Give the Gift of Your Presence this Summer!

This past May I was in Virginia training at Apple Country Head Start located in Winchester, Virginia.  I had the wonderful opportunity of seeing my seven-year old grandson while in Winchester.  My grandson and I share a common interest; the Civil War.  I wondered how to appropriately and authentically share this tumultuous time in our country’s history to a seven-year old.  Well kudos to the National Park Service.  They have a program for “kids” to earn their Junior Ranger Award.  The Junior Ranger Manual thoughtfully guided us through the Antietam Battlefield at our own pace.  We reported back to Ranger Joe who genuinely went through the pages.  Thanks Ranger Joe for your help!  We’re celebrating in the picture below!

So what does this have to do with the summer and your children?  This experience reminded me of summers with my sons and it got me to thinking about today and your children.  How can you navigate your summer so that it is one of memory making?  What can help you to be mindful and present with your children?   What lessons can I pass on to you?

As a mother of two young boys I could hardly wait for summer.  It was a chance to slow down and catch my breath!  We could stay in our jammies all morning and make wonderful structures with Lego‘s.  We could make fabulous mud pits in the backyard with elaborate cities and highways.  After lunch we would walk to the pool and spend the rest of the afternoon with neighborhood friends.  This was our routine with the occasional field trip to Wolf Trap for their wonderful summer children’s programs.  Not very glitzy but one of memory making with meaningful and authentic experiences that would support each of them educationally.   As they grew they would ultimately attend Boy Scout Camp and Church Camp.

I’m not advocating for you to do your summer my way.  We’re living in the 21st century and with that come so many more opportunities.  We know more today.  What I do advocate is to be intentional with this new knowledge.  This is what I suggest you think about when planning your summer.

  • Share your passion and joy with your child.  I loved the outdoors.  I loved the water.  It was that simple for me.  To this day my sons love the outdoors and love the water. What’s your passion?  What brings you joy?  When you share this with your child, the experiences will be meaningful and authentic which literally make connections with your child that will lead your child to be more likely to cooperate.  These experiences are literally wiring their brain for cooperation, willingness and impulse control.
  • Create a routine.  I would not suggest to replicate my routine.  I would suggest that you create days that your child can predict.  Make a weekly calendar so that children can see what Monday looks like, what Tuesday looks like.  Great conversations can come out of the sheer anticipation of what’s next sprinkled with some of your stories as a child.
  • Look for your child’s passion and joy!  Be a keen observer of your child and build on their interests.  What is your child good at?  Notice and describe this out loud; let go of “good job.”  We so often “highlight” what our children are doing wrong.  This summer take the time to “highlight” their brilliance.  This noticing and describing literally builds their frontal lobes.
Take the time this summer to be thoughtful and mindful with your children.  What do you want their stories to be when they are grown?  You are the best present to them so give them the gift of your presence this summer.  That’s priceless.
For those of you that are interested in the Junior Ranger Program here is the link.
Junior Ranger Flowers
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The Hijacking

This is a confession!  Yep, I hijacked a natural consequence.  It’s reported that confession is good for the soul.  Just maybe it will be good for someone else also. 
In 1982, my oldest son was in the third grade.  He returned home from school one day and announced that he had a project due the next day; a project about Mars.  He’d known about it for weeks he reported.  I immediately jumped into the rescue mode.  I called Miss Hillary and she agreed to extend the time for Jay.  Yeah!  I did it!  Problem solved.   
Fast forward the calendar to the Summer of 1997.  Jay is now 23 years old.  He came to see me one  morning and asked me if I remembered a Mars project.  Well, yes I do remember.  Let me assure you that Jay and I have a great relationship so this kind of conversation is and was normal.  He proceeded to tell me that I should not have rescued him.  I should have let him feel the natural consequence when he was 8 years old.  WOW!  How can I argue with him when he is spot on right? 
When I rescued Jay I made the situation about me and all of my “stuff.”   I hijacked an opportunity for Jay to learn from his mistake. 
Natural consequences are how children learn from their mistakes.  Parents can help children reflect on their choices and figure out what changes need to be made.  No rescues.  No judgements.  Yes to encouragement.  Yes to empathy. 
Believe in yourself and believe that your child can handle the situation and learn from it.  Don’t hijack the natural consequences.  You can do it!

Brilliance

Becky Bailey uses the word brilliance a lot.  Sometimes people can over use a word but I have to give it to Becky on this word.  Brilliance just can’t be overused and isn’t that just brilliant?
Well Becky has written a new book and might I just say it?  Brilliance radiates from every page.   She has nailed it once again. 
I love history and what Becky has accomplished is to put our education history in perspective.  She urges us to say good-bye to outdated models of education and classroom management, and step into the 21st century, where intrinsic motivation, helpfulness and connections govern children’s classrooms.   How is it possible to read about research and then make the research come alive in a classroom?  Well she has done it! 
The brilliance shines through every page.    You can find her new book, Creating the School Family:Bully-Proofing Schools Through Emotional Intelligence! on her website.  http://www.consciousdiscipline.com/store/pc/viewPrd.asp?idproduct=138&idcategory=4

South Carolina First Steps

I’m heading to Union County in South Carolina today.  Union County First Steps has asked me to come and introduce them to Conscious Discipline®.  It’s a great opportunity but I’m wondering if the residents of South Carolina know about First Steps.  Here is what I copied from their website.  I think that it is worth knowing.  I believe that all the children in South Carolina will benefit.  It is a worthy investment for our state and country. 

After the alarming realization that one in seven children in South Carolina is not ready for first grade, the General Assembly created S.C. First Steps to School Readiness in 1999. Currently, First Steps is the state’s only entity focused exclusively on increasing school readiness outcomes for all children ages 0 to 5.  Since inception, First Steps has helped more than 500,000 young children prepare for school though programs that strengthen families, improve children’s health and well-being, increase the quality of child care and early education opportunities, and help transition rising  kindergarteners into school. 

I’ll be training in Union on Saturday, February 19 and March 5.   Join me in wishing the adults in Union County that work on behalf of young children and their families well.  We are all in this together.    Here is the website.  www.scfirststeps.org 

I have a feeling!

“I Got a Feeling”

Tomorrow is a big day and “I’ve got a feeling.” 

I’ll be presenting a one day workshop to Roper Learning Center (RLC).  RLC  is the employers child care center for Roper St. Francis Hospital in downtown Charleston, South Carolina.  This one day training will kick off the beginning of a seven month journey of studying the book, Conscious Discipline®.    Each month we’ll be studying the seven skills of Conscious Discipline® and then

implementing that skill into the classroom.   Composure. Encouragement. Assertiveness. Choices. Positive Intent. Empathy. Consequences. 

As The Black Eyed Peas would sing I Got a Feeling.   “Tonight’s gonna a be a good night.  Fill up that cup.  Mazal Tov!”  Here’s to Roper Learning Center for beginning to make a difference in the lives of the children and families in their care.  Mazal Tov!

I’m Moving!

I’m moving!  Just the mention of this phrase can make some people break out in a cold sweat with anxiety.  Not me!  It’s an adventure and an opportunity.  Bring it on. 

I flew to San Francisco to visit my son and daughter in law over the Christmas break.  I treated myself to a book that I’ve been wanting for a while,  Brain Rules for Baby by John Medina.  I was struck by this sentence in the introduction.  “But what you do in your child’s first five years of life — not just the first year — profoundly influences how he or she will behave as an adult.”  

Now, I’ve always told the story of my parents moving frequently when I was young.  My father worked for the Tennessee Valley Authority and we moved four times in the first seven years of my life.  Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky are my states.  My mother was a genius at making it fun.   We would learn about the history of where we were moving.  She assured me that I would make new friends and that I could keep my old friends.  I learned how to say good-bye and how to say hello!  Now that’s a valuable skill to have. 

What I didn’t connect until I began to read John Medina’s book was that my parents formated the perception for me that moving was an adventure and an opportunity.  I was six months old when we first moved.  They literally wired my brain with the perception that moving was an adventure and opportunity so now I feel excited.  This literally dictates my behavior. 

What perceptions and beliefs do you have?  What are you passing to your children?  Thank you Jesse and Louise for the gift of adventure.  It is priceless.

Really?

Cool was the “word” that was popular when I was growing up.  I know that I am dating myself but it’s the truth.  Well I think that “really?” is the word of the day.  The inflection in your voice is imperative.  So here I go. . . .  Really?

I’m at Starbuck’s yesterday waiting to meet someone.  I enjoy arriving early so that I can people watch and listen to the exchanges between adult and child.  I was not disappointed with what I heard but I was surprised with my response.

A mom and her son around the age of six are exiting with their preferred drink and the young man opens the door for his mom and she declares proudly “good job.”  Typically I think, “now what’s so good about opening the door for your mom?”  But this time I thought to myself, “really????”  This slight shift in my response got me to thinking.  I wonder how can I eradicate this horrific phrase?  I mean really what was so good about opening the door?  I do believe that the mom had the best of intentions but “really?”

This kind of praise can actually discourage your child.  “Good job” is rampant out there.  Listen for it and you will hear it over and over and over again.   Good imparts judgement and that you are pleasing me.  Over time your child begins to crave praise.  Is this what you want?

I challenge parents to eliminate “good job” out of your vocabulary and replace it with words that notice and describe.  “You opened the door so we could get out safely.  That was helpful.”  You have noticed what your child did and then tagged it with a phrase like, “that was thoughtful, kind or helpful.”  This exchange actually stimulates your child’s frontal lobes.  You’re helping your child become aware of their actions.  You’re calling attention to their actions in a way that is meaningful and authentic.

You can do it!  You can change your vocabulary.  Make it priority and you won’t regret it.  REALLY!  No question about it!

Avoid Holiday Meltdowns

This holiday season I’ve been fortunate enough to connect with many parents and lend advice. The following is an article that is featured in this month’s edition of NewbyMom.com.

The holidays are a hectic time of year. Parents scurry around town buying gifts, prepping the house for guests and are in a constant state of hurry. Once the kids are on Christmas break, everyday routines fly out the window. There isn’t baseball practice or ballet class, no appointments to keep. At first, it seems like heaven, both the parents and the kids wear pajamas until lunchtime and there are no rules. It’s pure joy until boredom sets in and the trouble begins. So how do you avoid holiday meltdowns that can make your household not so merry?

Here are some helpful hints to keep your children from turning your holidays “Grinch-y”:

Children need routine. The structure of a routine is soothing to your child’s brain, keeping stress at bay. Also, children need to feel in control and safe. When children feel safe, they are more likely to be cooperative and respectful. Take the time to make a routine for the holidays, even if each day looks different.

Talk to your children in pictures, especially those eight years old and younger. Children have immature inner speech until about age eight, which means that children think in pictures without any sound, similar to a silent movie. Children younger than eight need to know what the day will look like, especially during a time when there seems to be no structure. Take pictures of what the new routine will look like and either post it in your home or make it into a “Holiday Book.” Have fun with it and involve your children, it will be a memorable keepsake as well.

Talk to your children like you would talk to your co-workers. Politely and assertive, of course. Children need to be told what to do. Also, young children retain information in their brains for roughly 20 seconds. So when talking to them, remain calm and speak with an assertive voice while focusing on what you want. Spend your time reminding and prompting wisely. When you give information, observe your tone of voice. Is it passive, “It’s time to leave, okay?” Is it aggressive, “Get in the car right now!” Is it assertive, “We’re leaving, get in the car.”

The assertive voice is the voice of knowing and children feel safe when they are with an adult that is composed and calm.

Children need sleep. Don’t forgo sleep for the joy. Children with sleep deprivation are emotional and exhibit defiant behavior and moodiness. Put a large chunk of time for sleep in your routine. This will also give you time to relax and decompress.

Start new family traditions. Children need to feel connected and the holidays are a perfect time to institute some rituals or traditions into your family. Rituals create connections and are the glue that holds the family together. So whether it’s baking cookies, decorating the tree, looking at the Christmas lights or ice skating, these types of family traditions build loving, emotionally healthy children. Make sure your rituals have touch, eye contact and playfulness. This will strengthen the dopamine in your child’s brain which helps them focus and connect. Children that feel connected are more likely to cooperate.

As a parent, we want to give our children the most magical Christmas possible. In the end, you are the best present you can give your child, so be the present with your presence. My grown sons’ best memories of Christmas are not the toys that they received; it was the anticipation and the surprise that they remember. So have fun with it and you’ll have a joyous holiday full of fond memories that will last a lifetime without all the meltdowns.

Thanksgiving Eve

"The next generation"
My great nephew is learning how to make Aunt Jessica's fresh cranberry orange relish.
It’s the eve of Thanksgiving and the house is quiet and the kitchen is dark. It’s the year that both of my sons have other commitments and my niece and her family are unable to travel. That’s what happens when they grow up. As Thanksgiving approached I kept telling myself that I was grateful that no one was coming. I have two workshops in Virginia next week and I need the time to prepare. Focus on the workshops. Pay no attention to Thanksgiving.

Then last night I received a text from my niece. She needed my dressing recipe. That simple text got my attention. I realized how I can still feel connected to my family even when they are not physically with me. I found the cookbook and began to e-mail her the recipe and was quickly transported back in time; 1972. I can close my eyes today and remember that moment. It was my first Thanksgiving as a married woman. My mom bought me a cook book and pointed to the dressing recipe. She then reviewed it and told how her mother made dressing. As a little girl I LOVED that dressing and I wanted to know how to make it. Mother was clear; make your own corn bread and biscuits. Her mother always included a sliced boiled egg; I’ll omit that. That page in the cook book is well-worn.

I then began to remember. I always made Minestrone soup on Wednesday before Thanksgiving. My Aunt Erma had given me a cookbook in 1978 from the Junior League of Jackson, Mississippi and it has the best recipes. I pulled the loved cookbook out, found the recipe and made my grocery list.

Today I will make Minestrone soup and be with my family through the smells in the house and the photographs that fill my home. I am thankful for the women in my family that pass the favorite recipes down to the next generation. I am thankful for my niece who caught my attention with one simple text message.

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star

Celebrating 97 Years

This past November 11, 2010, was my mom’s 97th birthday.  That is not a typo.  She really turned 97 years old.  As a child, I don’t remember ever celebrating her birthday, ever!  We were not allowed to ask her age and she was highly insulted when anyone would ask her age.  I forgot to mention that she is from the Deep South and that just might explain some of this story.

Let me hasten to add that as a child I had the best birthday parties.  Those memories are locked in my brain; memories of slumber parties with my best friends.  I even received a phone call from an elementary school friend this past year.  She woke up on my birthday wondering why she was thinking of me and then realized it was my birthday.  I was 59 years old when she called so talk about long term memory.

But I have strayed from the original story!  My mom turned 97 years old and what do I get for someone that has it all and can’t even truly enjoy it?  She has dementia and is in a wheel chair.  She is in an unbelievable place that takes care of her every basic need; including safety.  So really what can I give someone that I have loved and do love but don’t feel that “special” connection?  I believe that what I give to others I strengthen in myself.  How can I reach out to her and intentionally connect to her and believe that she can and will feel my love and my connection to her even through the dementia.

So what did I do?

There is a fabulous book, I Love You Rituals by Dr. Becky Bailey.  It was written with the intent of making connections with young children and boosting their brain power.  I’ve implemented I Love You Rituals (ILYRS) with countless children and observed amazing connections, focus and concentration.  All ILYRS have eye contact, touch, presence and a bit of playfulness.  It takes maybe 15-20 seconds and it strengthens the dopamine which helps attention and concentration.  I wondered if there was a way to apply the same principle with a different look for my mom.  I decided to do the same I Love You Ritual but two different ways and see what happened.  I chose “Twinkle, Twinkle”.

Twinkle, twinkle, little star,

What a wonderful mom/granny you are!

With bright eyes and nice round cheeks,

Talented mom/granny from head to feet.

Twinkle, twinkle, little star,

What a wonderful mom/granny you are!

I arrived at my mom’s room.  I think that she recognized me just from the way she looked at me.  She never called me by name.  I began to sing“Twinkle Twinkle” and she began to sing with me.  She definitely was “with” me.  Later, I  gathered all four great-grandchildren.  We practiced “Twinkle” twice.  We put Granny in the center of the five of us and sang “Twinkle.”  We ended with a group hug around her.  For the rest of the day, my mom was alert and present with me and all of her great-grandchildren.  What a present from all of our hearts to her heart.  Our present was our presence.

Check out this great book that can transform relationships with eye contact, presence, touch and playfulness.

 

 

I Love You Rituals: Activities to Build Bonds and Strengthen Relationships with Children.

Did I mention that there are two music CD’s of I Love You Rituals that help establish the rituals?