This Spring issue shines the spotlight on ideas, techniques, and concerns that are of fundamental interest to Extension professionals.There is growing national interest in promoting and supporting healthy behavior by shaping the policies in environments where families live, learn, work, play, and pray. In this issue, authors address key areas of advancing nutrition through institutions, parenting in a blended family, using a strengths-based framework to understand child behavior, and the use of neurodevelopment research to guide parental discipline of children.Each paper is briefly described below.

As mentioned earlier, there is growing interest in effecting policy, systems, and environment changes to support a healthier citizenry. While these phrases are not explicitly used, one applied research article describes the approach to advancing a positive mealtime environment in a childcare setting to improve the nutrition outcomes for low-income youth. The researchers describe preschool teacher engagement procedures and preferences for receiving in-service education to improve nutrition among low-income children in a preschool setting. Notably, the researchers report a three-prong approach to improving the meal environment, and thus nutrition, to include teacher education, kitchen staff training, and parent education. These three prongs address the levels of Classroom (teacher), Food Preparation (kitchen staff), and Home (parents). The authors identify curricula as potential resources for trainings. The process used in effecting a positive environment change for better nutrition should be valuable to Extension professionals who are conducting nutrition education programs and seeking positive changes in policy, systems, or environment at the institution level.

The daily consumption of food is shaped at least in part by the foods made available in the home through grocery shopping. One paper examines family nutrition through the effect of child requests made during grocery shopping on the selection of foods purchased. This study uses a modified observation method to learn from Hispanic and non-Hispanic mothers and their children about the types of food requests children make and a range of mothers’ responses to these requests. The researchers garnered other information that should prove to be instructive to nutrition education programs. Reported shopping behaviors of low-income mothers include type of food items that were typically purchased first during shopping trips, the role of cost comparison, and the use or non-use of food labels as part of food selection.In addition to the study findings, this article adds to the body of literature on designing a modified observation study to overcome some of the limitations of observation alone.

The complexity of today’s society often translates into challenges for adults engaged in parenting children.  Today’s complex families include blended families in which the adults are both birth parent and stepparent. In a longitudinal study using qualitative research methods, one article follows a Latino couple over a two-year period to better understand the impact of an education program targeted to stepfamilies. This couple offered insights into the effects of the program on the family’s approach to communication, discipline, family finances, and more. The findings of this study highlight at least one concept central to stepfamily education that may not be culturally appropriate for Latino families. Extension professionals developing programs for and working with Latino families can gain valuable insights to guide their work.

In every field a seminal work emerges that fundamentally shifts the approach to a topic. A review of the Children of the Challenge positions the book as central to the positive parenting movement that began nearly fifty years ago and continues today. The authors illustrate how happy healthy relationships with loved ones lead to children exhibiting desired behaviors. The reviewer notes that while the book was written for parents it is an essential read for anyone working in the parenting or family life arena.

As most parents know, making decisions about discipline can prove to be difficult. The review of No Drama Discipline highlights that discipline is “teaching.” Given that approach, the authors encourage consideration of the child’s cognitive development in the selection of strategies. Importantly, the authors recognize and validate the need to consider a child’s emotions. The authors use neuroscience to help parents understand and interpret a child’s misbehavior and to offer strategies for developing effective responses. Parents and others should find this book a highly readable and valuable resource to be added to the parenting bookshelf.

As always, it is my hope that you will read the articles, apply the information to your lives personally and professionally, and enjoy the experience.


Carolyn L. Bird, Ph.D.
Editor-In-Chief, FFCI



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