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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Secrets from a Teacher: Ask the Experts

When Isaac was nearing his second birthday, I started to think that his speech was delayed.

But I wasn’t sure, so I hemmed and hawed about it for a couple more months.

Then, I finally called to get him evaluated.

As it turned out, his speech WAS delayed, but just barely.

 

Even with my background in child development and my experience with my older child, I had a hard time telling whether Isaac’s development was normal or not.  The great thing is that I didn’t have to figure it out on my own.  Every state has a myriad of resources available for early childhood education…all you have to do is ask.

 

So when you are unsure whether or not your child’s development (or behavior or tantrums or poop) are normal, find an expert and ask!

ask an expert

 

(The expert pictured above is Alisha from Your Kids Table, the occupational therapist I’ve consulted several times about my kids’ eating habits.)

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Secrets from a Teacher: Praise Properly

 

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Praise is a powerful thing.  When done correctly, it can motivate, raise self-esteem, and inspire confidence. 

When done incorrectly, it can do the exact opposite.  Praising your children CAN be harmful.

I read NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children several years ago and it had a profound impact on my teaching and parenting.  I could summarize the authors’ argument, but this video does it better.

 

 


(This post is part of a Secrets from a Teacher to Make You a Better Parent, a part of the write31days.com challenge.  The best way to keep up with this series is to subscribe via email here.)

Monday, October 20, 2014

Secrets from a Teacher: Kids Need Recess!

It was a beautiful weekend here in Iowa.  And my kids got plenty of time to play outdoors; at a birthday party in a park, at a family gathering with their cousins, walking the dog, and working outside with their dad.

But not every weekend is the same.  Sometimes, the weather is crummy or the kids get zoned out in front of the tv and don’t go outside.

Truth be told, those days affect them.  They are grouchier, restless, and more obstinate.  But a change of scenery and a chance to use their large motor skills can help.

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Both exercise and time outdoors have been shown to improve mood and brain function.  So make an effort, even when the weather’s not great, to get your kids outside.  When weather really makes it impossible (Iowa in February, for example) try some large motor games inside.  My boys love trying to keep a balloon from hitting the ground, throwing ball-pit balls at a “spider web” of painter’s tape across a doorway, and doing Wii Just Dance.  Kids gyms and indoor playgrounds are great options, too.

Don’t underestimate the power of active play!


(This post is part of a Secrets from a Teacher to Make You a Better Parent, a part of the write31days.com challenge.  The best way to keep up with this series is to subscribe via email here.)

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Secrets from a Teacher: Ask Open-Ended Questions

One of my professors in college was adamant that we ask, “What questions do you have?” instead of, “Do you have any questions?”  He insisted that the latter question would nearly always be met with the answer, “No,” but the former encouraged thoughtful discussion.

Turns out he was right.

“What questions do you have?” is far more effective than, “Do you have any questions?” “Does that make sense?” and, “Got it?”

(Side note: I apologize if I butchered the punctuation in that sentence. It was a tricky one.)

How does that apply to your interactions with your children?  Well, when you are trying to get information out of your children, try to replace questions that can be answered with one word with questions that invite conversation or explanation.

open ended questions

Instead of, “Did you have a good day at school?” Try, “What was the best thing at school today?  The worst?”

Instead of, “How do you feel when so-and-so does such-and-such?” Try, “Tell me what it’s like when…” (Thanks, Susan Stiffelman for that one.)

And of course, instead of, “Does that make sense?” ask, “What questions do you have?”


(This post is part of a Secrets from a Teacher to Make You a Better Parent, a part of the write31days.com challenge.  The best way to keep up with this series is to subscribe via email here.)

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Secrets from a Teacher: Read Aloud to Your Kids, No Matter Their Age

I don’t know why, but it seems like parents quit reading to their kids as soon as they can read on their own.  But kids of all ages benefit from being read to. 

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Consider these 4 reasons to read aloud to your kids long after they begin to read on their own:

1.  They need to hear fluent readers.  Remember the modeling I talked about?  Kids need to hear an experienced reader from time to time, so that they can emulate them.

2.  It is a great bonding experience. The 5 Love Languages of Childrenoutlines 5 different ways our children express love and feel loved.  Reading aloud to them covers at least three of them: quality time, acts of service, and physical touch (if you’re sitting near each other.)

3.  A child’s listening comprehension level is often 3 grade levels above their independent reading level.  That means that your 2nd grader may be able to read beginning chapter books on his own, but he may be interested in The Chronicles of Narnia or Harry Potter. (This is especially important for an older child who struggles with reading.  What if your 5th grader reads at a 2nd grade level? Trust me, he’s tired of Junie B. Jones by then!)  Give your child the gift of a good story – read it to them.

4.  It’s more fun!  Learning to read is hard work.  It’s no wonder many kids don’t like it!  But listening to a great story read by someone else (even a book on tape!) can be much more rewarding for kids.


(This post is part of a Secrets from a Teacher to Make You a Better Parent, a part of the write31days.com challenge.  The best way to keep up with this series is to subscribe via email here.)

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Secrets from a Teacher: Don’t say “This is easy!”

 

It slips out of our mouths before we even notice. 

“Come on, it’s not that hard.” 

“This is easy, just…”

I guess it’s meant to be encouraging.  But it usually has the opposite effect.

Once, a colleague was giving me directions to find something in a storage closet.  I repeated the directions back to her (and made a mistake) and she responded with, “It’s not that hard.”

Turns out, it was hard for me.  I’m terrible with directions, as evidenced by the fact that I told my friend to turn right when I meant left just this week.  She figured out where to go, but this is a real problem for me.

So when my colleague said, “It’s not that hard,” I heard, “It shouldn’t be this hard. What’s wrong with you?”

There shouldn’t be shame in struggling to accomplish something.  There shouldn’t be shame in working hard at something that is difficult for you.  So, when you child is having a hard time, instead of saying, “This is easy,” try something more in tune with their feelings.  “I know this is hard, but we’ll work through it together,” or “If you keep practicing problems like this, they’ll get easier.”

this is easy

Same thing applies after the fact.  Adam’s been working on tying his shoes for a LONG time.  When he finally figures it out, which would be a better response?  “See? That was easy!” or “Great job Adam! When you practice hard things, they get easier!”


(This post is part of a Secrets from a Teacher to Make You a Better Parent, a part of the write31days.com challenge.  The best way to keep up with this series is to subscribe via email here.)

Monday, October 13, 2014

Secrets from a Teacher: Break tasks into steps

 

We got a new couch for our basement at a garage sale this weekend, which meant we had to get the old couch OUT of the basement.  Getting it down there in the first place was such an adventure, we really weren’t sure how we’d ever get it out.  But we found a solution – break it into smaller chunks.

Instead of carrying the massive couch up the stairs and out the door in one piece, we tore the couch apart, and ended up with a much more manageable task.

Sometimes, our kids need things broken down, too.  Sunday morning, I made pancakes for my family.  Isaac could hardly wait, so he was eager to help expedite the process.  I asked him to clear off the table (it still held Saturday night’s supper dishes) and he was willing.  But when he looked at the task before him, he quickly got overwhelmed and whined, “I can’t do it!”

“Clear off the table” seems like an easy task, but for a 3 year old, it can be intimidating.  How would he ever carry all those dirty dishes to the sink?  When I gave more specific directions, it went more smoothly.  “Bring your cup to the sink.” Ten seconds later…”Bring Adam’s cup to the sink, now.”  Ten seconds later… “Okay, now bring your plate.”  Before we knew it, the table was clear.

smaller steps

Breaking a complex task into steps gives kids the confidence and direction needed to complete it.  Whether the task is cleaning their room, completing a big project for school, or just doing a long math problem, segmenting it into do-able chunks can help.


(This post is part of a Secrets from a Teacher to Make You a Better Parent, a part of the write31days.com challenge.  The best way to keep up with this series is to subscribe via email here.)

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