Sunday, July 25, 2010

Challenging Behavior #1

At the end of 2009 I asked readers what topics they would like to see covered in 2010. One of the requests was to discuss suggestions for managing challenging behaviors. Some behaviors are dangerous—such as when children pull away from an adult and dart out onto a street. Some behaviors are irritating to us -- such as a child dumping out toys when we have just picked everything up. We define some behaviors as naughty -- such as when a child is hurtful toward a pet or another child.

Parents and teacher find challenges in these categories at every age. We call them challenging behaviors because we have difficulty finding ways of teaching a more appropriate behavior. There doesn’t seem to be a simple fix.

Often the challenge is for the adult is to understand that a behavior that may be difficult to manage is actually appropriate behavior for the child’s developmental age. These behaviors are not truly challenging behaviors but rather a result of our own unrealistic expectations. Here are a few examples:

The two year old who pulls away from dad’s hand is on a mission to explore something very compelling to him. His mind cannot understand the dangers of running into the street. The best strategy for managing this challenge is to pick up the child and move him to a safe area where he can explore without getting into a dangerous situation. Sometimes a distraction can be helpful if there is no safe play area with the parent staying fully focused and engaging the child.

A one year old who dumps out the blocks you have just picked up is practicing his skills at dumping. You can help by playing this game and then also showing how the blocks can go back in the bucket. It is worse than useless to let yourself be irritated when your child is practicing a normal developmental skill.

Children under the age of one can imitate our kindness to others in small ways such as petting a puppy. However, they are also exploring cause and effect, again a normal developmental stage. The one year old who pulls the ear of a puppy is not naughty but rather learning that when puppy’s ear is pulled, puppy cries, barks, bites, or runs away. The child is learning cause and effect. Our best strategy is to model being kind to the puppy.

Next week we will explore why behaviors begin to appear in the preschool stage that are truly a challenge and not a result of our unrealistic expectations.

Toad House Publishing

Twinkletime Rhymes to Print

Monday, July 19, 2010

Language to Literacy-Final

These past few weeks we have been talking about early literacy. This is such an important topic because all parents can vastly increase the ease in which their children learn to read. Parents can do this simply by focusing on the quality and quantity of their own communications with their child from birth to school age. Because we all want the very best start in reading for our children, I will review the salient points in early literacy:

Talk and sing to your baby before birth. A fetus can hear soon after four months and besides all the internal sounds of your body, babies hear the mother's voice more clearly than all other external sounds. By singing and talking to your baby before birth, you are capitalizing on this.

Talk and sing to your newborn when they are awake and alert. Do this a lot! Newborns are wired to pay attention to language that is directed towards them. Talking to another adult, the conversations on television, and songs sung by professional singers don't count! The more language your baby hears from you, directed towards him or herself, the more readily will they begin to understand language.

Take conversational turns with your baby. If he yawns, you take a turn to yawn. If she opens her eyes wide, you open your eyes wide. This will help your baby learn that what he has to say (or do) carries meaning and his parent understands the meaning.
As babies begin to pay attention to objects, show and talk about a chubby board or other style toddler book that you enjoy. Provide a few different books during this time, but not too many because babies love repetition. Try to figure out which book is your baby's favorite. You can read the words or simply talk about the pictures in the book. Help your baby to turn the pages when she is able to grab for the book.
Toddler time from about eighteen months to three years is an important time to maintain routines regarding reading books. The same comfortable chair, a small stash of favorites, and an occasional new book build happy reading routines. The key point is to read every day and to keep the time within what your child can manage. Here you can use favorite songs and fingerplays both to develop a reading time and to extend the amount of time your toddler stays interested in the reading activity.
Around age three or before, you can begin to provide crayons and paper. Encourage your child to tell you about his picture and try not to become the one drawing the pictures! If your child tells you the scribble is a cow, print the word 'cow' on his picture. The goal here is to develop meaning from the words and pictures.
Using these strategies and many more that you come up with will build a good reader from birth. This is the goal of early literacy.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Books in the Home

We have been talking about early literacy and what parents can do to support this development both before and after birth. I recently read a column by David Brooks. He spoke about school age children who were given 12 new books of their own choosing when school let out for the summer. The children who received the books had significantly higher reading scores than the other children. Just having those 12 books gave as much of a positive effect as attending summer school.

Children who grow up with books in their home stay in school longer and do better educationally. However Brooks cites an interesting observation from a philanthropist who gives books to disadvantaged kids. It is not the physical presence of the books that is responsible for the huge impact. It is the way the students see themselves as they build a home library. They see themselves as readers, members of a group—members of a group of readers.

New babies in your family? Trying to decide on a gift for a baby shower? Want to give a gift that lasts a lifetime? Wondering what to give a two year old? –a three year old?—a four year old and beyond. Here are your top 3 gift choices.


Another Book

More Books

If you have missed some of the articles in the paper or if you wish to review articles up to this point, you can check out the blog: and please send the blog to the parents of the little ones that you love!

Toad House Publishing

Twinkletime Rhymes to Print

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Language to Literacy #3

Last week we talked about the amazing research that has been done in regard to the beginning of language. This research is in the book by Diane McGuinness, Growing a Reader from Birth, Your Child’s Path from Language to Literacy. This week we will summarize the key points on what works best to insure the development of language and literacy after the baby is born. There is no reason why any parent can’t copy what works best. Here is the list:

The quantity of parents’ verbal output is the best predictor of a child’s vocabulary later in time. It is a numbers game—the more the parent says, the more words the baby will learn. So play the game! Talk, talk, talk!

The quality of the communication with the child is a stronger predictor of a child’s verbal development than social class. This means that how a mother interacts with her infant is extremely important. It is the complexity of the language and the sensitivity to the child that matters most.

Five styles of communication have been identified that greatly enhance language skills. They are, in order of importance:

Guidance style. Providing gentle invitations to play and avoiding prohibitions such as saying, “no, the baby can’t drive the car”.

Symbolic emphasis. Making connections between words and things and more words.

Feedback tone. Positive feedback is good; negative feedback is bad.

Language diversity. Using different nouns, verbs, and adjectives as much as possible.

Responsiveness. Tuning in. Following baby’s lead, and don’t order baby around.

This sounds so simple, but the reality is that all of us will fall back on our more comfortable mode of communication with our infants, especially when we are tired. However, knowing what we may be doing and wanting to improve the outcome in language and literacy for our little ones is the first step in changing our own behavior.

Please send a link to this blog to the parents of the little ones that you love!

Toad House Publishing

Twinkletime Rhymes to Print