Should You Put Your Kid on a Diet?

Are you starting to think you should put your child on a good old-fashioned diet? Stop. We’ve got a much better idea for changing the whole family’s diet.

What would you do if the doctor said your child was obese? When Dara-Lynn Weiss heard that clinically weighty word, she put her 7-year-old on a yearlong, calorie-restrictive diet, then recounted the struggles—both her daughter’s and her own—in the pages ofVogue. And she caught hell for it. Some considered her methods drastic. According to her own account, she ignored her daughter’s hunger and pleas to be like any other kid at a pizza party. Backlash was venomous, with most critics dismissing the mother as a selfish socialite who projected her own warped body image onto her daughter. But the article also sparked a storm of controversy around a real concern you yourself may have: Should my child be on a diet? With the childhood-obesity rate a bona fide epidemic, it’s a question many of us are asking. Twenty-seven percent of America’s 2- to 5-year-olds are overweight (a body mass index, or BMI, in the 85th to 94th percentile on the growth chart) or obese (95th percentile or higher); for 6- to 11-year-olds, it’s 33 percent. Even 10 percent of our infants are too heavy for their length. But research shows that putting a child on a diet can cause physical and emotional problems that last into adulthood. The less obvious answer is more effective and simple—but, in a way, harder.

The Anti-Diet

When Kerri Day of Deerfield, IL, learned that her 5-year-old’s BMI was in the 94th percentile, she and her husband were shocked. “We thought we ate healthy, but obviously we weren’t doing enough,” she says. “It’s tough having a girl in our thin-is-best culture. Talking to Emma about diets didn’t feel right.”

Read more on Meliora School

Source for Science

Calling all teachers……are you looking for resources to enrich your classroom explorations in Science, Engineering, Mathematics and Technology?  Here are a few recommended selections…ass to this list by responding to this post.

Click to access STEMGuide.pdf

Click to access preschool%20math%20in%20tcm.pdf

Dear Parent: About THAT Kid

Dear Parent: About THAT Kid

Posted: 11/17/2014 10:00 am EST Updated: 11/17/2014 10:59 am EST via Huffington Post  / Amy Murray

Dear Parent:

I know. You’re worried. Every day, your child comes home with a story about THAT kid. The one who is always hitting/shoving/pinching/scratching/maybe even biting other children. The one who always has to hold my hand in the hallway. The one who has a special spot at the carpet, and sometimes sits on a chair rather than the floor. The one who had to leave the block center because blocks are not for throwing. The one who climbed over the playground fence right exactly as I was telling her to stop. The one who poured his neighbor’s milk onto the floor in a fit of anger. On purpose. While I was watching. And then, when I asked him to clean it up, emptied the ENTIRE paper towel dispenser. On purpose. While I was watching. The one who dropped the REAL ACTUAL F-word in gym class.

You’re worried that THAT child is detracting from your child’s learning experience. You’re worried that he takes up too much of my time and energy, and that your child won’t get his fair share. You’re worried that she is really going to hurt someone someday. You’re worried that “someone” might be your child. You’re worried that your child is going to start using aggression to get what she wants. You’re worried your child is going to fall behind academically because I might not notice that he is struggling to hold a pencil. I know.

Your child, this year, in this classroom, at this age, is not THAT child. Your child is not perfect, but she generally follows rules. He is able to share toys peaceably. She does not throw furniture. He raises his hand to speak. She works when it is time to work, and plays when it is time to play. He can be trusted to go straight to the bathroom and straight back again with no shenanigans. She thinks that the S-word is “stupid” and the C-word is “crap.” I know.

I know, and I am worried, too.

You see, I worry all the time. About ALL of them. I worry about your child’s pencil grip, and another child’s letter sounds, and that little tiny one’s shyness, and that other one’s chronically empty lunch box. I worry that Gavin’s coat is not warm enough, and that Talitha’s dad yells at her for printing the letter “B” backwards. Most of my car rides and showers are consumed with the worrying.


But I know, you want to talk about THAT child. Because Talitha’s backward “B”s are not going to give your child a black eye.

I want to talk about THAT child, too, but there are so many things I can’t tell you.

I can’t tell you that she was adopted from an orphanage at 18 months.

I can’t tell you that he is on an elimination diet for possible food allergies, and that he is therefore hungry ALL. THE. TIME.

I can’t tell you that her parents are in the middle of a horrendous divorce, and she has been staying with her grandma.

I can’t tell you that I’m starting to worry that grandma drinks…

I can’t tell you that his asthma medication makes him agitated.

I can’t tell you that her mom is a single parent, and so she (the child) is at school from the moment before-care opens, until the moment after-care closes, and then the drive between home and school takes 40 minutes, and so she (the child) is getting less sleep than most adults.

I can’t tell you that he has been a witness to domestic violence.

That’s OK, you say. You understand I can’t share personal or family information. You just want to know what I am DOING about That Child’s behavior.

I would love to tell you. But I can’t.

I can’t tell you that she receives speech-language services, that an assessment showed a severe language delay, and that the therapist feels the aggression is linked to frustration about being unable to communicate.

I can’t tell you that I meet with his parents EVERY week, and that both of them usually cry at those meetings.

I can’t tell you that the child and I have a secret hand signal to tell me when she needs to sit by herself for a while.

I can’t tell you that he spends rest time curled in my lap because “it makes me feel better to hear your heart, Teacher.”

I can’t tell you that I have been meticulously tracking her aggressive incidents for three months, and that she has dropped from five incidents a day, to five incidents a week.

I can’t tell you that the school secretary has agreed that I can send him to the office to “help” when I can tell he needs a change of scenery.

I can’t tell you that I have stood up in a staff meeting and, with tears in my eyes, BEGGED my colleagues to keep an extra close eye on her, to be kind to her even when they are frustrated that she just punched someone AGAIN, and this time, RIGHT IN FRONT OF A TEACHER.

The thing is, there are SO MANY THINGS I can’t tell you about That Child. I can’t even tell you the good stuff.

I can’t tell you that his classroom job is to water the plants, and that he cried with heartbreak when one of the plants died over winter break.

I can’t tell you that she kisses her baby sister goodbye every morning, and whispers “You are my sunshine” before mom pushes the stroller away.

I can’t tell you that he knows more about thunderstorms than most meteorologists.

I can’t tell you that she often asks to help sharpen the pencils during playtime.

I can’t tell you that she strokes her best friend’s hair at rest time.

I can’t tell you that when a classmate is crying, he rushes over with his favorite stuffy from the story corner.

The thing is, dear parent, that I can only talk to you about YOUR child. So, what I can tell you is this:

If ever, at any point, YOUR child, or any of your children, becomes THAT child…

I will not share your personal family business with other parents in the classroom.

I will communicate with you frequently, clearly, and kindly.

I will make sure there are tissues nearby at all our meetings, and if you let me, I will hold your hand when you cry.

I will advocate for your child and family to receive the highest quality of specialist services, and I will cooperate with those professionals to the fullest possible extent.

I will make sure your child gets extra love and affection when she needs it most.

I will be a voice for your child in our school community.

I will, no matter what happens, continue to look for, and to find, the good, amazing, special, and wonderful things about your child.

I will remind him and YOU of those good, amazing, special, wonderful things, over and over again.

And when another parent comes to me, with concerns about YOUR child…

I will tell them all of this, all over again.

With so much love,

This post was originally featured on Miss Night’s Marbles.

The BIG Deal About Small Talk by Judy Endow

“Reprinted from Aspects of Autism Translated

Teachers – Think about your kids and their task of learning social interactions.  These ideas and strategies are good for autistic individuals as well as our preschoolers as they experiment and discover social roles and functioning. – Kristi Lachlan


As an adult with autism small talk is the most difficult of all communication and yet it is likely the most important communication skill when it comes to developing real relationships with other human beings.

I think of small talk as all the word fluff that people “lacking” autism (love to say it that way!) seem to require. I was reminded again last night when a dear friend popped out to chat online with me. Here is how our conversation started:

Susie: hey

Judy: what

Susie: “what?”  geez, was just saying hi


Judy: hi back

Judy: PS Forgot the fluff. Guess I skipped too much blah blah blah. Forgive me?

Susie: LOL no worries

Because Susie is a good friend the conversation moved on. But, consider this – Susie has known me for years. She understands I am not wired to automatically engage in small talk just like I understand Susie is wired to expect small talk to occur. Since there are more Susies than Judys in the world the onus is on me. If I want real friendships I need to engage with other people in a way that shows them I value their friendship. This makes small talk a BIG deal!

People expect small talk. It is part of that ever illusive hidden curriculum – all information neuro majority people are wired to naturally pick up so never need to be taught. Autistic people, on the other hand, have a neurology that does not permit them to automatically pick up all the hidden curriculum that everyone else knows, but nobody has ever taught – such as small talk (Endow, 2012). And because small talk is expected it is a BIG deal in the social arena when you don’t deliver it!

Small talk is also a BIG deal in when it comes to business relationships.  It is difficult for me to understand why, when a boss says, “Time is money” meaning that workers should not waste time he would then EXPECT all workers to engage in a certain amount of small talk with every business transaction (Myles, Endow & Mayfield, 2013). This just goes to show that small talk is a very BIG deal!

Small talk is such a BIG deal that we are even expected to carry on with perfect strangers using small talk!  This is particularly befuddling to me, but it is true that the expected polite thing to do is use the fluff words of small talk everywhere you go. Yesterday I did errands and watched for the small talk. It fell out of the mouths of the grocery checker, the postal worker and the bank teller (even it was the drive through!).

Because small talk is such a BIG deal I have made it my business to learn about it and become proficient enough to use it so as to fit more comfortably into the world around me, having more positive encounters with strangers and business people along with better relationships with close friends. Here are some things that have helped me:

black circle  Watch for small talk:  For many weeks I intentionally watched for small talk when going on errands, working and spending time with friends. Once I started watching for it I was able to identify it. This helped me to understand what sorts of things were considered small talk.

black circle  Find appealing aspects of small talk:  For example, even though I find small talk difficult I do very much enjoy the predictable repeating pattern – basically, you can count on small talk to be part of most conversations so the pattern repeats with each conversation regardless of the conversation partner.

black circle  Identify the small talk topics:  The topics I have identified include the weather, the weekend and compliments.  It has been helpful to me to know these topics that usually come at the beginning and sometimes at the end of a conversation are small talk in that I don’t need to pay close attention or remember all the details. This allows me to focus the more important words that usually follow the small talk in business transactions (Myles, Endow & Mayfield, 2013)

black circle  Writing Scripts Ahead of Time (Endow, 2006, pg. 52): My brain cannot retrieve something it hasn’t stored. Writing scripts ahead of time allows my brain to store the generic small talk fluff words so that I can pull them up and use them without needing to waste the energy it takes to create my portion of each small talk transaction that my brain otherwise reads as novel. I have scripts for the weather with a multiple-choice feature to accommodate current weather events.  Here is one small talk weather script I use: “How are you liking this (heat, cold, wind, rain, sunshine)?

black circle  Play acting scripts: It will not work to simply repeat rote small talk scripts.  You will come off looking very odd. I have found it helpful to think in terms of play-acting (Endow, 2012). This allows me to match the information of the script to the real life setting.  For example, to a friend I might ask, “So, what’s the scoop on your weekend?”  With a business acquaintance I might ask, “Did you have a nice weekend?”

black circle  Build word sandwiches:  Whenever I have something important to say I pop up a picture of a sandwich. This shows me that my important words are the filling, but I need to build the sandwich, with the bread being the small talk words. The sandwich pop up reminds me to start and end my important words with small talk. It is amazing how much better people like my ideas when I sandwich the idea in small talk!

In conclusion, remember: if you teach communication or social skills to folks on the autism spectrum please embed the art of small talk along the way. As autistics, our learned communication strategies fall flat with out small talk. Many of our learned social skills put us in a position next to other human beings because we have learned their ways and are able to look like them. But if we have not learned the art of small talk we appear awkward, are easily dismissed and sometimes teased. Once we have learned the art of small talk we have a choice of when and where we wish to exert the often enormous amount of energy it takes to use it. It has been a huge positive in my life to have this choice. Therefore, I encourage you to please teach us the art of small talk because it is a BIG deal.


Endow, J. (2012). Learning the Hidden Curriculum: The Odyssey of One Autistic Adult. Shawnee Mission, KS: AAPC Publishing.

Endow, J. (2006). Making Lemonade: Hints for Autism’s Helpers.  Cambridge, WI: CBR Press.

Myles, B. S., Endow, J. & Mayfield, M. (2013). The Hidden Curriculum of Getting and Keeping a Job: Navigating the Social Landscape of Employment.  Shawnee Mission, KS: AAPC Publishing.

Originally written for and published by Ollibean on September 22, 2014


ECE Social Studies: Definition and Applied Activities

by Kristi R. Lachlan

What is Social Studies?

            If you did a random survey on the street asking people to define Social Studies, the responses would most likely indicate the study of some historical period, maps, or of a particular country or region.  The question triggers memories of high school and college lectures in stuffy classrooms for many.  In actuality, Social Studies begins much farther back in the personal timeline than middle or high school.  Humans actually begin social studies at birth through the many ways that children explore and experiment with social interaction (Mindes, 2006).  Humans are social animals.  As far back in history that we look in our evolution, relating and interacting with each other, or socialization, has been a key factor that sets humans apart from other species (Berns, 2013).

Social Studies emerged as a field “at the beginning of the twentieth century as a holistic approach to citizenship education …to help immigrant children understand the history and social mores of their new country” (Mindes, 2006, p. 4).  As an elementary school subject, social studies combined history, geography, and civics designed to support growth and understanding of “American heritage and…the skills and sensitivities [necessary for] participation in our nation’s democratic society” (Mindes, 2006, p.5).  The field has evolved over time to incorporate many more facets of social life and is not exclusively held as instruction for school-age students any longer, but extends into the preschool years focusing on self, family and community (Mindes, 2006).  Overall, there are many themes of study within Social Studies, such as  “culture; time, continuity and change; people, places and environments; individual development and identity; individuals, groups and institutions; power, authority and governance; production, distribution and consumption; science, technology and society; global connections; and, civic ideals and practices” (Mindes, 2006, p.6).

Applied Activities

The chart below organizes and provides examples of student activities in social studies appropriate for the 4-5 year old preschool classroom.  Each activity is aligned with a concept (or concepts) of study that are applicable in the areas of family, time, change, people, places, space, social growth, identity, culture, government, production/ trade, money, civic ideals, and politics.

Concept Alignment.

HISTORY 1 2 3 4
GEOGRAPHY 5 12 8 10
CIVICS 9 16 6 11
ECONOMICS 15 14 7 13



1 Timeline of Life:  collect from parents one photograph from each year of the child’s life and help them to assemble a photo timeline of themselves as they have grown up from year to year since birth.


History/Self, identity, time, change
2 Family Tree:  Using either photos from home, photos from a magazine, or drawings made by the children, assist them with building a family tree of their family structure.  It should be a simple version going back to grandparents unless they choose to extend it farther, in which case the teacher should support the extension.  There are books on all types of family that can be shared during circle and story time during this lesson.


History/Family, identity, change, people
3 Our School Year Scrapbook/Time Capsule:  This is a year-long project that should be added to each week of the year.  The students should select something to add to the capsule (a Rubbermaid bin they have decorated) for each week.  The capsule can be pulled out monthly to review the contents and remember the year and all of the good times that have been had and the fun learning that has happened.  The same can be applied to having the children take photos and build a scrapbook or yearbook if the technology support is present.


History/School & Community, identity, change, people, places, time
4 Thanksgiving Unit:  A basic introduction to the story and history of the first Thanksgiving using books, videos, and role plays.  You could even help the children prepare a simple play for presentation to parents on Thanksgiving lunch day.


History/Country & World, time, people, places, culture, social growth, trade, civic ideals
5 Map of My Room:  There are many ways to do this activity.  You can use pieces on a felt board for the children to organize depicting where things are in their room.  You can also use paper and magazines to make a my room collage asking the children to glue the photos of the furniture in the place things are in their room.


Geography/Self, space, identity
6 Classroom Rules:  Class rules should be developed together, with teacher guidance so that regular rules regarding respect and behavior are present.  These should be simple and be kept to about 3-4 rules to be created and displayed in the classroom and talked about often.  Peaceful conflict resolution should be encouraged to settle disputes.  Civics/School & Community, civic ideals, politics
7 Fundraisers:  Classroom based fundraisers are great because the students can help the teacher set a goal for what they want to raise money for and then talk about what they want to do.  An example is a fish fry run in one of my schools.  The students make the hush puppies to take to the kitchen for cooking and help cut the potatoes for the fries too (with child safe utensils).  They help the teachers to bag up the orders and get them ready for pick up.  They collect the money with adult assistance and then help/observe counting their proceeds and ordering what they wanted to get if they have earned enough for it.


Economics/School & Community, production/trade, money
8 Navigating the School:  Children should be taken on a tour of their school to learn the location of the office, playground, cafeteria, library, etc. (as applicable) so that they can navigate their space each day.  They will get practice and get to build confidence by being the classroom line leader on a rotating basis.


Geography/School & Community, space, people, places, civic ideals
9 Character Connection:  Selecting a positive character trait to focus on and teach through allegorical stories, dramatic role play, and reinforcing language.  Feature one trait at a time, reviewing them often and using them in daily language.  Not a weekly trait but change when you feel kids are getting it.  You can also tie the trait into support literature during story time.


Civics/Self, social growth, civic ideals, identity
10 Geography of Me:  Help the children learn their address but from a large perspective.  You begin with the Universe and then move down to the Milky Way.  Then you note that we live on the planet Earth, followed by the continent of North America.  You work your way down to living in the United States and in the state of Georgia, city of Atlanta…down to their street and the number of the house they live in.  They can color and build boxes for each stop on the address and will have a tower that ends in “Me” by the end of the activity.  This takes several weeks.


Geography/Country & World, places, people, space, identity
11 Mock Election:  This is a dramatic play activity and should be done during election time in the year.  The teacher will need to develop funny speeches and may need to get a helper to assist with a puppet show.  Three puppets are running for office…they want to be the teacher.  The children should vote for the puppet that they want to be their new teacher.  Students get to understand what a leader is, the positive qualities of leadership, the voting process, and more in a fun way.


Civics/Country & World, people, places, politics, change, culture, government
12 Culture Day:  Everyone’s has roots in some culture, especially in the United States.  As such, and with the rise in multiculturalism, it is important to have an activity day such as this where families can showcase their culture if they wish to participate.  Children can bring artifacts from home, parents can visit and tell stories from their culture, and even a cultural foods banquet can be served for lunch.  Children will place their photo on a map of the world indicating where their family’s culture has its’ roots.


Geography/Family, people, places, culture, family, identity
13 Money Lessons:  It is important to teach the children how to identify the pieces of money that we use in our country.  They should be taught to identify bills (1, 5, 10) as well as quarters, nickels, dimes and pennies.  You can broaden this by showing them examples of money from other parts of the world and how they are different than what we use.  They can then practice with the money in the play store in the dramatic play center. Economics/Country & World, production/trade, money, culture, people, places
14 Career Day:  Invite families to have a parent or other relative be a special guest to the classroom to talk about their jobs. (or) Have a project where the kids learn about their parent’s job and come to school dressed up like the parent for work and do a show and tell about my mom’s or dad’s job.  Allow children to continue to role play these careers in dramatic play.


Economics/Family, identity, people, places, production/trade
15 When I Grow Up… Help the children to create an all about collage or poster that shows when they grow up what they want to be or do.  This can focus on career, family, where they want to live, if they want a car or a truck…it should be completely open ended and they should talk to the group about “My Future”.


Economics/Self, identity, places, family, social growth, production/trade
16 How Do You Feel Survey:  First, conduct a ‘how do you feel’ survey of the classroom where each child gets to choose between a smiley face, a sad face, an angry face, and a sleepy face.  Do this for several days in a row. Then, have students do the survey at home.  Parents will need to be informed by letter ahead of time.  Have students ask 10 family or friends ‘how do you feel’ and then bring the sheet back and make a chart in class.


Civics/Family, social growth, identity, people



Berns, R.M. (2013). Child, family, school, community: Socialization and support.  Belmont, CA: Wadsworth-Cengage Learning.

Mindes, G. (2006). Social studies in today’s early childhood curricula. In Spotlight on young children and social studies (p. 4-9).

Washington, DC:  National Association for the Education of Young Children.

The Power of “I Don’t Know”

Courtesy of Child Care Exchange

“No longer are we carriers of knowledge, giving it to students and assessing whether they can repeat facts successfully.  We are, instead, tasked with teaching students how to find answers themselves.”  This observation was made by Heather Wolpert-Gawron in her Edutopia article, “The Power of ‘I Don’t Know‘”.  She continues…

“At the start of each year, I have to train students that I will not be feeding them answers.  I will not be having them copy notes from the board.  I will not hand out copies of words and definitions for them to study.  I will not hand them fill-in-the-blank paragraphs that we will all fill in together.

“Rather, I will teach them how to develop questions.  And when they ask me for answers, I will happily and without embarrassment, reply with, ‘I don’t know.’ & nbsp;I will also teach them that when I ask them a question it’s OK if they say, ‘I don’t know.’  I won’t make them feel bad for not knowing the answer.  Instead, I will spend vital time teaching them that when ‘I don’t know’ pops into one’s head, it is the trigger to find out.  For me, the guide in the room, that means making sure that my own attitude does not reflect our society’s assumption that ‘I don’t know’ is a weakness.”

Helpful Tips for On-The-Go Parents from The Meliora School…

The Wheels on the Bus …
By Kristi R. Lachlan
Packing up the kids to head out for a day of errands? What about that road trip to Grandma’s house? Taking the kids out and about can be a challenge; but, it does not have to be. When kids get bored, they will look for ways to entertain themselves. Most times, these are not productive or positive choices. Let’s look at some on-the-go engagement ideas for children on-the-move.

  • Keep it Hands-On: There are many activities for small hands that are both engaging and compact. The most important thing to remember is that children are most engaged when an activity incorporates multiple senses. Using the hands not only engages the child, it gives them a chance to work on those little muscles in their fingers to prepare for handwriting. Ideas include: a lap tray with coloring books/crayons, colorful clay, etc.
  • Reduce Technology: Children are getting more an d more screen time each day from exposure to television and DVDs as well as use of a tablet or phone. While these activities entertain children, they are a form of passive engagement versus active engagement. What this means is that there is little to no work on the child’s part to obtain the entertainment. It is important that children learn to use technology, but handing them the smartphone or tablet or turning on the DVD player in the car should only happen occasionally rather that every time they get in the car to go somewhere. Reserve technology for longer road trips.
  • Build Language Skills: Word games and problem solving games are a great way to pass the time on daily errands or a long journey. Teach your children to play games like I SPY or 20 QUESTIONS (without the 20 question limit). Once they reach an age where they are working on letter identification, try to find each letter of the alphabet as you drive in your surroundings…who can find all of the alphabet letters first? There are many children’s books on CD or tape that can be checked out at your local library or purchased through Scholastic. So pop in the CD and share story time with your children while on the go! Or remember, sometimes the best story is a personal anecdote from your past…the story of mom or dad involves people the children know and carries true life lessons.
  • Musical Options: Musical knowledge is tied to mathematical understanding. Turning on the radio or playing a CD can be an excellent form of entertainment for children while driving. It is of course important to keep it interactive. Make listening a sing-a-long activity where the whole family bursts into song or takes turns showcasing their musical talent (regardless of quality). Be sure that you choose child friendly stations or discs to listen to. Another option is to teach the children to find the beat and clap along.

As you can see there are many options for creative and engaging activities to occupy children that will help them learn and grow while on-the-go! Just use your imagination and think outside the box. It is easy to lean on tech for help, but learning and growing together is far more special and interesting for your little traveling buddy. Who knows? Perhaps you will start looking for things to do on the go so that you can share that special one-on-one time with your child as you drive. Enjoy the trip!

10 Habits of Exceptionally Happy People

Courtesy of LinkedIn/

If you get decent value from making to-do lists, you’ll get huge returns — in productivity, in improved relationships, and in your personal well-being — from adding these items to your not to-do list: Every day, make these commitments to yourself. I promise your day – and your life – will go a little better.

“I will not blame other people – for anything.”

Employees make mistakes. Vendors don’t deliver on time. Potential customers never sign. You blame them for your problems.
But you are also to blame. Maybe you didn’t provide enough training, build in enough of a buffer, or asked for too much too soon. Take responsibility when things go wrong instead of blaming others — then you focus on doing things better or smarter next time. And when you get better or smarter, you also get happier.

“I will not check my phone while I’m talking to someone.”

You’ve looked away. You’ve done the, “Wait, let me answer this text…” thing. Maybe you didn’t even say, “Wait.” You just stopped talking, stopped paying attention, and did it. Want to be that person everyone loves because they make you feel, when they’re talking to you, like you’re the most important person in the world? Stop checking your phone. Other people will feel better about you – and you’ll feel better about yourself.

“I will not multitask during a meeting.”

The easiest way to be the smartest person in the room is to be the person who pays the most attention to the room. You’ll be amazed by what you can learn, both about the topic of the meeting and about the people in the meeting if you stop multitasking and start paying close attention. You’ll flush out and understand hidden agendas, you’ll spot opportunities to build bridges, and you’ll find ways to make yourself indispensable to the people who matter.

“I will not interrupt.”

Interrupting isn’t just rude. When you interrupt someone what you’re really saying is, “I’m not listening to you so I can understand what you’re saying; I’m listening to you so I can decide what Iwant to say.” Want people to like you? Listen to what they say. Focus on what they say. Ask questions to make sure you understand what they say. They’ll love you for it — and you’ll love how that makes you feel.

“I will not waste time on people who make no difference in my life.”

Trust me: The inhabitants of planet TMZ are doing fine without you. But your family, your friends, your employees — all the people that really matter to you – are not. Give them your time and attention. They’re the ones who deserve it.

“I will not be distracted by multiple notifications.”

You don’t need to know the instant you get an email or text or tweet or like. If something is important enough for you to do, it’s important enough for you to do without interruptions. Focus totally on what you’re doing. Then, on a schedule you set — instead of a schedule you let everyone else set — play prairie dog and pop your head up to see what’s happening. Focusing on what you are doing is a lot more important than focusing on other people might be doing.

“I will not whine.”

Your words have power, especially over you. Whining about your problems makes you feel worse, not better. If something is wrong, don’t waste time complaining. Put that effort into making the situation better. Unless you want to whine about it forever, eventually you’ll have to do that. So why waste time? Fix it now. Don’t talk about what’s wrong. Talk about how you’ll make things better, even if that conversation is only with yourself.

“I will not let the past control my future.”

Mistakes are valuable. Learn from them. Then let them go. Easier said than done? It all depends on your perspective. When something goes wrong, turn it into an opportunity to learn something you didn’t know — especially about yourself. When something goes wrong for someone else, turn it into an opportunity to be gracious, forgiving, and understanding. The past is just training. The past should definitely inform but in no way define you — unless you let it.

“I will not wait until I’m convinced I will succeed.”

You can never feel sure you will succeed at something new, but you can always feel sure you are committed to giving something your best. And you can always feel sure you will try again if you fail. Stop waiting. You have a lot less to lose than you think, and everything to gain.

“I will not talk behind another person’s back.”

If only because being the focus of gossip sucks. (And so do the people who gossip.) If you’ve talked to more than one person about something Joe is doing, wouldn’t everyone be better off if you stepped up and actually talked to Joe about it? And if it’s “not your place” to talk to Joe, it’s probably not your place to talk about Joe. Spend your time on productive conversations. You’ll get a lot more done–and you’ll gain a lot more respect.

“I will not say yes when I really mean no.”

Refusing a request from colleagues, customers, or even friends is really hard. But rarely does saying no go as badly as you expect. Most people will understand, and if they don’t, should you care too much about what they think? When you say no, at least you’ll only feel bad for a few moments. When you say yes to something you really don’t want to do you might feel bad for a long time — or at least as long as it takes you to do what you didn’t want to do in the first place.

“I will not be afraid.”

We’re all afraid: of what might or might not happen, what we can’t change, what we won’t be able to do, or how other people might perceive us. So it’s easier to hesitate… and think a little longer, do more research, or explore more alternatives. Meanwhile days, weeks, months, and even years pass us by. And so do our dreams.

Whatever you’ve been planning or imagining or dreaming of, get started today. Put your fears aside. Do something. Do anything. Once tomorrow comes, today is lost forever. Today is the most precious asset you own — and is the one thing you should truly fear wasting.

From Borders to Bridges

Courtesy of Child Care Exchange

“For many of us who teach young children, abstract and well-intentioned discussions of ‘parent involvement’ have become commonplace.  Yet many of us hold parents at a safe distance, not truly involving them in the life we share with the children in our programs; not building genuine partnerships with them.  Too often, we construct boundaries around our classrooms — literally and metaphorically — that keep parents out, at least in any meaningful way.”   This caution was raised by Ann Pelo in her article “From Borders to Bridges:  Transforming our relationships with Parents,” from the Exchange Essential article collection,Communicating Effectively with Parents.

In this article, Pelo shares a variety of ways to create bridges, including having families and teachers in a classroom meet “to reflect on the values we hoped to nourish in the children and in ourselves, and on the ways in which we can begin to live those values in our classroom practices.  We created a value statement together:

“We want children to feel rock-solid safe.  We celebrate their uniqueness and want them to be affirmed in their individuality and encouraged to pursue their passions and interests and to cultivate their gifts.  Hand-in-hand with this, we want children to experience community and relationship, to be at ease with a range of people, to embrace difference, and to deepen their compassion for others.  We want there to be room for children’s emotions, for exuberant play, for conflict and collaborative problem solving, and for quiet introspection.  We want the children to learn to act for fairness.  We want children to see their lives reflected and affirmed in many ways, so that they develop a sense of their history as thinkers, players, and friends.  We want children’s family bonds to be nurtured. We value transparency at Hilltop, so that there are many windows into children’s lives here and a sense of seamlessness between home and Hilltop.”

Pelo concluded, her article:  “As we aim to create programs that deeply respect children, we must open ourselves to authentic partnership with their families, moving beyond trivial or superficial ‘parent involvement’ to genuine relationship.  Our efforts to grow these relationships are efforts at bridge-building, so that children encounter many bridges that link home and child care, family life, and the life of our school communities.”

7 Tips for Communicating with Parents

Courtesy of MemberHub

1. Ask for help. It’s easy to assume that parents who want to help out will make themselves known. But that’s simply not the case. Many parents may be waiting for you to make the first move, or figuring that everything is well-covered unless you tell them differently. So don’t be shy about openly encouraging parent involvement at your school, early and often.

2. Tell them, specifically, what you need. Asking for help is a good first step. Being extremely specific about what you need is an even better second step. Parents may assume that help may only be needed during school hours (when they are unavailable due to work), or that the school has plenty of money allocated for XYZ and doesn’t need more (in a word: Ha! But parents don’t think this way). You are probably always thinking about the many ways it would be helpful for parents to be more involved, but they’re not. Make it easy for them.

3. Watch out for demands. There is no quicker way to shut an eager parent down than to take a curt, demanding, or ungrateful tone. Guilt trips don’t work all that well on kids, and grown-ups don’t respond well to them, either. Even if what you’re asking for seems to you to be no-brainer simple and undemanding (which it may well be), or if a parent has dropped the ball in a highly annoying way, always be polite and gracious.

4. Get into a routine. Whether you send out a monthly newsletter or a weekly whiteboard update on MemberHub, getting into a regular schedule conditions parents to getting used to hearing from you. Also, for big events, set up a communications calendar in advance so that parents are well-informed but not pestered – first notice six months out, for example, with monthly notices thereafter until the final month, when a weekly notice is sent.

5. Pick a point person. Parent involvement is smoother and easier when there is one designated point person they can go to with questions and concerns. It’s also much easier for time-pressed, addled parent brains when the only name they need to remember is, say, Julia’s. This doesn’t mean that Julia needs to handle everything parent-related all by herself, but she is officially the main gatekeeper. You can rotate this position annually if you choose. By the way, here is a great post withroom parent resources!

6. Think of fun thank-yous. Whether it’s a “parent volunteer of the month” bulletin board, a handwritten note, or a bottle of good wine, sincere thank-yous go a long way towards encouraging parent involvement at your school.

7. Develop a unique identity. Your school has its own identity, of course, but your parent volunteer organization should, too. Think of a fun name for the group, maybe even with a tagline of some kind. If your school is the Golden Eagles, your parent group could be “the wind beneath their wings” (or something equally fun but less cheesy). You get the idea. The point is that the better identified your volunteer group is, the more readily you’ll attract both interest and willing volunteers.