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Posts Tagged ‘Emotion and Learning’

Three Ways to Discourage Children from Arguing

It can be challenging when a child argues with a parent. Dr. Kyle Pruett, clinical professor of child psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine and member of The Goddard School Educational Advisory Board, offers three ways to diffuse an argument before it escalates.


1. Alexander, the main character in Judith Viorst’s wonderful Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, complains that it’s not fair about not getting new sneakers when his brother did. If a child said this to his mother, one strategy would be for his mom to say, “It may not seem fair right now because you don’t need new sneakers. When you need something, you usually get it and then it seems fair to you. Those are our family rules, discussion over.” Making sure it’s understood that the discussion is over is the crucial component.

2. Let’s say that a child is arguing with her mom about picking up her blocks. Mom, keeping her cool, might announce, “I’m setting the timer for five minutes. Any blocks not put away when it rings will be taken away. It’s your choice.” “Discussion over” is implied. Try not to include the oft-heard concluder “Okay?” because the child will never think it’s okay, and you are just inviting the next arguing match.

3. It is a good idea for parents to change their behavior first and not wait until the child does what the parent wants. If you feel yourself being sucked into the argument vortex, you should stand firmly and silently for 10-30 seconds, avoid eye contact, breathe a few times and then announce something like “I am not arguing any more so that I can help you learn how to manage yourself when you don’t get your way.” After doing this a few dozen times, it usually slows the arguing to a tolerable pace. Silence, without the shaming, is a parent’s most powerful tool.

Integrating Emotion & Learning in Everyday Moments

Excerpt from Me, Myself and I

Your own ideas about how to integrating emotion and learning in everyday moments with your child are probably better than anything I could advise for you personally.  But here are some ideas and suggestions that might help you customize those ideas.

  • Blocks - Teacher & BoyTalk with your child. Hopefully, you have been doing that since the moment she was born.  Chat with her about what you and she are doing.  She’ll become part of the conversation sooner if you express to her what you love about being a parent.
  • Encourage curiosity and understand that repetition is a good thing for him, boring though it might be for you.  The neurological basis for the insistence on the familiar lies in the fact that when synaptic connections are repeatedly activated by the same stimulation, they become immune from elimination during the brain’s pruning process.  They survive to become permanent neural connections that enhance learning.  So go ahead and do what your child likes – over and over.  This is a good rut to be in.
  • Simply being nearby and available while your child plays on his own is so important, as is your willingness to interact.  So get down on the floor and stay awhile.  Of course, this is hard for working parents, but the effort is worth it.
  • Nothing beats reading. Children don’t learn interactive, conversational language from TV because it does not respond to them. Language and eventually reading are learned from being actively engaged in speaking and reading with others – hearing parents and caregivers talk to each other and waiting for the child to respond.
  • Children learn best in the context of their daily lives and when the amount and kind of stimulation fits their temperament, level of development, interests or preferences, and mood.  Pressure to perform or conform to high expectations can lead to stress that can sabotage learning through burnout and confusion.
  • Young children do not need to be taught how to think.  Science is careening ahead pursuing fascinating findings and ideas about how, even whether, children this age actually do think.  But our ignorance dominates our knowledge embarrassingly.  We are still understanding why they even want to think in the first place.  It is like walking or talking, unfolding in due course when the maturational timekeeper tells the mind-body duality, “Johnny: it’s time?”
  • The five-second check-in. Since most of us don’t spend our days staring endlessly at our toddlers and preschoolers, it is important that you take a few seconds to assess the mood, or state your child is in before you join in his doings, ask him to do something or simply interrupt him.  This is the feeling state that will determine his ability to understand or comply with whatever you might need, no matter how small.  If you are not tuned in, he probably won’t hear (i.e. learn).
  • Join your child. Follow her lead in activities she is already involved in.  Don’t take over – it will turn her off.  But if you want her to learn, become a partner in the exploration she has begun.  Add a ball to hide in the pots and pans scene, or move close and take her hand if she is wary of a dog on a walk.  Don’t instantly rescue (unless safety is an immediate concern) because you will lose one of those interesting moments of tension that could be mastered, leading a child to a wider, more complex understanding of the world.
  • If your child balks at a “learning” moment with you, it could mean you didn’t read the five-second check-in right.  Back up and let your child know you know what she is feeling first.  (“I guess you weren’t quite through,” or “It’s hard to have to stop when you are having fun doing X.”)  When the feeling domain feels appreciated, then the learning domain is less burdened.
  • If your child needs redirection after you have connected with his mood or feeling, ask softly what he might enjoy doing.  If you still have no luck make two suggestions of things he might do and help him choose.  He will probably need some pump-priming from you, since you can manage your own mood apart from his.  Remember, how you are in such moments, is as important as what you do.
  • If it’s important for you to initiate an activity that will bring you pleasure and you know it could be good for your child, like reading or going for a walk, stabilize your own mood first.  Only then can you help your child regulate hers.  Once done, then she can crawl up on your lap or get out the door and learn.  For some kids, it’s the other way around.  But for the majority, in the feeling and learning dance, it isn’t always possible to say who is leading.