Archive of ‘Preschooler’ category

Your Child’s Misbehavior May be a Clue That They Need A Routine

I’m writing this blog 6 months into the COVID-19 pandemic, however, I think this topic is helpful during any time of change, transition, and stress.  When things become unpredictable in our lives, adults and children alike experience a desire to have more control and autonomy.  For children, their brains are still rapidly developing, and they lack the years of experience that adults have to weather times of change. Children and teens are being dramatically impacted during this global pandemic, and at Austin Family Counseling (and in our own homes) we are noticing increased worry, anxiety, withdrawal, acting out behavior, and more clues that children need extra support. 

One strategy parents and caregivers can teach is the practice of creating routines. Side note: I’m a BIG FAN of routines, and have actually made a routine out of Back to School Routines (see my  blog from 2014 when my kids were 4 and 2 – now they are 10 and 8! https://austinfamilycounseling.com/back-school-morning-hustle/)

 When students go into a new classroom, there are daily tasks, activities, and rules they engage in under their teacher’s guidance. With practice, these become their new routines at school. Kids as young as age 3 can tell you their school routine – this is when we have outside time, eat lunch, etc.  With preparation and practice, parents can help children develop routines for daily living at home.  

Regardless of whether you are homeschooling, attending school virtually, going back in person, or a hybrid model, with the start of our first pandemic school year here in Texas (and all over the world), consider the following reasons that routines might be just what your child needs. 

Routines provide comfort and structure.

While plans for school, the health of our families, parent job stress, and so many other things around us are spinning, a plan for the day that guides children – “First, I do this. Now, I do this” – allows children to relax and focus on the tasks at hand.  This is a place where they have some control.  Inviting them to co-create their routine with you is so important – use the blank chart below or create one of your own to plan together.  Give choices like “would you like to get dressed before you come down for breakfast or after?” or “What are the 3 things you want to do before you come downstairs in the morning?” or “Would you like to schedule your outside time in the morning or in the afternoon?” 

Routines become the “boss” instead of the parents and caregivers.

When you co-create your routine together, you are making an agreement with your child that this will be how the day goes (consequently, if you dictate their routine or lack of routine, you are making an agreement with your child that you will be on standby to entertain them or keep them busy).  Be sure to build in things they look forward to.  At my house, we have agreed that screen time is from 3pm to 5pm each day.  Because this hasn’t changed it has become predictable, and we can check the clock together so see “how much longer” until they can get on, or my kids can see what they need to get done before being allowed to have their devices. Because we’ve agreed in advance,  I can say “what’s next in your routine?” or “What did we agree we would do from 11-12 today?” pointing to the routine as the “boss” rather than me. 

Routines that are developed by the child give them a sense of autonomy and promote confidence and responsibility. 

 If you start using routines today with your children, how proficient and confident do you think they will be after practicing for 2 years? Or 6 years? Or 8 years? My oldest will likely be moving away to college or to a work study in 8 years – I can’t wait to see how his sense of autonomy and responsibility will have grown! 

Here are some resources for ROUTINES:

Check out this article from the CDC with tips and info about the routines: https://www.cdc.gov/parents/essentials/structure/index.html

Positive Discipline Resources & Video about routines:

https://www.positivediscipline.com/articles/routines-tool-card

“The challenge of parenting lies in finding the balance between nurturing, protecting, and guiding, on one hand, and allowing your child to explore, experiment, and become an independent, unique person, on the other.”

Jane Nelsen (Positive Discipline for Preschoolers: For Their Early Years)

Written By: Lora Ferguson, LPC-S, AFC Founder & Co-Director


Talking to Your Young Children About Race: 5 Ideas to Help White Parents Start the Conversation

My 5 year old has had a lot of observations and questions about race lately. Even though I try to shield her from the news (as I don’t think the news is appropriate for 5 year olds, generally-speaking), some racial differences are obvious and there are many questions a curious and observant child comes up with. On our neighborhood run today, she says, “Mommy, what do those signs mean….’Black Lives Matter”? As a parent, I start to clam up a little – like how do I appropriately answer that question without providing a comprehensive history lesson? Am I the right person to answer this? Am I going to say the wrong thing? These types of questions may raise feelings of discomfort for parents and lead them to gloss right over the question or change the subject to avoid the uneasiness. PLEASE don’t do this!!! Silence is not the answer. If we as parents are unable to respond to these questions, then who can? The news? A fellow 5 year old friend? A crotchety extended family member? No, I will not let someone else be the first to answer this for my child! This is our job as parents and our opportunity as human beings to model for our children how people ought to treat and respect one another. It is our opportunity to instill the values of kindness, equality, respect and awareness of similarities and differences. It is our chance to encourage our children to get comfortable asking questions, challenging norms, and for us to nurture cultural curiosity, sensitivity and openness. 

So, what are some ways we can have these essential conversations with our young children? Here are 5 ideas to get you started. 

Don’t Be Silent!

No, you don’t have to pull up a YouTube video of police brutality, but you don’t have to wait for them to ask either. Kids are not color blind and racial bias can be internalized for children as young as 2-4! Don’t be afraid to talk to them about skin color and why some people’s skin is darker than others (melanin). Talk about why it is good that all people are different and celebrate this! And definitely don’t shy away from a question if they ask you directly. You are their best and most influential teacher!!!  

Also, IT IS OKAY if you stumbled on some answers. If upon reflection and/or reading up on the subject, if you feel you could have said something better or differently, bring it back up with them. Children are WAY more receptive to repair than we realize and also WAY quicker to pick up on fear or discomfort than we know. Being silent or deflecting their questions could send them the message that it’s not a topic that is okay to discuss, and THAT is actually the more harmful outcome.  

Keep Your Answers as Concise as Possible

These are not topics of simplicity and quite the opposite, but the attention span of a preschooler is short! You could lose them if you give too much information.  If you are unsure of where to start, you can begin with teaching compassion, equality and inclusion of others that are different. You can later bring in more of the historical background information. 

Be Ready for Some Confusion; This is to be Expected

For example, preschoolers tend to learn about police and first responders as “good” people in our world. So, naturally, the question arises, “But Mama, I thought police offers are supposed to help people?” Kids want things to be easily categorized – good vs bad, wrong vs right, no grey areas. Their brains are wired to see the world with this dichotomy and developmentally, they won’t fully be able to comprehend that middle area for quite some time. But, you can prepare them so that when they are confronted with the grey it is not the first time they’re exposed to a new or different perspective.  You can say, “Well sweetheart, yes many police officers are good, but there are also many police officers that have used their power in bad ways. That is not okay and we want to change that.” 

Expose Your Children to People of Different Races in your Community

Attend an event put on by a local social justice organization, or donate/volunteer for their cause and talk to you children about it if they are too young to join you. Visit a museumThe George Washington Carver Museum (which is currently closed due to COVID-19 concerns), is a great place to visit as its goal is to “create a space where the global contributions of all Black people are celebrated.” In the meantime, there is some virtual content on their website to explore. You could also visit the Six Square, Austin’s Black Cultural Historic District that “comprises six square miles of East Austin, home to numerous sites of significance featuring landmarks of Black architecture and design, historic cemeteries, sites of slavery and emancipation, churches and more.” Make a point to support black-owned local businesses. See a list of black-owned businesses in Austin here. 

Read Books Together that Include People of all Different Races

…and with nonwhite people as heroes and protagonists. Find movies, games and apps with diverse characters. Here are a few books that that are age appropriate for young children: The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats, Saturday by Oge Mora and They Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson. Please consider visiting Black Pearl Books, an online black-owned bookstore based in Austin, Texas. Their website has an amazing list of books to help kids understand racism and diversity. Check it out! 

Talking about race with our children will only be an initial step. To raise a generation of culturally competent people, we will have to actively take steps to model anti-racism using our voices, attitudes, actions and behaviors. Ok, now go start the conversation. You can do this!!! 

By: Brooklie Benson Gonzales, LPC-Intern
Under supervision of Emily K. Slaughter, LPC-S


The Misbehaving Student…and How to Help Them

It is the most difficult children who often need us the most.  We hear from people working in schools that consequences and suspensions do not seem to change their behavior.  Core curriculum, testing and other requirements are putting an incredible burden on teachers. These challenging students are often the tipping point for a class.

What these misbehaving children are really looking for is to feel like they belong in the class, and that they are cared about.

Many of the misbehaving children have had things happen in their young lives that cause them to distrust others.  They may not have been fed or had their physical needs taken care of as babies, so they do not understand “if-then” thinking – if I cry, I get fed.  If I act out in class, then there are consequences. Some may be dealing with abuse or neglect of them or a parent, drugs or alcohol in the home, or violence.  They may feel they always have to be “on guard”, to protect themselves. 

All it takes is one adult to make a difference a child’s life.

So what can be done to help?  Here are some ways to build relationships with these most difficult children:

  • Get to where you can speak face to face with them.   Speak calmly and slowly. If you remain calm, it will help them to calm down.
  • Express an understanding of how they are feeling, saying “It seems like you are really angry.  Tell me more.” And then listen.
  • Ask them what you can do to help them.  They may need a break from being in the class, so asking if they would like to bring something to the office or another class may help.
  • Focus on building the relationship.  As trust is built, they may question it, as they may not have had a trusting relationship with an adult before. 

It is important to have patience and give it time.  These children likely have had years of bad relationships with adults.  As the relationship builds, the whole class benefits. There will be less disruptions, and more teachable time.  You can be that “one adult” for this child!

Written by: Carol Dores

Carol is a Certified Positive Discipline Trainer. She has worked with educators and staff of preschoolers through high school, as well as hundreds of parents of all aged children (prenatal to adult). She co-founded Positive Discipline of Connecticut, and served as Co-Chair of the international Board of Directors of the Positive Discipline Association. Carol has worked with schools in bringing Positive Discipline to whole school settings. She has two adult sons and a husband of over 35 years. Their relationships continue to grow and benefit from Positive Discipline.


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