Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Gun Violence and Children--What is a parent to do?

As a preschool teacher, and as a mother, I find myself worried about the violence in our society. Often, I feel a sense of powerlessness when I hear about shootings that are happening with alarming frequency in my city/state/country.  I wonder why we are such a gun crazed society that willingly accepts the licensing of our drivers, but radically fights the licensing of our gun owners, requiring gun safety instruction and mental health background checks, and regulating gun sales.  Isn't owning a gun just as much of a responsibility as driving a car?  But I am not a politician.  I am not a powerful lobbyist.  I am not a well connected political insider.  I am just a mom, and a preschool teacher.  So I have decided that there is something I can do.

I can choose to not allow any type of violence in my home or classroom.  I can choose to teach my children and students that violence is never the right answer.  I can choose to not spank my children-- because spanking is using violent means to control another person's behavior.  I can stop my students from playing pretend games of shooting and throwing bombs, and rather encourage them to create things with blocks, paint pictures with their little hands, put on dress up clothes and pretend they are a mommy or firefighter or chef in the kitchen.  I can speak with other parents about the movies we show to our children, and the toys we buy for them.  Hopefully, I can make a difference by asking parents to examine their own homes and toy cabinets along with their attitudes about guns and violence.

Are you glorifying violence in your home?  Or are you teaching your little ones to think and create and dream and believe in a brighter future.  If our generation cannot figure these problems out, maybe our only hope is in our children.  So please raise them to believe that education and creativity and love for one another always trumps violence.  No matter what the toy companies want you to believe.

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Thursday, January 7, 2016

3 Parenting Lessons from a Preschool Teacher

My favorite week of the school year was this week!  It is the week after Winter break, and my preschoolers are so happy to be back in school.  It always is such a joy to welcome them back to the fun and security of our classroom.  But why are young children so thrilled to be back in the classroom?  It seems counterintuitive to think they would actually prefer a classroom to time at home to play with their own toys, and have the attention of their own parents and siblings. The reasons are clear to me after many years of teaching...and they are the secrets that parents can benefit from.  If parents take the time to understand these lessons, they can offer their children a happier childhood. Sounds like a pretty big promise, but from years of experience, I can guarantee these lessons are timeless and effective:

LESSON 1:  ROUTINES:  Children thrive on routines.  They understand them.  They feel confident when they understand things.  They feel secure and happy when they know what to expect.

PARENTING ACTION:  Give your child the benefit of following a routine at home.  A daily schedule offers your young child the same benefits that we see at preschool.  Children like to know what their day will look like, what they will be doing, who will be caring for them, where they will be going.  Often times, we parents drag little ones around from here to their and don't realize that they might want or need to know what the day will bring.

LESSON 2:  COMMUNICATION:  Children benefit from spoken language.  Everyday in our classroom, we spend our time talking and listening to our preschoolers.  We ask them questions and encourage them to verbally share their ideas.  We wait for them to "use their words" rather than respond to a pointed finger. We play games and have "show and tell" where they have to speak in front of their peers.  We celebrate them finding their voices--each at their own pace.  We offer them a safe environment for taking verbal chances.  No one will ignore or laugh at them when they speak. We are eager to communicate with them.

PARENTING ACTION:  The more conversations you have with them, the better--and conversations include listening to them speak back to you.  Research has clearly shown that children who converse with their parents beginning at an early age have higher vocabularies and over time perform better in school.  You are establishing important patterns for your children when you take the time to converse with them.

LESSON 3:  PLAYTIME:  Children need play.  It is their "work".  They learn from it.  They need time to imagine and create and experiment.  This week we had our sand table open and they flocked to it like bees to a garden.  They couldn't stay away.  Next week it might be blocks or the train table or legos.  In any case, they relish playtime.  They want to interact, and create, and enjoy time playing with others.  We have NO ELECTRONICS in our classroom--and they don't ever ask for anything related to online gaming.  They need real experiences...not screen time.

PARENTING ACTION:  Allow time for your children to play.  Dragging them from one activity to the next until they are exhausted is not enriching their lives as much as simple playtime.  They need time to play.  They need playdates with other children or cousins or neighborhood friends.  They need time to pretend and create and relax and imagine and dream.  They do not need more apps on your smart phone.  Value real experiences and steer away from virtual playthings.  Children need real interactions and real experiences.  There will be plenty of time for online experiences later.

Being a preschool teacher is such a joy.  I am so blessed to be able to share moments of happiness and learning with these precious little ones.  I hope that through my observations, you will be inspired to give your little one more of what he/she truly needs.

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