. Also, it can be considered egocentric. “Shoot your neighbor, get out of my way, I’m first.”

In order to raise children as non-narcissistic little monsters, efforts may be better focused on education and character.

A Harvard study of 10,000 middle- and high-school students found that four out-of-five kids perceived that their parents valued achievement more than caring for others. That’s pretty sad.

Whether the students’ perception were accurate or not, the information is devastating. In the best of all worlds, parents should lead by example. We need to show compassion for others through our words and actions.

With communication, empathy, logic, rules and consistency, parents have the tools to raise their kids.  The child-rearing road may be full of potholes.  But, with a strong foundation, a good relationship will form and hopefully have longevity.  To read more about parent/child relationships, please check out




Understanding the Teenage Years

No parent is ever absolutely ready for the changes and challenges they have to encounter and experience when it comes to a teenager. Even though there have been numerous studies trying to explain the reason behind the unpredictable nature of their behavior, there are still some surprising moments faced by every parent during this time. However, understanding why the behavior is such can help you, as a parent; feel more supportive towards them during this phase.

It Ain’t Done Yet

According to neuroscientist Frances Jensen, the teenage brain is still undergoing change and is getting developed which is why their actions do not always seem rational to adults. In this article, we will share some of the realities associated with the teenage years in the hope to educate parents.

The frontal lobes of our brains are considered to be responsible for the decisions that we make and the reactions that we have to things around us. During teenage years, this part of the brain is still in the process of getting re-wired, which is why you should expect yourself to witness a lot of unpredictable responses and bad judgment calls.

Keep It Up

However, this does not mean that you give up on your child; rather it is essential that you play your part as a parent since the habits developed during this time might stay for a long time. Teenagers that develop bad habits such as smoking, drug use and alcohol addiction will face more problems as adults when they try to quit. Thus, it is extremely important that as a parent, you keep doing the best you can to improve your teen’s habits.

Let’s Get Physical

Apart from the biological changes, there are also many physical changes that are taking place during this time of life. Hormonal changes leading to puberty can also be held responsible for the erratic feelings that your adolescent shows – for example, a change in voice, in demeanor, acne, etc. are all changes that make adolescents more vulnerable to having problems related to self-confidence and self-esteem. Your child is at a stage where they are trying to discover and understand their inner-self and at the same time is learning to accept the physical changes that have taken place. It almost feels like they are in someone else’s body. Knowing this, parents are more likely to give the teenage children some benefit of the doubt.

Sleep It Off

Also, the circadian rhythm of the teenager is subject to change as well. Teens, because of this change, feel more alert during the night and need 3-4 more hours of sleep in the morning as compared to adults. Unfortunately, academic needs do not allow them to get the proper sleep, which is what they need during this stage for to be calm and relaxed.

Bottom Line

Even though this time of your child’s life is going to be challenging for both of you, it is recommended that you still play your role to avoid any damaging lifelong effects. As a parent, you need to make sure that you stay connected to your child by being a constant source of support in their life.

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Parent Quiz: Do You Know What Your Teen is Up To?

Many of us would like to think we know what our teen is doing. Even using the barometer of “I was a teenager once” may help us to better understand their behaviors and actions. But, still, … these are different times.

What our kids are up to may surprise us, even if we feel informed. Check out the Parent Quiz below. See the Answer Key afterwards to see how you ranked and for explanations and details.




1.) The Rational Part of the Brain Isn’t Fully Developed Until…

a) a person turns 18

b) a person turns around 25

c) a student gets a high score on the SATs


2.) Teenagers Drive More Recklessly When They Are…

a) with a parent

b) with a peerc) alone

c) alone


3.) On the Subject of Marijuana…

a) Over 35% of high school students report having used it at least once

b) Over 100 deaths a year are attributed to marijuana overdose

c) It can have permanent effects on the developing brain, especially with heavy or regular use


4.) On the Subject of Alcohol…

a) By 18, around 60% of teens have had at least 1 drink

b) More adolescents use alcohol than cigarettes or marijuana

c) Over 5 million adolescents reported binge drinking at least once in the past month.


5.) On the Subject of Sex…

a) Over 40% of high school students have engaged in sexual relations

b) About 15% of teens having sex do not use condoms or birth control

c) Almost 10 million new STD cases reported each year are among youngsters between the ages of 15 to 24.



1.) The answer is b; the rational part of the brain (the prefrontal cortex) isn’t fully developed until people are in their mid-20s. Teens often respond to situations with the amygdala (the emotional, primitive part of the brain). It’s for this reason that teenagers can often be impulsive and seemingly act reckless. They don’t yet have the capability to respond with the best judgment. Often, they are unable to understand long-term consequences.

2.) Because the prefrontal cortex of the brain is not fully developed, a teenager does not have the “adult” capacity to self-regulate. Additionally, adolescents are greatly motivated by peer influence. A teenager is more likely to drive recklessly when he/she has another peer in the vehicle. They often engage in risky behavior because they do not want to feel excluded by their peers. (It’s emotionally based.) The answer is b.

3.) If you answered a and c, you are correct. The CDC reports that 38% of high schoolers have tried or use marijuana. And yes, abusing the drug can increase risk of negative effects on the developing brain. However, there are no reported deaths attributed directly to marijuana; it is almost impossible to overdose from it.  (There have been reports where accidents have been cause by marijuana use, but in and of itself, it is not deadly.)

4.) All answers a, b, and c are correct. According to the National Institutes of Health, teenage alcohol use is rampant. Accidents are the number one cause of teenage death; alcohol and/or drugs are often a contributing factor to the unintentional deaths. (Binge drinking, by the way, entails 5 or more drinks for males and 4 or more for females within a few hours.)

5.) Again, if you guessed answers a, b, and c, you would be correct. The CDC conducted a Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance in 2015 amongst adolescents, teens, and young adults. The figures are staggering when it comes to the amount of unsafe sexual activity that is occurring. About half of all teens between the ages of 15 and 19 reported that they have participated in oral sex, most without protection from STDs.


While some of these questions and their respective answers do not come as a surprise to some parents, to others, it can be dumbfounding. We cannot be with our teenagers 24/7, nor do any of us want it that way. It’s for this reason that it’s essential you and your adolescent try and maintain an open line of communication.

Listening and trust will be the pillars of your ability to stay connected with your teen. As a parent, it’s our job to impart important information. How that is handled will define how your child receives it. You and your family’s position on the addressed topic will, no doubt, have certain rules or belief systems. Regardless, it will help to keep in mind that your teen’s brain may yet be incapable of self-monitoring, rationalizing, and emotional impulse control.

Information, care, guidance, and a mature perspective may be the optimal service we can offer to our teens to keep them safe and flourish into responsible, healthy adults. No one said raising teens was going to be easy!


Chein, J., Albert, D., O’Brien, L., Uckert, K., & Steinberg, L. (2011). Peers increase adolescent risk taking by enhancing activity in the brain’s reward circuitry. Developmental Science, 14, F1-F10.






How Exercise Can Make You a Better Parent

Exercising Parenthood

We hear it all the time: Exercise is a crucial part of our overall health, happiness, and well-being. But parents often struggle to find the time and energy to exercise through childrearing, homework, cooking dinner, doing the dishes, and, well, sleeping. While all those duties are important, exercise can truly make you a better parent.

Opting for Opportunities

Exercising can give parents the opportunity to spend time by themselves, solve problems, reach the inner self, and just reach a moment of self-actualization.

Body Motion Mumbo-Jumbo

This might sound like psychological mumbo-jumbo, but the truth is taking these opportunities gives parents the ability to refocus and reenergize on improving parenthood.



Parenting Success Using Game Theory

Parenting requires strategy, and game theory is basically the science of strategy. Applying one to the other may provide for a win-win parenting scenario.

What’s Game Theory?

Game theory is based on mathematics and economy, but can be applied to anything in life from playing checkers, to parenting, to war strategy. It’s the action of analyzing a particular situation and creating a strategy. The strategy is to get the participants to act in a certain matter that will derive your desired outcome.

A Unique Parenting Style

Using game theory in parenting can help siblings to get along better—even without you interfering. The idea is to use classic strategies so that your kids will behave kindly, fairly, and learn true compromise. These are lessons that can create peace at home, but also hopefully help your children become successful adults.

Fair is Fair

Harvard University psychologist Elizabeth S. Spelke believes “cooperation is part of our biology.” Children will share if others share with them. They learn naturally how to negotiate—and manipulate—in order to get what they want.

In the book, The Game Theorist’s Guide to Parenting, the authors site, scientifically, how we can use game theory for everyone’s benefit. Not only will our kids learn how to get along better, but parents will reap rewards too. For example, the “tit for tat” strategy teaches kids how to reach fair agreements. They learn that “if you do this for me now, I will do that for you later.”

Classic Example

One strategy in game theory is called the Prisoner’s Dilemma. It’s based on two criminals separated after they’re both caught. They can either confess to the crime, blame the other, or keep quiet. Siblings figure out how to cooperate with with one another by learning from getting tattled on. If as a parent, you give each child the same reward (or same punishment), the children will figure out how to act as a team.

Kevin Zollman is a game theorist and associate professor of philosophy at Carnegie Mellon University. His co-author, Paul Raeburn is an award-winning writer of four other books. Together, they penned this book, offering tactics to help raise kids “earn” what they want in life.

Other Parenting Moves

Using game theory, you get the children to complete a task together. For example, you ask them to put all the dirty clothes in the hamper. If they do, they’ll get a brownie after dinner. If one does it, and the other doesn’t, tell them they both must complete the task in order to earn. Watch the other pitch in real quick. If neither child helps, start cleaning up the clothes yourself and say, “Looks like I’m the only one getting a brownie tonight.” Again, they will both kick into gear.

Game theory can help teach your child how not to lie, how to comply with non-preferred directions, and learn from the school of hard knocks. This style of parenting may not be for everyone. However, it may be worth incorporating some new strategies now and then.

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