Sharing – An Argument Free Method

Have your kids ever fought over sharing something to eat? “He got more than me”, “His piece is bigger than mine”, or “That’s not fair”. Sound familiar? If so, here’s an idea to try. Assign one kid to cut and the other one gets to be the first to choose which piece he wants. This method assures the one doing the dividing tries to be exact and the one choosing first feels the power of getting just what he wants. Using this method we almost always came out with two satisfied children.


Less Stressing About Morning Dressing

Do you ever find yourself scrambling to find one of your child’s shoes 2 minutes before the school bus pick up? Or it’s a cold morning and your child needs some long pants to wear and they are nowhere to be found? A friend recently told me of her system I thought was a great idea that I’d like to pass along to help your mornings be a little less chaotic.

She bought a hanging fabric shoe rack; the ones with rows of individual pockets. After her Saturday laundry day she takes complete sets of school clothes for her son – pants, shirt, underwear and socks and rolls them up and puts a set in each pocket. That way in the morning he can grab them and dress quickly. If you have a child who likes to choose their own clothes, they could even be in charge of choosing the outfit for each day. If you have a daughter who is a fashionista she could help choose her outfit for Saturday.

Shoes can also be put in the bottom row for a quick find. I don’t know about you, but for me anything that helps save time in the morning and make for a little less contention is a great trade off for a small Saturday job.

Runny Noses

Little kids + cold season = runny noses. Whether it’s a constant, clear runny nose or the kind where they wake up in the morning with a thick crusty mess that makes it hard to breath, it’s not fun for the child or parent.

Kids always seem to run away crying when they see the tissue coming toward them. Why? I think it’s because often we pinch and wipe too hard.

Recently my 21-month-old grandson had a runny nose. I got a tissue and said, “Come here and let me wipe your nose”. I half expected him to turn the other way and take off running. But instead he walked over to me and tipped his head back and let me gently wipe his nose. I surprised myself when I realized how softly I needed to pinch to get his upper lip clean when he held still. His cooperation made me realized that part of my hard nose wiping must stem from the ritual of me chasing the snotty nosed child around the house, hog tying them to immobilize their flailing arms and legs so I don’t get wacked, and then chasing their face around to be able to reach their nose. By that time my adrenaline is so high I WIPE HARD so I won’t have to do it again for a while.

Next time you have a runny nose notice how much pressure you use when you’re wiping your own nose. Next, try pinching hard and see how much it hurts. It does not take much pressure to clean a runny nose. If your child’s nose is crusty try laying a warm washcloth on the area for a little while to make cleaning less painful. Also applying a little Vaseline under a clean nose makes the next wipe easier. Nose wiping does not have to hurt.

One… Two… Three… Then What?

While I was at the store last week I rounded a corner just in time to see a little boy pick up a plastic sword he saw leaning against the return counter and heard his mom say, “Anthony! One”.   At that moment I had several questions come to my mind,

“Will she get all the way to three or will her young son know that hearing “One” means he better stop what he’s doing immediately”?

“What will happen when the mom gets to “three”? Then what will she do”?

“Perhaps the kid knows that if he hurries he can play with the sword for three seconds before his mom does anything”.

            Actually, this whole counting to three thing has always been mysterious (or silly or interesting) to me. As parents, what are we really doing when try to terminate a child’s actions by counting to three? Are we giving them time to consider what to do? Do they know what’s going to happen if they don’t conform before we say, “three”? It’s all so arbitrary to me.

I think we should throw the whole counting thing out as a discipline technique. Rather, we should tell our child what we would like to have happen, or give them a choice. For example, the mom could have said to Anthony, “Son, we did not pay for that so we should not play with it” or “Put it back because if you play with it and break it, we’ll have to pay for it and we don’t want to buy a broken toy”. These type of comments help a child understand what’s happening better than just hearing, “One, two…”.

Of course, the tricky part comes when we give some nice explanation and they still choose to continue with the undesirable behavior. There are so many ways to explain what you would like your child to do, which do not contain any numbers or counting. For more on this see: Set the Expectation and Consequence and You Have Two Choices.

Labels- They Stick

Recently a lady I know said to me, “You carry yourself so well- so dignified” Up to that point of my life I had not considered my posture as a positive quality. However, now, every time I see her I stand up a little straighter and walked a little more gracefully. Her simple comment changed how I felt about myself and how I acted.

When you were a child do you ever remember an adult giving you a label or title? Did they say, “Oh isn’t she pretty, look at the curly hair”, or “My second son is so wild I really can’t take him anywhere with out him acting up”? Children believe what they hear said about them and those comments can shape who they become.

Recently I was at a neighbor’s house with another friend who is a young mom with two children. The oldest child is 5 and the younger one 3 years old. Much to the mom’s embarrassment the younger one was into everything. She was constantly getting up to follow him and keep him from bothering things on the shelves, opening drawers or going down the hall into the bedrooms. As we were leaving she said, patting her 3 year old on the head, “This one is my little terror, he gets into everything”. The child was listening and hearing himself be labeled. I could imagine the child thinking that if that’s what his mom thought, that’s what he should do.

When I hear a parent say something really negative about their child, while the child is listening, I wonder:

-Do they think their child can’t hear them?

-Do they think the child isn’t paying attention to what the adults are saying?

-Perhaps they are more concerned about what other adults think about them as a parent than what the child thinks about himself.

All children have good qualities, even our most challenging ones. So make sure your child only hears you mention their positive attributes to others. Even if you don’t think your child is listening remember, kids tend to listen even BETTER when they feel like they are listening in to what adults are talking about. If you feel like you need to say something negative about them, don’t say it when they can hear you.

Grades for a new student

Judy sent us a question a few days ago.  She asked, “Can you give a child a grade if they have only been your class for two weeks?”

That’s a great question!  When a new child comes into your class it can take a while to really get to know them. It certainly takes time to understand their learning style, personality and abilities.  Two weeks isn’t long enough to learn all of that, but it is enough time to start assessing what they know.

When I was teaching in the United States my school district required us to produce a report card if the student had been there more that 13 days.  So if the student had been in my class 2 calendar weeks, but only 10 school days I didn’t have to complete a report card.  With that being said, here are a few of my thoughts:

I would always give my standard reading and phonics assessments right away (within the first 2-3 days of receiving a new student.)  I would test their phonics (with a basic phonics screener), sight word knowledge, and fluency.  That would give me a good basic reading score.  Will it be as thorough and detailed as the grade given to a student who has been in your class all year?  Certainly not!  Is it a good, accurate starting point? Yes!

Math.  I would go back and give the end of the quarter assessment from the last quarter to get a basic idea of what they could do.  So if they came in the middle of the second quarter I would give them the quarter one assessment.  I would also give a timed math facts test to see how fluent they were with their math facts.  Once again it’s not ideal and it’s not going to give a perfect representation of their knowledge, but it’s a good start.

Writing.  If you are working on a writing piece in class those two weeks have them complete the assignment and give a score based on the one assignment.  If not, dictate a few sentences and have them write them down.  Then give them a simple assignment that they can complete and grade that.  It could be as simple as having them write about their family.  (Then you get a writing sample and get to know them a little bit.  Win-win!)

Social studies and science.  As far as these topics were concerned I would give a grade based on the assignments completed during those first two weeks.  If we didn’t complete anything in those 14 days I wouldn’t give them a grade for those subjects.

I think the bottom line is yes, you can give a grade to a student who has been in your class two weeks.  Just remember that it isn’t as in depth and as thorough as your grades for the rest of your students.  With those extra assessments it will feel a little hectic for you and the new student.  Just remember to encourage the student to do their best and you do the same!  I hope that’s helpful!

Any other teachers out there that have any input?  What have you done when you get a brand new student and have to generate a grade for the student?

Let them know you


When I started student teaching I was nervous, uncertain, overwhelmed and so excited! I had a really fantastic mentor teacher and I knew that everything would be okay and I would learn a lot. At the same time there was a lot of new stuff to learn and get comfortable with. I remember feeling so young and thinking that if I didn’t seem ‘old’ enough or ‘professional’ enough that the kids would try to walk all over me. I knew that classroom control was the most important thing. I knew (and know it even more so now) that without solid discipline it would be hard to teach content and academics.

I watched my mentor, I worked with small groups, I started taking over the class one subject at a time. All the while I was trying incredibly hard to be professional and a good authority figure. In an effort to achieve that I became a boring person with no personality. What I mean by that is my students didn’t know me at all. I wasn’t giving them a chance.

As time passed I learned to find a better balance. I learned that kids respond really well to knowing their teacher as a human with likes, dislikes, fears and passions. I started telling little stories about my life that tied into our lessons. I let them see into my life and learn about my family, hobbies, etc.. My worry had been that if I let them see me as a person I would not be seen at being in charge. What happened was exactly the opposite! They began to relate to me. They started to see that we had things in common! They realized that if I was willing to share then they could trust me and share as well. As all of those wonderful things began to unfold I realized I was also having more fun!

Now here we are 6 years later and I feel like a completely different teacher from the scared, personality-less student teacher. My students now know me REALLY well. They know about my favorite foods, the time I felt the most scared, they know the names off all my family members and which ones make the best cookies. They cling to the little details I share. They love to feel connected to me and know that I am a person too! Let your kids know you. Your students and children are dying to know the little details that make you who you are.

Listen With Your Eyes

One afternoon an excited young boy ran in to tell his busy mom something fun that had happened to him. The mom listened while she continued washing the dishes. After a few sentences the boy asked his mom if she was listening to him. Without pausing from her job she said she could hear him to which he answered, “Listen with your eyes”. In other words, “Look at me while I talk to you”.

When our children (or spouse) talk to us while we’re doing a job WE know we’re listening, but if we don’t look at them, they don’t know we’re listening. Body language is an important part of communication. Turning to look someone in the eye, a nod of the head, an occasional, “Hmmm”, or “Oh, yes” lets them know we are engaged and actively paying attention.

So next time one of your kids comes to talk with you, pause, make eye contact and then if you need to proceed with what you were doing don’t forget to show them with your body language that you are listening.

How Many Way Are There to Read a Book?

In my current job I perform hearing tests on a children 2 ½ to 6 years old. Most of them do not know how to read yet. After I’ve completed the test they need to sit and wait for several minutes while I record and document the results. I have a few books that I offer to the child to look at while they wait (I’m amazed that the Scooby Doo book is a favorite of 95% of the children I screen! I watched that cartoon almost 50 years ago and it’s still around and popular today- amazing). It’s really interesting to me to see how differently the children look at the books.

There are the ones who flip through through all three books in 12 seconds then say, “I’m done”.

There are the kids who sit quietly and look at each page carefully.

Some kids turn down the books because, they say, “I don’t know how to read yet”.

Others look at the pictures and make up elaborated stories (pretending they are reading) while they look at the pictures, not intimidated by the fact that someone is listening to what they are saying.

And there is the group who look at each page and ask lots of questions about what’s is happening in every picture (this group is difficult for me because I have to keep saying, “I need to write so I can’t talk to you while you look at the book”).

These observations have become so interesting to me and caused me to wonder, “Why do children view and use books so differently”?

The group of kids who have difficulty separating from their parent will have their mom or dad come into the testing room with them. While they wait for the results I hear how their parent interacts with their child about the books. I’ve found there is such a big difference in the ways the parents talk with their child about the books while they wait. I’ve come to think that the way a child perceives books is, in a large part, how they have learned from their parent.

Some parents just hand the books to the kids and tell them to look at them.

Other parents lift their child onto their lap and read every word that is on the page to them.

Other parents have the child look through the book and they ask them questions that have to do with the illustrations on the pages.

Now this may all seem like small stuff to you. However, as I’ve seen hundreds of children of similar age and such a wide variety of behaviors I’ve realized that there is a vast difference in a pre-school age child’s habits and the abilities in the area of reading readiness. Another test we administer is a reading readiness screening which evaluates a child’s level of knowledge in the area of reading. Things that may seem overly simple to an adult are important stepping-stones to a child becoming a successful future reader. Things such as:

We read from left to right

Recognizing the front from back of a book

Letter recognition and sounds

Distinguishing between letters and numbers

How to rhyme

How to segment words (such as “mmm” and “oon” together say “moon”)

Understanding that the picture in a book and the words go together

Recognizing that words are separated by spaces

All these are important building blocks to reading and can easily be taught to a young child even by a novice parent.

Now you may be asking yourself what you could do to help your child prepare to be a great reader. There are lots of ways to teach your young child about books and reading to prepare them to read down the road.

Read to your child every day.

Let your children see you read.

Make reading fun or make it a reward

Talk about what’s happening in a book as you look at it together

Go to the library regularly

As you read to your child:

  • Ask questions about what they see in the book,
  • Ask what they think might happens next
  • Ask what they would do if the same thing happened to them.

Reading is a foundational skill for children to learn and a key to future success. It is the basis of so many other skills such math word problems, being able to understand written instructions or directions and reading signs and maps.

A few small changes now can make a huge difference in your child’s reading success. Help open a whole new world to your kids by setting them up to be strong, successful readers and learners.

Let Them Make Choices

Today I was at IHOP having breakfast. At the table across the isle from me sat a young mother and three small sons the youngest being 4 or 5 years old.

The youngest boy was looking at the beautifully colored menu and pointed an item out to his mom. Then I heard the mother say to him, “No, I’m going to order you the thing I always get you”. The response made the little boy sad and he closed the menu and started to pout. Apparently he wanted to order something different than his mom was going to order for him. My first thoughts were in defense of the mother. Maybe she was going to have the boy share a plate of food since she knew he could not eat a whole order by himself. When the order came all three boys and the mother had there own plate of waffles topped with strawberries.

I don’t know exactly why the mom ordered the food she chose for her family. However it reminded me how often we make decisions for our children based on what we want for them, rather than asking them what they want.

It can be tricky because from the time are children are newborns we feed them what and when we want and dress them in what we want them to wear. Then slowly they grow up and become their own person with different likes than ours. It’s so gradual that there’s no certain day when suddenly we stop making decisions for them and they begin making all their own choices. So one of the parenting challenges is to gradually teach our kids how to make choices and let them practice.

Choosing what to order at a restaurant (or what to have for lunch at home) is a good place to learn how to choose. Just because we like waffles, it doesn’t mean they have to like them, even if we’ve been serving them for breakfast for as long as they’ve been alive. BUT, after they choose they need to be taught they have to accept the consequences of the choice.

What does this look like?

Teaching how to make a choice is more than just saying, “Fine, order what you want but don’t blame me if you don’t like it”.

It should sound more like, “The picture on the menu is pretty but it usually does not look like that when they serve it”, or, “Do you know that that dish has onions in it, do you want onions?” OR whatever else your experience tells you might be a concern that their inexperience might have kept them from realizing.

Suggested steps for teaching a child to make a good choice:

  • Explain to them you are giving them a chance to make their own choice
  • Simplify the choice by narrowing it down to 3 or 4 options
  • Explain the options (be specific and use a kind voice)
  • Give parameters (money limit or size limit, etc)
  • After they’ve made their choice, if it fits within the parameters you’ve set, respect their decision and let go. Don’t try to talk them into something different.
  • Let them feel the natural consequence of their choice.

It’s good to let our children practice making a choice when the outcome does not have a huge consequence. Let them make their own choices while the consequences are small and safe and they can get practice for the bigger choices down the road.