Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Potty Training Doesn't Have to be Miserable

A young mom was lamenting the fact that her three and a half year old son still wasn't potty trained. He had no interest whatsoever in shedding his diapers. I assured her that he would be potty trained by the time he walked down the aisle! Seriously though, for practically every toddler, this is a short term problem.

According to The American Academy of Pediatrics, there is no set age at which toilet training should begin. They advise that the right time depends on a child's physical and psychological development. Between 18 and 24 months, children often start to show signs of being ready, but some children may not be ready until 30 months or older. They also advise parents that if their child resists strongly, it is best to wait for a while.

In the case of a head-strong 3 1/2 year old, there are some things you can try. For starters, go to Target, or wherever you and he generally shop together. Take him to the underwear aisle and tell him that he is a big boy now, and big boys are very lucky because they get to wear big boy underwear. He is especially lucky because you brought him to Target where they have lots of underwear to choose from. He can pick whatever he wants....Power Rangers, Batman, Bob the Builder, Spongebob, etc.

As soon as you get home, he can try on his new undies. If he can go a whole hour and stay dry, he can wear them all day. He needs to use the potty first, to help him stay dry for a whole hour. At the end of that hour, you'll remind him to use the toilet again, and try for another hour.

If he can't make the first hour, try to understand his state of mind. Why do you think he didn't make it? Was he engrossed in a tv show or game? Is he just really not interested, even with the new cool underwear? If it's the former and he really wants to try again, let him. Make the time frame a half hour though and remind him at that point to try to use the potty. If he just really isn't ready, don't push it. Tell him that you'll wash the underwear and put it in his drawer, and you'll try again next week.

If his friends are already trained, encourage a play date where he'll see them use the toilet. Sometimes that's enough to spark interest. By 3 1/2, when he decides he's ready he will likely be very successful very quickly. It's probably not that he has bladder control issues, more that he needs to decide for himself that he's ready.

Summer is the perfect time to train, because you can spend a lot of time outdoors where it's easier to clean up accidents. It's hard work but you have to be consistent.

Please hit the comment tab below to share any tips that have worked for you.
Good luck!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Cell Phone Warning

One of the things that has greatly shifted in the past decade is the amount children know about their family’s lives at home. I believe that this phenomenon exists more today than ever before because of an increased use of cell phones. Today, whether in the car, running an errand, or even at the playground, many people are talking on their cell phones. In some instances, parents are discussing private matters on the phone when the children are present. Though the parents don’t realize it, the children are listening to what they are saying and picking up a lot of the information. That’s not necessarily a good thing.
There are two dangers in having loose lips in front of your children. The first, is that they may not understand what they have heard. If they hear that you are upset, they won't understand why you are sad, and may believe they did something wrong.
The second consequence is that your child is sure to pass on what she heard, or worse yet, what she thinks she heard. When she shares that information with her teachers and friends, information will spread that you probably would prefer kept private.
In the five year old class, Katie was drawing a family portrait. Her teacher noticed that the people in the picture looked angry.
“What’s going on in your picture?” Katie’s teacher asked her.
"It’s Mommy and Daddy,” she replied. “They are yelling at each other. They are very angry.”
“Well,” her teacher said. “Sometimes Mommies and Daddies get upset with each other but they usually make up.”
“No, Mommy’s mad at Daddy because he’s smoking the pot again,” Katie explained matter-of-factly.
The teacher was obviously dumbfounded. It’s extremely important for parents and teachers to be on the same page, especially when there are issues that are affecting the child. Yet, that was a subject that was very difficult for the teachers to discuss with Katie’s parents. Soon after that incident, Katie’s father went into rehab.
In this example, there is no way that the child can understand what the information means. When she shares that information with her teachers,she is making things uncomfortable for the family.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Parents are Your Child's Primary Teachers

I met with a very interesting woman today, Sharon Easterling, Executive Director of the Delaware Valley Association for the Education of Young Children. She is extremely knowledgable on the subject of preschool education. One of the things Sharon stressed was how much children learn simply from being with their parents.

Every moment you spend with your child is a learning opportunity, even in the car. Today, so many cars are equipped with video capabilities, that kids have become accustomed to watching TV from the backseat, instead of enjoying a window to the world. It disturbs me when technology gets in the way of what might otherwise be natural teaching moments. I am all for technology and believe that children can learn enormous lessons from computers and television. I just urge parents to use those technologies to enhance their learning, not replace it.

Take Jordan. She was struggling to learn basic concepts including her numbers, colors and shapes. My teaching partner and I met with her mother and suggested that she help reinforce these skills at home. For example, when riding in the car, her mother could point out a traffic light and ask Jordan what color it is. At a traffic sign she could talk about its shape. They could play ‘I Spy’ to find different colored cars, or numbers on buildings. They could seek out construction vehicles, which almost always turn kids on. The list goes on and on.

Jordan’s mother sighed, looked us in the eye, and said, “But then I’d have to turn the television off.”

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Parenting Advice: Teaching your Children Respect

Something happened yesterday with my 15 year old that reminded me how important it is for parents to begin teaching their children respect when they are very young. My son and a couple of his friends, little men already at 5'10" with sprouting facial hair, and deep voices, had an encounter with some neighbors. The boys have cut through these people's property for the three years we've lived here, as a short-cut to the Bagel Shop across the street.

My son has chatted up the man who lives there, as he is usually on his riding mower or working in the yard. Yesterday, his wife came out and, to give my son's version, she started screaming at the boys for cutting through her property. He came home and told me about the encounter, and said that he and his friends just kept on walking.

About an hour later, this couple rang my doorbell. I had never met them before. They felt that the boys were disrespectful while she was trying to talk to them. They weren't upset about the cutting through, just about their view that the boys ignored her while she was speaking.

She was absolutely right. Both my son and I apologized and he explained that it wasn't his intention to ignore her. He was very sorry. Later, I picked up an impatien plant as a peace offering, and all three boys accompanied me to their home. This time, we took the long route instead of cutting through.

We rang the doorbell and this woman looked at the boys and plant and had the hugest smile on her face. The boys apologized again, and she was overwhelmed. She gave each of us a hug and thanked us for the gesture.

When I initially informed the boys that I couldn't make them come with me, but I thought it was the right thing to do, they moaned, groaned and obviously didn't want to come. Yet, on the way home, (this time cutting through the yards,) they thanked me for making them go. It was just really a nice human moment.

As a teacher, I have been disappointed to note the lack of manners so many of my students demonstrate. By three and four years old, they should be saying please and thank you on a regular basis. That is the exception in my experience, not the rule. I don't understand why this is happening. Manners are the basic form of respect.

In my classroom, the children learn very quickly that they must use good manners. Of course, there will be mistakes along the way....as in the story about my 15 year old. Children model their parents' behaviors, so begin by using good manners at home. Trust me, teachers can tell which kids learn it at home and which don't.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Welcome to my Blog! Lessons in Parent-Teacher Communication

This is my first post and I'm so glad you found me. I majored in Radio/TV/Film in college, and had a blast producing Romper Room and Bowling for Dollars. Yet, the last 13 years I've spent teaching preschool have been more rewarding than I ever could have imagined. Having to peel a crying, scared, shy child off his mother on the first day of school, means I'm in for a rewarding year. I get to watch that child grow, become more confident, learn self-reliance, make friends, and ultimately, run out the door on the last day of school, excited, happy and eager.

This blog is designed to share my experience so that your child, and family, can gain the most out of your little one's preschool experience. This is a vitally important time in your toddler's life as he embarks on his educational journey. I will provide tips to help you navigate the twists and turns that are part of the lives of every preschooler.

Let's start by examining the year that just passed and what you may have done differently to make the experience even more positive. Today, I'll discuss communication. Inevitably, something goes wrong that causes ruffled feathers among a parent or teacher, or in the worst case, both. If left alone, this miscommunication can fester and grow, and affect the relationship between the parent and teacher. There is no reason that this has to happen. Communication, quickly, and honestly, is the key to getting back on a positive track.

Here's a true story that happened to one of my colleagues:

During the summer camp program, tots come to play games, sing songs, cook, and wade in shallow pools. One summer, during the third day of camp in the two year old program, one of my colleagues gathered together her students’ things to go out to the pool. When she pulled one child’s towel out of her backpack, she discovered that it had been written on in indelible red magic marker. To her surprise and dismay, she read a note that said, “Dear teachers, I do not like to leave camp all muddy and wet. Signed, Rachel’s towel.”

Not believing her eyes, the teacher showed the towel to her teaching partner. Was this for real? As they watched their charges paddling around in shallow pools, they discussed how to handle the situation. They noticed the muddy areas that surrounded the wading pools but acknowledged that there really wasn’t an easy solution. The way it worked was that each morning the maintenance staff would fill a couple of kiddie pools with just enough water that the kids could cool off, have some fun splashing, and get used to “swimming.” After about 15 minutes of this wet fun, the kids would leave the pools and sit on the towels they had laid out under a tent. There, they could dry off while singing songs, playing games and socializing with their peers.

For health reasons, the pools had to be dumped after every class and refilled, which happened probably a half dozen times each day. The way the ground was graded, eventually the water formed puddles because the ground could only drain so much. The kids were corralled under a tented area and oftentimes the water found its way to that spot. Hence, Rachel’s muddy, wet towel.

Rachel’s mother didn’t pick her up from camp that day, so the teachers decided to wait until the next day to address the note. When the little girl arrived, there was another note in her backpack, this time on paper. It read, “How can you women who are mothers put up with this mess? Rachel’s towel comes home dirty every day. As teachers, don’t you feel you have the obligation to prevent it from coming home in that condition?”

The teachers did not share this mother’s view about the situation. They responded in a return note which explained that the area does get muddy at times, though they try to avoid those particular spots. Some kids may drop their towels in the mud or flop down in a wet area - they are only two years old! But it’s important for the children to have a chance to dry outdoors in an area safely protected from the sun, even if that area occasionally gets muddy. It’s equally important for them to be able to wrap their towels around their wet bodies when they walk back into the air conditioned building so they don’t freeze.

The teachers reminded this mother that from the beginning they had urged the parents to send in thrift store towels or old ones ready for the rag bag, knowing that they’d get dirty. They pointed out that it was more important that the children get to enjoy swimming and playing outside than have to stay in because their towels may get messy.

Rachel never seemed to mind if her towel got muddy or wet. She was a happy child who loved the water. Ultimately, the teachers suggested that her mother send in a terry cloth robe that they could put on Rachel while she walked back into the building. That would certainly keep her towel drier. As for the mud, they did the best they could. The irony is that mud washes out, permanent marker does not!

In the end, there were bad feelings on both sides, but that didn’t need to happen. The mother could have found a far better way to communicate her feelings. She immediately put the teachers on the defensive by using the towel as her means for communication. She also personally insulted them by suggesting that as mothers they should know better and that the situation was their fault.

The teachers might have nipped the situation in the bud if they had called the mother as soon as they read her note. Though they recognized her concerns and ultimately addressed them to her satisfaction, the experience would have been more positive had it been handled differently. What if Rachel’s mother had called or stopped by at the beginning or end of the day to rationally discuss the problem? She might have asked the teachers what the pool procedure was to understand why the situation was happening. She even could have come into camp to actually see the pool process in action. That would allow her to tell them that she recognized the problem but had a suggestion for how to handle it.

It is essential that parents and teachers form a partnership in order to most effectively meet the children’s needs. The key to that partnership is communication and that is most effective from the person’s mouth. Remember, teachers are people too, and most of us are also parents. We will listen to your concerns and find a satisfactory solution. The bottom line is that we all only want what is best for your child.

Please share with me a communication problem you experienced and how you resolved it. Thanks for reading!