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!


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