As a subscriber to the Fred Rogers Professional Development Company , I often receive  emails giving good advice and direction.  With the second week of school behind us,  a few teachers struggled as they are getting to know  the young children in the classroom.  Maybe this could help.  What do you think?  Can it help you?  How can this give us pause to look at our language as we work with those who “push our buttons”?

What Do YOU Do with the Mad that You Feel? 
By Hedda Sharapan

I had to laugh when I saw a draft of the publicity for my upcoming keynote for an early childhood conference.  The title read:“What do you do with the mad that you feel?” The speech is based on Fred Rogers’ song with that title, but they had forgotten to include the next line: “Helping children deal with their angry feelings.”  If you don’t add the second line, it sounds like my whole talk is about the adults’ angry feelings.

Well, maybe that’s not so funny — to think about a workshop on dealing with our own adult angry feelings.  Actually that’s something that could be really helpful, especially for people who work all day with young children.  Think about how you’re spending your day — with toddlers and/or preschoolers who don’t yet have much self-control, can’t yet use words to tell you what they need and how they feel, can’t delay gratification, think what’s “mine” is “me,” and find it hard to take turns and cooperate!  No wonder their behavior can push your buttons!

Fred always reminded us that anger is a natural and normal human emotion – for us adults, too!  In fact, it’s often a reaction to feeling powerless.  I certainly can understand how children can make a grown adult feel powerless – especially an adult who wants to be helpful.

The question is “What we DO with our anger?”  I remember Fred Rogers’ story about when he was working with children and had an especially difficult time dealing with a child who challenged him every step of the way.  Fred said, “It almost seemed that he wanted me to be mad at him, and I must say there were times I got so frustrated with him I felt as though I was acting like someone else.”  After learning more about the boy and his family, Fred was able to see things from a different perspective: “Once I understood that, I stopped feeling as if that little boy was out to get me, I saw him rather as a scared child who needed help to feel safe.”

That story reminded me of a video from our Learning DisciplineWorkshop featuring early childhood professionals who found a helpful perspective: “It’s not about me…it’s about the child.”

Professional Development Video

Here are some other helpful hints:

  • Count to ten.  When we’re upset, stress hormones pour into our system, and the “thinking” part of our brain shuts down.  Counting to ten and breathing deeply can lower the stress hormones, so we can think more clearly.
  • Don’t take it personally.  When you think of a child as “out to get you,” it’s natural to get defensive.  But if you think of that child as needing your help to learn social-emotional skills, like self-control and self-regulation, you’re likely to react in a more nurturing way.
  • Lower your voice and slow down. By lowering your voice, you’ll be setting a quieter, calmer tone that helps the child to settle down.
  • Be a detective. Challenging behaviors don’t come out of nowhere.  Look for patterns.  Try to understand more about the child.  Spend one-on-one time. Try to learn more about the child’s background. The reasons aren’t always obvious, but at least be there to help support the child.

  • Look for professional development opportunities. Knowledge can help you understand more about children’s needs and feelings so you can respond in helpful, developmentally-appropriate ways.
  • Take care of yourself.  Get enough sleep at night so you’ll have the emotional energy to deal with the children.  Do something nice for yourself – even something small can go a long way to helping you refuel.

 

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Although this is a fun remix, it’s interesting to pause and give serious reflection on the language.  Think about Fred Rogers and his awareness of the power of his own words.  What was he communicating as he closed each show with the same line: “You always make it a special day and a special week for me, by just your being you. There’s only one person in this whole world like you; that’s you yourself, and I like you just the way you are. ” ?  What language do we use as we say goodbye to the children in our lives?

Mister Rogers Remixed | Garden of Your Mind | PBS Digital Studios – YouTube.

What’s in a Name?

By Hedda Sharapan

At the Oregon AEYC conference last month, I had a wonderful conversation with an Iranian woman who talked with me about her work in America with children.  She spoke with an accent, so I made sure to listen closely when she told me that her name is Nassrim (Nuss-REEN).  I repeated it to make sure I heard right.  When I saw her the next day, I wanted to make a point of calling her by name, but was it “Nuss-u-rin” or “Nussrim?”  Well, I’m still not sure I remembered it right or said it correctly, but from her warm smile, it seemed she appreciated that I tried.

I, too, have a rather unusual name, so I’ve had the experience of feeling uncomfortable when people call me “HEEda” (instead of “HEAD-a”) or hear my name as “Heather” which is more familiar. So maybe I’m extra careful about names, but in this multi-cultural world, that’s especially important for all of us.

Fred always made a great effort to pronounce correctly the names of the guests who were on the program or visitors in the studio. For one set of Neighborhoodprograms, he had an exchange visit with Tatiana Vedneeyva, host of a popular children’s program in Russia, who spoke very little English.  Fred spent a lot of time learning key Russian phrases, as well as the correct pronunciation of her name (Ta-tee-AH-na Ved-NAA-vuh,)  When you watch this video, you can see how much care he gave to making her feel welcome.

A Way to Say “I Care about You” 
Names are so much a part of our identity and self-image.  I’ll bet you can remember how much you appreciate when someone uses your name (and pronounces it correctly) when they’re talking with you.  It makes the conversation more personal.  Think about how much it contributes to relationship-building when you address someone by name.

A sign of respect
In our multi-cultural world, we’re all aware that there is a great deal of diversity in child care, with many languages and many cultures even in one classroom or family child care.   Just trying to pronounce someone’s name is a way of acknowledging that person’s heritage…a way of showing interest and respect for our differences and similarities, whether you’re talking with a child, a child’s family, or even another staff person.

Some sounds are difficult
It’s a fact that there are sounds which are natural in some languages that the brain, ear, and tongue learn early on – but are nearly impossible for someone unaccustomed to that language.  A friend of mine made sure to include “Hanukah” when she talked with the children about the winter holidays.  But a Jewish child in the group corrected her, saying “No, it’s not ‘Hanukah!  It’s CHanukah” with the Hebrew guttural CH that she couldn’t even approximate!  At that point, we can even say to a child something like, “That’s hard for me to say.  It helps me to hear how you say it.  Can you say it again for me?”

An effort worth making 
Most people really appreciate if you just try to pronounce their name correctly.  But it’s not always easy.  I’ve had the experience of trying and then asking if I got it right…and getting it wrong and having to work on it more than a few times.  Besides learning names, you might even want to work on a few key phrases in a language of an adult or a child in your care, like hello and goodbyemilk, potty, sleep — andthank you(which Fred always said was the most important phrase in any language).

When you’re trying to use unfamiliar names, words and sounds in your conversation with someone, you might find that you’re listening more closely to each other, maybe even laughing together as you fumble with the language, all of which can create an even warmer connection and stronger relationship.