Create Bonds: Reducing Negative Peer Pressure

Create Bonds

Another tip to help reduce peer pressure is to create strong bonds with your children long before the adolescent years. With adolescence right around the corner, the school age years are a perfect time for strengthening the bonds you established in early childhood.

“The strength of a child’s relationship with his or her family will directly impact on whether peer pressure will be a productive or destructive influence in the child’s life.” 1

Family Night

Having a regular family night is one way to spend special time with your children. Let them take turns choosing a fast-food restaurant for dinner or take-out and then play games at home or watch a special movie. If you can’t afford to eat dinner out, make a special treat, like caramel popcorn or hot chocolate.

Meals

Eating meals together is one of the best strategies for building relationships. The older children get, the more challenging this becomes. Make it a priority to eat a certain number of meals together each week. It doesn’t have to be dinner. It could be a combination of breakfast, lunch and/or dinner times. You may need to juggle schedules and meal times, but the benefits outweigh the challenges. Implementing this tip gets parents on track for helping their school age children reduce negative peer pressure.

Sources:

  1. Adolescent Rebellion Can be Quelled, www.kidsgrowth.com/resources/articledetail
  2. Image: Together_(4739023417) [commons.wikimedia.org]

Teach Your Children: Reducing Negative Peer Pressure

When parents consider school-age peer pressure, perhaps they imagine the ways the child himself must resist the pressure. Although we’ll look at the child’s role in a later blog, there are parental roles that help reduce negative peer pressure for their school age children.

Teach Your Children

A great principal for reducing negative peer pressure for school age children is to teach your children. When do you teach them? I think of it as “way of life” teaching. As you go through each day, as you walk through life, you are using every day opportunities and examples to teach your children about life and what is important.

Principle

In the book in the Bible called Deuteronomy, there’s a verse I use to support this concept. Deuteronomy 11:19 instructs, “You shall teach them to your sons, talking of them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road and when you lie down and when you rise up.” 1

When Do You Teach?

Basically, you are teaching your children when you’re at home, while you’re out and about, when they go to bed, and after they get up. If you take advantage of these various times, you’ll discover many opportunities for teaching your children. You can teach them as you drive them to and from activities or attending church, school, and community events together as a family while you’re participating in community service projects.

Helping Others

As you share your time, talents, and resources with non-profit organizations that address social issues, you’re teaching your children about helping others, the value of community service, and giving.

Role Modeling

You are also teaching them by your example. Do your words encourage and build others up or for gossiping and criticism? Can your children repeat your language or do you use swear words and tell them only adults can use these words? How do you treat your friends, the pregnant teenager, the elderly, those who have less than you do, and the homeless woman on the street corner? Do you instruct them not to use drugs while you drink and smoke? Be mindful that little ones are watching your examples.

 

Sources:

  • New American Standard Bible
  • Image: Children_marbles [en.wikipedia.org]

 

 

Peer Pressure: 5 to 8 Year Olds

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“Be who you are and say what you feel,

because those who mind don’t matter

and those who matter don’t mind.” —Dr. Seuss

Since school age children are experiencing peer pressure, what does it look like? You may hear a child say, “If you’re my friend, you’ll play this game with me,” or “I’m mad at _______, so don’t talk to her.” Peers may pressure a child to ride their bikes too far from home or play with a gun. They may think it is funny to cut people out of the group or make fun of someone for any number of reasons. (1)

Positive Peer Pressure But peer pressure isn’t all negative. Dr. Melanie Killen, a developmental psychologist at the University of Maryland found, “The emergence of peer groups in elementary school also aids children’s development by providing positive friendships, relationships, and social support.” (2)

Pleasing Others Children ages 5 to 8 make a concerted effort to please their friends, classmates, and playmates, which is one reason this age can be so enjoyable. A positive aspect of peer pressure is that they can encourage each other to strive to do better in school, sports and creative activities. On the other hand, if the child acts in a way that is not natural for the child, this can be negative peer pressure. (3)

Why Children Give In The reasons school-age children give in to peer pressure aren’t much different than the reasons adolescents or even adults fall into peer pressure. They want to be liked and fit in. And who doesn’t want that? They worry that others kids may make fun of them. Perhaps the child is simply curious and wants to try something new.

Experimenting The common saying, “Everyone’s doing it,” influences some kids to ignore their better judgment or their common sense. (3) The child may be trying to figure out who he is by experimenting with his identity. (4) Parents may observe their child changing hair styles or hair color and wearing different clothing styles.

Be aware It is important for parents to be aware of what peer pressure looks like for school age children and remember that peer pressure can have many positive aspects. As you help your child develop socially, remember the reasons that they may fall into peer pressure.

Sources:

1. Peer Proofing Your Child-Teen, Part 5, By Sharon Scott, LPC, LMFT, 2006, www.familiesonlinemagazne.com/peerpressure/peerproofing5.html. Accessed 10/2/2013.

2. Younger Than You Think: Peer Pressure Begins in Elementary School, Rick Nauert, Ph.D., June 6, 2013, www.psychcentral.com. Accessed 10/5/2013.

3. Children’s Health: Peer Pressure, www.healthofchildren.com. Accessed 10/5/2013.

4. The Influence of Peer Pressure: Help Your Child Navigate Through Peer Pressure, Gwen Morrison, family.go.com. Accessed 10/5/2013.

Signs Your Child Has a Bad Teacher

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Your kids started the school-year not that long ago. Yet your child is already complaining. Is the problem your child or the teacher?

Although children can create behavioral challenges, teachers can also instigate problems. Your child may complain that the teacher yells. A teacher who yells is out of control. The louder the students, the more the teacher yells and grows angry.

Yelling and Fear

This can create fear in some children, not to mention being poor teaching practice. My daughter complained about this one year, but when I helped in her classroom, the teacher raised her voice slightly in a stern voice. My daughter perceived that as yelling. However, typically when children report yelling, the teacher is out of control.

Softer and Quieter

Good teachers know that the noisier students get, the quieter the teacher’s voice gets. A “look” works better than a raised voice. The teacher also gets closer to the disruptive students. For example, a group in the back is rowdy. The teacher walks near the group and softly says, “I need this group to stop talking and listen.” Most of the remainder of the class doesn’t even hear and class goes on.

Negative Treatment

If your child complains about how the teacher treats students, the teacher may be labeling or embarrassing children. Such actions as put-downs, belittling, sarcasm, labeling “stupid” or “slow,” or making fun of children are all completely unacceptable and demonstrate a lack of respect for children.

Teaching Styles

Teachers have different teaching styles that your child may need to adjust to; however, being treated disrespectfully is one of the most common ways the teacher is the problem. Maybe the teacher refuses to model the lesson more than once.

What’s the Real Story?

If you sense there is a problem, don’t go to the principal or the school board. Speak directly to the teacher. If it is still unresolved, you can then ask to speak to the teacher’s supervisor. Remember, you always want to get both sides of the story. By listening to both your child and the teacher, you can obtain accurate information. Then you’re prepared to make the best decisions for your child.

 

Image Source: empty_classroom 284164 [freeimages.com]

Preschoolers and Choices

As a college professor, I chose what committees I happily wanted to serve on. If the college dictated which committees I must be on, I wouldn’t have been happy.

What about you? Do you serve well if you have choices or have choices made for you?

Our preschoolers are no different. They too like to have control. Giving them the power to choose encourages autonomy (independence) while minimizing conflict.

Choices Can Begin Early

Choices can actually begin when babies become toddlers. Simply asking, “Do you want to wear the blue shirt or the green shirt today?” as you hold up the items provides a choice. A toddler can point which empowers them.

This or That?

Limiting choices helps preschoolers select. Many restaurant menus offer innumerable choices that sometimes overwhelm adults. Instead of asking your preschoolers, “What do you want?” ask, “Would you like chicken bites or a grilled cheese sandwich? Do you want milk or juice?” If the preschoolers are verbal, have the children order their own food.

More Choices Examples

Here are some more ways to give children choices. Instead of asking, “Do you want to take a nap?” (Why do parents ask this?) Inquire, “Do you want to nap with your teddy bear blanket or your doggie blanket?” When it’s cold outside, don’t ask, “Do you want to wear your jacket?” ask, “Do you want to put your shoes on first or your jacket?” After preschoolers make decisions based on two choices, gradually increase the number of choices. For example, “Do you want raisins, a granola bar, or yogurt for snack?”

You’ll discover that your preschoolers do better with choices just like we do.

Image Source: Stick_figure_choice [wikimediacommons.org]

The Power of Childhood Friendships

By Andrea Williams with quotes from Dr. Marian Fritzemeier, Ed.D.
Posted on: Daily Parent, August 1, 2014

Expert insight into the power of childhood friendships, for better or worse, and how to nurture friend-making skills.

Some of us can still fondly remember long summer days and recess hours spent with our closest pals, making mud pies, catching ladybugs and generally having lots of fun. As it turns out, the effects of those adolescent friendships last well into adulthood.

“Being chosen [as a friend] makes a child or teen feel affirmed, and it also expands their horizon beyond the narrow world of their nuclear family,” says Dr. Jan Yager, Ph.D., author of When Friendship Hurts. “The child or teen can become friends with someone of a different race, religion, culture or socio-economic background since their siblings will most likely be very similar to them. Friendships outside of siblings expand a child or teen’s horizons and view of the world and other families besides their own.”

Conversely, not learning to develop solid friendships can negatively affect a child’s future, as Yager notes that kids who spend too much time alone can become lonely teens and adults and even begin to develop signs of depression. Truly, we live in an interconnected world, and whether it relates to effectively completing group assignments in high school or college, or securing a job post-graduation and being able to work collaboratively with colleagues, it’s important that we encourage our children to develop strong, meaningful friendships. Here’s how:

Teach kids how to be good friends.

Anyone who’s had a relationship with an overly needy or inconsiderate person knows that being a great friend to others has become a bit of a lost art. Teach your kids now how to treat others well, and you won’t ever have to worry about them being alone later. “Kids can learn to model great friendships when they are given the tools for experiencing empathy,” says parenting expert Natalie Blais. “The power of empathy has a deep and lasting impression on kids because they are not yet clouded with disappointment like adults are. Kids are constantly filled with wonder when it comes to emotion, and empathy is an experience kids must learn to master.”

Dr. Marian Fritzemeier, Ed.D, an education and child development expert agrees, adding that it is up to parents to model the kind of behavior that they expect their kids to develop. “Role modeling is significant,” she says. “How parents interact with their children and their children’s friends helps them learn positive friendship skills. For example, if friends come over, the parent may suggest, ‘Emily, maybe your friends would like a snack. I can help you.’ Over time, sharing a snack becomes automatic.”

Encourage kids to seek out children who need friends.

Though cell phones have replaced land lines, and kids may actually spend more time communicating with each other via social media than face-to-face, little else has changed in the world of childhood friendships. On any playground across the country, you’re likely to find a group or clique, of popular, outgoing kids along with a smattering of quiet, more introverted kids who hang solo.

“My son is going into third grade in September, and we spent the entire year of second grade learning how to find kids who need someone to be a friend to them,” says Blais. “At the end of each day, I ask my son if he had the opportunity to be kind to someone that day. I make sure I have him consistently thinking about and looking for the chance to be kind to someone and reach out to him. Often, parents ask their kids how the day was, but they rarely ask their kids how they genuinely plugged into the situation around them and searched out the kids who needed them most.”

Get involved.

If your child is introverted, it’s important that you step in and help her begin to interact with others. The key, though, is not to push her too far outside of her comfort zone. “Years ago it was believed that children develop a temperament by age 3, but most research shows that children are born with an individual temperament,” Fritzemeier explains. “Some will be naturally outgoing and noisy, while others may be quiet and reserved. Parents who push their children to become someone they are not only increases the children’s stress levels, but as children get older, she can begin to question if her parents want them to be more like them or a sibling.”

Yager suggests parents arrange playdates for their kids (even through the elementary years) and enroll preschool-aged children in classes like Mommy and Me or Gymboree to help foster new friendships. Additionally, adds Fritzemeier, bringing a toy or pet can serve as an icebreaker and help draw other kids to your child. Also, when choosing other children to arrange playdates with, it’s important to try to find kids whose temperaments match that of your child, so she is not overwhelmed by an outgoing or boisterous personality.

Intervene when necessary.

Eventually, as your child ages and becomes more adept at interacting with others, she is bound to get involved in an unhealthy friendship. Parents, then, must toe the line between allowing their kids to be proactive in choosing their own relationships while also protecting them from significant hurt or danger. “Being a parent means taking the time to get to know the kids your child is spending time with,” says Dr. Tina Tessina, Ph.D., LMFT. You need to know their parents and hang out with them. Driving [your children’s friends] places and listening to what they talk about in the car while you’re driving is a great way to get a sense of who they are. This is most easily done while your kids are small; once they’re teens, you have a lot less control.”

If you do discover that your child is hanging out with someone she shouldn’t, Tessina suggests deftly steering her toward more positive influences without damaging your relationship with your child. “It’s best not to say bad things about the friends you don’t like; it will set you and your children against each other,” she explains. “This is why it’s so important to pay attention early on: you want to intervene before your child is too attached to someone. The best tactic is to find something your child is interested in and allow her to get involved, and distract your child from the undesirable friends. It also helps to find out what your child is getting out of the friendship. Is there some kind of acceptance for something you child feels bad about? Perhaps there’s something you don’t understand.”

Ultimately, though, if you’ve taken the time to show your child how to be a good friend and helped her to develop solid friendships while she’s young, you shouldn’t have much to worry about.

Adds Tessina, “If you set up a good parameter, you can let your child make choices, because there won’t be any bad ones.”

Published in: dailyparent.com/articles/the-power-of-childhood-friendships

What is Bullying?

How would you describe bullying? Has your child been bullied? Have you? When I taught a workshop at the California Association for the Education of Young Children (CAEYC) in Pasadena for adults working with children in the primary grades. 

Over 50 educators actively participated in my workshop: Bullying 101: Helping the Bully, the Bullied, and the Bystander: How Educators Can Help Break the Cycle of Violence.

The two months I spent preparing for this workshop were emotionally challenging. It was difficult to read books, research, and view videos about what’s happening on elementary campuses. As I read about bullying definitions, I often thought of the squabbles I observe weekly between five-year olds.

When a peer doesn’t do what their friend wants, I hear, “You’re not going to be my friend anymore,” or, “You’re not invited to my birthday party.” If they are really upset, they might say both sentences together. So is this bullying?

Bullying Definition. Although there are numerous bullying definitions, I chose this one because it contains multiple aspects. Three criteria distinguish bullying from other misbehaviors or isolated cases of aggression.

1. “It is aggressive behavior or intentional harm doing.

2. It is carried out repeatedly and over time.

3. It occurs within an interpersonal relationship characterized by an imbalance of power.” 1, p. 232

Are the squabbling five-year olds bullying? Their behavior is not always aggressive but they are saying these things to express frustration. Most likely, it is the meanest thing they know so say. The words are intentional, although very short lived. Later, they are once again friends and get re-invited to the party.

Yes, it is carried out repeatedly over time, but by different children. It isn’t only one or two children who make these threats against certain children. It seems to be a regular part of their interactions as they learn more appropriate social skills. Is it acceptable? To me, it is not. I’d like the teacher to intervene and explain how that hurts others’ feelings and how to state their frustration in a more specific way. “I don’t like it when you take my cars.”

Finally, is there an imbalance in power? An imbalance of power could be by size, age, or abilities. Although the children are all different, I don’t observe an imbalance of power. In this situation, I’d say that the children are not bullying, but learning how to express themselves; however, they need more adult guidance. What do you think? Are the children being bullied?

Source:

1. Hirsch, Lee & Lowen, Cynthia with Santorelli, Dina (Editors). Bully: An Action Plan for Teachers, Parents, and Communities to Combat the Bullying Crisis. [Companion to the Acclaimed Film Bully] New York: Weinstein Books, 2012, p. 232. 2. Image Source: bully-oppression [Pixabay.com]

Pretend and Imaginative Play

My three-year-old grandson, Parker, gravitates towards playthings with push buttons while we stroll down the toy aisle. He hopes the buttons will make sounds and “talk” to him. As a child development specialist, I’m not too thrilled with his fascination because these toys don’t leave much to the imagination.

“Grams, this one doesn’t make any noise,” he comments rather confused.

“You’re right Parker, it doesn’t. You have to use your imagination. You can pretend and make the stuffed dog say anything you want.” I’ve given an interesting concept to a child living in a computer-generated world where imagination is virtually untapped.

Benefits. Pretend play helps children gain developmental benefits including creativity, imagination, self-confidence, mastering new concepts, and communication skills. So how can parents encourage pretend and imaginative play in a technological world? Provide open-ended toys and materials, dramatic play items, games, and interactions that facilitate children’s play.

Open-Ended Toys. Choose “open-ended” toys and materials. This means toys that offer different ways children can play with them. Examples of open-ended play items are blocks, cardboard boxes, wooden train sets, dress-up clothes, play dough, and art materials. Items children can build and create anything they dream of are ideal for imagination, such as: Duplos, Legos, Lincoln Logs, Mega Blocks, and magnetic blocks. One day a child builds a zoo while another time he/she constructs a ferry.

Dramatic Play. Another way parents can enhance children’s imaginations is through dramatic play. Building forts, houses, hospitals, and stores using common household items provides infinite creativity and pretending. Sheets, blankets, pillows, cardboard boxes, large appliance boxes, stools, chairs, and boards are great materials.

Children can also imitate real-life events to advance pretend play. For example, if the dog goes to the vet, children can invent a pet hospital at home. Set up a dentist’s office, doctor’s office, grocery store, classroom, hair salon, pet store, or auto shop. The possibilities are endless.

Dress-up Clothes. Children also enjoy dress up clothes in adult sizes that you can discover at used clothing stores, such as Goodwill. Choose items that represent both genders as well as clothes from different cultures. You’ll enjoy watching your children try “adult” roles as they express themselves in pretend play.

Games. Games provide another way for expressing imagination. Once children learn rules to traditional board games ask them to create a new game with different rules. You can also provide children with common game items and ask them to create a new game. “What kind of game can we play with a Frisbee and a ball?” You’ll be amazed at how much fun they’ll cultivate for your family

Benefits. Finally, talking to children while they play not only promotes children’s vocabulary, communication skills, and storytelling, but helps children’s imaginations. Suggestions like, “What else can you build?” or “How can you make your store higher?” stretches children’s problem solving abilities and the beginnings of abstract thinking. Puppets are another great way to facilitate pretend play and vocabulary. A chair with a towel over it becomes a puppet stage.

Encouraging your children to use their imaginations by providing a wide variety of play items and interactions will build skills that will last a lifetime.

 

“Feeling Inadequate? Watch Children” Hope Street: My Journey

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Parker’s First Attempt at Caber Toss in Modesto 2014

Do you ever feel inadequate? Some days everything seems difficult. Simple things like opening a sealed bag or putting on my necklace are challenging because my coordination is poor. Other times I can’t find the right word or can’t even express a sentence when my brain is off. Yes, me, Chatty Cathy.

I read a book that has many thought provoking statements. Hatch! Brainstorming Secrets of a Theme Park Designer by C. Mc Nair Wilson. He did in fact work for Disney as an Imagineer.

“If you feel in adequate, watch children. They are highly unskilled at pretty much everything they try. But they try everything. They don’t listen to maturity’s hot air about being responsible, careful, or correct. Instead they fill their lives with hot dreams and imagination and fly to the stars…They roll down grassy slopes, basking in the moon-glow and starlight of endless possibilities.” (p. 68)

What a great description of childhood. It is one reason I love being around them. After I was unable to work at Merced College, I missed watching children every day as they came and went from the Child Development Center. So I began volunteering in my grandson Parker’s preschool class six years ago. What a delight to be with him and his friends. They are constantly trying something new.

On Saturday my husband participated as an athlete in the Modesto Highland Games. One event is the caber. My daughter calls it, “Man in skirt with telephone pole.” Six to twelve year olds could sign up to learn. Parker is not quite six, so they let him “practice” two times after the older kids were done.

He’d never turned a caber before. He may have seen it on a video. His Papa hadn’t yet done that event. But he wanted to try. And try he did. He was able to turn it on the first toss. He was so proud of himself. I was proud of him too. Not so much that he turned it, but because he was willing to try even in front of a large group.

If they offered adults to try and turn the caber, I’m guessing there would be few volunteers. Why? McNair summaries the answer best, “…we do not live our dreams because we’re too busy living out our fears.” (p. 66) Parker was not even remotely afraid. He didn’t wonder what others would think. He didn’t hold back in case he couldn’t do it. He didn’t doubt himself. He just went for it. What’s the “caber” in your life you’d like to try? Maybe you can try it today.

(Village Books, 2012)

 

Let’s Make a Deal

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All of us have situations in which there aren’t any choices, like work requirements. Children need to learn that they don’t always have a choice. Sometimes decisions are made by parents or other adults.

Safety Reasons

For example, parents are responsible for their children’s safety. Dr. Sue Grossman, Assistant Professor at Eastern Michigan reminds parents that children can’t play with everything, like the stove or burner controls when helping make cookies. (1)

Primary and Secondary Decisions

Sometimes they can’t do something because of time constraints, like when parents need to drop the children off at pre-school and get to work. Parents make the primary decision, it’s time to get ready, but then children can make subsequent, secondary choices, like what to wear or whether they want to pour in flour or chocolate chips for the cookies.

Accepting No

Dr. Grossman adds, “When children know that they will be given sufficient opportunities to choose for themselves, they are more willing to accept those important ‘no choice’ decisions adults must make for them.” (1)

Source:

1. Offering Children Choices: Encouraging Autonomy and Learning While Minimizing Conflicts, Sue Grossman, Ph.D., Early Childhood News, 2007. www.earlychildhoodnews.com/earlychildhood/article_view.aspx?…607. Accessed 3/25/2014.