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?
communicating, language development
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!
communicating, language development
“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?
decision making, parenting, raising teens
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!
conflict, corporal punishment, discipline
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.
discipline, media and kids
Vacation day arrives bright and sunny. As the car pulls out of the driveway, you glance into the back seat to be sure the kids are settled. And settled they are – completely engrossed in whatever their smartphones and tablets have to offer. Is this what you had in mind for family vacation? Are you going to be nagging everyone (maybe even yourself) the whole trip to put the phones away?
It is well to remember that learning can happen in many ways. While the days of counting cars and playing the ABC sign game may be a thing of the past, family fun continues.
Here’s one example. Reading maps were a big deal when we traveled as a family. Someone would trace the route with a highlighter. We would use the legend to figure the distance in miles. Another person would check the population of towns we passed through and compare them to our hometown. Maps even had information about historical sites.
Now there’s an app for everything we used a map for – and more! Have the kids take turns with finding directions, checking out places to eat, sharing fun things about places, etc. You can make this into an electronic scavenger hunt (that dates me). The amateur photographers in the family can be responsible for taking pictures and creating a virtual album.
The point is to turn smartphones and tablets into a useful, learning part of vacation rather than a battle. And it’s still ok to occasionally have some “phone free” time. This too can become a game. Each family member gets to pick time during the awake hours each day when phones and tablets are taboo.
How do you handle this issue on your family vacation?
education, family time, media and kids
choice. choose. select. decide.
When it comes to children and religion who gets the the choice? Who gets to choose, select or decide?
I grew up in a family that had religious rituals like Donna described last week. Religious rituals were always a part of my life. I was so comfortable with religious rituals that when I was a teen I decided that I would ‘change’ where I practiced those rituals. I yearned for more options and activities for teens, so I began to practice down the street with my friends (similar religion, different location). My family supported my decision with the rule that as long as I attended and participated I could go with my friends. It was my choice. I sometimes wonder what I would have done if my parents had said it wasn’t my choice. They were very brave to allow me the decision. I wonder if they were looked at ‘sideways’ for allowing me to select? I wonder if they worried about telling me ‘no’ and feared that I would turn away from religion? Ironically, thirty years later, we all practice at the same place once again, my parents, my family, and my children. I sometimes think about what I would do if my teens asked me to practice elsewhere.
What might you do if your teen wanted to practice a similar religion at a different location? Share your thoughts with us.
family time, miscellaneous, parenting, religion
Yes it’s true, children form stereotypes about the aging process and older adults. Often times children may have negative stereotypes based on limited interaction with an older generation. To help children form positive stereotypes of the aging process authors Kaplan and Crocker offer some ways to help children develop more positive ideas about aging.
Kaplan and Crocker share that it is important to do more than just ‘talk’ about or share information on older adults. It is important to share experiences and promote opportunities to engage children with older adults as well. Spending time together allows children and adults to share stories and learn more about each other first hand.
Programs that offer the opportunity for youth and older adults to do activities together are called ‘intergenerational programs’. We would love to hear about intergenerational programs you have had experience with? How has it positively impacted your children and their thoughts about aging?
Click for more information on Age-based Stereotypes
Finding research on the impact of arguing in front of children was easy. Wrapping my head around how to talk about it was harder. As we come to the end of the topic for the month, I think we could probably agree that it comes down to a word we have all heard before. Respect. We are not always going to agree with the adults in our children lives. That is a fact. It is important however, that we learn to agree to respect each other in front of our children. Children learn about respect from the adults around them. The most important role model they have is you. I encourage you to do your best to role model respect. It’s easier said than done sometimes but is so very important in the long run.
What are some thoughts you head about our topic this month? We would love to hear from you!
conflict, divorce, parental relationships
You remember them don’t you – the old tan rough looking sacks. Stuffed in the corner of the shed, barn, or garage, these sacks were used for storage. So what do gunny sacks have to do with conflict between spouses or partners?
We recognize that conflict happens and does not predict couple or family problems. But research does tell us that dangerous patterns of thinking and behaviors can lead to serious problems. One of these communication patterns is gunny-sacking. Very simply, this is keeping things in and then dumping them all at once. Picture all the unkind words, slights, perceived wrongs, and accusations stuffed into the gunny sack. Then one day when you go to stuff one more thought into the bag, it is full. So you turn the gunny sack upside down on the floor and all the hurt, pain, and anger spill out – right onto your spouse or partner. The next picture isn’t going to be a pretty one.
Managing Conflict: Escalating and De-Escalating is just one of the lessons in a series, Together We Can: Creating a Healthy Future for our Family. This program is for single parents or couples who are in conflicted or unstable relationships and have young children. Go to http://www.extension.iastate.edu/humansciences/content/together-we-can for more information.
Conflict between human beings happens. It happens between adults, between children and even between adults and children. So how do we learn to fight fair?
An article I found from the University of Texas at Austin gives some great ideas on how to have conflict in a ‘fair’ way.
Here are some of their suggestions:
- Deal with only one issue at a time: Stay focused on only one topic. Focus on that one issue until you have resolved it agree to disagree. Then move to the next issue.
- Avoid accusations: Like Donna talked about last week, use the ‘I messages’ and talk about how it makes you feel. Refrain from using the word ‘you’ as much as possible.
- Avoid clamming up: Get the issue out. When you stop communicating about what the issue is it can’t possibly be resolved. Shutting down or becoming silent doesn’t make the issue go away. Keep talking. If you need to take a break, do so but commit to coming back and finishing the conversation.
For more suggestions read the whole article from the University of Texas at Austin.
Share your ‘fighting fair’ techniques with us here!
parenting, positive parenting, temperament
Let’s jump right in with what I see as one of the best tools for improving communication with your spouse/partner. And in turn that will likely reduce disagreements. It is as simple as using “I” statements instead of “You” statements.
Here’s an example for a “you” message. “You forgot to pick up milk on your way home from work. How stupid can you be?” Or, “I can’t believe how stupid you are. You forgot to get the milk again.” That second set of statements is what we call a “hidden you” message.
Now let’s try a true “I” statement. “I need milk for dinner. There is none left in the refrigerator.” Do you see the difference? When we drop the accusatory and blaming words (and tone), we have a much better chance of getting the problem solved. In this example, what I really need is milk. This isn’t worth a full scale argument between two tired adults at the end of a long work day.
Using “I” statements is a respectful way of having a conversation. It helps you focus on the immediate problem or need, instead of escalating into a battle and bringing in more issues.
Have you tried “I” statements? Do you think this communication tool might work?
Teens love to hang out together – in large groups, small groups, and couples. As parents, we’re happy they have friends. But then we start to worry when the friends turn into boyfriends and girlfriends. Our immediate reaction may indeed be, “no dating until you’re 30!”
Realistically we know that’s not likely to happen, so how can we approach the dating decisions? Let’s return to one of the five basics of parenting adolescents. Monitor and observe means that you let your teen know you are aware of their activities and relationships.
In the beginning, there may be direct supervision. Perhaps you volunteer to chaperone the school dance or let some dates happen in your home. You might give the teens a ride to the movie, mall, or game. As the teens get older and have more experiences, your monitoring becomes less supervision and more communication. Ask where your teen is going, who is the date, and what the couple plans to do. When this is done in a conversational way, rather than an inquisition, you are more likely to get an honest answer.
Another important strategy is to build a network with other parents and adults in the community. Be willing to let each other know of the good things happening as well as any troubling trends or events. Watch for signs of troubled relationships or abuse.
Dating is a natural evolution in relationships. While this issue may always strike angst in the heart of parents, dating is another step on the road to adulthood. Supervision, communication, observation, and networking with other adults are the keys to successfully traveling that road.
What family rules do you have for dating?
I want you to know that not everyone is going to like you. I want you to know that you can fail and I will still love you. I want you to know that I am not perfect. I want you to know…
I find myself thinking and saying this phrase a lot. I have two teens and one nine year old that thinks she is a teen. There is so much I want them to know but so much that I don’t always say out loud. Yes, I want them to know, but I also know that sometimes they will ‘hear’ it louder from someone else. What resources can I share with them so they will find the answers I want them to know?
Below are some of the resources I have share with my teens so far. And yes, it was via text, email, Twitter or Facebook. I’ll use any means I can to share the information I want them to know.
I Am In Control
What have you shared with your teen? I would love to know!
family time, friendship, parenting, raising teens, social-emotional
I am the proud grandmother of seven young adults. They range in age from 14 – 24. Obviously they are well beyond the days of cuddling on my lap or arriving at the door with little suitcase in hand ready for a sleepover. As grandchildren grow up, it becomes a challenge as to how to keep connected.
Fascinating information from a new AARP survey reveals that more than 80% of grandparents speak to their grandchildren on the phone at least once a month. More than 1/3 do their communication via new technology – think Skype, Facebook, texting. So I started asking myself if I fit these results. I use Facebook for keeping up day-to-day. I text when I want a quick check-in. Phone calls follow if we need a longer conversation.
And what do we talk about? Again I’m right in tune with the survey results. The AARP survey says 50% talk about morals and values; religion and spirituality; peer pressure or bullying; illegal drugs; and drinking and alcohol use. Dating or sex are topics for 37% of the grandparents. I have to laugh as I often start conversations with some of the grandkids with this question, “And are you making good choices?”
The data about frequency of communication, as well as topics, fits well with grandparents serving a role as mentor and teacher. We have a wonderful chance to help grandchildren by sharing our experiences and knowledge, all wrapped up in a big dose of love. A personal aside – I always end my texts with Love, Gma.
How often do you communicate with your grandkids and what do you talk about?
family time, grandparenting