READ, READ, READ TO THEM – Update, July 29
We know you’ve heard it before but it’s worth repeating over and over again. Reading to children, even almost from birth is a very important part of their brain development and their later success. Of course, when they are infants, they won’t understand it but reading simple children’s stories to an infant while you are holding him close to you establishes his communication with the world and helps the vital process of bonding between parent and child.
Another recent word on the value of reading to children comes from Child Trends online, Jan. 2. It reiterates the fact that as the child grows into toddlerhood and the words and stories begin to acquire meaning, “young children who are regularly read to have a larger vocabulary,” higher levels of phonics and letter recognition, and better success at decoding words.” They also have a larger number of words in their vocabulary, and later, greater success in school.
Visits to the children’s section of your local library, going through books with him, and helping him to choose which ones he likes is an invaluable experience in the development of every child. But which ones may be the best for him at his age? Is there any guide to help you out?
Actually, you are probably the best judge as you go through the books lining the shelves of the children’s section. But there are some professional groups that can assist you. One of them is the Children’s Book Committee of the Bank Street (New York) College of Educaion. which each year publishes a list of the best children’s books of the year. They can be accessed on line by going to http://www.bankstreet.edu/center-childrens-literature/childrens-book-committee/.
Another source is the Long Island (New York) Pre-K Initiative which can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/LongIslandPreK/status/860470410705600512
Even when you are not reading to them, just telling children stories is important to their development as it improves their communications skills. If you just sit them on your lap and relate an event in your daily life in simple language it helps the child understand his world and make sense of his life. He may interact with you in his own way and that is the beginning of conversation. As Zero to Three points out, stories to a child helps his brain to organize, and “become a natural part of the way we teach and care for the very youngest children.”
THAT TERRIBLE MOMENT FOR PARENTS: A TODDLER’S TANTRUM
You’re in a playground and the weather’s getting chilly. You call your toddler over and try to put on her sweater. And suddenly, she goes into a kicking, screaming tantrum. Every parent has gone through it. It’s bad enough at home when it’s just you and her. It’s far worse and far more frustrating and embarrassing when it’s in public. What’s it all about and what can you do about it?
Basically, it’s coming because the child is discovering that she is separate from you and has a will of her own. But she doesn’t yet have the vocabulary to express herself in words so she acts it out in a way that’s frustrating for both you and her. There’s no easy solution. You are caught between an immediate necessity that requires a child’s compliance and the need to understand what is motivating her and act lovingly. In an online article by Rebecca Parlakian and Katy Kinsner, Zero to Three offers some possible ways to alleviate the situation although the authors acknowledge the answer isn’t really clear for dealing with the immediate situation.
Sometimes, “the best thing parents can do is simply be present with their child during difficult moments.” The parent should understand that the child is trying to communicate but that doesn’t mean giving in to the child. And as difficult as it is, the parent should resist reacting in kind with the same anger and frustration the child is displaying. Sometimes, if possible, a parent may help the child make some sense of her feelings. “I know how you feel, you don’t want that sweater but it’s getting cold and I want to make you feel comfortable. We can talk about it after you put it on.” More often than not, it doesn’t work but it’s worth a try. What’s most important to remember is that this is typical behavior for toddlers and that it is just a temporary stage that will disappear as the child grows and finds more appropriate ways to express herself. For the parent, it can also help her to grow more confident in handling child behavior and in setting reasonable limits in behavior that every child needs.
PROS AND CONS OF TIME-OUTS
In an article for Zero to Three online last year, Claire Lerner discusses the use of time-outs for children in light of some recent criticisms of the practice. Some critics have argued that instead of helping calm children, the time-out often has the opposite effect, causing the child to become more distressed and out-of-control. A child may feel that he has lost his relationship with his parent during the time-out and is being shamed for “being bad”, a factor that increases his emotional stress and makes it less likely that he will learn from it. This is particularly true in children under three years of age when a child still does not have the ability to reflect on his own actions. What is important in the time-out, Lerner emphasizes, is that the time-out should be done, not in a state of anger by the parent, but calmly and lovingly.
She offers a few tips:
(1) Create a safe space or “cozy corner” in the house where parent and child can go when they need a break. Talk to the child about it in advance so that it is not viewed as punishment but simply a place to quiet down and collect oneself. The parent can sometimes go there himself to show the child that the space is not threatening.
(2) Choose a realistic time limit that fits the child. You can use a timer set at, say 3 to 5 minutes, then go back and check. If the child is still upset but no linger out of control, the parent can comfort him – a nice long hug often does the trick – and encourage him to move on.
(3) Don’t expect the child, particularly if he is under 3 to reflect on his behavior – he is not yet capable of it. Just understand that he is in a quiet place where he can calm down.
(4) If a child is behaving inappropriately but is not harming himself or others, it can be very effective if, instead of a time-out, the parent ignores the behavior and simply distracts him. Perhaps you can be doing something and would love to have his help when he is calm and ready. Or pick up a favorite book and start reading it aloud. It tells him that you still love him and are ready to engage with him. Lerner calls this ignoring “the behavior but not the child.”