Monday, June 29, 2015

4 Steps in Teaching Kids to Accomplish Something

For our summer trip we took during this month of June, we stopped at the public library and checked out about 10 audio books for the car ride.  We play them on the car CD player and also bring a portable one with headphones for the kids to share. We were listening to one of the books in the Magic Tree House Series where the characters in the book are given 4 secret words that teach on how to accomplish a goal or "get good" at something.

The words or virtues the characters uncover during the stories to find out about success in accomplishments are humility, hard work, meaning and purpose, and enthusiasm.  I liked that the author included these concepts in the books and the creative ways she used to teach these words to children.  I do think though, that if I had to put them in order, it would be different from the order they uncovered the words in and I also think that there is another word that is necessary to have in addition to these other four words.

If I had to list these virtues in order to teach how to achieve accomplishments, I would choose meaning and purpose as the first. Generally, a person has to believe in what they are doing.  We choose to do things that are meaningful to us. That very meaning and purpose in a skill or task can give us the motivation, interest, or enthusiasm to get started and be persistent. There likely are those who do something because they were told to do it and do it to be obedient without thinking about it, and perhaps maybe those people eventually find meaning and purpose to what they are doing in some situations, after they practice and work hard. As my husband told me, he has considered working at other jobs he has heard about, but in the end stays where he is because he likes what he is doing and believes in what he is working on.

In considering the next virtue of accomplishment, I would say that enthusiasm is next.  It is a result of finding meaning and purpose to a task or building skills.  Once a person finds something they truly believe in it, enthusiasm comes naturally in wanting to accomplish this goal. Upon discovering that all positions on a soccer team are necessary and contribute to goals scored, a person is likely to be more excited to practice and play their position. In high school, when I had the desire to take percussion lessons, I became even more enthusiastic to practice and audition for the drum line and wind ensemble band when I realized that I had a chance at getting in to both of these.   This enthusiasm or interest, greatly affects the progress we make and what lengths we are willing to go through to be successful.   On the days my son decides that he is not interested in learning piano, he hardly gets anywhere in his lesson, grunting, speeding through the songs or pieces, and allowing himself to become easily frustrated. He also has no interest in learning anything from me or finding other resources to help him. On the days he is eager, he is willing to be patient with himself, sit and work hard, practice more frequently, ask me questions, and see how it would be useful to his life.

I think the next virtue following enthusiasm would be hard work.  Once the interest is there, then the person can focus much better on practicing and working hard.  I am much more willing to sit at the piano for extended periods of time when working on preferred pieces.  I also love to be outdoors playing sports and can easily stay out there for hours assuming the weather is pleasant. Pretty straight forward...

Finally, I would say that humility is the last step usually learned.  Once we start working hard, we will likely hit road blocks. Maybe we have all had moments of refusing to accept help from someone for whatever reason.  Maybe it is wanting to know that we could accomplish it ourselves without help, maybe we just get frustrated in the practicing process and do not feel like talking to anyone, let alone accepting help, maybe we have a grudge against the person offering...As we know though, help is necessary often times in achieving our goals. Others with more wisdom, experience, and patience have a lot to offer to us in how to achieve something and how to be persistent in doings so.  Sometimes it just takes time for us to learn this virtue of humility.

There is one quality that my husband and I both find absolutely crucial to possess along with these four words is self confidence.  If a person lacks a belief in themselves and their ability to achieve anything at all, how likely is it that they would even try? If they do not like who they are or do not think themselves worthy of being anything great, would they try, participate, or practice anything? If they do not see purpose to their own life at all, would they find purpose in tasks, have enthusiasm or be willing to work hard?

As babies, enthusiasm or interest in something may be the key word that begins the process of self-confidence.  Interest in reaching a toy may be what motivates a little one to start crawling and practicing with their muscles, once they are at that point of development.  Hard as it is to accept sometimes, it may be failure that encourages this self-confidence. When they fail and then try again, they learn that hard work leads to success.  When we as humans fail and then achieve, we learn that we can keep trying and achieve.  Failure can be discouraging, but it is also an important tool in encouraging hard work and achieving this self-confidence that is significant to a person's life.

It is important that we do not skip over teaching this concept for fear of arrogance.  As the author mentioned, humility is also key, but we will not learn anything from anyone if we do not first believe that we can be successful and that we are indeed, worthy of success.

The author's four words of important virtues I believe are absolutely necessary to have to be successful and accomplish goals.  I think they were presented in a way that children can understand.  I do also believe that we also need to make sure we see the value of self confidence.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Music for Relaxation of the Mind and Body

As I have been preparing for the birth of our third child, I have been giving a lot of thought and research to the music that I have during labor and delivery. My 2nd baby was born over 5 years ago and I was still carrying around a ipod Nano...(do they even make those anymore??), but now with phones, I have access to an even bigger library as well as Spotify.  

Everyone is different and music preference depends on many reasons, a few of them being what you were exposed to growing up, what you preferred in your late elementary to early 20s, and personality.  Music that relaxes one person may not be the same that relaxes another, but there are some wonderful guidelines or suggestions to follow that many people have in common when it comes to relaxing the mind and body. 

Suggestions to Follow when Selecting Music for Relaxing the Mind and Body

Select music without words.  Adding lyrics to music adds another element for the brain to focus on, taking your focus off of emptying your mind of stressors and your breathing. It just adds another distraction that your brain subconsciously is hearing and processing.

Simple, slow melodies- Many songs that are written for relaxation actually have melody lines that move very quickly.  The brain will track that quick paced melody causing a lot more activity in the brain than desired for a relaxed state. I would suggest finding music with a lot more sustained pitches that do not have a lot of complicated rhythms as well as syncopated ones. I like to use a composer name Chuck Wild as a great example for relaxation.  In his Liquid Mind series, he uses his slow breaths to determine when to change chords in his composition. A resting heart rate of 60-70 beats per minute is often suggested for tempo.

Simple arrangements- Music with too many instruments and too much harmonization adds more complicated sounds for the brain to track and focus on, making it overstimulating. 

Dissonance vs. not- I personally do not like to have chords in my relaxation music with a lot of dissonant chords.  I find that it causes too much tension in my mind and I feel much more at ease with chord progressions consisting of more major chords and some minor ones.   Many albums out there for yoga and meditation do have some pieces with a lot of dissonance. Some people enjoy that and you may too.  It just is not my own preference. 

My favorite pieces will be listed below!

Quiet Music for Babies or Early Childhood

All of these suggestions are important to keep in mind for yourself, but especially for young children and babies.  Babies are still developing their sensory systems and complex information is more difficult to process.  I find that simple music lowers the chance of becoming overstimulated.  

Volume is also a key element in seeing that they can rest or calm more peacefully.  Volume that seems okay for your own enjoyment may be much too loud for such little ears.  When studying in our music therapy program many years ago, research had shown that the loudest healthy volume for adult ears was the volume of a hair dryer.  Can you imagine how unhealthy a concert is for our hearing, especially for young children?

Timbre is another component that can affect a babies ease.  When working with my students with autism, I have noticed that metallic tones can be quite bothersome such as some glockenspiels or tamborines.  Low, fuller tones may be more pleasant to the ears such as low tones on the recorder, piano, or clarinet. 

I have also heard it said that music can help us get to sleep, but it should be turned off after we achieve sleep because we actually do not sleep as well with the noise in the background. It may be useful to set a timer. Many devices allow you to do this. 

My favorites for  meditation, yoga, or just calming the mind.

  • Liquid Mind Albums- Chuck Wild
  • Relaxation: 101 Relaxing Nature Sounds-Relaxing Sounds of Nature White Noise 4 Mindfulness Meditation Relaxation Specialists
  • Ambience -Yoga and Spirituality: Mindfulness Music by Ambient Music Creator
  • Reiki Healing Music for Health- Yoga and Spirituality: Mindfullness Music by Reiki and Reiki
  • Sounds of Nature without music such as Ocean Waves from Rest and Relax Nature Sounds album.
  • Disney's Lullaby Album Volume 2- Fred Molin- This album is instrumental version of popular songs so your brain will think about the words, but I still enjoy it.

    If I have the need to slow down and chill out where I am not actually trying to meditate or concentrate on deep breathing and mind training I enjoy Jim Brickman or David Tolk.  Brickman has beautiful piano arrangements, although there are a lot of moving lines in the melodies.  I enjoy Tolk's beautiful chord progressions and also his beautiful instrumentation.