Thursday, October 31, 2013

When Group Discipline is Detrimental to Our Children



Over the past few weeks, I have had several conversations with concerned parents about how their children are being treated in their elementary, middle & high schools.  One parent told me about an elementary school that has instituted silent lunch periods.  Another bemoaned a teacher’s system of using a traffic light to indicate behavior – green for good, yellow for a warning and red for unacceptable.  In a middle school, administrators have decided to combat restroom shenanigans by forbidding students to leave class to go.  They can only use restrooms during the change of periods.  A fourth parent told me about how he had “humiliation flashbacks” when his 4th grader said that a substitute wrote his name on the whiteboard when he asked a friend for a pencil.

Haven’t we learned to do better than to demean, humiliate and defeat students?  As our knowledge about and the ability to identify special needs has improved, so has our knowledge of how to guide behavior and build self-esteem.  We know that every child develops at his/her own rate and we cannot expect everyone to master skills at the same time in the same way.  This is true of academic and social skills.  If five children in a class have not mastered reading, we don’t hold everyone back.  We work with the five struggling students.  We evaluate and give them extra help. We don’t hang traffic lights and put them in the red zone so the whole world knows they are deficient in reading.   That would be embarrassing.  We know not to humiliate children when they struggle academically; yet so many people will do so when they struggle socially and emotionally.  In too many cases, so little thought is given to the harm being done to individual students who are put in red on the stoplight or whose names are written on the board indicating behavior issues.  Doesn’t it always seem like the same names end up in the red or on the board?  Children learn nothing from punitive and humiliating discipline except to try to not get caught.  Children who struggle with behavioral challenges need to be taken as seriously and treated with as much care & respect as those who struggle to read, write and do math.

Haven’t we learned better than to deprive all children of their basic rights because of the behavior of a few?  When adults declare silent lunch periods or locked restrooms, it is obvious that they are grasping for control.  All day long, students participate in adult led activities and conversations.  It is appalling to think that nearly the only time of day when the conversation really belongs to them, they will be forbidden to speak.  School isn’t only about passing tests.  It is also about functioning as a microcosm of society.   It is equally if not more appalling to hear that students are being deprived of the right to use a restroom for the majority of the day.  I cannot imagine anyone telling an adult at work that the restrooms are off limits.  It would be unacceptable.  It is for children, too.

If we acknowledge that students are learning nothing from tactics that humiliate and are based upon detrimental adult control motives, then we need to consider what to do to teach acceptable behavior.  We need to look toward those lessons we have learned from behaviorists and special needs specialists.  In the 1930’s & 1940’s, behaviorist B.F. Skinner purported that positive reinforcement yielded positive results.  Skinner’s and other similar theories are used when working with students with ADD, ADHD and other diagnosed behavioral challenges.  Those theories should apply to everyone.  Tell the students what behavior is expected and why.  Teach them.  Then reward the behavior you want to see.  If students still exhibit behavior beyond acceptable boundaries, the consequences should be logical.  If you talk to your friends when you should be listening, you cannot sit near your friends.  If you sit in the back of the room and distract others, then you cannot sit in the back of the room.  If you cheat, you fail.  If you cannot sit still, maybe… just maybe, you need to be allowed to stand or go for a short break to that unlocked restroom.  Instead of depriving all students the right to speak or relieve themselves, figure out who needs to be monitored or what systems can be put in place to protect those who don’t deserve punishment.  We need to protect the innocent instead of focusing all efforts based on the challenges of a few.  Tolerance, acceptance, encouragement of self-esteem and basic rights should be taken into consideration when dealing with the entire population – those who challenge us and those who do not.
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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, October 27, 2013

Invading Our Children's Privacy on Social Media



Social media has become our platform for pride in our children.  The ability to post every cute picture and tell every funny story is nearly irresistible.  Is there anything better than posting a picture of your children and watching the “likes” number increase while people comment about how attractive they are?  It feels so good to write about something adorable your child says and have people agree with an “LOL” that it’s hilarious.  We want to share our pride with everyone when our children accomplish a goal and have everyone say, “How wonderful!”  We all do it.  I am guilty.  My children are old enough to tell me when to post something and when they prefer not but my other relatives are not.  I ask their parents’ permission and, inevitably, it is granted.  As I scroll through my social media “news” filled with pictures and status about young children, I wonder how this freedom we feel to tell their stories to the world will impact their sense of privacy.

I have one Facebook friend who lives far from me and refuses to post pictures of or write about her preschool age children.  She only posts about herself and her husband.  My instinctive reaction was to roll my eyes at what seemed like an unnecessary precaution considering the privacy settings we can use.  Then, I thought about the children.  Whether from concerns about their safety or not, I realized her children will have a different sense of privacy than most others.  She is not telling their story.  Their story remains theirs. 

I remember when I was a child before any social media existed.  I remember people taking what I thought were awful pictures, ordering wallet size and handing them out. I remember family members telling tales of the “cute” things we did at gatherings and feeling annoyed or embarrassed.   I wished my family wouldn’t do those things without asking me first and they didn’t have nearly the reach of the internet. 

Only time will tell how the liberties we take on the internet will impact the way our children define privacy and develop a sense of self-worth.  I wonder if they will follow our example and have difficulty separating their stories from those of others.  My life is mine to write about but theirs is not mine to share on the World Wide Web.  Our children are not us.  They are separate people.  They are entitled to be treated as individuals who should have dominion over their pictures, stories and PR.  Our babies and young children cannot speak for themselves or make that decision so it is our job to edit what gets released into the world.  We should make it a habit to ask older children and teens for permission to share their lives.  None of us would grab a megaphone, step outside and yell, “Hey world!  Guess what crazy thing my son just said!”  Yet, we do that every time we post on social media.  Join me as I try to remember to say to my boys, “Can I post this?” We would want that respect from them. We need to model 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, October 20, 2013

Toys Everywhere? Playroom a Mess? It's Okay!



We spend a lot of time with young children cleaning up.  Children take toys out and we can’t seem to move onto the next activity until every toy is put away.  When I ask early childhood educators to think about how many times per day they ask young children to clean up, they shake their heads, start counting and report that it is nearly constant.  They put everything away before circle time, going outside, eating… essentially before every new segment of the day begins.  When I ask the same question of parents, they roll their eyes and tell me that they are always asking their children to clean up.  They follow them around picking up toys left on the floor and express frustration that their children move onto another toy before putting the first away.  

Have you considered that it is hard for children to put toys away because they don’t feel done?  Do you ever put something down on the dining room table or on your desk thinking, “I will go back to it”?  I know exactly where it is and I intend to go back.  On occasion, someone will come along and move the items I put in a place that was handy.  I find that irritating.  I was going to go back.  I was distracted. Something else captured my attention but I was going to read something more carefully, continue to use something or solve a dilemma but no – now you’ve put it somewhere else and the “I will go back” spell is broken.  You have completed my action.  

Children who spend time building a structure, pretending with dramatic play toys or creating with craft items and walk away are not necessarily done.  We need to stop making them done.  When children play, they are observing, experimenting, problem solving and recording all they have learned for future use.  Children who spend a great deal of time with one toy – blocks, Legos, Play doh, cars – are trying to figure something out.  As adults, we cannot always know what they are trying to figure out but we need to give them the time to do it.  

Children are more willing to reply positively to our requests when they feel that that have some power.  Rather than saying, “Put it away” we should ask, “Are you done with this?”  If they say yes, they need to learn that being done means it goes back in its place.  If they say no, they need to have a safe place to put the item that does not catapult them back to ground zero where they started.  Their structure needs to remain standing.  Their action figures need to stay in the same positions.  Their puzzles need to remain incomplete.

Before you head to the comment section to criticize me for not teaching children to put things away, rest assured that’s not what I’m saying.  I am simply asking you to remember your table, your desk and that dilemma that was so confusing that you needed to step away and go back later.  You don’t put everything there – just the things that require more thought.  Your children can be taught to choose and do the same.
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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

Monday, October 14, 2013

Why I Will Not Sign On To See Assignments & Grades in Real Time




The parent portal – It’s a helicopter parent’s dream!   Wondering what your child has to do for homework? Good news!  You don’t need to teach your children to be responsible, organized or trustworthy. Schools are using websites that allow teachers to post homework assignments online so you can be your child’s safety net.  Concerned about your child’s marking period grade?  Well - have we got instant gratification for you!   Teachers grade tests & quizzes and post the information online for you to monitor.  These online services are being used for all grades from early learners in kindergarten through graduating seniors in high school.  I recently attended Back to School night at my son’s high school.  He is a junior – 16 years old.  Several of his teachers implored us to sign onto the parent website every day and stay on our children.  No.  I refuse.  I am proudly not that mom.  The parent portals are signaling the death of personal responsibility and I’m that mean mom who won’t participate in my child’s responsibilities becoming my own.  I will not be my son’s personal secretary.  I have my responsibilities and so do my children.

As an early childhood educator, it is my job to teach basic social, emotional and self-help skills to children.  We teach them to take pride in performing tasks independently.  Children are congratulated and encouraged to get dressed, use the toilet, wash their hands, put their items in their storage places, be responsible for the care of their possessions and take pride in what they can do without assistance.  It is the adults’ job – caregivers and parents – to teach them to act independently and take pride in their accomplishments.  The next steps are going to elementary school where they learn to be responsible for assignments, take pride in trying their hardest and find that sometimes their mistakes cause consequences.  Parents today are being encouraged to watch their every move, without lessons about trust and responsibility.  If we monitor them so closely, how will they learn to be responsible without us? 

Independence is the goal of parenting.  We raise children so that they will leave us.  It is beyond my comprehension how high school teachers think children will succeed in college if their parents have been monitoring their every move.  I don’t understand how children who have never had to be responsible for themselves will be able to function in a workplace where Mommy & Daddy cannot monitor their work responsibilities.  I recognize that some children have difficulty with organizational skills.  They should be taught strategies so they will be able to function when they get older.  Having parents function for them does not teach them how to deal with their challenges.

I am convinced that the proliferation of the parent portals are the result of the emotion that drives so many of our actions – fear.  We are living in an increasingly competitive world and parents are afraid that their children will not measure up.  We have forgotten that children all have strengths & weaknesses and they don’t need to excel at everything.  At the same time, students are afraid that they will not perform well on the plethora of standardized tests and will be embarrassed or placed in classes in which they do not belong.  I have seen students incessantly checking their grades to see if the latest quiz changed their overall grade by any fraction of a point.  It’s madness.

As a parent, I object to having communication about my child so coldly plopped into my lap.  When my child is struggling, I’d like a phone call or email or note.  I want to know why the teacher perceives my child is having the issue.  I do not want to hear, “You should be checking the portal.”  The portal cannot tell me about human interaction.  I need the human to tell me if my child seems distracted, frustrated or confused.  

What would happen if we all just said, “No.  I want to teach my child to be trustworthy and responsible”?  It’s possible that your child might not complete every homework assignment.  Some grades may slip.  Better that they learn the cause and effect of being responsible while they are young.  We do not do our children any favors by ensuring that they never slip, fall, make a mistake or fail.  I have learned so much from my mistakes.  Haven’t you?  I remember how it felt to disappoint a teacher and then my parents.  It wasn’t enjoyable and I learned to meet my responsibilities because it made my life easier and I was proud.  I remember my father saying that all people have to earn trust.  He asked about my grades and I told him so there were never any surprises.   

Let’s give our children a chance to earn trust, feel pride in themselves and stand on their own two feet.  When technology deprives our children of the most basic lessons they will need to be successful, independent adults, it is being misused.  Sometimes, we are actually better off without every bit of information at our fingertips.  
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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