The Power of Attention

What you pay attention to you get more of.

We learn this from Conscious Discipline and behavioral studies. Positive attention to positive behaviors will give you more of those positive behaviors. Negative attention to negative behaviors will give you more of those negative behaviors.

This principle is taught more eloquently by the great American poet, Mary Oliver.

“To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work.”

Simply put, and so stunningly true. Our job in this life is to pay attention. And our job as caregivers of little people is to pay attention to them! When they feel noticed, they feel seen. They feel validated. They feel appreciated. That sets the best stage for them to learn and grow.

More words of wisdom from Oliver:

“Attention is the beginning of devotion.”

Ah, aren’t we devoted to our little ones?

When that child is first brought into our lives we notice every little fingernail and dimple. The beginning of devotion indeed. And they can feel it. When we notice, they feel loved. They feel secure. They feel safe.

Final words of wisdom from Ms Oliver:

“I simply do not distinguish between work and play.”

Pretty wise words coming from a grownup. Play IS a child’s work. And when we let them freely explore they will do their best work, and learn what they need in the most developmentally appropriate way.

One of the silver linings of these strange times is the opportunity for us to pay attention. We have a unique chance to slow down and really notice our children for who they are, rather than rushing them to the next enrichment activity. As we notice them in their play, that IS their work. Their work of growing, learning, developing, and becoming.

And aren’t we honored to be able to witness it?

Striving for Normalcy: Kindermusik at Home

How are you? Are you going stir-crazy? Are you feeling anxious? Are you having trouble managing the physical, social, and emotional needs of yourself and your family?

We get it. We’re feeling the same way! All our normal routines are interrupted and we are mostly stuck at home, unable to socialize and go to our regularly scheduled events. This is challenging for everyone, but as adults we at least have the executive functioning skills to help us cope. Our children don’t have the same advantage! They look to us for calm and a sense of normalcy.

At Song of the Heart Studios we want to stay in contact with you and your children to help aide in providing a sense of routine during these uncertain days ahead. The JOY Team has been working behind the scenes, preparing some special musical treats for your children to enjoy at home, so they can remain connected to their educator and to the routines that going to Kindermusik class brings them.

Here are some resources you can use and look forward to:

KINDERMUSIK ONLINE PARENT GUIDES

These activities, videos, and stories have always been available to you. They are included with your class. Every time we start a new unit in class, we push out new online materials to your Kindermusik account. Many of you have utilized these already, but many of our Heart-y families have not! Now is the perfect time to start.

Log in to my.kindermusik.com and find your current or past units. There are delightful activities you can do at home with your little one, to keep the Kindermusik experience going. Crafts, printables, short videos, dance-alongs, and other activities professionally developed to supplement the music and lessons you receive in class. Most families who look at them for the first time are pleasantly surprised at their quality and how much they enjoy them. Give them a try!

NEW “POP UP AND PLAY” VIDEOS BY THE SONG OF THE HEART JOY TEAM

We have spent this last week preparing mini-classes and filming them to post on our Youtube channel. You and your child will be able to see YOUR educator teaching your current curriculum. You can pull the video up on your phone or tablet or laptop, get down on the floor with your little, and have class right at home.

You child will LOVE these videos. Each member of our JOY Team has brought their personal magic to the screen to keep your child connected to them and to the music. Complete with Hello Song and goodbye ritual, we’ll keep class going the best we can.

Besides watching your educator’s mini-class, you can watch the other educator’s videos and see what they have to offer. Each educator is unique and brings a special feeling to the Kindermusik experience. You can get a taste of what the next level is like, so you can know what your child will experience as you move up through the Little Learners and Little Music Makers levels.

In addition to mini-class videos, we have special Story Time videos for your family. These eleven (yep, eleven!) delightful videos will add just another option and layer of connection for you and your little one.

Please note that these videos are for currently enrolled families and you can find the links in the Weekly Reader.

PRIVATE FACEBOOK GROUP and LIVE EVENTS

This one is still in the construction mode, but please follow our Facebook Page and join our new, private Facebook Group so that we can host live events with your educator. Your child could see their member of the JOY Team live online. Wouldn’t that be fun? Moving forward we plan on adding more videos with instrument demonstrations and maybe even Conscious Discipline training for you parents! We know you’re stressed and your personal resources are thin. We want to impart the wisdom of Conscious Discipline to you to help you augment the personal skills you need to cope during this trying time.

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Please use these resources to stay connected to Song of the Heart and our Heart-y Tribe. We hope you and your family are doing well during this challenging time. We hope that you are finding moments of joy and connection each day. May your hearts and bodies be safe. May your homes be a haven. May your minds be calm. May you find presence and peace. And as always, we wish you well.

Be a S.T.A.R!

“Be a star!” at Kindermusik means a very different thing than if you heard that phrase at a dance studio, or even a different type of music studio. Elsewhere that phrase might bring up imagery of stages, lights, sequins, practiced smiles, and scripted choreography.

Here at Kindermusik, we focus on process based curricula, rather than performance based rehearsals. Every moment in a Kindermusik class is carefully planned to promote optimal age-appropriate development. Focusing on process rather than performance allows your children the time, space, and safety necessary to learn through exploration. This promotes cognitive development, social development, fine and gross motor development, and emotional development. We’re about the WHOLE child, not just the cute part that looks adorable on a stage. Joyful music exploration is the vehicle whereby we promote growth, rather than perfect performances being our goal.

So at Kindermusik, when we talk about being a STAR, we’re not talking about being a great performer. We’re talking about breathing. Breathing is such a fundamental part of being human, we do it without thinking. However, in times of stress our breathing becomes shallow and our brains don’t get the oxygen they need to function in the executive problem-solving state. In those moments when our brains are in flight-or-flight mode, we need a tool to bring our brains back up to the executive functioning level.

Enter breathing. Balloon arms anyone? Or perhaps some S.T.A.R. breathing? Studies show it takes about THREE deep, slow breaths to calm the nervous system and bring the brain out of fight-or-flight and return to a state of problem solving calm and learning readiness.

S. – Stop
T. – Take a breath
A. – and
R. – Relax

S.T.A.R. breathing is a technique you can use as an adult when work and parenting overwhelms you. It’s a technique you can teach your teens and tweens to employ when their lives get to be too much. It’s a process that elementary aged children and preschoolers can do when they need help with emotional regulation. And you can even hold your screaming infant to your chest and breathe deeply, helping them feel your slowing breath, to help them to slow and deepen their own breathing.

Calm breathing can help your child feel safe. Empathetic breathing between you and your child will remind them they are loved. Only when they feel safe and loved can they return to learning, focusing, cooperating, and functioning.

How’s your S.T.A.R. practice going at home?

Mirror Neurons: Downloading Calm

Imagine this: you are sitting in a circle with a group of friends, family, or colleagues. One person is speaking, and everyone else is watching and listening. The speaker is caught mid-sentence with a yawn. Everyone observers the speaker yawning. Soon everyone else in the room is yawning, regardless of whether they felt tired before or not.

It’s a familiar experience. One you may or may not have been conscious of experiencing. And it’s a phenomenon that is the result of something called mirror neurons.

Mirror neurons are neurons that fire both when a person acts AND when a person observes the same action performed by someone else. The neuron “mirrors” the behavior of the other person, as though they were acting themselves.

Aside from just being an interesting factoid, this is great news for parents and caregivers. You can utilize your child’s mirror neurons as a tool to help you cope with difficult behaviors and teach them emotional regulation. If you can approach your child in a moment of difficulty, with calm on your face and a relaxed demeanor, you have the power to help that child calm themselves and relax.

Daniel Stern, a prominent psychologist, has said “Mirror neurons ensure that the moment someone sees an emotion on your face, they will at once sense that same feeling within themselves.”

That means you have the POWER to affect your child’s mood and behavior. If you are angry and show it, that will signal to your child to also be angry. But if you can remember that even if your child has triggered your anger and frustration, you are an adult with emotional regulation skills and can calm yourself. If you can take a calming breath and approach them with empathy, that will signal to your child to breathe and relax. You just diffused a very tense moment in your relationship with your child, and cut the stress in half.

Dr. Becky Bailey, our discipline guru, teaches what this looks like:

Let’s say that your child is upset and throwing a tantrum. You reach for them out of a desire to comfort them, but they angrily pull their arm away from you and turn their back on you. They’re not looking at you, so you can’t use their mirror neurons to download calm into them. How do you get them to look at you?

In that moment you say “Your arm went like this . . .” and mimic their motion. Or “Your face just went like this . . .” and copy their facial expression. They will wonder what you’re doing and will look back at you to see what you’re doing with your arm or face.

In that brief second when they look at you, take a deep breath and let it out slowly. Their mirror neurons will kick in and they will be tricked into taking a deep breath as well. That will literally download calm into their brain. You still have to deal with the difficult situation at hand, but you are calm and you can handle it. And now your child is calmer, and they can learn from the self-regulation skills you are modeling for them.

So when your child is pushing your buttons and you feel yourself ill-equipped to manage a difficult situation, take your power back. Remember that no one can make you upset without your permission – even a screaming toddler. Take a deep breath to calm yourself. Use those mirror neurons to teach your child to calm themselves. Keep breathing. You can handle this.

Parents are Partners

One of the most important aspects of the Kindermusik experience is the opportunity we provide you to truly partner with your child. It is absolutely critical that you spend the time you have together in class each week to be fully present with them. Developing a habit of connecting with them will pay huge dividends in your relationship at home, and what better place to make that time investment than at Song of the Heart Studios where we prime their brains and bodies for learning and connection?

Dr. Becky Bailey of Conscious Discipline teaches us that we must focus on our inner state before we can control our behavior. The same is true for children. They must be in an inner state of calm and security before they can learn, comply, or make sense of the world around them. The ability to self-regulate and manage our emotions and inner state requires TWO people. For adults, those two people are YOU and YOU. Your INNER VOICE is what regulates your INNER STATE.

Children have no inner voice to help them self-regulate. And yet two decades of research has shown that self-regulation is more critical to a child’s future happiness and success than early academic achievement. A child’s ability to self-regulate is more important than early reading, writing, or math skills. The average child does not develop inner-speech until around 6 years of age. Some girls may develop it as early as 4, and some boys may delay until 9!

So how can children manage their emotions and self-regulate if they have no inner-voice?

They can’t.

That’s why they need YOU. Remember that it takes TWO to self-regulate? THIS is why we partner with our children. This is why we focus on connection so much. This is why children crave and need your attention. It is through your guidance and example that they can learn to calm their inner state and to manage their emotions.

Every Kindermusik lesson has a moment or many for you to connect with your child. Our Foundations through Level 2 classes are non-stop parent-child partner joy-fests. Our Level 3-5 classes are focused on more musical training and less parent partnering, but even in those classes you are given a few moments at the end to join in with your child and partner with them. Make the most of our structured sharing time! And remember that you always have access to the at-home materials online that you can utilize to partner with your child.

Remember you are your child’s PARTNER as well as their parent. Partner up in class. Partner up at home. Partner with them whenever they need help navigating their overwhelming emotions. Use those I Love You Rituals, or a favorite fingerplay or lap bounce from Kindermusik, or your own special family brand rituals. And as always, remember that connection builds cooperation and promotes JOY.

Connection: The Pathway to Cooperation

We’re often terribly frustrated when we try to get our children to cooperate. Many of us get so fed up with our inability to control our kids that we give up. We just pick up the toys or clear the table ourselves, but resentment builds over time, creating distance between ourselves and our children. We feel inadequate.

Our lack of confidence makes our children’s world feel shakier.

Others of us get so triggered by lack of cooperation that we might yell, shame, blame, or punish until the deed is done by force. Here, too, we feel badly. Anger and frustration reign. Our children can’t help but internalize the message that they are not good enough, which hinders their ability to learn and make friends.

There’s another way.

In seeking cooperation, we must think of our children as partners in a relationship. Paying attention to connection before asking a child to cooperate is like greeting a neighbor and chatting a bit before mentioning that the fence between your yards needs repair. You honor the relationship, since it is the foundation for any positive action to follow.

Bring to mind the familiar scenario of telling your child to hurry up and get on their shoes so you won’t be late for an event. Your request is met with silence, as your child ignores your imploring and continues to play with their toys. You beg. You cajole. You bribe. Your child continues to defy you and picks up a piece of lint on the floor as if it is the most important thing in the world. Eventually, you find yourself yelling and they are crying and you are delayed and inevitably you are late once more.

Next time, try this: instead of begging, bribing, or threatening to take away a privilege, try connecting with them. Get down on the floor with them, and engage in play. It only takes a moment to bond and remind your child of your relationship. Once the feel seen and loved and valued, then inform them it’s time to leave and to get their shoes on.

Set yourself up for success by connecting first. When children feel connected to their parents and truly seen, cooperation comes naturally. Rather than preparing for a showdown with an uncooperative child, remember Conscious Discipline’s I Love You Ritual components: eye contact, intentional touch, presence, and playfulness.

We parents often feel urgent about getting things done right now, a feeling that tends to arise when we feel burdened and alone. We want to feel better, so we try to get the kids to sit down to lunch now, or get the bedroom cleaned up now, or get them piled into the car now. And there are times to force cooperation immediately. When your child is darting out onto a busy street, you’ve got to scoop him up right away, no matter how insulted he may feel! But otherwise, to win cooperation, you need to allow a bit of time for connection between the two of you.

This is what Kindermusik is all about. One of the primary functions of a Kindermusik class is to provide a culture that fosters a climate of connection between you and your child. We give you the tools. We give you the rituals. You partner with your child and forge the bond in class. Then it is up to you to take those tools home and use them. So when you’re feeling frustrated and burdened with parenting, remember that Joy Juice and how you get it. Both you and your child will feel closer, happier, less stressed, and more cooperative. You are a team! Partner with your child in play, and watch their cooperation naturally follow.

Joy Juice!

Have you started using I Love You Rituals at home yet? Or perhaps come up with your own? The reason we like to incorporate I Love You Rituals in class and encourage you to use them regularly at home is that doing so gives you and your child a shot of JOY JUICE.

What is Joy Juice? It is a hormonal cocktail that your body releases and bathes your brain in when you engage in a moment of connection with a loved one. It is comprised of dopamine, endorphins, and other natural hormones. It can have an equivalent effect on a child’s brain as a dose of Ritalin. But completely natural! And you have access to it ANY TIME YOU WANT.

Dr. Becky Baily of Conscious Discipline teaches “Joy Juice is a combination of positive brain chemicals that create joyful feelings literally wiring the brain for impulse control and willingness.”

Looking to add more joy to your family’s life and help transform challenging behavior? Add some Joy Juice!

The key elements to accessing your and your child’s body’s Joy Juice production and distribution facility are:

  1. Eye contact: Getting down on your child’s level, looking them in the eye, and using their name, is essential to building the connection needed for the release of these hormones.
  2. Touch: Placing your hand on your child’s shoulder or head, a gentle tickle, or a hug, signals to the child that they are safe. It readies them for connection and cooperation.
  3. Presence: Being fully present in the moment and with your child indicates empathy and comfort. It’s a way of signaling to them that they matter to you and that you are a safe place for them.
  4. Playfulness: A playful situation gives the brain a little break and primes it for more learning. A playful game can put us in a state called “relaxed alertness” which is optimal for learning and readiness.

 

The connections we build with others on the outside builds neural connections on the inside and give us this Joy Juice.

So when you’re in a challenging moment with your child, get down on their level, place your hand on their shoulder, use their name and say “Find my eyes.” Then be present and playful with them. It only takes a moment to connect, prime the brain, and promote connection and cooperation.

Here’s to more JOY!