Moving On

November 30, 2011

We have many amazing educators at Children’s Choice, and I am always inspired when I have the opportunity to observe them in action. On one such day in Jacksonville, Florida, I watched an educator as she created a great circle time for her two-year-olds. I learned a gesture and a line from her that I have used in meetings as well as in personal conversations.

Two-year-old children tend to get “off subject” when you are reading a book. We certainly want them to get involved in the story, and we strongly encourage open discussion. Part of their learning and our assessment of their learning is listening to their perception of stories and their verbal skills. However, sometimes we need to move on—to the next page, the next concept, or the next activity—because there is so much more to discover. Ms. Sheronda had such an expressive hand gesture and sing-song way of saying “M-o-v-i-n-g O-n.” When she did this, the children magically followed her suggestion and moved on with her to the next exciting discovery. Ms. Sheronda is now leading a great class for Children’s Choice in Birmingham, Alabama. I salute you, Ms. Sheronda! You taught me something that day, and I appreciate you and all of our educators who do such a wonderful job every day.

Some of my greatest life lessons have come from children, and I learned another one just yesterday. Our two-year-old granddaughter didn’t want to leave our home after spending the day with us. Once she realized that staying wasn’t an option, we went through our good-bye ritual. We walked her and her big sister to the car, strapped them in, and said our good-byes. Just before the car pulled out, she called her Poppy over. He opened her door, and she said, “Kisses, Poppy.” He gave her kisses. She said, “Hugs, Poppy.” He gave her hugs. She then said, “Now, go back in the house.” Of course, we all laughed out loud. She was in charge, she was calling the shots, and she had moved on.

If the holiday week did not go as you had planned, or if you have unmet expectations regarding other issues—perhaps it is time to just move on. Maybe you don’t celebrate the holidays as others do, and your young child doesn’t understand. Explain the best that you can but then move on. What I know for sure is that children feel much more secure when the adults who care for them are confident in their leadership. There are times to allow your child to discover the world around him, and there are times to move on.

Children are so very resilient and welcome the idea of discovering new things. Adults are the ones who get stuck. We stay with negative thoughts, harbor attitudes of hurt and resentment, or keep playing that scene of failure over and over in our minds. When you or those around you get stuck in negativity, find a creative and positive way to simply move on.

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

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WOW…Giving Thanks!

November 23, 2011

Those who are close to me had no doubt what I would blog about this week. There is no way I could avoid weaving such a spectacular event into my blog.

My first grandson was born Friday night. While I have many opportunities to interact with very young babies, there is nothing like holding a newborn and watching his eyes explore your face during the second and third day of his life.

While I marveled at his perfect features, I also felt the responsibility of being a support to his parents. I believe that it truly takes a village to give families the support they need to raise children into healthy, happy, and thriving adults. We must pledge our commitment to Holton and his family if he is to reach his full potential.

I also held my grandson with such an understanding that he “feels” so much more than he can communicate back to us. I was holding him on my chest yesterday when his daddy walked into the room talking. Holton lifted his head and turned toward his dad’s voice. It was a very distinct movement. We know that babies recognize the voices that they heard while in the womb. It was a WOW moment for me and for his dad.

Don’t miss the WOW moments during this holiday season. Be fully present with those you love. Take the time to linger with that special child or that special person you haven’t seen in a while. Let one task go undone and take a moment to marvel at something in nature or exchange an old memory with someone you love. You will be very glad you did.

This Thanksgiving season, I am thankful … for a healthy new baby who is surrounded by a village that will support him and his family, for my faith, for my family, and for my amazing friends who give my life so much meaning.

With a grateful heart, Donna McClintock


Empathy: The Ultimate Human Trait

November 16, 2011

“Empathy, the ultimate human trait…”

I read the above quote by Mary Gordon, who is the founder of Roots of Empathy, a non-profit organization that offers empathy-based programs for children. I highly recommend her article entitled “Sowing Seeds of Empathy,” which appears in the November/December issue of Exchange magazine.

Mary states that, “Love grows brains.” We talk about the many vital experiences that we need or want to provide for our children. But what we know for sure is that our efforts are in vain without a foundation of love, acceptance, and genuine compassion.

Empathy is caught, not taught. Children learn through relationships. They feel confident to explore the world around them when they feel safe, valued, loved, and nurtured. Children are born programmed for empathy, but empathy either thrives or fades away through their attachment relationships with those who love and care for them.

 

Here are a few very simple tips:

1.     Understanding his own emotions as well as the emotions of others is an important step for a young child. Help your child by labeling emotions. Consider making a chart that lists various feelings and then discussing one feeling each week.

2.     Praise specific empathetic behaviors. For example, “You were so kind when you gave Mark a hug because he was sad.”

3.     Encourage your child to talk about her emotions and express simple, appropriate feelings that you encounter. “I felt happy when I saw the beautiful flower,” or “I felt so sad when I hurt my finger.”

4.     Point out the empathetic actions of others to your child. “Look how that young man is helping the lady with her cart. That is so kind.” Or “Did you see how that little girl gave her friend a big hug when she was crying? She cares about her friend’s feelings.” Ask your child to describe how she thinks that person might feel?

5.     Model desired behavior.

 

Kahlil Gibran said, “Tenderness and kindness are not signs of weakness and despair, but manifestations of strength and resolutions.”

Let’s teach our children to be strong and resolute.

 

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


Gratitude Begins Early….And Never Grows Old

November 9, 2011

If I take an inventory of the people in my life who demonstrate an attitude of gratefulness, I find without fail that they are also the happiest people I know. The ones who are self-centered and unappreciative no matter what you do for them are, by nature, just not happy in life.

I have friends who are wealthy, and I have friends who live from paycheck to paycheck. But what they have or don’t have doesn’t determine their happiness. Each of them has an attitude of gratefulness. They show their appreciation for every act of kindness and any gift bestowed. No matter what you do for them, they make you feel that it is fantastic.

This causes me to ponder again the question of how to teach our children gratitude. Here are five things we know for sure:

1.     No one is born grateful—it must be taught.

2.     Grateful people have a greater feeling of optimism and overall well-being.

3.     Gratitude is more than simply saying, “Thank you.”  It springs from an understanding of value–the value of people and the value of things.

4.     If we want our children to be grateful, we must live out an attitude of gratitude before them.

5.     The opposite of gratitude is entitlement. In an effort to love our children, we often unintentionally create a feeling of entitlement in them.

It is important that you show your appreciation when your very young child goes out of his way to choose a flower, draw a picture, or pick up the trash for you. It is also important that you openly express gratitude to those around you so that you child catches the attitude of gratitude.

While it may be fun for YOU to indulge your child’s every whim, remember it is our job as adults to give our children the skills they need to be successful and HAPPY. Teaching our children to be grateful is one way we can equip them for life.

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


Caring for the WHOLE Child….Is it Really About the Soda?

November 2, 2011

The news I listened to first thing this morning led with a headline similar to this: According to a new review of Minnesota student survey data, children and teens who drink a lot of soda pop are twice as likely to steal,
beat up someone, or bring a weapon to school compared to their peers who don’t drink it. Wow! Let’s just put the soda companies out of business, and we can cut our bullying and violence in half, right?

As it turns out, they are not suggesting that the study proved that drinking soda had anything to do with acts of violence or crimes committed by children. No other contributing factors were studied. Hmmm… Could it possibly be that children who wear dirty socks are twice as likely to steal or beat up someone?

My point is this: At the end of the day, parenting is about imposing limits and guidelines upon our children from the outside until they become able to self-impose these disciplines on themselves. We need to do this with love, kindness, and consistency. If children are having too many sugary drinks while in our care, perhaps we are not plugged in and are missing many OTHER things that they need us to hear/see. Perhaps the study should go a step further to discover WHY children are allowed to have so many sugary drinks a day.

I am not an expert in this area, and perhaps there are things associated with too much soda that just might contribute to these actions. However, I would suggest that ultimately we turn our focus back to a few basic points:

1.     Every child needs a loving adult to educate him and assist him in making good choices.

2.     Every child needs loving, consistent boundaries set and imposed upon her throughout her life. As she matures, we should expect self-discipline from her.

3.     Rules without relationship breeds resentment. We must first love our children before we impose rules.

4.     Every child needs and deserves unconditional love and support from the adults in his world…adults who are there for him each day and involved/interested in every detail of his life.

5.     Once we give children these things, I have a feeling that the number of sodas they drink will be a non-issue—although too many might lead to physical concerns.

Let’s focus on what matters. But let me take this opportunity to say, “Offer water instead!” If you do that along with points 1-5 above, your child wins!

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