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Showing posts with label lifeskills. Show all posts
Showing posts with label lifeskills. Show all posts

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched - they must be felt with the heart. ~ Helen Keller
One of the stories I have shared with the Lovely K. is that I used to clean my room in the dark when I was a kid. When the mess had become intolerable (to my mother) I was compelled to take action. I would do it at night, with the lights out, feeling my way around my darkened room, picking things up and figuring out by touch and by my visual memory of the things scattered around the floor what they were, and then putting them away. Wondering what it might be like to experience the world without sight was part of the challenge; making a tedious chore interesting was the other part. When I was finished and turned the lights on, it always felt as if I had returned from a journey, and was seeing my world with new eyes.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

I Can't Do it. Yet.

What is more heart-rending than the child's lament, "I can't do it!"? If ever there is a time that requires our encouragement, it is when our child wants to give up. “I can’t do it!” often heralds the start of the downward self-hate spiral of “I’m not smart/fast/good enough!” that pierces the parental heart even deeper. We see a smart, fast, good child who sees nothing of that in the mirror. This is emotional courage at low low tide.

My daughter arrived in this country at age 8 from Ethiopia. In her first year or two here, she dwelled in an almost constant state of frustration, confusion, and self-doubt. Having to function every waking hour in a new language creates all kinds of neurological mayhem for children with “subtractive bilingualism.” This means that when kids lose their first language (it happens very fast when it isn’t spoken in the home or at school), while still acquiring the new one, the act of forming thoughts and ideas becomes maddeningly difficult, like stumbling around in a dark room, groping for a light switch.

Friday, April 8, 2011

5-Minute Courage Workout: Home Alone

Compiled and written by Lisa and Jennifer:

Independence doesn't just happen overnight. Even if you don't expect to leave your child home alone, or to be a latch-key kid, emergencies do happen and best-laid plans can go awry! So that you and your child are prepared and don't feel like prisoners in your own home, you need to be able to leave and your child needs to be able to stay home alone when necessary. Your child needs to know what the ground rules are, how to stay safe and not burn down the house in your absence, and not to use his time alone downloading porn on your computer.

Here's a 5-Minute Courage Workout by age range and your assessment of your child's level of maturity. 

It needs to be said that there are only two states in the U.S. that have specific age-based "Home Alone" laws.  Other states have age recommendationsthey vary from eight to twelve years-old—but for the most part U.S. parents are asked to take responsibility in assessing their child's level of maturity.  Canada, on the other hand, is more specific and has a law that reads: Children under 12 years of age cannot be left at home alone or care for younger children. (That said, please read our reader's comment below for more information and weblinks to Canada's guidelines.  It appears that there is some discrepancy between provinces with the home alone age range between 10-12 years of age, please read this link for more information).
We hope that no matter which country you live in, which borough, county or province, that you are aware of the laws or customary practice with regards to leaving children home alone. 

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  • Toddler: once your child is mobile and more confident to be left alone for a moment, play a 5-minute game of "Hide and Seek". Hide yourself in an easily accessible place and call your child to come find you, delight in their ability to find you and the pleasure that comes from being reunited. Then, teach your child to find a safe place to hide nearby and allowing for a few moments of suspense by counting to 10, go find them in their hiding place.  Make sure they know to call out if they want to be found before you actually find them; it's an exercise in using their voice to be heard, to be powerful, and to be safe.
  • Preschooler: keep playing "Hide and Seek".  Now you can add flashlights, secret nooks and crannies in the house, and a favorite teddy to join in the fun and offer comfort whilst waiting in secret hiding places for Mommy or Daddy to find them. Pretend to be stumped yourself, call out for hints about whether you are “hot” or “cold”—closer or father—from finding them. They will be reassured and tickled to hear you on a loving quest to reunite yourself with them. See if they can stay hidden for the full 5 minutes?! Now that your child has lots of practice with this game, you can remind them when you are in another room preparing a meal, for example, and they want you to join them in play that having time to play quietly on our own can be special just like "Hide and Seek".  Make sure they have some activity to while away the time when you are busy.  Try not using TV or a video to distract them during this time.  Let them know that you will call them or find them once you are done doing your chore or done having your own quiet time. Leave them with a timer (start with 5 mins. and work your way up to 15) to know how close the sand is to finishing it's journey or how soon the bell will ring. 
  • Early elementary student: begin the conversation about "When you are old enough to be on your own at home...." Independence should be something to look forward to, something earned, and to be proud of.  Now is the time to start short periods of separation.  For example, while you go down to the lobby to get the mail from the mail box, when you go downstairs to put on a load of laundry, or when you go down the block to borrow a cup of sugar (do people still do this? We hope so!) This is the stage you begin teaching "home alone ground rules".  These will be different for every family depending on the context of your home and the personality of your child.  That said, we highly recommend spending 5 minutes reviewing how you want your child to handle phone calls and use the caller ID, knocks on the door, TV or computer access,  dial 911.  Depending on your family circumstances, there may be some specific "What if" scenarios you will want to rehearse with your child (e.g. leaving with another relative and/or non-custodial parent who happens to stop by). Post a list of emergency contacts and discuss approved snacks and activities to occupy themselves with in your absence.
  • Upper elementary student or 'tween: by this age, children are likely comfortable being left for longer periods on their own when you run a short errand in the neighborhood, can stay on their own with a friend or older sibling, or at least can leave you to do your work, finish a phone call, or soak in the bath.  Hopefully, they are also beginning to ask for more time on their own; and to talk excitedly about when they will be old enough to hang with a friend when you go grocery shopping, to be on their own when you drop their sibling off at rowing practice, and eventually to spend an evening on their own when you go out on a date!  The next time you know you will need to leave your child on their own, time them in advance what day/time/how long you will be gone, remind them several times as the date gets closer.  Ask them to spend 5 minutes making a list of what chores or homework they can do while you are out, what favorite snacks/meal they may want, and what they will do that's fun/special once they've completed the things on their list (e.g. watching a movie, playing a game, reading a book, listening to an audio book, calling/texting a friend).
  • High schooler or teen:  we can safely assume that your teen now has plenty of practice with being alone, but make sure he/she has time to themselves in the house on their own.  There is nothing quite as relaxing, freedom-granting, confidence-building, or trust-boosting as being given the keys to the castle!  Be sure to take 5 minutes to review who is allowed over while you are out, agree on a time you or they may call to check in if you are out late or overnight, what they need to do before they leave to go out in your absence, and how to lock up. 

Learning how to feel comfortable in one's own company (and not just if you're an introvert) is an essential life skill.  One day, your child will open the door to his/her own first apartment or basement suite; he will now own the keys to his castle, and you want that to be a moment he feels proud and not a moment he wants to run back home.  For example, asking some children to even imagine being left home alone might require emotional courage and for others social courage if a bunch of their friends want to join him/her as guests in his/her castle.  Review the Six Types of Courage to figure out which types your child needs to complete this workout.

Want more workouts? Here's our  5-Minute Courage Workout: A Fate Worse Than Death (on public speaking)  How about our 5-Minute Courage Workout: It's a Dog Eat Dog World! (on how to be safe around dogs.)  Does your child have trouble taking responsibility for accidents?  Try the 5-Minute  Courage Workout: Saying I'm Sorry.  Our most popular workout that gets shared and tweeted is our 5-Minute Courage Workout: Navigating the Neighborhood (teaching your child how to learn to find his or her way around.)  Try the 5-Minute Courage Workout: Talking Dirty if getting a dirty is a problem (for you or your child!)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Raising a Leader

It’s funny how talking can bring things into action. Since Lisa and I began working on this project about teaching our children courage, we’ve naturally been discussing the topic with our kids. I’ve been sharing more stories with a courage theme with K., and Lisa and I have both talked with our girls about what we call “courage challenges.” Everyone has a different discomfort zone, and the more we can find ways to push against our own boundaries and limitations, the stronger our courage becomes.

“But why keep doing more courage challenges?” K. wanted to know. “We already did one last week.”

Saturday, March 12, 2011

5-Minute Courage Workout: Playing with Fire

Why a 5-Minute Courage Workout on Playing with Fire?  Cavemen and women needed it to survive:  our kids need to know about fire so they can enjoy it and not burn the house down or themselves! 
Fire can be magical and provide necessary warmth.  It can also be hazardous. Our children need to be prepared to deal with emergencies in life.  Talking about and preparing for emergencies are not meant to be activities to create fear.  Preparedness helps reduce anxiety (anxiety being defined as "the fear of something threatening, uncontrollable, and/or unmanageable").  Being proactive and preparing yourself and your child to deal with any number of expected, unexpected, tragic, and/or otherwise disastrous events, like those happening this year in Japan, is meant to build the necessary confidence, skill, and courage needed to cope. 

One of the most effective ways to conquer a fear is to face it.  Henceforth, we offer frequent courage workouts by age range to help you and your child develop the necessary courage muscles to handle both the expected and unexpected, tragic and heroic, events that shape our lives.  We take small steps with these workouts and hopefully make learning to be courageous educational and fun.  Here's more on why to teach your children how to use dangerous things.

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  • Toddler: make dinnertime magical tonight.  Find a candle for the table.  It could even be a used birthday candle hiding at the back of the utensils drawer. Light it, and like your lesson about the kitchen stove, say "Hot" and pull your hand quickly back.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

5-Minute Courage Workout: Navigating the Neighborhood

Compiled and written by Lisa and Jennifer:

Regardless of where you live, or how you get around your neighborhood, you and your child have a few familiar routes (to school, the supermarket, the subway/bus stop, or granny's house).  The next time you travel one of those familiar routes, offer your child the chance to be the navigator instead of you.  Navigating the neighborhood is a vital life skill.  When we are the navigator of our own journey, we pay very close attention to where we are.  When we allow another to lead the way we take a back seat, lose our sense of direction, and forget how to find our own way home. 

Here's a 5-Minute Courage Workout by age range, and remember, all workouts are most effective when you do them regularly.

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  • Toddler: when returning home sometime this week, just before you pull into the driveway, bike up the front path, or notice the apartment building ahead, ask your child to point in the direction of home.  When you are a block or two away, see if they recognize where they are and know how to get home.  If they don't know, start by pointing out landmarks for them.
  •  Preschooler: when leaving home this week with your preschooler, ask if they know the name of their street and the number of their house.  Ask them which direction you both need to turn to start the familiar route to preschool, a pal's house, or to the playground.  Hold their hand, and see how far they can lead you down that familiar path.  Or, ask them to give you directions from their car seat.
  • Early elementary student: stand at the front door of your home, ask your child to point in the direction of their school, the library, or their favorite pal's house.  Get them to draw a map with their house in the middle of a page of blank paper.  Then, together draw the route to some of their favorite places.  Include street names and count the number of blocks. 
  • Upper elementary student or 'tween: make your child a backseat driver (we know, we know...they'll likely have lots of advice!)  Have them direct you turn by turn along a familiar route or have them navigate you home giving you directions from a map or the GPS (they get to input the information in the trip planner).  Get them to read the street names, tell you how far in miles you have yet to go, and about how long it will take. Get them to remember where you parked, so you can relax a little while shopping.
  • High schooler or teen:  they want a ride to a new friend's house, to go to the mall on their own, their guitar practice is at a new location on the subway line. If they don't already, get them to consider all the possible ways to get around without relying on you as their chauffeur or navigator.  Get them to tell you the fastest way there, print out the map, load the GPS, figure out the bus route, or tell you what route they may drive themselves. Discuss contingency plans for unexpected detours or expenses. 
Learning how to navigate the neighborhood provides benefits at every age.  For young children it builds confidence.  For older children who have learned to navigate their 'hood, it's a matter of beginning to pull their own weight.  For teens who've proven their independence, it's a matter of security: knowing that they have more options than being driven (especially when they know the driver is new or might not be safest bet).

Working on these skills may call upon different types of courage, depending upon your child's particular strengths and/or temperament.  For example, asking some children to give you directions may call upon intellectual courage, and for others it might take emotional courage to do the same task.  Review the Six Types of Courage to figure out which types your child needs to complete this workout.

Mike Lanza over at Playborhood wrote about Giving Freedom Incrementally to his son, who now has a large "home range."

Here's another 5-Minute Courage Workout: Playing with Fire.  And this 5-Minute Courage Workout: A Fate Worse Than Death! is on public speaking.  Squeamish about dirt? Try our 5-Minute Courage Workout: Talking Dirty to overcome your (and your child's) reluctance.

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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Journey Our Kids Are On

If you don't know the trees you may be lost in the forest, but if you don't know the stories you may be lost in life. -- Anonymous (Siberian) proverb

A few months ago our Waldorf school hosted a master teacher from Denmark to advise the school on our early childhood programs. In an open forum with parents, this teacher was asked “What is the biggest difference you see between European parents and American parents?”

Without hesitation she replied, “Fear. American parents are full of fear.”

She went on, “Look around you. This town is beautiful. You have natural places and safe streets. This is a perfect place for children. What is there to be afraid of here?”