Friday, August 31, 2012

Nautical Themes!

My mother made this for a special friend's baby shower! 

Many have asked how I feel about Zachary going to school.  I will miss him in so many ways . We have developed so many cherished memories and learning experiences.  At the same time I know that if we did not let our sweet babies go this year we would be looking for extra help to stimulate them as they move towards a need for new learning experiences. I would definitely need to learn more about home school curriculum. I feel like we are definitely to the point where he needs more than what we have been doing so I would either step it up or send him to school! 

We chose school for many reasons.  He is enjoying new little responsibilities that allow him to be a little more independent such as the take home folder and being somewhere on his own yet still loves to share experiences after school.  I'm happy that he is learning to socialize with a variety of children. This school has opportunities in the school that I cannot provide him myself such as the fabulous art teacher and a music room FULL of Orff instruments. I love his teacher who is very gentle and has a classroom full of great visuals and hands on learning items. She put up a picture and description of herself on her website which was so helpful to Zachary before we officially met her. It really helped to ease any anxiety he had. We have seen him full of energy and enthusiasm since he arrived on the first day. I'm so glad this has been a positive experience so far. 

My mother n law sent us this poem from the eyes of a teacher before Zachary started school and I thought I'd share.  I am unsure of who the author is.  

The First DAY

I gave you a little smile
As you dropped off your child today
For I know how hard it is to leave
And know your child must stay.

You've been with him for several years now
And have been her loving guide
But now, alas, the time has come
to leave him at my side

Just know that as you walk away
And tears down your cheek may flow
I'll love him as I would my own
And help her to learn and grow.

For as a parent, I too know
how quickly the years do pass
And I remember the day it was my turn
to take my child to class.

So please put your mind at ease
and cry those tears no more
For I will love him and take her in
When you leave him at my door.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

More Thoughts on The Optimistic Child

I've continued my read through the book The Optimistic Child by Martin E.P. Seligman, PhD.  I have felt excitement and motivation as I have read and sometimes re-read the content of this book.  I have found it as an extremely helpful guide in encouraging healthy thinking and perception in situations that occur for our children. I know this upcoming year for us with Zachary in kindergarten will provide even more practice of the activities/discussion situations. The information shared from his research makes very logical sense when I look back on my own life and think about what has given me confidence in my own development.  Most of the activities in the book involve listening to example situations and discussing appropriate perceptions or responses to each.  It may possibly be something to start introducing in early elementary but for some maybe late elementary.

The last couple of chapters of the book discuss helpful ways to begin healthy thinking with babies.  These techniques are obviously very different from the techniques given for older children because "very young children do not yet have the cognitive skills to recognize and dispute their own thoughts" (Seligman, 278). He also explains that there are three crucial principles for giving very young children the skills for optimism and these principles come from research on learned helplessness.  The principles are mastery, positivity and explanatory style.  Today's post will focus on Mastery


Dr. Seligman explains that babies can learn the skill of mastery by experiencing control or outcomes that are contingent on their actions. Babies that shake a rattle laugh maybe because they like the sound but even more so because they are the ones making the sound happen.  They realize when they shake it makes a noise and when they stop it stops also.  This is mastery of an object and is the first building block to self confidence.

On the contrary, "helplessness results from noncontingency, a situation in which the probability of an outcome is the same whether or not a response is made" (Seligman).  Dr. Seligman gives an example of an early experiment with rats.  If a rat gets an electric shock and there is nothing the rat can do to make it stop the rat becomes helpless.  If a rattle or some type of electronic toy made a sound intermittently on its own with no response to the baby pressing a button or shaking it, the baby is helpless over what the rattle does.

It is also important to set the children up for success.  Dr. Seligman suggests this but this is also something that was ingrained in us during our therapy training classes.  If you are helping the child master a fear of the sandbox it would not be suggested to plop them in the middle of a sand pile.  Let them feel a few pieces in their hand.  If you are working towards modifying a behavior work towards a goal that is achievable such as giving a reward to a child for using gentle hands 3 times in a morning rather than requiring that the reward be given only if there have been no mistakes all day.

Dr. Seligman also gives examples of what kinds of toys or activities encourage mastery.  Choices in general encourage mastery because it gives the child a sense of control and accomplishment.

  • Echoing babies actions such as banging a cup on a table.  This reinforces their motor skill development as well as mastery of being able to do so. 
  • Echoing babies sounds/speech.  This reinforces the idea that you think their sounds are good and encourages them to continue the sounds.  These sounds are the first steps to speech. 
  • Blocks, mobiles within reach, tricycles, walkers, crayons and paper, pull pencils, dress up dolls, boxes, baby gyms, books, toys that make sounds when buttons are pressed, trucks, musical instruments, etc.  
An example of something that is NOT a building block for mastery is TV.  In once sense TV is good because it can have very educational lessons.  There is no mastery unless the child practices what the TV has taught.  Excessive TV all day long means no practice for mastery.  Dr. Seligman states that stuffed animals are not a mastery item however I do remember as a kid coming up with many pretend stories with stuffed animals. Perhaps his thoughts are on babies and not the older children in this example. 

Of course this does not mean that we give our kids unlimited options and no structure. Sometimes picking from 1 or 2 things is appropriate and other times when something is unsafe we obviously need to say "no".  

We also know that sometimes we fail and our children will too. This may cause less interest in exploration and an unwillingness to try again.  Our job comes in again here perhaps with assistance and always with positive feedback. 

I hope this has been insightful on giving young children opportunities to build self confidence or mastery.  I will be learning right along with everyone else.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Assumption of Mary Dessert

When August hits every year I hear a few particular associations expressed by people who surround me from day to day.  Most of them have to do with August being miserably hot but there are also quite a few about having so much to do in transition from vacation mode to school year mode.  Smack in the middle of our agitating August on the 15th, our church has an important day of celebration which at first we think, "oh no I forgot that I need to squeeze church into the day too"  but then for me personally as I get in the mindset of this beautiful day I realize that it is nice to take a break from any August frustrations being experienced and enjoy the beauty of our celebration.

On this day of August 15 we celebrate the Assumption of Mary into Heaven.  We believe in our church that God made Mary sinless because she was going to hold his perfect son within her (as the new arc of the covenant) and therefore when she died as sinless she was assumed into heaven, body and soul.  To me she is also a wonderful role model and example of a mother and women.  I look up to her faith, strength through hard times, and overall beauty.  

To give the kids a fun activity for this day I found this dessert on the blog Catholic Icing which is a fantastic blog with a wide variety of hands on activities to help kids learn about faith. It was quite easy and very tasty too!

Heavenly Jello

Follow directions on a box of blue gellatin.  
Allow it to harden halfway in the fridge. 
Scoop cool whip into a glass to make a few clouds.
Add more jello.
Add more clouds.
Put back in the fridge.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Our New System that Works for Us

So chaos has a tendency to visit homes of families especially those with small children learning about the rights and wrongs/dos and don'ts of our society. I can't think of any parent who hasn't yet said, "We had a few moments today" or "we had an awful morning today" at some time or another. We had some tantrums this morning actually, venti sized for those of you who speak Starbucks. 

We began using just a sticker chart when Zachary turned 3 to help minimize the frustrations.  This worked well for Zachary because he could earn stickers for positive behavior in about 3-5 different areas.  After he earned 20 stickers he could get a prize from the prize box.  For some kids it may have needed to be less.  If he broke any rules he lost stickers and again we generally focused on about 3 rules at a time which he needed practice on. 

Now that he's aging though we needed something new.  We needed something that would incorporate his chores, his stretches that he has to do for his leg muscles (b/c this is NOT a favorite activity even if we do stretches with him), and also respect which encompasses quite a bit (pushing, tone of voice, yelling, following directions.  This chart idea comes from my mother who has been an elementary teacher for...I think 30 years. Thanks to her we have this new system that works so well for us.  Here is how it works.

Every morning and every afternoon Zachary can earn 3 baseballs so 6 in total each day.  If he does his chores he gets a sticker or a check on the baseball for his "chores" ball, etc. If he chooses not to do them he gets an X on the ball. By the end of the week he has to have 80% of the balls in order to earn his prize.  As time goes on we can increase it to 85%.  Timeouts can still be used at any time we feel necessary as well as taking away privileges.  I give 1 warning for most things before he loses the ball or gets something take except for hitting/being physical.  That's just automatic loss or timeout. Earning stickers on the ball or a check is usually motivating enough for him thus far. 

Some disagree with earning prizes but I do have to argue that everything we do as humans we do for some type of payoff.  Children do not think abstractly or long term the way we do.  They need concrete payoffs and visual aids to help them remember. The payoffs will change as they get older as they learn to appreciate the little rewards of doing things such as enjoying a clean room (hopefully that's one of them).  My hope is always that parents find something healthy that works for their family.  Love to hear about new ideas.