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Showing posts from 2015

Today’s Generation Gap: The Technology Addiction

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An entire generation is in denial.  My generation, the technological immigrants who sailed into the technological age and had to adjust to the new culture in order to survive, is in denial.  We bemoan the constant use of technology.  Teachers of my generation struggle to get students to put the technology away.  Parents shake their heads and retell poetic stories of having to go to libraries and look through card catalogs.  We tell younger people to turn off the phone, the computer and the tablet.  We send a message of generation gap when we say, “Stop texting and reading email – enough!”  We are, however, hiding our own technological addictions.  We aren’t admitting it.  We are addicted, too.
I attend an unusual number of professional conferences each year.  I am a frequent presenter I believe, in part, because I am engaging enough to actually get the people to put their technology down and listen.  I like to walk into other presenters’ sessions and speeches to gauge audience reacti…

Today’s Generation Gap: The Great Food & Nutrition Debate

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There is a generational divide about nutrition and food.  I have become acutely aware of it over the past year.  A series of events has caused me to try to solve a puzzle – why is are so many people my age (including me) working so hard to get past our food issues & lead a healthier lifestyle while simultaneously struggling with the good and right nutritional rules set forth by educational communities?  If we know that we struggle, why don’t we want better for our youth?  What compels adults to continue to treat food like love?
For the past year of my own healthier lifestyle journey and the journey of my school toward a healthier environment (which by the way was a request that came from parents), I have been researching, observing and reflecting.  I hope that by sharing my journey, you learn a bit about you and about the mistakes that we perpetuate with our students and our own children.  
I have personally been working very hard to change.  I am adhering to a healthy, balanced …

3 Things You Shouldn’t Say to Children

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Young children live in a magical world where pretend feels real and it is hard to know where fantasy ends & truth begins.  Not yet executive functioning thinkers, they depend on adults to teach them logic, reality and truth.  Parents and teachers are their most trusted adults.  They believe what you say.  We know that young children have a less mature sense of humor.  When we attempt sarcasm, they do not laugh.  When movies for children include adult humor, we say, “It went over their heads.”  Why, then, do we expect them to understand when we are being facetious or sarcastic?  Or worse, perhaps our own fears cause us to say things in the guise of humor. 

When we attempt sarcasm, teasing or are testing beliefs about our own perceived weaknesses, we can damage children.  We can have an impact on their sense of self-worth.  Throughout my career, I have heard parents and teachers say things to children with no intent to damage but also without compassion and thought.  Children beli…

Will Your Children Forgive Your Mistakes?

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Parents are not perfect.  We are human.  We make mistakes.  We get frustrated and yell when we shouldn’t.  We tease and hurt our children’s feelings.  We overreact, underreact, listen and then we don’t.  Even the best of parents who are thoughtful and intentional in their actions make mistakes.  We hope that our children will grow up, maybe have children of their own and realize we did the best we could.  We hope they will forgive us.  Perhaps, we can do more than hope.  We may be able to teach our children about forgiveness and about our own humanness. When we are wrong, we need to sincerely apologize to our children.  From the time they are very young, they need to see us admit when we are wrong, thereby acknowledging that we make mistakes.  We need to say, “I’m sorry I should not have yelled.  I was wrong” or “I was mad and I did the wrong thing with you.”  Our children need to see us owning our errors in judgment or attitude so they know that we know there is no such thing as perf…

3 Mistakes Adults Make When Speaking to Children

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Children spend many years honing communication skills.  They watch and listen to everything we say and how we say it.   They imitate us in their dual quest to learn and to be more grown up.  Adults need to be intentionally interacting with children in ways that lift them up.  Be aware of your interactions and try to avoid these common mistakes:
Mistake # 1:  Using a sing-song or cartoony voice  Use your real, adult voice when speaking to children.  Children need to learn proper intonation, inflection and vocabulary in order to become good communicators.  They also need to learn the difference between television comedy and more serious pursuits.  I have spent a career watch adults set the wrong tone and then get upset at the children for following suit.  If you speak like you are starring in a comedy, they will not take what you are doing seriously.   If you lower your vocabulary level, how will they learn new words?  Just talk.  No special voice needed.
Mistake # 2:  Mispronouncing let…

Don't is a Four Letter Word

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From the time our children are infants, we tell them “Don’t.”  Don’t touch.  Don’t hit.  Don’t put that in your mouth.  Health and safety concerns are often the root of our use of this four letter word.  We tell our children what not to do and then we wonder why they continue to touch and to hit and to put it in their mouths.  You cannot stop a behavior without replacing it.  We need to stop using that four letter word and tell them what to do.   We need to make expectations the focus of teaching behavior rather than what we don’t want to see or hear.
When your child hits, pushes or kicks, he is trying to express his frustration. When your child reaches for intriguing items, she is expressing her curiosity.  The frontal lobe of the brain isn’t developed yet so the children cannot control their impulses.  When they have the impulse to act physically or reach for dangerous items and we say, “Don’t,” they will. They have nothing else to do with that energy.  A child who reaches for an o…

What You Can Learn from Webinars from Helping Kids

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The Secret to Understanding Behavior and the Magic Potion for Guiding It

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My presentations about behavior are always full.  Parents and teachers want a magic spell or to know the secret or to be handed a key that will unlock the mystery of behavior.  They want a potion to sprinkle on children that will make their behavior less challenging to address and more often in line with our adult expectations.  People may tell you that there is no secret.  The key does not exist.  I don’t believe that is entirely true.  There is a fact, a basic truth, that adults need to understand in order to solve the mystery of their child’s behavior. 
Behavior is communication.  The secret is those three simple words that say so much. 
Children are constantly testing their power in the world.  The first time they cross a boundary, they are asking a question – “Can I use this much power or will that be unacceptable?”  If an adult tells the child that the action was not acceptable, he finds the boundary he was seeking.  He may wonder, “Will the reaction be the same every time I …

Are You Narrowing Your Child’s World?

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Your children may enjoy activities that you didn’t at their age.  Intellectually, you may know that your children are not you and they can form their own opinions.  Often, however, we influence our children’s opinions, perceptions and motivation by imposing our baggage on them. 
As an educator, it is difficult for me to encourage success when a student tells me that it’s okay for her to dislike a topic and not do well because her mother told her that she didn’t like and failed at it as a child.  It is hard for me to open your child’s mind when he says, “My dad was bad at this and hated it so he said he understands that I don’t want to do it.”  What you disliked as a child, and even what you enjoyed, has little to do with your children.  They are growing up in a different era.  They are having experiences with different people.  Your children are not reliving your experiences and they don’t think exactly as you did.  Your baggage narrows their world.  What a loss! When your children …

The Blessing of a Life Before and After 9/11

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My father died on February 23, 2001.  He didn’t live to see the horrific events of September 11, 2001.  His life was lived entirely in a pre-9/11 world. 
When my father was alive, we would go to Washington, DC and drive on the street right in front of the White House.  We lived in New Jersey and would, on a whim, decide to go to the Statue of Liberty and go up to the pedestal.  No pre-purchased tickets and security line required.  My father loved to go to the airport, walk to the gate and watch the planes take off and land.  When I was a girl, I stood with him at the gate and he pointed out the different types of aircraft.  My father died too young at 61 years old and it occurs to me now that he really was of a different era.  Everything changed on September 11, 2001 and he lived in a world before it.
I teach the next generation – the post September 11, 2001 babies – who were not born before our lives changed.  They do not know the horror of that day first hand.  They have always kno…

Fostering Hope

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According to the developmental psychologist Erik Erikson, “Hope is both the earliest and the most indispensable virtue inherent in the state of being alive. If life is to be sustained hope must remain, even where confidence is wounded, trust impaired.”  He taught that hope develops in infancy as babies are learning trust vs. mistrust.  Infants are dependent on caregivers to meet their needs.  When their needs are met, they learn trust.  When their needs are not immediately met, they learn mistrust.  A child who is nurtured well and experiences and successfully resolves the stage of trust vs. mistrust develops hope. What a sweet notion that is!  A baby cries and we attend to her needs so she develops hope.  She has hope that she will be helped when needed, cared for and nurtured.  That hope, an attitude related to optimism, confidence and self-motivation, has to continue to be fostered beyond infancy.  It does, however, need to have its roots planted in achievable goals and real world…

Awaken Your Child’s Critical Thinking Skills by Asking Questions

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Adults tend to talk and tell but it is through asking questions that we create thinkers.  Parents and educators need to intentionally ask many different types of questions to extend children’s thinking and encourage them to analyze.   A critical thinker spends time analyzing, evaluating, problem solving and decision making.  Children who are taught to do so in the early childhood years will be more used to that sort of thinking as they grow and are asked to participate in more complex science, math and literacy lessons.
Young children need to be asked open ended questions and those that ask them to make choices.  Young children can be offered the opportunity to answer, “What do you want to do?”  Instead of dictating the topics and themes for their projects in preschool, they should be asked what they want to make and with what materials.  When teachers simply select the materials and the children have no choice, an important thinking moment is lost.
One of my favorite questions to as…

Forgive Me If I Stare

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Tomorrow, my baby goes to college.  It's so hard to believe.  
When my older son went to college, it was a milestone. My family started a new chapter of children spending most of the year elsewhere.  It felt like part of a piece of my life puzzle was missing but we reveled in his successes.  He is now a college graduate with a full time job and a grown up life.  We launched one.
Now, it's my younger son's turn to do what we have spent 18 years teaching him to do - be independent and find his life.  There's something different about sending him to college.  He has pointed out a few times that this time, my husband and I are really empty nesters.  Though his older brother is living here, he is an adult who is barely here and planning his final move out.  I will come home from work and no one will need anything from me.  There will be such quiet.
My mother likes to say that it is as it should be and for that, we have to be so grateful.  I know she is right.  When he was …

Trust is Built in the Quiet Moments

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Trust is taught and built when you least expect it.  It isn’t in the large, loud, dramatic moments.  It happens in the quiet, everyday-ness of life.  It is taught through demonstration and not by lectures, never by punishment. 
Show your children trust by keeping their private lives private.  Ask their permission before posting on social media and don’t post if they don’t give their permission.  Don’t talk about their every misstep with all of your friends and relatives.  It is ironic that adults wouldn’t want their loved ones to call the neighbors every time they made a mistake, but we do that to children.  If you wouldn’t want your children to tell their peers when you misbehave, don’t do it to them.
When your children as a question, tell them the truth.  They won’t ask until they are ready to hear the answer.  They will ask about the tooth fairy, Santa and other childhood stories when they want to know.  If you have built a good relationship, they may ask you about sexuality, dri…

36,526 Words and Counting: A Lesson in Understanding When Children Feel Overwhelmed

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Last April, I was speaking in New York City when I received an email from an editor of a New York publishing house asking if I ever considered writing a book based on my talks.  I had played with the idea but never imagined that I would be approached.  I imagined trying to get someone to buy it or self-publishing, both of which felt too daunting so I hadn’t written a manuscript yet.  I was not about to let this golden opportunity pass so I entered the process of working with the editor to write a book proposal for her board.  Much to my amazement, they approved and offered me a contract.  Thus began my lesson in what it must feel like to be one of our overwhelmed students.
After discussions with my editor, I learned that a typical length for non-fiction books is 50,000-70,000 words.  My book is a guide for educators about appropriate expectations for preschoolers.  I had no clue how many words were in my head about that but who am I to argue with typical?  I had my outline from the a…

When You Look At Your Children, What Do You See?

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It’s a busy, hectic world.  Everyone is running here and there as they try to keep up with the demands of work, marriage, parenting and other responsibilities.  We run home, make dinner and ensure homework gets done between dance or sports or other lessons and appointments.  Everyone is in the same frenzy – adults with their responsibilities and our children with theirs.  It is easy to forget to take a moment to stop and really look at our children. 
Take a moment and look at your children.  What do you see?
Look at your children.  They are being the best them they can be.  They may be struggling.  They make mistakes.  They are the best they can be at this moment.
Look at your children.  They seek your attention because it is part of what they need from you.  They need clothes, food, shoes and your undivided attention.  They need you to smile at them so they know you see them amid the busy-ness.  They need to feel the connection to the most important people in their world.
Look at y…

Acceptance: A Course Outline for Your PreK thru 12th Graders (and Adults – It’s Never Too Late)

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I wish that school curriculum included the topic of acceptance.  Each year, children would have to learn literacy skills, math, science, physical education, social studies, art, music and acceptance.  The curriculum would spiral – be taught every year by starting with what they know and adding to their knowledge.  Very young children are egocentric so it could start with them as they learn self-acceptance and then spiral out each year to include more of the world.  Realistically, schools are not going to jump on the idea so parents need to consider how acceptance can be part of at-home learning.  Here is a suggested outline for teaching your children about acceptance:
PreK thru 2nd Grade – Self-Acceptance Students would learn that each one of them is capable by being allowed to experiment without critique or criticism.  They would be praised for their efforts and not constantly corrected.  They would be told that they should be so proud of who they are and what they do.
3rd Grade thru …