Cultivating Your Child’s Character

Interesting Powerpoint on developing character in young children. One important point, “decision fatigue”: that is, the truth that the more choices we have to make, the worse job we do. So, much of character development is fostering positive habits. Mary

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It was a pleasure spending the evening with an engaged group of parents to think about what we each want our Character Legacy to be and how to practically go about passing that on to our children.  If your parenting partner was unable to attend or if you would like to participate at home, please feel free to email me and I’d be happy to send along the Cultivating Character Worksheet Packet to you.  Please keep me posted on your discoveries!

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It’s all what you’re used to

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(This really is about parentingl bear with me!)

Recently, our very fancy dryer died. It has a fatal computer error. It needs a new computer, which costs $200. Talk about First World problems! My dryer is not happy without its own computer! I am old enough that I know that one does not need a computer to run a heating element and a turny thing. I am contemplating a dumber dryer, for sure. My husband wonders why this is aggravating me so much; what’s the big deal?

In the meantime, I am enjoying my drying rack. It is better (vinyl covered) than my old one, the wooden one I had for years when the kids were younger. (The mildew on the wooden one was off-putting. Otherwise they are identical; great designs are hard to beat.)

Before my children were born, we had no washer or dryer. I went to the laundry mat, and brought the clean clothes home to hang them up. Nice weather: outside; bad weather: inside. Then, after child #1, my mother bought us a washer! I still hung up all laundry, even cloth diapers. After child #2, we got a dryer.

With the dryer demise, I have revived the drying rack. As I said, I enjoy it. I don’t enjoy every minute of it: not the scratchy towels, or the lint issue, or what to do when your favorite shirt is hanging damply when you want to wear it, or the wrinkle issue, or the get-up-and-hang-something-up issue. But I enjoy it nevertheless. And I think I enjoy it because I am used to it. That is, I did it every day, for years, even if that was 30 years ago.

We also have a drying rack at school. I am now contemplating bringing wet napkins and towels from home to hang up. Talk about inconvenient! However, when we have done this, inside and out, the children LOVE it. They love, love, love it. They fight over who can hang things up, and who can take them down. They do this with all “practical life”, but, I will admit, they have more interest in the novel jobs. However, if we did this every day, there would always be a child who did not mind helping. Unlike adults, who know that it is silly to hang things up if you can dry them in a dryer. (I am not arguing the energy efficiency issue here.)

That is to say, children enjoy tasks which involve their bodies, a bit of skill learning, that are obviously useful and needed, and that you (adult person) will do with them, at least initially. They really do. They will sharpen pencils, fold napkins, sort socks, squeeze orange juice, grind peanut butter or flour, any old boring thing that needs doing.

And, if they are used to doing them, these chores become habit, and can even be enjoyable. They can space out a bit, socialize, and do these boring old jobs with some satisfaction, like me with the drying rack.

Please take time to teach and allow your child to learn to do the needed, boring jobs that make your household work, whatever they are. They will value learning a skill, being part of the family, contributing, and will have more boring things to enjoy as adults.

Enjoy a laugh and ponder….

This is so wonderful. Have a good laugh, and wouldn’t it be wonderful to have this available to play when you are losing your ish, as a friend says, to take the edge off? Unless you sing along, your children probably will take a while to learn the words.:)

Notice how much of the singing rant is made up of questions. Questions (What are you doing? What did I do to deserve this? Again?) are gratifying to us and our sense of being overwhelmed, outraged, or incredulous, and provide a bit of emotional relief. However, they are not helpful to the child, or, in a larger way, to you.

Remember, even The Virgin Mary tried this on Jesus: “When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”’ The answer annoyed the heck out of them. (Enjoy this snotty blue-eyed Jesus: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=trePi2pBtdM)

First, your child either cannot answer (” I have no idea why I have my pants on my head.”), the answer is obvious (“What am I doing? You can see that I have covered the cat in shaving cream”), or the question reflects an adult problem, which, like “first world problems” are really a personal issue. This is what happened to Mary and Joseph: he did it because he was a snotty 12 year old. Your child does not know what you have done to deserve this, although your parents and spouse might. There is a factual answer that has to do with human reproduction, which probably would not help you to hear, either.

RIE (Resources for Infant Educators) http://www.janetlansbury.com/2013/04/5-benefits-of-sportscasting-your-childs-struggles/ describes a technique called sportscasting
. Sportscasting is describing what is happening, including, perhaps, how it is affecting you: “I see a cat covered in shaving cream. She is really angry, and so am I! We have a problem! We cannot go to the park until this is solved. How are we going to fix it?” This describes the problem, tells how it is affecting those involved, and includes the child(ren) in coming up with a solution. You also get veto power over solutions, as well as whether to let anyone off the hook for participation: “No, you are holding the cat.” or “I don’t want you in the kitchen until I have mopped this up!”

So, with sportscasting instead of ranting, you get to state the problem, which, sometimes gets the problem solved on its own. You get to say how it is affecting everyone, and you probably get a solution, one in which your child will be a (possibly) constructive participant. The child gets to actually learn something, which is largely the point of parenting, is it not?

How to talk to children about how to talk to people

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This might be me. Prickly and cute, or cute and prickly. It might be me at my best, maybe. I don’t see myself objectively, but I just reflected on this as I responded all judgey to a post on Facebook. To another Montessori teacher, how ironic. My apolocy: “G & C fail.”

That is, “grace and courtesy fail.” That is, sorry, I should know better.

Montessori created the only educational system that I know of that contains “how to talk to people” as part of the curriculum. That’s what she called it “grace and courtesy”, very 19th century of her. It is part of the curriculum area: “Practical life” (also called “everyday living”). How practical, that it would be helpful to teach young humans things that will help them live, like how to blow their noses, how to greet people, and how to ask for help.

Some days in the classroom, I feel that this is 80% of what I do, to give those words: “You could say: ‘Will you come get me when you are done with that?'” “I might want to say: ‘Leave my work’ if someone did that to me.” “You could say: ‘I don’t want to be wet!'”

And then, of course, I am reminded of how I am supposed to talk to people. Good reminders. I need them every day.

Parenting Hacks

Listened to a podcast from Tim Ferriss (4 hour work week) about “life hacks”: tricks to make you proficient with less work, and thought about the parenting classes we teach (5 sessions, 2 hours a session).  They are already “Cliff Notes”, but wondered if I could hit the highlights, so here goes….

#1 Tell, don’t ask.  That is, don’t set yourself up for getting mad by asking a child something that is not optional: “Do you want to put on your coat?” Instead, we often use “After….”.  “After you get your jammies on, we can read that book.”  Or “When..”; “When you have your shoes on, you can have your other piece of toast.”  I think of it as leapfrogging over the possible power struggle to the thing wanted.  Some children love the attention or power of unneeded discussion.  This is no fun for parents.  Pants, shoes, teeth brushing, time to leave should not be up for conversation.  Leapfrog over those suckers, baby!tree picture

Family Meetings

family meetingsPositive Discipline (and Adlerian psychology) describes four “mistaken goals” that children have: undue power, undue attention, revenge and assumed inadequacy.  By this they mean that all children want connection and belonging, but are not good, always, at getting it.  (Think of how they went about learning to walk!)

Family Meetings address all of these: they provide appropriate power, attention, a chance to input into family decisions (“Where should we stop on the way to the beach?” “What kinds of things do you want me to buy for lunches?”) and give a sense of empowerment.

Here are some more guidelines:  http://blog.positivediscipline.com/2012/01/family-meetings.html

For young children, Jane Nelson recommends starting with only affirmations at first, and having them be very brief (15 mins) followed by a fun family activity.

Good luck and have fun!