Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Parents Unrealistic Expectations May Harm Their Kids

Our research revealed both positive and negative aspects of parents' aspiration for their children's academic performance. Although parental aspiration can help improve children's academic performance, excessive parental aspiration can be poisonous.

Kou Murayama, PhD, of the University of Reading

Turns out all that loving support from moms and dads, who let their kids know that they have high hopes for their academic success, can backfire — big time.

According to a new study recently published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, when parents aspired for their child to get higher grades than they expected the student would actually get, the teen’s performance tanked. “Much of the previous literature conveyed a simple, straightforward message to parents — aim high for your children and they will achieve more,” the study’s lead author Kou Murayama, a professor of psychology at the University of Reading in England, explained in a press release. But that wasn’t what he found in his research — on more than 3,500 teens over the course of five years, looking at students’ math grades each year along with parents’ assessment of how much they want their child to earn a specific grade and to what degree they believe that the teenager will do so. “Unrealistically high aspiration,” he added, “may hinder academic performance.”

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In fact, all that well-meaning cheerleading that can help boost a kid’s grades, can be downright “poisonous” if it is “excessive,” he said. “There are parents who put a lot of pressure [on kids] to get good grades even if it is very difficult for the children to get such a high grade,” Murayama tells Yahoo Parenting. “They tend not to look at children as they are but as their ideal children.”

Figuring out what’s realistic isn’t as tricky as it may sound, though. Linda Houser, president of The Association of Teacher Educators, tells that it is simply a matter of putting academic achievement in perspective. “What we see from parents is that ‘A’ is the grade that everyone is expecting their child to receive if they’ve studied and worked hard but it’s just not the case that that will happen,” she says. “Over the years what an ‘A’ means has changed too. It used to be considered above and beyond and only a very few received it. Now, it’s almost become the normal grade expected. That’s why we see ‘A+’ grades now and grade inflation.”

Top results on standardized test scores are often expected by parents as well, she adds. “But the way these tests are structured, you’re always going to have people in the lower quartiles,” says Houser. “Many parents think that their kids always have to be at the top yet they can’t all be.”

Flawless homework assignments are another off-base target. “Obviously children are learning,” she says. “If they already knew all this, there wouldn’t be any reason to have the learning experience. Sometimes, parents don’t realize that homework is about practicing a new idea and students may not be perfect at it the first few times. Learning takes time and to always strive for your child to ‘get it’ easily and perfectly the first time is not only unrealistic, it doesn’t benefit the child because they don’t get the experience of investigating the concepts, practicing and improving on it.”

Even the expectation of active class participation every day can be over the top, Houser adds. “Every child is a different and unique human being. Some learn by listening and thinking. Sure we want them to participate but that may look different from raising their hand each time and volunteering to answer every question. Sometimes it’s the quiet student who may be thinking and using her critical skills the best.”

So before parents spell out specific academic achievements that they hope their teens will achieve, Houser urges moms and dads: “Base your expectations on the student’s personal strengths and their individual areas of encouragement.” That, she says, is A+ parenting.

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The recent study supports the data received from the previous researches, and have well-grounded theoretical perspectives, helping parents not to overestimate their kids capabilities, willpower, and not setup the level of expectations so high that it might become dangerous both for the students and their parents. That is true – it is not good for your kid, it is not good for you!

When a child does not perform according to expectations, the parent's stress level rises. Changes occur in the parent's behavior—extra doses of impatient body English and insistent harshness in the voice, for instance—, which become setting events for deviant behavior by the child. When you bear down harder, in other words, you increase the likelihood that your child will escape and avoid your authority, which will inspire you to bear down even harder, and so on. The spiral of escalation twists up and up, sometimes to the point that a parent loses it and ends up doing something normally unthinkable—slapping small children, for instance, for failing to nap when they're supposed to.

When we enforce unreasonable expectations, and especially when we punish according to them, we put stress on kids, who respond by avoiding, escaping, and becoming irritable. Ironically, that puts them off whatever activity, skill, or virtue we are trying to inculcate, making it aversive rather than attractive.

At the same time, parental expectations can have a strong, positive effect on children’s academic success. In a study conducted published by the Harvard Family Research project, Professor William H. Jeynes of California State University at Long Beach found that parental expectations affected children’s academic outcomes more than other types of parental involvement, including attendance of school events and clear rules. Thus, establishing healthy academic expectations and communicating these expectations to kids can be an important key to fostering success in school.

So, the key is moderation – be reasonable with your expectation. Be a loving parent – listen to your child, do not ignore verbal and non-verbal signs of tiresomeness and exhaustion. Be reasonable, evaluating your kids’ capabilities, and try to highlight the strong traits, leading to the right choice of the area of application in the future. If your kid is not good in chemistry, do not hope him or her to become the Nobel Prize winner in the field. May be, programming will be better target application?

We always try to do what we consider as the best for our kids. Sometimes, we really overdo on our efforts, potentially affecting their happy childhood and youth and converting them to the adults, recovering from tough childhood experience on therapy sessions. What your kids need most of all is unconditional love. Please do not hide your real feeling – let your kids know that you love them!

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Thursday, October 29, 2015

15 Facts Cat Owners may not know about their Cats

Today, October 29, is a National Cat Day! “What greater gift than the love of a cat?” Charles Dickens once mused. Cats are one of the most beloved human companions of all time. They were first domesticated in the Middle East’s Fertile Crescent as early as 12,000 years ago. When humans relied on hunting as their main source of food, dogs were most useful – but when the first agricultural societies emerged, cats became invaluable. Domesticated cats became responsible for keeping grain stores free of mice and other rodents. Today, cats can be found in 34% of American households, making them the most popular house pet in the United States.

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Here are some amazing facts about cats, you may not been aware:

1. Cats can drink seawater
If you’re ever lost at sea, don’t drink the ocean water. The large amount of salt in the water dehydrates humans. Cats, on the other hand, can drink sea water in order to survive. Cats have crazy kidneys that filter out the salt from the water so they can re-hydrate themselves.

2. Cats sweet through their paws
Cats do not have sweat glands, like humans. Instead, when they want to cool off they sweat through their paws. The sweat glands on cats’ paws secrete a scent that they use to mark their territory. So whenever they are walking or scratching they are actually marking that spot as their own.

3. Cats as sleeping beauties
How much time do you sleep daily? Not enough I guess? Well, if so you would be jealous as your favorite kitty spends 70% of his lives sleeping? That’s 16 hours a day! Cats need an enormous amount of energy to hunt, or pounce on the little toy mouse they have. Sleeping is their way of storing up energy.

4. Kitty Alzheimer’s
Senior cats start to experience something like human dementia or Alzheimer’s when they reach an old age, usually around 8. The cats wander around the house a little dazed and confused, which is why they meow constantly. If your cat is displaying these symptoms, experts say it is best to comfort it and provide an extra blanket at night.

5. Whiskers purpose
Unlike men’s mustache, cats’ whiskers grow to be as long as the cat is wide. Whiskers don’t just make cats adorable they also serve an important purpose. Cats use their long whiskers to make sure their body will be able to fit through tight openings. If the whiskers bend or move, the cat knows it won’t be able to fit.

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6. Survival rates for cats are better when falling from higher heights
It takes some time for cats’ bodies to realize they are falling and properly adjust. Cats are more likely to survive a higher fall because they have more time to prepare their body and decelerate. The death rate for cats falling from a 2 to 6-story building is much higher than falling from a 7 to 32-story building. Some cats have survived falls of over 65 feet (20 meters), due largely to their “righting reflex.” The eyes and balance organs in the inner ear tell it where it is in space so the cat can land on its feet. Even cats without a tail have this ability. Humans are definitely not as good at it. In 1972, stewardess Vesna Vulovic lived after falling over 9,000 meters—30,000 feet—from a damaged plane, but that is kind of a very rare exception.

7. Cats might be allergic of humans
Does your cat cough frequently? You might be to blame. According to a 2005 study, feline asthma—which affects one in 200 cats—is on the rise thanks to human lifestyle. Since cats are more frequently being kept indoors, they’re more susceptible to inflammation of their airways caused by cigarette smoke, dusty houses, human dandruff, pollen and some kinds of cat litters. And in rare cases, humans can even transmit illnesses like the flu to their pets.

8. Cats are sophisticated animals
Sure, their brains are small, accounting for just 0.9 percent of their body mass. But according to Psychology Today, "the brains of cats have an amazing surface folding and a structure that is about 90 percent similar to ours." The cerebral cortex—the part of the brain that's responsible for cognitive information processing—is more complex in cats than in dogs, and cats have some 300 million neurons, as compared to 160 million in dogs. Some research does suggest that dogs are slightly smarter than cats, but cat owners might have a different opinion on that.

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9. Cats don’t like sweets
Cats aren't interested in sweet stuff because of a defect in the gene that codes for part of the mammalian sweet taste receptor. The receptor contains two protein subunits, T1R2 and T1R3, which are each coded for by a separate gene. The defect occurs on the T1R2 protein in domestic cats, as well as in cheetahs and tigers.

10. Cats can’t see food?
Yes, it may be the case: cats can’t see directly below their noses. That’s why they miss food that’s right in front of them. In general, a cat’s eyesight is both better and worse than humans. It is better because cats can see in much dimmer light and they have a wider peripheral view. It’s worse because they don’t see color as well as humans do. Scientists believe grass appears red to cats.

11. Where the cats’ navigation capabilities come from?
Cats’ homing instinct may be due to magnets in their brains. Cats find their way home through a process called “psi-travelling” — experts think they navigate via the angle of sunlight, or that they have magnetized brain cells that act like compasses.

12. Right and left handed cats
Female cats tend to be right pawed, while male cats are more often left pawed. Interestingly, while 90% of humans are right handed, the remaining 10% of lefties also tend to be male.

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13. Cats on diet
Foods that should not be given to cats include onions, garlic, green tomatoes, raw potatoes, chocolate, grapes, and raisins. Though milk is not toxic, it can cause an upset stomach and gas. Like some humans, as they grow, cats stop making the enzyme lactase, which breaks down their mother’s milk. Tylenol and aspirin are extremely toxic to cats, as are many common houseplants. Feeding cats a dog food or canned tuna that’s for human consumption can also cause malnutrition.

14. Earthquake monitor
Cats are extremely sensitive to vibrations. Cats are said to detect earthquake tremors 10 or 15 minutes before humans can.

15. Cats and depression
The latest studies revealed the strange correlation between the cats’ ownership and level of depression. Unlike expected, the correlation is positive, and claims that having a cat at home puts the owner on higher risk of depression and suicide. That is not right! Cat is the most therapeutic pet, being able to calm down the distressed owner. So what is the catch? While it is still under investigation, the common consensus is that the guilty is parasite called Toxoplasma gondii, commonly found in cat feces, which might be infecting the brains of cat owners, causing the depression (well, that  theory works well for the specialists who believe that infection is the main source of the clinical depression). Another research claims that owning a cat can reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes by more than a third.

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Monday, October 26, 2015

Last Moment Halloween Costume Selection

Well, the Halloween is coming really soon, and you got it under control – your costume is ready to final details, and you expect to have a lot of fun. But, if you need emergency fix, and you still have not decided in favor of particular character, stop and check this site! You may find that you do not want to choose whatever most people may shoot for, having the similar ideas.

Google's new Frightgeist map allows you to see exactly, what are the most popular costumes around the country... just to avoid using them.  You can check the popularity of the particular costumes on multiple levels – nationwide, state, city you – all based on Google searches.

Just to give you an idea, here are the top nationwide leaders:
1. Harley Quinn
2. Star Wars
3. Superhero.

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But who cares if most of the costumes in New York will be from Star Wars, as soon as no one will be in these costumes at your party in Denver? That is correct, check locally and avoid crowds.

For example, the most popular costume in Alaska is Pirate, In Montana, that is Batman and Batgirl, and it is Dinosaur in Austin, Texas.

Get the fresh Google creature – Frightgeist: