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Archive for the ‘Behavior’ Category

Helping Children Develop an Attitude of Gratitude

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By Jennifer Jipson, Ph.D.

Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

This is the time of year when social media, magazine and news stories and blogs (like this one) encourage us to reflect on the parts of our lives that we are most thankful for and to express appreciation for those who make our lives full. As a parent, my thoughts go immediately to my children. I am grateful to be sharing the experiences of life with them, and I hope that the things I say and do show them how important they are to me. As I write this post, though, I wonder what am doing as a parent to help them develop an attitude of gratitude.   

One place to start is to use the upcoming holidays as a reason to think about how much we appreciate our family members and help your children come up with ways to show them how much we value them. Although gathering with family members may be tricky this year due to pandemic-related health concerns, we can be grateful for the resources of the modern worlthat provide us with many ways to stay connected, even from a distance. Here are some ideas for preschool-age children that might inspire them to feel and show gratitude toward others. 

Art with Heart – Making art for others is an enjoyable childhood activity – not only do children get to create art, but they get to enjoy someone’s enthusiastic response when they receive it. I’m a big fan of process-oriented art in which the focus is on using materials creatively in an open-ended way rather than producing a specific set outcome. Instead of asking children to make a leaf wreath, provide them with a variety of materials and invite them to create something they think Grandpa would like. As they think about Grandpa, encourage them to reflect on what makes him so special, and write down what they say.  You can send Grandpa the artwork in the mail, take a photo and send it to his phone or ask your children to show the artwork to Grandpa over video chat. Include a note in which you share why your children think he is so special 

A Week of Warmth – Print out pictures of family members, turn them facedown and pick a new face from your pile each week. Start a conversation about that special family member in which you help your children reflect on how this person shows care and interest, what they do that your children appreciate and how your children feel when they think about that family member.  Each day of the week, have your children send a short video or text that they think will make that family member feel special. 

Sweet Treats – Invite your children to think of a kind of treat they’d like to make and who they’d like to send it toThis idea is a two-for-one – it has all of the benefits of a fun cooking activity combined with a way to show appreciation for family member far away.  When the family member receives the treat, ask that person to call (or start a video chat) so that your children can explain why they’re thankful for that person in their lives. Pro tip – Make a double batch so you can also leave one out to thank the mail carriers for what they do for your community, or make a triple batch and give one to your children’s teachers. 

Activities like the ones above help children pay attention to what they value about their family members and engage in age-appropriate ways to say, “Thank you for being in my life.” Combining conversations about how children feel with activities they can do to show thanks is the secret recipe for supporting children’s capacity for gratitude 

How to Prevent Meltdowns during the Holidays

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By Jack Maypole, Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

What is not to love about the holidays? There are acres of food, the anticipation of celebrations, traditions and, in some traditions, gifts. From a child’s perspective, it is a winwin. Routines are thrown to the wind, the rhythms of the day (like, say, bedtime or school) are changed over to the holiday pace and, for those who may be quarantining or podding with family or friends this year, there may be guests visiting your home. There’s so much going on and so much novelty. When do we open presents, again?  

From a parent’s perspective, the holidays may feel like a seasonal conspiracy designed to precipitate that dreaded event in any parent’s journey: the meltdown. Parents may have trouble recognizing who their children become when put into the breach of the overstimulation the holidays can bring. The joy of big meals, the hubbub of shared traditions, the sharing of the home and toys and the need to get along with everyone may be too much, leading to tears, yelling, thrown toys and children showing their families that they can go full supernova when they fall apart, spectacularly. (Hey, these can make for some funny memories for years to come, or you may take videos to put aside to embarrass your future high school senior.) In some cases, they can be pretty upsetting or take a while to get past for some children.  
Fortunately, with all of this in mind, there is a lot families can do to prevent the meltdowns in the first place. With a little bit of planning, one can lower the risk of witnessing fruitcake made airborne in a fit of pique or hearing salty oaths muttered to a cousin or houseguest.  

When humans of any age are sufficiently stressed, it can challenge their ability to cope and absorb annoyances or inconveniences. For adults, we have learned to adapt and extend ourselves during the holidays to be at our most polite and on our best behavior (wellmost of us have). We have an enhanced ability to roll with the stresses and quirks of the holiday schedule, leading to our ability to engage in small (or big) talk, connect with our relatives and prepare and deliver on the celebrations. We can behave, usually.  

For infants to children of school age, shifts from the normal patterns of sleep, shifts in meal and snack times and new surroundings or company may lead to them becoming crabby and more emotionally fragile. Whether you are hosting a celebration at home (via Zoom or in person) or whether your family is traveling afar to stay with others, I counsel families to bring some routines and special times with you to support your children emotionally over the holidays. There are some key ways to keep them on track and help them be more likely to hold it together. Have a go bag ready to go this holiday season. 

Are you worried about your picky eater not eating well and getting hangry? Bring his favorite snacks or food items. For my daughter, energy bars and some fruit were a handy goto that kept her smiling and willing to roll with whatever life threw her. 

Are you concerned your child will become edgy if she sleeps poorly? Bring the items that may optimize sleep in a busy time, including a noise machine (or app on your phone), noisecanceling headphones and some favorite books, and create a dedicated space you can escape to for siestas and downtime.  

For older toddlers and schoolage children, alone time may be as important as nap timeGiving children a chance to be on their own or just with their siblings may allow them to recharge and be ready to reenter the holiday fray.  

Preparations to head off meltdowns can start before the holidays themselves begin. I advise that parents talk with their children of all ages in a way that is right for their ages and stages, and give the children a sense of who is coming and what will happen. Keep the dialogue going, and even have them help get decorations or items ready for family members or guests. Praise them for their good work and, in the process, plant the seeds for their enjoyment of this busy time of year.  

For children who may hit the point of no return, there may be some lastminute techniques to head off a meltdown. Keep an eye on the clock, and be mindful of people or situations if you think your child may be having difficulty with them. Like a coach on the sidelines, consider having them take a moment in a quiet place to let them talk through what they are feeling or why they are upset. Redirect and distract them if you think it may help—bust out some crayons or head outside for a walk or a romp to work out the feelings physically if time and weather allow. Take time or make time if you need to. Like us adults, children may have an overflow of energy, but they are just better at playingusing their imaginations and dispelling that frustration. 

You might do all of that. Chances are, you do a lot of this consciously and unconsciously in your daytoday already, but even the most attentive and vigilant parents may find that, in spite of all of their preparation and research, meltdowns may happen anyway. If they occur, do what you can to help yourself and your children leave the crowded area and find some private space. Give children time to emote, and be supportive—it can be tough when you are a child and things don’t go your way. If necessary, delay a return to the bigger group and make some intimate fun – read a book together, sing a song or cast a spell and send those bad feelings packing. If your children are willing to talk about it, let them know that meltdowns happen and, like holidayscan be pretty intenseand it is okay. After a while, they too shall pass, and life will get back to normal.  

Five Books That Teach Children About Caring And Giving

By Lee Scott, Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

Educators have long known that storytelling is an essential part of learning. Stories help children absorb information and connect the story to their experiences. Here are five books that teach the lessons of caring and giving in an engaging manner:

  1. Giving Thanks by Katherine Paterson (Author), Pamela Dalton (Illustrator)

Giving Thanks by Katherine Paterson (Author), Pamela Dalton (Illustrator)

2. Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett (Author), Jon Klassen (Illustrator)

Extra Yarn children's book cover

3. Boxes for Katie by Candice Fleming

Boxes for Katje Book Cover

4. When Stories Fell Like Shooting Stars, Valiska Gregory

When Stories Fell Like Shooting Stars, Valiska Gregory

5. Random Acts, More Random Acts, –and– Kids Random Acts of Kindness by Conari Press

Random Acts, More Random Acts, --and-- Kids Random Acts of Kindness by Conari Press

 

Creative Ways to Teach Your Children to Say Please and Thank You

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By Helen Hadani, Ph.D.
Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

Parents all want their children to be polite and have good manners. One of the first steps is teaching your children to use the magic word when asking for something and then thanking them when they (hopefully) get what they requested. Teaching your children manners is an ongoing process that takes patience and persistence. Young children respond differently to family members, friends and strangers, and the environment also plays an important role, so children often act differently at school than at home. Don’t be surprised if your children’s teachers say they are very polite at school, but you struggle to get a “please” or “thank you” out of them at home.

Here are some creative ways to encourage your children to mind their Ps and Qs:

  • Engage in pretend play that involves asking for something or provides an opportunity to thank someone, such as imaginary tea parties (“Please pass the cookies.”), restaurants (“May I please order another pizza?”) or schools (“Thank you for sitting so nicely during circle time.”);
  • When reading books with your child, highlight when characters are polite and considerate of other people’s feelings (“I bet the bear felt good when his friend thanked him for bringing him some honey.”). It can also be helpful to point out to your children how happy they feel when someone thanks them for doing something good;
  • Close the day with gratitude and giving thanks. At dinner or bedtime, ask each member of the family to say thank you for something that happened that day. If your children are stuck, prompt them with a question like “What was your favorite thing today?” and guide them to say thank you for that thing;
  • Teach your children how to say please and thank you in a different language. This can be a fun way to introduce your children to a foreign language and show them that there are many different ways to be polite.

 

Three Approaches to Teaching Your Child to Be Kind

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By Lee Scott, Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

We all want our children to be happy, well liked and good to others. How do we support our children in learning to be kind? This year, we will want to use same approaches to online interactions since so many children are interacting with classmates, friends and family members through video chats.  

Children develop social-emotional skills in many ways. The three approaches that make the most impact are modeling role playing and playing games, and storytelling. Parents can help to build a foundation for their young children by incorporating these approaches in their families’ daily activities.   

Modeling – Act kind yourself. Modeling is by far the best way to instill kind behavior in your children. Children love to imitate us, and if we act in a kind manner, they will, tooPraise your children when they exhibit kindness, and explain why you thought what they did was a kind thing to do. It’ll become a habit. When you see kindness in others, share your thoughts with your children. “That was so kind of Jane to share her snack with you at school.” In an online situation, compliment your child (i.e., “You waited your turn to speak.  That was great!”). When our children hear the praise we give others, they will want to exhibit the same behavior. Try not to be negative, and redirect your children when they act unkindly. For example, explain how the other person may feel, talk about what your children could have done differently and help your children apologize.  

Role Playing and Playing Games – Create opportunities for your child to play. Your child will act out reallife situations while playing with stuffed animals, robotic toys and dolls. Interacting in unguided play with other children also supports learning to get along with others. Playing games can be part of dramatic play, tooGames help children learn to take turns and develop sportsmanship. Try games where your children need to collaborate with another player to win. Relay races, parachute games and family scavenger hunts are several good choices.   

Reading and Sharing Stories – Read stories where the characters must make decisions about their behaviors. Talk about the consequences of both kind and not-so-kind actions. Children learn through the stories by relating to the characters and the events. Here are some favorites that focus on kindness to get you started: 

  • If You Plant a Seed by Kadir Nelson 
  • I Walk with Vanessa by Kerascoët 
  • Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig and Patrice Barton 
  • The Kindness Quilt by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace 
  • Possum’s Harvest Moon by Anne Hunter 

You can also share stories from your childhood or from your family’s experiences. These are important to young children and can help them learn life’s lessons. 

 

Dealing with the Ups and Downs of a Preschooler

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by Kyle Pruett, M.D. Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

Last evening, our neighborsparents of three children under seven, were sitting out on their porch steps, masked and full of coffee. They said hello as I (masked and at a distance) walked byI paused and asked, How’s it going? Kids asleep? and heard, Thank God” in unison. The mother continued, sometimes it’s been sweet and sometimes sour – very sour. I feel kinda hollowed out in the middle. I really love, both of us love, simply being together with them for more than just a snippet of the weekend, and other times, I feel bottomed out, discouraged.” I thoughtthere is the pandemic family anthem in a nutshell. 

Our young children are feeling much the same these dayskinda hollowed out in the middle, caught between the highs of being together and the lows of losing so much of their active physical and social life. That’s why they can go from angelic to demonic in a few hours or minutes. Parents wonder at such times if they are being good parents in the way they handle these huge swings. Their children know how clueless they feel about how to helpDisappointment is around every cornercan’t do this or that, can’t see your friends or grandma, have to wear that itchy, annoying face covering. As adults, we’ve learned something about coping with disappointment by now, but for our preschoolers and young children, this may be the first time they have had to confront it in such a huge dose. No wonder they and we are upset. They are missing out on some things that we know they need to keep growing up well. Helping them cope requires as much compassion and patience as we have ever mustered on their behalf.  

Advice:  

  1. When they are upset and need us to fix something, most of us just rush in with a tool or solution as soon as we can think of one. Don’do that, at least not right away. 
  2. Listen carefully through the tears for what is wrong. Say it back to them in your own words and ask if you got it right 
  3. Confirm that you get what’s so upsetting without judgment or even if you think it’s a bit ridiculous and that those kinds of feelings do hurt and make us sad. This compassion is less likely to soften your children than it is to strengthen them. It validates them and their feelings as more important to you at the moment than correcting some injustice. 
  4. Limit the amount of pandemic-focused information flowing at them through screens (especially back-ground TV) and from other sources, such as over-heard adult conversations. The most menacing, toxic force in the pandemic’s arsenal other than the obvious mortal threat to our health is its mystery; this scale of not knowing what’s coming is unfamiliar to most of us 
  5. Running on empty,emotionally and physicallyis very hard on everyone in the family. There are many replenishmentout there if you look. A favorite for families with pre-k children is Common Sense Media’s list of 26 Kid-Friendly Documentaries for Families to watch together. Turn off your phones, kick off the shoes and grab healthy snacks. Then snuggle up and let someone else do the entertaining for a while. Don’t forget to breathe. 

Simple Activities to Practice Thoughtfulness and Empathy for Others with Young Children

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Increased amounts of time spent as a family at home provides a great opportunity to help your children understand their roles within your family as well as in the larger community. This article will outline three simple activities that can help your children practice thoughtfulness and empathy both within and outside your home.

Activity One – Messages for Your Community

Have a conversation with your children about members of your community who are essential to our everyday life, such as the sanitation workers, healthcare workers, grocery store workers and postal workers who deliver your mail. Then head outside with some sidewalk chalk and assist your children in creating messages that essential workers from your community might see as they head to work or do their jobs. Your children can leave messages for the mail delivery people near the mailbox or a note for the sanitation workers by where you set out your trash cans. The message could say, “Thank you for all you do” or “Have a great day.” They could draw uplifting pictures, such as smiley faces or sunshine and flowers. This will help your children consider other members of their community and how they can play a role in thanking them for all that they do.

Activity Two – Daily Chore Charts

Talk with your children about taking responsibility for some daily tasks while they’re at home all day. This might include chores, such as making their beds, getting dressed on their own, helping to care for a family pet or assisting with outdoor yard work. Take time to explain why each task might be helpful to another family member or help your children have a better day. Work with your children to create a chart that outlines the daily tasks that you have discussed. Set aside time each day for your children to complete their daily chores. This can be especially helpful during times that you might need to get something done and need your children to be occupied. You can create a goal for them, such as completing all the assigned chores for a full week earns them a reward, like a special dessert or an allowance.

Activity Three – Daily Reflection Art

Set up a space in your home with art supplies where your children will be comfortable working independently. Toward the end of each day, ask your children to draw or paint their favorite and their least favorite activities or moments of their day. Once your children are finished, discuss their artwork with them and why each moment was their most favorite or least favorite. This is a great opportunity to help your children feel comfortable discussing their emotions, understanding how their behavior affects others and discovering how to improve their behavior and their experiences day after day.

Encourage your children to consider their well-being and actions and the well-being and actions of others, which are important factors in fostering their social and emotional growth. In all activities, practice listening actively and being truly present with your children as you navigate your new daily routines together.

Supporting Children’s Positive Behavior While They’re at Home

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By Rorie Wells M.A., CPSI, Education Facilities Specialist – Playgrounds

Why more time outdoors might be the answer that you have been searching for.

Parents are being asked to juggle work responsibilities at home with caring for their children full time. It’s a lot to manage, but there is a simple solution to help cope with the stresses created by these new at-home scenarios while supporting positive behavior from your children. Head outside!

While restrictions have been put on many everyday activities, the CDC continues to recommend that children spend time outdoors as long as they are practicing social distancing procedures. This is for good reason, as time spent outdoors:

  1. Lowers stress levels.
  2. Improves mental health.
  3. Helps reduce hyperactivity.
  4. Promotes healthy development and physical fitness for children and adults.

Perhaps the most relevant benefit of spending time outdoors is that your child will come inside with an increased ability to focus on learning, allowing you to return to your other responsibilities. Here are a few tips for making the most of the outdoor time.

Go with the Flow

When heading outdoors, you don’t have to worry about a concrete plan for activities. Let your children lead the way in exploring their environment. You can introduce loose parts such as buckets, balls, toy cars, trucks or sidewalk chalk, or you can get creative with building, stacking and drawing with your children. Pose questions like, “What will happen if we do this?” or “Can you build a tower as high as your belly button?” or “Can you draw a picture of our family?” Follow your children’s interests for what to do next.

Observe Nature

If you feel you need a more concrete plan when heading outdoors, consider taking a nature hike and observing the world around you. Ask your children what they hear as you walk and discuss what they think is making those sounds. If you don’t have a trail nearby, you can head into your backyard or a nearby outdoor space and listen for different sounds.

Indoor Activities Can Go Outdoors

You can also take some of your children’s favorite books outside and have an outdoor story time or create a nature scavenger hunt and ask your children to find different natural items like something green, something rough, a piece of grass as long as their fingers, a piece of tree bark or a smooth stone. Simple questions and prompts open the door to more involved investigations and learning opportunities for you and your children.

The next time you feel overwhelmed with your dual responsibilities and your children’s behavior is becoming a little more difficult, head outside!

 

Understanding Toddler and Preschooler Emotional Development

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By Kyle Pruett, Jack Maypole and Lee Scott

Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

Little ones all develop differently, and it is a bit of a roller coaster. One day they are walking, and the next they go back to crawling again. Another child may be consistently using the toilet, and then when a baby sister arrives he goes back to wetting his pants and asking for a diaper. We often see children who are confident going to school one day and then suddenly cling to a parent when separating the next day. Some will cling to one parent while acting confident with the other.

Early childhood is an amazing time since our children are growing and changing daily.  It is normal for them to struggle with anger and fears that arise as they grow. They can find many situations challenging, such as being separated from a loved one, moving to a new classroom, coping with having a new baby join the family or just things they see on television or hear from older children. Many of these fears are hard for little ones to articulate, so they may act out, cry, have a tantrum or suddenly become very quiet. The key is to recognize a change and support your children by exploring what is upsetting them and by reassuring them by reinforcing the things your children know. (E.g., “When you go to school, you know we will be there at the end of the day to pick you up.”) You can explore more from there.

It is also important to take a measure of how your child is doing physically. A behavioral change may be caused by the impact of physical issues ranging from coughs and colds to constipation. Does your child appear to feel unwell or is your child acting differently from her baseline? Assure yourself your child is in good health (without fever or other signs of physical illness) and that she is acting within usual schedules and rituals and needs (eating, sleeping, pooping). Finally, are there any other identifiable ongoing factors (new meds, a new diet, etc.)? Other times, issues of sleep changes and clinginess can be common responses to common things, such as a nightmare or a reaction to stress in a sibling or family member.

In addition to making adjustments within their world, young children also begin to test their independence. How many times does your toddler say “no” during the day?  This is all part of how they experiment with the world, to test their locus of control on the environment and to see what happens.

All of these adjustments and reactions to transitions and situations in life are normal.  It is how we react and support our little ones along their paths in development that is important. Our goal is to calm children’s anxiousness and at the same time support the development of essential skills they will need later in life such as resilience, self-regulation and working memory.

Resources:

The Emotional Life of the Toddler, by Alicia F. Lieberman, is a wonderful resource that looks into this roller-coaster ride of being a young child (from one to three years old). “Anyone who has followed an active toddler around for a day knows that a child of this age is a whirlwind of explosive, contradictory, and ever-changing emotions,” Alicia Lieberman writes. The book offers an in-depth examination of toddlers’ emotional development and supports parents and educators with ideas on how to support young children’s development.

Zero to Three is an organization focused on ensuring that babies and toddlers benefit from the early connections that are critical to their well-being and development. They provide a great deal of support in a Q&A format to guide parents through the developmental stages of young children. Check out this article on responding to toddler fears on their website. This section describes natural fears for young children and how to react as parents and educators.

Literature Resources:

Books can often help you talk with your children about their fears. It is through the characters and their situations that the children can begin to understand what they are feeling. Here are a few books we use in our classrooms:

  • Oh My Baby, Little One by Kathi Appelt, illustrated by Jane Dyer
  • Little Panda by Renata Liwska
  • Go Away, Big Green Monster! by Ed Emberley
  • Lots of Feelings by Shelly Rotner and Sheila M. Kelly
  • When Mama Comes Home Tonight by Eileen Spinelli and Jane Dyer

KidsHealth is a trusted resource for physicians, educators and parents, providing information on both physical and emotional development of children. The section for parents provides developmental charts as a reference for children’s growth.

Four Ways to Implement Positive Discipline at Home

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Positive discipline is a popular topic right now. Parents, teachers and other caregivers all want to help raise happy, healthy children, but the constant influx of advice can be overwhelming. To help streamline this information and ensure all Goddard School faculty members, directors and Goddard School owners have up-to-date knowledge of cutting-edge early childhood education topics, GSI offers Goddard Systems University (GSU). GSU is a treasure trove of professional development tools for improving the processes, protocols and culture at Goddard Schools.

Recently, GSU held a webinar on positive discipline. As a mom who struggles to maintain a positive attitude when my son flings his food or has an epic meltdown because I’ve asked him to eat, I immediately signed up for the course. Though it was designed for Goddard School faculty members, some of this great information can apply to parents and other caregivers.

Here are a few of my takeaways from the positive discipline webinar.

1. Positive relationships are the keys to positive discipline.

Caregivers must build a loving, trusting relationship with the children in their care because this relationship sets the foundation for everything. Children need to feel safe and secure; if they don’t, they’re more likely to exhibit challenging behaviors.

2. Step back and determine the reason for the behavior.

The first step in implementing positive discipline is to understand the reasons for challenging behaviors. As adults, we must prevent ourselves from escalating the situation, no matter how frustrated we may feel. Instead, reframe your thoughts about the tantrum. Ask yourself, “What response is the child trying to get from this behavior?”

All behavior, appropriate or not, is a reaction to a stimulus. Use the challenging behavior as a teaching moment to help you figure out what may have caused this behavior. Remember, children learn social-emotional responses, including body language, from adults.

3. Don’t explain appropriate and inappropriate behavior during a meltdown.

During a meltdown, children don’t have the bandwidth to understand rational ideas. That doesn’t mean you should walk away. Instead, show them how to calm down. Some ideas include breathing deeply, squeezing a bear, sitting in a “cozy corner” or blowing a pinwheel. Whatever you choose should focus on helping them get their negative feelings out. Once your children are calm, you can explain why the behavior was inappropriate and reinforce appropriate ways to respond to situations that upset them.

Something that really hit home for me was learning about the message adults send if they walk away from a child during a meltdown. Walking away shows children that it’s better to ignore a problem. Worse yet, children may interpret an adult walking away as their caregiver being detached and indifferent. The results of walking away may show up as children enter adolescence. Despite our best efforts to encourage our children to talk to us when they have problems, they will not feel safe having open discussions with us if they perceive us to have a history of being indifferent.

4. Remember PIES, STAR and ART

Children feel confident when their environment meets their PIES needs: their physical, intellectual, emotional and social needs. By ensuring all their PIES needs are met, caregivers have a greater chance of preventing challenging behaviors. If a challenging behavior occurs, remember to STAR: smile, take a deep breath and relax. Then you can act by demonstrating the ART principles: acknowledge the child’s feelings, respond to those feelings and think about how to respond with empathy and clear expectations.

How do you practice positive discipline at home?