Friday, September 30, 2016

The Making Of A Good Conversationalist

  Listening Is An Art


A few years ago, my father was visiting my daughter and me with his partner, Maureen, a certified master gardener. This was their first time in Minnesota—and it was early summer. We had been walking around a lake, and were now sitting on a park bench. Maureen started a conversation by describing the flora surrounding the water and how the vegetation was quite different from her parks in Georgia. I agreed and mentioned the invasive species, Kudzu, prevalent in the south but nonexistent in the midwest. My father said looking at my daughter, "I'm glad you enjoyed your classes this year." Maureen began to explain that invasive species are quite different regionally. My dad interrupted, "What books are you reading, Anna?"



My father-in-law, Don, does the same thing, except one-on-one which is even worse than in a small group. When there are four people you can divert into two two person conversations if need be. But with two people? I started, "Jen and I have been working on a few children's books in our spare time." Don replies, "I see that there must be a sailing club out on the bay." Arrrgh! (Don is a good man—he and my mother-in-law have been married 52 years. See All Are Significant.)

Granted, men interrupt more and are generally worse conversationalists than women—take the presidential debate between Trump and Clinton as an embarrassing example. However, conversation is an art form, I say. Conversation is a skill. And it is not taught in school. It is not taught in college. It isn't taught anywhere. It is learned from day one as a baby—as a noticer.

How about a little more warm water, pops?


Babies are born watchers—and they develop based on the modeling within their immediate environment. That's why when my daughter was a newborn, I was holding conversations with her—that's correct! I would use her facial expressions, mainly her eyes, as her non-verbal responses to my statements and questions.

Papa Green Bean and Anna, his three month daughter, have a conversation.


"We are going to have a fun day today, Anna. First of all let's put on some music. Would you rather listen to Mozart, Neil Young, or My Fair Lady?" I show her the three record covers holding them in front of her long enough for her to see the three separate images. "Not sure? I feel like some classical, is that okay with you, Anna?" I look at her and her eyes enlarge staring back at her dad. "Great, Mozart it is." 

"Now let's go into the kitchen and take a look inside the refrigerator." I pick up Anna and carry her in my arm—open the refrigerator. "Look at all that food hiding inside, Anna. A refrigerator keeps our food cold and fresh. Hmmm, how about we share an apple? The apple is cold isn't it?" I place the apple into Anna's hand and her face shows surprise and interest. I hold the apple against my cheek and say, "The apple is cold." Then I hold it up against Anna's cheek. She smiles rubbing her cheek. 


Give me a knive, dad!

"Yes, the apple is full of energy, so let's cut it up and eat it. First, we'll wash it." I turn on the water and place the apple under the water letting Anna see the action. "Do you want to touch the water, Anna?" She looks a bit apprehensive. "That's okay, you don't have to touch the water. Let's dry the apple with a towel. I'll put you down here while I cut the apple, okay, Anna?" I lean her against the counter wall and cut the apple up into slices. 

Anna watches the motions of the knive and the way the apple falls apart. "Here is a slice for you to taste and one for me." I pop a piece into my mouth and chew it saying, "delicious and nutritious!" I press a slice against Anna's lips and her tongue licks it instintively! I place the apple into her hand and wait for her to grip it. And so goes the conversation between Papa Green Bean and her daughter. 

What made Anna a wonderful conversationalist? 


She couldn't talk—she was a great listener!

  • Being an attentive listener, offering specific feedback on the topic, leaves the talker with a particularly positive impression of the listener. 
  • So, if you want to make closer friends: ask them open ended questions about themselves—then listen carefully, with facial expressions and short comments that show you are not just listening but retaining the information.
A good listener


The article,  Why Are So Many Smart Kids Missing This Important Social Skill? discusses with clarity the value of consciously instilling lively conversation into the parent/child dynamic. Here are some highlights:

How To Read Nonverbal Cues

  • That’s all the stuff that we say without uttering a word. It’s most of what gets communicated! “Nonverbal behaviors—facial expressions, gestures, intonation, proximity to one another, body language—are 65 to 70 percent of overall communication comprehension."
  • From birth, our babies track our smiles, tune into whether our tone is happy or angry, follow what we’re looking at. All without words. Later, when they point at something and say, “Dat?” they count on us to name it. When they ask for something and we look puzzled, they think, “Oh, she didn’t get what I said.
  • It’s more intricate than it might seem. When one person is talking, the other has to be quiet and listen. He also has to pay close attention and show with nods or uh-huhs that he’s following along. He has to hold back from interrupting until it’s his turn—and know when that is and what’s expected of him.
  • Babies need practice holding conversations with us even before they understand our words. Toddlers need to be encouraged to take their first stabs at joining us in it. And preschoolers and older kids—on up through the teen years—need to be engaged in lots of face-to-face talk.
Face-to-face talk

  • One way that can be overlooked, especially in an era of academic preschools, nanny care, and solo play on computers: playing with other kids. Play—especially pretend and physical play—is a huge way kids develop all kinds of social skills, especially social communication.
  • Kids can be oblivious. Explain what people think of you if you don’t look them in the eye and say hello. Your kids might not even realize they’re giving a negative impression. By the way, this is true of adults, also.

Good Things Happen To Good Conversationalists

1) They focus better in school.

Having basic social-communication skills allows kids to follow along when teachers point to the blackboard and stay on topic during lessons—right from the start of school.


2) They can advocate for themselves.

Being able to “read” others and know how to talk to them gives kids the power to stand up for themselves. Not only can they better ask for help, but they can challenge a teacher’s mistake, navigate friend drama, and even fend off bullies. With more power, they feel less frustration and show fewer behavior problems.

3) They’re better liked.

Kids like other kids who know how to say “Hi” and talk about stuff. You have more friends when you’re able to sort out differences, share, and empathize—and not hog the conversation or blurt out random things at inappropriate times. And you can bet that teachers, coaches, and future employers prefer such kids too.

Taking turns with confidence

How To Take Turns

  • You talk, I listen. I talk, you listen. Conversation is like tennis, volleying back and forth.
  • Conversational turn-taking starts with games like peekaboo and waving bye-bye. You cue the child to join in and have a back-and-forth interaction, following the child’s lead.
  • Normal, relaxed, give-and-take conversation is all it takes. 
  • Asking questions is a good tactic because it gives turn-taking a nudge. Sprinkle “ask words” into your kid talk: what, when, where, how. Learning how to ask questions is like building a bridge.
Bridging the conversation


Hear, hear to good listening and better conversations,

Papa Green Bean










Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Forget Nice—Be Genuine

The Strength of Authenticity


I used to try to be nice to everyone.  I found myself using white lies to appease other people while holding in my true thoughts and emotions. People would compliment me by saying what a nice guy I was—"Johnny gets along with everyone."

After my daughter was born, I soon realized that this approach was deception. Something about becoming a father made me understand that I did not want my child to be nice like I had been. So, I changed and began to speak my truth. This made life so much easier, which helped me to gain internal strength.


That's me in my dad's arms being nice!


I soon began to see myself as more real—people looked at me differently. This translated into modeling self-confidence, which, in turn, allowed a more natural self-discovery for my little child, Anna.

By giving her honest answers to everything we experienced she grew up with a self-determination that encouraged curiosity and the natural empowerment of truth. I started to say, "I don't know" much more! Accepting the fact that I was not hiding anything inside, I was being genuine to myself and everyone I touched. With Anna, the "I don't knows" were often followed by, "But why don't we find out!"

Anna being her silly self! Hey, I can always get another shirt...


I am writing this post as a response to the insightful article titled, Instead of Teaching Your Kids To "Be Nice," Teach Them This.... Dr. Shefali understands the deeper psyche workings of human beings. Her approach is genuine. These qualities are the foundation to understanding children. Please click on the link and read the article for yourself. But first, I wish to share some of her tantalizing truths here:

What Does 'Be Nice' Really Mean?


  • "Be tolerant and accommodating
  • Keep the peace—don't ruffle feathers
  • Give up something about yourself or your belongings even though you don’t want to"

Girls are told to, “Be sweet.”  Sure that may sound okay, but what does that really mean?

"Be Sweet"'s message is:


  • "Deny, avoid and distract yourself from your true feelings
  • Avoid conflict and find a compromise at all costs
  • Don’t be assertive, but instead, find a way to get along with the other person"


Dr. Shefali clarifies her view of "Nice":


"The core of this blog is that “niceness” can never come from a denial of our true feelings and sense of self. On the contrary, true niceness can only manifest when we are fully authentic to our feelings and sense of self."


Dr. Shefali asks parents and all child caregivers to:

"Shift the focus away from niceties and superficialities of behavior and instead, teach our children this: 


  •  Engage with others from an authentic place
  •  Know your boundaries and don’t allow anyone to cross over them
  • Respect the boundaries and freedoms of others
  • Not everyone is going to like you nor should they have to
  • You don’t need to be friends with everyone nor should you feel the need to
  • No one is defined by anyone or anything outside of oneself
  • Lying to one’s self for the sake of a relationship will ultimately end in dysfunction
  • Sometimes it is more important to be honest than “nice.”
  • If “nice” comes at the cost of authenticity, it is better to veer away from the relationship
  • Those who love you will allow you to be honest and authentic at all costs"

 
Girls can climb slides backwards, too!!!


I have found that this approach of feeding the soul and not the ego, as Dr. Shefali states, takes away the burden, or pressure, of trying to be nice. It makes living in the present with truth much easier—much more energetic.

Luckily, I was able to understand the strength of authenticity and pass it on to Anna. My daughter has fed off of this all her life—becoming an individual with a sparkle in her gait!

Dr. Shefali gets it.

My daughter lived it and got it.

It works. Forget nice. Be genuine.

Cheers, Papa Green Bean


Thursday, August 18, 2016

Make Your Own Hummus—Let Your Children In On The Fun!


Humming Hummus


One of my all time favorite concoction to eat is hummus.  
It is delicious, nutritious and tastes nothing like chicken!

Classic hummus


Rightfully so—a child’s taste buds should be opened to a variety of foods—so, use hummus as a go to snack of humongous proportions! Mostly used as a dip, an assortment of edible digging utensils adds to the lovely nutritive value of this chow. Skip those salty potato chips—instead have your children cut cucumber chips, slice up carrot, celery, and sweet pepper sticks—even radish slices. Rad right! Use your own favorite vegetables for the children to clean, prep and eat as hummus scoops. Come to think of it, I’ve used tomato wedges also! Pita wedges are popular but I don't use them—prefer blue corn chips—infusing some Tex-Mex flavors (see Additional Ingredients list below.)

Friday, July 29, 2016

Presidential Parenting

Helpful, Not Hurtful, Leadership


There is little room for complacency in raising a child just as in running a country.

Complacent: marked by self-satisfaction especially when accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies.
  


All types of babies are born into our world—this is a green heron—thanks, Joe!


Just as a president is the leader of a nation helping to guide its citizens, parents are the most important role models to their children helping to raise them up, hopefully, into caring citizens of the world. But, often the leadership is uninformed—the caregiver shortsighted. This can be more hurtful than helpful. As citizens of a country, just as parents of a newly born baby, we should make every effort to become better informed as we move foward into the future. I sure hope to. 

“While big men know the needs for self-control and restraint—little men are sometimes moved more by fear and pride. If only in the future the big men can continue to make the little ones sit down and talk, before they start to fight.”  

Jackie Kennedy


Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Data, Not Destiny



It's Just Data, Not Destiny


Here is my summary of Teaching with Poverty in Mind by Eric Jensen—Chapter 2: How Poverty Affects Behavior and Academic Performance.




Introduction

  • There is no shortage of theories explaining behavior differences among children. The prevailing theory among psychologists and child development specialists is that behavior stems from a combination of genes and environment. 
  • Genes begin the process: behavioral geneticists commonly claim that DNA accounts for 30–50 percent of our behaviors, an estimate that leaves 50–70 percent explained by environment.
  • This tidy division of influencing factors may be somewhat misleading, however. First, the effects of the nine months a child spends in utero are far from negligible. 

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Natural World Of Winnie-the-Pooh


Nowhere, Just Out Playing


A serendipitous meeting of two thoughtful literary texts occured this week for me. Such was the case when I attended a book reading at Village Books, our wonderful local independent bookstore. Then, days after, I listened to an eloquent poetry reading by my lovely friend, Linda Conroy. They both touched my inner child.



The author at Village Books was Kathryn Aalto and I listened with some interest as she spoke about her New York Times bestseller hardcover, The Natural World Of Winnie-the Pooh. Aalto has master’s degrees in garden history and creative nonfiction with a particular interest in literary landscapes. Much of the book is devoted to the flora and fauna of Ashdown forest and the Hundred Acre Wood—the pristine natural setting of the most popular children’s book in history. I was about to escape out the back of the presentation when Ms. Aalto said, “In closing, I’d like to read a bit from my introduction.” What she recited spellbound me…

Since Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner were published in 1926 and 1928, they have taken on greater meaning. We value the books for simple expressions of empathy, friendship, and kindness. The stories are classics as they express enduring values and open our hearts and minds to help us live well. But as I read about Milne and walked around England with my children, I saw how they tell another story: the degree to which the nature of childhood has changed in the ninety years since Milne wrote the stories. There is less freedom to let children roam and explore their natural and urban environments. There are more digital distractions for our children that keep them indoors and immobile, and heightened parental fears that do so as well.
At a time when there is so much talk about nature-deficit disorder, rising childhood obesity levels, reduced school recess, and overprotected childhoods, these stories and illustrations remind us of the joy in letting our children explore the natural world and the importance of imaginative play away from the eyes of parents. The real and imagined places of the Hundred Acre Woods are tender touchstones for the precious time of childhood. Milne’s books remind us that aimless wandering and doing Nothing is actually a very big Something for little ones.”

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Free Range Learning (entire review)



Free Range Learning

How Homeschooling Changes Everything

Introduction

Laura Grace Weldon’s Free Range Learning combines insightful wisdom, tender compassion, and vibrant understanding in helping the reader see the potential in meaningful, real-life learning—growing up in a respectful, engaged, and joyful family. Her handbook transforms boundaries—or does away with them altogether. She is a kindred spirit.

I would like to share my favorite bits of Free Range Learning—with mostly direct quotes. Apologies for the many salient points that I leave out within the 275 pages of this inspirational ‘go-to’ reference book.



The Wisdom of Laura Grace Weldon 

(tasty morsels of her unique thinking)

Education as Life, for Life

ü  The child’s wondrous progress from helpless newborn to a remarkably sophisticated five-year old happens without explicit teaching. In fact, most of a child’s learning is so continual that it goes unnoticed.
Ø  Toddlers experiment like enthralled scientists. They rapidly develop a grasp of everyday physics.
Ø  They master nuances of social interaction long before they can speak in sentences.
Ø  Their comprehension expands much more quickly than their growing vocabulary. Often, children seem to ignore what they aren’t ready to learn, only to return to the same skill or concept later with ease.
Ø  What they do is intrinsically tied to why they do it, making the learning process purposeful. They are confidently in charge of their own instruction.
Ø  They require little fanfare for their achievements, as mastery gives them more than enough satisfaction.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Free Range Learning (3 of 3)



Free Range Learning

How Homeschooling Changes Everything

Introduction

No one, after reading Free Range Learning with an open mind, can justifiably argue in defense of formal K–12 schooling. However, it would be a disservice to Laura Grace Weldon’s considerable grasp of the human spirit to simply recommend her book for parents of home schoolers. Everyone should put this handbook in their bookcase after marking it up half as much as I have!

Due to the extensive material I wanted to include, this post has been divided into three separate posts. This is part three of three. One final post including all three parts will follow tomorrow. Part one of three was posted two days ago, with part two of three posted yesterday.

A future inventor in action

Ethics, Spirituality and A Greater Good

ü  When adults insist on compliance in their children—true understanding is usurped—encouraging moral immaturity.

ü  Many adults continue to assert that children do best raised with more punitive, heavy-handed methods. That is shortsighted. The real underpinning of civilization is cooperation.

ü  We can be mindful of where we put our parenting energy.
Ø  It’s easy to notice children squabbling for five minutes and ignore two hours of peace.
Ø  What we consistently notice is amplified.  What we recognize persists.
Ø  If we habitually notice the worst in a person, even though we are trying to bring about improvement, we unwittingly reinforce these negative behaviors.
Ø  For a child whose self-image is forming, this principle is even more important.
Ø  Noticing when a child has done something right helps to strengthen not only that behavior, but also the motivation behind that behavior.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Free Range Learning (2 of 3)


Free Range Learning

How Homeschooling Changes Everything


Introduction

Although Free Range Learning was written as a handbook for parents contemplating or already taking the home schooling initiative, any parent, teacher, or professional in the field of education would do well to read this gem. It could change your entire way of living, let alone thinking, as this book asks first and foremost for a more benevolent and serene world. I’m in.

Due to the extensive material I wanted to include, I will split this post into three separate posts. This
is part two of three. Part three will follow tomorrow, with a fourth post containing all three parts in one. Part one of three was posted yesterday.

Slow down, and smell the curiosity...

Trust, Empathy and Cooperation

ü  Demonstrating our trust in our children sends them a potent message.

ü  This is a continuum that begins at birth. When a parent is consistently responsive to a baby’s cries, the infant forms a sense of security.

ü  Infants have a biological need to be held, carried and cared for tenderly.
Ø  Deprivation of physical comfort in the formative years is a root cause of violence.
Ø  Infants and toddlers often spend many hours a day in car seats, carriers and other restraint devices.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Free Range Learning (1 of 3)



Free Range Learning 

How Homeschooling Changes Everything

Introduction

Thanks, Laura!
Laura Grace Weldon’s Free Range Learning combines insightful wisdom, tender compassion, and vibrant understanding in helping the reader see the potential in meaningful, real-life learning. What it means to grow up and parent in a respectful, engaged, and joyful family. Her handbook transforms boundaries—or does away with them altogether. She is a kindred spirit.

I would like to share my favorite bits of Free Range Learning—with mostly direct quotes. Apologies for the many salient points that I leave out within the 275 pages of this inspirational ‘go-to’ reference
book.

Due to the extensive material I wanted to include, I will split this post into three separate posts. This is part one of three. Parts two and three will follow on consecutive days, with a fourth post containing all three parts in one. 


The Wisdom of Laura Grace Weldon (tasty morsels of her unique thinking)

Education as Life, for Life

ü  The child’s wondrous progress from helpless newborn to a remarkably sophisticated five-year old happens without explicit teaching. In fact, most of a child’s learning is so continual that it goes unnoticed.
Ø  Toddlers experiment like enthralled scientists. They rapidly develop a grasp of everyday physics.
Ø  They master nuances of social interaction long before they can speak in sentences.
Ø  Their comprehension expands much more quickly than their growing vocabulary. Often, children seem to ignore what they aren’t ready to learn, only to return to the same skill or concept later with ease.
Ø  What they do is intrinsically tied to why they do it, making the learning process purposeful. They are confidently in charge of their own instruction.
Ø  They require little fanfare for their achievements, as mastery gives them more than enough satisfaction.

ü  Experiential learning, along with the guidance of parents and other elders, is precisely the education known throughout the majority of human history. Schooling is the experiment.