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Archive for January, 2011

The Goddard School Helps Build Confidence to Defeat Bullying

Preschool chain invites families to discover how playful learning nurtures skills to help prevent bullying

Throughout 2010, bullying has been on the rise at all levels of education. In an effort to combat this growing problem, the nation’s leading preschool franchise, The Goddard School, is reaching out with a renewed vigor to help families discover the benefits of playful learning at an early age and how it can prevent bullying. With their proprietary FLEX™ Learning Program, designed to build children’s self- confidence through play, The Goddard School hopes to break the cycle of bullying and halt a national trend.

According to Dr. Kyle Pruett, a child psychiatrist, published author, and advisor to The Goddard School, the success and enjoyment that preschool children experience through playful learning can help develop self-confidence. Confidence, along with strong parenting and learning to interact in a social group, is an important factor in helping children stand up to bullies.

“Confidence comes from competence, and there’s no better way for a child to discover competence than through play-based learning,” said Pruett. “When children learn through play, they become independent thinkers capable of solving problems themselves instead of seeking help from parents or teachers. That’s a huge self-confidence booster.”

Playful learning has been at the heart of The Goddard School’s core curriculum from the beginning. This approach to learning, which helps introduce children to new skills in a playful and engaging way, is supported by a growing body of research from Play for Tomorrow, the consortium behind the respected playful learning movement.

“We make learning enjoyable and we build in lots of opportunity for each child to experience the satisfaction of success,” said Joe Schumacher, CEO of Goddard Systems, Inc., franchisor of The Goddard School. “A key benefit of this approach to learning is its emphasis on building self-esteem and confidence as children try, and succeed at, new challenges. A confident child is much less likely to develop into a bully or to accept bullying from another child.”

To jumpstart this initiative, The Goddard School will be hosting the Goddard Community Games event February 5 in communities across the nation. The focus will be on fun and enrichment, but also teach children about playing well with others and accepting each other’s differences. The event will also give families across the nation an opportunity to join with their children in playful learning programs selected from The Goddard School’s enrichment curriculum, including Sign Language, Yoga, Nutrition and “Rock ‘n’ Tot” pre-dance and creative movement.

“In our preschools, playful learning activities not only equip children with specific skills and knowledge, but also teach them about friendship, compassion, cooperation and kindness,” said Sue Adair, Director of Education at Goddard Systems, Inc. “In fact, as a part of this special day of fun and learning, the children will be involved in a ‘Good Deed’ – an outreach program that will benefit the local community. As we foster a sense of accomplishment and purpose in each child, we build a foundation of self-confidence that we believe is the best defense against bullying.”

To learn more about bully prevention in preschool and beyond or The Goddard School, visit http://www.goddardschool.com/games.

Raising a Generous Child

The ability to give unselfishly to others is not a quality people are born with. Experiences we have and the values we are taught form the basis for the choices we tend to make in our lives regarding generosity. Similar to other behavioral and physical growth stages, researchers have found that children’s moral behaviors also evolve in developmental phases.

Usually young children up to about five years of age are a bit self-absorbed and fairly unaware of other’s feelings. They tend to believe that they should have whatever it is that they want. At around four-and-a-half to five-and-a-half years of age, children like to please adults and are more willing to be coached.

As a child’s moral reasoning develops, parents can model generous behaviors and discuss the importance of generosity. Children will more easily grasp a value such as generosity if they have early and frequent real-life exposure to it. Setting examples and reinforcing good manners at this stage will go a long way.

Don’t despair if your little one seems quite selfish. It’s almost as nature intends for us to learn to love ourselves before we can love others. Remember that a child’s behavior and train of thought will go through various transitions and eventually even a self-centered preschooler can become a warm and generous individual.

By giving your children many opportunities to experience the wonderful feeling of giving to others, they will likely grow up to be generous adults.

Could We All Be Bullies?

The majority of American parents have become increasingly worried about the probability that their children will be bullied, and they’ve begun to ask for solutions. A recent Harris poll found that two-thirds of parents worry that their preschool/kindergarten children will be bullied. Though bullying has been a part of human experience since before recorded time, our shrinking world increases its presence and possibly forecasts an increased toll to our children. My grandparents believed, ‘what didn’t break you, made you stronger’; today, we’re a little more worried about the ‘breaking’ coming before the ‘strengthening’ – especially among our youngsters.

Bullying is a problematic, but not inevitable, part of human interpersonal business. It differs from the usual scrapes and chafes of everyday life because of its intentional nature. Toddlers and preschoolers are busy working on their unique sense of self, using newly learned personal pronouns to announce what’s theirs. This includes their toys, body parts and random objects that catch the eye (see Toddler Property Laws in my book, ‘Me, Myself and I’). So, when someone unknowingly violates one of these property laws, ‘No, mine!’ gets screamed and a brief, small (in the scheme of things) social encounter of an aggressive nature may occur. A parent or teacher usually handles such incidents with some helpful words and – it’s on with the day.

Bullying, however, is an intentional, aggressive act – social or physical – with the sole aim of intimidating a peer. Such acts happen daily on the margins of adult supervision and as such are witnessed by most peers. Most of the children we know have either been a perpetrator, victim or bystander – since as long as they can remember, these three jobs may even be a continuum.

We are born with a drive to master the world around us, and a portion of selfishness and aggression seems to be part of everyone’s tool kit. Parents begin early by helping their children get the ‘dosage’ right, helped along by culture and society’s expectations. One of nature’s partners in this process is the innate capacity for empathy which shows up, developmentally, in the middle of the second year of life. Remember the toddler offering (temporarily) his binky or blankie to a sad friend?  How do we get from there to Michele Anthony’s descriptions of the painful social bullying in her Little Girls Can Be Mean: Four Steps to Bully-proof Girls in the Early Grades in just a few short years? Well, we could go on forever, but in this article’s worth of advice, I know parents are pretty sure they’d like to strengthen their child’s defenses against distressing stuff.

Supporting an early drive to care for one another is the winning strategy. The brain –and its hormonal partners- treat acts of kindness and caring with the same special care as it does warm human relationships. The ‘relationship hormone’, oxytocin, increases whenever such acts are performed, improving our capacity to regulate our emotions and get our aggression and selfishness under control. If parents can ‘catch’ their children in small acts of kindness and add a few words to explain why this feels good – to them and to the child, and why they value it so highly – resilience to bullying when parents are not around is under construction.

Speaking up about how we treat each other is an especially powerful tool in anti-bullying strategies because it has the power of majority.  Bullying feeds on our silence. Let’s help each other and our children find our voices.

Your Toddler’s Development: Hitting, Kicking, Biting

It is important to understand the reasons behind your child’s developmentally appropriateyet unacceptablehitting, kicking or biting behaviors. Try to consider your child’s point of view.

Some frustrations may include:

  • She cannot fully verbally express her feelings.
  • She does not have fully developed self control.
  • She is defending herself from an “attack” from another child, whether it is hair pulling, toy grabbing, etc.
  • She is experimenting with cause and her effect on the world.
  • She’s tired.
  • She’s hungry.
  • She’s over stimulated.
  • Sometimes, she may not even have a reason.

These are just some scenarios that may prompt your toddler to believe that hitting is a justifiable response to her frustration. And, toddlers may not always realize that hitting or other inappropriate behaviors hurt, or she just may not be able to control herself. As a parent, your job is to safely redirect her away from those behaviors. Here are some ways to do just that:

Respond immediately. Acknowledge your toddler’s feelings and provide a lesson in positive behaviors. Using a firm, nonthreatening voice, tell her, “No! I know you want a turn but we do not hit! Hitting hurts! Use your words.” And then redirect her attention. If your child still feels the need to hit, perhaps provide a “Mad Pillow.” Purchase a silly looking pillow that your toddler is allowed to hit when she feels the need to physically express her frustration. This will allow her to experiment with hitting, though it will typically evoke giggles as soon as it surfaces.

Focus your attention on the victim—even if that’s you! This demonstrates compassion, teaches your child that bad behavior does not gain attention and helps her to understand her actions. Be sure to provide plenty of praise and positive reinforcement when she does use her words to express feelings instead of negative behaviors, and be specific with your praise. (“You shared nicely with your sister. That makes me happy!”)

Don’t allow your child to benefit from negative behaviors. If your toddler used negative behaviors to take a toy from another child, don’t allow her to keep it. If she finds that her approach results in her benefit, she’ll do it again.

Don’t force an apology. Doing so removes value from the apology. Instead, model the appropriate behavior. Tell the victim, “I am sorry that you are hurt.” Use words that describe feelings, “I am sorry that your sister took your toy and made you sad.”

Learning positive behaviors and self-control can take time. In the meantime: Be consistent. Stay calm. Look for teachable moments and opportunities to prevent negative behaviors. And most importantly, always keep a sense of humoryour child won’t be two forever!

The Goddard School Sponsors Play-Focused Goddard Community Games Event

Nation’s Leading Preschool Chain Shares the Power of Playful Learning with Families

The Goddard School® believes in the power of play for learning. In an effort to spread the word to families across the nation, the educational preschool will sponsor the Goddard Community Games on Saturday, February 5. The event will involve children and their families in a variety of playful learning activities based on the core curriculum and enrichment programs that form an integral part of The Goddard School’s proprietary FLEX Learning Program.

Playful learning is not a new concept at The Goddard School. It has been at the heart of their curriculum from the beginning and is reflected in an approach to learning that presents new skills to children in a playful and engaging way.  Today, supported by a growing body of research from Play for Tomorrow, the consortium behind the respected “playful learning” movement, The Goddard School hopes to encourage families across the nation to recognize and celebrate the power of play for learning in their own children.

“When an activity is fun, children are engaged and eager to learn – they flex their mind and body,” says Joe Schumacher, CEO of Goddard Systems, Inc., franchisor of The Goddard School.  “Play helps them become happy, confident learners.”

During the Goddard Community Games event, families will have the opportunity to enjoy a “hands-on” playful learning experience with a variety of programs, ranging from Sign Language, Yoga and Nutrition to World Cultures Voyages, Everyday Math and “Rock ‘n’ Tot” pre-dance and creative movement. The focus will be on fun, as parents and their children share in a day of discovery and enrichment.

“The children attending The Goddard School today are the leaders of tomorrow,” says Sue Adair, Director of Education at Goddard Systems, Inc. “Our teachers nurture each child’s self confidence and foster their lifelong love of learning by incorporating teacher-planned and child-directed learning activities into each day. When children enjoy learning, they take away not only knowledge of the task or concept but a sense of personal accomplishment that prepares them for a successful journey through life.”

To learn more about the Goddard Community Games and The Goddard School, parents are encouraged to visit www.goddardschool.com/games.

Sleeping Through the Night

A good night’s sleep is essential for both you and your baby.  The sooner your little one is sleeping well through the night, the sooner you can return to a beneficial sleep routine as well.

Newborns tend to wake frequently during the night until they reach about three months of age.  This is when most babies begin to sleep for longer periods of time and develop a regular sleep pattern.  By six months of age, most babies are able to sleep through the night, which can be anywhere from five hours on.

To help your baby reach the “sleeping through the night” goal, be sure to establish consistent bedtime and naptimes.  Also, develop a bedtime routine that will be repeated in the same order, at the same time each night.  Consistency is the key in helping your baby develop a healthy sleep pattern.  Find appropriate activities for your baby’s bedtime routine that will help her become calm and relaxed. If a certain activity, such as bathing, seems to be too stimulating, consider moving that activity to another time of day.

It’s also okay to wake your baby in the morning or rouse her from a nap if she is sleeping longer than you would like.  This will help her establish a healthy sleep schedule and to wake at the same time each day.

Putting your baby down to sleep when she shows signs of drowsiness, but is not yet asleep, will help her learn to fall asleep independently.  This is advantageous to helping her fall back to sleep if or when she wakes during the night.  Rather than crying for you to hold or feed her, she’ll be able to quietly fall back to sleep on her own.

Don’t be discouraged if these techniques take a while to work or don’t work for your baby.  Each baby’s needs are different and there are various sleep training techniques available.  Consult your baby’s doctor for other suggestions and remember to remain positive and consistent.

Learning to Play Together: A Parents’ Guide to Bully Prevention in Preschool and Beyond

In addition to their ABCs and 123s, preschool children are learning and developing life skills that will shape who they grow into as adults.  One of these building blocks is learning to play well with others and accept each other¹s differences.  Learning this at such a young age is critical, especially since, according to some research, bullying has become more common among two to six year olds.

Preschool-age children will often engage in unfriendly interactions with other children.  It’s the nature of growing up and it’s important to be able to identify the difference between this type of exchange and bullying.

According to Sue Adair, Director of Education at The Goddard School, “Usually, in a bullying situation, the child doing the bullying is intentionally trying to hurt or upset the other child.  A minor social spat is a normal occurrence in childhood play – ­one child grabs a toy from another and the other child cries.  This behavior is not intentional and situations like this actually help children learn to forgive and share.”

“At The Goddard School, we use The Goddard Guide to Getting Along to help instill the importance of courtesy and respect in our Preschoolers through activities, songs and guided dramatic play,” states Adair. “Since children at this age are still learning how to play together, is it an important time to teach them about friendship, compassion, cooperation and kindness.  Along with these traits, we believe the best way to prevent bullying is to build children¹s confidence.  Confident children tend to avoid being bullied and also avoid becoming bullies themselves.”

Tips for Developing Healthy Confidence in Children

  • Set the example. Ron Shuali, Founder of Shua Life Skills and author of Building the 21st Century Child: An Instruction Manual, stresses, “Teachers, parents and childcare providers should be aware of their own behavior all of the time.  Adults serve as ‘models’ for children who respect them and may wish to emulate them.”  Your child will pick up on whatever feelings you convey about yourself ­ whether good or bad.  Try to always speak positively about yourself and your child will follow.
  • Praise and encourage. No matter what your little one does, whether it’s a scribbled mess or a perfect reproduction of the Mona Lisa, be sure to praise them for their effort.  Every bit of praise and encouragement you can give is another boost to their self-confidence.
  • Develop a skill. If your child expresses interest in a particular hobby, help them master it by signing them up for classes or lessons.  As they develop this skill on their own, they will become more enthusiastic about learning and trying new things and feel better about themselves overall.
  • Trust. As your child grows, try entrusting them with age-appropriate responsibilities around the house.  Allowing your child to take on their own responsibilities will help foster their independence and allow your child to feel more confident in making their own choices and decisions.
  • Listen. What your child has to say is just as important to them as what you have to say is to you.  Remember this when your little one is trying to express their thoughts, dreams and fears.  Listen attentively and offer your own advice or guidance should they need it.

Toddler Independence

Testing Limits & Pushing Buttons
Oh, how our toddlers test the limits and press our buttons! Often, it seems, toddlers are torn between wanting to be a ‘big kid’ and wanting to be babied—this can be especially intensified if there is a sibling in the mix. It is important to try to keep a sense of humor about your child’s journey to independence. For a toddler, gaining independence is a whole new world! Toddlers are determined to feel like they are in control. It can be amazing to see your child grow in leaps and bounds right in front of you by making their own decisions and developing their problem-solving skills.

Choose Your Battles—Provide Choices
The more often you offer ‘choices,’ the more in control your child will feel. More importantly, the more in control your child feels, the more confident and independent he or she will become.  Give your toddler choices, but try not to overwhelm him or her with too many. If getting your child to eat breakfast is a challenge, try offering a choice: “Would you rather have scrambled eggs or oatmeal for breakfast this morning?” By making the decision your child’s, you will be surprised at their increased willingness to eat breakfast. If getting dressed is a challenge, consider, does it really matter if your child wants to pair pink polka dots with navy plaid? Would it hurt to let your child wear her fairy wings to the grocery store? As long as their choices don’t hurt anyone—and who wouldn’t smile at a little one in fairy wings in the shopping cart—why not let your child wear his superman cape or her robot boots while you run errands?

Acknowledge Good Behaviors
For parents and children, toddlerhood can be as frustrating as it can be rewarding. We often focus on preventing the negative behavior and overlook the positive. Be patient with your child and provide praise when she’s being good. By acknowledging the good behaviors, children will be more likely to repeat them. Next time your child hangs her coat up instead of throwing it on the floor, puts his toys back in the bin or eats a “no, thank you” helping of broccoli, go heavy on the praise and let him know just how happy you are.

Let Your Child “Help”
Toddlers just love to make us happy. They are so proud when they feel like they are helping us—even in the most boring of grownup tasks. You may be amazed at how eager your child will be to ‘help’ in everyday activities. Try to figure out new ways for your child to do things herself. Your child can certainly help set the table (folding napkins, placing utensils in the right places), relay drink orders (great for developing speech and communication skills), match socks (by size or color) or throw empty containers in the trash or recycling… any of these activities make for great teachable moments. The more your child attempts, fails and tries again, the more she builds her confidence and problem-solving skills. And remember to say, “Thank you! You are such a great helper!”

Create the Foundation
Guiding your child with love, patience and encouragement are the key to creating the perfect foundation for your child’s character and independence. Be more flexible in your guidelines—give your child the opportunity, as often as possible, to make decisions for himself. Don’t be afraid to let go of some of the rules. Save “No!” for when it really matters—in the case of safety or something you feel most strongly about.

Making Time for Small Talk

Just Talk
The most important thing you can do to encourage language and communication is talk to your child. From infant, to toddler, to preschooler and on up through the years, share what you are doing, seeing and feeling. Small talk is a great way to maximize language growth. Always use tone and emphasis, and be sure to respond to your child’s attempts at sounds, words, sentences and conversation.

In Your Daily Travels
Whether at the market, bank or park, talk about what you see and hear along your way. Be descriptive. Chat about characteristics in terms of color, shape, size, what things do or sound like, how they taste, how they feel, how they smell. You’ll be surprised at what your children will absorb—and will share with you some day!

Keep It Simple
Discuss your child’s environment and focus on what is important to them. Every conversation counts. Your daily routine can be full of new words, experiences and feelings for your child. While reading a book together, running errands, making dinner or visiting a relative, ask your child many questions: What are you doing? How does that feel? Why/how does that happen? What happens next?

The Ultimate Reward
As they develop, your child will gain valuable conversation, language and social skills. As a result, the bonds and connections you will form with your child, through even the simplest of coos or the most complex of conversations, are absolutely priceless!