Summer Parenting: Tips for Good Behavior (page 2)

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Updated on Jul 25, 2011

Playing With Older Neighborhood Kids

Part of the trouble with children exploring independently over the summer is the possibility of meeting older kids. “The world opens up and you want to experiment with things that are considered forbidden or only for older kids,” Pickhardt says. This is where the trouble can start. It’s always best, Pickhardt and Brody agree, for children to associate with same-age peers. Children can learn a lot from adolescents, and adolescents can be very positive role models for younger children, but it’s best for parents to know those adolescents well and to know their parents well before leaving their children to play with them. There has to be a lot of respect and trust before this scenario should take place.


Summer’s finally here and suddenly everyone wants to have sleepovers. There’s no reason not to do sleepovers as long as your child is comfortable and you’re comfortable with the children and parents in the other home. In fact, Pickhardt says children can learn a lot from a sleepover about managing sustained time with friends. And parents can often learn the next morning about how wonderfully behaved their child was! Also a positive is the knowledge (for parents) that the child doesn’t have separation anxiety that would prevent him from doing a sleepover. Keep in mind, however, that not wanting to sleep over at a friend’s house is not a sign of a problem. Brody says parents should not be critical of a child who doesn’t want to do a sleepover, or of a child who has to come home from a sleepover with a stomach ache in the middle of the night. “It’s something children have to grow into,” Brody says. “And obviously some kids shouldn’t have sleepovers even at 11 or 12 years.”

Summer Reading and Academics

How much reading and math should kids really be doing over the summer? If you’re like most parents, you go into the summer with a plan in place but soon find that it’s too difficult to enforce. It’s tough to entice kids to work on math when they could be playing baseball or swimming—and especially when there’s no homework due the next day. Pickhardt suggests a reasonable and minimal amount of time spent reading and working on academic skills over the summer. The key is the ongoing nature of the practice. In order to keep their skills current, kids should spend time every week—Pickhardt suggests about four hours per week. And he suggests visiting with the school at the end of the school year to find out the critical skills your child ended up with in math, reading, and writing. A few hours a week of practice should be enough—and also easy enough to enforce, Pickhardt says.

Screen Time

If they’re spending four hours a week on academics, how much time should they spend in front of a screen (TV, iPhone, computer, iPad)? According to Pickhardt, fifteen hours a week is plenty. “What kids learn through electronic entertainment literally wires young minds,” he says. “It’s a culturally induced problem—hardwiring kids to need high stimulation to keep them focused.” Pickhardt suggests that parents also encourage children to practice sustained concentration building, creating, reading, writing—simply learning how to entertain themselves. “Kids are increasingly focused on external entertainment at the expense of their internal capacity to entertain themselves,” Pickhardt says.

In addition to fostering concentration, screen time also takes away from outdoor exploration—hiking, riding bikes, playing in the park—which Brody says should be a summer staple. “A kid playing by himself in a dark room—I just don’t think that should be the summer experience,” Brody says.

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