Handling disappointment can be one of the most difficult lessons we learn as children. As infants we need to use crying and cooing to gain the attention and have our needs met, and in early childhood, we develop broader interests and if the knowing adult has insight, we may have our needs met through distraction, expected response, or starting to meet our own needs. Our developing Executive Functioning ultimately enables us to plan and organise our thinking, be flexible when things don’t go as expected, and manage our emotions. The more we grow and experience, the more we also develop our ability to put ourselves into someone else’s shoes – our Theory of Mind.
Disappointment will manifest when our pre-determined outcomes aren’t matched with actual outcomes. My daughter learnt to say “Please” at her Granny Sheila’s house when rewarded with a sweet. Every time she said “Please” for a short time thereafter, she expected a sweet, and was disappointed into tears and foot stomping when she didn’t receive the anticipated outcome. Luckily at that age, we were able to distract with the joy of cuddles, laughs, and wonderful feedback from “please”, so the word took shape and stuck. However, as the child develops her own mind, she may try all the pre-learned concepts, and may not be happy with the outcome or distraction. Here is an example:
Child: “Today I want to go to the park with my friend, please”.
Adult: “Such a lovely idea, however I’m unable to drive you in, and I need to do a bit around the house. I’ll play with you when I finish?”
Child: "a) You’re NOT my friend, b)I asked NICELY and c)You’re not REALLY going to play with me anyway, I’ve seen your ‘bit around the house’ – it lasts ALL DAY!"
Instead of explaining these feelings in response, it is likely that sulking, crying, running away (hopefully just out of the room) and most often the silent treatment may ensue. Well. It does in our house! Full meltdowns can also happen and if not recognised as a result of disappointment can be confusing and hurtful.
Children quote “You get what you get and you don’t get upset” but the emotional literacy component is lost and the child may stop opening up to you, or even trying to communicate. Determining how heavy the emotional back-pack has become may assist in how and when you deliver your responses to reduce disappointment.
Starting some responses with an acknowledgement of what was asked, then demonstrating a considered positive outcome that meets the needs, at an actionable time and in a way that suits, may help. If followed up throughout the day and honoured when appropriate, you have developed trust and affirmed the child’s idea. This may require timers, visual reminders, and routine boards, to reduce disappointment and show it WILL happen, and WHEN.
Verbally when trying it out:
Adult: “That idea is a really great one. It would be so great to have some time with your friend. Let’s have a look in the diary for a good day and time. I’m going to be in the house today, but let’s make this work and find a good day for a meet up. Let’s circle it on the calendar”.
This is a simple and simplistic outlook, and I have also put it to my children to come up with some ideas of their own for handling disappointment. I let them know how it can be really upsetting when things don’t go as expected, but we should also do a bit of a grateful analysis and fit that into our ‘handling disappointment’ pack.
For this week, try out the positive acknowledgements, affirming ideas, being honest and trustworthy in your responses. Demonstrate planning and use that calendar for visual reminders. I need this more than anyone in my home! I look forward to hearing how you get on! Sara Stockman @URPositivelyGrowing www.positivelygrowing.com.au
Have you seen the youtube video where the mum is hiding in the locked bathroom eating chocolates out of a Tampax box? It’s hilarious! I love that she is hiding, that she is in the bathroom, AND that it’s a really benign treat such as chocolate, not even alcohol or a ciggy, that she still needs to hide to consume! SO TRUE! It could even be a carrot stick, though. The treat really is in the space.
SPACE! With young ones, middle sized ones, and then caring for parental ones, we need to find space! It’s a human need (possibly an animal one, judging by the way our cousins’ cats would run away when we, the farm cousins would come to stay!) that we need to plan for. Sometimes the space is filled with work, a film, a catch up with someone else and while not constituting ‘space’ in the sense of emptiness, it does fulfill the concept of ‘me time’. Other times it is the treasured quiet, the breathing space, and time for peaceful contemplation, journaling, or blissful meditation.
Planning may take the form of ultra feeding your children so they can’t possibly disturb you with cries of hunger. As Babyology founder confessed to throwing a box of Cheezles down the stairs in order to keep her children occupied for 34 minutes of phone calls, you too can plan for a lengthy session of child-led feeding while harmonising with your adult-led soul feeding. It may mean setting a timer to go off at agreed upon intervals to enable children to take turns playing whatever is in flavour without cries of ‘MUMMMM – It’s MY TURN!!!!! every two minutes, helps set your own timer.
Question is, will that be enough, and can we actually shut off from those we are caring for when they’re around? I argue yes and no - not helpful but honest. If we can’t find time in any other way, we NEED to make this work, so first ‘yes’, is about detaching from the hyper-ness of the organising and letting it work as is. In the 5 – 10 minutes a day that you may find some peace, if it has to be rigidly organised and almost in a Houdini-style fashion, then it is such an adrenalin rush I feel it juxtaposes the outcome. The second answer, no, is harder to achieve but it’s again about prioritising and giving this the level of necessity it requires. If there is a partner, we need them to step up. Not saying they don’t already or that they need to take over, but partners do need to support this and recognise the value in order to remove any guilt or self-sabotage. No partner? Then we have the added need to see this as a necessity and may need to reach out a bit further for the help.
1. What is the timeframe and a reality in a daily routine. For those who do yoga, run, meditate, walk – how long do you need for a real session? Schedule it in as you would an appointment for a Doctor or Therapy session. It is as important.
2. What is required in terms of resources and/or caring arrangements?Practically speaking can this take place while children are asleep, when you are already alone, or do you need to hire a babysitter, ask for support during a regular time of day, or can the children attend a class somewhere at the same time? Cheezles won’t cut it for long!
3. Make this an authentic space, and an authentic ‘appointment’ that is unable to be broken, but may be changed if necessary. The more it becomes part of your routine, the more others in your life will respect your time, and you will start to notice real change.
4. Schedule some reflection points. Lock in two or three sessions with yourself to see how effective the space is. Is it meeting your needs? Have you been consistent? Are there any changes required to the routine – the time, the method, the location of your space time.
What are the changes you will expect to see? At first it may be euphoria, which like anything creating natural endorphins and releasing cortisol, will be blissful at first, but near on impossible to achieve in quite the same way ever again. This may mean after the second time, we may slow our enthusiasm, and indeed wane from the new routine. As with anything, we need to keep going – to form a habit don’t they say repeat 21 times? That’s three weeks if every day, or six if every other day, or 21 weeks if weekly. You get the drift. PLAN it, lock it in.
So knowing this about the natural release of happy chemicals, means we can also plan to ‘just be’ in the space without seeking a special feeling other than that of wellbeing. If new to this, it may be like walking on egg shells at first. That feeling will start to go the more you practice. In time, you can expect to see things coming to you more naturally and organically. A trigger may no longer trigger you. You may have access to your pre-frontal cortex, and therefore a more measured response, that you perhaps thought lost in those sleep deprived years. You may start to see different perspectives. You may start to lose a lot of the analysis and over-thinking that plagues many a meditation in the early days! You may also discover choices come more easily. You may not mind change so much and find it easier to adapt. There may be a shift in recognising what you need to own in emotions, and those that you can let go. You may not feel so needy and in search of something, as you come more into your self. And you may find that you can let it all just happen as your amazing body, connects with your amazing mind, and you shift into an easy friendship between the two.
Authentic Space for me. Not impossible. Necessary. I leave you with this, shared and inspired by my own authentic Yoga Guru, Kim Lodge: You don’t need to create balance, it’s already there, existing for balanced mind, balanced physical body, and spirit. You just need to find it.
Love Sara x
Pyramid Model Australia"Over 18 months through ADHC funding made available to Kurrajong Early Childhood Intervention Service (now Kurrajong Therapy Plus), I was fortunate enough in a dedicated position to meet and train over 200 early childhood educators, teachers and early intervention staff in the Pyramid Model. This model is high quality evidence based and recently launched locally as Pyramid Model Australia Inc."
Sara Stockman started Positively Growing following the completion of the funded project. Along with other social emotional development dedicated programs and workshops, this incorporates Pyramid Model training and coaching, enabling the framework to continue in the regions.
"It was evident through the participation that the Pyramid Model was a framework that provided quality support and relevant practices for our local early childhood sector. A large cohort of educators and support staff reported a need for training in inclusive practice as well as support in reducing challenging behaviours. The Pyramid Model provided strategies and resources for meaningful self reflection and inclusion practices, and provided for positive behaviour supports in a sustainable manner."
Sara presented at the Inclusion Symposium on a panel with Prof. Mary Louise Hemmeter, and participating Preschool Director Vicki McIntosh from Coleambally, rural NSW. Sara's presentation can be viewed at this link:
Some feedback from the training - so much more available!
"The best features of this training session were....":
"Why isn't everyone here?!"...
"Really affirms what we are doing".
"More in depth and great ideas to improve on our current practices".
"Sharing ideas with others."
"The videos. Group interactions. Presentation was excellent - great interaction between presenter and class".
"It was good to see that some of what I do at Preschool has been referred to in this module".
"The discussions. Sara made us feel welcome and didn't make me feel silly for asking questions".
Did I really just use that pun? My word! Humour is an important endorphin releaser, though in this case it's also a true strategy. Sleeping well before exams is a necessity. That's one tip, but how to get to a good night's sleep needs tips of it's own! Particularly if you are a worrier.
Preparation is key, but in the case of NAPLAN, my advice is to not overthink it. Thankfully the massive pressure put on the Year 9s for the ongoing effect of their results has been lessened. My children are primary school aged and both are undertaking NAPLAN this year. One teacher put it so beautifully: "We are not testing to see how you are doing, we are testing to see what we can do better in our teaching". I say THANK you to that teacher, and in this vein, feel the affirmations the children can say going to bed may include "I am helpful". I love this different approach, and the reduction in personal pressure.
A checklist may be helpful for a morning routine anyway, but especially if aiming to reduce anxiety on NAPLAN / exam mornings. Putting in everything, including cleaning teeth, brushing hair, lunchbox in bag - helps to reduce additional unnecessary thoughts.
Pre-packing the school bag and making lunches the night before take away from the massive rush that can ensue on any morning. Leaving out the school uniform, complete with socks and undies, and polished shoes, are part of the preparation. They can be ticked off the list already!
Worry dolls are a marvellous addition to the night-time routine. We have some home made (during a Relax Kids session) that fit snuggly into a dream-catcher pouch from the ever exciting Ishka fairtrade shop. Together, the worries and distracting dreams are taken care of. At least in theory (as with positive self talk, if you believe, you can achieve).
Preparing for sleep a few hours before includes ensuring devices are switched completely off by at latest 5pm. This enables the brain to have 'digesting' time and create natural melatonin for a good sleep. LED lights actually stimulate the brain into creating 'awake' waves for several hours after being viewed. Sleep is important for cleansing the brain of what can be thought .ukof as plaque. Without a good sleep, this builds up and can have affects on physical as well as mental health and wellbeing.
Diet is another contributing factor to a great sleep versus a disturbed, worried sleep. Cheese, chocolate, sugar drinks and sugary food all require digesting. As do many fruits. Unless you plan on a lengthy physical routine prior to bed, you really want to avoid the 'ready for action' feels and food, and opt instead for 'ready for sleep' milk, honey and nutmeg. Having dinner at a reasonably early time (around the time you switch off devices), enables a full 12 hour + processing / fasting period for the body. Helpful for sleep and good health. Having said all that, my son enjoys a bowl of cereal mid evening - I liken it to the 'tanking' feed I used to give him as a baby to get him through the night! In conflict to what I have written above, he gets comfort from this additional 'supper'.
A family board game, time reading the Relax Kids "Dream Machine pick-a-path" book, or reflecting on particular emotions in the Relax Kids "Monster Feelings Handbook" can all help to unwind...but know your child. Any unnecessary focus on a particular Monster Emotion may wind your child's worries up, rather than down. For others, this process is necessary for calming the protective amygdala. If in doubt, leave it out.
My mother used to tickle my back as a very special sleep-time addition. A back rub, a hand or foot massage, can really help settle a wound up, anxious body and mind. Not only is touch itself the benefiting factor, time spent completely one to one with no other purpose other than positively touching your child is a beautiful way to provide positive reinforcement - "I am here for you".
And finally, playing Relax Kids CD such as "Believe and Achieve", some quiet meditation music, or reading a visualisation for your child such as Sunset from Marneta Viegas' "The Wishing Star", in a calm and restful way, is like the warm blanket of comfort. Taking a few slow long breaths to calm heart and brain, I love you, and hopefully off to a happy, unconcerned sleep. The NAPLAN nap!
When Amy Gray, Owner and Director of Li'l Melodies and mother to Poppy, Harrison and Evelyn, created Marvelous Max, it was to bring about informed change in attitude towards children with Autism, but also to recognise the unique differences within us all. And to promote the celebration of these differences.
Beginning as a concept, the short animation was the big next step and has reached a world-wide audience with in excess of 41,000 viewers on YouTube. You could say - MARVELOUS! Well it is, but there is more. To support the application of the 3 minute animation, Amy created a package for teachers in the classroom which includes a lesson plan, some group and individual questions, and feedback forms for both teachers and students. In other words, Marvelous Max creates discussion. As if this wasn't 'marvelous' enough, the characters have now been preserved forever in an easy to read, beautifully illustrated book, provided free of charge to every school in Australia thanks to funding by the Luke Priddis Foundation and the Lions Club in Lugarno. Pack and Send Australia - Penrith, have ensured the books will stay in beautiful condition by storing the thousands of copies prior to delivery which they will do free of charge within Australia and abroad! People really do care.
So why is Max marvelous? To my mind, Max fills two gaps. First, the gap that is gaping with the lack of resources at child level that explain some of the typical and diverse traits displayed by children on the Autism Spectrum and at the same time celebrates ALL our differences, strengths and interests. In this capacity, it is pitched well with the images, and general situations that children can well imagine and would have experienced (particularly given the current statistic of at least 1 in every 100 people in Australia diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder).
And secondly, Max enables discussions within classrooms and families who may not otherwise know how to broach the subject, or even understand 'the spectrum' with an easy to navigate 'kit' of information. Without specific medical or psychological jargon; just plain talking.
Positively Growing provides Relax Kids classes for all children and in so much, naturally has children with and without Autism. The tool kit doesn't alter much, however, as all children will ultimately benefit from such things as routine, visuals, expectations and rules. The systemic nature of Relax Kids enables predictability and reduces anxieties. Having Marvelous Max on hand to share with parents who may not understand some mannerisms or how to be inclusive is such a wonderful extension and helpful aide.
Created in collaboration with Lil' Melodies, Luke Priddis Foundation, blue clay Creatives, Bidgeekids Occupational Therapy and Lions Lugarno, you can watch the youtube animation here:
Follow Marvelous Max on the fb page @marvelousmax.com.au and visit www.marvelousmax.com.au.
Marvelous Max is easy to understand, simple to use, and not at all scary. I would recommend it to teachers, parents and children, as a go to for information regarding not only Autism Spectrum Disorder, but all our unique differences. Thank you Amy. Marvelous!
Resolutions for an Early Childhood Educator – Setting Attainable Intentions
Why would you set, let alone commit, to a New Year’s Resolution? For what and who’s purpose would you highlight downfalls in an attempt to right them over the course of twelve months? And who would monitor them, anyway? To be honest, I have a set of annual resolutions and I suppose that means some of them never succeed and I am perpetually hopeful. This year, however, I have some more tools up my sleeve. I feel that this is the year to succeed in my resolutions. If you are an Early Childhood Educator or interested in child development in any way, read on.
A friend of mine recently told me that New Year resolutions are more than faddish – they are the directions we set ourselves that differentiate our experiences from those that may occur and pass us by and those that shape who we are. In other words, by naming and labelling our hopes and dreams, we open and receive the information necessary, based on being open due to our annual goal settings.
In a bizarre and yet perturbingly insightful reflection, perhaps that is what social media and data collection is indeed based upon – human awareness and a need to develop information sources once interest is piqued. How many yellow cars did you see after you bought one? Same thing? I suspect it is.
If I dig deeper into my own intentions for this year, they are set by my interests, my community, and my logistical capacity – both imaginative and physical. I have two children and a husband. My resolutions involve them. I have colleagues and am part of a community. They, too, shape my year ahead. To set realistic resolutions, I need to stop and reconsider where I am at; but also reframe what I may previously have perceived as limitations.
Professionally and personally, I feel we approach each new year with the capacity to evaluate and set goals. In the southern hemisphere, the academic and calendar year mean a closure that matches and links with new beginnings. Regardless of where you are, however, the climatic and seasonal influences set about nature’s version of new beginnings.
So too, we set intentional learning experiences for the children in our services. Whether we have considered it or not, we are essentially using the New Year resolution technique on and for our children. From early on, we develop an understanding on what floats each child’s boat. We can use our relationships to see how children learn in the dynamics of our setting. From the families with whom we engage, we can find out ways in which to comfort or celebrate with a child, before we even meet them. How? Well here is where we look at those potential limitations, reframe, and use them instead to set our learning experiences and guide us into success.
If we don’t know something (a limitation), we wonder, ask and observe (possibilities). In order to do this with direction, there are a number of very helpful tools available. In the Teaching Pyramid resources, the Inventory of Practices for Promoting Social Emotional Competence and the Implementation Checklists are our go-to documents. They systemically bring us through the Promotion, Prevention and Intervention levels that include Building Positive Relationships, Designing Quality Environments, Social Emotional Teaching Strategies and Individualised Intensive Interventions. Keeping it simplistic, there is scope to then determine what needs to be taught, when could it be taught, and how will it be taught. In other words reframe (wonder and explore), reflect (experiences, knowledge, dynamics) and action (plan, resource, implement). The type of system we could use when planning for New Year Resolutions – wouldn’t you say?
Helen Sanderson’s Four Plus One (2006) Person-Centred reflective questions complements the Teaching Pyramid resources beautifully. The very succinct questions by Sanderson are thus: What are we pleased about? What have we tried? What have we learned? What are we concerned about? and the plus one…What do we need to do next? These empowering questions can make you feel that you have indeed been doing something of worth that has been somewhat effective. What’s more, there is a future and further direction that we have identified ourselves.
When we stop and reframe some of our thoughts and responses, we may discover a great deal of challenging behaviours (including skittish resolution keeping) could be reduced through relationship building and focus. When we reflect on our own responses, it may be that our own experiences and perceptions are clouding how we plan for and support the children and families in our service. It may also be affecting relationships between staff. It may be influencing our personal relationships as well.
In the development of social emotional goals for children, Robin McWilliam (2010) challenges us to consider if the goal is functional and participatory in nature. Have we considered what the child needs to be engaged, independent, and social in everyday routines and activities?Are we promoting the learning through contextually relevant, meaningful activities and routines? Is there a timeframe with measurable outcomes in order to evaluate appropriately? Once again, I would think there would be worth examining these elements in any type of planning to really support value behind thoughts, as well as taking into account learning styles.
So go ahead and set New Year’s Resolutions. See that they have potential to succeed. Check that barriers can’t first be removed personally before blaming others for failures and set-backs. Develop and strive for building adult capabilities, relationships and environments to support children and each other. And encourage yourself to examine the next steps for meeting those annual goals.
Inventory of Practices for Promoting Social Emotional Competence retrieved from Centre for Social Emotional Foundations in Early Learning (CSEFEL) http://csefel.vanderbilt.edu/modules/module1/handout4.pdf
Implementation Checklists retrieved from The Technical Assistance Center on Social Emotional Intervention for Young Children (TACSEI) http://challengingbehavior.fmhi.usf.edu/communities/trainers_main.html
Sanderson, H © 2006 Four plus One retrieved from http://www.helensandersonassociates.co.uk/person-centred-practice/person-centred-thinking-tools/4-plus-1-questions/
McWilliam, R.A ©2010, Routines-Based Early Intervention, Brookes Publishing co.
Positively Growing is delighted to be teaming with Family Footprints in rural Riverina to roll out training, coaching and sessions to support the child in the child's own world. Consultant, trainer, coach, Sara Stockman, is bringing the evidence-based social emotional framework 'Pyramid Model' and Relax Kids program, to rural early childhood services, primary school and families. In a dedicated four term delivery, Sara will aim to meet the needs and enhance the strengths of teachers, parents and support workers involved in the lives of young children. By providing a presence for the final two terms of the early years before school and the first two terms of Primary school, the overall intention is to support the emotional social development and support network enough to promote nurturing supportive relationships and high quality environments, preventing challenging behaviour and potential barriers through positive behaviour support planning. This incredibly exciting opportunity has been made possible with funding provided by the Department of Social Services through Centacare, and hopes to draw upon local community information sharing. Further to the provision of on-sight training in the highly acclaimed Pyramid Model, Sara Stockman will establish coaching for early childhood educators and early year primary teachers to substantially increase the sustainable nature of these social emotional practices that support the development of all children. In addition, Sara will provide group sessions of the program Relax Kids for the children to further develop skills to support their transition to primary school as well as general social emotional life skills.
For more information about bringing Positively Growing to your area or service, or for participation eligibility on this program contact Sara Stockman 0450631618.