Thursday, September 29, 2011
This thing called “positive discipline” really does work. Most parents realize that a positive, respectful approach has great long-term benefits for their child because it builds self discipline and self esteem.
But putting positive discipline into practice in-the-moment isn’t easy. Many, many parents tell me they just forget what to say and do when they are tired, frustrated, or busy. For most of us, it takes deliberate practice. Having a sort of “script” to think about at first can help.
Certainly, you don’t want to use anyone else’s words all the time, because that won’t be YOU, and the most important thing you can give your children is yourself. But following positive examples is a good way to start. Perhaps the following examples will give you some ideas and starting points:
INSTEAD OF SAYING NO, TRY:
USING POSITIVE LANGUAGE
“You can throw the ball outside.”
BEING A ROLE MODEL
“Here. I’ll share this toy with you.”
SETTING FIRM BOUNDARIES WHEN NEEDED
“I will not let you hurt other people.”
“Try asking your brother for a turn.”
PROVIDING OTHER WAYS OF COPING
“Want to read a book with me while you’re waiting for a turn?”
“I can tell that you are very upset right now.”
“Pets are animals that need a gentle touch.”
STAYING CLOSE WHEN NEEDED
“I will be right here to help you play with your friends.”
GIVING APPROPRIATE CHOICES
“Would you like to brush your teeth before your bath, or after?”
OBSERVING, AND HELPING BEFORE A PROBLEM STARTS
“I’ll help put some toys away so there’s more room to play.”
HELPING CHILDREN LEARN EMPATHY
“I can see that both of you love doing puzzles!”
POINTING OUT THE EMOTIONAL CUES OF OTHERS
“When you look at his face, can you tell what he’s feeling?”
PROVIDING MANY WAYS OF EXPRESSION
“Would you like to draw a picture or build a sand sculpture about how sad you feel?”
“It looks like you might be feeling frustrated.”
UNDERSTANDING THAT CHILDREN NEED TO MOVE
“Let’s run to the playground!”
INVOLVING CHILDREN IN IMPORTANT JOBS
“I need some help with these heavy water bottles!”
“You can sit here with me for awhile if you want.”
UNDERSTANDING A CHILD’S DEVELOPMENT
“Mom and I are still eating but you’re finished. Would you like to be excused to play with your toys now?”
“Thank you for sharing your snack with me.”
OFFERING SIMPLE SENSORY AND ART EXPERIENCES EVERY DAY
“It looks like working with the clay helped you feel better.”
BEING PATIENT- LEARNING TAKES TIME
“I can tell that you are working hard to wait politely for a turn.”
ASKING OPEN-ENDED QUESTIONS
“How could we make that work?”
LETTING CHILDREN SOLVE PROBLEMS
“What do you think we can do about this?”
HAVING AGE-APPROPRIATE EXPECTATIONS
“We’ll go shopping another day when you’re not tired.”
Add your own examples (and success stories) as comments below! I’d love to read them, and so would everyone else. We all learn from each other.
(THIS POST WAS FIRST PUBLISHED IN JANUARY OF 2010.)
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Chatting with the terrific moms in my Transitions parenting class has made me think lately about the passage of time. There’s nothing like seeing my former toddlers entering Kindergarten to remind me about the steady ticking of the clock.
Hearing about the trials and tribulations of the first few weeks of The Big K from these new Kinder-moms is a great reminder about how foundational human development is. Everything that we experience today is built on the foundation of all our yesterdays. And today we’re already working on the foundation for tomorrow!
Working on a lecture for my college level child development course, I found a research-based list of typical thinking patterns that have been proven to be common to teenagers who get into trouble. When I look at that list, it seems obvious that the first ingredient for a happy and healthy teenager is a happy, healthy preschooler.
Even though some of our recent preschool graduates are going through some adjustments right now as they get used to Kindergarten, I know that eventually they will be just fine. The positive, affirming experiences of preschool provide a solid foundation for just the kinds of challenges those new Kindergarteners are facing today as they’re getting used to the demands of big-kid-school. I hope their parents will have faith in that sturdy developmental infrastructure through the inevitable challenges their children will face in the next few years. But it’s probably even more important to understand that in 8, 10, or 12 years, these children will still be building on all of that early learning.
Here’s an item from that Aggressive Adolescents list:
-Aggressive adolescents tend to have a narrow view of ways to solve problems.
According to this research, when teens don’t know how to solve problems, they resort to aggression. Even the smallest conflict can quickly escalate to violence, simply because the kids lack the skills needed to handle things peacefully.
What is the first thing we start learning on Day One in Teacher Annie’s toddler classes? Problem solving, of course. “I see you both want the same truck. What can you do about that? I can help you find another one, or ask your friend for a turn.” “Oops, the water spilled. How can we clean it up?” Incidentally, today actually was Day One, and yes, that’s exactly what we talked about over and over and over. And I LOVE it! Sometime I should try to count exactly how many opportunities for problem-solving lessons naturally arise in the course of a typical morning in my two year old class. I’m sure that each child must encounter dozens of them in our two hours of living, working, and playing together.
Problem solving is the cornerstone of early childhood curriculum, and any preschool teacher who’s worth their “big salary” understands that. Thankfully do not outgrow those lessons they way they outgrow shoes, and the most important lessons don’t get lost in the “inner space” of teenage brains. They’re in there. They have become part of the hard-wiring, the structure of the brain. Good parents and good teachers can work together to make sure that important lessons from early childhood are reinforced all along the way.
Another example from that rather alarming Aggressive Adolescents list:
Teens who engage in aggressive behaviors show little capacity for empathy, or seeing things from another person’s point of view.
Again, what better place to begin learning empathy than preschool? Today in my 2’s class, I observed many, many examples of our “Empathy 101” curriculum in action. For example, I saw dozens of signs of real learning and growth in the few minutes I was helping my little newbies meet Freckles The School Bunny for the first time, “What did Freckles tell you when you poked him just now? See how he moved away from you? What do you think he wants you to know?”quickly led to “I see Freckles has moved close to you now. And I see that you’re petting him gently. How do you think Freckles feels now?” It’s one life lesson after another, all day every day in preschool. These lessons are always individualized so they can exactly meet the current developmental path of each child. This way, the learning sinks in deeply and permanently. It becomes a part of them.
Take a look at these other items from The List, and then think about what your child learns in preschool every day:
Aggressive and at-risk adolescents:
-have little or no attachment or sense of belonging
-are unable to think in advance about consequences of their behavior
-do not engage in critical thinking skills, often leading to aggression based on illogical or incomplete information
It's not hard to see how appropriate preschool experiences can prevent a lifetime of problems.
So don’t waste too much time fretting about the future. Try to enjoy every minute with your little ones. Realize that the time, thought, and effort that you and your preschool teachers are investing now will serve your children well for the rest of their lives.
Wednesday, September 7, 2011
Meeting some of my new 2 year olds today at school today reminded me all over again about one of the reasons why I absolutely love toddlers and two's: their brains are growing at an incredible rate. One aspect of brain development involves forming an intricate network of neural connections in response to experiences. This is the toddler's specialty! All the action is triggered by sensory information. Each one of a toddler's five senses is on high alert every minute. Each day is a heroic quest to accumulate sensory experiences which will lead to an ever-increasing understanding of the world.
More neural connections are being formed in the brain when you are one and two years old than at any other time in your life. Think about it: a large part of your own brain architecture was created when you were so young that you probably don't even consciously remember your experiences. I think this is why my two's take their work and their play so seriously: they're in the process of designing a brain structure that will be allow for a lifetime of learning. And to think that all of this learning and growth is initiated through the five senses! Fascinating!
Some of the toddler sensory exploration I observed today at preschool:
(Note: fake initials)
-L. was pushing the doll stroller around the room and creating challenges for himself along the way. At one point he tried to push the stroller up over the threshold to go outside, and worked very hard to learn just how much he had to lift the wheels to get it over the bump. L. was combining information from his eyes, his hands, his feet, and his ears, and using that information to solve a self-chosen problem. Fabulous expression of triumph on that little face when he succeeded!
-Z. is very familiar with the preschool environment. When he walked into the beloved preschool play-yard he was apparently disconcerted to find that some water-pipe construction had torn up a part of the garden. Upon seeing the pile of dirt and the caution tape, he evidently compared that with the prior visual information about preschool that he already had "on file" in his brain, and wasn't thrilled with the discrepancy. His mom told me when he saw the mess, his comment was, "Ya gotta be kidding me!" Ha! This cracks me up, because although I've known Z. for about a year, so far, I've never heard him say more than 2 or 3 words at a time! The impact of this visual image prompted his brain to use very elaborate language to express himself.
-P. was fascinated with the pretend-kitchen, and in particular, the pretend-microwave. He spent a lot of time putting toy food into the microwave, shutting the door, and pushing the pretend buttons. While engaging in this activity, he was extremely focused and calm. When other children (probably equally enthralled with the prospect of microwaving stuff like mom and dad) came near, he became unhappy and a look of distress could be seen on his face. Clearly, he was worried because he felt a very strong need to continue this activity until he felt "done" (meaning: he had maximized his learning from the activity,) and the approach of other children threatened his ability to complete his self-appointed learning task. Multiply this example times a thousand, and you can get an idea of what life is like every day in a toddler classroom! Most of the inevitable toddler conflicts (I call them social learning opportunities) arise from the urgent internal drive to complete a sensory learning task.
-R. and her big brother went into the bathroom to wash their hands. I encouraged the brother to climb up on the step stool and wash his hands with her, because I knew that big brothers are intensely observed by little sisters, and are often the most important role models of all. R. observed, wide-eyed, as brother soaped, scrubbed and rinsed his hands, then followed his lead, exactly imitating the actions she had just watched him doing. Big smile! Then walking away, she made a great effort to mimic his big-boy swagger, as well!
-Today the pretend-kitchen was, as always, a popular and busy part of our classroom. F. was busy with the dishes, and I suddenly saw an "I've got an idea!" look on his face. Then he started supplying sound-effects as he poured and sipped imaginary tea. This was quite interesting to other children and several joined him in his noisy tea party. Many senses combined to make this a fascinating moment for F. and a few friends. Lots of learning about friendship, pretend-play, cause/effect, and much more!
-B. said the white crayon was "broken, " because she couldn't see the marks it made as she scribbled on the white paper. I gave her a piece of black paper to experiment with and she tested the white crayon on the black paper, and then tried several other colors, comparing the results. I observed an "Aha!" expression on her face as she figured out this interesting problem. Priceless!
All this and much, much more happened today at our Meet The Teacher Day classroom visits. You can almost hear the crackling and popping as the synapses formed! And this is just our first day. Wait 'til these kiddos see what I have planned for their growing brains next week!