Tag Archives: Promoting Child Development

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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Why Handheld Devices are Dangerous for Children Under 12 – A Perspective

Baby EinsteinBelow is an entry that was recently posted to the Tutor Doctor Corp. blog.  I believe there is more to the story and the points put forward that suggest a handheld device is dangerous.  Most things in life can be dangerous if used improperly.  For instance, how many children have been stabbed by pencils or pens?  I could not find that number but I did find a study done in 2011 titled ‘Pencils and pens: an under-recognized source of penetrating injuries in children.‘ that states “Injuries from pens and pencils can be severe or even fatal. Appropriate parent and teacher education regarding the potential risks may help to prevent such injuries.”

Pencils and pens are one of the few sharp objects children have ready access to and yet the educational benefit of these ‘tool’ outweighs the personal risk. A study reported in 2010 by Reuters of the Baby Einstein DVD with 88 children showed that while the DVD fails to boost language skills in toddlers it didn’t hamper it.  The study did report that: “The researcher also asked parents about their kids’ television viewing before entering the study.  The earlier a child started watching Baby Einstein DVDs, it turned out, the smaller his or her vocabulary was.”

All in all, I think for many of the points put forward below there can be counterpoint and potential benefits gained from the use of technology IF it is used wisely and with GUIDANCE.  Here is the original post:

France has banned TV programs aimed at children under three and says babies and toddlers should not be exposed to screen time at all. “Television viewing hurts the development of children under 3 years old and poses a certain number of risks, encouraging passivity, slow language acquisition, over-excitedness, troubles with sleep and concentration as well as dependence on screens,” the ruling said.

This was followed by a statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Canadian Society of Pediatrics that children under two should not be exposed to any technology whatsoever.

These organizations go on to recommend that toddlers from 3-5 should only get an hour a day and children aged 6-18 should only get 2 hours of screen time a day. While TV has always been a popular way to occupy children, new handheld devices such as laptops, tablets and smart phones have dramatically increased the amount of time children spend in front of screens.

The consequences of this increased screen time are serious for developing minds and bodies.

Brain Growth

In their first two-year, babies’ brains triple in size and the brain continues to develop until the child is 21. Brain growth is determined by environmental stimuli and when that is limited by technology, the child can suffer reduced executive functionality, attention deficit, learning disorders, delayed cognitive development, inability to self-regulate and behavioral disorders.

Developmental Delays

Movement learning theory shows that movement enhances learning and memory. Now, one in three children are entering school with delayed physical development and an associated lack of attention and ability to learn which affects academic achievement and literacy.

Childhood Obesity

Studies have found a correlation between obesity and too much screen time. A study by Feng (2011) found that children with a device in their bedrooms who were under 12 were 30% more likely to be obese.

Sleep Deprivation

A study by the Kaiser Foundation found that 75% of children between the ages of 9 and 10 are sleep deprived to the point where it affects their academic performance. This sleep deprivation is a direct consequence of too much screen time and TV.

Attention Deficits

A pruning of the neuronal tracks to the frontal cortex caused by too much exposure to technology can lead to attention deficits, reduced ability to concentrate and reduced memory in a phenomena known as digital dementia.

The radiation from technological devices (especially smart phones) has been shown to pose a health risk for all users.

It’s vitally important that you pay careful attention to the amount of screen time your children are exposed to in a day. You can set alarms on tablets, smartphones, computers and TVs which will turn these devices off once screen time limits have been reached. That way you don’t always have to be the bad guy and you can control screen time even when you are not there.

Note: Adapted from a post originally published 3/21/2014 on the Tutor Doctor Corp. blog

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Sunday Morning Shout Out

Perhaps this past holiday season you tried to teach your child that it is better to give than receive. It was probably a bit difficult but I hope you were successful. The holidays are a great time for finding opportunities to give to those in need. Whether it is a non perishable food drive; donating a new toy or gently used coat; or volunteering one’s time to a soup kitchen, there are so many ways to teach our children the practice of giving of ourselves and our time to our community. When the holiday rush is through, organizations like The United Way and Volunteermatch can assist in finding in continual ways to volunteer and give of oneself in the community. Remember that just because the holiday season is over that that the needs of individuals don’t disappear.

From the outset, we intuitively know as parents that giving of oneself and volunteering teach many things such as compassion, empathy, humility, and gratitude. Did you know that it can also help with academic and job skills? The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (Circle) sanctioned a study that found that students who volunteered performed better academically, specifically getting higher grades in math, reading, science, and history and also more likely to graduate from college. Additionally the study cited at the previous website also found that volunteering can help students improve their critical thinking skills; communication skills; and planning and organizational skills. Thus as they say, doing “good” is good for goodness sake, but it is also good for the doer…

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Sunday Morning Shout Out

I love Johnny Appleseed and probably not for the obvious reasons. Yesterday, my youngest daughter came home from school, donning her Johnny Appleseed hat, and marking  the man, the myth, and the legend. I love apples as much as the next person, but why I love this day is that it reminds me what school is supposed to be like for the little sprouts in our life. While my older daughter took her New York State Core evaluations last week, to establish her base line academic levels in 3rd grade, my kindergartner experienced magic yesterday. As their teacher told them the story of Johnny Appleseed, the kids became part of it, down to their caps, and apple snack.

Since when did preschool start our children’s quest to Harvard? There is such an overall early pressure to make Johnny and Jane readers at two; star soccer players by four; and astro –physicists by eight. Funny how this has occurred and Americans have started to lag behind other countries, so dramatically, when it comes to higher academics and graduation rates from four year colleges as reported by the Huffington Post.  Is increased emphasis on standardized testing truly the way to regain ground? I remember in the 70’s we felt our education was lagging behind the USSR, Then in the 80’s it was Japan, now it is India and China.

So I am ready to woo hoo every day and project that encourages the true enjoyment of learning. From good old Johnny Appleseed and Monster Muffins for letter M to service based learning projects and group discussions that move away from the emphasis on standardized testing and Yale entrance exams. Real learning is more than standardized testing and benchmarks!  I so applaud administrators and teachers who are under such pressure with evaluations, but still find the time and the way to spur a love of learning and lasting knowledge! To me imagination, creativity, wisdom, story-telling, and problem-solving are the skills we need to promote in children if we are to give them the skills and talents to be successful in an ever changing world.

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Sunday Morning Shout Out

The last few weeks have seen a paddock, horse ranch, dance studio,  volley ball court, and ice arena built at our house. It has been spurred by a few cowgirls, fairies, princesses, ballerinas, and athletes.  Well, actually imagination has built this world of little girl excess, as we have our home remodeled. We are down to dry wall and bare floor for much of our downstairs.  But this open space has lent itself so much to our children’s play opportunities.

Imagination is such a wonderful and magical part of children’s play. This is the great force at hand in unstructured children’s play, as opposed to adult directed, structured play.  Studies continuously show the importance of such play in children’s lives, particularly in this age of media bombardment and overly scheduled childhoods.  Melinda Wenner discusses  many of these studies in her article “The Serious Need for Play,”.  Most critically, she points to their findings that indicate play is crucial in child development, helping children acquire cognitive skills, social skills, and stress management skills. What can we do to foster our children’s imagination and time for unstructured play?  My top ten list would look like this:

1)     Limit or eliminate screen time (TV, Video, Computer) on most days.

2)     Do not overly schedule your child in extracurricular activities; give them as much time as possible for unstructured play.

3)     Get your children outside! There is nothing like a stick, mud, and water.

4)     Think open-ended toys, For example dress up clothes, blocks, legos, simple dolls, art supplies, doll houses, boxes, as opposed to toys with one purpose (toys that light up if you push a button). Remember, that a simple large cardboard box that a toy came in is often played with more then the toy that came in it!

5)     Let your children be bored. Our children’s lives are not data planners. Imagination fills in the gaps.

6)     See what interests your child and encourage this interest during their unstructured play.  Personally, I step back if my girls want to play horses, but I may offer up a box for a trough or water.

7)     Organize your house and space to encourage such play. In a nutshell, this means less things, more space, more imaginative played.

8)     As many schools curtail recess time in favor of schoolwork, inquire as to what your child’s school policy is on recess. Even a small amount of time can be reinvigorating in your child’s school day.

9)     Outside, outside, outside! (Yes, the same as #3 but I really do think it is important.) Don’t let snow or rain stop you from letting them outside. Dressed appropriately your child will generally love it.

10)  If you’re invited into their play, accept the invitation at least sometimes. Yes, we all have a million things to do. But childhood is short. Our encouragement, either up close or from a distance, lets our children know what they do is important. Play is their work, their fun, and as stated critical vehicle for learning and growth. In terms of family life, it is such a powerful way to bond. Get involved in their fun and have fun!  You or I won’t regret taking the time to play when we look back on our days with young children. In fact we will wish we did it more since it helps me regain balance in my life and remember what is really important.

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Sunday Morning Shout Out

When I think of childhood development and the “heavies” of childhood developmental theory, such names as Jean Piaget and Erik Erikson come to mind.   When I think along these lines, I also think of childhood developmental milestone charts. For sure these all have their place when we consider our children’s development and phases, as they are both theoretical constructs and suggest average, typical behavior, when looking at large populations of children in studies.

We remember Piaget for contributing the ideas of schemas, assimilation, and accommodation, when it comes to learning and processing new information. He also contributed the theories of preoperational, concrete operational, and the formal operational stages of development, in discussing our transition from early non-logical thinking to logical and abstract thinking in early adolescence and adulthood.  When we think of Erikson, we often think of his eight stages of development. His thoughts on purpose and initiative and industry and the ability to learn new competent ices, in terms of preschool and school aged children, make a whole lot of sense. It especially resonates when we think of our children asking why at age three and four and then moving on to their own personal trying, doing, and learning so many new things during the early school years in elementary school.

The developmental milestone charts pediatricians use are also helpful and a real hands on- tool as we consider what our children are doing or not doing and if it seems to be in healthy normal limits. When our children’s development seems lacking, they provide a real starting point for a further conversation with doctors, educators, and special educators alike, when the school or we may need to be doing more for our children.

For these constructs and tools of measurement, I am glad. But just as a carpenter has many tools that build a house, I like looking at the house more than the tools. All too often, we get caught up in what the experts say our children should or should not be doing. As parents, we know our children best. By looking at our children closely and realizing what is their ‘normal’ and when they are outside of this behavior, we can often pinpoint areas of problem and strength better than anyone else.  In my opinion, we need to stay attuned to our children and their needs first to gain understanding of an issue. The answers may be right before us.   If need be, we can then consult the experts after that. It does take time but your child is worth the effort!

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Sunday Morning Shout Out

It is always good when something you know intrinsically as a parent is then supported by quality research. We all know that there are certain things that are just good for your child and help them be healthy, safe, and successful growing up. The Search Institute has built an extensively research based framework of 40 common sense, positive experiences, and qualities that influence young people to become caring, responsible, and successful adults. These are further broken down by age groups ranging from preschool through high school.   Basically the research finds that the more positive factors that are operating in your children’s life has a direct relationship to chance of successful development as adults.

Let’s look at a few of these ‘assests’ today.  Under the wider constructs of Support, Boundaries and Expectations, and Commitment To Learning, there are few specific assets to consider.  Support: Is your child in a caring school environment? Are you as a parent involved in their learning? If not, how can you make these things happen?  Boundaries and Expectations: Are there clear and consistent rules and consequences in school?  Do your child’s school and teacher use a positive approach to learning? Commitment To Learning:  Does your child bond to their school environment? Do they like school and want to be there?

When these assets are not present, the Search Institute’s model and parental wisdom suggest change needs to occur.  What would you do differently to make the school environment a more caring place? Perhaps you need to give more of your ideas to the teacher, principal, or other administrative officials. For example, maybe you do not feel enough is being done to take on bullying and you have some good ideas on how to do a better job. Maybe you have read something excellent about helping girls succeed in math and science and you can share it with her teacher.

If you are separated from your child’s learning process, get more involved. Maybe mom always does homework with her child.  Perhaps dad needs to sit down with his child as well, so he can better support her efforts.  If your child does not like school, find out what it is about. Maybe they are having a hard time seeing the chalkboard.  Maybe they are sick of struggling with math.  Is it time for a tutor so his math struggles end? As parents, we need to do whatever it takes to build our children’s assets and help them be as successful as they can be at home, school, and in their future.

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