Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Twice Exceptionality
First of all, what does the term “twice exceptional” mean?  Simply, it refers to a child who is intellectually gifted, but who also has some challenge to learning, including, but not limited to, ADHD, an autism spectrum disorder, a behavioral or emotional disorder, or a specific learning disability.  Unfortunately, often the giftedness is masked by the disability, the disability is masked by the giftedness, or neither is addressed since the child appears to be doing fine.  twice exceptionality is a puzzle and we must identify all of the pieces in order to help the child to fulfill his potential.

As we seek to understand appropriate measures by which to identify twice-exceptional children, we must also understand the complexities of twice-exceptionality. While we have to look at a child’s innate intelligence and academic potential, we also need to be able to see the array of possible impediments to the child’s reaching that potential.  

When we talk about twice-exceptional (2E) learners, there is a tendency to look at them as a group.  What can we do for 2X learners?  How can we modify curriculum for 2E learners?  How should we differentiate for 2E learners?  Unfortunately, the problem is not that straightforward.  Gifted students who have physical, emotional, psychological, or cognitive obstacles in their paths need to be addressed differently.  For example, a teacher certainly would not provide the same accommodations to a blind gifted student as to a gifted student who is deaf.  Similarly, the needs of the gifted child with ADHD are different from those of a gifted child with emotional or behavioral issues.  To carry the argument in a slightly different direction, the needs of a student at one end of the autism spectrum are even quite different from those for the student at the other end.  We want to provide the best educational opportunities possible to each child, but we would be doing these 2E learners a disservice if we thought of them all as simply “2E.”  We absolutely must look at their individual needs based upon the type and degree of both their obstacles and their giftedness.

In 2002, the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) was passed as reauthorization of The Federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act.  In NCLB, giftedness was defined as: “Students, children, or youth who give evidence of high achievement capability in areas such as intellectual, creative, artistic, or leadership capacity, or in specific academic fields, and who need services and activities not ordinarily provided by the school in order to fully develop those capabilities.” [Title IX, Part A, Definition 22. (2002)]  Many states and districts do follow this NCLB definition. Gone is reliance on the measure of one’s giftedness as a numerical number achieved on an intelligence test; however, intelligence quotients (IQs) may still qualify one as gifted in terms of providing a window into the “potential for high achievement.”

As children reach the school years, parents often see signs of giftedness in their children first.  Stories abound of how Johnny was speaking in complete sentences at 1 or Susie was reading at 3.  These certainly are early signs of precociousness; however, other signs must be considered as well (depending upon which definition of giftedness we choose to use).  Similarly, if a parent sees that Johnny has difficulty distinguishing among vowel sounds, or writes illegibly, reads haltingly or becomes enraged at the slightest provocation, there may be a twice-exceptionality.  I believe that parents are integral players in identifying 2E children. 

The National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) tells us, in its position paper on twice exceptionality, “Whereas the concept itself is becoming more well-known both in and out of gifted education, professionals still are unsure of the prevalence of twice-exceptionality because no federal agency gathers base-rate data for this group of students. Estimates made through various sources, such as the U.S. Department of Education, suggest that there are approximately 360,000 twice-exceptional students in America’s schools (National Education Association, 2006), making the call for awareness and understanding about twice-exceptionality critical for educators nationwide.

Also to be considered, Piaget believed that we must understand a child’s logic in order to understand their level of intelligence.  He believed, "Children have real understanding only of that which they invent themselves, and each time that we try to teach them something too quickly, we keep them from reinventing it themselves."  (  Any true measure of their intelligence, then, should be one that allows them a degree of individual exploration and re-invention.  

NAGC cautions, “IQ tests do not measure creativity, leadership, initiative, curiosity, commitment, artistic skill, musical talent, social skills, emotional well-being, or physical prowess - all components which can be included in definitions of giftedness. There is considerable evidence that students who are economically disadvantaged, from ethnic minorities, and/or speak English as a second language generally receive a lower score on IQ tests. This is a fault in the tests, not the students” [Callahan, C. M. & Eichner, H. (2009). IQ Tests and Your Child.  Retrieved November 3, 2009 from].

The bottom line, then, is that when looking at the possibility of twice exceptionality, we need to look at the whole child.  We need to be aware of how easily he learns, assimilates, and displays knowledge, but also of when he becomes frustrated, how he relates to other children his chronological age, and parents’ impressions of the child.  Only by putting together all of the pieces of the puzzle that is each child can we assist him in fulfilling his true potential.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Creatively Gifted Children

       Stories abound of the child who never seemed to find his or her place in the school system – until in high school the child attended a school for performing and/or visual artists.  Then, the child flourished, released from the confines of the academic box that held him.  In fact, Goertzel and Goertzel found (1960) that “60% of eminent creative people had serious school problems.”  Their round pegs simply did not fit into the square holes of traditional education.  Edison and Tesla’s energy, Virginia Woolf and Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s talking, Robert Frost’s daydreaming and Frank Lloyd Wright’s inattentiveness landed them in trouble with their teachers (Cheney, 1981, Cramond & Kim, 2007).  Yet, it is those very characteristics that served them well in becoming the eminent individuals they became in their fields.
Schools for the Performing Arts are filled with students whose parents wondered if they would ever “be normal”
The question is, then, how do we best serve these creatively gifted children?  Do we ask already stressed teachers to expand their repertoire to include more arts-based learning options?  Do we assess a child’s artistic talent at a young age and put the child on an arts track, similar to many Eastern European and Asian schools?  Do we accept the differences in the creative soul and provide a welcoming and supportive environment in the traditional classroom?  Do we provide increased assessment options in the gifted classroom that would allow the artistic child to present knowledge on his or her own terms instead of through test-taking, rote memorization, and regurgitation of the teacher’s lessons?
If we could only identify these children at an earlier age and allow them to spread their creative wings, embracing their gifts and teaching them in ways that acknowledged and celebrated their artistic bent.  More often, teachers tell the child who has an amazing talent for drawing that her pictures are pretty, but it ends there.  The musical child who drums or hums in class is consistently reprimanded instead of being allowed to utilize that talent and interest.
        Ideally, I would like to see school system personnel opening their minds to the possibility of offering opportunities for the creative child to shine.  Through teacher training, teachers could learn to encourage their talents.  A few simple suggestions:
1. Art contests for yearbook covers, newspaper cartoons, bulletin boards, etc.
2. Debates on controversial issues in class
3. Journal of “Great Questions” kept by students or teacher to validate the creative thoughts and questions – not just the “right” answers
4. More game-playing and role-playing with literature, history, etc.
5. What if? time each day to encourage those with creative minds to think of possibilities relating to subject matter being studied
6. Morning greetings led by students – acceptance of silly, creative types of greetings
7. Ask dancers to teach class a dance that could be performed as an interpretation of a story
8. Ask artists to draw a “theme of the week” picture to be hung in the room and to which the teacher would refer several times during the week
9. Allow two minutes of “silly discussion” when talking about assignments
10.Occasionally ask students for their ideas for changing classroom systems
11.Offer writing opportunities for students who enjoy creative writing and story-telling.  Ask them, perhaps, to write a story each week to replace the morning story read by the teacher (lower grades).
        Given the prevalence of research and writing on the topic of creativity, I believe that it is significant in the scheme of things gifted. It would be beneficial to the debate if educators could decide what they mean, though, when they speak of creativity.  Are they referring to the generic, schoolhouse or living life type of creativity wherein a person consistently discovers new ways of doing or being, or performs ordinary tasks in unordinary ways?  Or are they referring to the artistically creative individuals who have a prodigious talent in visual or performing arts?  
My thought is that educators are referring to the former and not to the latter, although it is these individuals who have immense talent to create works of art who feel frustrated in the traditional school setting.  They doodle and tap their pencils, stare out the window and hum.  They wiggle in their seats and draw in the margins of their papers, react melodramatically and pretend.  They wear “different” clothes and hairstyles.  These are at-risk students who just have a need to create.  Because they don’t fit into the traditional program, though, teachers often perceive their actions as disruptive, rude, and antagonistic.  “I told you not to draw on that paper, Johnny!”  “Jane, if you can’t pay attention, you may go to the principal’s office.”  “PLEASE stop tapping (or rapping or bamming or humming . . .)!”  
Perhaps teachers could use some training on how to constructively embrace their talents rather than stifle them.  Do you have any suggestions as to how we can better serve these children?

Thursday, February 23, 2012


    Years ago, I was picking up my child at his elementary school and noticed a bumper sticker on the car in front of me that read, “My child can beat up your Honor Roll Student.”  I just stared at the sticker, at the minivan, and then tried, unsuccessfully, to get a look at the parent driving the car.  Did she think it was funny?  Was it supposed to be serious?  I watched as her son crashed out of the school and bounded towards the car.  The other children got out of his way as he swung open the car door and slammed it behind him.  By the time my child climbed into the car, the one in front of me had taken off.

     I never did find out who the Mom was, but I have thought about that bumper sticker many times over the years. Was that child living in a family that condoned bullying?  One that encouraged bullying?  Were his parents, themselves, bullies?  With everything being written and said and sung about the lifelong harm that bullies can cause their targets, how could this Mom think it was funny to display that bumper sticker?  

     How much do you really know about bullying? Check out these facts and myths from
FACT: People who bully have power over those they bully. 
People who bully others usually pick on those who have less social power (peer status), psychological power (know how to harm others), or physical power (size, strength). However, some people who bully also have been bullied by others. People who both bully and are bullied by others are at the highest risk for problems (such as depression and anxiety) and are more likely to become involved in risky or delinquent behavior. 
FACT: Spreading rumors is a form of bullying. 
Spreading rumors, name-calling, excluding others, and embarrassing them are all forms of social bullying that can cause serious and lasting harm. 
MYTH: Only boys bully. 
People think that physical bullying by boys is the most common form of bullying. However, verbal, social, and physical bullying happens among both boys and girls, especially as they grow older. 
MYTH: People who bully are insecure and have low self-esteem. 
Many people who bully are popular and have average or better-than-average self-esteem. They often take pride in their aggressive behavior and control over the people they bully. People who bully may be part of a group that thinks bullying is okay. Some people who bully may also have poor social skills and experience anxiety or depression. For them, bullying can be a way to gain social status.
MYTH: Bullying usually occurs when there are no other students around. 
Students see about four out of every five bullying incidents at school. In fact, when they witness bullying, they give the student who is bullying positive attention or even join in about three-quarters of the time. Although 9 out of 10 students say there is bullying in their schools, adults rarely see bullying, even if they are looking for it. 
MYTH: Bullying often resolves itself when you ignore it. 
Bullying reflects an imbalance of power that happens again and again. Ignoring the bullying teaches students who bully that they can bully others without consequences. Adults and other students need to stand up for children who are bullied, and to ensure they are protected and safe. 
MYTH: All children will outgrow bullying. 
For some, bullying continues as they become older. Unless someone intervenes, the bullying will likely continue and, in some cases, grow into violence and other serious problems. Children who consistently bully others often continue their aggressive behavior through adolescence and into adulthood. 
MYTH: Reporting bullying will make the situation worse. 
Research shows that children who report bullying to an adult are less likely to experience bullying in the future. Adults should encourage children to help keep their school safe and to tell an adult when they see bullying.
MYTH: Teachers often intervene to stop bullying.
Adults often do not witness bullying despite their good intentions. Teachers intervene in only 14 percent of classroom bullying episodes and in 4 percent of bullying incidents that happen outside the classroom. 
MYTH: Nothing can be done at schools to reduce bullying.
School initiatives to prevent and stop bullying have reduced bullying by 15 to 50 percent. The most successful initiatives involve the entire school community of teachers, staff, parents, students, and community members.
MYTH: Parents are usually aware that their children are bullying others. 
Parents play a critical role in bullying prevention, but they often do not know if their children bully or are bullied by others. To help prevent bullying, parents need to talk with their children about what is happening at school and in the community.  
If you want to read about some great ideas of ways to stop bullying, take a look at this:

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Children Need Sleep

     An acquaintance who tutors children reported on Facebook today that she had been asked by a parent to come by to tutor a six-year-old after 9:00 pm.  The family was really busy until then.  Really ?! Three questions came immediately to mind.  1. Why does a six-year-old need tutoring? 2. How is a six-year-old supposed to pay attention and learn anything after 9:00 pm? 3. Why isn’t a six-year-old in bed and already asleep by 9:00 pm?
     I will try to limit myself to one of these questions here: why isn’t a six-year-old in bed and already asleep by 9:00 pm?  I absolutely understand that today’s parents often work and the only time they have to spend with their children is the evening and weekends.  It stands to reason, then, that they would want to enjoy as much time as possible with those children.  However, children need their sleep.  According to the following chart, this six-year-old needs 10 - 11 hours of sleep.  If she is being tutored until 10:00 pm, then preparing for bed, she probably does not get to sleep until 11:00 pm.  If her parents wake her at 7:00 am for school, she is getting no more than 8 hours sleep.  This little tyke is being sleep deprived at least by two to three hours every night.
How Much Sleep Do You Really Need
     The National Sleep Foundation also tells us that the effects of sleep deprivation are huge.  In fact, short sleep deprivation is associated with:
  • Increased risk of motor vehicle accidents
  • Increase in body mass index - a greater likelihood of obesity due to an increased appetite caused by sleep deprivation
  • Increased risk of diabetes and heart problems
  • Increased risk for psychiatric conditions, including depression and substance abuse
  • Decreased ability to pay attention, react to signals, or remember new information
I am sure that if these parents knew that they were putting their little girl at risk for all of these things, they would, perhaps, make sure that she had an earlier bedtime.  
     This makes me wonder about the possible connection between the numbers of children today who are not getting enough sleep and the increased frequency of ADHD, oppositional defiant disorder, and emotional/behavioral diagnoses that we are seeing.  Perhaps many of these children are being mis-diagnosed.  Perhaps they are exhibiting symptoms not of a pathological nature, but simply of a sleep deprivation one.
     So, what can parents do to ensure that their children get enough sleep and wake refreshed?  Again, according to the National Sleep Foundation, they can do the following:
  1. Establish consistent sleep and wake schedules, even on weekends.  (I remember taking my children to DisneyWorld and tucking them into bed at 7:30 pm each night because it was their bedtime.)
  2. Create a regular, relaxing bedtime routine such as soaking in a hot bath or listening to soothing music, reading a book aloud or singing a particular song.
  3. Create a sleep-conducive environment that is dark, quiet, comfortable and cool
  4. Provide a comfortable mattress and pillows
  5. Do not allow your children to watch television, play on a computer, or have a cell phone in the bedroom
  6. Finish eating at least two to three hours before the regular bedtime
     So, the next time you are tempted to allow your child to stay up late because it is more convenient for you, remember the importance of sleep and tuck the little one into bed. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Digital Parenting
     I am coining a new phrase -- digital parenting.  This refers to those parents who live hectic lives: working, socializing, traveling, and raising their children digitally.  With the advent of i-phones and i-pads, i-parenting is taking over in some households.  Leaving messages for children to do chores, reminders to do homework, and schedules are taking the place of face-to-face communication.  Sending texts, e-mails, and IMing are taking the place of face-to-face communication.  Referencing articles, television shows, and news reports is taking the place of face-to-face communication. Parents giving children toys that read stories to them instead of reading to them themselves are losing face-to-face communication.
    A digital mom of a 15 year old said to me a short time ago, "You seem to have a great relationship with your children.  How can I talk with my son?"  I wanted to tell her that it was too late, that you develop a relationship from birth, talking, playing, listening, spending time together, laughing, sharing, teaching, disciplining, loving.  You can't allow television, computers, video games, day care providers, coaches, and teachers to raise your child.  You need to be an important piece of the equation.  Then, when your child is 15, you will have developed a base that allows him to be confident that you are there, care, and are concerned for his well-being.  What I did say was, "Well, you could start by unplugging for a weekend - the whole family.  Spend the weekend playing games together, doing chores together, running errands together, and talking.  Find something that you all love and do it together - no cell phones, ipads, laptops, televisions, ipods, or any other electronic distractions.  Have meals together at the same time at the same table."  She looked at me as though I had suggested that she cut off her arm, shrugged, and said, "Well, that's not going to happen."
    When I drive along the road and see a Mom sitting in the front seat, driving, and two children sitting in the back with ear buds in their ears, staring at DVD screens, I am sad.  When I see a family riding in a car and three children are in the back, individually playing video games on their Game Boys I am sad.  When I see children with ear buds in their ears listening to different music, I am sad.  Digital parents should realize that car time is captive audience time.  While "trapped" in the car, parents and children have the opportunity to play word games, I Spy, number games, sing songs, review the events of the day, talk about the future, laugh together, basically, learn about each other's lives and connect.  Allowing this time to slip by is really allowing your children to slip a little more away from you.
    I know that I run the risk of sounding old fashioned.  I am not an enemy of technology.  I love my electronic toys - MacBook Air, Ipod, Apple TV, DVD, GPS, etc. -- but there is so much to be gained when they are turned off, when you are inaccessible and unplugged to the outside world.  There are times when you need to communicate with people one-to-one and face-to-face -- especially your children.   

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Joy of Reading

     Never underestimate the power of the joy of reading in reaching gifted children, regardless of your observations of their abilities or attention span in class.    
     For two years, I served as Project Manager for a research study on twice-exceptional children (children who are gifted but who also have something that is holding them back from fulfilling their true potential, such as ADD/ADHD, Asperger’s, OCD, Bi-Polar, Behavioral or Social diagnoses, etc.) Part of my responsibility was to visit third and fourth grade classrooms to observe the students in the study.  I found this fascinating, particularly when it came to be time for free reading. 
     When the students were given time to read on their own, wonderful things occurred.  A student who didn’t seem to be able to focus on anything suddenly became engrossed in a biography of Albert Einstein, sitting quietly at his desk.  A student who felt like a failure most of the time suddenly smiled and laughed as she read, sprawled on the carpet in the front of the room.  A little boy whose numerous questions often went unanswered by a harried teacher became absorbed in a book on aeronautics, sitting on the windowsill.  A little girl who appeared anxious most of the time relaxed and left the world behind as she became engrossed in a novel, curled in a bean bag chair. And a little boy who was often homeless and had difficulty getting his work done in a noisy classroom read a historical novel quietly aloud to himself sitting under the teacher’s desk in his own little cave.
    The examples are too numerous to list here, but the effect that free reading had on these children was astounding - across the board.  Regardless of their twice-exceptionality, when they were given time to read books of their choosing, topics in which they were truly interested, they became engrossed. In gifted education, we often tell teachers and parents to follow the children’s passions to reach them and to help them to learn.  The truth in this philosophy becomes clear during these reading times.
    One of my favorite stories is of the little boy who loved science.  In fact, he was far ahead of the class in that area, since he read everything he could on a variety of scientific topics.  As a result, he was bored and frustrated during science in his gifted elementary classroom.  The class didn’t delve deeply enough into the subject for him.  The teacher didn’t have the time (or the inclination) to answer his many questions.  He began acting out in class, being disruptive to the other children and annoying the teacher.  Parents were called in for a conference and it was suggested that the little boy be put on medication to calm him.  The parents refused, since they knew their son and knew that in his case he simply needed more of a challenge in science.  An agreement was made between parents and teacher that a contract would be drawn up and the little boy and his teacher would both sign it.  If he agreed to not disrupt the class and complete the assignments for the class, the teacher would agree to let him bring in books from the library and from home to read while the rest of the class completed their work.  During the remainder of the school year, the little boy was a model student.  He completed his assigned work and went to his “office” in the corner of the room where he read dozens of books in a variety of scientific areas.  When he finished each book, he wrote a review of the book, including questions he had about each one.  He and the teacher would review his writing, and they would choose a question or two to research further.  
    This story describes a situation in which some creativity and flexibility on the part of an excellent teacher, caring parents, and a bright child created a learning experience commensurate with a child’s abilities and interests, while allowing him to remain in a classroom with his age peers - something that was important to the parents and the child.  Reading about his interests changed him from a behavioral “problem child” into a curious, lifetime learner.
    Never underestimate the power of the joy of reading for these gifted children. 

Saturday, February 18, 2012

    I attended a cheerleading competition today.  Little girls from pre-school through high school competed with teams from around the state.  It was exciting, fun, and entertaining.  It was also educational.  The educational piece, for me, came in the relationship between the type and frequency of praise bestowed upon the members of the team and the team’s attitude, pleasure in performing, and success.  As I watched the teams take to the floor, I also watched their coaches.  
    I watched a pair of coaches hug each member prior to competition, smile at them, tell them that they were going to be great, and to have fun.  The team went out and looked like they really enjoyed themselves.  They were a pleasure to watch and they did great.  When they were finished, the coaches jumped up, ran to them, arms open and smiles on their faces, congratulating them for doing the best they had ever done. Team members and coaches ran out of the auditorium, chattering about what fun that had been.
    In contrast, another coach sternly reminded the girls that they needed to do their best, yelled to them from across the room to smile, motioned throughout their performance to any member who was not doing something right.  When the competition was over, the team quietly left the floor. Without a word, the coach turned her back and the team quietly followed her out of the auditorium.
    Which team do you think did better at the end of the day?  Which girls are having a healthier experience?  Which girls are being empowered to do their best and to enjoy what they do, to feel good about themselves and their accomplishments? It is obvious that the team with the positive attitude, with the praise-bestowing coaches did far better than the team with the stern, all business coach.  When awards were handed out, another team took first prize, and the positive attitude team ran to them to congratulate them, following their coaches’ lead who walked over and shook hands with the winning coaches, congratulating them.  The negative attitude team sat sullenly, complaining to each other that they should have gotten better scores.  Their coach frowned at the winners and told her team that if they had tried harder they would have done better.
    Praise and a positive attitude will win out every time.
    Planning to write about praise today, I was surprised to see a friend’s post Are Our Children Overpraised? | Child Mind Institute (  If you are interested in the research on praise, take a look at the website.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Helping Children To Be More Resilient

    A phenomenon has overtaken this country in the past few years.  Children are never allowed to feel sad or angry or to fail at anything.  Parents, wanting their children to be happy, are quick to jump in and fix any problem their child has, trying to stave away any sadness.  Of course, the parents do this because they love their children and want to see the smiles on their faces.  However, the results of this type of parenting are not pretty.
     A child who never is allowed to feel sad, doesn’t learn how to deal with sadness, how to get past it, to see the beauty in the world, the goodness in people, or the strength in himself.  Without the minor sadnesses that childhood can offer, he does not learn how to cope with true sadness later on.  When a child’s pet dies, for example, it is okay to feel sad.  Parents can help children to understand the emotion, that we all feel sad sometimes, but that the sadness will pass in time and we will be happy again.  In this way, the child is prepared to maneuver through sadnesses, knowing that there will come a time when she will be happy again.
     A child who is not allowed to be angry, who is told to “get over it,” or not to be mad, doesn’t learn that there are some situations that absolutely warrant getting angry and then learning to use that anger to spur one on to greater things.  If, for example, a child gets angry because he can not have a toy he wants, and is allowed to feel that anger, and is guided to understand that he may be angry now but that we don’t always get everything we want, learns that sometimes anger is warranted and sometimes it is not.  At any rate, it is not rewarded.  When the child who is beaten out by another child for a team they both wanted to be on, and the losing child becomes angry, it is the parent’s job to allow the child to be angry, but to make sure that the child understands why he is angry.  Should his anger be directed at the child who played better or at himself because he didn’t try his best?  Learn from that anger.

    A child who is never allowed to fail at anything, or who is always told that she did a good job even when she did not, does not learn how to process failure, to learn from it, and not to make the same mistakes again.  Also, a child whose parent always praises in the face of failure or poor performance is less trusted to tell the child the truth.  The child knows in his heart that the effort was poor, or that he failed.  Yet, when the parent praises the effort or the result anyway, he learns to distrust the praise given in other situations.  A good example of this is a little boy playing baseball.  He comes up to bat and swings and misses.  Everyone yells, “good try.”  Another pitch comes and he swings and misses, and again everyone yells “good try.”  The third pitch comes and he hits a little roller back to the pitcher who throws him out at first.  Again, everyone yells, “That’s okay.  Good try.”  The mother, however, says nothing to him and asks the other parents not to tell him that it was a good try.  It wasn’t.  He failed.  The mother is criticized for being too hard on the little boy.  After the game, walking to the parking lot, the little boy asks his mother how he did.  She honestly tells him that his two hits were great, the run he scored was helpful to his team, but that his last at bat was horrible.  He looks up, smiles, and says, “I know.  Why does everyone yell ‘good try’ even when it isn’t?  It really bugs me.”  This mother understood that honesty is important and that the child needed to learn from the failure, figure out what he did wrong, and perhaps correct it in the next game.
    By allowing children to feel their emotions, we help them to become more resilient adults, able to cope with those emotions when they are felt.  By keeping children from feeling negative emotions, we are not giving them the tools with which to stave off depression, loneliness, and anger-related escalations.
    So, the next time your little one is sad, cuddle up with her, ask why she is sad, understand, and let her know that the sadness will pass.  The next time your child is angry, ask why he is angry, accept that, and help him to channel that anger in a positive way.  And, the next time your pride and joy fails, look that failure in the eye and make sure that he accepts it, learns from it, and moves on.  You will be ensuring that your child will become a resilient adult.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Organizational Styles

     Do you wish your child would be more organized?  Do you wish your child would remember where he put his things?  Do you wish your child would get her homework done in a more organized way?  Do you find yourself nagging your child to clean his room, pick up her toys, move his games out of your way, get her homework done, practice his musical instrument?
     Keep in mind that when you criticize your children for not being organized, you may be doing so unfairly.  Ask yourself a few questions: 1) Is my child able to find things when he needs them?; 2) Is my child comfortable in her surroundings? Is my child a . . . child?
     Some people are most organized following the adage, “A place for everything and everything in its place” (Type A) while others are most organized when their papers are in piles, items used every day are visible, and the untrained eye sees their space as a recent tornado scene (Type B).
      Parents, BOTH styles are organized.  A problem arises, however, when a Type A parent has a Type B child or vice versa.  We have to remember that our children do not need to organize in the exact same way we do so long as they can find what they need and are safe.    
      If, however, you would like to try to mold your Type B into a Type A, make sure that you provide appropriate spaces for his “stuff.”  Cubbies, shelves, hooks, and baskets are often acceptable to Type Bs since they allow for everything to be visible.  The Type A parent may be able to adapt to this visibility since everything now has a place. 
        If you would like to try to mold your Type A into a Type B in your image, however, that might be a little more difficult.  I remember a parent telling me of a three-year-old who chased after her with her shoes to inform her that they had not been put away where they belonged.   
        Whatever your organizational style, just remember that organization does have to be taught.  It is not something that children are born knowing.  Often, they will copy your style, but sometimes they will develop their very own.  Try to be patient and enjoy the ride.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Starting a Parent Group

     Parenting can sometimes feel like a losing proposition.  Whatever we do, we question ourselves, wonder if we are doing the right things for our children, and our children often tell us that they are the only ones who cannot see a particular movie, listen to particular music, or be at home at a particular time.  Living in a vacuum, not communicating with other parents, can make us feel that we are making a million mistakes.  

     One solution is to join a parents’ group.  If one is not available in your area, then it is easier than you would think to start one.  All you need is a unifying mission, a place to meet, and a willingness to discuss the issues confronting your children or you as parents.  So, how do you go about starting a parent group?
  1. You could go to the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) website. Click on Parents and then on Starting a Parent Group.  NAGC will walk you through the steps to start an affiliate parent group.
  2. If you do not want to go through NAGC, you could simply contact your school or community center to obtain a location for meetings.  Decide how frequently you would like your group to meet, the day of the week, and time, and secure your location for those times.
  3. Create a flyer that provides the purpose for your group, the meeting information, and topics to be discussed.  Often, a parent group is more successful if you decide on a particular topic to be the focus for each meeting, and then branch out from there into other areas of concern.  Asking someone from the community who is knowledgeable about your focus topic to attend often helps your meeting to stay on task.
  4. At your first meeting, you could poll the attendees as to what they would find useful, the direction they would like to see the group head, and any ideas they may have.
  5. Keep your meetings short (1-2 hours) because parents with young children usually do not have a lot of free time.  
  6. When the designated time for the end of the meeting arrives, announce that the formal meeting is over and allow anyone who needs to leave to do so without feeling as though he or she is leaving early.  If you wish, you could continue the meeting informally after that time for anyone who wishes to continue to chat.
  7. Asking attendees to sign up to lead future meetings often is a way to distribute the work.  Whoever is to lead a meeting may select the topic to be discussed that day, secure a speaker, and/or lead the discussion.
  8. If you wish to have refreshments at your meetings, you could send around a sign-up sheet so that no one person is responsible for providing all of the refreshments.
  9. If you prefer, you could meet at a local coffee shop or restaurant.  In that case, no one would need to bring refreshments since attendees could purchase whatever they want.
  10. Have fun!  Organizing a parent group does not have to be a lot of work.  The benefits, however, are enlightening. 

Friday, February 3, 2012

Exploring Your Hometown
     No matter where you live, there are a multitude of adventures you can have with your children to inspire them, pique their curiosity, and follow or create a newfound passion.  Whether you have a budding scientist or a child who loves fire trucks, a young thespian or one with a passion for music, use your imagination to come up with an inspiring adventure.  You never know where you will find the best day of your child’s young life.  Some ideas are:
  • Art Museum
  • Science Museum
  • Natural History Museum
  • Specific Subject Museum
  • Zoo
  • Amusement Park
  • Post Office
  • City Hall
  • Fire Station
  • Police Station
  • Playground
  • Park
  • Sporting Event
  • Factory
  • Beach
  • Mountain
  • Airport
  • Train Station
  • Restaurant Kitchen
  • Farm
  • Stable
  • Fair
  • Parade
  • Lake, River, or Ocean
  • Aquarium
  • Island
  • Boat Ride
  • Picnic
  • Theater
  • Movie
  • Mall
     Of course, there are many more locations you could choose.  Once there, though, what do you do?  An adventure requires a little planning.  So, what can you do in these places?
  • Hunt Treasure
  • Problem Solve
  • Play Games
  • Search and Identify
  • Interview
  • Answer Questions
  • Draw or Paint
  • Plan a Route
  • Make Connections
  • Act Out a Scene
  • Pretend
  • Analyze
  • Research
  • Laugh
  • Enjoy!!!!!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Teaching Virtues With Movies

   Sometimes it is difficult to teach a particular lesson to our children.  Or, alternatively, we are teaching a lesson and need a way to reinforce the lesson.  Movies can be a wonderful tool to  use strategically.  There were many times when raising my own children that I would select a movie because of the message it conveyed.  If you are trying to instill courage or honesty, listening, or the effects of bullying, for example, there are wonderful movies you can watch with your children.  

    Simply providing these movies may not be enough.  Try watching the movies with them and discussing the principles either during or afterwards.  Relate the ideas to their lives.  A wonderful series is Adventures From the Book of Virtues.  The show was on PBS for four seasons and the episodes may be purchased as boxed sets. It is particularly appropriate for young children. 

     Some specific movies that depict life lessons are:
  • Honesty -- Liar Liar, Pinnochio
  • Integrity -- 12 Angry Men, Apollo 13
  • Bullying -- Big Bully, Mean Girls, The Karate Kid
  • Friendship -- Toy Story, Monsters Inc., Finding Nemo, The Jungle Book, The Sandlot, The Wizard of Oz, Pete’s Dragon
  • Loyalty -- Shrek, Brave Little Toaster, Angels in the Outfield, It’s a Wonderful Life
  • Resilience -- Soul Surfer, Cast Away, Clash of the Titans, James and The Giant Peach, The Swiss Family Robinson
  • Giftedness -- August Rush, Finding Forrester, Harriet the Spy, Matilda, Little Man Tate, October Sky, Searching for Bobby Fischer, Rain Man
  • Individualism -- The Incredibles, Star Wars, Mulan
  • Free Will -- Babe, Racing Stripes
  • Respect -- Ladybugs, A Bug’s Life, Around the World in 80 Days, High School Musical, Remember the Titans
  • Courage -- The Diary of Ann Frank, The Red Badge of Courage
  • Leadership -- Cool Runnings, Mr. Holland’s Opus, The Chronicles of Narnia, 101 Dalmations, Madagascar
  • Patience -- The Karate Kid, Are We There Yet?, 
  • Generosity -- It’s a Wonderful Life, 
  • Responsibility -- The Lion King, Old Yeller, The Rookie, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Yearling
  • Persistence -- The Miracle Worker, Where the Red Fern Grows

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Consistent Discipline 
     Standing in line at the grocery store, I watched as a frustrated mother repeatedly told her young, crying son that he could not have the candy bar he wanted.  As she unpacked her groceries, putting them on the belt, he continued to cry, ask for the candy bar, and tell her that he needed it.  Her response was that he could not have it.  I was proud of her for sticking to her guns UNTIL she exclaimed, “Fine.  If it gets you to stop crying, you can have it!”  At this point, his tears stopped immediately, a smile spread across his face, and she finished checking out.  As they were leaving the store, he began crying again, saying that he wanted to go to the toy store.  She told him that they could not go to the toy store today.  He continued crying as they left the store.  
    This little boy is learning how to manipulate his mother, hot to get his own way, and who is in charge of the family - him.
    Contrast this with an experience I had today at Disney World.  As I again stood in line, this time waiting for bus transportation to the Magic Kingdom, a little boy stood at his mother’s feet, holding onto her legs, and looking up at her with tears streaming down his little face.  As he cried, he kept asking her to pick him up.  Her response each time was exactly the same, a quiet but firm, “You bit me.  Until you can apologize and stop crying, I will not pick you up.”  She repeated these same two sentences six or seven times over a span of 10 minutes or so.  Finally, the little boy wiped his eyes, looked up at her and said, “I sorry.”  She whipped him up into her arms, hugged him, kissed him, and said, “Good boy.  Now don’t bite any more, okay?”  He responded that he would not and they both smiled.
    This little boy is learning that there are societal and familial expectations, that his mother is not one to be manipulated, and that she is the adult in the relationship.  He also is learning that he can trust what she says to him because when she says something, she means it.
Consistent discipline provides a structure for a child that gives him a sense of security.