Tips in Raising Children

When is it Important to Ignore Wrong Answers?

by Carlynn McCormick

"Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody has thought." - Albert Szent-Gyorgyi, author of The Scientist Speculates.

In our high tech society, the ability to research is vital to success. Yet many schools never teach it and even when they do, they usually overlook the simplest and most primary undercut: something a child must be able to do before he can research. What is it? He needs to be able to observe (see, view) what is in front of him.

The way to teach observation is to allow the child to observe things for himself. To accomplish this goal, we must be willing to ignore his wrong answers. Don't take this to mean you are supposed to give or leave children with misconceptions. This is not what is being talked about. It should not be confused with reading where we teach children that words have precise definitions. It should not be confused with math where we teach that problems often have precise answers. Nor should it be confused with spelling where we teach that letters are written in a particular order that allows readers to duplicate what is being written.

Rather, what is being addressed here is a child's unique ability to see what he sees. It goes like this: we ask a child to tell us what he or she perceives (sees, views, observes) at a given moment. And the only right (correct, true) answer is exactly and precisely what the child perceives.

The concept is so elementary, it is often too basic and therefore, overlooked. By comparing it to how a baby discovers the world, however, it comes to light. Here is an example: when my grandson Corbin was about 18 months old, like most babies, he loved the game of hide-and-seek. He would hide his head under a blanket and since he couldn't see me, he assumed I couldn't see him. I would go along with his idea and search and search for him all the while asking, "Oh, where is Corbin hiding?" When I finally raised the blanket and said, "I found you," he would squeal in delight. Within a number of weeks, he discovered on his own (without anyone saying anything to him) to hide his whole body.

It is easy to enhance the art of discovery: if your child says the spider he is looking at has four legs and one eye, merely thank him for telling you. Don't try to correct his observation. He will soon discover an additional eye and legs on his own, if he is given the opportunity.

When we tell a child, no, no, no, it's not like that, it's like this, it's crooked, it's not straight, it is navy blue, not black, you're wrong on this account and you're wrong on that account, we end up with a child who stops looking at things for himself.

We must be willing to ignore a young child's inaccuracy of observation and let him straighten it out. When we encourage children to observe for themselves we allow them to experience the magic of discovery.

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What Goes Around, Comes Around

by Carlynn McCormick

The child tunes in to life and learns at breakneck speed. Mimicking what he sees and hears, he pays tribute to the old Monkey See; Monkey Do adage.

If the child were raised by wolves, he would howl in the wind and walk on all fours. But unlike the monkey and wolf, children are not animals.

Take a dog for example: Rover likes to chase cars. He sees a neighbour's dog hit and killed while chasing a car. Does Rover learn from the other dog's mistake? No, he goes right on chasing cars.

Children are different from Rover, very different. You can show them how to cross a street safely and they are able to learn and understand.

If little Jimmy teethes on Dad's best slippers, Dad would never hit him with a newspaper and say, "Bad baby!" (not a good way to train dogs either). To teach their toddler, Jimmy's parents must demonstrate, by their own good example, the way to show consideration for the property of others.

It is no different from other endeavours of life. Parents who love to read usually make every effort to read to their child. The child in turn comes to love books and usually learns to read quickly and easily. While the child, whose parents ignore books and spend every evening watching TV, may have difficulty learning to read.

It is the same with manners. Have you ever met a beautifully behaved child? A child who says please and thank you, a child who is considerate of others, who is a delight to be with? Without a doubt, the people around such a child are polite to him, treat him with respect and grant him importance.

What you put out is what you get back. Hence, the saying, what goes around comes around.

Can we cause a child to be enthusiastic? Indeed, if we ourselves are enthusiastic about life. Is it in our power to cause a child to be loving and kind? Yes, if we love him dearly and set the example of routinely performing acts of kindness toward others.

What about that sought-after quality, happiness? Can we cause our children to be happy?

All that we need do is plant a smile on our face and:

  1. Talk cheerfully
  2. Laugh often
  3. Keep on smiling
  4. Laugh some more
  5. Don't be afraid to giggle-it is good for the soul
  6. Act happy
  7. Be happy

Use 1 to 7 as a blueprint for the way you behave around your child. Then stand back and watch the effect it has on everyone around you.

You might even become the happiest person you know!

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How to Talk to Children

Believe it or not, using one pronoun over another can actually improve a parent-child relationship.

Using “I” over “you” is one such example.

When Mom tells Joey, “I like it better when your bed is made in the morning,” he knows she is talking about herself. But if Mom says, “You didn't make your bed this morning,” Joey knows the finger is pointing directly at him.

In getting compliance or dealing with a child's behaviour problem, rather than yelling, “You stop that!” Try changing gears and calmly let the child know, “I don't like cereal thrown on the floor. Let me help you pick it up and then we can go outdoors and ride bikes.”

For example, a young child gets frustrated and hits his sister. Rather than punishing him, say, “Sister doesn't like being hit — she likes to look at books with you; let's go find a book.”

In instances where a child is being rude you could say something like: “I don't like that kind of behaviour. I like it so much more when you are considerate. I like that you coloured that picture for me. Let's find a magnet and put it up on the refrigerator.”

With this approach, you take responsibility for the situation; you put it under your control. You direct the child's attention toward pleasing you — his parent or teacher — rather than on naughty behaviour.

By directing your child's attention away from the negative and on to something positive, you will create a very comfortable family environment. If you do it quickly and smoothly enough you will eliminate childhood upsets and tantrums almost entirely.

When your child does something that makes you happy it is appropriate to switch the personal pronoun to you. You might say, for example: “You do that well.” “You are a good helper.” “You have such beautiful, polite manners.” By complimenting good actions, your child is allowed to be fully responsible and in control of his or her own good behaviour. Keeping such reinforcement going is easy.

Notice each time your child does something positive; acknowledge the action; be liberal with praise. Another reason the method is so effective is that young children learn almost totally by mimicry. A small child watches and listens to what others do and say and copies them. Most parents have had the experience of saying something to another, unaware their child was listening, and then being amused (or even horrified) to hear their child repeat it back word for word.

Mimicry abounds! If people around little Joey, scream and yell, he will learn to scream and yell too. If they criticize others in front of him, Joey will learn to be critical. If they are ill-mannered around him, Joey will learn bad manners. But if the individuals who interact with Joey are polite and kind, he will mimic their behaviour and be polite and kind too. It appears then that a child's social behavior hinges entirely upon the attitude shown to him by the people who are dominant in his life.

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