FIRST Observe – Start where the child IS

“I See YOU!”  “Look what you are doing…”  “Wow, that looks fun, I want to try it.”  These phrases are TREASURES in a parent’s tool box.  Every child LOVES to be noticed.  How many times do you hear “Watch ME!”  Every child LOVES to be recognized for what they CAN do, or what they HAVE DONE already.  Every child feels more competent when a significant adult in their life wants to copy them.   These all start with the most important part of connecting with and teaching your child, to watch closely, OBSERVE.

OBSERVE and RECOGNIZE before

TEACHING or TRANSITIONS or PROBLEM SOLVING

Oftentimes, we as parents are in the position of giving our child directions.  Sometimes our children are exploring or learning something new, “Stack the blocks like this.”   Other times, it is due to our schedule, or daily routine. “Sarah, it is time to brush teeth, and get ready for bed.” And other times, we find them needing to solve a problem, “Let me help you.”   Many times we find it easier and faster just to quickly give directions or solve the problem ourselves.  

Aaah, but connecting and teaching take time…  and it starts with the time to observe and recognize. 

Observing starts by simply stopping and WAITING to see what they are doing, or what they will do.   It is certainly human nature to start showing examples when a new object is given to explore, or giving directions first.  Try this.  Do it like this.  But then we don’t get to observe what the child already knows, or, for that matter, what they can teach themselves.   Over 100 years ago, Maria Montessori found out, by intent observation, that given the opportunity, children are very capable of teaching themselves a great many things.  As adults, it is our responsibility to provide them that opportunity and wait to see what they can teach themselves, and to provide just enough support to help that process along.

Recognizing means that somehow we share with the child that we see and care about what they are doing, without judging them.  Sometimes this is through using our words to DESCRIBE (which supports their language skills).  “Sally, I see you tapping your rhythm sticks together end to end.”  Sometimes it may just be letting them see you COPY them.  Someone(?) said, “The best compliment someone could give you is to copy you.”  Without any words at all, the child knows that they are SEEN and RECOGNIZED.  Sometimes it may be a little of both. 

Without judgement means that we refrain from making a vague statement like “Good Job.”  Not that it is a bad thing to say, but that it is not clear what was done well, AND that it infers that the importance is on the parent’s evaluation that it was “good”.  When a parent says, “You did it !  You placed the sticks in the shape of a V !”, the child is able to take ownership of the act, and be proud of himself for doing so.  Ultimately, the child’s inner motivation is what will get her down the path to success.

A whole different benefit to these parenting skills was an eye-opening kick in the pants to me.   I had been having problems with transitions, getting my child to do what I wanted or needed them to do NEXT.  And it specifically was significant when I approached him when he was involved in an activity independently.  My son would be playing his room with his Legos, and I would come in and ask him to wash his hands for dinner.  A fairly simple request really, but it was met with reluctance and procrastination.  After reading much about parenting through Becky Bailey, I learned that my son is heavily invested in what he is doing at that moment.  It is important that I recognize the hard work in which he is engaged.  His mind is busy designing, problem solving, and creating.  Washing hands for dinner seems so insignificant in comparison to the processes currently at work in his mind.  So, it is important to take the time to start the conversation where his mind is presently.  “Wow, look what you are doing with those legos !  You have made some sort of flying machine.  I can see the wings are jutting out here and here.  Tell me more.”   OH, what a difference a few minutes of observing and recognizing can make !!!  Sharing out loud what is “on the table at the moment” allows for a winding down of the brain process, and an openess to what may be next.

This works for young children as well, even those who are unable to talk.  When they are engaged with a toy or activity, the few minute a parent takes to patiently watch, and then describe gives them WORDS to pair with what they are doing, lets them know that there is respect for their ability to focus, and that what they can do for themselves is recognized.  THIS is the starting point for teaching, ie. expanding on their current interest,  or for transitioning to another activity. 

Without getting into a lot of details, the same skills are exceedingly important when a child is faced with a challenge or a problem to solve.  Wait; watch what they will do; ask them questions to help them assess the situation effectively.  If intense emotions are observed, the best support is to allow them (or yourself) the opportunity to find a quiet place to calm down before they tackle the task of solving the problem.  ANYONE who is too emotionally distraught cannot solve problems effectively.  A chemical in the brain screams to fight or avoid – not solve.   When cooler heads prevail, approach the problem like a puzzle, allow them to, or help them describe the pieces of the issue without emotion, wait and listen, and encourage a creative list of solutions, from those based in fantasy, to those based in reality.

A parent’s time to observe and recognize helps children feel confident and competent, and eager to try more things, and more able to solve their own problems.   And it helps US, as their primary teachers, know where to start with the teaching process, and how to support their own abilities to teach themselves.   It is the beginning of the incredibly effective method of teaching called scaffolding, which we will be talking about more over time.

These parenting skills do not necessarily come naturally.  I consider myself a good parent, yet I have to continually focus to ensure that I WAIT and OBSERVE before giving directions (so hard for me at times, esp. in our busy schedule !).  Before I approach my independently engaged child, I often have to give myself a Becky Baily Pep Talk to OBSERVE and CONNECT first !   When my child is struggling with a challenge, it is hard to be patient and let them come up with the solution themselves.  It is an ongoing challenge not to blurt out “Good Job”.

BUT, EVERY TIME I do it RIGHT…  Every time I take the time to Observe and Recognize…  Every time I DESCRIBE instead of Judge…   I SEE how my children respond so well to it, and I KNOW that it is worth the continual effort.  It does get easier.  Just like learning to play an instrument, practice makes perfect.

Do you have a story to share about how observing your child FIRST made a difference?

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The Old Woman in a Shoe gets a Mommy Makeover

There Was an Old WomanA nice short sweet note for you for Mother’s Day. 

Enjoy this loving revision of  There Was an Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe (by Becky Bailey) with your child.  

Look directly into your child’s eyes, use your most expressive voice with your young child as they sit on your lap, or lay in bed.  Lovingly, hold their hand and enjoy this finger play.

A wonderful woman who lived in a shoe,   (place your child’s hand between your two hands)
She had so many children she knew exactly what to do.  (with one hand wiggle each finger individually on the child’s hand)
She held them. She rocked them, and tucked them in bed.  (hold & rock the hand, bring to your chest)
“I love you, I love you” is what she said.       (speak directly to the child, then snuggle)

You may even hold the hand against the heart and ask the child if they can feel the heart beat.  Then have them feel their own.  A child’s heartbeat is a little faster than an adult’s, can they tell the difference?    If you HUM a familiar lullaby right now, the child can feel the vibration in your chest.

This quiet activity allows the child to be bathed in a full sensory experience: they HEAR these sweet words, they SEE your adoring eyes, they FEEL your sensitive touch on their hands, they hear and feel the deep underlying rhythms of the poem, and of the heart, and deep in their heart, their EMOTIONS absorb the love.  In their brain, natural chemicals are released that allow the stress of the day to melt away, and different chemicals set the stage for new connections, strong connections of language, of love, and of the comfort of a safe place to be.

“Again… Again, mommy?”  Say yes.  Repetition makes the connections stronger.  Strong enough to make them feel comfortable even in a strange place when you recite the rhyme.  With enough repetition, the child may, at some point, replay the scenario in their minds, even when you are not there, to help them reach that sense of calm when they need it most.

A mother’s love extends far beyond their physical being.  It extends into the heart – forever.

***  For more such rhymes and loving rituals with your child, please order the book (and maybe even the CDs) called “I Love You Rituals” by Becky Bailey.  I LOVE her perspective… so will you.

PS.  Of course, Kindermusik is FULL of these types of magical musical moments, which you learn in class, with other loving parents, and build your “musical and literary” mommy library, so you can use them in your daily routines with your family.  Repetition is good for the child, but the mommy brain LOVES new material to work with. 

Check out a Kindermusik program near you.

Wow!  While looking around, I found an amazing website based on this rhyme.  New verses, coloring pages, games, even recipies.  Ha !  What fun !  When you get a chance, check out Alphabet Soup.    Then you can submit your own fun ideas !

PLEASE share the song or rhyme that you use with your child to connect, calm, and thrive.

Connecting with a child, a hand, and a story

“Connection… is the key to cooperation.”  These are powerful words by Becky Bailey.  As most of you know, I fully believe she is heaven sent to help all of us adults (parents, teachers, etc) learn the best ways to help ourselves and our children develop successful life and relationship skills.  

The following is an excerpt from her latest e-newsletter, and relates directly to our developmentally focus in many of my classes, inhibitory control – the ability of a person to control their own actions.  Music is an excellent way to help teach children to enjoy stopping, or moving slowly, or playing the drum at the correct time… through playful interactions.  Becky helps us keep in mind that much of the child’s ability for self control comes from the adults love and shared belief that the child can be successful.

“Connection is the cornerstone to Brain Smart® learning and the key to cooperation. Adults sometimes perceive behavioral or academic problems as children “being mischievous” or “trying to get attention.” The inability to focus attention or control one’s impulses, however, indicates more than laziness, disobedience or lack of intelligence. Missing or emerging neural connections between the body and the mind are often at the heart of the matter. Connection literally wires the brain for impulse control, and so establishing strong bonds is helpful for easing problem behavior, increasing cooperation and developing healthy neural patterns. Using I Love You Rituals throughout your day is an easy, immediate way to begin increasing the bonds between you and the children in your care.

Below is a ritual that, like all I Love You Rituals, is designed to facilitate connection. As you conduct this ritual, focus on the four necessary aspects of a meaningful connection: Eye contact, touch, presence and a playful setting. You can find more of these delightful activities in the book, “I Love You Rituals” by Dr. Becky Bailey. 

Story Hand
Tell the child, “It is story time.” The child will probably think you are going to read a book. Instead, take his/her hand and tell a reassuring or encouraging story about a success, concern or event in the child’s day.

Start with the pinky finger, giving it a nice massage and saying, “This little finger wanted to learn how to ride a two-wheel bicycle.” (The story you tell will be based on your child’s life. I am using the success story of learning to ride a bike as an example.) Go to the next finger and give it a massage, saying, “This finger was a little afraid that he might fall off.” Continue to the next finger, saying, “But this finger said, ‘I can do it. I just know I can.’” At the index finger, continue with the story, “So he decided to try and try again.” Finally, massage the thumb and say excitedly, “Did he do it? Did he do it?” Then tuck the thumb into the palm of the child’s hand make a reassuring statement: “No problem. All the fingers knew she [or he] would do it all the time.”

I have so much to recommend, but here is where to start getting Brain Smart !

Just TRY this wonderful finger play with your child – focusing your storytelling on some success your child has had recently.

Check out her website:  http://www.consciousdiscipline.com/

Subscribe to her monthly newsletter (on the left of her website).

Check out the TOP 10  To Dos in the Free Stuff on her website.

Just know…  these teachings can help you become a better parent.  It helped me, and continues to help me over time.  So has Kindermusik – in many similar ways.   These help me connect with my child, and continually re- focus on the vision of a child who thrives – loving and living life to the fullest.

Tell me what you think !   PLEASE comment and tell me your thoughts about this wonderful finger play and how it worked with your child.  OR tell us what kind of “Love Rituals” you share in your home?

Anybody want to discuss Becky Bailey, her philosophy, her books, her MUSIC, etc.?  I’ve got LOTS of her materials I can show you.   And lots to share on trying to implement these ideas.  I STILL have so much to learn – let’s do it together !