Discover the Child

Discover the Child
"There is a tiny light in the unconscious of mankind which guides it toward better things." "We must follow the child, but we must follow the child as his leader." -Maria Montessori

Sunday, January 30, 2011

On Time Out

On Time Out

Parents have asked me if "Time Out" is an appropriate consequence for inappropriate behavior. The simple answer is, "It depends." Tme out or time away can be a good learning experience when it is a logical consequence to inappropriate behavior.

When might time away be a logical consequence? When the child is having trouble interacting with others, especially if he is showing signs of being overwhelmed, time away canbe an appropriate response. A toddler that is tantruming, hitting, biting or  grabbing repeatedly is not having a positive or successful experience interacting with others. Time away can give her the opportunity to reset, helps the parent determine if overstimulation is the problem, and sends the message that her behavior is not appropriate.

One imporant step when structuring  time away is to empower the child. Traditionally, the parent decides how much time the child sits in "time out." However, if we give the child the opportunity to decide when they are ready to rejoin the group, she is empowered to feel in control of her behavior. It sends the message that we trust her to make a better choice.

As you gently lead or carry the child to another place say, "You may join us when you are ready to use gentle hands." To the tantruming child say, "I see you are so upset. You may wait here  until you are ready." Your physical distance from the child depends on the need of your child in the situation. When the child chooses to rejoin the group, you can signal your trust that she will now be successful by reseting your attitude as if nothing has ever happened.

The amazing thing I have observed dozens of times, is that a child that is waiting to join friends on the playground, for example, will sit anywhere from 30 seconds to 3 minutes by choice and almost always rejoins the group successfully. She rejoins with message to herself, "I am ready to be with the group."

Thursday, January 27, 2011

When Toddlers Scream

Apparently, this blog will have no apparent structure or agenda but the ramblings of a woman that spends every day with a dozen toddlers in a Montessori classroom. With this freedom I will just speak my mind. Today I'm thinking about screaming.

Toddlers aren't always loud and they hate it when other things are loud. I have noticed some pretty interesting things about yelling.

Usually, toddlers have no conscious moderation of the volume of their voice. When you actually want to hear what they are saying, their speech becomes inaudible. If they are trying to urgently communicate something they usually just ROAR, to which we respond, "Use your talking voice." To help them gain some awareness of volume we practice being loud outside. Twelve toddlers can be really loud. We also sing songs in a big, tiny and regular voice like "Little Cabin in the Woods" with some pc edits ( i.e. change shoot me dead to bonk my head).

Toddler screaming happens on a few occassions:
Stampeding- When our group of toddlers run back and forth on the deck or on the playground they always yell. I'm not sure toddlers know it is possible to run without yelling. Toddlers can run for an incredibly long time if they don't have to go in one direction.
Grabbing- Toddler grabbers are stealthy, as if the victim may not notice if the approach is silent. Screaming usually insues when the attempted swiping occurs. If you don't year anything during a toy raid, look for bite marks.
Random Screaming- This is where I get preachy. Random screaming is not normal for toddlers; if it is happening to your toddler, then you need to pay attention. In my daughter's toddler playgroup a girl would scream for no apparent reason, much to the chagrin of her mother. Months later, mom found out her beautiful girl had hearing loss. In my first few months teaching I saw the same behavior in one of my students. I explained to the parent who took her straight to the doctor. The doctor said she was too young to be tested and her speech was normal. We found out the next year she had 40% hearing loss in one ear. Last month I noticed another student doing the same thing and when I talked to mom she said, "Yes, she had an ear inefection and the doctor said there was a lot of fluid on her ear." She definately was not hearing well and was probably screaming just to hear the sound of her voice. Her parents are going to watch very closely for ear infections and we will continue to make sure her language is developing.

If you are hearing unprovoked screaming, pay attention. You can even purchase an otoscope, if you want to make sure your child's ears are looking healthy. If you are seeing a language delay, be especially vigilant about getting your child's hearing testing. Language development, including vocabulary and phonemic awareness, depends on being able to hear the subtle intricacies of speech. This is why it is important to eliminate background noise for infants and toddlers to allow for optimal language and hearing development. Most importantly, don't forget to give your toddler an opportunity to yell for fun!