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Change

On August 2, 2016, in Mothering Heights, by CV

If there is one thing that all of us seem to struggle with it is change. There is something about the comfortable feeling that comes with consistency that just seems to make life easier.

Change is the reason that we work so hard to establish a consistent routine for the children that we care for. They draw comfort from knowing that after free play the toys are picked up and then we go to the bathroom before we go outside to play, etc. They like to know what happens next in their lives. Think about your daily schedule. You might be someone who makes a list to start each day, or maybe you just start each day with a general idea of what your schedule or tasks will be. But our children just follow us as we tell them what is happening next. By giving them a general sense of what their day might bring, we help to lower their anxiety about what lies ahead.

To help you empathize with the mind of your children, just think about the last time you had to change jobs or move into a new house or apartment. That is the type of anxiety that our children feel most of the time.

On the flip side, some parents tell their children so much about what changes are coming, (i.e. leaving for vacations, grandparent visits) that the child’s anxiety raises to a higher level than usual. One rule of thumb that always seems to be effective with children is to let them lead the way with their own questions. Try to only give them the amount of information that they seem interested in. This is going to vary a great deal from child to child, so the challenge will be, how well do we know our children and how much information is the right amount.

Routine is probably the best tool to help your child feel comfortable about their day. But when faced with changes in their schedules or their lives, remember to ease them into it by giving them as much information as they seem to need.

 
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Independence

On July 1, 2016, in Mothering Heights, by CV

Independence – What does it mean for our children?

As we celebrate the independence of our country on the 4th of July, we should also take a look at how important the word “independence” is to the emotional growth of our children.

There are so many aspects to look at when we are deciding how to help our children grow and develop. When it comes to independence we are often torn between wanting to coddle them and know that they need us one day, to wanting them to be independent and help us on the next day.

Since all growth is intertwined, it is important to realize that emotional growth is tied to all other areas of growth. Independence or emotional growth is often tied to overcoming fear.

Method 1: Modeling Independence

Show your child that you are independent. Share with them something that is difficult for you. Show them how you didn’t give up.

Method 2: Helping Independence Grow.

Pay attention as your children play and notice when they have figured something out on their own. Ask for their input on small tasks. Let them know their opinion matters. “Thank you for putting the silverware on the table. That really helps with our dinner.” Be sure that the child is responsible for their own stuff. If they can get it out to play with it, they can put it back.

Method 3: Providing and Loosening Boundaries.

Encourage your child to play by themselves. Bring out a toy that’s not always used and let them enjoy it all by themselves. When your child says they are bored ask them to show you how they are going to solve it. Hand them a towel and say, “What could you do with this?” Extend boundaries gradually.  Maybe you currently ask your child to play next to you. Maybe the next step would be to let them play in their room by themselves.

Independence for this country was a long, hard fought battle. Look at independence for your child as a smoother process offering your child a little space to grow.

 
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Happy Father’s Day

On June 10, 2016, in Mothering Heights, by CV

Happy Father’s Day!

Actions Speak Louder than Words

“My Father didn’t tell me how to live; he lived and let me watch him do it.”  - Clarence Budington Kelland

We all try to teach our children the things that we think are most important in life. Our universal parenting goal is and always has been, teaching our children the things that we feel would make them happier and more successful in life. But one of the most important things in this process is to be sure that our words match our actions. We can all talk until we’re blue in the face, but our children will mimic our actions before they do anything else.

I hope all of you fathers know just how special and important you are to all of your children. I hope that the bond that you have with your father is one of the things you pass on to your child.

Remember that to your children you are invincible and can do no wrong.  So be sure that the example you set is the picture that you want them to follow because they will accept anything you say or do as gospel.

So take some time off to go to the park or the zoo. Hold your child’s hand as often as you can. And when they ask you to read the same story over and over again, be glad that you are the one they ask.

Enjoy this special day, but remember, to your children you are the special one in their lives every day of the year.

   
 
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Daily Gratitude Practice

On May 2, 2016, in Mothering Heights, by CV

Have you ever wondered what a day in the life of a child looks like?  When you think about it, how would you like to wake up and spend a day following a set of directives?  You don’t know where you are going or what is going happen next.  “Time to get up”, says Mom.  “Get your clothes on and come down for breakfast”.  “Hurry, we have to get to school”.

Now they are in the car and depending on their age, they have a destination in mind.  They know about how long it takes to drive to school, so for a moment they know what is going to happen next.  They don’t know why they need to go to school or why you need to go to work.  They don’t have any conception of the financial needs of a family or why parents need to work.  They just move forward to the next thing someone tells them to do.

So in this state of mind, how can we help children connect to those around them and to have an appreciation of what they have and what people do for them?  One idea is to add a practice of gratitude to your evening or bedtime routine.  In this practice you just spend some time as a family telling each other what you feel grateful for.  You might start by saying that you feel grateful for each other.  You might say how grateful you feel that the family all worked together to clean up after dinner.  You might say that you feel grateful that it was a sunny day.  Believe me, as you start this practice it becomes so easy to begin to see how much you are grateful for each day.  Let the children say what they feel grateful for.  In the beginning what they say might be silly or nonsensical, but you can just acknowledge their contribution.  If this practice becomes a nightly routine it will grow in its scope and meaning.

When people engage in this daily gratitude practice they grow in their sensitivity of all that happens around them. It just enriches your life and helps you see the great part of everyday rather than focusing on the stresses or challenges that you faced. It truly changes the perspective on everything that happens to you. When you and your children go to bed, your mind is full of all that was good in your day.  I have been using this practice for a long time now, and it is really helps me to keep my thinking on a positive road.  Be sure to add a positive thought about your spouse and each of your children each and every day.

I’d like to challenge you to a 30 day test.  If you, as a family, try this for 30 days I would really like to hear from you at the end of May about what changes you saw happening in yourself and your children.  I think you will love the effects.

 
 
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On March 31, 2016, in Mothering Heights, by CV

STRONG-WILLED CHILDREN BECOME ADULTS WHO CHANGE

THE WORLD AS LONG AS WE CAN HANG ON FOR THE RIDE AND

RESIST THE TEMPTATION TO “TAME” THE SPIRIT OUT OF THEM.

I have been a teacher, coach, and administer of children’s programs since 1974. (Please don’t do the math!)  There isn’t too much in the field of education that I haven’t seen or experienced.  I have listened to so many parents as they try to navigate the rough terrain we all call “parenting”, and offered advice or shared my own experiences when I thought it could make a difference.  No matter your education or previous experience no two children are alike and there is no guarantee that a strategy used with one child will have the same effect in the same situation with another child.

Even with all this experience I was reminded this weekend while I was visiting my daughter and her three children that no matter how much experience I have my daughter will look at me as though I don’t know what I’m talking about. So after I made a suggestion that she was giving her 4 year old’s crying too much attention, I received the above quote on my return home.  Since I have a great sense of humor and I really believe that my daughter is a terrific Mom, I will use the opportunity to pass it on to you.

I really agree with what the quote is saying, as I too, believe that we should honor a child’s creativity, thinking and actions if at all possible. It can be all too easy to push our ideas and power on a child just because we are bigger, have to adhere to a schedule, or just don’t want to take the time to let the child try to do something their way.  But if in the course of our parenting we honor the child by listening and giving them space to let us know what types of activities make them happy and let their creativity blossom, we are doing a good job.

The above quote is written by a lady named Sarah Stogryn, who had an education degree and had been a doula for 7 years before having her first child. She thought that things were going to be easy because of her past knowledge and experience.  She soon found that she was blessed with what would be known as the “spirited child” in the field of education.  Parenting this child was tough for both Sarah and her husband, but they didn’t give up.  They read books, took advice from professionals and tried to remain strong in the face of honoring this very tough child.  Her story should be an inspiration to all of us even though most of our children are not as tough as her young child.  I encourage you to go to www.sarahstogryn.com/blog/raising-our-wild-child and read this story in its entirety. It’s a wonderful example of hanging on for the ride, knowing that the world is indeed changed by these strong-willed children.

 
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What You Hear May Not Be What You Think

On March 1, 2016, in Mothering Heights, by CV

How often do your children ask you a question and after you spend a great deal of time explaining it to them they give you a puzzled look and walk away. Probably one of the most dangerous things we do is listen to our children as though the meaning behind their words comes from an adult place of understanding. Our children of today are very, very, verbal. They experience so much input in our audio world and they use these words they learn based on what experiences they have had. Rarely are they asking the question with the same thinking that you possess.

A classic example – A little preschooler comes home and tells his mother that a thousand “months” ago an asteroid came down and made the dinosaurs “stink”. And they still “stink” today. So in this example the little boy heard a story and used his experiences to create his story. We talk about the days of the month a lot, but we don’t talk about years very often. The idea of something becoming extinct would probably be a new idea and so he used the word “stink” because that works in his vocabulary.

We can teach letters and words and read stories, but children really need to have a lot of experiences so when they are confronted by new information they have a reference point to receive and understand it.

My Granddaughter asks a lot of questions, and when my daughter gives her an answer it often upsets her. They recently lost their old dog and so they went out and bought the book called the Rainbow Bridge. In this book all the animals live in a field and wait for their human owner to pass away and then they walk across the rainbow bridge together and enter heaven. So Carter asked, “Is Toby in Heaven?” My daughter told her, “No he’s waiting for us, so when we die he’ll go across the bridge with us.” And then Carter got really upset, “We’re going to die? When? Are we going together? Is it happening soon?” My daughter was surprised by how upset Carter had gotten and wasn’t sure how to back pedal her way out of it.

This is such a classic example of giving our children too much information without really realizing that we’re doing it. She told me the story and said I’m not sure what to do when she asks so many questions. My advice to her was to always answer their question with another question. When you do this it gives you a better understanding of what they really wanted to know. If your child comes up with a feasible answer to their own question, you can just say, “That sounds good.” Or “That makes sense.” In this way the young child has an idea to work with, feels good that they came up with an answer, and hasn’t been given information that they really weren’t looking for in the first place.

 
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Social and Emotional Learning

On February 5, 2016, in Mothering Heights, by CV

I know that as parents it’s easy to get excited when your young child begins to surprise you with all the information that they are learning at school. They begin to sing songs on the way home, or point out letters on the signs they see along the road. This is exciting! We all want to know that our children are showing signs of progress in their learning. As exciting as this rote learning is though, there is a type of learning that I feel is the most important and something that we pay a great deal of attention to here at Learning Tree. This is the area of Social and Emotional Learning, often referred to as emotional intelligence. I feel that it is so important to the overall development of the child. Having a child that knows how to manage his or her emotions, make responsible decisions, and resolve conflicts non-violently, is like pushing them to the head of the class when it comes to learning all of the other information presented to them. As parents there are a number of strategies that can be used at home to help nurture and emotionally intelligent child. Be a good listener: Listening is a “core competency skill” and needs to be used by both the parent and the child. Sometimes as parents we rush our child through what they are saying or fill in the blanks or finish their sentences. This teaches the child to not listen in their own learning situations. Try to be patient and let the child express their complete thought no matter how slow or broken up it might be. Model the behavior you seek: Children learn a great deal about relationships from observing the behavior of their parents. As parents we should always consider the impact of our actions on our kids. Nurture your child’s self-esteem: Children with a good self-esteem are happier and do better in school. A good strategy for fostering self-esteem includes giving your child responsibilities and showing your appreciation for a job well done. Respect differences: Always resist the urge to compare your child to friends or siblings. Instead, honor your child’s accomplishments and support him or her in their challenges. Raising an emotionally intelligent child is like moving them to the head of the class.