Thursday, April 17, 2014

To Intervene or Not to Intervene: Reacting to Children’s Arguments



I was in a waiting room watching preschool age siblings fight over a toy.   The older child had a toy that the younger child was trying to get.  They both yelled.  Their mother reached over and, without saying one word, took the toy from the older child and handed it to the younger.  The older child yelled and cried.   Mom clenched her teeth and said, “Stop it” and the child cowered in anger and defeat.   She handed the child a book and turned away.  The child threw the book down. 

This scene may feel familiar to you.  As adults, we want to solve the problem.  We too often simply reach over, step in, involve ourselves and end the possibility that the children could have solved it themselves.  In the situation in the waiting room, not only did the mother wordlessly intervene, she did exactly what we tell the children not to do – she grabbed the toy.  We tell children not to grab from each other and then we grab to end the fight.

I remember being at the playground with my boys when they were little.  Inevitably, one child on the playground starts telling everyone else where to go and what to do.  It is apparent to everyone watching that the other children don’t want to do what the child tells them to do but some of them comply.  As a parent, I wanted to run over and say, “Hey – don’t tell them what to do.  Kids you don’t have to listen.”  I didn’t run over there.  I was the parent who wanted to see if they would figure it out on their own.  If my children didn’t figure it out in a way that I thought was to their benefit, we would talk later.  Besides, I didn’t need to say anything – just like there was always a bossy kid, there was also a parent who couldn’t stay quiet.

The question for every parent (and caregiver and teacher) is when to intervene in your child’s social dilemmas.  At what point do the children need our help?  We will never know if we don’t give them the chance to work it out.  Take a breath.  Give them a minute.  See if it can play out safely without your interference.  We cannot, of course, let arguments become physically dangerous.  Intervening when someone will get hurt is part of teaching children about respectful boundaries.  We are obligated to teach our children about respect for property, people and health & safety.   If everyone is physically safe, we need to give them a chance to let situations take a natural course.  You would be amazed at how often they actually do work it out.  You will also be surprised at how they know when they need your help and ask for it.  When you see your children arguing, remember:

  • Arguments teach us a lot about socialization.  Sometimes we win.  Sometimes we lose.  These are valuable lessons.  No one wants to see their child upset.  We forget that is how we learn.  I have learned the greatest lessons from not getting what I want.  I have learned that each defeat isn’t the end of the world.  I have learned to try again.  I have learned to cope.
  • When your children come to you upset about an argument, don’t solve it.  Teach them to be critical thinkers.  Ask questions.  What can you do?  What should you say?  What should you do differently next time?  Teach your children to take a deep breath when they are angry.  They will be able to think more clearly if they know how to calm their physical reactions to upset.
  • You are their role model so don’t get emotionally involved.  When we are calm, we teach our children that problems can be solved logically rather than with negative emotions.  We also provide an example of maturity.  I spent many years watching parents at sporting events acting emotionally less mature than their children.  There is something so wrong with that.  Children learn what they see.  Seeing is believing, after all.
  • Instruct – don’t grab, make declarations or bully anyone.  It is our job to teach our children.  When the struggle for the toy is getting physically dangerous, put your hand out and say, “Please give it to me.”  Make a couple of attempts to get the toy.  Don’t do what you don’t want to teach the children.  You don’t want to be their example of grabbing.  You don’t want to be their example of bullying.  Instead of grabbing, hold the toy with them and help them to take turns.  Remember that preschoolers cannot really share in a way that adults interpret the word sharing.  They are egocentric and each need to feel possession of the item.  Being able to cooperatively play with one item is typical 5 year old behavior, not 3 year old behavior.  Adults need to facilitate sharing.

Children become confident in their ability to navigate social situations and solve problems by doing just that.  If we never let them stand up for themselves, how do they know that they can?  If we always intervene, how will they know that they can be fine when we are not with them?  It is hard to watch our children struggle but it is nice to watch them able to function on their own.  Sometimes, the difference between the two is one short breath.  Take a breath.  Watch.  See what they do. 

                                                                         
                                                                                                                   



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Read this blog for more articles.  Ask your parenting & education questions and learn about early childhood workshops for parents & educators on my website - Helping Kids Achieve
                                                      
Copyright 2014 © Cindy Terebush
All Rights Reserved

Please do not sell, post, curate, publish, or distribute all or any part of this article without author's permission.   You are invited, however, to share a link to this post on your webpage, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and other social networking sites.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Attention “Frozen” Fans: You Have the Wrong Heroine



The movie “Frozen” has taken over the early childhood classroom.  The children LOVE that movie.  They sing songs from it. They act it out.  All of the children want to be Elsa.  They spin around and pretend to freeze things.  They sing “Let it Go” and know every word.  They tell me about their Elsa toys.  

I’m not quite sure if someone should tell them that they are, however, worshipping the wrong character.  Elsa is not the heroine.  While it is true that Elsa goes into isolation in order to save her sister from harm, she does not act otherwise heroic.  She forbids her sister to marry.  She panics and runs away.  She has an emotional outburst that causes brutal winter weather for her subjects.  It is Anna, her sister, who vows to find her in order to salvage their relationship and end the endless winter.  In the end, Anna is willing to sacrifice herself to save Elsa’s life.  That act of true love is the reason that Anna isn’t frozen forever and survives.  Anna is the heroine.  Anna is willing to die for what matters.

I do not hear any of my preschoolers pretending to be Anna.  Why are they so focused on Elsa and what does that say about what they view as a role model?   It is important to try to see the world through the eyes of our children in order to understand their viewpoint.   Elsa gets the beautiful blue dress that they pretend to wear.  Elsa has magical powers.  Elsa has the beautiful song.  Anna, on the other hand, is not quite as classically blond and beautiful as Elsa.  She has no magic.  Her clothes aren’t sparkling and flowing.  She sings but THE song went to Elsa.  Elsa captures them.  Poor scrappy Anna is just the younger sister who doesn’t quite capture the fan base.

I have mentioned this case of the wrong heroine to other adults.  They agree.  Then they shrug.  I wonder if they would shrug if their children were pretending to be the Evil Queen instead of Snow White or the Wicked Witch instead of Dorothy.   Perhaps, for all of us, there is something to be said for the effect of the esthetics and the lack of words like “evil” and “wicked.”   I wonder if parents are pointing out to their children that Elsa froze everything and Anna was willing to give so much to save everyone.  It is an opportunity to teach about the values of doing for others and importance of siblings sticking together.   Then, when the children do what is natural and pretend to wear the pretty, blue dress and use the magical power of freezing everything, we will know that they heard about the true heroics.
                                                                         
                                                                                                                   



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Read this blog for more articles.  Ask your parenting & education questions and learn about early childhood workshops for parents & educators on my website - Helping Kids Achieve
                                                      
Copyright 2014 © Cindy Terebush
All Rights Reserved

Please do not sell, post, curate, publish, or distribute all or any part of this article without author's permission.   You are invited, however, to share a link to this post on your webpage, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and other social networking sites.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Tell Me a Story, Mommy & Daddy


My father holding me.  He is the subject of many stories.

“Tell me a story.”  How do you respond to that request?  Some people reach for the bookshelf every time.  Some people are storytellers and enjoy making up scenes & characters with young children.  They start with “Once upon a time…” and spin fantastic tales of adventures and heroes.  I have always enjoyed telling stories from the past – my past and my family’s past.  I want the people who I loved as a child to come to life for my children.  The Hebrew phrase l’dor vador – from generation to generation – is the theme of much of my storytelling as a parent.

Soon, my family will celebrate Passover.  We will tell two stories.  We tell them every year.  We will tell the story of the Exodus from Egypt when Moses led the Jewish people from slavery to freedom.  We will tell the story of my Aunt Fay who always yelled, “Hurry up.  The turkey is drying out” from the kitchen as we prayed.  We will sing the songs of the holiday as we recall the story of my grandmother singing in her rather deep, smoker’s voice.  We will hide a piece of matzah for the children to find as we talk about when we were young and competed with a table full of cousins to find it.  

“Tell me a story.”  I will fire their imaginations as they try to picture their mother as a little girl.  I will tell  them of a time before cell phones and DVRs and video games.  They will learn about carrying a dime in our pockets for the payphone and about running home to see a TV show because there was no recording it to watch it later.  That world is as foreign and magical to them as anything that an author or moviemaker can create.

Sometimes at the end of the day, it feels like it takes too much energy to make up a story.  You don’t need to make one up.  You know the stories of your past.  Your family or friends are the characters.  You lived through the settings.  Once upon a time, there were people who were funny.  There was a place you loved to go.  Once upon a time, you had a dream.  You are your children’s hero already just because you are the most important person in their life.  Take the time to tell your oral history.  Those stories may become your children's favorites.
                                                                                                       
                                                                         
For more information, click on these titles:  "Caring for Traditions & Memories" and "Treasuring Time Off with the Kids"
                                                                                                                   


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Read this blog for more articles.  Ask your parenting & education questions and learn about early childhood workshops for parents & educators on my website - Helping Kids Achieve
                                                      
Copyright 2014 © Cindy Terebush
All Rights Reserved

Please do not sell, post, curate, publish, or distribute all or any part of this article without author's permission.   You are invited, however, to share a link to this post on your webpage, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and other social networking sites.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Scaffolding & Extending Knowledge: How a Hairstyle Became a Teachable Moment



Educators spend a lot of time talking about teachable moments.  We know that some of the most important learning takes place when we respond to children’s curiosity rather than stick to the written plan.  In preschools, teachers place things in classrooms and offer unique experiences to try to spark curiosity.  I recently attended a workshop for K-12 teachers about how to purposefully peek curiosity by doing things like more dramatic presentations, using props and writing mysterious messages on the white/chalk board. All of those methods have merit as we try to engage students but some of the best teachable moments come from the unexpected and create magic.   The trick is noticing the moment and capturing it.  The teacher needs to be actively listening to and watching students in order to capitalize on the curiosity that can be shown in a split second. Parents can do the same at home.

Before and after
Last week, I got a haircut and changed the style.  I usually wear my hair in its naturally curly state but I arrived at preschool after my hairdresser had blown out the curls.  When I walked into the preschool classroom, the students paused.  Students looked at me.  They looked away and looked back.  They obviously noticed something, but what?  And how could their glances be teachable?

We gathered for group time and I asked, “What is different today?”  That led to all of this:

  • We used the comparison term "different."  We asked the children what is different today.  They named students who were absent.  They talked about the snow outside.  They talked about the cold.  They said a number of things that were different from the last time we were together.   Finally (and I do mean lastly), one student said, "Your hair is different."
  • We used memory and observation skills.  I asked, "What is different about my hair?"  One student asked if I got it cut and I confirmed that.  Then, one student added, "It isn't curly."
  • We learned that what you think of something is your opinion and everyone can have an opinion.  I asked each student's opinion so we could vote.  Each student said if they liked my hair better curly or straight.
  • We counted the votes.  Nine students voted for straight and six students voted for curly.
  • We used the math terms "more" and "less."  We saw that straight got more votes but not by much!
  • Just talking about my haircut is a life lesson.  I survived the dreaded haircut and maybe they will think of that when they are afraid of the stranger with the scissor.
Who knew that a staff members' hair could lead to such interest?!   The students were enthralled by the conversation.  The skills that we used are important cognitive skills and all are listed in the New Jersey Core Curriculum Standards.

When children stare at something or otherwise show interest in something in their world, don’t just tell them about what they see.  Ask them about it.  Help them to build knowledge through critical thinking.  You never know where one question can lead. 
                                                                                                                                                                             
                                                                  


______________________________________________________________________________

Read this blog for more articles.  Ask your parenting & education questions and learn about early childhood workshops for parents & educators on my website - Helping Kids Achieve
                                                      
Copyright 2014 © Cindy Terebush
All Rights Reserved

Please do not sell, post, curate, publish, or distribute all or any part of this article without author's permission.   You are invited, however, to share a link to this post on your webpage, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and other social networking sites.