Wednesday, July 18, 2012

How do I get my kids to be responsible?

Ms. Dorothy
I have been having trouble lately I started school this semester and it seems my children stopped doing all homework all chores all responsibilities. Can you help?
A Student and Mom


It sounds like your children are accustomed to having someone supporting them with homework and chores.  It is possible that the work routines in your home are built around your motivation and drive.  

Perhaps they have not internalized the importance you put on these activities, and are still looking for you to remind and require them to do their work.  

You may need to create a system to replace you in the work formula.  


Having a list or schedule of what needs to be done and when might help.  You can have the children check off each task as it is completed.  Another option might be to reward tasks done, and withhold a privilege for things left un-done. 


More impactful, however, would be to ignore the dishes in the sink, the laundry in the hall, or the homework left undone, and allow your children to experience the consequences for their choices.

This is  a challenging path because it requires you to live with the messy rooms, and face the teacher reports.  

It does, however, but the responsibility for getting these things done back on the boys.   

Making up a new schedule for homework might help as well.  If they will only work when you are there to supervise them,  make the last hour before bed time a homework hour.  It isn't the ideal "directly after school"  homework time you were accostomed to inforcing, but it may make getting something done more realistic.   

Then choose something you can live with, and ignore the fact that they haven't done it.   

Be sure to explain that you can't be in a kitchen full of dirty dishes, so you will be unable to cook dinner or make lunches for school.  They will live without a meal one night, and so will you.  Feel free to tell them how hungry you are while you work on homework.  I won't take more than one night of sleeping on an empty tummy before they are sure to get those dishes done.   

Just be sure that it doesn't become about you nagging, or cajoling, or bribing or convincing them.  It should simply be a lesson in cause and effect.  Because the dishes didn't get done, you can't cook and everyone will be hungry tonight.  The more matter-of-fact, the better.  When they want to beg, or convince you, simply change the subject.  They will catch on!

Monday, July 9, 2012

How do I tell little kids not to touch my chest?

Dear Ms. Dorothy, 
             How do I teach a child about personal space. I am working with my 7 month old nephew his 3 yr. old brother and 2 other children ages 4 and 6 yrs. the problem is not so much the baby however the older children all tend to want to know why I bounce and reach out to touch my breast. I have faith that you can help me with this personal space issue. 

Your Biggest Fan,
The Sitter

It is perfectly ok to talk to them about what you are comfortable with, and to explain that there are some parts of the body that people like to keep private and they aren't for touching. 

Because it is summer, you have a wonderful opportunity to show them lots of people in swimsuits and to point out that in most public places, unlike the privacy of our own home or bathroom, people keep some parts of their bodies covered. 

In different parts of the world there are different rules and different norms, but in the US, for the most part, we all keep those bathing suit parts private.  That means we don't stare at them, we don't try to touch them, and we don't let others touch us in those areas.  

That is how we keep the private parts of our bodies safe.  Some people cover different parts, but whatever someone chooses to cover when they wear a swim suit, is what they consider the most private, and that should be respected.  

It is a great opening for a conversation about personal space and even stranger danger. 

You can even put bathing suits on dolls and talk about it that way with the little ones. 

They should know specifically that it makes you uncomfortable, but also that if it makes you feel weird, it probably does the same to other people too, and you want them to learn to respect that space.  

Monday, July 2, 2012

Why is my child lying?


Dear Ms Dorothy 

My 6 yr old daughter has been lying to the boy next door and neither her father nor myself nor the little boy’s mother can understand why she is doing this. I had her sister 2 months ago and yet we haven't seen anything to show she is jealous. Even if that is the fact, why  should she take it out on a little boy that previously she would play fine with? Now it just seems that every time we parents turn around she is lying to one of us, and I just found out that she was lying to her father and myself  as well.  How do I stop this? 

Concerned   mother of 2

You may be thinking correctly about your daughter's jealousy. It is a very common and very normal reaction to a new baby in the family, but whether or not this is the reason for her lying, there are some things you can do to help her.

First you have to consider the reaction that she gets when she lies. What the little boy and his mother say and do when she lies can make a big difference in helping to stop this behavior.  What yourself and her father do and say when you learn about these lies is important as well.

What our children want, more than anything else, is our attention. 

Every moment we spend with them is like a prize, and when they do something wrong, we try to make sure that they understand how important it is not to repeat the mistake.  In order to do that, we get very close, look right in their eyes, talk very intently, maybe even touch them. 

To a young child, even the fact that we are disappointed, or frustrated, or angry with them cannot outweigh the fact that we are having a highly emotionally charged interaction with them.  

It is a very big prize.

In the weeks leading up to your baby's birth your daughter probably saw your focus begin to turn inward, and when the big day came, it wasn't over as she may have expected. She may have known a baby was coming, but the change in the way the family runs is something children don't know how to anticipate.  

You are still attending to the needs of the infant, and balancing that with her needs, but she is probably looking for the intensity of connection that she sees the baby get.  

She may not appear to be jealous, and is certainly not aware if this is what is making her tell lies, but it may be the root cause.

Most likely it has nothing to do with the little boy, except that he may be helping her to get the attention. It may be worthwhile to talk about it with the boy's family.  

Sometimes ignoring the lying for a while, and creating some close moments that are focused on her, or even on teaching her to help care for her baby sister, can help. 

You might try scheduling some predictable time that is just for the two of you, or just for her and her father.  Giving her some close attention for no reason at all might prevent her from seeking it in negative ways.  

Chances are this behavior will fade if it stops getting a lot of notice.


Monday, June 25, 2012

How can I get my kid to listen?

Miss Dorothy

I need your help, my first grader is having a hard time listening and following directions at school. He completes his work, has great marks but doesn't want to listen. I am not sure what is going on, or if he understands. I had a meeting with the teacher and he said "__ just looks at me with a blank look on his face" Have any advice???

- Mom of 3 boys

First I would recommend that you get his ears checked right away, it could simply be that he isn't hearing.

Have you noticed if he takes a little while to think about what you tell him to do before he acts? He may need longer to process what he his ears take in before he can do what is asked of him, and the teacher may just need to give him more wait time.

Have you ever noticed if his face doesn't seem to reflect what he feels? If he looks at you when he is in trouble, but doesn't seem distressed or remorseful, and then suddenly bursts into tears? 

Sometimes children have a "flat affect" which means their face doesn't reflect what they are feeling. It is something that can be taught (usually) but it can be super frustrating for a parent or teacher when a kid doesn't react in the way we want or expect to see them react.

Is it possible that he is in "over his head" in this class?

If he did really well in kindergarten, but wasn't really stretching to learn new things, and now the material is getting harder, it is possible he hasn't figured out how to respond because he was accustomed to already knowing. 

It might just be an adjustment, and he needs you to reassure him that he is in school to learn, and that you don't expect him to be the first or the best in the class, but to be always learning something new and be the best he can be.

It is also possible that he is simply bored. If he is getting good marks, it may be too easy for him and he is looking at the teacher blankly because he can't believe how uninteresting the work seems.  His previous school's kindergarten program may have been more rigorous than this 1st grade class is.

Work with him at home with a mirror. Have him practice looking interested, looking like he is thinking, looking like he doesn't understand, and even looking like he is sorry. Make it an acting game and practice wherever you go!

Making faces that show others what they are expecting you to feel or that show others what is going on inside you is a really helpful tool in school. 

But get those ears checked right away.  Just in case.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Relationships for Learning


My name is Dorothy Shapland, and I have been an early childhood educator for the past 28 years teaching preschool, kindergarten, 1st, 2nd and 3rd grade. I work as a mentor and coach providing training and support to teachers both locally and on line. 

The Issue I have become most passionate about through this work is the importance of building relationships for learning in education.  When teachers connect with their students, when children feel they are valued, when curriculum is modified to meet the specific needs of each child, the chance of success for all involved is increased. 

Building a relationship with a student, understanding who he is, how she learns, what his passions are, what she sees as her strengths and how he perceives his chances of being successful, are all skills that can be broken down and mastered by teachers.

I decided to research what it would take to ensure that teachers are equipped to do this kind of relationship building.  I began with a review of studies that have been done on the effectiveness and the long term impact of student-teacher relationships. Research conducted by the US Department of Health and Human Services, the Campaign for Educational Equity, The California Department of Education, Teachers College, Michigan Department of Education, and the National Education Association all evidenced that positive student teacher relationships, are directly correlated to improved student outcomes. 

As much as we feel the push to standardize instruction, and teach students in core content and subjects, driving for improved test scores, the research consistently supports taking the time to know students well and build strong relationships so that we can individualize their instruction, is the more effective course.

I interviewed pre-school, kindergarten, first grade, middle school, high school and college students about their perceptions of what makes an effective teacher.  I spoke with parents about how they see their children’s success over years with different teachers.  I asked educators what separates great teachers from bad ones. 


These various stakeholders identified very similar attributes and qualities, and their statements were completely consistent with the research data I had collected.  I found that when I analyzed these results for themes, the answers fell into the categories Attention, Belonging, Care and Direction.

Because these categories are perceived as essential for teachers by all of those invested in the outcomes, and because the research is aligned, it became important to find out what teachers are being taught about relationship building.

I surveyed 104 teachers representing 12 US states, and 5 other countries, teachers of all levels with degrees from 92 colleges, and teaching experience ranging from 0 to 44 years.

From this survey I found that teachers feel they are well trained and supported in direct instruction, content and curriculum, but learn about the importance of relationships, family connections, and positive behavior supports through experience and independent study.

A completely unexpected, but significant outcome from this study was finding that teachers felt well trained in those things that were of least value in their practice, and that the things they valued most as creating success for their students were those individualizing skills they were least trained and supported in. 

The community has identified a need for training expectations around relationship building for beginning teachers. The Next step for action then is to change the standards for teacher training programs.  

Over the next several months the Colorado Lieutenant Governor's Advisory Council on professional development will be defining the competencies for Early Childhood Education degrees in the state, and aligning these with other licensing and certification programs. As a member of this council, my plan is to have this research inform some of the alignment work we do moving forward.

The other key action step that emerged from the research was the finding that more experienced teachers feel that their best learning is often in professional reading. 

After examining the data for themes, stakeholders have identified some initial topics and content for a resource book I hope to complete in the next year.

Earlier this week Kansas became the first state in the union to create and pass standards for social and emotional development in K-12 education.  My hope is that Colorado will use this work as a blueprint for our own as we move forward to ensure that every young child and family is met by responsive and caring adults throughout their education.

For more information or to get involved in the project please visit http://www.wix.com/dorothyshapland/askmsdorothy#!relationship-building