A blog about parenting in the flow of rivers & the slopes of snow
by Elisha McArthur
The Problem with Problems
by Claudia Mann
It’s a common request for anyone working with children: “How do I talk to my child about this problem?” Problems run the gamut: fighting with siblings; not being timely, whether it’s for school or for bed; being sneaky or telling lies; completing their chores or their homework. For any of us who have dedicated our lives to helping children grow and learn, teacher or parent, discovering “how to talk so kids will listen” is a common theme. So common, in fact, that those words are half the title of a well-known book on the subject: How to Talk so Kids Will Listen, and Listen so Kids Will Talk.” 1 It’s the second half of the title that seems to hold the key.
Learning how to listen is huge work. At school this week, I posed this question to our older students: “Of all the people in your life, who listens the most closely to what you are really saying? How do you feel about this person?” Happily, most kids identified one of their parents. The biggest reason? The parent taking time to sit down and listen.
Of course, in busy lives with too much to do, just taking time can be a real challenge. Unfortunately, that’s the problem with problems: they take time. It takes time to tease out the root causes, time to listen to all sides, time to find solutions and time to make agreements. Once all this is done, there is the time it takes to put the agreements into action and then to deal with whatever happens when the agreements don’t work. Finally, it takes time for children to have enough practice, mistakes, and successes until the new behavior become habit.
But we adults often just want to “fix” the problem. I know that when I see a problem in the classroom or on the playground, I am tempted to just give directions. “Do this” or “Do that” I want to say, just to make the problem go away quickly. After all, we have so much to do.
But that’s another problem with problems: unless they’re given the time and attention needed to truly work themselves through to resolution, they’ll just come back again and again, each time with a little more force, a little more frustration, a little more intensity. If we “problem-fixers,” often the exact thing we adults practice in our busy daily lives, stopped to take the time to really get at the root of the problem, most of the time, the children would find the solution themselves and, rarely, if next-to-never, need our help on that particular problem again.
So, for this teacher, I think I’ll listen to those wise words of my students and make sure I take the time to deal with their problems. Maybe in the process, I’ll find a good way to deal with my problems, too.
Claudia Mann is Head of the Chaffee County Montessori School. For information about our this book or the school, please call 539-4887
1Highly Recommended: How to Talk so Kids Will Listen, and Listen so Kids Will Talk. Faber and Maxlish. 1995. Fireside Books. NY, NY
On Becoming a Good Parent
by Claudia Mann
In all my years of teaching and parenting, it has never ceased to amaze me the number of folks who would pass judgment on a person’s parenting skills with a simple “good” or “bad.”
On any given day, most of us parents probably float through a range of behaviors that could be judged as acceptable/good to unacceptable/bad depending upon the perspective of our judges or on our personal state of mind in the moment.
An article came across my desk recently that listed “10 Skills of a Competent Parent” jolting me into an awareness of a new pressure that modern parents face: achievement and competency.
The article was based on “decades” of study that came to the conclusion that love and affection topped the list. No surprise there. But the most recent study came up with a couple of new thoughts that seem worth looking into.
A close second to love and affection is the parents’ ability to manage their own stress, followed by the quality of the relationship between parents, before other skills that focus on how parents treat their child.
Finally, the study showed that all different parent types – outgoing, permissive, reserved, demonstrative – are equally able to have a positive influence through their parenting, especially if they are willing to learn ways to be a more effective parent.
This last finding was the inspiration for this month’s musing because resources available to parents here in Chaffee County are so widespread and available.
The Family and Youth Initiatives offers the Nurturing Parenting classes for parents of young children and preadolescents. For information about those programs, call 539-9193.
Heart of the Rockies Regional Medical Center offers classes for prenatal care, post delivery support and includes a wide variety of resources for the new parent.
The Chaffee County Early Childhood Council has a website, ccecc.org, that not only lists resources, but also shares parenting tips and suggestions for parents of children from birth through older ages.
Many of the early childhood programs offer support to their families in the form of regular newsletters and classes. Even if your child doesn’t attend a particular program, you are often invited to join the information sessions.
At Chaffee County Montessori School, parenting classes with Sonnie McFarland, parent, educator and parenting coach, are open to all. A new round of sessions begins in April.
Learning to be an effective parent with your children in your home is a personal journey.
No two individuals will see eye to eye on every issue, but those who focus on mindful decision making may find that the stress and drama of day-to-day may diminish as a result of finding support and others who are in the same boat.
Fortunately for Chaffee County parents, there are a lot of helping hands available.
Claudia Mann is head of school at Chaffee County Montessori School.
by René Otto
I’m a sucker for all holidays and basically for any good reason (real or imagined) to celebrate life. I had just gotten back from the store, doing a little last minute shopping for my son’s kindergarten Valentine’s day party today. As I was checking out, I started chatting with the cashier, a lovely lady about twenty years older than I.
I asked, “So, do you think my kids will be happier with the bathtub crayons or these three roses for Valentine’s Day?”
“The crayons, I’m sure,” she replied.
“I bet you’re right, but with the roses, *I* get the benefit of them too!” I answered.
To be clear, my husband, love him as I do nonetheless, does not often give me roses on Valentine’s day. He claims it’s a holiday fabricated by Hallmark simply to get people to buy cards to drive up their profits. I know that this is more likely the case with Sweetest day, Secretary’s day, and Grandparents’ day, but I let him believe what he wants. We all chose our battles.
As I was signing for my goods, the lady locked eyes with me and said very earnestly,
“I told my husband years ago to stop buying me things like that.”
“I understand.” I replied. “Flowers just die.”
“And cards are just five dollars gone right up into the fireplace” she echoed.
As I looked down on my gift of bath tub crayons for my kids and roses that would be dead within days, I felt a tinge of consumer-gone-excessive anguish as her words resonated in my mind. With that, I looked up at her and enthusiastically offered, “Well, I hope your husband gives you *nothing* today, since that is what makes you happy!” We both laughed as I said it, and she then shyly spoke, “It is nice when they do it though.”
What I took away from this moment was that beauty, joy, and love are all what we create them to be. For some, the joy is in the restraint of making smart economical choices and saving one’s resources for rainy days, college education funds, and home improvements. For others, its relishing the temporary, like roses, candy, a smile, childhood, and life. Whatever it is you choose to do today, just remember the sacredness of each moment of our lives. Like the roses, in the end, we all just die anyway.
How to have a picture perfect "family ski day"
at Monarch Mountain with kids 6 and under
by Daniel Evans
- Chose a day when the high temperature is at least 25 degrees, preferably blue bird skies with no wind.
- Pack all your gear and food the night before to lessen early morning stress.
- Pack lunch, drinks and snacks consisting of healthy, energy-sustaining food, like turkey sandwiches, carrot sticks, fruit juice and milk. Include a few pieces of candy in your pocket for mood-altering bribery as needed. This will save you from having to pay $45 for a family of four to eat hot dogs, French fries, and soda in the lodge.
- Fit all your gear and food into a single bag that one person can carry if possible. This keeps everything contained and allows ease of transport to and from the car.
- Pack little ski boots in plastic bags to keep snow and mud contained within the large bag after skiing.
- Triple check that you have everything you need before you leave your house. Nothing is worse than getting all the way up to the mountain and realizing that you’ve forgotten someone’s mittens, helmet, ski boots, etc.
- Be prepared for the cold. You know what they say, “If you don’t like the weather in Colorado, wait five minutes.” That said, a warm day could turn frigid quickly, so you want to be sure you’ve stashed a gaiter and an extra layer of fleece if needed.
- Take frequent breaks. Even seasoned little rippers get tired legs. If they’re whining, stop for a snack after a few runs or even mid-run (on the side) if needed.
- Meet up with friends. Skiing/riding can be more fun with friends, preferably of the same ability. This also allows Mom and Dad to trade off child-management with friends and get a few turns in by themselves.
- Take photos/videos. Not a lot of kids younger than 6 ski/ride, so you should be proud and bring the tools to document the experience. Besides, if they face plant on snowflake you can show it on a big screen at their wedding reception in twenty years.
- Make it fun! This is the MOST important point. If your kids are two or under, much of the joy for them might be the hot chocolate and playing in the snow rather than skiing. That’s fine. If they love being up on the mountain, the love of snow sliding will follow shortly thereafter.