Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Spanking and Children

I am watching on CNN a discussion on spanking children by someone that has written a book on "biblical chastisement."  He has written a book called "To Train Up a Child."  What most people miss is that in the bible when it talks about "spare the rod and spoil the child" they think of rod = stick.  For those who study languages it is known that in the biblical sense rod = scriptures.  This brings about a whole new meaning.  Families that leave religion out of the children's learning are not providing the essential elements that the scriptures state are necessary.

I might have mentioned this before but spanking itself is not bad but needs to be limited to the very few times when it might be used appropriately.  When teaching parenting skills classes I usually tell parents they can spank a child three times in their growing up years.  Make sure it is for something that is really important, don't waste it.  The result has been that parents have let me know that because of the limit they found themselves always finding some more effective method of disciplining (teaching) because they were sure that something more important would come along where spanking might be needed.

One of my favorite cartoons has a father with his child over his knee.  As he is spanking the child, the parent is saying, "How many times do I have to tell you, NEVER HIT ANYONE!"

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Books to share with teens who are suffering from grief and loss

1.  The Fall of Freddie the Leaf, by Leo Buscaglia - This is a fable for all ages.  Freddie the leaf illustrates and explored deeper meanings in the delicate balance between life and death.
2.  Losing Someone you Love:  When a Brother or Sister Dies, by Elizabeth Richter - Sixteen young people (ages 10 - 24) describe the fears, sorrow, and other emotions they experienced when a brother or sister died. (non-fiction)
3.  How it Feels when a Parent Dies, by Jill Krementz - Eighteen people (ages 7 to 16) describe their feelings and how they learned to go on in life. (non-fiction)
4.  No Time For Goodbyes, by Janice Harris Lord - Appropriate for older adolescents, this book deals with the sorrow, anger, and feelings of injustice after a violent or sudden death. (non-fiction)
5.  Learning to Say Goodbye, by Eda LeShan - Discusses the questions, fantasies and fears many have when someone close to them dies. (most appropriate for 11 - 13 year olds).

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Dealing with disasters

In the wake of the Joplin tornado I have been asked about how it impacts children's play.  One parent was alarmed that every time her three-year-old played she seemed to include a tornado that would come through and knock down her play setting (dolls, stuffed animals, etc.).  This was very distressing to the parent who thought it was having a continued negative impact on her child. 

In fact what is happening is the child is taking control of the uncontrollable.  By incorporating it into her play she makes sense of it and manipulates it to her advantage.  It helps to take away some of the fear and to gain control of her life.  Where children in Joplin are playing tornado, years ago in Louisiana were playing hurricane and those in violence plagued cities play guns.  This is not saying that parents and teachers should take a hands off approach, but that they should recognize what is happening and have conversations with the child to help them talk through the feelings.  View it as a positive and know there are ways to build off of it.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Whining and screaming kids

How do you deal with two and three year olds that whine, cry and scream to get their way? 

This is not really that hard to deal with as long as you have patience, see it as a learning process and model appropriate behaviors.  There are some basic rules.  1.  Do not react emotionally yourself to setbacks.  2.  Respond calmly and with confidence when your child is whining, demanding or melting down.

Here is a simple scenario:  John is a whiner.  He really has been this way ever since he started talking.  He started my class at 22 months and was already capable of going into whine mode for almost anything.  His mother thought it was important to figure out what he wanted as quickly as possible and to provide it, thus ending the whining. 

When I started working with him he would go into his whine and I would just look at him waiting until he would stop.  Then in a calm voice I would say, John, I know you are trying to tell me something but when you tell me that way I can't understand what you are trying to say.  Take a deep breath and tell me again.  John wanted to be heard and wanted his way so he stopped, took a breath and started to tell me again.  Part way through the whine came back.  I said.  John you are telling me something about a toy but I couldn't tell what you wanted for sure so take a deep breath and tell me again.  This time he made it all of the way through (I actually knew what he wanted and understood him the very first time with the whining but I wanted to teach him how to control himself and the manner in which he could get his wants presented.)    I responded, You are letting me know that you wanted to play with the train.  Thank you for letting me know.  Then we went on to see if it was available. 

Within a few weeks the whining had almost disappeared and those times when it came back he could tell by my look that he would have to try again and would often stop himself. The fun part is that I found him using my strategy on other children in the class later that year when they were having a difficult time communicating.

I have used this same strategy with children who are still using a pacifier at 2 - 3 years old (I don't understand what you are saying.  Take out the pacifier and tell me again); with criers, (You are really upset.  When you tell me something while you cry I don't know what you are saying.  Stop crying, take a deep breath and tell me again.)

Friday, June 17, 2011

Questioon about leading/teaching children

Question:   I lead the children's choir. I am new to the position, and wanted to know a top ten list of things people should stop doing when instructing/teaching kids. I've probably picked up some bad habits through the years, and I'd like to be able to eliminate those first before I start adding the "To-Do" things to my list.

In no particular order:
1.  Stop putting "Okay", "Aren't you", or other things at the end of statements which turns them into question.  "We are going to sing ______, okay?"  Often this is thought of as a softening or to not be seen as bossy but it is interpreted as giving a choice.
2.  Avoid having a sing-songy voice.  Those who work with children, especially young children tend to raise their voices an active or two and they start talking in more of a falsetto tone.  This is annoying and inhibits communication.
3.  Your voice and your facial expressions should match.  If they don't then young children ignore the voice and go with what the face it telling them.  I have teachers practice in front of a mirror to be sure that they are not smiling when they say, "It really upset me when you pulled her hair."
4.  Saying you are sorry is not equal to restitution.  Many adults force children to say they are sorry and the children learn that the words do not need to mean anything.  They become "get out of jail free" cards.  Children are concrete learners and need to do something physical to make up for things. To make it right.
5.  Consider the environment.  Children are asked to do a lot of waiting.  Sometimes it is while an adult is focusing on someone else.  You as the leader and the other children are just not that interesting.  Be sure there are visual things around to hold a child's attention during waiting periods.  Think of the collages that most dental offices have on ceilings when you get your teeth cleaned.  They really help.
6.  Avoid focusing on the negative.  Children will stop listening if most of what they hear is negative.  research shows that 80% of what children hear from adults is neutral or negative.  That is how they develop selective listening.  If they assume there is a significant chance that what you are telling them is something they don't want to hear they will tune you out.  You counterbalance that by building up the positive.  Then the corrections are more likely to be effective.
7.  Smile.  Don't take yourself so seriously.  Many people who work with young children and youth seem to be in pain or constipated.  Enjoy them for what they are.  Usually they are doing the best they can.  One of my favorite ages is two-year-olds and they never disappoint me.  In know what to expect and I understand that being two is hard.  Look for the great things.
8.  When talking about the children you work with, tell the good things and not the bad.  Everyone has a bad story and you will not only hear theirs but you will begin having a mindset that tells you about the things you fear.  If you look for and share the great things then that is what you will find and children will give you more.
9.  Change pace every 12 - 15 minutes for children 5 - 10 and more often for younger children.  Be mostly predictable but keep some surprises.  Don't hesitate to reward good efforts and teamwork.
10.  Respect children.  Treat them honestly and fairly.  Remember that what is fair is not always equal and what is equal is not always fair.  Basic principle of life.  Life isn't fair.  Get over it.  Handle it with grace.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

What to do about "shy" children.

Some children can be by their temperament more timid than others.  When in different situations it helps to assist them in negotiating it and stretching their comfort zone.  Two stories come to mind.  First is a little girl who every time a new person would come near, she would hide behind her mom's legs.  The mom was embarrassed and said, "This is Becky and she is shy."  This label gives a child justification for the difficult feelings they are having and it validates them if their is a word for it.  What would be a good way to handle it is to say,"This is Beck my daughter.  Becky, this is Mrs. Hanson who is a good friend of mine."  Don't pick up the child but do squat down to be on the child's level.  Make the contact short and positive.  If possible you can even follow that up with having the child hand something to the person or walk with you both as you go somewhere or look at something.  The idea is to demonstrate, a. this is an ok person.  b. it is fine to be hesitant with people you don't know but that you can warm up more quickly with someone who is the parent's friend.

Another story is James.  He was four years old and came to preschool with his father and cried every day for a week.  He attached to me after I finally got his dad to leave but all he wanted to do was to sit and cry.  No tears, but a heck of a racket.  He held on to me tightly.  After seeing for two days that my presence was reassuring but also a limiting factor in his ability to get engaged I started spending the first 3 minutes with him and then let him know that he had a choice.  He coulds sit and cry or he could come with me as I went to play with children in other areas.  He seemed stunned that I would leave him, but it only took about 2 minutes for him to come where I was.  He then wanted to cling and cry where I was and I told him that if he wanted to cry he would need top go back where he was because there was no crying by the toys.  Another thing I know is that children play and engage the world at a higher developmental level when they are taking on a role.  This can be pretending to be a mom or dad of in some chases, Batman or Bob the Builder.  That was just enough for him to go into any new situation and he could interact freely.  The same child that could not walk up to someone as James would walk into situations and announce he was batman or Bob the Builder and have conversations with other children.

The main thing is to keep in mind that children are learning to trust themselves, others, environments, etc. and that usually it is a constant progression. 

Is children's "shyness" a result of parents being overprotective?  Yes and no.  It can be heightened.  Children take their cues from parents on how to act.  If the child falls down and skins his knee does the parent rush to his side and try to sooth the hurt and calm the child?  or the does the parent look at the knee, say, "ouch, I bet that hurts, lets go get it cleaned up." and calmly clean it up?  One will heighten the child's dependence on the parent to take care of things and the other is reassuring while letting the child manage himself.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Do children need to be perfect?

Often I get the chance to be around young children and I love to watch them in their play and how they negotiate their world.  Parents at times find themselves apologizing for their child's behavior in situations that are merely kids, being kids.  (Do you see the connection to the blogs name?)  Parents often attempt to stop any misbehavior that might be judged as inappropriate by other adults that are present.  Kids learning is active and often loud.  The parent does best to help take off the edges and not stop the behavior.  A restricted child is one who lacks confidence and the ability to be assertive and succeed in life.  An indulged child expects the seas to part for them as someone is always rescuing them.  A child without limits never develops the internal controls to put limits on their own behavior.  It is a difficult balance but luckily the balance is not a single point but a broad field where any one of 50 answers might be the right one.  parenting is an uncertain science and both parents and children are learning as they go.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

New research on College Learning

Have you seen the new research on learning in college.  45% of students tested had not learned much in their first two years over what they knew in high school.  Let's look at a couple of additional factors: 
  • The first two years are usually spent taking general education courses which are repeats of much of what they took in high school.
  • We let almost anyone into college within our system.  No student left behind.
  • Many universities use Graduate teaching assistants for entry level classes.
  • There is no distinction between the big boys (research institutions) and the regional institutions (those who have a focus on teaching over research and who use far fewer TA's.

It would be interesting to see the data and break it down more than is being done where everything is painted with a broad brush.

Sunday, January 9, 2011


How do we end up with hyper-parenting:
1.  "We want our children to have the best of everything and to be the best at everything.  We want them to be artists, academics, and athletes, to glide through life without hardship, pain, or failure."

2.  "Schools, churches, grandparents, etc. are all involved in hyper-parenting.  Each is seeking to manage children's lives so that they don't make mistakes or suffer by making bad choices."

3.  "This is the first generation to star in their own version of the Truman Show."

4.  "To recruit college students, some blue-chip companies have started sending out "parent packs" or holding open-house days when Mom and Dad can vet the company for their children."

5.  "By any yardstick, we are raising the most wired, pampered, and monitored generation in history."

6.  "Children from homes with an annual income between $120,000 - $160,000 are three times more likely to become depressed or anxious than their less affluent peers."

7.  "Employers complain that new recruits are less flexible, less able to work in teams, and less hungry to learn.  Raised on a pedestal, children come to expect the world to fall at their feet - and they get angry when it doesn't.  They don't want to take risks as they have been told that they dare not veer off of the safe line that their parents and others have planned for them."

8.  "Reared on someone else's definition of success, with failure not an option, children can also end up with narrow horizons.  At a time when the global economy is crying out for risk-takers, we are teaching our children to play it safe, to follow the path handed down by others."

9.  "When adults hijack childhood, children miss out on the things that give texture and meaning to a human life - the small adventures, the secret journeys, the setbacks and mishaps, the glorious anarchy, the moments of solitude and even boredom.  The message sinks in at a very young age that what matters most is not finding your own way, but putting the right trophy on the mantelpiece, ticking the right box instead of thinking outside the box."

10.  "Bubble-wrapping children drains the life from public spaces.  Look around neighborhoods and do you see children out playing.  We have taught children that the outside, unplanned world is a scary place and that they are better off in front of a computer or TV."

11.  "Children thrive when they have the time and space to breathe, to hang out and even to get bored, to relax, to take risks and to make mistakes, to dream and have fun on their own terms, even to fail."

Notes are reactions based on Under Pressure by Carl Honor'e

Saturday, January 8, 2011

How about this thing called hyper-parenting

I am reading a book that talks about hyper-parenting, helicopter parents or what is known in Scandinavian countries as curling parents.  I like that term as it is easy to picture parents sweeping all of their children's problems out of the way before the child runs into them.  Some parents might think, "Why not?" or "Aren't there enough issues that our children will come in contact that it won't hurt to remove some of their roadblocks?"  Granted not all parents who are deeply invested in their child's life goes way overboard.  However much like other issues every parent looks at others and sees that they have the problem.  Here is a conversation I had with a parent a few years ago:

The parents finally called me after first calling the Dean, Provost and President of the university's office.  Their daughter was failing in one of her general education courses and the parent wanted either the daughter's grade changed or the faculty member fired.  The mom explained that when she was in college her advisor let her redo all of her assignments as many times as she wanted until she got an A in every class.  The father said that he would not donate any money to the university because of the situation.  Guess what?  The parents had never donated money before and the daughter had missed 40% of the class. 

The question becomes, how did we get to this point where we hear reports of parents going with their college graduates to job interviews and negotiating their child's salary and benefits?  It starts with how we view our children as infants and toddlers.  It is understandable to be proud parents and to want children to have a stimulating and enriched environment.  It is another to be worried about if their child might not be happy all of the time.  Children learn how to handle distress by handling distress.  Going back to what we know from theory, children need a balance of trust and mistrust (this is not a 50/50 balance but somewhere between 75/25 and 90/10.  They need autonomy but also some level of doubt.  They need their opportunity from the earliest years and all through their life to eat some dirt, to take some bumps and bruises, and to get up when they fall down.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

My daughter will be 2 in February. She really hasn't eaten well for the past year. She would usually eat about 8 things and that was it, but she loved healthy stuff for the 8 items so I didn't worry too much. But now she will hardly eat anything! We are lucky now to get her to eat a bite of toast at breakfast, a few chunks of apple at lunch, and some crackers and peanut butter on a spoon at dinner. That's pretty much what she'll touch these days. Any ideas??? We ask her if she wants this or that and she just freaks out screaming and gets mad. She is starting to learn to talk a tiny bit but she does knows signs for a lot of foods and no matter how we approach meal time she freaks out! All she's had today (almost 11 am) is a bite of toast, her vitamin, and a cup of milk.

Do you have any brilliant ideas of new ways we can approach mealtime with her to get her to even try something new? We offer whatever we are eating and she swats it away and says no without even tasting it. I just don't get it!
Answer:  Generally young children while not necessarily eating what and as much as parents would like, do eat as much as they need at that time.  It may go down for a couple of days but usually picks back up again.  Anytime the lack of eating much lasts more than a few days it is worth talking with the pediatrician about.  Observe for other things like stomach discomfort, lethargic behavior, etc.  Is she sleeping well?  Is an appropriate amount coming out reflective of what has gone in?  How is her weight?
If is was just finicky eating then "no thank you helping" help (small amounts that the child needs to eat before moving on.)  How much is she drinking?  Look at how she reacts to choices (fresh fruit bits versus fruit flavored snacks) (animal crackers versus graham crackers).  All of your observations should be shared with the doctor.