Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Report: Middle Class Children Need Preschool Too

Children from middle-income families are more likely to attend preschool than their peers from low-income families, but less likely to attend than children from high-income families. Maybe not surprising, but definitely an issue, according to an October analysis by the non-partisan think tank, The Century Foundation, of the existing research on the effect of preschool on middle class children.
The report opens with the provocative idea that the existing funding formulas used to apportion public early-education funding are all wrong. This quote is actually from the conclusion, which is more concise, but says essentially the same thing as the introduction:
Much of early-childhood policy at the federal and state level focuses on how to divide existing funding for maximum effect. With limited resources, it makes sense that most early-childhood programs so far have focused on serving low-income families. ... [But,] the premise of this scarcity-based approach to funding early-childhood investments is flawed. Instead of fighting over limited resources, we must create a bigger pie.
Income.pngThe analysis then goes on to cite several recent reports on the positive effect of early education on middle-class kids, an area that has historically received short shrift. For example, a 2014 study by Timothy J. Bartik of the Upjohn Institute for Employment Research showed that all preschool graduates saw a bump in their family income. (See chart.) 
And a study of the universal preschool program in Tulsa, Okla., by a team from Center for Research on Children in the U.S., found that middle-income children who had attended the city's public preschool program entered kindergarten seven months ahead of their peers in terms of pre-reading skills. (See second chart.) 
Reading.pngMany insiders in the early-ed. space will say that while preschool doesn't hurt anyone, it's not needed for middle-class children with college-educated parents. Those children, the theory goes, will be fine either way. And besides, middle-class parents can afford child care. So the report concludes with a refutation of those arguments as well, pointing out that in six of 10 American families all of the adults in the household work, making childcare a necessity. Even among married couples, the proportion of two-parent-working homes has never been higher. Plus, costs for private programs have risen rapidly and have become, in many states, as expensive as a year of public college.
That makes high-quality child care a necessity for everyone, the report authors argue, and a luxury for noone.

‘Sesame Street’ Unveils Character With Autism

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The makers of “Sesame Street” say Elmo, Abby Cadabby and Grover are getting a new friend with autism as part of an effort to reduce stigma and help those on the spectrum learn life skills.
Sesame Workshop said Wednesday that it is introducing a new character named Julia, a preschool girl with autism who “does things a little differently when playing with her friends.”
Julia is part of the nonprofit’s “See Amazing in All Children” initiative, which is designed to teach kids about autism and offer tools for those with the developmental disorder.
Sesame Workshop is introducing a character with autism named Julia, center, as part of its new
Sesame Workshop is introducing a character with autism named Julia, center, as part of its new “See Amazing in All Children” initiative. (Marybeth Nelson)
website includes tips for parents and siblings, as well as guides to help kids on the spectrum learn everyday basics like brushing teeth and going to the grocery store, Sesame Workshop said. In addition, the initiative includes an iPad app and printed storybooks.
“Sesame Workshop is uniquely positioned to play a meaningful role in increasing peoples’ understanding about autism,” said Sherrie Westin, executive vice president of global impact and philanthropy at Sesame Workshop. “This project is an extension of the belief we’ve always promoted: ‘we are all different, but all the same.'”
Sesame Workshop said it collaborated with more than a dozen organizations including The Arc, Autism Speaks, the Autism Society and the Autistic Self Advocacy Network to produce the content.
In addition, the nonprofit said it engaged Exceptional Minds, a nonprofit animation studio staffed by young adults on the spectrum, to assist with video editing.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

woodleywonderworks, creative commons via flickr
Source: woodleywonderworks, creative commons via flickr
Ideas from Dona Matthews, PhD, and Joanne Foster, EdD, for parents who want to help make the transition to school go as well as possible for their young child:
  1. Nurturing. Your child will need more snuggles and reassurance than usual, especially in the first few weeks of any transition time. Providing hugs and attention as needed is a great investment in things going well.
  2. He-talks-and-you-listen times. Try to listen receptively to your child always, but as school begins, set aside special times for this purpose. It might only be for a few minutes two or three times a day, but during those special times, listen with your whole heart and mind.
  3. Attention to friendship-building and social intelligence. Some preschoolers need help learning to manage the social demands of the classroom. Talk to your child about how friendships develop—with time, sharing, openness, and kindness.
  4. Books and videos.  Back-to-school books and videos feature Curious George, the Berenstain Bears, Sesame Street characters, Maisie, and more. Read or watch together, letting your child encounter others’ adventures, challenges, and solutions.
  5. Playschool. Provide paper, crayons, and other supplies that allow your child to invent school-like activities, both on her own and with others. You might offer to play the role of the teacher or a child, or perhaps the principal or custodian.
  6. Unstructured outdoor play. For the best development of their imagination, confidence, and independence, kids need more unstructured outdoor play than they usually get at school. Be sure to provide this as often as possible.
  7. Extracurricular activities. After school and weekends are good times for enrichment activities. Possibilities include music, sports, second-language learning, drama, nature walks, museum visits, and lots more. Keep in mind, though, that while opportunities and choice are great, over-programming is not.
  8. Rest and relaxation. Even if it looks like she’s having fun all day long, your child is actually working hard on the social, emotional, physical, and academic demands of school. He needs a balance in his life between activities and quiet times in order to recharge his batteries and process what he’s learning.
  9. Bedtime rituals.  A child of five or six is not too old for a bedtime story and a lullabye as part of the end of day routine. This provides a chance for you to talk about the day, listen to what’s on your child’s mind, help her process ideas, and provide whatever she may need by way of calming, soothing, and reassurance.
  10. Advocacy. If you have concerns about what’s happening at school, you can meet with the teacher. Try to listen receptively and think about your role in solving any problems, seeing it as a working partnership with the school—perhaps the first of many you’ll be establishing over the years.
For more information:
Beyond Intelligence, Secrets for Raising Happily Productive Kids(link is external), by Dona Matthews and Joanne Foster (House of Anansi, 2014).
'Back-to-School Worries,' by Eileen Kennedy-Moore

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The decline of play in preschoolers — and the rise in sensory issues

Here is a new post from pediatric occupational therapist Angela Hanscom, author of a number of popular posts on this blog, including “Why so many kids can’t sit still in school today,” as well as “The right — and surprisingly wrong — ways to get kids to sit still in class” and “How schools ruined recess.” Hanscom is the founder of TimberNook, a nature-based development program designed to foster creativity and independent play outdoors in New England.

By Angela Hanscom
I still recall the days of preschool for my oldest daughter. I remember wanting to desperately enrich her life in any way possible – to give her an edge before she even got to formal schooling. I put her in a preschool that was academic in nature – the focus on pre-reading, writing, and math skills. At home, I bought her special puzzles, set up organized play dates with children her age, read to her every night, signed her up for music lessons, put her in dance, and drove her to local museums. My friends and I even did “enrichment classes” with our kids to practice sorting, coloring, counting, numbers, letters, and yes….even to practice sitting! We thought this would help prepare them for kindergarten.
Like many other American parents, I had an obsession: academic success for my child. Only, I was going about it completely wrong. Yes, my daughter would later go on to test above average with her academic skills, but she was missing important life skills. Skills that should have been in place and nurtured during the preschool years. My wake-up call was when the preschool teacher came up to me and said, “Your daughter is doing well academically. In fact, I’d say she exceeds expectations in these areas. But she is having trouble with basic social skills like sharing and taking turns.” Not only that, but my daughter was also having trouble controlling her emotions, developed anxiety and sensory issues, and had trouble simply playing by herself!
Little did I know at the time, but my daughter was far from being the only onestruggling with social and sensory issues at such a young age. This was becoming a growing epidemic. A few years ago, I interviewed a highly respected director of a progressive preschool. She had been teaching preschoolers for about 40 years and had seen major changes in the social and physical development of children in the past few generations.
“Kids are just different,” she started to say. When I asked her to clarify, she said, “They are more easily frustrated – often crying at the drop of a hat.” She had also observed that children were frequently falling out of their seats “at least three times a day,” less attentive, and running into each other and even the walls. “It is so strange. You never saw these issues in the past.”
She went on to complain that even though her school was considered highly progressive, they were still feeling the pressure to limit free play more than she would like in order to meet the growing demands for academic readiness that was expected before children entered kindergarten.
Research continues to point out that young children learn best through meaningful play experiences, yet many preschools are transitioning from play-based learning to becoming more academic in nature. A preschool teacher recently wrote to me: “I have preschoolers and even I feel pressure to push them at this young age. On top of that, teachers have so much pressure to document and justify what they do and why they do it, the relaxed playful environment is compromised. We continue to do the best we can for the kid’s sake, while trying to fit into the ever-growing restraints we must work within.”
As parents and teachers strive to provide increasingly organized learning experiences for children (as I had once done), the opportunities for free play – especially outdoors is becoming less of a priority. Ironically, it is through active free play outdoors where children start to build many of the foundational life skills they need in order to be successful for years to come.
In fact, it is before the age of 7 years — ages traditionally known as “pre-academic” — when children desperately need to have a multitude of whole-body sensory experiences on a daily basis in order to develop strong bodies and minds. This is best done outside where the senses are fully ignited and young bodies are challenged by the uneven and unpredictable, ever-changing terrain.
Preschool years are not only optimal for children to learn through play, but also a critical developmental period. If children are not given enough natural movement and play experiences, they start their academic careers with a disadvantage. They are more likely to be clumsy, have difficulty paying attention, trouble controlling their emotions, utilize poor problem-solving methods, and demonstrate difficulties with social interactions. We are consistently seeing sensory, motor, and cognitive issues pop up more and more  in later childhood, partly because of inadequate opportunities to move and play at an early age.
What is our natural instinct as adults when issues arise? To try and fix the problem that could have been prevented in the first place. When children reach elementary school, we practice special breathing techniques, coping skills, run social skill groups, and utilize special exercises in an attempt to “teach” children how to be still and to improve focus.
However, these skills shouldn’t have to be taught, but something that was developed at a young age in the most natural sense — through meaningful play experiences.
If children were given ample opportunities to play outdoors every day with peers, there would be no need for specialized exercises or meditation techniques for the youngest of our society. They would simply develop these skills through play. That’s it. Something that doesn’t need to cost a lot of money or require much thought. Children just need the time, the space, and the permission to be kids.
Let the adult-directed learning experiences come later. Preschool children need to play!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Helping Young Children Manage the Strong Emotion of Anger 
By Marian Marion, Ph.D.

“Oh, no!” groaned Julia as she saw four-year-old Carlos shove Sarah. “Here we go again.” For the third time in as many days, Carlos was angry and he had once again responded to his anger by hurting somebody. It will come as no surprise to early childhood teachers that some young children like Carlos express anger aggressively (Fabes & Eisenberg, 1992). What strategies can teachers use to help Carlos and other children learn to control their anger? 
Using time out for example, did not help Carlos deal with the root of his anger or reflect upon his interaction with Sarah. Julia tried making Carlos consider the other child’s perspective by asking him, “How do you think Sarah felt when you shoved her?” 

Encouraging children to think about another person’s perspective is a good long-term goal in child guidance (Marion, 1995), but the method is not very helpful. Young children focus on one thing at a time; they have not developed the ability to take the other person’s point of view in a conflict. Taking another’s perspective is a skill that does not develop automatically; it has to be learned and practiced over a period of several years. Similarly, telling Carlos, “Use your words and not your hands,” is helpful, but only after he knows the words. Young children must also learn this skill gradually over long periods of time. 
How Do Young Children Experience Anger?
One of the most puzzling and frustrating things about anger in early childhood classrooms is that the anger emotion has three different parts. Children definitely feel anger and the undoubtedly express anger, but they do not seem to understand anger (Kuebli, 1994). This article focuses on encouraging teachers to guide children toward understanding and managing anger. Furthermore, the article describes what elicits children’s anger, identifies typical ways children express anger in early childhood classrooms, explains how children use emotional scripts, and identifies several strategies through which teachers can help construct helpful emotional scripts. 

What Causes Anger in Young Children?
Young children usually feel angry when they blocked from achieving an important goal (Lewis, Allesandri, & Sullivan, 1990). Therefore, anger is the ability to appreciate that somebody or something is blocking one’s attainment of a goal—and even infants can do that. It does not take higher-level cognitive skills to feel anger (Campos, Barrett, Lamb, Goldsmith, & Stenberg, 1983; Karraker, Lake, & Parry, 1994). 

How Do Children Express Anger?
Anger is normal, but it is often perceived as an unpleasant and stressful emotion (Ballard, Cummings, & Larkin, 1993). Young children who express anger are signaling to teachers that they are trying to deal with their stress by attempting to remove whatever is blocking the achievement of their goal. 

Anger is called a basic emotion because it can be expressed in many ways (Campos et al., 1983). The two most common causes of anger in preschool children are conflicts over possessions and physical assault (Fabes & Eisenberg, 1992). Some children will defend their possessions, self-esteem, or position nonaggressively by saying, “Give that back. It’s mine!” This type of reaction is called active resistance. Other children will take a nonaggressive approach to expressing anger by crying, sulking, or talking about an incident. They will not, however, do anything to solve the problem. This type of reaction is called venting. Venting indicates that a child either does not know how or chooses not to use a more direct and positive method of expressing his or her emotions. Many children vent when an adult asks them to do something they do not want to do. They realize that there is a power difference between them and adults (Levine, 1995; Zeman & Shipman, 1996). Carlos, for example, often indirectly expresses his anger by pouting when his teacher asks him to do things he does not want to do. With peers, however, children express their anger more directly. Some children, like Carlos, use aggressive revenge, like hitting or name calling, to get back at provokers or by telling a teacher about provokers. Most of the time children vent or actively resist a provoker. When physically assaulted, however, about 20 percent of the preschool children studied by Fabes and Eisenberg (1992) expressed anger aggressively. 

Younger children express anger more frequently than do older children. Boys tend to express anger by venting or by mildly aggressive methods. Girls, on the other hand, use active resistance more frequently (Fabes & Eisenberg, 1992; Zeman & Garber, 1996; Zeman & Shipman, 1996). These differences result because boys and girls are socialized differently (Davis, 1995). 

What Is the Role of Emotional Scripts in Anger Management?
One explanation for the aggressive way in which children like Carlos express anger lies in the concept of emotional scripts. Children construct emotional scripts as they watch television, movies, and videos; as they interact with family and friends; and as they read books (Honig & Wittmer, 1992). These scripts are then used as guides for responding to situations involving emotions (Lewis, 1989; Russel, 1989). 

Many children who aggressively express anger exist in family systems that accept, model, and reward aggressive responses to conflict. These children might be direct victims of aggression or they might observe what is known as background anger, anger observed by a child but not directed at a child (Cummings, 1987). Children react to high levels of anger with increased stress, fear, and aggression (Hennessy, Rapideau, Cummings, & Cicchetti, 1994) which keeps them from understanding anger-arousing situations (Denham, Zoller, & Couchoud, 1994). Children from such systems construct emotional scripts that tell them to use aggression when they are confronted with some sort of anger-provoking interaction in school (Huesmann, 1988). 

How to Help Children Write Healthy Emotional Anger Scripts
Early childhood teachers can nurture children’s ability to express angry feelings in anonaggressive manner by encouraging them to develop helpful emotional scripts. Developing good emotional scripts is an age-appropriate strategy for all young children, not just the aggressive ones. Carlos, for example, needs individually appropriate guidance so that he may begin to rewrite his emotional scripts. Even when the script has been rewritten, teachers will need to remind some children about the new way of thinking and acting. The reason? A young child’s memory improves during early childhood (Perlmutter, 1986), but he or she can still remember the unhelpful way of responding to anger. They can revert to using the old script even after teachers have worked on developing new scripts (Freeman, Lacohee, & Coulton, 1995). Consider trying some of the following strategies to help children develop healthy emotional scripts for expressing anger. 

  1. Send helpful messages to children about feeling and expressing anger in early childhood classrooms. The tone of your classroom and your child guidance philosophy should convey four important messages to children. First, it is perfectly natural and normal to feel angry at times. Second, we will not laugh at, ignore, or get upset with children who are angry. Third, it is not acceptable to express anger in a way that hurts other people, animals, or objects (Baumrind, 1996). Fourth, we will help you figure out how to tell others you are angry without hurting them. These messages will help create an emotional climate that is safe and that does not shame the child who feels anger. 
  1. Teach young children how to use words to express anger. Children need direct instruction on how to use words to express anger. Many of our children observe their parents talking about anger in an unhelpful way. Parents, for example, threaten the provoker without ever talking about or producing a word label for angry feelings (Miller & Sperry, 1987). Therefore, children come to our centers unable to produce word labels for emotions and to understand that anger is a feeling. Julia could teach Carlos this skill by saying, “Carlos, you seem to be feeling very upset right now. You can use words to tell Sarah how you feel. Say, ‘Sarah, I’m angry because you pushed me out of the way.” 
  1. Teach children about being “a little angry” or very, very angry.” After you have helped children understand that they are having a feeling and that the feeling has a name, teach them that there is a range of feeling. For example, “The bus driver seemed to be a little angry. He was annoyed when we were late,” or “That man was very, very angry. He was irate when somebody trampled his flowers.” By discussing the different levels of feeling, you will help children expand their anger vocabulary. Make and refer to a chart of the word labels generated by the class. 
  1. Explain angry feelings and encourage angry children to talk about situations that made them angry. Carlos will begin to understand his anger is Julia talk with him about his feelings, listens non-judgmentally, and explains his emotions (Brown & Dunn, 1996; Denham et al., 1994). As they talk, Julia could guide Carlos through the anger management process by helping him recognize and label his anger. Then she can help him come up with a plan that move him from an angry state to a more rational state. Finally, she can help him evaluate how the plan worked. 
  1. Use thinking puppets to put discussion about managing anger into the curriculum. Treat anger management like other parts of an early childhood curriculum by planning activities focusing on the topic. Julia, for example, wrote a lesson plan for group time using Jessica, a thinking puppet. Jessica visited the children at group time and told the children that she was angry because somebody had taken the last snack from the plate, leaving her with nothing to eat. Jessica said she had yelled at the puppet who swiped the snacks but that the other puppet has only gotten angry back at her. Julia and the thinking puppet asked the group to think about some different ways Jessica could have handled this problem. The teacher used the thinking puppets several times to encourage the children to use appropriate anger management skills: 
·         Thinking puppets named some of the things that make them angry.
·         Thinking puppets demonstrated how to use words to express anger.
·         Thinking puppets visited an interest center and children practiced anger management skills with them.

  1. Use books and stories about anger. Choose books about anger carefully so that children get correct information about anger and its management. Ask these questions when evaluating children’s books about anger (Marion, 1995):
    • Does this book use correct terminology about anger? 
    • Does this book expand or clarify anger vocabulary? 
    • Does this book tell children that anger is a natural and normal emotion? 
    • Does this book identify the specific event that caused the anger? 
    • Does this book show children how to manage anger responsibly, without hurting others or damaging property?
Each day children encounter frustrating situations in which they may become angry. Although each child will express his anger in unique ways, our challenge as early childhood professionals is to help children understand their anger and to guide children with helpful, nonaggressive strategies for managing anger. 

Marian Marion, Ph.D., is a professor of child development and early childhood education at the University of Wisconsin-Stout in MenomonieWI. She is also the author of Guidance Young Children, Fourth Edition


Ballard, M., Cummings, E., & Larkin, K. (1983). Emotional and cardiovascular responses to adults’ angry behavior and challenging tasks in children of hypertensive and normotensive parents. Child Development, 64, 500-515. 

Baumrind, D. (1996). Parenting: The discipline controversy revisited. Family Relations, 45, 405-414. 

Brown, J.R., & Dunn, J. (1996). Continuities in emotion understanding from three to six years. Child Development, 67(3), 789–803. 

Campos, J., Barrett, K., Lamb, M. Goldsmith, H., & Stenberg, C. (1983). Socioemotional development. In M. Haith & J. Campos (Eds.) Infancy and developmental psychobiology. Vol. II. Handbook of child psychology (pp. 783–915). New York: Wiley. 

Cummings, E. (1987). Coping with background anger in early childhood. Child Development, 58, 976–984. 

Davis, T.L. (1995). Gender differences in masking negative emotions: Ability or motivation? Developmental Psychology, 31(4), 660–668. 

DenhamS.A., Zoller, D. Couchoud, E.A. (1994). Socialization of preschoolers’ emotion understanding, Developmental Psychology, 30(6), 928–937). 

Fabes, R.A., & Eisenberg, N. (1992). Young children’s coping with interpersonal anger. Child Development, 63, 116–128. 

Freeman, N., Lacohee, & Coulton, S. (1995). Cued-recall approach to three-year-olds’ memory for an honest mistake. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 60(1), 102–116. 

Hennessy, K., Rabideau, G., Cummings, E.M., & Cicchetti, D. (1994). Responses of physically abused and nonabused children to different forms of interadult anger. Child Development, 65(3), 815–829. 

Honig, A., & Wittmer, D. (1992). Prosocial development in children: Caring, sharing, and cooperation: A bibliographic resource guideNew YorkGarland Press. 

Huesmann, L. (1988). An information processing model for the development of aggression. Aggressive Behavior, L4(1), 13–24. 

Karraker, K., Lake, M., & Parry, T. (1994). Infant coping with everyday stressful events. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, 40, 171–189. 

Kuebli, J. (1994). Young children’s understanding of the causes of anger and sadness. Child Development, 66(3), 697–710. 

Lewis, M., Alessandri, & Sullivan, M. (1990). Violation of expectancy, loss of control, and anger expressions in young infants. Developmental Psychology, 26, 745–751. 

Lewis, M. (1989). Cultural differences in children’s knowledge of emotional scripts. In C. Saarni & P.L. Harris (Eds.), Children’s understanding of emotion (pp. 350–357). CambridgeEnglandCambridge University Press. 

Marion, M. (1995). Guidance of young childrenColumbusOH: Merrill. 

Miller, P., & Sperry, L. (1987). The socialization of anger and aggression. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, 33(1), 1–31. 

Perlmutter, M. (1986). A life-span view of memory. In P.B. Baltes , D.L. Featherman, & R.M. Lerner (Eds.) Life-span development and behavior (Vol. 7). Hillsdale, JJ: Erlbaum. 

Russel, J.A. (1989). Culture, scripts, and children’s understanding of emotion. In C. Saarni & P.L. Harris (Eds.) Children’s understanding of emotion (pp. 293–318). CambridgeEnglandCambridge UniversityPress. 

Zeman, J., & Garber, J. (1996). Display rules for anger, sadness, and pain: It depends on who is watching. Child Development, 67(3), 957–974. 

Zeman, J., & Shipman, K. (1996). Children’s expression of negative affect: Reasons and methods. Developmental Psychology, 32(5), 842–850. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Preschoolers and Praise: What Kinds of Messages Help Kids Grow?

By Deborah Farmer Kris
A three-year-old dressed in a superhero cape collapses in a corner and yells, “I can’t put on my shoes! I can’t!” A four-year-old proudly sets the table “all by myself,” only to fall apart when a glass of water tips over.
Preschool children are in the early stages of  developing their self concept — their mental picture of who they are, what they can do, and who they are capable of becoming. During this pivotal time, the language parents and educators use with preschoolers — particularly when they face challenges or struggle to learn new skills — can help them shape a healthy mental model of how people learn and grow.
As children get older, many come to view intelligence as a fixed trait that cannot be altered.  Contrast this with what’s known as a “growth mindset,” which views intelligence as malleable and responsive to effort. Most parents “are crushed when they see kids give up and say things like, ‘I’m just not good at this. I can’t do it,’” says Dr. Carissa Romero,  director of programs at Stanford University’s Project for Education Research That Scales (PERTS). “Conversely, we’re amazed by kids who are willing to struggle until they get it.”
These parents are responding to a real concern. Research shows that students who adopt a growth mindset thrive on challenges, show resilience in the face of obstacles, and view failure as part of the learning process. According to Romero, “Mindsets sit at top of a cascade of non-cognitive factors predicting student success.”
The good news is that mindsets are malleable — and preschool years offer a rich developmental window for parents and caregivers interested in nurturing a growth mindset in children.
Replace Generic Praise with Process Praise
Generic praise is easy to give — Great job! Wow! Nice! — but these statements lack instructional value.  In contrast, descriptive statements — also called “process praise” or “non-generic praise” — share specific observations about children’s choices and efforts. They are teaching statements because they provide information children can use in the future.  The trick, says Romero, is to help kids tie their success to the strategies and steps they are taking.
According one study, the type of language parents used with their one-to-three year olds was predictive of their motivational framework five years later. The most effective praise emphasized one of three things: a child’s effort, a child’s strategies, or a child’s actions.
Romero, one of the paper’s authors, said, “This was a really exciting study for parents. Their own language when they are talking to their kids makes a profound difference, despite the different messages they get from everyone else once they enter school. Positive messages from caregiver, alone, can be predictive.”
Romero urges parents to focus on what they notice. For very young children, it can start simple. Try replacing “Good job” with “Good job sharing with your sister”; or replacing “Nice picture” with “I like how you use blue and yellow in this picture.”
“Process praise ties children’s actions to their success,” says Romero. “If you help students understand that their actions lead to success, when they face a setback, they’ll realize their actions can help them overcome that setback.”
Harness the Power of “Yet”
As preschoolers become more independent, they often toggle between the frustration of “I can’t do it!” and the excitement of “I did it myself!” When parents hear, “I can’t!” they can help the child reflect on the greater possibilities with language like this: “You can’t do it yet. You are still learning. But keep trying.” In other words, adding the word “yet” reframes the sentence away from present frustration and toward future possibility.
Research on the power of yet — while still in progress — holds promise, says Romero. In a recent TED talk, Dr. Carol Dweck, the Stanford professor who pioneered research in growth mindset, described how emphasizing the word “yet” helps children see themselves on a learning curve: “Just the words ‘yet’ or ‘not yet,’ we’re finding, give kids greater confidence, give them a path into the future that creates greater persistence.”  Last fall, Sesame Street picked on this theme, teaming with Janelle Monae to produce the song  “The Power of Yet.”

Tell Stories of Resilience
Storytelling is a powerful vehicle for shaping children’s understanding of how the world works. According to one study, children who hear stories about how family members and ancestors overcame obstacles are more resilient in the face of challenges. The study’s authors note that the most helpful narratives are oscillating, reflecting life’s ups and downs, and ultimately reminding children that “they belong to something bigger than themselves.”
In a similar vein, parents and educators can remind children of their own stories of perseverance —  specific moments when the child worked hard to learn something new or overcome an obstacle. These might range from learning how to ride a bike to sticking with a difficult puzzle to adjusting to a new sibling.
The language we use helps shape young children’s understanding of themselves and their abilities. As Romero notes, “I think all parents want their kids to grow up to be resilient adults who persevere in the face of challenges and don’t let their failures define them. A growth mindset orients people towards learning over performance. It helps children develop into lifelong learners who take on challenges and learn from them rather than crumble in the face of them. This ultimately leads to more success in school and in life.”
Deborah Farmer Kris has taught elementary, middle and high school and served as a charter school administrator. She spent a decade as an associate at Boston University’s Center for Character and Social Responsibility researching, writing, and consulting with schools. She is the mother of two young children. You can follower her on Twitter @dfkris.