Sunday, September 29, 2013

Our Communication with Children Can Lift Them Up...Or Not



Children are natural people watchers.  They observe us all the time and we are their examples of how to walk through the world.  They watch us and integrate lessons about how people should treat each other, how to be productive members of society and how to communicate with those around them.  Adults are so careful to be examples of good manners, morality and ethics that it always surprises me when they don’t see that their communication with children sets a tone and teaches them. 

Communication skills are an essential part of success; yet, so many adults fail to see that changing our demeanor to match that of the children does a disservice to them.  The consistent use of silly voices, overly simple vocabulary and a goofy demeanor are really an insult to the intelligence of children. They are capable of so much more.  It’s fun to play with our children but that sort of communication shouldn’t be used all the time.  Playing is one thing.  Daily communication is another.  Teaching is yet a third.  When talking with children, remember that:

  • Children learn non-verbal communication skills such as appropriate tone of voice and volume of speech from their interactions with adults.  There are times when our voices should sound soothing.  Other times urgency is more appropriate.  Our tone and demeanor should match the current activity.  If our tone is always that of baby talk, how do they learn to speak like adults?  When I watch people who switch immediately to babyish tones in the presence of their children, I wonder at what magical age that stops.  When babies coo, they are trying to imitate our conversations.  We should not be imitating theirs.  Early learners try so hard to sound grown up.  Let’s help them by sounding grown up ourselves.
  • Children have an incredible capacity to learn vocabulary so use the big words.  Adults work too hard to keep the conversation simple with simple vocabulary.  Children would be so much better served if we taught them more ways to express themselves and didn’t limit them to some child’s vocabulary list.  The way we describe emotions is one of the primary ways we need to increase their vocabulary.  Children have shades of emotion just like we do.  They aren’t only mad, sad, scared and happy.  They are furious, frustrated, joyful, ecstatic.  They can learn to say, “I am frustrated” or “I am thrilled.”  They can learn the many shades of blue or red or yellow.  They can learn that at the end of a book, it is finished.  It has concluded.  They can understand that halt and stop are the same but pause is slightly different.  Vary your vocabulary to teach them the different degrees of meanings and more ways to express themselves.
  • Children take seriously that which we present seriously and they are fascinated when we show wonder in our voice.  Our demeanor teaches them appropriate demeanor.  Years of teaching young children has taught me how to capture their interest and imagination.  I won’t always succeed but I have a better chance if my voice is one of amazement and wonder.  If I am amazed, then surely there is something to be interested in.  If I am serious, most children take that cue.  If I am enthusiastic, I can draw more of them in.  As soon as I switch to silly, the point of our discussion begins to get lost.  Timing is everything when teaching children.  Always remember that it is hard to pull them back from the land of goofiness so don’t go there until you are ready to end your more serious pursuit.  Joviality has its place.  So does earnestness, sincerity and genuineness.

I’ve never been a fan of Elmo.  When people ask why, I explain that Burt, Ernie, Big Bird and The Count lift children up.  They speak like we want children to learn to speak.  They use more mature vocabulary and an appropriate tone most of the time.  Elmo is a toddler.  Toddlers cannot learn better communication from each other.  Think about it.


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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 - www.helpingkidsachieve.com
                                                      
Copyright 2013 © 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_dirA Community of Mothers

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Stop Spending Your Days Saying, "No! Don't!"




“I feel like all I do is say, ‘No.  Don’t do that.’”  I have heard that statement from weary parents so often.  As much as you know that you have to teach your children and keep them safe, it is hard to spend every day feeling so negative.  We certainly don’t want our children to think of us as the people who only say “no” and “don’t.”  Early in my career, I worked in an early childhood center where the use of the word “no” was forbidden.  I thought it was insane at the time but, actually, it taught me a great deal about how to instruct children. 

Discipline should be instructive and phrasing requests or commands in the negative teaches the wrong lesson.  Not only is it less than productive, it doesn’t relate to the thought processes of young children.  When a young child reaches for something and we say, “No.  Don’t touch that!” we are asking the child to reverse an action.  That is a multi-step directive.  The developmental goal for an average 4 year old is the ability to follow a 3 step process.  Think about how many steps are required for “No.  Don’t touch that!”   At a minimum, the child has to (1) resist an impulse, (2) stop moving, (3) consider what to do with the outstretched arm, and (4) pull the arm back. 

Why does your child continue to reach for the outlet when you say to stop?  Two reasons – your child cannot resist strong impulses because the frontal lobe of the brain is still developing and your child cannot process all of the steps of a negative command.  It’s that simple.  Your child cannot. 
When we remember that discipline is simply another thing we have to teach, we can consider a better way to address the children who cannot.  Let’s use the outlet scenario without the impossible negative command.  Your child reaches for the outlet.  Instead of saying what not to do, tell your child what to do.  What do you want your child to do when reaching for the outlet?  You want your child to “Put your hand down.”  Simple.  No reversing required.  The urgency in your voice will, hopefully, supersede the impulse and signal your child that there is danger.

It is also important to remember that yelling is counterproductive.  Yelling teaches children that In order to solve a problem, you must become emotional and angry.  They learn that the only way to respond to a situation you don’t like is to become loud and negative. Yelling demonstrates that it is acceptable to yell at people who you are smaller than you.  When there is a lot of yelling at home, we see it at school.  Children who are yelled at yell at others.  Parents who were yelled at tend to be yellers.  I applaud those parents who make a conscious decision to speak to their children with more respect than they were spoken to as children.  Sometimes, there is an urgent safety concern and our immediate response is to raise our voices to get the children’s attention.  It is even instructive to say to your child, “I’m sorry I yelled.  I was afraid for your safety.”  Everyday discipline, when no one is in danger, requires no yelling at all.

Tell your children what you want them to do in a tone of voice that demonstrates that you are serious but not emotionally out of control.  All those years in the “no is forbidden zone” taught me this - “Please put the brush down.”  “Walk indoors.”  “Stay on the curb.” “Crayons are used on paper.” “Use quiet voices.” “Be kind.” – all said with respect and followed by an explanation of why we don’t grab, run, go into the street, write on the wall, scream or act with meanness. 

Think about the negative commands that you seem to give over and over again.  Turn them around.  Enter the “no negative words zone.”  Think about what positive action you want your child to do.  You may have to repeat those requests many times but you teach your children so much more by being direct and positive.

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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 - www.helpingkidsachieve.com
                                                      
Copyright 2013 © 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_dirA Community of Mothers

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Accidental Teacher: What Do YOU Teach Your Children Accidentally?



When I was preparing a presentation about being an intentional teacher, my husband said, “As opposed to accidentally teaching?  Are people accidentally teaching?” and laughed.  Yes, actually.  In fact, we accidentally teach far more often than intentionally.  Everything we do and say is a lesson for children.  They watch and listen.  It is from those moments when we are being observed that children learn so much about priorities, interpersonal relationships, coping, self-control, reacting to events and even their own self-worth.  There is a reason why “the apple never falls far from the tree.”  Children figure out how to walk through this world based upon their observations.  Have you considered what your children learn from these accidental teaching moments?

  • Do you talk about your child’s behavior or parenting/educating challenges in front of your child?  Every parent and every teacher has felt the concerns for children with challenging behaviors or for those who struggle socially or academically.  We seek advice and the support of others.  Parent/teacher conferences, teachers’ conversations with each other, phone conversations with friends and parent’s conversations about how to handle the challenges of caring for children should never take place in front of the children themselves.  Children know when you are talking about them and they listen intently.  They hear you say, “I never had these problems with his brother” or “I’m worried about her progress.”  We chip away at their self-esteem every time something of concern is discussed in front of them.  Imagine if you were in the room while a group of people talked about your less than stellar qualities. 
  • How do you treat store clerks, wait staff, custodians repair people or others who provide you with a service?  I have a friend and colleague who tells the parents in her school that the measure of a parent is how he/she treats the custodial staff.  We have lofty goals about teaching our children about respecting people and being kind.  Kindness should be all inclusive.  Every person has worth.  We tell young children in preschool that they don’t have to be everyone’s best friend but they do have to be kind.  It is from observing our treatment and respect for others that they learn to treat all people well.
  • Do you maintain control when you are frustrated?  Tantrums are frustrating for both the child having then and the adults having to deal with them.  It is important to remember that tantrums are not limited to childhood.  Adults tantrum too.  Adult tantrums look a little different – most adults don’t scream and throw themselves on the floor but they most certainly have fits of frustration. I have seen adults yell, hit the table and be unable to hear what other people are saying.  That’s a tantrum.  When adults react with negative emotions and are out of control, children learn to react to the world in the same way.  Some children are more prone to tantrums than others no matter what we do but demonstrating self-control does help them see that it is possible to keep emotions in check as we think through solutions to our problems.
  • Do you fight fair?  Conflict is a fact of life.  How we handle conflict in front of our children will guide how they do too.  When parents swear at each other, they cannot be surprised when their children swear at them.  They have not learned to disagree respectfully.  When adults spend days not talking to each other, they cannot be surprised when their children don’t communicate with them.  Children handle conflict in the same way their role models do because they literally know no other way.
  • Do you demonstrate that we are each responsible for our own happiness?  Our responses to the challenges of life are entirely within our control.  We can complain without being constructive.  We can throw our hands in the air and declare life unfair.  We can fill the air with negativity.  When we do, we cannot expect to get positive things back.  When life throws obstacles in our path, we can help our children to see that improvement comes from positive actions.  It would be terrific if children learned from the time they are young that every day brings possibilities even among challenges.  They are more apt to see life that way if we are examples of it.
  • Are you an example of the priorities you want your children to embrace?  Most parents will tell you that they want to raise children who are hardworking, productive members of society.  Some parents talk about the importance of having children identify with their religion, care about political viewpoints or embrace other personal traditions and values. Your children will be more apt to attend religious services if you do.  They will grow up to be voters if you vote.  They will carry on family traditions if you do. Those beliefs and values that you don’t emphasize with your actions will have less importance for your children.  Be careful to demonstrate that which you want your children to value.

All of us have less than stellar moments as parents or caregivers.  We are human, make mistakes and forget the huge presence we are for our children.  Perhaps by giving our role as accidental teachers a little thought, our actions can more often reflect who we want our children to become.
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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 - www.helpingkidsachieve.com
                                                      
Copyright 2013 © 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_dirA Community of Mothers

Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Battle For Control: Who are the Children Really Testing?



From the time children realize that their emotions elicit an adult reaction, they start testing.  But what exactly are they testing by crying, refusing, yelling or challenging you?  I’ve heard many parents say that their children are testing them.  I beg to differ.  I don’t think children are testing their parents at all.  I think they are testing their own power.  Young children are egocentric and see the world differently than we do.  They are figuring out their own boundaries and areas of control.  They want to know if crying will change the plan of their day, not yours.  They want to know if refusing to move will mean that they can dictate the outcome instead of you.  If all else fails, they will control the things that only they can – the food they swallow and their use of the toilet.  It is important to recognize that they need to have some domains over which they rule.  The battle for control is all about priorities.

Parents and educators need to determine what is and is not negotiable. Decisions about what your children can and cannot control need to be made when you are not in the middle of the battle.  It is never good to make important decisions when you are emotional and what is or is not negotiable is one of the most important decisions you will make as a caregiver of a young child.  Here is some food for thought as you consider what control you can give to your child so he/she becomes a confident decision maker:

  • Not Negotiable – The items that are not at all negotiable should be those that impact health, safety and education.  For example, wearing a seat belt in the car is not negotiable.  Health visits to the doctor are not negotiable.  Attending school is not negotiable.  That’s right – that tantrum in the car cannot become the factor that determines preschool attendance.  As soon as your children realize that tantrums equal going home, you will face tantrums every day.  Whether they enjoy being in school or not, they will have discovered that their behavior determines their attendance.  It sets up an erroneous message that will carry through for years to come.  The understanding that receiving an education is a priority in your house starts from the first days of preschool.  Your children need to know that school attendance is not within their control.
  •  Negotiable – Anything other than health, safety and education can fall into the negotiable category.  When children learn to communicate their desires, they can begin making decisions.  Let your children choose their clothes unless they are going to a particular formal event.  So what if they don’t match?  Adults know when children put the outfit together.  And what will happen if your 4 year old refuses to wear a coat in the cold?  Chances are your 4 year old will be cold and determine the need for a warmer outfit.  Sometimes, let your child choose the activity of the day, too.  When you have a choice of going to the park or the beach, ask your children where they would like to go.  On occasion, give your children choices of snacks or meals.   Remember that you should present 2 options that are acceptable to you.  More than 2 choices make decision making complicated.  If your child will not choose, wait.  Calmly repeat the options.  You may have to calmly repeat yourself a few times but most children will eventually choose.  And if not, opting out was their choice.

Every parent, educator or caregiver has to determine their own priorities that work for them.  The most important thing to remember is that some things must be negotiable.  Parenting and educating is not about exerting power over children.  It is about teaching them how to wield their own.

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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 - www.helpingkidsachieve.com
                                                      
Copyright 2013 © 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_dirA Community of Mothers