Sunday, January 25, 2015

Book Review - The OK Book

This week in the first grade classrooms I will be presenting a lesson on the importance of trying new things and accepting that some things we are just "OK" doing.  This message is beautifully written in The OK Book by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld.  The book is simply written and it encourages everyone (including adults) to try many different things in life to figure out what we are just OK doing and what we will be very successful at.  Even though we are not good at everything we try we should remember to have fun experimenting with a myriad of new activities - because after all that's how we will find out what we are really great at.  In the classroom - the students will be thinking of the things they are an "expert" at and the things that they are just "OK" at.  It's important to let children know the things that you are ok at so they are open to that possibility in themselves.  The book talks about being an OK skipper, an OK climber, and an OK lightning bug catcher.  Being OK leads to the discovery of all the things we will eventually or immediately be great at.  In our society, we tend to focus on finding the one thing we are great at.  When we should be focusing on the journey of finding our individual strengths and weaknesses in our lives.

This book is a nice reminder to all of us to engage in life just for the sake of it.  I encourage all of you to find out and celebrate all of the things that you are OK at in your life.

Monday, January 19, 2015

How to stop siblings from squabbling

I'm sure as a parent you've had those moments when you look at your beautiful children and wonder why they won't stop squabbling and screaming at each other over the most minor difficulties.  I have had many of these moments as a parent myself and I was happy to find an article in the recent Parents magazine that gave some solutions to this ongoing issue.  If you are willing to put in the work, and frankly who isn't, you can change the pattern of fighting with your kids.

You can start by referring to your children as a team as much as possible.  Praising their positive interactions and having siblings feel like they are working together instead of opposing each other will naturally help them feel like more of a unit.  Help your children by setting up these situations in your home.  This can be done by providing opportunities such as fort building, baking, and even setting the table together.  

Try to stay out of the conflict resolution as much as possible (unless it is becoming physical, verbally abusive or emotionally heated). If your children have been given the tools to name their emotion and come up with a compromise that will solve the situation they need to have the opportunity to practice and hone these skills.   If you do need to get involved make sure it is in the role of mediator.  Have your children take turns expressing their side of the story - without insults.  Then have them work out solutions to the problem - they may need some adult support in coming up with solutions.  Evenutally, they will learn to resolve their disagreements on their own.

The keys to conflict resolution are in your hands to be taught to your children - learning to express themselves calmly, listen to each other, validate another persons perspective, and come to an agreement.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Time-Out Guidelines

When your child needs a consequence for misbehavior a time-out is a good choice for both of you to be able to calm down without raising your voice.  A time-out involves removing your child from the things he/she enjoys and having the opportunity to re-group.  The time-out area should be a location that is convenient for you.  For example, using a downstairs chair would be inconvenient when the issue happened upstairs.  Ensure that while your child is in time-out they don't have the opportunity to engage in conversation with others or watch a sibling who is playing a game or watching TV.

Time-out should be one quiet minute for every year of your child's life.  Remember the time-out doesn't begin until your child is quiet and calm.  This will be a process and it may take some time to get to those minutes of quiet and calm.  Be patient and calm yourself so as to model for your child the appropriate behavior.  Once the quiet time has begun you may want to use a timer to help yourself remember when the time-out is over and so your child will know to listen for the timer, instead of constantly asking when they can get out.

If your child leaves the time-out area, say nothing and calmly return them to their spot.  This rule also applies if your child misbehaves when in time-out.  Remember your child is looking for a reaction, any reaction from you, so don't give them one!

When your child's time is up, ask them if they feel ready to get up.  If the answer is yes then have your them apologize if necessary and resume their play.  If your child doesn't answer, is rude/yells, or acts angry then start the timer again.

When starting time-outs with your child expalin the process to them, be consistent, do not engage in a conversation with them and ensure that your child is calm before they leave the time-out space.  It will take time to extinguish the problem areas that you are targeting but it is time well spent.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Helping your child learn social skills in the digital world

The holiday season is now over but the digital presents and presence remains.  The question is how do we teach our children the human contact skills they still need in this digital age?  In a recent Parents magazine article from January 2015 they posed this exact question.  Many children struggle with making eye contact, reading body language/tone of voice in others, and having a face-to-face chat with friends and adults.  These deficits exist primarily because of the amount of tech time that children encounter on a day to day basis.  You can help your child learn these necessary skills by modeling proper social skills.  Start by leaving electronics off the table when eating with your family.  Use this time to instead practice conversation skills at the dinner table as a family.  You can encourage everyone to share a good thing about their day and something that made them feel sad, worried, or angry. Encourage everyone at the table to ask questions, listen actively, and offer advice when needed.  

Another way to show your children that personal interactions are more important than digital ones is to hold off on answering that text when you are in the middle of a conversation.  You can also help your child by helping them learn to recognize the nonverbal cues and emotions of others.  This can be done when reading a story together or role-playing.  At these times ask your child how the person is feeling and why they think they are feeling this way.  

Lastly, give your child the opportunity to practice these social skills when out in the community.  Too often we act as our kids' spoke person - we ask the librarian if a book is in at the library, we answer questions for them that friends and family ask them - you get the idea.  Next time you are out in the community, let your child order for themselves at a restaurant, when at the deli counter at the grocery store tell your child to ask for your order, at a store have them ask the employee the location of a certain item.  Have your child call to set up their own play dates - if necessary write a script for them to use during these times to make them feel more comfortable.   Once these steps have been put into place your child may surprise you by initiating a conversation with you instead of staring into a mobile device.