A Note From Donna McClintock

January 3, 2014

As many of you who follow my blog know, Children’s Choice Learning Centers, Inc. was acquired by Bright Horizons Family Solutions in July of 2013. I am confident that this will always be noted as a wonderful day in the history of Children’s Choice. I am thrilled to report that the integration of Children’s Choice into the Bright Horizons family has been respectful, methodical and gradual. I can honestly state that our educators have received a “World Class Welcome”.

I have always written my blog with candor, from a place of authenticity and have shared personal and professional experiences with a strong desire to encourage and support you and your family.

Twelve years ago I started out on an unintended journey when I became the Chief Operating Officer of Children’s Choice Learning Centers, Inc. It has led me on the most amazing path and I have been humbled, blessed, and thrilled to have had the honor of leading and walking with such incredible folks. I could have never imagined how rich the past twelve years would be.
Mary Ann Tocio, Chief Operating Officer of Bright Horizons, graciously gave me some time in October to reflect and rest as the past year had been incredibly intense. She was extremely gracious to allow me to take some time off to rejuvenate and invest some time in my own family. This was a very special time for me after giving to others for such an extended period of time while watching my own family make so many personal sacrifices.

Abraham Lincoln said, “The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.” I simply have not known what I desired in my future after the acquisition, but what I can honestly say is that I could not have asked for more caring, kind, and understanding leaders than those within Bright Horizons. They have allowed the future to unfold one day at a time.

I officially announced the end of my formal employment with Bright Horizons – effective at the end of 2013 – but not my relationship. I will be a phone call away for anything that is needed. I am leaving on great terms and I leave with the greatest respect for everyone I met. I am so grateful for how I have been treated, for the world-class welcome that has been shown to each Children’s Choice educator and for the kind and gentle way the integration has been handled. It has truly taken a “Bright Horizons Village” to make this happen and they have demonstrated amazing teamwork. I am going to stay especially close during the first quarter of 2014 and have made it very clear to everyone that the successful integration of Children’s Choice into the Bright Horizons family is very important to me and I will do anything I can to ensure our ongoing success.

I want to say that I am absolutely certain that Children’s Choice has found the right home. Our passion for children and their families can live on and continue to improve within the Bright Horizons family. The educators that care deeply and are committed to success will continue to thrive.

Bright Horizons is a company filled with smart, dedicated, nice, and professional folks. There is no other outcome that I would wish for this company that I worked so hard to build. I would also like to thank Dave Lissy, CEO of Bright Horizons, for his support and kindness to me. Dave Lissy and Mary Ann Tocio are genuine, kind, and honorable leaders. Bright Horizons is fortunate to have such a great team at the helm.

I will treasure my memories always and I feel truly humbled and grateful for the opportunity to be a small part of the Bright Horizons family. The blog will continue with qualified, passionate, and dedicated writers. You will find so many resources at your fingertips and I encourage you to allow the experts at Bright Horizons to truly become your partners as you navigate through all the challenges that parenting and life presents. Bright Horizons has solutions for every stage of life, not just for your child care needs.

As I stated at the beginning, I am 100% sure that Children’s Choice has found the perfect home and that is why I feel free to step away and focus on my own family. I have my eight year old granddaughter, Ava, sitting by me as I type. It is a new season for me and I am blissfully happy for us all.

With Utmost Respect and Happy New Year!

Donna McClintock


Life’s Perfect Moments

November 20, 2013

Lifes-Perfect-MomentsYour family wants you during this holiday season. The essence of our love for our children is not what we provide for them, but how much of ourselves that we give to them. Whenever we give our time, we are making a sacrifice and sacrifice is the essence of love.

The very best parents are those who are purposeful and value the power of simplicity. Be mindful of how healing a kind word is when a child feels lousy and how good a gentle hug feels when the rest of the world has hurt us. Let your child feel that you are there with her as her number-one fan. Let go of the things that are crowding your mind and enjoy these priceless moments that will pass all too soon. It’s these simple connections that you make with your child when she is very young that become the glue that holds you together.

Simple guidelines to remember when connecting with your child:

  1. Eye contact is important. Make every effort to get on your child’s eye level when carrying on a conversation.
  2. Be a great listener.
  3. Treat your child with respect – it’s critical to his self-esteem.
  4. Catch your child “doing it right” and give her praise that is specific to the act.
  5. Keep it simple and stay in the present. Get rid of distractions if you are serious about being in the moment. Let your child know that you have chosen to put him first.

Don’t miss a single minute of this holiday season. Your child has only one childhood… and nothing can replace the hugs, the laughter, and that warm feeling of being totally present with your child. These are the moments along life’s path that are truly perfect.


Bullying in Preschool

November 6, 2013

Stop Bullying in PreschoolsWritten by Donna McClintock, COO with Children’s Choice Learning Centers, Inc.

The November and December holidays bring families and friends together and remind us to make sure that the children in our lives are surrounded by peace, love, and kindness. Mainstream media has made us very aware of how hurtful it is to be bullied, and many parents and educators think that this abuse doesn’t become a real issue until middle school. However, we know that we cannot wait until children are bullied to teach them how to cope with this hurtful behavior. We must equip them at a very young age with the skills they need to successfully navigate through the preschool years. When we do, we empower them with confidence and self-respect.  

 

Bullies taunt others because they can and because they don’t value and appreciate the feelings of others. Often they themselves have been bullied. When a preschool child hurts another child, it is important to understand what happened. Educators need to give each child the opportunity to express his feelings, but it must be very clear that our classrooms are safe and respectful. We use our hands for gentle hugs but never for hurting. We use our words to express our feelings. If we are angry with our friend, we talk about it. We do not make fun of anyone or cause someone to feel afraid. Every preschool classroom should have a Peace Table or a Talk-it-Out Center where children can resolve issues. While educators should facilitate these conversations, we must teach our children how to work together toward a respectful solution.  

 

Young children will not always tell us that they are being bullied. It is our responsibility to watch for signs of distress, observe the classroom, and build strong bridges between school and home. If we are going to eradicate bullying, we must start early. Every social issue that becomes a crisis begins in the early years, and research shows that children who are mistreated often grow up to abuse their spouses and their own children. We must do our part to stop this cycle.  

 

I encourage parents to never ignore their instincts. Watch for these signs that your child is being bullied and be persistent in equipping her with the skills she needs to cope with anyone who disrespects her.

 

1.     Be aware of any physical changes in your child such as unexplained stomachaches and/or headaches that occur around school time or seem to disappear if she does not go to school.

 

2.     Listen to what your child says and what he does not say. Children learn by playing, and you can learn from them by playing with them. Pretend that you and your child are in the block center at school and ask him which friend you can be. Play nice and then play unfairly and see how he responds. You should hear kind words and see respectful behavior that he has experienced at school. Seize every teachable moment to role play what to say and do if someone treats him unfairly.

 

3.     It could be a warning sign if your child avoids looking you in the eye when you talk about school. It is definitely a warning sign if this is combined with withdrawal or other unexplained behavior. Again, connect with your child in her world through hands-on interactions.

 

4.     If you suspect bullying, keep it simple and tell your child what to do. The younger the child, the simpler the message should be — “Hands are for gentle touches” or “It is not okay for anyone to hit, kick, pinch, or hurt you.” Consider a book such as Have You Filled A Bucket Today? by Carol McCloud, which focuses on positive behavior rather than on bullying, to point out how we should treat each other.

 

 

It will take all of us working together to instill in our children the universally accepted character trait of respect. Bullying is a learned behavior and hurts everyone, and we must begin early and be strong advocates for the children in our world.  

 

 


Children’s Stress is Real

October 16, 2013

Written by Donna McClintock, COO with Children’s Choice Learning Centers, Inc.

I think Barbra Streisand sang it so beautifully when she belted out the words, “What’s too painful to remember, we simply choose to forget.”

Have you ever noticed how we, as adults, tend to minimize a child’s pain if the source of that pain is something we know he will “outgrow”? For instance, if he is struggling to adjust to a new school, we might be quick to reassure him that everything will be okay. We tell him, “You will find new friends, and you will be just fine.” We easily forget how difficult it is to be the new student.

As adults, we need to remember that children’s stress is real.  We know they will move through this stage, but we should not make light of their feelings. Stress is as overwhelming to children as it is to adults because most children do not, as yet, have the necessary coping skills.

As always, begin with patience, love, and understanding to help your child through a stressful situation.  Here are a few tips to help decrease a child’s anxiety:

1.     Spend one-on-one time with your child. Find an activity or hobby that you both enjoy doing together such as reading books, baking cookies, or playing games.

2.     Never underestimate the power of touch—back rubs, massages, hugs, and gentle touches are very soothing to a stressed child.

3.     Be physically active together—it’s a great way for you both to release the stress of the day. Encourage vigorous activity and go outside whenever possible.

4.     Let your child know that it is okay to make mistakes. Share a minor mistake you have made and explain how you corrected it on a level that she can understand.

5.     Children love stories. Make up stories where the main character deals with the stress that your child is facing. Laughter is a great stress reliever so make the stories humorous whenever possible.

6.     Consider deep breathing exercises and even yoga classes for an extremely stressed child. You will find http://www.yoga4beginners.org/yoga-for-kids.htm to be a great website detailing the benefits of yoga.

7.     Validate your child’s feelings with phrases such as “I know you feel sad” and “It’s okay to feel scared.” Validation simply means that you have heard her. Your child needs to know that you have listened to her feelings more than she needs to know that the problem will be resolved.

Life brings stress. Be a role model. Let your child see you working through your stress and handling it in a healthy, positive way. Every child handles stress differently, and there are times to ask for help. Do not hesitate to involve your family doctor if you believe that your child is exhibiting signs of extreme stress and anxiety.


Write It Down

October 16, 2013

 

Written by Donna McClintock, COO with Children’s Choice Learning Centers, Inc.

Almost all of us started a baby book and kept up with firsts … first tooth, first shots, first time she sat up, and the dates he crawled and walked are pretty standard. I want to challenge you to go beyond the traditional documentation.

My 21-month-old grandson, Holton, was clearly in charge of our family as we walked into church the other day. We always sit on the same side in a certain seat order. It is just what we do. I was speaking to some folks, but Holton was ready for us to go to our place. He led the entire family to our spot, patted the chairs where we were to sit, and then climbed into my lap. It was such a sweet and moving experience for many reasons.

When I got home that afternoon, I put all my thoughts into a letter to him. I had to write down the qualities that I saw in him that day that I want him to apply later in life. Of course, he cannot read it now; but one day, he will know how I felt about him in that moment on that Sunday morning. I tried to capture the dreams, prayers, and insight I had into his little personality in that note to him. He is a leader — we can see that already. He had no problem looking up at his Poppy and saying, “Sit.” He had a clear plan and didn’t let anyone or anything get in his way. The truth is that I have been writing letters to all three grandkids since they were born and plan to give the letters to them around high-school graduation time.

Feelings such as these will not be remembered forever, so I encourage you to keep a journal. If you are not a writer, recording your thoughts on your phone or video recorder would be a great way to save them. Find your own way to capture how you feel about your children or grandchildren in the special moments of your lives together so that they can review them over and over as they need them. You will be giving them insight into their lives as they grew up.

I encourage you to look beyond just the simple action and chronicle the gift/talent that you see in your child. Write down what you saw and the actions that allowed you to witness that trait. Your child will love reading about his life. Who knows how your insight might one day give him direction at a critical crossroad?

I firmly believe we add value to our children’s lives when we share our view of their successes, their wins, and their personalities while also providing them with many reminders of our love and devotion to them.  I am hoping to give my Ava, Ella, and Holton many letters of love with some insight into all the great things I have seen in them through the years. I encourage you to think about how you can pass along the story of your child’s life that she can keep with her forever. It will be a treasured memory of you and a great story of your love for her.


Permission to Cry Over a Win

October 9, 2013

 

Written by Donna McClintock, COO with Children’s Choice Learning Centers, Inc.

I was recently speaking with my daughter and getting an update about her girls — Ava is 8 and Ella is 4. They are my very precious granddaughters, and I hadn’t seen them in a few days because of my travel.

Misty said that school was going well and went on to say that Ava is now setting her own alarm clock, getting dressed, and sitting in the family room prior to her mom coming out of her room. Ava doesn’t like to be rushed in the morning, so she asked her mom to wake her up very early. Misty said, “I think that is too early for you; but if you would like to set your own alarm clock and have some quiet time, you have my permission to do so.” Ava is enjoying that — getting up by herself, dressing, eating her breakfast, and reading in the quiet of the morning. Misty went on to tell me about other ways that Ava is successfully managing her own time and responsibilities.

As I listened, I felt tears running down my cheeks. Misty has the right idea about parenting, and I praised her for a job well done. Parenting is the process of empowering our children with the skills and attitude that they need to succeed on their own. If we are doing our job well, our children should be moving toward independence. In that moment, however, I just wanted time to stand still and for Ava to not grow up so quickly.

I began to think about the conflicts that parents feel. It is often tough to let go and allow your child the independence he really needs to be successful. It is much easier to maintain control, if for no other reason than to satisfy our own longing to be feel needed. Yet, we know that the goal of parenting is to empower our child to eventually stand and survive on his own.

Don’t get me wrong … Ava still needs her mommy and her daddy (and her Dee Dee), but I want to use this illustration to point out that we should empower our children to reach their personal best. However, it can still cause a feeling of conflict even when we know that it’s the right thing … even for the most knowledgeable child-development folks!

Don’t do for your children what they can and should do on their own. Perhaps you should take a minute to ask, “Am I doing this because he needs me to do it or am I doing it because I need to do it?” Take a few moments to consider these points:

1.     Are you dressing your child long after he is capable of doing it by himself? If so, could this be about your need to feel needed?

2.     Have you set low expectations of your children regarding clean-up? Do they take their dishes to sink, throw away the paper, and pick up their toys? Teach them howto take care of things.

3.     If your children want certain things, refrain from always making it easy for them to get them. How will they learn the value of hard work, the thrill of achievement, or the principle of delayed gratification if you do not teach them? What holds you back … you or them?

4.     Gradually give your children more responsibility as they prove they can handle more. Don’t go too fast, but be honest with yourself about why you are reluctant to allow them the independence if you find yourself holding back.

5.     Talk with your children about areas where they would like more freedom and try giving it to them. This will allow you to see what they can do. Motivated folks – children and adults –always perform at a much higher level.

Doing the right thing and thus seeing a real win for your child will occasionally mean tears down your cheeks when you might have expected a great thrill of accomplishment. In the end, however, it is the right thing and your child will thank you.


How is Your Child Smart?

October 2, 2013
Written by Donna McClintock, COO with Children’s Choice Learning Centers, Inc.

As many of you know, I am now part of a wonderful large company that is daily accomplishing amazing things for young children and families. I have so enjoyed listening to others in our industry talk about what we do but using different words. Often we are saying the same thing but just saying it differently … and therefore, it resonates differently. Listening to someone emphasizing a different part of the word or rearranging the order of the words in a sentence makes one pause and say, “WOW!” That happened to me this past week as I sat in a meeting.

A brilliant person on the Bright Horizons education team said, “We don’t ask the question, ‘How smart is this child?’ Instead, we ask, ‘How is this child smart?’” That really resonated with me.  I thought about families with multiple children and how we are often tempted to compare them. If one isn’t excelling in the same way that another did, we assume that one child is smarter than the other child.

Even if you are the parent of just one child, it is easy to compare your child to his peers. The goal for us is to figure out how to tap into the abilities and interests of each individual child. Every child can be successful. Every child has a lighted smile that emerges when she discovers something she really enjoys or a big grin of satisfaction when she masters a difficult task. It is our job to figure out by observing, listening, and then providing opportunities for each child to succeed and learn in the areas of her strengths and interests.

If you have a frustrated or struggling child, I encourage you to abandon the questioning of how smart your child might be. Instead, go on a mission to find out what areas your child really enjoys. How is your child smart?  For the music lover, those math facts can be learned easily in rap. If he loves texture, he can practice writing in sand. The dancer might need to connect how ballet, tap, or modern jazz are related to various times in history so that she enjoys it enough to stay interested. It may take more effort, but finding ways to make learning fun and finding out how your child is smart is the key to developing a lifelong love for learning. Every child deserves advocates who will keep working on his behalf to help him achieve his personal best.

Parents are a child’s first teacher and will always be her number one advocate. It is important that no one is every allowed to label your child in a negative way. If you child cannot succeed in a certain environment, perhaps the environment or approach should change. She has only one childhood, and we have only one opportunity to get it right.

I love learning new things, and I love being with amazing people who remain committed to every child. Remember … failure is not an option. If something isn’t working, it is often just the approach. Change a couple of words around, observe more closely, and get creative. Find out how your child can succeed.