Category Archives: Self esteem

You’re not allowed!

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How many of these did you hear when you were a child?

  • You’re too small
  • You’re too big
  • You’re too young
  • You’re too old
  • It’s too far
  • It costs too much
  • It’s too dangerous
  • Girls don’t do that
  • Boys don’t do that
  • It’s too …

Sometimes it was difficult to find an activity that, like Baby Bear’s bed, was just right. Oftentimes it was only ‘just right’ in the eyes someone wielding the power; and not always in the eyes of the one wishing to have, do, go, or be. Setting limits is often easier than chasing possibilities.

starr-cline-creativity

Many years ago I read What Would Happen If I Said Yes?… A Guide to Creativity for Parents and Teachers by Starr Cline.  Cline writes about creativity, emotional intelligence, giftedness, intelligences, diversity, and the power of “Yes”. On her website, she makes this statement:

“After years of observation and research, I have drawn the following conclusions:

  • Everyone has the ability to create.
  • The external environment is critical in the development of one’s potential, whether it be in mathematics, language, the arts, etc.
  • Individuals may have one or more areas in which they excel
  • IQ scores do not reflect specific talents or abilities
  • Creativity begins diminishing at about third grade”

I’m inclined to agree, and feel especially sad about the last point she makes.

What Would Happen If I Said Yes? challenged me to think about ways in which I could parent (and teach) more positively and encourage, rather than inhibit, creativity; encourage a willingness to try new things; and to avoid placing unnecessary limitations upon others and myself. I can’t say I was entirely successful, but I did make some gains.

In the book, Cline suggests that you “STOP every time you are about to say no. THINK about what might happen if you said yes!”  Consider the worst scenario that could occur if you said yes, and whether it would be really that bad, or even likely.

She says to consider why you may say No.

“Is it because …

You don’t want to be bothered

It wasn’t your idea

It’s a habit

Someone treated you that way

It makes you feel powerful”

She reminds that the messages saying “No” often sends are:

“Your idea is stupid

You are stupid

You’re not capable

You’re not worth it.”

In the long term, are these negative messages more important than a temporary inconvenience, or than the benefits that would accrue from positive responses?

But don’t get me wrong. Cline doesn’t suggest you just say “Yes” to everything. She says that sometimes you may need to come up with a creative way of saying no. She provides many ways of doing so in her book, which I recommend as a great read for both parents and teachers.

Even as adults we can find ourselves in situations where certain things are not allowed and rules are imposed, such as in the workplace or in clubs and other organisations.

Sometimes the things we are not allowed to do are self-imposed limits; we may not allow ourselves to do things because:

  • It’s scary
  • It’s unfamiliar
  • We feel uncomfortable
  • We don’t know anybody there
  • It costs too much

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Sometimes, as I explained about my attitude to camping in a previous post Around the campfire, we make choices and find ways of justifying our decisions, at least to ourselves if not to anyone else. There are many reasons I choose to avoid camping, many other things I’d prefer to do, and I don’t often consider myself to be missing out.

Although I can appreciate camping’s appeal to others, it was only when I read a late comment by Bruce Mitchell that I began to consider some of the wonders, including Antarctica, I had missed. Maybe I’ll be more adventurous next time round!

This week at the Carrot Ranch Charli Mills has challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about something or someone not allowed

In her post, Charli speaks of many injustices, including the rules that say who is and is not allowed to vote in elections in the United States. The rules affect many, for many different reasons (or petty excuses based on power) and tend to be divisive rather than inclusive.

charli-mills-gift

Charli says that,

“The greatest gift you can give is to allow another. Allow someone else to listen to their favorite music. Allow someone else to tell you their story. Allow someone to connect to you even if you feel harried. Smile back, nod, acknowledge, empathize. Be loving. Some among us have denials you can’t see stamped upon their countenances because of circumstances.”

While deciding what we will or will not allow our children to do may seem trivial in comparison, surely bringing up our younger generations to be confident, independent, responsible, and accepting of others, allowing them to join in; creating an inclusive society, is something to strive towards. Perhaps if we allow our children, they will allow others.

For my response to Charli’s flash, I’ve gone back to childhood. Where else? I hope you enjoy it.

Not allowed

She knew they were in there. She heard their chatter. Her knocks began timidly, then louder. The room hushed. There was rustling, then padding feet. She waited. The door opened a peek. Her loving sister’s smiling face appeared, then contorted unrecognisably.

“You’re not allowed!” the monster screeched, and slammed the door.

She froze – obliterated, erased, smashed to smithereens. She was nowhere, nothing. Why? What had she done?

She could only shrug when Mum asked why she wasn’t playing with her sister.

Later, at dinner, she viewed her sister’s sweet smiles cautiously. Was she real? When would the monster reappear?

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Early childhood resources for celebrating friendship – Readilearn

Republished from readilearn

In this post I suggest ways of helping children develop friendship skills, and describe some readilearn resources for celebrating friendship.

Developing a welcoming, happy, supportive classroom environment, a place where children want to be, is essential for learners of all ages, but especially so in early childhood. These classrooms are the first that children experience and influence lifelong attitudes to school and learning. It is important to establish strong foundations with positive attitudes, respect, and friendship.

Making friends doesn’t come easily to everyone. Simply being put with a whole bunch of other children of similar ages doesn’t ensure friendships will be established, or that children will be accepting of, and respectful to, others.

Strategies for helping children develop effective social skills need to be interwoven throughout the curriculum. Respect, kindness, and empathy need to be modelled and taught. It is especially important for children who have had limited experience mixing with others, or for those who respond to others in inappropriate or unkind ways.

Some useful strategies include:

  • Develop a vocabulary of words used to describe feelings. Words

Source: Early childhood resources for celebrating friendship – Readilearn

#Sugar and Snails BirthdayBlog Tour – The legacy of a Catholic childhood

I have been friends with Anne Goodwin who blogs at Annecdotal for almost as long as I have been blogging. While there are many differences in our experiences, there is the right balance of agreement and divergence for friendly and robust discussion to occur. Anne regularly contributes to the conversations on my blog through her thoughtful comments.

Anne has also visited as a guest blogger twice before. The first was a discussion of The Examined Life by Stephen Grosz. In the second she wrote about the treatment of friendship in her debut novel Sugar and Snails. This post celebrates that novel’s first birthday! Congratulations, Anne. I wish you much success with this and future writing.

sugar-and-snails cover

In this post, Anne discusses the legacy of a Catholic childhood. I hope you will join me in welcoming Anne to my blog.

The legacy of a Catholic childhood

It was our last evening in Rome, and we’d grown weary of churches, even when they hosted a Caravaggio painting or a Bellini sculpture. But it seemed a shame to leave without a peek inside the church we’d passed almost every day that week on the way to some museum or other attraction. So while my husband walked back to our rented apartment for a pre-dinner cocktail, I pushed through the heavy door.

Just inside, I hesitated. I hadn’t expected there’d be a service in progress. I was mesmerised: the golden light; the scent of incense, the mournful melody of human voices accompanied by an organ. I registered this, not so much with my eyes and nose and ears, but in my gut. In another country, in a less magnificent church, this had been my childhood.

Ignoring the disapproving gaze of the usher, I passed through the rope barrier holding back the tourists, to take my place among the congregation. I no longer shared their faith, but I felt entitled to share the ritual.

My childhood, at Catholic schools, was passed within a bubble. It was something of a culture-shock to discover, at university, that the majority of people I encountered belonged to other religions, or none. Later still, more at ease in the secular world, it was always interesting when friends and colleagues outed themselves as former Catholics. Then there’d be that nod of recognition, a shared heritage marking our psyche more indelibly than the ashen cross the priest would thumb on our foreheads at the beginning of Lent.

I believe that we are strongly shaped by the past, so what is the legacy of a Catholic childhood? Some have found solace in the beauty of the liturgy and the sense of community while others have had their personalities destroyed through unimpeded clerical abuse. Many, like me, would place themselves somewhere in the middle, regarding Catholicism not as something to celebrate but to recover from.

The threat of eternal damnation incites fear, or disbelief, and neither is conducive to developing a person’s moral compass. Telling a child what she must believe, rather than letting her discover it, doesn’t facilitate an enquiring mind. While it might seem comforting to be able to believe there’s a God who will always take care of you, you’ve a more secure base if you’ve been brought up by parents who are responsive to your earthly needs. There seems to be a very fine line between putting your faith in magical solutions and the “delusions” of the psychotic mind. And the veneration of suffering and a tortuous death through crucifixion is decidedly odd. As for sex, the risky business of discovering a new kind of intimacy in adolescence is further distorted by the taint of shame.

sugar-and-snails cover

When it came to writing my debut novel, Sugar and Snails, it made sense to give my main character a Catholic childhood. Uncomfortable in her skin from childhood, Diana finds no salvation in the church. She recalls morbid childhood games and, aged about eleven, being taken on pilgrimage to Lourdes for a miracle cure for a problem no-one will name. As an adolescent in the 1970s, her knowledge of menstruation comes from the bizarre instruction manual, My Dear Daughter, an exercise in obfuscation of North-Korean proportions, which her mother surreptitiously places on her bed along with a packet of bulky sanitary towels. Although it would be unfair to blame it entirely on Catholicism, she doesn’t have sex until the age of twenty-five and then it’s so dreadful she is celibate for the next twenty years.

Yet I didn’t want to stuff my novel with my own issues. Firstly, because I don’t think that makes for a good read; secondly, I didn’t want to alienate potential readers, especially not the old school friends to whom my novel is partly dedicated, most of whom have stayed loyal to their childhood beliefs. Fortunately, my novel’s first year of feedback suggests I’ve managed on both counts.

In preparing this post, I realised that less than half the Catholic scenes from earlier drafts survived to the final version. While there are solid structural reasons for these deletions, it also strikes me that, in the almost seven years I’ve been writing this novel, I’ve become less angry about the past. Perhaps it’s because I’ve worked through it or maybe simply because, as in that church in Rome, I’ve been able to reclaim the good bits. No, I don’t go to church, but I do sing with a marvellous mixed-voice choir. While we have an eclectic repertoire, it’s the sacred works – Verdi’s Requiem, Handel’s Messiah and the like – that really make me tingle inside. For more on the music that shaped my novel, see my forthcoming post on the undercover soundtrack.

birthday blog tour final

Please check out some other stops and posts on the Birthday Blog Tour.

Anne Goodwin’s debut novel, Sugar and Snails, about a woman who has kept her past identity a secret for thirty years, was published in July 2015 by Inspired Quill and longlisted for the 2016 Polari First Book Prize. Her second novel, Underneath, about a man who keeps a woman captive in his cellar, is scheduled for publication in May 2017. Anne is also a book blogger and author of over 60 published short stories. Catch up with Anne on her website: annethology or on Twitter @Annecdotist.

In honour of its first birthday, Sugar and Snails is available in Kindle format at only £0.99 / $0.99 until 31 July 2016.

Amazon UK 

Amazon.com

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

https://openclipart.org/image/800px/svg_to_png/192642/Children_holding_hands.png

Life is for living

I first published this post two years ago. I am sharing it again as I continue to hear of similar things happening. I apologise to those who may have read it the first time around. 🙂

Many would agree that to enjoy life to the full we must live in the present moment, appreciating what we have and being mindful of our surroundings and others.

Most would also agree that a certain amount of preparation for the future is necessary to both enjoy and deal with what lies ahead.

marshmallow 5

In previous posts I have referred to related ideas including The importance of emotional intelligence and the ability to delay gratification, for example when studying towards a degree or saving to purchase a car. Recently I wrote about future-proofing kids by preparing them to embrace the future. Schooling is often considered a preparation for the future, for ‘what you want to be when you grow up’.

firefighter and nurse

Are the concepts of living in the present moment and preparing for the future contradictory?

Generally I would say that a balance is needed. We need to live in the present while making some preparation for the future. Hopefully the choices made can still be appreciated now and enjoyment is not all delayed until the future “When I . . .”

Recently I read an article that caused me some concern because, it seemed to me, there was little balance between appreciating the present and preparation for the future. Of greater concern was that the one for whom balance was lacking was not the one making the choice.

 

The article described a situation in which a 3½ year old was being taught to use scissors by an occupational therapist. The teaching, which had been occurring in regular sessions for over seven months, began before the child was three years of age.

Like I did, you might assume the child had a developmental delay which required regular sessions with the occupational therapist (OT). However no mention of that was made in the article.

The parent, writing the article, described feeling sad while watching the child experience difficulty in using the scissors.  Additionally, it was mentioned that the child had not been requested by the parent to use scissors at home as it just made the child miserable.

After seven months the parent finally broached the subject with the OT, asking why the use of scissors was being pushed at this time.

It was the reported response of the OT that caused me greatest concern.

The OT explained that when the child entered kindergarten at age five, the ability to use scissors appropriately would be expected. The lessons in learning to use scissors were being given to avoid the child being behind when beginning kindergarten. The OT went on to further explain that the use of scissors was not developmentally appropriate until age five!

The OT, presumably a trained professional, who believed it was not developmentally appropriate for a child to be using scissors until age five, began teaching a child to use scissors before that child was even three years of age!

The child was miserable when using scissors and the parent was saddened when viewing the attempts!

If using scissors is developmentally appropriate at age five, then when the child is entering kindergarten, unless there is a development delay, coordination or muscular problem, that child will easily learn to use scissors appropriately, without the need for lessons from an OT. Forcing a child to practice a skill before developmentally ready is definitely not in the child’s best interests.

Think of the wonderful things about a child of two or three years of age; the things they are learning and doing. I am always amazed at how quickly children learn and progress. They grow up so quickly and are only little for such a short time. Why try to pressure them through to stages beyond their current development? These years of enormous growth and potential are precious. We are adults for most of our lives. What is wrong with appreciating the special two-ness or three-ness of a child? It will not matter in the future if scissors can be used at age three, age five or age seven.

If the child is constantly pressured to perform in ways that are not developmentally appropriate then feelings of inadequacy, loss of confidence and self-esteem may ensue, resulting in an ‘I can’t do it attitude’, a fear of failure and unwillingness to have a go. I believe many perceived behaviour problems are problems only because the expectations are not relevant to a child’s stage of development.

When adults strive for a child to achieve beyond the age expected norms they are not appreciating, but rather showing a lack of respect for, who the child is and for the stage of development. This is not living in the present. It is attempting to live in the future, which can become very scary if one does not feel it can approached with confidence.

One may hope this scissors example is an extreme and isolated incident, but sadly pressure placed upon children by expectations that are not developmentally appropriate is far too common.

Teaching colleagues here in Australia often express their dismay that children in the first three years of school are crying every day because they find the expectations upon their learning and behaviour too great.

I hear similar stories about trying to rush the children through from the UK, Canada and the USA. Maybe it is happening in other places too. Sadly the pressure of unrealistic expectations doesn’t achieve anything positive for the students, the teachers or the parents.

How different would schools be if, instead of being considered a preparation for life, they were focused on living life now? If three year olds were appreciated and respected as three year olds, five year olds as five year olds, and eight year olds as 8 year olds, rather than as apprentices for the adult they will one day be, how different would their school situation be?

An affirmation song I used to sing with my classes is one by Anne Infante called Just the way I am.

The song is made up of a series of verses about appreciating oneself just as one is – now, not in the future – including characteristics such as responsible,  lovable, confident and friendly; for example:

I am beautiful and I like me,

I am beautiful and I like me,

I am beautiful and I like me,

Just the way I am.

I have written about using Anne’s songs of affirmation in previous posts, here and here.

What do you think? How have you seen developmentally appropriate programs in action? How have you seen them disregarded? What have been the effects?

Further reading: The Cost of Ignoring Developmentally Appropriate Practice

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

 

 

You’d have to be mad!

That is, as in M.A.D. — Making a Difference.

I love to hear of children being involved in projects that help others, that aim to make a difference to the world. I have previously written about some of those projects here, here, and here.  Sarah Brentyn, who blogs at Lemon Shark, often shares about the wonderful ways in which she and her boys are making a positive difference in their community.

This week I read about the M.A.D. projects of Canadian teacher Peter Cameron (a.k.a. Mr. C) and his students. At the beginning of the school year Mr. C challenged his students with the question, What will you do to make a difference? The projects, which were selected, organised, and conducted by the students, were recently completed. They included things such as:

  • Helping others on snowy days by shovelling driveways
  • Helping parents, grandparents, and great grandparents
  • Giving compliments
  • Supporting Doctors Without Borders
  • Helping the elderly
  • Helping at the Humane Society
  • Keeping their school tidy
  • Assisting the homeless by collecting socks, making supper, and hot chocolate
  • Encouraging kids to eat healthy, and to spend more time outdoors.
  • You can see a celebration of their projects in this video.

Mr. C. said that it was one of the most rewarding aspects of his 20+ years teaching career. The acknowledgement received from their member of parliament in the Canadian House of Commons, and his encouragement for others to join in, further affirmed the merit of the project.

Now Mr C. is reaching out to other classes around the world to join in with their M.A.D. projects and form a Global Make a Difference Team in which participants complete a M.A.D Project to help make our world an even better, happier, healthier place to live”.  Their goal is to have 100+ classes join in. Will yours be one of them?

To make it easy, Mr. C is making available to teachers all of his resources which may be modified to suit individual classes and situations. He says,

“The goal is simple: challenge your school, class, clubs and individual or groups of students to make a difference and see where it takes them! Be sure to let us know that your school/class will be participating and fill in the form to add your class to our M.A.D map!”

Places on the map are so far confined to North America. How wonderful it would be for locations to be added from all around the world. Children would see not only the differences they are making in their own communities, but also the positive actions of others around the world, which may in turn, inspire further projects.

Be sure to let us know of other projects that involve children in making a difference. I know there are many, some conducted by organisations, and others by individuals and families. They are what give us hope for the future.

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Eroding thoughts

Uluru © Norah Colvin 2015

Uluru © Norah Colvin 2015

This week at the Carrot Ranch Charli Mills is talking about erosion, but not just the literal kind. She says “It can be natural, cultural or something different.” Of course I must answer my usual call to tackle the “something different”.

Generally, erosion refers to the wearing away of the earth. Sometimes it signifies the disintegration of our resolve, our self-image, or of our spirit. Just as various strategies can be employed to prevent erosion or to repair damage incurred by the land, there are strategies that can be used to shore up one’s resolve, build self-esteem, and mend a sagging spirit.

rejection slip

Perhaps nobody knows this better than writers with their stashes of rejection slips rated from encouraging to just plain rude, or non-existent. Few have achieved success without first receiving a downpour of those slips, who haven’t had to work at their skills and accept the edits without eroding their intended message. Sometimes it seems that, with every move, one lands on the “Go back to start” square; and that, while it feels like things are in motion, the end doesn’t appear any closer.

go back to start

Or maybe nobody understands the fragility of the spirit and self-esteem more than does a teacher; and of the importance of building on prior learning to take children from where they are to places they haven’t thought possible; to ensure their esteem stays strong and is not eroded by unrealistic expectations and the tedium of a repetitive diet of something meaningful only to others.

Welcome pack

Welcome pack

I have written many times previously about the importance of establishing a supportive classroom environment, and of using affirmations in growing children’s confidence and self-image.

This doesn’t mean a diet of empty praise, but it does mean that all individuals are recognised for what they can do, and are valued for the contribution they make to the classroom community. Included in these writings was a series, inspired by a Twitter discussion with Anne Goodwin, on praise culminating in Seeking praise – Stephen Grosz revisited and including a guest post by Anne.

The Clever Children Resource

I have also developed resources to support children’s growing confidence and self-image for inclusion on my in-progress website readilearn. One of these resources is a story called The Clever Children which teachers can personalise for use with their own class.

The Clever Children printable

Children write about and illustrate something they can do. The pages are then added to the story which is printed and collated into a book which can be placed in the reading corner or taken home to read to parents and siblings.  My children always loved being a part of this story. I am looking forward to other children being a part of it too. The story aims to build, rather than erode, self-esteem and a love of books and reading.

Which brings me back to Charli’s challenge to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story, using the power of erosion.

The Nature Principle

For my flash I combine two ideas:

  • Richard Louv’s suggestion in The Nature Principle that, for physical and mental health, we need to be more attuned with nature
  • the need for resolve and inner strength when faced with issues that would erode it.

It’s not really a story, perhaps, but a moment in time. I hope you enjoy it.

1 (7)

The rock

The rock, promising permanence, beckoned: perfect for contemplating expanses beyond while pondering life and one’s significance. She sighed, and succumbed. The waves, licking repetitively at the base, soothed somehow; as if each grain of sand stolen from beneath her feet loosened her tension. Becoming one with the rhythm, her heart sang the melody as her mind slowed, releasing all thought. Feeling whole again, as solid as the rock, and with renewed strength, she prepared to face those who sought to erode her. Though tides would rearrange and redecorate, and often do their best to annihilate, they could not obliterate.

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Scary monsters

This week at Carrot Ranch Communications Charli Mills has challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a monster story.  Being an early childhood teacher I think immediately of picture books. Two of my favourites are The Gruffalo, written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler, and The Monster at the End of this Book , written by Jon Stone and illustrated by Michael Smollin.

The Gruffalo

The Gruffalo is as fearsome as any monster you are likely to meet with its “terrible tusks, and terrible claws, And terrible teeth in his terrible jaws”; “a poisonous wart at the end of his nose” and “purple prickles all over his back”. The quick witted mouse, who imagines the Gruffalo into storybook “reality”, must find a way of ridding himself of the monster’s inherent danger and once again uses his ingenuity to escape.

I’m not sure if it was Donaldson’s intention, but I think this is a great analogy for the monsters we create for ourselves such as self-doubt, unrealistic expectations, and (you can add your own monster here). Not that I’d be sharing that thought with young children.

In this video Axel Scheffler explains his concept of the Gruffalo and even hints, a couple of times, that he too may be troubled by that all too common of personal monsters, self-doubt.

Monster at the end of this book

Throughout The Monster at the end of this Book Grover, from Sesame Street, pleads with the reader to not turn the page as there is a monster at the end of the book. You could almost say he is immobilised by this fear, or that he tries to immobilise the reader. Of course it is a lot of fun and provides much laughter. When we (reader and Grover) do get to the end of the book, he is rather embarrassed to find that he, “lovable, furry, old Grover” is the Monster. He tries to assure us that we, and not he, were the scared ones.

Of course Grover wasn’t the monster only at the end of the book. He was always the “lovable, furry” harmless monster. It was his fear that was the real monster. How often are we immobilised by our fear, and how often when we take that jump despite it, do we find our fears to be groundless? Sometimes I think, or is it only me, we are our own worst monsters setting ourselves impossible targets with too-high expectations that lead us only to disappointment if we don’t achieve them.

But if we view ourselves as works in progress, in the process of working out where we want to be and how to get there, we can find contentment in what we achieve along the way, in where we are and how far we have come, rather than ignoring those milestones and looking only at how much further we must (in our own minds) go.

It is all too easy to contribute to the development of children’s personal monsters by doing to them what we do to ourselves: setting unrealistic targets, expecting too much, insisting on error-free work, measuring them against external benchmarks … To avoid this, we need to view them also as works in progress and encourage them, through a growth mindset, to reach their own milestones and goals in the time that is right for them.

Like the mindset of the mouse in The Gruffalo who was able to think on his feet and overcome the obstacles, or that of Grover who realised there was really nothing to be worried about at all.

We need to be not afraid of the monsters under the bed or in the cupboard, most of which we have created in our imaginations and stuffed there, sometimes with the assistance of others, allowing them to multiply like wire coat hangers until there is no room left for anything good. I have taken the theme of internal monsters for my response to Charli’s challenge.

Open, close them, open anew

The picture was clear. Taken with wide open shutters and long exposure, then developed in black and white for extra clarity, the result was undeniable and exactly what would be expected.

“You’ll never amount to anything.”

“That’s rubbish.”

“Pathetic.”

“You’re always the troublemaker.”

“Because I said.”

“Shut up!”

“Stop asking questions.”

An existence devoid of value was drilled with reminders hurled unrelentingly from birth. Well-schooled in self-loathing, the lessons were regurgitated without effort or question. The monsters without had created the monster within. How could one escape from what was recognised only as truth?

And now for something a little lighter:

The Monster Mash

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.