вторник, 10 июня 2008 г.


Parents have always been responsible for passing on their values--presumably, good ones--to their children. But lately that task seems more challenging than ever. Outside influences--from the Internet to the teacher in the after-school program--abound. Formal religious observance is down; interfaith families that follow no prescribed religion at all are up. So you can be forgiven for any urgent fretting about your child's seemingly innate talent for hitting, grabbing, and lying.

Happily, experts reassure us that, in a child, misbehavior is normal behavior. And best of all, each transgression presents an opportunity for instruction.

"Small children are like pets," says Rabbi Harold Kushner, author of How Good Do We Have to Be? "They aren't capable of being bad, just terribly inconvenient. Their mistakes shouldn't be seen as bad moral choices, but instinctive stumbling. It is up to the adults to teach children to see their actions in a moral way."

Some of those lessons unfold naturally, but others do not. And they are far too important to leave up to chance. So here is some advice on what you can do to help build a strong moral foundation for your child:

1 Recognize that you are your child's so biggest moral influence. It's your job to decide, first, that you want to pass along a strong moral structure, and second, to define what that moral structure will be.

Whether you've chosen to adhere to a set of religious principles or forge a more individual code, both parents should sit down and hammer out a working definition of the morality the family will live by. What are your priorities, honesty, ecology? Identify them, and then figure out how you can work together to pass those virtues along. "I can't tell you how often I've heard from people that they never really learned values at home," says Rabbi Wayne Dosick, author of Golden Rules: The Ten Ethical Values Parents Need to Teach Their Children. "But it is the parents' job to pass along a clear set of morals by which they expect their children to live their lives."

* 2 Be a role model. Train yourself to see your behavior through your child's eyes. A classic example: The mom who admonishes her 6-year-old son not to lie, then tells the conductor that he's only 5 to save money on a train ticket. Little transgressions like that teach children that the lines between right and wrong, honesty and dishonesty, are movable.
* 3 Believe in your child. "My personal belief is that children are more likely to behave well, and improve when they have misbehaved, if you believe in their essential goodness," says Rabbi Kushner. That's not to say you should ignore the fact that Sammy has just pulled the dog's tail, or dismiss as nonsense the teacher's report that Angelica spent the day smart-mouthing her. Deal with misbehavior, but do it with sensitivity. "The way to handle disappointing behavior," advises Kushner, "is to say to your child, `I know you can do better. I don't believe that was the real you.'"
* 4 Encourage and reward empathy. Watch how toddlers respond when one of their friends is in tears, and you'll see that even little children are capable of empathy. "Empathy really is the foundation for all virtues and positive moral behavior," says Barbara Unell of Leawood, Kansas, the mother of twins and author of 20 Teachable Virtues. "When a child responds to another child who is crying, for example, he is beginning to demonstrate caring about other people, and being in touch with what they are feeling. That leads to being helpful and tolerant and kind." So when a 3-year-old worries about why a baby is crying, reinforce it. Say, "It's nice that you care about why the baby is unhappy." Involve your family in community projects. Encourage kids to give to others.
* 5 Set age-appropriate standards. A 7-year-old who smacks his little brother should suffer some reasonable consequence, since he's old enough to know better, but the 2-year-old who lashes out when his big brother frustrates him needs an explanation--and probably a distraction--more than a punishment. Keep your standards, but make sure that they aren't beyond your child's level of understanding. This holds for helping out, too: Mary March of Bedford, New York, encourages her 1 2-year-old son, Eric, to play piano at a nearby nursing home, while 4-year-old Jeffrey puts pennies into a charity jar.
* 6 Use punishment sparingly. According to Rabbi Kushner, the most common mistake parents make is to come down too hard on a child for a fairly innocent infraction. Major punishment for minor misdeeds makes kids feel hopeless; the result is more likely to be a power struggle between parent and child than a lesson in how life should be lived. Discipline is effective when it is closely tied to the misdeed: A child who takes a toy from another should give it back and apologize, for example, rather than lose TV-watching privileges. Notes Rabbi Kushner, "Children learn from consequences that are a logical result of what they've done. Too often, punishment becomes a way of reasserting our authority."
* 7 Be on alert for "teachable moments." If you want to instill a certain value (say, patience), be on the lookout for everyday ways to illustrate your point. "You can't just declare that Thursday night you're going to have patience lessons," says Unell. "But if you find yourself sitting at a traffic light, you can make an offhand comment like, `Gee, I wish I didn't have to sit here and wait, but I might as well make the best of it,' as you turn on the radio," she suggests. Kiki Cook, a Connecticut mother of three, likes to bring her kids' attention to heartwarming stories in the news. "It's opened up some wonderful discussions, and I think it really reinforces important concepts," she says.
* 8 Be a little overprotective. There's simply nothing to be gained by exposing young children to the seamy side of humanity. While it is important to teach them what they need to know to be safe, shelter them as much as possible from the details of crimes and other tragedies that present a dark and distorted view of human nature. "There's no point to having kids watch ethical scandal after ethical scandal, night after night, on the evening news," says Rabbi Dosick. That's especially true for very young children, who cannot hope to make sense of the scary stories they see on TV; as kids enter elementary school, some exposure is unavoidable. Even then, however, parents should try to put news stories in context (explain the factors that make certain areas high-crime, for example, so kids don't feel as though they are constantly and unavoidably at risk) and try to avoid dishing out a nightly dose of discouragement.
* 9 Cultivate your child's spirituality. Whether or not church is part of your weekly schedule, your child needs to develop an appreciation for the spiritual side of life. "Part of what religion does is help us pass values from generation to generation," says Rabbi Dosick. "But even without organized religion, you can instill in a child a sense of awe and gratitude for that which is greater than all of us." One way to do that, he suggests, is to forge a strong connection with the natural world: Take walks at sunset, hike in the woods, visit a farm and see a calf being born, or just plant a seed in a cup on the windowsill and watch it slowly become a flower.
* 10 Accept imperfections--in your child and yourself. All the rules governing good behavior can seem overwhelming to a child, who may not really understand that you don't expect her to be perfect. One way to reassure her that it's okay to make mistakes is to let her see you make them--and accept them with equanimity. Another is to be sure to apologize when you've done something you shouldn't have. To do so is to show your child that it is fine to be human, which is comforting, since that's the best any of us can do.


A number of past studies have found that children reared in daycare are more likely to develop aggressive tendencies than those cared for by their parents. However, a study released in April--the largest ever conducted on child care and development--has found that regardless of whether children are looked after by a daycare employee, a nanny or even a grandmother, aggression, disobedience and defiance increase with the number of hours in non-parental care. Since then, the study's researchers have battled publicly over the data's interpretation. Meanwhile, the question being ignored is: "What is so important about parents?"

"I'm not surprised one bit about the daycare findings," states former kindergarten teacher and mother of two, Phyllis Batchelor of Bragg Creek, Alta., 30 miles southwest of Calgary. "I am surprised about the difference between mothers and grandmothers." Ms. Batchelor speculates that a relative may have concerns about raising the child in a way that differs from the parents' wishes. "It may relate to self-confidence," she suggests. "A woman I know told her mother-in-law the vocabulary she couldn't use with the children. For example, she was not to use the word 'good,' because kids just 'are.'"

Ms. Batchelor also speculates that a grandmother's fear of becoming estranged from her grandchildren may lead her to be more tentative, "whereas a mother isn't tentative at all. She just marches right in and disciplines the children." What the study possibly indicates, she suggests, is that children can sense when the caregiver is tentative. "No matter how we parent, kids know we mean well because we're bonded in a way others rarely are."

"Kids aren't stupid; they know who their primary caregiver is," agrees the founder of the National Foundation for Family Research and Education, Mark Genuis. "Aunts or grandparents are not in the same authoritative position. Some take that role, but the parent doesn't have the right to expect it of them." The crucial element which the parental bond, whether biological or adoptive, gives a child, Mr. Genuis says, is the sense of being safe and secure. "They are less clingy and more independent. When I step on solid ground, I'm more ready to take the next step as opposed to when I'm walking in six feet of snow." When an infant or young child is separated from his parents for a certain time on a regular basis, that "secure base" is threatened. "There is an increased risk of a variety of maladaptive behaviour without the security of that emotional bond."

As for the researchers' infighting, conservative Dr. Jay Belsky of Birkbeck College in London, England, has been accused of overemphasizing the negative findings regarding daycare. He has been quoted as replying that 70% of the other 27 researchers have the reverse bias. "It's almost like there's no scientific conscience...Everyone's worried about making working mothers feel guilty. What about two years ago, when we made stay-at-home mothers feel bad?"

The government-sponsored research conducted by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development in Bethesda, Maryland, has tracked 1,300 children since 1991. It found that by the time they reached kindergarten, 17% of those who spent 30 or more hours in child care scored at the upper levels, but still within the normal range, for aggression ("gets in lots of fights";"demands must be met immediately"), as compared to 5% of those who spent 10 hours or less. The study also found that good child care, including better quality daycare--"a rich verbal environment" rather than more hours watching television--is associated with higher math scores, larger vocabularies and increased memory skills.

Comforting Your Child

Leaving your baby or toddler at a new program can be very trying — for you and for your child. You want her to be comfortable and happy, but sometimes infants and toddlers have a difficult time adjusting to folks who aren't their parents. Babies tend to cry and fuss when Mom and Dad aren't around, and many toddlers wilt with worry when their parents leave them in the care of others.

Here are some tips to help your little one make the transition and feel more comfortable in group care:

Make drop-off and pick-up time leisurely. Calm, reassuring good-byes in the morning and a warm hug and kiss in the afternoon can be a great comfort. Try not to hurry through drop-off or pick-up time — toddlers don t like to be rushed! They'll stay calmer if you remain low key and loving, so try to schedule ample time.

Bond with the teacher. It's important to show your child that you're comfortable with her teacher. Try to hand her over to the caregiver, rather than simply leaving her in the room. Expressing your trust in the caregiver in this way will make it easier for your child and her caregivers to get along peacefully and comfortably.

Bring photos of your child doing favorite activities. Make a book of familiar scenes — such as your baby playing with a ball on the lawn or dancing in your arms. Your caregiver can share the pictures in this special book with your child whenever she needs special reminders of home.

Let your baby bring a favorite lovey. If your child has a special blanket or soft animal that seems to calm her down magically, she may like having it with her at child care. (Most infant and toddler programs allow loveys.)

Have quiet together time when you get home. Snuggle with your child to give her some calming time after school. A ritual of sharing a favorite picture book can become a source of deep comfort for her. And, of course, be generous in providing lap time, hugs, and loving caresses.

Work with the teacher. The biggest help you can give your child's teacher is to share information about her needs, likes, and routines. Let her know what techniques seem to work when she's fussy or upset. How does she like to be held? Does she prefer being rocked or walked around? At naptime, do you always sing lullabies or play special tapes of sleepy-rime songs.? Also let the teacher know about your child's earning habits. Little differences in child care routines can sometimes bewilder a youngster. The more you share about how you comfort your child, the easier you'll make her transition.

Developing Empathy

"I'm goooonna get you!" croons Jacob's mother, with a lilting refrain that gradually speeds up as her fingers move up his belly. Jacob is excited, quietly tensing his body until the game peaks with gentle tickles and peels of laughter. After a few moments of calm, Jacob again makes eye contact and beckons his mother with a shake of his arms. The game begins again, "I'm goooonna get you!"

This interaction illustrates how infancy is a highly social period of life, full of smiles, vocalizations, and eye contact. Mother learns to read baby's cues and adapts her style to match his preferences. A baby who feels understood becomes a toddler who understands others.

After the first year, babies begin to take social cues from parents and teachers. Twelve-month-old Kendall, for instance, is toddling toward a section of the play yard that is unfamiliar to her. After a few steps, she stops and looks back at her father, who offers her encouraging smiles. Kendall continues on her journey. If her father had frowned or seemed worried, Kendall might also have felt worried and returned to the secure base of her caregiver's lap. This ability to share feelings is essential for the later development of empathy and compassion.

At 18 months, a toddler becomes aware of himself and his relationships with others. People are no longer just extensions of him but separate beings with their own feelings. Toddlers this age are also developing more long-term memory and can recall feelings and experiences.

The older toddler feels self-conscious and begins to see herself as others see her. She wants approval from the people she feels close to. For example, a 2-year-old might be able to stop herself from taking her friend's cookie because she knows her mother would disapprove. These new thinking skills introduce more explicit feelings of empathy. When an older toddler sees a friend crying over a dropped juice pop, for example, he might remember how he felt and offer a comforting pat on the back. In the past he was the comfortee; now he reverses his thinking, identifies that his friend is sad, and adopts the new role of comforter.

From the Editor's Desk

We are fortunate to share in the reflections of Joe Renzulli, an important figure in gifted education. From his 3-Ring Conception of Giftedness to his appeal to include more children using his School-Wide Enrichment Model, he has affected the thinking and practice of educators and administrators around the world. He has had a major impact on the education of gifted students.

Research in the social sciences relies heavily on statistics and practice does not remain the same year after year. New knowledge of the statistics required to make informed interpretations of research results needs to be reflected in the literature. In their article "Two Steps Forward, One Step Back: Effect Size Reporting in Gifted Education Research from 1995-2000," Kelli Paul and Jonathan Plucker update us on the progress in the addition of effect size to reported statistics in the three main research journals in gifted education: Journal for the Education of the Gifted, Roeper Review, and Gifted Child Quarterly.

Parents of gifted children may not be surprised to hear that young gifted children and children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may engage in similar behaviors. This similarity can create serious problems when a gifted child is misdiagnosed as ADHD. Niall Hartnett, Jason Nelson, and Anne Rinn explore this possibility in their article "Gifted or ADHD? The Possibilities of Misdiagnosis." First year graduate students in a school counseling program were likely to mistake behaviors of gifted children as indicative of ADHD in this study. This study reminds us that counselors in training should receive information concerning these similarities at some point in their program to avoid the severe consequences that can result from a misdiagnosis.

In her article "Giftedness in Early Childhood: The Search for Complexity and Connection," Cathie Harrison shares an in-depth exploration of the "kind of thinking" young gifted children do. In stark contrast to the behaviors noted on a checklist to describe children's behaviors in diagnosis for giftedness or ADHD, Harrison's longitudinal study of 15 young children paints a rich picture of the unconventional thinking that characterizes this special population.

Television has changed our world in subtle as well as the more obvious ways. Robert Abelman, in his article "TV Literacy and Academic/Artistic Giftedness: Understanding Time Leaps and Time Lags," explores one of the narrative devices commonly used in creating television programs — temporal sequencing — and how young gifted and nongifted students comprehend them. The power of television and its ubiquity are sure to mean that such devices as temporal sequencing will appear in unexpected domains. Dr. Abelman's article is a positive step in understanding how such accepted practices may be affecting children's learning.

Learning style preferences have been the focus of much research. Letty Rayneri and Brian Gerber recognized that just knowing how a student prefers to learn does not improve learning without an understanding of how the student perceives his or her environment. How bright is too bright or how loud is too loud? In their article, "Development of a Student Perception Inventory," Rayneri and Gerber describe the instrument they have developed to address this need.

Gifted education is intended to focus on the needs of the special population of gifted children. One group that is often left out of planning for these children's needs is one that knows, perhaps, the most about them. Nancy Hertzog and Tess Bennett examine this sometimes forgotten group in their article "In Whose Eyes? Parents' Perspectives on the Learning Needs of Their Gifted Children." Parents are a valuable resource in understanding what their children need. Educational planners who recognize this will benefit from encouraging their input.

Lesli Preuss and Eric Dubow offer a contribution to our understanding of the psychology of gifted children in their article "A Comparison Between Intellectually Gifted and Typical Children in Their Coping Responses to a School and a Peer Stressor." It is interesting to note that, when dealing with school and peer Stressors, gifted students are like their nongifted peers except in their use of problem-solving strategies.

Our book review this issue is by James Lynch, who recommends Esther Kogan's book Gifted Bilingual Students: A Paradox? We also continue our reporting of recent dissertation research in gifted studies.

I am sure you will enjoy this issue of Roeper Review. Please feel free to share your comments and suggestions with me.

Getting to Yes... ...with kids who say "no." A lot

My 4-year-old son Eddie is the most strong-willed child I've ever had to deal with. He's very intelligent and independent. He could stay busy all day all on his own if I would let him, and he really doesn't bother anybody most of the time. Once every few days he insists on getting his way with his older and younger sisters, and it's quite obnoxious. He isn't very obedient. Even though I don't think obedience is the most important thing, I do want him to do what I say when it's important — without a struggle. His basic attitude is, "I won't!" How can I get him to be a better-behaved member of the family? I should add that his teachers have all reported the same behavior.

A I agree that a child should do what a parent or teacher tells him to do when it's important. I've noticed that most parents tell children to do this, or not do that, way, way more often than when it is truly important.

Here are some strategies to get Eddie's behavior on a better track:

1 Refrain from calling out lots of commands. Decide what things are worth making an issue over, and stick to them. At a quiet and appropriate moment, tell Eddie that you can see he's older now, and very intelligent, and that you don't have to remind him about so many things anymore. Say, "From now on, I'll expect you to manage yourself and do sensible and cooperative things. So when I ask you to do something, you can be sure it's something I think is important. I will expect you to do it without an argument or dawdling. I won't tell you so much stuff to do, or not to do, and when I do ask you to do something you will do it pleasantly, deal?" When situations arise, you might say something like:

"It's dinner time now. I see you're in the middle of building a wonderful block tower, so you'll need a few extra minutes to get to a stopping place. You can leave it and work on it more (after dinner, tomorrow)."

When we show respect for a child's projects, the child will be more cooperative. If, in several minutes, Eddie needs a reminder to come to dinner, provide it. If he still doesn't come, go over to him, put an arm around him, and say, "Let's be fair. I gave you extra time to do what you needed to do, and now it's time for you to do what I need you to do. Thank you. Here we go."

Family mealtime is important because it builds an opportunity for sharing the news of the day and conversation. It also means that grownups can fix and clean up food once, and not be servants who must run back and forth to cupboard and refrigerator at each child's beck and call. Giving children plenty of space for doing things their way usually causes them to be more agreeable when you explain that now it's time to do something your way. Conversely, the bossiest, most authoritarian parents often find themselves with the most defiant children (especially when they become teens and dare to defy). The goal is to develop a fair, cooperative relationship with each of our children.

* 2 Acknowledge his strengths. Consider what a blessing it is that your son keeps busy most of the time without bothering anyone. It's super that he's so resourceful! Lots of parents wish their children could entertain themselves. When he insists on things that are unreasonable with his sisters, get everyone involved to sit down and discuss what each person wants. Help Eddie see that sometimes what he wants happens, and sometimes what each of his sisters wants happens. Do some insisting yourself. Eddie has rights and so do his sisters.
* 3 Speak with Eddie's teacher. Tell her that you understand her concern that Eddie doesn't always want to do what the group is doing. Much of your child's life will be spent in groups: school, work place, the new family he will probably eventually form, and community. Eddie needs to learn to get along appropriately in a group.

However, in my opinion, the typical classroom rather overdoes its emphasis on group vs. individual. I think there should be a balance. As it too often is, the balance is that of a seesaw with a heavy kid (the group) on one end and the lightweight on the other. It doesn't work that way. You may want to think this over and tactfully discuss these ideas with the teacher.

In any group, there's room for a variety of roles. With his excellent ability to manage himself and to engage in productive activity, Eddie can serve as a desirable model for his peers, especially if you and his teacher frame it that way. Adults can make the class think of a child as a disobedient "bad boy" or as a respected, self-propelling person with motivation and the capacity to direct himself.

When we think creatively about additional choices that we could give a strong-minded child, we find a lot of them. Viewing Eddie as something other than oppositional — as exceptionally able, as capable of a mature degree of self-direction for a 4-year-old, and as having high self-esteem — may help you and his teacher work more effectively with this independent child.


Regardless of the form violence takes, it's better to prevent it than to deal with it after the fact. A parent knows if her child is quick to lose her cool, and can watch closely when her frustration is growing.

Intercepting a bite, accompanying the action with appropriate words and deeds, is important. Especially in the case of biting, when the bitten child's horrified reaction is the biter's reward. We repeat what we find rewarding.

I'll never forget the season, years ago, when one 20-month-old granddaughter would, whenever the temptation arose, gleefully chomp down on the plump pink cheek of another 20-month-old granddaughter. The bitten child's big blue eyes would fill with tears, and she would stand there looking deeply hurt — not about the bite, I think, but about this betrayal by her favorite cousin. For eight weeks or so, we had to watch the pair like hawks. If the biter's black eyes glistened, a wide smile spread across her face, and she lunged toward her cousin, one of us had to leap in. Separately and on-site, we taught the stunned victim to prevent bites by stretching out her arms to block the oncoming mouth, and shouting, "No!" It took perseverance, but over time this strategy was effective. (By the way, these girls are high-school seniors now and incredibly lovely people!)

I understand your reaction and your son's: Biting upsets the child who is bitten and his parents more than any other form of childhood aggression, including hitting, grabbing, and scratching.

Being confronted with the distress and anger parents display when their child is bitten (especially over and over) is probably a big part of why parents are so anxious about this particular behavior. I suggest this cluster of responses:

* Since your child is regularly being bitten by a playmate, you are certainly entitled to tell the biter's parents that for the time being, until they get the behavior to stop, you can't let the kids play together, "because it's my responsibility to protect my child from getting hurt."
* If the biting occurs at school or childcare, tell your child's teacher that you would like to have a meeting with all parents involved. Discuss all of the above with them and listen to their feelings. Whether your child is the person who bites or the target, establish the fact that none of you think biting is OK; that, as a team, you will stop the behavior.

If the problem also exists beyond the classroom walls, the child's parents should talk with the parents of all their child's playmates.

* Reassure the biter's parents that you aren't angry with them, and share some of these ideas so they can help their child. Most likely, they feel bad and don't know what to do.
* Urge everyone to ensure that an adult shadows the biting child to physically block any attempted aggression.
* Think about ways to encourage your child to be more assertive. Empower him to say, "No! You're not allowed to hurt me!"; to move away; to say, "I won't play with you until you are nice to me."
* Give children who bite many ways to feel powerful other than by seeing the look of shock on a victim's face.
* Ask your child's teacher to initiate a discussion during group time of whether or not children like others to hurt them. Each child should have her say. Children who have been bitten should be invited to say their piece. It doesn't help for adults to moralize, but all relevant adults, including grandparents and babysitters, can encourage children to help anybody who bites to learn better ways to act.
* A helpful 4-year-old once explained to me that his dog was a biter. The family bought a rubber bone and put it in the dog's mouth whenever he wanted to bite. The boy suggested also doing this for his classmate.