Monthly Archives: July 2009

Teachable moment!

I smiled to myself when I heard President O’Bama encourage the country to use a recent incident as a “teachable moment”.  That’s because ask anyone who has talked to me about their child’s misbehavior and they will tell you it is a phrase I use repeatedly.

The reason why I promote a “teachable moment” to parents is because a child’s misbehavior most often stems from a lack of experience, immaturity, an unmet need or an unreached standard that a child is still attempting to master.  As parents we spend priority time, money and patience on teaching our children how to read, to swim, to play piano, sports and other skills but when it comes to behavior, we often forego the teaching part and rely on punishment to change the situation.

I encourage parents to EXPECT misbehavior in their young children just as you’d expect falls from a beginning bike rider or skater or difficulty in spelling a word or learning math facts from a young student.   When we put behavior in the same realm and think of it along a continuum, we can take misbehavior less personally and respond to the situation with more insight and helpfulness. 

This “teachable moment” strategy doesn’t mean you don’t step in and stop misbehavior when it is happening – but there is definitely a different mindset that comes into play when we acknowledge the fact that children are a “work in progress”.  Stopping misbehavior is necessary and prudent.  Going further, however,  and problem solving with children, listening to both sides in an altercation, letting them come up with solutions are giant steps toward building a child’s social competence and understanding and your own trust and confidence  in their developing moral judgment.

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Children’s Festival – a success!

Family Resources’ Children’s Festival was on Saturday morning and it was delightful! The sun was hidden and the temperature cool, but the warmth and wonder generated by happy, spirited children, playing to their heart’s content, was palpable.

A mom and dad watched their two-year-old pile “pretend boulders” (duct-taped balls of newspaper) into a wheel barrow, haul it over and load them into a waiting wagon.  He then pulled the wagon to a new site, unloaded it and began the process once again.  There was no “watch me, Mama” here or requests for help.  This little guy had work to do and he was on his own mission to accomplish it.  The same was observed at the Car Wash as children dunked their dripping sponges and brushes into the wash basin of water and, with much determination and grit, scrubbed those Little Tyke coops shiny clean!  Other children carried and loaded boxes ( empty, only to the minds of adults) into the back of a big UPS truck – while a friend sat in the driver’s seat.  Boxes in – piled on the shelves;  boxes out – deliveries made.   Real work – real play!  ( Thank you, UPS)

This type of focused pretend play was repeated over and over throughout the morning, in every area.  The excavation site was filled with busy “contractors” operating their dump trucks and loaders full of sand, and doing it the way they’ve observed it being done on the city streets and in their own neighborhoods.   

Cardboard boxes?  Not any more.  They had been transformed into fanciful cars that children climbed in and drove, Flintstone style – some racing each other, others stopping for gas at the I90 Rest Stop  or slowing down for the big, yellow, cardboard school bus. 

Pete’s Speedway was a hugely popular attraction as children clambered around, intent on choosing  from a gigantic selection of match box cars, sending  them zooming down long  tracks with extended inclines.  This was a great spot for interactive play with parents, as witnessed by the equally engaged participation of both adults and kids. 

There was also  a real tow truck, a racing car, a  fire engine, a train ride around the park, a petting zoo – each one fueling exploration and discovery and adding to the bank of background knowledge and experience so necessary for dramatic play to happen.  All of which  leads to future success and school readiness.  Really!

The numerous crafts available did not go unnoticed in spite of all the other activities.  What I observed again this year, as I have in the past, is the careful way each child goes about making  his or her craft their very own – like no other.  We strive to offer crafts that any age can come to at their own level.  There are no dictated “this way only” rules and the variety of attractive materials, ready and waiting to be selected, are an inspiration to every child’s creativity and individuality. 

And I have to mention the Clothesline Art Show where participants paint, standing at an 8-foot long easel, easily accommodating 5-10 painters at a time.  This is a sight that takes your breath away, as two-year-olds to 12-year-olds, stand next to each other in their over-sized men’s shirts as smocks, deep in the delight of creating.  For many of these children, it’s the first time they’ve worked with paint, or at an easel and you can almost predict the ones where this definitely won’t be their last.  The pictures waving and drying on clothesline hung between trees is quite beautiful!

A great deal of carefully thought-out planning goes into Family Resources’ Children’s Festival each year, but each year we find ourselves re-energized and renewed in our belief about the significance of offerring opportunities for simple, real play and choices in our children’s lives  and the impact we can have by modeling this for our families.

Now – what about next year?  Hmmm…the wheels begin to turn already!

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Family Resources Children’s Festival!

Okay, here goes – I’m just going to do it – to boast – to tell it like I see it!   Family Resources Children’s Festival is undeniably and categorically the best event of the season for children and families!  There, that felt good!

Every year the staff at Family Resources, along with very appreciated volunteers, work very hard to come up with activities, crafts and new ideas to represent what we believe is best for children – creativity, resourcefulness, exploration and imagination! And this year, we’ve done it again!

Family Resources  Children’s Festival will be held on Saturday, July 17th, at Myrick Park from 9-12 p.m.  Buttons are available at Family Resources.  They  cost $4.00 in advance or $10.00 for 3; $5.00 the day of the event.  Children under 2 are free.  Scholarship buttons are available – call Family Resources for more information – 784-8125. 

What I think deserves to be understood is that the Children’s Festival is just that – it is for and about children.  And all proceeds from the Festival will go toward continuing Family Resources free parenting programs for families and all who care for children!

You have to experience the Children’s Festival to know how special it is.  Every year we have parents comment on the relaxed atmosphere, how engaged the children are in the activities and how impressed they are with the pure joy their children are having.  I have to admit – so are we!

So stop in to Family Resources and make sure you get your buttons before they sell out!  I’ve checked the advanced weather and it’s predicted to be a glorious weather day.  The rest is up to us – and we’re ready!  See you there!

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Subtle and gracious assistance

Digging in my utensil drawer looking for a cake server that I don’t often use, I came across an old child’s spoon – our daughter’s when she was a toddler.  I had forgotten about it.  It was short handled with a slight curve to it so that when a child scooped some food onto the bowl of the spoon, it would be successfully headed, right on target, to an “open-mouth landing”.  Looking at that spoon and reminiscing  for a few minutes made me recognize how helpful and encouraging this simple tool made a challenging task for any beginning utensil user. 

I like to think that many of the tasks and skills  we want our children to learn and adopt can be helped along more readily by subtle and gracious assistance.  There are myriad “curved spoon” strategies that can help make their learning more positive and successful – training wheels on their first two-wheeler, velcro sneakers, elastic-waist-pants, easy and defined places for toys to be put away (more on this in another post!), low hooks to hang jackets, chubby crayons for little hands to hold, sippy cups for beginning cup drinkers.  Children thrive on learning to be independent and competent.   Many of you can relate to experiencing the thrill a child displays as he arranges his jacket,  just so on the floor, sticks his arms in the sleeves and pops it up over his head.  Bingo! He’s put his jacket on all by himself and his spirit grows!

But sometimes there’s no better  “tool” than a kind and loving adult – who offers to start a child’s  jacket zipper (because zippers can be tricky),  who asks their child, “Can I help you?”  when faced with a seemingly overwhelming clean-up after a vigorous playdate. Skillls are learned through practice and repetition, plus a little help, a little encouragement and lots of trust in the learning process.

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Understand and celebrate the half-year Birthday!

Birthdays are absolutely celebratory times – whether you’re turning one-years-old or 90 years young.  But when I talk to parents whose children seem to have changed overnight – whose behaviors have regressed, whose melt-downs have increased, whose cooperation has disappeared – I find that these children are usually in their half year or very close to it. 

No surprise there!  For it is during this time when children are in a state of disequilibrium – betwixt and between.   The  four- and- a- half-year-old going toward five does not smoothly transition to his fifth year.  If you picture a conformation of building blocks – four blocks, one on top of the other, it would make sense to expect the fifth block to take its rightful place.  No such luck!  In order for the child to fully come into equilibrium once more, things crash, fall apart, scatter – during this half-year milestone – and then regroup in a totally new conformation.  It is during this disequilibrium that a child often displays some new and challenging behavior.

If you have a child approaching their half-way point, take notice.  If you’ve already noticed and are wondering, “What’s happened to my child?” , breathe a sigh of relief.  She is doing what’s she’s supposed to be doing – right on schedule.

So does that mean we just accept this misbehavior because they’re two- and- a- half, or four- and- a- half or five -and- a -half?  Not at all!  Consistent expectations are still appropriate and should continue.  But understanding the developmental process, what is going on within your child – why she’s so clingy or anxious or easily upset – can help us have more acceptance and less fear – that we, as parents, have made some huge mistake.    Once we’re “off the hook”,  it’s easier for us to have a more helpful, positive response!

I can’t help but think that a child, in the throes of  a mid-year “crisis” –  whose behavior is troublesome to us – must also be feeling very unsettled himself.  So, in addition to expecting this child to follow family standards,  try to throw in a little humor, a bit more one-on-one attention, an extra dose of patience and compassion, a recognition and focus on all the POSITIVE  things your child is also doing  and a surprise  hug or two.  Then, take some deep breaths, find some occasional respite time for yourselves and celebrate this important milestone.  Your child is on his way!

( Helpful reading are the series of books by Louise Bates Ames and Frances L. Ilg , Your One-Year-Old; Your Two-Year-Old; etc all the way to your fourteen- year- old.They are available at Family Resources for check-out and all bookstores. )

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