“What’s the Secret of Happiness?” by QACP Parent Educator, Kate Calhoun

George Vaillant was the psychologist presiding over the Harvard Study of Adult Development which followed research subjects for 75 years.  The study goal was to discover ‘What makes people happy?’  The only consistent finding was that successful friendships that connect family and friends are what predict people’s happiness as they make their way through the stages of their lives.

Friendships are a better predictor of happiness than any other single variable.

It is urgent that parents guide children to develop the social/emotional skills that lead to successful relationships.  Children need parents to teach them how to socialize effectively – how to make friends, and how to keep friends.

Many ingredients go into creating socially smart children. The following two skills are the most predictive for social competency:

  • Emotional regulation – Children who learn to regulate their emotions have deeper relationships than those who don’t. They also have skills to calm themselves more quickly when they experience strong feelings. Emotional regulation also involves the ability to stop, think and wait – to have impulse control.
  • Empathy – Practicing the ability to read tone of voice, facial expressions and body language helps children develop empathy skills. It is important for young children to learn to be empathetic, to see another person’s perspective. Being empathetic leads to more ability to have impulse control.

In addition to satisfying relationships, other behaviors that predict happiness include:

  • Doing altruistic acts
  • Making lists of things for which you are grateful, which generates feelings of happiness in the short term
  • Cultivating a general attitude of gratitude, which generates feelings of happiness in the long-term
  • Sharing new experiences with a loved one
  • Being willing to forgive when loved ones slight you

Kate Calhoun

Article authored by Kate Calhoun of Edmonds Community College & Seattle Central Community College during Winter 2017.  Material based on John Medina’s presentation for educators in Everett, WA on January 8, 2011, and in his recently updated/expanded book entitled: Brain Rules for Baby – How to Raise a Smart and Happy Child from Zero to Five, Pear Press  2014.

“Caught & Taught Behavior” by QACP Parent Educator, Kate Calhoun

 

‘TAUGHT’ Behavior – Creating Rules That Stick

We can teach many things to children when we use simple, clear words to explain and enforce rules and guidelines.  With young children it’s best to choose only a few words to tell about the rules. Their attention span is short and they will not listen for long. Make every word count.

Put the verbs, the action words first in your request or direction. Say: ‘Keep the sand in the sensory table’, rather than ‘Don’t throw the sand!’    Say: ‘Touch the kitty gently’, rather than ‘Stop that! You’re hurting the kitty!’    Say: ‘Draw on the paper’, rather than ‘You’re getting crayon marks all over the table!’

It’s best when your words and actions are congruent and give the same message.

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‘CAUGHT’ Behavior – Kids Learn Behavior by Watching You

We are constantly teaching our children how to behave, even when we’re not actively teaching with our words. Children’s brains are designed to learn by watching. They learn new behaviors by continually observing their parents and others in the environment around them.

What are you teaching your children when they see your everyday behavior?

  • Do you smile or laugh a lot?
  • Are you patient or impatient, soft-spoken or loud?
  • Do you exercise, eat healthy, take some time for yourself?
  • Do you make eye contact when you talk?
  • Do you and your spouse express affection, have fun, argue, or problem-solve together?
  • Can you calm yourself down when emotions run strong?
  • Are you consistently distracted by your phone and other devices?
  • Do you have meaningful relationships with family and friends?

Become aware of which behaviors you feel proud to pass on to your child. Decide which behaviors you’d prefer to change or eliminate.

Remember that ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS. Make sure that the actions your child observes you doing are the behaviors you intend to teach.

Author Kate Calhoun is a Parent Educator for Queen Anne Cooperative Preschool (QACP). She regularly works with co-op families via her teaching assignments through both Edmonds Community College and Seattle Central Community College. This article was a part of Kate’s Winter 2017 educational series. The material she references is based on John Medina’s presentation for educators in Everett, WA (January 8, 2011) and in his book entitled: Brain Rules for Baby – How to Raise a Smart and Happy Child from Zero to FivePear Press  2010.

“Letters From QACP Teachers: Linda Capps & Amy Wathey (May/June 2017)”

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Dear Parents:

Each year when May rolls around and we prepare for the spring pageant I am shocked that the year has disappeared so quickly.  I have had such wonderful classes this year, both children and parents, and I’m looking forward to so many of you sharing your children with me again next year.

As my Pre-K class moves on to kindergarten I wish each child a happy and exciting new school experience.  For all of you parents, as you watch your little person become one of the “big kids” I wish you peace as you let go and comfort in knowing you have been amazing parents and your child is so ready for this new adventure.

Have a wonderful summer!

Teacher Linda

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Growth in Imagination:

Just looking at the cubbie pictures of the children from the first weeks of school, shows how much they have grown.  My hope is that all of us have grown as well.  There have been leaps and bounds of growth in friendships, independence, group skills, creativity and more.

One area of the room that has been a delight to explore and enrich for the children this year has been the dramatic play area.  In the fall we purchased some new furniture for the house and the grocery store. The children truly enjoy the new strollers, high chairs and cribs for the baby dolls.  The grocery store has been used constantly and remains a favorite for all the classes.

For a change of pace the dramatic play area has transformed into various situations. We’ve had a tree house, haunted house, doctor’s office, post office, an ocean, a longhouse and a rainforest.  Each situation has sparked imagination.

May this summer bring new opportunities to explore and expand dramatic play with your little ones.  When using your imagination, the options are limitless.

May you all continue to grow and learn!

Teacher Amy

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Biographies for both Teacher Linda and Teacher Amy may be found on QACP’s website at: https://queenannecoop.org/about-2/teachers/

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“How Our Two-Year-Old is Learning to Read” by QACP Parent, Erika Brown (3.9.17)

Late in 2016, I decided that I would make teaching my daughter how to read a priority. By year’s end, I declared, she will be able to read short phrases and multiple sight words. Ambitious? Nah. I would use the methods my teachers used with me, which were also how I learned to teach reading when earning my Masters of Arts in Teaching Elementary Education, and how I eventually taught my own students during my 12 years of both classroom and tutoring lessons. My plans were to first teach her the alphabet, next explain that each letter makes a sound, follow up with consonant blends, instruct her to sound out entire words, and drill her on sight words. Later, I would provide her with the reading strategies like identifying text-to-self or text-to-text connections, predicting, and inferring. If it worked for me, it will work for her! This was until I came across Steven Bialostok’s Raising Readers: Helping Your Child to Literacy at a used bookstore, which has completely challenged my way of thinking___and teaching.

In short, the author, then reading/language arts specialist for the Sacramento-area school district and now a professor with a Ph.D. at the University of Wyoming, advises parents that the best way to teach their children to read is simply this: “talk to your child, provide experiences for your child, and read aloud to your child” (141). It could not be that easy, could it? I talk to her daily, we regularly enjoy our outings, and of course I read to her! Give me more strategies, Man! Instead, his message to us parents of preschool-aged children is not to stress about how early our children will begin actively reading because in the same way that we trust our children will crawl or walk when they are ready, so can we expect them to “emerge naturally into reading” (47). I know what you’re thinking—“Say what?!” In fact, he affirms, “The reason that walking and talking occurs without much worry is because we trust children. We trust that they’ll learn to walk and we trust that they’ll talk. We must also trust that they will read” (55). [Enter shocked emoji here.]

Now, being an experienced educator who proudly sees her daughter as her sole pupil, trusting that my toddler will read when she is (ahem) “ready” challenges all I have learned and practiced. How, tell me how, will this happen? Still, as I read on, his arguments began making total sense. For example, he points out that too much emphasis is given to teaching phonemic awareness first rather than teaching the child to use an array of skills to determine the meaning of the text as a whole. He illustrates this by pointing out how difficult it would be for an individual to put together a jigsaw puzzle if she was only given the pieces without giving her a chance to study the image on the box cover. This would cause the participant to become disinterested in the objective as a whole since it would become too difficult to complete (similar to one losing interest in reading because too much focus and distraction is placed on a single word’s phoneme).

Remember asking what a word said and hearing, “Sound it out,” as a response? This is how teachers and parents place too much emphasis on phonics when instead, we could offer to help our child to gather hints from context clues, illustrations, and even use the first letter of the word in question to help solve its pronunciation. While he does believe that phonics is indeed a tool an emerging reader can utilize when reading, his argument is that it should not be taught first. Instead, parents should be teaching children to infer meaning of the context or a word by using skills like predicting, discussing the context or setting, and providing hints constantly during story time (when caregivers read stories aloud to children) and especially not wait to teach these strategies until they learn what sounds the letters make. That is, we should be using these moments with our children to model good reading strategies from the start and eventually, trust that our children will engage in reading organically.

Almost immediately, my husband and I put Bialostok’s advice to work at home. We now practice Drop Everything and Read (D.E.A.R.) time where we sit and model that we too are readers by diving into our own books while she sits nearby and “reads” her stack of books—something I did not think she was capable of until she was much older. Rest assured, after some initial tears, “Mommy sit and read” requests, and telling me about her book repeatedly, she eventually understood that it is a quiet time when we both sit and read independently, which she can now do for 40 glorious minutes. Forty, People. We have also increased the frequency of reading books with repeated phrases and now, she regularly “reads” what she recalls aloud. Other times, our daughter will rely on her memory or use the illustrations for clues as to what the text might mean. This is precisely the reading skills Bialostok encourages us to teach because the child is then reading for meaning, not just pronunciation. Then, it happened. Just last month, our two-year-old picked up a book we had never read to her exclaiming, “A good night book!” The book was Good Night, Gorilla. We believe she was able to recognize “good night” from her plethora of books with that exact phrase. [Enter weeping emoji here.]

So although Bialostok published his book back in 1992, we strongly adhere to his advice since we are am now witnessing the very stages of reading he believes will take place naturally if we just make story time a priority and ultimately trust that our child will one day become an engaged reader.

“Raising Happy and Responsible Children: Instincts, Foundations, & Guidelines” by QACP Parent Educator, Kate Calhoun

“The behavior you consistently surround your child with will profoundly influence how your child turns out.”

“Most parenting successes are a result of what parents DO when emotions run hot and when things are difficult.  Actions speak louder than words.”

“Brains are pre-loaded with an innate moral awareness. (Loyalty, justice, empathy, respect for authority, and prescriptions against social violence.) How we parent makes the difference in whether moral behavior will develop.  Moral awareness does not equal moral behavior.  It has to be ‘taught’ and ‘caught.’”    -John Medina

Imitative Instincts

At birth babies have the ability to learn by watching and imitating behavior.

Example: A forty-two minute old baby who watches someone stick his tongue out will copy the behavior. Brains are designed to learn by imitating observed behavior.

Example: At about 14 months old, a baby develops the ability to understand ‘object permanence’. They learn this when parents play the ‘Peek-a-Boo’ game. Children delight in learning that things that can’t be seen are still there.

Children continue to learn by reading faces and body language, and by observing what other people are doing.

Laying a Strong, Firm Foundation for Young Children

“Parents must lay down the ‘bricks through the swamp’ to offer kids a solid foundation. Children develop social skills when parents lay down the rules and structure kids need to know to navigate the social world.” –John Medina

12-14 months  – Kids think: “The whole world revolves around me.”

14-24 months – Kids are learning: “There are rules and different perspectives.” They begin to realize that other people have a different point of view than they do.

24 months – Kids explore and test to see how stable and consistent the rules are.  KIDS MUST TEST THE RULES OVER AND OVER. Sometimes referred to as the ‘Terrible Two’s’…kids at this developmental stage need to test rules to make sure things are okay and stable in their world.

Toddlers test to get a predictable, consistent response. It’s not helpful or emotionally healthy to yell or use a loud voice. Stay calm. It helps when parents learn to say ‘no’, ‘stop’, etc. in a calm, firm voice with body language that offers a congruent message. This is not the time to give in to your child, or to let your toddler’s behavior influence your rules. Kids’ feel emotionally safe and their behavior improves when parents use clear and consistent limit-setting and guidance strategies.

Guidelines for Teaching Rules to Preschool Age Children (3-5)

HAVE CLEAR RULES – Use clear and simple language when telling your child about a rule. Make sure both parents and additional caregivers use the same rules as often as possible.

EXPLAIN THE RULES – Teach your child the importance of the rule. Give a simple explanation that tells why you have the rule. Children ages 3 to 5 are more compliant when rules are understood. They are more able to reason and make decisions based on information.

BE KIND AND FIRM – When telling the rules and setting your boundaries, use a tone of voice and actions that show your child that the rule is important, that you care about his feelings, and you that intend to stick to your rules. Being kind and firm at the same time takes some patience and practice. Think of yourself as a coach. You are on the same team with your child. You expect your child to learn new skills with the support of your teaching and guidance.

BE CONSISTENT – Once you decide on your rule or strategy, it’s essential that you make a big effort to follow through and be consistent. When your behavior is consistent your child will find it easier to follow the rules and become more compliant. Children feel emotionally safe when they can predict what behavior is expected of them.

“Parents need to be the source of stability for kids. Consistent parenting rules increase brain development. If rules are not consistent, there is an increased likelihood of pediatric psychiatric disorders.”  -John Medina

Hold steady to your rules. Having rules and routines that are stable helps young kids handle everyday life events, including changes within the family.

Kids can learn, adapt and respond to different people and their rules. They will learn Mom’s rules, Dad’s rules, and the teacher’s rules.  It helps when parents and other caregivers are consistent and use the same rules as much as possible.

OFFER PRAISE AND ENCOURAGEMENT – Remember to notice your child’s effort to follow rules and guidelines. Encourage your child with a hug, ‘way to go!’, ‘you did it!’, thumbs up or high-five to show you appreciate her effort and compliance.

Author Kate Calhoun is a Parent Educator for Queen Anne Cooperative Preschool (QACP). She regularly works with co-op families via her teaching assignments through both Edmonds Community College and Seattle Central Community College. This article was a part of Kate’s Winter 2017 educational series. The material she references is based on John Medina’s presentation for educators in Everett, WA (January 8, 2011) and in his book entitled: Brain Rules for Baby – How to Raise a Smart and Happy Child from Zero to Five, Pear Press  2010.

“Spring, Blossoms & Thoughts….” by QACP Parent, Nidhi Kirpal Jayadevan

A walk around the neighborhood with my preschooler the other day, was more eye opening than I had anticipated. As we stopped to look at cherry blossoms and marveled at the new spring flowers, I savored the deliciousness of being a child. I cherished, pausing and relishing his excitement.

A bitter sweet feeling swept over me, though. At the end of the day, these precious moments and times are but fleeting. I was reminded of a wonderful poem I chanced upon at QACP. It aptly impresses upon the importance and joy of parents becoming children, and seeing the world through their little ones’ eyes.

My Child by Diana Loomans
If I had my child to raise over again…
I’d finger paint more, and point fingers less.
I’d do less correcting, and more connecting.
I’d take my eyes off my watch, and watch more with my eyes.
I’d take more hikes and fly more kites.
I’d stop playing serious and seriously play.
I’d do more hugging and less tugging.
I’d see the oak tree in the acorn more often.
I’d be firm less often and affirm more.
I’d model less about the love of power, and more about the power of love.

“Cookie Conundrum,” by QACP Parent, Nidhi Kirpal Jayadevan

I’m famished, but I need to get out of the house. It’s my only window of opportunity to get some errands out of the way!

I buckle up my toddler in his car seat, and as soon as I’m all set to zoom, what do I see? A gigantic sugar cookie lying carelessly and enticingly on the passenger seat. Clearly, it’s a sign!

The lone cookie was from that time many days ago, when I had bought a bunch for something, I can’t even remember. Whatever! I start munching. It felt good. SINFULLY good!!

And here comes the downer. My son wants in too, and I don’t want to give in! For one, the cookie is MINE, and second, no cookies for my toddler!

So, I do, what only a responsible momma would. No, I don’t give up the cookie. I say, “It’s mama’s snack.” It’s not a lie at all. Of course, my son believes me. There’s no doubt it is MY snack, given how I’m devouring it with the utmost joy! But he still wants some – “Cookie! want some.”

That’s when I resort to Plan-B. It’s one of throwing out words and phrases that are open to reiteration, discussion and interpretation. “Cookie? It’s actually mama’s snack.” At this point, he gives me the ‘I understand what you’re saying’ look, and also, looks a bit confused – why can’t you share it with me? Isn’t that what you’re always telling me to do???

As a parent, we all have a special gift. The gift of reading our kids’ minds. And believe me when I say this: I really wished I didn’t have this ‘gift’. So, what do I do? I literally gulp down the enormous cookie, in about a second, and start a loquacious and animated conversation about our Oh! so exciting trip to the grocery store.

He buys it all, forgets about the cookie that was so skillfully denied to him, and both mama and baby happily stroll down the multiple aisles of produce and dairy. I kid you not! A sugar high most definitely sweetens the mundane in a most delightful way!

I learned something that day. I got an insight into the mind of a toddler through this weird role-reversal episode. With this new sensibility, I hope to be a little more empathetic to my toddler’s frequent propensity of genuinely not wanting to share!

“Cell-Free Days: A Lesson for Mama,” by QACP Parent, Nidhi Kirpal Jayadevan

It was one of those crazy mornings. Something that almost every parent can relate to – a late start, school drop off, rain, toddler in tow…. You get the drift!

You’d also agree, that often, all this chaos culminates into a clumsy, yet clinical drop of a cell phone. A fall so strategic that your lifeline, your cell phone is smashed beyond recognition, beyond repair.

And that’s exactly what happened to me. That’s right! I was sans mobile for a few days. I looked at my cracked phone wistfully and helplessly. A phone is a phone is a phone. What’s the big deal? But here’s the thing: Old habits die hard.

Even though my cell was dead, I longed to check my FB feed. The luxury I could afford myself when I had a few seconds to veg-out. I missed being able to read the news on the go. Something I liked to do when I had a few minutes to check-in with the world. I was unable to take cute pix of my boys to capture those “Awww…” moments that we as parents do every now and then.

It was an odd, lonely feeling, until I got used to not having my cell be the conduit of my escape or reality. In a weird way, I felt more “present”. I saw and listened more as my pace of life had somewhat slowed down. I was having more engaging conversations with my family. I was forced to remember more since I couldn’t instantly capture it all.

I don’t think I realized it till I lost my beloved former “friend”. The preoccupation of having the power to send out that email now (versus later) is all pervasive. Previously I was so focused on snapping the “now” that I often forgot to savor the moment. My cell-free days had me smelling the roses. Now that I have my old friend back, I welcome it, but it’s definitely second to the roses I found 🙂

Complete Water Safety for Kids

Guest Blog Post by Alex Robbins of Safety Today

Children love to spend hot summer days by the lake or the backyard pool. As a parent, it’s common to worry about the safety of your child. According to Injury Facts 2016, 3,391 drownings occurred in 2013. Twelve percent of those who drowned were children under the age of 5. Drowning is the 2nd leading cause of death in children under the age of 14. Armed with these facts, it is important that you take the necessary precautions to prevent any water-related accidents for your child. Here are a few water safety tips and guidelines you can enforce.

Enroll in swim lessons

Your child can be introduced to the water as early as 6 months of age, however, the American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend formal water safety programs until the age of 1. Evidence has shown that children ages 1 to 4 may be less likely to drown if they have had proper swim instruction. Swim lessons will educate your child on how to relax, breathe and float in the water. They will also learn the proper safety guidelines of water activity, however it is important that you enforce them. Although your child will be practicing independence in the pool, your supervision is still a must. If you are not a strong swimmer, it is advised that you take lessons as well. To find water safety classes in your area, visit the American Red Cross or YMCA.

Adult supervision is needed at all times

Taking swim lessons does not guarantee an accident-free swimming experience. Learning to swim lowers the risk of drowning, but children still need to be supervised by the water at all times. It only takes 25 seconds for a child to become submerged, and they can drown in as little as 2 inches of water. If you are going to be in a distracted environment such as a party, assign one or two adults to monitor the children. If there are going to be toddlers in the water, assign an adult to be an arm’s length away. This is called “touch supervision”. It is recommended that each supervising adult is CPR-certified. As a parent, you may want to take CPR training as a skill to have in any environment. Training classes are typically offered at local hospitals and fire departments.

If your child will be using a donut float or a “noodle” in the water, you will still need to keep an eye on them. Arm floaties and other accessories do not aid in preventing drowning incidents. If you would like your child to have added protection, use a Coast Guard-approved life jacket. These vest are fitted to your child and are the only guaranteed safe floatation device available. You may purchase these vest at a sporting good store or from various online retailers.

Safety first

It’s natural for your child to feel a rush of excitement when around the water, but you must enforce all the proper guidelines before turning them loose. There should be bsolutely no running or pulling others into the water. They must ask an adult for permission before going for a swim. Also, if a group of children are involved, appoint each child a “buddy” to keep an eye on at all times. If they should lose sight of their buddy, tell them to alert an adult immediately.

Safety saves lives. As a parent, it is your job to do all you can to ensure that your child has an incident-free experience by the water. Use these guidelines for your peace of mind while your child enjoys a summer full of fun water activities!

Mr. Robbins is the father of three lively boys. He considers home safety to be a number one priority and is part of the wonderful team at Safety Today, a community of parents and professionals promoting safety in the home and the community.

Play Foam on the Plane: A Twos Class Travel Tip by Nidhi Kirpal Jayadevan

There’s something pretty awesome and intriguing about play-foam, or “floam” if you may. It is light, sticky and gooey in a weird way. Floam has this beady texture; plus it’s inexpensive and not messy.
One of the things that I almost ALWAYS travel with when I’m on a plane is this ball of blue floam. My kids, 2 and 5 (boys, at that, too!) who are generally shifty, LOVE floam. Otherwise easily distracted, they find immense joy and comfort in squishing this amazing “thing.”
After the kneading, pounding, pinching, “ball-making” is all done, the boys start jabbing plastic dinosaurs into their respective floamy piles. This is followed by putting all of this on Hot WheelsTM cars.
Once all this is done, I usually pull out coffee stirrers, and somehow the game is all about dinosaurs in fast cars out in space….You get the drift 😊
At the end of ALL this, either it’s time to land, or nap, or a snack is on the horizon! Time passes, and the kids have clocked in a fair amount of self-driven creative play. Win-win?
Sure, there are books, crayons and digital tablets that are intrinsic plane activities. Throw floam into the mix too, and you won’t regret it, I promise!

Find floam (and benefit QACP) at Amazon: http://amzn.to/2lytKI2

 

 

 

 

 

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