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.

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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.


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.


Peaceful Environments

September 11, 2013
she loves youWritten by Donna McClintock, COO with Children’s Choice Learning Centers, Inc.
Wikipedia defines peace as“a state of harmony characterized by the lack of violence, conflict behaviors and the freedom from fear of violence. Commonly understood as the absence of hostility, peace also suggests the existence of healthy or newly healed interpersonal or international relationships.” Webster offers this definition: “freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions.”Where do our children find peaceful environments?

So often I look around our homes, our preschools, our nursery schools, and even our churches and wonder if we are doing what we should be doing to create the most peaceful environments in which our children can thrive. The older I get and the more I learn, it becomes so obvious that we must first live out in our own lives what we desire for our children. If we want our children to have peaceful environments in which to thrive, we have to have a lack of conflict behaviors, freedom from fear of violence, and healed interpersonal relationships. WOW! I get it — it’s up to us! The children of this world depend on the adults.

As a parent and grandparent, I ask myself what “absence of hostility” really means. Sure, it can mean no yelling or fighting in my home, but the definition also suggests that peace is the existence of healthy or newly healed interpersonal relationships. Research shows that 70-90% of all communication is non-verbal; and sometimes there is a deafening hostility in the silent glares, the body language of anger, and the unspoken messages that convey that we are not at peace.

We must create peaceful and secure environments in order for children to thrive, feel safe, and develop a lifelong love of learning. If children are cocooned in a loving, safe, and peaceful environment, their energy can then be focused on their natural love of learning, exploring, and experiencing new adventures. Until a child feels safe, it really doesn’t matter what gifts are placed beside him and what opportunities are in front of him. He simply cannot feel released to embrace life if he lives in an insecure, chaotic, and hostile environment. Children want to explore, they are amazing dreamers, they are filled with wonder, and they have some of the most profound observations to share with us … if we just listen.

Providing a peaceful environment does not mean there will not be conflict. When people get together, there will be conflict. My two granddaughters were with me yesterday, and they were arguing. I stood there trying to decide what to do, and the 4-year-old said, “Dee Dee, would you like for us to go sit down and work out a peaceful deal and then come back to you?” I was both stunned and relieved! They understood conflict, and they also had good conflict-resolution skills. I confess that I went around the corner but stopped to listen to how they negotiated the deal. They compromised. All’s well that ends well, right?

My challenge to you is that you are purposeful in creating peaceful environments for any child in your world. You cannot control anyone but yourself, and only you can control your responses. Commit to creating and maintaining a peaceful environment in your classroom, your home, your car … anywhere and everywhere that children are present.


Toddlers and Technology

August 14, 2013

happy family using tablet pcWritten by Donna McClintock, COO with Children’s Choice Learning Centers, Inc.

According to BBC News, research from the University of Wisconsin presented at a meeting this week of the Society for Research in Child Development found that children aged between two and three were more likely to respond to video screens that prompted them to touch the screens than those that demanded no interaction. The study suggested that the more interactive the screen, the more real it was, and the more familiar it felt from a two-year-old’s perspective. Heather Kirkorian, Assistant Professor of Human Development and Family Studies, carried out the research and says touch screens could hold educational potential for toddlers.

I’ve been in the field of early education for over 30 years, and we have had very strict policies about technology with young children. We do not allow any passive media in our centers because we believe that children need and deserve human interaction when they are in our care.

As a society, we are already handing our very young children iPhones and iPads. They quickly become very efficient at operating them, often much more so than the adults in their families. There is still so much that we do not know regarding the impact of technology on very young children, and it will certainly be interesting as the research develops regarding the changes in toddler’s brains.

Here are a few tips to remember:

1.     No matter how entertaining or educational the technology, nothing will ever replace the power of human touch. Your child will always need your undivided attention. Even when she starts school and you are working together on her homework, sitting with her and establishing eye contact can lead to an impromptu conversation about something that is occurring at school that she might really need to share.

2.     The human brain is the only organ not fully developed at birth. There isn’t enough research as yet on either side to support or to argue against using technology with very young children. What we do know is this: Just because a child is engaged and quiet does not necessarily mean that his needs are being met.

3.     Research indicates that interactive technology is better than passive media. It is important that the programs presented to children are age appropriate and that the time is limited.

4.     Using technology with your child is better than allowing her to experience it alone all the time. One of the concerns about young children getting too involved in technology is that they might not develop the appropriate social skills.

5.     Use common sense. Ask yourself if you really want your very young child to master killing and fighting. Even if the game is appropriate, do you want him idly playing a game on a small screen instead of running, jumping, exploring, pretending, and using his imagination?

Technology is here to stay, and we all know that there will be more advances. We can no longer pretend that our children will not use it or that some of it isn’t great for them. However, it is like every other aspect of parenting: We must use common sense, moderation, and keep current as the experts continue to discover technology’s effects on our children.