Sunday, December 19, 2010

Music Tip #59 Nontraditional piano recital

I like to think out of the box and do nontraditional things. That’s why I have my piano Christmas recital at the post office! Yes, that’s right. Our post office brings in a piano and entertains its customers while they wait in line. It started several years ago and has been going strong due to the behind the scenes work of Linda, the organizer of the entertainment. She schedules the musicians--and what a variety there is. There have been school choral groups, guitar players, violin solos, singers, piano players, and of course, my piano studio. I book an hour time slot on different days and let my students sign up for which day is best for them. I usually have 6-8 students during each hour time slot. My students make a line by the piano and take turns playing a Christmas song. When they finish their song, they go to the end of the line and wait until it’s their turn again. They get to play 7-8 times throughout the hour allotted time.

The customers in line are great. They applaud after the songs and even come by after mailing their packages to tell my students to “keep practicing. I wish I hadn’t quit.”

This is a great way to help bashful students have a successful performing experience. The atmosphere is nonthreatening because people are constantly coming and going and my students feel like they’re just in the background. It helps focus their practicing through the month of November and December because they know people will be listening, and it’s fun--they wear a Santa hat and get a candy cane at the end!

Nontraditional and fun—my way of doing things!

Parenting Tip #61 Little Blue Bug to the rescue

My granddaughter did not want to get her hair combed. She ran out of the room and hid under a table in the other room so her mother couldn’t fix her hair. I found her and proceeded to do what I always do when a child doesn’t want to do what they’re suppose to: I tell them a Little Blue Bug Story.

Yes, Little Blue Bug has helped me diffuse a power struggle countless times. In this case, it was Little Blue Bug’s sister—Little Pink Bug—who helped us out. She had the same problem as my granddaughter i.e. she hated her mother combing her hair. So Little Pink Bug asked her father to cut her hair short just like her brother, Little Blue Bug’s. Her Dad, of course, didn’t think this was a good idea, but Little Pink Bug insisted. Just as Little Pink Bug’s father was about to buzz off her hair, she changed her mind. Her mother asked her why she hated getting her hair cut and Little Pink Bug said because it was boring and it hurt when her mother combed her hair. Mother bug suggested in the future they tell jokes while she fixed her daughter’s hair and she also promised to be more gentle as she combed her daughter’s hair.

As I was telling this story to my granddaughter, she immediately quit crying, let me hold her on my lap, and let her mother start fixing her hair. By the end of the story, the hair was combed, my granddaughter was laughing at the jokes Little Pink Bug and her mother told and my daughter-in-law and I high fived each other.

Children love to hear stories, so use this character trait to your advantage. If you struggle to get your baby to lie still while changing his diaper, or fight with your toddler who doesn’t want to wear his seat belt --tell a story. If your children are fighting with each other or won’t get ready for bed, tell a story. Tell about another animal or child having the same problem they are having and tell how they resolved it in a happy way.

Don’t think and plan out the whole story—just start talking and you’ll be amazed at what comes out of your mouth.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Parenting Tip #60 Techniques for the "difficult" child

I checked out this book from the library: Transforming the Difficult Child: True Stories of Triumph by Jennifer Easley and Howard Glasser. The whole book is one success story after another of how parents, teachers, counselors and schools have helped a difficult child get back on the road to success. I began reading it and couldn’t put it down. Now I want to get the original book that tells the steps in dealing with difficult children.

One of the techniques I read about was using “video moments”. The adult comments on what he sees the child doing, i.e. “I see you’re concentrating hard on that puzzle” Or “This picture looks like you were enjoying drawing.” You are validating their efforts and making a positive statement to them about them.

Another technique is to refuse to energize negativity. Again, it’s focusing on the positive traits your child has, and the positive things they do. Tell your child how strong and brave he is to get up and get ready for school when he doesn’t want to. Tell your daughter how thoughtful she is to tend the baby so you can fix dinner.

All the while I read the stories in this book, it made me think of how I could respond to my children. They, themselves, are not “difficult”, but they are often having “difficult times” in their lives. How can I help them? I can validate that they are having a rough time. I can tell them they are brave and courageous to deal with their employment situation. I can tell them what great parents they are to care enough about their children to discipline them and try to work out problems.

In the end, everyone--regardless of their age-- needs to be validated for what they are going through and given a positive outlook on how great they are.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Parenting Tip #59 Self esteem or Self worth?

What's the difference between self esteem and self worth? Karen Eddington, founder of Cauliflower Retreat(an outreach program designed to empower women and teens using positive messages of self-worth)says there is a big difference. She states "It’s time for a new message. We encourage you to think and act more positively about self-worth starting in the home." She offers self-worth support, skills, and techniques that you can teach to your children before they reach teenage years and while they are in them.

One suggestion Karen gives parents is to not label your child. It's so easy to say, "Josh is the athletic member in our family and Jordon is the intellectual one." That kind of statement puts a limit on what each son can accomplish.

My daughter-in-law is part of Cauliflower Retreat and it has been rewarding for me to see how deeply she cares and wants to help youth feel good about who they are.

Home should be the haven our children come home to where they can feel secure enough to grow and create their best self. We, as parents, can help them on their path. Visit Karen's website to get specific and easy suggestions that you can incorporate into your family's dialogue.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Music Tip #58 The Sol-Mi Pitches

At school this week I had to teach a parent class on integrating music with reading and math. One of the ideas I mentioned was to sing the words from the book, Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See? (see Oct 31 blog entry). One of the mothers mentioned that she didn’t know there was a song to the book. I replied, there wasn’t, I just made one up using the sol-mi pitches. After the class was over, I realized she probably didn’t know what the sol-mi pitches were, and I wished that I had taken time to explain them.

So…here we go. Anytime you want to make up a simple song use the sol-mi pitches. These two pitches are the basis for all early children singing games and songs. Think of the song “rain, rain go away, come again another day.” This song is just alternating between two pitches (sol and mi). At the end on you do sing one higher pitch (la) on the first syllable of “ another” [day].

If you play the piano or know some of the keys on the piano, the sol pitch is G, the mi pitch is E and the la pitch is A ( in the key of C). Most of the easy songs children sing have these 2 pitches with “la” thrown in every once in awhile. This is true in Ring Around the Rosie and Starlight Star Bright.

So don’t be afraid to make up a little tune to go along with a book, or to get your child’s attention. It’s fun and simple and adds a little pizzazz to your reading time.

Parenting Tip #58 Conversations 5 years in Advance?

I was listening to a speaker at a Church conference last month and she said something that caught my attention. The speaker was Rosemary Wixom, Primary General President for the LDS Church (Primary is for children age 18 months – 11 years of age). She said, “The world will teach our children if we do not, and children are capable of learning all the world will teach them at a very young age. What we want them to know five years from now needs to be part of our conversation with them today.”,5232,23-1-1298-3,00.html

What an interesting thought. What things do we need to be talking to our children about?
We can’t expect our 13 year old daughter to understand our saying NO when she wants to wear a halter top if we haven't been teaching her what modesty and immodesty means. We can’t expect our son to play on a ball team or play during recess and not come home and swear if we haven’t taught him that there are some words we do not say. We can’t expect our daughter to not cheat in school if we haven’t taught her it is dishonest to look on another person’s test paper and copy the answers. We can’t expect our son to not want to get a tattoo or smoke or drink if we haven’t taught him that his body is a gift from God and should be treated with respect.

The world will teach our children if we do not…” Now that’s a scary thought! What should we be teaching? We need to be teaching our children about God, about how to be a good friend (starting with their siblings), about honesty, about listening and respecting their teachers, about the importance of voting, about dating and what age they should group date and single date. We need to teach them The Golden Rule, the 10 Commandments, the importance of serving others, and why they shouldn’t judge others.

Our conversations should be about how to find true happiness, how to follow Jesus, why we obey our parents and leaders. If we talk about these kinds of things, our children will be prepared for the future and can meet it with less difficulty. They’ll sail through their teen age years with a strong foundation of true principles.

My daughter was in the middle of making cookies with her 3 year old son. She asked, “what do we do now?” He matter of factly replied, “look in the scriptures.” I guess my daughter has been having good conversations with him. He knows where to look for answers.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Music Tip #57 Geometry loops (stretchy shape loops)

Here’s a fun idea I borrowed from this blog:

I bought the lycra and made 15 of the stretchy loops and took them to school. I had my students draw shapes on the whiteboard—triangle, square, rectangle, diamond, trapezoid, etc. Then I pointed to a shape on the board and they made the shape with their stretchy loops. For the older classes, (4th – 6th grade) I counted 8 beats for them to get their shape made by. With the younger classes, I just let them take the time they needed. Then I would call out another shape, or if it was a triangle, I would say to make another kind of triangle. Since I didn't have enough loops for every student, we took turns and students helped each other make the shape if they needed help.

After they had practiced making the shapes, we had a silent shape dance. I put on music and without talking, pointed to a shape on the board, which they would make, and then dance or sway to until I pointed to another shape. Surprisingly, the 6th graders had the most fun with this activity. Also, with the 5th and 6th graders, I asked them to make a cube, pyramid and 3D rectangle (involving 4 students). They loved it.

If my daughter or daughter-in-laws are reading this, don't make any stretchy loops--I'm making some for Christmas presents!

Parenting Tip #57 The Difficult Child

Do you have a difficult child? What is a difficult child? How do you deal with a difficult child?

I would say that a difficult child is one who is always getting into trouble, who doesn’t obey, gets into fights with siblings, won’t do his homework, doesn’t do his chores, talks back to parents, throws a temper tantrum when he doesn’t get his way, ……you can fill in the rest, I’m sure.

So how do you deal with a difficult child? I thought back to my parenting days for examples of what I did, but then decided to check out the internet for what “the professionals” are saying. I was surprised and happy to see that how I parented was in line with what they were saying.

I especially liked the advice of Howard Glasser who has written several books, the newest being, Transforming the Difficult Child - The Nurtured Heart Approach He takes the approach that I like, ie give positive feedback and reward your child with your attention when they are doing good things instead of when they are behaving badly.

Our children want our attention. They need our love and approval. But life gets so hectic with LIFE, that often the only time they really get our full attention is when they are fighting with us. But because they need our time and love so much, subconsciously they go for the negative attention because that’s the most often way they get it.

Instead, parents need to give their children attention when they catch them doing what’s right. Reward them with your approval and time for the good things that they do. Sometimes you have to be really creative to “catch” them doing something good, but you’ll find it. When they disobey, give no emotional attention. State the family rule and follow through with the natural consequence. But be sure and give them love and positive words for little things you see them doing at other times. Soon the positive attention will outweigh the negative attention, and peace and harmony will reign in your home. Sounds great??? At least try it.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Music Tip #56 Using books to teach music, reading and math

This week I have to teach a group of Montessori teachers how they can use music to help them teach reading and math. Then next week I’ll be teaching the same class to parents. So I’ll give you some of my ideas and they might be something you can use too.

I love to use books to teach music, reading and math skills. After reading a book, choose characters or objects from the story and discuss how many syllables they have. Create new words that have one or two syllables. Tap your hands on your legs to feel the syllables. String 4 of the words together and chant them over and over again. Clap and feel the rhythm. Choose 4 different words and string them together and chant them. Hear the difference.

The book Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See? (Bill Martin Jr.Eric Carle) is a great way to introduce adjectives. This is a fun book to sing on sol mi pitches. Have students/your child think up new adjectives like different colors, sizes, moods of animals, etc. The companion book Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear? is a good book to learn about verbs. Each animal growls or yelps or roars. Have your students/child think of new verbs and sing them.

Of course there’s the well known song “Apples and Bananas( Each verse is sung with a different vowel sound. The kids love it because it sounds so silly.
You can do the same thing with Miss Mary Mack—using only the first verse and changing the vowel sound.(

Millions of Cats by Wanda Gag is a great book to teach the order of higher numbers. It has a cute chant that goes “hundreds of cats, thousands of cats, millions and billions and trillions of cats!” Then teach your child how to write those numbers.

Read books to your children, think what you can pull out of it (syllables, verbs, adjectives, nouns, compound words, rhyming, numbers, past tense, present tense, etc), then put it to a chant, rhythm, little song and have fun!

Parenting Tip #56 Older siblings helping younger ones

I know of a family with seven children, four of whom I give piano lessons to. The oldest daughter, is in college, and the youngest child is almost 2 year old. The Mom homeschools her children, the boys are active in scouts, some of the children play two instruments, and well, they live a busy life—especially the mom!

As I was talking to the mom this week, she mentioned something she has started doing that I wished I would have done when I was raising my children. She has paired up two of the older children to help her teach their younger siblings. For example, the 12 year son, who plays the piano very well, is helping his 8 year old brother practice the piano and the 10 year old son is helping his 6 year old sister with her reading. She is finding that not only does the younger sibling benefit, but the two older ones do too. As they teach, they are reinforcing skills and knowledge of things they already know, but are now really internalizing that knowledge for themselves. She said she had to be careful who she paired up, because, as we all know, some age groups and children don’t work well with each other. If she paired up her 10 and 8 year old sons together—sparks would fly.

This is an example of one of the benefits of having a large family. The older children can help their younger brothers and sisters and relieve the mom of some heavy stress.

So let’s brainstorm some other ways parents can pair up children to help each other. What about cleaning? If you asked your 6 year old to help the 3 year old put away the dishes from the dishwasher, you are helping your 6 year old learn leadership skills, giving her bonding time with her brother and getting a chore done all in one. Now if you asked them to clean the bathroom---you may end up with a bigger mess than you want. So you might need to think through what job you want done and who to pair up.

Okay, now let’s think about getting ready for bed. I don’t like competition, but what if you paired up two sets of your children to get dressed for bed (with teeth brushed and whatever else you add), and the set who got ready first could pick which story to read and the set who finished second could pick the song to sing.

Wow, I’m really getting into this. It almost makes me want to go back and parent my children again when they were younger. Almost.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Music Tip #55 Rounds, Partner Songs, Melody Mergers

I’ve been singing rounds, partner songs and melody mergers at school with the 3rd and 4th graders. What’s the difference between those three type of songs? Well, as you know, a round is where one group starts singing the song, then the 2nd group starts singing it a little later and a 3rd group starts in a little after that. Rounds usually have 2 or 3 different groups that sing the same song.

Partner songs are two different songs that are sung at the same time. You divide the class into 2 groups and assign them each a different song. When sung together, one group needs to be a little louder and the other group sings softer. It sounds very nice. We have been singing Michael Finnigan and This Old Man.

Other partner songs you can try are: Good Night Ladies with Pickalittle, Talkalittle (Music Man), The Farmer in the Dell with Here We Go Looby Loo, Hey Ho, Nobody Home with When Johnny Comes Marching Home and Three Blind Mice with London Bridge.

A melody merge is several partner songs sung at the same time, BUT you don’t sing the words—then you have melody mash crash! You just sing the melody on loo or la. We sang Three Blind Mice, Are You Sleeping and Row, Row Row Your Boat. It sounded great! Well, I have to admit, with two classes it sounded great, the other classes with not as many good singers in it sounded more like the melody mash crash.

These six songs can be sung together (remember without the words): Are You Sleeping, Down by the Station, White Coral Bells, R,R,Row Your Boat, 3 Blind Mice, Merrily we Roll Along.
Another set of six songs are these: Swing Low Sweet Chariot, When the Saints, Good Night Ladies, Amazing Grace, She’ll be Coming Round the Mountain and Crawdad Song.

I’m anxious to try these melody mergers with recorders and Orff instruments. Try them at home, at your next family reunion, cub scout meeting or with friends. Good luck, I hope you don’t crash.

Parenting Tip #55 All it takes is Patience

Patience: A coveted character trait longed for by parents toward their offspring.
When needed: daily, every minute
Why needed: because of ---two year olds, six year olds, ten year olds, teenagers….
How do you acquire it: Now there’s the $64,000.00 question!

How many times a day does a parent need patience? When your baby is crying but you just need to finish fixing dinner, when your two year old is throwing a temper tantrum at Target, when your six year old refuses to hurry and get dressed for school, when your teenager has a sullen expression and refuses to talk to you, when your ten year old hits his sister---again, when your husband leaves his clothes on the floor…..okay, I’ll stop.

But here is a twist. How do you teach your children to have patience? An interesting study was done on children and patience “suggesting that the ability to wait—to be patient—was a key character trait that might predict later success in life.”,5232,23-1-1207-20,00.html (to see video illustrating this research: If that is true, wouldn’t patience be a number one thing parents would want to teach their children?

So how do you teach your children to have patience? Here are some thoughts:
babies: none-their job is to teach YOU patience!
1. play games where they have to wait for their turn
2. teach them to take turns at home
3. don’t let them always be the first to get whatever they want
4. make a calendar so they can mark off days until…vacation, holiday, birthday, etc
5. distract them or focus them to think of something else (like when you’re waiting in a llloooonnnnggggg line
School age/Teens:
1. help them visualize the end result/goal
2. outline steps to reach the goal (such as buying something they want, doing a hard homework assignment, etc)
3. Count to 10-helping them to control their anger
4. Think from the other person’s perspective – when fighting with their sibling, mean school teacher, rules they don’t like
5. Teach about banking, savings, and interest
6. Help direct focus—like during Church, writing assignments, negative thinking
7. Focus on the positive things in life—when they didn’t make a team, during illnesses, trials

But remember, it will take patience on your part before you will see the results on your children’s part.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Music Tip #54 Music magic with preschoolers

I was doing a music activity with 3 and 4 year olds in a preschool setting. I set the stage by briefly telling the story of a baby bird in his nest. His mother would bring him worms and bugs to eat each day until he got big enough that one day his father said it was time to learn to fly. So the baby bird perched on the edge of the nest and gave a little jump and took off flying. His dad soared with him, over the farm and country side, up to the mountaintop. They rested in a branch of a tree and then flew home again. As I told the story I had the children do the movements with their hands.

Then I put on the music, Forgotten Dreams by Leroy Anderson. I whispered the story of the baby bird as the children and I again acted it out with our hands. We cupped one hand to be the nest and with our index finger and thumb of the other hand acting as the beak, we hungrily ate the worms and bugs our mother fed to us. We spread our wings and practiced flying, and as the music got faster we flew faster, pausing to catch our breath while we rested in the branch of the tree on the mountaintop. Then we flew home, tired but happy. As the music became softer and slower the baby bird sank into his nest and closed his eyes and went to sleep. And as I whispered, “good night, baby bird”, I looked around, and without me saying one word, all the children had closed their eyes and lain down on the floor pretending to sleep. It was magical.

I whispered to the teachers, “and that is why I love to teach preschoolers. You couldn’t do that with sixth graders!”

Parenting Tip #54 How to not yell at your teenager

I remember my mother saying that the most fun of her mothering years were when her four oldest children were all in their teen age years at the same time. I agree. I also had four teenagers at the same time. So how can that be fun? Don’t teenagers rebel and cause you to constantly fight and yell with them?

It depends. If you are constantly yelling and fighting with your six and nine and eleven year old, then you’ll continue fighting and yelling with your teenager. But if you are disciplining with love and teaching and talking/listening to your pre teen child, then you’ll continue that parenting strategy with your teenager.

Teenagers are people. They deserve to be treated with respect. They are developing their autonomy, independence and individuality. They are trying to figure out who they are. It’s a tough time for them. So when conflicts arise as to when to do homework, when to socialize, when to do chores and when curfew should be, talk to your teenager like you would talk to your friend. Listen to their point of view. Think back to your teenage days and empathize with them. Then tell them your thoughts. Ask your teenager how you can both come to an agreement that works for both of you. Problem solve, give and take, think out of the box.

I remember talking to a mother of 6 sons and asking her for advice. She said “pick your fights”. In other words, if your teen wants to do something that you’re not totally against,let him do it-within your limits. But if your teen wants to go somewhere or do something you are dead set against, state your reasons why and ask him to trust you on this issue.

My fight was that my children had to practice the piano until they could play 10 hymns, at which time they could quit. All through their growing up years I would discuss options of how to make it more pleasant for them, offer incentives, etc. but the goal was 10 hymns and nothing less.

Another issue I would not back down on was sleepovers. One time my daughter wanted to go to her friend’s sleepover. Everyone was going and it was going to be so much fun. I was totally against sleepovers, though and she knew it. So instead of fighting we problem solved the issue and worked out a give and take. She could stay until 11pm, and then she had to come home. But I took her back the next morning so she could eat breakfast with her friends.

Don’t get in a power struggle with your teenager. If you have a conflict, remain calm (well try to). State your family’s rule about the issue. Be sincere.

Use natural consequences. If your teen stays out past curfew, she comes home early the next time. No yelling, no fighting, just calmly remind her of the rules (oh yeah, let your teenagers help you establish your rules and guidelines—very important! Then they will respect the rules because they helped establish them.)

And last, but this should definitely be first. Pray. Pray to your Father in Heaven that he will guide you as you raise your teenager who you have loved and enjoyed since he/she was a baby and which you will continue to love and cherish—even through teenagehood.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Parenting Tip #53 I will not yell, I will not yell...

New goal: I will not yell at my kids. 10 minutes later...I’m yelling.

Do you have a problem with yelling at your kids? Actually yelling is a symptom, not the problem. To figure out what the problem is, you need to figure out why you’re yelling at your children. Is it because they won’t obey you, or they’re too slow doing what you asked them to do, or they’re totally just ignoring you? The next thing you need to do is analyze when you yell. Is it when you’re late and trying to get out the door, or getting your children to do their chores or do their homework or stop fighting with their siblings, or go to bed? You’re probably shaking your head and saying “yes, and yes, and yes and yes!”

After you’ve analyzed why and when you yell, figure out some strategies that will help in these situations. Here are some ideas:
Whisper or sing your instructions-“hey, Mom’s not acting normal-I’d better listen up”
Give your children advanced warning when you have to get in the car or do homework, or go to bed-“five more minutes and …….”
Occasionally give positive reinforcement for children who obey quickly (like a piece of gum or staying up late 10 extra minutes)
Assign a “good dooby” for the day. This child gets to make the choices during the day, like who gets to sit by the window in the car, decide what to eat for lunch or whatever your kids fight about. Maybe they can be Mom’s helper throughout the day and choose what book to read and even get to stay up 5 minutes later at night. Each day rotate which child gets this privilege.

Use natural consequences. Calmly grab your child’s clothes (plus him)-no yelling. He gets dressed in the car. Your daughter doesn’t do her homework-she gets a bad grade or misses out on playing with her friend the next day after school.
Create a chart for working on a specific problem your children are having.
Bite your tongue and silently put your children in different rooms and give them an activity to do to keep them busy instead of fighting with their siblings (like coloring, doing a workbook, building with legos).
Compliment your children or child on quickly obeying.
Understand childhood characteristics

Many years ago I read about Dr. Suzuki, the creator of the Suzuki Method. He was in a situation where someone had taken advantage of him. An associate asked him why he wasn’t angry. He replied that many years ago he had decided he would never get mad and angry again. He understood that he was in control of his emotions and he could chose to react to events in a positive way. For over 10 years he had never been angry. That really impressed me.

Choose to not yell. Choose to look at the situation, problem solve and react in a different way. Choose to be calm….uummmmm….good luck!

Next week we'll discuss "How to raise teenagers without yelling".

Music Tip #53 Reach out and touch someone

My daughter is in the Civic Orchestra, a training orchestra affiliated with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. As part of the CSO’s outreach program, the Symphony works with a local girls juvenile detention center. Currently they are providing the pit orchestra for a musical that the detention facility is putting on.

The musical is a collaboration of songs and stories written by the girls in the facility to give voice and meaning to the experiences that have led them to their present situations. My daughter said the music is very profound, emotional and inspiring—one of the songs, which was written by an inmate in a prison facility in another state, tells how for 20 years he has not seen the stars due to the bright lighting outside the prison. One of the first things he will do when he is released is to sing this song to the stars.

Yo-Yo Ma, creative consultant for CSO, came to visit the detention center and work with the girls putting on the musical production. My daughter was invited to go and was very impressed with Yo-Yo Ma and his dedication and efforts to help others find solace through music.

My daughter related that as they were waiting to start the dress rehearsal, Yo-Yo Ma was visiting with the girls in the choir and offered to let one of the girls play his cello. She was too scared to, but another girl was willing to play it. He helped her play each open string and then asked her which string was her favorite. He did the same thing with two other people and each of them chose a different string as their favorite sound. Then he said how amazing it was that three people had the same experience, but they had each chosen a different string. It shows that the same music can speak to each of us differently.

What a great world this is when talented busy people make time to touch the lives of someone else. It makes me wonder what I can do to touch someone’s life and make a difference for them.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Music Tip #52 "Pinky, I need to talk to you"

When I teach piano lessons, you’ll often hear me say things like, “Great job right hand! Now left hand it’s your turn,” or “pinky, I need to talk to you for just a minute” or “3 finger you’re getting really bossy. Would you stop playing that note and let 2 finger play it?” Sometimes I even ask to see a particular finger and then whisper instructions to it.

When I make comments like those above, especially corrective comments, I’m addressing the fingers or hand and not criticizing the student himself. I’m taking a third person approach so that the student’s self esteem remains intact and he doesn’t feel like I’m attacking him. He is not wrong or right, he is just fine--it’s his hand or finger that needs adjustment.

This may sound like I’m overly sensitive and afraid of destroying a child’s ego. What I’m trying to do is preserve the child’s dignity and self esteem in a situation where correction and advice is often given.

I do the same with praise because there are actually right and wrong ways of giving praise to children - I like to say things like: “Pinky, you did a great job of keeping curved” or “Nice job left hand. You remembered to play all the B flats.”

As parents helping your children practice an instrument, you can say the same things. “Wow, look at your curved fingers. Nice job fingers!” or “You might want to talk to your wrist and tell her to stop being so lazy.”

It may take a while to get used to talking this way, but it’s really fun and helps your child focus on something definite that his hands or fingers need to do. There is nothing wrong with him, he is just fine. It’s those pesky fingers that need the practice!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Parenting Tip #52 "Are you in there?"

Parents, grandparents, teachers, let's be there--all there--for our children.
Video from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Music Tip #51 Kleenex commercial clapping routine

I watched the Kleenex school clapping commercial on you tube for over an hour, stopping and starting it to get this clapping routine so I could teach it to my music classes at school. But what I discovered was that each new scene at school is a different clapping routine. I don't know if the different clapping sequences are really all linked together or not, but you could link them by having the students do each set 4 times before adding the next section. Here's the clapping routines:

1. Opening scene close up: (palms together and back of right hand touching partner's back left hand)Flip flop hands with partner, then your left hand claps open palm of your own right hand, clap partner's right hand above, clap own right hand in middle, clap partner's hand below, clap middle.

2. Hallway scene: Students in line. You pass the clap down the line one student at a time (like the wave). Clap both hands of partner on your left, clap your own hands as you turn and clap left hand of next person in line on your right, clap your own hands as you turn back to the left and clap original partner's both hands, clap own hands as turn to the right again and clap left hand of neighbor, etc. You just keep twisting back and forth.

3. Classroom scene:(1) pass from person to person (at desks) by clapping both hands of neighbor, then turning and clapping both hands of next person. (2)pass from person to person by just clapping right hands (3)sitting sideways at desks-clap right hand of partner, clap own hands, clap left hand of partner.

4. Hallway scene: one single line. Pass clap down line from person to person by clapping right hands. Boy runs down empty hallway and continues to pass clap by right hand clapping next person's right hand.

5. Hallway scene with partners(only 2 seconds long!): right clap with partner, clap under leg

6. Hallway scene in single line: (Pass clap down line from person to person til boy sneezes). Left palm under neighbor's right hand palm. Slap right hand on neighbor's right hand who then slaps his neighbor's right hand, etc.

7. Hallway scene with partners: clap both hands of partner, clap own hands, clap both hands of partner, turn and clap right hand of person behind you with your right hand, clap own hands as turn and face partner and continue with pattern.

8. Hallway scene with partners in two rows: clap own hands two time, do a vertical flip flop (right hand claps down on partner's upturned left palm simultaneously with your left hand palm coming up to clap partners right hand palm. Switch palm directions and clap), clap own hands, clap under leg.

9. Gym scene: (Lines in a spokes formation. Spokes going North, south,east and west are kids standing up. Spokes between these lines are kids sitting down.) Kids in the sit down lines are passing the beat same as in scene 6. Kids in the stand up lines are doing the flip flop like in scene 1, then clapping own hands as they turn and clap right hand of person behind then, clap as they turn back to partner.

Whew! Of course, they only showed partial clips from each set of routines. When I did this with my 5th and 6th graders, we made sure each set contained 8 beats and repeated it 4 times before going to the next scene routine. We did scenes 1,2,6,7, and 8. Then we chose music to put with our clapping routine. My students loved it!!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Music Tip #50 Made for music

Last year I got this card at the end of the year from one of my music students at school,
“I loved music this year. I’m made for music! Love, Lydia.” I thought to myself, “I must be MADE for music too, that’s why I love it so much.”

People are made for music. They need it, they want it, they use it all the time. Think of how often you hear music during a normal day. You probably have it on in the car, it’s played as background music in stores, and even when you’re put on hold on the phone. Music is a crucial element in TV shows, movies, and commercials. You use it when you exercise or relax, when you go to church or parades and when you go to sporting events or a restaurant.

Rhythm is an important element of music and a steady beat is the basis on which rhythm is made. Our bodies move with rhythm: our heart beats a steady beat, our breathing is a consistent in/out, our walking stride is in 4/4 time (watch people walking down the sidewalk and count a 4 beat pattern as they walk—yep they’re moving to a steady rhythm).

A steady beat is all around us. I’ve been intrigued with the idea that there is an inherent, steady beat flowing all around us and in us-- in all we do. I’ve been trying to find proof. Here’s some things I’ve been noticing. The space between the end of a question and the beginning of the answer in a conversation seems to be a certain length of time (1 beat or 4 beats if we're thinking?).

When a red light changes to a green light there seems to be a moment in time before cars begin to move (do we subconsciously wait for 4 beats before we touch the gas?) When repeating the Pledge of Allegiance as a group, it is like a choral reading with pauses and phrases choreographed unconsciously. At the end of a prayer in a group setting, the audience all says Amen at the same time—one beat after the person saying the prayer.

Notice how you brush your teeth. I follow a pattern and seem to brush each side for a slow count of 2 (I know, I should be brushing longer).

Start noticing rhythm and beat around you. Notice how wrong things are when rhythm and beat get out of sync (heart problems, crying kids). Remember we're ALL made for music!

Parenting Tip #51 Just a second

My son wrote this to me: A couple of days ago I was doing something with Jonas (7) and Teancum (3), and then had to go check on Asher (4 months). Teancum was asking a question as I walked away, so I said "Just a sec, Teancum." As I continued up the stairs I could hear Jonas explain to Teancum, "Just so you know, 'a sec' means a really long time."

Our kids catch on really fast. I thought about other things parents—and adults-- say and what the real meanings are. Here are a few I thought of:
That’s a great picture. Tell me about it=I don’t have a clue what you drew!
Just a minute=much longer than a second, so probably it means the next day.
Get your shoes on, we’re ready to go=I’m not quite ready yet but I’ll still beat you.
It won’t hurt=well, it will hurt, but not for very long.
Be good=mind your manners, don’t get in a fight, be obedient
Get ready for bed=it’s about to start--who is going to win the battle of the wills tonight?

“Just a second”… what can happen in a second? A hug, spilled milk, a sibling hit, a toy shared, a quick prayer for patience, a smile, toys dumped out, a wink, your child’s hair cut with scissors, a touch, a kiss-- the list is endless. As parents you’ve been told countless times “appreciate your children—they grow up so fast”.

Well, Jonas, it only takes a second and your childhood is gone. And no, this time it doesn’t mean a really long time. It’s a blink. Parents, take advantage of all those seconds in your child’s life and make them count.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Music Tip #49 Parent/Tot Classes

How can you encourage your toddler and preschooler to love and use music if you, yourself, feel inadequate in this area? Register for a parent/tot class! Classes are offered lots of places. Look at your city’s community/recreational class schedule, check out a nearby university or college community classes or look online to see where a local Kindermusik or Gymboree class is held.

I’m offering a parent/tot class through Gilbert’s Park and Recreation Department.
Registration is being taken now but closes soon.
The class begins on Sept 18. These are great classes where you and your child can sing, dance, move and enjoy the power of music. Sign up for a class and watch the smile on your child’s face get bigger!"

Parenting Tip #50 They are never too big

I watched a mother in Church one Sunday. Her big four year old son was sitting on her lap. Her 18 month old daughter was being taken care of by the older siblings and Dad. Her son sat on her lap the whole time during Church, interacting quietly with her, eating fruit snacks, looking at a book, and more importantly, feeling surrounded in her love.

I thought back to my 2nd oldest son when he was 7 or 8 years old. As soon as we sat down on our pew in Church, there he was, sitting on my lap. I remember thinking to myself, “I wonder when he is going to feel too big and embarrassed to want to sit on my lap?” I was happy he wanted my love and I knew because he was only 14 months older than his younger brother, that he needed to feel that physical love and attention from me.

I teach piano lessons to an 8 year old boy. His dad brings him and his younger sister to my home where they meet up with mom-who is coming straight from work. During the younger sister’s piano lesson, I notice the 8 year old constantly trying to get his mother’s attention by wanting to sit by her on the couch and lean against her. She shoos him away to the other couch and tells him to do his homework. I ache to say, “Please give your son a hug. He wants your physical touch and words of love so much.”

Our children are never too big to not want our hugs, kisses, and spoken words of love. Whether your child is 8 weeks old or 18 years old, give him a hug and tell him you love him. Today. And every day!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Music Tip #48 Just 3 minutes a day!

I think my most favorite scripture is " small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise." Alma 37:6-Book of Mormon. I've been teaching my piano students that one of the "small and simple things" they can do to become a better piano player, is to practice their note reading flashcards 3 minutes every day. Those students that know the names of the notes can sightread faster, learn their pieces faster, and progress faster. And all it takes is 3 minutes every day.

If your child is learning his notes, don't have him learn the whole scale of flashcards from bass clef C up to treble clef C above middle C. That's too much to learn at once. Start with 2 flashcards, and when he knows them, add a third. Then a fourth note and so on. Start with just the treble clef notes first, then add the bass clef.

The brain stores this information in two different places in the brain. You can show your child a flashcard and she can easily and quickly play it on the piano (or other instrument). But to have her SAY the name of the note is a whole other brain processing skill. So when practicing flashcards make sure your child plays it AND says the note name.

Children learn in their own special ways. Some children easily pick up on learning "every good boy does fine" and that helps them learn the note names. Other children process and understand the note names when they realize the notes are in alphabetical order. Still others just can't remember them at all! When this happens I try to "hook" one of the note names to a person's name in their family. For example, one of my students-Greg-could not remember the note names at all. I showed him where the top space on the bass clef was and said, "that's your home. Look at the top space and always remember that is where you live--G for Greg." Once that was established (after several weeks) we could branch on to neighboring lines and space names.

Recently one of my students noticed that the bass clef top space, top line and space above, spelled G A B. For him, that will be the hook that will help him learn his notes--I hope. If children can discover a pattern or hook, it becomes theirs to remember forever.

There are several sites where you can download free flashcards.§ion=5&level=x&subtype=Music%20Reading&subtype2=x

Children LOVE games, so play games 3 minutes a day during practice time and see the improvement!

Parenting Tip # 49 Don't you know about having fun?

I got a text from my daughter. She said Laney, her 7 year old had just asked her, “Mom, don’t you know about having fun?” I thought that was hilarious. Later I found out about the situation that precipitated that remark-- Laney and her two siblings were playing in the bathtub with water up to the very top. Well, Laney, there’s fun, and then there’s fun involving a mess!

Does your family have fun together? Do your kids have fun playing with each other? What are some fun things to do as a family? The most fun ones, of course, should be free. I heard about a family that every once in a while would have a “book dinner”. That meant everyone could bring a book to the dinner table and they all read their books while eating. Fun! What about flying kites, jumping on the trampoline as a family, or laying on the trampoline and watching the clouds. That’s fun! Singing funny songs while in the car, playing jokes on April Fool’s Day, riding bikes together, putting up a tent in the back yard. Fun, fun, fun.

Then there’s using shaving cream as finger paint, playing with rice/beans in a cake pan, or this: squirt hair gel or shampoo in a ziplock bag, then lay the bag down on a flat surface and let your kids draw shapes on the bag. You can play beauty shop with the kids fixing the parent’s hair, play restaurant for lunch/dinner, or play hide and seek in the house—with the lights off.

How about making a fairy garden? The list goes on and on. Decide to have fun with your family. Relax, smell the roses and have fun!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Music Tip #47 Big rocks in a jar

I'm sure a lot of you have heard or seen the object lesson of putting big rocks in a gallon jar. I LOVE this story because it is so true.

What are some of the BIG rocks you have in your life and in your family's life? If one of them is private music lessons, this becomes a tough rock to put in the jar. Parents know and understand the importance and value of practicing a musical instrument, but they have the harder job of getting their child to buy into that belief system.

So HOW and WHEN do you put the practice rock in the jar? The how could be having a family council meeting with your family and explaining your belief system of the value and importance of music. You could continue by saying that your family believes so strongly in the power of music, that it will be a priority for your family. It will be a daily practice. A big rock.

Then look and see what other big rocks you need to put in the jar. Do you have so many big rocks they WON'ALL FIT ? You may have to analyze the rocks and determine if some of them may not be so important after all. Are you rushing your child from soccer practice to piano lessons on Monday, followed by karate, dance, church activities, homework, etc on the other days? What about free time for your child to play and read? Should that be a large rock?

In the analogy, after the big rocks are placed in the jar, then there is still room for gravel, sand and water. What are the gravel, sand and water? More activities to cram in? I like to think of them as blessings that come from prioritizing. Like a smooth running home, time to talk with and enjoy your family, peace.

Now another big question is WHEN to put the practicing rock into your jar. Each family's schedule is different, and you may have to be creative. My sister and I took turns getting up at 6:30am on school days to practice the piano. The TV may have to be turned off on schools days so it is not a distraction. Other activities may need to be postponed until summer. Favorite times to practice for my piano students are before breakfast, after school, and after dinner.

The bottom line is this: if you want your child to be proficient at playing an instrument, consistent daily practice has to be done. Practicing 3 times a week won't do it. Practicing incorrectly won't do it. Practicing for short times won't do it. Learning to play an instrument is a really big rock! And it is worth it! Music is the language of the soul. Help your child discover and express his soul.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Music Tip #4 6 If you don't live on a farm....

I was recently listening to a podcast of an interview of Julie B. Beck, General Relief Society President of the LDS Church. Sister Beck's two married daughters were present for the interview and eventually the questions got around to talking about how it was growing up in their home. One of the daughters said that all three of the children had to take piano lessons. Sister Beck chimed into the conversation and said, yes, that since she couldn't raise her children on a farm and teach them good work ethics, she decided learning to play the piano would be her vehicle to teaching her children how to work. Both her daughters and her son took lessons for many, many years. She would drive them to their lessons and took advantage of having a captive audience, and used these drives to talk with her children and ask them how their lives were going. One of the daughters didn't enjoy taking lessons or see the value until she was 16 years old. Then suddenly she fell in love with the piano and loves teaching it now. Today all three children give piano lessons themselves.

I loved that idea of having something in your family to teach good work ethics. And since most families don't have a farm, why, learning to play the piano--or any musical instrument--is a wonderful idea!

If you live on a farm, you discover that every day you have to feed/water and tend the animals. Everyday you have to irrigate, weed or fertilize the garden. If you live on a farm you learn the Law of the Harvest. You reap what you sow. Hard work in the beginning pays off in the end. If you live on a farm you appreciate that little things soon become big. Little seeds grow into tall plants. Little animals grow into large animals.

When you learn a musical instrument you discover that daily practicing helps you master a piece of music. When you practice a musical instrument you learn the Law of the Harvest. The amount of practicing you do each day directly effects how quickly you learn to play a song. When you take music lessons you learn that little things, like practicing a line a day eventually leads to knowing the whole piece of music.

Good work ethics--it's what you can teach your children--on a farm, or through music!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Music Tip #45 Connections

I love to look for teaching opportunities when I’m giving piano lessons.
“Well, duh,” you say, “Aren’t you teaching all during piano lessons?”
Yes, of course, I’m teaching, but I like to look for opportunities to connect piano teaching with real life teaching. For example, the other day a student played his piece very well, except for all the B flats he missed—about 4 of them. I circled some of the Bs and had him play a passage from the piece again. He still missed the B flats. So I had him circle the B flats himself and then talked to him about noticing the circles. I said, “when you see the circles coming, you need to be prepared to play the B as a B flat.”

That kind of rang a bell in my head, and after he played the B flats perfect this time, we talked about life and what things he should be noticing in life so that he would be prepared.

I have another piano student who is a perfectionist. If she starts making mistakes on a piece of music she thinks she knows well, she gets frustrated and starts crying.
Lately when I see her starting to tear up I interrupt her playing by clapping and saying, "Yeah for you. I love it when students make a mistake and then try to fix it. I don't expect you to be perfect--I'm not. But I love to know that when you make a mistake, you can figure out how to fix it."

Then I ask her if her mother or father get mad at her little brother when he is learning to walk but falls down. She says, "of course they don't". I tell her that's the way I feel when she falls down and makes a mistake in playing. I don't mind at all, because I know she's learning and eventually will play the piece well just like her brother will learn to walk.

It’s those teaching connections that I love to find and help students to relate to. And I don’t even charge extra for them!

Parenting Tip #48 Yea for technology!

Yea for technology--as long as you use it to your advantage rather than letting it take over your life. Case in point-- clip art. You can find clip art on everything you can think of—animals, objects, crafts, you name it. So my daughter took advantage of all these pictures that are available and used them for a creative writing project (actually, I think she was just using them to keep her daughters from being bored—but a “creative writing project” sounds better).

She printed off several pictures of dogs, gave them to her daughters, then they colored them, cut them out, pasted them on paper and wrote stories about the dogs. Ingenious. Simple. Creative.

You could also print off words that rhyme (like hat, bat, rat, mat, fat, sat, etc). Depending on the age of your child, they could categorize the pictures that rhyme, or write a poem and instead of writing the rhyming words, paste the pictures of the rhyming word at the end of the sentence.

The computer is great for children to practice skip counting i.e. 2,4,6,8, or 3,6,9,12. One of my piano students mentioned that at her school she had to learn to skip count for all the numbers, then when it came time to learn her multiplication tables, she had everything almost memorized because, for instance, if you can skip count 7,14,21,28etc. you can easily figure out what 3X7 equals from your skip counting.

Learning the alphabet is another great way to use the computer. Preschoolers love to find the alphabet on the keypad and type them in order. Especially when you use a fun font and a different color.

I know a lot of you have used the computer to teach your children. Please share your ideas with us.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Parenting Tip #47 Stop/Rewind!

My daughter was tired of the endless fighting that was going on in her house with her three kids. Summer had just started and looked like it was going to last a l-o-n-g time.
So she implemented the STOP/REWIND game. Here’s her words: “We just kept fighting and picking on each other, myself included. I was tired of disciplining every time, so we decided we could give each other a second chance by saying 'Stop! Rewind...' then we could go back and handle the situation right or say something nicer etc. The game was that anytime something was escalating, anyone in the family could call 'stop, rewind', even if they weren't in the fight. Then the person who called it plus anyone who was in the argument and cooperated by going back and trying again got a point. At the end of the day they got a chocolate chip for each point [they had accumulated that] day.

I remember being in the other room and hearing the girls start fighting, then Graham said, stop-rewind and the girls went back and corrected. All without me! That happened where Addy said it once too. They even justly called it on me a couple of times. The best part about it was there wasn't added fighting about 'who called it first' or 'who got the point' or whatever because everyone who participated would get a point.

This [game] worked great for a couple days until we were out of the habit of fighting and were distracted by other things.

post script. I am trying it on the kids [again]right now,[two months later] and they're looking at me like, 'whatever mom, that was so a month ago.' Ha. The little boogers...... Little do they know I have 8 discipline/ back talk/ naughty children books checked out from the library right now!"

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Music Tip #44 Thunder Tubes

The last two days I went to a music conference. The first day it was held at the new Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, Az. Wow! If you live in the valley, this is a “must see” museum. They have over 10,000 musical instruments and objects from almost every country. There is a self guided tour complete with headsets so you can watch and listen to video clips of the featured instruments. The also have The Experience Gallery which is a hands-on room where you can actually play lots of the instruments seen in the other galleries.

Of course, my favorite room was the Gift Shop. I bought an instrument that I can use at school and I know my students will absolutely love it! It’s called a Thunder Tube I had so much fun playing with it and so did all the adult family members who came for Sunday dinner tonight (unfortunately the only "kid" was my 4 month old grandson).

I want to make a thunder tube and so I looked up on the internet how to do it. Naturally, there were several posts., My favorite post said to use a Pringles potato chip can for the tube.

This would be a fun activity to involve your whole family in and you would not only be making a fun new musical instrument, but learning some science principles at the same time.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Music Tip #43 Summer music listening

It’s summer time and the living is easy. Need some ideas to keep your kids involved in music? I’ve been surfing the web, trying to find some nice music sites for children and here are a few I’ve come up with: This is a great site that offers free, simplified folk and classical piano sheet music. It also has interactive theory games, composer and music literacy sections, free worksheets, a songs library and much, much more. - This is a free public radio station that features kids plus YOU. You and your children can add your own stories, songs, interviews or whatever. The station carries music, news, stories, comedy, lullabies, educational programming and more which are presented in distinct non-commercial programs and serve an audience of kids aged 0 to 11 and their parents. Monty Harper writes songs for kids that teach science, reading, creativity and more. - a radio station that contains a variety of educational and entertaining programs for kids ages 5-13. The show enables kids to get involved in interactive segments and demonstrate their knowledge, talent and abilities. - America's most extraordinary young musicians aged 8 to 18 are showcased on this PBS TV and radio show called From the Top – NPR watch full videos of your favorite musicians performing at Bob Boilen's desk in the NPR Music office. This site is designed to help you introduce your child to classical music. It has lesson plans, activities, music, information about composers, theory and composing games plus lots more. this site is a non-profit resource for kids, families, and children's performers worldwide. It has children's radio stations, teaches about sound effects, teaches how to make a CD and lots of other fun things.

Share any kids music sites that’s you’ve found interesting.

Parenting Tip #46 Conversations vs Lectures

Do your children have problems? Is there something going on in their lives that's not right. Are they fighting with siblings? Being sassy to you, the parent? Then you better go lecture them right now and let them know who's in charge. You're the boss, not them. Lay down the law. Make them shape up!

Doesn't work does it? You are lecturing while they are ignoring you or yelling back or giving you every excuse in the book. But by golly, you are the parent and they are the child and they had just better listen to you!

If you have power struggles like this with your children, no one is going to win. Somehow you need to have a change of perspective. You need to view your children as special ones who have been entrusted to you by God to teach and love. You share mutual respect for them and want them to grow up to be responsible individuals. But how do you do it?

By having conversations instead of lectures. A conversation is a two way exchange. It involves talking AND listening—by both parties. A conversation is not a judging, yelling, accusation forum. It's a “we have a problem, what can we do about it?” exchange. It's a time to listen and understand a child or teenager's point of view. A time to express your feelings and needs. A time to discuss options that can bring about a win-win situation for you and your child.

But your child doesn't want to abide by the family rules, you say. In a conversation, a parent needs to calmly restate the family rule, but then add, “how can we make this work so we're all happy?” Then listen to the ideas that might come forth. For example, in our family, our children had to take piano lessons. Was everyone happy with that? Uh, no! So I had to have many a conversation where I listened and then we brainstormed ideas. With one daughter, I did her dishes while she practiced, with a son, I bought his choice of sugary cereal if he practiced cheerfully for a week.

For older children can you have conversations about curfew? Can you talk about fighting without ending up fighting?

It's funny, but if you talk calmly and respectfully to your children, they will reciprocate. If they feel your love and concern, they will cooperate. You are a family—all on the same page. No power struggles, just conversations to work out problems, express concerns and show love.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Music Tip #42 Choices, choices everywhere!

To go along with my parenting tip this week, I'm downloading a song that a friend and I wrote many years ago. It's about choices and all the choices children have to make. Some of my grandchildren are singing it--I hope the message gets to them eventually. It's a crack up! Here are the words:

Choices, choices everywhere, choices that are mine.
I must make the best choice, with so little time.
What book to read, what show to watch, which music is the best?
What friend shall I have over now, it's all part of the test.

Choices, choices everywhere, choices that are mine.
I must make the best choice, with so little time.
And when my life is over, you'll add them up and see,
That all my little choices, make up what you call ME!

Choices, choices everywhere, choices that are mine.
I must make the best choice, with so little time.

Choices from Ammon Shepherd on Vimeo.

Parenting Tip #45 Children making Choices

Choices! I am sick and tired of making choices. I hate making choices especially when the outcome might be disastrous—like booking airline tickets and then finding out I need to change the dates. Or choosing what to fix for dinner.
But since choices are all around us constantly, and they seem to never quit coming, we need to teach our children how to make them.

One of the easiest and first ways to help our children learn to make choices is by giving them the choice of what clothes to wear. Most days you probably don’t care what shirt or pair of shorts your children wear. So let them wear what they choose. But even on days when you’re going out in public, you can still let your child choose what to wear, but within limits. ask, "Do you want to wear the levi skirt and blue blouse or the orange blouse?"

When you think about it, there are lots of choices you can let your children make. Choices such as:
Their apple cut in wedges or slices?
Their sandwich cut in rectangles or triangles?
Put their clothes away before they make their bed or after? (uh oh, I don’t think my kids ever even made their beds)
Stop whining or do an extra chore?
Do their homework at the kitchen table or on the couch?
Practice the piano before or after homework?
Brush their teeth before pajamas are on or after?

With each choice they make, children become more empowered. They feel more confident and in control of their lives. With older children and more difficult choices you can help them problem solve and see the advantages and disadvantages of choices.

My daughter in Florida is good at making choices, so often I or my other daughters will call her and get her advice. I must have taught her well, huh? You can see I let her choose her own clothes—here’s a picture of her as a teenager.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Parenting Tip #44 Ya'll get your room cleaned!

I asked my husband why he was so mad the other day. “I'm not mad,” he said. “Well, you sure sound mad.” Sometimes my husband says things in a certain tone of voice that just sounds mad to me—now I’m learning that he's not really mad—but it still sounds like he is.

What does your tone of voice sound like? Do your children think you're always mad? When you ask them to do chores, or you answer their questions, or you're telling them to get in the car, take time to listen to yourself. What do you sound like? A lot of times parents ARE mad. They are also in a hurry, frustrated, tired, and stressed to the max. It's hard not to pass those emotions on to your children.

I'm a part time music teacher and teach grades K-6. I love my job. But the 3rd graders are-- well, interesting. All the teachers agree. I found a little trick I do when I start getting frustrated and am afraid I'm going to lose it. I speak with a Southern accent. 'You bet, ya'll, when you get a southern drawl goin' you can say things you wouldn't normally say and get away with it.'

Say the following with a Southern accent: “Okay, you little critters, now I told you to get that room cleaned up. Now ya'll get in there before I say hound dog and you pick up 10 things off that floor. Ya hear me, now?”

Or how about a prim English accent: “I say, there, young man. Look smart now, and put your trousers on. That's a good lad.”

An Asian accent is fun to use too. The 3rd graders love my Asian accent--accompanied by much bowing, of course.

So trying using different accents this week. Use them to give directions to your children and watch how quickly they'll obey. In fact, if you use a southern accent, have them gallop on their horses to obey you. With an English accent, have them walk straight and tall and proper. With the Asian accent, they can bow as they go about their jobs. Have fun this week!

Music Tip #41 Music sites for kids

It’s summer time and the living is easy. Need some ideas to keep your little ones involved in music? I’ve been surfing the web, trying to find some nice music sites for children and here are a few I’ve found: - This is a free public radio station that features kids plus YOU. You and your children can add your own stories, songs, interviews or whatever. The station carries music, news, stories, comedy, lullabies, educational programming and more. These are presented in distinct non-commercial programs and serve an audience of kids aged 0 to 11 and their parents. He writes songs for kids that teach science, reading, creativity and more. - a radio station that contains a variety of educational and entertaining programs for kids ages 5-13. The show enables kids to get involved in interactive segments and demonstrate their knowledge, talent and abilities. - America's most extraordinary young musicians aged 8 to 18 are showcased on this PBS TV and radio show called From the Top – NPR watch full videos of your favorite musicians performing at Bob Boilen's desk in the NPR Music office.

Share any kids music sites that’s you’ve found interesting.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Parenting Tip #43 Which Comes First?

In the book, Blink, the author, Malcolm Gladwell, relates some fascinating research that was done by Paul Ekman and Wallace Friesen. They created a chart of facial expressions by learning how each muscle in the face works and how they layer with other muscles to create over 10,000 visible facial configurations. Then they practiced for hours learning how to voluntarily make the muscle movements that were used for different emotions we feel.

They discovered a very important principle when they were working on expressions for anger and distress. They noticed that they really FELT terrible after a day when they had sat for hours practicing angry expressions. They noticed that their heartbeat would go up 10-12 beats, their hands would get hot and they would feel the emotion they were trying to expression. They discovered that “expression alone is sufficient to create marked changes in the autonomic nervous system.” (Blink, page 206)

A German team of psychologists conducted an experiment where a group of subjects looked at cartoons while either holding a pen between their lips (making it impossible to smile) or holding a pen clenched between their teeth (forcing them to smile). The group holding the pen between their teeth found the cartoons much funnier than the other group. (Blink, page 207)

Which came first--the chicken or the egg? Which comes first—the emotion or the muscles making the expression for the emotion?

How does this relate to me as a parent? Consider one of these common scenarios: you are having a bad day, or you have PMS, or you are tired, or you are just stressed out. Your emotions consist of anger, depression, tiredness, fatigue, frustration, or impatience, plus probably many more. What can you do about your emotions based on the above studies?

I remember days when I had PMS, and days when I was tired and frustrated and stressed. I would go to my bedroom and try to figure out how to get through the rest of the day. Sometimes I would gather every ounce of strength I had left and stand in front of my mirror. Then I would literally force myself to smile and maybe even choke out a laugh or two. I would open my bedroom door and pretend to be happy and go out and try to meet the needs of my children. And an amazing thing would happen, as I pretended to be happy, I started really feeling happy.

Please do not misinterpret me. If you have clinical depression or severe PMS or manic depression disorder,you need to see a physician and get the medical help that is available. What a wonderful day we live in where we have medicine that will get our bodies back in line with where they need to be. Take advantage of that fact!

But if you're just experiencing a down sort of blue day, or you are overwhelmed and tired and you can't go back to bed--then try experimenting with your emotions. See if you can manipulate your facial muscles into a smile and put a little song in your heart and go skipping off to take care of the needs of your family. Fake a laugh at yourself and pretty soon you will be laughing and smiling and feeling at least a little better than you were.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Music Tip #40 Not just Nice, but POWERFUL

Music lessons are not just a NICE thing to give your children, but a tremendously POWERFUL thing to grow your child’s intelligence”, says Andrew Pudewa former Suzuki violin teacher, Kindermusik teacher and now director of the Institute for Excellence in Writing and a homeschooling father of seven.

I just listened to Pudewa’s audio presentation entitled The Profound Effects of Music on Life and was fascinated with all the research showing the importance of music on brain development.

Mr. Pudewa quotes research done by Dr. Francis Rauscher, a behavioral psychologist. She had four different preschool groups receive 20 minutes of after school instruction for 6 months. Each group was composed of 20 preschoolers. One group had free play, one group had singing, another had computers and the fourth group had piano lessons. At the onset of the experiment, each preschooler was given a puzzle representing a camel, that they were timed to see how fast they could put together. After 6 months of their daily 20 minutes afterschool activity, they again were tested. Scores naturally were higher in each group, considering that the children were older but the preschool children given six months of keyboard instruction increased spatial-temporal IQ scores by an average of 46% over the other supplemental instruction groups!

Why does learning to play the piano (or other musical instrument)increase intellectual capacity? Because it changes the brain! When you learn a musical instrument you are utilizing three of the senses: hearing, seeing and touch. These form neural pathways in different parts of the brain and you are "growing your brain power".

But another reason for teaching your young children to play music was said best by Dr. Suzuki, founder of the Suzuki Method. He said "if children hear fine music from the day of their birth and learn to play it, they develop sensitivity, discipline and endurance. They get a beautiful heart." And that is worth getting!

Parenting Tip #42 Positive vs Negative

+ - Which one is your outlook on life? There are so many ways to think of positive and negative. Let’s think about the positive and negative words we say and how our children may react to them.

My sister, a 6th grade school teacher, makes it a habit to say 3 positive things to a student before she says a negative one. A mother listening to her daughter’s piano lesson noticed that the piano teacher said 5 positive things to her daughter before she ever mentioned a negative one. It might be eye opening to record our conversations at home and see if they are mostly positive or negative.

But how do you discipline your children or point out things they are doing wrong? How do you get them to obey and listen to you? We know that our children want our attention. The problem is, they will settle for negative attention if they can’t get the positive attention. And since we give them so much negative attention, they’re getting what they want so they don’t need to hold out until they get the positive attention.

Here’s some scenarios that may happen at your house. Your child, age 4, gets dressed by himself and comes out looking like a mismatched hobo. What do you say? Well, if you don’t have to go anywhere that day, just compliment him on getting dressed all by himself. If you do have to go somewhere important and need him to look “decent” you might say, “Josh, you got dressed all by yourself! Way to go! I love it when you follow directions. Guess what? We are going to _______ and I need you to wear a different shirt with those shorts. How about putting on your blue shirt while we sing the ABC song?”

Or this scenario: your daughter and son finished clearing the table and loading the dishwasher, but the table wasn’t washed, the floor wasn’t swept or the counters washed. What do you say? “Thanks for doing your chores. I was able to _____while you did them. But I need you to go back and wipe the table and counters and sweep the floor. Thanks guys!”

A daughter-in-law told me one day she was looking for the positive but sure couldn’t find much. Finally she told her daughter “thanks for that hug!” even though she was supposed to be in her own room getting her pjs on. Now her daughter was more willing to go get dressed after being validated for something good she had done. Then she told her older son, “You were helping Tac get dressed, how thoughtful of you,” as they jumped on the couches whooping and hollering in their pajamas. But again, they were much more willing to follow the next directions they were given when their mom saw that they did do something right.

Try it today. Say 3 positive things to your children before saying a negative. You'll start noticing the positive and become happier with your children. Or then again, you may become a mute!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Parenting Tip #41 Quarreling Siblings

Click here to see a comic from Baby Blues:
How do you deal with fighting in your family? It's natural for siblings to disagree with each other but how far do we, as parents, let that disagreement go? Arguing, shouting, hitting? Is that acceptable and normal?
My brother, parent to 6 children, has this to say about the problem,"the most important tip I can give is to not let siblings quarrel, pick on each other or annoy each other. If parents let that happen, then resentment is created that can last a lifetime. Stop the quarrel and make it a hard fast rule in the house. Send quarreling kids to separate corners, bedrooms or whatever it takes. This is what Mom and Dad did while we were growing up and it is a major reason why we siblings like each other as adults. If you can't stop children from quarreling, then you aren't in control."

The scriptures say, "Forbearing one another and forgiving one another if any man (insert the word "child")have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye." Colossians 3:13 And in Mosiah 4:14 And ye will not suffer your children...[to]fight and quarrel one with another...but ye will teach them to love one another and to serve one another."

Easier said than done. So how do you keep your children from fighting?
1.Keep them busy. If your children are fighting, they must be bored, so give a chore to each child then quickly think of a fun game or activity they can do when finished.
2.Talk to your children separately and LISTEN to them. Many times I had to explain to one of my children that the very thing that their sibling was doing that annoyed them, was exactly what they were doing a few years ago that annoyed their older brother. Help them to see and understand age group characteristics so they can better understand their brother or sister's behavior.
3. Don't do a lot of talking and lecturing. Separate the children. Give a time out. Then regroup and focus on a new activity.
4. Make your children SING their disagreements. This usually ends up in a laughing session instead of a fighting session.
5. Distract your children with a story from your childhood. Let them know you understand they have angry feelings, but that hitting and name calling is not the solution.
6. Give your children the gift of words. Ask them to explain WHAT the behavior is that they don't like. HOW that makes them feel. Let them offer some solutions.
7. Be a peacemaker. Work together as a family. Don't make it a power struggle with you, the parent, now becoming the shouting or hitting person.
8. Teach your children to serve each other.
9. Encourage children and family members to express love for one another. Talk about family love and how team work helps everyone.
10. Don't compare your children or label them. Accept them and teach them.

Remember, there is no quick fix in life. But if you ignore fighting in your family, it will escalate and get worse. Be proactive! Teach your children to love each other. And work on it every day--because that's what it takes.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Music Tip #40 Song for baby bounce

Looking for a song to sing to your baby? Here’s a cute song my son sings to his infant baby boy. It has a cute bounce to it and will grow with the baby. For infants, just a gentle jiggle is fun. For toddlers you can bounce high and sway back and forth during the middle section.

Parenting Tip #40 Listen

I listened to a journalist tell about his experiences as he reported on the disasters of Haiti. He was there the day after the earthquake happened and saw the devastation that happened from buildings falling down. He helped in the relief effort to find victims hidden under the debris. He and his crew took their microphone and dangled it down amid broken cement slabs, then hushed the crowd so they could listen for cries from any survivors lying below. The first day they heard people crying and yelling from under the crushed stones, but they were helpless to save them. The walls were heavy and impossible to move. There were no heavy equipment machines to move the cement walls.

Each day as they lowered their microphone down the cracks, they would listen for the cries from the people. Each day the cries got fainter and fainter until one day there were no more cries for help. Those standing above the rubble felt helpless and frustrated that they could not save their loved ones.

There are people around us crying for help every day. Do we listen? As parents, our children cry for our love and attention. Do we listen? Babies cry when they are hungry or tired. Children cry when they are scared or hurt. Teenagers cry when they are disappointed or abused. Do we listen?

Do we hush the crowd of noisy voices vying for our attention so we can really listen? Do we stop our busyness with often mundane things so we can listen? Do we look our children in the eye and listen?

We can save our children! We can hear their pleas when they misbehave, when they make messes and when they disobey. We can look beyond the mere words and listen for the true meaning of what they say and do. We can listen for the fear they can't express, the wounds we are unaware of and the anger of their limitations.
We are the parents. Let us listen.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Music Tip #39 The Musicale

I had a really fun experience a couple of days ago. I was in Texas with my daughter who got her master's degree in cello performance. We were visiting with my brother who also lives in Texas. He and his wife had been invited to a little musical get-together at someone's "home" (it was really a MANSION). A friend of my brother who is the music department chairman at a local university had invited several of the faculty members to come and play their instruments. Wow!

First I'll describe the room in the "home". It contained a large pipe organ and two grand pianos and they didn't even take up 1/10 of the room. We sat in comfortable padded chairs and listened as the sound vibrated throughout the high raftered ceiling.

There was a variety of instruments featured (flute, clarinet, tuba, saxophone, trombone, violin, piano, and of course, organ)and serious music as well as jazz and humor (the organist was the organist for the Texas Astros--he played well known classical melodies interrupted by strains from "Take me out to the ballgame"). After the concert there was delicious finger food served in another large and beautiful room.

It was so fun and enjoyable. Now I want to put on a musical concert and invite friends, children and family. I want a variety of instruments. I want fun songs. I want good food afterwards. I want to encourage young people to love music. I want to motivate my students to practice. I want music to be an integral part of life.

All I need to find is a mansion.

Parenting Tip #39 All 7 are college graduates!

Ok, I’m going to brag just a little bit. My youngest daughter graduated from ASU last week. Art History. One of my sons received his master’s degree last week in Engineering. Another daughter received her master’s degree last week in cello performance. I have 7 children—all 7 are ASU graduates, 4 also have their master’s degrees and one is working on his doctorate in history. All 7 paid for their own education either by receiving grants, scholarships, working part time and/or having student loans. Yes, I am very proud of them and their accomplishments and hard work.

How do you make sure your children get a good education? Well, there are the standard answers--provide a place for them to do their homework, turn off the TV, be interested in their school work, make homework a priority, etc. Those are all great and valid answers. But there are also some things you can do that are just as important and valid--like teaching them to set goals.

My granddaughter has a goal to sleep dry through the night. Her younger brother doesn’t wet the bed anymore, so she doesn’t want to either. Her mother made her a chart, breaking the goal down into steps. She gets a sticker for going to the bathroom before bed, a sticker for not drinking water before bed and a sticker when her mom takes her to the bathroom before mom goes to bed. She’s been dry for 4 nights! Hurray! Will this step by step goal approach help her when she has a 10 page paper to write someday. Yes!

One of my sons had school phobia. Everyday in first grade he would throw a fit before going to school. When I walked him to school he would throw his lunch pail in the neighbors' yards. Some days he would runaway and I would look high and low for him (finding him in the bedroom closet). What did I do? Talked with him and tried to listen. Talked to the teacher and principal. Cried with him. Prayed with him. Used positive reinforcement with him. Eventually he overcame his problem (he’s the one working on his doctorate degree—oh, if I had only known it would all work out well). What did my son learn? Stick with it—ex. yes calculus is hard. Talk to the teacher, pray, work and eventually you’ll pass the class.

Teach your children to respect their teachers-even if they’re wrong. One year my daughter made the cheerleading team. Suddenly two of her teachers (a private music teacher and a school teacher) made life difficult for her by their belittling attitude toward her and their cutting comments. The other day I mentioned how mean one of these teachers had been to her. My daughter was shocked. “Why didn’t you let me know you felt that way years ago?” she asked. I replied that I wanted her to learn that sometimes injustices take place, but you still need to respect your elders and learn to take “it”. I don’t know if I was right or wrong, but children need to learn that life is sometimes unjust, and you have to be the better person and deal with it with grace and learn from the experience.


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