Turning It Off Without Tuning Them Out.

November 25th, 2014

So many BIG things in the media. Unexpected interruptions on the radio and television that we cant always prevent little ears from hearing. It’s all right to turn the media off as long as we aren’t just tuning out the questions it creates in our children’s minds. We can’t protect our children from every ‘big scary thing’ in the world. We can however, listen to their fears, ponder their real questions, and share some simple thoughts to help them know we are protecting them.

What are some simple ways we can convey we are protecting our children from the ‘big things’?

Protection from large health threats

  • Washing our hands frequently with soap and water helps us to stay healthy.
  • Covering our mouth and nose when we sneeze or cough help us to prevent spreading germs.

Protection from violence

  • When playing outside, staying in the areas our parents have told us are as safe places to play.
  • Telling our parents if we see anyone or anything that seems ‘not safe’.

Let your child know that you ‘hear’  that you are ‘listening’ and that her concern matters to you.

What are ways you have helped your child feel ‘heard’ when it comes to big fears or worries?

Lori L Hayungs

 

miscellaneous

Big things and little people

November 18th, 2014

When I was a little girl …’some very bad men stole a big plane over the ocean and turned the men on it into hostages”, at least, that’s what I understood at the time. About that same time, my parents were supposed to fly in a big plane over the ocean as well. I was a wreck. I was certain the bad men were going to ‘make hostages out’ of my parents too.

As parents, it is important for us to ‘see’ from our children’s eyes what the media reports and stories may look and sound like to them. During the hostage crisis, I was in elementary school. Everything was in close proximity to us in my young mind. Oceans most certainly must be just beyond grandmas, the bad men were from a local jail and any airplane could be next. In my mind and at my age everything was close and everything was possible. I had no concept of the distance between the United States and Iran. I had understanding of military intervention or hostage negotiations. All I knew is that my parents were going away on a plane and I DIDN’T LIKE IT.

It was a tough week while my parents were gone.  I remember it vividly even though it’s been several decades. Everyone once in awhile my elementary age daughter will see or hear something on the news and ask a general question. I make myself stop and listen for what she’s really asking, “Could that happen to me? Is that happening close to us? Are they coming to our town next?”  Even though she isn’t ASKING those questions out loud it is very possible she could be thinking them. My role as a parent is to listen for the un-asked question, search out the underlying fear and determine what she really needs to know.

Our children are hearing the news. Are we listening to their questions?

What have your children asked about the various ‘big topics’ on the news?  What insight could you share with us about your response?

Lori Hayungs

miscellaneous

Helping Kids Understand Health Threats

November 6th, 2014

Daily news reports about Ebola infections, quarantines and death may have children worried that they may be stricken by this disease or other illnesses. Research shows that too much unsupervised media viewing can cause children unneeded and unintentional stress and fear. One way to alleviate that fear is to talk to your children about what they’re seeing and hearing in the news. Find out what they know and what questions they would like answered.

In November, join us as we blog about ways that parents can reduce children’s anxiousness related to health threats like Ebola. We also will look at how parents can use the situation to teach children important skills about illness prevention and world health issues.

miscellaneous

Another Step on the Journey

November 6th, 2014

Life is a journey. There are many steps, twists, and turns along the way. Some we plan and others just happen. But together, these steps make our journey our lives. In 2011 I was given the opportunity to be a part of the Science of Parenting team. As a family life educator, parent, and grandparent, I found this an exciting step. It’s been a joy to work with Lori as we shared timely topics via the podcasts, blogs, and webinars.

Now another turn in the path takes me to a different role within Human Sciences Extension and Outreach. Janet Smith will now work with Lori to move Science of Parenting forward. I will occasionally respond to blogs because I plan to continue reading and learning.

Parenting is also a journey. While planning is helpful, life with children is full of surprises. Science of Parenting is designed to be an educational support along the way. Enjoy the journey!

Donna Donald

parenting

The School Can’t Cut the Music Program – Can They?

October 31st, 2014

bandThe call goes out – help save our music program! When school districts face tough financial times, music is often one department on the table for cuts.

A first reaction may be to focus on arguments like: music is important for a well-rounded education; music is the only thing that keeps some kids interested in school; music teaches kids concentration, coordination, and perseverance; and performances are an important part of athletic events and school functions. Well, that’s all true but then the same could be said about other departments.

You might want to hone in on how music can help children with both reading skills and math. In a nutshell, the researchers who look at cognition, think that participation in music increases both the brain’s efficiency and effectiveness. The strongest studies support the value of music-making in spatial reasoning, creativity, and generalized math skills. Other studies link music education to helping children improve reading skills. Now you are beginning to talk the language that could influence the decision makers.

Sometimes parents assume the role of advocates for their children. And if that time comes for you, it helps to focus on facts rather than only emotions. Has your school system struggled with financing the music department? What has helped keep music a viable part of the school your children attend?

Donna Donald

music, parenting, school

Disco Creates Drive

October 24th, 2014

dance Ok, disco music doesn’t really create the drive to do things but it sure can HELP! Elizabeth’s blog last week, got me thinking about all the ways that I utilize (or have utilized) music to accomplish or complete different things throughout my life. It’s a pretty long list, but I thought the ones below were worth sharing.

  1. Playing the Top 40 on the radio to study my high school geography notes and connecting locations to the lyrics of the songs (…her name was Rio…).
  2. Using a Disco Micky Mouse record (yes a vinyl record) to help my three year old classroom kiddos expend their energy before nap time.
  3. Gathering multiple cd’s to take to the hospital when they told me it could take more than 24 hours to birth my child and I would want to be distracted.
  4. Downloading an hours worth of music to my music player to help convince my body it wants to keep moving and work up a good sweat.

From live radio to recorded downloads music can motivate us, relax us, energize and calm us. It connects to our feelings and emotions in a way that can keep us moving forward. Driving us to accomplish and complete.

As you reflect back on your life and the music in it, we would love to have you share with us the different ways that music has supported or helped you to ‘finish’.

Lori Hayungs

miscellaneous

Is it Magic? Or is it Music?

October 16th, 2014

So do you ever wonder why when you tell a 3 year old to “clean up”, they completely ignore you, but once you start singing that oh so popular “Clean Up Song”, that same 3 year old happily and energetically starts cleaning up? Is it magic or is it music? That’s the question we asked guest blogger Elizabeth Stegemöller, PhD and Board Certified Music Therapist from the ISU Kinesology Department.

Join in on our conversation with Elizabeth below.

..”Well, of course it is the music. Believe it or not being involved with music, be it music listening, instrumental playing, singing, or dancing has many benefits for a child’s physical, mental, emotional, and social development. Children learn to coordinate fine motor movements of the hands when learning an instrument. In fact most instruments require you to do completely opposite actions with each hand. Yeah, you remember how hard it was to get that left hand to do anything productive on the piano. Dancing includes the coordination of larger muscle groups of the whole body. Then there is the mental/cognitive aspects that include reading and pairing symbols with letters and meanings, leaning a whole new language (I mean what does forte really mean, how about adagio), and then somehow translate all of this into a motor command for your fingers or voice. Now, what about the emotional responses to music. Music is a mechanism to appropriately express feelings. I mean give a teenager some headphones and if you dare a drum set, and watch out! Finally, making music together teaches children how to work together to produce a final masterpiece. Really, there is no part of the human brain that isn’t involved with music.”

But what is it specifically about music that holds this power over human behavior? How can music encourage a toddler to clean up or help them learn their ABCs and why does this even matter?

“Interestingly, it starts with the rhythmic and harmonic structure of music and how the brain processes this signal. First, by nature music is a “cleaner” signal. There is less noise in a music signal than in a speech signal. And the brain likes a “clean” signal, especially a developing brain. Second, precise temporal stimulation of neural structures leads to plasticity (making new connections in the brain). Basically, if the brain (neurons) fires together, it wires together. Music is a highly organized rhythmic structure that allows for synchronization of multiple brain areas. Most importantly, music listening increases dopamine in the brain. Guess what, in order to learn anything, you need dopamine! So, stimulating the brain with a clear and synchronized signal along with the increase in dopamine is precisely what is needed for neural plasticity (i.e. learning).”

Now, back to that 3 year old cleaning up. Why did music work?

“Well, singing was a clear signal that was easier for the child to process and make the neural connection and or association that the signal meant to “clean up” regardless if they processed the meaning of the actual words or just the musical tune. But what about the ABC’s? Well, music synchronized neural activity along with increased dopamine and established new connections for alphabet order. Now just imagine how many neural connections are being made by playing an instrument, dancing, and making music as a group! Music is magic – brain magic!”

 

Share with us how you have used music in a way that seemed magical!

Lori Hayungs

miscellaneous

Do I Have to Practice?

October 13th, 2014

pianoThose old upright pianos – you’ve seen them in church basements, gathering dust at the back of stages, sitting unclaimed at auctions. While they’ve been replaced by smaller pianos and keyboards, these music instruments provided the setting for early music lessons for many kids. I remember staying in town after school a couple of times a month to walk to a home for music lessons. Then there was the daily practice in an unheated room pounding away on an old piano donated by a great aunt and uncle. My great aunt was the church organist and maybe she thought I might be her replacement someday. Each year I learned my pieces for the recital and managed not to humiliate myself.

So did I become an accomplished pianist? Nope – quit the lessons in high school. Were the lessons worth the time and money? I like to think so. Did I ever wish I’d continued lessons? Well, many years later as an adult I took lessons again for a year. The funny thing is I found I still wasn’t very good at playing and I still didn’t like to practice.

The point of my story is that I did learn a couple of important life skills. I found out quickly that it took a lot of patience on my part (and the teacher’s) to learn to play an instrument. It did not come easy; it was not always fun; and no matter how much I practiced, I still made mistakes. Learning to play a piano was my introduction to perseverance. The list is long of all my life experiences where it was not easy or fun and I made mistakes. But I kept working and practicing and did my best.

Want to know the rest of my story? In the living room, I have an old player piano that belonged to my grandmother. I taught the 3 daughters how to read music and they all played it to varying degrees. The grandchildren took their turns. And on a quiet afternoon or evening I am sometimes drawn to the keyboard where I play for my own enjoyment. Patience and perseverance and now relaxation – that’s a pretty good return on the investment.

Donna Donald

music

The Beat Goes On

October 2nd, 2014

Attending school concerts, paying for instruments and supervising practice sessions, parents might wonder: Is it worth their time, money and nagging for their children to be involved with music?

Sometimes those beginning piano lessons – and those teenage garage bands – can be difficult to listen to, but music helps children build skills and develop their brains it also helps children improve their concentration, coordination and self-confidence, as they take pride in their achievements.

 

Join us in October as we delve deeper into the skills learned in music and how those skills transfer into other learning. We’ll also talk about what parents can do to share their own love of music.

 

 

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That Wasn’t the Smartest Choice

September 26th, 2014

“Why in the world did you do that?” “Didn’t you think about what you were doing?” Ok, I’ve heard these words and I’ve said these words. Sometimes kids make bad choices and sometimes parents and adults don’t make the best decisions.

If we ask kids why they make some of the choices they do, responses might be:

  • It seemed like the thing to do at the time.
  • I just did it. I didn’t think about any consequences.
  • Who takes time to think?
  • I wanted to be cool with my friends.
  • We just wanted to have a little fun.
  • I don’t need my parents telling me what to do all the time.

These aren’t exactly what parents want to hear, but let’s face it. Kids will do unwise (even stupid) things as they grow up. That is one way they learn. It is important for parents to help ensure that kids do indeed learn and don’t repeat bad choices.

So how does this work? Well, one important piece is to let kids be held accountable and bear the consequences. Turned in homework late - lost points on the grade. Didn’t do assigned chores – have to miss favorite TV show to catch up. Broke curfew for football team – sit on the bench for a game.

If a child’s safety isn’t compromised, most of the time parents can allow the consequences to teach the lessons of making decisions. How have you responded when your child makes a bad choice?

Donna Donald

 

decision making, parenting, raising teens , ,

Revisiting January 2013 – Corporal Punishment revisited

September 18th, 2014

In light of all the recent publicity around corporal punishment and children, I thought it might be appropriate to revisit our January 2013 podcast and subsequent blogs.

Click below to read about alternatives to physical punishment of children and how you can guide and discipline them in a more loving way.

Corporal punishment and alternative methods of discipline

or our January 2014 topic Anger and parenting

Look back through some of our other topics while you’re there. We would love to talk again about some of them!

 

Lori Hayungs

conflict, corporal punishment, discipline , , ,

When Do I Start?

September 12th, 2014

Sure we want our kids to be able to make good decisions. But how do we get from point A to point B? The simple answer is – slowly but methodically. The process begins early, as early as when our kids begin to assert themselves.

In the podcast Lori talked about how children between 4 and 10 often find it hard to make decisions. So, here are some ideas to slowly help young children make decisions.

  • Offer a choice only when there is a choice. Don’t say “what do you want for supper?” when you’ve already got the tater tot casserole in the oven.
  • Offer just a few choices. Too many choices are overwhelming and confusing. Ask, “do you want an apple or string cheese for a snack”” rather than “what do you want to wear today?” and then throw open the closet door.
  • Offer safe choices. Young children don’t have the knowledge or experience to always know what is right or wrong, what is safe or unsafe. An example of a safe choice is, “do you want to hold Daddy’s hand or Mommy’s hand while we cross the street?” Asking “do you want to hold my hand to cross the street?” is not a safe choice to give a young child.
  • Offer your support. As a parent you can help your child think things through before she or he makes a decision. Chelsey is at the store with you and wants to send $5.00 she has been saving. But she can’t decide whether to buy a dress for her doll or some sparkly markers. Talk to Chelsey about what she will use the most, how long the items might last, etc. You are teaching her how to think things through and each time the decision will come a bit easier.

What have you done to help a young child begin to make decisions?

Donna Donald

decision making, miscellaneous

I Can’t Decide

September 8th, 2014

kid-thinking280From the preschooler who can’t decide what to eat, to the high school student who can’t decide what to wear, sometimes children have a hard time making decisions.  Children, and adults too, have many decisions to make each day. Sometimes we make wise decisions and sometimes, we make not-so-wise decisions. A child’s age, confidence, experience and knowledge are all factors in his or her ability to make decisions. Decision-making is one of the important life skills that parents can teach their children.

Join us this month as we blog about how to turn a child’s “I can’t decide” into “This is my decision.”

 

decision making, podcast

Cell Phones as Learning Tools or There’s an App for That!

August 29th, 2014

Child and phone at schoolI just read an interesting report titled “Living and Learning with Mobile Devices.” The report from Grunwald Associates LLC focuses on what parents think about mobile devices for early childhood and K-12 learning. Many parents see the potential and value for mobile devices (smartphone, tablets) and apps as learning tools.

Some of the learning benefits are: promote curiosity, foster creativity, teach problem solving, teach reading, teach math, teach science, and teach foreign languages. Early in the “mobile era”, schools often fought the battle of keeping cell phones out of the classroom. Now it appears, teachers are beginning to embrace smartphones as a teaching tool.

Occasionally I think about the evolution of tools and techniques. I learned to type on a manual typewriter and take shorthand. Now I type on a smartphone and use shortened words or initials to communicate a message. Different times – different ways – but still communicating and learning.

The kids are coming home from school with assignments so how about one for you parents? Check with your child’s teachers about use of mobile devices in the classroom. Are they permitted? Are they encouraged? Are they used for learning or communication? If mobile devices are used for learning, what provision is made for students who do not have these devices?

Go ahead and share what’s happening in your school with others reading this blog.

Donna Donald

media and kids, school , ,

I Need Access

August 22nd, 2014

This was an easy one for me. I need access. This little phrase means several things.

Maybe you thought it was the child saying “I need a phone because I need access”. Actually, when I typed the phrase it meant “I need access to your phone.”  Those are the rules. Like Donna talked about, phones need to come with rules. Access is an important one. As the adult, it is our responsibility to monitor what happens with the phone. We need access to it. Social media on smart phones and texting on other phones can be exciting and dangerous at the same time. We need to monitor and have access. It’s not really a negotiable issue. Having a phone is a big responsibility and a privilege. Parental access to it is a must.

What are some negotiable and non-negotiable rules with your kids’ cell phones? Share them with us.

Lori Hayungs

discipline, media and kids , , ,