Theory & Practise

Your kids are bored? Fantastic!


It's the second week of the school holidays, the weather is lovely yet your kids are irritable because they are bored, fantastic!


Psychologists and child behaviourists tell us boredom is good for kids as it encourages creativity whereas constant entertainment breeds irritability and restlessness under the law of diminishing returns. 
If you would like your child to develop their own creative interests they need the time and space to do just that.

Of course at first it won't be comfortable for them (or you)  if they are unfamiliar with the sensations and used to someone / something else creating a distraction. 

"I'm bored"


"I'm bored" are words that seem to strike fear into the hearts of many parents who then try to solve the 'problem' by suggesting all kinds of things, arranging yet another outing or allowing yet more screen time. 


Stop! 


This is a vital life lesson for your child. Boredom is not something to be feared, rather it is an opportunity, an opening into another world; the world of thoughts, of ideas, of quiet contemplation, the world of decision making.  


It is also about responsibility, about who is in charge of your child's feelings.  


So when your hear "I'm bored" instead of providing a list of suggestions, try something different such as "OK, what would you like to do about that?"

As that is an opened ended question you might have to put in qualifications such as " remember we are having an at home day today" or "Remember today we're having a screen free day".

At first there will likely be lots of complaining and even anger if the child is used to being constantly entertained. Here is where you stay calm and just hand the situation back to child.

"OK I hear you're bored, perhaps you can think about what you're going to do". Don't at this stage give in and start making suggestions such as "You've got all that Lego you could make something, or there's lots of craft material what could you make....."

Allow your child to sit with their feelings

Allow your child to sit with their feelings and decide what they will do about them, and yes it may be a very long day. If you are able to do this you will clearly demonstrate to your child you believe they can solve the 'problem' at hand. 


Changing patterns of behaviour is not easy for children or adults so be patient and keep your focus on the end goal. A child who is able to draw on their creative instincts and who has a wide range of interests and activities is in a position of strength. 

 Space and quiet time


 Space and quiet time will give your child the opportunity to develop the skill of listening to themselves, of finding their creative instincts and interests.

In the modern 24 hour electronic world quiet space can be hard to find.  

There's a great deal of money to be made out of convincing parents that children need constant entertainment, so this school holidays try something different, stick with quiet time for a few days and enjoy the results.  
 

3 simple steps to calm your frustrated child

Photo by Harald Groven on Flikr

Photo by Harald Groven on Flikr

"Help me to do it myself"

is often used as a slogan in Montessori centres, because it's the plea of young children everywhere.

The child, through their actions, tells us over and over they want to do things for themselves and that they experience enormous frustration when they are restricted in their efforts. 

Where do we start to help our young children to do things themselves? It's not always practical is it?

So how can we minimise their frustrations and help them on their journey toward independence and help ourselves too?

Well let's get started:

First: 

Create a work-space specifically designed to meet the needs of your young child.

  • Ensure there is enough child-height open shelving and comfortable child-sized table and chairs.

Then we begin the process:

  • Clear out the clutter - be ruthless

  • Remove everything that's broken or incomplete

  • Evaluate what's left, too easy? too hard? Remove and store

  • Find trays/containers/baskets for each item on the shelf

  • Make sure each activity is complete and the tools (such as scissors) are efficient and the correct size for the child to use

Now you are ready to create some activities. I'll start by giving a few examples of activities that provide your child with the opportunity to develop, refine and enjoy the skills of everyday life. :

  • Make practise examples of the things your child is trying to master such as spooning, pouring (dry or liquid depending on age/ motor development), cutting a banana, putting on their shoes or brushing hair

  • Think carefully about the skills of the child and ensure the activities are within the child's capabilities.

  • To maximise the child's chance of success each new skill or activity is introduced by first showing the child how to do it (sit beside the child not opposite them) and where to replace it.

  • Store the new activity on a shelf easily accessible to the child so they can choose and use this activity at a time of their choosing and repeat it as often as they wish.

You can replicate this approach with almost any activity/toy.

Realistic expectations - Understanding what drives your child

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Why is it important?

When adult expectations are realistic and in tune with a child’s developmental drivers it is easy for the child to experience success and enjoy a sense of achievement. It’s also likely they’ll be more cooperative and easier to get along with.

No matter how carefully or how many times you explain it, a young child cannot understand adult values, adult problems or time scales, they can’t, they really really can’t.

Very often this mismatch of expectations and capabilities causes tension and unhappiness for both adult and child.

The big difference between children and adults

It doesn't matter to a young child that their parent will be late for work as they’re taking too long to put on their shoes or that spilling juice will ‘ruin’ the carpet or that their brand new top is stained by paint.

The child is intensely driven by a completely different motive, the quest for independence. The young child really does need to put their shoes on themselves and to pour their own drink, feed themselves.

It’s the job of the adult to understand the needs of the child and to work out how the needs of the parent and the child can both be met, most of the time.

What drives the young child?

From birth the child is powered by their internal timetable, each step along the way is a step toward the goal of independence and self direction. 

Children are absolutely desperate to do things for themselves almost as soon as they grasp the idea of what it is that needs doing.

As adults it's our job to create an environment where the child can, wherever possible, succeed in their ever-growing quest for independence and understanding of the world around them.

Practical ideas to support independence:

"Help me to do it myself" is often used as a short-hand way to describe the Montessori approach to meeting the child’s developmental needs, it’s a practical approach which can be used at home to create pathways toward independence.

As the toddler starts to want to do things for themselves here are some simple things you can do: 

  1. Open shelves at child height with activities categorised and organised with all components needed. These activities are age and interest specific, put away everything that does not fit that criteria.

  2. A child sized table and chair or a Tripp Trapp chair (google it, they're fantastic) so the child can use the dining table.

  3. A step to allow access to the hand-basin / toilet. A hand-towel at the right height.

  4. A learning tower in the kitchen to provide safe access to kitchen benches for easy involvement in the preparation of food.

  5. Child safe kitchen utensils and a child sized chopping board, plus a place to work.

  6. Organising practical storage so the child can access appropriate clothing and shoes.

  7. Purchasing clothing and shoes which make it easy for the child to dress themselves and go to the toilet.

  8. Walk at a pace that allows the young child to explore their surroundings.

  9. Time - allow enough time for the child to be successful and enough time and space for you to observe and really understand what your child is ‘telling’ you.

The more activities the young child can do by themselves for themselves the happier and more content the child will be and so too the parent as life will be much less of a battle.

Children are most content when their developmental needs are met.

What the child cannot do is understand or appreciate adult priorities and time frames, and it’s not their job. Their job is to strive for independence and ever increasing control, and when adults help them to do that everyone is happier.

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Do parents expect too much?

Photo by  Senjuti Kundu  on  Unsplash

No matter how carefully or how many times you explain it, the young child cannot understand adult values, adult problems or time scales, they can’t, they really really can’t.

Very often this mismatch of expectations and capabilities causes tension and unhappiness for both adult and child.

It doesn't matter to a young child that their parent will be late for work as they’re taking too long to put on their shoes or that spilling juice will ‘ruin’ the carpet or that their new top will be stained by paint.

The child is intensely driven by a completely different motive, the quest for independence. The young child really does need to put their shoes on themselves and to pour their own drink.

It’s the job of the adult to understand the needs of the child and to work out how the needs of the parent and the child can both be met, most of the time.

From birth the child is powered by their internal timetable, each step along the way is a step toward the goal of independence and self direction. 

Children are absolutely desperate to do things for themselves almost as soon as they grasp the idea of what it is that needs doing.

As adults it's our job to create an environment where the child can, wherever possible, succeed in their ever-growing quest for independence.

Practical ideas to support independence:

"Help me to do it myself" is often used as a short-hand way to describe the Montessori approach to meeting the child’s developmental needs.

Parents can use this practical approach to create practical pathways toward independence.

As the toddler starts to want to do things themselves here are some simple things you can do: 

  1. Open shelves at child height with activities categorised and organised with all components needed. These activities are age and interest specific, put away everything that does not fit that criteria.

  2. A child sized table and chair or a Tripp Trapp chair (google it, they're fantastic) so the child can use the dining table.

  3. A step to allow access to the hand-basin / toilet. A hand-towel at the right height.

  4. A learning tower in the kitchen to provide safe access to kitchen benches for easy involvement in the preparation of food.

  5. Child safe kitchen utensils and a child sized chopping board, plus a place to work.

  6. Organising practical storage so the child can access appropriate clothing and shoes.

  7. Purchasing clothing and shoes which make it easy for the child to dress themselves and go to the toilet.

  8. Walk at a pace that allows the young child to explore their surroundings.

The more activities the young child can do by themselves for themselves the happier and more content the child will be and so too the parent as life will be much less of a battle.

Children are most content when their developmental needs are met.

What the child cannot do is understand or appreciate adult priorities and time frames, and it’s not their job. Their job is to strive for independence and ever increasing control, and when adults help them to do that everyone is happier.

Don’t forget to register your email so you can get helpful posts like this straight to your inbox, no searching required.

 

Get real! Do parents expect too much?

Photo by  Senjuti Kundu  on  Unsplash

No matter how carefully or how many times you explain it, the young child cannot understand adult values, adult problems or time scales, they can’t, they really really can’t.

Very often this mismatch of expectations and capabilities causes tension and unhappiness for both adult and child.

It doesn't matter to a young child that their parent will be late for work as they’re taking too long to put on their shoes or that spilling juice will ‘ruin’ the carpet or that their new top will be stained by paint.

The child is intensely drive by a completely different motivation, the quest for independence. The young child really does need to put their shoes on themselves and to pour their own drink.

It’s the job of the adult to understand the needs of the child and to work out how the needs of the parent and the child can both be met, most of the time.

From birth the child is powered by their internal timetable, each step along the way is a step toward the goal of independence and self direction. 

Children are absolutely desperate to do things for themselves almost as soon as they grasp the idea of what it is that needs doing.

As adults it's our job to create an environment where the child can, wherever possible, succeed in their ever-growing quest for independence.

Practical ideas to support independence:

"Help me to do it myself" is often used as a short-hand way to describe the Montessori approach to meeting the child’s developmental needs.

Parents can use this practical approach to create practical pathways toward independence for their young child. 

As the toddler starts to want to do things themselves here are some simple changes you can easily make: 

  1. Open shelves at child height with activities categorised and organised with all components needed. These activities are age and interest specific.

  2. A child sized table and chair or a Tripp Trapp chair (google it, they're fantastic) so the child can use the dining table.

  3. A step to allow access to the hand-basin / toilet. A hand-towel at the right height.

  4. A learning tower in the kitchen to provide safe access to kitchen benches for easy involvement in the preparation of food.

  5. Child safe kitchen utensils and a child sized chopping board, plus a place to work.

  6. Organising practical storage so the child can access appropriate clothing and shoes.

  7. Purchasing clothing and shoes which make it easy for the child to dress themselves and go to the toilet.

  8. Walk at a pace that allows the young child to explore their surroundings.

The more activities the young child can do by themselves for themselves the happier and more content the child will be and so too the parent as life will be much less of a battle.

Children are most content when their developmental needs are met.

What the child cannot do is understand or appreciate adult priorities and time frames, and it’s not their job. Their job is to strive for independence and ever increasing control, and when adults help them to do that everyone is happier.

Don’t forget to register your email so you can get helpful posts like this straight to your inbox, no searching required.

 

Here's one effective way to get kids to do what you ask

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For safety reasons it’s important children can do what their parents ask when they ask.

So what should parents do when the child ignores them or does the opposite to what is asked?

Is there really an effective way to get kids to do what they’re asked?

There is, the key is to use natural consequences. Not punishment, not anger, not nagging but natural consequences.

"Isn't that just another (nicer)way of saying punishment? What's the difference?"

"If you don't pack up your toys there will be no swimming tomorrow" is a punishment and not a natural consequence as the packing up of the toys has nothing at all to do with swimming.

Natural consequence look like this: 

I will use the bath example I often use as it explains this approach so clearly and parents can use the principle in many different situations.

Here's the scene: It's bath-time, parents have been concerned about the child standing up and jumping about in the bath and have now decided that when in the bath the child must sit.

How then to implement this using a natural consequences approach?

When getting your child ready for the bath state clearly that when in the bath the child must sit. 

Once that direction has been given what happens if they continue to stand?

Using natural consequences the child if not sitting, gets out. 

So let's look in a little more detail as to how a natural consequence might work in this practical example.

The Bath example

Before the child gets into the bath you explain that they must sit. For example, "sweetheart when you get into the bath you must sit down (as it's slippery and therefore dangerous...)" make eye contact and touch the child gently ensuring that you are connecting and engaging with the child.

Put the child into the bath and if they are standing wait a few moments and then say " remember what I said about sitting down?  Would you like me to help you sit down or can you sit down all by yourself?"

Again wait a moment for the child to respond, if nothing happens ask , "have you decided to get out now?" If they continue to stand remove them from the bath. Do it gently and kindly.

Here is where tone is really, really important, do not admonish the child, merely acknowledge their decision. "OK you decided to have a very short bath tonight so let's get you dried and dressed in your pyjamas so we can choose a story (or whatever is the routine)"

The child is not being punished

The child is not being punished,the parent is accepting the child’s decision to get out. The parent’s decision is that the children may not stand in the bath.

If your little one screams and wants to get back into the bath you can on night one or two as they are learning the new routine pleasantly say something like ..."Oh you would like to sit down in the bath, let's try that shall we?"  This only applies on night one and two (at most).

On subsequent nights do not give a 'chance' as this will just become the established routine just say pleasantly "oh bath time is finished tonight,  you can decide tomorrow if you want to sit and play in the bath"… then move on quickly to the next part of your evening routine. 

Don't go on about it, don't explain it all over again, move on - all the while keeping a light pleasant tone.

The next evening start anew, simply state "sweetheart remember what we talked about, when you get into the bath you must sit down (as it's slippery and therefore dangerous...)" again make eye contact and touch the child gently. No reference to not sitting or consequences. Again you can say something like 'shall I help you sit down or can you sit all  by yourself?" Wait a moment for the child to comply. If the child continues to stand again take them out and move on, just remarking gently that you see they've chosen to have a very short bath.

No repeated warnings, no threats or admonishment just respect for the choice the child makes within the clear boundaries you have provided.

Once you state clearly that when in the bath the child must sit, the natural consequence is that the child if not sitting, gets out.

Apply this to many everyday situations, like sunhats for example.

The same principle applies to many many situations, sitting on the swing, getting into bed for story-time, sitting at the table while eating, sitting during story-time at the library, washing hands before eating, wearing a sunhat to play outside.

It's really important that once you have decided that something is (or is not) to be done that you follow through.

If you don't mean it, don't say it, if you do mean it follow through.

Following through is the key to getting a child to do what you ask.  

When you follow through with natural consequences, delivered lovingly, your child will know you mean what you say.

Using natural consequences increases your credibility and emphasises your trustworthiness (the child can trust you mean what you say) and who doesn't want that! 

What does it mean when Montessori talks about the work of the child?

"Play Is The Work of the Child” Maria Montessori

Research shows that 75% of brain development occurs after birth, most of it in the early preschool years.

Early experiences and relationships are vital as they stimulate and influence the development of your child's brain. These experiences influence the development of motor skills, language, socialisation, emotional well-being, creativity, problem-solving and learning ability.

To be positive the activities available to the child must meet the developmental needs of the child. If the activity is too hard or if it is too easy the child becomes either bored or frustrated.

It's important to regularly review your child's toys and activities to see that they are still appropriate, do they still provide enough challenge? If they don't then and they’re too easy, remove them.

Likewise, at times like birthdays and Christmas children often get lots of toys some of which will be too difficult. Put the too difficult ones away and use them later to replace those that have been outgrown.

If you take your lead from the child, especially with things they are desperate to 'help' with or to do by themselves you will see where they (and you) need to go.

Clothing is a good example. You can select some pieces of clothing which are easy to get on and off and put them in a practise basket so the child can choose to practise putting them on and off as often as they wish.

Giving your child a low stool to sit on when putting on clothing, slippers, shoes and such like makes it much more likely the child will be successful. 

Washing dishes may be a chore to we adults, to the young child, it is a deeply satisfying achievement. If a child is given the choice between pretend play and real tasks, real wins every time.

Find as many opportunities as you can for your child to participate in the real everyday activities of the family, if you can do this you'll all be much happier.  Things like: helping unpack or stack the dishwasher, sorting cutlery into the drawer, helping hang out the washing (on their own lower line) pairing socks, folding facewashers, wiping their own little table or chair, getting ingredients from the cupboard or fridge, and dozens more.

Also, by looking objectively at the toys your child uses and the ones they don't, and which activities they most enjoy and which they don't even when encouraged, you can begin to understand which are the elements of each. This valuable knowledge will help you to plan positive, meaningful activities and life will be more fun for everyone!

Enjoy these wonderful early years where each day the miracle of developing life unfolds before you. 

Your child is hard at work every day, working to construct the adult they will become.