The Gift of Confidence Only a Parent Can Give

Why did you do that?  What were you thinking?  I told you how, why didn’t you do it the way I said?  You didn’t listen, did you!  You didn’t work hard enough.  You’re not big enough, strong enough, fast enough, smart enough….etc.  And worst of all…the system is not fair. Have you said any of the above?  Sure, we parents all do at one time or another.  We think we are helping by grabbing the child’s attention and getting them to see they are on the wrong path.  But what if that wrong path had its own lesson?  What if we instead guided with: You are smart, what did you learn from your mistake?  You are smart, you are strong, you are quick, you are destined to win at whatever your choose…just don’t give up.  The system may not be fair for everyone, but you are smart and talented.  You will rise to the top, just keep believing in yourself. Being in my fifties now, I have a reflective mind.  My core personality is a fixer.  My passion is children.  What I have learned through experience and studies of how the brain develops is children do not need fixing…parents do. Yes there are some children who are strong willed, some who are special needs, all will test your patients at times, but they all started at the same place in life and we adults created the connections in their brains that lead them to be who they are or who they are not.  Nature is what they came into the world with and nurturing is how we help our children develop what nature gifted. Sometimes it is our own fear that leads us down the wrong rode of correction.  We fear they will do wrong.  We fear they will fail.  We fear they will not be big enough, strong enough, fast enough, smart enough or the system will not be fair for them.  We gift them—pass on—our fear for their future which can become their own stumbling block. The world is a complex place where fair is not always present.  Where there are real things to be feared. The best gift we can give to children is confidence.  Confidence will become their shield to both defend and win over fear and difficulties.  Confidence, not conceit, is developed through positive reinforcement a 100 times a day.  In the little things, the big things and the tender I love you things. I write this piece for you today after realizing that I too passed on my fear to my son.  I have raised him with positive reinforcement and a million “mama’s lectures” for his safety and success.  Recently, he has achieved top athlete levels in all the conditioning aspects of his sport and his moment is upon him.  But when he is given the light, he stumbles.  I have been searching my mind for what could be causing this.  It hit me this morning, fear.  Fear of not being good enough, not knowing enough.  Fear of failing when it means so much emotionally to succeed.  As I contemplate where the fear originated, I realized I was a source.  It is my fear that he may not be big enough, fast enough, strong enough.  It was me who was afraid of the politics and competitiveness of his sport.  My fear of the chance he may be disappointed and what imprint that would leave behind.  I realized the best way to help my son was for me to release my fear and in turn gift him the flight of confidence that he would find his own way to conquer his world. Father and daughters wearing superhero suit. isolated on whiteRaising children can be difficult and we adults will never make all the right decisions.  But in our love and in our willingness to continually grow our efforts to be good teachers of life, the children we nurture will always have a shield of confidence.  Confidence that we have their back.  Confidence that they are loved. Confidence that being who they are and doing their best will always be good enough.

The Father’s Role and Impact in Raising Children

Father Helping Daughter With HomeworkI selected this topic of research as part of a degree program in Early Child Education.  What I found was that the important development age for a child is approximately 7 years old.  This period in a child’s life is so important that it has a strong influence through age 20.  Thus fathers’ interaction during these years are very important and can shape the likely outcome of teen and early adulthood where many life shaping decisions are being made.

Research has shown that a child’s cognitive abilities score higher when fathers (biological or otherwise) are involved in the care and rearing of their children.  Fathers who are involved with their child’s schooling and academic achievements increase the likelihood their child will graduate from high school and go on to higher education.  There are lower rates of childhood violence, delinquency and resistance to authority and an increase in self-confidence, compassion and life skills.[1]

According to the Father Involvement Research Alliance (FIRA) Flouri and Buchanan (2004), “…father and mother involvement at age 7 independently predicted educational attainment by age 20 for both sons and daughters.” “Children of involved fathers are more likely to have higher levels of economic and educational achievement, career success, occupational competency, better educational outcomes, higher educational expectations, higher educational attainment, and psychological well being.”[2]

It’s more than just “two heads are better than one”, when it comes to raising children.  Men tend to have a physical and analytical interaction with children that stimulates cognitive development differently than the nurturing interactions of the typical woman. Questioning is of the what and the why vs. the how and the who.  For example, a mom may ask, “How was your day at school today?” whereas dad would likely ask, “What did you do in school today?”  It is not to say one line of questioning is better than the other or to say that mom’s wouldn’t ask the question in a similar manner; it is the concert of the two and their differences that expand a child’s thinking and understanding of their environment.

FIRA research makes a strong case to support the claim that father involvement is positively correlated with a child’s overall satisfaction with his or her life.  That is a powerful statement.  But the benefit is not only to the child.  FIRA research show that “involved fathers report fewer accidental and premature deaths, less than average contact with the law, less substance abuse, fewer hospital admissions, and a greater sense of well being overall.” Fathers may feel the demands of the family’s economic needs preclude the luxury of being an integral part of parenting.  However, research has shown that the quality of the time spent is a, if not the, determining factor. “There is no single “right” way for fathers to be involved. Instead, there are many types of father involvement in all aspects of raising a child.” “Research has found that the value of father involvement is determined by the quality of the interaction between fathers and their children – for example, a father’s responsiveness to the needs of his child – rather than the amount of time fathers spend with their children.”[3]

Family is not just a word. It is a way of life that helps each member achieve the most that life can afford. Invest time with your children and it will pay dividends to your life and theirs.

[1] http://www.education.com/reference/article/Ref_Hidden_Benefits/  Retrieved 2/8/2015

[2] http://www.fira.ca/cms/documents/29/Effects_of_Father_Involvement.pdf  Retrieved 2/8/2015 [

3]http://www.parentsasteachers.org/images/stories/documents/Fatherhood_Resources/ImportantRoleofFathers.pdf  Retrieved 2/8/2015

A Halloween Story by Alexis and Elena

Forward

From the outside the house was weathered; paint cracking and faded, the once green grass now brown, weeds growing so tall they looked intended and dirt caked over the windows like a thick brown frosting.  The house was just four years new and settled in a cul-de-sac just down the street of our neighborhood in São Palo, Brazil.  Mom, Dad and I would often walk past the house during our ritual evening family time.  We live next to a wildlife preserve so it was natural to see wild dogs roaming about and enormous black birds fly overhead.  What made this house so spooky was that the birds seemed to claim the house as their own.  At night the coyotes would howl in the spookiest way.  It was fun to pretend that the house was haunted.  For fun, Elena and I would ride our bikes to the deserted house then sit across the street and make up stories of what might have happened to the family that once lived there.  We wondered why they would have left so suddenly–leaving their house to sit empty.  This is one of our best stories:

Alex and Elena testOur Spooky Story–
A story of ghostly friendship

By Alex (Alexis) and Elena

It started with the first stone. The street wound through a housing track built on the edge of town, nestled up to miles and miles of burnt yellow grass hills with scattered old oak trees.  At the very end of the street was a house unlike all the rest. The new house had an old style making it look like it had lived peacefully with the burnt yellow grass hills for centuries.  A family had recently moved into the house and was in the process of putting in a new yard.  To keep with the old country look of the new house, the family had stepping stones shipped all the way from Transylvania, half way across the world, to place in their yard—Transylvania is home to some of the spookiest things in the world!  The night of the placement of the first stone in the yard a large black bird came to visit and sat on the roof of the house.  The yellowed eye black bird’s head tilted down and then tilted to the left and again to the right as if it were inspecting the stone’s placement in the new yard.  As the days went by more Transylvania stones were laid in the yard as if they were recreating an old path and sitting wall.  It was as if that path and wall had already existed for centuries.

Each night one more black bird came to watch the construction of the old looking yard, quietly, as if they didn’t want anyone to know they were there, watching. One night—the night of the first full moon to shine on the completed Transylvania yard—something strange happened…a white mist rose out of one of the stones.  The mist formed into an image of girl.  The girl floated and came to sit on the wall as if it was her own.  She didn’t look very scary, but instead she looked a bit confused.  As the ghost girl rose and floated up and down the newly laid stone path, the black birds seemed to surround her like the blue birds that follow a Disney princess.  Elena and I secretly watched the ghost girl as she inspected her new home from behind a thick old oak tree growing across the street from the house.  As she continued to moved across the yard, her brow furrowed and the delicate corners of her mouth turned downward making a sad, confused frown—I don’t think she liked the new path or the new house very much.

The ghost girl had big beautiful, black colored eyes and long black hair that tumbled down to the floor in soft waves. If she had skin, the color would be like that of a cool white, ivory. She didn’t look very scary but rather pretty, in a spooky sort of way. Elena and I whispered to each other as we watched the ghost girl carefully.  Her smoky grey dress came down to her knees and swayed back and forth as she stood next to a newly transplanted olive tree.  Elena and I wanted to stay and watch all night but we knew it was getting late. If we didn’t get home soon, our moms would surely worry about us.  So we quietly attempted to tip-toe out from behind the tree from which we had been hiding. Eeek, Screech, Eeek… the black birds started to holler as if to warn the ghost girl of our presence.  We froze in our steps, goose-bumps raised on our arms and if our hair could stand straight up, I’m sure it would have!  We swung around quickly and in a moment she was gone.

Lights flashed on inside the house, each window glowed a soft yellow. The front door of the house swung open and out came the owners of the house with brooms lifted up behind their heads and gripped tightly in their hands as if they were to attack.  Elena and I quickly ran back behind the tree as it was too far to run all the way home without being seen.  We thought this house must be full of witches!  But as they waved the brooms bottom up into the air, we realized they were just trying to get rid of the birds who were so loudly screeching, creating the spookiest concert of noises we had ever heard.

Comforted by the thought the owners must be normal people like us, we laughed and started to talk about the ghost girl. “Where do you think she came from?  How old was she?  Where are her parents?  Is she friendly?”…we jabbered on with excited energy caused by the scare.

“I come from Transylvania, I’m eight years old, and I’m looking for my parents,” said a small voice.  Elena and I looked at each other with our eyes as large as saucers and bright with fear.  We grabbed each other’s hands and then slowly turned around.  There she was, the ghost girl, floating right next to us.

But when we looked into her worried eyes we were no longer afraid. We felt sadness for her. The ghost girl went on to say that she didn’t know where she was or why she can no longer find her family and friends.

“I’m lonely and I miss my parents so very much.” the ghost girl said.

“We can be your friends. I’m Alex and this is Elena. We live just down the street.” I said.

But the ghost girl’s sad eyes lit up only a little. “Thank you for your kindness and for not running away when you saw me.” The ghost girl continued, “Can you help me get back home?”

“We can try.” Elena and I said at the same time, now looking at each other for support.  “But we have to go home right now because our parents will soon be looking for us.  We promise to come back tomorrow and help make a plan to get you back home.”  With that, the ghost girl nodded, took two steps back and then vanished into the cool night air.

Wow, that was so cool! We said to each other now looking face to face and tightly holding each other’s hands. We couldn’t believe what we just experienced.  Giggling with excitement we jumped on our bikes and quickly rode home.

Elena lives in the house right next to mine so just as I got upstairs to my room and turned on the light I heard Elena on the can phone. The can phone is a science project Elena and I have that goes from my bedroom window to hers.  It is two cans connected by wire; she speaks in one side and I listen on the other.  I can hear her talking in her room anyway so I’m not sure if the can phone really works or not.  Elena tells me to log-on to our secured chat room so we can develop a plan to help the ghost girl.  We have our own chat room setup online so we can talk to each other even when we are not together.  We recounted the night and tried to figure out how to help the ghost girl until late in the night.  The chat only ended because I fell asleep with my hands still on my keyboard and my face smooshed on top of them.  Dad later scooped me up and placed me in my bed where I continued to try to find a way to help the ghost girl in my dreams.

Everyday we rode our bikes to meet with the ghost girl and became great friends. After awhile, she was not as sad as when we first met her, but she still missed her family very much.  By now there must have been at least 40 black birds that came to the now haunted house to keep the ghost girl company.  The people who lived in the house were not very happy about their uninvited bird guests.  They would chase them with brooms and bang tin cans together to make loud crashing noises in hopes the birds would go away…but the birds would not.  Instead, more and more birds came to visit the ghost princess–we named the ghost girl that because only princesses could talk to birds.

We discovered that the stones from Transylvania were taken from the ghost princess’s house. She use to run up and down the path daily and since becoming a ghost she kept that ritual not knowing that she was now a ghost girl.  Only since she met Elena and me, did she realize she was no longer a little girl.  But it was no matter to her whether she was a girl or a ghost.  All she wanted was to find her family so they could all be together again.

Elena and I tried, and tried to find a way to send the ghost princess home. None of our ideas seemed to work, save one.

One day we knocked on the door of the haunted house. A kind looking woman answered the door and we began to tell her the story of the Transylvania stone and the ghost princess.  She listened to us for at least an hour as we told her everything we knew and begged her to find a way to take the ghost princess back to Transylvania to be with her family.  The kind woman’s eyes looked compassionate and without even a word she nodded and slowly closed the door.  Elena and I looked at each other with questions in our faces. What was the woman going to do?  Did she listen to us at all?

Later that evening we met with the ghost princess and told her what we had done. “We’re sorry.” we said, “We have tried everything we could think of to get you back home.”  “But you can be part of our families…we can be sisters…all three of us!” Elena said.  We all looked at each other and knew this was already true—we would be sisters-friends forever.  But sadly that was not enough.  Even though we had each other, the ghost princess needed her family.

The next night was a full moon. It was so bright that it looked like a big flashlight had been hung in the sky.  Elena and I went to the same tree we had gone to each night before to meet the ghost princess, but this time it felt different.  Not one black bird was at the haunted house.  None sitting on the fence.  None were sitting on the house or the mailbox or even in the olive tree…they were all gone.  The house was dark, not even the porch light glowed as it had every night before.  We walked across the street to take a closer look.  There were no cars in the driveway and the evening paper was still on the porch.  We decided to knock on the door.  Knock, knock, knock.  No answer.  No sound.  Nothing.  Knock, knock, knock, we repeated.  Still nothing.  We turn around and headed down the hand-laid path of Transylvania stone and noticed, one stone was missing.

Elena and I look at each other and our hearts filled with happiness. We knew at that moment the ghost princess was on her way home to her family.  The nice woman who owned the house did listen and did care.  Just as we got on our bikes to ride back home a warm wind blew through the leaves of the olive tree.  We looked over our shoulders towards the sound of the rustling leaves to find the ghost princess sitting on the wall under the tree.  We were so excited to see her that we dropped our bikes and ran back towards the tree.

“I wanted to say thank you and let you know that I will always be your friend…no, I mean your sister.” The ghost princess said warmly.

“I wish I could hug you goodbye.” said Elena “Me too!” I said feeling happy and sad at the same time.

“Maybe we can…maybe we can do a group hug…all three of us.” The ghost princess continued, “Elena, grab Alex’s hands…O.K….now both or you close your eyes and I will enter into the space between the both of you.” I looked at Elena and then grabbed both her hands with mine, not knowing what to expect next.  We then looked at each other and with anticipation closed our eyes at the same time.  It was then we felt a warm touch and a whisper, “Thank you, I promise to visit and never forget how you helped me get back home to my family.”  When we opened our eyes all Elena and I saw was each other’s smile…the ghost princess was gone.

The End

Even though a new family has moved into the once deserted house that inspired Elena and me to write Our Spooky Story, every Halloween we sit across from the house and read Our Spooky Story again.  We had so much fun writing it that it makes for great Halloween fun every year!  What is your best spooky story?  I’d love to read it!  You can send it to me at Alexis@Via-E.com.  Write to me soon!AlexElena2

Have fun this coming Halloween!

Your best dollfriend,

Alexis

Copyright 10/31/2009 all rights reserved Via-E, Inc.

They Learn Vicariously–Early childhood learning

Have you ever wondered why girls follow the trends of someone like Miley Cyrus…or the next in line to shock the senses of morality?

I’d like to introduce to you psychologist Albert Bandura (born in 1925) and his social learning theory.  In its simplicity, the theory concludes that people learn efficiently from observing the consequences of another person’s behavior.

Let’s think about that for a minute….consequences of another person’s behavior.

How many examples can you think of where the consequences of misbehaving is rewarded with fame?  i.e. attention, riches, parties (fun), friends, …etc.

Learning theory states that children learn by modeling—imitating the behavior of others. They learn vicariously—personalizing the experiences of others.

How many young women dress like their favorite starlet?  Is it really just playing?  Is it really just cute fun?

Bandura tells us Observational Learning has four phases:

The first step is Attention.  Children pay attention to role models who they find interesting, who are observed as receiving desired attention or rewards, perhaps the role model is powerful, fanciful or novel.

The second step is Retention.  Retention is the grounding of the observation and its consequences into the mind.  This is achieved through repetition and modeling of the behavior.

The third step is Reproduction.  Reproduction is the act of the child repeating the behavior on their own.

The final step is Motivation.  By reproducing the behavior the child receives the desired reward.  The reward can be one that is received immediately such as attention or a reward that is promised in the future.

Promised in the future…

Yes, children do dream about the future and are motivated by what can be.  But they do not have the maturity to understand that not all things are as they appear to be—that what is wish for may not yield the reward desired.

Think about these examples:

Everyone is always laughing and happy at parties with alcohol and drugs.

Girls who dress sexy are always popular.

Being a “mean girl” makes you powerful.

Wearing designer clothing makes you more important, more accepted.

Each of these examples has been taken from one or more (more) pop culture icons.

Our children are watching….and learning.  It starts at birth and continues throughout life.  The television shows, toys and games that children spend time with do influence their behavior…their future. That cute sexy fashion doll does not have to say one word to become your daughter’s teacher.  The lessons come built in.

RoleModelI created Via E and the Alexis O’Shay Dollfriend® to provide wholesome play for girls. The culture of educational fun surrounding Alexis’ is designed to teach about different places, people and cultures; to reinforce good values and showcase creative works and kind words.  Alexis is a safe role model built by a mom like you; a teacher with a dream and a friend who cares.

Alexis Letter to Friends — June

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June2014