Monday, June 27, 2016

When Parents Won’t Take the Teachers' Advice

“They don’t listen to us,” many a staff has told me when we discuss conversations with parents.  It is a constant refrain among early childhood center directors.  I teach about the ins and outs of requesting evaluation of early childhood students.  Most attendees at these sessions agree that the most difficult part is when parents don’t listen.  I teach about young children whose behavior we find challenging.  Again, teachers and school directors bemoan the fact that they try to tell parents how to teach about behavior but they don’t listen.

“What do you do when the parents simply won’t listen?”  a training attendee asked again just last week.

I answered, “I understand that they are not required to take my advice.”

The staff stared at me as most groups do when I say that.  I say it without a “but” – without anywhere to go from there.  I have stated one of the most difficult truths of being an early childhood educator – you cannot control the parents and you cannot force them into action.

I continued to explain that these are their children, not mine.  I care about them.  If I did not, then I don’t belong in a classroom, particularly an early childhood classroom where my every action and reaction forms a part of the children’s foundation.  I care very much and I really want what is best for all of the students.  I am, however, not their parent.  Their parents have every right to refuse.

In the end, we have to accept that although we may have knowledge, we do not know the full picture of their family life.  I may know the signs or have proven methods, but it is the parents’ decision how to raise their own children.  If I have kindly and with compassion stated my observations and advice, I have done all I can do. 

I can wait a while and inquire again (note I said inquire – ask – and not state).  Sometimes, all that is left is compassion.  If a child is eventually diagnosed with learning or behavioral challenges or if reasonable boundaries of behavior are not taught, the parents will have a long road ahead.  But again – they are making a choice.  It is their choice to make.

As you head into a summer session or the new school year, make this your mantra – it is realistic and factual – “I will do my best to communicate clearly, with kindness and compassion.  Sometimes, that is all I can do.”

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You can learn so much more from me online!  
“Helping Preschools Achieve with Cynthia Terebush” – An Online Learning and Support Community for Early Childhood Professionals.  Now with individual memberships and staff bundles.  Check out my informational video HERE and go to Helping Preschools Achieve for more details. 

And in person….
Go to my full website for information about webinars, presentations and individual consulting for parents and educators -Helping Kids Achieve.

Copyright 2016 © 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.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Competitive Parenting: I Blame The Bumper Stickers…

Parenting is not a competitive sport.  It isn’t about beating the team next door or across the street.  It isn’t about having today’s most impressive brag status on social media.  Parenting is about helping children to become reasonably well adjusted, independent, caring adults who walk through the world confident in who they are – strengths and weaknesses, good times and bad – and able to survive it all.  Parenting is about your children who are someone today.  Today, your children have gifts and challenges.  Today, your children are trying to figure it all out. 

As someone who talks often with parents in multiple settings, I am struck by the competitive nature of the landscape.  Parents of preschoolers can tell me who among the other children are reading already or excelling at a sport or seem to be ahead of their own children in a variety of developmental tasks.  Parents of high schoolers are inordinately informed about who is applying to what college and what other children’s standardized test scores were in comparison to their own children.  When I lecture, people have asked me if I think social media started this “we must do better than the other team (I mean family)” attitude.  While being able to see everyone’s life including what they ate for dinner has certainly fed the competitiveness, I blame the bumper stickers.

It has been years since the first “My child is an honor student at….” bumper sticker.  The publicizing of children’s accomplishments as a means of collective pride has only increased.  Social media is fraught with information about the wonders of other families and people seem to absorb that information as a source of competitiveness and anxiety.  We forget that we are only seeing a snippet of people’s lives and everyone experiences the spectrum of achievement and defeat.  It is having an interesting (and by that I mean detrimental) impact on sense of self. 

Before you put the bumper sticker on your car or word your social media post, consider this:
  • Children need to learn to be proud of themselves in the moment without fear of falling from grace.  If your child is an honor student or star athlete or accomplishes some other feat, that’s wonderful.  Accomplishments should be acknowledged and celebrated.  They should help children to feel pride and to know that this is a good feeling – one that they would like to experience again.  It is possible, however, that next marking period will be really tough or the extra-curricular activity will become more difficult.  If the child is the source of bumper sticker pride so the whole family can ride around feeling great, what happens if they slip or make a mistake?  When they make mistakes, they learn valuable lessons.  One of those lessons doesn’t need to be “now we can’t be proud of you publicly.”  They should learn that we all make mistakes, make poor decisions and slip from grace but you can recuperate.
  • Children need to develop a sense of themselves apart from their parents’ sense of self-worth.  It is lovely to be proud of your children.  It feels great when children act in a way that is how we hope and it is important for children to know they’ve hit the “grow up to be this way” mark.  It is also detrimental for children to believe that their parents’ sense of self is all wrapped up in their sons’ or daughters’ accomplishments.  My children’s accomplishments are theirs and I want them to own them.  I am happy to purchase a t-shirt for a child that says, “I am an honor student at…” because it is that child acknowledging their own hard work.  I once said something along these lines to a group of parents at a talk I was conducting.  A parent said, “But I did help my children accomplish their grades…” Yes, that is your job as a parent.  You are supposed to be a helper.  Please recognize that your children have to accept that help and that is their accomplishment.  Children can actually refuse and reject your efforts by doing things like not handing in the work or not answering questions on the test. 
  • In recent years, the bumper stickers have out-shined by the social media status.  Before posting a “We are so proud of little Johnny or Janey…” status on social media, please ask their permission.  It is very possible that they would like some privacy or find your exuberance embarrassing.  Children should get to choose what will be put in the world for public consumption.  I do use social media and I always ask my children before posting about them.  Sometimes, they have said yes and, sometimes, they have said not to post.  I’m really talking about their lives and not mine so I respect that.  I have my own accomplishments that I can post if I so choose. 

Nothing is better than knowing your parents are proud of you.  Tell your children when you are proud but try not to make it a public relations event for your whole family unless they approve. How can children learn to own their worth if we keep taking it and comparing it to others?

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Limited time discounted launch – “Helping Preschools Achieve with Cynthia Terebush” – An Online Learning and Support Community for Early Childhood Education Professionals.   Go to Helping Preschools Achieve and look for the affordable, monthly payment for individuals and staff plans for single courses. 

Go to my full website for information about webinars, presentations and individual coaching for parents and educators -Helping Kids Achieve.

Copyright 2016 © 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, June 12, 2016

Uninhibited Learning: Messiness Promotes Exploration and Discovery

My 19-year-old son is an artist.  Before he paints, he dips his fingers in the paint.  He explained to a friend, “If I start with paint on my hands, then I don’t worry about getting messy.  If I am concentrating on not getting messy, then it inhibits my creativity.”

I feel like I spend my career convincing people to let the mess happen.  Let the classroom get messy.  Let the children dive in.  I tell teachers, teacher assistants, directors, early ed. students – anyone within earshot.  I tell parents, grandparents and even the children when they are hesitant.  I have read the research, done research of my own and observed the difference in the scope of learning between the “dive in” method and the more neatness leaning environments.  All that professional energy and my college age son described the issue best – “It inhibits my creativity.”

What exploration, discoveries and learning are inhibited when typically developing children are worried about getting their clothes messy?  What don’t they find out if they are concerned about losing hair bows or getting dirt under their nails or being chastised for ruining their good outfit?  So much – so very much is lost.

A group of children were playing in the mud.  They learned about volume, mass, mixtures, physics, slope, water flow and more.  They were free to do so because they had permission and were assured that their parents would not be upset.  Playing in the mud in my school – from the time I was a teacher through my career as a director – has always been permitted and encouraged.  Nature and its creations are important catalysts for curiosity and exploration.

When I consult, I work with whatever mess we’ve got.  In the city, it may be hard to come naturally upon mud so we make some or grab anything at our disposal – tubs of water, finger paint, shaving cream, sand, pudding, various types of substances.  In one school, the sensory table – often filled with sand or rice in preschools – was filled with shaving cream.  The children were elbow deep.  They learned about texture, temperature, consistency, socialization, sharing, cooperation and more.

I remember finger painting as a child.  I don’t remember being worried about getting the paint on my clothes.  In my experience, children only worry about their clothes when they are told to worry about their clothes.  Then, they hesitate to join in with the others who are learning about colors, honing fine and gross motor skills, developing the parts of the brain that govern creativity, comparing, contrasting and more.

Some children need extra encouragement to use glue because they don’t understand the stickiness.  The children who dive into the glue learn about cause & effect, problem solving, critical thinking, following directions….

And when the children are all done, we go to the restroom to clean ourselves up.  With the staff members’ help, the children learn about hygiene, self-care, washing, drying, taking turns, waiting, dressing themselves, transitions from activity to activity and place to place and more.

The list of learning of uninhibited messy exploration is endless.  If your child has sensory issues, seek therapy so that this learning can simply happen differently or at a different pace.  If your child is simply afraid of getting a shirt dirty, then it isn’t the right shirt to wear for play and for preschool.  One of the wonders of the early childhood years is the lack of inhibition – the children are yet as self-conscious and influenced by peer pressure as they will be very soon.  Don’t stand in the way of their natural and boundless curiosity and need to explore. 

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Limited time discounted launch – “Helping Preschools Achieve with Cynthia Terebush” – An Online Learning and Support Community for Early Childhood Education Professionals.  One new 1 hr. professional development session each month, discussion forums and the opportunity for discounted consulting calls. Go to Helping Preschools Achieve and look for the affordable, monthly payment bundle. 

Go to my full website for information about webinars, presentations and individual coaching for parents and educators -Helping Kids Achieve.

Copyright 2016 © 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.