“Liar, Liar, Pants On Fire”: Punishment and Children’s Honesty
December 1, 2011 · Posted in Anger, Communication, Discipline, K-5 Kids, Parenting, Preschoolers · Permalink · Comments (0)

A recent article in Child-Psych gives important data about children and discipline and lying. In a nutshell, the harsher the punishments, the more kids lie. Yet another piece of date to support the goal of  approaching punishment from a calm, centered place instead of reacting in anger.

A study conducted by Talwar and Lee looks at two separate West African schools, one with punitive disciplinary practices, the other non-punitive. Children at both schools participated in an experiment to test resistance to temptation and honesty or lying about their success or failure to hold themselves back. While almost all children  failed the resistance portion of the program, the response afterwards varied greatly. Only half of the children at the non-punitive school lied about their actions, compared to the punitive school where nearly all of the children lied. Additionally, the children at the school with harsher punishments made up more elaborate lies as compared to the other.

Harsh and severe punishments will actually increase the likelihood of a child developing a habit of lying. Consequences to bad behavior is crucial, but it is also just as important to keep a level head when communicating it to your kids.

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Thanks Giving
November 17, 2011 · Posted in K-5 Kids, Parenting, Preschoolers · Permalink · Comments (0)

Kids love traditions. The smells and tastes of the holidays, the family rituals, are stored in their little brains forever. Here is a great tradition to make Thanksgiving true to its name.

Using a sketch or scrap book start a Family Thanksgiving Book together. Give each person, large and small, a page to write or draw what they feel thankful for. From the sublime to the ridiculous, your health to your boots, from “Mommy and Daddy” to “my legos.” Do this each year at Thanksgiving and over the years it will become a real treasure.

 

 

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Don’t Skimp On The Nap
September 15, 2011 · Posted in Infant Development, Parenting, Preschoolers, Sleep, Toddlerhood · Permalink · Comments (0)

The data just keeps pouring in on the importance of children’s sleep. Perri Klass MD, highlights the impact of daytime sleep for young children in her NYT article, “A Child’s Nap Is More Complicated Than It Looks” -

“Dr. Monique LeBourgeois, a sleep scientist at the University of Colorado at Boulder, and her colleagues recently conducted the first study on how napping affects the cortisol awakening response, a burst of hormone secretion known to take place shortly after morning awakening. They showed that children produce this response after short naps in the morning and afternoon, though not in the evening, and it may be adaptive in helping children respond to the stresses of the day.

By experimentally restricting sleep in young children, and then analyzing their behavior in putting puzzles together, Dr. LeBourgeois’ group also is quantifying how napping — or the lack of it — affects the ways that children respond to situations. “Sleepy children are not able to cope with day-to-day challenges in their worlds,” she said. When children skip even a single nap, “We get less positivity, more negativity and decreased cognitive engagement.”

At least two naps a day for the first year, at least one nap a day until age three, and for some children, even up to age five is critical. Children experience a “pressure to sleep” and need to have the opportunity to release that pressure with regular naps. Remember this when choosing between a nap and baby class. The best thing for your baby’s brain development is sleep.

 

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How to Help Your Child Understand Mixed Feelings
June 14, 2011 · Posted in K-5 Kids, Parenting, Preschoolers, Teens, Toddlerhood · Permalink · Comments (0)

Our children’s emotional inner lives are complicated. Even by the beginning of the second year you can see ambivalence emerging. “Pick me up, put me down”, all at the same time. As they grow and develop, blends of feelings, and even opposite feelings can — and do exist at the same time. This can be confusing. Imagine your preschooler wanting to go to a friend’s party and also being scared. Or your school-age child wanting to give up on learning something hard and feeling angry about not getting it easily. How about your teenager wanting to have sex with her boyfriend and worrying about how it will impact the relationship. These conflicts are the stuff of life.

As a parent you can help them by pointing out, “A part of you wants to go, and a part of you is scared.” “A part of you feels like giving up and a part of you is frustrated because this is so hard to learn.” Instead of seeing only one overriding sentiment and overreacting to it, it helps parents to recognize that our child is not, “a scaredy cat”, or a “quitter”, those are just parts of them.

As you teach your child about mixed feelings, they start to find center and are more able to find what they most want to do. “I can hear you have mixed feelings about having sex and I have faith that as you make room for all those feeelings, you will make the best decision for yourself.”  Giving a voice to these different aspects of your children calms them down as they feel known and understood.

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Change Kindergarten-Not the Age Cut Off
May 31, 2011 · Posted in Education, K-5 Kids, Parenting, Preschoolers, Pressure on Children · Permalink · Comments (0)

In many states children can start kindergarten as young as four years old. A New York Times article recently reported on the challenges for these kids in, Too young For Kindergarten? Tide Turning Against 4-Year Olds. The article highlights teachers that advocate for an age cut off that would prevent 4-year olds from starting kindergarten.

“They struggled because they’re not developmentally ready,” said Ms. Ferrantino, 26, who teaches in Hartford. “It is such a long day and so draining, they have a hard time holding it together.”

Advocates of lower income children worry, rightly so, that these children, who benefit from an early start at school, will be cut out of public education for a year, while wealthier families will be able to pay for another year of preschool.

Nowhere in the article, did anyone advocate for changing kindergarten back to a play based, non-academic setting where children can socialize and learn in a developmentally appropriate manner.

A letter to the editor in the NYT a few weeks back that hit the nail on the head of our inability to see the backward thinking of our current educational ethos popped into my head.

To the Editor:

In your May 15 issue, I could not help but link Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa’s Op-Ed article, “Your So-Called Education,” to the Sunday Styles article “Fast-Tracking to Kindergarten.” Mr. Arum and Ms. Roksa lament that college students do not improve their writing and reasoning skills while in school. Their answer: increase the time students spend studying and ratchet up the reading and writing assignments.

Then consider the pained and puzzled look on the face of a 3-year-old girl in the “Fast-Tracking” article as she struggles to match round orange letter discs with letters splayed across a cardboard sheet before her. Research shows that she will not gain much from her intense preschool efforts. Less formal education and more time playing are better solutions.

It appears, then, that we are paying big money to educate our youth but failing at both ends of the pipeline and for opposite reasons. Our college students are not dedicating enough time to studying, and our early learners are spending too much time in formal academic tutoring.

But, here’s the point: It’s not the amount of time that counts, but how we use it.

KAREN GROSS

President, Southern Vermont College, Bennington, Vt., May 15, 2011

Couldn’t have said it better!

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Why are our Children Their Worst with Us?
May 5, 2011 · Posted in K-5 Kids, Parenting, Preschoolers, Teens, Toddlerhood · Permalink · Comments (0)

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How many times has your mother-in law said, “She wasn’t like this with me!” Or your nanny comments that your son goes down for a nap like an angel with her. Or you go for a parent teacher conference and the description of the child, “first to clean up, so empathetic to other children, what a helper!” is not the child you know. Parents come in for consultation time and time again embarrassed to report that they are in a deep struggle with their child–but that it doesn’t seem to be going on with caregivers, teachers or with other adults.

This is because our children are at their worst with us! They are supposed to be. Parents are exactly the ones you want your child to be struggling with the most. You mean the most, you are the safest person in their lives, and you are the person that can most teach them lessons about life and relationships.

Why bother struggling with your nanny over nap time? It’s not her that you are fighting sleep to see. Why whine and throw a tantrum with grandma, she is probably giving in to your every whim. Why show your tiredness, worry or frustration in school? Show your mom or dad so they can help you out with it without having to feel embarrassed in front of your friends.

The next time the comment tinged with judgement comes, “He was a such doll until you came in!” You can proudly say, “I know, he really knows how to behave out in the world, but with me he can show all his feelings!”

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Book Writing with Kids
March 31, 2011 · Posted in Education, K-5 Kids, Parenting, Preschoolers · Permalink · Comments (0)

Parents say “Use your words!” to help children turn their raw emotion into understandable language. Here is another way to transform feelings, help children process events and support your child’s love of language, art and books. Make books yourselves, together. Nothing high tech – sheets of computer paper, a stapler and markers are all you need. Turn your life events- moving, saying goodbye, a new baby, fighting with friends, learning to control anger, into a narrative.

Here’s an example. You are moving and a bit worried about how your child will handle it. You want to be able to prepare and discuss, but kids need indirect ways of talking about big things. So, tell your four year old you two are going to write a book about moving. Show her how to make a book by stapling papers together and off you go!

“What should the cover be like? We need a name for our book and a picture. What should be call it?”

“James is moving.”

“Awesome title! I’ll write that and then you draw a picture now for the cover of our book…Is that our building?”

“That’s our house and I want to stay here!?”

“I know, let’s start the book with that. I will write the words and you can draw and write your words. So, page one. James lives at 332 West 24th Street. He has lived there since the day he came home from the hospital. He doesn’t want to move and leave his house! He says, “I want to stay here.”

It is the rare kid who won’t be hooked by the plot line here! You continue your book about moving with your story and blend in the language your child uses in the prose. You translate a life event into a story, and thereby give a way to process feelings for your children.

Let’s cut to the last page.

“So James and his mommy, daddy and Maggie the dog move will move to their new house at 112 West 89 th Street. They will always remember and miss their first house. The End.”

Your child now can look at this book of his own creation, his own words, his designs. He is in charge of his own story, which we all know, helps.

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Two Years, 2 Bites-Three Years, 3 Bites
March 29, 2011 · Posted in Feeding, Parenting, Preschoolers, Toddlerhood · Permalink · Comments (0)

Toddler and preschool eating can be a source of stress for parents. Babyhood, when parents can often scoop endless spoonfuls into eagerly awaiting mouths, is over. Variety narrows, amounts lessen. This change can be startling and unsettling. Feeding becomes a less gratifying experience for the parent. This nutrition and weight conscious generation can often spend lots of time fretting and battling with their children at mealtimes. Two years, 2 bites-three years, 3 bites is a short but powerful mantra to use to calm even the most worried parent. Kids need to eat less in the 2nd and third years of life for the healthy growth of their bodies. Nothing is wrong with a the toddler who eats less than when he was an infant. So no need to force, chase, or zoom food into their mouths. Two bites is just fine.

The range of food also usually narrows after infancy for a period of time during childhood. Evolutionarily speaking, a little toddling person, who is now away from the watchful eye of their parent, is safer when they eat things they recognize. No poison plants for me! I’ll just stick with what I know! So when your baby goes from the consummate gourmet to a rotation of ten foods, this is normal development -not a reason to worry. Over time, most kids get curious and adventurous again. Three bites of the same old, same old is just fine. Since variety and amount lessen after age one, the best thing you can do is provide healthy food at the times you want them to have meals and leave the amounts to them. Soothe the worried part of yourself by repeating “Two years, 2 bites, Three years, 3 bites!” That’s all they really need.

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The Power of Ten Minutes
March 15, 2011 · Posted in K-5 Kids, Parenting, Preschoolers · Permalink · Comments (0)

Mornings are jam packed with “to do’s” once your children are in school. Parents often complain that it feels like a whole day has happened from the time they get up to the time they get out the door. Tons of tasks, a clear deadline, the natural slowness and non-linear way kids operate, can feel overwhelming. Often parents who have the responsibility of getting themselves and their children totally ready to walk out the door by 8:15 AM are trying to accomplish too much in too short a time. They end up frustrated and short-tempered and somehow the blame is on the son who had to run and get his Lego, or the daughter who hates how her shoes feel. Time has to be built in for these bumps, as they are the rule with children, not the exception.

The best way to tame the beast of the morning is to get there first. Getting up at least ten minutes before your children will make a huge difference. We all know that when kids are the alarm clock -poking you to get up – you are dead in the water! A cup of coffee, a quick shower, making lunches or breakfast – before the kids are up – can make all the difference in the world. This way, your children awake to a day already in progress. You are ready (or at least able) to greet them. You are in charge and can shepherd them through the twists and turns of morning. You are ahead of the game. Of course, if you need more time to make sure you are ready for the before them, take it. Either way, you will be surprised at the difference even ten minutes makes.

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What Should A Four Year Old Know?
February 10, 2011 · Posted in K-5 Kids, Mental Health, Parenting, Play, Preschoolers · Permalink · Comments (0)

A recent post on the blog A Magical Childhood gives a touching account of what a young child really needs to feel safe and content. Here is a lightly edited version:

What a 4-year old should know:

  1. She should know that she is loved wholly and unconditionally, all of the time.
  2. He should know that he is safe and he should know how to keep himself safe in public, with others, and in varied situations. He should know that he can trust his instincts about people and that he never has to do something that doesn’t feel right, no matter who is asking. He should know his personal rights and that his family will back them up.
  3. She should know how to laugh, act silly, be goofy and use her imagination. She should know that it is always okay to paint the sky orange and give cats 6 legs.
  4. He should know his own interests and be encouraged to follow them. If he could care less about learning his numbers, his parents should realize he’ll learn them accidentally soon enough and let him immerse himself instead in rocket ships, drawing, dinosaurs or playing in the mud.
  5. She should know that the world is magical and that so is she. She should know that she’s wonderful, brilliant, creative, compassionate and marvelous. She should know that it’s just as worthy to spend the day outside making daisy chains, mud pies and fairy houses as it is to practice phonics. Scratch that– way more worthy.

But more importantly, here’s what parents need to know:

  1. That every child learns to walk, talk, read and do algebra at his own pace. That pace will have no bearing on how well he walks, talks, reads or does algebra. The single biggest predictor of high academic achievement and high ACT scores is reading to children. Not flash cards, not workbooks, not fancy preschools, not blinking toys or computers.
  2. That being the smartest or most accomplished kid in class has never had any bearing on being the happiest. We are so caught up in trying to give our children “advantages” that we’re giving them lives as multi-tasked and stressful as our own. One of the biggest advantages we can give our children is a simple, carefree childhood.
  3. That our children deserve to be surrounded by books, nature, art supplies and the freedom to explore them. Most of us could get rid of 90% of our children’s toys and they wouldn’t be missed. If you keep the legos and blocks, all types of art materials, musical instruments, dress up clothes and books, they will have all they need.
  4. That our children need more of us. Our children don’t need Nintendos, computers, after school activities, ballet lessons, play groups and soccer practice nearly as much as they need US. Children’s healthy and loving relationships with their parents will give them everything they need to know.
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