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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.

Child having a tantrum

How to Address Challenging Preschool Behavior

Figuring out how to deal with challenging behavior in preschool-aged children can certainly be a daunting task for any parent, caregiver or educator. The preschool years can be, more often than not, a tough time to get through (for both children and adults), chalk full of tantrums, troublesome habits, anxiety, and fibbing. Truthfully… that’s merely the tip of the toddler-sized behavioral-issue-iceberg. Nonetheless, these little people need our encouragement and support while they try to understand, process and navigate the sometimes hard to decipher world around them. Let’s help guide them, shall we?

What Exactly IS Considered to be a Challenging Behavior?

Typically, challenging behavior is considered be repeated patterns of behavior that often interferes with a child’s learning or interaction in social settings. This may include an obvious unresponsiveness to developmentally appropriate guidance, as well as reactions such as prolonged tantrums, disruptive vocal and motor behavior, both verbal and physical aggression, destruction of property, noncompliance, withdrawal, and self-injury.

One very important point for parents, educators, and guardians to consider is that challenging behaviors during preschool years is often one of the strongest indicators of more serious problematic behaviors later on, such as delinquency, antisocial behavior, aggression, and substance abuse.

Interestingly, research shows that participation in a high-quality preschool education, one which takes into consideration an emphasis on children’s social development, may reduce challenging behavioral rates. Therefore, a good, solid, well-established preschool program can indeed serve as a long-term protective factor for children deemed at risk for developing challenging behaviors.

The Importance of Responding Positively to Negative Triggers

Once a child’s challenging behavior triggers are identified, then that information can be used to respond in a more positive manner to the child’s needs. Consider these tips on how to get started:

1) Sometimes, a simple change in setting makes a big difference:

Guide the child to another (play or class) room, change the class activity, have them seek out different friends…whatever it takes to refocus their energy. If they’re feeling overstimulated, help them take their negative energy level down a notch or two by suggesting activities that are more relaxing, like painting and listening to music. Or, (and here’s my personal favorite) get into nature. Why not take everybody’s energy outside with some good ‘ol fashioned outdoor playtime? Redirecting energy into physical activity can solve a myriad of behavioral problem situations.

2) If you keep it calm, chances are, they will, too:

Respond to their challenging behavior calmly. Yes, it’s harder than it sounds, of course. But, do keep in mind that if a child’s behavior has made you (the adult in charge) angry, taking a quick step back and a few minutes to calm down is a must. Before deciding how to respond to the troubling situation, this mini-mental break will help you keep your cool and figure out how to deal with it all.

3) Explain and clarify what appropriate behavior is:

Perhaps a child simply has a hard time understanding what is considered to be a socially acceptable behavior. In this case, you may need to talk them through more suitable ways of expressing themselves and their desires. If a child continually argues about sharing toys with classmates or siblings, then teach him how to ask to trade or borrow.

4) Take notice of any positive changes in behaviors:

When a positive behavior presents itself, always provide kids with genuine praise for their effort. Hey, they worked very hard to get to this point. So, verbally acknowledging their new positive approach lets them know that you respect them and their efforts.

5) And, most importantly…be consistent and avoid surprises:

Consistent and predictable routines give kids with challenging behaviors cues on follow-through. As the adult in charge, be consistent in what you ask them to do and follow through on what you say. Anxiety sets in when there is a change in routine or schedule, setting the stage for tantrums and meltdowns, so prepare a child ahead of time if something different is going to happen. A clear explanation will minimize behavioral outbursts and stress.

You Can Never Get Too Many High-Five’s and Pats on the Back

Encouraging a child to alter their challenging behavior, from negative to positive, can be one tricky tightrope walk. But, when children get plenty of praise, genuine encouragement and even sometimes a few rewards for behaving well in a normally cringe-worthy situation, then they’re more likely to want to keep behaving well.