What should be required above all in examinations for teachers

Those who wish to become teachers to-day are examined as to what they know, but what does this prove? As a rule only that the candidate has for the time of the examination, hammered into his head something which — if he is at all suited for that particular subject — he has been able to gather from many books, day after day acquiring what it is not in the least necessary to acquire in that way.

What should be required above all in such examinations is to ascertain whether the candidate has the heart, mind and temperament for gradually establishing a relationship between himself and the children. Examination should not test the candidate’s knowledge, but ascertain his power, and whether he is sufficiently a ‘man.’

To make such demands to-day would, I know, simply mean for the present time one of two things. Either it would be said that anyone who demands such tests is quite crazy, such a man does not live in the world of reality; or if reluctant to give such an answer, they would say: ‘Something of the kind does take place, we all want that.’ People suppose that results come about from this training, because they only understand the subject in so far as they bring their consideration to bear upon it.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 181 – Earthly Death and Cosmic Life: Lecture 7: Confidence in Life and Rejuvenation of the Soul: A Bridge to the Dead – Berlin, 26th March, 1918

Translated by Harry Collison

from Susan

Deep imaginative play is protected at Little Quail School.

Evidence for slowing down the academic push in the following article.

We’re Doing Preschool All Wrong, Says New Book

And it could harm an entire generation of kids.

 02/11/2016 03:11 pm ET

FLORESCO PRODUCTIONS VIA GETTY IMAGES
Kids need more time for free play in preschool, argues childhood development specialist Erika Christakis.

Disappearing are the days when preschools were havens for free play and make believe. They’re now factories for rote memorization and dry instruction, argues author Erika Christakis in her new book. This approach could harm an entire generation of kids, she says.

Christakis is a childhood development specialist at Yale University who made headlines last year for a controversial email she wrote defending students’ right to wear inappropriate or offensive Halloween costumes. In her book, The Importance of Being Little: What Preschoolers Really Need From Grownups, she argues that preschools are no longer giving children enough room to play, leading them to become less inquisitive, curious thinkers — qualities they need to become successful adults.

“Why, when kids are so programmed to learn, are they having trouble?” Christakis asked in an interview with The Huffington Post. “We know they’re having trouble because we have an actual epidemic of preschool expulsions, kids are being medicated off-label as early as 2 or 3 [years old] with attention management drugs, and also we have more anecdotal evidence that parents are very frustrated.”

So what’s the reason for this shift in preschool pedagogy? One culprit is the accountability movement in K-12 education, which started in the early 2000s with the No Child Left Behind Act (which was recently replaced with another major national education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act). The Bush-era law emphasized standardized tests and consequences for poor scores. But as K-12 schools began to focus on test-based, measurable skills, preschools were also affected.

Over the years, preschool has become more focused on academics, but not necessarily more effective in nurturing a child’s cognitive development.

“An academic focus is not necessarily a cognitively rich focus,” Christakis said. “What you lose in a preschool environment with those kinds of expectations is things like open-ended free play, [which] can be squeezed in favor of more narrowly targeted skills like alphabet awareness.”

“We know that speaking, listening and talking through play, that is really heavily linked to strong academic and social emotional outcomes later in life” she added.

Unfortunately, low-income children in need of stimulating early childhood environments are suffering the most. Those fortunate enough to attend preschools, publicly funded or otherwise, are more likely to end up in preschool classrooms with less play and more scripted direct instruction, Christakis said.

Though politicians on both sides of the aisle have been trying to expand preschool availability, she argued, access is not merely enough. Going to preschool alone will hardly improve a child’s long-term prospects if it is not high-quality preschool.

One of many solutions to this problem would be to pay preschool teachers more. A recent report from the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment found that preschool teachers only make $6 an hour more than fast-food workers.

“There’s abundant evidence that salary is a very big predictor of quality,” said Christakis. “Its harder ... to be a warm and empathic and developmentally appropriate teacher if you’re poorly paid.”

 

article from :

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/preschool-and-play-erika-christakis_us_56bcb83ae4b0b40245c58953?

 

 

 

 

 

Hope for the Hypersensitive Child

Last week, eight rambunctious first-graders were dropped off at our apartment for my son’s birthday party, and I was the only adult in the room. Not so long ago, I wouldn’t have felt comfortable even if I’d had other grown-up support. As I’ve written before, birthday celebrations often overwhelmed my tender little guy. But he’s changed so much in the past year that I decided to give it a go, even sans my business-traveling wife—and I’m very glad I did. Watching him chat with his friends about Pixar movies, play a game of telephone through a mouth stuffed with pizza, and have a relatively controlled pillow fight in the final few minutes before pick-up proved how far Felix has come in his social and psychological development.

My son’s hypersensitivity and social anxiety, traits that many quiet children exhibit, have been part of his personality since day one. As a baby, he never wanted to detach from me and my wife even while sleeping; this continued into his toddler years and beyond. From those earliest days tottering around the playground in diapers to a daddy-son dance class to a part-time preschool program, Felix faced challenges socializing with his peers and participating in group activities without becoming agitated. Normally a highly verbal child, in situations like these, he ended up retreating into a nonverbal frenetic state, expressing himself physically and sometimes hurting others.

We were fortunate enough to be able to survive on my wife’s income with only supplemental money from my freelance work, and we decided as a family that I would stay home with him every day rather than try more preschool programs. So when Felix was three, he and I retreated into our own world, avoiding classes, playdates, and outings altogether. But when he turned four, my wife and I felt the time had come to try school once more. It again didn’t go well.

On the advice of his teachers, we sought a professional behavioral assessment. It revealed that Felix was very bright and creative as well as full of anxieties and special sensory needs—but not to the extent of receiving a clinical diagnosis. As parents, we often label our kids in order to quickly communicate a thumbnail of our experience with other moms and dads. “She’s a picky eater,” we might say. Or simply, “terrible twos.” Felix’s emotional development resisted such classification. His issues were clearly not the norm, but we didn’t have an easy answer for why he acted the way he did. We struggled to communicate to family and friends just what was going on because he didn’t fit into any category. This was tough on everyone.

Now, at seven, he’s a very different kid. He connects with other children over toys and books such as Harry Potter. He participates in organized games of tag and is comfortable enough to crack jokes and play pretend. He can function in a classroom. In fact, he’s quite popular among the adults in his school—even those who don’t work with him directly greet him by name and with warm smiles. In part, his transformation has come about with age and maturity, but it’s also the result of a deep, intentional effort on the part of many grown-ups in his life to help him understand his sensitive introvert nature and control the anxieties he experiences in day-to-day life.

Here’s what we did to effect positive change:

My wife and I sought professional help and found a school that supported him.

Following his assessment in Pre-K, we advocated with the Department of Education (DOE) for a special education teacher to join Felix for several hours every week. Later, in kindergarten, Felix had two teachers. One was certified in special ed, and the other worked with Felix one on one to help him navigate interactions with his peers. His helper also took him on walks and did recharging exercises with him when Felix became overstimulated or needed a release from his seat.

In addition, Felix saw an occupational therapist twice a week to work on self-soothing activities such as meditative breathing and stretching. Plus, he belonged to a peer group of other boys, whom he met once a week for discussions about feelings and behavior. Learning about himself and how his behavior affects others has been a core part of his education for three years now.

Living in our part of New York City makes us very lucky: DOE provides resources for students like Felix (although you must know to ask for them). Everything, from the assessment facility to the DOE offices to a good school, is within walking distance of our apartment. My ability to make midday meetings, and even the fact that I pick him up from school each day, makes it easy to communicate with the school staff and administration. We have built a partnership with the school, and we always feel seen and heard.

I recognize that a lot of our advocacy has been effective because of the privilege granted to a two-parent, hetero-normative, educated white family. Even the fact that Felix’s primary caregiver is male may work to his advantage in the system. So a combination of factors are at play here: we’ve been proactive in seeking help, but we’re also fortunate that our requests for assistance have mostly been met and that the school supports Felix as much as we do at home. I wish these resources and ability to advocate successfully were equitably available to all families with little boys like Felix.

We discussed feelings, a lot.

For children, one of the most challenging aspects of dealing with sadness, nervousness, fear, or anger is that they lack a vocabulary to communicate their emotions. They’re also not always able to determine exactly what they’re feeling, which makes the sensations that much bigger. My wife and I often talked about our interior states with Felix and tried as much as possible to use “I” instead of “you” statements. For example, we’d say, “I’m frustrated that I’ve had to tell you three times to clear the table for dinner.” When reading, we stopped to ask him what he thought the characters in the book were feeling and why. We modeled a vocabulary for describing the invisible world of thoughts and emotions.

Again, we also sought outside help for this. Felix saw a play therapist every week, who engaged Felix in games designed to strengthen his empathy, help him control his nervousness, and communicate what’s on his mind. On our fridge hangs a figure that Felix colored, mapping his feelings to his body. Anger, for example, lives in his hands. Fear in his throat. Excitement in his belly. This helped him understand the mind-body connection and enabled him to put words to what was going on inside of him instead of expressing it physically.

I developed a support system for myself too.

For the past two years, I’ve seen a therapist a couple of times a month, one who has experience working with kids like Felix. He advised me on parenting strategies and helped me deal with frustrations in my relationship with my son. He also provided encouragement whenever I felt despondent about Felix’s slow and atypical development. My wife and I are both open to mental health treatment, and I’m grateful we’ve supported each other in this regard.

I took less expensive steps as well, relying on friends, some with kids and some without, with whom I had one-on-ones about my parenting worries, hopes, and accomplishments. But I also sometimes needed to not talk about any of this and instead be an adult who wasn’t defined by parenthood.

In addition, I’ve tried as much as possible to keep exercise a part of my life. My support network has lightened (and enlightened) me, which has been important for me as well as for Felix. I need to be calm in order for him to be calm; if I’m my best self, I can encourage him to be his best self too.

I modeled how to accept and rebound from social anxieties.

I shared stories with him of when I was a child and experienced social and performance anxiety, so he knew that he was not alone—I’ve faced similar challenges and gotten a handle on them. I put them into the present tense too, describing a part of me that still feels nervous going to parties or being on stage but also letting him know that it doesn’t prevent me from doing, and eventually enjoying, those things.

For example, every week when we walk up the steps to his swim class, Felix tells me how his stomach bubbles with trepidation. I tell him how I used to feel the same way before swimming too. We remember how he always has fun once he’s in the water, and that after that first plunge, he’ll feel better. One day, he wants to feel as relaxed in the water as I do, and I remind him that he will. It’s become part of our routine before swimming, one from which he seems to draw strength.

We never stopped loving, being positive, and celebrating every small achievement. 

This has been the hardest and most important aspect of our relationship with Felix. I tried never to say things like “what is wrong with you?” or compare my son to other children. Instead, I focused on what a wonderful, compassionate, and fun-loving little light of joy he is and tried to nurture that spark. We reviewed situations that didn’t go as either of us would have liked—times when he lost his temper with a friend or became so clingy that he unintentionally hurt me or his mom—and imagined aloud what other actions could have been taken or words said which might have produced a different, more positive outcome. “Now you know for next time,” I’d tell him.

This isn’t to imply that I didn’t sometimes express displeasure at his decisions or feel disappointed when I witnessed his nervousness get the better of him. I did, and I do. But I tried to keep in my mind—and his—the fact that we are temporal creatures, growing over time. “Look how far you’ve come,” I’d tell him. “You’re going to keep changing your whole life. That’s what life is: we’re always moving and learning new things about the world and ourselves in it.”

I believe this with all my heart. Even just a year ago, Felix wouldn’t have been able to successfully navigate a birthday party with his peers. He wouldn’t even have known whom to invite, his concept of friendship was still so nascent. Today, he’s thriving socially, in part by mastering his anxiety and in part by just going with it, knowing that nervousness isn’t a permanent condition or necessarily a negative one. This gives me strength and hope too as I continue to learn about my own nature by nurturing his.

And so, even though it was his birthday, I feel like my little boy is the one who’s given me a gift: the gift of providing him the parenting I wish I’d had as a sensitive, quiet child. In the process of helping him become a more confident, capable, and compassionate social being, I’m becoming a better one myself.

from: http://www.quietrev.com/hope-hypersensitive-child/

 

 

Parents and policy makers have become obsessed with getting young children to learn more, faster. But the picture of early learning that drives them is exactly the opposite of the one that emerges from developmental science.

In the last 30 years, the United States has completed its transformation to an information economy. Knowledge is as important in the 21st century as capital was in the 19th, or land in the 18th. In the same 30 years, scientists have discovered that even very young children learn more than we once thought possible. Put those together and our preoccupation with making children learn is no surprise.

The trouble is that most people think learning is the sort of thing we do in school, and that parents should act like teachers — they should direct special lessons at children to produce particular kinds of knowledge or skill, with the help of how-to books and “parenting” apps. Studies prove that high-quality preschool helps children thrive. But policy makers and educators are still under pressure to justify their investments in early childhood education. They’ve reacted by replacing pretend corners and playground time with “school readiness” tests.

But in fact, schools are a very recent invention. Young children were learning thousands of years before we had ever even thought of schools. Children in foraging cultures learned by watching what the people around them did every day, and by playing with the tools they used. New studies show that even the youngest children’s brains are designed to learn from this simple observation and play in a remarkably sensitive way.

Young children today continue to learn best by watching the everyday things that grown-ups do, from cleaning the house to fixing a car. My grandson Augie, like most 4-year-olds, loves to watch me cook, and tries manfully to copy what I do. But how does he decide whether to just push the egg whites around the bowl, or to try to reproduce exactly the peculiar wristy beating action I learned from my own mother? How does he know that he should transfer the egg yolks to the flour bowl without accidentally dropping them in the whites, as Grandmom often does? How did he decide that green peas would be a good addition to a strawberry soufflé? (He was right, by the way.)

Experimental studies show that even the youngest children are naturally driven to imitate. Back in 1988, Andrew Meltzoff of the University of Washington did a study in which 14-month-olds saw an experimenter do something weird — she tapped her forehead on top of a box to make it light up. A week later, the babies came back to the lab and saw the box. Most of them immediately tried to tap their own foreheads on the box to make the light go on.

In 2002 Gyorgy Gergely, Harold Bekkering and Ildiko Kiraly did a different version of this study. Sometimes the experimenters’ arms were wrapped in a blanket when she tapped her forehead on the box. The babies seemed to figure out that when the experimenter’s arms were wrapped up, she couldn’t use her hands, and that must have been why she had used her head instead. So when it was the babies’ turn they took the easy route and tapped the box with their hands.

In 2013 David Buttelmann and his colleagues did yet another version. First, the babies heard the experimenter speak the same language they did or a different one. Then the experimenter tapped her head on the box. When she had spoken the same language, the babies were more likely to tap the box with their foreheads; when she spoke a different language they were more likely to use their hands.

In other words, babies don’t copy mindlessly — they take note of who you are and why you act.

Children will also use what they see to figure out intelligent new actions, like putting peas in a soufflé. For example, in our lab, Daphna Buchsbaum, some colleagues and I showed 4-year-olds a toy with lots of different handles and tabs. A grown-up said, “Hmm I wonder how this toy works” and performed nine complicated series of actions, like pulling one of the handles, shaking a tab and turning the toy over. Sometimes the toy played music and sometimes it didn’t.

The actions followed a pattern: Some of them were necessary to make the machine go and some were superfluous. For example, the children might see that the toy lit up only when the experimenter shook the tab and turned over the toy, no matter what else she did.

Then she asked the child to make the music play. The children analyzed the pattern of events, figured out which actions actually made the toy go, and immediately produced just those actions. They would just pull the tab and turn over the toy. They used their observations to create an intelligent new solution to the problem.

We take it for granted that young children “get into everything.” But new studies of “active learning” show that when children play with toys they are acting a lot like scientists doing experiments. Preschoolers prefer to play with the toys that will teach them the most, and they play with those toys in just the way that will give them the most information about how the world works.

In one recent experiment, for example, Aimee E. Stahl and Lisa Feigenson of Johns Hopkins showed 11-month-old babies a sort of magic trick. Either a ball appeared to pass through a solid wall, or a toy car appeared to roll off the end of a shelf and remain suspended in thin air. The babies apparently knew enough about everyday physics to be surprised by these strange events and paid a lot of attention to them.

Then the researchers gave the babies toys to play with. The babies who had seen the ball vanish through the wall banged it; those who’d seen the car hovering in thin air kept dropping it. It was as if they were testing to see if the ball really was solid, or if the toy car really did defy gravity.

It’s not just that young children don’t need to be taught in order to learn. In fact, studies show that explicit instruction, the sort of teaching that goes with school and “parenting,” can be limiting. When children think they are being taught, they are much more likely to simply reproduce what the adult does, instead of creating something new.

My lab tried a different version of the experiment with the complicated toy. This time, though, the experimenter acted like a teacher. She said, “I’m going to show you how my toy works,” instead of “I wonder how this toy works.” The children imitated exactly what she did, and didn’t come up with their own solutions.

The children seem to work out, quite rationally, that if a teacher shows them one particular way to do something, that must be the right technique, and there’s no point in trying something new. But as a result, the kind of teaching that comes with schools and “parenting” pushes children toward imitation and away from innovation.

There is a deep irony here. Parents and policy makers care about teaching because they recognize that learning is increasingly important in an information age. But the new information economy, as opposed to the older industrial one, demands more innovation and less imitation, more creativity and less conformity.

In fact, children’s naturally evolved learning techniques are better suited to that sort of challenge than the teaching methods of the past two centuries

New research tells us scientifically what most preschool teachers have always known intuitively. If we want to encourage learning, innovation and creativity we should love our young children, take care of them, talk to them, let them play and let them watch what we do as we go about our everyday lives.

We don’t have to make children learn, we just have to let them learn.

from Susan.....

That's right, protein before coffee in the morning, recommends medical doctor, Kelly Sutton.

Did you know a cup of oatmeal and one egg have about the same amount of protein? Good to know.

Breakfast: Homework for ParentsIMG_4200 (1)

Kelly Sutton MD   Raphael Medicine & Therapies (916) 671 1780
As difficult as it is to be a parent, especially with today’s financial burdens, I ask that you consider adding this to your list: Please make a protein-rich breakfast for your child(ren) every day. You will want to do this for yourselves, too, simply to feel your best, and meet daily responsibilities readily. 

The reasons are many.

A study shows that people who eat breakfast live longer. This simple act contributes to longevity independent of age, and diagnoses. Another study showed typists’ speed and accuracy at 4 pm depended on their breakfast protein intake, and it could not be made up at lunch. The book Circadian Prescription (author Sydney M. Baker MD) describes the physiology in play: we digest heavy foods (protein and fat) best before 3 or 4 pm, and protein after that creates mild toxins in the body. (Consider the big American supper !)

Breakfast protein stabilizes blood sugar for the entire day.

Many functions in the body are blood-sugar dependent, such as

— learning! (pretty important, for students, yes?)

— co-ordination (musicians, athletes, fewer playground accidents anyone?)

— mood! (adults and children need this steadiness)

— judgment (older children, parents, teachers — we adults ALL use this faculty!)

— appetite free of cravings! (without a stable blood sugar, we are subject to needing food in a rush, and we grab soda, candy, alcohol, cocaine — whatever our predilection.)

The old wisdom says: Have breakfast like a king (queen), lunch like a prince (princess), and supper like a pauper (bag lady).

Having money in the bank to spend makes sense, and putting food in our nutritional bank in the morning is even more important. Otherwise, we borrow from our organs all day long, perform sub-optimally all day, then re-pay with interest at suppertime. It is not surprising to see problems with weight gain, poor sleep, poor digestion, when there is no breakfast protein as a foundation for the day.

What foods are protein?   How much protein is right?

Strong protein foods are: Eggs (organic, free-range if you can), meat, fish, poultry, cheese including cottage cheese. A portion of four or five ounces of any of these starts the day right for most average size adults, and the amount can be less for children with smaller body size.

Weak proteins are: milk, yogurt, beans, nuts, seeds. These foods require larger volume (approximately three times) to obtain a comparable amount of protein.

To begin a new habit of eating breakfast protein, the first step is to have a LIGHT SUPPER, such as soup, salad, grain, fruit (NO protein, or very little). You will wake up hungry the next morning.

Secondly, give yourself (or your child) AN HOUR AND A HALF in the morning between waking up and having to leave the house. This time allows space for our vegetative* functions: time to have a bowel movement, see what the weather is and decide on clothes, and let appetite develop and prepare food and eat.

*The vegetative part of the human being is the unconscious part that provides the basis for all our accomplishments, whether we are students or executives. Give space for it, to have health for a long time.

Thirdly — and this applies to adults only, I hope — no coffee before you eat. Have breakfast protein first and THEN have coffee. Coffee kills appetite, and we need our appetite in the morning.

Please don’t take my word for this. Try it yourself for two weeks, and be a good observer. More than one patient has come back to me and said, “Doctor, the most important thing you told me was to eat protein at breakfast!”

I wish you excellent health, and happy children who are eager to learn and free and secure in their body movements!

 

 

 

I wanted to make sure I took a moment to address the subject of transitioning children into a structured group setting fairly early in their childhood. I respect family decisions about when to start, of course. However as an early childhood educator, I feel like it may be remiss not to write about what I know and see. 
 
I have found that the two-year-olds or two-&-a-half-year-olds have a much smoother time transitioning into a social setting than children three and older. I'm not totally sure why this seems to be the case but my best guess is that it has to do with the child's physical strength and that habits can be more stubborn by age 3. 
 
I feel that my job as a preschool teacher is primarily to teach socialization. The focus of preschool is not academic. It is about how to get along with others, sharing toys, impulse control, not hitting and appropriate voice. I have worked with children as young as 18 months to help them sit at the table, wait their turn to be served, not play with food or get up to go play during a meal. Sitting, waiting, and attending are all a part of preparation for later learning. We have many circle times for the same purpose. Children gather for stories, puppet shows, and activities. Circle time is a favorite time for Little Quails. We pretend to be on a train or on horses, learn colors and each other’s nameIMG_3775s to mention a few things we do. Not only in preparation for later learning but also to help children feel held. Structured activities help organize their little nervous systems before free play or playing alone or sitting for a snack or a craft. 
 
In the Waldorf early childhood curriculum rhythm is strongly emphasized. In preschool children also learn about follow instructions and do their part in meal preparation, activities, and clean-up. They also learn the life lesson that chores are a part of every day life. These activities are alternated with free play. This rhythm and predictability helps them feel safe and helps the day move smoothly. It is a known amongst all the unknowns! In the life of a busy little one their are so many instructions given to them that it is helpful for them to master their skills early, thereby reducing the instructions given, and freeing them up to do more learning. 
 
When a child is stubbornly going against the rhythm or is destructive (as is often the case as strength & exploration progress!), then it can be confusing for them to be met with many rules. And when the child is met with structure that is going "against" their impulses it is easier for the child to feel wrong or bad, which of course is NOT what we want as they develop a sense of self. I've found this to be the case especially for energetic young boys. In my opinion it is easier for children younger than 3-yrs-olds because they just seem to pick it up in the environment. 

Sweet song with fun hand gestures conjuring up beautiful imagery.

Popcorn Popping On the Apricot Tree

I looked out the window and what did I see?

Popcorn popping on the apricot tree.

Spring has brought me such a nice surprise.

Blossoms popping right before my eyes.

I can take an armful and make a treat

a popcorn ball that would smell so sweet.

It was really so but it seemed to me

popcorn popping on the apricot tree.

Next I will have to make a video for you to hear the tune and see the hand gestures. In the meantime it is up to your imagination.

Janet Lansbury, the author of the How to Calm an Angry Child, has a nice reasonable approach to discipline. Very much in alignment with Waldorf and Simplicity Parenting principles.

This article in particular is about a child expressing anger. Lansbury embellishes on these four items
1. Let go of the urge to calm.
2. Focus on staying calm.
3. Keep children safe by containing anger-fueled behavior while accepting and acknowledging the feelings.
4. Hold steady and let the storm pass.

I have a copy of this book if you would like to barrow it let me know. Also the author has an ebook.

How to Calm an Angry Child

Anger is an emotion we can all relate to, but it can be incredibly hard for us to allow our children to express it. They need to. If kids can’t share their anger, it doesn’t cease to exist. It festers, usually causing more frequent and intense flare-ups, discharged in bursts of impulsive limit-pushing behavior. It is also likely that unexpressed emotions like anger may be stockpiled and distilled into chronic anxiety or depression.
We can know all those things intellectually, yet calmly accepting our children’s anger isn’t intuitive. In a flash, their angry outbursts might trigger our own (How dare you behave that way after all I do for you!); or make us afraid or guilty and compelled to say or do whatever it takes to douse their flames (“Please stop. Calm down, Sweetie. Here, let me hug you and make this all better!”).

The truth is that our young children don’t yet have the brain maturity to control their intense feelings, so attempting to enforce self-control or self-censorship (particularly when we’ve lost composure ourselves) only teaches kids that their feelings aren’t safe or acceptable and must be hidden away. Of course, this is the opposite of what we want them to learn. Our children are truly calmed when self-control is modeled by us and they receive the consistent message that their feelings are safe for them to experience and share with those who love them. We make that possible when we:

  1. Let go of our urge to calm. 

Just let kids be angry. Comforting words and cajoling — even hugs that stem from our own discomfort or impatience — will have the unintended effect of telegraphing our lack of acceptance. And it is difficult at best for children to feel safe or comfortable when their parents are not.  If we consider the flip-side, most of us would really rather not be wrapped in an unsolicited embrace when we are truly angry.  It’s an interpersonal non-sequitur, and it can feel dismissive rather than empathetic, perhaps even patronizing.  Instead…

         2. Focus on staying calm.

Breathe. Re-center or reset using calming imagery (like a hero suit). Practice visualizing angry feelings and behaviors as the symptoms of an out-of-herself child needing our support as she lets off steam (rather than an unruly brat).

         3. Keep children safe by containing anger-fueled behavior while accepting and acknowledging the feelings.

We acknowledge what we see in an open, encouraging manner: “You didn’t like it when I said you couldn’t ___. I hear that! You feel like hitting and throwing things. I’m here to stop you” (blocking hits or holding the flailing child’s wrists as needed, calmly moving unsafe objects the child might be heading toward, etc.). Whenever possible, refrain from over-restraining (which, like hugging, can make children even angrier). We do the least amount possible to keep the situation under control so as not to add any of our own energy to the situation.

          4. Hold steady and let the storm pass.

This isn’t the time to analyze, re-state our case, or otherwise attempt to “reason” children out of their emotions. Emotions are beyond reason. When in doubt, it’s best if we say nothing and just accept with a nod of the head.

Besides hero suit imagery for helping us to hold steady, I’ve suggested picturing ourselves as an anchor in a stormy sea. Recently, another, more relatable analogy occurred to me… a windstorm.

The windstorm image came to life for me recently during a morning jog on a nearby beach. There’d been a violent storm the night before and it was still blustery. This was a breeze when I was jogging with the wind at my back, but going the other way was, naturally, far more challenging. Some gusts were so powerful that even with my best efforts to push on, I could only make incremental progress. I was practically jogging in place.

Wind-whipped sand stung my face, and there were several times a blast forced me to the side, and I had to pause, reset, and get myself back on track. I imagined these moments as similar to a raging child connecting a hit or kick that isn’t blocked or caught in time. We’re forced off-balance and have to collect ourselves and re-center. Lashing back angrily at this irrational, emotionally fueled force of nature would be as pointless as hollering at a windstorm.

Then, as if on cue, I was presented with a real life example of a healthy response to anger.

I had finally completed my run and was walking the rest of the way to my car when I saw something that made my heart sink. A sea lion pup lay motionless where the parking lot met the sand, apparently having made it the entire way across the beach before it died. (Sightings of dead and near dead seal and sea lion pups have been a depressingly common occurrence on West Coast beaches these past few years, particularly after a storm.)

A rescue worker from the California Wildlife Center had just parked her vehicle and was approaching the pup from the rear, towel in hand (to cover and remove it, I assumed). Suddenly, it raised its head, and with a ferocious roar turned to bite her. I screeched and jumped. The young rescuer didn’t even flinch. Lifting the pup calmly and adeptly, she shot me a gentle smile as I sheepishly explained, “Sorry… I thought it was dead!” And then, “Thank you for all you do. You’re amazing!” Moved by her capable, unflappable handling of the wounded sea lion and thrilled that it might be saved, I choked back tears. She knew something I want to always remember… Beneath most displays of anger and aggression are pain and fear.

We can do this.

For more encouragement to let anger be, and an example of how this approach “looks” with a toddler, here’s a success story that Hsiao-Ling shared in a respectful parenting Facebook group about the toddler she cares for (who has been adjusting to the recent birth of her baby sister):

I don’t think I could be as calm as I was with E this morning (particularly with all the other parents and kids in the room) without Magda (Gerber), Lisa (Sunbury), and Janet’s teachings. All I heard in my head was, “You are so mad, and I will let your feeling be.”

We were at an indoor park. E climbed up to the play kitchen counter. She has never done that before. I walked slowly to her and said, “E, I saw you climbing up here. This area is not available for climbing. You can come down by yourself, or I can help you to get down.” She said no and attempted to stand up. I acknowledged, “I see you really want to stay up here, but this area is not available to climb and stand. I will pick you up now.”

As I put her down, she screamed no, picked up a toy and threw it. I said, “You are mad, but I can’t let you throw.” She backed away from me and picked up a basket. I held down the basket and said, “I won’t let you throw.”

She let go of the basket and ran toward another basket. I blocked her way and contained her with my arms and legs without holding her (there were other children in the kitchen area). She pushed, cried, kicked, and said, “Go!”

I responded, “You want me to go,” so I slowly withdrew my arms and legs. But then she ran to a stop sign, picked it up, and threw it on the ground. I acknowledged, “It looks like you are still mad.” She ran back to the kitchen area. I didn’t want to take any chance of her throwing toys and hurt other children, so I decided to pick her up and said, “E, I can’t let you go to the kitchen area when you want to throw. I am going to pick you up, and we are going to go over there (walking). You are safe here, and you can be as mad as you want.”

We stayed in the corner. She screamed, pushed, kicked and cried while I contained her. I didn’t say much other than acknowledging she was mad. As she calmed down, I asked, “Are you ready to play?” All of a sudden, she burst into laughter, and said “Yea. Ready to play.”

She ran to a cart, pushed it up to the ramp, sat, and slid down as if nothing had happened!!

I know I am not perfect, but I was grateful for the opportunity to practice being a safe container for E’s feelings.

I share more about emotional health in my books

Elevating Child Care: A Guide to Respectful Parenting and

No Bad Kids: Toddler Discipline Without Shame

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from Susan 

Here is something new parent will be intrigued with, Dr. Kevin Nugent's book, 

 

Your Baby is Speaking to You: A visual Guide to the Amazing Behaviors of Your Newborn and Growing Baby. The link is to Dr. Nugent's website to check him out. You will find other parent resources as well. 

“No other book so beautifully captures and decodes the way babies ‘speak’ to us. A new parent classic”

T. Berry Brazelton, M.D.