Tag Archives: emotional development

Sunday Morning Shout Out

We are at that point. The school supply list has been fulfilled and a week or two of school is done.  If not, it will be done shortly.  It got me thinking about the other ways in which I would like to be prepared for the school.  I am thinking of this as a different type of school supply list.  It is really one about emotional reserves and the essence of parenting and supporting a school aged child.

May the kids have sharpened pencils, instead of sharp words in the morning or in the evening, at homework and dinner time.  With their folders, may we enfold them in enough hugs on a daily basis.  With their lunch boxes, may they be nourished by the time we have as a family and the time they have with their extended family and friends.  Along with their books for school, may they have a great book that they picked and love reading.

May Math be fun and not dreaded.  May someone explain it to them well so it is so.  In their new school shoes, may they know they never walk alone and know that there aren’t any mountains too steep to climb.  On their long bus ride or walk to school, may they know they are fortunate to have the privilege of going to school, and that not all children in the world have the same privileges.  Alongside their notes from class, may there be affirming notes from us.

May each requirement that they are facing under Common Core, be met with equal parts courage, resiliency, and understanding.  May they know when these supplies feel or truly are in short supply, there are some other loving and caring adults in their lives that are also there for them, they are called teachers and school administrators.

May their dreams never be in short supply.  If assignments are missing or certain requirements are not met, may we make sure it is not something missing on our part or behalf.  When they are scared, feeling down, or overwhelmed, may it met be with a large supply of love and a healthy dose of laughter.  This school year, may both of their school supply lists not be in short supply….

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Sunday Morning Shout Out

Ah summer! -The sights and sounds of happy children and their families laughing, playing, and enjoying one another’s company, a virtual Rockwell picture is conjured up in your mind.  Ugh, summer! –Whining, fighting, bickering, too much together time.  While we all want a Norman Rockwell summer, perhaps the reality is somewhere in the middle.

Just in time to save the sanity of parents everywhere, but perhaps more importantly help us connect with and understand our children’s needs more, may I offer you a great article that is insightful and a good reminder to all of us parents.  In her article, “The Cure for Whining,” Dr. Laura Markham discusses why children whine and what can be done to stop it or even prevent it in its tracks.  She discusses how whining often occurs because children do not have the internal resources to cope with that is being asked of them.  Often, especially for younger children, this boils down to the fact that basic needs aren’t being met, such as: food, rest, down time, run-around time, and connection with a parent.  If you think of the typical situation where a child is whining while you are errand running, these contextual reasons make a whole lot of sense!

In fact, she stresses that “preemptive” connecting can do a great, great deal to ward off whining and other behavior issues in general.  Children need attention, connection, and support!  As the saying or experience goes, any attention good or bad is better than none at all.  If we meet our children’s connection, support, and attention needs positively, we will prevent or offset the “naughties” later.

She also underlines the power of empathizing to get to the bottom of whininess.  Children often whine because they feel powerless and do not know how to get their needs met. If we start with empathy and kind of deescalate the situation, that can also work to unplug whininess’ cord.  For example, if two siblings are bickering over a toy and your youngest comes in whining, complaining about his older brother.  Some sincere empathy and understanding over how unfair it can feel when someone has something we want, can dispel the whining.  It can also lead the child to the pathway of appropriately stating their feelings and needs , rather than whining about it.

Back to the example, whining for a turn can be replaced by a child identifying they would like a turn to play with the superhero figure ,and that they need to ask nicely , or that they need their parent to help them negotiate proper turn taking for their child.  So perhaps Joey gets the toy for five minutes and then he switched with Scottie.  That is a fair scenario for both parties. It is all modeling that starts with true empathizing.  Markham discusses how it is just counterintuitive to scold them for whining or refuse to listen to them, as it just makes them feel more powerless.  Read more about this at the website and try the other techniques instead.

Markham goes on to discuss how excessive whining may also indicate the need for a good cry.  Life is full of hurts for young and old. Having a good cry can release these feelings and help us move on.  She suggests gently offering you’re the child the chance, support, and time for a good cry ,to allow them to move onward.  Lastly, she describes how whining triggers instinctual feelings of rushing in and responding for parents.  She reminds us all to pause, take a step back, and calmly assess the situation for what it is.  Instead of rushing in to scold our children, she encourages parents to rush in to hug them instead.  This may just nip it then!


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Sunday Morning Shout Out

Pets just have so much to offer.  I was reminded of this twice this week.  First the message came with a personal experience and one of our pet chickens.  It came second in a great piece that was written in ‘The Washington Post‘, “Want to Raise Empathetic Kids? Get Them a Dog,” by Denise Daniels, Child and Parenting expert.

Pets, any pets, are more than just a gill, a feather, a wagging tail, or an “attitudinal” or cuddly cat.  They are companions and great teachers of some of life’s largest issues.  As I have written about before, we have egg laying chickens.  One was lost last fall to a probable heart malady or other sickness.  This week we had to put one down.  Our beloved rooster Bozo came to his end after an aggressive streak.  Mind you, this is built into roosters.  We knew this going in to it.  Up until the last few weeks he was a kind and calm fella.  But once they reach full maturity (about a year), they become even more protective of their hens, feisty, and promiscuous in the chicken way.  Up until most recently, he was the type of chicken you could easily pick up, cuddle, and pet.  Towards the end, he’d aggressively run after you, bat you with his feather, fly at you, and as our three and half year-old son learned, scratch and peck you.

It was his “in between days” that were a joy.  He was beautiful, multicolored- such a proud and lovely sight to behold.  He was funny, almost comical in the way he’d run like a turkey, just gaze at you, and become mush in your arms.  He watched out for his girls, Comet and Snowflake.  He and Comet were inseparable mates and almost sappy in their attention to one another.  While Snowflake is at the top of the pecking order and often “travelled alone,” he also looked out for her.  In the last month, he never left the two chickens’ sides.  The kids loved him for his quirkiness, gentleness (except at the end), regal nature when he wasn’t being a clown, and love of his chicks.  He showed them how to look out for each other, that you could be both goofy and proud, that flair comes with being a colorful character, and that love defies any pecking order.  He also offered them sad truths about life and death, choices that have to be made when it comes to safety and care, and quality of life issues.  Our chickens are free ranged.  We all decided that to keep this guy in a pen the rest of his life was unfair to him and not the life he’d want.  It was hard, so very hard. It again was one of the many hello and goodbyes in this life.

“The Washington Post” article that I referred to brought up some of the same points.  It underlines how pets are great teachers of emotional intelligence.  As Daniels writes, emotional intelligence is the best indicator of child’s success in school, outweighing academic abilities.  She discusses unlike IQ that to many is fixed from birth, emotional intelligence can be nurtured and strengthened in someone.  Its cornerstone, empathy and the ability to understand and connect with others, needs to be stressed from a young age.  Recognizing and meeting the needs of an animal gets even the most aloof child outside of herself and concerned for the welfare of someone or something else.  For a child, taking care of animals is empathy at its best!

Daniels also discusses how taking care of pets teaches responsibility and builds self confidence, when done well.   They can even be great reading buddies, giving the most reluctant practicing reader a silent, yet supportive audience who is all ears, tail, gill, or feather. When a child needs to read out loud, they maybe more willing and wanting in front of a pet.  She goes on to discuss the studies and her experiences that find pets to be great stress reducers and helpful in helping children express their emotions in the most dire and tragic of situations.  She discusses the children who went through Hurricane Katrina and Sandy Hook and the difficulties they had with their sadness and anger.  Pet therapy was used and greatly facilitated comfort and communication.

Our Bozo was more than a rooster, just as your pet is more than a fish, cat, dog, or rabbit.  As we told our children, with the joy of pets, also comes their sorrow.  A life lesson indeed….

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Is Imagination Disappearing In Children?

It is easy to assume that with the increase in academic structure and teaching to tests that the ability of children to imagine is disappearing.  Even with today’s children being busier than ever it seems that imagination is actually surviving based upon new research.  Psychologists at Case Western Reserve University have found that the imaginations of children have not suffered – in fact, it appears to have increased.

The findings were especially surprising for psychologists Jessica Dillon and Sandra Russ who expected the opposite outcome when they analyzed 14 play studies that Russ conducted between 1985 and 2008.  But as they report in “Changes in Children’s Play Over Two Decades,” an article in the Creativity Research Journal, the research data told a story differing from common assumptions.  First, children’s use of imagination in play and their overall comfort and engagement with play activities actually increased over the three decades of data.  Second, the results suggested that children in more recent studies expressed less negative feelings in their play.  Lastly, the capacity to express a wide range of positive emotions, to tell stories and to organize thoughts stayed consistent across the studies.

In an interview about the study Russ stated that “even with the lack of time to play, children, like some other forms of higher mammals, have a drive to play and always will find ways to do it”.  As new stimuli, like video games and the Internet, have become a part of everyday life, Russ suggests that children might actually gain cognitive skills that support imagination from using technology rather than from acting out situations in play.  Russ said future research will need to focus on whether acting out emotions and creating stories in play is as important as it once was in helping children to be creative since more recent studies are showing less negative feelings which actually had been found in the past to support creativity.

In summary, Russ advises that even though children tend to have less time for play, we still need to try and make time for it, since it helps children develop emotional and cognitive abilities. It is also important to remember the value of reading since reading feeds a child’s imaginations and provides a safe environment for a child to explore people and ideas as they form their own opinions.

Note: More information can be found at: http://www.creativitypost.com/education/despite_less_play_childrens_use_of_imagination_increases_over_two_deca#sthash.9QG6FCZE.dpuf

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