Saturday, April 30, 2011

I LOVE YOU rituals

Eye contact
These are key elements in the I LOVE YOU rituals of Conscious Discipline.

These I LOVE YOU rituals are quite different than what most people associate with discipline. Most of us associate discipline with punishment, time-outs, and scoldings. These kinds of attempts at discipline are usually counter-productive and ineffectual. Neither the parent nor the child ends up feeling good about themselves.

Parents and teachers feel better when they are able to empathize with the child and move toward problem solving.

Children usually misbehave in order to get attention. Children will seek out negative attention if they are not receiving adequate positive attention. The I LOVE YOU rituals are designed to provide a child with unconditional positive attention that is vital for them to thrive and feel secure.

Becky Bailey explains the connection between I LOVE YOU rituals and discipline on pg. 34 of I Love You Rituals.

“Most of the misbehavior children exhibit is children just being children. Children must test the limits. It is their job description. Through this testing, they discover the boundaries of life...In addition, children misbehave when they have an unmet emotional need. This is true of all people; adults do the same thing. If we believe our spouse is being inattentive, we may do some really silly maneuvers to obtain attention....When children feel slighted emotionally, they become demanding, seeking attention in any form they can. When they become demanding, we then seek to make them behave. In doing so, we create more distance in our relationship as children become defensive and resistant to our controlling tactics. I LOVE YOU rituals can break the cycle of emotional disconnection that results in misbehavior.”

Pardon the overused pun about your “presence” being the “present,” but there is much truth to this. The first chapter in Conscious Discipline is about Composure and SELF-discipline. In the case of I LOVE YOU rituals, it may require discipline to really shut out the world around you for a moment. Rituals can be any time of day, but may be particularly effective when part of a predictable schedule.

There are many opportunities for I LOVE YOU rituals throughout the day: Hello/Good-Bye rituals can become a part of school pick-up or drop off, or leaving for work and coming home. Bedtime is a perfect time to include I LOVE YOU rituals.
When your child is experiencing change or stress you will want to include more I LOVE YOU rituals. When YOU are experiencing stress, it will help both you and your child to take time for these important rituals.

You could have an I LOVE YOU ritual each morning at school. Blow kisses to one another, catch them and put them in your pocket - or better yet, your heart.

Or make up your own version of a nursery rhyme a la Becky Bailey, such as:

This little piggy went to The Little School
This little piggy stayed home*
This little piggy had Chef Nate's fresh bread
This little piggy had a scone
And this little piggy cried wee wee wee (and yee-haw) all the way to the Magic Tree.

*but only because he was a part-timer

Ms. Lulu’s, Ms. Leigh’s and Ms. Nicole’s class use ILY rituals throughout the day. Their classroom has created their own language surrounding these rituals. It all began when Ms. Leigh talked about “having a moment” with a child, explaining to other children that they needed some quiet, one-on-one time. This has evolved into a ritual in and of itself: Children know that they can ask to have a moment with a teacher and vice-versa. As full and busy as our days at school are, what a great way to empower the children with the words, “I need a moment.” So not just teachers are helping children, they are helping themselves.

There is an obvious connection between these rituals and our Safe Places that are in each classroom. Our Safe Places are a great location for I LOVE YOU rituals. But these rituals do not require a designated place, or a designated rhyme. An impromptu game of peek-a-boo, hide and seek, “losing” body parts (“I’ve got your nose”) are great for connecting.

Nonetheless, “carving out a sacred space” as Becky Bailey calls it, such as at a specific time like waking up, can be especially precious and reassuring.

As we introduced Conscious Discipline into our classrooms, we also adapted our OOPS reports to become an Opportunity to Problem Solve. Conscious Discipline does not run away from conflict, but rather embraces it. When we encounter misbehavior, it is an opportunity to help children understand positive behavioral options.

Instead of simply signing a form that describes misbehavior and leaves the perpetrator, the victim, and all of the parents feeling powerless, the OOPS report provides an opportunity for positive support.

We aim to take the vantage point of positive intent. This does not mean to overlook the behavior, especially when it comes to safety. Biting and hitting are never okay (said firmly!), but instead of going on about what NOT to do, maybe talk about ways to be kind, helpful, and safe. Rather than being anxious alongside the child who was bitten or hit, try to think of ways to teach empathy and assertiveness.

These types of oops reports are just as much par for the course as the scrapes and bruises; what is important is how we address them. The portion of the OOPS report stating ways you can support your child at home can include a number of problem-solving approaches, or it can simply be the introduction of an I LOVE YOU ritual. Think of it as setting the stage to become re-connected and intrinsically motivated.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Conscious Discipline: Safe Places

In the last blog we tied yoga, composure, and the *Safe Place* together. As promised, this is a follow-up to elaborate on Composure and our Safe Places at TLS.Conscious Discipline empowers adults with the Seven Powers for Self Control. These powers allow adults to draw from within themselves to become proactive instead of reactive in moments of conflict. From the Seven Powers of Self Control emerge the Seven Basic Skills of Discipline, the first of which is composure.

Composure = being the person you want others to become. When we allow our feathers to be ruffled we are role modeling ruffled feather behavior to our children. When we remain calm we are also teaching by example. It is only when we are calm that we can solve problems together and empower our children to do the same.

Safe Place = A place where children can remove themselves from the group in order to become calm, regain composure and maintain control when upset, angry or frustrated. Current neurological research indicates that our brains functions optimally when we feel safe and secure.

As Early Childhood teachers, we strive to make every place in our school physically and emotionally safe for children. Naming a Safe Place is a way of offering a designated place for children to gain composure and manage their feelings. We teach and help children to use the Safe Place as a resource to help them change their internal state from upset to calm or as a way to stay above the fray.

After all, the most productive time-out is the one we give to ourselves. Using a Safe Place is a positive way of helping our children better understand and manage their emotions.

Children come to the Safe Place in order to be helpful and not hurtful to themselves or others. The choice to be helpful instead of hurtful can only be made when a child is calm.

Sometimes adults may need to direct a child to the Safe Place when it is clear that the child needs a break. As children use the Safe place they learn that they are able to calm themselves and self regulate.

Once in the Safe Place, children can practice the calming techniques mentioned in the last blog. These are some of the foundations of Conscious Discipline. Each Safe Place has the following icons:

Be a S.T.A.R.- Stop or Smile, Take deep breath, And Relax

Ballooning- Place hands over your head and inhale as if blowing up a balloon and at the same time raising the hands. Then slowly exhale and bring arms down (and make deflating sound if so inclined)

Draining - Extend both arms in front of your body parallel to the floor. Clench fists tightly and continue to tighten shoulder and body muscles. Then open the drain (make shhhhh sound) and relax body as if releasing water out of a faucet.

Pretzel - Stand with feet crossed, extend arms out in front and cross the left wrist over the right wrist. Interlace the fingers and bring hands up toward the chest. Close eyes and press the tongue to the roof of the mouth. Hold this position for a few seconds and slowly release.

Teachers need a Safe Place, too! Ms. Wendy and Ms. Jennifer created our staff room, which is a place of retreat, community, and ahhh, coffee aroma.

You could establish a Safe Place at home. Call it safe space, safe spot, safe corner, or whatever you want to call it -- make it yours and add the features that are calming and soothing for your child. Teach children to regain control themselves.

Conscious Discipline suggests bean bags that are soft and hug the child, but lawn chairs, carpet squares, big pillows, etc. can also be used. Add scarves, stuffed animals, or a superhero cape.

Conscious Discipline also suggests providing sensory items, such as: Scratch and sniff stickers, aromatherapy scents, scented lotions (labeled “cranky cream,” “boo boo cream,” and “concentration cream”). Include a tornado tube or aquarium (real or fake), a kaleidoscope or head phones with nature sounds.

Or you can create various sensory bottles:
-Wave Bottle: fill 3/4 of the way with water, then add 2 tablespoons of cooking oil and a few drops of food coloring.
-Bubble Bottle: fill 3/4 of the way with water, then add 2 tablespoons of dish soap and food coloring
-Slow Motion Bottle: fill with a clear thick liquid, such as light corn syrup, shampoo or hair gel. Then add small items of your choice, like fun beads, small metal scrapbook eyelets, paperclips, safety pins, glitter, etc. Seal lids with glue inside or duct tape outside the lid.

Enhance mental alertness with peppermint, basil, lemon, cinnamon, rosemary. Calm nerves and relax with lavender, chamomile, rose. Little boxes with potpourri perhaps?

Ms. Arryan on the use of their Safe Place:
In our room, the safe place contains a cozy chair with pillows that offers space for one individual. Throughout the day, teachers encourage the use of the safe place to gain composure when emotions have run high, gain calm or decompress from daily stress. The use of the active calming techniques used in Conscious Discipline is suggested with the encouragement of the safe place. The children are beginning to understand that the safe place is a place to regain a sense of calm and composure. They are also using the safe place throughout the day without prompting. A child said, “I am in the space place. I need to calm down.”

Some key features of Safe Places at TLS:
Family pictures/albums, being able to go alone however long one needs to, learning about feelings and identifying them, and learning safe ways to express those feelings, and of of course learning to use the calming techniques.

The Safe Place presents opportunities to play “I Love You Rituals”, which you may read about in the next blog...

...meanwhile, you can read more if you'd like at