Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Two Separate Issues of Superhero Play and Weapon Play



It’s a bird.  It’s a plane.  It’s a preschooler with an ill-fitting cape costume.

Children love superheroes.  Superheroes are magic.  They are all powerful, full of bravery and can solve any problem.  Children use pretend play to understand their world.  They pretend to be superheroes to understand power.  They wonder what it would feel like to be a hero.  They want to know how it would feel to lead rather than be led.  When I was a girl, I loved watching “Bewitched.”  I would twitch my nose and hope something would happen.  I hoped anything would happen.   I would twitch my nose to see if a noise from outside would stop.  I wasn’t a big fan of “I Dream of Jeannie” but I admit that every so often I tried the eye blink and nod, too.  If the noise did stop, I could pretend that I controlled the universe.  In many ways, adults still try to pretend that we have such control. 

Superhero play is a natural experiment with power and control.  When children play superheroes, we see them rescue people as they fight the bad guys.  It would be far less controversial if it weren’t for the bad guys.  None of the children want to be the bad guy.  When they do pretend to be the bad guy, it is short lived.  They succumb to the power of the hero rather quickly so they can change roles.    I am always amused when no one is willing to play the role of the bad guy and I have a classroom of preschoolers cast in the roles of different superheroes as they try to defeat an invisible nemesis.  When the children argue over who will be the good guys, I have been known to suggest that they can all be good.  Pretend the bad.  Wanting to be a hero is good.  Wanting to save people is a noble aspiration.  I would venture a guess that many of today’s law enforcement officers started with a superhero costume. 

Weapon play is a more difficult situation to navigate.  I have come to believe that it is natural for children to use pretend weapons.  When my sons were young, I did not have toy weapons in my house.  That wasn’t a problem for my children because they would simply make them out of whatever toys they had available.  When no toy is available, children simply use their hands.  I recognize that weapon play is on the same theme of power.  The problem is that this activity, which is not unique to this generation, is taking place at a time of heightened sensitivity due to the violence in our world.  Schools have a zero tolerance policy. Just as children entering kindergarten should have learned that there is a time and place for different behaviors, they need to know the correct time and place for weapon play.  In this world – in today’s society filled with the fear of school violence – school is not the place for weapon play.  Do what you would like at home.  I do not believe that every child who plays with pretend weapons will grow up to be violent.  I do believe that a reasonable school boundary is respect for people and property.  When we respect people in a school, we don’t pretend to shoot them or stab them with a sword.  That simply is not acceptable school behavior.  When children inevitably try to use toys as weapons, I believe that there is a lesson to be learned.  Egocentric preschoolers don’t always understand that when they hit someone, it hurts them.  They also need to learn that weapons hurt people.  Police have guns.  Police are real life superheroes.  They have weapons to protect us and they learn how to use them properly.  I believe that such distinctions can be explained simply to children.  When they put on their ill-fitting capes and run around the room pretending they can fly, I encourage them to rescue, to save and to make the world a better place.




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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 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.          

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Caring for Tradition and Memories



As I watch the falling snow, I can’t help but remember how much my father loved storms.  Nature and the power of it fascinated him.  I would stand by the window with him and watch lightning.  We would stand on the porch together when the wind whipped.  He always brought in a snowball from the first snowfall of the year.  He would put it in our freezer and there it stayed until it was replaced the next winter by another first snowball of that year.  When summer came, we would find the snowball and laugh at his insistence that it had to stay there.  I may have laughed as a girl but I carried on that same tradition when my boys were young.  During the first snow fall, someone had to bring in a snowball for my freezer.  My father died when my children were very young.  Every time they brought in a snowball, I reminded them that my father did this too.  It is such a small thing but I loved that this little bit of my father was a part of their childhoods.  Remembering this makes me consider the importance of family tradition and if, in the rush of our lives, we spend enough time creating great memories.  We are, after all, the sum total of our memories.
                                     
We live in such a hurried world.  As a working mom, I know that just getting all the tasks done at the end of the work & school day is sometimes all I can manage.  We are constantly connected to the outside world when we finally do get home.  Modern technology puts information at our fingertips and one another only a text or cell phone call away.  Studies show that many people today do not value tradition as much as in past generations.  It is so ironic because more than ever before, our children need to feel personal, social connection.  They spend so much time running from one scheduled activity to the next and then to technology that common human needs and experiences seem to be a secondary priority.  We need to make a conscious effort to take the time to attend to their memories.  Tradition is what connects generations.  We can do with our children what was done with us.  We can create new traditions that our children may share with future generations.  We need to make meaningful and lasting connections to people – past and present –a priority.  Turn off the electronics at dinner or in the car.  Try to spend one day per week, or even every other week, participating in purely fun activities together.  Stick to a bedtime routine that includes reading or storytelling.  Take time to notice the wonder in our world together – make that first snowball or try to catch the raindrops.  Those are the moments and the memories that will help to form the adults that your children will become.

For more information about spending time with children, click on these titles:  "Treasuring Time Off With The Kids" and  "How To Play WITH Your Children - It's Harder Than It Sounds".

To read my recent article in "The Shriver Report" click on:  "Stress in the Famly: Helping Our Children To Cope"


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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 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.          

Saturday, January 11, 2014

The True Story of When Children Nag



Social media, when used well, is a great way to spread information.  I am particularly grateful that it allows people like me to share knowledge about raising and educating children.  It may surprise you to know that I ordinarily don’t read many parenting posts by other people.  I never want to have something someone else has said stay with me and become inadvertently part of what I write.  I read the research and studies.  I talk to people. I draw on my education and experience.  I avoid other blogs similar to mine.  Recently, however, I couldn’t help but notice two articles that people were sharing.  Both had some of the worst advice I’ve ever heard about dealing with children who nag.  I expressed my opinion in the comments under the articles and to people who posted them.  Many people agreed with me and then I saw them being posted again by others.  They are like social media weeds.  They keep popping up.  It’s time to combat the articles with one of my own. 

Children nag for the same reason as adults.  They want something desperately and are willing to fight for it.  They are pretty sure that if they say it enough times or with enough desperation that you will either give up or feel badly.  Maybe once, in a weak moment, you gave in and now they think it can happen anytime.  Young children are very egocentric and cannot even understand why you don’t want them to have something they desire.  They think that if they want it, then the world should want them to have it. As long as you stay in the conversation, children will think they have a chance to get what they want.  It can be exasperating.  It is, however, normal human behavior.  We may not be able to prevent nagging but we certainly can react appropriately.

Remember that your reactions impact your relationship.  When our children are teens and adults, we want them to feel comfortable talking to us about their lives.  We need to set up a relationship of caring and respect all of the time – even when we are losing patience.  Yelling, barking or refusing to talk to children are never ways to deal with behavior.  They demonstrate to children that bullying is okay and that their feelings have no validity.  There are situations far more serious than nagging during which you should remember that these tactics don’t work in the long term.  Remain calm.  Take a deep breath and think past the moment.  Don’t participate emotionally in the power struggle.  When your children see that their nagging isn’t changing your demeanor, they will exit the argument sooner.

Be consistent.  No can never mean maybe.  The first time a no means maybe is the last time your decision will go without being tested.  This doesn’t mean that your children won’t try to change that no into a maybe for a while.   Calmly and kindly say to your children, “No never means maybe.”  Don’t be emotional.  Don’t sound flippant.  Just state the fact.  Tell your children that no does not change to another answer.  Then make sure it doesn’t.

Know that you will have to repeat yourself – and then change the subject.  You can exit a conversation without isolating your child.  After calmly restating your position, change the subject.  Start talking about something else with them or anyone else in the room.   When your child tries to bring it back to the original issue, simply say, “We had this discussion already.  We are talking about something else now.”  Exit the conversation with the same respect and dignity that you would have liked when you were young.

I hope when you read articles on the internet, you do so with the future in mind.  Your adult relationship with your children starts on the day they are born.  It won’t suddenly be all that you want it to be when they turn some magical age.  It builds, over time, on a foundation of caring, support, respect and good listening skills.   I’ve said it before and I will say it again.  I’m not afraid to nag you!

For more information about conversations with your children, click on these titles:  "Is Respect a Part of Your Discipline Method?", "Talking to Young Children About Death" and "When Speaking with Children...".


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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 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, January 5, 2014

Does Your Preschool Care About Relationship Development?



As preschool enrollment season approaches, I find myself smiling as I read documentation about the importance of promoting relationships in early childhood centers.  I smile because my ELC does work to promote relationships though it strikes me that others must not.  The documentation I am reading wouldn’t be necessary if all preschool directors and staffs understood the positive effects of relationships.  It is important that preschools have a developmentally appropriate curriculum that is child centered and promotes social, emotional & cognitive growth.  It is equally important that positive relationships are encouraged both among the students and the adults.  Parents need to consider whether their child’s early childhood experience includes:
                        
Peer Relationship Development Across Ages and Classrooms:  Are your child’s social interactions limited only to the children in his/her classroom?  Early childhood centers need to open the doors, walls and windows to allow interaction among students from all classes and ages.  In her book The Three Rs of Leadership:  Building Effective Early Childhood Programs Through Relationships, Reciprocal Learning and Reflection, Julie K. Biddle writes that optimally “Space is designed to stimulate relationships and time is provided to further them.”  Biddle notes that some schools have common space used for children of all ages to come together like in a town square.  Others have connected children from different classes by installing windows, speaking tubes and more.  I am fortunate to work in a building with moveable walls and we have opened them.  As is the practice in Montessori schools, children should have relationships with more than their class and age group.  They get to be leaders, learners and self-determine with whom they are most comfortable.  When shopping for a preschool or considering the effectiveness of yours, notice if peer relationships are limited to only part of your school’s population.  Who is deciding your child’s comfort level – your child or the adults who are assigning space?  Does the space allow for many types of human interaction?

Collaborative Relationships Among Staff:  When teachers work cooperative from age to age and classroom to classroom, your child will have a more cohesive early childhood experience.  Another unfortunate by-product of walls is that they promote isolationism and territorialism.  While a class may take place in its own space, your child’s experience crosses spaces.  Every teacher should know the goals of every age group.  Teachers should work together to plan experiences that promote building upon previously learned skills as well as experiences that can be shared.  Ask your preschool or potential preschool if teachers plan collaboratively or individually.  This will tell you if the school sees your child’s experience as fluid from one space and age to another.

Opportunities for Parental Involvement:  School relationships should extend from our walls to yours.  Your child has two primary worlds – school and home – and those worlds need to connect.  Sometimes, as Biddle points out in her book, parental involvement includes what you do at home when you support classroom learning through practice, conversation and family activities.  Other times, your child’s world should be connected through what we do at early childhood centers.  Parents should have opportunities to be involved in school activities.  Every early childhood center should have an open door policy that acknowledges your right and gives an invitation to visit any time.  When you show up at random times at your child’s preschool, do you feel welcome?  Are there special days or events when families or caregivers are encouraged to join the classes?  Are you provided with developmentally appropriate ideas of how to extend learning to home?  Never forget that as parents, you are an integral part of your child’s learning experience.

When parents tour the early learning center that I direct, we discuss their whole child and the importance of developmentally appropriate practice.  Children need a positive social skills experience as well as those skills that you can see demonstrated on paper.  When children are given opportunities to find their social niche and negotiate interactions, they will go onto larger classes and larger schools with confidence.

For more information about how to select the best preschool, click on this title:  "Shopping for a Preschool"

More information about leadership and relationships in preschools can be found in the book The Three Rs of Leadership:  Building Effective Early Childhood Programs Through Relationships, Reciprocal Learning and Reflection by Julie K. Biddle, PhD.


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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 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.