My kids often do things that are expectedly unexpected (if that even makes sense). If I tell my kids to do something and they have a reaction that I didn’t anticipate, it is unexpected… but since it happens every single day a bajillion times a day… really… how unexpected can it be? Expectedly unexpected.
Expectedly unexpect this, kids: MY reaction to above situation. I get annoyed. Punish. Yell. Throw a Mommy hissy fit if it is the umpteenth time I have told them to turn off the TV. Put the kids in timeout. Take away the TV for the day. Talk talk talk talk talk about how they disobeyed. Seriously, you’d think they’d learn. You think, I’d learn.
Well, I had this re-epiphany the other day. A re-epiphany is that ‘aha’ moment that has been tucked away in our heads. Sometimes we just need a little reminder. And here is my re-epiphany… I need to teach my kids HOW TO THINK!
Me: “It’s time to get dressed…”
Yet they continued to play with toys.
Me: “C’mon boys, let’s get dressed.”
Me: “Stop playing with toys and get dressed!”
Yeah, I’m not proud of those moments when I snap. So, I have recently started turning the conversation around by verbally thinking about and questioning the situation to give them a chance to make the correct decision about what is the important thing to do to accomplish a task.
Me: “It’s time to get dressed.”
They continue to play with toys.
Me: “We need to get to school on time, so which is more important right now: playing with toys or getting dressed?
Boys: “Getting dressed.”
Me: “What happens if we play with toys instead of getting dressed?”
Boys: “Then we are going to be late for school…”
and my little one added: “Then Mommy will be maaaaad.”
Yup… I guess I needed this little epiphany to get myself to chill out because fussing at my kids apparently sticks in their little minds.
I have been focusing my conversations with the kids on using guiding questions to help them discern how to behave. The things that you and I as adults do automatically in our heads do not come naturally to young kids, but we can teach them the thought process that needs to be going through their minds. We can verbally model that for them so they start doing it as well:
Is this the right thing to do?
Which is more important?
What would happen if I didn’t listen?
This type of teaching will help your kids learn how to think things through. If you notice, I talked about our goal: to get to school on time. Then I narrowed down the field of all of the possible things they could be doing right now to two things: playing with toys (the action they are doing) and getting dressed (the action I need them to be doing.
I then ask “What is more important right now?” The right now is important because we do not want them to think that the things that matter most to them aren’t important, but at that exact moment, which is the MOST important. With my 3-year-old, I sometimes also have to say, “We can play with our toys after homework today when it is play time,” to remind him that his own personal goal (to play with toys) will also be fulfilled, but at a later point today.
We have used this approach for many things this week – most of them have been in the format of prioritizing which activity will best help us to reach our goal.
Teaching how to think is cross-curricular. You already teach foreshadowing (what’s going to happen next) in reading and math (sequencing) and cause and effect in science. This is just taking the same conversational approach and applying it to behavior.
I recommend also having these conversations during regular play, not just when you need them to do something. Expect the unexpected. Try to anticipate how they might do something that you will have to fuss them for and start a conversation about it before it happens…
Mommy Teacher: “If we are going to play in your room which is next to your sleeping sister’s room, is it more important to talk loudly or quietly?”
Mommy Teacher: “Why do we need to talk quietly?”
Child: “Because we do not want to wake Sister up.”
And if you’re like me and have a little lawyer or politician on your hands who will try to argue his decision to choose to do something besides what you need him to do, just remind him to think about what is MOST important to accomplish the end goal.
I have taken graduate level courses in child psychology and behavior management. I have spent countless hours in classes, seminars and meetings about how to set rules, boundaries, and expectations and how to discipline effectively using positive reinforcements – and had a few years in the classroom using those practices that I was taught. I have read books and manuals and blogs and magazines and read and read and read and studied about how to get my students to do what I need them to do, when I need them to do it.
And my expert, degreed self had a vision of how I would teach and discipline my own kids one day (as if MY kids would ever need it). Here’s how my perfect mommy self would “handle” (for lack of a better word – where’s my thesaurus???) my kids.
1. I would always explain why I needed them to do something. “The reason I need you to be quiet right now is because Mommy needs to make a phone call and I can’t hear the person on the other line when you are also talking.”
2. I would always use positive speak (i.e. “Walk” instead of “Don’t run.”)
3. “Because I said so” would NEVER be a spoken from my mouth. Instead I would always do #1.
(Ok. You can stop laughing at me now. We are always better parents before we are actually parents, right?)
So, then I became a real parent, and you know what I learned when my first born was a toddler? “Because I said so” sometimes IS the reason I need them to stop what they are doing. Maybe because they wouldn’t understand the real reason, or maybe because I just don’t feel like giving a reason (I’m not alone here!), or maybe because there isn’t any time to explain. For example…
When my oldest son was a little over two, I took him and his baby brother to the park with some friends. Up to this point, I believe I had stuck to my ideal vision that I stated above – pretty easy to do when they are in the baby and new-toddler phases.
I was sitting on the picnic blanket nursing the baby who was still in “blob mode”(around 2 months old) and my two-year-old was running in the open field between me and the parking lot. At one point, he decided to chase some older kids who were closer to the parking lot.
Realizing I was a little tied up at the moment (bare breasts under the nursing cover), I decided to raise my voice (not yell… no, never yell) at my son to come play closer to me…
“James, come back!”
Haha, yeah, like that worked. The two-year-old ran a little farther away.
“Jaaaames! Come back over here, please!”
And to my naive astonishment, the kid didn’t even slow down. In fact, I believe he sped up!
Then, it hit me. I had always been close enough to him to be able to explain to him WHY he shouldn’t be doing something. This insta-command thing was new. He had never heard it before. So just as he was nearing the parking lot, I yelled,
“JAMES! YOU NEED TO GET OVER HERE RIGHT NOW BECAUSE YOU ARE ABOUT TO RUN INTO A PARKING LOT AND THERE ARE CARS AND YOU COULD GET HIT BY A CAR BECAUSE YOU ARE TOO SHORT AND THEY WON’T BE ABLE TO SEE YOU AND THAT WOULD HURT A LOT!”
Or something to that effect.
That moment right there, the first time my son completely ignored me. It wasn’t until I gave him that explanation of WHY he shouldn’t do something, completely changed my ideal vision of parenting. Why did he do that? Because up until that day I had explained every.little.thing to him… and don’t get me wrong! That’s how they learn best how to not just DO, but understand right versus wrong.
But in an emergency… when they truly truly need to stop what they are doing. They need to STOP. NOW. There is no time for an explanation. They need to understand that you mean business.
That’s when I invented the “code word.” I needed a shortcut to get my child to listen without question.
We went home and practiced it. FREEZE. When Mommy says that word, it does not matter what you are doing, what you WANT to be doing or what you were ABOUT to do; you are going to stop, put your hands on your head, and turn to look at me.
Now, the “put your hands on your head” part may seem a bit extreme, but trust me, when they are playing with a toy, the only way to get their undivided attention is to make sure their hands are empty.
I recently noticed my 3-year-old doing the same thing as my older son had done years before. This week, I brought back our old friend, FREEZE.
The kids have a great time playing our FREEZE game where they get to cut up and act crazy, then Mommy yells “FREEZE” and they immediately stop with their hands on their head. They also like playing Mommy’s role and telling me when to FREEZE.
With some short reminders in the car when we are about to go into the store or play at the park, the kids remember to respond immediately when I yell the code word. It’s also a great way to get both of their attention when I need them to switch activities. It gives me time to explain how we are going to transition into the next activity.
Do you have a code word? What do you use? Comment below to share!!!
HEAD’S UP, MOMMY TEACHERS! This Sunday is Grandparents Day! My kids love their grandparents so much and wanted to make them a special gift for their big day!
My 4-month old niece, Marley Kate, recently sent me a cute letter and it inspired our Grandparents Day gifts.
Since our printer is broken, I decided to hand paint ours, and leave a spot open for my niece, Abby, to stamp her foot, too. This one below is on its way to Oklahoma right now.
Then I thought it would be a great idea to make a few hand print art templates for you to purchase and download so your children can make beautiful art for their grandparents too!
In addition to a “You Are My Sunshine” template for your baby/toddler’s footprints, I have also made a “You Are o-FISH-ally My Favorite” template for a sideways hand print and an “Owl Always Love You” template for a palm hand print and thumbprints for wings.
These templates are available to download this week for just $1 for all 3! Enjoy!
I have had many parents come to me worried that their preschool or kindergarten aged child may be dyslexic* after he or she continues to spell and write words/letters backwards, upside down, in mirror image, or mix up letters within a word.
Let me say now that this writing behavior is totally normal at this stage in your child’s pre-writing and pre-reading development and in most cases* is not indicative of a learning disability.
Let’s think about this…
We, the smarter-than-the-average-preschooler mommy teachers, see a triangle. 3 sides + 3 points = triangle no matter how you look at it.
(Technically that last one is a pyramid says my 5year old, but you get my point.)
What, then, is the letter A?
It is but a mere visual representation of a sound in a word… a symbol… or simply, a shape, not unlike our friend, the triangle. We recognize this shape no matter the direction, font, size or color. Our brains are hardwired to group these similar shapes together so we can recognize them even though they may look slightly different than the Times New Roman capital letter A.
Our kids are naturally doing the same exact thing which is why they can still find the letter A in a pile of letters, even though some of the As are upside down.
To help teach correct directionality (the direction in which we read and write in English), use your index finger to guide reading: top-bottom, left-right. This is a learned skill and will become ingrained through repetition and practice. In Leyson’s case, if he knew that he should have spelled the letters out from left to right, the word would have actually spelled JAMES instead of SEMAJ – but with a sideways S and an E for an M… babysteps.
When Leyson spelled James’ name backwards, I then modeled how to spell his own name as he said the letters out loud to me. Leaving those letters in place, I then pulled a second set of letters for his name and asked him to put them in order directly under the one I had done.
“Which letter comes first? Which comes second?” Etc.
To fix his sideways S, I lined up a few of the same letter and laid them out right side, upside down and sideways and we chose the correct letter. This taught him that it DOES matter which way a letter is written… BAM! Epiphany.
Back to his spelling of James’ name:
Me: “Now, if we spelled the name LEYSON with the L over here on the left, what is different about how you spelled JAMES?”
Leyson: “I used an upside down E as an M!”
* Dyslexia is a Developmental Reading Disorder (DRD) which is one of the most common learning disabilities. A small percentage of those with this type of DRD actually see and write letters backwards or upside down. Most often dyslexia is diagnosed within the critical beginning reader years (kindergarten – 2nd grade) if a child of normal intelligence still has difficulties with visual and/or auditory reading comprehension, spelling and phonological awareness.
If after age appropriate and developmentally appropriate reading and writing strategies have been correctly taught to your school-aged child and you find he or she is still struggling with reading, begin to log your perception of your child’s reading abilities and share it with your child’s teacher or doctor so they can determine if your child may need further evaluation.
Summer break is about halfway over here in Louisiana! If you are just now joining our summer quest to never hear the phrase, “I’m bored,” please go back and read Part 1 and Part 2 of our summer learning curriculum and activity schedule. On the right hand column, you will see all of the summer schedule posts neatly organized for you to have quick access!
WEEK 5: OCEAN LIFE
So I apologize for the delay in the post about Ocean Life. I’d love to give you my reasons (my computer crashed so I’m having to sneak around to borrow one and we went on a vacation) but no one wants to hear those!
The kids had a great time learning about Ocean Life despite the fact that they never really showed too much interest in Finding Nemo – I’ve tried… what’s not to like about it? But as you all know, kids tend to have their own opinions about things no matter how much we try to mold their little minds ;-).
nywho, our favorite activity from the week was our Ocean Life PUPPET THEATER! This activity was super cheap and was instant entertainment for DAYS! It is also a great way to encourage storytelling which increases skills in reading comprehension, writing and illustrating stories (this skill starts as early as kindergarten) and oral communication.
Painters Tape, poster board, scissors, long skewers/craft sticks, 1 blue and 1 yellow plastic table cloth, black sharpie marker
To make the puppets, I used a foam board. YOU, however, should NOT use a foam board.
That sucker was a pain to cut out all of the fishy shapes with all of the twists and turns. I ended up breaking most of the fish when cutting them out and had to play “doctor” to fix them all back together (great tie-in to our Community lesson). Just use 1 white poster board and it will save you time, energy, and unnecessary frustration.
I drew the fish onto my board using a black sharpie. The kids painted the fish and then went down for their naps (good timing on my part so they didn’t have to wait for the paint to dry). I cut the fish out and taped the long skewers to the back of the fish. (I ran out of skewers and used Popsicle sticks for the starfish, crab and crawfish* since they don’t swim too far from the bottom of the ocean anyway).
*I understand that crawfish are not normally found in the ocean, but as they have been raised in South Louisiana, my kids insisted we have a crawfish in our puppet show.
After nap time, the kids could not WAIT to put on the puppet show! My daughter’s room was the PERFECT theater because 1. she had the audience (stuffed animals galore) and what show would be complete without an audience? and 2. her closet made the perfect stage for the show!
We took the blue table cloth and hung it with tape from the clothes rod, and the 2nd table cloth (we used blue and taped yellow tissue paper to make “sand” but just using a yellow table cloth would be so much easier) was taped across the doorway of the closet at door knob level. This gave the kids enough space to crouch under and behind the yellow (sand) curtain and in front of the blue (ocean) curtain.
James had the idea to make a sign with the title and performers names and hung it on the closet doors for all of the audience (stuffed animals) to see. He also had the idea to use one of our lamps as the spotlight and designated his Mimi to be the lighting technician.
There are several different ways you can perform plays with your kids!
1. REENACTMENT: You can take a story that your kids know really well (a great one for this theme would be The Rainbow Fish or even Finding Nemo) and your kids can reenact the story. To simplify this, you can make sequencing cards for your kids to act out:
1. Nemo and his dad lived in an anemone.
2. Nemo swims out to sea and is captured by the scuba diver.
3. Nemo’s dad and Dori search for Nemo and meet a lot of friends on the way.
4. Nemo makes his great escape.
5. Nemo and his dad are reunited.
2. MAD LIB: You write a short story out and leave blanks for the kids to fill in.
Once upon a time there was a fish named name. He was color and color. His best friends was name the ocean animal. Together they liked to activity.
3. NARRATE: You can narrate the story and the kids can move and talk for the puppets.
4. STORY WRITING: This is great for older kids! Your kids write the story and include a beginning, middle and end!
5. TAKE TURNS WRITING THE STORY: Each person adds a new adventure to the story! Things can get a little crazy here!
Person 1: “Once upon a time there was a fish named Bob.”
Person 2: “Bob loved to swim to the middle of the ocean.”
Person 3: “He made lots of friends along the way.”
Person 1: “His best friend was a starfish named All Star.”
Person 2: “All Star loved to play basketball in the water.”
As for my kids? They preferred to #6, JUST PLAY! Sit back and see what your kids come up with! This is my favorite and each of my kids had such different ideas for the puppets that they each took turns playing puppeteer and audience member. They loved watching what the other came up with and would build off of each other’s stories! I love how these little minds work!
James’ story was great (says the biased mommy)! It was about a little fish who met a shark who wanted to eat him. All of his fishy friends decided to go talk to the shark to stop him from eating their friend. They offered him a peach instead. The shark enjoyed the peach so much that he never ate a fish again and the little fish and the shark became best friends. The play was called “The Fish, the Shark and the Peach” (fitting).
Leyson’s story took place in the river (Mr. 3-year-old wanted to create his own setting) and his fish spent the whole time swimming up and down the river. And then the rest of the time his play sounded very similar to big brother’s play.
CRAFT TIME FAIL:
Another activity we did was a near-complete failure. I say near-complete because the kids could care less that it didn’t work as it was intended.
My kids and I ATTEMPTED to make sensory-bag fish bowls. We cut out a hole in a paper plate and glued it to another paper plate – then decorated the plates, of course. We filled plastic zip-lock baggies with blue hand soap (gel probably would have worked better) and put small plastic fish inside. Then we placed the bags inside of the paper plate hole and made “fish bowls,” but yeah, they didn’t work. The kids DID enjoy squishing the fish around in the sensory bags! But then they started leaking because Mommy bought the cheap bags. ::womp womp::
Here is the craft that gave me the idea to make a sensory bag, but I should have just stuck to these directions instead:
“Read it again, Mom” has so many great book ideas, songs and crafts for this theme!