Thursday, May 29, 2014

Exercising the Young Child’s Brain through Questioning



Adults like to tell.  We have knowledge so we tell children what they need to know.  We tell them the rules.  We tell them how to interact.  We tell them what to do.  It feels natural to use our wisdom to instruct.  It saves time.  We already know what should happen so there is no need to spend time analyzing.  The problem with all this telling is that we are doing all the thinking.  Children are not forced to stretch their thought processes if we hand them the answers.  When you are a parent or an educator, it feels like we ask questions all day long.  Spend a day or two really listening to yourself.  Note how often you instruct rather than ask.  When you do ask, think about the structure of your questions.  Are your questions encouraging critical thinking skills or are they just requiring children to recite lessons already learned?  Are your questions open ended so that children need to really think?
                                          
Open ended questions, with no right or wrong answer, force children to use their brains differently than they do most of the time.  As often as children ask me “Why?”, I like to ask them the same thing.  When children tell me that their favorite color is blue, I ask why.  When they tell me about their favorite movie, I ask why.  It is interesting that the question “Why?” often stops them in their tracks.  I recognize that early learners are challenged to reason.  They have difficulty separating fantasy from reality.  They don’t quite have the logical thinking skills to determine direct cause and effect.  When I ask why, it is as if I can see their brains churning as they sort through possible responses.  I believe that part of the dilemma is that they are used to asking that question but not answering it.  It is fine when they respond with a shrug and I don’t badger them.  It is interesting to hear whatever answer they may offer.  Recently, a 3 year old told me that her favorite color is pink.  I asked, “Why is your favorite color pink?”  She thought for a moment and replied, “Girls like pink” – a very concrete answer based on how she sees the world around her.  I simply smiled.  I didn’t inform her that girls can like other colors.  I didn’t add that some boys like pink.  I didn’t make her wrong.  I know that she is 3 years old and that her thinking will change.   She didn’t need my help.

The behavior and socialization lessons of early childhood can also be approached in a way that encourages more thought through questioning.  When young children are frustrated, they tend toward physical reactions.  They push, kick, grab toys.  Instead of telling them what to do next time, ask them.  One of the lessons that we teach frequently in early childhood is that our hands belong on our own bodies.  Our hands are not for hitting or shoving other people.  Usually, a couple of months into the year, teachers can ask, “Where do our hands belong?” and young children will regurgitate what they have heard – “On our own bodies” – but do they really know what to do next?   I once learned just how concretely 3 year olds will interpret this statement.  A student wanted to get by someone who wouldn’t move so she pushed her.  I said, “What can you do next time?”  I expected this particular child to say that she should tell a teacher or go another way.  She is very verbal with reasonably good critical thinking skills for an early learner.  Instead she looked at me and asked, “Push myself?”  I asked what else she might try and made a mental note to add to the lesson about how our hands are used.  I learned from her answer to the open ended question that we hadn’t really taught the children what to do.  We need to teach in one lesson that our hands belong on our own bodies and then ask what they might try instead of the uninvited touching of others.

Walk into almost any early childhood classroom during group or circle time and you will hear a teacher ask, “What is the weather today?”  Children will report sunny or rainy or cold or warm.  There is a right answer and a wrong answer.  This question does not provoke deeper thinking.  Perhaps our days should start with the question, “What can we do outside in today’s weather?” You might get some wishful thinking, but who cares?  Children should be free to imagine.  Whatever answers they give should be accepted.  When a child draws a picture, the sky doesn’t have to be blue.  When a child talks about what they can do in rainy weather, the answer does not have to be about umbrellas and puddles. 

Listen carefully to your own conversations with children.  Instead of doing the thinking, find ways to encourage the children to do so.  Be careful to offer questions without judging their answers.  We want young children to enjoy thinking creatively and deeper.  Attempting more critical thinking should build self-esteem.  Children can learn that they are capable, that thinking deeply is rewarding and adults can have a window into their view of their world.


                                                                         
                                                                                                                   


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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 - Helping Kids Achieve
                                                      
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.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Disturbing Trend of Adults Gossiping About Children



Gossip:  idle talk or rumor, especially about the personal or private affairs of others (from dictionary.com).

Gossip:  It is never good.  It destroys people’s reputations.  I remember my father teaching me that all we have is our good name.  He taught me that it is important to live with integrity.  He also taught me that people love to gossip and I should stay out of it.  Talking about other people and their private affairs is one of life’s greatest temptations.  It is human nature to compare ourselves to others and a human foible that we cannot resist talking about each other’s lives.  It is hard to avoid listening to it and doing it.  As adults, we don’t do enough to stem the tide of gossip.  It is bad enough when one adult talks about another adult in a way that does harm.  More and more often during my parent or professional staff workshops, the topic of adults gossiping about children is raised.  Parents are upset that their children are victims.  Staff members are aghast at what they hear in their school hallways.  People ask me why they see more and more of this behavior.  My reply is always that I think that adults don’t seem to understand the harm they are doing.  It is a symptom of the fact that we forget that children deserve respect, privacy and consideration of their feelings.
                                          
Adults have a great many misconceptions about their own behavior when they are around children.  They think if you sit in the back of a room at a children’s event and talk, no one can hear them.  They think that their children will take advice when they don’t live that way themselves.  They think that when they talk about children to each other, there is no harm to the child. Children have a reputation.  Who are we to destroy them?   

Two adults are standing in a school hallway.  One adult says to the other, “Do you see that child?  I heard she plays rough and pushes the other kids around.”

A child walks by a group of adults in a playground.  “That boy over there never talks.  What’s up with that?  I wonder what the real issue is.”

“My friend said that that kid….”

I don’t know your life’s journey and you don’t know mine.  We also don’t know the whole picture of a child from the little snippets we get from observing isolated moments in their lives.  My heart goes out to the child who has self-esteem issues and then suffers further rejection because adults have spread rumors.  Parents do have a right to decide that, perhaps, their children should not socialize with another child.  They do not, however, have the right to malign the child.  Simply stop the playdates. Make your rules for your child.  Do what you feel is right without broadcasting it.  The old adage “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all” should apply equally if not more to children who are still learning about socialization, behavior and expressing emotion. 
  
                                                                         
                                                                                                                   


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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 - Helping Kids Achieve
                                                      
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, May 11, 2014

What I’ve Learned from Being a Mom


My boys - They have taught me so much.

I remember the first time I held each of my sons.  I held infinite possibilities in my arms.  I loved them instantly.  I wanted to protect them.  I looked into their eyes and thought, “Who will you be?”  Little did I know that I was also beginning a journey that would define who I would become.  One of my sons is in college.  The other is getting ready to embark on that adventure.  I often sit in an empty house.  I rejoice in their independence because it shows that my husband and I have done our job.  After 21 years of the busy schedule of a working mom, helping them, driving carpools, doing homework, navigating joys and sorrows, it is quiet and I can think about all that has transpired.  I have changed so much since I was a young mother holding them.  I have learned about life because of them.

Motherhood has taught me so much about the depth of love.  I love them so much that I still fight my instinct to protect them from every hurt and failure.  I love them so much that I have taught them to leave.  I truly believe there is no greater love than that which allows you to take joy in letting go.

Motherhood has taught me about the beauty of just being alive.   I have relived the world through their eyes.  I remember being a girl on a swing in the warm sunlight of summer.  I watched them swing and could feel that childhood sensation.  I took them to places that I had already seen and watched their wide eyed wonder.   Parents get to have “first times” twice.  We had our own first successes, first friends, first dates.  When our children have their “firsts,” it feels like we are experiencing it ourselves.

Motherhood has taught me about gentle honesty.  We watch our children get hurt and have to confirm that the world can be a hard place.  When my boys were 8 and 4 years old, my father died from cancer.  I had to tell my sons a most difficult truth – Papa has died and we won’t see him.  It was one of the most poignant moments of my years of mothering.  As I reflect, I think it helped to define the honest relationship that we would have to this day.  I tell them the truth and then we cope.

As I sit in this quiet home and I reflect, I realize that the most important lesson I have learned is that of forgiveness.  When you are a parent, you realize that your own parents were human.  I am the best mom I can be and I now know that my mom did her best, too.  I have made mistakes with my children.  We all do.  I remember being so mad at my mother while she was doing what she thought was best.  I realize now that she was being the best mom she could be and she knew the anger would pass.  I know that I have angered my children.  I also know that they love me and we have a bond that cannot be broken.  I have learned to forgive their humanness – my mother’s and my children’s -  and even my own.   My intentions as I parent are always good.  When I make a mistake, I forgive me.  I have faith that they do, too. 

I hope that someday my boys are parents.  I want them to learn the things that you can only learn from putting bandaids on cuts, helping with homework and celebrating triumphs.  I want them to sit in a quiet living room and know that their lives were changed from raising children who are now amazing adults.
                                                                         
For more information, click on these titles:  "The Goal of Motherhood" and "A Love Letter to My Boys"
                                                                                                                   


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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 - Helping Kids Achieve
                                                      
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.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Should We Intentionally Teach Introspection?



We are the sum total of our own decisions.  Every day, we make one decision after another and those decisions lead to our own future.  Sometimes, we see the decision coming.  We meet people and decide who will remain in our lives.  We make educational choices.  We make career choices.  We choose to marry or not and to have children or not.  Sometimes, events happen that are beyond our control and we react.  Every reaction is a split second decision.  We can determine to focus on having good come from difficult times or we can wallow in them.  Too often, adults complain and blame without looking inward.  When children don’t study and then fail, parents often say, “You have no one to blame but yourself.”  That is true of everything.  Would the world be a better place if we taught introspection beginning in early childhood?

Introspection is one of those intangibles that we cannot have children trace or copy or memorize.  It would need to be taught much like socialization and coping skills – during times of calm so it can be used during times of upheaval.  Imagine if instead of taking time to ensure that every child was sitting in a perfect circle during group times, we asked them to lie down, close their eyes and think about an important thing they did today.  Young children will be very concrete.  They will talk about the toys they played with or the food during snack time.  To adults, it may not look like introspection, but it is a beginning.  Like yoga, we could ask the children to meditate on their day as we said, “Think about the toys you played with.  Did you like playing with them?  Did you play with someone?   Did you do something nice today?”

Then, that sort of reflection could be used as we address behavior.  You can’t teach someone to swim while they are drowning and you can’t teach a child to think about their actions while they are upset.  They will have practiced thinking about their actions during group time.  When upset, it would be so much easier for them to look inward about their own actions if we follow the same introspective pattern.  For example, children wanting something and trying to grab it rather than ask is typical behavior.  They need to learn to cope with their frustration at not having what they want at the moment that they want it.  Children who are used to looking inward might be more able to participate in this conversation – “I see you are angry.  Think about what happened.  Did you want the toy?  What did you do to try to get it?  What happened when you tried that?  What should you do next time?”

Perhaps, along with end of the day announcements in elementary school, we could take a moment to think about the day.  Would children who are taught to think more about their own actions make better decisions? Would there be less bullying if we made self-awareness a part of the curriculum? Children would have better self-esteem if, every day from early childhood through high school, we asked them to think of one action that they did that makes them proud.

If children are intentionally taught to look inward, to think about their own actions and reactions first, to consider how what they did brought them to this point, maybe we would have less adults projecting displaced anger.  Maybe, just maybe, we would raise a generation of people who understood that they own who they have become and the only person responsible for their happiness is them.

                                                                         
                                                                                                                   



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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 - Helping Kids Achieve
                                                      
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.