Friday, March 10, 2017

You're Cordially Invited....to be Part of a Study on Early Care Experiences

Research is a Good Thing

Many parents and teachers of young children suspect visual processing issues, auditory processing problems, and sensory disorders early on, but are told that the child is too young to be tested.  It can be frustrating to be told, for instance, that a struggling reader in Kindergarten is too young to be screened for dyslexia.  Now, new research, described here,  suggests that testing can be done much earlier than previously thought.  This is great news, perhaps helping parents avoid the "wait-and-fail" approach that describes the long slog that can sometimes be the road to diagnosis.

Take a survey (link below) to participate in a study about how early care experiences may affect adult health.
Hurray for research!  If you could contribute to what we know about education and human development, would you?  Growing up in a university town, I have been a research subject for at least a few studies, ranging from one on the visual tracking of toddlers to the changing body mass index of girls before menarche.  Even my own children have participated as "guinea pigs" in studies at our local university.  How else can scientists help re-form our understanding of learning disorders, parenting styles and outcomes, and the importance of early childhood experiences?

If you would like to be part of research on the impact of early care experiences on health later in life, please take a short survey, "Adult Health and Childhood Experiences," part of the research of my friend at the Peabody College at Vanderbilt University.

click here:  Survey

Researchers are looking at how early care experiences (like whether you were breastfed or bottle fed or whether you slept near your parents) may influence your physical, emotional and mental health as an adult.  Your responses are anonymous,  and your input will be included as part of an international group of respondents.  The survey has been translated into French, Dutch, Arabic and Japanese.


The survey is fairly quick and painless--much easier than, say, having electrodes attached to your scalp or being poked and prodded :)  Future generations thank you!


Thursday, November 17, 2016

"No" is Not a Four-Letter Word

A recent video by author and family psychologist John Rosemond has an eye-catching title:  "Is Your Child Getting Enough Vitamin N?"  In it, he talks about how indulging our children has become a norm, and many children today don't hear the word "no" enough.  Instead of focusing on the basics of what our children need--protection,  affection, and direction--we give in too often to their whims, demands, and wants.

John Rosemond's video on Vitamin N

Another author who writes about parenting, James Stenson, has included this in his list on raising children:  "Realize that 'no' is also a loving word, and your children must hear it from time to time in order to acquire self-control. Children who never experience loving parental denial cannot form the concept of self-denial--and this can later lead to disaster."  His entire list of things parents can do to help build character can be seen here.  

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Someone to Look Up To: Mother Teresa

Heroes

Our young people need heroes +  Mother Teresa's canonization is coming up = This inexpensive download would be great for your grandkids!

Friday, June 10, 2016

Grandparents' Corner

WELCOME GRANDPARENTS!

We don't have to tell you what a ginormous influence you have over the life of your grandchildren.  Whether you are:
  • raising them yourself or parents are in the picture
  • live in the same town or a world away
  • watch them on a regular basis or just get to Skype on major holidays
…….. you know that your words and example have a strong influence!

Last year Pope Francis spoke about the importance of grandparents, and in this short video we learn how he saved the message his grandmother wrote to him on the day of his ordination:  video
In Grandparents' Corner we'll explore ways you can contribute in a positive way to your grandchildren's lives.  Let's start with one idea from Barbara, who recently took care of her 4-year-old granddaughter and found a way to simultaneously teach her how to make her bed and make a simple morning offering.

Sing Your Bed Made (or how to make your bed while still in it!)

1.  "I rise in the arms of my Father..." 
     Hold the top sheet with your arms outstretched and pull the top sheet tight

2.  "…to walk in the steps of His Son…"
     Pull your feet apart, stretching the sheet straight at the bottom of the bed

3.  "…and rest in the heart of the Spirit till all of my days are done."
     Fold the top of the sheet over the top of the bedspread

4.  Turn the corner back, slip out of bed on your knees and add any other prayers you'd like.

More from Pope Francis

Our current pope has a lot to say about your role.  Click here to check it out!

And from Benedict XVI

Click here to read his address at the assembly called “Grandparents: Their Witness and Presence in the Family.”

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Practical Strategies for Positive Parenting

Our speaker, at left, is a mother of four children, ages 4-14.  At our fifth parenting discussion she talks about common sense parenting skills she learned while participating in the RIP program.  It's free, and in it she learned and practiced the skills necessary to handle problem behavior. She calls the program "a lifesaver."

Yesterday, as I walked past the Health and Beauty aisle at Target, I overheard a fight among siblings.  I kept walking past, though I couldn't help but rubberneck:  there on the floor were two well-dressed young children fighting over a toy.  One punched the other hard in the stomach, while the stylish mom turned to say, "Seriously?  We're doing THIS now?"  The mother wasn't young and she wasn't old, and the children--who I had observed earlier throughout the store--appeared normal in all respects.  It was the mother's reaction that wasn't normal.

What happened to behaving yourself in public?  What happened to treating other human beings with respect?  What happened to correcting behavior that is dangerous, disruptive or destructive?  Yikes.  Is this the best we can do?  I wonder if the past couple of generations of families have suffered parenting amnesia, forgetting how to navigate the extremes of too lax and too strict.  I wonder if we are too proud to take a parenting class or two?

Unfortunately, common sense parenting skills are rare to find these days, and it shows.  That's why we could all benefit from programs like RIP, a Regional Intervention Program that teaches parents basic parenting skills.  That was the topic of our fifth parenting discussion, led by my friend Meredith who is a Catechesis of the Good Shepherd instructor with an Atrium of her own, former mommy from our Montessori Mornings, and who went through the RIP program herself.

Yes, I said "all" parents could benefit.  Even with 20 years of parenting six kids and extensive experience both teaching and learning HOW to teach, I learned quite a lot from this lecture.  Of course it's best if both Mom and Dad can come, but any help is better than none!
Luckily, she shared a handout.  Now you, too, can get back to basics!

RIP's Basic Strategies 

  • State Expectations in Advance:  Give one clear instruction.
  • Catch Your Child Being Good:  Give specific, positive attention to the behavior that you want to occur again.
  • Present Limited Reasonable Choices:  Learning to take personal responsibility takes support and practice.
  • Use "When…..Then":  Give a simple instruction that tells your child what he must do in order to earn a desired consequence.
  • Plan Ahead:  Hope for the best, plan for the worst.
  • Know What is Reasonable:  Keep your expectations realistic.  (Part of this is understanding child development, part is knowing your child.  If you suspect that your child may have special needs, seek the help of a qualified professional.)
  • Stay Calm:  The more out-of-control your child becomes, the more self control you need to use.  (If you have problems with anger management or depression, seek professional help.)
  • Use Neutral Time:  The best time to talk is when everyone is calm enough to listen.

Extra Stress

Not all couples are on the same page when it comes to parenting.  Understandably, problem behaviors can drive a wedge between you two and create terrible stress.  If you are struggling while your spouse/partner is oblivious, there are good books and websites that can get you started with parenting help, and you may want to seek help as a couple, as well.
  • Mayo Clinic  Has information on parenting a child with ADHD, Oppositional Defiance Disorder, etc.
I wish that all parents and teachers who struggle with problem behavior (um, I guess that's all of us!) would participate!



Sunday, January 3, 2016

Tea Time is Time to Practice Food Prep, Manners and Conversation

We celebrated the return of Downton Abbey today with teatime!

Teatime Comprised of Several "Works"

Think of it:  Flower Arranging, Silver Polishing, Food Preparation, Folding Napkins, Grace and Courtesy, and Washing Dishes.  These are all works that can be part of an afternoon tea.  Extensions can include making your own butter, baking biscuits, growing the chives and parsley for the cucumber sandwiches, dipping candles, and making jellies and jams.

Shortcuts:

We really liked these frozen biscuits with clotted cream:


Cucumber Sandwiches:

We cut the bread the night before using this sandwich maker we already had.



Even if you aren't a D.A. fan, this activity could be a great way of introducing another culture (if you are studying England, for instance).  Who knows, maybe it could become a "new tradition" at your house or school, or you could try this for Mother's Day?  Enjoy!

P.S.  We also have a ducky and an elephant creamer left over from our Practical Life days in the classroom.  If you'd like to find those, click here and here.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

WARNING: This Rant Will Ruffle Feathers!

        
Photo by Eric Kilby

The Busy/Happy Myth

Over the holidays my husband and I attended a small get-together, five of our six children in tow.  It wasn't long before we were asked something like, "How do you manage to keep all of them happy and busy?" to which my husband snorted, "We don't!"  We have never seen that as our JOB as parents (see this post).  Plus, my husband had just written a piece for the Wall Street Journal about the importance of boredom in a child's life and about the sad lack of free time.  Little did these new acquaintances realize what a loaded question they had just asked……..

It's not unusual to be asked about our parenting style.  Oftentimes it's just a way to break the ice, but sometimes it seems like a genuine inquiry coming from a flustered, frustrated, overwhelmed parent.  In a nutshell:  we believe children are a gift from God (see this post); they come with their own temperaments and personalities "pre-packaged" at birth; they need to know that they are loved unconditionally; and the greatest gifts that we can give to them are to work on a strong marriage, to pass along our faith, and to be open to any siblings God sends us.  Depending upon your outlook, this may sound very boring or downright reckless.  Note:  maximizing the educational potential or ensuring that one of the children becomes a doctor/lawyer/dentist wasn't on our list.

Many educated parents of young children today have a sort of "chicken with the head cut off" syndrome, bouncing from one parenting fad to the next, living in fear that their children will become bored, behind, or unhappy (or all of the above).  The fear fuels a constant push for improvement--FASTER!  MORE POPULAR!  SMARTER!  This is not an atmosphere conducive to joy, calm, or acceptance, and it leaves children hungry for unconditional love.  From helicopter parents to tiger moms and 3-martini playdates, we've lost balance in our parenting lives.

When I was young and energetic I made a lot of parenting mistakes because I either feared my own boredom or my children's.  Now that I'm older and wiser (and have a lot less energy), I have a little more common sense--enough to realize that boredom can be your friend and that too many activities can stress families out.  Earnest parents need to protect their family time, nourish a family culture and make sure their home is a haven where everyone feels accepted.   Instead, today's children feel like they have to earn our acceptance and may worry about reaching the limit of our love.

IF YOU ARE A PERFECTIONIST, READ THIS!

If your parents were perfectionists, perhaps you never felt unconditional love growing up.  I'm sorry--every person should feel such love from his or her parents!  One of my favorite messages--"You are enough"--comes from this organization, which reminds us that we are all made in God's image, regardless of how others treat us.  Ideally our parents love us through bad grades and failure, but if you didn't feel accepted at home it's time to acknowledge that YOU ARE ENOUGH, strive to overcome those failures in your upbringing, and vow to do better with your own children.  Maybe one of your kids needs far more cuddling than you seem to have time for.  Make time for it.  Maybe one of your kids needs to talk, talk, talk your ear off.  Find a way to listen--whether it's shutting off the radio on the car ride home, chopping veggies together before dinner, doing the dishes side-by-side or giving a back rub.  Be receptive.  Be available.  These things will make a world of difference.  The trick is to slow down enough to recognize each person's needs.

IF YOU ARE A FREE-RANGE PARENT, READ THIS!

What I've just said may sound like a promotion for free-range parenting, but it's not.  A Montessori approach encourages independence, recognizes the God-given dignity of each soul, and emphasizes the Prepared Environment--an orderly place that allows a child to function and learn on his or her own with freedom.  Montessori also takes into account a child's stage of development.  But "free-range parenting" is one extreme on the spectrum that can have dangerous implications, such as when, in my upper-middle class suburban neighborhood, three children, ages 4 and under, were playing unsupervised in the street.  No parent in sight.  That's.  Just.  Nuts.  Not only does good parenting require love and commitment, but it also requires common sense.  Along these lines, parents who provide good doses of boredom and free time must also prohibit internet access (when parents aren't around), provide for a suitable environment, and enforce basic ground rules for behavior.

IF YOU TEND TO JUDGE OTHERS, READ THIS!

I have made the mistake of judging another family run from one activity to the next.  I thought I knew enough about the personalities involved to pass judgement on the parents' decisions.  I was wrong.  Especially when it comes to children with special needs (whether officially diagnosed or not), there may be all sorts of behind-the-scenes scenes of which you are unaware.  You may be blind to some burden that colors their whole world.  If you feel annoyed or irritated or threatened by the prospect of "keeping up with the Joneses," just pray for them.  You may wonder how and why they live like they do, but don't judge.  Just love.

In closing……...

So that's it for my busy/happy rant.  I am not totally against kids' activities outside the home, but let's use some common sense.  I welcome your thoughts and ideas on the subject!