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May 092012
 

Learning the difference between bedtime and sleep time and giving a child some autonomy

Why does a bedtime story have to lead immediately to lights out and the inevitable “but I’m not tiiiirrrred!!!” from your son or daughter?

How many times did I battle with my daughter and how many stories do I hear about other parents struggling to get their kids into bed for their designated bedtime!

Don’t these kids know that we are looking forward to a (small) glass of wine and some adult time?

Why can’t they understand that day after day, when we say “it’s 7 O’clock, bedtime” that we’re trying to give them some consistency!

After all, we are told that consistency and bedtime routine (although I don’t necessarily agree with it all) is crucial to our children’s development!

Get kids to bed with ease and without fuss by disociating bedtime and sleep time and giving a child the opportunity to choose when to sleep

I’ve written before about bedtime routines and bedtime stories and something that I’ve been having with great success with as far as reducing bedtime frustration and argument is concerned, is removing my idea that bedtime must mean sleep time.

The dawning reality of an easy bedtime routine

I realised some time ago that my daughter’s bedtime is also daddy’s evening-time. I get to sit in peace and read my book or watch a film (or write content about children, stories and parenting for this very website). But my daughter often isn’t tired and from spring though to autumn; it isn’t even dark outside at 7pm.

Looking back on it I’m not sure why it took me so long to work this out, but it dawned on me just to tell my daughter that it was Daddy’s evening time.

Adult time

I told her that she could do what she liked as long as it was in her bedroom and she didn’t disturb us adults.

It was a bit of a gamble, but I like (at least attempting) to treat my daughter as an adult as often as possible, so I explained exactly what I was doing and why.

I explained that I understood that she was probably not that tired and wanted to stay up and play some more. I also explained that I needed some time for me too so that I could do the things I wanted to do.

She said that was fine and I left her to her toys in her room and went off to have dinner.

I had assumed that it wouldn’t work the first time and that, having a new routine and all, she’d be in and out and demanding things of me. I was mostly wrong!

The first night, she stayed awake playing until 9.30 and I had to go in and suggest that it might be time to sleep otherwise she’d be grumpy and tired in the morning and wouldn’t enjoy swimming.

She actually agreed! And went off to sleep pretty quickly.

The next night I could hear her playing at 8.30 but by 9 she was asleep.

Ever since then we’ve had a (mostly) really easy time of it at bedtime! We bath, brush teeth and have 15 minutes of quite time on the sofa before she chooses a couple of books to read in bed.

Once the books are read, she knows that she’s allowed to get back out of bed if she likes and play with her toys as long as it’s not too noisy or disrupting to whatever we’re doing in the living room.

Why does separating sleep time and bedtime work?

One of the best things about this bedtime routine is that, for me, it also ticks several other learning/teaching points :

  • I get to give her direction – She is told that it is bedtime and I set the expectation that she’ll go to sleep. I still control the end result but…
  • I also get give her control over her own destiny – She can choose when she goes to sleep.
Daniel Pink's amazing book 'Drive'. Learn about how to get the best out of and for people.

Autonomy and Direction. Two key ingredients in generating motivation and I can’t recommend Daniel H Pink’s book “Drive” enough if you want to learn about how to motivate people (children or adults). It’s aimed at adults and the world of business, but the principles can (and should) be applied to everyone at any age. This book really has changed how I approach the world.

Anyway, I digress (though I couldn’t write an article on Kidmunication without at least 1 reference to a book!).

The end result is that my daughter no makes no fuss when it’s bedtime in my house (although trying to get her willingly brushing her teeth is another matter). We have an agreement.

“Ah yes, but I bet she’s up ‘til late every night!” I hear you say. Well I can assure you that, now that she’s used to it (and it did take a couple of weeks if I’m honest), sometime she really does put her head straight down and other times she’ll play for 10 minutes and then go to sleep and other’s she’ll stay up later. It really depends on how she’s feeling and what she’s been doing in the day.

As far as I’m concerned, I’ve given her an important bit of independence allowing her to choose her own sleep time and I’ve gained a less stressful and argumentative bedtime routine with my daughter!

Win Win.

Give bedtime not sleep time a go

If you want to have a go, here are the bullet points:

  1. Commit to giving this a proper go – at least two weeks. Remember you child has to learn how this works too, so do expect them to take a couple of weeks to work out how to identify for themselves that it’s time to sleep.
  2. Explain to your kids that you understand their point of view about bed time. This is surprisingly important and will get “buy-in” from them.
  3. Explain to your kids what you want and why you’re doing this. You listened to their point of view, they’ll respect yours too.
  4. Set expectations. No loud games, bouncing beds etc. but quiet playing is ok.
  5. Keep your normal “bedtime” routine. Bath, teeth, books, bedroom (or whatever works for you).
  6. Have patience and remember to check on them before you go to bed (they might need the light turning off and covering with the duvet – I haven’t yet had to pick my daughter off the floor where she’s fallen asleep mid-game).
  7. One tip can be to ask them that when they come and see you, it must be to tell you that they’re ready to sleep. I didn’t need this, but I hear that it can help with some kids.

And remember to come back here and tell me how you get on!

Mar 262012
 

The story is written all over your face

Making faces while telling stories is an absolutely essential skill to master as a storytelling technique.

Let’s set the scene…

A great storytelling technique to master: facial gestures and masks

It’s holiday time and the family are camping in the forest, enjoying nature, the outdoors and the fresh air.

As night draws in, the kids wrap themselves in their coats and gather round, closer to the snapping and crackling camp fire; marshmallows speared on the ends of freshly cut sticks from the afternoon’s walk.

Your children gather close, feeling the camaraderie of each other’s presence as they huddle together in anticipation for that timeless camping classic: the ghost story.

As the breeze makes the trees around them shush gently, a hush falls over them and your eyes twinkle as you gaze intently at each of them in turn, setting the mood for the tale.

Your face is a picture of danger, drama and suspense.

You draw a breath, and begin…

 In this chapter on facial expression in storytelling

  • Facing the truth – How and why using facial expressions, gestures and masks are important for our children regardless of them being included in story time.
  • Watching and learning – The importance of facial expression as a way of teaching emotional intelligence.
  • A picture paints a thousand words – How ours and our children’s faces show precisely the emotion behind it and how you can master this to bring a story to life.
  • Toning it down – A cautionary reminder that while we’re aiming to bring our stories to life, sometimes not being real is the just as important. Also a side note on storytelling with children with autism
  • Eye Contact – As a storytelling technique to engage and draw in your audience, eye contact is essential and surprisingly easy to master.

Introduction

Paul Ekman's books are seminary in learning about facial expressions

Paul Ekman’s books and “Facial Action Coding System” (FACS) are well worth finding out more about if you’re interested in bodylanguage and learning to read people (children and adults) more easily.

It is a widely held that the most important and common, and strongest, nonverbal communication is through your facial expressions.

In the art of storytelling, facial expressions are a most crucial companion to how you use your voice.

Lucky they are an innate characteristic of human expression as we speak. So, in this chapter we will explore:

  • Children’s perceptions of facial expressions and why it is so important to use them.
  • Emotional Intelligence – teaching your child to identify emotions from facial expression.
  • Social referencing and how to use it – how your child learns from your facial expressions.
  • Using your face to tell the story and maintain the flow of your story
  • How becoming a caricature of yourself will improve your story and your child’s sense of security.
  • Eye contact – the effects of neglecting this important means of facial expression.

Information at face value

The importance of facial gestures, expressions and masks as storytelling techniques

You’ve just found out you are going to become a parent…

You – you – are going to become a parent!

A waterfall of emotions flood you; excitement, fear and everything in between.

Your partner’s eyes are fixed firmly on you, scouring your face for your reaction, gleaning everything they can from your eyes, your mouth – your expression.

There are tears glistening in your eyes.

Your partner is wondering – are they happy tears or sad tears?

You smile.

Facing the truth

Our emotions are naturally drawn out on our faces and thus are the most important form of non-verbal communication.

Often, words cannot even do justice to the complexity and strength of the feelings you can express with your face.

Facial expressions are such a giveaway to a person’s emotions that sometimes we even try to hide our true feelings by restraining our facial expressions

Without facial expressions, a story becomes a flat, limp narration instead of a magical and engaging tale.

You will look just plain bored and disinterested.

Apart from perhaps feeling a perceived unwillingness to spend time with them, your child will be concentrating on you telling the story, instead of being ‘in’ the story in their imagination.

They will be aware that a story is being told to them – seemingly begrudgingly – instead of being transported off in their imagination, out of their bedroom and into the magical land you are describing.

If your face shows no wonderment, you can’t expect to convince your child that it is wonderful.

Read about the specifics of facial expression and gesture in storytelling

The following are all sections in this chapter. Keep a close eye on your email inbox and read each one in turn and practice the storytelling homework. You’ll never realise just how much goes into a the telling of a story. We have linked in the first section on why facial expression is important in stories and children’s growth for your interest.

  • Facing the truth – How and why using facial expressions are important for our children’s growth.
  • Holding it up – Understanding mirroring and social referencing and their role in storytelling.
  • Watching and learning – Teach emotional intelligence through facial expression in your stories.
  • A picture paints a thousand words – Use your face to paint a picture richer than words in your children’s stories.
  • Toning it down – Finding the balance between story and reality and storytelling with autistic kids.
  • Eye Contact – Master this storytelling technique and you’ll have your audience in the palm of your hand.
Mar 152012
 

Interactive Storytelling: How to get Children to engage in story time

Although bed time has traditionally been a big time for telling tales and reading to children, getting kids to participate in storytelling during other parts of the day is also important.

Children learn through stories, including everything from basic syntax and grammar to more complex concepts like moral and ethical behavior and concepts of cause and effect.

Kids learn through stories

Children’s ability to learn through dynamic storytelling is one of the reasons story time is a big part of daycare, preschool, primary (kindergarten in the US) and early elementary learning environments.

Making story time a consistent part of your home routine is important as well, and you can set the routine for storytelling activities at home for whatever works best for your schedule.

Engaging your children in the stories you tell them. Continue reading »

Mar 082012
 

Storytelling and Life Lessons: Teaching Moral Themes with Story Books

All the history books and in every culture around the world, storytelling is and has been used as a technique for teaching children very early on about the importance of morals and ethics.

Bedtime stories for kids have been a way to teach even the youngest of children about acceptable social norms, moral ways of behaving and the association between cause and effect since humans were able to draw on cave walls.

Children's stories with morals is a traditional technique for teaching our kids about life and how to live it

Of course, storytelling serves many other purposes as well.

These can include getting kids interested in literacy and educating children about family and cultural history and beliefs.

Children’s stories with morals then can serve multiple purposes and the life lessons children are able to glean from these tales will stick with them throughout their lives. What kids learn in their formative years have a lasting effect and instilling proper behaviors in beliefs in your children when they are young helps stage them for success later in life.

 Storytelling and Morals

Children’s stories can be very open about the fact that they are teaching an important life lesson. Equally, the moral of the story may be buried in the storyline itself. Books of both varieties can be very useful in teaching life lessons to children and parents often decide to use storytelling techniques which include both styles of writing.

Traditional Life Lessons

Classic life lessons like treating people equally, appreciating what you have, and sharing with others are common themes in classic children’s literature and many contemporary children’s stories. A few examples of newer books which teach kids lasting life lessons include:

Treating people like equals and learning about tollerance through childrens stories with morals

How full is your bucket? by Tom Rath and Maurie Manning. This best selling book focuses around the idea of how what we do, every day, affects those around us and how our behaviours and attitudes can impact the feelings of those around us. Similarly it can also help children understand how the behaviours and attitudes of those around them can influence too. Checkout this article on psychcentral if you’re interested in how and when children develop empathy.

Bullying and the bystander effect can be addressed through good stories for kids

For slightly older kids (I’d say five and upwards) The Juice Box Bully: Empowering Kids to Stand Up For Others by Maria Dismondy is a fantastic story about a new boy at school who’s trying to carve himself a space by being a bit of bully and how the rest of the class take a kind, but firm promise to help him to become a nice and kind member of the class. It takes the issue of bullying and instead of tackling the bully, it’s actually tackling the apathy and bystander effect and helps children learn to help eachother even if they possibly don’t deserve it.

Classic children’s stories which cover themes of central importance to building a strong character never lose their meaning.

Tales like those from Aesop and other fables teach children clear messages about right and wrong, moral or ethical and non-moral behavior, and the consequences of not exhibiting strong ethics and morals at all times and under all circumstances.

The Fables of La Fontaine: A Selection in English is a classic collection of children's stories with morals

These stories teach children in non-threatening ways.

They don’t use scare tactics to get kids to understand the consequences of bad behaviors.

They instead play on the positive aspects of doing the right thing.

Storytelling techniques which are positive in nature have a healthier and more lasting effect on children’s own moral compass development.

New themes in children’s books

While some life lessons which appear in classic and contemporary children’s stories are the same lessons human have been teaching to their children for generations, there are also many relevant moral and ethical themes for today’s society. Parents who wish to use storytelling techniques to educate their kids on environmentalism, multiculturalism, and other similar concepts now have many options available in today’s kids books.

Checkout this list on teachers.net for a long-ish list of evironmentally themed books (though note that some are out of print/only availabe in the US)

Incorporating ethical life lessons on these newer themes has never been easier.

Good bedtime stories can have somewhat complex themes that are broken down into easy to understand tales appropriate for young children. By making stories interesting and by parents employing good storytelling techniques, even complex themes are simple for kids to understand.

Don’t underestimate their ability to comprehend the moral behind the story.

Discussing Themes and Morals Outside of Story Time

Reinforcing life lessons learned during bedtime stories or other storytelling activities is also important.

The good bedtime stories you read to your kids are only the beginning of life lessons.

Use them as the jumping off point for a larger discussion on the topics covered in the stories and the moral or ethical lessons taught in the tales you read.

Feb 292012
 

Sound Effects in storytelling

Storytelling technique is all about getting your audience to connect and become involved in the story and for children, there is only one thing they love more than listening to a good tale: becoming involved in it.

Give them that opportunity by vocalising sound effects in your story and letting your child copy your sounds in the predictable place. So, for example, every time a horse is mentioned, say “Clip, Clop, Clip, Clop” and after a couple of repetitions, your child will naturally join in with you, as they become familiar with the pattern.

Using sound effects during a story is a great technique to bring it to life and engage the audience Continue reading »

Dec 162011
 

How to Memorize Children’s Stories for bedtime storytelling

We’ve all (well at least if you’re a parent I hope you have) read stories to our children before bedtime.

While these quiet moments with our kids are a great way to spend some quiet time together, sometimes the mad dash to find a storybook can take longer than reading the story!

While nothing will replace reading books to children, memorizing stories is a great way to put some spontaneous fun into their bedtime routine.

In addition, having a cache of stories in your memory is a great way to pass the time during long car trips, while stuck in the waiting room at the doctor’s office, or any other place or situation which can be boring for young children.

Here, we’ll give you some tips and tricks to memorize stories and be able to recall them at a moment’s notice.

In addition, we’ll give you some ideas for books full of short and easy-to-remember tales that will delight children of all ages.

Continue reading »

Dec 132011
 

Choosing bedtime stories and books to read with your kids

With almost 20,000 new children’s books published in the UK every year, it’s no wonder that choosing the right book can be a difficult or overwhelming task.

Faced with shelf upon shelf of bright, shiny titles in the bookshop or library, where do you start?

Perhaps your confidence has been dashed because you bought a book and found that your child just wasn’t interested in it.

Perhaps your child won’t sit still for five minutes to read with you.

Or perhaps you just think that your child doesn’t like reading?

But remember that finding the right book to share will reinforce your child’s love of reading and will also help strengthen the relationship between the two of you, so it’s worth taking the time to get it right.

Continue reading »

Dec 052011
 

The new book dilemma…

You have bought a new book to read at bedtime with your child.

It’s won all sorts of awards for being fun and engaging and at the same time teaching children something important about life.

You ignored that warning message in your head saying that you’d better check that your daughter will like it before your bought it.

“I love the pictures and the story is AMAZING! Of course she’s going to love it! I love it, so she will as well…”

Continue reading »