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Jerry Mahoney

Jerry Mahoney

Unknown“How to Talk to Your Children About Gay Parents, by a Gay Parent” by Jerry Mahoney is an awesome post, informative and a must read for people who are uncomfortable or unwilling to talk about gay parents/ couples.

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Bunny Days: D-

imagesBunny Days, written by Tao Nyeu lives on the top shelf in my charges room, if I can help it that is.  The top shelf is not an ode to top-shelf liquors, the top shelf is just simply out of her reach and eye-shot so I don’t have to read this disturbing sadistic book.

The story line is simple, there are six bunnies, two goats and one bear.  The author has Mr. Goat “accidentally” mangle the bunnies in each of the mini vignette’s. After the torture has ensued the goat offers no apology, he continues with his daily chores, unaware and unconcerned that he has chopped off the bunnies tails, sucked them into a vacuum, etc. Instead of Mr. Goat taking responsibility for what he’s done, Bear comes to the “rescue,” fixing the bunnies in ways that would never work in real life, like putting them in a washer.  Wouldn’t this only and make their pain and suffering worse?

The few times I’ve read this book I cringe, because the reality of tails chopped and suffocation in the washer, even if it’s on delicate, is all too much for me.  And really what message does it send?  Sure, I guess the message is, “help out your friends when they’ve been beaten and abused” and while this is a good, moral message, it seems  to me the amount of physical brutality is a little unnecessary for toddlers, couldn’t the author have made the point a different way?  Mr. Goat is painted as the bad guy and doesn’t even know it, maybe instead of fixing the Mr. Goats mishaps Bear should put an end to the torture.

Maybe the better message would be, “Hey Goat, pay attention dude, you keep hurting my friends.  What’s going on in your life that you don’t even notice the pain you’re inflicting? Are you depressed?  Let’s get you help!”

Tip: Don’t buy this book, and if you already have it, put it out of sight on the top shelf!

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt: A

UnknownThis is such a great book, full of  sensory imagery and adventure.  The author, Michael Rosen takes his little readers through tall grasses, roaring winds, heaving storms and monstrous mountains.  Each outdoorsy “obstacle” is followed by a mantra,

“We can’t go under it, we can’t go over it, we have to go through it!”

Maybe it’s just me, but this mantra is such a great lesson for little kids to learn in life.  Things can be tough, sometimes we have to deal with it, and go straight on through.  At least, that’s what I get out of it– my charge on the other hand just wants to go on a bear hunt!

Baby-Led Stories

Here is another verbal tip for both parents and caregivers: Ask your children, or the children you care for to tell you a story, sing you a song or “read” a book to you.  All of these things give them a free-range opportunity to use their language skills and stimulates imagination. An added plus is it gives parents and caregivers a verbal break, but stay alert!  Listen to what your kid is saying, and ask them questions about it when they are done, make them know you care and hear them.

Back to Pink, Kind of.

This is kind of a reblog from Bluemilk, I saw her post referencing the recent article/discussion Girls, Boys, Feminism, Toys: Deborah Siegel and Rebecca Hains Discuss.  The discussion between Deborah Siegal and Rebecca Hains, points to issues with the anti-pink phenomenon, and ways to educate children about media literacy.  

Rebecca: In all honesty, the argument that we need to stop (“or at least pause”) the war on pink didn’t even come off as a rhetorical device to me. I’m sad to say that it just came across as ill-informed. There isn’t a war on pink; there’s a thoughtful, measured argument that while pink isn’t inherently bad, it’s limiting the play worlds and imaginations of boys and girls alike. So “Who’s Afraid of the War on Pink” reads, to me and my colleagues, like a straw man argument. The authors were conjuring up a nonexistent epidemic of myopic thinking, instead of engaging with anyone’s actual writing on the subject of girl culture and the rise of pink.

Check out the rest of the discussion on Girl W/Pen

Tools of the Mind

Unknown-1I just recently heard about this new (to me) preschool and kindergarten curriculum, Tools of the Mind. If you, like myself have not yet heard of this I highly recommend checking it out.  The differences from a typical classroom are subtle, but fundamental.

Tools of the Mind is a research-based early childhood program that builds strong foundations for school success by promoting intentional and self-regulated learning in preschool- and kindergarten-aged children.”-(Tools of the Mind site)

The differences are in the classroom set-up, schedule and activities.  The alphabet board is not alphabetical, as we know it, instead letters are grouped together based on their likeness to others, i.e., vowels and consonant. What we consider play-time can be the center of the days activity in a Tools classroom.  The curriculum recognizes and utilizes play to stimulate self-awarness. Before a set-up play activity children are asked to draw/write (in their own way) what their intention is for the activity.  While this “intention setting” might seem small and insignificant, what it does is offer children a chance to be reflective and self-aware, which give s them agency, and a chance to be autonomous.  These subtle, yet as I said above, fundamental differences have been recognized as having great upward impact.  

“The effectiveness of the Tools program has been the subject of numerous research studies in the field of early education and neuroscience. Tools has been shown to improve self-regulation skills in young children and predict later achievement in reading and math. Tools is currently expanding in many states and local school districts across the country. As a result, the Tools program is now a part of several, rigorous longitudinal studies examining the effects for special populations such as dual language learners, as well as, the program’s effects on teacher practice as measured by teacher and child interactions.” DC Public Schools: Tools of the Mind Early Childhood Curriculum, Empirical Research Review.

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Wise Words from Kitzinger

“Babies speak a language that needs to be learned.  And with each baby you need to start discovering this one’s special language.  It takes time.  Meanwhile there us confusion, and irritation that the baby’s messages are not clearer, and that your own efforts to understand are not appreciated.  You have read books about child care, but somehow the baby is not playing by the rules. Remember that, though you are trying your best, your baby has not read the same books.”- Sheila Kitzinger (The Year After Childbirth)

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Everyday Gendering

Gender Neutral Parenting: 5 ways to Avoid Implicit Sexism

Here is a great article which pinpoints the dangers of naturalized sexism. “Naturalized” sexism is something that most of us unknowingly perform, or take part in daily, even women.

“In one experiment, mothers were asked to guess the steepness of a carpeted slope that their 11-month olds would be able to crawl. Then the children actually crawled the slope, and the difference between actual and mother-predicted angles was noted.

The results showed that both boys and girls were able to crawl the same degree of incline. However, the predictions of the mothers were correct within one degree for the boys and underestimated their daughter’s ability by nine degrees.”

1-2-3 Magic: Review

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I recently read 1-2-3 Magic, by Thomas Phelan… I know, in the past I’ve talked negatively about mass cultivation of parenting books, mainly because over-reading tends to eliminate personal  authority and experience.  Why trust instincts when a book can tell you what to do? The truth is, sometimes parenting books can be helpful, specifically in reassuring parents and caregivers that what their child is doing is “normal.”

Children are constantly going through dramatic developmental changes, and often with these new and exciting shifts come earth-shattering tantrums. I have been going through this lately, and I must admit, sometimes reading a book can be helpful, mainly in reassuring me that the fits are normal and that the way I’m handling the tantrums is best for all involved.

1-2-3 Magic provides some helpful tips about discipline and motivation, 2 key factors when dealing with a tantrumy toddler.  We need discipline to make sure that during the tantrum phases we aren’t automatically giving into the irrational demands and poor behavior from out little ones.  And we need helpful motivation (for them) to make transitions easier.

What I like about 1-2-3 Magic:  It’s simple and honest, for example: “You’ll never like or get along with your children if they are constantly irritating you with behavior such as whining, arguing, teasing, badgering, tantrums, yelling and fighting.” (11) Here the author displays a simple and honest truth, which most parents don’t want to admit to, that is, it’s possible to not always like your children.  I want to insert here that the author rightly so differentiates between like and love, while you will always love your children despite their terrible behavior, you probably wont like them because of that same terrible behavior.

The counting of negative behavior is simple: Your 5 year-old  Jimmy is throwing a fit because you won’t give him chocolate, you say “1…” Jimmy continues, “2…” He’s still going “3, take 5(alone minutes)”

Promoting Start behavior is slightly more complex, only because there are many ways to see the process through.  You can chart, reward, time them, etc. I like that the author explains the difference between “stop” and “start” behaviors.  This is important because you don’t want to count your child, and negatively reinforce them when trying to get them to brush their teeth on their own.  That will only leave a bad taste in their mouth about brushing teeth (pun intended.)

What I don’t love about 1-2-3 Magic:  The author emphasises a no talk method while counting and even after the child has some minutes alone.  He explains that young children are not logical, reasonable people (true), and that by talking, and explaining details of why certain behavior is “bad” only leads to frustration for both parent and child.  The author thinks it’s best to keep quiet and not explain, simply count. I don’t like this because I think it’s important to *calmly* and *simply* explain why certain behaviors are wrong.  I have often had success by calming talking something out.

I think instead of simply eliminating communication parents and caregivers should be encouraged to both use a tactic like counting, coupled with a follow up explantation, i.e., “You had to take 5 because you hit me, and that hurts.”  The explanation should not be a monologue, it should be one simple, calm sentence.  I think children deserve to know what happened, and why they had a “timeout,” so communication is necessary. We don’t need talk to them like adults, but like people we respect, and whom we want to respect and communicate with us later in life.

One other thing that bothered me…. the author is heteronormative in his language and scenarios.  I’m probably, being overly PC, but it definitely stuck out to me, so if your someone who notices this type of behavior be warned, but also know that it doesn’t seem to affect the potential effectiveness of the 1-2-3 model. It’s just slightly disappointing.

Talking Back

images….I don’t mean the dreaded talk back you’ll soon get from your teenage kids.  I’m referring to the talk back I practice with babies and toddlers in order to stimulate language and social skills. I was recently asked by a mom what I recommend to influence unprompted responses from toddlers.  An example, of what I consider a prompted, pushed response would be:

Adult: “What color is the flower?….you know what it is, what is it?…..Please tell me what color the flower is.”

Versus:

unprompted: Adult: ” I like the colors of these flowers.” Child: “I like the pink one.”

Getting to this point, in my opinion happens with consistent talk back, from the adult, from the very beginning. Some parent’s find “talk back” annoying and an aspect of overparenting, but I think it’s a very useful tool in getting babies and toddlers to learn how to say words, and to show them we understand and care about what they have to say.  Hopefully this talk back leads them to feel socially valued and thus more willing to speak unprompted.

Questions:

When your child is learning to talk, make sure to create conversation and ask them questions. Try not to solely ask, what-animal-is-that-questions, ask them free-response questions about their day, where right and wrong don’t necessarily come into play.

Repeat:

When your baby/toddler is first learning how to talk, and or learning new words, repeat what he said back, this will show him a few things:  1. That you understood him. 2. That you care what he says. 3. That you are listening.

Repetition is a great way for children to learn new information. Repeating words and sentences back also insures that you understood what your child is saying, and is a chance for you to annunciate the words correctly for your child to hear and learn.