Early Childhood

Why I chose Montessori for Karter?

Montessori Method

If there is one thing I have learned to value as a early childhood therapist it is the importance of early learning. The ideal that children under 6 need just as much preparation for the world that they live in as their older peers. When raising my older daughter (Kennedy) I have to admit my skills were minimum. Not only because I was 22 and this was my first child, but because generations before me didn't value education (work was more important). Staying at home wasn't an option and is still not because I value my worth in the work field and have entrepreneurship goals to obtain. So I did my best at exposing her and placing her in programs that I believed to be best for her learning, but I never felt confident in the choices I made. So I placed her in schools where I felt she would be safe, and would learn the norm. So naturally she transitioned into public school to get rid of the financial burden, and to do exactly it was that I did which was public schooling. Now I am not saying that Kennedy's education has been for nothing. She is smart and well rounded, but most of her genius comes from my husband and I being her first teachers. There were times I would get frustrated that they weren't challenging her enough, pushing her enough, and not seeing her for who she was. She often complains of being bored in class, and when addressing it with her teacher, I would learn that they were doing the best they could, but had other children to teach. I also was agitated by the lack of practical skill building, and character development. I understand that math and science are on the test, but could you teach my child how to be a leader!! And don't let me talk about the test, and the decrease of art programs. The list could go on and on. But I still persisted that it was okay because I was willing to go the extra mile at home. We are now considering switching her to Montessori. There are a few things to consider because she is close to middle school, and Montessori stops at 6th grade where we live. She also is very invested in her school and to switch to a totally different program would not only be challenging but would pull her away from her comfort zone. But as parents we can't allow our children to jade us, we have to make the best choices we know as adults and sometimes that comes with disappointment.

Why have so many schools reduced the time and emphasis they place on art, music, and physical education? The answer is beyond simple: those areas aren’t measured on the all-important tests. You know where those areas are measured… in life! Art, music, and a healthy lifestyle help us develop a richer, deeper, and more balanced perspective. Never before have we needed more of an emphasis on the development of creativity, but schools have gone the exact opposite direction in an effort to make the best test-taking automatons possible. Our economy no longer rewards people for blindly following rules and becoming a cog in the machine. We need risk-takers, outside-the-box thinkers, and entrepreneurs; our school systems do the next generation a great disservice by discouraging these very skills and attitudes. Instead of helping and encouraging them to find and develop their unique strengths, they’re told to shut up, put the cell phones away, memorize these facts and fill in the bubbles.
— Dave Burgess

I had a lot of learning/growing  to do as a parent and that's exactly what I did. Through maturity, education and training it has expanded my knowledge in the field of education. As I begin my journey to enroll Karter in preschool, I knew I wanted to be more diligent when choosing her education. I wanted my values from home to transfer to school. I wanted her teachers to bring pieces of home into the class. I wanted for her to be around a diverse group of peers, and have the ability to move at her own pace. I also wanted the program to value practical skills just as much as educational skills. And I wanted her to be challenged in a way that promoted independence. And when I thought that was impossible to find, I found Montessori.

What is the Montessori Method?

The Montessori Method of education, developed by Dr. Maria Montessori, is a child-centered educational approach based on scientific observations of children from birth to adulthood. Dr. Montessori’s Method has been time tested, with over 100 years of success in diverse cultures throughout the world.

It is a view of the child as one who is naturally eager for knowledge and capable of initiating learning in a supportive, thoughtfully prepared learning environment. It is an approach that values the human spirit and the development of the whole child—physical, social, emotional, cognitive.

The teacher, child, and environment create a learning triangle. The classroom is prepared by the teacher to encourage independence, freedom within limits, and a sense of order. The child, through individual choice, makes use of what the environment offers to develop itself, interacting with the teacher when support and/or guidance is needed.

Montessori students learn to think critically, work collaboratively, and act boldly.

Montessori is a method of education that is based on self-directed activity, hands-on learning and collaborative play. In Montessori classrooms children make creative choices in their learning, while the classroom and the teacher offer age-appropriate activities to guide the process. Children work in groups and individually to discover and explore knowledge of the world and to develop their maximum potential.
— Unknown

Why I chose it?

  • Fosters the growth of functional independence, task persistence and self-regulation
  • Promotes social development through respectful, clear communication and safe, natural consequences
  • Contains a large variety of materials for the refinement of sensory perception and the development of literacy and mathematical understanding
  • Offer opportunities for imaginative exploration leading to confident, creative self-expression
  • Allows parents to collaborate with teachers in their learning environment
  • Understands the importance of character building and practical yet valuable skills
  • Employs teachers who have been trained in Montessori teaching who understand the "whole" child concept (usually former public school teachers)
  • Respects all cultures and diversity
  • Groups peer of older and younger age together to promote leadership within the classroom

These are all things that I believe promote the well being of children. For any parent who wants more information on Montessori education please look in your local community. What's best for one is not best for all. So please be advised that this was something that was important to me, and that I share this experience as a flawed human.

Today was Karter's interview/observation to begin the process of enrollment. I was allowed to watch as her and the teacher explored the classroom, and begin to learn pieces of the Montessori curriculum. I was overwhelmingly surprised how fast she picked up on ques and direction from the teacher. The teacher was kind with her approach, but didn't hold back what she knew Karter could do. She was directive, but wasn't (hard to explain). From the first 15 minutes I could tell that this was the perfect program for Karter. In that moment I was so proud to be her Mama, and I was also so scared to let her go. Where did my breastfeeding baby go? I know there will be times that she has to find her way in the world without me. In this program I trust they will be an extension of my heart. Cheers to preschool! 

Providing Discipline

Uh-oh here we go...

The ugly part of parenting is here. One of the worst moments of parenting arises during the time you have to set limits and boundaries. These moments don't warrant good responses from our children. It's important to know that children need a balance of both love and limits. And those 2 words, although used separately, often time overlap. Setting limits is also a way for children to know we love them. Setting limits keeps are children safe and reassures "us" that children understand self-control. It's okay to want to place boundaries because we know what's best, or just as a response to a simple annoying temper tantrum. Setting boundaries allows for the parent/child relationship to be one of trust and security. Of course that sounds easy. But the task of setting limits or giving a consequence is much more difficult. It's both the frustration of a high pitched cry, or simply saying “no” and following through. It's all complicated, it can be challenging, and it often leads to feeling unsuccessful.

The best way to accomplish any task when it comes to raising children is the concept of "consistency". Consistency and structure is vital during the difficult moments. Kids enjoy habits, they feel better when they know exactly what to expect next. For children, it's the fear of trying something once that initially is terrifying and then realizing after the 10th time it's actually okay and is unavoidable. What we tell children when we keep things the same, is that they can feel stability. This assures children that their environment doesn't change. This does not mean that routines won't vary from time to time, because they will. But when parents say "no" to touching the hot stove, the answer will always be no. And for children that is an essential part of their development.

Structure allows children to follow routines and ease into transitions. If you ever noticed in any classroom you visit there is always a chart of some sort that is a visual reminder for children to know what their day will consist of. This is done purposely to help children stay on task, more importantly so they are aware of expectations. For very young children we see time rituals for sleep, eating, playing, etc. It's all about keeping time and expectations being met. This transpires into adult hood, as we also have to keep schedules (ESPECIALLY PARENTS). This all ties into the concept of discipline because the more we can prepare kids, and help them with consistency, stability, and structure we can decrease meltdowns that result in a consequence.

Time Out vs. Spankings

I know that some of us were raised where "spankings" were the only form of discipline. And I am not here to tell you that it was wrong. I will simple state as an early childhood mental health professional the pros and cons, and why I promote the use of time out. Spankings offer an instant reaction for parents. Some parents see this as a bonus because it takes care of the problem immediately. Children start to fear the use of pain and begin to comply out of fear. So I definitely understand why some caregivers go to that route. But does it truly offer any sort of teaching moment. What I mean by this is that spanking teaches a child that we react by hitting when frustrated. Another concern with spankings is the emotional reaction it creates for the adult. Are we hitting our child because our fuse is so thin we become reactive? Are we spanking when our patience runs thin, and we tell our minds nothing else will fix it? Think of how you feel when you spank. Make sure it comes from a place of safety. Meaning make sure it is always appropriate, if that makes sense. 

Now "time out" is not very immediate. It takes tons of time and patience to teach a child to stay in a spot and think about their choices. But what "time out" does offer is a time for your child to learn how to calm down their own bodies by giving a time for the heart rate to decrease. When we place children in time out, it allows the child to learn how to take care of themselves. Kids begin to understand that when they get upset, mad, or simply can't get their way, they are allowed to have a reaction but it doesn't warrant the attention from the caregiver. Another benefit of using time out is that children begin to learn what gets their parents attention. Children are attention seekers regardless if it's from showing negative or positive behavior. What we give attention to is often what we see the child exhibit.  For example, have you ever had to say no a million times, only to get the same response? It's because in those moments our children are getting the best of us. Try ignoring your child during those moments, and see if it results in a different behavior. So if we can begin to show a child that negative behavior warrants no attention, and positive behavior warrants praise. Guess what we will see more of, THE POSITIVE!!

Just a little more.....

1. Always start with ignoring. Literally ignore your child when they are whining, crying, or have been told no but refuse to accept it. Walk out the room, talk to a friend on the phone, begin a hobby, but just don't entertain it. This is so hard to do, because we want to say a million things. I've learned as a parent to pick my battles.

2. A cool way to extend "time out" as a way to increase childhood development is to offer "calm down" activities in the time out space you use. I place bubbles, books, a squishy toy, etc. This is a tool to use to decrease the heart rate. Allow deep breathes, or something sensory based to allow your child's body to calm down so they are more rational. The recovery is faster!

3. Try to use the same time out spot in the home. Make sure it is not the same place they sleep, so they don't associate time out with sleeping. Make sure the spot lacks distractions, and that it is safe. 

4. Time the time out. I place 1 minute for every year of age. 2 years old=2 minutes. Of course they may not even stay for that long. But be repetitive by physically helping them stay or putting them back in the spot.

5. Don't over talk. The punishment is placing them in time out. No child can listen or rationalize when they are upset. Don't begin a speech about what they should have done. Simply state the reason and place them in the spot. Trust me they will get the point.

6. Adjust for older children. Time out for older children can simply mean taking a break to go think about their actions and repair. Kennedy, 8, after a few moments will apologize because she knows she was wrong (empathy). If I threaten a consequence, such as no company, or no television, then it is exactly that. What mommy says goes. Now there is always room for compromising. I try not to argue, but if she can logically state her case, I'm always down to listen. As parents the follow through is key (consistency, structure, limits).

7. After you impose a consequence start from a clean state. No holding grudges or punishing all day because of one moment. Let your child know that behavior is redeemable, and the consequence doesn't last forever. 

Let's Practice

My go to guide is as follows....this chart allows you to understand the cycle of time out. I promise you if you resort to this every time, your child will begin to decrease the amount of defiance. This provides your child with an environment of safety and consistency. Ultimately you as an adult decide what type of discipline strategies to use in the comforts of your home. I have seen my share fair of child abuse cases to know that time out is just an overall safe strategy. And that is not stating that those who choose spanking are abusers. The point is that we are teaching children that hitting is never okay, and there are more effective ways to get what you need.

 

Remember that most children, rather you are using spankings or time out loves you just the same. Your child wants to please you, but it is natural for our children to be in need of discipline. This is how children learn right from wrong, how to follow rules, and respect authority. We aren't born with the understanding of how and why we see the world the way it is. Children's brains develop in connection with the experiences parents expose them to. So always remember when you are considering how to use discipline, remember the messages you are sending and how you want those to be remembered.  

 

Strengthening The Parent/Child Relationship

The Importance of Building Attachment

From the moment babies are born it is clear they are able to communicate their needs. As parents the more we understand how to respond and meet those needs appropriately and efficiently the more are children will begin to understand the world around them. Attachment can be described as an establishment of an emotionally positive and mutually rewarding relationship between an infant and its parent or other caretaker (Gander and Gardiner, 1981). This concept is a 2-way street. It takes intentional effort by both the parent and child. Bonding is the process whereby parents and child determine that they are special to each other. It's important to note that this is not something that just happens, it's a process. And this process begins with understanding the importance of the parent child relationship.

Please note, this doesn't require you to have a 2 parent household, or the child to be yours biologically. Research tells us that children who have an secure attachment to at least one caregiver in the first year of life has a greater ability to handle stress, build healthy relationships, perform better in schools, higher self-worth, and helps build childhood resiliency. In summary, the way children receive love, is the same way they will project it. This is primary to promoting childhood development.

What is challenging for some parents is the idea that you can spoil your children with too much love. Parents have been told to allow their children to cry it out, or they shouldn't be held too much. I've even heard parents tell me that they don't want their sons to be soft. I am a true believer that there is no limit to loving or giving positive attention. Think how much of a tool this could be to building a child's self-esteem. Or how much greater of a world we would live in if we teach concepts of empathy, and love early on. Love has no gender, and love has no limits. There is a fine balance of love/discipline that should be offered. This is a great time to think about your own parenting style. Are you super passive, or too authoritative? Children need a balance of both love and limits. Setting limits doesn't mean you don't love your child, it means that you are teaching them tools of staying safe and having the ability to follow rules. What is not effective is if we only show children how to follow rules and/or create too many boundaries, without giving them rewards or being responsive (love). Not only is this harmful to development, it's not a reflection of the reality we live in. 

 Attachment Theory

As I could spend tons of time explaining what attachment theory encompasses. I thought a visual would be a great way to sum up what attachment looks like and it's implications on adulthood. Click on the charts below to get a better idea of attachment.

Attachment Activities: 

Okay now let's do it....

1. Special Handshake- Make up a special handshake together, taking turns adding new gestures. For example, you can do a five high, clasp hands, tickle palms, etc.

2. Co-Sleeping- IDK IDK IDK…Some will say this is dangerous, some say it’s necessary. I love the concept of co-sleeping. What I like to do is set up a “sleepover” night in our house. I allow the children to sleep as a reward or just a special night we create. They are able to understand that regularly they sleep in their own rooms, but it’s super special when I get to sleep with mom and dad.

3. Mirror-This activity does not necessarily require any physical items or toys. All it takes is having the parent and child both present and ready to interact with each other. The basic idea for this activity is to have the parent playfully copy what the child is doing, such as by having the child begin by clapping his hands together and having the parent clap their hands in the same volume and speed as the child. When the child changes his style of clapping (such as louder or softer), the parent should imitate the child. Eye contact, smiles, and laughs are also helpful to promote a healthy relationship and repair or enhance attachment. Mirroring can also be done with other activities, such as jumping, playing with toys, or facial expressions.

4. Piggy Back Rides- Piggy-back rides can help to strengthen parent-child relationships and repair or enhance attachment because they involve fun and physical closeness. When children are babies, they need plenty of physical contact with their parents. Babies thrive not only from being fed and kept physically safe, but also from feeling the comfort and security of having their parent close to them.

5. Brushing Hair- Sometimes girls can be fussy about getting their hair brushed, especially if they have experienced pain from well-meaning parents brushing their hair too hard. However, allowing a daughter to gently brush her mother’s hair and having a mother gently brush her daughter’s hair can be an activity that can promote connection. This can be a calming activity that includes a sense of nurturing which connects to a person’s internal experience of attachment and bonding.

6. Taco Girl-  She lays in the blanket aka taco shell.  Then we put all of the toppings with different sounds for each.  Hamburger, lettuce, tomato, cheese, sour cream, salsa, then we wrap her up in the blanket.  Next, we pretend to “eat” the taco.  Tickling and saying, “this is one very yummy taco” the whole time.  

7. Cuddles-Have you ever tried to hug someone who doesn’t like physical touch? Awkward. Physical touch doesn’t have to be your love language for you to appreciate the connection and thought it implies. If parents never touch their children they will be deprived affection. If your kids are deprived affection they will seek it elsewhere. Believe me, you will not like where else they seek it.

 

In Summary

This quote sums of the idea of attachment perfectly. Love on your children, love on the children around you (being aware of stranger danger of course). The point is that teaching concepts of love and bonding are learned behaviors. Be comfortable with touch, and step out of your comfort zone. No one should or will love on your children as genuinely as a parent and vice versa. Love heals all, feels all, and has no bias. Love on your children, for when they are lost, the memories of love will lead them back to you.

 

Guiding Your Child's Temperament

Temperament 

~a person's or animal's nature, especially as it permanently affects their behavior...

If there is one thing that I have begin to understand about my own style of parenting is that my personal attitude and/or biases have a personal effect on how I guide my children. I like to blame my horoscope to provide evidence to why some of my kid's behaviors affect me personally. I'm a fan of horoscopes, slightly because my mother's own biases, but mostly because they are so accurate. Maurice (my husband)  believes it's general information that fits the mold of all people. I like to think that our universe provides a reason for everything, so following my zodiac is a way to explain some of it. So for example, I am a Cancer, emotional at heart, very reactive, and quite tenacious. My eldest daughter is a Gemini, represented by 2 heads to show the prevalence of 2 personalities, so she is up and down. Very expressive, but can often times be very serious. And then there is my youngest daughter, an Aries, who is very determined and courageous, but can be very impatient.  

This was easily played out on the day of our family photo shoot. Here I am trying to work on the advancement of my family, and my children have the audacity to show their most challenging characteristics of their zodiac sign. Of course the OCD mommy in me, has been prepping my children for this day for the past few weeks. Making sure they knew what to expect, and just a little practice of smiling, lol. The day gets here and I wake up  super early due to excitement. Then I was quickly reminded that yesterday Karter didn't nap, and I witnessed Kennedy waking up on the wrong side of the bed (figuratively). I knew what type of day was ahead. It's funny because as a mother, I can innately tell when my children will have crummy days. So, as I run around with excitement, my girls decide to give me the blues. Kennedy dragging, not liking how her hair was done, upset because she couldn't have colored lip gloss. Karter refusing to eat breakfast, begging for a fruit snack instead, and with the energy of a 2 y/o (because she is 2). I wanted to scream. But I pressed forward to continue to make sure we would accomplish the task. As we begin to prep for pictures, I can tell Kennedy's body language screamed that she wasn't happy, all awhile Karter won't smile, and keeps playing a game of cat and mouse with her invisible friend. I keep pushing, but it was getting to be overwhelming. My husband is more worried about his shirt looking wrenkled and was at no assistance, lol, he was clearly excited.  So I started to get frustrated, I begin to address Kennedy, as she cried and ran upstairs. Karter begin to tantrum, and I just felt like I was going to lose my mind. Then in a moment of self reflection, because at my most challenging times, I have to self reflect to get re-centered. I  quickly reminded myself of my children's temperaments and how I needed to use that to get what I wanted.


Tips:

  1. Understand that temperament is biology. There is nothing you can do about it. It's nature's gift to us to show our individuality. There is nothing you can do to change it, so don't try to.  Your child's temperament is not a reflection of you. It's a reflection of their own uniqueness.

  2. Understand your temperament and how it is different from your child's. Use that to understand how to respond to make things more effective or more challenging. Ask yourself if my child is already over emotional, if I scream, I'm sure that is going to make them cry. We are able to tailor our responses from our children, even other adults. Be aware of how your personalities clash and/or compatible.

  3. Just respect it- it is what it is. And don't compare it to another child, as if one is better than the other. No one's temperament is better than the other just because it appears to be more tolerable. There is no competition when it comes to temperament.

  4. Always model what you want to see from your children. If I always go off when frustrated, it's natural for children to learn that same behavior. This is challenging because we are human. But we are our child's first teacher. You have to literally live in the light you want your child to follow.

  5. Avoid any situations that you know are a hazard. Some children are sensory sensitive. High stimulation, too much noise, lots of people, can be anxiety provoking. Find a way to prepare for the moments you know will be tough.

  6. Focus on the present moment. Key in to what is happening now. Don't project things in the future, and don't live in the past. Work on what's in the moment so that you always address things with a fresh perspective.

  7. Try to find a way to appreciate both negative and positive attributes of your child. Being emotional is not a bad thing. Always feed your child positivity, or find a way to refrain it. I also tell Kennedy when she is upset, that it's okay for her to be experiencing an emotion, but what happens if we stay in that emotion for too long? Never label your child as bad. Those thoughts stick in your child's brain, and children begin to believe what it is people they trust is telling them. Once you label a child bad, it can lead them to doing bad things, because they already have the title.

  8. And lastly SELF CARE- find a way to always recenter yourself by spending time apart from your child to be self reflective, and take a break.

We will never get it 100% right. But today I finished my first photo shoot with my crazy family. I don't care that it took 4 hours, I got it done, and that's all that matters. By understanding that my girls are human, and I am human. We cried, laughed, got frustrated, and ran around...but we ended happily. 

A few outtakes before I get the finished product :-)


"Feelings" Matter

Happy, Sad, Mad, Scared....

Yes, we all have had a mix of emotions experienced in our lifetime, but did you know that very young children do too?

Karter practicing her deep breathes at 18m.

Karter practicing her deep breathes at 18m.

As early as 18 months children start to display empathy. This is not to be confused with sympathy. Empathy is the ability to feel another person’s pain and having an urge to want to soothe it. Empathy fuels connection and sympathy drives connection. This is a way for children to begin to understand how other people feel, even when they don't feel that way. This concept is introduced in early infancy. For example, when a baby cries and mommy or daddy comes to soothe them, this begins the process of learning how feelings and emotions connect with others. This continues to develop, as a child learns that certain cries or screams deem different reactions from caregivers. i.e. I need to be changed, held, fed, sleep, etc. 

WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT?

Understanding one's feeling early on can impact the connections children make as adults. Studies show that children who are empathetic tend to do better in school, in social situations, and in their adult careers. These skills provide a more compassionate relationship between individuals big and small. Most importantly we want to raise children who want to help one another, so that they can have a better understanding of the world around them.

HOW CAN WE DO THIS?

I like to use feeling identification to continue to teach my children the importance of empathy but also how to process feelings for themselves.

 

It’s the power of understanding that it’s okay to experience an emotion as long as you know how to process it.
— Mommy Wells

 

For a young child who experiences several emotions daily, having adults who validate those emotions as "real" can be substantial and gives them the ability to transfer that same notion to peers. For example: Karter is into the "it's mine" phase, no matter if it's hers or not. She will take Kennedy's toys and claim them, as well as other children her age. I will begin to explain to her "that makes Kennedy sad when you take her toys." She has begun to understand sad and hates for her sister to feel that way. Therefore giving back her toy because she feels empathy for her sister.

Understanding feelings helps children problem solve. As adults we can introduce this concept by labeling and validating our child's feelings very early. When your child is feeling sad, tell them, wow you look sad. If they are angry, tell them that. This makes them feel important. For a child they feel as if my parent really understands me. The worst thing a parent can do is to tell a child that they are not allowed to feel a certain way because they are a child or to tell them to suck it up. This can be very dis-empowering. As parents we don't need to place band aids to cover up the feeling, we focus more on the healing process to encourage growth.

To take it to the next step, begin to offer coping strategies. As adults we can't be productive if we stay in a certain emotion...mad, sad, angry, jealous. I like to teach my children that it's okay to experience feelings but what do we do about them. For example, if Kennedy is angry about doing homework, I will acknowledge that by stating "wow you seem upset you have to do homework" (i.e. validate). Then I'll go on to say "what can we do to make it better for you" (coping strategy). Same with my toddler Karter, "you are so SAD you have to share your toy" (validate). "Can you give mommy a hug to help you feel better or take turns" (coping strategy). This habit will allow your child to begin to understand their own emotions, but also how to get relief.

Here are some strategies I use to help teach my children the concept of feelings and emotions. 

 

As adults we have to give our children the tools for better outcomes in the future. Leading to healthy adult lifestyles.
— Mommy Wells

1. Books!!! This is awesome for toddlers as well as adolescents. Reading is the tool to help spark conversation. At beginner level they can begin to learn what feelings are and the faces to match. For older children this can be more about how to process feelings. Here are a few books I love.

2. Feeling Flashcards! This is just a extension of a book. It is more specific in nature. I use flashcards as a way to have conversations about the "feeling" and the moments my children have felt that way. Sometimes kids will describe a feeling and it's totally different from what they are displaying. Kennedy gets frustrated and angry confused. Although they may look the same they warrant different responses. This is a great way to make sure your child's feeling matches what they feel so that they have a better understanding on what to do with it.

3. Feeling Charts! When a child is experiencing a emotion, this could be a great quick reference to help children process quickly. I hung this up in my baby girl's room. When she gets upset, I'll point and say the feeling, and then try to redirect her behavior, or offer her a coping strategy such as blow some bubbles, count to 10, get a hug, rest, etc.

NOTE: If we are asking children to process emotions, be mindful about  providing tools to help them process. Sensory items are great to help kids calm down, it literally slows down their heart rate. Offer a "calm space" for them to sqeeze a stress ball, hit their pillow, take deep breathes. Sounds familiar right? As adults we need to call a friend, listen to music, go workout. Same premise, same purpose. 

4. Videos! You wouldn't believe how my toddler is already obsessed with YouTube. She loves watching some of the most weirdest videos of people opening eggs, or people being silly. I use this to my advantage. I have found some pretty amazing feeling songs. This is another reminder of how great sensory integration can be. Music is tied to memory.  Check out "Super Simple Songs", they not only have an amazing "feeling song" they offer a palette of toddler/preschool friendly music. Check Karter out!

5. Pretend Play! Self explanatory, it's the foundation of learning for children. Use puppets to act out problem solving scenarios. Great learning tool and children love them!

 

Last Thoughts!

Our early childhood experiences transpire into our adult lives. The more that goes into prepping our children the more impact we will have regarding their future.

Please check out my Pinterest account for all great ideas in regards to childhood emotions and feelings!

Effective "Chart" Making

BEhavior Charts, reward charts, chore charts, potty charts just to name a few....

It's great that parents come up with many different ways to get our kids to comply with our rules. One way we do this is by creating a chart that is a visual reminder for kiddos to stay on task, or be motivated to do whatever it is we are requesting. Little Johnny goes to his room and the first thing he notices is his chart, and boom "magic" he does what is displayed and gets his sticker or candy, right? Wrong!! 

Online forums will tell you to make a list of all required task or chores you want done, and all day the child is to follow to your expectation to get the reward. Well this is not totally wrong, but can be totally unrealistic. How challenging is it to be perfect all day as a 5 year old? Even I as an adult cannot stay on task, or follow all orders requested by my boss daily. Sometimes as parents I believe we forget how young our child's mind can be, and how immature the brain functions. We expect for them to comply, 99% of the time, with little room for error. This can be a major set up for the child to fail, and increase stress on the parent. Well I am here to tell you we all have had it wrong. Allow me to share some effective tips when creating any type of chart that will increase the behavior you are seeking, all while making your child motivated to do so. 

Daddy Wells using a "chart" to go over letters and numbers. Charts work...learn how

Daddy Wells using a "chart" to go over letters and numbers. Charts work...learn how

Chart Making Tips

1. ONE behavior at a time-This is the most effective tool of them all! Very challenging because most parents lump a lot of behaviors together. As parents we place every negative behavior on a chart, and tell Johnny if he doesn't do all those negative behaviors he can get a reward. For a child this can be overwhelming. It's just too much, and so when they fail at one they are not encouraged to do the others. I would start by thinking about your child's most challenging behavior, the behavior that is primary to the others or drives the others. For instance when Kennedy was in preschool she would bite and hit. For me biting was more "bad" then hitting. The goal is to focus on one, fizzle the chart out, and work on another. The child is empowered to complete the next task because they feel good about completing the first. If you're really effective, the most challenging behavior, if tackled, will diminish the others.

2. Positive Reinforcement-When you label the chart, use a title or word of the behavior you "want" to see. This is like the red button in the elevator. You're told not to press the red button and somehow it makes you want to touch it more. Stating what you would like to see, makes it easy for the child to follow. Example: When I tell Karter "no throwing", she immediately throws. But if I say "calm hands", she shows me her calm hands. This takes practice. Before creating the chart think about the behavior you want to see "more" of. Begin using it in your everyday conversation so your child understands what it is you're asking of them. So for a kid who doesn't listen, I would place "listening ears" on the top of the chart. "No hitting" change to "gentle hands", kids who scream "soft voice". Again this encourages them to succeed because they know exactly what mommy/daddy is expecting. It feels positive and promising.

3.  Small and Simple-Make the steps incredibly small and simple. I really like to allow my kids to feel like they can do it. Great to help build your child's self esteem! It can be tough to follow a rule all day. Notice the times your child negative behavior increases or is most present. So if your child screams more in the afternoon, simplify your chart only focusing on the 3 hour period in the afternoon and reward with a sticker every half hour. I love to do this for homework time at my house. Kennedy loves to complain after school about homework, even though she knows she has to do it. Her chart is labeled "Positive homework vibes"- the behavior I want to see. I created a chart that marks off 4p-6p, 30 min increments. Every 30m that Kennedy displays "positive homework vibes" she places a check mark. The more specific the better. Again be realistic, once the child has mastered a few hours you can continue to increase, and increase, until it is no longer needed.

NOTE: if your child can earn 6 stickers/checks/etc during the allotted time, I would not expect for them to get all 6 to get the reward. You know your child best. If your child is very defiant, start small allowing them to earn 2 stickers. This increases there motivation to want to strive for more.  Rule of thumb is to cut in half, and increase the challenge as you see them increase the behavior. This is the same for weekly rewards. Kids need to have a since of pride,"Mom I can do it, so I want to do it more" (hopefully).

4. Daily and Weekly-Make daily and weekly rewards. This is pretty self explanatory. Children NEED instant gratification. No way can a child wait until Friday for an accomplishment produced Monday. Similar to a dog, when he does the trick/goes to the potty we reward right after to encourage them to do it again. Daily rewards can be simple and no cost at all. Ex. Stay up 15 minutes past bedtime, read an extra story at bedtime, extra electronic time, etc. Most importantly allow your child to help you come up with rewards. Nothing is more painful then rewarding your child with something they don't like. This is the easiest way to lose the child's interest. Should you go out and purchase expensive toys, NOT AT ALL!  The point is to increase something they already enjoy. Weekly rewards can be low cost. Be creative and practical. 

IDEA: Together me and Kennedy made a list of fun inexpensive rewards she would like. Ex: Special play dates, pick her favorite meal for dinner, $1 Target section greatness, etc. We placed in a box, and she had the ability to pick out a reward weekly. Super fun craft idea as well (have the child design the box to their liking)!

5. No Double Consequences-Do not mix rewards with punishment. If your child does not do the task, they simply don't get the reward. Double consequences is never a good idea. Again this gives the child little motivation to start over. I love positive reinforcement. Kids know when they are bad, they rarely are praised for being good. Everyday is a new day to start over. Never allow the frustration from the previous day impact the child's ability the next.

6. Fizzle Out-Lastly! Gradually decrease rewards with social acceptance. Children are creatures of habit. After a few weeks/months of heavy rewards for a specific behavior soon it will become part of their routine. Just be aware of how much your child is motivated by the reward, and make sure it's more focused on accomplishing the behavior. Praise them heavily, continue to make a big deal out of it when they do it, but don't offer a reward. You can then begin your new behavior/task you want to work on.

Final Thoughts

We are all motivated by something. Adults work hard to get rewards out of life. This is the same for children. Some parents argue kids should do what's told simply because they don't have a choice. This is all well and good, but it's just not true. They do have a choice, and if they choose "no" each time, you are then left frustrated, and non effective. We are raising children in a different generation. Advertisements are heavy, and the need for gratification has increased. Allow this to work in your favor. In the end it will save you from lots of stressful moments. And at the end of the day, you're the one who really won!

FYI: All resources below we're found on Pinterest! Click my Pinterest link to see some of my favorite charts to use!

Overcoming Doctor Visits

It is natural for young children to have fear around going to the Doctor. The first 2 years of a child's life is dedicated to doctor visits that require vaccines, strange instruments, and people in your child's personal space that they don't know. This is not only anxiety provoking for the chid, but can be stressful on the parent. Especially when the nurse ask for you to be the one to hold down your child as they quickly gauge needles in their little arms and legs. And if your toddler is anything like mine, the crying spell can lead all the way to the car. The shots will never be easy, yes they will still cry. These helpful tips will allow your child to feel safer, and present more calm. Easing the child, eases the parent. And I'm all about making a parent's job easier. 

1. How you interact with the doctor models how your child will respond. Be positive, the doctor should be your friend. The more a child knows that mommy/daddy trust this person, they can begin to trust them too. 

2. Pretend play! Down below is a example of a doctor kit that I allow Karter to use as she engages in imaginary play. I let her play doctor, and when she pretends to give me a shot I'll say "ouchy, that hurt, but mommy is being brave". This way I'm not ignoring the fact that it doesn't feel good, but I am complimenting her for following through.  I'll then give her a friendly check up using verbal descriptions while she plays, remember the power in "praising" your child. If you give encouragement, the more prone a child will be to achieve the task.

B. Dr. Doctor

B. Dr. Doctor

3. Find a good book. Literature around several topics is a great way to comfort children. Visit your local library and request a book around dr. visits. My favorite is "The Berenstain Bears Go to the DoctorSay "Ahhh!"

4. Allow for them to bring a comfort toy. 

5. Provide lots of hugs and kisses. Because that's exactly what you need when you're hurt. Show empathy, validate their feelings, and never lie. If their getting shots, don't tell them they aren't. This will cause the experience to be worst. And once the trust is broken every doctor visit that follows will be challenging.

6. And the most important tip: FIND THE RIGHT DOCTOR. There are several pediatricians that are not child friendly, weird right. Find someone that presents like a person you would want to see as a child. This can be trial and error. But if this person is someone you need to trust with your child's health, then it's worth the battle.



The Power of Our Words

A well known research study done by Betty Hart and Todd Risley (1995), found that some children are introduced to a maximum of thirty million words by their 4th birthday. Those same children were followed into grade school and excelled in reading, received higher test scores, in addition to having an extensive vocabulary.

How so you ask...The Power of our Words.

Parents and caregivers are the child's first teacher. Children have the ability to began recognizing language pre-natal (in the womb), and this continues to expand and be most vital until age 3. Expanding a child's early language development happens by increasing the parent child relationship. This doesn't mean you have to go around reciting Shakespeare, this simply means you have to master the art of speaking to your child. Babbling is cool and all, but speaking with diction and adult like language is best. This way they can master the art of communication.

Remember these key components:

1. Be Positive- always model what you would like to hear from your child. Use your manners, be attentive, and allow for them to have time to talk back. These are all effective communication techniques that transpire into adulthood.

2. Be Descriptive- explain what you are doing, and describe what they are doing. Children will began to recognize that what you are explaining is what they are doing, and will connect the two. 

All in All...just talk more!

For more information regarding the power of language. Please check out this cool initiative.

http://thirtymillionwords.org/