Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Brain Smart Connection Activities: What I Love About You!

As you may have read in my last post, connection is the key to cooperation...

BUT it's so much MORE than that!

The connections we build with children through loving rituals and traditions help us set aside a sacred space to create a climate of love and acceptance--A time to focus on what really matters!

When I was a child my mom had a way of making even the smallest "holiday" special in some way.

Two of my favorites were Valentine's Day and St. Patrick's Day.

There was heart-shaped cakes, love notes, and everything pink on Valentine's Day.

And it wouldn't be St. Patrick's day if that pesky little leprechaun didn't turn the milk green!  We also had the traditional green eggs and ham and wore as much green as we could so we wouldn't get pinched on St. Patties Day!  Even when we were TEENAGERS!

Is it any surprise that when I became a teacher and eventually a mom, I carried those traditions into my teaching and parenting practices?

Every year we still have heart-shaped food, love notes, and as much pink as possible on Valentine's Day!  And that sneaky little leprechaun still manages to turn something green in our house!

These rituals still hold a very special place in my heart!

I'm reading the NAEYC publication titled Rituals and Traditions:  Fostering a Sense of Community in Preschool by Jacky Howell and Kimberly Reinhard.  Although it is focused on the classroom, the same principles apply to the home.  In the book it states, "Rituals and traditions are part of everyday life.  A ritual can be reading a book in a special chair before bed.  A tradition can be a special food that is served only at celebrations.  Rituals and traditions have the power to shape classroom routines into times that build meaningful connections and bonds among children, families, and teachers, creating and strengthening a sense of community in early childhood settings."

That's what my mom did!  She took the ordinary and made it extraordinary through meaningful and fun rituals and traditions!

During the month of February I am going to be sharing various activities that could help you focus on building rituals and traditions into your family, whether at home or school!

A couple of years ago I found myself very frustrated with the environment in our home.

My children were growing up and I it was very challenging to figure out ways to connect with them.  I was a pro at connecting with preschoolers, toddlers, and infants, but not so much with these "teeny boppers" that were now living under my roof.

There was an increase in the amount of conflict in our home and I knew it was because we weren't connecting.  I wanted to find ways to connect with and encourage my family that would be age appropriate and meaningful.

I needed something to help me shift my focus from the frustration I felt to being more encouraging to myself and my family.

Since it was February, I decided we all needed a bit more love and intentionality!

I cut out some heart-shaped notes and wrote something different that I noticed about them every day for the whole month!

Each morning before they got up, I would hang a new note on their door so they could start their day off with some encouraging words.

The phrase I like to use is:  "You _____ so _____.  That was ____!"

It is helpful language that we teach in Conscious Discipline because it is 100% focused on the beauty you see in the child and their actions.  I try to avoid phrases such as, "I like the way you..."  or "You did a good job with..."  Those phrases make it more about me and can be about approval rather than the qualities in the child that are valuable.

I also got my husband in on the fun and made sure there were plenty of hearts so everyone could share the love!

It might be helpful if you number each of your hearts as you add them!  By the end of the month you'll have 28 (unless it's a Leap Year like this year)!

It amazing me how quickly the whole climate in our home/classroom changes when we shift from focusing our what's missing to seeing the beauty that's right in front of us!

Not only did I experience more joy, so did they!  They couldn't wait to get out of bed and see what I noticed that day!  It raises everyone's awareness of the impact they have on others!

Since today is only February 2nd we are just on our second day, but it has made a difference already!  My husband wanted to know where the "stash" of hearts was so he could write me some notes too!  And my son went out of his way to tell me thank you for the kindness he saw expressed on his door today!

Whether you are in the classroom or home I hope this idea inspires you to remember what you love about those around you and not just remember, but express it to them too!