Tip Tuesday: Resources for Emotional Developtment

Yesterday, someone posted an article to the FB timeline of a friend of mine. It’s called “The Benefits of Helping Preschoolers Understand and Discuss Their Emotions” by Deborah Farmer Kris, and it details some strategies and methods for helping your toddler/preschooler start to gain an important skill: emotional literacy. As the mother of a very…opinionated and emotional 2-year-old girl, I appreciated this article very much. In the article, Ms. Kris cites some things that parents and teachers can do to foster a healthy development of emotional literacy.

1. Name emotions

Elizabeth is still quite young but this is definitely something I as her mother can do and what we have been doing in differing forms since she was an infant. Yesterday, however, I tried to mak a conscious effort to do it, noting when she was mad, frustrated, happy, cranky, etc.

2. Normalize emotions

This is something that will need more work and consistency on my part. It is almost instinctive, when Elizabeth is throwing a tantrum in the middle of Target, for me to tell her that she is being naughty.

This past Saturday, Elizabeth threw an absolute fit in the middle of Target. It was decided that I would take her back to the car and my husband would pay for our items and then join us. So I walked her out to the car, got her strapped into her seat, and calmed down. Then, instead of getting into the front seat, I left the side door of the van open and sat on the floor of the van in the open doorway so I could be close to her. I gave her a sippy to have a drink after all that crying and screaming and loaded her arms with her little blankie friends (her best comfort next to Ma or Da). Then I talked to her. “You were very angry in the store. I know you’re usually very good when we are shopping. Now you look very sad. Are you tired? It’s OK, you can take a nap. I’m right here; you aren’t alone.” And I sat there until Ben came out from the store so we could head home. I always try to talk to Elizabeth about her behavior after the event and (if necessary) consequences, ie time out. I know that she is two, but I also know that my daughter understands everything I say, even if she doesn’t have the ability to parse out the particulars yet.

3. Develop Strategies

In this section, Ms. Kris cites one of my favorite things: Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, a show built on Fred Rogers’ emotional education curriculum begun with Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. Elizabeth has been watching Daniel Tiger since she was eight months old; he is a favorite in this house, with his lessons about dealing with emotions and life’s little ups and downs. Of the 40 plus episodes that she has enjoyed, Elizabeth has many of them memorized now and recognizes when we use the little strategies/songs with her. It is not unusual to hear “Grownups come back” sung in our house at someone’s leave-taking, accompanied by “It’s OK to feel sad sometimes. Little by little, you’ll feel better again.” Just yesterday, as Elizabeth let out an angry cry at her Kindle, which wasn’t working (because she had turned off the wifi), I sang her the frustration song, “When you’re feeling frustrated, take a step back and ask for help.” Sure enough, she quieted down, picked up her Kindle, and handed it to me to fix. It may or may not have been her recognizing her emotional state and taking action to relieve her frustration, but I believe that little lessons and strategies like this can be of immense help in developing emotional awareness and literacy.

4. “Read” pictures

As a certified bibliophile, I love looking at books with my daughter and reading to her. One of my favorite books to read with Elizabeth is Caroline Church’s I Love You Through and Through (I seriously want to own all the books this woman has written). It details all the different states of a child in which their parents/grandparents/etc. will still love them: “I love your happy side. I love your sad side. Your silly side, and your mad side.” The pictures show the same child with the differing emotions and actions as depicted in the story and I will point to the pictures and talk about how happy/sad/silly/mad the little boy looks. Elizabeth has this book memorized and will sometimes act it out as I read, which is lots of fun for us both.

5. Practice mindfulness

I enjoy my quiet time. I dearly remember Saturday mornings in a silent house, or sitting on my stoop with a cup of coffee, listening to sounds of the neighborhood on a summer morning. Admittedly, that doesn’t happen quite as much with Elizabeth around, as she is a child of almost constant movement, singing, dancing, playing, tumbling, etc. But I do try to convince her to have “quiet time” with Ma. Yesterday, we took a long walk and she looked and listened to the world around her as we walked (rocks were deeply fascinating, as was the new spring grass). I enjoyed that and plan on repeating it as often as we can.

On the whole, Ms. Kris’s article was a delight and encouragement to read and I am so glad to have had the opportunity to find it. As a fellow educator and mother, I found her words very uplifting and the strategies useful and applicable, even to my rambunctious bundle.

I have followed her on Twitter so that I can continue to keep up with her writings, and you can do the same here.

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Tip Tuesday: My Challenge

I know it’s been FOREVER since I did once of these and there is a reason behind that. I’m new at this myself and, half the time, old habits don’t work as well anymore. Elizabeth is growing so quickly and is so smart and rather willful. She is climbing on everything, taking some tumbles, practicing her preferences and manual skills, and, yes, throwing fits when things don’t go her way.

I am working on keeping my cool as best I can to deal with her. She scares me, she surprises me, she angers me, but I know that I need to make sure to be calm to deal with her. Me losing it will not help her. So that is my current challenge, doing like the song says in Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood (her favorite cartoon):

“When you feel so mad that you wanna roar, take a deep breath and count to four. 1 – 2 – 3 – 4.”

Tip Tuesday: Baby See, Baby Do

I have begun brushing my teeth after meals in front of Bizzy, giving her her toothbrush to hold/chew/suck on, what have you, after I have already brushed her teeth. I will sit kneel there with her and brush my teeth while she has her toothbrush in her mouth, hopefully giving her an idea of what is to be done with it. Here’s hoping it helps. 🙂

Tip Tuesday: Let Baby Do It Themselves

If you have a toddler, you’re probably noticing more of a desire to “do it myself”, even if they can’t say it yet. Elizabeth is very much in this phase so something we have begun allowing her to do is walk herself to bed. Normally, Daddy would carry her around the house to check the doors and turn out the lights before her bedtime. This past week, we started opening the gate in the living room and allowing her to dictate where they went before bed, and she started heading right for the bedrooms. She is super excited to grab her blanket from the arm of the rocking chair in her room and then walk around for me to pick her up and get her ready for her bottle and bedtime song/rocking.

It’s something that she can do herself and give her a measured sense of independence and being a “big girl”.

Tip Tuesday: Letting Baby Decide

Like all mommies, I worry. I worry about Elizabeth when she loses her balance and takes a tumble in her traversing of the living room or in the course of playing with her toys. Of course, when baby takes a tumble, our motherly instinct is to gather them up, inspect for any boo-boo’s, and cuddle them. I am working hard on letting Elizabeth decide if she is hurt or not. When she falls, 8 times out of 10, she looks to ME for MY reaction so she then knows how to react. She waits for me to gasp so she can cry or smile so she can get up and go about her business. So I do my best, unless she is obviously hurt and start crying immediately, to keep my seat wherever I am, ask her if she’s OK, and let her make her own decision.

I believe that it gives her a sense of power over her own emotions and is an early help to her in her independence, not to always be conditioned in her response by her mother’s reaction. So, as much as you can bear, let your little one make their own decision as they become more mobile and more adventurous. They still know that you’re always there for them; you are watching them, after all, Mom. 🙂

Tip Tuesday: The Distraction

My girl HATES any interruption to playtime if it’s not nap or bottle time. So that means that every diaper or clothing change can the potential to be a power struggle. That’s when you employ the distraction. I always make sure to have something on hand to distract Elizabeth or at least buy me a few minutes. So whether it’s a toy, a lotion bottle, or her powder bottle (closed and wiped off when I’m done with it), putting something in her hands for her to investigate enables me to move quickly without a little body twisting or legs kicking at me. Which is really nice, because this girl is incredibly strong for her size and those kicks hurt.

So if you have a kiddo like mine who doesn’t appreciate diaper or clothes changes, try employing the Distraction. 🙂

Mommy-Tip Tuesday

So I will try to do the following as on as regular a schedule as possible:

Moment Monday

Tip Tuesday

Whiny Wednesday

Thoughtful Thursday

Photography Friday

= = = =

So, my tip for today. If your little one is a chewer, like mine, and likes paper, like mine, and you have your DVD collection out in the open, you may want to remove the paper covers if you can. They make enticing and tasty treats for little biters who want to try out their chompers.

Elizabeth has chewed on index cards, tour guids, DVD covers, her board books, pop up books (I had to pry Hansel’s head out of her mouth), etc., so I have to constantly keep a wary eye out. I keep telling her that, if she keeps it up, she’s going to poop out a book one of these days.