It’s Story Time!

“There is no agony like bearing an untold story inside of you.” —Maya Angelou

Story-telling session. Image courtesy: Vinitha Ramchandani

Story-telling session. Image courtesy: Vinitha Ramchandani

One of the latest researches being driven in many organizations today is related to developing story-telling capability in leaders to enhance their effectiveness. Being able to tell a story is an art and also a skill, which, often, is a key success ingredient for people in many professions. If you follow a story telling ritual at home, the good news is that your child may already have a head-start in this area.

Many parents make stories a bedtime ritual with their children while some designate some time during the day. Some parents get the child to choose their favorite story and it might mean repeating the same story for many days till the child chooses another one. Some parents look for a new story to tell. Some rely on just audio story telling while some engage the child in visuals as well.

Stories are a great tool for facilitating the development of a child. Stories are not only able to get a child to listen and comprehend but also encourage thinking. Children are able to memorize key aspects of the story and ask questions.

Some simple steps that parents and child caregivers can take to make story telling a joyful event and to maximize the learning for a child are:

a) Get access to a story repository. Sign up for a conventional library, which can provide children’s books or get access to online stories (in text format). While you can make a child listen to pre-recorded audios, listening to a story in your voice is likely to be much better appreciated by the child. Don’t shy away from making up your own story some times too. It is a great way for you to get your message through.

b) Designate a specific time during the day as ‘Story Time’. This is uninterrupted time with no eating, no phone calls, no television or other interruptions.

c) Allow the child to have a say in which story / kind of story he / she would like to listen to. Everyone loves choices. Children do too.

d) Talk slowly and clearly. Children need to follow the words, need time for comprehension and to visualize.

e) Encourage imagination. Paint the scene by using more words than might be written. Point to the pictures to enable visualization. Use facial expressions to bring out emotions.

f) Make it participative. Do not hush the child when he / she laughs about something or asks a question. Encourage observation and curiosity. Ask questions about new words or what just happened. It is important to ensure that the child was able to comprehend the story and it is interesting to note what the child registered from the story.

g) Have fun. Story time is not a serious time. While the message might be serious from your perspective, making it a fun experience for the child will drive the message home much faster.

Story telling is a wonderful way to get a child to pick up a language. One of the experiments we have recently started at home is to get my daughter to tell us a story every day, at bedtime. I am amazed by her imagination and how she is able to string together various events during the day, bring out aspects she wants to communicate in the form of a story. It is a great way to also encourage her to develop fluency in English too.

It’s Story Time!

Re-published with permission from the blog of ParentEdge, a bi-monthly parenting magazine that aims to expose parents to global trends in learning and partner with them in the intellectual enrichment of their children.

Swaddling your Baby is Sweet

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The practice of baby-swaddling dates back centuries and is still common in many cultures. Swaddling involves wrapping a baby securely from shoulders to feet with a small blanket.  American Indians and people from the Middle East use bands and more sophisticated swaddling techniques, but more traditional swaddling techniques are still practiced in such countries as Turkey, Afghanistan and Albania.

 Not only can swaddling be a great way to calm and sooth a fussy infant, it’s also been shown to lower the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). At the age of three months, when the risk for SIDS is greatest, traditional American swaddling techniques allow a baby to escape.  It allows the baby to stay in a more stable position while sleeping, thereby lowering the SIDS risk.  In addition, swaddling has been shown to help babies sleep longer and more restfully by preventing the sudden movements that can cause them to wake up, thereby improving mom and dad’s sleep quality and quantity also.  Babies who are swaddled are said to feel secure, similar to how they felt while in utero.  It can also assist in temperature regulation, keeping baby nice and toasty warm while sleeping.

A couple of additional perks to swaddling come during waking hours, too.  A swaddled baby is easy to carry and hold ¾ an adorable, compact little package. It can also help baby focus on breast or bottle feeding by keeping little hands out of the way.

Swaddling usually works best from newborn to approximately four months, but if baby is used to being swaddled, and then it might be utilized even longer.  Babies just being introduced to swaddling may require an adjustment period.  Modified swaddling, such as leaving arms free while swaddling the rest of baby’s body, might be needed when first introducing the practice to your baby.  The blanket should always feel snug but not tight.  Take special care to ensure baby’s circulation is not compromised in any way or that baby is not uncomfortable.  Ask a nurse, physician, midwife or other knowledgeable healthcare practitioner to demonstrate the correct technique for swaddling your baby.

Getting my child to do what I want him to do

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I had always believed in getting my older child to do what I want her to do (eat vegetables, go to bed early) by reasoning with her. Of course, as she grew older, the ‘reasoning’ became arguing and sometimes even yelling. When I felt ashamed that I had raised my voice and called names, I would tell myself that she had pushed me to the limit. After all, I had still communicated why she needed to do certain things.

With my younger son, however, I find that coaxing does not work. Neither does yelling. So I have to resort to some imaginative storytelling, some exaggeration (white lies?).

I used to find this distasteful earlier; I used to believe (rather naively) that if children are told why something is good for them, they will eventually come around to doing it.

I now realize that given constraints of time and mommy energy, I have to resort to methods that I earlier looked down upon as ‘underhand’.

Let me give you an example – my son needs a hair cut every three weeks (yes!) which he detests. I tried explaining the reason (he gets a bad cold otherwise). I tried saying firmly that he has to get a haircut, no choice. But he refused to budge. And it is not practical to transport a kicking, screaming four year old boy.
Then came the saving grace – a policeman! Yes, there was a neighbour who dropped by, in full uniform. And since my son wants to grow up to be a policeman, I pointed out the really short hair…and lo behold, my son was ready for a hair cut!

Now, when my son gets too rough with his sister or friends, or when he refuses to eat vegetables, I say, “A policeman is rough only with thugs.” or “How will you chase thieves if you dont eat veggies and become strong?”

While these methods are highly effective for my son (and are a blessing in disguise for my vocal chords), I still have not reconciled fully to this approach.

Should I not get my child to do what I want him to do, simply because it is the ‘right’ thing to do?

 

Re-published with permission from the blog of ParentEdge, a bi-monthly parenting magazine that aims to expose parents to global trends in learning and partner with them in the intellectual enrichment of their children.

 

Clear Expectations Make Discipline Easier

Clear Expectations Make Discipline Easier

Sometimes it can be very challenging to communicate anything with your child.  Setting clear expectations regarding what’s acceptable behavior and what isn’t imperative to successfully teaching your child right from wrong.  If the parameters are muddled or the child learns that in one situation the rules hold true yet in another situation the same rule does not, it makes for confusion and frustration on both sides.

Sit down with your child well in advance and line out the expectations and consequences of misbehaving or a misdeed.  Make it clear that in no uncertain terms is there any room for negotiation at the time of the infraction, and that should such a behavior occur you  intend to be firm in your discipline.  Rules regarding your child’s safety, health or well-being should have no room for negotiation when being set or enforced.  Other rules can be openly and honestly discussed with your child and an agreed upon action should be forged that both parents and child can agree upon.  If necessary, make a contract between parent and child.  Lay it all out in black and white, in language your child can clearly understand.  For younger children, you might want to develop a good behavior chart within the contract, and for each week that goes by without any infractions being noted, a favorite or special activity might be earned.  The connection between good deeds and special time with mom and/or dad might be just the currency they understand.

But all children need to understand that disciplining them is your way of teaching them what’s acceptable behavior and what isn’t.  It may seem as though children fight rules and regulations, but they truly know that such parameters are meant for their well-being, health, safety, and enable them to grow into a mature person capable of making wise decisions.

Training the Fussy Eater

fussy eater 2Toddlers can be fussy eaters who refuse to try  new food atleast half of the time. Approximately half of all toddlers fit this description, so it is no wonder that food issues are a source of stress for parents.Establishing a healthy eating pattern is important to avoid problems such as obesity and eating disorders later in life. Various strategies can help your child accept a wider range of foods. It may be necessary to offer a food to your child as many as ten different times before they choose to eat it. The problem is, many parents get frustrated and give up before the fourth or fifth try.

Try to make foods fun. Colorful foods like carrot sticks, raisins, apples, grapes, cheese sticks and crackers can all be fun and healthy choices for your growing toddler. Explain to them that eating good food is important so they’ll grow big and strong, and how it will help them run faster and play longer.

Children learn behaviors from their parents. If you restrict yourself to a narrow range of foods, your child will take notice and mimic your caution. Don’t limit your child’s food variety to only those foods you prefer. It may be that your child’s tastes are different to yours, and perhaps you are simply serving them foods they don’t happen to like. Try to set a good example and try a variety of foods in front of your child. It could motivate them to do the same.

eatingIf your child seems healthy and energetic, then they are eating enough. If you are still concerned, keep an eye on how much food they actually eat over the day. Children tend to graze constantly, rather than restrict their eating to three meals per day like adults. You may be surprised how those little handfuls and snacks add up. For further reassurance, check your child’s growth and weight charts, or check with your child’s paediatrician.Try not to worry, and remember, that unless a child is ill, they will eat. Children are very good at judging their hunger and fullness signals. Try to stay relaxed about mealtime and offer your child a wide variety of foods, and most importantly, remember to set a good example by trying a wide variety of foods yourself. You may discover you and your toddler share a new found favorite food!

Health Needs and Kindergarten

One of the fears parents often have of sending their children off to kindergarten is the exposure to a public place where the protection of the home is no longer possible.  It is true that when your child goes to school with other children, the opportunities for illness and contamination are much more frequent.  But the value of being in school with others and the social and educational value mean that we as parents must prepare our children to begin to spend time in a public place and that we do all we can to help them stay healthy and safe each and every day.Part of preparing your child to stay healthy even in a public venue like kindergarten is to enlist the aid of your child’s paediatrician.  She can make sure your kiddo is up to date on shots and that any vulnerabilities are well known.  A good check up and getting all necessary shots before school starts will insure your child’s immune system is well equipped to deal with the additional exposure to germ

hygineBut you can also teach your child good hygiene habits at home and engrain them in her lifestyle so they will stick with her even when she is at kindergarten and she doesn’t have you there to protect her.  This includes good bathroom habits, an obsession with washing her hands as often as possible, being aware of others who are sniffing and who may not be taking good care of themselves to avoid contamination and using good table habits so the foods your child eats are clean and safe for consumption at lunch.
Good lifestyle habits at home will benefit the child at school as well.  This includes a well developed schedule of getting at least eight hours of sleep each day and a regular diet of all the major food groups, particularly fruits and vegetables as these foods will give your child’s body the defences it will need to ward off illness if there is an exposure to germs.

Good dietary habits will be something that is taught as well as enforced at home.  You can send your child a lunch to assure that at least she is taking the right kinds of foods.  But the best defence is to make sure your child is aware of her own nutritional needs as it pertains to resisting illness so she also eats well when getting food from the cafeteria and stays healthy and regular every day.You don’t want to send your child to school paranoid or afraid of other people.  But some simple rules of how to interact with others in a way that is social but not risky should be part of your training as you raise the child.  Just as you know not to eat after someone else using the same utensil, not to eat anything that has been on the floor or not to eat anything that you don’t know the origin of, these are basic health rules that children may not know if they are not taught.  So be a conscientious parent and equip your child to avoid hazardous hygienic situations.  Even if they are innocent dangers, they are dangers none the less.The health preparations for kindergarten includes things parents can control at home such as check ups, getting good sleep and nutrition and gong to school healthy and clean.  But they also include things you teach your child so she can keep herself safe and healthy even in the middle of a large group of other kids.  By giving her these skills from the first day of school going forward, you are doing your job as good parents to assure she is ready for school each and every day from kindergarten all the way through to college graduation.

Positive Discipline without Hurting your Child

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Children always seem to find a way to ‘push our buttons’ at times and really try our patience. It’s easy to feel irritated, sad, angry, annoyed, confused and hurt. It’s at these times when our parenting skills are really tested, and that it’s imperative we maintain a kind but firm stance when it comes to doling out the discipline. And let’s face it – none of us ever want to hurt our child with physical or verbal abuse. We want to teach our child that such things are wrong, and punishing a misdeed or inappropriate action by yelling or hitting is hypocritical at best.

Our goal when disciplining our children is to teach them to be responsible, cooperative, kind and respectful. The best way to teach this is to always remain consistent, follow through with the same punishment for the same misdeed, and to discuss the discipline with your child openly and honestly afterwards.

Always keep in mind that the age, maturity level, and temperament of your child should always be considered when enforcing a set disciplinary action. Disciplinary actions should be discussed and understood in advance so that children know what they have coming when they’ve misbehaved and can give pause and hopefully choose an appropriate route to avoid it. And most importantly, remember that it’s not the child you dislike; it’s his or her chosen behavior, action or misdeed. If you need to, give yourself a brief ‘time out’ before responding with appropriate discipline. Sometimes we need a short cooling off period before dealing with our children’s misdeeds in order to avoid a misdeed of our own. Yelling and hitting should never be an option. Keep an open mind as a parent, and be willing to learn with and from your child. We all make mistakes and it’s important to realize that not every form of discipline works with every child. Children are just as unique as adults are, and forms of discipline should be tailored to fit the individual needs of both parent and child. But with a little forethought, patience, firmness, love and understanding, the discipline can have a positive outcome for all involved.

Learn from your mistakes and so will your child

learn from your mistakesEveryone makes mistakes. Granted, some mistakes are more significant than others and harder to get over, but they are a part of life. How individuals deal with those mistakes is significant to their self-esteem. Children who are taught from an early age to admit to their mistakes understand that it’s not a crime to make one, and they seem to have the ability to cope much better with them. They recognize that a mistake was made and admit the error. Most importantly, these children also develop a strategy to change the mistake and not do the same thing again.

The process of making and learning from mistakes is an extremely valuable life skill for everyone because learning involves risking. Every time children risk, they will not always succeed. But they tried something new and most likely learned from it as a result. Children with low self-esteem deal with making a mistake quite differently. More often than not, these children use the experience to devalue themselves. Instead of looking at the error as an opportunity to learn, these children interpret the experience as a reason to quit and never try again. They view it as a devaluing and humiliating experience. You can help your child cope with mistakes by first making sure they understand that everyone makes mistakes, even you.

Own up to your own mistakes to teach them there’s no shame in making them. Make sure they understand that it’s okay to make mistakes. This presents a great opportunity to tell your child what you’ve learned to do differently the next time. Then, offer strategies to turn mistakes into learning opportunities. In the process, you can provide your child with an opportunity to enhance their self-esteem and accept responsibility for the mistakes they make. Help your child to realize that the mistake is the problem, and not them. Then help them develop a positive plan for the next time around, and what they’ll do differently the next time to avoid making the same mistake again.

You can’t spoil a child through love

loving your kidsThough we all worry about spoiling our child, rest assured that you cannot spoil your child with love. Love doesn’t spoil children. Love is imperative to a child’s healthy development, and it’s just not possible to love your child too much. They need caring adults to spend time with them, play with them, teach them, protect them, and enjoy life with them. It’s a parent’s job to provide love, safety and encouragement. The process of growing up provides children with lots of challenges.Try to listen openly and understand their situation and communicate honestly with them when they have difficulties and letdowns in their life. Set appropriate limits with your child and then adhere to them. Establishing limits with your child gives them a sense of safety and security. Sometimes parents do not set limits because they don’t want to fight with their children. They don’t want to cause bad feelings. They may beg a child to comply. Or they may make a rule and fail to enforce it. They may nag without ever enforcing the rules. None of these helps children. When your child fails to adhere or comply with the boundaries you’ve set for them, be firm yet kind in your response.

This lets them know that you’re serious about the rule but dedicated to helping and loving them. Bear in mind though that each child is different and what works for one child may not work for another. For example, one child may respond well to the direct approach of telling them a specific time to be home, where another child may need a gentle reminder that it’s now time to come home. Develop a firm but kind manner of making and enforcing your household’s rules and expectations. There’s no need to fear our children, and there should be no need to instill a sense of fear in our children in order to get them to comply.

When in Doubt, Go Shopping

kindergarten 4For some reason in our culture, one of the best ways to create excitement and fun around an upcoming event is to go shopping. And when it comes to getting your son or daughter ready for kindergarten, it seems natural that there are going to have to be at least one or two fun outings to the mall to get ready for the big day.We tend to think of mom and daughter as the ones who will get a big kick out of shopping. But if you have a little boy who is a bit giddy about that first day at kindergarten, that shopping trip can turn the first day in school into the equivalent as the fall version of Christmas. That is because the one universal things kids love to do is spend their parent’s money and find ways to get things bought for them. And if the entire purpose of the trip is to buy things for the child, even if it is just clothes and school supplies, the fun of going to the store and making those choices adds to the electricity of the coming of that first day to go to school.

kindergarten 2While it is up to mom and dad to keep some balance and common sense to this big shopping trip, it’s a nice time to include the kiddo so that he or she can have the fun of picking out the new things that will be needed the first day at kindergarten. While it might be tempting to go out and buy everything for the child and spring them on her the night before school, you can get so much more mileage in terms of excitement and anticipation about going to school by taking the child with you to pick out everything from that new dress to the color of the pencils and the type of backpack she will use.

This will be the first of many shopping trips in preparation for school and you will immediately be faced with many decisions when it comes to clothing. Naturally as a parent, you want practical clothes that are very durable and maybe a bit too big so the child can grow into them. Your child, however, may have very different opinions about what to buy. While you would not think that a five year old would have a sense of fashion, when you hit the stores you will find that there are a lot of designs built around popular children’s show characters that will draw your child’s attention.

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It might be good to have a little talk with the child about spending limits and that mom or dad have the final say in what is bought. But be a bit flexible and let your child have some fun clothes. Not only will it help him or her fit in at school which helps with overcoming that sense of alienation and loneliness, it will create excitement and enthusiasm about going. Wouldn’t you far rather see your child spring out of bed full of excitement about going to that first day at kindergarten because she is going to be able to wear her new dress or he will get to show off his Spongebob backpack? Its not bribery if you are just using the purchase of things they already have to have to help them get more excited about going to school and to get them off on the right foot.

You can use the event of shopping to build anticipation for that first day by going on more than one trip. You can have mom go one day and get the clothes and then dad go out another and get the backpack. Additional trips might include and outing to get school supplies or even letting the little one go to the grocery store to have a say in what goes into lunch each day. The more they can participate, the more fun it will be and the more ownership your child will have over this exciting first day at school. And if that ownership translates into success, that is what everybody wants.