Sometimes, we tell stories with children to help them work through problems.  The scene: The park.  An older child grabbed your child’s toy and it broke.  He gave it back and left the park. You were too far away to intervene. Your child, A, was very upset and could not calm down enough to play and you and the rest of the family went home.  At bedtime, A was still upset. “He braked my toy”, A said over and over again, getting more and more agitated each time.  You pointed out that sometimes, toys break, and it was not A’s fault, and next week, when it’s payday, you can try to get A another one.  NO!! I want my toy NOW!!!

Calmly, you say, “Let’s make a story about the toy.”  What happened?  He braked my toy!  Where were we with that toy?  In park. Yes, we went to the park. You brought your toy. A big boy broke your toy and ran away. You were angry! Another day, we can buy another toy. 

Talking about it and adding details may help A decide that the new toy should be bigger or smaller, or a different color.  This way, A can look forward to getting a new toy and talk about the attributes of the new toy every time the story is retold.  Maybe, after lots of retelling, A will want a different toy instead.  Maybe a picture of A’s angry face can be made and another one with A’s happy face with the new toy. The details aren’t as important as the process of channeling the anger into storytelling, and accepting emotions, even strong ones. 

Things don’t always work out the way we want them to, but we can always manage our feelings. 

When children are able to choose their own activity, it often brings them joy. Sometimes they look very happy, laughing, squealing, shouting, and the like. Sometimes, they get fully engaged with what they are doing and they may not look joyful. When adults are fully engaged with their own efforts, they call this “flow” or “in the zone”, and they usually look serious and lose track of others. It is exactly the same with young ones. Sometimes, we will hear “uh-oh” when something doesn’t quite work and they have to try something else. When they figure out what they were trying to do, they will usually smile, yell, or somehow call attention to what they did. When adults observe the action, and maybe take notes, it doesn’t interrupt the child and allows the child to complete whatever the child was doing. It also can bring joy to the adult to see the child actually learning. Adults can take some brief notes of what the children are doing and can add the learning concepts to their observations. It also helps them frame comments and questions after the activity, such as “When you were pushing the car up the ramp and it fell off, I saw that you changed the ramp.”

When adults either interrupt the action or arbitrarily decide to intercede in the action by asking what seems to be a relevant question, it spoils the child’s concentration and is definitely not helpful. It took me a while to understand the difference between asking questions to increase the children’s responses and not breaking their concentration. When they look to you, you can look back and after a little while, say what you think is appropriate. But whey they are fully engaged, please don’t interrupt the learning! Adults are so interested in increasing children’s attention span. When they interrupt the child, it SHORTENS the attention span and can lead the child to think it may not be worth it to get involved since they are just going to be interrupted soon anyway.

Today is September 1. For most education oriented folks, the school year either started already or is about to start. Jews are thinking of the Jewish New Year which starts later in the month. So many starts.

I have started with a new webhost and I’ve been figuring out how to make new blog posts. Once I get the hang of it, I hope they will be more frequent. But for now, what do the start of the school year, the religious year, and a new webhost have in common? It’s a time to think of what was, what is, and how to make make what will be better than what was. In all of them, we should not be expecting huge transformations. We can improve best by making small steps and keeping at it.

Let’s see where we all go with all of these pending improvements. Here’s to a successful year, no matter which or how many years we are in.

I have heard parents say, “He ALWAYS gets up early. Winter and summer, he’s up at 6 AM.” The same parents who say this in despair have successfully changed their child’s internal clock twice in the previous year.

How do I know? Because twice a year, OUR clocks change – to and from standard time.  If we can change a child’s internal clock in October and April, we can do it any time of the year.

It takes about a week or so to get the change to work. A one day try just doesn’t work. The keys to successfully adjusting a child’s inner clock are:
1) Don’t expect more than an hour’s change at a time.
2) Wake the child at the same time each morning for about a week.
Soon the child will automatically wake up at or near the target time every day.

Of course, if the child is sick, she will need extra rest. If you keep the child out late, she may wake up at the same time anyway, but be VERY cranky. Or, she may wake up fine and get cranky later. It’s the same idea when traveling to another time zone – and back again.
PLEASE also remember to slightly adjust meal times for the first week of a clock change.  More adjustment at the start of the week, gradually changing to less by the end of the week.  If the children nap, adjust those times slightly as well.  Hungry and tired children are cranky children who can present us with all sorts of (preventable) challenging behaviors.