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One of the definitions on the Merriam-Webster dictionary for scaffold is a supporting framework.

Wikipedia defines scaffolding as  a temporary structure used to support people and material in the construction or repair of buildings and other large structures.

Based on these definitions, the training wheels on a bicycle, is an example of scaffolding. They are adjustable and temporary and provide the child with the support they need while learning to ride a bike with 2 wheels. Having the training wheels make the complex task of pedaling, balancing and steer (all at the same time), much easier until the child can do it on its own.

Scaffolding can also mean that a large task can be broken down into smaller tasks (to make it easier to accomplish).

In education, scaffolding is an instructional technique where the teacher models the desired learning strategy/task, and then gradually shifts responsibility to the students, whether is by giving more support at the beginning and gradually taking it away (training wheels) or by learning something in smaller steps.

Scaffolding can also be used to help your children develop certain physical, cognitive or linguistic skills.  Imagine your child is playing with a musical toy for the first time. Parents usually show the baby where the buttons are so it can turn on the music. Then, you expect the child to ‘learn’ how to do it on their own. If they can’t do it, you might point to the button, and hopefully the child now learns it. This might have to happen a few times before the child knows what to do. That’s exactly what scaffolding is. The parent gave more ‘help’ at the beginning and gradually moved the responsibility to the child.

Scaffolding gives the child a context, motivation, or foundation to understand the new information. Having success from the beginning makes the child have some interest or curiosity in the task presented. Also, breaking a complex task into easier, more “doable” steps facilitates success.

So next time you see your child attempting to learn something, how are you going to use scaffolding techniques to help them?


Play stages: Parallel Play (2-3 years)

Last week we started talking about play stages. This week we’ll talk about a very important stage: Parallel Play.

Many caregivers try to make children play with each other, thinking that when children are together they have to interact with each other. But, not interacting is what parallel play is all about; that’s how they are supposed to play.

Parallel play involves two or more children in the same room. They are interested in the same toys and both see the toy as belonging to them, but they do not play together. They are playing and observing other children playing around each other simply because they are in the same area.

Other important things that happen during this stage is that they begin to use symbols in their play such as a stick becoming a sword. They also start to show some reasoning skills, may still learn by trial and error. They copy adults and other children. Parallel play serves as a bridge to more complex cooperative activities, which we’ll talk about in the next few weeks.

Who does your child enjoy parallel playing with?

Are you a controlling or a passive parent?

I am very sure you already have heard of the “Tiger Mom” Amy Chua and her book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, where she talks about the difference between how Western cultures raise their children and how she raised her daughter “the Chinese way”. If you have no idea what I’m talking about check this link, and maybe this video. Go ahead, I’ll wait…

Ok, so now you have some idea of what I’m talking about. I haven’t read the book yet (but I will!), but I have read many articles about this and I think this is a great topic for debate.

This is what “Tiger Mom” Amy Chua says about parenting the “Chinese way”. She did not accept any grade  less than an “A” from her two daughters, and did not allow T.V., video games, playdates or sleep–overs. Chua believes typical Western style parenting is too relax and focuses on self–esteem over performance. She told Meredith Vieira on the Today show: “To be perfectly honest, I know that a lot of Asian parents are secretly shocked and horrified by many aspects of Western parenting, including how much time Westerners allow their kids to waste — hours on Facebook and computer games — and in some ways, how poorly they prepare them for the future. “It’s a tough world out there.”  

Chua says that Western parents try to respect their children’s individuality, encouraging them to pursue their true passions, supporting their choices, and providing positive reinforcement and a nurturing environment. By contrast, the Chinese believe that the best way to protect their children is by preparing them for the future, letting them see what they’re capable of, and arming them with skills, work habits and inner confidence that no one can ever take away.

So, I ask you, parents out there: Which one is your parenting style? a tough, strong, parent, kind of like my way or the highway, because I said so, or more lenient, soft, relaxed with less boundaries and rules? I really can’t answer the question because I’m not a mother yet. But as a daughter I can say that, well, there HAS to be a balance!

Any thoughts?

4 ways to handle a tantrum

Last week, we talked about why kids have tantrums. This week we’ll talk about 4 ways to handle them. So, here are some ideas to help children learn self-control:

1.       Set rules and enforce them. Many parents are concerned with how other people might look at them, so they’ll let their kids get away with things.  But you can’t let a child get what he or she wants just because you are embarrased. Forget about what people might say, you have to decide where your real priority is,  and that is to teach your child.
2.      Make sure your rules are age-appropriate. A 5-year-old may have a hard time keeping quiet in church, so expecting her to do so may be unreasonable. But that same child should be able to keep her food in her mouth when you go out to eat.
3.      Make sure you only discipline kids for breaking rules that they know about. Gently remind them by asking whether they remember what they’re supposed to do. If then, they look at you in a confused manner, you remind them of the rule. But you can’t punish them for something they didn’t know they were supposed to do.
4.      It’s OK to ignore some types of behavior. (e.g. asking for a toy at the department store). Any response you give to whining or crying, even punishment, shows that a child is in control. If you give in, you’re going to have lots of temper tantrums before they realize it doesn’t work.
5.      If they are very young (around 2 years), distract them. If not, then a brief time-out will help them understand how ineffective the tantrum is.
6.      Do not yell! Be firm but stay calm.

Bottom line is, do not give in! You are in control! They need to know that the tantrum is ineffective and inappropriate.

Have you tried any of these? Did it help? Do you have any more suggestions?

photo: iStock

Why tantrums?

Ahhhh The Holidays are here! I get excited to just walk around the mall and see all the stores decorated so pretty! Of course the mall is full of people doing their (sometimes last minute) Holiday shopping. And once in a while (sometimes a lot more!) you’ll see a poor mother or father dealing with a tantrum! Kids get cranky and when they get cranky, they have tantrums. You see tears, kicking, screaming and sometimes even holding their breath!. I feel terrible for the parents. I am sure they are feeling embarrassed and like they are not doing a good job as a parent. But I also feel bad for the child. I see them frustrated, tired and desperately seeking attention from their parents and it makes you wonder, why do they feel a tantrum is the only way?

Well, a tantrum is basically an accumulation of disappointment, sadness, frustration or anger. It is also a child’s effective, although inappropriate, way to change a “no” to a “yes”. In this case, tantrums are a means of getting a desired result (object or action). Or they might be seeking attention.

Sometimes kids are frustrated because they feel hungry or tired and then the tantrum occurs. Other times they want to have more control over their choices (they want to play with that toy, RIGHT NOW!). Tantrums are more common between the ages of 1-3. This is a time when children are exploring and testing the world. If something doesn’t go their way… well, you guessed… tantrum!

But how is the best way to handle those tantrums? I guess you’ll have to wait for next week’s post to find out 😉

Are there any other reasons you think kids have tantrums? Please share it with us!

photo: iStock

Where is it?

If you have young children, they might start playing peek-a-boo soon (or maybe they already love to play it!). But before they enjoy playing this game, they probably cried if you hid a favorite toy (or your lovely face!). Soon after, they will start looking for the desired object. And all this is possible thanks to object permanence.

Object permanence is the understanding that objects continue to exist even when they cannot be seen, heard, or touched. It is acquired by infants between 8 and 12 month of age.

What happens is that a baby goes through some steps in order to aquire object permanence. First, they look at a toy and if it goes away, they don’t care (out sight, out of mind). Then, they look for a toy when it’s partially hidden. They begin to understand that the object still exists, even if they can’t see it completely. Finally, they look for the toy after it’s been hidden, because they know it exists, it’s just hidden or out of sight! So, if you try to play hide-and-seek and your baby starts crying, then he/she definitely has not acquired object permanence!

 The term, object permanence, was given by child development expert and psychologist Jean Piaget. Piaget believed most children reached the object permanence stage when they were about eight or nine months old.

But, why is it important? Imagine you never remember where things were before… you would be forever looking for everything because you’d never remember what you had and where you put it! (hmm so why we still can’t find the keys?).

Here are two videos to show object permanence. The first one shows the out of sight out of mind stage and the second one, shows a baby who has already aquired object permanence.

So, next time your child cries because you left them at daycare or just left the room, be happy, your child has just reached a very important milestone!

What stage is your baby? Out of sight, out of mind? partially hidden, or having fun with hide and seek?

How do I raise a bilingual child?

I know many parents, who are bilingual, that are asking themselves that very same question. Some parents speak a different language than their partner and there are some people who are not bilingual but would like their children to be bilingual. The same question, however, the way each family addresses the bilingual education is very different. So, how do we raise bilingual children? Let’s review a few approaches. 

  • One parent-one language approach. Here each parent speak their native language to the child. That way the child has daily influence of both languages. This really help the child acquire both sets of words at the same time.
  • Time-based approach. Here, both parents have to be bilingual (if possible), and as a family choose when to speak each language. It could be by month (one month one language, then the second language and keep switching), or weekly or even daily (e.g. Spanish in the morning, English at night). This approach reinforces learning both languages with both parents.
  • Home language-community language approach. Here parents speak a different language than the dominant language in the community. For example, Spanish-speaking parents living in the United States. With this approach (very common in the United States, by the way), the child hears the first language (or Native Language) at home and will usually start learning the second language (community language) when he/she goes to school. In this situation the child might have a strong language background to support the second language learning.
  • Mixed language approach. Here both (or one at least) parents are bilingual and the child is exposed to both languages all or most of the time. This approach is slightly different from the one parent-one language approach because the child learns to speak both languages with both parents and does not have to choose a language for a specific parent. 

Things to consider when choosing your approach: When choosing a style of bilingual acquisition, take into consideration that growing up, the child will use more the language that is NEEDED the most. If the home-language is different from the community-language, as they grow, they won’t use the home-language as much, because they realize that they NEED the community-language to “survive”. However, if the home-language is reinforced by all (or most) members of the family as much as they can, the home-language will become “important” as well to “survive” (at least at home!)

Also, consider exposing the child as soon as possible (in the womb, remember?). Early exposure of both languages, will help the child acquire language similar to monolingual children.

I think I will choose the first and second approach for my kids. What do you do? Any other suggestions?

photo: iStock