Posts tagged 5 Year-Olds

School and Learning and Life – Read This To Be Inspired

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In this moment, I am profoundly inspired by my awareness of the perfect individuality of every child.

On the eve of a new school year, I want to call out to all the parents who worry that their child will lose her “spark”, be stifled at school, or worse yet, not learn his math facts.

I invite you to fan the flame, encourage the learning of full self-expression drenched in kindness and consideration for others, and nurture the love of math for its own sake.

Here is the bottom line.

Your child has a profound spark, a fire within, that drives him or her to learn, to grow, and to live in positive, nurturing, connected relationship with others. He or she is always driving towards, leaning in, even when he or she seems to be pulling back, afraid, or shutting down. The fire is always there.

You have a profound ability to see your child’s spark – and a profound ability to see his or her failings, too.

Your unfaltering affection for your child, your deep, deep trust in his or her worthiness and glorious human strengths, your constant redirecting of everyone’s attention (including and especially your own) to the shining of those strengths, to the places where growth has occurred, and to the wise and vulnerable soul of your precious child, is key.

In some ways, this is a message for your child’s teachers, BUT, when your child comes home to YOUR unwavering awareness of the miracle of his or her being, and to your dedication to his or her potential for joy and kindness and learning and skill and meaning and the GIVING BACK of those human strengths for the good of others, THAT is where the spark is fanned, the fire is fed and the reaching for powerful human potential becomes firmly entrenched in your child’s way of being.

If I were in school right now, that would be a run-on sentence. But, read it again. It will empower you to be the support your child needs.

From the beginning, respect your child’s learning process. Every child is a perfect individual – there is no other alike. Revel in the glorious humanity of your child, harness strengths, make peace with their process, and help them see their own way of learning. 

When you can do this, successfully and consistently, yourself, you will empower your child to thrive in environments away from you, AND you will hone your own awareness of whether the school or schooling situation that you’ve chosen for your child is truly nurturing to him or her. If it is, you will celebrate in your heart. If it is not, you will know how to look for another – you will feel the alignment of the teacher or school with your own habit of glorying in your child’s being.

Last night I stayed up late reading one of the most inspiring books I know – it is called “Children Who Are Not Yet Peaceful” by Donna Bryant Goertz, and it will give you the inspiration, and tools and keys to see the profound beauty of your child’s individuality. If you’re faltering now, worrying about math facts or handwriting or bullying or whether your child will live up to someone else’s (or your own) standards of right learning this year, and if you’re losing your own focus on the miracle of humanity that your child is, I invite you to pick up this book, and stay up late, tearful and joyful, as you are re-awakened to your own appreciation for your child’s potential. If you’re in Calgary, you can call and order the book through Self-Connection Books (403-284-1486), or click here for the link to order on Amazon. I’d love to see this book in the hands of every human. Adults need this kind of care, too.

May your child’s school year start off with joy and fullness, and the knowledge of his or her own brilliance.

For practical ideas on how to support your child’s school experience, click here.

 

How to Handle Tantrums, Meltdowns, and General Unrest

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When I was coaching one time, I asked the dad in the family what he did to express his feelings in a healthy way. He stared blankly at me as if to ask, “What feelings? Are parents allowed to have feelings?”

This is a very common theme amongst parents. We often think that in order to be “good” parents, we shouldn’t have feelings.

That is just plain not true. In fact, the worst thing you can do for your kids is to act like you don’t have feelings. How will they know how to express their feelings in a healthy way if you don’t provide a strong example for them?

Kids have big feelings. Parents do, too. Click <here> to find out how to support your kids when they are having big feelings, and how to set the example for them.

First, shift your perception. I prefer the word “meltdown” to “tantrum”. “Tantrum” implies anger, defiance, and disobedience, and inspires your opposition. “Meltdown” implies overwhelm, lack of control, and a need for help, and inspires your compassion. When your child is overwhelmed by big feelings, he or she needs your compassion, not your opposition.

Next, think ahead and set your child up for success. Meltdowns are caused by overwhelm, lack of control OR hunger, thirst, or tiredness. DON’T spend a whole day at the mall when you know that your child can’t handle it. DO bring along healthy snacks and drinks. Every child is different. Know your children and plan ahead to meet their needs.

No matter how much you plan ahead, most children will have meltdowns sometimes. It’s a normal and natural part of growing up. To support your child’s big feelings, no matter the age of the child, show them that you hear and understand them by reflecting what you see about their feelings, needs, and wants. For a toddler, use very simple language. For all ages, reflect tone and body language, too.

For a toddler: “Yes! You WANT that little truck!” (Stomp your foot.)

For your elementary child: “I hear you! You really are NOT in the mood for spaghetti AGAIN!” (Speak emphatically.)

For your teenager: “I get it! This whole situation is really, really frustrating for you.” (Reflect your teen’s tone.)

Then, KEEP LISTENING while your child talks or shows you his or her feelings. Your child may be kicking and screaming, but the more you reflect and listen, the shorter the meltdown will be. (Unless you have been shutting down feelings for a while – if so, reflecting will give your child permission to let it ALLLL out, and meltdowns may get worse before they get better.)

At another time, when your child is NOT melting down, clarify which behaviours are okay with big feelings, and which aren’t. (These will likely be different at home or when out.) During the meltdown, if your child is doing things that are unacceptable, firmly repeat, “You CAN stomp feet, yell, jump up and down, punch pillows, run around, or growl when you’re upset.” With smaller children, give fewer options to keep it simple.

Then manage the situation to prevent the unacceptable behaviour (ie put away things your child is breaking, lovingly hold the child so they cannot hit their sister, take a loud child outside if they are disrupting the restaurant).

Lastly, help your child say what they need to say. “You CAN say, ‘I did NOT like that ONE BIT!!!'” or “You CAN say, ‘I need you to be fair when you play games with me!!'”

And, all the time, set the example. If you’ve been yelling AT your children or expressing your feelings in an aggressive or unacceptable way when you’re upset, instead growl and stomp around, do the “mad dance”, or otherwise release your energy harmlessly into the Universe, then come back into conversation with your child when you’ve gotten it all out and are able to be respectful.

YES, mom and dad! You CAN stomp around, yell, jump up and down, punch pillows, run around, or growl when you’re upset! Just don’t direct negative energy AT anyone or at breakable things. What’s acceptable in every home is different, but I encourage you to broaden your idea of what is acceptable behaviour to express emotions.

As your next step, if you need extra support, give me a call and let’s set up some coaching time – I’d love to help you to stay connected with your kids, and to help you to help them thrive in today’s rapidly changing world. Enjoy, and please comment below about how YOU help your children through tantrums, meltdowns, and general unrest…I love to hear from you!

 

 

Helping Your Child With Fears

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Helping Your Child With Fears

Lots of children have a love-hate relationship with Hallowe’en, (not to mention animals, insects, and other common objects of fear).  If your young child is experiencing fears, one of the most helpful things you can do is to affirm their feelings.  Let your child know that everybody is afraid sometimes, and that you will be there for them.

When a child is pushed to get to close to something they are afraid of, laughed at, or scolded for being afraid, you risk having the fear become a phobia.  This type of response will also damage your child’s trust in you.

Often, sharing knowledge about how other people do things can be very helpful.  You might let your child know that, since lots of people are afraid of things, there are lots of ways that people can stop being afraid.  Then you can try some of the ideas below together.  Overcoming fears may be as simple as outgrowing them, or may be a more complex process.

If your child is afraid of something that you don’t like, make sure you let him or her know that you don’t like that thing, either.  Your child will see your example of acting calmly even though you don’t like that thing, and that can help him or her to feel braver.

Since very young children are often afraid of faces that have angry expressions or that don’t look quite right, Hallowe’en witches, ghosts, skulls, or other scary masks or decorations can be especially frightening.  For a child under three, the easiest solution is to do your best to avoid exposing the little one to things that you know he or she finds scary.  The child will have lots of time to reach new levels of understanding and overcome these fears with time.

If your young child sees something that he or she is afraid of, as soon as you have affirmed the feeling, you can try to distract your child.  “You didn’t like that at all!  I don’t like those either.  Hey, look!  There’s someone dressed up as a chicken!”  With older children (3 or 4) you can talk to them about choosing to think about something else once their initial fear has settled down a bit.  The song “My Favourite Things” can be very helpful for this (even if you can’t sing like Julie Andrews;).

If your child is afraid of animals or insects (like the Hallowe’en spider), the fear can often be softened by reading books or watching you or someone else interact with the animal or bug.  Again, if the child is too frightened, hold him or her close and stay far away unless the child agrees to move closer.  You can also sing “Itsy Bitsy Spider” or other songs related to the specific fear.

As your child gets older (3, 4, or 5) you can give more information throughout the year about things like skulls and skeletons, witches and ghosts.  The explanations that appeal to most children might be very scientific, involving feeling their own bones, or they might be more story-like, sounding something like this:

“People used to think that witches were people who could do magic by mixing funny things together and saying interesting words.  Like…maybe the witch could mix the hair of a dog with a pair of someone’s socks, say “slitheraniffle” and suddenly the person would get hairy feet!  Do you think that really happens?  Probably not, but sometimes people like to pretend.  People thought that it would be kind of scary for witches to be able to do those kinds of things, and they imagined people with super-long noses and green skin and called them witches.”

When talking about Hallowe’en, it also helps to explain that some people think it’s fun to be a little scared.  You might say that people like to feel all of their feelings, and being afraid is one kind of feeling. I’ve also found it really helpful to use the phrase “Love is stronger than fear.” When children ask why people like scary things, it may be because people like to be reminded that love is stronger than fear, so to prove it, they do scary things and then laugh and have fun with their friends.

One of the best ways to help someone overcome a fear is to help them to take an action that addresses the fear directly.  One possible action is to prepare the child with something to say to the thing they are afraid of.  They might say “Hey, you skeleton!  Stop scaring me!” or “Hello, little kitty, please be gentle with me.”  They might also have a stuffed toy they like to cuddle that can help them to not be afraid, or at home, they might turn on the light, cover the book with the scary picture in it with a blanket, or dance the “Brave Dance”.

The son of a friend of mine had been stung by wasps, and was given a wing-flapping, cawing pterodactyl to frighten wasps away.  When a wasp came near, he pushed the button and the thing went into action, sometimes dispelling the wasp, and usually dispelling the fear.

Another way to help overcome a fear is to offer your own physical or emotional support.  If your child needs your support, you can squat down and reassure that you are close by, or allow him or her into your arms.  If you are in a situation where your child is afraid to move away from you, you might consider giving him a rock or something else to keep in his pocket to remind him of you, or singing to him as he goes past the scary thing.  My little one has been afraid of our cat at various times, and “singing her” through the house has often helped her to go somewhere that the cat may have been lurking.

For older children, it often helps to sit down together and write down the ideas you choose to try, then try out each idea several times to see if it helps.

I hope that these ideas help you to enjoy a fun and fearless Hallowe’en!

Sometimes You’re in Your Child’s Way

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The fastest way to get out of your child’s way and increase your child’s ability to learn new things is to pay close attention to another Montessori principle: “Never substitute your own activity for the child’s.”

Montessori described “sensitive periods” for the acquisition of new skills or understanding. These specific time periods are the ideal time for a child to learn a skill – the child is fascinated by the skill, and learns it most quickly and easily.

To understand the power of sensitive periods, think about how easily most small children learn language, and compare their skills to the language skills of many adults who have spoken a second language for many, many years, but still have not perfected grammar or pronunciation.

Some examples of general sensitive periods are: the 0-6 year-old is in sensitive periods for order, movement and language, and the 6-12 year-old moves through sensitive periods for imagination, working with other people, and morality.

As the child passes through each sensitive period, the adult must observe, give basic lessons in advance when possible, and then – and this is the most important part – stay out of the way and allow the child to explore, make mistakes, and deeply concentrate on each new skill.

Each time we substitute our activity for the child’s, we are intervening into the work of the child. Each time we take the child’s shoelaces into our own hands as she attempts to tie them herself, we take away the child’s opportunity to explore and pursue that skill in that specific moment. If we keep in mind that the sensitive period for a skill exists for only a limited time, we will naturally tend to avoid the interruption as much as possible.

Each time we punish a child for lying, rather than asking “How did it feel in your heart when you told your friend that?” we take away the child’s opportunity to explore their internal moral barometer by distracting with frustration and anger towards us.

So – to help your child learn more, get out of the way!  Give your child time and space to explore, make mistakes, make a mess, figure it out, and concentrate on whatever he or she is trying to do. Do your best NOT to interrupt, and NOT to do it for them.

Please share your thoughts below!  I love to hear your feedback:).

Montessori Tip #2: How 5 Year-Olds and 7 Year-Olds Are Different

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The other day I was chatting with some friends, a group of parents of 7-year-olds.  When I told them that I was going to write a blog post called “What’s the difference between a 5-year-old and a 7-year-old?” one dad said, “Tell them: everything. Everything!  EVERYTHING!!!”
If you have a 7-year-old, you’ve seen a lot of amazing changes over the last two years, and you may be curious about why certain things are happening.  If you have a 5-year-old, you may be wondering what might happen next.  I’m going to tell you a little about the developmental processes at these ages, and give you a little bit of Montessori perspective on the transition that is occurring.
5-year-olds are at the end of a major developmental stage, and 7-year-olds are moving into the beginning of a new one.  It’s pretty exciting to watch, and both 5 and 7-year-olds (and the cheeky 6-year-old in between) can be tough on their parents as they navigate new waters.
5-year-olds begin to be very interested in working WITH others, doing hard things together.  5-year-olds have a developmental need for LOTS of playdates.  This need ramps up for the 6-12 year-old, as the imagination expands and the child’s fascination with social interaction push the child to focus on imaginative play.
While the younger child begins to have empathy, can know that you’re sad and kiss you better, your 5-year-old can project how HE would feel if that happened to him, and sometimes respond accordingly in the moment.  A key question at 5, especially, is, “How would you feel if that happened to you?”
Taking empathy so much further, your 7-year-old can see you feeling sick, and, all on her own, without being asked, spend the evening getting herself supper so you can lie down, bring you a drink, offer to put the music on, say she loves you, and read you a bedtime story.  (True story!  This was me last week, heart-melted!)
The difference is that the 7-year-old can THINK it all through, FIGURE it all out, and CHOOSE to act, and sustain action, in accordance with values.  The 7-year-old is CONSCIOUS.  Feel the magic of that!!
Your 5-year-old, for the first time ever, begins to realize that others have opinions of him or her.  You may see the beginnings of shame in your 5-year-old that weren’t there before.  This socially-interested 5-year-old will bloom into the socially-obsessed 7-year-old.  (And I say that very lovingly.)
Dr. Maria Montessori described children as going through “sensitive periods”.  During a sensitive period, a child is internally driven to learn or explore whatever is the next step of their natural development.  During the sensitive period for walking, your child will want to walk, all day, and sometimes all night.  He will exhaust himself walking, even to the point of crying in exhaustion, but cannot stop, because the internal drive to walk is so powerful.  Your 6-12 year-old is experiencing sensitive periods for social understanding, imagination, and morality.
Your 6-12 year-old (you’ll see the first glimpses in your 5-year-old, and start to feel it full-on in your 7-year-old) will be DRIVEN to understand who he or she is SOCIALLY.  He or she will play, breathe and question in the social arena.  This child will ask about government and rules (how PEOPLE organize themselves), psychology (why PEOPLE do what they do and act how they act), and morality (why PEOPLE do bad things and how they make choices).
This is why you see your 6 and 7-year-olds trying on different ways of talking and acting.  For the first time ever, they don’t just say or do whatever comes to mind, in the way it comes.  Instead, they can CHOOSE how they’re going to act.  They can recognize that their behaviour has an effect on others, and they can adjust accordingly. They try on what they see and hear around them.  Your 7-year-old girl will flip her hair, put her hand on her hip, and say “Like, ummm, Mommy?  You have GOT to be kidding me!” with great flair.
And, yes, they may sometimes be cheeky.  Or even downright rude, as they try on different ways of interacting.  They are watching you closely to see how you will react to each nuance of language and action. (Except when they are so busy reveling in the sound of their own voice, and all the various nuances they can explore!)  They are looking for feedback about what’s right and wrong, good and bad, acceptable and not, in the social world.
Your 5-year-old may be explosive, emotional, and overwhelmed.  They may experiment with threatening, hitting, and/or saying “very mean” things to you.  Your 5-year-old is in a very unstable time of change.  A BIG change is coming, but he or she cannot understand it yet.  It’s as if he or she is looking through a very foggy window.  “There’s something I’m supposed to understand about people, but I don’t see it yet.  For some reason I care about what that person thinks, but I don’t feel any control over their opinion or behaviour.”
The 7-year-old gets that others have opinions, and has the feeling that those opinions might change if he or she just does or says the right thing or is the right kind of person – and the 7-year-old feels that THAT is entirely in their control.  There’s a beautiful power there – “I can be who I choose!” AND a terrible vulnerability as they learn, “I cannot make everyone love me.”  Friendships can be powerful and painful, often infatuation-like at this age.
It may feel as if your 7-year-old is playing with your reactions sometimes – and, they are!  They are methodically testing out behaviours and ideas on you.  They are finding your triggers and figuring out how they work.  

7-year-olds are scary to us parents, because they will judge us.  Today, you may be pronounced the best mommy in the world, or the worst one, and you can be pretty sure that your 7-year-old has actually measured you up against other mommies before making the proclamation.  

Your 5-year-old and your 7-year-old BOTH will need you to help them understand social dynamics, personalities, and moral questions. Rather than telling your child what to do, socially and morally, help him or her understand the dynamics that are at play, and increasingly invite them to make decisions about HOW they want to be, socially and morally.

We’ll be talking a lot about Montessori’s insights into the developmental processes of your growing child (age 0 through 15) and how to meet your child’s (physical, mental, emotional, social and spiritual) needs as they change, in my upcoming course, The Happiness of the Child: Montessori Information Series.  You can register or find out more here.  

This is the only course I hold in my home, as it focuses partially on the home environment. I look forward to sharing my home with you for this very special course!

Call me to register by phone, or click here to register for The Happiness of the Child online!
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