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Leo hung out with Adolf Htlr in the lobby of his Roblox game. When he told me this, I was uncharacteristically quiet for a minute.


“What?” was my eventual nuanced response.

“Yeah. I told him I was offended by his user name and he asked if I was a Jew. Then I said yes and also said that I thought other people would be offended. So then he said ‘burn all Jews’ and someone else joined in talking about the gas chambers.” He is telling me this in a matter-of-fact tone. Next to him Oliver is nodding his blond head in support.

“It was horrible,” Oliver adds.

Leo continued, “I asked him to go to another lobby and when he wouldn’t, I took a screen shot of our conversation and then I left.”

This sounded like a good start to me.

“Then I reported his user name to Roblox, but I didn’t get a screen shot of the part when they were talking about the gas chambers.”

So there it was. Threatening hate speech targeted at my kid and, possibly worse, a second voice chiming in support for Adolf Htlr.

We’re looking at each other across the table. My boys are calm. I think that my ten-year-old has handled it well. He stood up for himself. When that didn’t work he documented the problem, went to an authority figure (the game moderator), and then left the area. The only thing I wish he’d done differently was talk to me in real time about what was going on. He agrees to do this in the future and turns back to his plate as if things are all tidied up.

I realize that Leo isn’t taking this any more personally than if someone told him his voice sounded like a baby’s. This accusation occurs 20 times to every one time he is told he should die because of his religion. It seems time to review the difference between bigotry and trolling. Together we sit down and I watch him compose a second letter to the moderators of Roblox.

Dear Roblox, I am a ten-year-old boy who happens to be Jewish. I was playing Phantom Forces and I came across a player whose name was xXAdolf_Htlrxx. Now I said to him. “That name is sort of offensive do you think you could leave this lobby?” He told me no and asked if I was Jewish. I told him I thought a lot of people would be offended by that user name. Then Saintsrow3rdfan said “gas all j3ws” and then Adolf said “burn all J3ws!!!!!!!” And slayer32xx345 said “it’s only offensive to certain people.” I said it was offensive to me and they told me to leave. So I took a screen shot of part of it. I like to think Roblox would not allow this kind of hate.

Whether he feels it personally or generally, Leo seems to understand that talk of gas chambers is worse than insulting the pitch of his voice.

For decades I’ve worried about racism, anti-immigrantion stances, homophobia, and misogyny. I knew there was anti-semitism out there but I thought it was the fuzz on the end of the fringe, not even the fringe itself. Yet here it is coming through the computer right into our living room. My only solace is that my son is fighting back with his fingertips and doing it without fear.

Part of Leo’s bravery comes from the same anonymity that allows Adolf to attack him.

On the heels of the “Unite the Right” rally and its associated violence in Charlottesville, I worry even more about the chat rooms in multi-player games. Kids and those posing as kids have an anonymous space to spew hatred. They also have an arena for recruitment.

An August 13th New York Times article about the events in Charlottesville cites George Hawley, a University of Alabama political science professor who studies white supremacists. Hawley notes that many of the far-right members he had interviewed did not inherit their racism from their parents, but developed it online. Many of them had never heard of, say, David Duke, the former Louisiana politician and former leader of the Ku Klux Klan.

This is how it builds from one person to the next. This is how 12-year-olds find their voices, and sometimes the voices say horrible bigoted things. The New York Times article ended on this somber note: “[O]n the neo-Nazi site The Daily Stormer, a post promised: ‘There will be more events. Soon. We are going to start doing this nonstop. Across the country.’”

As this disgusting sentiment plays out from chat rooms to Charlottesville, I think the first thing to do is talk to our kids. I ask Oliver and Leo to tell me stories of when people expressed hate online and how they handled it. Their instincts are exactly what I would’ve suggested:

  • Stand up for yourself and what you believe to be fair and kind
  • Document your conversation
  • Call in a grown-up
  • If the threats continue, leave first
  • Report the incident

I want to wipe Skype (and Minecraft and Roblox) from their lives and shelter them from all kinds of ugliness and pain, but I know that turning off their computers is the modern day equivalent of shutting our doors, hiding, and hoping the hate fades away. It’s up to each of us to stand up, speak out, and take screenshots.

This post was originally posted here, on the author’s blog.

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I had big plans to be a "good mom" this summer. There were going to be chore charts, reading goals, daily letter writing practice, and cursive classes. There would be no screen time until the beds were made, and planned activities for each day of the week.

Today was the first day of summer vacation and our scheduled beach day. But here's what we did instead: Lounged in our pj's until 11 am, baked the girl's pick, chocolate chip cookie brownies, started an art project we never finished, then moved to the pool.

It's so easy to be pressured by things we see on social. Ways to challenge our kids and enrich their summer. But let's be real—we're all tired. Tired of chores, tired of schedules and places to be, tired of pressure, and tired of unrealistic expectations.

So instead of a schedule, we're doing nothing this summer. Literally NOTHING.

No camps. No classes, and no curriculums.

Instead, we're going to see where each day takes us. I've dubbed this the "Summer of Me," so workouts and clean eating are a priority for me. And also giving our girls the freedom to pick what they want to do.

We may go to a local pool and check out the swimming programs. And we join the local YMCA. But whatever we do—it will be low key.

It will include family time, too much TV, a few trips, lots of sunshine, some new roller skates, water balloons, plenty of boredom, rest, relaxation, and reading. (Because mama likes to read!)

So if you haven't figured out what you're doing this summer, you're not alone. And guess what? It's OKAY! Your kids will be fine and so will you.

Originally posted on Kristen Hewitt's blog. Check out her post on 30 ways to have fun doing almost nothing this summer.

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In the moments after we give birth, we desperately want to hear our baby cry. In the middle of the night a few months later it's no longer exactly music to our ears, but those cries aren't just telling us that baby needs a night feeding: They're also giving us a hint at what our children may sound like as kindergarteners, and adults.

New research published in the journal Biology Letters suggests the pitch of a 4-month-old's cry predicts the pitch they'll use to ask for more cookies at age five and maybe even later on as adults.

The study saw 2 to 5-month olds recorded while crying. Five years later, the researchers hit record again and chatted with the now speaking children. Their findings, combined with previous work on the subject, suggest it's possible to figure out what a baby's voice will sound like later in life, and that the pitch of our adult voices may be traceable back to the time we spend in utero. Further studies are needed, but scientists are very interested in how factors before birth can impact decades later.

"In utero, you have a lot of different things that can alter and impact your life — not only as a baby, but also at an adult stage," one of the authors of the study, Nicolas Mathevon, told the New York Times.

The New York Times also spoke with Carolyn Hodges, an assistant professor of anthropology at Boston University who was not involved in the study. According to Hodges, while voice pitch may not seem like a big deal, it impacts how we perceive people in very real ways.

Voice pitch is a factor in how attractive we think people are, how trustworthy. But why we find certain pitches more or less appealing isn't known. "There aren't many studies that address these questions, so that makes this research especially intriguing," Hodges said, adding that it "suggests that individual differences in voice pitch may have their origins very, very early in development."

So the pitch of that midnight cry may have been determined months ago, and it may determine part of your child's future, too. There are still so many things we don't know, but as parents we do know one thing: Our babies cries (as much as we don't want to hear them all the time) really are something special.

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When we consider all the skills our kids will need to succeed in the future, what comes to mind? Perhaps creativity, tech skills, or an excellent understanding of math might be at the top of many parents' lists. Social-emotional skills, like empathy, compassion, or the ability to understand another person's viewpoint may not be the ones you thought of right away, but deep down you know they matter.

We've all had those co-workers who didn't know how to listen to our ideas or friends who couldn't compromise with others. We know that in the work world and in our personal life, emotional skills are key to developing and maintaining healthy relationships.

If you are the parent of a toddler, you know that young children are inherently self-centered. It's not some faulty aspect of their character or a misstep of parenting skills. Young children simply do not have the brain maturity to consider another person's perspective or needs just yet—their brain physically is not ready to handle that kind of mental work.

However, child development research shows us that we can do a few things along the developmental path to help foster social-emotional skills in our kids. With a little help from us, our kids' brains can develop with meaningful connections that tune them into the feelings of others.

Here's how:

1. Treat others how you want your kids to treat others.

How we talk to our kids becomes their internal dialogue. We know from research that this goes for emotional skills as well. A recent study showed that when parents talk to their kids more about how other people might be feeling, the kids had better perspective-taking abilities—the ability to see a situation from another person's point of view.

This, of course, is the basis of many emotional skills, especially empathy. Just by talking about another person's feelings, kids begin to develop those crucial brain connections that help them develop empathy.

It's worth pointing out that very young children under ages 3-4 do not have the brain maturity to really understand another person's perspective. They lack a crucial skill that psychologists call Theory of Mind, meaning they can't understand the mind of another person.

However, our urgings and thoughtful phrasing to point out how another person might be feeling can only help them down this developmental path. Then, once their little brain matures, they will be in the habit of hearing and understanding the feelings of others.

2. Model positive emotional behavior in daily life.

It's probably not surprising to learn that how we react to our kids' feelings influences their emotional development. When your child gets upset, do you get angry or ruffled by their big emotions? We are all human, of course, so sometimes our kids' emotions are the exact triggers that fuel our big feelings, too. However, if we can remain the calm in the emotional storm for our kids, their development will benefit. Through modeling emotional regulation, over time our kids will learn how to self-regulate as well.

One study, in fact, showed that toddlers whose parents exhibited anger or over-reacted to tantrums were likely to have more tantrums and negative emotionality by the end of the study. However, the opposite dynamic can happen, too. Parents who model firm, but calm emotional regulation help their kids learn these skills as well.

3. Don’t be afraid to show your emotions.

Many times, we feel that one of our main jobs as a parent is to protect our children from the big, often overwhelming emotions of adults. For instance, we try not to break down crying or become red-faced with anger in front of our kids. It just feels too big for them to handle and perhaps not developmentally appropriate.

As they mature, however, older kids are able to handle a bit more discussion and expression of honest emotions. Have you noticed that kids usually pick up on the fact that you are upset even if you try to hide it? Kids are naturally curious and, many times, very sensitive to the emotional tenor at home. If they are developmentally ready, this can be a good time to have more discussions about emotions and how to handle them.

For example, my 9-year-old is playing a lot of baseball this summer and always wants me to pitch to him so he can practice batting. Now, I am not a very skilled player so my pitches often go off course or are too weak. He had gotten in the habit of correcting my pitching or (more likely) complaining about it every time we played.

After repeated experiences with this, I was not only annoyed but it also sort of hurt my feelings—so I finally told him how I felt. Guess what? His behavior at practice time changed dramatically! The mere fact of him realizing that his mom has feelings too really made him think about his words more carefully.

These types of interaction can become part of your "emotion coaching." It may sound silly but it can make a big impact for kids, especially as they grow older and are more able to really understand the emotional lesson. On some level, it's nice that our kids think we are superheroes, but it's also crucial that they understand that we are still human, with real feelings.

The magic of helping our kids develop empathy doesn't happen in well-planned lessons or elaborate activities. The real magic happens in the small, simple interactions and discussions we have with our kids each day.

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Sometimes it can feel like you never get a minute to even finish a thought—let alone a to-do list. When your day is packed with caretaking, your own needs get pushed back. So when you finally get to lie down at the end of the day, all those thoughts are waiting for you. While we haven't figured out the secret to keeping you from over-analyzing every.single.thing. (sorry, mama!), we do believe you must carve out time for you. Because that rest is just as important—and you've certainly earned it.

XO,

#TeamMotherly

PS: We spoke to Jessica Alba and she gave us the lowdown on why she stopped breastfeeding, and Nordstrom is having their anniversary sale until August 5th. Here's everything we want!

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