I Taught My Daughter to Fear

I taught my daughter to fear

Grasshoppers.

I. hate. grasshoppers.

They have those big, bulgy eyes and they always wait until the last millisecond to hop away from you and…just…ugh.

Spiders? Unless they’re huge or venomous, not a big deal.

Snakes? Meh. (see the note on spiders).

But grasshoppers? They send me running back inside. Or at least give me an excuse to avoid yard work.

However, my daughter spent all summer catching them out in the woodpile, much to my chagrin.

Until last week.

I was fiddling around in the garage, and suddenly I heard this unearthly scream. Followed by, “Mama! Mama!”

And then, the words that made my heart drop.

” A GRASSHOPPER!!!”

I turned the corner and Chicka Chicka was frozen, with her bare foot at a funny angle.

My first horrible, terrible thought was ” She has stepped on a grasshopper with bare feet.”

Then I saw her shorts.

Apparently a grasshopper had hopped itself right onto her shorts and she panicked. Which, I can’t say I blame her.

I helped her brush it off (ew) and we went on with our day.

But something struck me.

I had taught my daughter to fear grasshoppers. 

I had never told her to be afraid of grasshoppers, and yet she went from delight in catching them to being terrified when one jumped on her.

What had changed?

She saw my fear. She saw the way my nose wrinkled every time I had to walk through the unmowed back lawn. She heard every time I said, “O I hate grasshoppers.”

Until she feared them herself. 


Now, here’s the point I’m trying to make: I accidentally taught my daughter to fear something. Granted, something kind of silly that hopefully will fade, or maybe just be a quirky thing about her.

But imagine what else I might be accidentally teaching her.

What about every time I sigh a little when I look in the mirror, or when I try to explain why I wear makeup? 

What about when I am having a bad day, and grab a huge Dr. Pepper because “Momma needs it?”

What about when I shy away from doing certain things or reaching my goals because it might be too hard or uncomfortable? 

What is she learning then?


I certainly don’t want to pass on my insecurities to my children. I want them to know that they have so many positive attributes and great capacity to make this world a better place (as I hope most parents desire as well).

But to do that, I think we all need to reflect on if what we want our children to learn aligns with what we are passively teaching them.

We can’t act one way and expect them to learn the opposite. 

Luckily, there are so many opportunities to influence our children. Much in the same way I accidentally taught Chicka Chicka to fear grasshoppers, I can also teach her things like:

  • We are a family and we work together to run the house.
  • We need to speak kind words, even when we disagree.
  • Always do your best.

But this time, it won’t be on accident.

Teaching When You’re Not a Teacher: Meltdowns

Teaching Special Needs Meltdowns

Does this post need more of a title?

Children can have irrational reactions to just about anything.

I think I’d be getting your hopes up if I said that I could teach you how to keep kids from having meltdowns.

I’m not some mystical child-whisperer. 

However, I can teach you some strategies for working through meltdowns when you a) don’t know the child super well, and/or b)you are in a small group setting and can’t devote 20 minutes to working through emotions.


Know the Child

This is where you have to do some leg work by talking to the child’s parents and, possibly, some trial-and-error.

  1. Does the child crave contact (cuddles, sitting on lap, etc.), or do they want to be left alone when they are upset?

It’s fascinating to me that children that have the same autism diagnosis can respond to touch in completely different ways. Some seek it, some abhore it, and others try to push you away but they actually do want physical contact.

*I think it goes without saying that if a particular child does respond well to physical contact, you need to talk to the parents and find out what they do and what they are comfortable with. *

2) Is the child able to be distracted from big feelings? If so, what does the trick?

This may be a phrase, it may be an activity (like coloring), or it may be something sensory like a squishy ball, a beloved stuffed animal, etc.

Just keep this info in your back pocket. You never know when you might need it.

3) Are there any triggers to avoid and/or things I need to know?

Some children may have fears or anxieties about everyday things and events we don’t even think about. Think bees (every time they are in grass), or electricity, or plumbing. Or there may be stressors at home such as divorce or a new sibling that can most definitely affect their behavior.

Taking a few minutes to talk to a child’s parents can make a world of difference and avoid unnecessary, unpleasant situations. Plus, it shows the parents that you care. 

Give Choices

When a child is melting down and you really don’t have the time or space to let them cry, or talk about it, etc., you can give a child choices.

I recommend only two choices, since his/her decision-making skills will undoubtedly diminish during these big feelings.

The choices need to encourage positive behavior without rewarding negative behavior.

Let me say that again: The choices need to encourage positive behavior without rewarding negative behavior. 

Rather than offer bribes of treats or special privileges if they calm down, offer them choices for how they calm down.

For the youngest kids, I use the “power of 5” strategies.

Yes, I made that up all by myself. So don’t google it, it’ll just lead you right back here. 

The “power of 5” strategies are:

  1. take 5 big breaths
  2. Take a 5-minute cool-off (basically a time-out but it’s not a punishment, it’s an opportunity)
  3. Count to 5 (or 10 or 15, depending on the child’s abilities)

Obviously, you can adjust these as necessary.

But the point is you are offering choices that allow them to calm down and re-enter the situation/group without rewarding the meltdown.

Be Gentle but Firm

It is completely acceptable to validate a child’s feelings, even mid-meltdown.

Technically, it goes beyond acceptable and I fully encourage it. 

I think it can even be harmful to dismiss a child’s emotions, however irrational they may appear to you.

When a child is having a meltdown, squat/sit down so you are eye-level with them, and say:

“I can tell you are mad (or sad, or frustrated, etc.). It is no fun to be mad. Let’s choose a way to feel happy again. You can choose _____ or _______.”

Personally, when in a small group situation, or one where time is limited, I do not acknowledge why they are feeling so upset. That often causes a resurgence of crying and sobbing- not exactly what you want. If you feel a discussion is in order, you can mention it to the parents or talk about it with the child at a later time (when they are calm).

Being gentle but firm is a good balance. You are not a pushover, but you also are not “laying down the law.” You show you understand why a child is upset, but offer healthy ways to deal with those emotions.


So there you have it! I hope this series has encouraged those of you who find yourselves teaching or interacting with children.

Final note: If you would like more posts about dealing with emotions, check them out here and here and here.

Do you have any questions or comments for dealing with meltdowns? I would love to hear them!

 

 

Teaching When You’re Not a Teacher: Promoting Engagement

Teaching SN part two

Hello again! Let’s jump right into part two of my series on effectively teaching special needs children.

So earlier this week we talked about how to set expectations with a child(ren).

I see that as the foundation of effective teaching.

Today we will build the walls.

That’s right- I’m talking about how to keep special needs children engaged.


I will start off by saying that it can be so tricky. 

Sometimes what works one day won’t work another day.

That’s why I like offering several suggestions-a toolbox, if you will- of ways to set up your interactions for success.

Give Him/Her a Job

My daughter Chicka Chicka has good days and bad days when it comes to listening and following directions.

But she takes the recycling out like a pro. 

And as I learned last week, she also excels at Magic Eraser-ing all the grubby doors.

Surprisingly, all the grubbiness is right at kid-level. Hmmmmmmm……

Kids love to be given jobs and it sets them up to receive praise. It doesn’t even have to be a crucial or involved job.

My favorite jobs when working with kids were ones that could also be used as leverage to encourage good behavior throughout the day/lesson.

Image result for pirates of the caribbean leverage

comerecommended.com

O, like you didn’t think of Pirates of the Caribbean.

Say you give a child the job of “light switch helper.” They get to turn on the lights when he/she/the group enters the room, and also turn it off when the room is vacated. You can remind them that they need to do xyz in order to be able to complete their job.

If it’s the right motivator, hopefully it will entice them to make a comment, or keep eyes on the teacher, or whatever you expect/want them to do (age- and ability-appropriate, of course).

Some other jobs include:

  • picture/book/”thing” holder
  • paper/crayon/scissor-passer-outer
  • line leader/caboose
  • prayer-sayer (if using this method in a religious setting)
  • teacher-bag-holder (assuming it doesn’t weigh 4.2 thousand pounds like my bag does)

Now, if you have other children in your home/group that will find it quite unfair that one child gets a job and they don’t, thank-you-very-much, I would randomly assign jobs to all the children. I think this is beneficial in that everyone gets a job, but it also teaches that not everyone gets the job they want every time.

Coping skills, people.

Reflective Listening

This is something I learned in college, and I luuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuurv it.

That r was in there on purpose. 

In your life, have you ever been listening to a teacher, worked up the courage to make a comment, and they just said, “Thank you,” and kept right on going with their lecture?

Did it make you feel good? Did it really encourage you to continue to make comments in future lessons? Did it lead to a good discussion?

Or did it mostly feel like you were in Professor Binns’ History of Magic class? 

Image result for harry potter fandom
girlknowsbooks.com

When you use reflective listening, you validate a child’s comment, and then you integrate their comment into your next sentence. See here:

Child: I don’t think it’s okay to steal things. One time I saw someone steal a candy bar.

Adult: You are right. It is not okay to steal things. Now, if you did steal a candy bar, like Joey saw someone do, how would you fix the problem?

Obviously, not every comment a child makes is going to segway nicely into the message you are trying to get across. I can’t tell you how many random stories I have heard from children that were only slightly related to what we were talking about.

But do your best. At least validate their comment. After all, for some kids it takes a lot of courage to even say anything. It will also encourage them to keep making comments, thus keeping them engaged in the lesson.

Give the Answer in Your Question

As we’ve talked about quite a bit in this post, the key to promoting engagement in children (especially special needs children) is positive reinforcement and helping them feel successful.

This last idea is awesome for this because you give the answer to your question in your question. 

I know, I know, then what is the point in asking the question?

*allow me to stand on my soapbox*

Sometimes I feel we focus too much on cramming information into children’s heads. We focus on trying to teach them everything we know and want them to know.

But, more important than that, I think there needs to be a focus on learning how to learn. This is especially true for children with developmental delays/differences such as autism.

Now, I’m not talking about how to teach kids to score well on standardized tests.

Children need to learn how to think for themselves, how to be confident in academic and social settings, and how to handle the problems that will come in life.

But for all of that to happen, they need to have confidence in the little things.

*tuck soapbox into the closet for another day*

So how does this look? Here’s an example.

(adult is holding up a picture of a child crying over a broken toy.)

Adult: This child is crying. Her toy broke. Why is the child crying?

Child: Her toy broke.

Yes, it really is that easy.

And when a child gives you the right answer, give praise and encouragement to keep giving answers. See here for my post on giving effective praise.

Brain Break

This one is sort of a bonus tip, so I’ll just touch on it.

A brain break is exactly that- a set time or activity where a child/children disengage and do something completely different for a few minutes.

This especially helps children with attention span difficulties and sensory children who have trouble sitting still for long periods of time.

With younger children, this can be something as simple and silly as a 1-minute wiggle-fest or singing a “moving” song- Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes, If You’re Happy and You Know It, etc.

With older children it may be playing a quick game. I will be doing a post soon on the “Stick Game” in all its simple, beautiful glory. The Hungry, Hungry Hippos app is free and also works as a great “brain break.” There are also several group games that are fast that we all remember from childhood- Miss Mary Mack, the Cup Game, Ink-a-Bink-a-Bottle-of-Ink, etc.

It is important to use brain breaks when you first see signs of fatigue and fidgety-ness. It is much better to take 2 minutes and play a silly game than take 10 minutes trying to deal with a meltdown.


 

So there you have it. Four ideas that you can use to help keep children of all abilities engaged. I wanted to offer up these ideas as opposed to a token system (let’s call it what it is, bribery), because I feel that while that can be a good place to start, we ultimately want a child to feel intrinsically motivated to participate and pay attention in class.

Please email or comment with questions you may have. I want to be as helpful as possible!
Now, brace yourselves: Friday I will be talking about methods to deal with meltdowns. You know they will happen.

Teaching Special Needs Children (When You’re Not a Teacher)

Teaching Special Needs Part One

The national average incidence of autism is 1 in 68.

One in 691 babies born in the USA has Down Syndrome.

Now, I could just keep rattling off statistics, but here’s my point: whether it is babysitting, a church calling, or extended family members, chances are you will come into contact with a child with special needs.

In my life, I have seen several instances where an adult has the opportunity to interact with and teach a child, but they feel overwhelmed or don’t know how to effectively teach a child with special needs.

Because of this, I was inspired to write this series on teaching and working with special needs children when you are not trained to be a teacher.

I want this to be helpful to as many people as possible, so I am trying to offer basic principles that can be adapted for any age group or any needs that a child may have. If you have specific questions, please email me!


Set Clear, Simple Expectations

If it’s one thing I’ve learned as a speech therapist (and, let’s face it, more so as a mom) it is that I use too many words. I’ll completely botch a golden teaching moment by trying to explain it as an adult, rather than trying to explain it on a child’s level.

The best thing you can possibly do is set clear, simple expectations.

Notice I didn’t say rules. 

Rules sound so restrictive. Even though kids need (and secretly crave) rules, I think setting expectations puts it in a more positive light. As in this is what I expect and know you can do, versus you can’t do this or this or this.

Here are some examples:

Hands to self.

Raise your hand to speak. 

Eyes on teacher.  

Obviously, these are for little ones- probably ages 3-5.

You can adapt them as necessary.

Use Visuals

Pictures are great.

Pictures help enormously.

Pictures are even more helpful when your expectations are simple and direct.

It really is as easy as printing pictures off of the internet and gluing them onto construction paper.

Maybe cardstock if you wanna get fancy.

Children respond to visual input WAY better than auditory input. This is especially true for children with special needs. Pictures are tangible, and there’s no chance of the meaning getting lost in translation.

Use the Same Phrase

Children with special needs have brains that are wired differently. It’s not bad or wrong, it’s just different.

Whereas other children may have several synapses that can make connections, children with special needs tend to have “tunnel vision” when it comes to language comprehension and following directions.

What are you talking about woman?!

Basically, if you try to say the same thing fifty different ways in an attempt to help them understand, it will most likely not be beneficial because the child cannot comprehend what you are asking of them.

Buuuuuuuuutttt…….. if you have the same simple phrase that has meaning to a child, you are far more likely to get the response you want.

Can you tell what the word of the day is?

Remove the Unknown

Children with special needs often thrive on routine and “the known.” Some children have anxiety and/or will act out when they don’t know how long something is going to take, what is going to happen next, where mom/dad is, etc.

Luckily, you as the teacher can remove the unknown.

Depending on the anxieties of your child, you could use:

  1. a timer (for how long each task will take)
  2. a visual schedule or routine (ha! you’re in luck- I just did a post on this!)
  3. a whiteboard with the number of tasks (check them off as completed)
  4. a countdown timer with how many minutes are left in class (you could keep it on your phone so it’s not a distraction for other students).

I hope that this post has offered you some helpful ideas for working with students with special needs.

Stay tuned for my next post in this series- how to promote engagement with special needs children!

 

Why Visual Routines Work

visual routines header

So I know this post is a bit ironic, seeing as how I have definitely gotten out of the routine of blogging. My last post was over a month ago!

Y’all, blogging is hard. Starting a blog is even harder when you feel like a teeny-tiny guppy in a huge ocean of blogs.

Those of you who have left comments, liked my Facebook page, and shared with your friends, thank you.

It motivates me to keep going.

So to kick-off my re-emergence into blogging, I want to talk about visual routines; what they are, why they are awesome, and different ways to implement them in your daily life.

Visual routines are just that: you put what/how you want your child to do something in picture form.

Like this:

 

visual routines

Aren’t these beautiful? They just make my speech-therapist/momma heart sing. These are from a company called Easy Daysies. I found these ones in the clearance bins at Barnes and Noble, but it appears you can order them on Amazon. There also several different options, such as getting dressed, doing chores, etc.

They are so awesome, not because my little one needs help remembering the steps, but it encourages her to do it quickly. Mommy is not amused when a simple potty break takes 15 minutes and a miracle to finish.

But that is a tangent for another post.

As my example shows, visual routines can serve several purposes. They can introduce a new routine, they can help set expectations and maintain routines, and they can improve the frequency/speed of the routine.

Why?

Because most children are visual learners, at least in the early stages of life. Visual instructions are tangible, and the child can mimic them until they reach the rote memory, or muscle memory stage.

This is especially important for children who may be delayed in their development. They often need additional support to complete multi-step tasks; they may also struggle with cognitive processing- in this case, the ability to hear directions, process them internally, and then act on the directions.

Have I sold you on putting some visual routines into your child’s life?

Why, yes, Miss Haley, but you haven’t told me how to make them tailored to my child and my life. Also, I don’t have a laminator. 

Okay here are my thoughts for implementing visual routines at home:

  1. Think about the times of day that are the hardest for your child. Is it getting ready for the day, going to the bathroom, cleaning up, or getting ready for bed?

Not that I’ve ever experienced any difficulty in getting my children to cooperate during these parts of the day.

Start there.

2. The order of the routine has to be non-negotiable. If you have a particularly stubborn child (once again, no experience with that), you might want to involve him/her in deciding the order of things. Within reason, of course.

3. The pictures you use need to be simple and direct. No distracting details here.

When I made visual routines for the special needs preschoolers I worked with, I simply cut one long strip of construction paper and then printed the pictures out and stuck them on the construction paper.

If you doubt your creative abilities, I found some awesome FREE printables at Tools to Grow OT (and yes, sometimes occupational and speech therapy overlap. It’s just how we do.)

You could also use a product like the Easy Daysies I mentioned earlier.

Or, if you have a child that loves technology, there’s the Visual Routine app. It is 3.99, but it looks to be a great app to manage routines!

I hope I have inspired you to try some visual routines in your child’s life! They are so simple, but can make a BIG impact on your child’s ability to follow directions ( which is a nice way of saying KEEPING YOUR MOM SANITY!!)

Please give them a try and let me know how it goes!

 

The Funniest Book You’ve Never Heard Of….

book final

So guys…I have GOT to tell you about this book.

I grabbed it completely at random at the library.

We had gone to the library for storytime, and the librarians’ “tip of the day” was to use books-on-tape paired with the book because they engage both visual and auditory input.

Once storytime was over, me and my littles went over to the book-on-tape section. I found that most of the them seemed too advanced (after all, Chicka Chicka is only 4), but then I saw this one.

i want my hat back

I Want My Hat Back, by Jon Klassen.

Well, we’ll give it a go, I thought.

After all, it had a Theodor Seuss Geisel (re: Dr. Seuss) Honor sticker on it.

A few days passed, and on Saturday, while we were eating breakfast, my husband asked me, “Hey, so have you read that book?”

Uuuuuuuuuh………no.

He started laughing and handed me the book.

And guys, this book is seriously so funny.

Not in the usual, only-makes-kids-laugh kind of humor.

It’s subtle- so subtle that my daughter didn’t get it until we explained it to her.

It’s like those gems of kid’s TV shows where there is humor for adults (not adult humor!), if you listen carefully.

So go check this book out! If your children are older than mine (probably 6 and up), it would be a great book for practicing inference.

And if your children are younger, read it to them anyways, and throw your head back and laugh while your children stare at you.

 

Traveling to National Parks with Small Kids: A Guide

blog travel header final

Over the last ten days, my family had the awesome opportunity to travel to three of Utah’s National Parks. This was the first family vacation we have taken, ever.

It would be an understatement to say that it was a great trip. It was…life-changing. I’ve definitely been bitten by the travel bug, and we made so many great memories.

As I was laying in bed one of the last nights of our vacation, I thought about what I would want to tell other parents who are thinking of taking small children on vacation. What did we do right? What did we do wrong? What surprised us?

So here it is. A brief guide for those braving travel with small children.

WHAT WE DID RIGHT:
1) Be flexible. I planned one activity/hike before lunch and one activity/hike in the afternoon each day. Even then, we moved slowly, constantly stopping to get water, reapply sunscreen, check out a cool rock, put a bandaid on an owie, etc. Most of the hikes we did were a mile or less. I also sacrificed a couple of hikes because the kids were just tired, or we got caught up looking at tadpoles.

blog emerald pools
The kids at the Lower Emerald Pool, Zion NP

2) Have a down day. After three days in Zion National Park, we got a hotel in a nearby city and stayed the night there. The next day we did a restocking trip, and played at a great reservoir until the kids were tired. We didn’t really have any plans for that day, but we all needed a down day. It turned out to almost be necessary, since the towns next to the following national parks were TINY (no Walmarts or even standalone grocery stores for the next 5 days!)

3) Take time to explain and encourage. Chicka Chicka had SO many questions. We did our best to answer her questions at an age-appropriate level. She also had a lot of fears, especially when we were hiking in the river at the Narrows (don’t worry, it didn’t go past her shins). We would work through her fears, talk about what we were going to do, and reassure her that she could do it. Both instances were great bonding experiences, and I felt so close to her while on our vacation.

blog narrows
Hiking the Narrows

4) Turn off devices. I didn’t even bring the iPads or my computer. Heck, I barely had my phone charged. Hubby’s phone was the official camera, but that was the only technology we had. People, I think this was the most life-changing part of the trip. My kids didn’t ask for the iPad the entire trip. It taught me that I am relying on the iPad too often, and that my kids are capable of self-entertainment.

WHAT WE DID WRONG:

1)Don’t overpack. The back of our van was completely packed. Since we were hiking, staying in three different venues (hotel/camping/cabin), and swimming, I tried to bring everything possible. The glow sticks that every blog said I had to have? Still in the wrapper. The thermals I brought because it might be cold at night? Just about the only thing I didn’t have to wash. I won’t even mention the food that is still sealed in the boxes.

If I could pack again, I would pack less clothes and less food. We ended up bringing the same snacks every day, and kept a pretty simple meal plan for breakfast and dinner. We also had access to laundry everywhere we stayed, so we didn’t need as many clothes as I brought.

2) Accept that things will go wrong. I felt like I had worked so hard to plan this vacation. I had been so diligent in packing and making itineraries that when something went wrong, I became a little storm cloud. Luckily, I have a very patient husband who knows how to diffuse my emotions.

One example: I had bought sunscreen on Amazon because a friend recommended it to me. Hubby’s skin is also sensitive to certain sunscreens, so that fact that he had used it as well with success sealed the deal. Well, the morning of our first day in Zion, I couldn’t find it. At all. I knew I had packed it. It was the last straw, since our backpack strap broke and our water reservoir started leaking that morning. Hubby talked me down, and we realized that since we had to go the store anyways, we would just grab some sunscreen too.

I won’t add that I found it. That evening. So not only was I not crazy, but we also had a ton of sunscreen.

blog yoga
Chicka Chicka finding her “oooooooommmmm”

3) Always, always, always refill your water. At Bryce Canyon National Park, we were going to do a .8 mile hike into the hoodoos. But as we went down, we realized it would be really, really awful to hike back up it. In full sun. With two kids 4 and under. This particular trail hooked up onto a trail that would take us back up, with an additional 1.6 mile hike. This loop would take us through the hoodoos more, and surely the hike up HAD to be better. So we decided to do it.

It wasn’t a terrible decision, but we did start to worry about our water supply. There wasn’t a refill station on the trail, like there was in Zion. We certainly learned our lesson!

blog water
The selfies needed to receive the “Hike the Hoodoos” medallion

WHAT SURPRISED US:

  • We didn’t realize that Utah’s National Parks were international travel destinations. There were several people from European countries (a lot of German and Dutch, which we weren’t expecting), and a lot of tour buses. Of course, our kids are too small to really be aware of the different cultures, but it was good for our kids to see diversity and hear different languages.
  • One of the best things I bought was $1 cake covers from the Dollar Store. I used them while camping/cabin-ing to keep food hot and bug-free.
  • The Junior Ranger programs are INCREDIBLE! The requirements vary by age, but Chicka Chicka was excited to complete the packet and earn a badge! They also “swear” in Junior Rangers, all very official-like.

    blog junior ranger
    Chicka Chicka being sworn in as a Junior Ranger, Bryce National Park

In conclusion, traveling with small kids was stressful at times, but overall it was a great trip. I encourage everyone with small kids to take the plunge and start traveling and exploring. And I don’t mean Disneyland! While amusement parks certainly have their place, there is plenty of adventure to be had outdoors, in nature, with no sense of urgency to see and do everything.

You can do it! What are your tips for traveling/vacationing with small children?

How to Teach with Scaffolding

scaffolding

Happy Wednesday! Even though school has been out for a few weeks here, and I’ve already gone on one vacation, I still feel like my 8-year old self on the last day of school.

And, call me Hermoine Granger, I wanted to KEEP LEARNING during the summer.

My mom would sign me up for summer school (back when you didn’t have to “need” summer school to attend), the summer reading program at the library, swimming lessons…basically everything you could possibly sign a child up for in my small town, she did.

So today’s speech-therapy technique is inspired by my love of learning. I want to teach parents how to use the “I Do, We Do, You Do” method of teaching.

Also known as scaffolding.

Why does this work so well?

Think of a building under construction. There is all the scaffolding on the side of the building, supporting the structure and allowing the workers to reach all areas of the building. As the building’s structure gets stronger and more complete, the scaffolding is removed little by little, until the building is complete and doesn’t need additional support.

Now apply that to a child learning something new. They are going to need a lot of support before they “get” it. They are going to need you to show them what to do and to practice it with you before they are ready to try it on their own. Depending on the child’s abilities and their interest level, they will need more or less scaffolding. And yes, it may be exhausting and frustrating, but when it transitions from completely dependent to completely independent, you swell with pride.

So here is what you do:

I Do: Model what you want the child to do or say. 

We Do: You have your child and yourself do or say the modeled behavior.

You Do: The child does it all by his or her self.

Okay, that is the super-simplified version of what you do.

Here’s how it usually goes: 

Scene: You want to teach your child how to put stuff in a bin.

I Do: You get your child’s attention. You show him the bin and then the toy. You physically put the toy in the bin. You verbalize, “Put in.” You take the toy back out and do/say it again. And again. 

We Do: Give the toy to your child. Putting your hand over his, put the toy in the bin, once again saying, “Put in.” Take it back out and do it again. 

You Do: Let your child handle the toy by himself. Give the direction, “Put in.” Go back to step 2 after two failed independent attempts and then let him try again. Shower him with praises when he does it independently. 

See how you gently remove the amount of support? It’s slow enough that your child won’t feel abandoned and/or overwhelmed, but quick enough that you can (hopefully) maintain his attention to the task. 

You can apply this to teaching in all aspects of your child’s life. Just remember to utilize patience, persistence, and encouragement. It will pay off. I’m yet to meet a kid that didn’t respond to this method of teaching.

Please try this method of scaffolding, and let me know how it goes!

How Parenting is Like Baseball

parenting and baseball final

So I have to apologize for my absence- I spent the last few weeks in California for my best friend’s wedding! Needless to say, I was constantly fluctuating between go-go-go and doing absolutely nothing.

But I’m back and ready to jump back into blogging!

While I was in California, I watched a lot of baseball (Go Giants!!) and the Women’s College Softball World Series. Since we don’t have cable back home, this was a real treat for me.

I love baseball and softball. I played softball through high school, and still love going to the college games here. I take it upon myself to channel my high school softball coach and say things like, “Even a blind hog finds an acorn now and again,” and “Two hands! You catch with two hands!!”

Some things just never fade into memory.

As I watched my beloved Giants, I thought about batting averages and the salary of these players. In the major league, if you bat .300, you get paid mucho-bucks and you are considered one of the better hitters on the team.

But that means you don’t get on base 70% of the time.

Now think about that in terms of parenting.

What if we chose to measure our success instead of how many times we fail?

As parents, we fail. A lot. Daily.

I think, though, that we owe it to ourselves to focus on our successes.

Even if they only happen 30% of the time. 

Now, this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try our best to brave the murky waters of parenthood. We definitely should, for both our benefit and our children’s.

Because every once in a while, you hit a home run.

Sometimes They Just Want to Play With You

play final

So Monday was Laundry Day.

I have to thank Nony at A Slob Comes Clean for showing me the light.

It works so much better than my do-a-load-whenever-I-have-to mentality.

Read the post HERE.

Anyways, Chicka Chicka was at preschool, and I just had Boom Boom meandering while I gathered, sorted, and made important laundry decisions.

And he was so fussy.

He was not letting me get my super important laundry done.

Kid, don’t you get it?

If I don’t sort and wash and dry and fold and put away right now, these soon-to-be-clean piles will sit on the couch for days.

Because apparently I don’t have the attention span to return to a housekeeping project after I’m distracted.

But then he brought me these:

play blocks

And my heart just melted.

I put the round block in the middle, and then I pushed it out, making a dramatic “oopsie!” face as it fell.

And Boom Boom just laughed that laugh. 

That laugh of pure joy.

That laugh that makes you laugh.

That laugh of a kid enjoying time with his mom.

And that’s what kids really want, don’t they?

I know I am totally guilty of getting caught up in the I-have-tos. Those pesky, everyday things that take up way too much of my time.

I know I am also totally guilty of getting caught up in the I-deserve-tos. As in, I deserve to spend a half-hour bingeing on Pinterest while my kids watch a television show.

Okay, you caught me.

Maybe an hour.

But, when your kids are fussing and you know all their biological needs have been met, they most likely just want you. 

Even if it’s just for ten minutes.

Now, I am not trying to guilt you into playing with your kids. Sometimes you literally can’t, and sometimes it seems like one more thing you have to do.

But I want to gently remind you that your kids love you. They want to spend time with you.

They love those little moments.

Even if they can’t express it.

My encouragement for today is to look for those little moments in the helter-skelter of your day.

Don’t worry about language development, or cognitive skills, or that new bill sitting unopened on the coffee table.

Just do your best to hear that laugh.

And for the record, only one pile of clean laundry is still sitting on my couch.

Small victories, right?