Sunday, November 27, 2011

Ignoring: Why it happens and what to do about it

Why kindergartners ignore their parents

You ask your kindergartner to put away her art supplies so you can set the table for dinner. But — can you believe it? — she keeps right on cutting, coloring, and pasting. You repeat yourself, she mumbles "Okay," and the handiwork continues. Why is she ignoring you?

The good news: Your little girl is growing up. The bad news: Your little girl is growing up. "Kindergartners like to be in charge of themselves — they like to make their own decisions and demands," explains Roni Leiderman, associate dean of the Family Center at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale. As your 5-year-old develops a stronger sense of identity, it's normal for her to assert herself by rebelling against your authority. Rather than make a scene, she might pretend not to hear you, or respond as s-l-o-w-l-y as she thinks she can get away with. Take heart: Pushing parents' buttons is part of a kindergartner's job — the key is getting your youngster to cooperate while providing her space to practice her independence.

What to do when your kindergartner ignores you

Be clear and realistic. Make sure your requests are specific and doable. If you say, "Clean your room," your kindergartner might manage to push the clutter around a little bit. But if you say, "Please put your shoes in the closet and your toys in the toy box," she'll know exactly what to do. Since some tasks can seem pretty daunting to a 5-year-old and it's easy to assume that kindergartners know more than they really do, it might also help to lead her through a big job for the first time or break it into smaller parts. Instead of saying, "Help Daddy clear off the table," for instance, show her how to scrape the dishes with the spatula and stack them by the sink. When she's fumbling around with her art supplies, say, "You put the crayons in the box, I'll put away the scissors and glue, and then we'll find a great place to hang your picture."

Simplify your requests. Your kindergartner may be ignoring you simply because she doesn't understand what you want her to do. Keep your directives simple, with no more than three or four steps at most ("Please go to the upstairs bathroom, look under the sink, and bring the bandages back to me").

Follow through. If you ask your 5-year-old to get herself dressed before school, encourage even the smallest steps she makes toward that goal. If she refuses, simply lead her to the car with shoes in hand. When you ask her not to bounce the ball in the house and she keeps using the walls as a backboard, take it away from her until she's ready to cooperate.

Motivate your kindergartener. The truth is, we're all tempted to answer, "Because I said so!" But there are better ways to motivate your child to cooperate with your requests. Try to remember that you don't want her to do the right thing because she's afraid not to. You want her to do the right thing because she wants to. Kindergarteners love to please, so compliments and encouragement will go a long way toward getting yours to comply with your wishes. ("Allie, I'm so proud of you for getting ready for school all by yourself" or "Wow, you sure are a good listener!")

You might also give your 5-year-old an incentive for doing what you ask: "When you put the puzzle pieces back in the box, we can go the park." (Hint: Don't say "If you put the puzzle pieces in the box.") Kindergarteners also thrive on stickers and charts — or, if your youngster's beyond the sticker stage, try a written contract. The contract might simply read:Katie will put her pajamas beneath her pillow every morning after she gets dressed for school. When she's done this for three mornings in a row, Mom will take her to a movie.Sign it, let her color it or add computer graphics, and then post the contract where she can see it. She'll not only feel included in the process, she'll appreciate the level of responsibility the contract bestows on her.

Use alternatives to "no." If your kindergartner ignores you when you tell her no, maybe it's because she hears it too often. Try other approaches to the N word. Instead of barking, "No! Don't kick the ball in the kitchen," for instance, say, "Let's go outside to play ball." Remember, kindergartners love their independence, so try to offer choices liberally throughout the day: "Would you like to wear the red, blue or yellow shirt today?" or "Would you like to invite Casey over to play or would you rather go to the mall with me?" When you give a child a choice, you're giving her a chance to assert herself in an acceptable way.

Say yes instead of no whenever you can, too, and take every opportunity to encourage rather than dissuade her. If she's excited about the idea of building her own birdhouse, for instance, respond by saying, "Sure, you can try!" or "Daddy will help you" — which both sound a lot more positive than "No, you might get hurt."

Naturally, there will be plenty of times when you'll have to be firm about stopping her from eating sweets before dinner or playing computer games 'til midnight. The point is, choose your battles and put your foot down only when you must. If you provide an environment that's both safe and stimulating (the YWCA as opposed to Grandpa's study, for instance), your kindergartner can exercise her independence with few holds barred.

Try to be understanding. Imagine you're reading a novel or chatting with a friend when, all of a sudden, you're ordered to stop what you're doing because something else has to be done right now. The reality is that we don't always have time to cajole our kindergartners into the car or beg them to wash their hands. But whenever possible, it really helps to give your child notice before you rush her into the next activity or errand: "We're leaving in ten minutes, honey, so try to finish up." If your kindergartner is like most, she still won't be thrilled about having to wrap up a computer game or put aside her coloring book, but at least she'll have fair warning that it's time to switch gears.

If your kindergartner seems to ignore you more often than she listens, talk to her pediatrician about the problem. The doctor may recommend a hearing test or other developmental evaluations.

A Word About Spanking

Perhaps no form of discipline is more controversial than spanking. Here are some reasons why experts discourage spanking:

  • Spanking teaches kids that it's OK to hit when they're angry.
  • Spanking can physically harm children.
  • Rather than teaching kids how to change their behavior, spanking makes them fearful of their parents and merely teaches them to avoid getting caught.
  • For kids seeking attention by acting out, spanking may inadvertently "reward" them — negative attention is better than no attention at all.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Decision Making...

This was another interesting post that I saw on letting your kids making decision as much as possible.

I consciously let my boy decide things on his own as much as possible. This is so apparent that sometimes I received curious questions from friends, parents and even teachers. The two common questions are:

"But aren't they too young to know how to decide?"

"But what if they make the wrong decision?"

Personally, I think children have the ability to decide even way before they can talk. If a child has difficulty in deciding, we can do our part by guiding him, providing more information, or giving him more time to decide.

As for the second question, seriously, in the first place do we ourselves make the "right" decision all the time?

A wrong decision is a good lesson learned. The child would then learn about consequence. He would learn about taking responsibility for his own action.

There are not many instances where a wrong decision spells disaster. One day, when the time finally comes when a crucial decision is to be made, the child (probably by then an adult) would then have accumulated enough experience to make a wise choice.

Decision making is an important life skill that cannot be learned from textbooks.

When your child makes his own decision, he is applying critical thinking. He learns
to assess information. He learns more about himself. You learn more about him too.

If your child misses an opportunity to decide on his own, and always follows your plan, you might have avoided the inconvenience caused if he was allowed to decide but his decision happened to be incongruent to your expectation, but you also lose an opportunity to observe how he makes his choice. From the way he decides, you could get a glimpse into his value system, his priorities, and through this you might attain a better understanding of your own child. You may be surprised, but it's better that you get surprised sooner than later.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Intellectual Toys

This is one toy shop with lots of toys to cater for the child's learning needs. So far, I had only had the finger gloves to help my son with holding a pen/pencil in the correct position. It's quite fun.

Another meaningful post from my friend's facebook wall

When I attended talks by childhood educationists and social workers, or when I read newspaper articles, I was sad to hear/read about parents who cried foul: "I am not able to control my child anymore. Please put him to the boys' home/reformative training centre."

Is it really the loss of control in question, or is it something else?

In the early years we certainly need to place limits and controls on our children's actions; we need to control and monitor what they eat; we need to control what they watch on TV or read over the Internet. We need to set rules and boundary.

As they grow, however, we need to release control gradually, and let our influence which has been building over the years to take over. It's futile to control a person forever, not even our children.

Therefore, inability to control our children isn't a loss; in fact, it could be a celebration, if dispensing with it our children can still function on their own. It's the inability to exercise our influence over our own children that is a cause for pity.

Influence is boundless. It's spread not just through words, but also through one's actions and bonding with one's children. When you share your principles with your children, you are influencing them. When you treat others politely, you are influencing them. When you play badminton with your children, you are influencing them. Likewise for negative influence. When you smoke, you are influencing them. When you jump queue, you are influencing them.

Influence is a much more powerful instrument than control. How to maximise positive influence on our children is every parent's duty, and a delicate job.

Categorisation of parenting styles

Here's a facebook posting from my friend.

A well-known categorisation of parenting styles, as identified by several researchers such as Maccoby and Martin, Diana Baumrind, etc, independently but with their findings overlapped, are: authoritarian, permissive, authoritative and indifferent. 

(There are alternative labels, such as totalitarian for authoritarian, indulgent for permissive, uninvolved/neglectful for indifferent.)

These 4 styles are usually placed on two dimensions: (1) demanding/undemanding, and (2) responsive/unresponsive, as shown:

Authoritative: Demanding and responsive
Authoritarian: Demanding and unresponsive
Indulgent: Undemanding and responsive
Neglectful: Undemanding and unresponsive

Certainly, in general not every parent falls neatly under one category. Some span more than a style. Some adopt a primary style, but switch to an alternative style under certain circumstances.

Besides the above categorisation, other styles identified are: overparenting, helicopter parenting, attachment parenting, strict parenting, etc.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Parenting tips: How to improve toddler behavior

Toddlers are infamous for tantrums and other behavior issues. To encourage listening and cooperation, follow these parenting tips.

By Mayo Clinic staff
Life can be frustrating for toddlers. Though often eager to show their independence, toddlers may not be able to move as swiftly as they'd like or effectively communicate their needs. This combination can easily lead to tantrums and misbehavior. But you can teach your toddler to behave well by providing love, attention, praise, encouragement and a degree of routine. Consider these practical parenting tips.

Show your love

Positive attention tops the list of parenting tips for toddlers. Make sure your displays of affection for your child outnumber any consequences or punishments. Hugs, kisses and good-natured roughhousing reassure your child of your love. Frequent praise and attention also can motivate your toddler to follow the rules.

Accept your child

As your child grows, he or she will display certain personality traits. Some of these are learned, others genetic. Respect your child's developing individuality and don't expect him or her to be just like you. While you're likely to notice certain features of your child's temperament, avoid labeling these features — which can encourage bad behavior. Instead, nurture your child's personality by finding ways to help him or her feel confident. A strong-willed child, for instance, has perseverance. Build on your child's strength by encouraging him or her to play with a challenging toy.

Minimize rules

Rather than overloading your child with rules from the outset — which may frustrate him or her — prioritize those geared toward safety first and then gradually add rules to your list over time. Help your toddler follow the rules by childproofing your home and eliminating as many temptations as possible.

Prevent tantrums

It's normal for a toddler to have temper tantrums. But you may be able to reduce the frequency, duration or intensity of your child's tantrums by following these parenting tips:
  • Know your child's limits. Your child may misbehave because he or she doesn't understand or can't do what you're asking.
  • Explain how to follow the rules. Instead of saying, "Stop hitting," offer suggestions for how to make play go more smoothly, such as "Why don't you two take turns?"
  • Take 'no' in stride. Don't overreact when your toddler says no. Instead, calmly repeat your request.
  • Pick your battles. Only say no when it's absolutely necessary.
  • Offer choices, when possible. Encourage your child's independence by letting him or her pick out a pair of pajamas or a bedtime story.
  • Avoid situations that may trigger frustration or tantrums. If your child always seems to have tantrums at the grocery store, hire a sitter the next time you go shopping. Also know that children are more likely to act out when they're tired, hungry, sick or in an unfamiliar setting.
  • Make it fun. Distract your child or make a game out of good behavior. Your child will be more likely to do what you want if you make an activity fun.
  • Stick to the schedule. Keep a daily routine as much as possible so that your child will know what to expect.
  • Encourage good communication. Remind your child to use words to express his or her feelings. If your child isn't speaking yet, consider teaching him or her baby sign language.
If your child has a tantrum, remain calm and distract him or her. Ignore minor displays of anger, such as crying — but if your child hits, kicks or screams for a prolonged period, remove him or her from the situation. Hold your child or give him or her time alone to cool down.

Enforce consequences

Despite your best efforts, at some point your toddler will break the rules. Consider using these parenting tips to encourage your child to cooperate:
  • Natural consequences. Let your child see the consequences of his or her actions — as long as they're not dangerous. If your child throws and breaks a toy, he or she won't have the toy to play with anymore.
  • Logical consequences. Create a consequence for your child's actions. Tell your child if he or she doesn't pick up his or her toys, you will take the toys away for a day. Help your child with the task, if necessary. If your child doesn't cooperate, follow through with the consequence.
  • Withholding privileges. If your child doesn't behave, respond by taking away something that your child values — such as a favorite toy — or something that's related to his or her misbehavior. Don't take away something your child needs, such as a meal.
  • Timeout. When your child acts out, give a warning. If the poor behavior continues, guide your child to a designated timeout spot — ideally a quiet place with no distractions. Enforce the timeout for one minute for every year of your child's age. If your child resists, hold him or her gently but firmly by the shoulders or in your lap. Make sure your child knows why he or she is in the timeout. Afterward, guide your child to a positive activity. If all else fails, tell your child that you are taking a timeout away from him or her for a few minutes because of a specific behavior. Be sure to explain the behavior you'd like to see.
Whatever consequences you choose, be consistent. Make sure that every adult who cares for your child observes the same rules and discipline guidelines. This reduces your child's confusion and need to test you. Also, be careful to criticize your child's behavior — not your child. Instead of saying, "You're a bad boy," try, "Don't run into the street." Never resort to punishments that emotionally or physically harm your child. Spanking, slapping and screaming at a child do more harm than good.

Set a good example

Children learn how to act by watching their parents. The best way to show your child how to behave is to set a positive example for him or her to follow.