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


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.


Planned Connections

September 18, 2013

 

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

I watch parents with young children and sense that some think the road will get a little easier when their children are older. I just smile to myself as I scroll through my phone to see how long it has been since I called or texted my grown children or my parents. Keeping connected with our family members is always challenging due to the pressures of life, regardless of our age or status in life. If we are going to have meaningful and loving relationships, it will be because we choose to invest the time and effort. This commitment is true from the very beginning of our relationship with our newborn and continues … always.

Often what we enjoy doing, what we do best, or what is easiest for us are the things we do first without giving a thought about where we are investing our time. I am a list maker, and I love marking things off of my list. When I find an old list, I often shutter at how many things on it added absolutely no value to my life or to anyone else’s life. Too many times, I have said, “I’ll call just this one client while she plays on the slide” or “I’ll send just this one text while I am bathing them.” How purposeful have I been about planned connections with those I love and cherish?

What I have discovered is that a pattern continues unless the pattern is broken. So often, tasks feel urgent but are not really that important. Connection takes time. If we are going to truly enjoy those we love, we must make them a priority in our lives. This means that we set aside the other “important” things and focus on those we love. I feel like I am living a balanced life when I see dates and other plans with my husband, children, grandchildren, and parents written into my calendar.

I can say from experience that these moments that truly matter will not occur if we do not focus on planned purposeful, connections. These connections might be as simple as committing to be totally present for one hour a day in the backyard, at the park, or in the family room with your children. It might mean turning off all electronics from 5:30-8:00 pm and talking, running, playing, and enjoying each other before bedtime. Perhaps it means planning special weekends and doing something each day that builds up to those weekend plans. Every family is different, and only you know what planned, purposeful connections mean for your family. What I know for sure is thatit is up to you to make it happen.


The Chains of Habit

August 28, 2013

 

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

“The chains of habit are too weak to be felt until they are too strong to be broken.”
–Samuel Johnson

This quote makes us think of a negative habit that takes root in our lives – a habit that controls us by the time we recognize it. However, the quote caused me to pause and think that it might be possible to instill some strong, positive habits in our young children as we enter this back-to-school season … good “chains of habit” that lead them to do things in a customary way before they realize they have established a habit.

Another quote says: “Watch your thoughts; they become your words. Watch your words; they become your actions. Watch your actions; they become your habits. Watch your habits; they become your character.”  We cannot completely monitor the thoughts of our children, but we can help them establish some great habits. These habits will then contribute to their overall character.

It’s amazing how our expectations of our children and what we live out before them truly impacts who they become as adults. We want the chains of healthy habits to control their actions. If we guide with respect, expect only the best from them, and consistently hold them accountable, they will be constrained by ‘good’ habits that will benefit them throughout their lives.

Often parents want to say “Yes,” as frequently as possible and give their children only joy and fun. As a mother and grandmother, I can totally relate to the desire to see a child immersed in fun … laughing and loving life. However, I have also seen the sorrow and pain caused by adults who do not instill the loose chains of good healthy habits in their young children. It is our job to equip them with the tools they need to survive, and this often means denying immediate gratification in favor of a long-range goal.

Helping our children develop the habit of doing the right thing each day is tough when those around them seem to get away with doing the wrong thing. But we owe it to them to teach the chains of habit that will protect them now and when they are older … the chains they don’t even feel as they surround them.

Love your child, enjoy your child, laugh often with your child … but do not be afraid to do whatever it takes to allow the chains of healthy habits to form around her for her protection as she emerges into adulthood. She will cherish these habits one day … and she will thank you.


Teaching Social Skills to Young Children

August 21, 2013

 

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

Did you know that young children begin to learn social skills from their parents? Have you really thought about how your child treats his siblings, his friends, and his classmates will most likely be based on the way he is treated as a very young child by you? The behavior that is acceptable in the home between adults and between siblings is the behavior that your child will observe and emulate as he forms social relationships.

My eyes, ears, and heart just naturally perk up when I hear or see young children close by, and I routinely have to use great restraint when I am in stores where families shop. It angers me when an adult speaks disrespectfully to a child and then demands that she respond with respect. I want to explain that yelling at a child to stop yelling is simply illogical in much the same way that hitting a child to teach her that hitting is wrong.

We often drag innocent children to professionals and ask, “What is wrong with my child?” There are certainly situations where professional help is needed when children are unable to cope. However, I would challenge any adult who works with children, parents them, grand-parents them, or mentors them to take an inward look.

1.     Do I role-model the desired behavior? Am I doing everything that I ask my child to do? This means using gentle touches, kind words, and a respectful tone. It means saying, “I’m sorry,” when we make mistakes and treating everyone in our homes with respect.

2.     Are the rules that I have for my child necessary? Are they in her best interest or are they for my convenience only? For example, your child hates getting to school before her teacher arrives. She voices this, and you could easily adjust your schedule. Ask yourself, “Do I make the adjustment that shows her I really do listen and care or do I just barrel on with what makes my life easiest?” Trust me, children pick up very quickly when parents take the easy way out.

3.     Am I fully present each day with each child? Do I care enough to show him that he is valuable to me? Do I teach him by example how to be engaged and an attentive listener? Will he know how to make his friends feel valuable by giving them his full attention when they are together?

4.     Do I use words of affirmation appropriately and encourage my child to do the same with those in her world? Children can practice showing appreciation for those they care about at home. This teaches them how to pay compliments in the real world.

5.     Am I genuine and authentic? Do I keep it real? Children are honest, candid, and oh so genuine. They can spot a phony quicker than anyone. If we want them to have great social skills, we must model for them how to be comfortable in one’s own skin.

As a parent, you are your child’s first teacher. Teach her by living your best life. The most valuable lessons in life are caught, not taught … and this includes teaching her great social skills early. Trust me, she will need a coach; but if you aren’t living it out in front of her, it will be difficult to coach her with any credibility.


Improving Your Child’s Vocabulary

July 10, 2013

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

One of the things that families can do to ensure their children are inspired to become lifelong learners is to read to them every day from the beginning on a variety of levels. Research has proven that having exposure to a broad range of subjects also increases a child’s vocabulary. Focus on an area that is of interest to her, and then always try to broaden that interest.  This is a great resource on how to broaden your child’s vocabulary. http://teacher.scholastic.com/products/readingline/pdfs/ProfessionalPaper.pdf

Children need to live in a vocabulary-rich environment, and children with broad vocabularies have typically been exposed to more words. It is estimated that children can learn up to 20 words a day, so use both new and familiar words with even very young children to describe their world. Try to use as many words as you can and be sure to explain each word to them.

There are few activities that are free, and reading is one of them. Check out books from the library and choose those that are above your child’s reading level. She will delight in hearing stories read to her that have very descriptive words in them. She might not fully understand every word, but she will exercise her imagination and she will love the time with you.

 

Learning new words and enjoying a rich vocabulary should be fun so make up stories and allow your child to play games with words. My son, who is now 34, thoroughly enjoyed delighting us when he was only three by using words that most three-year-olds didn’t know. He is still one of the smartest men I know. His dad and I read to him all the time, and he would go to sleep listening to readings on cassette tapes. We didn’t know this at the time, but research has proven that listening to recorded reading improves your vocabulary, especially if it is above your level and you strive to understand it.

 

Broaden your vocabulary with your child. Don’t always try to “dumb it down” because your child is young. Use big words intentionally and explain their meanings. Teach your child how some words are related such as how “angry” means “mad” and that “happy” and “elated” are similar.

 

Just remember that a child’s vocabulary matters greatly to his overall academic success. You will learn a lot along the way when you get busy talking and reading to him. One of my best teachers was my son, Zane. He inspired me … he still does.


Keeping the “Happy” in Happy Holidays Part 4 of 5

December 12, 2012

Happy Holidays iStock_000019542496XSmall

 

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

I have shared three of the ‘H’s’ in the 5 H Plan for Keeping the “Happy” in Happy Holidays and will write about the fourth and fifth ‘H’s’ over the next two weeks. The 5 H Plan is simple, and I hope it will help you navigate through the holidays and any time in life when you have additional time demands, family members around, interrupted routines, or are traveling.

The 5 H plan consists of:

  1. Healthy Habits (blog on November 21st)
  2. Hearts of Gratitude (blog on November 28th)
  3. Helping Hands (blog on December 5th)
  4. Having a Hearty Plan
  5. Hilarious Humor

Having A Hearty Plan

  1. Do NOT overschedule your children. The holiday seasons you have with your young children will pass very quickly, and there will be plenty of holidays to celebrate when they get older. Do NOT try to do it all.
  2. Lower the expectations that you have for your child. I realize this might seem odd. However, if you anticipate that she will behave badly at least some of the time, you are more likely to be pleasantly surprised by how well she behaves much of the time! When you lower your expectations, you just might be able to really enjoy your children.
  3. Change YOUR attitude about the holidays. Don’t assume that “chaos” is always bad. It could be just fun without the structure. You might find many hidden treasures of fun in what you previously dreaded once you change YOUR attitude. Plan to let go of some of the rules!
  4. Parents who experience the most joy during the holidays have learned HOW to stay in the “present.” Remember: “Joy lives in the present moment.”
  5. Plan activity-based celebrations such as baking cookies, making cards, decorating, and creating gifts. Celebrate the holidays through events in which children can participate and then donate the goods to those in need.
  6. Create a calendar that includes shopping excursions, visits from friends, and school events. If appropriate, show your children all the dates that they have to dress up, be away from home, or do something that they may not enjoy. If they know what’s coming up, they are more likely to cooperate. As you look at the calendar, think of ways that you can be proactive.
  7.  Involve your children in capturing holiday memories. They could take photos, make movies, create scrapbooks, and draw pictures. This is especially helpful if they are the only children present at an adult function. Involve them in ways that they can interact with the adults.
  8. Set a good example for your children and make a plan to take care of your own mental and physical health.

The familiar quote, “Failing to plan means planning to fail,” certainly applies to this time of year. Put some thought into how you will manage the holiday season. Give yourself permission to relax but think ahead to the “next best move” so that you stay one step ahead of your children.  Most of all, plan to have fun and relax.