Monthly Archives: April 2015

The Art of Setting Limits, Part Two

As we discussed yesterday, setting limits is a specific alternative to punishment and threats.MentalToughness Giving a child limits is a tool in the parental (and educator) toolbox for providing positive discipline for a child. In fact, children crave routines and knowing their limits on behaviors; both help them feel safe.

Here’s five-step approach we use in classrooms to set limits with our learners in order to increase effectiveness for everyone:

Explain which behavior is inappropriate. Simply saying “stop that” may not be enough. The child may not know if you are objecting to how loudly he is talking or objecting to the language he is using. Be specific in your directive.

Explain why the behavior is inappropriate. Never assume the child knows why the behavior is not acceptable. Is she disturbing others? Being disrespectful? Not doing a task you asked of her? Again, be specific.

Give reasonable choices with natural consequences. Instead of using the ultimatum (“do this or else”), tell your child what the choices are and what the consequences of those choices will be. Ultimatums lead to power struggles because you are forcing one thing. Providing choices with consequences does not force your decision, but the child’s personal choice. Likewise, consequences that logically follow from your child’s actions usually work best as a teaching tool. Example: In an angry moment, the child chooses to break something. A logical consequence would be for the child to clean up the mess and pay for the item out of her allowance.

Allow wait time. It’s usually best to allow a few moments (not too many) for the child to make the decision. In upsetting moments, it is critical to remember the child is not thinking clearly (and neither are you, most likely). It may take a few moments for everything to process before a choice is made.

Be prepared to enforce your consequences, even when they are inconvenient. Setting a limit is completely meaningless if you do not consistently and persistently enforce the consequences you set with the choice. For example, if your consequence is no TV or social media for a month, be ready enforce it the entire month–no exceptions! Never back yourself into a corner; set reasonable enforceable consequences and stick to them!

Limits are powerful teaching tools to modeling appropriate behaviors. It’s really not about who’s the boss; it’s about modeling respect, giving guidance, and ensuring an overall feeling of safety and security in a nurturing, calm manner. You are your child’s first and most important teacher; practice these techniques and never give up hope! As I remind parents daily, the days of raising our children are long, but the years are far too short…

The Art of Setting Limits

It’s true; we bring this precious life into the world to nurture, love, grow, and shape into an upstanding citizen and leader of the next generation. No one bothers to remind you (as you leave for home that first time) there is no instruction or direction manual for this precious child. As my dear daddy quips, “You need a license to drive, hunt, fish, get married, or any other number of things in life, but anyone can be a parent.” setlimits

During a recent parent conference, I was reminded again of the fine art of setting limits with a child, especially one who is, shall we say, a unique challenge. When we, as parents (or educators), are faced with undesirable behavior from our child, we have to make the decision about how to respond to the behavior. It is easy to be emotional in these moments, but logic should control our response every time.

Likewise, it is much easier to punish than to think of logical consequences connected to the child’s behavior (I call these natural consequences). Punishment works in the short term because it usually stops the unwanted behavior. In the long run, though, punishment does nothing to solve the original problem and can lead to resentment and retaliation (especially in the teen years)—much more difficult to manage it then!

Did you know the actual word discipline comes from a Latin word meaning “to teach” or “to lead?” When you discipline the child, you are setting limits as an alternative to threats or punishment. Limits are powerful tools for parents and teachers to use and setting limits is an art indeed:

Setting a limit is not the same as issuing an ultimatum. Limits are not threats; they offer choices with consequences. “If you clean up your room, you can go outside with your friends. If you don’t clean up your room, you will not go outside with your friends. It’s your choice.”

The purpose of limits is to teach, not to punish. With limits, a child begins to understand personal actions, positive and negative results, and natural consequences. Giving a child choices and consequences provides a structure for good decision-making later in life.

Setting limits is more about listening than talking. Take time to actively listen to your child to better understand thoughts and feelings. You learn more this way and it helps you set more meaningful limits in the future.

In tomorrow’s blog, I will offer five steps to setting limits. In the meantime, remember to give choices and consequences—no one said the choices had to be likable…that’s part of the art of setting limits!

Kinder Camp is coming!

KinderKamp1It’s the time of year when we meet and greet our incoming Kinder friends who will start in MISD next fall! On Tuesday, April 28th @ 6:30 p.m; each elementary campus will host a special KinderKamp2event for Kindergarten children and their parents. Come explore the world of Kinder, learn what you can do now to prepare for the first day, find out about daily routines and expectations, get a special surprise, and much more! Join us in the cafe and be ready to shake our hand in Kinder land!

Note: MANY THANKS for your patience and perseverance this week as we completed state-mandated testing.

Count on me!

She’s one of our youngest learners on our campus but has the heart and soul of an adult.  Her answers to my questions always reflect maturity and just a little too-much-knowing-beyond-her-years.  It’s always such a JOY to talk with her.

This little friend loves being a nurturer to others, especially the dolls in the home area where she has a particular favorite each time.  Her motherly instincts are strong for one so young and I’ve often thought she could demonstrate some valuable parenting lessons to new moms.  She talks softly and kindly to her baby, feeds her, changes her clothes, gives her a bath, and takes great care to show love above all else.

keep-calm-and-count-on-me-11This afternoon, my little friend was called away from her chosen area to visit with her teacher (doing some group work, you see).  She turned to me, “Will you please watch my baby while I go with my teacher?”  I responded with a smile, “Consider it done; I’m happy to help!”  Her little face scrunched some and she looked straight into my eyes, “I’m counting you, Mrs. Van.”  My responsibility deepened then, “Yes, yes I will do my personal best; you can count on me.”

Those little words, “I’m counting on you, Mrs. Van”…what a soul-searching statement in one so young to one much older!  I held the baby and pondered the countless numbers of children we serve daily, yearly, each decade who “count on us” in our classrooms.  We are truly entrusted with a most important task in our call to serve learners each day.  Whether spoken like my little friend or not, they each remind us, “I’m counting on you…”  Here’s hoping we continue our journey to #LoveServeCare daily because yes, they are counting on us all!  🙂

Note:  Just one more full day of testing (and then some makeups on Friday).  Thanks to everyone for your patience this week!  

School as Community…

Once testing was completed, I made the rounds to visit some who were not testing but working in their classrooms on “important matters.” A 5th grade friend stopped me to share how they were talking about our school as a community and how we function as a community. communityIn today’s society, there are few communities with the purpose and depths of a school community–our work is universal, long-lasting, and broad in nature since we serve every single child with no exclusion. From age 3 through 5th grade, our LME learning community sets the foundation and purpose of preparing the next generation to carry forth a way of life in society with values, freedom, responsibility, and more. The most important aspect in the community, though, is the relationship with each child.

Relationships matter; the foundation of any community is the network of relationships. Children need to feel safe and encouraged in order to learn. Likewise, learning and using their social/emotional skills, communicating effectively, and learning to take responsibility for actions and words help build strong relationships in the community. Passing a STAAR test does not include any of these skills, nor does it really indicate career readiness in life. Learning life skills such as working within a community (our school community) ensures each child learns how to be a contributing member of society…”to develop the character, confidence, knowledge, and skills to be successful in life.” (part of the MISD mission statement). Building a climate of healthy relationships in a diverse learning community where every student feels a sense of belonging is a challenge in today’s schools. As my 5th grade friend noted, “We build our school as a community one day and one student at a time.” Well said; build on!

Hike the Mountain!

IMG_4958I enjoy hiking with my sister and have racked up many miles through our years on foot with some stunning scenery along the way. As little girls, we would hike with our dad in the summers while on vacation in the mountains. We would always look up in awe of the daunting task ahead wondering if our momentum and little legs would get us to the top. When we reached the top, our faces beamed with pride, taking in the view and changing our perspective with greater confidence in place.

Dad always understood why we all need to climb a mountain every now and then; it was his quiet way of teaching us about life. When we climbed mountains, faced challenges, hurdled obstacles, and learned from difficult situations, we were reminded we have the strength and power to overcome life’s challenges, just like the strength and power needed to hike to the top of the mountain.

At first even a little mountain may seem like a big insurmountable mountain. IMG_5116But when you step back and climb it you realize you DO have the strength and power to achieve results. After all, the mountain, no matter how big it is, is no match for your faith and desire to climb it–attitude and effort are everything in life (and in climbing mountains). Mountains are meant to be climbed. Wounds are meant to be healed; problems are meant to become learning experiences. They all serve a purpose by making us stronger mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

While we often can’t control what happens to us, we can control how we see and climb the mountains in our life (attitude and effort again). We can look at mountains as being in the way or as THE WAY to personal growth and success. We always have a choice. We can stand at the bottom overwhelmed and possibly defeated, or we can dig down deep and find the very best in ourselves and fearlessly hike the mountain. Here’s to all of us hiking this week and onward through the remainder of the school year!

Y’all were ROWDY!

It was crystal clear morning after big storms the night before, and folks were rowdier than ever this year at the annual MISD Rowdy Run 5K!  From the youngest to the oldest, pictures and bounce houses to face painting and friends, there was something for everyone.  rowdyrun2015The elementary princiPALs, also known as the No Child Left Behind Team (because we “sweep” the course near the end of the pack for little friends) found the course especially challenging with the rising temperatures from last year’s big race.

rr2We are so grateful to our MISD elementary PE coaches (for the dream and reality three years ago), the Midlothian Education Foundation for partnering with us this year (including MEF board member and MISD mentor, Dolores McClatchey, who met everyone at the finish line!), the generous support of many community sponsors, and the crowd of runners who turned out in record numbers this year–over 900 participants!  It was definitely a great day to get ROWDY!

Fine Art Form…

The annual Fine Arts Show and Gallery is this evening.  Each child displays seven completed personal masterpieces thanks to the talented vision and execution of our art teacher extraordinaire, Scott Fiorenza.  Whether it’s a Head Start student or an Art Club master student, Mr. Fio knows how to create and deliver artistic magic with each learner every year!IMG_7216

Thanks goes out to our entire Specials Team of educators who not only support each other through programs, shows, exhibitions, 5K runs, and more, but have so much fun along the journey too!  Thanks to our staff in general who host the refreshment table and act as gallery docents throughout the evening event.

IMG_7218We are blessed with the most amazing PTO Volunteers who spend time and creative talents arranging, organizing, and hanging each child’s artwork throughout the hallway galleries for this big show.

Our Miller Ringers and Singers along with some talented piano students share beautiful music for gallery gazing throughout the evening.  Thanks, Mrs. Perez and friends, for setting the tone and mood for a successful gallery stroll.

It is so critical for our young learners to have these important creative, artistic, and musical outlets throughout their educational journey.  Judging from the annual turnout and the responses, our learners are most definitely in fine art form…and more!

Simple Truths Children Learn…

A most enlightening conversation took place this morning during walkabout when a group of learners stopped me for some input (mostly because they know I adore funny items). They found a witty piece entitled Simple Truths Children Learn with a list of ten things the children in this piece have learned about life. simple-truthsI was asked to read aloud in my best announcer voice:

10. The best place to be when you are sad is in Granny’s lap.
9. Don’t try to use the vacuum cleaner and the cat at the same time.
8. You can’t hide a piece of broccoli in a glass of milk.
7. Puppies still have bad breath even after eating a mint.
6. Absolutely don’t sneeze when someone is cutting your hair.
5. You can’t trust dogs to watch your food while you go to the bathroom.
4. Never ask your 2-year-old little brother to hold a tomato.
3. If your sister hits you, don’t hit her back. They always catch the second person.
2. When your mom is mad at your dad, don’t let her brush your hair.
and then…
1. No matter how hard you try, you just can’t baptize the cat.

After my oral reading ‘test’ (I passed), we giggled about these keen life observations. It truly opened the door to deep conversation about being observers in life–noticing those interesting little things popping into your world out of nowhere in particular.

Children say and do some of the funniest things! An acting friend of mine always notes, “Never take the stage with children or animals; you (and your character) will never have the lead.” In our work, we are certainly privileged to be a part of these observations and discussions on a daily basis; here’s hoping you take time to enJOY and appreciate some of the simple truths around you too!

Are you aware?

We have what we affectionately call the “buffet of services and needs” here at LME. Learners on every level and need of the educational curve, many with severe and profound situations, seek out our school and contribute daily to our learning community in extraordinary ways, truly a blessing for all involved! April is Autism Awareness Month, however, we embrace awareness everyday.april-is-autism-awareness-month

According to the National Association of School Psychologists 2010 report, Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) are a complex group of related disabilities marked by impairments in communication and socialization, a limited range of interests, and the presence of repetitive behaviors. Cognitive skills, social skills, communication skills, and organizational or self-directional skills may be affected in varying degrees. Additionally, the number of children diagnosed with ASD has risen in the U.S. with recent statistics reporting 1 of 40 boys and 1 of 89 girls have ASD. Students with some form of ASD present unique learning challenges and opportunities for educators and the families who support them.

I marvel at the progress of our LME friends with ASD. From the unconditional love, dedication, and encouragement of their families (who do an amazing job of supporting our academic and behavioral goals), to the individual educational strides each child makes in the general education setting, we work as partners and participating members in the process. Teachers learn and implement instructional and behavioral strategies making strong impacts and a big difference for everyone in the classroom.

AUawarenessHere’s a little secret you need to know: The real JOY lies in the way all students interact and assist one another on our campus. We are blessed with students who have a real heart for helping each other, no matter the needs. Inclusiveness is paramount to personal success for all involved! Being aware offers information for fresh insight, opens new doors, and starts important conversations about how to improve outcomes for all students, no matter the need. Are you aware?