Monday, 10 February 2020

Communication Breakdown - What To Do When It Happens?

It happens to the best of us. Communication is such a fickle thing, and the lines of communication can become blurred every so often, especially when love and feelings are involved. Even those who think that they are immune to the confusion of conflict can find themselves drawn into a communication breakdown when they least expect it, and chaos ensues.

Even those of us who are better equipped than many others are not immune. This happened to me on the weekend, and until to be quite honest, it took me by surprise. My spouse told me something that really hurt my feelings, and I automatically lashed back in defense.

It was a silly argument, over something as simple as a misplaced bottle of perfume. But to me, it represented something much deeper that had been simmering away for a couple of weeks. I get frustrated at having to search for something when it is not where I expect it to be, worse still when my partner has shifted it and I don't know the first place to begin searching.

Perfume, needles and thread, car keys, a Tupperware container to store my baking soda in, covers for our outdoor chairs, all were examples of instances where I had to turn the house upside-down. A simple answer from my spouse when these things were shifted would have saved me a lot of time and frustration. And the answer I got? "You need to open your eyes and organize yourself better"

I was gutted. When I come home from work I exercise the dog and cook dinner so that it is on the table by the time my partner gets home. The house is always spotless and warm, as I'm very conscious of coming home to a tidy environment.

I see this as a fundamental part of my role in coming home first, and it takes a lot of my time. To imply that I have the time to "organize yourself better" really hurt.

I don't expect praise, but I did hope that my efforts were recognized. I got told that "I don't expect you to cook my dinner every night." That was interpreted by me as ingratitude, and hurt me even more.

So where to from here? My spouse felt guilty at coming home every night to the perfect household, where I felt guilty if it wasn't perfect. It was never about me trying to make my spouse feel guilty, but it seems it did. And this is where the communication fell down. He misinterpreted my efforts, and I misinterpreted his response.

Communication, communication, communication. I needed my partner to keep me informed of where things move to. I need to be informed. I need to voice my frustration before it gets to boiling point. We both need to talk about our feelings more, and how each of our contributions to our home and our relationship make us feel, and how we interpret each others contributions.

Just because something isn't spoken about, doesn't mean it's not important. A relationship or marriage is not a competition, but for many couples it feels like it.

When people feel guilt or stress, it leads them to act funny ways. Often stress and guilt are barriers to communication. The key to overcoming them is to recognize what it is, and have the courage to talk about it. You might be able to do it as a couple, or you might want the help of a friend who can listen to the way you are communicating with each other and offer insights and advice.

We got it sorted out, and kissed and hugged. It wouldn't hurt so much if I didn't feel such love at the same time. But it served as a good reminder to me. Sometimes you get so wrapped up in your own emotions that you forget to think of the other person. You also need to entertain the possibility that you are misinterpreting each other. Talking about it is the way to expose the miscommunication and let the healing begin.

Wednesday, 5 February 2020

Transitioning Your Child From Crib To Bed - A Little Big Change

I want out! That’s the message your toddler will send – one way or another – when he’s ready to wave goodbye to the crib and say hello to a big-kid bed. Your child might actually verbalize displeasure, or more likely, simply climb out of the crib.

So, what needs to be done?

First, resist the temptation to move him too early. Most experts recommend doings so around age 3. Unless your child is climbing out of his crib or needs more space than a crib can provide – his body is growing at an astounding rate – it’s better to keep him in the crib, which allows him to feel safe.
This way, your child can feel comfortable taking giant developmental leaps during the day but still regress to the security of his old crib at night.
Moreover, until age 3, toddlers are very impulsive, and your child’s difficulty in understanding and being able to follow directions or rules (like staying in bed all night) will make sleeping in a bed a real challenge. If you transition to a bed before age 3, you can plan on waking up to a little visitor next to your bed pretty much every night.

When the time comes, however, you need to help your child transition smoothly to sleeping in a bed. For that, you need to follow certain steps. These are:

1.    Create a safe environment: Safety proof your child’s room and any adjacent areas he may be able to visit into the middle of the night. Secure windows, tops of stairs, and any stepstools that can be tripped over. Even better, you can install a safety gate at your child’s door. You can even install a small night-light in his room to help him orient himself and avoid hurting himself.

2.    Pick the mattress: Go to the mattress store – or any other store that sells mattresses – and let your child help you choose the mattress or bed. With safety in mind, all you need is a twin-size mattress and box spring and some safety rails for the side. You should adjust the height of this new bed accordingly, as it will need to sit low on the floor for some time until your child gets used to it. Get some fun new sheets, some special pillowcases and you’re set to go.

3.    Disassemble the crib (together): Once the new bed comes home, ask your child to help you to take down the crib. This way, your child will feel part of the transition process and will also be able to say good-bye to the crib.

4.    Set up the bed: Put the bed in a corner of your child’s room so that the head and side of the bed are flush against the wall for protection. Add a safety rail to the exposed side of the bed. Your child will feel safe this way, just as he did in his crib.

5.    Explain the rules of bedtime: If your child is verbal before the first night of sleeping in the bed, go over the rules of bedtime with him. Tell him that he is a big boy now who needs to understand that when we go to sleep, we only wake up when the sun is nice and bright.

6.    Do your bedtime routine: During the first few nights your child is sleeping in his new bed, take an extra 10 minutes of reading time together to make him feel comfortable in his new environment. The idea here is to make your child feel safe. If your child seems excited about the new bed from the very start, you’re one of those luck people who has made this transition easily.


Monday, 3 February 2020

Teaching Children to Read at Early Stage

Did you know that 38% of grade four students have reading abilities below the lowest basic level as determined by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)? The NAEP is the only ongoing survey of what students known and tracks their performance in various academic subjects for the United States. In their report, the NAEP found that 38% of grade four students had reading achievement below basic levels, with a basic level reading score being 208.

To put things in perspective, the US reading scale has an upper limit score of 500, with average reading scores for grade 4 (217), grade 8 (264), and grade 12 (291). The grade 4 reading achievement levels are categorized by the NAEP as Advanced (268 score), Proficient (238 score), and Basic (208 score), and the basic reading achievement level is defined as follows by the NAEP:

    Fourth-grade students performing at the Basic level should demonstrate an understanding of the overall meaning of what they read. When reading text appropriate for fourth graders, they should be able to make relatively obvious connections between the text and their own experiences and extend the ideas in the text by making simple inferences.

Unfortunately, over a third of all grade four students read at levels even below basic. Is your child having reading difficulties? Research on Phonemic Awareness have found that early reading helps improves a child's reading and spelling abilities. In fact, the National Reading Panel has concluded based on their massive review of over 1,900 studies that teaching phonics and phonemic awareness produces better reading results than whole language programs.

There are numerous documented benefits and advantages of teaching children to read early on, and teaching them to reading using phonics and phonemic awareness instructions. It is clear that early language and reading ability development passes great benefits to the child as they progress through school at all grades, and that early language and reading problems can lead to learning problems later on in school. For example, a Swedish study found that children with a history of reading problems at school entry scores significantly below average on reading in grade 4. As well, children that shows very low interest in books and story reading before age 5 also scored similarly low on sentence reading in grade 4. [2] This is just one of many studies which have similar findings, and this makes it an imperative for parents to begin exposing their children to books and reading at an early age.

So how early?

Good question!

There's no set guideline on when you should start teaching your children to read; however, you can start cultivating your child's love for books and reading as soon as they're born. Obviously, very young babies would not even know what books are, however, talking to your child and reading to your child will help them develop a keen liking for books and stories. As your child grows and gets older, avoid TV-sitting them, because as they develop a dependency on television as their main source of entertainment, it becomes very difficult to dislodge that need for TV entertainment, and get them to enjoy reading books. Instead, keep age appropriate books all around the house, and read to them often. You'll find that they'll start picking up books and pretend to read themselves, although at very early ages, they still cannot read.

People typically think that kindergarten or grade one would be an appropriate time for their children to start reading; however, this is not the best approach as studies have repeatedly found that children with good phonemic awareness before entering kindergarten continues to outperform, and achieve exceptional reading and spelling abilities as they progress through school. On the other hand, children who enter school with reading difficulties may continue to have reading and spelling difficulties.

Sunday, 2 February 2020

Teaching Children to Read and Write

Most parents, at one point or another, frets over the education and the development of their children. Many concerned parents research and seek information on the topic of teaching children to read and write. I for one, am glad to see so many parents wanting to get an early start for their children in reading and writing, because studies have shown that developing these abilities early on before entering school provides numerous benefits and advantages later on as the child progresses through school.

More worrisome should be the fact that over one third, 38% to be exact, of all grade 4 students cannot even achieve a basic level of reading ability according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). This is an alarming statistic. Will your child become one of the 38% who cannot reach basic reading achievement by grade 4? For most children, this poor ability to read can be easily prevented with early phonemic awareness teaching.

Reading must begin early in the life of a child, whether it is just an alphabet letter, a word, a sentence, a paragraph, or a story. Teaching children how to read must begin early on, and children should be exposed to books, stories, rhymes, and be read to on a daily basis. Children as young as 2 years old can learn to read if you teach them to read with the proper instructions. Please watch the video below of a 2 year 11 months old reading randomly constructed sentences.

As Lida Williams said, almost 100 years ago:

Phonics is not a method of teaching reading, but it is a necessary part of every good, modern method. It is the key to word mastery, and word mastery is one of the first essentials in learning to read. A knowledge of the sounds of letters, and of the effect of the position of the letter upon its sound, is an essential means of mastering the mechanics of reading, and of enabling children to become independent readers.

100 years later, this still holds true. There has been a great debate on what method of teaching is best to teach children how to read: whether phonics or the whole language method is better. The whole language learning to read method is more of a "word memorization" plan, where a young child is supposed to memorize the "shape" of the word, and say it.

It is important to distinguish the difference between phonological awareness and phonemic awareness. Phonological awareness is very broad, and includes phonemic awareness as a sub category. Phonemic awareness is very narrow, and it is only focused on the phonemes, which are the individual sounds of letters. There are no shortage of studies which have repeatedly found and concluded that teaching phonemic awareness to young children produces exceptional reading and spelling abilities. You can read more about research on phonemic awareness here.

The whole language method simply expects a child to "read" when presented reading material, and by memorizing sight words. The phonics method is a bottom up approach where you teach children to read in a logical and sequential order. You first teach children the alphabet letters and the sounds they represent; then you teach children to combine (or blend) various letter sounds together to form words; which is then followed by reading sentences and simple stories. This is a logical progression for children learning to read, where they develop accuracy in decoding words and pronouncing words. This method of teaching also helps the child to spell correctly.

Sunday, 26 January 2020

Phonemic Awareness

Phonemic Awareness is defined as the ability to identify, hear, and work with the smallest units of sound known as phonemes. It is NOT the same as phonological awareness, instead, it is a sub-category of phonological awareness. For example, phonemic awareness is narrow, and deals only with phonemes and manipulating the individual sounds of words - such as /c/, /a/, and /t/ are the individual sounds that make up to form the word "cat". Phonological awareness on the other hand, includes the phonemic awareness ability, and it also includes the ability to hear, identify, and manipulate larger units of sound such as rimes and onsets.

Phonemic awareness can be taught very early on, and will play a critical role in helping children learn to read and spell. While it's not set in stone on when a child can learn to read, however, I do believe that a child that can speak is a child that can learn to read. Children as young as two years old can learn to read by developing phonemic awareness, and they can learn to read fluently. Please see a video of a 2 year old (2yr11months) reading below.

Below are several of the most common phonemic awareness skills that are often practiced with students and young children:

Phonemic identity - being able to recognize common sounds in different words such as /p/ is the common sound for "pat", "pick", and "play".
   
Phonemic isolation - being able to recognize the individual sounds of words such as /c/ is the beginning sound of "cat" and /t/ is the ending sound of "cat".
   
Phoneme substitution - being able to change one word to another by substituting one phoneme. For example changing the /t/ in "cat" to /p/ now makes "cap".
   
Word Segmenting - the parent says the word "lap", and the child says the individual sounds: /l/, /a/, and /p/.
   
Oral blending - the parent says the individual sounds such as /r/, /e/, and /d/, and the child forms the word from the sounds to say "red".

Studies have found that phonemic awareness is the best predictor of reading success in young children. Research has also found that children with a high level of phonemic awareness progress with high reading and spelling achievements; however, some children with low phonemic awareness experience difficulties in learning to read and spell. Therefore, it is important for parents to help their young children develop good phonemic awareness.

Being able to oral blend and segment words helps children to read and spell. According to the National Reading Panel, oral blending helps children develop reading skills where printed letters are turned into sounds which combine to form words. Additionally, word segmenting helps children breakdown words into their individual sounds (phonemes), and helps children learn to spell unfamiliar words.

As a young child begins to develop and master phonemic awareness skills, they will discover an entirely new world in print and reading. You will open up their world to a whole new dimension of fun and silliness. They will be able to read books that they enjoy, develop a better understanding of the world around them through printed materials, and have a whole lot of fun by making up new nonsense words through phonemic substitutions.

For example, we taught our daughter to read at a young age - when she was a little over 2 and a half years old. Before she turned three, she would run around the house saying all types of silly words using phonemic substitution. One of her favorite was substituting the letter sound /d/ in "daddy" with the letter sound /n/. So, she would run around me in circles and repeatedly say "nanny, nanny, come do this" or "nanny, nanny, come play with me" etc... Of course, she only did this when she wanted to be silly and to make me laugh, at other times, she would of course properly refer to me as "daddy", and not "nanny". She is well aware of the differences between these words and is fully capable of using phonemic substitution to change any of the letters in the words to make other words.

Sunday, 19 January 2020

How to Teach Phonemic Awareness While Reading Bedtime Stories

Helping young children develop phonemic awareness early on is one of the keys for children to develop exceptional reading and writing skills once they begin attending schools. Did you know that studies have indicated that phonemic awareness is the single best predictor of reading success for young children once they begin school? In fact, studies have found that phonemic awareness is far better than IQ at predicting the reading and spelling abilities of young children.

Most people  know about phonics, and what it is; however, far fewer people know what phonemic awareness is. In short, phonemic awareness is the ability to hear, identify, and work with the phonemes. For example, /d/, /o/, and /g/, are the individual sounds of the word "dog". Please note, the letters enclosed in the slashes denotes the sound of the letter, and not the name of the letter. Phonemes are the smallest units of individual sounds that form a word.

Phonemic awareness is not something you're born with, and it is an ability that's gained through repeated exposure to listening, speaking, and reading. As parents, there are many different strategies you can use to help your children develop phonemic awareness such as playing simple word segmentation or oral blending games.

Like most parents, we (my wife and I) read bedtime stories before we put our children to sleep, and one of the best strategies that we like to use to teach phonemic awareness to our children, is to mix in word segmenting and oral blending when we read bedtime stories for our kids. This is an exceptional method, because it doesn't take any extra time or effort, since reading bedtime stories is something you already do. So, here's how to go about it.

Let's say that you're reading a nursery rhyme "Jack and Jill":

Jack and Jill went up the hill
To fetch a pail of water.
Jack fell down and broke his crown
And Jill came tumbling after.

Instead of reading each word straight through the rhyme, you can randomly mix in oral blending on various words in the rhyme. Please note: instead of using slashes "/" to denote phonemes, we'll simply use hyphens to make it easier to read. So, let's assume that your child is very young, perhaps 2, 3, or 4 years old, and you want to start helping them develop some phonemic awareness. You can read Jack and Jill like so:

J-ack and J-ill went up the h-ill
To fetch a p-ail of water.
J-ack fell down and broke his crown
And J-ill came tumbling after.

As you can see, when you read the rhyme, you simply make an effort to separate several of the first letters sounds from the words, such as /J/ from "ack", and /J/ from "ill". As your child begins to grasp the concept of individual sounds making up words, you can slowly increase the difficulty by breaking down each word further. For example:

Jack
J-ack
J-a-ck

Repeated exposure of this type of word segmenting and oral blending will slowly help your child develop a sense and an understanding that each word is made up of individual sounds - in other words, you are teaching phonemic awareness to your children during bedtime stories without them even knowing that they are being taught to!

Tuesday, 14 January 2020

Can Your Spouse Love You Again? It is Possible if You Learn How

Like the seasons, love in a relationship grows and wanes.

One of the most common myths in marriages is the belief that when the love wanes the relationship is over.

It's not.

If your spouse says 'I have fallen out of love with you,' don't panic. It doesn't mean your marriage is over. It doesn't even mean they don't love you. What it does mean is that your spouse has lost their way, or doesn't understand the many stages love and a relationship goes through.

You are being called to take charge of the situation, guide your spouse towards understanding this process, and even begin to rekindle your relationship.

The key to success is in understanding what is happening in your marriage and the role that love plays. It's very easy for us to connect losing the feelings of being in love with actual loving when it is not really the case.

After the initial thrill of romance is gone, couples often find themselves lost and confused. What they don't realize is that love is not just this heady lustful feeling that carries us away. That feeling has a shelf life. When the prospect of spending years together sets in, the correct question to ask one's self would be 'How now do I love without the initial thrill?'

We have to discover that every relationship has stages:

- falling in love,
- the honeymoon stage
- chaos or disillusionment,
- then mature love or resolution.

We are very quick to judge that we no longer love someone just because the feelings fade. With proper understanding, we can expect that even if the feeling may not be there, it doesn't mean we don't love.

In truth, love is a commitment. It is not just a feeling, it is a doing thing. A mature person loves by choice and not simply by circumstance.

The next step would be to manage your partner's feelings or lack thereof by starting with dialogue. Talk about the feelings and find out what happened, where is it coming from? There are numerous tools and methods available for a couple ' together or with a counselor/mediator ' that would help them examine their present situation. Talk to your spouse and tell him or her that the relationship deserves at the very least, dialogue.

In dialogue, let your spouse talk and you listen. There may be important things you need to learn about your spouse and your marriage. On the other hand, you can also share your own feelings about what is happening. Try not to place blame on your spouse, however, but share your thoughts and feelings by using 'I feel' statements.

In the meantime, do some self-improvement. It is never too late to evolve into a happier, more mature and more lovable person - even if it's just something you do for yourself. For all you know, this new you will be more attractive to your spouse and come as a surprise to him or her.

Finally, don't stop reinforcing your presence in the marriage. Do some positive loving acts for your spouse without expecting anything in return. These mirror your mature, positive view of what love really is. Make these acts little things. They don't have to be grand gestures.

It's the everyday things that actually build trust, intimacy and love between couples.