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How Can Pets Benefit Children’s Development?

We can all agree that most children love animals and find them to be lots of fun. Having a pet can enrich their young lives and provide them with a playmate they can enjoy whenever they like. Parents usually acquire pets for children to teach them some important values and lessons about responsibility, to love and care for other beings, and to help them develop companionship. As a matter of fact, households that have children are more likely to have pets, when compared to households without children. In the United States, in a survey that included families with young children, 76% were pet owners [1].

Did you know: Even Freud was interested in children’s relationships with animals after seeing their fascination with them. He noted that animals appeared frequently in the dreams of children, and he interpreted the animals as representations of powerful adults, such as parents, who were too threatening for the child to show up in their dreams [1].

But it’s not simply the ownership of a pet that is beneficial to children. What is crucial is their daily involvement in caring for and playing with a family pet, which can often vary as children become older and develop more substantial relationships with their peers. If a child is not especially fond of or interested in, let’s say, a pet fish they have at home, it’s hard to expect they will benefit from this kind of relationship in any way (such as cognitive, socio-emotional, or other).

That’s why it’s important to recognize that attachment to pets may have a much more beneficial effect on the development of children than mere ownership [2]. Some pets offer assistance, comfort, and protection, so children can sometimes view them as important as the people in their lives. Pets are especially valuable at those times when children have disrupted relationships with their parents or siblings (caused, for example, by divorce), when they can, in a way, assume the caregiver’s role. In this special kind of relationship, pets have the potential to promote healthy development of children in many different ways, which we’ll discuss next.

Cognitive Benefits

Motivation for learning. Some authors believe pets can even stimulate children’s cognitive growth through curiosity and learning. They are powerful motivators for learning because the children are emotionally connected to them [4]. For example, kids are more interested to learn about animal nutrition and health if that would mean knowing more about and understanding their own pet better.

Language. Pets may facilitate language learning in children because they serve as recipients of children’s babble, or their praise, encouragement, and punishment [3]. Also, pets are frequently the subject of children’s conversations with peers or parents, which can stimulate the development of their vocabulary as they try to come up with words to describe what the pet is doing [3].

Moral code. There’s also the argument that attachment to pets can help develop and foster children’s moral development, as they begin to reason what is morally “right” or “wrong” with respect to animals and their feelings and rights. In other words, they start to think about complex concepts such as justice, fairness, etc. [2].

Socio-Emotional Benefits

Responsibility. Pets are usually a lot of work, so parents should make sure that they don’t assume the bulk of the responsibility themselves, but rather give the children the responsibility of daily care. This teaches important lessons and can help them learn to manage their other commitments (e.g. finishing school tasks or household chores) in order to have time to take care of their pet. It boosts their accountability and leads them to feel more competent, as they learn that they are able to take care of another living creature without the help of the parent.

– Social competence. Pets are great catalysts for making new friends. Walking a dog in the park and meeting other children with pets, or showing their classmates their new pet turtle, can lead to making new friends or enhancing existing relationships. Psychologists believe that bonding with a pet “encourages healthy social development in terms of social competence, social networks, social interactions, social communication, empathy, and social play behavior, leading to higher age-adjusted developmental scores” [3].

Self-esteem. Children’s self-esteem tends to fluctuate, especially as they reach adolescence. Having a pet companion in this period of great turbulence can mean having an emotional and nonjudgmental support in whom they can confide, and who can make them feel less lonely and socially isolated. Research has shown that children who grew up with pets had higher levels of self-esteem and became more socially competent as adults than children who didn’t have a companion pet in their childhood [3].

Empathy and experience of loss. Children are usually the ones that are being taken care of by adults. Having a pet makes them a caretaker themselves. Feeding, grooming, and taking their pet for walks teaches them to recognize the importance of tending to the needs and desires of others. This can improve their self-awareness because children are able to better understand why they feel a certain way (e.g. they can realize that they, too, are pretty nervous and irritated when they haven’t eaten in a while). This way, they develop sensitivity for the feelings of others and non-verbal cues and learn about empathy first hand. What can be an especially valuable experience to young children is having to cope with their pet getting lost or dying. Experiencing the loss of a pet can help them cope with this kind of stress in the future as adults.

Benefits for Physical Activity

– Anything that can ensure children are not glued to the television set, computer, or their phones is welcome nowadays. Some research has indicated that children who own a dog are generally more physically active and are at lower risk of being overweight or obese than children who don’t own a pet. In other words, having a dog can facilitate active play and contribute to children being more physically active (e.g. talking the dog for a walk) [5].

A Few Guidelines for Parents

– Choosing the right pet for your children is very important. As we have already established, it’s not ownership of a pet that matters, it’s the attachment and connection we make to a pet that brings us the benefits of such a relationship. The most obvious choice is to get a dog or a cat, but there are other options to choose from. You should talk to your children and see what kind of animals they especially like, because that would raise the probability of their connecting to the pet and not getting bored with them after a few months.

– Some children, usually very young ones, aren’t mature enough to control their aggressive impulses, so you should monitor their play from time to time to check whether they are behaving appropriately towards pets.

– Young children will also need some growing up to do in order to take care of a large animal, such as a cat or a dog completely on their own. You should, of course, serve as a role model and show them how to properly do all the necessary things regarding taking care of a pet.

 Whether you already have a pet, or you intend to get one, make sure your children treat them the right way and that they have a loving relationship, so that they can reap all the benefits we discussed.

 References:

  1. Melson, G. F., & Fine, A. H. (2015). Animals in the lives of children. In Handbook on Animal-Assisted Therapy (Fourth Edition) (pp. 179-194).
  2. Hawkins, R. D., & Williams, J. M. (2017). Childhood attachment to pets: associations between pet attachment, attitudes to animals, compassion, and humane behavior. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 14(5), 490.
  3. Purewal, R., Christley, R., Kordas, K., Joinson, C., Meints, K., Gee, N., & Westgarth, C. (2017). Companion animals and child/adolescent development: a systematic review of the evidence. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 14(3), 234.
  4. Melson, G. F. (2003). Child development and the human-companion animal bond. American Behavioral Scientist, 47(1), 31-39.
  5. Martin, K. E., Wood, L., Christian, H., & Trapp, G. S. (2015). Not just “A Walking the Dog”: Dog walking and pet play and their association with recommended physical activity among adolescents. American Journal of Health Promotion, 29(6), 353-356.

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Raising an Honest Child

Honesty is something children learn and develop during their early years. All children lie at some point in childhood, so it’s important for parents to learn to distinguish between different kinds of lies and understand that there are different reasons why children lie. Not all lies are equally bad or have the same consequences. Parents play an important role in guiding and directing this kind of behavior, so they need to be well equipped and familiarized with the issue in order to act appropriately and help their children be more consistently honest.

Why Do Kids Lie?

There are numerous reasons why a child would tell a lie in a social situation. It may be to avoid or escape imminent punishment (“I didn’t break the vase!”), or to obtain material benefits (“I ate my soup, can I have a dessert now?”) [1]. It may be that they’re not honest for an entirely different reason – they lie to get out of doing something they don’t want to do (e.g. homework), or because they’re just mirroring what adults around them are doing, or perhaps they’re not old enough to know the difference between truth and a lie. Furthermore, children with low self-esteem may lie to impress others in order to feel more secure about themselves, or in general, to get attention.

Learning the Difference Between Lies

In the first few years of life, children may indicate or say things that aren’t true. These should not be taken as lies, but rather as mistakes, since the child does not yet fully understand the difference between what is the truth and what is not. Their “lies” can be seen as a product of their not differentiating fantasy or wishful thinking from reality. Lying in early childhood is related to adaptive cognitive and social functioning – so it’s pretty normal for young kids to lie – but it can become a problem behavior as they reach late childhood and adolescence [1].

When a child’s brain develops enough to distinguish imagination from reality, they start to use lies purposefully in order to obtain different goals. Researchers have found that children’s lying progresses through three levels [1,2]:

  1. Primary lies begin at 2-3 years of age when children learn to deliberately make untrue statements. These falsehoods are not that frequent and are usually told to avoid getting into trouble after violating a rule. Such early falsehoods may be a rudimentary form of intentional verbal deception, but children more often than not confess their transgression when asked about it by adults.
  2. Secondary lies reflect a significant shift that takes place between 3 and 4 years of age. During this period, the majority of children will readily tell a lie to conceal their own transgression but are not yet completely capable of making a lie consistent. Their deception is usually easily detected by adults. At this age, children also start to lie to be polite, to benefit someone else, etc.
  3. Tertiary lies emerge around 7 to 8 years of age. Children’s lies become more sophisticated and well controlled, and they seem more plausible. A child will tell a lie and make sure their subsequent statements don’t contradict the initial lie, which makes it difficult for other people to tell the difference between the lie and the truth.

As we can see, lying by using deception to avoid negative consequences, such as punishment, develops prior to the ability to lie in a socially appropriate and effective way [1]. There is an important difference to bear in mind between the two [1]:

  1. Antisocial lies, or “self-serving” lies, are motivated by self-interest and are used to avoid punishment, or even to harm others. Their occurrence at an early age is important because it shows that children are able to grasp that their deeds and thoughts are not evident to others. In other words, antisocial lies imply that a child has developed a sense of self and has a rudimentary understanding of the mental states of others (e.g., Mom will be angry if she knows I did something wrong).
  2. Prosocial lies, more often called “white lies”, are positively and socially motivated and are told without malicious intent. For example, children can lie about enjoying a meal their friend’s parents have made, because they don’t want to hurt their feelings. Knowing when to tell a white lie is an important skill in life. There are situations where it’s not OK to simply tell the truth because it can unnecessarily hurt someone’s feelings. Of course, this doesn’t mean people should always lie to avoid hurting someone.

Parents need to take into account circumstances that lead to children’s dishonesty so that they can properly respond to these kinds of behavior. Lying to gain some benefit is not the same as lying to make someone feel better. If the lies are well intended and are prosocial, there’s not much a parent should do, except try to show the child that there are other responses that are both kind and truthful. This can be done by modeling their responses to others so the child can see it can be done. These responses are, however, not easy to come up with, so it’s completely OK for parents to sometimes just acknowledge the prosocial lie and thank the child for trying to make them or others feel better.

On the other hand, when faced with more serious lies on a regular basis, parents need to act and correct this kind of behavior in their child.

What Can Parents Do About Lying?

Point out the lie. If a young child is making up stories and telling tales that are obviously not true, try pointing out this behavior and ask them to try and tell the story again. They must learn that other people can tell if they’re being dishonest, and that they can’t get away with lying without anyone noticing [3].

Teach them that truth always finds a way. Explain to them that lies are difficult to hide, as they will eventually come out in the open. This can often be seen as a take-away message in cartoons, movies, books, etc. and when that happens, be quick to point out that lying didn’t quite turn out be useful in the end.

Introduce some consequences for lying. For example, if a child lied about not having any homework and went out to play, and you find out they actually did have homework, you should let them know there will be repercussions for this behavior, and make sure they sit down and do all the required work. On the other hand, it’s crucial that the consequence is something short-lived, that it only serves to remind them that this behavior is not desirable, so they can get back to practicing honesty [3].

Rather than focusing on undesirable behavior, it’s better to focus on encouraging the positive. That’s why we’ll also discuss some ways to encourage honesty in your children.

How to Encourage Honesty

Make them confess a transgression indirectly. Never call your child a liar. To avoid a showdown with your children, rather than asking them directly if they’ve broken the lamp, you should try saying “Look, my lamp got broken”. The idea is not to make them feel accused of the crime and cornered, but instead give them space to come clean about it themselves, without pushing them into it (such as by saying “Did you have anything to do with my lamp being broken?”) [3].

Be a role model. As with any kind of behavior, children learn by watching their parents. If you want your children to be honest, then you have to be honest – with them as well as with others. For example, make them know it’s better to openly say you don’t feel like doing something than coming up with excuses. Children have to feel comfortable talking to you without having to conceal anything, regardless of the consequences, and the only way to accomplish this is for you to be honest with them, too.

Appreciate their honesty. When a child comes clean about doing something wrong, besides telling them there will be consequences, be sure to praise them for their honesty. If a transgression isn’t too serious, you should relieve them of consequences and let them know that’s their reward for being honest. Also, explain to them why it’s important to tell the truth. Friends and family members should trust one another and you can’t build a relationship based on lies.

It’s important to once again acknowledge that all children lie, but some of them do it chronically (and for no reason), which can become a serious problem as they grow up. If your child manifests this kind of negative behavior, you should think about talking to a professional about it. Here at Nobel Coaching & Tutoring we have amazing coaches who can help you define the specific problem and help get your child through it.

References:

  1. Talwar, V., & Crossman, A. (2011). From little white lies to filthy liars: The evolution of honesty and deception in young children. In Advances in child development and behavior (Vol. 40, pp. 139-179). JAI.
  2. Talwar, V., & Lee, K. (2008). Social and cognitive correlates of children’s lying behavior. Child development, 79(4), 866-881.
  3. https://childmind.org/article/why-kids-lie/

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Why is Reading in Childhood Important?

I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book. – Groucho Marx

Children use their phones, browse the internet, and watch television from an early age. Although there are some benefits to that, there are also risks, like investing too much time in social media, video games, etc. This usually leads to their completely neglecting to read books, which are essential to their growth and development. In this article, we’ll cover numerous reasons why reading books is so important, but also provide parents with advice on how to encourage reading from an early age.

Four Reasons Why Your Children Should Be Reading

  1. Development of Language and the Understanding of Complex Concepts

The most obvious reason why reading books is important is that it allows children to expand and enrich their vocabulary and develop literacy skills. By reading a book, children encounter phrases and words that are not frequently used in casual communication, which they’ll then be able to use themselves in conversation.

Stories and situations in books are usually described vividly and in a lot of detail that helps with the understanding of complex and abstract concepts. It’s easier for a child to understand the concept of compassion when the feelings of a literary character are thoroughly described and some context is provided, rather than by simply reading the definition in a dictionary. This way, a child is re-living the character’s experience that’s making those concepts relatable, so they’re able to better comprehend them. Furthermore, younger children often read out loud, which helps them to learn the correct pronunciation of words.

  1. Memory Boosting

Most books comprise many different characters. In order to properly follow a storyline, children need to remember the characters (their names and characteristics) and learn to differentiate between them. Following and remembering a plot line is also important for understanding the story. By doing all of this, they’re sharpening their memory skills. Children will often want to recount interesting events from a book to their friends or parents, so they’ll try to recall the story correctly and tell it in coherent way. However, they may have difficulty remembering some important details from the story, so parents need to guide them by asking questions, and help them see the importance of this skill. This is another great way of developing a child’s memory from an early age.

Good reading and memory skills enhance children’s confidence as they start school. Children who began reading at an early age will approach their new commitments at school with more ease and self-confidence and can be more enthusiastic when it comes to reading for book reports, etc.

  1. Development of Imagination and Creativity

Every book is a world of its own. By reading a book, children encounter all sorts of new ideas, both realistic and unrealistic, magical and mythological, that help develop their imagination. They learn to differentiate between what’s real and what’s make-believe. They can envision new worlds and play with ideas, but also learn that they can think about something without having to actually look at it. They learn that with imagination they can reach much greater distances than by simply observing the physical world with their own eyes. Stimulating imagination further helps in developing creativity. Children often show this through their drawings, but it can also lead to the development of valuable skills later in life.

  1. Coping with Feelings

Stories provide a great way for children to step into a literary character’s shoes and see things from a different perspective. This is important because it helps them understand a perspective that’s not their own and where the centre of the attention is not on them. At the same time, this practice teaches them to understand and share the feelings of other persons (i.e. empathy).

Furthermore, going on a journey in someone else’s shoes is very beneficial when it comes to the regulation of their own emotions. If children are having problems, such as, for example, being unpopular at school, having anxiety when with a group of peers, etc., reading about similar experiences of someone else helps them have a better understanding of their own feelings, and feel a sense of relief that someone shares their problems. Or, if they have anticipatory anxiety about their first day at school, they can find a book that describes someone else’s pleasant experiences when going to school and see that their fear is not justified.

To find out more about the benefits of reading, check out this guide from our friends at Mom Loves Best!

How to Encourage Your Children to Read

Read to your children at an early age. It’s an excellent way to bond and create memories your children will cherish for life. It’s a practice you should start when they’re very young, because it helps them develop a love for stories and books before they even learn to read. Make sure to encourage them to ask you to explain the meaning of a word if you stumble upon some they don’t yet understand. Hearing you read to them will enable them to hear the correct pronunciation of words and improve their verbal fluency. Continue reading to them even when they learn to read on their own.

Surround them with books. A stimulative environment has a great effect on children. Make sure to have a book collection appropriate to children their age in your home that they can easily pick up if they feel like reading. Also, get a library card you can use together, or get them one that they can use on their own. Ask your children about which books they’d like to read and help them look them up. It’s sometimes hard for children to find a book they’d like to read without someone’s help. Make a habit out of going to book fairs, where you can take the entire family and have lots of fun and at the same time fill your house with more books.

Be a role model. Chances are children will pick up a book as well if they see their parents reading often and enjoying it. Try talking to them about stories and books you’ve read about to raise their interest and tickle their imagination.

“My Children Get Bored with Reading. What Should I Do?”

We understand that sometimes it’s hard to get children interested in reading, especially if they’re fed up with classical literature from school. Luckily, there are some alternatives that might get them to love books and make the transition to classical literature a bit easier.

Audio books. If you can’t find the time to read to your kids very often, you should try playing them pre-recorded audio of you reading, or even try playing them audio books you can find online (check out the bottom of this article, where you can find some websites with free audio books for children). Audio books are a great way of engaging children in reading by taking some of the “pressure” off them if they are struggling. Some students need to have the audio content to follow along with the written content.

Comics/Graphic books. Comics are a great medium, especially for children who are just learning to read. You wouldn’t want to overwhelm them straight away with too many words and complex sentences. Instead, you should first get them interested in colorful books with lots of pictures or drawings. At the end of the article, we’ve provided a website where you can find some book recommendations for younger children. For slightly older kids, you have a wide variety of superhero comics, which they’ll most likely love. If you’re not familiar with comics, and aren’t sure which ones to get, you can go to a comic-book store and ask about some comics that are appropriate for your children’s age.

If your children are struggling with language or reading, here at Nobel Coaching you can find many tutors who can help them. Also, be sure not to neglect negative feelings children tend to have about school, and, if necessary, think about reaching out to our coaches who can help your children discover their strengths and motivations, and build more positive feelings towards school, and ultimately reach their potential as students.

 

 

Resources:

Comics for younger children: http://mentalfloss.com/article/62202/10-great-kids-comics-early-readers

Free audiobooks: https://www.storynory.com/

 

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Raising Your Children with Laughter

Why did the kid cross the playground?
To get to the other slide.

Nothing warms a parent’s heart like seeing or hearing their children laugh. Kids start to develop a sense of humor from an early age, but it’s not as sophisticated at that time as it will be when they grow up. Babies will react with laughter to funny noises or faces, and especially to physical touch (e.g. tickling or raspberries). The game of peekaboo is the funniest thing in the world to a one-year-old, but later on, they won’t find it funny at all. As we can see, at this age, a child’s sense of humor mostly consists of reacting to others doing something funny and trying to make them laugh. When children learn to speak, they start to make their own jokes and take a much more active role in humorous interactions with others. This is important because devising their own jokes helps them in the process of learning and mastering language.

School-age children begin to use humor not only for its intrinsic value but also for a social purpose, such as joking to avoid embarrassment or to create solidarity among peers [1]. By the time they reach the secondary level, they have a better grasp of what words mean and can get into wordplay and create some more complex forms of humor, such as sarcasm.

Everyone wants to be seen as funny and witty, but what makes humor in children especially important?

The Importance of Being Humorous

First of all, engaging in humor helps children see the joy of life and teaches them not to take themselves too seriously – that’s what adulthood is for (just kidding!). A good sense of humor helps with the development of spontaneity and the ability to put themselves in other people’s shoes. When exchanging jokes with peers, children practice thinking in a more unconventional manner, as well as being creative and quick.

Humor is also a good way of connecting with one’s parents and peers. Researchers found that kids who are better at making and understanding jokes are more socially competent, more popular, have better prosocial skills, and are less likely to be depressed [3, 6]. In other words, a good sense of humor can help children feel more competent and in control of social interactions at school and with their peers.

The use of humor is also linked to better physical health, and, some studies show that humor has a similar effect on reducing stress levels as physical exercise [6, 7]. In other words, humor is a great way to relieve oneself of tension. Instead of dwelling too long on a stressful situation, looking at the positive aspects and even laughing at the whole thing after resolving it can help build a positive attitude.

Nevertheless, you should bear in mind that not all humor is benevolent. There are some types of humor that are less desirable, such as off-color humor, or jokes at the expense of others that should be discouraged.

Humor Styles Children Use

Psychologists describe four general humor styles school-children and adolescents use, and we’ll take a look at each one of them [3, 4, 5]. The first two types of humor listed are considered to be adaptive, as they build relationships or one’s own ability to cope. The second two are considered to be maladaptive, as they harm – either one’s own self or other people (peers, teachers, etc.).

  1. Affiliative humor is a well-meaning, benevolent style of humor which children use to amuse other people, to facilitate relationships, and reduce interpersonal tensions. They often engage in spontaneous witty interactions, tell jokes, or say funny things about themselves, and at the same time not take themselves too seriously.
  2. Self-Enhancing humor is used to maintain a positive and humorous outlook on life, to boost one’s mood or deal with stressful situations. It’s regarded as a healthy defense mechanism that helps one avoid negative emotions. As one girl puts it: “When someone was upset we would say, ‘turn that frown upside down.’ The other person would always be looking down so you would bend over and go upside-down and make a silly face and it would always just make whichever one of us feel much better” [2].
  3. Self-Defeating style of humor is an attempt to amuse others by doing or saying something at one’s own expense or laughing along with others when ridiculed as a means of gaining approval. Self-defeating humor is often related to low self-confidence and emotional neediness, and it’s used by “class clowns” in school, as well as children who are being bullied [1, 5].
  4. Aggressive humor is used at the expense of others, often without regard for the potential negative impact on them and their feelings. It includes the use of humor to manipulate others by means of ridicule. The examples of this humor style are sarcasm, teasing, “put-downs”, etc. Bullies can use not only aggressive humor but affiliative as well. Bullies who use affiliative humor are often good at social skills and use this type of humor to harass children who are not part of their social group, or to emphasize their own importance in the group. Furthermore, by using aggressive humor, they demean their peers in front of others or exclude rejected children by spreading rumors in a way that does not exceed the social norms of their group [6].

Parents should learn to differentiate between different types of humor, then set some boundaries, with themselves and their children, so as not to encourage inappropriate humor. When children make a rude, hurtful, or untimely joke, a parent can either not laugh, or even better, explain to them why the joke isn’t funny. Modeling how to respond to aggressive humor can help them respond appropriately to their peers when something hurtful or rude is put in a “just joking” form. Furthermore, children sometimes have trouble determining the appropriate place and time for a joke, so parents should try to provide them guidance in those moments.  For example, using “potty” humor at a sleepover with friends is probably okay, but saying the same type of jokes in class at school is not okay and may be considered rude or disrespectful.

How to Encourage Your Child’s Sense of Humor

– Make sure to create an environment with lots of humor and fun. If you have younger children, surround them with humorous books, or funny cartoons. If they’re a bit older, books or comics will work as well, but you can also watch comedy TV shows, stand-up comedy shows, and movies together.

– Be their comedy role-model! It’s likely that they’ll develop a great sense of humor if they’re surrounded by their parents telling them funny stories and jokes all the time. Put a smile on their face every day!

–  Encourage your children’s attempts at humor and never miss an opportunity to tell them you loved their joke. If the joke isn’t funny, try complimenting their effort and provide them with advice how to make it even better. Then try out that joke on someone else together. After all, kids learn by doing!

– Try playing The No-Laugh Challenge together. One should really try hard to make the other one laugh, and that person should make every effort not to laugh. It’s a hilarious game which is really hard to win!

The internet is filled with jokes that you can model and teach your kids! Here are just a few from this site:

What did one plate say to the other plate?
Dinner is on me!

Why did the student eat his homework?
Because the teacher told him it was a piece of cake!

How do you stop an astronaut’s baby from crying?
You rocket!

Why did the cookie go to the hospital?
Because he felt crummy.

Why are ghosts bad liars?
Because you can see right through them.

We hope you enjoy adding some more humor into your home and your relationship with your kids.  For other ways to boost healthy relationships with your children, check out this article.

References:

  1. Cunningham, J. (2005). Children’s humor. Children’s play. SAGE publications.
  2. Dowling, J. S. (2014). School-age children talking about humor: Data from focus groups. Humor, 27(1), 121-139.
  3. James, L. A., & Fox, C. L. (2016). Children’s understanding of self-focused humor styles. Europe’s journal of psychology, 12(3), 420.
  4. Kuiper, N. A., & Leite, C. (2010). Personality impressions associated with four distinct humor styles. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 51(2), 115-122.
  5. Martin, R. A., Puhlik-Doris, P., Larsen, G., Gray, J., & Weir, K. (2003). Individual differences in uses of humor and their relation to psychological well-being: Development of the Humor Styles Questionnaire. Journal of research in personality, 37(1), 48-75.
  6. Semrud-Clikeman, M., & Glass, K. (2010). The relation of humor and child development: Social, adaptive, and emotional aspects. Journal of child neurology, 25(10), 1248-1260.
  7. Szabo, A. (2003). The acute effects of humor and exercise on mood and anxiety. Journal of Leisure Research, 35(2), 152-162.

If you need any kind of advice related to the development of your child, you’ve come to the right place!

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Healthy Self-Esteem – How to Build It?

“The greatest thing in the world is to know how to belong to oneself.”Michel de Montaigne

Self-esteem is “how a person feels about him or herself, good or bad, and as manifested in a variety of ways, for example, in pride or shame, but especially in self-confidence” [6]. This feeling is related to a person’s judgments about their intellectual competence, social skills, appearance, physical coordination, etc [5].

How high is your self-esteem?

How people feel about themselves is on a fluid continuum that can range from low to high based on varying circumstances. Having low self-esteem means you may feel not good enough, as if no one likes you. Low self-esteem individuals are very self-critical. They often blame themselves for things that aren’t their fault. If someone compliments them for something they’ve done well, they don’t see the praise as reflective of any personal ability. They make things harder than they need to be. They’re usually shy and may have a fear of public speaking [4, 7, 8]. The anxiety that they won’t perform well leads them to avoid challenges and miss opportunities otherwise open to them, which only reinforces their negative feelings [2, 6].

Feelings of low self-esteem are rooted in a person’s own judgments of themselves. People’s beliefs about themselves, others, and the world around them are shaped during childhood, with parents clearly a vital influence (e.g. child-abusive parents) [5]. These beliefs can also be impacted by being treated poorly by meaningful others at any age.

If you tend to have lower self-esteem, these feelings might make it harder for you to live a fulfilled life. But low self-esteem isn’t something that you’re powerless to change. There are ways to help you build self-acceptance, self-love, and self-confidence, which will lead you to an easier, happier, and most importantly, a healthier life.

While people with low self-esteem are dissatisfied with themselves, suffer self-rejection, or even self-contempt, high self-esteem individuals consider themselves valuable and important. They are comfortable with themselves. When in the company of others, they socialize more easily and are resistant to peer pressure. Under stress, they’re able to handle negative emotions and overcome a problematic situation. They tend to surmount difficulties because they’re willing to attempt new tasks and challenges. Generally, high self-esteem contributes to feeling good and leads to greater happiness [2, 6, 9].

Is high self-esteem always beneficial?

One must take care not to go overboard on self importance. We should rather focus on the importance of balance. A healthy self-esteem is a balanced sense of self-esteem – judging that you are worthwhile and valuable.

High self-esteem is a heterogeneous category. It encompasses people who frankly accept their good qualities as well as narcissistic, defensive, and conceited individuals [2]. Persons with very high self-esteem may overly inflate the positive side of themselves. For example, when their ego is threatened, they risk making commitments that exceed their capabilities and preclude success [1]. It can also lead to increased sensitivity to negative feedback and make self-improvement difficult [3].

When we talk about high or low self-esteem, it sounds as though we have to choose which of these two categories we belong to. But you can have higher self-esteem in one area of your life and lower in another – one alone doesn’t define your whole character. Also, your goal shouldn’t be to be perfect, but healthier. Because of that, it’s much better to think about healthy self-esteem.

Six ways to improve your self-esteem

It can be difficult to break habits, so improving self-esteem takes time and persistence. But don’t give up! You deserve to accept and be comfortable with who you are. No person should be held back from reaching their full potential.

Use positive affirmations.

Positive affirmations may contribute to self-worth because they can gradually become true for you. Describe the way you would like to feel all the time. Say it out loud and frequently. However, in order for these affirmations to work, make sure you choose ones that are not too contrary to your beliefs!

Perfectionism is no good.

No one is perfect. Although it sounds weird, perfection couldn’t get you to where you really want to be. Embrace your imperfections. Stop being dissatisfied with what you’ve accomplished and your own performance. Instead of perfect, go with good enough. And let yourself make mistakes and fail. Sometimes you can learn more from failure than success. So be proud of what you’ve achieved, regardless of whether it looks small or big to you.

Recognize your strengths.

No one is good at everything and we’re all good at something (math, singing, or being a friend). Identify your strength and practice it more. You’ll demonstrate real ability and achievement to yourself. And because we tend to enjoy doing the things we’re good at, you’ll feel happier.

Set yourself a challenge.

Don’t let fear of failing make you stop trying new things. Go outside your comfort zone. Set yourself small goals like eat more veggies. Achieving them will help you feel better about yourself and motivate you to set even more goals.

Connect with people who love you.

If you spend time with people who treat you badly it’s easy to feel bad about yourself. Choose to spend less time with them and more time with people who love you and appreciate you, because they can help you challenge negative thinking. Ask them what they love about you and what are the things you’ve done right so you have a different, more positive view of yourself. Also, be willing to meet new people so that you can make new friends, even if it means trying new hobbies and stepping outside your comfort zone.

Be more compassionate towards yourself.

When frustration and embarrassment overwhelm you because you`ve failed to achieve a goal you set, don’t be too harsh on yourself. It’s a process, and you’ll need to adjust your goals along the way (and the goals should be about measurable things you can do, not outcomes). Imagine that a friend is in your situation and ask yourself What would I say to a dear friend? We often give far better advice to others than we do to ourselves. Direct those thoughts to yourself and change critical thoughts with self-compassion.

Remember, your self-esteem is fluid, so continue working to improve in these areas so that you can develop and maintain the healthy self-esteem you’re seeking. If you find it difficult, do not hesitate to contact us for more information about our coaching services.

References:

[1] Baumeister, R. F., Heatherton, T. F., & Tice, D. M. (1993). When ego threats lead to self-regulation failure: Negative consequences of high self-esteem. Journal of personality and social psychology, 64(1), 141.

[2] Baumeister, R. F., Campbell, J. D., Krueger, J. I., & Vohs, K. D. (2003). Does high self-esteem cause better performance, interpersonal success, happiness, or healthier lifestyles?. Psychological science in the public interest, 4(1), 1-44.

[3] Brown, J. D. (2010). High self-esteem buffers negative feedback: Once more with feeling. Cognition and Emotion, 24(8), 1389-1404.

[4] Daly, J. A., Vangelisti, A. L., & Lawrence, S. G. (1989). Self-focused attention and public speaking anxiety. Personality and Individual Differences, 10(8), 903-913.

[5] Emler, N. (2002). The costs and causes of low self-esteem. Youth Studies Australia, 21(3), 45-48.

[6] Ferkany, M. (2008). The Educational Importance of Self‐Esteem. Journal of Philosophy of Education, 42(1), 119-132.

[7] Jovanovic, A. (2017, July 27) Retrieved from https://nobelcoaching.com/shyness-in-child-development/

[8] Nedeljković, J. (2018, January 29). Retrieved from https://nobelcoaching.com/public-speaking/

[9] Ryff, C. D., & Singer, B. H. (2013). Know thyself and become what you are: A eudaimonic approach to psychological well-being. In The exploration of happiness (pp. 97-116). Springer, Dordrecht.

 

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The Secrets And Learning Challenges Of Dyslexia

If you have no idea what something looks like, you probably wouldn’t recognize it even if it was right there in front of you. You might not even notice it, right? But, if somehow it does attract your attention, you’d probably identify it as something you’re already familiar with, or try to explain it with what’s already known to you. We want an explanation for why things exist, even if that means inventing one!

Now, imagine – You see a “normal”, bright kid struggling with such a simple thing as reading.
How can that be?

If you have never heard of dyslexia, you might be tempted to call this kid “lazy”, “stubborn” or “not as bright as you thought they were”. You might think that the parents are being too soft and need to push the child to do better in school.

So, what is dyslexia?

Dyslexia is a language-based learning disability. When you have dyslexia, your brain needs more time and energy for some of the processes many would say come “naturally” or “automatically”. Matching the letters on a page with the sounds that those letters and combinations of letters make is one of those things. People who have dyslexia experience difficulties with skills such as spelling, writing, and pronouncing words.

Who said reading was easy?

Nobody is born with the ability to read. (Obviously!) It is an activity that requires a lot from our brain, which needs to be able to focus on the letters, put them into words, then the words into sentences, and link the sentences into paragraphs so that we can read them –  and only then, understand the content of what we’re reading. So, when you see the letters D, O, G connected, your brain needs to pick up the letters, connect those letters to specific sounds and then read the word “dog” and also comprehend that the word on the paper is a symbol for a cheerful, four-legged animal that loves playing “fetch” with you.

So – reading is NOT easy, even though many think it is.

What causes dyslexia?

We’re still trying to figure out what’s actually going on in the brain. Anatomical and brain imaging studies show differences in the development and functioning of the brain in a person with dyslexia. What we know for sure is that most people with dyslexia have problems with identifying the separate speech sounds within a word. Understanding how the letters represent speech sounds seems to be the key factor in reading difficulties. What’s important to know is that this learning disability has nothing to do with how intelligent you are.

What are the risk factors for dyslexia?

People with dyslexia have, in many cases, experienced difficulties with learning to speak, difficulties with differentiating the sounds in speech, difficulties in learning letters, organizing spoken language, memorizing words, etc.
Also, the parents of dyslexic students tend to report delays in reaching common milestones of childhood, such as learning to crawl or walk or ride a bike.

What are the typical signs of dyslexia?

Depending on the age, dyslexia can be spotted through a variety of signs.
We’ll outline some of the most common ones.

PRESCHOOL

  • Difficulty learning new words
  • Difficulty guessing a word based on its description
  • Difficulty recognizing whether two words rhyme
  • Difficulty in pronunciation of familiar words
  • Difficulty sounding out unfamiliar words
  • Difficulty remembering multi-step instructions
  • Difficulty remembering the order in which things appear in a story
  • Difficulty structuring the answer about how the day went or how something happened
  • A child does not use as many words as peers do
  • A child tends to mix up words that sound familiar
  • A child tends to struggle to organize a story chronologically

GRADE SCHOOL

  • Difficulty learning letters (and writing them)
  • Difficulty differentiating similar letters both in writing and reading (like b and d)
  • Difficulty recognizing which letters produce which sound
  • Stalling while reading; guessing a word based on the first two letters
  • Difficulty isolating the middle sound of a word
  • Difficulty recognizing the spelling of a word
  • The student quickly forgets how to spell the words he reads
  • Struggles with word problems in math
  • Difficulty remembering the key elements of a story
  • The student focuses so much on the reading itself that he fails to remember and comprehend what he has read

MIDDLE SCHOOL

  • Makes a lot of spelling errors
  • Avoids all assignments that require reading
  • Takes a lot of time to finish homework that requires reading
  • Gets nervous while reading
  • The student reads at a lower academic level than they speak
  • The student tends to re-read sentences to be able to comprehend them
  • The student tends to forget what he has read
  • When reading, the student often makes pauses with “um” or filler words

There’s more to dyslexia than you’d think

Not being able to read and write at the same level as your peers can significantly affect how you see yourself. The peer group tends to mock the student who isn’t able to do things they do with ease. That is why it is extremely important to pay attention to how the student is feeling and how he sees himself.

The students with dyslexia tend to think “out of the box”. They are creative and innovative.
These are the strengths that any person working with a student with dyslexia should capitalize on.

What to do if you suspect that your child has dyslexia

  1. Consult with the experts – speech therapists and psychologists. They will do all the necessary testing to see whether the student has dyslexia.
  2. If it turns out that your student does have dyslexia, do not despair. There are many successful people who have this diagnosis. With proper treatment, you can help your child succeed in school. Just make sure you contact professionals on time.

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WHY DO THE ARTS MATTER?

Things children and parents alike can learn from art

Enjoying art for art’s sake is a noble goal we should all aim for, as it unquestionably enriches our lives. But in a world where time spent on art can be viewed as time better spent on something “more useful”, it can’t hurt to remind ourselves what art actually does for us. Most parents and children invest their every waking moment in learning more, on extracurricular activities, and improving their chances of getting into the school they want. Meanwhile, art pursuits often get left behind even though they, too, can promote the skills necessary for academic and life success. This article reminds us of the ways the Arts enhance our learning and enrich our lives.

The Arts make us more creative

It is impossible to overstate the benefits the Arts bring to our creativity and divergent thinking [8]. As we express ourselves through various art forms or observe the art of others, we come to understand that being creative isn’t exclusively confined to the world of art itself. Rather, it enables us to see the larger world through different eyes and teaches us how to be creative and innovative in many fields not necessarily having anything to do with the Arts themselves [3].

Enjoying the Arts “makes us smarter”

Art, like science, is a broad term with many interpretations, but most art can teach us something about aesthetic perception and taste [1]. This isn’t where the magic ends, though. How many times have you heard that you need to read a lot in order to be well spoken or be a good writer? Literature is art and enhances our vocabulary and language skills [4].

However, it is not only literature and reading that can improve our skills and widen our knowledge. When children draw, paint, or play with clay, they are not only creating their own art, but they’re learning about the world and at the same time developing their cognitive skills by going through the oh-so-hard decision process of which color to choose, planning how their drawing will look, tweaking and experimenting. In other words, art gives children a chance to make decisions and learn from them [6].

The Arts teach us how to be human

While nothing can really prepare us for a living except actually living and learning along the way, the Arts offer us an invaluable window into the human experience and can teach us how it is to live on this planet for different people from different places. It also shows us our similarities and differences and helps us empathize with others. For instance, Maya Angelou’s autobiographical “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings”, though written in 1969 and relates events that happened in the ‘30s and ‘40s, still manages to teach us a great deal about racism and how to overcome it, and gives us a different perspective on coming of age as an African-American girl in the United States back then. Similarly, paintings can show us a lot about how some people live and what is important to them, and also help us understand the way they perceive reality.

This insight into the lives of different people helps with our social skills, but there are other ways the Arts can nurture these skills. Many artistic endeavors, such as different types of dramatic performance or large-format paintings, can be created by groups or with one partner, thus teaching the participants how to be cooperative, helping, and caring and how to share with others [5].

The Arts help us master our emotions and feel better about ourselves.

Expressing and regulating our emotions is essential to our everyday life, but a lot of us experience difficulties with one or both of these. Art is there to help when things are too complicated to verbalize. This is often the case for children, so it is especially beneficial for them to have access to art and to feel free to draw things the way they
want. It can be instructive to give a child a piece of paper when they are upset or unusually quiet since many things can be revealed through their art. There is usually some meaning behind a child exaggerating something in a drawing, not paying attention to something else at all [3] or simply using dark colors.

Art is also used in therapy to help people with a wide range of problems and has been shown to have beneficial effects on emotion regulation [2] and attitude, and in improving self-image [7].

Additionally, specific activities like drama and dance can be great confidence builders [5] and help with stage fright. Just participating in the realm of art teaches us perseverance and focus, as art requires practice and a high level of concentration [9].

Nurturing your child in his/her artistic endeavors and also enjoying participating in the Arts yourself, mindful of their benefits or even just for their own sake, is definitely worth your time. Not only will they enrich your lives, but they will make your child and you better human beings in every way possible.

REFERENCES:

  1. Arslan, A. A. (2014). A Study into the Effects of Art Education on Children at the Socialisation Process. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, 116, 4114-4118. doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2014.01.900
  2. Brown, E. D., & Sax, K. L. (2013). Arts enrichment and preschool emotions for low-income children at risk. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 28(2), 337-346. doi:10.1016/j.ecresq.2012.08.002
  3. Extension (August 31, 2015). Creative Art Helps Children Develop across Many Domains.
  4. Klein, O., Biedinger, N., & Becker, B. (2014). The effect of reading aloud daily—Differential effects of reading to native-born German and Turkish-origin immigrant children. Research in Social Stratification and Mobility, 38, 43-56. doi:10.1016/j.rssm.2014.06.001
  5. National Endowment for the Arts (2015). The Arts in Early Childhood: Social and Emotional Benefits of Arts Participation.
  6. PennState Extension (February 6, 2014). Art – An opportunity to develop children’s skills.
  7. Schweizer, C., Knorth, E. J., & Spreen, M. (2014). Art therapy with children with Autism Spectrum Disorders: A review of clinical case descriptions on ‘what works’. The Arts in Psychotherapy, 41(5), 577-593. doi:10.1016/j.aip.2014.10.009
  8. Sowden, P. T., Clements, L., Redlich, C., & Lewis, C. (2015). Improvisation facilitates divergent thinking and creativity: Realizing a benefit of primary school arts education. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, 9(2), 128-138. doi:10.1037/aca0000018
  9. Strauss, V. (January 22, 2013). Top 10 skills children can learn from the arts.

By Anja Anđelković

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THE BENEFITS OF ONLINE LEARNING

Learning online is no longer a novelty and more and more students are opting to take online courses every day. The world’s top universities and colleges now offer online courses and it was recently noted that “The future of higher education lies with it.” (Tom Snyder, Huffington).

The popularity of online learning lies principally in its flexibility. Students do not have to be physically in a classroom but can learn remotely and frequently at their own pace. Naturally, this approach may present challenges. While learning online, students must also learn to prioritize their commitments. Good time-management and organization skills are essential for it to be effective, but those are skills which can be improved upon, and that usually do improve, along with self-discipline and responsibility, as students progress through their online courses.

Online learning can also help busy professionals get additional training and keep abreast of advances in their fields of expertise as they continue to work at their jobs.

Another great advantage of online learning is coverage. There will never be as many spots in universities as students who want to enroll in them, but with online courses, educators can reach many more students than would be possible in the traditional classroom. Moreover, everyone receives the same training, communicated in the same way to everyone participating in the course.

It is often thought that with flexibility comes a more laissez-faire approach to learning; that online courses aren’t as “serious” as more traditional ones, and that students simply can’t learn as much as they would if they were sitting in a classroom with a teacher in front of them. If you’ve ever taken an online course you’re probably aware that this criticism is unfounded. Many online courses make greater demands on students and assign more reading material than traditional ones in order to ensure students stay engaged and always have something to work on.

Online courses are designed so as to keep engagement high and help students retain the material taught in them longer. This is usually achieved through the use of media inherent in this type of learning, and also with gamification. Online teachers often find ways to make the course fun and more similar to a game than to what we usually think of when we imagine learning.

Last but not least, online learning usually means time and money savings. Students who opt for this type of learning remove the need for travel and its attendant costs. It reduces or eliminates time away from the workplace and opens a pathway to lifelong learning.

And let’s not forget our planet. The fact that we can now learn without dozens of handouts and paper-based materials does the environment a great favor that we shouldn’t take for granted.

IS ONLINE LEARNING FOR EVERYONE?

As with anything in education, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to the question as to whether you or your student should try online learning. It is designed on the assumption that the student has some interest in the subject already and will be motivated to learn more. It also requires instructors familiar with this approach who know how to engage students and present the material in an original way, tailored for the online environment. But it is definitely worth a try. The benefits are great and any drawbacks can be overcome if dealt with in a timely fashion and with solid support. We will offer just that this summer to all students interested in online learning, combined with the great project-based learning approach:

Our new online summer STEAM camp, Nobel Explorers, is starting soon! We prepared 11 cool projects for students aged 10 to 18 who want to get a head start on their future careers. It is worth checking out if you are interested in providing your child with a summer full of learning and fun.

by Anja Anđelković

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5 TEAM-BUILDING ACTIVITIES FOR TEENS TO BUILD TRUST AND COOPERATION

“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is a success.” – Henry Ford

In this article, you will find several team-building activities useful in developing closeness, trust, cooperation, and team spirit among teens. Besides being applicable in the classroom and teen workshops, some of these activities can be enjoyed at parties, with friends, or during family gatherings. And all of them can be initiated and led by teens, not only by adult tutors or teachers.

Teenagers have a particular need to be accepted, to belong to a peer group, to have their own crew, and to explore the world together with friends and have fun. Yet many of them feel isolated and lonely and find an illusion of consolation in virtual social networks, which can never replace the joys of real interaction.

That is why we’re proposing several team-building activities, varying from simple games to more complex assignments, that can serve to draw teens closer to one another by encouraging interaction to develop trust and cooperation, letting them experience interdependency through working together to foster a team spirit – all preconditions for successful teamwork.

These activities require a leader to initiate an activity, whether this is a teen or an adult.

Team-building activity No 1 – Let’s get to know each other from a different perspective

Want to make everyone comfortable and included at the party you organize? Why not suggest an icebreaking game where everyone would have the opportunity to speak up informally?

Prepare a list of questions. Be imaginative when inventing them – they should be questions that are interesting to you, too. For example:

  1. Who is your favorite superhero and why?
  2. If you were an animal, what would you be and why?
  3. If you were a wizard, what would be your superpower?
  4. If you had to describe yourself using only three words, they would be…
  5. What is your favorite band/movie/TV show/video game and why?

Prepare enough questions for everybody. Questions can be printed or written down on paper and then cut into slips – one slip, one question. Roll the question slips up and put them in a jar and your game is ready! Suggest the game to your guests – each one who participates takes one question from the jar.

This icebreaking game is useful for smaller groups (up to ten people). Besides being applicable in the classroom or in a workshop where people don’t know each other, it’s beneficial when the atmosphere at a social gathering is a bit awkward or low energy. Moreover, questions like these are amusing and helpful on dates, too!

Team-building activity No 2 – Karaoke performance

We all know that karaoke can be funny, but here we’re adding an extra team challenge! This activity is also good for larger groups, first divided into smaller ones consisting of at least three members.

The challenge for each team is to select a song (from YouTube or audio player) and create a performance around that song. Members of the team decide together on a concept for their particular performance, with each person taking their preferred role. Roles could be a singer, a drummer, a dancer, a backup vocalist, or even acting out the theme of the lyrics.

There are no rules regarding possible roles, just as long as each member has one. When the teams are ready, each team puts on their performance.

This activity is particularly useful in getting teens closer and helping them be spontaneous and stop worrying what others may think of them. Usually, there’s a lot of laughter and good energy during this activity. Make sure to send us photos if you try it!

Team-building activity No 3 – Dragon’s tower

This is a competitive game, great for developing team cooperation. The minimum number of people playing this game is six. You will also need a coordinator to lead the process. Participants are divided into teams consisting of three members. If performed with a large group of students, it’s advisable to create several teams, with the rest forming a watching and cheering audience.

First, the coordinator introduces the following story: Once upon a time there was a king who had N daughters/princesses (N – referring to the number of teams). Then a frightful dragon came and took away the king’s daughters and put them in his distant tower. The task of each team is to find their princess and get her back home.

Each team consists of the following three players: the Silent One (who is allowed to look, but isn’t allowed to talk), the Talker (who is only allowed to look at the Silent One’s pantomime, and is allowed to talk), and the Tracker (who is blindfolded and navigated by the Talker in his quest to find the princess).

The Coordinator picks princesses from a deck of cards and assigns one to each team. He then attaches the princess cards to the opposite wall. Only the Silent Ones from each team are allowed to see where the coordinator has placed their group’s princess. Talker and Tracker mustn’t see this.

All team members stand on one side of the room. The Silent One has an overview of the whole room. When the game begins, he uses pantomime to explain to the Talker, who is facing him, where their princess is located on the opposite wall. The Talker only sees the Silent One and his pantomime and tries to verbally navigate the Tracker, using the information he receives from the Silent One. The blindfolded Tracker then moves, and with help of his teammates, tries to find their princess and to get her back to his teammates successfully.

The winner is the team whose Tracker finds their princess and gets her back first. It is crucial that teammates play their roles well and cooperate in order to successfully finish the task. This is a hilarious game with a great atmosphere!

Team-building activity No 4 – Trust game

There are plenty of trust games and for this purpose, we’ve chosen the following one. It is good for a group of minimum five members.

Participants stand in the circle holding hands. One member stands in the center of the circle, blindfolded or just with their eyes shut. The one in the center has to walk around and explore the space, unseeing. He has to trust the group will guard him and protect him from harm. The group has the responsibility to “watch his back”- to take care of his safety.

All members should have both experiences – of being guarded by the group and guarding a teammate. The challenge is greater if there are several groups in the room, each group taking care of the one in the middle of their circle. There are variations of the game; for instance, a circle can be wider, using ten people and more, or the one in the middle can be dancing or running about, etc.

In the end, participants should be asked how they felt in both roles and what they can learn from this game.

Trust games like this one show how important interdependence is and that we can rely on our team members. Trust is essential for a good teamwork. Also, it teaches that a team must function as a single unit if wants to survive, with all members included and working together.

Team-building activity No 5 – Teens as researchers

Here we suggest an activity initiated by an adult (a teacher or a youth leader) working with teens to research and describe a concept. This activity can range from a very simple task to a real project. Also, it can give impetus to any creative and curious teen to start his own project with his friends.

Teens are divided into teams of three to five members. They are encouraged to imagine that they are researchers investigating some important social topic. If we assume there are four teams, four different topics would be offered and for each topic, a distinctive method of recording and presenting data. Teams are created taking into account students’ preferences and equal sizes of the teams.

For example, topics can be Love, Friendship, Youth culture, Local activism. Extra instruction can be given. If Love is the focus, you may want to find out what love actually is. How does love manifest itself in real life? Or if you research Friendship, you may want to seek out the definition of a good friend. What would a true friend never do?

In order to assist teams to investigate in their particular field, we suggest interview and observation as the main techniques for collecting information. They are encouraged to conduct research in their local environment: school, or community, and to ask real people for their opinion on the topic the team is investigating.

However, methods of recording and presenting data will vary. We suggest four methods for recording data: Video; Audio; Photos; Writing. One method is assigned to one topic. For example, a team working on the Love topic will use a video; a team working on Friendship will use written form, etc.

Depending on the complexity of the assignment, teams are given from several hours to several days to complete the task. Time is needed to jointly create research questions, conduct research on the ground and to conceptualize how to effectively present data using the chosen method. At the end, each team presents their final product with discussion to follow.

Being gathered around a common project is a great opportunity to experience real teamwork, among other benefits. For more about the benefits of project-based learning, read our previous article.

Teamwork is one of the key values here in Nobel Coaching. Check out our new engaging program Nobel Explorers where middle- and high-school students will work in small teams.

If you need any kind of advice related to project-based learning and teamwork of your children, you’ve come to the right place!

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DO CHORES HAVE TO BE A CHORE?

Children, and even adults, often consider chores a “burden” since they take away time we could spend on activities we enjoy doing and intrude into our “fun” time. However, while few people think ironing shirts is interesting and uplifting, it is something most of us will need to do at some point in our lives, even if only before those first job interviews because, let’s admit it – nobody really irons their clothes all the time.

The truth is chores don’t have to be all that horrible, especially if you start participating in them early on and without any negative associations. In fact, a good relationship towards them leads to developing skills useful in adult life and learning how to deal with responsibilities in constructive ways. This is what every parent would want for their child and the good news is there are ways to achieve it. It is possible to have your children help with chores without frustrating them or hearing the usual “Later” whenever you mention anything loosely associated with the household.

HOW TO MAKE CHORES NOT A CHORE

To help your child develop a good relationship to chores, the most important thing is to start young. A good way to begin having a functional household with all members participating in maintaining it is to have your toddler start caring for their basic hygiene. Teach them to brush their teeth and dress and let them have some independence while doing so. Yes, this means you don’t get to pick out that cute matching outfit, but let your child have a choice about what they wear, as long as it’s not a summer dress… in the middle of winter. When your child starts doing these as a part of their routine, you can gradually add other simple tasks: putting their toys away after playing, making their bed or helping set the table. As your child grows, feel free to add more chores that benefit the entire family, and always show your appreciation for your child’s engagement in them. This will help teach your child autonomy, and also that their needs are not the only ones and that all members of the household should participate in maintaining it.

As your child starts taking on more and more chores, you’ll start noticing that some tasks suit their personalities and interests better than others. Encourage them to develop their own methods. As their skills improve, they will feel proud of themselves and chores can actually become a way for them to develop self-esteem. If you have more than one child, it would be smart to delegate different responsibilities to each one. This will not only help you have your house in tip-top condition but will help avoid competition between your children and let them all have a place of their own in the family dynamic. It will also teach them that there is more to being a member of the family than just being born into it. When delegating tasks, try to stay away from social norms about what girls and boys should do. Consider only your child’s individuality and go with that as your main criterion.

Another key factor in keeping the drudgery factor out of chores is your own relationship to them. It is completely understandable that you find some tasks tedious or that it is hard for you to clean the grout and hum upbeat tunes while doing so, but at least try not to be extremely negative whenever it’s time to do housework. Think about all the good you will do for your child if you teach them how to accept chores as a part of their everyday lives. Demonstrate that chores are just like any other activity we do daily and that there is no need to complain about ordinary tasks. If you need to occasionally fake enthusiasm for a chore you particularly dislike, it’s probably better than displaying a negative attitude. Maybe it becomes easier and you actually help yourself on your journey to teaching your child important life skills.

The third thing to keep in mind while delegating chores is the number of tasks your child has to do. As with any other good thing, moderation is key. Having your child help with chores is all well and good and beneficial for everyone involved, but keep in mind that children need time to study and play, and that chores shouldn’t take up most of their time. If you don’t want your child to become resentful towards all household tasks, don’t make him/her participate in them in all their spare time and try not to use chores as a form of punishment. This often leads to resistance and can have negative effects even later in life.

In case you have a child who has already developed a not-so-great relationship with chores, fret not – there are ways to make it better! Of course, take into account everything said in the previous paragraphs, but also show appreciation for any contribution your child makes to the household no matter how minor. If the only thing your child does is occasionally making the bed, mention how great that is that they did that instead of criticizing them for not doing more. Also, keep in mind that we tend to show resistance to activities that are presented as something we must do, so try not to make chores one of those as it will only make the child dislike it even more. And, most importantly, be patient. It might take some time for your child to realize that chores are just a regular activity that, in the long run, make life easier for everyone in the household.

CHORES AS A MEANS TO A FULFILLED CHILD

The first thing that usually comes to parents’ mind when they think about how their children could be doing more around the house is that it would make running the household easier, but this is actually low on the list of reasons why chores are good for your child.

When participating in household activities, children see themselves as important contributors to the family’s well-being, especially if they start while young. Other than that, chores can be a great way to bond with your child and make them feel more connected to everything that is happening within the family. Running a household is a team project, and getting your child to help with chores will prepare them for working successfully with others throughout their lives.

Another benefit for your child in doing chores is that it helps them become more responsible, teaches them self-discipline and gives them a sense of pride and self-worth once they complete their tasks. It also is a great way for them to start managing their time, as they will have to learn how to fit chores into their daily schedules.

And if all of this isn’t enough, think about the many ways chores can be useful in bettering certain skills. They can be great exercise and help your child develop both fine and gross motor skills. For instance, doing almost any type of outdoor work not only works up a sweat but can improve physical well-being. Drying the dishes can help them learn how to handle delicate objects. Chores can also help with your child’s numerical and even verbal skills. Ask your child to help write a shopping list, measure and count some ingredients for a cake, or sort the laundry by color to help with their classification skills. The list never ends. You can actually get very creative and make it fun for both you and your child. The case for chores is strong. All you and your child have to do is start doing them. It is never too late.

Resources:

  1. Albernaz, A. (December 8, 2015). Sparing Chores Spoils Children And Their Future Selves, Study Says.
  2. Paton, G. (February 20, 2014). Parents told ‘use chores to teach children basic skills’.
  3. Responsibility And Chores: Part I – The Benefits of Chores. (December 16, 2012).
  4. 4. 6 Big Ways Your Children Benefit From Having Chores (September 10, 2014).

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