Beware of the Age of Rudeness

  • Written by Mauren Schmidt, M.Ed.
“Ever since Jill started first grade, she’s become louder, messier and not as kind as she was in kindergarten. I think her first grade classroom must be the reason she is the way she is,” said Jill’s mother, Paula.

Susan, a former kindergarten and first-grade teacher, smiled. “Paula, I hear this every year.  What’s happening with Jill is that she has entered a new stage of development — one that’s loud, messy and rude.  Jill sounds like a six year old, a perfect six year old.”

Yes, something different and mysterious begins to happen to our sweet and well-mannered five year olds.  They turn six, lose teeth, get taller and their hair loses its curl and becomes coarser and straighter. And their brain changes.

As physical changes occur in our children, we also see behavioral changes.  Children, who a few months before were content to eat what was served, wear the clothes in their closet and enjoy the activities available,  become less accommodating.  We begin to hear the phrases, “that’s boring,” “that’s babyish,” “that’s not fair” and “that’s yucky.” Then there is the question: “Why do I have to?”

Between the ages of six to 12 years, children are in a period of development where they are trying to become more independent of their family and close circle of friends.They are trying to “break out into society” and make themselves into social beings.

The child of this age has a strong desire “to go somewhere,” whereas younger children are happy to be home, and in fact might resist trips out of the house.  The older child wants to dress differently than younger children. The older child, in fact, is striving to push parents away as he or she develops independence within a group.

We shouldn’t be too quick to label a child discourteous or dirty.

These behaviors manifest themselves as independence grows, and can turn into rebellion if not allowed in some aspect of the child’s life. Children may want to change their names, style of dress, hairstyles and favorite colors.

At age six, one of my daughters went from shoulder length hair with a penchant for lavender party dresses and black patent leather shoes, to red and blue rugby shirts, corduroy pants and an over-the-ear haircut.  She also changed her name to Luke, in honor of Luke Skywalker.  It wasn’t hard to miss that she was not five any more.

During this six to12-year- old period of childhood, there are extremely powerful forces at work within the child.  It is a period of robust good health. The colds and ear infections of the previous six years are infrequent.   Growth is steady and good health gives strength to the mind.

The intellect of the child is most receptive to learning at this age. The ability to reason appears, and the use of imagination begins. A developing sense of morality emerges in the child, along with an awareness of good and evil. The child is also drawn to the enormous or the oddball.  At this age children love exploring the Guinness Book of World Records.  Hero worship is also part of this age child’s activities.

As you notice these changes in your six and seven year old, don’t panic. Your child is taking his or her first steps into a new world of independence, great intellectual growth and a developing a sense of right and wrong.

There is so much of the world and life for the six to12 year old to learn, experience and understand.

Impatience can be read as rudeness. At the next stage of development, during ages 12 to15, we’ll have an opportunity to reintroduce the grace and courtesy of social skills to a more receptive audience.

Enjoy the missing teeth, the new hair-dos, the different clothes, because these changes let you know that your child is navigating the path to adulthood.

Kindergarten: Readiness & developing literacy at home

  • Written by Karen Pettersen

When kindergarten teachers ask about what they like to see in a well prepared kindergartener, it’s not how many letters and numbers they know. It’s how do they conduct themselves in a classroom? Can they make friends?Resolve social conflict? Participate in a group setting? Can they follow directions and stay on task?

These are the basics for a good beginning to formal education. Preparation for classroom readiness is most likely to occur in a classroom format.  Enrolling your young child in a toddler group or preschool is your first step. There are many great programs to choose from.

To create interest in literacy at home, model reading and writing. Let them draw scribbles that look like writing such as having them add “their words” to a letter to grandma.  Even if they can’t write yet, if you have them mimic writing and then ask them what it says, they absorb the idea that you can communicate through writing. Reading in front of them and to them is the most powerful thing you can do.  Read good stories that capture their imagination and create a desire to read themselves. Play letter games:  “Your name starts with a J.  It looks like a fish hook. Let’s find Js while we’re driving, on menus, etc.”  Make it fun and don’t force it on children at this age.  A very young child who is forced to learn past their natural interest level learns to dislike learning and shuts down.

When do you worry about the kid who doesn’t like homework or writing?   First grade.  First grade is when study habits and work ethics need to be modeled and enforced. Good study habits take a long time to develop, and parents need to set the stage for their children’s success by being tuned into their child’s homework and study expectations at school.  Parents also need to follow up to make sure that children are meeting those expectations on a regular basis.

Assign times for your children to do their homework after school. Set up a place for them to work and make sure the TV is turned off.  Don’t schedule too many extra curricular activities that sabotage their time/energy/focus from completing their school work. Be available to help, but at all costs, don’t do it for them.

The curious truth about school success

  • Written by Erica Peterson, Campus Manager, Dartmoor School Woodinville

What makes a student successful? Ask Sophie von Stumm, a psychologist and researcher at the University of Edinburgh, and she’ll tell you that it’s not just a matter of IQ. In fact, her review of 200 studies of school success turned up a simple, yet commonly overlooked ingredient in the magic potion of academic success predictors: curiosity.

Stumm calls it having a “hungry mind.” “If you’re intellectually curious, you’ll go home, you’ll read the books. If you’re perceptually curious, you might go traveling to foreign countries and try different foods,” she notes in a press release for the Association for Psychological Science (Curiosity par.4). Either way, curiosity feeds the brain’s capacity to gather, organize and process new ideas and new experiences.

But what exactly is curiosity, and how do parents and educators harness this powerful force to help boost the success of the students who need it the most? Put simply, curiosity measures not how well students think, but how much they enjoy thinking and willingly engage in thinking tasks. In the studies reviewed by Stumm, curiosity was assessed with a common psychological measure called the Typical Intellectual Engagement Scale. This assessment has participants report how often they engage in activities that involve brain power, such as reading philosophy and news, enjoying art, or just thinking about life. Students who like these tasks tend to also participate in them frequently, and students who participate in thinking tasks develop their mental muscle.

Tragically, many students who would typically benefit from this powerful force for intellectual development lose their curiosity early on. For some students, repeated failures in school can cause burn-out; for others, too much homework causes intellectual activity to be associated with feelings of frustration.

For curiosity to exert its power, intellectual activity needs to be fun. That’s great news for parents and educators, who can help students to find the venues for intellectual exercise that are most appealing.

“Teachers have a great opportunity to inspire curiosity in their students, to make them engaged and independent learners. That is very important,” comments Stumm (Curiosity par. 6).

Too much screen time? Fun Activities to Stimulate Your Inactive Child.

  • Written by Margaret Bell, PT, DPT
Studies show that children who watch several hours of TV a day tend to have greater health risks than children who spend this time engaging in physical activity or non-screen time activities.  In today’s society we are surrounded by screens – television sets, smart phones, computers, iPods, portable video games – and the list continues to grow.  All of these gadgets are full of gripping and sometimes mindless entertainment that can keep us content for hours on end, no matter what our age.  With more and more time spent in front of the screen, we are also losing direct social contact time, which is necessary to build and refine social skills. Not all screen time is “bad.” A lot of what is offered is educational, helpful, a great way to explore our world and sometimes just pure fun.

While it is fine to include some screen time activities in your child’s day, it is also important for children to engage in non-screen activities to stimulate growth, learning and social skills, as well as to promote and teach healthy lifestyles. Try to add physical activity into your everyday routine where everyone stands up and moves.  Make sure you pick activities that your child enjoys, while also encouraging him or her to try new movements. You may even let your child help choose the activity from a list of 2 or 3 options.

Now that winter is here and we are spending less time outside, it becomes more difficult to stay physically active.  Below are some ideas of things to do indoors during the winter months to help your kids stay active:

1.    Make an obstacle course out of cushions, pillows, blankets, or yarn, and things to crawl over, walk or balance on, and jump over.

2.    Play balloon tennis or balloon volleyball.

3.    Have a crab-walk or bear-walk race.

4.    Make a hopscotch grid with tape on the floor.

5.    Set a timer for 1 minute, and see how many jumping jacks, sit-ups, hops on one foot, or heel raises (going up on tip-toe) you can do. Try to beat your number the next time.

6.    Go explore a Children’s Museum, Aquarium, or Science Center.

7.    Play charades.

8.    Play Simon Says.

9.    Put on music and dance!

Laziness: Fact or Fiction?

  • Written by Maren Schmidt, M.Ed.

“Idleness, indifference, irresponsibility are healthy responses to absurd work.”

—Frederick Herzberg

“Marjorie is lazy.  That’s all. You need to push her to get things done,” said Ms. Busch.

We were in a parent/teacher conference and I felt uncomfortable with the word “lazy” as a descriptor for five-year-old Marjorie.  Lazy seemed derogatory.

Marjorie’s teacher, Ms. Busch, had 25 years of experience to my five.  Marjorie’s parents nodded their heads and didn’t seem upset that they had a lazy child.  To me, the word “lazy” felt like a splinter under my fingernail. Lazy didn’t belong in a sentence about a five-year-old girl. I wanted to banish the word with its perception of character.

After the conference, I visited with Ms. Busch about her use of the term. As an observer in her classroom of three to five-year-olds, my questions were directed toward understanding classroom dynamics.

“When you use the word ‘lazy’ what do you mean?” I asked Ms. Busch.

“Lazy is someone who can do the work, but won’t.  They would rather visit with their friends, watch the clock, play outside, go to the bathroom 10 times a day, wander around the room, whatever, to get out of doing what they should be doing,” Ms. Busch said.

“What specific behaviors do you see in Marjorie that make you think she is lazy?” I asked.

“Marjorie,” Ms. Busch said with a gentle grin, “loves to talk. She gets some work out and looks busy, but she’s talking to her neighbors at the table. She never completes a task. When it’s clean up time, she heads straight to the bathroom and emerges when it’s time to go outside.  She cries and whines if I try to get her to complete a task.  Marjorie can do the work, but she won’t.  She is lazy.”

“Would you mind if I observed Marjorie for a couple of days and kept notes?” I asked.

Ms. Busch was right.  Marjorie talked all the time and seemed skilled at avoiding any kind of meaningful task that was age appropriate. Marjorie did spend time with the three year olds, showing them how to do puzzles, sweeping and dusting.  Marjorie “bossed” the four and five year olds around. She was busy all day long in everybody else’s business and avoided her own.

Observing children at work gives us insight into their character, their interests and possible obstacles to their development. After observing Marjorie for a day, I didn’t believe she was lazy. I saw Marjorie avoiding work that involved writing or lining up materials, such as math materials for counting or moveable letters for spelling, activities in which other five year olds were actively engaged. Marjorie’s choices for work were appropriate for three and four year olds.  Visiting with her neighbors covered up Marjorie’s careful watching of their actions.

By observing Marjorie, I saw her difficulty with fine motor tasks such as using a pencil and scissors or picking up small materials, such as single beads or puzzle pieces. She had difficulty cutting a straight line and putting objects back in order.  Marjorie’s “bossing” of four-year-olds was her translating into spoken language certain knowledge, such as numbers to one thousand.

Marjorie was hitting obstacles and had weak fine motor skills.  She needed to process information out loud to form clear long-term memories.  To overcome these difficulties and compensate for lack of skills, Marjorie talked, did “baby” work and avoided work with small materials.

After discussing my findings with Ms. Busch, we brainstormed for lessons for Marjorie that would assure her success by using larger materials, by building her fine motor control and by allowing for verbal processing.

Ms. Busch told me: ‘It’s like we were taught. It is the adult’s job to remove obstacles for the child.  I was focused on Marjorie’s being stuck on an obstacle instead of trying to figure out what that obstacle was and removing it.  Laziness is a sign that a child’s between a rock and a hard spot.”