Friday, May 17, 2013

Language Development in Children

One of the joys of watching your child grow is hearing them learn to speak. We are having a lot of fun in our house listening to my son's voice emerge. It is rewarding and precious to discover his first words and for his intentions to finally make themselves known. My son clearly likes music because he the bathtub, in the car, in his crib...Our family pets are also rather important to him because he learned "Doggie- Woo, woo, woof" and "Kittie" rather quickly.

Since education (and English in particular) are rather important to me I decided to brush up on some of my knowledge of language development. I highly suggest reading Beyond Baby Talk by Kenn Apel and Julie Materson. 

Here are some of the most exciting things I learned from reading this book:

Child-Directed Speech or C.D.S.

This used to be called "Motherease". This relates the the style in which you address the child you are talking to. It is characterized by the "speaker's pitch" going "up and down more often than during typical speech" they "also tend to use a slower though they have an unconscious appreciation for the notion that the baby may need a little more time to take in or understand the incoming information"(45). This is not baby talk in the sense of using words like "goo-goo" and ga-ga" but that the speaker uses "simple words. You're likely to hear a word like bye-bye or blanket...but you probably won't hear quilt". One of the aspects of C.D.S. is also "attributing meaning to the baby's comments that might not really be so meaningful" (47). For example when a child starts to make a sound like wa-wa and the parent responds positively and applies meaning by attaching a drink of water to the sound. C.D.S. is also "characterized by a high degree of responsiveness" (46) from the adult who is caring for the child.  C.D.S. caregivers also responds positively and enthusiastically to the child when the child makes noises or produces sounds that are largely incomprehensible. This encouragement gives your child confidence and makes them want to practice more language.

Television and Your Child

Surprisingly enough this book did not bash television. The authors support a balanced approach to television and computer time but also state that some television shows like Sesame Street, Mr. Roger's Neighborhood, and Rubbadubbers use the C.D.S. approach to language and can actually help your child learn language (166). This book had some great things to say about the original Mr. Roger's Neighborhood show. One of the reasons Fred Roger's is educational, in terms of language development, is because he uses C.D.S. and sentences that contain just one verb. They also state that some television watching can be "helpful for children's development of positive imaginative play" (167) because children will mimic the characters they watch on the shows, they "may actually use what [they] see (s) on television as a basis for playing with [their] friends". They also state that watching television may also cause "children to challenge themselves to try new actions or methods of play". As a parent this is an exciting finding yet it brings great responsibility because this means it is important to be aware of what my child is viewing on television so that they do not mimic behaviors or situations I do not wish for them to mimic. The authors do state that it is of vital importance that parents watch television with their children and discuss what they are seeing. Considering the messages that your child could pick up while watching television, it seems to go without saying that we should never abandon our children in front of the television.

Television may also help your child's development by exposing them to different cultures and languages. In a study done on preschoolers it was found that "after watching shows involving children from a variety of racial/cultural backgrounds" that those children were "more apt to choose to play with children from any culture, either theirs or another" (169). Having a willingness to make friends and play with others who are different from themselves is an amazing skill for our children to have. It will not only aid them on the play ground but also in life.

Watching television however can be a double edged sword. It is not advised that your child watch too much television. The reason for this is "excessive television viewing takes away from social interactions between children and their parents and peers" (171). They also caution against watching shows that are not developmentally appropriate. Children may also not be able to tell the difference between reality and imaginary situations and people. They may believe the images they see on television are real; "this may occur because, as toddlers view stories containing examples of violence or conflict, it is likely these individual events are remembered and acted out, rather than the larger story" (172). The ability to notice violence also "extends to real-life depictions, such as nightly news programs". Interestingly enough, "preschoolers who watch nightly news programs may be at risk for experiencing nightmares than children who do not watch these shows". Above all remain present and aware of what your child is watching and experiencing on television.

Computers and Your Child

This is often a topic of conversation in our house. My son loves and is fascinated by the computer. This may be because we occasionally play a Sesame Street or Baby Einstein video on it for him. We have been discussing if/when and how to incorporate the computer into his life. The information supplied in this book was very valuable to me and helped me understand what type of programs are appropriate for him. The author's of this book suggest parents avoid computer programs which "follow a drill-and-practice format" (175). Why should we avoid these types of programs? Many only give the child praise when they get the right answer. This does not encourage the child to continue discovering and exploring the possibilities. Programs which require the child to "actively participate...stimulate your child's physical, emotional, social, and cognitive growth through flexibility and variety in the ways they allow your child to respond". Some suggestions to look for in computer programs are programs that allow the child to make choices regarding situations that may be familiar to them or similar to everyday events. They suggest talking books or programs that have animation as well as story text. They also suggest "multimedia presentations, or on-screen activity that involves sights, sounds, words" (176). This gives the the child an opportunity to "link visual aspects of words with the spoken form simultaneously". Lastly, the book does caution that a computer program which teaches literacy skills should not replace one-on-one time reading and learning between parent and child. Computer programs should only be used as supplement. Computer time should also be given in moderation so that children continue to develop interpersonal skills.

Additional Resources:

Sesame Street: the Sesame Street empire is a big one. You can find clips of your favorite characters on YouTube or you can go their website. They have Games, Videos, Playlists,  and Muppets. you can register at the site on My Street and save your favorites from this site.  Below is a song that my son and I sing on rough days...

Mr. Roger's Neighborhood: PBS Kids has a Mr. Roger's page. On the PBS page for Mr. Roger's they also have gamesvideos, songs, and coloring pages. There is also story corner which has talking books and resources for parents and teachers.The current spin off of the Mr. Roger's show is Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood which is an animated cartoon; this page also has web page with similar links and activities. My son really likes the Fish Tank game. Below is a Mr. Roger's episode called Brave & Strong:

Rubbadubbers: I will admit that I had no idea what the book was talking about when they talked about this television show. I did go and look for it though...I am not sure I am impressed. It seems they are a part of the Nickelodeon network Nick Jr. the show seems to be based on a bath time thyme and is a stop animation show that originated in Britain. Their main site seemed to be linked to Nick Jr. Here is a YouTube video from the show:

ABC Mouse: Is a computer learning program for preschoolers. They have some good reviews and offer a monthly subscription. I am not sure that my son is ready for ABC Mouse just yet but it is one of the programs we are looking into. They offer a one month free trial subscription when you are ready to give it a try. 

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Proverbs 31: Being Eshet Chayil- A Woman of Valor

Proverbs 31 (NRVS)

1 The words of Lemuel, king of Massa, which his mother taught him: 2 What, my son? What, son of my womb? What, son of my vows? 3 Give not your strength to women, your ways to those who destroy kings. 4 It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine, or for rulers to desire strong drink; 5 lest they drink and forget what has been decreed, and pervert the rights of all the afflicted. 6 Give strong drink to him who is perishing, and wine to those in bitter distress; 7 let them drink and forget their poverty, and remember their misery no more. 8 Open your mouth for the dumb, for the rights of all who are left desolate. 9 Open your mouth, judge righteously, maintain the rights of the poor and needy. 10 A good wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. 11 The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. 12 She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life. 13 She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands. 14 She is like the ships of the merchant, she brings her food from afar. 15 She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and tasks for her maidens. 16 She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard. 17 She girds her loins with strength and makes her arms strong. 18 She perceives that her merchandise is profitable. Her lamp does not go out at night. 19 She puts her hands to the distaff, and her hands hold the spindle. 20 She opens her hand to the poor, and reaches out her hands to the needy.21 She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household are clothed in scarlet. 22She makes herself coverings; her clothing is fine linen and purple. 23 Her husband is known in the gates, when he sits among the elders of the land. 24 She makes linen garments and sells them; she delivers girdles to the merchant. 25 Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. 26 She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. 27 She looks well to the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness.28 Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: 29 "Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all." 30 Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. 31 Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.

I struggle with a Super Mom alter ego. I place unrealistic expectations on myself and on what I can accomplish in a day with a toddler in toe. I berate myself inwardly when I do not have a perfectly clean house, when I do not cook dinner on a week night, when we are running low on groceries, when the laundry is backed up, when the dog needs a bath, when I forget to send a birthday card, etc. The list of things I expect myself to do and be is long and my days feel very short. I feel overwhelmed and I get frustrated. Sometimes get so busy trying to fulfill the unrealistic expectations I have for myself that those expectations get in the way of my relationship with God.

On Sunday, which happened to be Mother’s Day, my pastor spoke on this passage and on the Jewish tradition of Eshet Chayil; which in Hebrew translates to Woman of Valor. In Proverbs 31:10-31 many scholars believe that this is the description of an ideal woman, wife, and mother. Some scholars believe that this is an allegory for the sacred text: Torah.  Whether this passage is an allegory or a definitive expectation it is worthy of study and reflection. The woman in the passage, at first glance may seem to be a woman who is perfect but on a deeper reading it is really about a woman who puts God first in all she does. She is a woman who works hard for her family and does what she can for them but keeps God first and foremost in her heart and mind. She is able to do and be all of these things because she puts God first.

It also got me to thinking. Where do all of these things I expectations come from? Are they images of womanly perfection as presented by media or society? Are they expectations I have created on my own out of a personal desire to be perfect? Do they come from family, friends, or my husband? This passage helped me to understand that many of expectations I put on myself are driven by outside forces like the media or society. They are not Biblically based or have any grounding in my faith. I realized that these expectations of perfection I have been holding myself to are not the same standard that God has created for me.  

After spending a few days thinking about this passage it reminded me of the song Legacy byNichole Nordeman. Being a mother is about leaving a legacy of faith in Jesus Christ. Investing in my family is about investing in the Kingdom of God. It is not about having a perfectly clean house or ironed sheets. The expectations we place on ourselves does not always bring us closer to God. I want to be closer to God. I do not want to be called Super Mom, I want to be called Eshet Chayil- Woman of Valor  

Questions for Discussion

1.    Is this a realistic expectation for women/wives/mothers? Why or why not?
2.    Looking at the passage, what qualities do you share with Godly expectation for an ideal woman?  
3.    What qualities do you strive to possess? How will you go about making that change in your character?
4.    What household task or chore are you hardest on yourself if you don’t complete it regularly? Why do you think you are so hard on yourself about it? What can you do to stop being so harsh with yourself about this chore/task?
5.    Do you feel like you get enough praise/affirmation/appreciation? How do you think your husband/family would respond if you told them that you needed more praise from them?
6.    What can we do support each other as women/wives/mothers? To provide each other with encouragement, love, and affirmation?  

  1. Additional Resources:

I found and printed the 10 Virtues of of a Proverbs 31 Woman from the web page A Virtuous Woman . I this page also gives you additional scriptures for each of the 10 virtues. There are also several other resources at this website for the Christian Mama. 

Here is a link to Nicole Noredman's song Legacy:

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Sandbox to Sensory Box

One of the suggestions I have found for entertaining your toddler is creating sensory boxes or sensory bins. My son is not really into the sensory bin or bag idea but he has been really interested in his new sandbox. During nap time one day I decided to hide some of his dinosaurs (and few other bobbles) in the sandbox to see if we could have a little bit of adventure that afternoon. 

It was a great success!!! He even hides the objects himself sometimes and then finds them again. 

Before they are hidden...
I left some parts of the dinosaur sticking out of the sand so he would notice something was hidden.

After everything was hidden...

The fun begins!!! 

Friday, May 3, 2013

Accidents Happen

“Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Be hospitable to one another without complaining. 10 Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received. 11 Whoever speaks must do so as one speaking the very words of God; whoever serves must do so with the strength that God supplies, so that God may be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ. To him belong the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.” 1 Peter 4:8-11(NRSV)

In my house this week we relearned the meaning of the word accident. Our son has reached the place in his development where he is extremely curious and he is incredibly mobile. In the space of just a couple hours my son had emptied my jar of eye cream, one of the few luxuries I still allow myself, and had poured my coffee all over my husband’s computer. In my effort to “save” the computer I was not gentle with my son. I unceremoniously dumped my son on the floor and then told him that what he did was bad. The words, “That was bad Timothy;” have haunted me all week.  I think this is the first time I have told him that something he did was bad. The whole incident resulted in both of us crying. On reflection, I was very proud of myself for not losing my temper. I didn’t yell at him or say any bad words. I was really very calm but this doesn’t change how bad I felt. I felt guilty that the incident had happened at all and I felt guilty for telling him that he had done bad.

In some ways being a parent has made feel like I understand God and the relationship He has with us better. With all of God’s omnipotence accidents still happen. Human Will causes bad things to happen in our world and causes pain every day. We behave badly all the time and yet God still loves us and still forgives us.  The love God has for us was not truly comprehensible to me until I became a mother, now I understand. For my son, my husband and I are his first point of contact for understanding the meaning of true, steadfast love. The way we approach his accidents and his mistakes is how he will come to know what it means to be loved.

Accidents happen, we have to accept them and sometimes we have to pay the consequences of them. By the same token it is hard to be parents and it is so hard to tell our children they have done wrong. While my son did not mean to be destructive that does not change the fact that he did do damage. We will have to all learn how to navigate the waters of bad behavior together. It will be hard to tell our son when he does wrong and it will be hard for him to hear it. The one thing we must keep in mind is that we must always approach wrong doing with love and dignity.

Questions for Further Reflection
1.    Are there any examples in the Bible of how God has handled wrong doing or accidents? What do these interactions teach us about God’s love and forgiveness and how He disciplines us?
2.    Can you remember a time when your parents handled an accidently harshly? How did that affect you? Does it influence the way you will approach accidents with your child?
3.    Can you remember a time when your parents handled an accident or mistake with compassion? How did that affect you? Does that influence the way you will handle accidents?
4.    Sometime it is easier to see the log in another’s eye: Have you observed situations where children had done something on accident or made a mistake and you thought that a parent did not handle things well? What did they do that you didn’t like? In contrast have you seen a parent handle a situation in a way that you would like to emulate?
5.    Have you and your husband discussed how you will approach accidents and mistakes? Does having an “action plan” make a difference in the moment or does it only help after things have calmed down?
6.    Is it hard to accept the difference between intentionally doing wrong and accidents? How can we tell the difference?