Healthy Anger Management for Boys

I titled this post as anger management for boys not because I think girls do not have anger they need help to manage, but as a personal story about my grandson.

I grew up in a generation and a family where anger was to be hidden.  We talk only about positive things and scorn those that appear to promote conflict or violence.

As a toy maker for children, I seek to promote toys that encourage healthy play environments and to that end, navigate away from creating toys of “conflict or pretend battles.”  Well, at least until I entered the world of play found in communities of boys.  I started to examine more closely traditional boy play environments seeking to understand the why of play conflict, such as super heroes and villains.

I then pondered a world filled with conflict, divorce, separation, and hurt.  Could it be children can benefit emotional well-being through conflict play environments?  A place where the good guy and bad guy are clearly defined?  A place where children are safe in expressing feelings of anger, fear, and triumph?  A place to reconcile feelings they don’t quite understand?  A place where children have complete control over the outcome…who the winners and losers are?

I have researched and written papers on the role-playing aspects of play.  How repetitive play acts as rehearsal and can build positive skills in children.  My worry was that combat play would rehearse the wrong skills—reinforce aggressive behavior.  But I see now, that I was short-sited with application.  Not only do children rehearse and build desirable skills through a guided play environment, but they also practice how to manage conflict, fear, and uncertainty.

For many years we have put aggressive boys into sports teams to help them direct their aggression in a positive environment.  Sports are a type of battle—there are winners and losers.  Here we teach how to be a gracious winner and a tempered loser.  We teach that losing is not the end.  To keep on trying to win at your goal.  The same type of positive application can be true of combat play using toys.

I said this was personal.  Yes.  My grandson is separated from his father.  A father who has not found the value in being an active participant in his life.  Additionally, my grandson has some emotional disabilities that make it harder for him to control his impulses.  The combination of feelings of sadness, loneliness for his father, anger, and lack of control leads to episodes of behavior problems.  My goal is to give him a healthy way to vent these feelings before they build up and contribute to problems that can impact his ability to interact socially.

My grandson is very smart and creative; he loves to make things.  So, I made him a bad-guy that he helped design.  I suggested when he feelings anger, this bad guy is tough enough for a pretend battle.  I gave him permission, if you will, to act out on this character.  My hopes are the stuffed bad guy, that he help make, would help him transition from feelings of anger to feelings of confidence that he can win even when life hurts.  I understand that this toy is not a “magic bullet” in the war over hurt and sadness, but perhaps it can be a tool to help him in times when he needs to express the negative energy created by being hurt in his situation.  At a time when his maturity is not enough to reconcile the situation of his broken home.  I figure, at minimum, he will know his grandmother loves him and this bad guy that we built together represents a positive element in his life.

Via E Japanese Oni Plush Toy PDF Pattern

The feature picture is of the stuffed bad guy my grandson designed.  He selected the colors. (The color selection gives insight, doesn’t it?)  Later today, he will glue on the face pieces and decide what his Japanese oni should wear and we will make it together.  Perhaps we will make some more battle tools to aid his play experience. I hope my story and thoughts create conversations on how we can help our little ones navigate a big and sometimes difficult world.

Kewanee Arrow Craft

Archery is the sport, practice, or skill of using a bow to shoot arrows. The word comes from the Latin arcus, meaning bow. Historically, archery has been used for hunting and combat. In modern times, it is mainly a competitive sport and recreational activity.(Wikipedia)

When Kewanee picks up her long bow she feels connected to her ancestors. For this reason, she enjoys target shooting and competing with her brother NIKAN to see who can get the most points. Together the set up targets, cans or apples to see if they can aim well enough to knock them off the platform where they were set. Kewanee and NIKAN always make sure they are practicing in an area set up for target practice to ensure they don’t hurt anyone and their arrows are not sharp but have a foam tip so they can only knock things over.

This arrow craft can be made with things you can easily find around the house or get at your local craft store. It is easy enough for kindergarten aged children, but it is important to supervise play.

The images below are the front and back of the Arrow Craft included with Kewanee’s Forest outfit shown below. You can get this outfit for a limited time at: https://via-e.com/collections/clothing-activity-sets/products/forest-limited-edition-sketch-pad-design

Use the Foam Arrow Trace pattern to make the foam arrowhead.
Use the color thread to secure the arrowhead and ends of the feather to the chopstick (cut the chopstick to any size. I like a size of 6 1/2 inches.) As you wrap the thread cover the area so the thread becomes the decoration. Use super glue to tack the end of the thread when you are done winding it around the arrow.

Bumper Cars

Have you ever been on a bumper car attraction? 

Perhaps they are most enjoyed from the sidelines as you can’t help but to smile and feel joy.  Some bumper cars cruise around the arena intently avoiding others.  Some charge at full speed to bump the car of this methodical avoidance.  With triumphant glee, they “got you.”  And in the spirit of bumper cars, perhaps you laugh and then maneuver to a safer space.  Then there are those who get caught up in the crowd, bumping and being bumped.  It seems there is always a car that gets stuck against the edge of the arena that can’t seem to figure out how to get un-stuck.

I was thinking, life is like a bumper car attraction—bumping others and being bumped.  We get bumped by people, employers, governmental policy, etc.  And in our attempt to find a safer space, we bump others.  I wonder if a secret to living a joyful life is more about inner joy and the ability to move on after being “bumped.”

Perhaps it is about creating a circle around those who are being targeted by the “got you” bumper types.  But doing so in a way that the act of protecting is its own reward, creates its own joy.

I think a joyful soul is a powerful elixir.  So many tales of extreme hardship have turned into powerful messages that leave a positive imprint on society’s reflection.  You see, people are watching.  They see you.  They feel you.  If you can be joy filled, love filled when you are being bumped, the blessing of peace will be yours and it will spread to others.

Yes, it is a game of bumper cars.  We will be bumped.  Sometimes gently, other times with great force.  We can’t control what bumper cars are going to do, where they will go, we can only control our reaction to being bumped.

Fill your minutes, hours, days with joyful thoughts.  Reflect on your best memories, your cherished ones, and plan the next.  Let good fill your mind and pull it deep into your soul.  Be a protective bumper for those in need and share your joy with others.

Be a light unto the world and darkness will be nothing more than a shadow of passing bumps.

Together we can extinguish, or at least make burdens less heavy, by having a joyful heart and sharing it with another.

My heart to yours,

Ellen

The Flight of Super Woman in Modern Times

“Pass me another energy drink please.”  It’s 5:30 am and time for the baby’s morning feeding.  This was proceeded by the 10:00pm and 1:00am feeding, making the night a series of cat naps.  A morning shower includes baby in the swing just outside the shower (he likes the light sprinkles that fall on his face as the water bounces off his mother’s shoulders).  Mom reaches down after rinsing the shampoo out of her hair to bring baby in for a quick wash down.  The warmth of the water and soothing feel of the rain-like drops on his back will act like an elixir and ensure a long morning nap–long enough to allow mom to dress, feed, and get brother off to school.  Thank goodness it is not her turn for the school carpool. A kiss and a hug send little Gunnar running to the car idling at the curb in front of the house.  Mom smiles and waves as the red minivan full of neighborhood children rushes off to beat the morning school bell.  Being sure to close the door quietly, she now has just enough time to make phone calls to the morning’s “Hot List” and attend her boss’s ZOOM video conference call.

Stories like this are being written in time all around the United States and perhaps the world.  This story is the tale of a single mom.  Adding a partner to the story may make it a little less hectic, but not much as it takes two incomes to keep a roof overhead and food on the table.  Mom as “Super Woman”, is not a novelty, it is a norm.  How did we get here?  How do we survive a life where the stories are the things of super-human efforts?

I’m not famous where my words will somehow inspire a paradigm shift that solves for sanity, but my observations, sprinkled with years of education, and my own experiences conclude the solution lies in the extended family. Working hard and being independent are two values, when not balanced with the old countries’ values of extended family integration and a ring of close community cooperation, can lead us to striving to be something no human was meant to be—super human.

It takes a village to raise a child is not just a saying, it is wisdom of generations from all cultures found around the world.  But somehow our worlds keep getting smaller.  The “me generation” has created a nasty residue of broken chains between family and community. The solution, I think, is not in creating governmental substitutes wear children are shipped off to free child care centers or the like.  I believe the solution is found in each of us.  In our willingness to connect.  Our willingness to lend another our time, our talents, our love, and support.  Being connected creates a place where each can be a hero without having to be super human.

Perhaps each of us can extend a helping hand to a family member, a community member, or even a stranger. 

Be a hero in another’s eyes as often as you can.  We are the stewards of the world in which live.

With all my heart,

Ellen

Don’t Forget Who You Are

I think every parent goes through a period of time where our children find themselves in situations that rattle their self confidence.  Perhaps it is a group of mean kids at school, maybe a teacher that has lost his/her compassion for those they teach, or maybe a sport or other competitive activity has turned from healthy life lessons to a political mess of adult goals and favoritism.  Regardless, we parents often feel inadequate to help ease the pain of such situations and powerless to protect those that are so dear to our hearts because, in fact, life is not always fair.

I’m in one of those situation now.  With four children, this is not the first time I’ve faced the situation and, I suppose, it will not be the last time either.  But I wanted to blog about the one thing we can do to help our children, no matter how old they are or become. Confidence is a very important life tool.  It becomes a shield to protect from life’s challenges and injustice.  We can’t stop the world from presenting difficult times or situations that feel unfair, but we can build and prop-up our children’s confidence.

Remember to tell your children how proud you are of them, tell them they are strong, smart, talented.  Find their strengths and give them opportunities to be successful so they can build their identity in confidence.  And when life gets hard and people are telling your child they are not good enough…remind your child of their talents, successes, intelligence.  Teach your children sometimes things just don’t fit together and that is O.K.  Give your children the power to remove themselves from situations that are abusive and everyday they walk out your front door to face the world tell them, “Don’t Forget Who You Are.”

Because who you are is good enough even when others say less.

From one parent to another,

Ellen

Can Playing More Be The Answer?

Parenting is tough.  There is so much to do!  To complicate things, entertainment has become almost anti-family values.  Do you know the background of those who are creating your child’s playthings and entertainment?  How much do they know about childhood development?  Do they even think past just selling a toy?  Via E does.  My goal is to help by providing a play culture and play things that are engineered to follow the latest science of child development and learning so you can rest assured.  Here is a list of courses I have completed or are in process (this list will continue to expand over time):

  • Child Growth and Development
  • Teaching Foundations and Frameworks for History and Social Science
  • Child Guidance and Communication
  • Early Care and Education Administration
  • Foundations and Frameworks for Language and Literature
  • Child Family and Community
  • Teaching Language and Literacy
  • Teaching in a Diverse Society
  • Infant and Toddler Development
  • School Age Before and After School Programs
  • Personnel and Leadership in Early Childhood Education
  • Principals and Practices of Teaching Young Children
  • Math and Science for Young Children

Supporting research and books:

  • Mind in the Making – The seven essential life skills every child needs by Ellen Galinsky
  • The Owner’s Manual for The Brain – Everyday applications from mind-brain research by Pierce J. Howard, Ph.D.

We have a whole lot of fun playing, but our play has a purpose of building strong minds and values.  The more play, the more learning…so let’s Play More!

Play More = Higher Intelligence

Playing makes children smarter.
In fact, playing increases intelligence in adults too.  Sounds like a marketing pitch, right?  Wrong.  I have spent over seven years investigating this premise and I can’t find any data to debunk this claim.  Actually, the more I research the better I understand the why of this claim.  The crazy thing is our schools are decreasing the amount of free play in their curriculum in the United States.  No doubt this is the result of the well-meaning politicians who know not what they do.  The subsequent increase of homework for all ages is almost at epic levels.  Well my friends, here is a bit of homework that will increase your child’s intelligence and at the same time, decrease stress at home…Play More.

Tinkering:  Time Magazine reports, “Research in the science of learning shows that hands-on building projects help young people conceptualize ideas and understand issues in greater depth.”[1]

Free Play: “The average bright child seems to spend about 45 to 50 minutes a day more in play than the average dull child. In mental recreation (“picture shows; playing checkers; cook and similar games; playing the piano or other instruments, etc.”) the average bright child spends an hour more than the average dull child.” Writes Boynton and Ford, in The Journal of Applied Psychology back in June of 1933![2]

Sports: There are scores of reports that show a positive correlation between participation in sports and academic improvement.

Doll Play:  Another scholarly paper writes, “Pretend play might be a zone of proximal development, an activity in which children operate at a cognitive level higher than they operate at in nonpretense situations. “[3]

I like to keep my posts short and to the point. But if you wish to read on, here is a great article found at Parenting Science: http://www.parentingscience.com/benefits-of-play.html.

My goal for Via E is to provide an educational experience that is cloaked in fun.  Since play is a natural part of learning, we have science on our side.  So, come on…let’s Play More!

Always yours, Ellen

 

Ellen Callen, B.S., M.B.A., Instructor at the University of California, Irvine, Division of Continuing Education, researcher of Child Development and Early Learning, is the founder of Via E, Inc. Via E’s, mission is to develop and deliver wholesome play products and integrate methods to increase cognitive and creative abilities in the young and young at heart–and have a lot of fun doing it.

[1] http://ideas.time.com/2011/10/19/in-praise-of-tinkering-2/

[2] http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/apl/17/3/294/

[3] http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1467-8624.1993.tb02914.x/full

The Freedom to Play

When my grandson was about a year old, I introduced him to an Alexis to see what his reaction would be.  I don’t know why I was surprised when he took to her right away.  He sat her on his push toys and pushed Alexis around the room, picking her up when she fell and promptly seating her back to continue the ride.  He would study her face and poke at her eyes and then he moved on to the next toddler thing to do.  So, I decided I should dress this Alexis in more appropriate “boy wear” and braided her hair so she would be read for tough love.

My grandson, now about 2 ½ years old, moved away last year as my daughter received a great job offer in Virginia.  She keeps me up to date and we Skype so I can still talk to my grandson.  This week my daughter sent me this picture. She said that my grandson, Gunnar, pulled Alexis out of the bottom of his toy box and took careful effort to sit her up to watch him play with his cars.  I’d like to think Alexis reminds him of his grandma, but most of all I love the story because it reflects a world where parents are more open to gender-neutral play.  My grandson also plays with a 12” action figure, but neither are anything more than just Gunnar having the freedom to play and explore.

In a Psychology Today post on their website, Peter Gray Ph.D. wrote, “Play is, first and foremost, an expression of freedom. It is what one wants to do as opposed to what one is obliged to do. The joy of play is the ecstatic feeling of liberty. Play is not always accompanied by smiles and laughter, nor are smiles and laughter always signs of play; but play is always accompanied by a feeling of “Yes, this is what I want to do right now.” Players are free agents, not pawns in someone else’s game.”[1]

Bravo Dr. Gray!  Here’s to the freedom to play and a wish that you may…Play more.

[1] https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/freedom-learn/200811/the-value-play-i-the-definition-play-gives-insights

Play More…Play is for grown ups too.

playmore-logoPlay More is a series of posts presenting the value of play.  Play, for both children and adults, is as essential to health as are eating well, exercising and diet. Integrating play into the family unit, increases emotional bonds, a sense of well being, and is an element of successful navigation in an ever growing complex world.

This post is based on, “The Healing Potential of Adults at Play”, by Dottie Ward-Wimmer https://www.psychceu.com/Schaefer/intro.pdf retrieved 2/16/2017

When at play, both our analytical and creative mind interacts in a symbiotic, relaxed nature that increases the flow of creativity and elicits a feeling of a relaxed state.  In this relaxed state of being our body is able to better support the biological needs such as breathing, digestion, and heart functions.  Play allows the “unwinding” of stress that attacks the immune system.  There are several books about increasing outdoor activities and getting involved in a sport and although this is strongly supported, not many talk about the health aspects of simple play.  No competition (not even with yourself), no rules, just simple play as found in coloring, tinkering, toy cars, action figures or dolls.

Dottie writes, “Play can increase our self esteem.  It invites access to states of well-being and calm as well as stillness and joy.  When released in play, we often have an increased capacity for empathy and intimacy.”  She goes on to support the premise for adult play therapy stating that it releases stress, increases confidence, and connects adults to the joy projected on the things loved in childhood.  “Play is a natural and enduring behavior in adults.  It has healing powers for the mind and spirit that we are only beginning to appreciate and learn to use.”

Take the time to Play More.  You have earned it; your mind and body need it.