Sunday, October 31, 2010

Toddlers 1

You’ve just got to love toddlers! That age from a little over a year to about three years of age is great. The behavioral goals at that age are so transparent and easy to understand, that is, if you don’t let the behaviors throw you, it is one of the most endearing times in years before school.

One of the main goals for toddlers is control. They are learning to control their bodies and their environment. With the wonders of the internet and digital movies, I was able to watch my youngest grandson work at mastering both.

He and his preschool age brother have a sturdy child-sized table and chairs. While the preschooler explored the activity before him on the table, the toddler explored the chair and the table. Just barely out of the crawling stage, he crawled onto the chair and using the back of the chair for balance he stood up. Once in standing he did a bit of bouncing. Bouncing helps the body receive messages from the joints to the brain. Bouncing helps the body learn how to control balance. After a bit of standing freely without using the back of the chair he turned his attention to the table and bending over, explored the drum qualities of the table with his hands, adding vocal accompaniment to his drumming.

In that short video, I watched my little one learn control over his body in climbing and balancing. In the next few weeks we will explore control over the fine movements of the hands and fingers (and of course over us!) In the meantime give the toddler in your life a hug and a kiss—and let him know how smart and wonderful he is.

Toad House Publishing

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Sunday, October 24, 2010

Challenging Behavior #13

I think I’ve finally finished the topic of challenging behaviors—at least for 2010! Today I would like to summarize the most important points from our many months of discussion. If you feel you’d like to review any of the information presented, you can fire up your computer’s internet connection and point your browser to Here are some of the topics we covered:

Back in August we explored behaviors that may have seemed like challenges to us but were really developmentally appropriate. A teething baby needs to bite to sooth his gums. This should not be seen as a challenging behavior but rather a stage of development. However, how we respond to his biting may push the biting stage into an age where it is not appropriate, where he bites to get attention or bites to control a peer. To review these two columns in the blog, see Challenging Behavior #1 and #2.

Bedtime routines and the challenges that parents face in establishing good bedtime routines were covered in #3 and #4. The difference in being proactive and reactive when faced with challenging behaviors was covered in #5 and #6. We discussed adjusting family routines to best manage behavior challenges in #7.

Various behaviors of toddlers and understanding the world from a toddler’s viewpoint was covered in #8, #9, and #10. I think many of the challenges parents have with preschoolers and beyond have their beginnings in the toddler years from 18 months to 3 years.

The two most powerful tools that parents and preschool teachers use were covered in # 11 and #12—ignoring and paying attention—but we learned that using these tools effectively takes careful analysis and lots of practice.

I dearly love toddlers. Their behavioral goals are so transparent and if you don’t let the behaviors throw you, it is one of the most endearing times in the preschool years. Next week we will explore some of the motor skills of the toddler stage and how these little ones work at control. Thank-you for following along this journey in child development!

Toad House Publishing

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Sunday, October 17, 2010

Challenging Behavior #12

Last time we explored ‘ignoring’ and ‘paying attention’ to further our understanding of reinforcement theory. Remember, any behavior you ignore will diminish and any behavior you pay attention to will increase. Let’s see how this works with a challenging behavior.

Robbie is a four year old who has been a pretty good little kid, happy and smart. Recently, like many four year olds he has become very interested in using ‘bathroom talk’. He says things like “poopy” and “pee-pee” and then laugh hysterically at his own joke. This is very disconcerting to his mother, especially when they are out in public. His mother tries to shush him and bribe him – “If you don’t say any naughty words you can have some gum.” Sometimes she takes him by the shoulder and says, “Robbie, STOP that! I mean it,” and for a little while it seems to help, but only for a moment. She is becoming concerned that he is learning those words at preschool. The other children must be very bad examples for her good little boy, she thinks.

Robbie’s preschool teacher is undaunted by the bathroom talk of the four year olds. She knows that this is a phase, a fascination with the forbidden and she pays no attention to it. “Can’t you do something to stop this?” Robbie’s mother, like so many mothers of four year olds ask.

Robbie’s teacher is doing something about it. She is using a powerful tool, ignoring inappropriate behavior. She actively notices and spends time with the children who are behaving well. They are the ones who pass out the cookies and are dismissed for outdoor time first. She might give them a compliment; “I really like the way you are talking with each other about all the fun times you had today.”

And when Robbie is behaving appropriately, she notices him, asks him about the tower he is building, and gives him a turn to pass out milk and cookies to his friends. Slowly Robbie’s behavior at school changes and we hear less and less of the bathroom talk—because she is ignoring it.

The same thing can happen at home. Our challenge as parents is to find a way of ignoring behavior that is not harmful, but just irritating or embarrassing.

Toad House Publishing

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Monday, October 4, 2010

Challenging Behavior #11

I seem to be challenged by this topic of challenging behavior! Although I spend the week thinking about other interesting child development topics to share with readers, the moment I sit at the computer, the writing focuses on behavior.

This week we will explore two ways of reacting to behaviors and learn about the underlying science behind how our reaction affects our children’s behavior. For some time I have been talking about proactive and reactive responses to behavior. Now I would like to talk with you about ‘ignoring’ and ‘paying attention’.

One way of looking at how we learn is called reinforcement theory and on the surface, it is not a difficult theory to understand. The difficulty with this theory is to understand its complexity and to consistently implement what we know.

Here is how it goes—any behavior that we want to see increase we reinforce and any behavior we want to see diminish, we ignore. This is where the words ‘ignoring’ and ‘paying attention’ become important to our understanding of how the theory works.

I’ll give you one example this week. Johnny is a toddler with the typical toddler toys in his living room. He has a lot of puzzles and he has a lot of books—both great things to have in a home for a toddler to promote learning. The puzzles help Johnny’s brain develop its spatial relationships—a precursor to math. The books help Johnny’s brain develop its auditory skills, a precursor to language and reading. And of course, Johnny was born with his own, built in set of genes and thus a predisposition for the language or the math side of the brain. Will Johnny more often choose the puzzles or the books? If his parents come and play with him whenever he chooses puzzles and never when he chooses books; what will he usually play with?

Toad House Publishing

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