Sunday, April 25, 2010

Principles of Discipline, #1

In the next few weeks we will review the important principles of good discipline and renew our efforts to discipline wisely. All the information is from a tried and true article called the ‘Seven Principles of Good Discipline.’ We will start with the first principle of good discipline.

Tell children what they can do instead of what they can’t do. Focus on do, not don’t. If our language is overloaded with negative words (no, don’t, stop it, quit it, cut it out, shut up), our children may decide we are not very interesting to listen to and tune us out. When children hear many, many negative words, the meaning of those words is weakened. This may lead to a situation in which we really need a child to hear and obey us, but like the people in the story of the boy who cried "wolf" too often, the child ignores or disobeys us. If a 2 1/2-year-old hears "don’t touch the cup, the coffee table, the flowers, the dress, the radio, and the stove" she may decide it is dangerous to touch anything and become passive and uninterested in learning. She may decide that adults just say no. She will try to touch as many things as she can before they get really mad. However at age 2 1/2, she does not know that the "NO" about the cup that is full of steaming coffee and the stove are more important than the "no" about the flowers. If her parents restrict their use of strong negative words to critical situations of great importance, she is more likely to hear and respect the words they use.

Here is an exercise to help us practice changing don’t to do. See if you can catch yourself before you speak and focus on the behavior you want to see.
Don’t throw the bread. (Put your bread on your plate)
Quit hitting your sister. (Tell him what you want)
Don’t pour your milk on the floor. (?)
Don’t talk with your mouth full. (?)
Don’t play with your food. (?)

Next week we will focus on the second principle of good discipline, Protect and preserve children’s feelings that they are lovable and capable.

Toad House Publishing

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Sunday, April 18, 2010

A Gift that Lasts a Lifetime

Last week I spent the time in two schools in Arlington Heights, Illinois with Mr. Bufo-Bufo and TOADS. The librarians, teachers, and children I met were great people—just like all of us in Northern Wisconsin! It was interesting to be around young teachers, some of whom were expecting their first child. At one point I was listening to a conversation about a baby shower. The women were talking about a theme for the shower.

One of my favorite memories is a baby shower here in Ladysmith where the invitation suggested gifts of books for the new baby’s library. Guests were asked to buy books in lieu of the traditional baby clothes and baby furniture. At the shower, we each took a turn to read our favorite book to the other women and sign the book to the baby. After the shower, I thought about what we had collectively given to this new baby and the lasting important effect of our gifts.

Clothing and baby furniture are very nice gifts for a family. We all like the pretty little outfits and we hope the baby furniture will help the parents with caring for the baby. This is all true; all these gifts do help.

Consider for a moment what it means for a child to have a small library of books. When children have books in their home and parents read these books, the children will grow to love reading. The love of reading is a gift that lasts a lifetime and impacts children long, long after the clothes have been worn out or given away. The world opens up and the possibilities are endless for children who love to read.

A while ago I toured a home that was to be auctioned. The furniture and other household goods were boxed up, ready to sell and a few were labeled ‘not for sale.’ One box caught my eye with a note stating, “DO NOT SELL!!!” It was a box of children’s books and I couldn’t help but pick one up. I opened the cover of the 60 year old treasure. It was inscribed to a child,“With love to our new little grandbaby, Hugs and kisses, Grandma and Grandpa.”

Are you invited to a baby shower this spring? Consider giving a book, a gift that lasts a lifetime.

Toad House Publishing

Twinkletime Rhymes to Print

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Parent as Consultant

Today we will finish talking about a theme I have taken from Dr. Harry Ireton’s writings, “Parent Development, The Other Half of the Story.” The first stage was the stage of imaging and the second stage was the stage of nurturing. The third stage, with a toddler, was the stage of authority and in the fourth stage the parent became a teacher and interpreter. The last stage is called, “Parent As Consultant.”

Let’s first consider what the term consultant means and what a good consultant does. A consultant gets to know the client (your child) and then obtains information about the situation the client is in. A good consultant does not rush in with ideas to fix the problem the client has, but rather listens to the client speak about the problem. If you really are great at being a consultant to your child, you are also a really great listener.

Consultants are fired from their job when they do all the talking, when they jump in and fix problems their own way and before they have all the information, and when they do not let their clients use their own resources to remedy a troubling situation. I will use a story, the Forgotten Lunch Box. to illustrate.

Jimmy, a 2nd grader, carried his lunch to school each day. His mom packed it in a special lunch box he got when he started kindergarten. One day in early October, Jimmy forgot to put the lunch box in his backpack. He left the house for the bus stop but his mother noticed the lunchbox and ran out to give it to Jimmy. A week later, the same thing happened, but this time, Jimmy’s mom had to make a special trip to school to bring it to him before lunch time. Then, a week later, it happened again.

There are many strategies Jimmy’s mom could use. She could treat Jimmy as she did when he was an infant (The Nurturing Stage) and put the lunch box in the backpack herself and probably help Jimmy put the backpack on each day and bring it to school each time she forgot. She could treat Jimmy as a toddler (The Authoritative Stage); standing at the door, preventing Jimmy from leaving home empty handed. She could treat Jimmy as a preschooler (Teacher and Interpreter) and discuss with him what it might be like to go hungry at lunchtime or she could be a consultant and listen to why Jimmy thinks he has been forgetting his lunch box.

If mom listens carefully, she might learn that he’d rather eat the school lunch because all his friends eat at a separate table. She might learn that he really did not want to eat the school lunch but also did not want to eat at a different table. She might learn that he felt embarrassed by having a childish (in his mind) lunch box. After listening carefully, a good consultant would ask to hear what the client thought would work to fix the problem. The wonderful part of being a consultant to your child, is to see what strengths he has and to watch his skills grow. It is the icing on the cake of parent development.

Today, I’ll repeat the Toad’s Environmental Song as a reminder to bring the photo of your child picking up trash along your favorite stretch of road to the Ladysmith News. Sally will give your child a free musical toad and we all win because the next generation is learning to care for the environment. You have until Mother’s Day for this special ‘litter’ toad project.

Toad’s Environmental Song
(tune: If You’re Happy and You Know It)
If you see some paper trash
Pick it up! (Croak-croak)
If you see some plastic trash
Pick it up! (Croak-croak)
You will help the little toads
By putting garbage where it goes
Please help the little toads
Pick it up! (Croak-croak)

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Parent as Teacher

The parent with a 3 to 4 year old preschooler has grown through three stages of parent development. The first stage was the stage of imaging what they will be like with the responsibility of children. The second stage was the stage of nurturing-- the stage of total responsibility and vigilance. The third stage, with a toddler, was the stage of authority--setting limits and enforcing rules.

The parent of a 3-4 year old now becomes a teacher and interpreter. You are your child’s first and most important teacher. You are the interpreter, the moral guide, the coach, and the preschool teacher. The preschooler lives in a big, wide, wonderful world where there is much to explore, understand, and misunderstand. You will continue limit setting and enforcing of rules but with the added challenge of explaining reasons behind the rules. If you have been reasonably consistent in enforcing rules in the toddler years, your preschool will obey the rules in this next stage, but will want to know why.

We know the preschooler is thinking a lot by what they say and the questions they ask. The preschooler is asking, "Why? When? How?" Preschoolers also give us reasons for things, "Because." The challenge in parenting in this stage is to be able to give information and good reasons that your preschooler can understand. You will be thinking all of the time just to keep up with your preschooler’s thinking while you are preparing your preschooler for school.

I have a favorite family story that illustrates the importance of giving good reasons to preschoolers that they can understand. It is about my cousin who did not live on a farm and our grandfather who could not give a good reason to this bright little preschooler. It goes something like this:

On a springtime visit to her grandparents, Karen went out to watch our grandfather milk the cows. She stood behind the cows, watching intently as he milked each one and plying him with questions. At one point, our grandfather said, "Karen, move away! MOVE AWAY!" He probably gestured for her to move over and repeated his words for he knew from the lifting of the cow’s tail, that a pungent spring deluge was about to occur and Karen was positioned to receive the over spray.

But Karen didn’t move. Instead, in the typical preschooler fashion, she asked, "Why?"
My grandfather, evidently not skilled in his ability to give information and good reasons, could only reply, "BECAUSE!" (This is the short form of ‘because I said so’ which is no real reason for a preschooler. It is simply an authoritative statement, more appropriately thought than said aloud in the toddler years.)

Too late for reasons or authority, the cow let go of a flood of newly digested, fresh green grass from the fields. My grandfather picked up Karen by the least affected part to be cleaned up by her grandmother and mother. Karen admonished our grandfather, "Grandpa, you should plug up that hole."

Well, no parent or grandparent is perfect. I wonder if he learned from the experience?

Toad House Publishing

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