February 29, 2012

I’ve written on many topics over the past couple of years, but I don’t think I have touched on this one. The Live Science web site recently published 10 Scientific Tips For Raising Happy Kids.  One of the tips is to foster self-compassion:

Parental guilt is its own industry, but avoid the undertow! Research suggests that self-compassion is a very important life skill, helping people stay resilient in the face of challenges. Self-compassion is made up of mindfulness, the ability to manage thoughts and emotions without being carried away or repressing them, common humanity or empathy with the suffering of others, and self-kindness, a recognition of your own suffering and a commitment to solving the problem. Parents can use self-compassion when coping with difficulties in child-rearing. In doing so, they can set an example for their kids.

Be kind to yourself and teach your children self-compassion. This doesn’t mean that you offer excuses for every action. No one knows better than we do when an action is a sincere mistake or when it is a deliberate intent to cause harm. When sincere mistakes are made, be gentle with yourself. Forgive genuine mistakes – those made by others and those made by you.

Life is fast, life is tough, and life is brutal. Surround yourself and those you love with compassion. Your life will be richer with this deliberate decision! A compassionate heart is a beautiful heart.

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


Don’t Miss The Music!

February 22, 2012

Our chairman’s son ran across this article by Josh Nonnenmocher last week and shared it with our team. I knew when I read it that I would make use of it in my blog today. We learn so much from children. They teach us to live in the moment. They teach us to embrace and enjoy the unexpected gifts that life offers along the journey. Children’s Choice works hard to put resources, materials, and equipment at children’s fingertips because we know that they will explore. They will experiment. They will take great pleasure in discovery. If they hear beautiful music, they will seek out the source and then pause to listen, not missing the moment. We could all learn valuable life lessons from a child in our world. I know that my life is richer because of the work that I do with children. They are the greatest teachers I’ve ever met.

Child playing a violin for his friends at one of Children’s Choice Learning Centers while they enjoy snack.

Here is an excerpt from Mr. Nonnenmocher’s article.

A man sat at a metro station in Washington, D.C. and started to play the violin; it was a cold January morning. He played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, since it was rush hour, it was calculated that 1,100 people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.

Three minutes went by, and a middle aged man noticed there was musician playing. He slowed his pace, and stopped for a few seconds, and then hurried up to meet his schedule.

A minute later, the violinist received his first dollar tip: a woman threw the money in the till and without stopping, and continued to walk.

A few minutes later, someone leaned against the wall to listen to him, but the man looked at his watch and started to walk again. Clearly he was late for work.

The one who paid the most attention was a 3 year old boy. His mother tagged him along, hurried, but the kid stopped to look at the violinist. Finally, the mother pushed hard, and the child continued to walk, turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. All the parents, without exception, forced them to move on.

In the 45 minutes the musician played, only 6 people stopped and stayed for a while. About 20 gave him money, but continued to walk their normal pace. He collected $32. When he finished playing and silence took over, no one noticed it. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.

No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the most talented musicians in the world. He had just played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, on a violin worth $3.5 million dollars.

Two days before his playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out at a theater in Boston where the seats averaged $100. In the 45 minutes the musician played, only 6 people stopped and stayed for a while. When he finished playing and silence took over, no one noticed it. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.

This is a real story. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste, and priorities of people

One of the possible conclusions from this experience could be:

If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world playing the best music ever written, how many other things are we missing?

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

The Love of Reading

February 15, 2012

Have you ever noticed children who seem to have a genuine love of reading? It is so inspiring to see a child choose a book over a movie and watch their eyes light up when they receive the gift of a new book! Have you ever wondered if children are just born “loving to read”?

I am not a gambler, but I WOULD wager that environment plays a huge role in a child’s attitude toward books. We often wish our children would read more, but we make things so much more difficult than they need to be. In order for children to choose books, we must make books readily available AND appealing to them.

Here are some great tips from moms whose children LOVE to read:

1.     Begin reading to your infant. Babies need that receptive language. YOU may not be able to see the benefits, but there ARE benefits. In addition to reading simple books, describe routine tasks as you are doing them such as changing his diaper, wiping his mouth, and preparing his bath. Your baby needs to hear your voice throughout the day.

2.     Allow your infant and toddler to handle books that are mouth-friendly. It’s okay for them to put books in their mouths – this is how they explore.

3.     Continue to describe a toddler’s world to her. Read books with pictures of real things in her everyday world. Let her hold the book. She loves repetition, so she will want to read the same books over and over. Remember, she is entering into the first stages of independence, and she wants to be in control. Put the books at her level so that she can choose what she wants to read.

4.     Keep books handy for ALL ages. Remember that reading can be a big part of EVERY area of a child’s world. Here are some great tips on how to infuse your child’s world with books:

a.     Keep books in the car. Encourage your child to read instead of watching a movie while riding. Offer books that relate to things that he might see while riding. Find things in the book and look for similar things in the real world.

b.     Keep a basket of books by the back door and allow your child to read outdoors. Nothing is more relaxing than reading with the warmth of the sunlight on your skin or a cool breeze on your face.

c.     Keep books that are waterproof by the bathtub. Yes, publishers make bath time books! You have a captive audience so read stories while your child is in the tub.

d.     Keep books at your child’s fingertips throughout your home, not just in her room. Make books available in the kitchen so that your child can read while you prepare a meal, in the family room to encourage reading as a family, in the bathroom, etc.

e.     Pack books when you travel – even for short distances. Rent new books from the library or buy new titles as a surprise. If your child is old enough, purchase a book about your destination and read it with him.

f.      Have books available on subjects that each of your children enjoys or shows a keen interest in.

g.     Reward  what you want to see repeated – offer an incentive if you are having trouble inspiring your child to read. Sometimes children just need something to get them started.

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

Building Healthy Self-Esteem

February 8, 2012

Current events are once again influencing my blog. I continually look at choices that adults make in life and wonder what we can do as parents, grandparents, and educators to impact our children to make healthier choices.

I was particularly moved when I read this quote by actress Demi Moore: “What scares me is that I’m going to ultimately find out at the end of my life that I’m really not lovable, that I’m not worthy of being loved, that there’s something fundamentally wrong with me…and that I wasn’t wanted here in the first place.” Wow! A life of glamour, fame, beauty, and riches…and yet inside, she fights a real battle with self-esteem.

How do we build self-esteem in our children from the beginning? How do we give them the stability they need to navigate life with confidence and poise when adversity comes their way?

Babies are not born with tormenting thoughts about how ridiculous the bib looks on them. They don’t worry about their weight and thus limit themselves to only a few bottles a day. Those of us around babies are responsible for every message they receive as they age. But sometimes it is the more subtle things we do or don’t do that affect our children’s self-esteem.

1.     Did you know that attending to your baby’s cries in a timely manner sends a message that he is important to you? Soothing, comforting words tell him he matters and begins building his self-esteem. While an infant cannot communicate verbally, he deserves to hear words of affirmation. Begin early describing your feelings and the world around him. He knows the sound of your voice—it’s been with him always. Don’t wait until he can communicate back with you. Use words of affirmation liberally from the day he is born.

2.     Always offer reassuring words without mockery or teasing when your toddler is afraid, even if the fear is unfounded such as being scared of the vacuum cleaner. Her feelings matter to her, and it is important that she knows that her feelings matter to you. You are building the foundation now for her teenage years.

3.     Preschoolers need coaching on their behavior so correct the behavior while always validating the child. Separating the behavior from the child lets him know that he is always accepted even when his behavior is unacceptable. Use phrases like, “I know you feel angry, and it is okay to feel angry. However, you may not hit your friend when you are angry. Use your words to tell him to stop knocking down your blocks.” This says, “I am not upset with you. I am upset with your behavior.” Be very careful what you say—your words are more powerful than you think.

4.     Be a good role model. If you talk about how fat, ugly, or silly you are, your child will assume that this is how one should feel about one’s self.

Children with healthy self-esteem are able to solve problems and typically have an easier time resisting negative peer pressure. More importantly, they seem to really have fun in life. Together, we want to work together to give our children the ability to ENJOY the wonderful gifts that life provides. If they are weighed down by negative self-esteem, they are sitting on gifts they cannot enjoy.

Remember that one of the most important roles of parenting is to equip your child for life. Equipping her with healthy self-esteem is one of the greatest gifts you can give her—a gift that will serve her in every area of her life.

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


February 1, 2012

I was doing some research for a friend of mine and was struck by how some of the basic principles of life are consistent. Honesty with discretion is always the best way to address any issue that you or your family must face—at home, at work, and especially in parenting.

Children deserve to be told the truth. Children should not be told un-truths if parents are splitting up or if Grandma is very ill. Perhaps they do not need the details, and perhaps they should be shielded from circumstances that they have no business knowing. But children deserve to know the age-appropriate truth.

Listen carefully to what your child says and correctly assess his questions. I love the story of the young kindergartner who asked his mom that dreaded question one day: “Mom, where did I come from?” The mom decided that it must be time to explain how life is created. The child listened patiently and once the mom was done, he stated, “Hmmm….my friend moved here from Cleveland. I just wondered where we moved here from.” Obviously, Mom didn’t correctly assess what her child was asking.

When attempting to address ANY issue with your child, be sure that everything you tell her is true. People deserve the truth. Children are little people. You certainly need to adjust the degree of how much you share to meet the circumstance and the amount of truth that your child can handle. But, if you tell her a non-truth when she is young, she will learn to distrust you later in life. She might not know the difference now. But as she grows and reflects on what you told her, she will wonder how many other things were not true.

Be candid. Be honest. Be kind. Every person deserves that respect…and that certainly includes the children.

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