Parenting Thoughts: On helpful interventions

Parenting Thoughts: On helpful interventions

Conflict will always come up, especially when young children are playing in the same space. How do you help your child on the road to better social skills? If you want that child to listen to what you have to say, and to muster the energy to do better, you’re going to have to avoid embarrassing her or making her feel attacked

This post explains some ways to intervene in moments of conflict, to help your child learn alternatives and improve her behavior.

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Parenting Thoughts: On Struggles

Parenting Thoughts: On Struggles

Any time you’re caught in a power struggle, drop your end of the tug of war rope, and then take time to think about how you want to handle the situation. As always, return to the key questions: What is the child learning from the situation? What do I want him to learn? How can I best make that learning happen?

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Parenting Thoughts: Watch your “BUT...”

Parenting Thoughts: Watch your “BUT...”

It’s helpful to first convey understanding their needs and desires. Conveying that you understand children’s (or adults’!) perspectives helps them feel supported so that they are more ready to receive the next part of your message.

Starting out with a command or correction makes children (or adults!) feel attacked, so they’ll respond defensively with protest or argument rather than listening to what you have to say next.  Starting out with a statement of understanding helps children (I’m not going to say it but you know who else) feel that you’re an ally, so they can stay relaxed and open to your next comments.

This post covers the one-word switch that will take you from attack to understanding.

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Too young for other preschools? Our 1 day class starts at just 15 months!

Too young for other preschools? Our 1 day class starts at just 15 months!

Sunnymont-Westside parent co-op nursery school is a fun space where children can learn through play and our one day toddler class is designed for kids as young as 15 months.

Join your toddler every Tuesday from 12:45-2:45pm to experience creative play, open-ended art and science projects, music, movement, cooking, water, sand, and more.

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How foreshadowing can help prepare your young child for what's coming

How foreshadowing can help prepare your young child for what's coming

Ever handle a situation badly because it didn’t go as you’d expected?  This happens to your toddler all the time!  While we can’t prepare them for every aspect of a situation, we can tell them a little bit about what to expect. 

This post shares a technique called foreshadowing and how it can help you help your toddler understand what's going to happen.

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Being polite: Your secret weapon to motivating positive behavior in children

Being polite: Your secret weapon to motivating positive behavior in children

When we approach our kids politely and kindly, they are free to hear our message because they don’t need to deny it to defend themselves.

They’re open to our message, and they feel good about trying harder to do it differently.

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Ducks in the water bowl: Toddler play time tips for parents

What is it with all the things that kids seem irresistibly drawn to, like playing with water, pushing the buttons on the keyboard or microwave, or jumping on the bed?

The truth is that children are programmed from birth to develop their bodies and brains, and are instinctively driven to do the things that make this happen.

This post by Justine Saffir digs into this concept in more detail and gives you some sanity save tips for your toddler's favorite playtime.

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The Problem with Time Outs

The Problem with Time Outs

The parent of a two year-old recently asked me about time out.  Her baby-sitter uses time out with all the children, but this parent wasn’t sure about it.  Does time out work?  what’s the right age to start? The answer is that there is helpful time out and unhelpful time out.

Unhelpful time out is the modern version of “Go stick your nose in the corner.”  This is the kind of time oust where a child must go to a time oust chair or room and stay there until an adult allows him to get up.  this kind of time oust is a punishment, and it had several pitfalls.

Read more to find out what they are and how to help your child get calm and centered.

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Early Childhood Development: On counting and numbers

When I first read Watership Down, I was fascinated by the description of how rabbits looked at numbers. Through Richard Adams’s detailed research and story-telling, I learned that rabbits have concepts of 1, 2, 3, 4, and “more than 4”. This often comes back to me as I watch young children develop their concept of numbers.

Recently, I mentioned to my son that his niece could count to 2, and almost 3. He countered that he has heard her count much higher than that.

But she can’t.

It is true that she can say the numbers, in order, much higher than that. But she can’t actually count higher.

Counting means understanding that one number describes a set of objects. She can do that accurately and easily when there are 1 or 2 objects, and sometimes when there are 3. She isn’t quite as smart as a rabbit yet. Of course, being a human, she’ll far surpass the rabbit’s mathematical ability very quickly.

Watching a young child learn math is fascinating, and it makes you consider about what math is.

 Math is more than numbers

Although there are lot of definitions, it all boils down to understanding quantity.

Math is the understanding of quantity, number and the relationship of quantities. If children aren’t understanding all those elements, they aren’t doing math. No matter how many numbers they can recite.

The building block concepts of math include:

·       Classification: the concept that things can be sorted based on characteristics

·       Seriation: the concept that things can be placed in order

·       One-to-one correspondence: the pairing of items in two different sets

·       Pattern: the arrangement of items

·       Comparison: subtraction, for example, is the comparison of two numbers, size, and quantity.

For our children to develop mathematical knowledge, understanding and ability, they must also develop understanding of these components.

Helping children with math

Reading counting books with our children is a wonderful way for children to consider number concepts. You may notice that many children want to also touch the book. This might be thought of as ‘disruptive’, but it shows us that their minds are working.

Children who touch the picture of counting are also learning to understand one-to-one correspondence, the matching of quantities of items. Each item gets one number, and it’s through touching that they add reality to the assignment of the item and number label.

You can tell children aren’t quite there yet when they don’t touch and speak a number at the same time. Or when the numbers are more randomly ordered, so they touch and count “… 9, 12, 17, 8, 9, 12. There’s 12!”

You may notice that kids often touch and count well to a certain point, and then the touching and naming of numbers gets more random as they get beyond the point they can conceptualize. Or because it’s boring to keep up the exact process for too long.

Making play time count

Once, during a Sunnymont-Westside class, we were playing “Ten in the Bed” and five children were lying down on the floor to begin a new round. Others set about counting how many children there were. They’ve learned to touch and count, so they touched feet and counted to 10.

“Are there 10 children there?” I asked. The kids with more developed math concepts looked troubled, because it didn’t seem like there were 10 kids but they didn’t have a deep enough understanding to explain the problem.

We tried it several times. Finally, I said, “Let’s check this out.” Knowing the children knew numbers up to 2 very well, I counted, touching feet as they had, only the first two children: “1, 2, 3, 4. OK, so that’s 4 children.”

Working this through with numbers they knew, they quickly spotted the problem and then applied their discovery to accurately count the five children lying down.

This is why kids need to experience and consider math concepts at a level where they really know the numbers, in order to learn and understand them.

“'Reciting means saying the numbers from memory in chronological order, whereas counting involves understanding that each item in the set is counted once and that the last number stated is the amount for the entire set,' said Louis Manfra, an assistant professor in Missouri University's Department of Human Development and Family Studies. 'When children are just reciting, they’re basically repeating what seems like a memorized sentence. When they’re counting, they’re performing a more cognitive activity in which they’re associating a one-to-one correspondence with the object and the number to represent a quantity.'”

Enjoying the learning experience together

Learning number and math concepts is in many ways the same as learning all other concepts, for young children. They can learn to recite facts early, but when they develop an understanding, through play and exploration (and a little nudging guidance from their grownups), at their own pace and when their own brains are ready to grasp the concepts, they begin to gain true and deep understanding of the concepts involved.

It makes sense to slow down and enjoy the process of their exploration with them, savoring the true understandings they gain when they gain them.

- Justine

If you have any questions about Sunnymont-Westside, please let us know!

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Toddler Tips: Being a Model

One of the most important things to know about discipline, and one of the easiest to forget, is that in all things, you serve as a model for your child.  Your interaction with your baby constantly teaches her two things:  specific behavior, and how the world works. For example, when you slap your toddler’s hand, you teach him to slap when he’s angry or needs to stop someone, and he learns that physically hurting can solve problems.  When you shame her with words like, “No no! Naughty girl!”, you teach her to use those words, and that shaming others is appropriate.  When you snap at your child, she learns to speak snappily.  When you lose your temper in frustration, your toddler absorbs the lesson.  Your toddler uses all his interactions with you to store information about the world that he will use as he grows.

When you give your child information (“The sofa gets dirty when we climb on it”), positively phrased requests (“Keep the water inside the bowl, please”), describe how you feel (“I don’t like to be pulled”), and use gentle follow through (“I can’t let you yell at the store, so we need to go now”), that’s what you teach your child to do.    When you express frustration appropriately, and then move on, your toddler sees the model for working through those feeling.  She will use these skills more easily with you, her friends and siblings as she grows.

Learn to observe yourself as you talk to your toddler. If you feel really brave, tape record yourself for a morning and see how you sound.  Think about what you are modeling for your child.  When he’s talking more to you later, you will be glad you did.  Even when you don’t see him imitating your actions right away, he is storing actions and ideas about how to interact with others.  Most of us have had the experience of saying something just the way our own parents did, without even meaning to.

It is a blessing and a curse that we are our children’s teachers all the time, whether we want to be or not.  The biggest payoff to disciplining and relating thoughtfully comes when your toddler grows into an older child, because the way you talk to her now sets the stage for the way she talks to you, and others, later.  I’ve been amazed at how powerful it is when my daughter can constructively express a problem to me--well worth the effort I put into being constructive with her.

by Justine Saffir

Toddler Tips: When Your Child Hurts Another

If you have a toddler, chances are you’ve found yourself in the position of facing the parent of someone your child has just hit, thrown sand at, or grabbed a toy from.  Handling the situation is always doubly difficult because you’re trying to look like a “good parent” as you try to guide your child.  Here are some suggestions to make the next time a little easier. First, stop trying to look like a “good parent.”  Your job is to be a responsible parent who teaches your child, not a “good parent” whose child suffers as you seek public approval.  As much as you can, handle it as you would have with no witnesses.  Anyone who doesn’t respect that should be looked upon with compassion, but otherwise ignored.

State the limit to your child without moralizing.  Witnesses tend to bring out the lecturer in all of us.  All your toddler will hear is s “Blah blah blah...” or “Daddy doesn’t love me” when what he needs is “No hitting.  Scoot over if you need more space,” or “Julie’s using the truck now.  Your turn in a minute,” as you calmly move him or take his hand off the truck.

Give your child helpful suggestions.  What do “You need to share” or “Use your words” or “Be nice, now” really mean to a toddler?  Use concrete, specific language whenever you can.  “Michelle’s using the shovel.  Michelle’s turn.  Look.  She’s done.  Your turn now.” or “No pushing.  Let’s tell him: ‘Robert doesn’t like you so close.  Move over.’”  Model the words you’ll want your child to use when she has more language later.

Remember that very young children aren’t capable of sharing all the time.  They need to fully experience ownership before they understand giving it up.  They’ll need lots of adult help to take turns, wait for turns, or understand that something isn’t theirs.

Don’t make your child apologize.  This usually backfires by putting him so on the spot that he’s too embarrassed to do anything, or by teaching her to apologize insincerely, or that apologizing erases a misbehavior.  Toddlers may learn to shove and apologize in one smooth motion.  Instead, model sincere, compassionate apologizing by doing it yourself.  “I’m sorry Robert pushed you.  That hurt, didn’t it?”  This way, your child will learn about saying “sorry” when he really means it, in a voice that conveys this.

Finally, don’t worry that the child who bites and stands there grinning is a heartless, future psychopath.  Rather, this is the beginning of conscience developing.  He’s not grinning out of joy, but more likely out of embarrassment or guilt or advance defensiveness if he knows you’ll be there to enforce limits.  His reaction shows that he does know this action was not OK.  Understanding that will help you respond sensitively.

by Justine Saffir

Toddler Tips: Respectful Communication

Respectful, open relationships between family members are probably every parent’s goal, but they take a lot of hard work to achieve.  And it’s never too early to start.  By laying the foundations with your toddler through your everyday interactions, you’re setting the stage for better relationships later, when crucial issues are at stake.  As your toddler’s language skills grow, here are a few tips for respectful communication.

  • Don’t ask questions if you know the answer.  You’re either forcing them to lie or incriminate themselves, or you’re making conversation a test and a risk for them. Instead of “Did you draw on the wall?” say “Oh no! Marker on the walls!. Let’s try to clean it up.  Here’s the sponge.”  Instead of “What color is this?” say, “Oh, you’re drawing with the BLUE crayon now.” to help your child learn colors.  If you want to play a questioning game with your baby, you might say, “Want to play, ‘What does the doggie say?’”
  • Don’t force your child to tell people things.  “Tell Grandpa where you went yesterday!”  You will end up telling Grandpa yourself anyway, and your toddler will feel put on the spot.  Instead, try, “Ryan went to the zoo yesterday!” and let Grandpa and Ryan guide the conversation from there.
  • Get down to your child’s level when you converse with her.  Then you can make real eye contact and show her you’re really listening.
  • Tell your toddler your plans for him.  Toddlers are victim enough to adult plans and schedules.  The least we can do is inform them.  “We’re going to the grocery store now.”  “I’m going to change your diapers when we go inside.”  “I’ll make a phone call while you eat your lunch.  Then we can read a story.”  Imagine how you might feel all strapped up in a carseat with no idea where you are going or for how long.
  • Avoid shaming or name calling.  Instead, give him information or positive requests.  Rather than “Bad boy!” try “Wall are not for writing on.  You may write on the paper only.”  Rather than “You know better...” try “This is breakable.  It’s just for looking at.”  Rather than “That was mean!” try “This is Sarah’s turn for a hug.  Your turn in a minute.”

You may find, as I do, that when I try to remember too many things at once, I fail at all of them.  If any of these ideas appeal to you, you might try working on one at a time.  This week get down to his level, and then when you’re finding that becoming automatic, try working on asking questions more effectively.

by Justine Saffir

Toddler Tips: Encouragement

Think of a time when someone paid you a compliment or thank you that really felt good.  You probably saw yourself as a more capable, worthwhile person as a result  (and you were probably anxious to be helpful toward the source of those kind words, too!)  Now consider the many opportunities we parents have to appreciate our kids’ actions every day.  Obviously, there is a tremendous opportunity for self-esteem and co-operation here, if we learn how to make the most of it.  Here are some suggestions Traditional praise tends to evaluate or label the child without giving him much specific information.  “Good boy!”, “That’s a nice girls”, “I’m proud of you.”  She learns to work at your approval, but not necessarily at cleaning up, sharing, or whatever it was you were so happy to see.  She learns to look outside herself for approval and value.  She may feel uncomfortable about living up to the label, or unloved when she does not.

Encouragement, as opposed to praise, focuses more on the child’s specific behavior and real assets, so she can come to value herself, see herself as competent, and value kindness for its own sake.  Try to:

  • Describe:  “You drew straight lines, and some dots on your picture.”
  • Be specific:  “You put that cup right by the sink for me.”
  • Point out how her actions impacted you:  “Thanks!  That hug really cheered me up.  Now I’m smiling.”
  • Point out how her actions impacted others:  “John is happy to have a turn on the swing.”
  • Point out the consequences to her actions:  “You climbed right into your chariest.  Now we’ll have time to stop and get you a drink on the way, so you won’t be thirsty like last time!”
  • Comment on meaning to the child:  “You really enjoyed painting today.” or “It must feel good to finally climb up by yourself.”
  • Be honest:  Even a toddler knows insincerity when she hears it.  Instead of “It’s all clean”  try “Look, you’ve gotten the black spots off, and they were tricky.”
  • Find the positive to encourage:  She may not have had a great day, but “You waited in line for a drink.  That was hard.”  She may not have gone to sleep, but “You remembered to stay in your crib until naptime was over.”

Once you get past the extra effort of phrasing your encouragement, you’ll find it begins to come naturally, has powerful effects on your child, and feels great when she’s old enough to start using it with you.

by Justine Saffir


As parents, we want our children’s world, and our family, to be happy places where everything is going well.  We want to fix our children’s troubles, solve their problems, and give them the advice they need to avoid difficulty in the future.  Unfortunately, guided by these noble goals, we often respond to our children in ways that shortchange them by giving our children the message that their feelings aren’t OK, by robbing them of the chance to learn to solve their own problems, and by being so unsympathetic that our children eventually quit talking to us about their problems.

Imagine that you come home after a long day at work, and say,

I had a terrible day at work!  I’m tired of the way my boss treats me!”

Imagine how you feel when your partner responds:

“Oh, knock it off!  In this economy, you should be thankful you even have a job, instead of complaining about it all the time!”

“What you need is just to sit down with her and tell her she can’t get away with that.”

“I’m sure you’re over-reacting.  You know how sensitive you are.  You’re probably blowing it all out of proportion.”

“What did you do to annoy her?  You must have done something to her!”

“Well, I think you’re great at your job, so what does it matter what your boss thinks?”

“You always have such a problem when your work is criticized.  You should be more confident in your own abilities.  I wonder why criticism’s such a threat to you?”

When our children are upset, they don’t want us to moralize, instruct, minimize or deny their feelings, be overly reassuring, or analyze them, either.  These responses hardly leave them open to our wisdom.

Now imagine your partner says:

“Sounds like you had a long day!  Problems with your boss can make the whole job feel awful! I bet you could use a hug.”

That’s what our kids want, too- to know that they’re being listened to, and that their feelings are understood.  (This leaves their energy free to think about responding to their problem, instead of using it up getting angry at their parents.)  This is called reflective or active listening, and it’s really just listening and responding with a look or a statement that shows you heard.  It’s a smile and nod, a well placed  “Mm hmm”, or in it’s longer form,  sounds something like this:

“Daddy, the boys won’t let me play!”

“Sounds like you’re feeling left out.  That can feel sad.”

     Instead of “Well, they told you that you could play later.”

“Why did you have to come and spoil everything?”

“I bet you wish you could make me just disappear!”

     Instead of “Because it’s 5:00 and dinner’s almost ready, that’s why!”

“Send that baby back!”

“It sure can be a pain having a new baby sister around.”

     Instead of “We didn’t send YOU back and you cried more than this!”

“I can’t find my baseball mitt anywhere!”

“How frustrating!  I hate when I can’t find things.”

     Instead of “If you put it away like I told you, you’d find it once in a while.”

“Jenny always gets to go with you!”

“It doesn’t seem fair to you that you have to stay home.”

     Instead of “Jenny does not always get to go with us. She stays home plenty, too.”

“But you promised you’d play a game with me!”

“You’re disappointed that we didn’t have time. Me too!”

     Instead of “Well, I didn’t know the car was going to break down when I promised. I had      to fix it or nobody could go anywhere tomorrow. It’s not like I had a choice, you know.”

When we listen supportively to our children we give them several gifts:

  • Since we’ve accepted their negative feelings, they don’t have to “prove” anything by being consumed by them.  They’re free to move past those feelings, and move on to accepting or responding to the situation.
  • Since we stand by as sympathetic support, not fixers, our children practice coming up with their own solutions to problems, rather than being dependent on us to solve their problems for them.
  • Since they know we’ll lend a supportive ear, our kids know that they have a safe place to come to, even when they get into trouble.
  • Our children learn from our model how to be a supportive listener with their siblings and friends.

The irony, (and another benefit of being a supportive listener), is that by resisting the urge to jump in with our opinions or to take over our children’s problems, we actually end up having more influence over the choices they make.  This happens because when kids perceive us as supportive listeners, as people who are on their side, they are less defensive, and have less need to protect their independence by refusing to listen to us.  They are more open to hearing what we have to say, and more open to looking at the situation from our side, because whether we agreed with them or not, we were there to fully listen to their view, their side, first.

Children in Relationship:

What to Expect and How Adults can Help PART ONE: WHAT TO EXPECT

Children are born to be in relationship. The eventual goal is to learn to belong and at the same time to have an individual identity. Children grow into relationships in an ever-widening circle: Primary caregiver ⇒ parents ⇒ family ⇒ extended family/family friends ⇒ peer friends. Peers are actually gearing up for peer connections from a few months of age. Babies are drawn by interest to other babies and almost magically to siblings. Interaction with siblings is qualitatively different than to parents. Self-Esteem is: one’s sense of uniqueness, sense of competence, and sense of belonging.

There is a cycle of ups and downs to children’s emotional life. Myth: Terrible 2’s & 4’s Reality: Easy 2’s, Defiant 2 ½’s, Easy 3’s, Defiant/emotional 3 ½’s, Fun/out there 4’s, Emotional/out there 4 ½’s, Eager 5’s, Touchy late 5’s/early 6’s, Social/extremist later 6’s, Woe is me 7’s, Bouncy/out there 8’s

There is a progression to young children’s social development. Parallel play ⇒ Cooperative play ⇒ Interactive play ⇒ Highly negotiated interactive play More interaction = more conflict (and more opportunities for prosocial behavior) Disputes increase as awareness/skills/sophistication increase. This is an important part of play. With increased peer importance: the joy of love and inclusion; the agony of hate and exclusion School is a different world than home. It is their world; kids will play and interact differently. Gender differences increase particularly at two points: age 4 and age 7. At these points we see jumps in gender-separate play, and in the incidences of exclusion (girls) and aggression/competition (boys), especially in the spring, when children bloom with flowers. Social problems are not an interruption to preschool and primary curriculum; They are the most important part of the curriculum!

Gender differences are real and biologically based. Girls’ priority is belonging through connection; boys’ priority is belonging through status. Girls’ play is often relationship based; boys’ play is often action based.

Physical aggression is common in the preschool years. Kids don’t hurt kids “for no reason.” They hurt kids because in response to needs. Children need to learn the alternative ways to get their needs met, and have a chance to practice. Physical aggression is infrequent in kindergarten, rare in first grade.

Exclusion play is common in the preschool through adult years. Exclusion isn’t about the excluded child; it’s about protecting interactive space/relationships. Exclusion serves to affirming relationships and to protecting the integrity of activities It is also a logical response to black and white preschool thinking: good/bad, my friend/her friend Exclusion is on the road to learning to wield benevolent power.

  PART TWO: How Adults can Help

Recognize opportunities for learning about life and relationship. There are both advantages and negatives to having siblings. Our job is to strengthen positives and reduce damage from negatives. Our job is to be sure kids are learning relationship skills in the process.

Be clear on family values and limits. Examine your values. Where are your priorities? (Privacy, support, teamwork, honesty?) Express and model those values to your children. “I’ll be sure and return Dad’s scissors right away because we always make sure to…” Establish limits for how family members interact that reflect your values.

Allow honest feelings. Don’t deny feelings - use supportive listening. Don’t require a “happy family” or “we’re all friends here” facade. Remember that having our negative feelings accepted allows us to move past them! Convey to kids that relationship ups and downs are normal and OK. Keep your own sense of humor.

Value the uniqueness of each child. Build one-on-one relationships with each child. Support privacy and ownership (when appropriate) to convey respect for the individual. Avoid comparing children (as we always see ourselves as the less desirable). Help children out of family or social roles they’re stuck in. “Equal is less”- give what each needs and teach children it’s not about keeping score.

When children fight Unhelpful intervention: “Knock it off”, take a side, solve their problem for them. Let them work it out on their own IF they have the skills and ability to use them right now. Helpful intervention: Teach them skills to use with each other: Positive requests (“what do you want him to do?”) Polite voice Talking about your own feelings Choosing to leave a situation Choosing whether to argue Interpret for children (“Jay says you took his block.” “Lea says you weren’t using it.” “Jay says …”) Offer “Talk it over” chairs or a “Peace table”. Give them responsibility for solving their own conflicts and problems. Teach them about tattling (to get someone in trouble) vs. informing (to keep someone safe). When it’s about peer pressure, speak to them separately and individually

Rainy Day Fun

With the gloomy wet weather this week we've been looking for things to do indoors. We renewed our interest in baking with this quick and easy recipe for Maple-Oat Cookies and thought we'd share it with the community. Cooking is a fun activity for kids and it's great to do on a lazy rainy day when you can go at their pace and enjoy the experience (and the mess), as opposed to rushing to get dinner ready before everyone melts.

Maple-Oat Cookies Makes about 30 cookies Toasting the oats adds great flavor to these simple oat cookies, sweetened with maple syrup and flavored with warm spices.

Ingredients 2 cups rolled oats 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons spelt flour 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg 1/8 teaspoon sea salt 1/2 cup canola or high-heat sunflower oil 1/2 cup pure maple syrup 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Method Preheat oven to 350°F. Place oats in a medium saucepan and toast over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until oats are slightly golden and fragrant, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together oil, maple syrup and vanilla until combined. Add maple mixture to oat mixture and stir to combine completely. The dough will be warm. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Gently flatten dough with wet fingers and bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Cool cookies on a wire rack, then store them in an airtight container.

Nutrition Per serving (1 each): 80 calories (35 from fat), 4g total fat, 0g saturated fat, 0mg cholesterol, 10mg sodium, 10g total carbohydrate (1g dietary fiber, 3g sugar), 1g protein Recipe from Whole Foods Market

Spring Sing Success

Thanks to all the families that came out to play at our Spring Sing event, and a special thanks to all those that co-ordinated it and worked hard to make it a success. There was an array of delicious food to sample, painting & crafts and great live entertainment from Andy Z. Kids and adults alike had a fun time playing with friends and meeting people from other classes.

Supporting our kids' Emotional Growth

What is “EQ”? Emotional Intelligence, nicknamed EQ (as opposed to IQ, cognitive intelligence) generally corresponds to Gardner’s Intra- and Inter-Personal Intelligence and is often described as these five abilities:

  • Knowing and understanding one’s own emotions
  • Managing and effectively responding to those emotions
  • Motivating one’s self, especially regulating impulses and deferring gratification
  • Empathy, recognizing and understanding others’ emotions
  • Managing relationships and interaction with others effectively

These abilities, rather than IQ, determine one’s ability to succeed in life.

Teaching children emotional intelligence

  • Build a rich feeling vocabulary
  • Build empathy (Reflecting on books, pictures, observations)
  • Reinforce the idea that feelings are transient
  • Reinforce the idea that we can choose our response to events and feelings
  • Use Emotion Coaching

As described by John Gottman, there are five steps to “emotion coaching”:

1. Being aware of the child’s emotions

2. Recognizing the emotions as an opportunity for intimacy and teaching

3. Listening empathetically and validating the child’s feeling;

4. Helping the child verbally label emotions; and

5. Setting limits while helping the child problem-solve.

  • Point out when they’ve done well.

Being a model

  • Name your own emotions
  • Take responsibility for your emotions
  • Work through your emotions and responses out loud
  • Examine your modeling for gossiping, putting down, seeking revenge, blaming, being intolerant…

“We do not allow meanness, but we do allow sadness.”

Or, When and How to Intervene in Children’s Emotional Issues

Look to the guidelines problem ownership gives us.

When it’s the Adult’s problem:

  • When we have a problem with a child’s behavior but he doesn’t seem to, we can change ourselves or the environment to eliminate the problem, make requests, give reasons, express our own feelings, and be sure solutions are followed through.
  • Since we know that practice makes perfect, we don’t want to allow our kids to practice being unkind, although we expect each of them to be occasionally.

What that looks like: 

We intervene immediately when we see unkindness, by

first validating the child’s feelings leading up to the unkindness,

then restating the limit and reasons for it, and

finishing with a plan for an alternative to move forward.

“Whoa! You were really mad when he messed up your game!

And I won’t let you call names.

Name calling hurts hearts, and my job is to keep minds and bodies safe.

Do you need some help to resolve this?”

“You guys wanted to keep the game going the same as you had it, just the two of you.

And I won’t let you exclude people from the game. Being excluded hurts.

Everyone can play and everyone is welcome.

Can you make a plan to invite her?”

If the child defends his actions, validate some more, and then repeat steps two and three as well. Repeat as needed until the children make a plan to act kindly.

When it’s the Child’s problem:

  • When a child has a problem, he’s denied the opportunity to learn if we fix it for him.

Our job is to listen, to act as a consultant, and to support him through the experience.

  • Intervene to support the child’s learning, not to rescue him from unhappiness.

When we rush to a child’s rescue, we imply to him and his peers that he is incapable.

  • Allowing children to experience distress helps them learn to weather distress.

When we fix it all, we miss the chance to help a child build the skills it takes to respond to and weather rough times, and accept them as part of a mostly happy life.

What that looks like: 

We do allow children to experience sadness or frustration, with our support.

“So the game wasn’t feeling good to you. What would help it feel better?”

“Sounds like she’s in a teasing mood today. What’s your plan?

Will you still play with her, or go play with someone else or do something different?”

“I’m so sorry that happened. What kind of help would you like, to respond?”

“Yes, our rule is that “You can’t say you can’t play”. Want help to remind them?”

“That can really hurt your feelings. How did you handle that?”

What does "Keeping Kids Safe" mean?

We say that our Number 1 job is to keep kids safe in bodies and hearts. We work hard to be sure our classrooms and play yards and families are emotionally safe. But what does safe mean? “Safe” might mean that a child suffers no emotional injury and feels no pain. Or, “safe” might mean that the child suffers no permanent psychosis, or that “I lived through it, so it’s safe enough.” Obviously, neither of these extremes feels right, but think for a minute of why that is. OK, so it’s pretty easy to say why “no permanent psychosis” is too extreme a definition of safe. We know that far less severe emotional damage than that can permanently affect a child, and that emotional injury can impair one’s ability to function in the world and relationships, and to live a satisfying life. There’s  not much question that by “emotionally safe”, we all agree we mean much safer than that.

It’s more difficult, but more important, to consider why “no pain” isn’t a good definition, either. The reason is that whatever safe means, we want our children to be safe for their whole lives, not just for today. We want them to have “high EQ”, emotional intelligence, or an ability to experience, respond to, and recover from emotional upset smoothly. As we think about parenting for the long term, we see why a little discomfort and pain is actually safer for our children in the long run.

We know that as they continue through life, loss and pain will be a part of our children’s lives in ways we cannot control. They will lose precious items, they will experience deaths, opportunities will be missed, relationships will end. We can’t prevent these very painful parts of life from touching our children. If our children aren’t able to cope with these emotional injuries, they will be traumatized. The only way to learn to cope with emotional pain is to understand its nature, and to know and be able to use the skills needed to cope well. Achieving this requires a certain necessary amount of practice.

Then our reasons for not protecting our children from all emotional hurt become clear: If we keep our children so safe that they hardly experience emotional pain that we do not immediately fix for them, they miss the chance to learn how to cope with it throughout their lives. When life throws the big stuff at them later (or sometimes sooner), they will not be prepared, and they will be much less safe than they would have been had we let them get hurt a little along the way. By allowing our kids to experience a little emotional pain, we leave them more resilient, ready for a happy life no matter what life throws at them.

So perhaps the best definition of keeping our kids “emotionally safe” is this:

♥We prevent huge, overwhelming emotional hurts whenever we can.

♥We support our kids through all emotional pains, big and small.

♥We allow, and maybe even embrace, smaller emotional hurts as learning opportunities, and we use them to help our children learn strategies for understanding, responding to, and getting past their hurt.

♥Offering support from the adults (plural). Let her know if a situation at school sounds like one in which the children need more help from the adults with limits, guidelines, reminders. Show her that communities like ours pitch in to help their children learn, that it is important to us that the children learn not to be mean, and that setting up guidelines helps to prevent problems.

♥On intervening: There is a huge difference between receiving mild hurts and inflicting mild hurts. When we see children participating in an action that will cause another pain, we must intervene immediately. While we can expect all children to be hurtful from time to time, we as adults should not allow it. This means that, because we expect it, we don’t flip out over it, but we do have a plan and we do respond immediately, by letting them know we see that their action is causing pain, and that we won’t allow it to continue. One of the ways we convey our values to our children is through which behavior we allow and which behavior we do not allow. We can let children know that they can expect and can handle hurt feelings in life; but that we expect that they will not intentionally hurt others. So when you see a child inflict hurt on another, even a small hurt, you do her a disservice if you don’t intervene right away to let her know that she could have done it a better way.