Family Life


9 min Read

Learning From People Who Work With Kids

Catherine McCulloch, an early childhood educator, in Burlington, Ont., for 15 years, says that children thrive on consistency and routine because they know what to expect and what’s going to happen next.

  • Give kids fair warning: Don’t spring a command on them. If you tell them to tidy up and move on right now, it won’t happen. Let them know that there’s going to be a change coming very shortly.
  • Tone it down: Change your voice tone to a whisper. They’ll stop and listen!
  • Have a Plan B: Have backup plans. Sometimes you just have to stop and ask if this is really worth the stress.
  • Praise: Reinforce the positive. Children want to do well, they want to be praised and to hear what a great job they’re doing.
  • Stick to a routine: When ‘Miss Catherine’ puts 21 kids down for a nap, she does it in 15 minutes from toilet to bed to lights out. The key is doing it the same way every time.
  • Flexibility: Choose your battles. You can’t expect children to not move at all. If they want to play with their sleep toy, they can.

Rachel Fuller, a flight attendant with Pacific Coastal Airlines for 15 years, flies with other kids as well as her own.

  • Pack light: People feel that they need to bring everything with them. Take only the bare necessities.
  • Let them cry, really: It doesn’t bother people as much as parents think. Kids usually cry because of ear pain due to changes in cabin pressure. Crying is actually beneficial because they’re opening up their eustation tubes in the inner ear.
  • Be a hippopotamus: On landing and takeoff, have older children pretend that they’re hippopotamuses by opening their mouth really wide. That clears their ears. Get up, move around: When the seatbelt sign is off, take a walk.
  • Ask about the car seat: On a long flight, ask at check-in if they have a seat that is available to use the car seat on. Different airlines have different policies, but ask!

Photographer Julie Johnson has a good camera, a lot of patience… and a hairdryer.

  • HAIR DRYER MAGIC: Babies love the sound and the warmth. Blow it at their bodies, not their faces. It works like a charm.
  • SPEED UP THE CAMERA: “I recommend spending the extra money and getting SLR so you don’t have the one-second delay that you have with point-and-shoot cameras,” says Johnson. “It’s only a second, but can mean the difference between getting the shot – or not.”

Dawn Martens, a teacher in Hamilton, Ont., says that the right approach can make live theatre fun for everyone.

  • BE PREPARED: Tell your kids the plot before you go and explain that when some plays were written, life went at a slower pace and the story unfolds, bit by bit.
  • BRING BINOCULARR When they get tired or restless, the binoculars help keep them occupied.
  • BE HONEST: They’ll get restless. “I tell them that’s part of the whole experience,” says Dawn.
  • IF YOU NEED TO, LEAVE EARLY: It’s about an experience, not endurance.

Dr. Laura Gerber, a paediatrician in Burlington, Ont., asks parents to be honest with their kids.

  • BE A ROLE MODEL: You want your child to have a positive relationship with the physician, so you have to set that up by showing your own comfort in the doctor’s office.
  • BE HONEST: People tell kids that it’s not going to hurt. Well, it is going to hurt, but it’s only going to hurt for a minute.
  • REWARD: Applaud kids for being brave; tell them you’re proud of them.

Leesa Tossios, a librarian with the Toronto Public Library, says that literacy-rich homes are a key element to teaching a child to read easily.

  • ACCESS: Put books on a low shelf within easy reach. Have tools readily available, such as kids magazines, pencils, crayons and colouring books. Help children realize that it isn’t a matter of if they learn to read but when they learn to read.

Steve Heming, general manager of YMCA Camp Wanakita in Haliburton, Ont., has helped thousands of youth develop positive relationships.

  • LISTEN: So much changes in their life in just a six-month time period. Try to understand what is important to them.
  • TALK: Communicate and praise. Make them feel good about themselves. Give them feedback on whatever they’re doing physically, emotionally or verbally.
  • RESPECT: You may not make the right decisions all the time and it’s OK to communicate that. At the end of the day, you’ve got to show love. If you treat kids with respect, they’ll be on your side.
  • FOSTER SUCCESS: Create an atmosphere that allows success. Kids don’t want to be embarrassed. Sarcasm is out.

Anne Thaler, a grade one teacher in New Hamburg, Ont., says report cards are as much about the future as the past. If you see the words ‘some’ or ‘limited’, that’s code for weak areas.

  • READ EVERYTHING: Pay special attention to the learning skills section. It can indicate the child’s ability to cooperate with others, work independently, persevere at problem solving and take initiative in the classroom.
  • BE AWARE OF WHAT’S NOT INCLUDED:They report on one small part of who a child is. Whatever the report card says, every child is moving ahead and parents need to acknowledge success and progress.
  • KEEP IT IN PERSPECTIVE: Their university acceptance isn’t going to be based on their grade one report card. Pause and celebrate all the successes along the way.

Tess Prendergast, a children’s librarian with the Vancouver Public Library, loves reading to toddlers.

  • ENJOY IT: Keep it fun. Use a lot of gestures. Make eye contact. Keep the wiggliest kids closest to you.
  • TALK: Bring children into a conversation about the book. They take more in – in terms of vocabulary and sentence structure, if they talk about the book with you rather than just passively listening.
  • KNOW WHEN TO STOP: A positive attitude about reading is more important than getting through the entire story.
  • MAKE FRIENDS WITH THE LIBRARIAN: The librarian can connect parents and children with great books that they may not otherwise know about. They’ll remember what your child likes.
  • GO WITH THE FLOW: There will be times in children’s lives when they don’t want to sit and read. Don’t worry. There may be other things on the child’s mind.

Zimfira Poloz, artistic director of the Hamilton Children’s Choir and
High Park Choirs of Toronto, is a champion of music as an important part
of life, but recognizes it’s not always easy. “The payoff is when they
walk on stage and shine and share their music and their message.”

    FOLLOW-THROUGH: Parents have to encourage, supervise and direct
    children. Spend time with the child, go to the lessons, see the teacher
    and try to understand why your child at a certain moment may want to
    quit music lessons. Sometimes parents don’t encourage children to get
    through difficulties.
  • KNOW WHAT THE GOAL IS: It’s not a star
    thing. The important thing is that people come together and share ideas
    and learn together.

Kielburger is co-founder of Free the Children, an organization
dedicated to raising awareness about social issues and inspiring young
people to do the same. He’s co-author of The World Needs Your Kid: How
to Raise Children Who Care and Contribute. Kielburger advocates raising
kids to be socially responsible and encouraging them to change the

  • RECOGNIZE GIFTS: Every young person has a gift to
    share that can have a positive impact in the world around them. Whatever
    they’re interested in, whatever talent it is, it can be used to help
    others. A child may enjoy sports or art or talking on the phone, and
    yes, that’s a gift. Help the child recognize his gifts. Parents need to
    be convinced that their child is important, unique, gifted, talented and
    then help the child to open their eyes to gifts that they might
    themselves not even be aware of.
  • SHOW, DON’T TELL: What type of
    child do you want to raise? Most parents say words such as compassionate
    or kind or level-headed or responsible. So what are the daily actions
    that you do to nurture those qualities? Children need to see their
    parents being socially active.
  • USE THEIR GIFTS: It’s not enough
    to just praise a child’s athletic or music abilities, but praise what
    that ability will let them do to help others. If a child is praised
    because, at the moment, he is number one in his activity, his self-worth
    is defined by being number one. Instead, if a child is helped to
    understand that his unique talent or gift will allow him to do something
    helpful, such as organizing a teacher/student basketball game where the
    price of admission is a canned good for the local food bank, this is
    long-term reinforcement. Then, children learn to define themselves as
    someone who believes in fair play and in giving back. It’s rooting their
    talent in a deeper set of values.

Published June 2010

a man carrying two children

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