As writers, we’ve all had the experience of publishing a piece we’ve worked hard putting together, and then posting it to Facebook, sharing it on Twitter, and pinning it on Pinterest…and having it just sit there, unliked, unshared, untweeted, and unpinned. Now, logically, we might know that only a small percentage of our audience sees what we share at any given time. And we know that, while some pieces we write hit just the right note at the right time and go flying around the blogosphere, others might need time to catch on or might simply remain a lonely, little, unread, unloved piece of ourselves that we’ve bravely put out there and the world has overlooked. But even knowing all of that, in those times when we share and no one hears us, when we bare our hearts and no one responds, the silence can feel like rejection, the work can feel pointless, the investment can feel wasted.
Our readers have lives of their own that usually don’t include hours of research and writing and editing and formatting and tagging and linking. They may not realize that their likes, comments, and shares are major motivators for us. They might not understand that, while our passion for our message, whatever that may be, is what drives us, their response is like a pat on the back, and a simple “Well said!” can make our day. And they may not be remotely conscious of how deflating, demoralizing, and depressing that awkward, deafening silence can be when a post goes ignored.
Most of us don’t make a penny from our blogs, but we’re okay with the heavy time investment, the personal sacrifices, and the risks involved in sharing our hearts so transparently…as long as we are heard. And how do we know if we’re being heard? Our readers’ responses, their ‘likes,’ their pins and tweets and shares, and their comments that tell us they’re listening, that they care, and that they appreciate our work.
And what makes writers want to quit? What makes them want to shut down their laptops, hang up their message, and go back to watching sit-coms, reading books, or doing whatever they used to do when they actually had downtime? Well, certainly meanness from people who’d rather cause trouble than just move on to another site, for one, but often it’s simply the silence that drains away the motivation. Sharing your heart with a world that doesn’t respond makes a person feel small, insignificant, unappreciated.
Enter the child.
A child comes to his mother with a drawing that resembles a game of pick-up-sticks and proudly announces that he’s designed a new airplane. She grins and says, “Good job!” and he runs off happily to draw some more pick-up-stick inventions. But his mother is cringing at her choice of words, wishing she’d stopped mid-diaper change with the new baby and turned her full attention to her son and said something like, “I see that you worked hard. You used lots of colors,” or something, anything that didn’t pander to his need for attention or approval. What if she turned him into a ‘praise junkie’?!? Bad mom! she castigates herself. When her son returns a few minutes later and enthusiastically shows her his pick-up-stick submarine, she’s ready. She smiles awkwardly, nods her head and says, “You obviously are trying to use your imagination. I see that you are in a creative mood. What else are you going to invent today?” in a stiff and unnatural tone. Her son stands there for a moment, not quite sure how to respond, then shrugs and drifts off to another activity.
Now, clearly, using “Good job” as a brush-off in lieu of taking the time to pay any real attention to a child is the core issue that parenting experts are getting at when they encourage parents to focus on the child and the effort instead of the product or achievement. But so often parents read these kinds of articles and come away feeling, as a concerned mother recently expressed to me, “Like I’m doing it all wrong. I feel like I’m messing up my child when I tell him I like what he’s done.” That mother wasn’t brushing her child off with her praise. She was interacting with her child with a natural, honest enthusiasm that may now be damaged by something she read. It breaks my heart to think of her little guy running up to show her his latest creation only to be met with an unnatural and stilted response because his mother is afraid her instincts aren’t good enough.
Here’s the thing, a healthy, natural, loving parent/child relationship trumps all. It is the foundation for autonomy, not merely a satellite aid to independence. It is the wellspring of confidence and trust that leads to exploration, creativity, and innovation. It is the safe harbor from which daring and boldness and risk can be launched to take on the world.
A parent whose focus is on connection will respond to their child’s need in the moment, whether that need is praise for a job well done or encouragement in the face of failure. A parent focused on ‘getting the words right’ may well inadvertently leave their child’s present needs unmet because they are afraid to respond naturally.
Just as it is the hungry child, not the satisfied child, who craves food, it is unmet needs that lead to attention seeking behaviors and unspoken approval that can create ‘praise junkies’ as the unpraised child seeks to fill the very human need we all have for validation.
Just as with adults, and specifically with those of us who are writers, children need to know they are being heard and appreciated. A ‘like’ on a post to us is like a pat on the back to a child, and a “Well said!” to a writer is like a “Good job!” to a child. In the same way that these acknowledgements don’t undermine our driving passions, but support and encourage them, spontaneous and sincere expressions of appreciation to a child don’t undermine a child’s passion to learn and grow and become. It is, in fact, the exact opposite. A parent’s sincere, spontaneous praise encourages and motivates a child to blossom in the warmth of their approval.
With my six children, while they are infants I am happy to let them independently scoot and shuffle and roll in an effort to reach a toy, but I am there to offer help the second they express frustration so they will grow up knowing that they never have to struggle alone in life. When they are older and happily working on a drawing or popsicle-stick invention, I don’t hesitate to spontaneously express my enjoyment of their creation. That isn’t interference. It’s a connection point, a message that they don’t have to actively seek my approval for it to be theirs.
I know that the world won’t always treat my children kindly. I know that failure, disapproval, and rejection will inevitably be a part of their lives. But I want my children to grow up knowing that there is one place in the world where help is always available, and approval, acceptance, and appreciation are always freely offered. I want my children to have the assurance of a safe harbor to return to so that they will have the confidence to take on all the challenges the world will throw at them.
And so, parents, the message here is this: Read and research and educate yourself about all the various ideas and methods and theories about how to raise happy, healthy, confident children, but at the end of the day remember that you are your child’s parent. You love your child more and know them better than anyone else on earth. Don’t let anything stop you from responding naturally and lovingly to your child’s needs, whether those needs are for a high-five, a “Good job,” a thumb’s up, or just a great big bear hug.
Remember, the only bad praise is the sincerely meant praise that is silenced. ~L.R.Knost
“Well done, good and faithful servant.” Matt. 25:21
Listen to the sound of silence.
“You’re never too old, too wacky, too wild, to pick up a book and read to a child!”
March 1st is World Book Day, and March 2nd is Dr. Seuss’ Birthday Extravaganza which includes the release of the much-anticipated new movie, The Lorax! If you’re a book-obsessed, homeschooling, movie-loving, Seussiac like I am, it’s practically a national holiday! And when you add my excitement over my newest little home-grown reader, it’s definitely time for a Seusserrific Celebration!
In honor of all of this wonderfulness and to help launch my new little reader into the wonderful world of books, I’ve been scouring the web, the bookshelves, and my scattered brain for all the Seussical fun I could find for my little people and yours. Here are a few of my finds!
Staples has these awesome Cat in the Hat cutouts intended for use on a bulletin board, but we repurposed them for several games such as BIG LETTER~little letter Match-up and Seusstastic Scavenger Hunt. For BIG LETTER~little letter Match-up I drew capital letters and their counterparts on the backs of the cutouts and laid them out in a 3 x 3 grid. For Seusstastic Scavenger Hunt I wrote clues on the cutouts to help my little people find Dr. Seuss books I’d hidden throughout the house and tucked the clues in each book so that when they found one book and we read it, they’d find the next clue hidden in the pages of the book they’d just found…a two-fer! So fun!
We also made up a Go Fish in the Bowl game matching upper and lower case letters. It’s just your basic Go Fish, but somehow on Cat in the Hat cut-outs it became magical!
Some leftover pieces of an old game yielded a plastic Green Eggs and Ham to play a Would You~Could You spin on the old Mother May I game. We placed the Green Eggs and Ham game piece at one end of the room and took turns asking questions like ’Would you, could you let me take three steps forward?’ and giving directions like ‘Could you, would you jump up and down and take one step back?’
We’re putting together a Seuss Quiet Bag which we’ll be adding to over time, and I’m working on making a Cat in the Hat Calm-Me-Jar for our bag. I’ll post a picture here as soon as it’s done! Right now we’ve got favorite books and our Go Fish in the Bowl cards in this cute, little Seuss backpack I found at a thrift store.
Here it is! Meet the The Cat in the Hat Can Help You with That Calm-Me-Jar!
And here is my six year old’s contribution to the Seuss Birthday celebration~Seuss Tower! Watch out Donald, my little funny-face is out to trump you, lol!
Check out these 7 Tips for Raising Bookworms!
Here are some awesomely Seusstastic links to crafts and games and yummy Seuss treats you and your little ones will love!
Make Seusstastic Lorax trees from pencils!
Oreos, white and red chocolate, and marshmallows equal Seussalicious Cat in the Hat cookies!
A Seussville craft for little Seusslets to create!
And check out this abSeusslutely ObSeussed site for literally hundreds and hundreds of Seusstastic crafts, books, games, recipies, ideas, and links!
Children who love to read…READ! Engaging children’s hearts in the wonder of reading instead of just training their minds in its mechanics. Raising Bookworms
It’s time for a return to childhood, to simplicity, to running and climbing and laughing in the sunshine, to experiencing happiness instead of being trained for a lifetime of pursuing happiness…it’s time to let children be children again. A Return to Childhood
Think homeschooled children are unsocialized, over-controlled, locked-away-from-the-world misfits? Think again! My Renaissance Girl
A young girl is curled up in an old, over-stuffed armchair, totally absorbed in the pages of a book. A television sits nearby, silent and black with jealousy. In a corner, a computer gathers dust in concert with an abandoned gaming system. No one would guess that this girl lost in the world of Regency England crafted by literary great, Jane Austen, couldn’t read at all until fifth grade and fights against the headaches and blurred vision brought on by severe dyslexia. No one would believe that this beautiful twelve year old preteen who has devoured Little Women, Jane Eyre, and is nearly finished with the entire Anne of Green Gables series was still unable to recognize all the letters of the alphabet in the third grade.
So, with all the barriers to reading this young girl faced and all the preconceived notions of the demise of the book and the rise of the electronic age, why does this child choose a book, an ink and paper relic to some, over the hypnotic allure of technology?
Children who love to read…READ! It’s just a simple fact of human nature that we are more inclined to do the things that interest and excite us rather than the things we are forced or obligated to do. So how do we engage our children’s hearts in the wonder of reading instead of just training their minds in its mechanics?
Think of learning to ride a bicycle.
Your dad props you up on a shiny red bicycle, gives you a few pointers and an encouraging smile, then runs alongside you with his hand securely on the back of the bike seat, steadying and supporting you as you fly down the sidewalk with the wind in your hair and a thrilled and slightly terrified grin on your face.
Your dad sits you down with a diagram of a bicycle and drills you on its parts, making you list them over and over and recite them back to him in alphabetical order.
Which teaching style would result in a bicycle rider rather than just a memorization of bicycle parts? Which scenario would encourage a love of bicycle riding?
When it comes to reading, do you want your children to become readers or just learn the mechanics of reading? Do you want them to love to read or just know how? If a love of reading is your goal for your children, here are some ideas to get you started:
1.) Let them see you reading! Children learn more by watching what we do than by listening to what we say. Seeing your books laying around the house, trying to get your attention while you’re absorbed in an intense scene, giggling when you ‘sneak’ away to the bathroom with a favorite tome, all of these things will have a huge impact on their perception of reading as a desirable activity.
2.) Read to them from infancy on, and let them in on it! Don’t make reading a one-sided exercise with you doing all the talking. Make reading interactive by letting your little one turn pages (yes, even if they want to go backwards!) and point at the pictures and talk about the binding and maybe even chew on the book a bit (bookworms actually do eat books, after all!)
3.) Play, play, play! Seriously, stop being so serious! Children learn best through play, so grab some sidewalk chalk and head outside to the best classroom ever invented. Make up your own games or check out Pinterest and just have a blast! If your children associate learning to read with mommy playing abc hopscotch with them or daddy hiding abc eggs in the bushes, you’ve turned what could be a battle into a playground!
4.) If a child doesn’t love to read, they’re reading the wrong books! Surround them with books of every kind. Fill your home with paperback thrillers and dime-store novels and comic books (yes, comic books!) and nonfiction books on horses and whales and art and music. Creating an atmosphere ripe with knowledge and adventure at your children’s fingertips will go a long way towards making reading an active part of their lives. (And don’t forget the power of the fort! Creating a cozy nook that invites settling in for a reading adventure is really…well, inviting!)
5.) Oh, the places you’ll go! (A la Dr. Seuss!) Make monthly library ‘dates’ to return books and explore new and exciting genres at no cost to you. While you’re there, check out the library’s calendar of events for author visits and book readings and craft activities and mom’s groups. You’ll be amazed at how much the too often forgotten library system has to offer in most areas!
6.) Indie bookstores are the bomb-diggity, no joke! Most cities have one or more independent bookstores struggling to make it through the downturned economy and the advance of the electronic age. These small stores are little niches of wonder just waiting to be discovered, and by supporting them you will not only help keep a local business afloat, but you will also introduce your children to the warmth and beauty of walls lined with books, shopkeepers who can converse about every title like an old friend, and possibly even some local authors that you never even knew existed!
7.) A lifestyle of reading puts the vast knowledge of the ages into the hands of our children. Exchanging the life-long riches of a love of reading for the temporary value of facts gleaned from required reading lists is a paltry deal, indeed. Encourage reading, yes, but let their hearts, their interests, their imaginations choose their reading material. Whatever momentary facts they need for the next test or quiz can be found just as easily on Google. A passion for reading can only be found in the heart of the child.
8.) Parenting matters! Parenting choices strongly impact a child’s level of trust and security. A love of learning grows when it isn’t stifled by fear or stress. Parents fostering a healthy attachment are also fostering a love of learning in their children which translates directly into a love of reading!
I love that my older children have already met and fallen in love with my old friends such as Sense & Sensibility, The Great Gatsby, Moby Dick, Of Mice and Men, The Red Badge of Courage, War and Peace, The Hound of the Baskervilles, and so many, many more. And I love that my younger children still have new friends waiting to be discovered between the covers of wonderful, beautiful, ageless books. Happy reading!
There is such a rush these days to get children sleeping through the night, weaned off the breast, eating solid foods, potty trained, reading independently, and on and on, that we seem to have lost the ability to simply enjoy life as it happens and let our children do the same. A Return to Childhood
Successful reading means far more than possessing the ability to read. Engaging the hearts of students moves reading success beyond a life skill and turns it into a life style. And graphic novels are too powerful of a tool in our arsenal to be disregarded because of pride or prejudice. Raising Super Readers~The MARVELous Power of Comic Books!
In the world of a child wonders are as simple as sticks and sheets, leaves and books, boxes and giggles, and the promise in a rainy day. The Seven Wonders of the World of Childhood
Think homeschooled children are unsocialized, over-controlled, locked-away-from-the-world misfits? Think again! My Renaissance Girl
Parenting choices strongly impact the level and type of attachment a child develops and, by extension, the development of a love of learning. A love of learning grows when it isn’t stifled by fear or stress or regimented by over-structuring or a focus on achievement or competition. Parents fostering a healthy attachment are thus also fostering a life-long love of learning in their children. Love, Play, Learn!
On a Winnie the Pooh style ‘long explore’ my little Pooh Bear discovered the world in The Many Adventures of My Little Pooh Bear
If you give a toddler a book
He’ll climb into your lap
While he’s in your lap
He might lay his head on your chest
When he lays his head on your chest
He’ll hear your heartbeat
When he hears your heartbeat
He’ll probably ask if you can hear… If You Give A Toddler A Book…
My SPD/SLD/ADD (Sensory Processing Disorder, Specific Learning Disability-Dyslexia, Visual and Auditory Processing Disorders, Attention Deficit Disorder, etc) sweetie, aka Renaissance Girl, has raised the bar on my homeschooling skills more times than I can count. Her beautiful mind sees the world through a unique lens similar to those of historical icons such as Thomas Edison, Leonardo Da Vinci, Benjamin Franklin, and Albert Einstein…Beautiful Minds
You’re sitting in a restaurant waiting the prerequisite 10-15 minutes for your food to be served, chatting quietly with your spouse and two-year-old, when it happens…the dreaded moment suddenly hits, and life as you and every patron, staff member, and passerby know it is turned inside out and upside down. That moment that every parent fears, the sudden switch from table companion to terror, aka ‘Toddler Time’, is, in fact, toddler time. The insignificant 10-15 minute waiting period for food to arrive is actually eons in toddler time, eons of hunger, eons of boredom, eons of stillness, eons of being expected to act like the adult that they are years and years (eons!) away from becoming. But you really don’t want to be housebound for all of those eons, right? And yet more and more public places are becoming child un-friendly with snarky signs saying they’ll give your child an espresso and a pony if you don’t control him or charge you extra if you dare to enter their establishment and support their business with your hard-earned money or even flat out ban you altogether if you bring ‘the beast’ out in public with you!
And what about those hazy, lazy summer days at the park with the laughter of children floating in the air, mommies packing babies in their carriers while they chat and keep eagle eyes on their precious little monkies dangling from brightly colored jungle-gyms, when it happens…the dreaded moment suddenly hits, and all goes quiet as every eye turns toward the poor soul who called out those awful, awful words, “It’s time to go!” The words echo against the lowering sky, which has conveniently decided to threaten rain just to add to the sheer madness of the moment, and then the shrieking begins. In toddler time, an hour at the park is gone in the blink of an eye, and fun things like being strapped into carseats and baths and naps awaiting at home are just adding insult to injury.
So what is a parent to do?
Here are a few preemptive tools for your parenting toolbox:
1.) Gather a few special ‘quiet’ toys and keep them in a Quiet Bag in the car. Only get them out when you go into a store or restaurant and let your little one play with one toy at a time until it’s time to go, saving one last special toy for the car ride home. Some ideas for stocking your Quiet Bag:
Here is our Dr Seuss Quiet Bag we put together for Dr. Seuss’ Birthday…
I found some excellent Cat in the Hat crafts on clearance at Michael’s. We have a felt board with felt Seuss characters and lots of colorful felt letters and numbers and symbols. And we’re making a felt board with a piece of metal, too, so we can use magnets on it. The foam Seuss stickers I found on clearance and the foam pieces to the Cat in the Hat mosaic will go on a magnet sheet and be cut out with an Exact-o-knife. All of the items went into labeled Ziploc bags for easy storage, and then were packed away into the Dr Seuss backpack I found at a thrift store. My little ones love it!
This is our new Scooby Doo Quiet Bag. With all of the back-to-school sales firing up, this is a great time to stock up on Quiet Bag supplies, and since we found this super-cool Scooby Doo lunch bag on sale we decided to just make a whole new one so we could alternate them out. Toys-R-Us had a little party favor area with mini boxes of clay and mini water paints and stress balls and fun little smiley-face bendable figures for $0.50-$1.00, so we stocked this bag with those along with some Scooby action figures, zombies, and mini markers. Then I just printed out some coloring sheets to fit the theme, and our Scooby Doo Quiet Bag was done, no crafting necessary!
2.) We made Calm-Me-Jars with these round, plastic bottles for our Quiet Bag. So far, we’ve made Starry, Starry Night, Goodnight Moon, Nemo Under the Sea, And Hello Kitty Princess Ballerina. Can you tell which ones my little ones named, lol? (click here for detailed instructions on how to make them and ideas for how to use them to help cope with or even prevent tantrums!)
3.) Consistently keeping your little one in a highchair (or carrier/cart in stores) will help with any running around, disturbing people, and getting into things issues.
4.) Your best offense is a good defense, so keeping your little person occupied is always a good place to start, but if yelling/screaming become an issue, try responding with a whispered question or two. It’s pretty much irresistible for little ones to quiet down to hear what you’re saying, and even better if what you’re saying is super silly…”I think my nose went outside for a walk.” (conspiratorial ‘shared secret’ look) ”Could you check for me to see if it’s back yet?” (crossing your eyes to see for yourself)
5.) With the dreaded leaving-the-park issue, try bringing snacks your small one loves, and instead of saying “Time to go” try saying “Snack time!” and describe the yumminess waiting for her, all the while gently shepherding her to the car.
6.) Don’t forget to pack your ‘funnybone’ for a back-up plan! Humor is a powerful parenting tool, and carseats presented as rocketships to the moon, shared naptimes (parents can always use the extra sleep!) on marshmallow planets, highchair-bound movie directors with mommy and daddy as the actors, and shopping carts cars that continually stall and need to be fixed by their little riders are all inventive ways of keeping little people too busy and happy to meltdown. (Not to mention that these are great ways for parents to reconnect with their little ones and remember just how adorable they really are!)
7.) Actively work at avoiding confrontations and meltdowns by giving choices, staying engaged (i.e. listening to your child), and paying attention to triggers such as hunger, tiredness, sickness, etc. When our parenting goals shift from meeting needs and guiding actions to controlling our children, they invariably rebel and the battle is on, not a happy circumstance at any time, but especially difficult to handle in public! (And, in the long run, that makes for an ‘us against them’ relationship that sets the stage for an unhappy home, particularly when the teen years arrive.)
This is for all you mamas who see the creative projects and crafts and cute baking on Pinterest and wish you were the kind of ’crafty mama’ who could whip together such adorableness for your little ones. I, too, wish I was a crafty mama and have pinned so many great ideas and tried a few with…let’s just say less-than-stellar results, lol. But my children have loved every flub, giggled at every failure, and laughed their way through every project regardless of the results. There’s joy in the journey, mamas, so take heart and grab some of these ideas and flub and fail your way to a happy, craft-astic holiday!
Here’s a project that didn’t turn out as intended. (From the creative genius Play at Home Mom, who made a beautifully flat and festively decorated ice rink which mine doesn’t remotely resemble, haha. Head over to her site for some really great ideas!)
But, even though my ice rink somehow ended up with a mysterious growth, my little people loved it just the same. In fact, they really enjoyed the ice mountain (aka ‘growth’) and used it for some Florida sledding!
And here are some other ideas I’m planning to
ruin, er…try out for some Christmas fun!
This site has some really cute Advent ideas for using picture books!
~And these cute ideas are from Pinterest!~
My most recent craft-aster: setting Christmas gifts on fire last night! So, fyi, coffee beans are flammable (who knew?). The candle needs to be in a glass votive and high enough out of the coffee so the beans won’t fall in and catch fire. Mine didn’t even vaguely resemble the adorable ones pictured below (pre or post fire, lol), so click on the picture to get instructions if you want to make them!