7 most important social skills for kids

7 most important social skills for kids

Good social skills allow kids to enjoy better peer relationships.  But the benefits of robust social skills reach far beyond social acceptance.  Children with better social skills are likely to reap immediate benefits. For example, a 2019 study found that good social skills may reduce stress in children who are in daycare settings.

Why developing social skills is important?

Being away from family places stress on children, and not having the social skills to interact with others likely compounds that stress.  The researchers found that children experienced a decrease in cortisol once they learned new social skills. Additionally, kids who can get along well with peers are likely to make friends more easily.  According to a 2015 study published in the International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences, childhood friendships are good for kids’ mental health.

Friendships also give children opportunities to practice more advanced social skills, like problem-solving and conflict resolution.

Good social skills can also help kids have a brighter future.  According to a 2015 study published in the American Journal of Public Health, a child’s social and emotional skills in kindergarten might be the biggest predictor of success in adulthood.  Researchers from Penn State and Duke University found that children who were better at sharing, listening, cooperating and following the rules at age five were more likely to go to college.  They were also more likely to be employed full-time by age 25.

The children who lacked social and emotional skills were more likely to have substance abuse issues, relationship issues, and legal trouble.  They were also more likely to depend on public assistance. Fortunately, social skills can be taught. It’s never too soon to start showing kids how to get along with others.  And it’s never too late to sharpen their skills either. Learn the most important social skills for kids to learn and how you can help teach them.

1. Sharing

A willingness to share a snack or share a toy can go a long way to helping kids make and keep friends.  According to a 2010 study published in Psychological Science, children as young as age two may show a desire to share with others—but usually only when their resources are abundant.

However, children between the ages of three and six are often selfish when it comes to sharing resources at a cost to themselves.  For example, a child with only one cookie might be reluctant to share half with a friend since it means he’ll have less to enjoy. On the other hand, he might readily share a toy that he’s no longer interested in playing with.

Around age seven or eight, most children become more concerned with fairness and are more willing to share.  Furthermore, research shows sharing and positive well-being are related. Overall, studies show children who feel good about themselves are more likely to share.  Sharing also makes them feel good about themselves. So teaching them to share may be key to boosting their self-esteem.

How to practice
While you may not want to force your child to share certain toys or with certain children, you can make it a habit to point out sharing when you see it.  Praise your child for sharing and label how it makes others feel. Say something like, “You chose to share your snack with your sister. I bet she feels happy about that.  That’s a nice thing to do.”

2. Cooperating

Cooperating means working together to achieve a common goal.  Kids who cooperate are compliant with requests from others.  They also contribute, participate, and help out.

Good cooperation skills are essential for successfully getting along within a community.  Your child will need to cooperate with classmates on the playground as well as in the classroom.  Cooperation is important as an adult, too. Most work environments thrive on employees’ ability to work together as a team.  Cooperation is key in romantic relationships as well. By about age three and a half, young children can begin to work with their peers on a common goal.  For children, cooperation may involve anything from building a toy tower together to playing a game that requires everyone to participate. Some may take a leadership position while others will feel more comfortable following orders.  Either way, cooperation is a great opportunity for kids to learn more about themselves.

How to Practice
Talk about the importance of teamwork and how jobs are better when everyone pitches in.  Create opportunities for the whole family to work together. Whether you assign everyone a specific job when you’re making a meal or you assign specific chores that are integral to the family, emphasize the importance of cooperation often.

3. Listening

Listening isn’t just about staying quiet – it means really absorbing what someone else is saying.  Listening is a critical component of healthy communication.

After all, much of the learning in school depends on a child’s ability to listen to what the teacher is saying.  Absorbing the material, taking notes, and thinking about what is being said will become even more important as your child advances academically.

It’s essential that your child grows up knowing how to listen to the boss, a romantic partner, and friends.  It may be an even more difficult skill to master in the age of digital devices since so many people tend to stare at their smartphones when they’re engaged in conversation.

How to Practice
When reading a book to your child, periodically stop and ask her to tell you about what you’re reading.  Pause and say, “Tell me what you remember about the story so far.” Help her fill in any gaps she’s missing and encourage her to keep listening as you continue.  Additionally, don’t allow her to interrupt others when they’re talking.

4. Following Directions

Kids who struggle to follow directions are likely to experience a variety of consequences.  From having to redo their homework assignments to getting in trouble for misbehavior, not following directions can be a big problem.

Whether you tell your child to clean his room or you’re telling him how to improve his soccer skills, it’s important for kids to be able to take direction – and follow instructions.  Before you can expect your child to get good at following directions, however, it’s essential that you become well-versed in giving directions.

For example, don’t give a young child more than one direction at a time.  Instead of saying, “Pick up your shoes, put your books away and wash your hands,” wait until he picks up his shoes before giving the next command.

Another mistake to avoid is phrasing your directions as a question.  Asking, “Would you please pick up your toys now?” implies that he has the option to say no.  Once you’ve given your child directions, ask him to reflect back what he said. Ask, “What are you supposed to do now?” and wait for him to explain what he heard you say.

It’s normal for young kids to get distracted, behave impulsively, or forget what they’re supposed to do.  View each mistake as an opportunity to help him sharpen his skills.

How to Practice
Praise your child for following directions by saying things like, “Thank you for turning off the TV the first time I told you to.”  If your child struggles to follow directions, give him opportunities to practice following simple commands. Say things like, “Please pass that book to me,” and then provide immediate praise for following directions.

5. Respecting Personal Space

Some kids are close talkers.  Others crawl up into the laps of acquaintances without any idea that the other individual feels uncomfortable.  It’s important to teach kids how to respect other people’s personal space.

Create household rules that encourage kids to respect other people’s personal space.  “Knock on closed doors,” and “Keep your hands to yourself,” are just a few examples.

How to Practice
Teach your child to stand about an arm’s length away from people when he’s talking.  When he’s standing in line, talk about how close to be to the person in front of him and talk about keeping his hands to himself.  You might role-play various scenarios to help him practice describing appropriate personal space.

6. Making Eye Contact

Good eye contact is an important part of communication.  Some kids struggle to look at the person they’re speaking to.  Whether your child is shy and she prefers to stare at the floor or she simply won’t look up when she’s engrossed in another activity, emphasize the importance of good eye contact.

If your child struggles with eye contact, offer quick reminders.  Ask, “Where do your eyes go when someone is talking to you?” Then provide praise when your child remembers to look at someone when they’re talking.

How to Practice
You might even show him how it feels to hold a conversation with someone who isn’t making eye contact.  Tell him to tell you a story while you stare at the ground, close your eyes, or look everywhere except for at him.  Then, invite him to tell another story and make appropriate eye contact while he’s talking. Afterward, discuss how it felt for him in each scenario.

7. Using Manners

Saying please and thank you and using good table manners can go a long way toward helping your child gain attention for the right reasons.  Teachers, other parents, and other kids will respect a well-mannered child. Of course, teaching manners can feel like an uphill battle sometimes.  From burping loudly at the table to acting ungratefully, all kids will let their manners go out the windows sometimes.

It is important, however, for kids to know how to be polite and respectful—especially when they’re in other people’s homes or at school.

How to Practice
Be a good role model with your manners.  That means saying, “No, thank you,” and “Yes, please,” to your child on a regular basis.  And make sure to use your manners when you’re interacting with other people. Offer reminders when your child forgets to use her manners and praise her when you catch her being polite.

Social skills aren’t something your child either has or doesn’t have.  It’s a set of skills that will need ongoing refinement as he grows older.  Look for teachable moments where you can help him do better. Start with the most basic social skills first and keep sharpening your child’s skills over time.

Source: https://www.verywellfamily.com/seven-social-skills-for-kids-4589865

5 tips to stay connected with your teenagers

5 tips to stay connected with your teenagers

It’s not easy to raise a young teen.  Many outside influences distract our children and complicate our efforts.  In a 1996 study of 220 tweens and teens between 5th and 12th grade, the proportion of waking hours that those kids spent with their families dropped from 35% to 14%.

While it’s always been challenging for families to navigate the choppy waters of adolescence, today’s parents face an additional challenge of raising teens who have grown up as digital natives.

Family psychologist Michael Riera reveals that in every teen there are two very different people: the regressed child and the emergent adult.  The emergent adult is seen at school, on the playing field, in his first job, and in front of his friends’ families. Unfortunately, his parents usually see only the regressed child-moody and defiant-and, if they’re not on the lookout, they’ll miss seeing the more agreeable, increasingly adult thinker in their midst.

“So, what can I do to be a good parent for my early adolescent child?”

To answer that big questions, we suggest some ideas for parents to reconnect with their teenager and keep that connection even in today’s often-crazy world.

1. Listen.  Empathize. Keep advice to a minimum.

It doesn’t matter how good your advice is.  Every time you offer it, you’re giving your teen the message that he can’t solve his problems himself.  Be a sounding board, not a prescriber, and you’ll find your teen coming back for more. Don’t take it per-sonally if your teen isn’t always in the mood to talk, or if he or she wants to be alone with his or her friends.  Teens have the right to privacy (within safe limits), just as you do.

2. Be available when your teen wants to talk

For most teens, that means late at night over a snack.  You’ll be amazed at how much more your teen will open up in the wee hours.  Most kids don’t keep an agenda and bring things up at a scheduled meeting. And nothing makes them clam up faster than pressing them to talk.  Kids talk when something is up for them, particularly if you’ve proven yourself to be a good listener, but not overly attached to their opening up to you.  (If you push them to open up, they feel they have to defend their independence by keeping secrets from you.)

Find ways to be in proximity where you’re both potentially available, without it seeming like a demand.  This may seem obvious, but stating your availability invites contact that might not otherwise occur: “I’ll be in the study working if you want me” or “I have to run to the grocery store, but don’t hesitate to call my cell phone if you need me.”

The most important part of staying available is your state of mind.  Your child will sense your emotional availability. Parents who have close relationships with their teens often say that as their child has gotten older, they’ve made it a practice to drop everything else if their teen signals a desire to talk.  This can be difficult if you’re also handling a demanding job and other responsibilities, of course. But kids who feel that other things are more important to their parents often look elsewhere when they’re emotionally needy. And that’s our loss, as much as theirs.

3. Have a teen-friendly house

Make their friends welcome in your home, even the friends you don’t particularly like.  Teenagers often see their friends in a different light when they see them in their own homes.  As you get to know the youngsters who visit your home better, you may come to like those about whom you first had doubts.  Most importantly, if your teenager feels comfortable asking friends to hang out at your house, they will tend to spend more time there.  You will find it easier to know what interests them, what they talk about and, hopefully, to be part of the conversation.

Most teenagers prefer working with other teens on almost everything, including homework.  If your home is a comfortable place for teenagers to work together on homework, your teen will be more apt to complete his or her homework.  Invite them in, provide a place for them to study together and give help when asked.

4. Place a premium on relationships in your family by spending some time together every single day

Constantly look for opportunities to do things together, such as shopping, attending sport events, travel, or movies… Whether it’s five minutes at bedtime or washing the dishes together after dinner, make sure you have time to connect with your teen every day. 

 If your teen is resistant to spending time with you, develop routines where you share something that your teen enjoys doing: play a game of ping pong or have a cup of tea together every night, take a walk for ice cream on Monday evenings, make brunch together or play some basketball on Sunday mornings.  Kids often wait for these routine times with their parents to bring up something that’s bothering them. Don’t expect your son or daughter to invite closeness or volunteer vulnerable emotions at each interaction, or when you expect it. But if you set up enough regular opportunities to be together, it will happen. 

5. Last but not least, remember that your teen’s fierce need for independence doesn’t mean he can’t stay connected to you

If you can let your teen exercise his own judgment and be himself, rather than who you want him to be, he’ll be able to grow into age-appropriate independence without cutting you off.  If, on the other hand, you insist that he plays the sport you love or that she agrees with your political views, your teen will have to choose between a relationship with you and his or her integrity.

Your teen is constantly squashing his dependency needs so that he can function independently in a demanding environment.  Your presence, with all of its comforting reassurance and warmth, signals to him that he can relax and let down his guard.   You’re not “encouraging dependency.” You’re “allowing” the dependency that is there anyway, and will otherwise go undercover.

“As we well know, a hallmark of adolescence is resistance.  Just as crying exercises a baby’s lungs, resistance exercises adolescents’ abstract reasoning skills…  No longer able to physically contain or comfort them, our only hope is to stay in touch… rather than trying to prevail or curtail, we need only strive for connection itself.” – Jennifer Marshall Lippincott, 7 Things Your Teenager Won’t Tell You 

Additional tips on staying connected

 Communication and understanding are crucial to cultivate respect from your teenagers.  The Learning Network (www.familyeducation.com) suggests these helpful hints.
– Keep communicating with your teens, even if they don’t seem to be listening.  Talk about topics that interest them.
– Respect and ask their opinions
– Give them privacy.  That doesn’t mean you can’t knock on their door when you want to talk.
– Set limits on their behavior based on your values and principles.  They will grudgingly respect you for this.
– Continually tell them and show them you believe in who they are rather than what they accomplish
– Seek professional help if your teen’s abnormal behaviors last more than three weeks

Early adolescence can be a challenging time for children and parents alike.  Even though we know our kids need to pull away from us during the teen years in order to build their own identities, it’s hard not to take personally the smirks and snarkiness that are the hallmarks of this stage of development.  But whatever the challenges, we share one aim: to do the best job possible as parents. We hope these tips helpful for you to achieve this goal. And whenever you feel like you’re the one doing all the work, try to remember that this phase will usually pass!




What to do when your child is not kind?

What to do when your child is not kind?

Kindness is the virtue of thinking of others — caring about their feelings, needs, and happiness.  As parents, we want our children to be kind, thoughtful, and empathetic to those around them — and it can be hard to know how to respond most effectively when they are not.

Richard Weissbourd, a Harvard psychologist with the graduate school of education, ran the Making Caring Common project, aimed to help teach kids to be kind.  In the study, about 80 percent of the youth said their parents were more concerned with their achievement or happiness than whether they cared for others.  The interviewees were also three times more likely to agree that “My parents are prouder if I get good grades in my classes than if I’m a caring community member in class and school.”

You may not think that you need to be teaching your child to be kind.  However, like reading and writing, emotional intelligence doesn’t come naturally to all children.  “Children are not born simply good or bad and we should never give up on them. They need adults who will help them become caring, respectful, and responsible for their communities at every stage of their childhood,” the researchers write.

Some children miss the subtle signs that they are upsetting those around them.  Some children have a hard time putting themselves in other people’s shoes. Some children have a hard time knowing how to be kind.  So, how do you help teach your kids to be kind and not turn into a bully? There are some easy steps to build empathy and kindness in your children.

1. Make caring for others a priority

It’s not enough to tell kids that kindness is important – they need to hear that it’s the most important.  Parents tend to prioritize their children’s happiness and achievements over their children’s concern for others.  But children need to hear from parents that caring for others is a top priority. Make sure that everyone in the family is held to high standards in relation to the way they treat each other.  They should learn to balance their needs with the needs of others, whether it’s passing the ball to a teammate or deciding to stand up for friends who is bullied.

A big part of that is holding your child to high ethical expectations, such as honoring her commitments, even if it makes she unhappy. She can be angry, grumpy, stressed or tired, but speaking to anyone disrespectfully is a no-go. 

She’ll slip up and so will you – none of us are beacons of kindness all the time, but when you snap or hiss, apologise as soon as you can so she can see how it’s done and that it’s really okay to admit that we get it wrong sometimes.

2. Correct aggression — clearly and with feeling

A study of toddlers 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 years of age observed how they responded to another toddler’s crying on the playground.  About a third of the toddlers offered comfort or help; the rest did not. 

The compassionate toddlers, the researchers found, had mothers who were warm and nurturing.  These mothers had also taken it very seriously if their own child had hurt someone in the past. When your child’s behavior is affecting those around her – point it out.  Let your child know how she affecting others without shaming her. For example, a 2-year-old girl who responded compassionately to the crying child on the playground had once pulled another little girl’s hair.  When she did that, her mother had responded: “You hurt Amy!” (pointing out the consequence) “Pulling hair hurts!” (an instructive generalization) “NEVER pull hair” (a small moral absolute). This combination of clear teaching and emotional concern sent a strong message to the child: Hurting is a big deal.  As a result, this child was subsequently disposed to take it seriously and respond compassionately when she saw another child crying on the playground.

3. Guide children in managing destructive feelings

Often the ability to care for others is overwhelmed by anger, shame, envy, or other negative feelings.  If your child is angry, let her know that you can see this and hold her in the space without having to change it or solve the original problem.  Just hold the feeling. We need to teach children that all feelings are okay, but some ways of dealing with them are not helpful. Children need our help learning to cope with these feelings in productive ways.  Here’s a simple way to teach your kids to calm down: ask your child to stop, take a deep breath through the nose and exhale through the mouth, and count to five. Practice when your child is calm. Then, when you see her getting upset, remind her about the steps and do them with her.  After a while she’ll start to do it on her own so that she can express her feelings in a helpful and appropriate way.

4. Teach your children the joy of helping others

Be an example for your child and help strangers, friends and family.  Let her know that it feels good to help others – even if you get nothing back.  Set up opportunities for her to help others as a family. Ask her to help with dinner, feed the family pet, read a story to a younger sibling, help with lunches.

On the other hand, it’s also important to help children learn to care about someone outside the circle of their family and friends.  Children need to learn to zoom in, by listening closely and attending to those in their immediate circle, and to zoom out, by taking in the big picture and considering the many perspectives of the people they interact with daily, including those who are vulnerable.  It helps them to be aware of their shared humanity. Talk to them about what’s happening in different cities, countries and cultures and about different social issues. Let them see you show concern when kids on the other team get hurt, or ask them how the new child in class is going and what they can do to help them feel included, even if it’s just making an effort to say hello.  Make sure they’re friendly and grateful to everyone who helps them, whether it’s the waiter, the bus driver, the tuckshop helper or the young guy who packs your groceries.

5. Read books that cultivate kindness

With all kids and especially with kids for whom kindness doesn’t come naturally, good books can be one of our best allies.  There are scores of books, fiction and nonfiction, with strong character themes. The more kids read them – with us or on their own – the more they’ll be immersed in goodness and attracted to it.

Books take them into other worlds where they can learn from the good and bad examples of the story characters, vicariously experience the consequences of the moral choices these characters make, and then transfer those learnings to their own lives.  An 11-year-old boy, after reading C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, talked about Edmund:

“He was deceitful by lying to his siblings.  I’ve been deceitful by lying about breaking something — I blamed it on my brother. I wouldn’t do that again.”We can facilitate this kind of transfer from books to life by pausing during a read-aloud to reflect on times when we and our child may have shown the virtue or vice exhibited by a character in the story.  Children’s books that depict peer cruelty and exclusion and everyone’s need for friendship, such as The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes and Wonder by R. J. Palacio, are especially good for this kind of parent-child sharing of experiences.  Also refer to our article of “The best books to teach our kids to be kind” as another important resource, where you can show many inspiring ways people do good for others.  This gives us an opening for talking with our kids about how we too can make a positive difference in the world.

Most of us would be shocked if we heard our children were treating others unkindly.  However, there’s no shame in having a child who is a bully, the shame lies in suspecting your child is a bully and ignoring it.  If we want our children to be caring, respectful and responsible people, we have to raise them that way. With love, attention and guidance, even the harshest bully can become someone kind of wonderful.



15 Tips to Raise a Responsible Child

15 Tips to Raise a Responsible Child

We all want to raise responsible children.  And we all want to live in a world where others have been raised to be responsible, a world where adults don’t shrug off their responsibilities as citizens.  So how do we raise our kids to take responsibility for their choices and their impact on the world?

You begin by seeing responsibility as something joyful for your child, instead of a burden.  All children want to see themselves as response-able — powerful and able to respond to what needs to be done.  They need this for their self esteem, and for their lives to have meaning. Children don’t want just to be doted on.  They need, like the rest of us, to feel like they matter to the world, like their lives make a positive contribution.

So, you don’t really need to teach kids to handle themselves responsibly in the world; you just need to teach them that they have the power to contribute positively, and to relate to them so that they want to do so.

Here are 15 everyday strategies guaranteed to increase your kids’ “response-ability” quotient.  Notice that this list focuses on your child’s span of control, rather than on tasks you want them to do.  There’s a reason for that. When you focus on a list of tasks your child “should” do, you end up creating power struggles. “By now you should be able to clean up your own toys!”  If, instead, you focus on helping your child take charge of his life, and support him as necessary to learn each new skill, your child wants to step into each new responsibility. Instead of your “holding him responsible,” he becomes motivated to take responsibility for himself.  It’s a subtle shift, but it makes all the difference in the world.

1. Raise your child with the expectation that we always clean up our own messes.

Begin by helping your child, until she learns it.  She’ll learn it faster if you can be cheerful and kind about it and remember not to worry about spilled milk.  Encourage her to help by handing her a sponge as you pick one up yourself, even when it’s easier to do it yourself.  (And it’s almost always easier to do it yourself.) As long as you aren’t judgmental about it–so she isn’t defensive–she’ll want to help clean up and make things better. So when your toddler spills her milk, say “That’s ok. We can clean it up,” as you hand her a paper towel and pick one up yourself.

 When your preschooler leaves her shoes scattered in your path, hand them to her and ask her to put them away, saying kindly “We always clean up our own stuff.”

If your approach is positive and light-hearted, your child won’t get defensive and whine that you should do the cleanup.  And when kids hear the constant friendly expectation that “We always clean up our own messes…Don’t worry, I’ll help….Here’s the paper towels for you; I’ll get the sponge…” they become both easier to live with and better citizens of the world.

2. Kids need an opportunity to contribute to the common good.

All children contribute to the rest of us in some way, regularly.  Find those ways and comment on them, even if it is just noticing when she is kind to her little brother or that you enjoy how she’s always singing.  Whatever behaviors you acknowledge will grow.

As your children get older, their contributions should increase appropriately, both within and outside the household.  Kids need to grow into two kinds of responsibilities: their own self care, and contributing to the family welfare. Research indicates that kids who help around the house are also more likely to offer help in other situations than kids who simply participate in their own self care.

Of course, you can’t expect them to develop a helpful attitude overnight.  It helps to steadily increase responsibility in age appropriate ways. Invite toddlers to put napkins on the table, three year olds to set places.  Four year olds can match socks, and five year olds can help you groom the dog. Six year olds are ready to clear the table, seven year olds to water plants, and eight year olds to fold laundry.

3. Remember that no kid in his right mind wants to do “chores.”

Unless you want your child to think of contributing to the family as drudgery, don’t “make” him do chores without you until they are a regular part of your family routine, and one that your child does not resist.

 Your goal isn’t getting this job done, it’s shaping a child who will take pleasure in contributing and taking responsibility.  Make the job fun. Give as much structure, support, and hands-on help as you need to, including sitting with him and helping for the first thirty times he does the task, if necessary.  Know that it will be much harder than doing it yourself. Remind yourself that there’s joy in these tasks, and communicate that, along with the satisfaction of a job well done. Eventually, he will be doing these tasks by himself.  That day will come much faster if he enjoys them.

4. Always let children “do it myself” and “help” even when it’s more work for you.

And it will always be more work for you.  But toddlers want desperately to master their physical worlds, and when we support them to do that, they step into the responsibility of being “response-able.”  So instead of rushing through your list, reframe. You’re working with your child to help him discover the satisfaction of contribution. That’s more important than having the job done quickly or perfectly.  

5. Rather than simply giving orders, try asking your child to do the thinking.

For instance, to the dallying child in the morning, instead of barking “Brush your teeth! Is your backpack packed? Don’t forget your lunch!,” you could ask “What’s the next thing you need to do to get ready for school?”  The goal is to keep them focused on their list, morning after morning, until they internalize it and begin managing their own morning tasks.

6. Provide routines and structure.

These are crucial in children’s lives for many reasons, not the least of which is that it gives them repeated opportunities to manage themselves through a series of not especially inviting tasks.  First, they master the bedtime routine and cleaning up toys and getting ready in the morning. Then they develop successful study habits and grooming habits. Finally, they learn basic life skills through repetition of household routines like doing laundry or making simple meals.

7. Teach your child to be responsible for her interactions with others.

When your daughter hurts her little brother’s feelings, don’t force her to apologize.  She won’t mean it, and it won’t help him. Instead, listen to her feelings to help her work out those tangled emotions that made her snarl at him.

Then, once she feels better, ask her what she can do to make things better between them. Maybe she’ll be ready to apologize.  But maybe that will feel like losing face, and she would rather repair things with him by reading him a story, or helping him with his chore of setting the table, or giving him a big hug.  This teaches children that their treatment of others has a cost, and that they’re responsible for repairs when they do damage. But because you aren’t forcing, she’s able to CHOOSE to make the repair, which makes it feel good, and makes her more likely to repeat it.

8. Support your child to help pay for damaged goods.

If kids help pay from their own allowance for lost library books and cell phones, windows broken by their baseball, or tools they’ve left out to rust, the chances of a repeat infraction are slim.

9. Don’t rush to bail your child out of a difficult situation.

Be available for problem-solving, helping him work through his feelings and fears, and to insure that he doesn’t just sidestep the difficulty, but let him handle the problem himself, whether it requires offering an apology or making amends in a more concrete way.

10. Model responsibility and accountability.

Be explicit about the responsible choices you’re making: “It’s a pain to carry this trash till we get to the car, but I don’t see a trashcan and we never litter.”  “This sign says parking is reserved for handicapped people, so of course we can’t take that spot.” Keep your promises to your child, and don’t make excuses. If you don’t follow through when you promise to pick up that notebook he needs for school, or play that game with him on Saturday, why should he be responsible about keeping his promises and agreements with you?

11. Never label your child as “Irresponsible”

Never label your child as “Irresponsible,” because the way we see our kids is always a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Instead, teach him the skills he needs to be responsible. If he always loses things, for instance, teach him to stop anytime he leaves somewhere — his friend’s house, school, soccer practice — and count off everything he needs to take home.

12. Teach your child to make a written schedule.

It may seem like overkill, but in our busy 21st century lives, all kids need to master this skill by high school, or they simply won’t get everything done.  Begin on weekends during middle school, or earlier, if their schedule is busy. Just take a piece of paper, list the hours of the day on the left, and ask your child what he needs to get done this weekend.  Put in the baseball game, piano practice, the birthday party, and all the steps of the science project – shop for materials, build the volcano, write and print out the description. Add downtime — go for ice cream with dad, chill and listen to music.  Most kids find this keeps their stress level down, since they know when everything will get done. Most important, it teaches them to manage their time and be responsible about their commitments.

13. All kids need the experience of working for pay.

All kids need the experience of working for pay, which teaches them real responsibility in the real world.  Begin by paying your eight year old to do tasks you wouldn’t normally expect of him (washing the car, weeding the garden), then encourage him to expand to odd jobs in the neighborhood (walk the neighbor’s dog or offer snow shoveling service in the winter), move on to mother’s helper/babysitting jobs when it’s age appropriate, and finally take on after-school or summer jobs.  Few settings teach as much about responsibility as the world of working for pay outside the family.  Few settings teach as much about responsibility as the world of working for pay outside the family.

14. Create a No-Blame Household.

We all, automatically, want to blame someone when things go wrong.  It’s as if fixing blame might prevent a recurrence of the problem, or absolve us of responsibility.  In reality, blaming makes everyone defensive, more inclined to watch their back — and to attack — than to make amends. It’s the #1 reason kids lie to their parents.  Worse yet, when we blame them, kids find all kinds of reasons it wasn’t really their fault — at least in their own minds — so they’re less likely to take responsibility and the problem is more likely to repeat.

Blame is the opposite of unconditional love.  So why do we do it? To help us feel less out of control, and because we can’t bear the suspicion that we also had some role, however small, in creating the situation.  Next time you find yourself automatically beginning to blame someone, stop. Instead, accept any responsibility you can – it’s good practice to overstate your responsibility – without beating yourself up. (You’re modeling, remember?)  Then, just accept the situation. You can always come up with better solutions from a state of acceptance than a state of blame.


15. Teach your kids that as Eleanor Roosevelt said, they not only have the right to be an individual, they have an obligation to be one.

Studies show that people who take responsibility in any given situation are people who see themselves as willing to be different and stand out.  That’s the kind of kid you want to raise.

Source: Aha! Parenting

Strategies to teach your child phonics at home

Strategies to teach your child phonics at home

If you have a child in her first years of primary school, there is a good chance you will have come across the word “Phonics”.  Phonics is a method of learning to read words that is taught right from the first stage of reading. Here’s what you need to know about how your child will learn phonics — and how you can help teach phonics at home: 

So what is phonics?

 Phonics means using letter sounds to help you read words – it’s that simple, and that complex. It is the link between what we say and what we can read and write.  Phonics offers your beginning reader the strategies she needs to sound out words. For example, she learns that the letter D has the sound of “d” as in “doll.” Then she learns how to blend letter sounds together to make words like dog.

Why are phonics so important?

 Phonics allows your child to be able to learn words she has never seen before.  When she learns to read a word by sight it means that she will be able to remember how to pronounce that word when she sees it again.  But if she sees a word she doesn’t recognise, she won’t have the skills needed to decode how to pronounce it. This is why phonics are important.

Teaching children to read with phonics means not only teaching them the decoding skills needed to look at a word and pronounce it correctly but also giving them the skills to know what to do when they discover a new word.

After a while, all of the phonics sounds will become automatic and your child will be able to read fluently.

Strategies for Teaching Phonics to Children

 As parents, we may not be aware of the specific ways phonics is taught at school, or even be completely oblivious to the activities that can help teach phonics.  Nevertheless, there are certain strategies that can be employed to grant the same benefit as a phonics session might do.

#1. Introducing Letters and Sounds with Flashcards

  • Make, buy, or print off a set of alphabet cards.  Provide 26 cards, one for each letter; they can have capitals, lowercase letters, or both on them.  You’ll use them to practice letter recognition and sound recognition. You can make them yourself (perhaps with the kids’ help).  Choose colorful index cards and markers to make them more visually interesting. Write the letter clearly on one side, and the sound(s) on the other.
    (Or, you can download our fancy and free, printable alphabet cards below)
  • Shuffle the cards in random order.  Hold up one card at a time.  Ask your child to say the name of each letter.  Then, have your child produce the sound of each letter.
    (*) Tips: Do not forget to provide extra guidance as needed for letters that produce more than one sound.  For instance: “You’re right, “c” does make that sound in a word like cat. But what sound does it make in the word circle?”
  • Move on to letter combination cards.  As your child becomes more practiced, she will be ready to identify letter patterns — two letters combined to represent one sound.  Provide new flashcards that show common letter patterns, such as vowel pairs: /ea/, /ee/, /oa/, /ai/; and digraphs: /sh/, /ch/, /th/, and /wh/.

#2. Matching Letter Sounds with Picture Cards

  • Identify letter-sound matches.  To build letter-sound matches, have your child sort picture cards according to her beginning sounds.  Acquire or make a set of picture flashcards that includes at least one picture that starts with each letter of the alphabet.
    – Provide multiple picture cards for more common word-starting letters.
    – Make sure they are images that a child will easily recognize.  For instance, a turtle is a better choice than a trombone or toolbox.
  • Select a group of picture cards to begin the exercise.  Pick out a set with three initial consonant sounds that are very different, such as: /b/, /s/, and /t/.  Review the cards before you have your child sort them by starting sound.
    – For instance, the pictures could represent the following: bear, triangle, smile, spoon, sunflower, spinner, sign, train, tree.
    – If your child needs support, ask “What is the first sound you hear in the word bear? What letter makes the /b/ sound? Is it the letter b, s, or t?”
  • Have your child sort the pictures according to her ending sounds.  After ample practice sorting picture cards by starting sounds, you can increase the difficulty by turning to ending sounds. 

For instance, produce the cards for bat, frog, run, bag, spot, and corn.
– Ask similar questions to those regarding starting sounds: “What is the last sound you hear in the word frog?

  • Increase the difficulty by focusing on vowels and combinations.  Eventually, you can move on to having the child sort pictures according to their medial sound represented by their vowel pattern — for instance: /e/: seal, peas, read, team, wheel; /o/: boat, coat, toad, road.  Likewise, you can have them sort according to the words’ beginning digraphs — such as: chair, cherries, shoe, sheep, thread, three, wheat, whiskers. Once again, ask guiding questions: “What sound do you hear in the middle of the word boat?”

#3. Creating new words by replacing letters

  • Introduce how changing letters changes words.  Begin by randomly displaying the magnetic letters (or letter cards on a tabletop) that are needed to build the chosen word — for instance, “c,” “a,” and “t” for “cat.”  
  • Encourage your child to spell the chosen word.  Speak the word (e.g., cat) and have her listen to the sounds and place the corresponding letters in the correct order from left to right.  Guide her as needed: “Cat, car, and cup all start with the same letter. Do you remember what letter “car” starts with?”
  • Ask her to choose a new first letter to change the word.  Provide a few more magnetic letters.  In the case of “cat,” ask your child to switch the letter “c” with the letter that makes the sound /h/ to build the word “hat.”  Have her read the new word aloud.
  • Continue to increase the complexity of the switches.  For example, have your child replace the “h” with the combination of letters that make the /ch/ sound.  Ask your child to read the new word – “chat.” Then, have her change the word “chat” to “chap.”
    – Include vowel sounds as well — turn “chap” into “chop.”
    – As her skills develop, increase the difficulty with longer words and more patterns.

#4. Reinforcing Phonics with Reading

  • Find children books that specifically support learning phonics.  To reinforce the skills you’ve been introducing, select books for your child that highlight the phonics patterns practiced in these activities.  This will help her to strategically apply the skills learned to reading words in books. Several children’s book publishers produce series marketed specifically towards phonics development.  That said, any kids’ book that is engaging and skill-level appropriate will be beneficial.
  • Read aloud to children often.  Make reading a reliable part of your daily routine together.  Allow your kid to pick the book she’d like to read — ideally, from a list of several phonics-focuses options — and read it to them enthusiastically.  Do different voices and make the experience fun. Read naturally, but perhaps more slowly and clearly than normal. Enunciate the different sounds in the words you read.
    Tips: You can also point to the word you’re reading.  Teach your child to use her finger and place it under each word as she attempts to read it loudly.  This helps her put together the sounds of the letters and attempt to read a word she doesn’t even know.
    (Plus, refer to an amazing video from Tony Ngo, our Chairman and Co-founder, in reading time with his little daughter.)
  • Re-read familiar books time and again.  Many kids have no problem with reading the same book over and over.  Even if you’re getting a bit bored with the book, summon up the same enthusiasm for reading it to them.  Repeating the same book over and again doesn’t necessarily advance a specific phonics goal, other than making the child more eager to hear you read regularly.
  • Ask lots of questions while reading.  Questions help keep your child actively engaged, and can help support learning phonics as well.  For instance, while reading, point to the word “dog.” Ask “Do you know what word this is?” If they need a bit of help, say “Well, let’s start reading the sentence — “Joe walked his …” — Now what do you think the word might be?”  Even if not directly connected to learning phonics, asking reading comprehension questions like “Now, why do you think she did that?” or “Hmm … What’s going to happen next?” will enhance concentration and enthusiasm.
  • Listen to them read.  As your child transitions to reading to you (instead of the other way around), be an active and engaged listener yourself.  Make it clear that you’re listening closely — saying things like “Wow!” or “That’s a surprise” or “That’s funny, isn’t it?” When she stumbles on a word, don’t rush to give it to her.  Help her try to sound it out first — “OK, now what sound does the letter “P” make?”  If she continues to have trouble with the word, though, provide her with it before they get too frustrated and don’t want to continue.

#5. Using apps to teach phonics
There are various apps to help children learn to read with phonics.  One example is Magic phonics, which is an interactive program that helps to teach kids to read using phonics.  Wooden blocks with letter sounds are used with your Ipad or Tablet to engage in fun activities in order to help kids learn to read.

Based on the UK curriculum, there are different levels for children to complete.  You are able to skip levels at any time depending on the level of your child. Not only is Magic Phonics a great educational tool, but kids will enjoy the activities without realising they are learning.

To conclude, if you are teaching kids to read, or searching for different methods, using phonics is the most effective.  Phonics allows your child to develop her decoding skills in order to learn new words more easily and become fluent readers.  At an early stage, you can make use of games and fun activities to provide support to that learning, as well as establish a wonderful bond with your child.

Free phonics flashcards for parents

To support your early reader, Everest has created a set of alphabetical flashcards for you to practice with your child at home.  If you are new to teaching kids phonics, this would be a great way to kick it off. Instruction is inside, be sure to subcribe to get the full version!

How to say “NO” without saying “no” to your child

How to say “NO” without saying “no” to your child

“No” is a word that many parents use when “disciplining” (or trying to discipline) their kids:

“No hitting!”

“No running, please!”

“No fighting!”

“No tantrums!”

“No, no, no!”

In fact, according to “The Kid Counselor” and licensed private-practice play therapist Brenna Hicks, research shows that “toddlers typically hear the word ‘no’ 400 times daily.”  That is a bit too often, don’t you think?

This is why Hicks, along with other positive parenting advocates and educators, encourages parents to learn to say “no” without actually using the word “no.”  From learning things not to say to your child to what say instead, parenting without negative language like “no”, ”don’t”, and “stop” is also an important part when raising well-adjusted kids.

Know when to say “no”

Parents should be aware that saying “no” to a child without actually saying “no” is totally possible but not entirely applicable to every situation.

“While it’s true that we should always try to be positive in dealing with our children, what I think is more important is for our children to understand why we are saying no,” said Rosanne Unson, owner of The Learning Basket.  Saying “no” without saying “no” is part of disciplining your child. Dr. Lucille Montes, a licensed physician, psychologist and guidance counselor who holds clinic in the Makati and Alabang areas, emphasizes that knowing when to “say” no to your child is all part of discipline.

“Discipline means making a disciple of your child, meaning, you exert positive influence because of your bond and his love for you — this is the best way to shape his behavior,” she explains.

Hence, Dr. Montes says parents should think about which scenarios are ideal for inculcating the virtues they want in their children.   “Usually, when parent and child are having fun together — when there is no conflict — that’s when the teachings are best absorbed,” she adds.

Too many “no’s”?

Dr. Montes advises parents to examine themselves and check if they have too many “no’s” for their kids.  “Some parents have too many rules, such that their children are deprived of opportunities to explore, learn and mature,” she explains.  She advises parents to limit their “no’s” to where it matters. If matters don’t concern being morally right or the kids aren’t in danger of getting hurt, she says parents should be more flexible, such as in discussions about bedtime, mealtime,…

Different ways to say “no”
Here are some ways to say “no” to your child — without using the word “no”: 

1. Rephrase

 “Rephrasing our statements is one way of saying ‘no’ to our children in a positive way,” Unson explains. “For example, instead of saying, ‘No hitting!’ we say, ‘Hands are for hugging, not for hitting.'” When your child asks to go out and play, but it is very close to dinner time. If you simply respond by saying no, it can sometimes create a tantrum. Instead of that, you can rephrase your response to, “Yes, you can go out and play after dinner”. This not only allows for a positive response, but also helps the child understand the rules and reason behind your answer.

2. Validate
Parents can validate their children’s feelings while saying “no” to them at the same time. For example, when your child hits another kid because he took one of his toys, you can say, “I know you’re really upset that X got your toy. What should you do instead of hitting when you’re mad?”

3. Explain
Explain why we do not allow something also makes our children understand the logic behind our “no”.  For example: “Chocolates before dinner is not healthy.”
“The key here is to use ten words or less as children tend to space out when we explain too much,” Unson discloses.

4. Give choices
Unson and Uyquiengco, whose Positive Discipline workshops are well-attended and received by parents, cite one of their favorite Positive Discipline tools as another positive way of saying “no” — giving choices.

For example, instead of saying, “No writing on walls!” opt to say, “I can see that you love drawing.  Would you like to draw on your whiteboard or on a piece of paper?”

Giving children choices helps them feel in control of their situations, reducing power struggles.  When your child is skating through the house on his ‘heelys’, it can be natural to say, “No skates in the house”.  However, giving a choice can help minimize the rebellious response, such as, “You can choose to skate in the driveway or on the sidewalk.  Which do you choose?”

5. Understand and teach acceptable behavior
Dr. Montes expounds on giving a child choices by encouraging parents to teach “alternative behaviors” to their children.  “If the child is exhibiting unacceptable behavior, the best is always to offer an alternative behavior,” she explains. “The alternative behavior can be taught beforehand for predictable typical situations.”

For example, teach your child that when he or she is angry, he or she can say, “I am angry now, may I go to my room please?”.  “If the child is too young to speak coherently, address the behavior when it is happening and provide the words for your child,” Dr. Montes expounds.  

When a toddler is having a tantrum, the parent can say, “I know you’re upset about something.  Can you come with me to a quiet corner to calm down.” Doing so consistently will help the child incorporate that statement into his or her language and thinking pattern. 

Some children have a difficult time stopping certain behaviors because they do not know what to do instead.  Offering suggestions to replace behaviors that you want to minimize can help the child understand an alternative.  For example, children are notorious for what my family called ‘incessant noises’. Banging on tables, seats, floors, etc. can be frustrating for adults and normal for kids.  Energy needs to be expelled, even if it is necessary to sit quietly. Try suggesting making small circles with their feet rather than kicking the seat, or make it lighthearted by asking, “How can we make that foot stop”?

6. Tone of Voice
Children often learn what is okay and what is not largely by the way we sound when we respond.  Therefore, we can communicate to the child that we are not pleased with their behavior without having to actually tell them “no”.  There are very simple ways to change your language regarding setting limits. Hopefully, with new determination and knowledge, you are eliminate all of the “nos” your children hear and replace them with more effective responses.

7. Observe your child
To end, Dr. Montes emphasizes the importance of observing your child, especially his or her “readiness” to learn or respond to certain situations.  “The child’s developmental level must be taken into account when it comes to discipline,” she explains. At the end of the day, remember that getting to know your child is a crucial factor in making the discipline process easier.

It’s also important to note that discipline involves teaching our children, not just getting them to obey rules.  The word “discipline” actually comes from the Latin disciplina, meaning “teaching.” Let us, therefore, strive to be the best teachers to our kids.

Tina Santiago-Rodriguez (2015, May 12) – Stop Saying “No”!- Tips for Positive Parenting from Smartparenting
Hicks, B. (2008, Feb 3) – Stop Saying “No”! – Tips for Positive Parenting from Thekidcounselor

Alternatives to your negative language with your kids

There are numerous examples on what not to say and what to say. We have consolidated the most common and simplest ones in the sheet below.  We hope this cheat sheet helps you through some of those tough moments when you want to react with frustration instead of love.

The sneak peek is below, but be sure to subscribe to download the full, printable version!