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Book Review: What is a Witch (and others in its series)

So I promised a book review this week and instead we’re doing three. We recently bought all three books in the Pagan Children Learning Series by Rowan Moss and Illustrated by T.S. Lamb. Each book contains a simple lesson for children on a major concept related to our faith. Book one is Who is Witch? The second is What is Magic?  And the final book is What are the Elements?

So let’s talk about each element of these books.

Illustrations

Each book contains gorgeous water color illustrations. They are also simple images, which makes the book seem all the more organic.  They don’t take up the whole page, but the water colored dark branch boarders on the white page also gives the book a sort of elegance that even my ten month old seemed to appreciate. I should also note that each book has its own boarder set, which still gives the book a sort of elegance while distinguishing it from the rest. I think that the artwork will please adult and child alike.

Age level

While I read this to Freya at 10 months, I would definitely say that it’s not designed to be a book for infants. I just wanted to get it while I A. remembered it existed and B. had the money. The series is definitely aimed at pre and early readers. Freya still enjoyed listening and looking at the pictures, but between the language and the craft in the back…it’s definitely something aimed at an older child than the one I currently have.

Vocabulary

One of the features I like about this book is that each one has a glossary of terms that your child may or may not have heard you or their parents say (whichever is applicable).  The words are defined both on that page and in a glossary for review at the end of the book.  The glossary words are in a different color as well, so that the child can distinguish them from the rest of the words on the page.

Writing

The writing could seem a bit dry to a child if they aren’t interested in the subject. It’s very simply written which is good for a child or young reader.  Now I do want to go into a bit more detail as to each book here. In Who is a Witch? the author addresses many issues concerning the title of the book. Namely why people are afraid of witches.

It does this in a fantastic way that I hope will help Freya feel good about herself as she grows up.  It doesn’t go so in depth as to interfere with any particular path or tradition, but it still answers all the questions in a very simple and understandable manner.  I particularly enjoyed the mention of kitchen witches, covens, and solitary practice without putting too much of a focus on any of them.

In What is Magic? It covers being careful in spell work and only doing it with adult supervision. It also talks very simply about what people believe magic is.

To quote the book “Some people believe that magic comes from within. They believe you have the power within you to create change. Some people believe that magic is a gift from the divine or that it is energy pulled from the world around you.”

One of the other things I enjoyed about this series is more prevalent in the second and third book.  They ask questions to start discussions within your family. Throughout the book, if there is a portion that could vary based on your tradition or point of view, the book asks the child “What does your family believe?” I think this is a great way to get children thinking about what they believe, what their family believes, and why. Better yet, it leads the child to ask you the questions about the faith they are participating in with you.  I really liked that aspect of these books.

Finally, in What are the elements?, we have what I would consider the most comprehensive of the books, which makes sense as this is a larger sum of information.  Aside from going over the basic theories (in simple language) of how some witches perceive the elements, it shares a number of basic correspondences for each element.

Each element’s name is put in its corresponding color, though it is noted that different groups may use different colors. So it denotes the two most common (where applicable). For those of you who don’t know, outside of the US there are other cultures and hemispheres that call the elements different names or use different colors (usually in the southern hemisphere). The nuances of this are not covered in this book, but I found it fascinating that they still covered it, so that if a family does differ from our common perception, that there is a chance for a dialogue.

Under each element they also discuss what the element can be represented by on an altar, its directional correspondence, whether it is a masculine or feminine element, and if it is specifically used to represent the God or Goddess in some traditions. It also discusses sprit and how it is special and different from the rest. It stays a bit vague on this point and asks your children to question you (the parent or family member) as to the family’s beliefs.

It then goes on to describe how the elements are used in spells going into more specific goal/emotional correspondences as well as seasons related to each element.

Craft

Each book also contains a craft to engage your child. Each is somewhat related to the topic or at least should be entertaining to your child. It has detailed instructions as to what to do and I think it really does help tie together the lesson. It may even be a time when you can discuss what was learned with the child.  They can be talking about the book while you do the craft. I can’t wait until Freya is old enough to test this idea. I just hope it works (fingers crossed).

The craft in the first book is making wild animal treats that you can hang in your yard.

The second book features a make your own wand craft.

And the final book craft is making an elemental collage.

Yay or Nay?

I would definitely say yay! I wasn’t sure when I first started looking at the books. At a cursory glance, the pages seem so much duller than the bright vibrant color, but when reading them, it works. I realized that my child didn’t need excessively bright and colorful images to engage her in the book, even at ten months. This may differ a bit depending on your child, but I still think that most pagan or even curious children, will still find this book visually engaging.

I also think the book is simple enough to understand and if there’s any confusion it already prompts family discussion, which I think is fantastic. There are not enough informational children’s books that do this, particularly if they are religiously oriented.

My only con is that it is a bit pricy. They are paperback and on Amazon they currently range between 9 and 10 dollars each for a new copy. I know it could be worse, but then again, I think a lot of children’s books are way overpriced anymore. I don’t know, maybe I’m just cheap, but as of this article, they do have some cheaper options in the used section (though why you would ever get rid of this book I don’t personally know).  And those cheaper options are around 7 dollars, which is at least a little bit of savings.

Still, I am excited for this book series. It is a godsend in a world that really doesn’t have a lot of children’s books aimed at pagan children. As much as I love the Minnie Mouse and Friends series my grandmother got me as a child, or all the golden books we have, it is nice to find a few books that can help me share my faith with my daughter or with a child who is curious (provided I get parental permission of course).

I really hope you will check these books out though. They are well worth it.
Have a great day everyone.

Blessed Be.

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How to Encourage our Children the Montessori Way

Earlier we learned that children want to learn and that there are many ways to encourage appropriate or even above average development in our children through fostering independence in their learning. We also learned that children learn by doing things over and over again or through sensory exploration, which is why many parents have blog posts all over the web recommending ways in which to make your own discovery baskets.

Now, before we go any further, I’m going to emphasize once again that I will never claim to be the perfect mom. I’m just trying to share information as I learn it and to maybe help out anyone else who has been looking for these answers. I’m using the information I have and what I can find to try to answer those questions.

I’m not a perfect mom, I make mistakes, but that is part of life. Learning is what all moms and everyone is perpetually doing, even if we don’t realize it.  So if I ever say something you disagree with, realize that I’m either sharing my point of view or information from another source and not nay saying anything anyone else is doing. If you have a better idea, feel free to post it in the comments and I may end up researching that topic to post here as well. I’m all about sharing information and ideas for parenting and, where applicable, from a pagan perspective.

Today I want to talk a bit more about how we can encourage this development according to Montessori and those who have continued her work. With enough encouragement from their parents, children have done amazing things. However, a child can lose this inborn love of learning and I think that’s where some children have trouble with public school. It doesn’t stimulate them to learn or it uses a method of learning that may not be suited to them. I’m not saying public school is bad. There are some great programs out there, but not all children can learn the way public schools want children to learn.

What we don’t realize sometimes is that our children are learning no matter what they do. We may think that our child is just pulling things out of the kitchen cabinet, but I realized something the other day. When Freya pulls stuff out, she starts sorting it either by how it feels or its size, or a noise it makes. It may not be structured education, but she’s still learning and little moments like that are what Montessori is all about, realizing that your child is learning through their independence.

And when we pull them away from that experience we frustrate them. I’m not saying there isn’t a time when we have to, but the point is that independent sensory exploration and play are very important to a child’s development.

So how do we encourage our children in Montessori?

1. We encourage independent learning- We allow time for our children to do the activities that they love the most. My parents always wanted me to try new things, but they always made sure I had time for the old as well. They also let me learn from my own mistakes, which is what Montessori suggests as well. A child can fix their own mistakes if given enough time and that will teach them problem solving skills as well.

Montessori activities generally have what is called a “control of error” built in. What this means is that there is something in the activity that gives your child a clue of how to do something correctly. For example, when setting the table, a control of error could be setting out exactly what a child needs so that the placement is the only place they can make an error. Or when just starting out you can have a place mat and they have to match what is sewn onto the placemat

2. We Model

No, not the runway type of modeling, I’m talking about leading by example, which means taking a look at ourselves and possibly improving our own behaviors for the sake of our children.

3. Step by Step

We help our children learn things in each step, in their own time.  We talked about this a bit Wednesday as well.  If a child cannot accomplish the first task in an activity, they are just going to get more and more frustrated if you continue on to the rest of the steps.

4. Concentration or Aggravation

We can help our children learn concentration at an early age.  It’s a skill that anyone can benefit from.  Concentration is developed by ensuring that the tasks we give our children are appropriate for their age and ability.  Children lose interest when something is either too hard or too easy.

5. Encourage a positive attitude for learning

If we have a positive attitude towards teaching our children, they are going to learn to have a positive attitude towards learning as well.  It goes back to the law of return, what you give comes back to thee.

6. Memory Skills

There are tons of activities that develop memory whether it is rote, visual, auditory, or movement memory. And there are tons of books out there with some of these activities. I’ll probably be going over some of them myself when Freya is the appropriate age to do some of these activities.  Until then check your local library for Montessori Play and Learn or other Montessori activity books. Pinterest is also a good place to find Montessori activities of any type.

7. Encourage Language Development

Part of this is simply engaging and talking to your child. Something I still feel I need to spend time on as well. Or at least I feel that I should spend more time than I already do on this.  Montessori encourages us as parents to tell our children stories and to explain what we are doing to them, even if they are not old enough to participate themselves.

Next week I’m going to be doing a book review (maybe two) on a pagan children’s book series as well as talking about how to outfit your home for Montessori. Hope you have a wonderful weekend.

Blessed Be.

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Using Montessori

So now that we’ve learned what Montessori is about and what Maria’s theories were, let’s talk about how to use Montessori. It’s all well and good to know it exists, but it’s not very useful if no one ever tells you have to do it. Now there are a lot of places out there that claim they can teach you Montessori for an exorbitant amount of money…or you can be cheap like me and do as much reading and research as possible and do the best you can. I look up a lot of the activities we use or will use with Freya in books or on Pinterest. I think I have a link on my Pinterest somewhere on my page. If not I will be adding one soon.

The biggest thing parents can do is help their child learn life skills early. I’m talking about teaching a child to help you do the laundry, dishes, or generally help you do whatever. I’m not saying that our children need to become our slaves and do everything, but it doesn’t hurt a child to learn how to do something so they can help if you need them. Nor does it hurt to let them help you while they want to.

Our children watch and try to do everything we do. I can’t even begin to describe the difference I’ve seen in children whose parents use Montessori and don’t. The look on a two year olds face as he helps mom cut up veggies in a YouTube video is priceless. So is watching the intensity with which the child attends to the task.

What’s even more exciting is that our children aren’t just developing motor skills when they do this. They are also developing vocabulary and potentially social skills depending on the activity. All of this can do a wealth of good for a child’s confidence and self-esteem.  Right now we just explain everything we’re doing to Freya while we do it, but when we see that she’s ready for an activity, we’ll let her help us by trying to do something as simple as wipe down the table.

Do’s and Don’ts of Practical life activities

However, Montessori had a few do’s and don’ts when it came to introducing life activities.

  1. Never give a child pretend tools. If they can’t do what you’re doing with the tools you give them, they are just going to get frustrated and potentially give up.
  2. When you provide real tools, find tools that are the right size for your child. There are tons of Montessori sites out there for this or sometimes you can just find stuff like this at the dollar tree. I’ve been picking up what I can on the cheap as I go and as I find it.
  3. When you show a child how to do something, take it slow. Make each movement deliberate and explain it. If you go to fast it’s going to be harder for them to absorb. A sponge can’t just soak everything up in five seconds and neither can a child.
  4. If necessary take the child through the activity step by step. And make sure that they understand step one before you move on to step two….you would think this would be common sense, but you’d be surprised.
  5. Let the child repeat the activity as many times as they like. This is how they learn.
  6. Try to plan out what you are going to do before you do it (we’ll talk about this more in a moment).

Three Focuses of Montessori

  1. Developing Personality:

Montessori viewed each person as an integrated whole and believed that children build their personality through active participation in their environment. This is congruent with current research as well.  To this end she identified several different stages of development of personality. She also believed that their success depended on satisfactory progress through each state.

In infancy she felt that the child needed to be made to feel secure and have a decent relationship with us, the parents. In the next stage, they need to start developing independence. They still need us, but they need to do as much as possible (and safe) on their own.  If they fail too often it hurts their confidence and self-esteem.  Montessori was convinced that by three a child had already laid down the foundations of their personality.

And in the final stage of basic personality development (3-6) a child is malleable enough to learn to be comfortable with themselves while adjusting to societal norms and expectations. If a child can find a balance between their needs/wants and the expectations of society upon them, then they are generally happy and content.

The parent’s role in this is to be first aware of our importance in this process. Second is to allow them freedom within limits. Third is to respect their individuality, and finally, to resist imposing our own wills and personality onto our children.

  1. Helping Social and Emotional Adjustment

By around age six a child is fairly well emotionally and socially adjusted, or at least should be.  They should be okay with you leaving for a short while. A part of this process involves how you encourage your child and methods of discipline that you use. Montessori highly recommended instilling a sense of self discipline in our children.

So let’s talk about her stages here.  In stage one (birth to 18 months) there is almost no obedience. However, you can still work on a relationship and consistency with a child that builds those foundations for discipline. In stage 2 (18m to 4 years) we begin to transition into understanding the concept of listening to parents etc.  One of the important aspects of this stage is explaining why an action is wrong.

Stage three (3-6 years), our children learn exponentially.  By age six a child should be able to listen and do as they are told.  Most children of this age don’t really want to be different. While it’s nice for a child to listen, I agree with Montessori that the ultimate goal of discipline is about helping a child to grow up independently with respect for others. It’s about developing self-control.

It takes time and patience for this to happen though.  The limits that we set have to be appropriate to age. And that means that even I’m going to have to do more research into child development to prevent mistakes on my part. It’s also important to be as positive as possible when we take this approach with our children. I know I have a negative streak, but I want to try to prevent Freya from inheriting that. Not to mention it’s good for my own continuing self-development.

Which brings me to my next point. We cannot expect our children to do anything that we are not prepared to do ourselves.  We have to set rules and guidelines that we will live by as well.  We have to establish rules that (for the most part) will be adhered to be everyone in the family. I mean we’re going to have some well you can’t have this because it isn’t safe, but on the other hand, we still need to use the same table manners we expect of our children.

Essentially, if a child is always breaking a rule it may not be developmentally appropriate for your child at that point. In addition Montessori did not believe in rewarding actions with presents. She believed that it would cause them to participate for rewards instead of the pleasure of the activity. I agree with this personally.

What can we do? First, we can’t be over protective or possessive of our child as this can create anxiety in the child. Second, we can’t make excessive demands on our children. Third, don’t lay down the law in an authoritarian way. We want them to be a part of the process so that they understand the process and why the rules are in place.  Nor do we want them to rebel by making them feel that they have no say in the process. I can say from experience that this worked well in my own childhood. Fourth, we also don’t want to be over permissive.

  1. Developing Intellectual Capacity

In this case intelligence is defined as the capacity to learn new skills. This includes the ability to use those new skills to adapt to the environment as it changes around you.  This is something vital to our children as they will need to learn to adapt to the world around them.  This includes problem solving, fact learning, and the ability to use and apply information learned.

This is why it is important to let our children learn in their own time, because each child will develop these skills and intelligences at a different rate. If Freya walks at 11 months great. If she can’t figure out how to say grandma till much later than she should, that’s also okay. Now, if it goes too far I might ask the good ol’ doc if something is wrong, but I’m still going to let her learn at her own pace.

To achieve this goal we also have to do the following. First, we have to allow the child to be active and learn through their senses as much as possible. Second, we have to recognize those sensitive periods and encourage those particular developments at those times. Third, recognize the importance of motivation and how it affects learning.

As a side note, Montessori style motivation is the final post for the week. I know it’s been a lot, but it can be really hard to find good information on this topic, so I really want to share the keynotes of everything I’m learning. I borrowed the sourcebook Montessori Play and Learn from the Louisville Library. You can probably buy it on Amazon or be cheap like me lol.  Either way, I hope this post has taught you more about the Montessori Method and how vital a part the parent plays in the process.

Blessed Be.

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Discovery baskets, boxes, and bowls (Oh My!)

This should be a fairly short post. Today I just want to touch on discovery boxes. These are a great way for your little one to safely explore their environment and it’s an idea good for just about any age. You just have to make a few adjustments here and there to make it work with just about any child or group.

So what are discovery boxes?

A discovery box is usually a box or container with a group of similarly grouped items that are safe for your child to play with at their age. For example, the main discovery box (or in this case a mixing bowl) I’m going to talk about today is our kitchen discovery box. My parents have a lot of old kitchen stuff. Now, I’m not letting her play with the antiques, but we have some old biscuit cutters, metal straws, a tea ball, and other kitchen items that are safe for Freya to play with.

And the greatest thing is that you can make a discovery box have any theme you want to. If you are teaching your preschooler about the letter A, you can have a treasure chest or box that only has items with the letter A. You can do a color box, a pirate box (I so want to do this) or even a music box (which you’ll see later).

Best Use of Discovery Boxes

Now, I got the idea from a Montessori website and they do recommend a few things when it comes to discovery boxes, or well, toys in general. The first is that you rotate out your child’s toys instead of giving them access to all their toys at once.  This is supposed to stop them from being over stimulated. It is also supposed to help prevent a child becoming too easily bored with a toy. Since the toys are rotated out, it’s like having new toys every couple of weeks.

What can go in a Discovery Box?

Well, I’m going to show you a few examples now with some pictures of what has gone into some of our discovery boxes.

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First of all, this is where all her toys go (and some of my stuffed animals that we now share). Right now she can only reach the first two shelves so I have stuffed animals on the upper shelf and toys on the bottom. I keep a few stock toys that are always calming out for her as well…such as the phone and the lantern. She pitches a fit if these two aren’t out.

In there you’ll see two of the three discovery packs I made for her.

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The only one not included is the kitchen bowl basket. We’ve had it out for a few weeks now and it was time to switch it up again. We had a tea steeper in there along with a measuring spoon, old fashioned glass cup (highly unlikely to break), biscuit cutter, baby bottle (toy), bottle nipple, pot and pan (toy), ice stir, metal straw, and a cookie cutter.

This basket is the perfect example of one made from things we found entirely in the house. The old toys are mine, the nipple is hers, and the rest literally came from the kitchen.

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The second is a basket of random things (a discovery basket doesn’t always have to be themed). Normally I would put this in my old toy shopping basket, but it needs to be cleaned and I haven’t gotten around to it yet. Most of the items are household items or toys that represent such things and then there is the random slice of pizza from my old Pizza Hut toy kit. This one contains an old lunch box cup, toy keys, toy pan, toy baby medicine dispenser from an old doll, and a toy stethoscope….which she loves.

One again a basket made entirely out of things I already had. It’s great if you have multiple children because when one has it cycled out of their toys, the other can see it in a discovery box in their room.  Or they can share boxes in a play room.  Whatever works for your family.

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The final box is my music box. We almost always have a music box; its contents just vary (that’s what Freya gets for having a mother who studied music and psychology).  Right now it just has three things in it. Her favorite tambourine, which often stays in here, a shaker, and for right now, the new xylophone I bought her on Amazon (I want to say it was 12-15 dollars).  Other things I’ve included are: a thunder tube, egg shakers, Irish tin whistle, and harmonicas. I eventually want to get a cabasa, rain stick, and a few other things from my music therapy days.

Even though everything in here was bought specifically for the basket (or for my past career), most of it was on the cheap side. Both the tambourine and the shaker are Dollar Tree finds and the xylophone here was the cheapest one I could find. I can use it in color activities and music activities down the line. So I felt that it was worth investing a little money into.

Either way, you can make your baskets out of things entirely found around the home, or you can make them on the cheap. I’ve seen people create a Noah’s ark basket with animals for a Christian family. I have a friend who made a world religions basket for her toddler that has figurines of Buddha, Ganesh, and the Goddess.  This is a very versatile tool that can be used for play or learning.

I hope this inspires you to make your own baskets based on your own themes and passions.  I also hope that you’ll try rotating your child’s toys out as you go. I’ve seen it used in households and be a godsend. Not to mention the kids don’t ask for new stuff quite so often.

Blessed Be.

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Common Questions about Engaging Cooperation

As has been the norm this month, I’m running behind. So here is the post I owe you for Wednesday and I’ll have the one actually meant for today posted a little later this evening. It’s all about discovery boxes/baskets/bowls and even shares a few examples and photos of what we have done in our own home.  So enjoy this article and I hope you’ll take a look at the next one.

Monday we talked about how we can talk to our (and others) children to elicit their cooperation. However, there are a few other things to consider. Part of the reason I love this book is that it starts with the basic information. It gives you all sorts of exercises to put you in the shoes of the child so that you can understand how the way you may communicate can be harmful. Then it goes on to explain how to fix it and gives you exercises to learn the techniques.

However, it is the third part of each chapter that I love the most; the questions and comments section. In each chapter the authors discuss common questions and concerns that they have been asked about when teaching this content as a workshop.  I remember reading the first chapter going…duh this is a no brainer before realizing that sometimes I failed to do exactly what sounded so easy on paper.  Or I would come up with concerns about how much harder it really could be.

As I worked through the first chapter I often thought to myself, well what about this? How can I do this if I don’t understand or know x, y, and z. It all either seemed frustratingly simple or complex until I reached the third section, where the authors addressed all that. So let’s take a look at what they have to say some common concerns on this topic are.

1.Isn’t how you say something as important as what you say?

Well, the simple answer is yes.  The attitude behind what you say is just as important.  Your children pick up on your nonverbal communication just as much as your verbal communication.  Which is just as hard as saying the right thing.  It’s just one more reason why you should take time before dealing with some issues, well, when possible.  We don’t need to make them feel worse. Most of the time they are going to realize they have messed up, even if they didn’t understand why.

2.If attitude is so important, why bother with words?

Sometimes what you don’t say can be just as damaging as what you do say.  Words linger in our minds, the few moments I pushed my parents into anger beyond reason, are the words I remember the most, and the ones that hurt the most to this day.  Not to mention that what you say can be used against you by your children at a later date (just like in a court of law lol.)

3. What’s wrong with Please?

Well nothing really. There is just a time and a place….and I have seen this happen.  You tell a camper please go get this and they don’t take it as seriously. It sets a tone….a more relaxed tone. Think about any time you’ve asked your child to stop doing something using please. If you really think about it, it doesn’t work in a less relaxed usage like this.  You say please stop, they keep jumping on the couch (or whatever the undesirable behavior is). You say it louder and they’re still not stopping. You are just getting more frustrated.

The point is that if you want it done quickly and without nearly as much frustration, you can’t plead, and that is sometimes what please sounds like to a kid.  A load firm “Sofa’s aren’t for jumping on” not only gives them information, but gets the point across far more quickly.

4. Is there a way to explain how sometimes a child responds to what you ask and others you can’t seem to get through?

The author had a simple solution: ask some kids why they don’t always listen.  Here’s a few variations on what they said paraphrased:

“Sometimes when I get home, I’m tired, and I pretend not to hear.”

“Sometimes I’m so busy I don’t hear them ask.”

“Sometimes I’m mad about something that happened and I don’t feel like doing it.”

Some other thoughts to consider:

Does the request make sense based on the child’s age and ability? Does the child feel the request is reasonable? For example, cleaning behind your ears may seem silly to a kid’s mind as no one sees behind your ears.  Can you give them a choice about when to do something? As in do you want to take your bath before or after your favorite show?

Are here physical changes that can be made to the house that could make the task easier for the child? This ties into Montessori. If you want your child to clean, getting a broom that’s easier for them to use might make the task easier or more enjoyable. And finally, could your child feel that all you do is ask them to do things? You can figure this one out by looking back on your day and seeing whether the time you’ve spent together is dominated by tasks or includes some quality time.

5. How do we fix it after years of making mistakes?

The truth is that it just takes time. The people in your life may be suspicious of the change in your behavior. Just like an alcoholic, it takes time to prove that you have changed and that the new actions are what you are going to stick to.

6. What about humor?

If it works then use it, but make sure that the fun doesn’t fizzle out over time. A fun jest can become a nasty criticism over time. I used to find it funny when my father said you’d lose your head if it wasn’t attached, but over time it began to feel like a criticism, especially when he was frustrated at me for losing something.

7. Feeling repetitive?

Sometimes we can use the skills but repeat them too much and it begins to sound like nagging. Instead of repeating the same thing over again, try finding out if you’ve been heard in the first place.  Ask your child to repeat the task you just asked them to perform.

8. How to prevent lack of follow through

Here’s an example of what someone else did:

Dad: Hey can you mow the lawn?

Son: Sure later.

Dad: I’d feel better if I knew when you planned on getting it done.

Son: After my show

Dad: When is it over?

Son: an hour.

Dad: Good. Now I know that you’ll be mowing the lawn in an hour.

Now, even the author admits that there are going to be times when kids don’t listen and that’s fine. It’s frustrating, but we have to expect it.  Our kids have to make mistakes and learn at some point.  We can’t expect this to fix everything, but using this language at least helps. I’ve seen it work, even when I’ve failed to use it myself. And I’ve seen it work when I’ve managed to use it. Just like our kids we’re going to make mistakes as well and we’re going to have to learn, because we’re not perfect either.

However, showing this example will teach them better communication skills. These are skills that will translate into their life, their successes and failures.  How we communicate with them is a part of how they learn. We are the first teachers they will ever have and we are the foundation from which everything else will come.  If we start them with an example of the right expectations and examples, we’re not only helping ourselves avoid frustration with our children. We’re also teaching them skills that will be useful for their whole life.

Blessed Be.

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Cooperation and Communication

Communication is at the heart of any relationship no matter what age you are. You have to be able to communicate with your peers, coworkers, and even your children.  Which is why it is so important that we learn to communicate with others, especially our children, and especially when they need us.  And yet, there are so many people who communicate poorly.

A week or two ago, I mentioned a book called How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk. I’m going back to that book today to talk about engaging your children in cooperation and communication.  Last time we learned that real listening isn’t what we would like it to be. It takes hard work to actively listen before we talk to our children.

I tried this with my boyfriend, just to test the waters, and it’s just as hard with other adults as it is with children, maybe even harder. I’ve had more progress using it with my mother. And I’ve found something, even when it doesn’t work, it works. When my mother was unwilling to talk to me about something, she took comfort in the fact that I was willing to listen.  It allowed her to come back to me when she was ready to talk about what had happened.

You may have already found that the same thing happens with children. While the first chapter of the book focused on helping children, this one focused on helping the parents.

See, the truth is that we all get frustrated at children. Think of all the things you or society expects of your child in terms of behaviors. Write them down, now count them. These things include those that you expect them to do as well as those behaviors that you wish them to avoid. Each one of those things can be a battle depending on where your child is in terms of understanding the world around them and their development. Each one is time spent.

It can be exhausting and can cause us to become negative as we realize how many battles we fight, win or lose.  The more you think about it, the longer you may realize your list becomes, which is frustrating in itself.

Now I want you to think about how you express these things to your children.  Then think about how that would make you feel if you were a child. Write it down if you wish.

Accusing and Blaming

“You tracked mud all through the house on those dirty boots! Why do you do that?”

Name Calling:

“You can’t go out like that in this weather! How dumb can you get?” Or “Let me do this, we know you aren’t coordinated”

Threats:

“You kick that ball in the house one more time and I’ll (insert threat here)”

Commands:

“Clean your room right this minute.”  Or “Do (blank) now!”

Lectures:

Or what about that lecture you gave the other day on manners? How long did you go on?

Warning:

“Careful, or you’ll get hit by a car.”

Martydom Statements:

“Will you two stop that screaming?! I thought you were hurt…what are you trying to do? Give me a heart attack?”

Comparisons:

“Why can’t you be more like (insert name)”

Sarcasm:

“Is this your homework? Well, maybe your teacher can read it, but I can’t.”

Prophecy:

“You didn’t study? Do you know what you’re going to be doing when you grow up? Flipping burgers wishing you had.”

I know some of these may seem extreme, but most of us who have or have worked with children have used some variation of these.  And they hurt. I’ve had a couple used on me as well and it always hurts. If we feel so offended seeing it on paper as adults, just imagine how our children feel when we, the people they are supposed to be able to trust with anything, say it to them. It’s damaging and it harms the trust we need to do our job as parents.

So how do we engage cooperation and communication without making our children feel like crap? That’s what we’re here to talk about. The five methods to book lays out are Describe, Give information, Say it with a word, Talk about your feelings, and Write a note.

Let’s take a look at these.

Describe:

Describe the problem and/or what you see. If the tub is getting full tell them just that instead of saying get in here and take a bath, or would you rather us have a flood in the house?  If the dog needs to go out, say that “It looks like Rover is pacing” Instead of “You never take care of that dog, you don’t deserve a pet.”

Give Information:

Explain why an action is wrong instead of accusing or blaming. If someone left the milk out, casually say “You know milk goes bad if you leave it out” (No nasty tones either).  When we give information children can generally put two and two together regarding what needs to be done.  Another example would be to say “Apples belong in the garbage” Instead of “Eww you have an apple on your bed, you live like a pig.”

Say it With a Word:

Instead of lecturing the children (who are less likely to listen the longer you go on) about getting into their pajamas, just say “Kids, Pajamas!” Less is more. And it also helps you from saying something jokingly that may hurt your child’s feelings. Shorter is better and keeps their attention.

Talk About Your Feelings:

Instead of saying “You always interrupt, you’re so rude!” say “It is very frustrating when you don’t allow me to finish what I am saying.” This works because it is easier to cooperate with those who are expressing their feelings constructively instead of attacking you.

Write a Note:

Sometimes a simple note is all it takes. An example from the book was a note on the mirror.  This man’s daughter always left her hairs in the sink. The note said “Help! Hairs in my drain give me a pain. Glug, your stopped up sink.” And the child might find it funny if you can be as witty as that man. Another example could be a sign on mom and dad’s office door saying “Shhh! Daddy is working”. As a reminder for when they should not enter. It won’t fix everything, but it might help.

Think how much nicer some of these approaches are in lieu of the alternatives we talked about earlier? Don’t they make you feel less hurt, less attacked? It might take some practice, but isn’t it worth it to garner more cooperation from your children? Or even those around you? I know that in moments of frustration it’s hard. Goddess, I know that sometimes I still mess it up. It’s easy to forget in the heat of the moment, but that’s where self-control and that brain to mouth filter (that all of us should have) comes into play.

There are two things to remember when trying this out. First, we have to be authentic. We’ve talked several times about how part of being pagan is being honest about who we are. Some might say that this changes that, but I’m inclined to disagree. I can still be me and explore this communication technique, and have it work to my advantage.  Second, just because it doesn’t work the first time, doesn’t mean that it will never work. It takes kids time to adjust, just as it will take you time to learn.  Each method can be applied to any problem. Let me give you an example.

Say that your child has left a wet towel on a blanket. Here is how you could address that using this technique:

There is a wet towel on my blanket (both giving information and describing).

Wet towels belong in the bathroom (giving information).

Freya, put the towel where it belongs (say it with a word).

Freya, it makes me upset when you leave your towel on my blanket (explain your feelings).

Or the note option could be placed where Freya leaves her towel saying “Wet towels on my bed make me see red.”

Now I know children don’t always listen, and sometimes we have to be sterner than this, but we should always try engaging our children in cooperation before we resort to any other tactics. We want our children to be able to communicate effectively and we want them to use their words before they do anything else. Yes, there may be a time and a place for other types of communication, but they are going to learn how to interact with others based on our actions as their role model.

I’m not saying I’m perfect. Goddess knows I struggle with this on a daily basis. But each day of practice makes it a little easier and when Freya is old enough to start better understanding no, I know from my experiences working at camp that it does work better than an attack. The only problem is that engaging in this kind of communication is far easier for me outside of my own family than within because I was taught to do that job by someone who understood all of this before I had any idea that it even existed. Skills aren’t always easy to translate.

Now, if you are interested in some practice on paper, look up the book. You may be able to interlibrary loan it, or your library might have it. Heck you may be able to get it on Amazon for less than five bucks now. However, you might obtain it, the book has some great exercises to help you understand each of these methods as well as the wrong methods.  It also has some great exercises to get you thinking about how you can use communication to engage your child’s cooperation.

Blessed Be.

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Book Review: Lady of Ten Thousand Faces

My family and I are just about to finish up reading the Lady of Ten Thousand Faces. You can find it on Amazon. It’s a book that holds several stories, each of a Goddess from a different culture. They take a page to explain who the Goddess is before telling the story. Included in the book are Isis, Quan Yin, the White Buffalo Woman, Cerridwen, Freya, Amaterasu, Oshun, Persephone, Demeter, and Hecate.

While the book is mostly text, the few illustrations it has are beautiful.  They are done in a watercolor style. I also enjoyed that you could tell which story was which by a boarder. Each of the Goddesses has their own except for the final three as they all share a story.  Still the artwork did a great job of adding to the story as you would hope it would in a child’s book.

I would say this book is more for a child who is starting to read, but to whom you are still reading to, so probably early Elementary. However, Freya is nine months and she still enjoyed it, even if she wanted to climb on the book more than look at it.

Each of the stories was well written and easy to follow.  My only problem is that some of the stories tell an over simplified version of the story that could raise questions when I present the mythology to Freya as she gets older. I didn’t want it to go into the gruesome details, but it would have been nice if all the names in Amaterasu’s story had been the Japanese names instead of American translations. Or in Isis’s story if it had been a bit more accurate without going too gruesome.

Regardless my issues with the book are few and far in between and should probably be expected in our sugar coated world. And while I want my child to be protected from some things, I don’t feel like we need to change names or water down the story to do so.  The stories of the Goddesses are powerful and beautiful.

Still, a great book overall. Hopefully the first of many pagan children’s books that I will find and be able to endorse.  If not, I might find a new calling as a children’s book writer. Lol.  I would just have to find an illustrator. Anyway, this is still a great book for anyone beginning to teach their child about the Goddess.

I’m going to leave it as a short post today. I just wanted to share my experience with this book and recommend it to anyone looking for a good pagan children’s book.