Dancing with a Wallflower or Parenting the “Slow to Warm Up” Child

February 11th, 2015

shutterstock_219620059My daughter is the ultimate “wallflower” when it comes to dancing through life.  I am fortunate to have had the personal experience of parenting  a “slow to warm up” temperament child.   I will share some parenting strategies or “dancing  steps” that I have learned over the years that I think have enhanced our relationship and her development.

First—as a parent I know Hannah well.  I know when she is stressed.  I know when she is scared.  I know when she is apprehensive.  I have learned when she needs support and when she needs a little push.  I have learned how to support and not hover.  This ability to read our kids temperament is the first and most important step in creating the “goodness of fit” that we discussed in our latest Science of Parenting podcast.

I lovingly call her my “wallflower”.  Many times she was overlooked in classroom or in social activities because she was quiet and easily over powered by those with more eager, robust temperaments.  She required more time to adjust to new situations, new environments, and new people.  She was and continues to be highly sensitive to sounds, food, smells, and textures.  She requires time to observe, and become comfortable.  Large groups, busy places, and surprises were hard for her to adjust to.  I learned early in her life—to provide early notification and discussion of what she was going to experience.  Coaching and communicating were important for her comfort.  She is almost twenty now, but still finds comfort in familiarity.

When parenting a “slow to warm up” child, it is important to nurture their development and self-esteem.  They need acceptance.   This means encouraging strengths ( for example- ability to play on her own, or to observe what’s going on around her carefully), and providing support when she needs it (visiting and exploring a new class in child care to help her feel comfortable).

When you notice and appreciate the similarities and differences between you and your child, you can adapt the way you parent in order to meet your child’s individual temperament needs.  This helps your child feel loved, confident, important, and capable.  Sensitive parenting helps your child know and feel good about themselves as they mature.  Lastly, encourage your child to engage in activities that they enjoy.  Avoid the “shy” labels.  Give ample time to help them get used to the idea of doing something new.  Advocate, coach and encourage.

American society tends to view sensitivity and “shyness” as negative traits, but as a parent of a —slow to warm up now adult child I have learned that they have much to offer.  They are perceptive, observant, caring, empathetic and deeply in touch with their feelings and emotions and importantly those of others.  Traits not always easily found in others.    Love and value your kids for who they are.   I love my wallflower….Hannah.

 

Janet Smith

parenting, social-emotional, temperament , ,

The Parenting Dance

February 5th, 2015

Parenting is like dancing: even with practice, the partners may step on each other’s toes. However, the parenting dance has a greater chance for success when the parent knows how to read and take the child’s lead.

The parenting dance is the mix between the child’s natural style, or temperament, and the parent’s approach and response. Getting the mix just right takes practice, particularly with a child who is shy or slow to warm up to new routines or environments.  During February we will blog about temperament and explore ways for parents to encourage their children to try new experiences without fear.

Won’t you join us?

 

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Conversations, conversations, conversations

January 31st, 2015

Dr. Constance Beecher, Ph.D, Assistant Professor, School of Education and Human Sciences Extension and Outreach shares more with us about expanding children’s vocabulary.

“Vocabulary can be developed by directly teaching new words, or indirectly through having a lot of exposure to words in books and conversations.   Research suggests a combination of both is the best approach, says Dr. Beecher.”

“Developing vocabulary indirectly through books and conversations has many benefits. Children who are read to frequently gain a life-long love of reading. The more children hear different words and understand their meaning, the better readers they will become. This is because learning to read requires an understanding of the relationship between the sounds of language (phonemic awareness) and the symbol or letter that represents that sound (phonics). The more words children know, the better they are able to understand the letter/sound relationship, and conversely, the more knowledge children have about the letter/sound relationship, the better they are able to learn new words,” Dr. Beecher.

She also suggests, “Parents can read a variety of books to and with children, and pause at words that children may not know to explain their meaning. For example, while reading “Corduroy went up the escalator.”, pause and ask “do you know what an escalator is?”. Then define: “An escalator is a set of stairs that moves you from one floor to another.” Then explain: “Last week while I was at Macys, and I rode an escalator from the first floor to the second floor”. Then relate to child: “Where have you ridden on an escalator?” – state the question in a way so that the child can say the word, or ask child to repeat word.”

Dr. Beecher reminds us that, “When having conversations, ask open ended questions (questions that can’t be answered with a yes/no). During these conversations, you can introduce synonyms. For example, you might be talking about what happened at daycare or preschool. If your child talks about making a tall tower in the block area, you can say “Oh, you made an enormous skyscraper?” “Enormous is another word for something is very big or tall”, and when a building is enormous, we call it a skyscraper. Why do you think we say skyscraper?”. This gives children an opportunity to practice the new words. Children need opportunities not only to hear new words, but to practice saying them.”

And she also wants us to remember the Non-fiction! Non-fiction or informational books are a great source of new vocabulary. When children are exposed to a wide range of vocabulary in areas like science or history, they are more prepared when they have to read these types of texts in school. See websites like this for suggestions, http://commoncore.scholastic.com/teachers/books/non-fiction.

Or talk with your librarian. This list of non-fiction books for ages 3-5 comes from the State Library of Iowa http://www.statelibraryofiowa.org/ld/t-z/youthservices/Best-Books-for-Preschoolers/bibliography-of-nonfiction-for-preschoolers.

Dr. Beecher says, “You can add vocabulary to your everyday activities. When you take your car to the shop to change your oil, talk about oil, engines, and other components of a car. When you go to a nursery to pick out new plants and flowers for your yard be sure to note the different names of flowers, types of grass, plants and trees. When you make a new recipe, talk about spaghetti, marinara sauce, parmesan cheese, sautéing. Use a mix of nouns and verbs.”

She says, “It takes about an average child about 12 times of interacting with a word before he or she is familiar enough with the word to use it, and many times we do not provide enough opportunities for children to get this practice.”

And Dr. Beecher’s final thoughts? “Lastly, make it fun. There is no need to sit children down with flashcards and ask them to define words. Reading and talking together will make learning vocabulary natural and fun.”

 

Share with us ways that you have made ‘vocabulary’ fun!

Lori Hayungs

 

 

 

 

 

communicating, family time, language development, miscellaneous, parenting ,

Expanding vocabulary

January 27th, 2015

For the next couple of blogs I was able to sit down with Constance Beecher, Ph.D,  Assistant Professor, School of Education and Human Sciences Extension and Outreach. Join us as we converse about children  and expanding their vocabulary.

I began by sharing with Dr Beecher that often parents ask, “How much should my child be talking?” or “Is my child using enough language?”

“How can parents help their children? Build a strong vocabulary.” says Dr. Beecher.

Below Dr. Beecher shares about vocabulary development and a vocabulary recipe for success.

Research on the importance of vocabulary development in the early years finds:

  • Having a good vocabulary is one of the best predictors of school success.
  • Very rapid vocabulary acquisition occurs in the pre-literate preschool in into school age (2,000-3,000 words/year)
  • 12th grade seniors near the top of their class knew about four times as many words as their lower-performing classmates.
  • Third graders with large vocabularies were about equal to lowest-performing 12th graders.
  • Children with speech and language disabilities and from low-income and second language homes have the lowest vocabulary gains.

A Vocabulary Recipe for Success:

  • Increase the number of conversations (have more than just short adult to child conversations, allow the child respond back)
  • Check for comprehension (ask follow up questions)
  • Use strategies to increase breadth (like using big words and synonyms)
  • Repeat words and have children practice with you  (let them do more than just watch)

 

We would love to hear how you have added to your child’s recipe for success. Share your tips and techniques here!

Lori Hayungs

communicating, language development, parenting , , , ,

Fingerplays and Fun Enhance Infant Language

January 15th, 2015

It’s cliché!  But oh so true.   Parents— really are a child’s first teacher.  It is amazing to watch tiny babies grow physical and mature into walking and running little people in less than 12 months.  It’s equally amazing to not only experience but influence the miracle of understanding and talking.  From the first babble of sounds to the uttering of recognizable words and then real sentences.  Infant communication is a miracle.    But it only happens with parents who take the time to interact.

Parents and caregivers who take the time to listen, coo, talk, read, sing, and  play games with their babies are teaching important language skills that will set children up for success.  Success in school is related to the acquisition of vocabulary.  Preschoolers who have increased vocabulary do better in school.  That sounds really simple!   ISU Extension has a helpful publication called “Understanding Children-Language Development”. (PM-1529f).  The publication has some great parent tips on ways to nurture child language skills as well as assessing your child’s typical developmental language skills.

Finger plays can be  a great way to interact with infants and toddlers.  Try out the “Old Owl” finger play, included in the publication.   Don’t worry if you can’t sing.  I don’t know any infants that care about your lack of pitch.  Remember some of your favorite finger plays from childhood.  My grandmother had some good ones that I still remember including—“Here is the church…Here is the steeple”?  Or how about “Fly Away Jack, Fly Away, Jill”.   What are some of your favorites?

492024543Janet Smith

communicating, language development , ,

It’s ok to be silly…

January 9th, 2015

It’s been a while since my kidos were babies. Lucky for my offspring,  smart phones had yet to be invented and my bag cellphone had a 30 minute limit!  The technological distractions for parents of young children has exploded.  Certainly it is as important now as ever to connect to with babies not only verbally but with eye contact and touch.  I’ve seen some parents who easily communicate with their babies and others who feel silly and awkward.  One technique that I remember using was what I’ll call the “tour guide” .  Babies are seeing the world through completely new eyes.  Parents can describe and converse with their babies over almost anything that they see, hear, touch, taste, or feel!   I can remember some pretty strange looks in the grocery store, as I talked my way through the aisles in conversation with my than youngsters.   The more talk that goes on…the more natural it becomes.  The awkwardness soon fades..but  hopefully some of the silliness stays!

 

Janet Smith

 

communicating, language development ,

All About Baby Talk

January 5th, 2015

165179459-mombaby280It seems inevitable: People see babies and immediately start talking to them in a high pitched voice, exaggerating their vowel sounds. But there’s a good reason for this behavior. Child development experts call this musical way of talking ‘parentese,’ and more and more researchers are telling us how important it is to infants’ development and future success in learning.

Whether you call it parentese or baby talk, research shows that the more parents talks to their babies face to face, the more words the children will know by the time they reach age 3 and there just is something special with face-to-face communication.

Join us this month as we shut off the television, put away the smartphones and iPads and talk.

 

 

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Traditions Aren’t Just for the Holidays!

December 28th, 2014

 

Well,  the holidays are almost behind us.  The warm and happy feelings that we get from spending time together as a family, needed end because the calendar says January.  Just the opposite is true.  It’s a wonderful time, to emphasize ordinary, everyday life traditions.

My family enjoys family meal time.  But we haven’t always!  We try to get in at least 4 family meals together each week.  Several year ago after my husband made some life changes,  we made a plan  to make eating and talking  together a priority.   I used to hear lots of complaints—“we’re eating too early”, “I’m not hungry”, “I don’t like that.”, and  “I’d rather sit in front of the television”.  But, as a family,  we all agreed that it was important for us to spend time together and family meals seemed like the place to start.  There are no complaints now and certainly no regrets.

Start a family physical activity time.   After dinner walks  or bike rides are a great place to start.  Traditions can easily become habits!  May think about trying new physical activities such as bowling, gardening, sledding, ice skating, swimming, or yoga.

Maybe it’s time to arrange for special time with each child.  My kids are almost adults and this is still really important.   It is important that each child in a family gets “alone-time” with a parent on a regular basis. Volunteer or plan a community service activity as a family. Every community has unique needs that you and your family can help address such as picking up litter, volunteering at a nursing home, planting flowers for an elderly neighbor, or buying a toy for a needy child at Christmas.

What’s important is making your family important.  What better way than sharing time..at the holidays and every day of the year.      Janet

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Christmas Sock Story Reinforces Gratitude

December 21st, 2014

This is a great time of year to tell family stories.  I purposely take the opportunity to retell my Grandma Isabel’s holiday story of gratitude each year to my children.  The story goes like this… her depression era grandparents would give each grandchild woolen socks with candy and an orange.  The gift was welcome to almost all of my grandmother’s brothers and sisters who usually received very little under the Christmas tree.  But one Christmas her ungrateful sister Ada complained that they were itchy and she didn’t like them.  Offended, her grandparents stopped the Christmas gift giving.  My grandmother was heartbroken, but her heart always remembered the importance of being thankful.  Her lesson of gratitude was repeated in story form for me each year!  I have continued the same story and sharing the importance of the value of gratitude.

My kids look forward to Christmas for 11 months each year!   The last thing I want to hear is them being an  “Ada” and complaining about is how they didn’t get everything they wanted, but teaching and having a spirit of gratitude instead.  Before Christmas, I try to set aside a time to do something for others.  They have griped at times…I will be honest…but I know that serving others will help make them into a better people.   It’s harder for them to think about their little problems when they see the Bob-Cratchit-sized issues of the less fortunate.

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More than just trinkets

December 17th, 2014

When I got married morornamente than twenty years ago my mother began giving me decorative ornaments. When I began to have children they too received ornaments. At first, I didn’t really know how to display them since there were so few. However, time flies when you’re having fun and suddenly this year I have a problem (according to my youngest child). I have run out of space. As I reflect on our topic this month, I couldn’t help but think about the ornaments. They may look like trinkets to most but to us they tell a story. A story of vacations, new babies, new homes, popular movies and even eventful mishaps in our lives. The ornaments have become a tradition. A giving ritual. At one point my mom asked if we still wanted to continue or if the ornaments were becoming a hassle. I confess to throwing a mini-tantrum at the though of not receiving my ornament. I have come to love looking at them and remembering with my family what the ornaments symbolize for us. I look forward to them each year and expect to continue the tradition as well.

What trinkets create traditions in your family?

Lori Hayungs

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Families Need Traditions

December 6th, 2014

Carrying out family traditions takes effort, but traditions and rituals can make families stronger.  Holidays are good times for families to celebrate annual rituals, like serving special foods, telling favorite stories, putting cherished decorations on display and creating holiday memories strengthens family ties. No need to wait for the holiday season though. Small customs like a weekly family meal, uniquely celebrating birthdays or life cycle celebrations like weddings or graduations are great places to start.

Most importantly, there are no right or wrong traditions. Families can use their own values, religion, history and culture to create traditions that are meaningful to them.

Join us this month as we talk about family traditions and rituals.

 

 

 

miscellaneous

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

 

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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

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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.

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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