Saturday, December 29, 2012

New Year’s Resolutions for Parents of Preschoolers



 

For the next few days, New Year’s Resolutions will be a hot topic.  People will talk about things they want to achieve in the year 2013.  Social media sites will be full of promises about diet, exercise and daring to do things differently.  We tend to look inward and determine what we want for ourselves.  This year, I challenge you to have two lists of resolutions – the personal and the parental.

Resolve this year to give more conscience thought to your parenting.  In this competitive, stressful, overscheduled and technologically based world, think about how you can help your young children to build a foundation of feeling capable, being emotionally strong and loving to explore their curiosity.  Consider these New Year’s Resolutions for Parents of Preschoolers:


  • Encourage more socialization and less technology driven isolation:  It is astounding to see parents of preschoolers, or children of any age, posting pictures in the social media of their children and friends sitting side by side each using their own tablet, laptop or video game and calling that a play date.  Play time with friends should encourage conversation, creativity and cooperation.  Children should be entering the world of their imagination and not the imagination of a software engineer.  Dramatic play, alone and with others, is the most important part of your child’s day.  Children who engage in play in worlds of their own making are testing rules & boundaries, gaining confidence in their ability to make decisions and learning about the world by role playing.  Role playing is, in fact, the beginning of literacy.  Children experiment with symbolism, exercise their verbal skills muscles and tell the most amazing stories.  Unplug the video game.  Turn off the laptop.  Encourage socialization and brain exercise.
  • Give some control to your children by encouraging them to make decisions:  Young children have very little control over their days.  They follow the pattern of the day as set forth by all of the adults in their lives.  There is a schedule at home and a routine at school.  Young children measure time by routine so it is important to have predictability.  There are some things, however, that they can control.  Young children can pick their own clothes or choose from a couple of snack choices.  As you go through each day, be aware of the decisions that you are making that actually can be handed over to your children.  They will learn that their opinions have value and they are capable decision makers.
  • Encourage sensory experiences by having a messy zone in your home:  When children dive into finger paints, shaving cream and play dough, they are doing more than just making a mess.  They are developing pathways in the brain that help to process input from the world around them.  The more children smell, feel, taste, see and hear, the more data they collect and the more perceptive they become.
  • Become more aware of what activities are adult driven and, therefore,  not really play:  Children learn best through play, by being active learners.  The moment that adults take over the activity, your children become passive participants.  Young children may enjoy dance class, sports and taking music lessons and that’s wonderful.  They should be encouraged to participate in activities that they enjoy.  As parents, however, we need to recognize that all of these adult driven activities provide no opportunities for children to make their own decisions and , therefore, build their own knowledge.   Be sure to balance your schedule with plenty of free play, both indoors and outside, during which the children determine the course of action.
  • Listen more and talk less:  This may be the most difficult parenting resolution.  We have lived a while and have knowledge that we just want to impart.  When we talk, we cannot hear.  Children have feelings, opinions and their own viewpoint of the world.  They do not think like we do nor do we think like them.  It is important to really listen as our children speak and to watch when they are at play.  Listening and watching gives us a window into how they see their world.  It is when we understand their perceptions that we can better alleviate their fears, guide them and help them to be confident.

Parenting is the hardest job on Earth.  Resolve in 2013 to take parenting off of auto-pilot and reflect upon the activities of each day.  Think about the ways in which you provide not only the basics but also a foundation for all future interactions, learning and self-worth.

Wishing you a happy, healthy and fulfilling 2013!


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Read this blog for more articles, learn about early childhood workshops for parents and early childhood professionals (www.cindyterebush.blogspot.com)  
                                                      

Copyright 2012 © 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.

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Saturday, December 15, 2012

Letting Children Speak When Afraid




As I sit listening to the news about those lost and suffering in Connecticut, I have started to receive messages and emails from colleagues asking if I will write about the horrific events of December 14.  I am a parent as well as an educator.  I mourn along with the nation for the lives cut short and for the families who will never be the same.  I mourn for our sense of safety and security.  School should be a safe place.  Children going to school should not have to worry about being injured more than falling on the playground and scraping their knees.   People sending emails to me are looking for something – something comforting or something they can share with parents in their schools.  Experts on the news are offering good advice.  They say that children should be told that there are bad people and bad things happen but we are with good people and we are safe.  I agree that we need to be honest with our children taking into consideration their ages.  We need to acknowledge what has happened while helping our children to feel less afraid. 

All that is left for me to offer is the advice that I give in so many situations.  Listen.  One word – so simple – yet so hard to do in the face of our own sadness and fear.  As adults, we worry that we won’t have the answers or know what to say when children talk.  We talk trying to impart wisdom when the greatest gift we can often give to children is the chance to speak.  Children need to say how they feel and have it acknowledged.  We need to tell them it is okay to be afraid or sad or worried.  Children can see us feel the same way and use us as an example of accepting emotion and coping.  They need to ask their questions even when we don’t have an answer.   Children need to express what they feel without worry that their feelings are not going to be considered valid.  They need us to stop talking. They need us to listen.
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Read this blog for more articles, learn about early childhood workshops for parents and early childhood professionals (www.cindyterebush.blogspot.com)  
                                                      

Copyright 2012 © 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.

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Thursday, December 13, 2012

“NO!” The Power of a Toddler’s Two Letter Word



“NO!”  It is typically one of the first words a child learns to say.  Put on your coat, please.  NO!  Eat your dinner.  NO!  Time for bed.  NO!  Do you want a cookie?  NO!  Every question and request is met with a resounding “no.”  Even when we know our toddlers want something, they say “no” when it is offered to them.  The ability to say the word that they have been hearing since infancy is magic.  They heard it when they tried to put something in their mouth that didn’t belong there and when they used their new teeth to bite something other than food.  They’ve seen adults use it with them, other children and each other.  Why does your toddler consistently say “no?”  It is because the word “no” is all powerful.  It makes all action stop. 
                                                          
During the toddler years, your child first learns that he/she is not you.  You are separate beings and can do different things.  You can want a snack but that doesn’t mean your toddler has to eat, too.  You may want to go outside but that doesn’t mean your child has to happily follow along.  They realize that they can stop walking beside you because they have that power.  It is the beginning of a separation that will last at least the next 15 years.

Along with being separate, toddlers discover that they can also be all powerful.  Adults may be big and loud but one toddler “NO!” will stop all the action and change the behavior of everyone around them.   Toddlers cannot control much.  They are forced to keep schedules designed for them by adults.  They are hoisted up and carried where they do not want to go.  They don’t make their own food or buy their own clothes.  Typically developing toddlers put those two letters together to experiment with and obtain some control.

Knowing that your toddler doesn’t wake up in the morning thinking, “How nuts can I drive her today?” can help you to deal with the consistent negative reaction to everything you say.  In fact, independence and decision making skills are traits that should be encouraged in early childhood.  Give your children some power by recognizing their ability to express themselves and to make decisions.   Whenever possible, let your children choose.  Confident decision makers become more confident students and adults.  Mismatched clothes, pancakes instead of eggs and a different hairstyle with too many barrettes aren’t actually the makings for a bad day.  When giving choices, it works best when there are two options.  It is easy to choose between two objects.  Most children (and even adults) find choosing between multiple options more stressful.  Multiple choice and open ended questions should be left for 6th grade quizzes.

When you absolutely need your toddler to comply and “no” is not an option, acknowledge the feelings behind the statement.  There is a vast difference between saying “I said to go” and saying “I know that you don’t want to go.  Your brother is waiting for us.”  Children’s feelings should always be validated with statements that show you hear them even when you might not agree or be able to comply.

The most important thing you can do as your toddler continues to say “no” to every option is to remain in control.  Smile, acknowledge their feelings and know that in 25-30 years, their children will say “NO!” to them, too.
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Read this blog for more articles, learn about early childhood workshops for parents and early childhood professionals (www.cindyterebush.blogspot.com)  

                                                      

Copyright 2012 © 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.

 edu_listed_dir