Parent Guilt

Parent guilt is real. Making decisions about how to raise your child is difficult because it seems like every little thing has a tremendous impact on them. It starts at birth. Do you breastfeed or use formula? Should you use cloth diapers or disposable? Will they attend a traditional or Montessori preschool? Should they go to public school or an independent school? How much screen time should they have? How will you discipline? There are so many choices and decisions to make as a parent, and a lot of the time it can feel like you are making the wrong choice or if something does not go as planned you immediately blame yourself. It is sort of like you are damned if you do. You’re damned if you don’t.  

The guilt becomes more prevalent as children get older and have more activities, projects, and extra curricular. We try our best to do everything, be there for every event, help with every project, or go on every field trip, but the truth is you cannot do it all. The guilt that comes with the feeling of inability to be there for all these events is hard. And it doesn’t help to see the “perfect parents” on social media. 

Just know that every parent struggles, despite what it looks like from a few instagram posts. Parent guilt is real, but the truth is we need to stop blaming ourselves when we hit a bump in the road, when life throws a curveball at us, or when we cannot do it all. It is NOT your fault! You are trying your very best, and that is all that matters. How you handle the situation, your flexibility, and openness to change is important and more helpful than feeling guilty. 

As teachers, we have witnessed many parents cry when we have parent teacher conferences because they feel guilty that a struggle that their child might be going through is their fault. It is not your fault and teachers are not judging you for it. We bring up challenges or struggles that your child may be having to help you help them. All children need support for different reasons and it’s part of growing up.

Instead of feeling guilty for everything you think you are doing wrong, we challenge all parents to make more time for themselves. Create more downtime for the family. The best thing you can do for your child is to have a healthy mental state. Creating balance in your life will help your child develop into a more balanced person too. Give yourself permission to say no sometimes. You don’t have to attend every birthday party or every playdate. You don’t have to be there for every class party or volunteer at every luncheon. 

Parenting is hard and it has shifted in extreme ways over the last few decades. Over the years children have become the central focus of the family. Whereas before, children were members of the family, but life did not revolve around them. We feel a healthy family dynamic is one with balance where the children are cared for and the parents are also cared for. You’re going to make some mistakes and you won’t always know the answer. But keep in mind that your child will remember the memories that you make with them over a lifetime. Not that in kindergarten you forgot spirit day. Or that in third grade you could not make the movie night.

Teacher Guilt

Teacher guilt is real. It is something that we and many of our colleagues have felt at one point or another in our careers. Many teachers find it challenging to balance a personal life and still be able to fulfill all the tasks required for teaching. In many cases it is the mental well being of our teachers that ends up suffering. Which isn’t healthy for the teachers or the students. 

People who become educators are always seen and praised for their selflessness. It is as if teachers have to give up so much to be a teacher, and society praises them for it. Perhaps it is because historically, the majority of teachers have been women, and in western society women and mothers often have to sacrifice for their families, that teachers now have this stigma of sacrifice. 

How many times have teachers had to take a day because we were sick, or had a family obligation, or something came up but they felt bad for leaving the students? We can tell you that it happens often. Many teachers feel guilty for taking care of themselves, taking a break during the work day, taking a day, or even switching schools or careers. This teacher guilt is real, and we want to shift this mindset. We want to help change the narrative around teaching. 

The fact is that education is a profession. We go to school for many years to be teachers, and we should not be sacrificed for the sake of the children. It starts with teachers setting boundaries and saying they will not sacrifice themselves for their job. Teachers should be compensated fairly, given the resources they need for their classrooms, and given time during the day to complete the tasks required. If teachers continue to put in extra hours for free, spend their own money on their classrooms, and forego their personal lives, society will continue to control the narrative. It’s time we make a major change.

To our fellow teachers, just know that the children will be ok if you take a day or a few days off to take care of yourself. Your students benefit from your well being. And if you are unable to balance your life in your job, your school will be ok if you decide to leave the school or the profession. Like architects, engineers, and doctors, they will find someone to replace you. If your school isn’t able to give you what you need to be successful, it’s time to look for something that will benefit you and the life you want. Teachers are not volunteers. Teachers should not be putting their health and well-being at risk for the sake of a job.

Teachers need to stop feeling guilty. And society needs to stop praising teachers for their sacrifice, and instead praise them for their excellence in professionalism, and compensate them fairly.

Early Intervention

When you become a parent your heart is all of a sudden living outside of your body. In your eyes and soul your child is absolutely perfect. That is why it can be a scary feeling to notice that your child might have a difference or a delay of some kind. It may feel easier in the moment to brush it off as no big deal. And maybe in the end, it really is no big deal. However, it’s better to be cautious when your child is young, rather than wait until something becomes a real challenge for them later on. It is better for you, and more importantly for your child to figure out if there is a difference and get them the help and support that they might need. 

We understand that sometimes parents feel shame around their child being different, and they feel like it might be their fault somehow. Please know that it is not your fault. We want to help shift the culture in a way that parents don’t have to feel this way. We want to help every parent understand that children need different things to help them grow and learn, and by giving them what they need, you are equipping them with the tools they will use for the rest of their life. You are setting them up for success because they are not going to stay young and little forever. They will grow up into adults, and they need the tools to be able to live happy healthy lives. 

We are big advocates for early intervention for children who need it. Certain differences can be noticed within the first years of life. Examples could be an infant that doesn’t make eye contact, low muscle tone, or a baby that isn’t meeting specific milestones. If you notice something is off, ask your pediatrician. If something is going on, there are many services and resources available to help support healthy development through programs. For example, in California the Department of Developmental Services works with many regional centers throughout the state. These regional centers offer testing and early intervention for children up to age 5 at no cost to the parents. If you are in another state, ask your pediatrician for help, they can help guide you in the process of finding early intervention resources for your child.

In the later years, when your child enters preschool, and later kindergarten and beyond, it is important to communicate with your child’s teachers anything that will help your child succeed in school. On the other hand, it is also important to listen to educators when they notice something about your child. Teachers spend years learning about development and what is and isn’t age appropriate. When they bring something to a family’s attention, it is not to shame or blame. It is so they can give the child the tools they need to succeed. A teacher wouldn’t be doing their job if they didn’t do what was best for the child.

There is a saying that we often hear in our field: “They will grow out of it,” and sometimes that is very true. There are many age appropriate things that kids grow out of like eating their boogers, chewing on their hair, or fighting with their siblings. However, there are many things that children will not grow out of on their own, and the support of professionals might be needed. An administrator once told a parent this analogy, and it has truly stuck with us: “Wouldn’t you want to know if your child has asthma? And if they did, wouldn’t you want to make sure they had an inhaler to help them breath?”  Early intervention is the inhaler for children with differences. 

As teachers we have seen many children in our classes who have had tremendous success because they had services and early intervention when they were young. We also have personal experience with family, and we will forever be grateful to the regional centers and teachers who helped our loved ones learn and grow. We want to send the message that early intervention makes a huge difference in a child’s life, and you are not to blame for things that come up, but as their parent, it is your responsibility to help give them the tools they need to succeed. 

How to Help your Child with Multiplication

Students usually begin learning the concept of multiplication at the tail end of second grade. They begin looking at multiplication strategies with equal groups, arrays, repeated addition and on number lines. These concepts are reviewed again in third, fourth, and fifth grade, when students continue working with multiplication. The concept of multiplication plays a big part of the other math units of division, long division, and fractions.

Because in upper elementary math concepts rely heavily on multiplication, being fluent in multiplication is very important and helpful for students. If they do not have to figure out what 56 divided by eight is or 9 x 6 is, then they can focus their energy on completing the more difficult algorithms that they encounter. That is why teachers, including Jen, often recommend memorizing multiplication facts in 3rd grade.

The question that many parents ask us is how to help their child learn their multiplication facts. There are many ways to become fluent in multiplication tables. Below are some of our recommendations.

1) Flash Cards: You can make these at home or pick some up from the store. These are great because students can work independently with them or with someone quizing them. There are also some online like Fact Monster, where children can practice their multiplication facts.

2) Math Games: There are a lot a multiplication games online that are fun and help students learn their facts. Some of our favorites are iXL, Multiplication Games, and Splash Math

3) Worksheets: These are not the funnest way to practice, but if you print out worksheets from Math Drills, and practice taking a fact quiz with your child at home a couple of times a week, you can see what multiplication facts they need to work on.

4) Apps: There are a lot of apps available for tablets where students can practice their multiplication facts. Some of our favorites are Ardy’s Multiplication Fun, Factor Samurai, Math vs. Zombies, and Times Table Multiplication. However, there are many more apps that are available to help your child practice multiplication tables. 

5) Songs: Some kids are more musical, and learn better through songs. One of Jen’s favorite things to do is play School House Rock Multiplication Rock for her students. They sing the songs in the morning and at pack up to help them learn their multiplication.

At the end of the day, it is good to remember that memorizing multiplication facts, while helpful, is not the end all in math. Students can use all the strategies that they have learned to help them while they become more fluent in their facts. This time is a great time to spend with your children. Talk about how you use multiplication in your life and when you use it, talk it out with them. Tell them the strategies you use, and quiz them on facts as you shop in stores. By showing children how multiplication is all around them, it makes it real for them, and you will see them flourish. Practicing multiplication facts with your child is another way to spend quality time with them while helping them master a skill.

Technology Mindfulness

Technology plays a crucial role in our society and in child development. It has become a tool to monitor child health problems, can help connect children to their families, and can be a great learning tool when used purposefully. On the other hand, when used irresponsibly technology has the ability to disrupt sleep, create unsafe distractions, create a space for cyber bullying, and it can interrupt adult-child interactions. 

According to the NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children) and the Fred Rogers Center, when technology is used wisely it has the ability to support both learning and relationships. Digital devices have rapidly become the culture in all avenues of life, at home, in school, at work, and in all different types of communities. While we do see this as a positive, we also need to be mindful about technology use. Research on this topic is relatively new to the last two decades. Much more research is needed to fully understand the short and long-term effects of technology use and how it is shaping child development, which is why it is so important to be mindful of how children use it.

Here are some things to consider around technology use for CHILDREN and ADULTS:

How frequently it is being used

How often do you reach for your device for no reason? Consider how you are using technology in the presence of children. Consider how often your child is reaching for a device. Is it out of habit, necessity, or pure boredom? 

What is being consumed

Always consider what is being consumed on technology. When technology is interactive it can promote creativity and exploration. When used in passive ways, technology can become unhealthy.

How it affects real life relationships

We often write about teaching children how to build relationships, we fully believe it is one of the most important skills for child development. Consider if the technology being used is hindering or helping to build relationships. 

We understand that at times, giving a child technology is an easy way to entertain and appease them. We also understand that it really can be a wonderful tool when used in developmentally appropriate ways. However, if a child becomes reliant on watching videos while shopping with you at the store, is always playing with an app at a restaurant, or constantly on the tablet while in the car, they are losing valuable learning and bonding time. They are missing out on learning social cues, how to talk to each other, how to make eye contact, how to sit and wait, how to be bored and how to entertain themselves. Now think of those repercussions in the classroom, at a sports game, religious event, or performances. 

The honest truth is that teachers, coaches, tutors, and even parents cannot compete with the technology in children’s hands. Technology has been designed by engineers to keep its users engaged and coming back. Which is why we need to be mindful about how and when children use technology. 

The theme that we often write about is balance, and it is especially important to practice balance when using technology. Personally, we are avid users of technology and are definitely not perfect, we are always trying to find ways to balance our use of devices, social interactions, and productivity. As adults, we need to be doing what we can to model mindfulness when using technology in our own lives. Mindfulness doesn’t mean you will be perfect all the time, it just means you will be more thoughtful around how often and for what purpose you use technology around children. It is through this modeling of mindfulness that children will be able to learn and develop healthy habits of their own.

Let Kids Be Bored

Today’s parents often feel the need to plan out, have activities, and make sure that their children are entertained all the time. This puts a lot of pressure on the parents to make sure that kids are never bored. Boredom has become synonymous with bad parenting, but in reality, children need the time and space to be bored. And you are not a bad parent if sometimes your child is bored.

A recent study found that boredom can spark individual productivity and creativity. When a person is bored, they allow their minds to wander and daydream. This enhances creative thinking and problem solving. 

Boredom also allows children to be self reliant. When left up to their own devices they have to decide what they want to do. According to Lyn Fry, a child psychologist told  Quartz, “Your role as a parent is to prepare children to take their place in society. Being an adult means occupying yourself and filling up your leisure time in a way that will make you happy. If parents spend all their time filling up their child’s spare time, then the child’s never going to learn to do this for themselves.”

Having to discover what you like to do when you are bored will also allow children to find what they’re really interested in. These interests could lead to passions or hobbies in their lives. However, if they are constantly going from one activity to another, they will never have the down time to figure out where their interests lie. Finding out what makes you happy is important for everyone, especially as children grow up. 

Let your child be bored and they might gruffle and groan for a bit. Stay the course, and  eventually they figure out how to entertain themselves. Whether it is playing with toys they forgot about, building forts out of pillows, writing stories, designing a board game, coloring and painting, or playing imaginative games, children will find ways to entertain themselves. Disconnect your child from all forms of technology, leave them alone, and you would be surprised at the creativity they can unleash.

We often model for children the need to multitask. We overschedule ourselves and our children. We constantly check our phones, email, social media, watching TV and are constantly staying connected. Start by modeling for your children an afternoon of zero technology and just sitting, reading a book, having a conversation with a partner,  or coloring. Show them that it is ok to not do anything sometimes. 

Do not feel bad for having a weekend where nothing is planned. Sometimes social media makes parents feel bad when they are not out at an immersive educational adventurous location. That is not real life, and no one will judge you if every once in a while you and your child do nothing. 

Boredom is good for a child’s development and for parents too. We all need down time. Finding the balance between our go-go-go lives and just being is absolutely necessary for all of us. 

We are here to say, “Let kids be bored!”

Make Time for Play

In today’s fast paced life, it seems that more and more children are being rushed through their childhood. Before they start school they are practicing flashcards, math facts, or sight words. Once they are in school they have homework, projects, and extracurricular activities. With so much on their plate, children have less and less time to play.

Fred Rogers, famously said, “Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children, play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.”

Play is the business of children! It is what they should be doing more of. In children play is interconnected with creativity, problem solving, and social emotional learning. Essentially it is how they learn to be people. From infant through childhood, play plays a pivotal role in a child’s development.  

Play is often the heart of high quality early learning programs and can help prepare children for elementary school. There are different types of play that promote growth and development. When educators use the term play, people often think of free play, which is child initiated and child directed. Free play is a great way for children to practice social and self-regulatory skills and develop creativity. There is definitely a place for free play but it shouldn’t end there.

Research shows that guided play, which is adult initiated and child directed, is a powerful tool to incorporate play into curricula. One that does not compromise learning goals. Guided play gives kids autonomy, but also gives teachers some control over what they want the child to achieve. It makes learning engaging. 

While many forms of play are often used in early learning programs, which have been proven to be effective, these types of initiatives seem to be missing from the early years of elementary school. In many schools around the nation, kids enter kindergarten and are expected to complete worksheets, sit for long periods of time, and even take tests. They have less time for play, less time for art, and less time for music. There has been a drastic shift from the 1990s and Kindergarten now looks like what first grade was a few decades ago. According to NPR expectations are getting higher for school age children.

Jean Piaget wrote, “Play is the work of childhood.” Therefore we as their parents and teachers need to make sure they get to do more of what is most important for their development.

In the classroom play can take different forms throughout the different grades. In the younger grades, teachers can set up play learning bins for students to explore, have areas where students can pretend play, have puppets for students, and build in time for play. As students get older, play and learning takes a different form. Teachers can take students outside and play games to practice concepts, have lego stations, and use manipulatives.

Schools often take recess times away from students the older they get, but if you can take your students outside for extra play time, just for the fun of it. No matter what their age, children need playtime, and the curriculum will not be affected if you take a 15 minute break to play with your students, it will actually enhance learning.

Parents can do similar things at home. You do not have to have a fancy space in the home, all you need to do is give your child time to play. Give them a box, some markers, and tape, and they will design and create something. Give them space in the backyard, and watch them come up with a game. Invite a friend for a technology free playdate and watch them pretend play. Give children time and space to play, and we promise they will use it well.