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Attitudes: Moving from Positive to Negative

We all have inner voices. You know, that non-stop loud-talker that sometimes dominates the private conversations we have with ourselves. Unfortunately, neuroscientists have actually discovered that these often too critical voices are, naturally, more negative than positive in tone. Sadly, a child’s inner voice(s) can be particularly negative, even more so than adults, since it is usually driven by fear, doubt, and shame.

Is it possible to teach young preschoolers the “power of positivity?” Does negativity affect a young child’s healthy development? Can we help our kids deal with their “inner critic?”

Silencing Our Worst Enemy: The Inner Critic

Let’s think about this example for a moment:

You arrive to pick up your usually bright-eyed, ever-curious three-year-old daughter at daycare one afternoon only to find her in tears. A three-year-old in tears? Well, that’s probably nothing out of the ordinary considering, as we all can attest to, the “three-nager” years are, basically, one huge emotional rollercoaster ride. However, after a brief chat with the teacher, you come to understand that mini-you had a fight with her best friend. It was a dramatic scene, apparently, complete with name-calling, pony-tail pulls and a Barbie in the face. It takes the entire car-ride home for her to stop crying. You open the car door, proceed to remove her safety harness when you hear her whispered, “Lisa doesn’t like me. I’m a bad friend.”

Even though the sound of your heart breaking over the words of your child can be deafening, the truth is, of course, that it’s NOT true! And yet, it is these kinds of negative thoughts that all too often repeat in a child’s mind, over and over again, on a daily basis. That’s why it’s important to break this cycle of negativity as soon as possible.

Moving from Negative Nelly towards Positive Pete

Think about how many times a kid hears the word “no” in an hour, a day, even a week. Or, how many times they deal with a negative experience in class with their friends or at home with their families. According to neuroscientists, this exposure to negativism is, essentially, similar to exposing them to second-hand smoke. Does that sound a bit too dramatic to you? Well, here’s the deal: negativism produces stress chemicals in the brain, regardless of age. Therefore, when it is combined with a child’s natural negative inner voice, this bundle of negativity can, ultimately, lead to poor mental health.

Certainly, it is impossible to remove our children from any and all negative situations. Even though negativity is a natural part of life and a human’s genetic makeup, the good news is that parents, teachers, and caregivers can help shift this balance toward the positive. How might we do so? We can improve outcomes for kids by simply understanding how children become positive thinkers AND paying attention to how WE communicate. With each other. With them.

Three Easy Steps to Positivity

So, how exactly can adults help kids to achieve an optimal balance between negativity and positivity? How do we guide them towards becoming positive thinkers? We practice!

1) Start by Learning How to Have a Great Time

Spending time with those you love helps to deepen relationships. Unsurprising as it may sound, and regardless of the usual rigmaroles of our everyday lives, taking the time to plan family-fun-time reminds those around you just how much you mean to them. Thus, encouraging children to design a special day with family, or someone close to them, will make them happy. This happiness will help them to savor their positive experiences once they reflect on the things they most enjoyed. Parents and teachers can help guide them to this positive feeling by encouraging them to talk about their good times.

2) Speak to Them About Developing Themselves

It is when children imagine themselves at their best that their self-confidence increases. Parents and teachers can help children become their “best selves” by encouraging positive behavior and showing an interest in the kind of young people they want them to become. Find a moment when a child feels good about themselves and then help them remember those feelings and positive thoughts that they had previously experienced. Ask them about what, in particular, felt good to them. Then, turn around and tell them what you (parent or teacher) noticed about them.

3) Help Grow an Attitude for Gratitude

Children develop a sense of optimism and satisfaction once they learn to recognize and appreciate the “good things in life.” It can truly become a transformative and powerful experience when they are inspired to speak their gratitude aloud. Finding an attitude for gratitude is an excellent way to guide kids to becoming more positive.

Teaching Kindness to Preschool Kids

Can we teach kindness to kids in preschool? Is it possible to impart the concepts of compassion and empathy to children as young as two and three? Along with academics, it’s essential that kids learn social and emotional intelligence, just like any other critical skills they will need to thrive in life.

Hold On! What IS Emotional Intelligence (EQ)?

Emotional intelligence, in essence, is the ability to identify and manage one’s emotions and the emotions of others. It typically includes three distinct skills:

-Emotional awareness (including the capacity to identify one’s emotions and those of others).

-The ability to harness emotions and apply them to tasks (like thinking and problem solving).

-The ability to “manage” emotions (including the ability to regulate one’s emotions, and the capacity to calm down or cheer up another person).

Children who learn to regulate their own emotions are sensitive to the cues of others. They develop the ability to empathize or “feel something,” from the other person’s point of view. This ability, consequently, allows them to work through emotionally charged situations in a constructive fashion. In the end, because of these skills, they are able to experience better interpersonal relationships throughout their lives.

But, where exactly should we begin such a daunting task?

HOW Do We Teach our Little Ones Compassion, Empathy… and to Simply be Kind(er) Human Beings?

1) Model the behavior you expect:

When kids observe adults being nice, they learn, in turn, to be nice. Pretty simple, right? Nevertheless, how many times have our kids also watched us just totally lose our cool? Hey, we’re all human. But, like it or not, kids will often act out what they see from adults since they are, essentially, adorably tiny sponges. No matter how brain-dead-exhausted we feel, we must always mind our (ever present) audience.

2) Patience, Patience, and (GASP!) More Patience:

Easier said than done, right? In the heat of the moment (and, dear lord, there are SO many moments in a day), it’s hard to stay calm, cool, and collected so as to respond in a manner that demonstrates the kind of behavior we would like from our kids. For the most part, parents manage to “keep it together” when everything runs smoothly and on schedule. But, once we hit a bump in an already-too-bumpy road and find ourselves in a situation where we need to discipline or set boundaries, that’s when we must call upon the gods of patience, take a step back, and TRY to tone down the desire to go Ka-BOOM!

3) LISTEN to the Little People:

Listening to US starts with US listening to THEM. Confused? Kids need to feel loved and acknowledged. They’re little people with some seriously big opinions. That’s why listening to them speak their minds (no matter how topsy-turvy their current train-of-thought might seem), gives them a sense of understanding. You see, they want to have meaningful conversations, too. So, sit down, look’em in the eye, and give them your undivided attention. In the end, it’s not really about the true meaning of Paw Patrol, the existence of fairy-zombie hybrids, or even what color unicorn poop is. It’s about understanding their perspective which helps to validate their feelings. In turn, actively listening will lead to more conscious conversations contributing to the development of their EQ.

Teach Resiliency by Providing Strategies

Conscious conversations and showing our kids we understand them allows them to learn problem-solving strategies. While toddlers and preschoolers often need a helping hand from parents, teaching them to communicate and problem solve are lifelong skills that are imperative for all kids to have as they grow. Teaching math might be hard (and painfully boring), but kindness, that’s an element ingrained into the very heart of us.

How to Help Preschoolers with their Writing Skills

How does a parent assess a young preschooler’s learning development? Undoubtedly, countless moms and dads out there are constantly wondering if their little one is on par with their classmates when it comes to, for example, age-appropriate writing skills? Should they worry if their kids aren’t coloring within the lines? Should they panic if their child can’t hold a pencil properly? It’s easy to see that assessing a child’s developmental level isn’t as easy as keeping track of their height on a growth chart, now is it?

The Preschool Educator: A Parent’s Assessment Assessor

Although a parent is always the first individual to observe how a child is progressing developmentally, their biggest help will come from an educator’s keen insight. Who better than a teacher, and educated educator to countless little people, to properly assess your child’s learning and developmental progress during their preschool years.

When it comes specifically to early writing skills, these following informative tips will help parents understand exactly how their preschoolers should be developing and how they can better support their early writing skills.

Daddy, What Are All Those Squiggly Lines?

When talking to kids about writing, adults should clarify what the whole point of writing IS. To communicate! Once they understand how writing works, and how it connects to reading and the communication of information through words and symbols, they will then grasp its importance. Go ahead and show them how written words are EVERYWHERE and are simply a part of daily life. From their favorite cereal boxes to Dad’s prized cookbook (the one with that awesome Mac and Cheese recipe), to Mom’s precious avocado and honey mud mask, (oh, and let’s not forget billboards and signs in stores), it would be hard to function in the world WITHOUT the knowledge of reading and writing.

Early Writing Skills Often Begin at Home

Here are some creative activities parents can use to help encourage writing skills:

1) Chalk, crayons and finger paint! Oh, my!

Preschoolers LOVE to try new things…and get messy! If you don’t have a stash of writing tools and art supplies yet, now is the perfect time to pick up some pencils, crayons, washable markers, washable finger paint, and chalk. It’s a good idea to have a designated box for all these writing goodies, as well as a generous amount of paper that your child has easy access to. You can even suggest they decorate it themselves. Sticker time!

2) Yo! Van Gogh! Step aside…my kid’s trying to express themselves.

Drawing is the first step towards writing. It is through drawing that our children can express their feelings, ideas and tell their own stories. Here, they’re communicating. Just try to remember that getting messy is all part of the learning process.

3) For, what is in a name? Ummm…letters?

Often, writing begins with teaching your child to print their name. Take it easy…just start with the first name. Remember, this will take some time for them to master, so patience is a must (for both parties). But, when all is said and done (and practiced and written!) you will have yourself one very empowered little preschooler!

Early Writing Skills in the Preschool Setting

It’s always a good idea to talk with your child’s educator about how writing is being taught and practiced in the classroom. Is your child doing well? Or are they struggling? Their teacher is also the best person to tell you what specific early writing skills your child will be required to master to have a successful start in kindergarten.