Every moment that you give, more will be returned to you. But you have to be still and allow the gifts to embrace you. Gifts of money, notoriety, success are fleeting. The gifts that quiet the hunger of the sole are only found through others, through appreciation of what we have a peace that is found when you touch the maker.
This TED Conference video was passed on to me as a thank you for time I had donated. I believed this gift of beauty is greater than anything I could contribute to your day.
In this video Louie Schwartzberg said it best, “We protect what we fall in love with.”
I’m in love with the innocence of children. I’m in love with the way a doll captures and preserves the warmest of memories from our pasts. I’m in love with reflecting the beauty of diversity. I’m in love with the potential of every mind, every heart. But most of all, I’m in love with you. I love every post, every picture, every family and every girl or boy.
I want to protect innocence. I hope to preserve and cherish your childhood memories or rewrite them if need be to erase pain. I want to celebrate diversity in such a way that we are enhanced and elated by our differences. I hope to encourage each to reach for their greatest dream, to love learning and exploring. And if you are lonely, I want to provide a family where you know you are loved.
Via E is not a toy company…it is a family where dreams are the steps to the best that life can offer.
I hope for you to live inspired. Inspiration is all around…and you are my inspiration.
From my heart to yours,
Why did you do that? What were you thinking? I told you how, why didn’t you do it the way I said? You didn’t listen, did you! You didn’t work hard enough. You’re not big enough, strong enough, fast enough, smart enough….etc. And worst of all…the system is not fair. Have you said any of the above? Sure, we parents all do at one time or another. We think we are helping by grabbing the child’s attention and getting them to see they are on the wrong path. But what if that wrong path had its own lesson? What if we instead guided with: You are smart, what did you learn from your mistake? You are smart, you are strong, you are quick, you are destined to win at whatever your choose…just don’t give up. The system may not be fair for everyone, but you are smart and talented. You will rise to the top, just keep believing in yourself. Being in my fifties now, I have a reflective mind. My core personality is a fixer. My passion is children. What I have learned through experience and studies of how the brain develops is children do not need fixing…parents do. Yes there are some children who are strong willed, some who are special needs, all will test your patients at times, but they all started at the same place in life and we adults created the connections in their brains that lead them to be who they are or who they are not. Nature is what they came into the world with and nurturing is how we help our children develop what nature gifted. Sometimes it is our own fear that leads us down the wrong rode of correction. We fear they will do wrong. We fear they will fail. We fear they will not be big enough, strong enough, fast enough, smart enough or the system will not be fair for them. We gift them—pass on—our fear for their future which can become their own stumbling block. The world is a complex place where fair is not always present. Where there are real things to be feared. The best gift we can give to children is confidence. Confidence will become their shield to both defend and win over fear and difficulties. Confidence, not conceit, is developed through positive reinforcement a 100 times a day. In the little things, the big things and the tender I love you things. I write this piece for you today after realizing that I too passed on my fear to my son. I have raised him with positive reinforcement and a million “mama’s lectures” for his safety and success. Recently, he has achieved top athlete levels in all the conditioning aspects of his sport and his moment is upon him. But when he is given the light, he stumbles. I have been searching my mind for what could be causing this. It hit me this morning, fear. Fear of not being good enough, not knowing enough. Fear of failing when it means so much emotionally to succeed. As I contemplate where the fear originated, I realized I was a source. It is my fear that he may not be big enough, fast enough, strong enough. It was me who was afraid of the politics and competitiveness of his sport. My fear of the chance he may be disappointed and what imprint that would leave behind. I realized the best way to help my son was for me to release my fear and in turn gift him the flight of confidence that he would find his own way to conquer his world. Raising children can be difficult and we adults will never make all the right decisions. But in our love and in our willingness to continually grow our efforts to be good teachers of life, the children we nurture will always have a shield of confidence. Confidence that we have their back. Confidence that they are loved. Confidence that being who they are and doing their best will always be good enough.
I selected this topic of research as part of a degree program in Early Child Education. What I found was that the important development age for a child is approximately 7 years old. This period in a child’s life is so important that it has a strong influence through age 20. Thus fathers’ interaction during these years are very important and can shape the likely outcome of teen and early adulthood where many life shaping decisions are being made.
Research has shown that a child’s cognitive abilities score higher when fathers (biological or otherwise) are involved in the care and rearing of their children. Fathers who are involved with their child’s schooling and academic achievements increase the likelihood their child will graduate from high school and go on to higher education. There are lower rates of childhood violence, delinquency and resistance to authority and an increase in self-confidence, compassion and life skills.
According to the Father Involvement Research Alliance (FIRA) Flouri and Buchanan (2004), “…father and mother involvement at age 7 independently predicted educational attainment by age 20 for both sons and daughters.” “Children of involved fathers are more likely to have higher levels of economic and educational achievement, career success, occupational competency, better educational outcomes, higher educational expectations, higher educational attainment, and psychological well being.”
It’s more than just “two heads are better than one”, when it comes to raising children. Men tend to have a physical and analytical interaction with children that stimulates cognitive development differently than the nurturing interactions of the typical woman. Questioning is of the what and the why vs. the how and the who. For example, a mom may ask, “How was your day at school today?” whereas dad would likely ask, “What did you do in school today?” It is not to say one line of questioning is better than the other or to say that mom’s wouldn’t ask the question in a similar manner; it is the concert of the two and their differences that expand a child’s thinking and understanding of their environment.
FIRA research makes a strong case to support the claim that father involvement is positively correlated with a child’s overall satisfaction with his or her life. That is a powerful statement. But the benefit is not only to the child. FIRA research show that “involved fathers report fewer accidental and premature deaths, less than average contact with the law, less substance abuse, fewer hospital admissions, and a greater sense of well being overall.” Fathers may feel the demands of the family’s economic needs preclude the luxury of being an integral part of parenting. However, research has shown that the quality of the time spent is a, if not the, determining factor. “There is no single “right” way for fathers to be involved. Instead, there are many types of father involvement in all aspects of raising a child.” “Research has found that the value of father involvement is determined by the quality of the interaction between fathers and their children – for example, a father’s responsiveness to the needs of his child – rather than the amount of time fathers spend with their children.”
Family is not just a word. It is a way of life that helps each member achieve the most that life can afford. Invest time with your children and it will pay dividends to your life and theirs.
 http://www.education.com/reference/article/Ref_Hidden_Benefits/ Retrieved 2/8/2015
 http://www.fira.ca/cms/documents/29/Effects_of_Father_Involvement.pdf Retrieved 2/8/2015 [
Have you ever wondered why girls follow the trends of someone like Miley Cyrus…or the next in line to shock the senses of morality?
I’d like to introduce to you psychologist Albert Bandura (born in 1925) and his social learning theory. In its simplicity, the theory concludes that people learn efficiently from observing the consequences of another person’s behavior.
Let’s think about that for a minute….consequences of another person’s behavior.
How many examples can you think of where the consequences of misbehaving is rewarded with fame? i.e. attention, riches, parties (fun), friends, …etc.
Learning theory states that children learn by modeling—imitating the behavior of others. They learn vicariously—personalizing the experiences of others.
How many young women dress like their favorite starlet? Is it really just playing? Is it really just cute fun?
Bandura tells us Observational Learning has four phases:
The first step is Attention. Children pay attention to role models who they find interesting, who are observed as receiving desired attention or rewards, perhaps the role model is powerful, fanciful or novel.
The second step is Retention. Retention is the grounding of the observation and its consequences into the mind. This is achieved through repetition and modeling of the behavior.
The third step is Reproduction. Reproduction is the act of the child repeating the behavior on their own.
The final step is Motivation. By reproducing the behavior the child receives the desired reward. The reward can be one that is received immediately such as attention or a reward that is promised in the future.
Promised in the future…
Yes, children do dream about the future and are motivated by what can be. But they do not have the maturity to understand that not all things are as they appear to be—that what is wish for may not yield the reward desired.
Think about these examples:
Everyone is always laughing and happy at parties with alcohol and drugs.
Girls who dress sexy are always popular.
Being a “mean girl” makes you powerful.
Wearing designer clothing makes you more important, more accepted.
Each of these examples has been taken from one or more (more) pop culture icons.
Our children are watching….and learning. It starts at birth and continues throughout life. The television shows, toys and games that children spend time with do influence their behavior…their future. That cute sexy fashion doll does not have to say one word to become your daughter’s teacher. The lessons come built in.
I created Via E and the Alexis O’Shay Dollfriend® to provide wholesome play for girls. The culture of educational fun surrounding Alexis’ is designed to teach about different places, people and cultures; to reinforce good values and showcase creative works and kind words. Alexis is a safe role model built by a mom like you; a teacher with a dream and a friend who cares.
Why not a closed mouth or partly open beauty smile like the rest of the doll community?
Because Alexis was not designed to be a doll. Alexis was created to be a friend and a positive impact in the worlds of all who behold her.
Every inch of Alexis was designed with purpose…not beauty, although beauty was achieved, but instead the goal was emotional, psychological, and intellectual. Via E is a quest to provide amazing fun that builds strong minds. In a world where fun has moved to the “naughty side” of human behavior, Alexis’ charter counters the trend with a focus on learning and understanding others. Caring and compassion are nice words but to build these attributes one must be involved in understanding and seeking out information about the people around them. Right here in the United States we have several different cultures with their own unique roots to other lands and thinking. The same is true in Europe, South America…everywhere. To love we also need to understand.
Alexis is a revolution. She stands to shake up the world of dolls. The goal is to teach loving of differences vs. loving of our own image. Self confidence comes from within the mind not the mirror like commercialism would like us to believe. A true smile spreads happiness. I too love beauty smiles, but instead of inspiring beauty Alexis’ desire is to spread joy and understanding. So when you look at that broad smile (science calls it a Duchenne smile) know that it was designed for you with all my love and caring so that we may together lay a foundation down that can support a purposeful, fulfilling and happy life.
Below are several articles and a YouTube video on the health benefits of a Duchenne smile (Alexis’ smile.) I send this post off with hopes that you will allow many, many smiles into your world and then return twice as many. 🙂
Some researchers now believe that genuine smiles are not transient sparks of emotion but rather clear windows into a person’s core disposition.
We now know that genuine smiles may indeed reflect a “sweet soul.” The intensity of a true grin can predict marital happiness, personal well-being, and even longevity
The neural data revealed that Duchenne smiles produced greater activity in the brain’s left anterior temporal region, an area with clear connections to positive affect.
Your smile is a powerful tool. Most people think that we smile because we feel happy, but it can go the other way as well: we feel happy because we smile.
Science How Stuff Works
Evidence That Smiling Causes Happiness.
Most other studies on the topic note the cause-and-effect relationship without having a definitive explanation for it. The reason why Dr. Zajonc’s research is so significant in the field is because he proposes a detailed, physiology-based explanation for the cause-and-effect relationship. According to his hypothesis, the facial changes involved in smiling have direct effects on certain brain activities associated with happiness.
There’s Magic In Your Smile–How Smiling Affects Your Brain
The Untapped Power Of Smiling
Because smiling is evolutionarily contagious and we have a subconscious innate drive to smile when we see one. This occurs even among strangers when we have no intention to connect or affiliate with the other person. Mimicking a smile and experiencing it physically helps us interpret how genuine a smile is, so that we can understand the real emotional state of the smiler.
Positive Psychology News
This process is also known as emotional contagion. That is, emotions are contagious. Feeling good is infectious, and so is feeling crummy. With this in mind, what change do you want trigger in the world?
Health Benefits of Smiling
Therefore, when you smile at someone else, they smile and you are causing physiological changes within their bodies. Frequent smiling has many therapeutic and health benefits , particularly when the smile is a Duchenne smile .
According to Dr. Mark Stibich, smiling:
- Boosts the immune system
- Increases positive affect
- Reduces stress
- Lowers blood pressure
- Enhances other people’s perception of you
Duchenne smiles are known as authentic smiles because they consistently co-occur with positive emotions . Duchenne smiles are marked by wrinkles in the eyes that resemble crows feet and are associated with feeling excitement, amusement, interest, happiness and joy . (See image on the right in which the top image is neutral, middle picture is non-genuine/mouth only, and the bottom picture is Duchenne/eyes and mouth engaged).
3 Great Apps to Help Children with Emotional or Social Issues
Ron Gutman reviews a raft of studies about smiling, and reveals some surprising results. Did you know your smile can be a predictor of how long you’ll live — and that a simple smile has a measurable effect on your overall well-being? Prepare to flex a few facial muscles as you learn more about this evolutionarily contagious behavior. Check out this short Youtube video of his TED conference presentation.
(This paper contains research material on the development of the brain and memory. The first half is explaining the science and the second is discussing the impact on child development.)
“O.K. now sit still while I buckle your seat belt. I love you and want to keep you safe.” Sally only four years old says kindly to her doll-friend. Bang! Bang! Bang! Startled, Sally’s locks of curly amber colored hair whip around as she quickly looks over her right shoulder. With his child’s Home Depot hammer in hand and tool belt swung on his slender hips like a modern day home improvement warrior, Sam looks up at his father and says, “Dad can I help you? I can do it, see…look at me!”
Each of us has stories and memories of our children at play. It warms our hearts and makes us smile. But what is play? We define it as fun, free time where imaginations and energy move in a flurry of laughter and social bonding. Though this definition holds true, let’s look beyond the surface and into the working of your child’s mind. The claim to be proven is: playtime is actually the rehearsal of who your child(ren) will ultimately become.
The study of the brain as anatomy combined with the mind through psychology and fields of linguistics, information science, and philosophy has evolved into today’s cognitive science. The now famous Dr. Spock of our parents has been joined by legions of professionals to unwrap motivations and the why of what we do. When I teach adult professionals business skills or the masses fitness moves, I always start with the fundamentals and build out from this point. I suppose this passion for the development of skills is what drives me to research and write about what fundamentals are being programmed into our children while at “play.”
Let’s start with the basics of Cognitive Science (I’ll try to make this as interesting as possible!) The first principle has been pondered since before the days of Plato and Socrates. Nativism—how our brains are wired at birth and how the environment either nurtures or distorts it by withholding nurturance such as food, shelter, warmth, touch, affection, attention, values and so on. The mind of an infant is amazing. Studies show that in as early as four months old a baby can detect statistical patterns in sound. At six months they have developed the ability to tell helpful people apart from the non helpful. During this early stage our children are developing their “neuronal workspace”—kind of like a desktop on your computer–each program arranged in a space where it can later be utilized.
Unity is a principle of Cognitive Science that states the mind and the body are interconnected. Meaning, a change in one will create a change in the other. Think of your own experiences if you wish to challenge this tenant. When you are feeling sad or depressed, what are the physical characteristics played out in your body? Feeling achy, low energy, sleepy…etc? On the other hand when you exercise and eat well there is an increase in optimism, confidence and energy. Yes, our children’s sense of wellbeing is directly dependant on our understanding of the mind-body connection.
Remember that mental desktop or neuronal workspace mentioned above? What good would the building of fundamentals do if you could not build or connect them into higher skills? The principle of Connectivity states our ability to connect new with prior learning is the essence of growth and development. It is this principle along with the principle of Interconnectivity that forms the basis of the theory that “play time” is in fact the rehearsal of who our children will become—what values, attitudes, problem solving skills and temperaments they ultimately carrying with them throughout life.
The last principle of Cognitive Science is Control. The degree in which we feel in control of our situation directly impacts health and performance. With less perceived control there is a correlated reduction in health and performance, with greater perceived control the reverse is true. I highlight the word perceived because this is a critical element in the statements made. We often associate a negative feeling toward the word control. Wars of men, children and parents have been waged over who has the right to be in control. Since this article is about children and parenting, I’ll address the issue in this context. We are gifted our children by God to guide and bring them up to be healthy, value-centered people who contribute to society—not to control them.
Responsibility cannot be taught without the understanding that our children control their own behavior. So, in parenting we must utilize various tools to help guide our children while creating an environment where making the right choices yield the greatest reward. Reward being defined not by “things” but by experiencing positive results. When a child remains in “control,” it helps to build a healthy mind.
Now that we have the fundamentals down let us talk about how we can make all this come together for the good of our children. I mention rehearsal above so let me define it in the relevance of this topic. Rehearsal is the act of repeating behaviors, assimilating environmental conditions such that it forms a lasting biological connection in the brain from which the child will draw to facilitate higher level cognitive behaviors throughout their lifetime. It does not require a Ph.D. to recognize, as the famous poem writes, Children Learn What They Live.
My mother had this poem hanging life-sized when I was a young girl. I remember many times stopping and looking at the child-friendly wall hanging and reading it over and over again. I would pick out the lines from the poem that represented how I wanted to be when I grew up. I bet you, to this day, my mother does not know how this wall hanging encouraged the values she sought to instill in me. I point this out because it is not one thing that we do with our children, it is a million little things that we do knowingly and unknowingly that build the foundations of who our children are going to grow up to be.
It is said that peer group influence is greatest between the ages of 8 and 25 years old. Think about this—we have fewer than eight years before the values we have taught our children are challenged by groups we often know very little about! Even our best attempts to get to know our children’s friends and their moms, teachers and other influencers will fall short in the end. Thus we must utilize every moment to help build the foundations for which our children’s independent decisions will ultimately be made. Dr. Dobson writes in his book, “Bringing Up Girls,” of the estrogen driven need for girls to love, be social and to bond. This virtue becomes a weakness when waged against a society where girls are encouraged to be women before their time. In the absence of guidance even girls of well balanced families can get lost in today’s society of lust and power.
Helping children find their center, or sense of self will be the greatest tool you can provide. A strong sense of self becomes the shield from which conflicting values will be fended off. If a girl believes herself to be compassionate, she will act with compassion. If a girl believes her value is only found in the beauty of her flesh, she will become sexual. It is this simple. Parents can build their girl’s sense of self by rehearsing the values that will define who she will become.
Dolls. Why do I love dolls? When I look into the eyes of a beautiful doll my hear melts. In this moment I’m not thinking of my MBA studies, building a business, paying bills…my mind has teleported me to a world of simplicity, caring, creativity and warmth. Amazing, the power of memories! In one moment that simple toy does what medical science cannot prescribe. The funny thing is any doll will do. My childhood dolls were long ago donated to needy girls by my father—little did he know he was committing a cardinal sin! My point is the doll is a key to unlock emotion and memories from the past. In order for this to be true the memories must become a permanent biological record developed through many days and experiences with my doll-friends.
When I was a child we did not have computer games so my sisters and I spent hours creating different things to do with our dolls. Today’s world is a technological wonder where our children are experiencing computerized toys from birth–even hand-wound swings for infants are now computerized chairs that gyrate slowly in multiple directions. Yes, computerization is here to stay and is crowding out traditional value shaping toys of the past. Toy industry statistics tell us that the time girls spend with dolls is shrinking—five short years was the last estimate. I’m not saying that computerized toys cannot enhance learning, but I am claiming that the time girls spend simply loving, caring, creatively developing their own stories are a set of experiences that are fundamental to the development of life skills.
Learning is defined as the establishment of new neural networks composed of synaptic connection and their associated chemotaxic patterns according to Pierce Howard, Ph.D. in his book titled, “The Owner’s Manual for the Brain.” What this means is there is a biological process that takes place in the brain when we learn a new task or create a new memory. Memory has three stages: Immediate memory holds data for two seconds or less. Short-term also known as working memory will diminish over time if it is not reinforced. Long-term memory involves a cellular change that becomes permanent. Once it is created it cannot be erased.
Research has determined that it takes five to six hours rehearsing a new motor skill for the brain to create permanent storage of the new skill. The process of creating non-motor memories still requires much more research before it can be quantified. However, the repetitive nature of building a motor skill memory underscores the impact of rehearsing in regards to building neuro networks. These networks later form the foundations of how we analyze and make decisions.
A good example of this concept is Mind Mapping—words, ideas, tasks or other items such as sensory data of all four senses are linked and arranged around a central key idea. In other words, our children are constantly building associations through their everyday interaction with their world. Our parenting efforts can help children build the library from which they will draw their conclusions—from which they will judge right or wrong.
The toys that children play with are tools just like a piano is a tool to create music. They learn “notes” of behavior and then compile these notes into play scenarios. Each time they rehearse these scenarios the behavior is strengthened until it becomes a habit or mental recording. You and the world as observed around them become the inspiration or “building” material for their memories and subsequent behavior patterns. Thus the reason why parent should guide play time and provide toys (tools) that nurture and grow.
Why Via E
Via E has developed a support structure for parents and girls such that they are exposed to wholesome values. We create rewards systems to encourage reading, writing, creativity, social awareness and academic excellence. Learning is best when learning is fun, so we integrate Dollfriends® such that they become more than just a form to dress every now and then but a tool to rehearse values of compassion, love, caring and social interaction. Each time a girl picks up a Dollfriend® she is rehearsing wholesome values. As girls grow, learning grows and she becomes more interested in creating and building–learning how to sew and designing clothing, write and publish books, develop musical talents, photography, etc.—only her imagination and ingenuity will stop her.
Via E is not a company; it is an effort. It is an active effort to utilize all its resources to make today as fun as it can be while always holding to the principals of learning and building healthy, capable young minds.
Resources for this article:
One of the books I read when researching this topic, “Mind in the Making—The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs” written by Ellen Galinsky and published by HaperCollins discusses the building blocks of early learning and gives parents wonderful ideas of how to create a rich environment to facilitate a well-balanced mind.
Also recommended is “Bringing up Girls” by Dr. James Dobson and published by Tyndale House.
For those of you with a mind for science, I recommend, “The Owner’s Manual for the Brain” by Pierce Howard, Ph.D. and published by Bard Press.
More information on Mental Maps can be found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mind_map
A similar approach using a Radial Tree can be found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radial_tree
I have a wonderful Father’s Day story for you this year! Since Via E is about healthy and educational play for girls, it seems that my eyes can’t help but glimpse precious girl moments everywhere I go. One Saturday, I arrived with my husband and son to a local school yard where we meet with a running coach who is helping my son compete in one of the toughest football leagues in California. As we approached the track, I saw a set of pig-tails streaming behind a girl who could not be more than seven years old. She was running that track as if she was a mini Olympian. As she came around the track, my eyes found a proud father who was apparently coaching her. It was priceless to see them together.
Another week went by and this time as I passed the big shade tree that often sheltered parents during the training sessions my son participates in, there were four little girls talking and giggling under the tree. I thought to myself…I wish I had some coloring books for them to help keep them busy while they wait for their brothers to finish training. But much to my surprise all four of them got up and chased each other onto the track. Joining them were three proud Papas!
On your mark, get set…go! And they were off! Brooklyn, Sadie, Regan, and Maya raced around the track. Maya and Sadie led the group as they added their footsteps to the kaleidoscope of footprints made with each pass. I couldn’t help but to participate by secretly cheering each of them around the track. I finally rose from the camping chair that my husband sat out for me to ensure my comfort during my son’s two hour training session and walked over to the circle of fathers to ask if I could tell their story. At first I think they thought I was a bit crazy, but after reviewing our blog they agreed to let me share this father’s day story to you. The best part is that this story keeps writing new adventures every day…you can see the evidence of this when observing the way each girl looks at her father.
Here’s to fathers everywhere and all of their wonderful times being the best dad ever.
Happy Father’s Day!
Many people are finding today’s times to be challenging. The tightrope between where we were and where we yet want to be is longer than we first thought. Like many I was push onto a tightrope. Once I balanced I found that there are many ropes crossing the chasm between where I once was and where I hope to be. Some of the paths offered tightropes bridging shorter distances—those with small islands of reprieve from the stress of rope walking. There were ropes lower to the ground so that if I fall, the flight and landing would not be too scary or damaging. Then there were the high ropes…the long ropes and the ropes that were unclear to what trials would be endured during the journey.
Some have recently lost a job or incurred a health problem and with a not so gentle push, you are now walking your own tightrope. The first instinct when pushed onto a tightrope is to look down. Our arms shoot out to both side for balance and our gut wrenches….until….our sights locate a safety net. The strength of that net combined with cheering supporters gives us the courage to cross the tightrope or even use the moment to climb higher. The larger the group of people cheering us on…the less reliant we become on the safety net.
I think life is a perpetual series of tightrope walks. With balance, cheering fans, appropriate safety nets, we are able to cross each chasm and maybe even climb to new heights.
So if you are crossing a tightrope that at times feels like it is too far above the ground or too tremulous, my suggestion is…don’t look down. Listen to those who are cheering you onto the other side and stay focused on the next step to where you are going vs. where you have been. You may have less of a safety net than what you would like, but if you stay focused, stay balanced and keep putting one foot in front of the other, you will reach the other side.