Friday, October 30, 2015

Don't is a Four Letter Word

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 outlet should be told to put his hand down.  “Don’t touch” will most often be too hard to process and an impulse that has to be released.  When a child hits or kicks or pushes, we need to say, “Next time, you need to….” and tell her what we want her to do when the situation recurs.  We should tell children to walk rather than don’t run, put feet on the floor rather than don’t climb and take turns rather than don’t grab that toy.

The worse use of the four letter word “Don’t,” however, is about emotions.  Don’t cry.  Don’t be scared.  Don’t have normal human emotions because they are unacceptable.  That’s the message that is sent when we invalid their real and normal feelings by saying, “Don’t.”  Sadness and fear are part of the human experience.  It is fine to feel fear.  Fear can keep us from harm.  It is okay to cry.  We are all sad sometimes.  When I was a girl, parents would say to a crying child, “I will give you something to cry about…”  That was ludicrous.  If we were crying, we had a reason to cry.  It was a legitimate child’s reason to cry.  Many parents of my generation vowed never to say that to our children but we are equally soul crushing when we say, “Don’t cry” and “Don’t be scared.”  It is so important that children of all ages are given the freedom to feel.  It is a basic human right.  Real men and women cry.  Why do we ask that our children don’t?

Don’t is such an integral part of our everyday speech that we often fail to realize that we are saying it until it is too late.  Put “don’t” in the same category as other words that you prefer not to use in front of your children.  Replace it with “try” and “do” when we want to teach behavior.  Replace it with “It’s okay to be scared.  Let me help you” and “I see you are sad.  Can I hug you?” 
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Check out my upcoming webinar (register to watch live or to receive the recording link):  "When Your Child Says 'No!' - Why They Do It and How to Respond

Ask your parenting & education questions and learn about early childhood workshops for parents & educators - Helping Kids Achieve.

For information about private coaching for adults, youth, teens and families -  Helping Families Achieve with Cindy Terebush, CPC, CYPFC

Copyright 2015 © 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.

Monday, October 12, 2015

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

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 do this?”  Consistent reactions to repeated behavior teach children that consequences are not random.  Every time you hit your brother, you will have to stop playing, sit by me, talk about it and tell your brother that you won’t hit again.  Every time you throw that toy, the toy is taken away for a while.  Every time, the same thing will happen.

Each child communicates differently through behavior.  Behavior is communication.  The magic comes from adults who take the time and put in the effort to get to the root of the message.

Some children are rule followers, great cleaner uppers and general people pleasers.  They feel best when everything is orderly and trouble is not afoot.  They may be telling us either “I need an orderly, calm and predictable world” or “I enjoy the attention I get from doing the right thing.”

Some children repeatedly hit, kick and throw things at people.  It is common in preschool classrooms to find students being spoken to about their treatment of others.  It is important to remember that not only do they still need to develop empathy, but they also are trying to say something.  The child whose actions are full of physicality toward others may be saying, “I am frustrated and can’t figure out what else to do.”

Other children, particularly as they get a bit older, slam doors or speak in a disrespectful tone.  They may be trying to communicate “Something has gone wrong in my world and I’m upset.  Help me.”

The secret is knowing that there is a deeper issue that they are trying to tell you but that isn’t really the magical part.  The magical part of parenting and teaching depends on the adults.  It is getting to know the child well enough to understand their communication through their actions. I cannot tell you that the examples in this article are what your child is trying to say.  I don’t know that.  I don’t know about your child’s life.

 It is when we take the time to step back, think about what the message may be and open the communication door by saying, “I hear you” with our reactions.  “I hear you” so I am going to be sure you know the boundary still exists but I am going to converse with you now, later and as often as possible so you know I am here to talk.  “I hear you” so I am going to look for the underlying cause of your frustration and help you decide what you can do instead of hitting, kicking and punching.  “I hear you” so I will unrelentingly be ready to non-judgmentally give my best advice. “I hear you” is the potion that unlocks mutual understanding especially when your children aren’t using words at all.
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Read this blog for more articles.  Ask your parenting & education questions and learn about early childhood presentations for parents & educators - Helping Kids Achieve.

For information about private coaching for parents, youth, teens and families -  Helping Families Achieve with Cindy Terebush, CPC, CYPFC

Copyright 2015 © 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, October 2, 2015

Are You Narrowing Your Child’s World?

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 were born, they were virtually a clean slate.   They are not entirely clean slates because they are born with hereditary genetics that predispose them for certain talents, struggles, temperament and appearance.  They do not, however, have opinions and preferences at birth.  Their world is wide open.  Then, no matter how well meaning we are, we ooze our experience on them.  Some of our experiences ooze are good, of course – our love of music or history or laughter - but some should consciously kept to ourselves.  If your children are going to participate in an activity that is safe and age appropriate but you didn’t or don’t enjoy it, say nothing.  If your reaction to an event is about your own fears but has no connection to your child’s safety, explain that you are being emotional but your child doesn’t need to be.

Before you impose your likes and dislikes on your children, ask yourself:

“Does what I’m about to say narrow my child’s world?”

Before you express set rules or make a decision about your child’s boundaries, ask yourself:

“Am I creating this boundary because of my own baggage that has 
no connection to real safety issues today?”

When you impose your world view without letting your children form their own, say:

“I’m sorry that I didn’t let you decide how you feel.  I was wrong.  
Try it again.  Maybe you will like 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 - Helping Kids Achieve.

For information about private coaching for adults, youth, teens and families -  Helping Families Achieve with Cindy Terebush, CPC, CYPFC

Copyright 2015 © 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.