Monday, December 14, 2009

Ask a Child and You Shall Receive

Have you ever asked a child for advice? I mean genuinely asked them? I was having a crummy day last week. I was stressed about some things, worried about some others and tired of a few more. Instead of taking my usual complaints to my usual friends I decided to go to a little girl in my classroom. Unorthodox, you bet, but I never said I was a traditionalist.

“Hey Maddie,” I said, “I’m having kind of a rough day today. Do you think it would help if I took a deep breathe and said, “I can?” She thought about it and shook her head. “Yes.” She even volunteered to do it with me. Turns out, she was having a bad day, too. We sat in a corner and took a deep breath. We said it out loud “I can.” I thought about all the things I can do. I can breathe, I can jump, I can walk, I can believe. Then I thought about all the things I could do. What if I could turn this day around? What if I believed in myself a little more? What if I was having a good day and not a bad one? I imagine she was doing something similar. Soon, we both started to smile. “It worked,” she said, and just like that, we were back.

We spend so much time trying to teach children. We teach them how to read and write, how to be afraid, how to eat properly, bathe properly, sleep properly. How to say please and thank you. How to grow up. Do we ever stop, though, and think about all the ways they teach us?

They teach us patience, kindness. They teach us respect and integrity. They teach us openness, devotion and, yes, unconditional love. They teach us how to let things go. But perhaps the biggest thing they teach us is how to teach them. People often ask me how I got to be so “good” with children, what my tricks are for teaching. I always answer the same way: they teach me.

Having a bad day? Ask your child for some advice. They may just have the answer you are looking for.

With love,


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

What if?

There is a game I have started with my children called “What if?” My dear friend and willPower and Grace instructor, Christine D’Ercole, uses it in her class and I had the good fortune of talking with the amazing people at thinkso (a marketing and design agency) about it as well. It’s a game that gets us up and moving around the room, engages our imaginations and helps us, well, think BIG. It goes like this…

What if… this room was a swimming pool?
What if… we had wheels on our feet?
What if… we were fearless and jumped?
What if… we were in a forest?
What if… my hands were made of propellers?
What if… I can?

Children are used to hearing no. We don’t say it to shut them down or stunt their creative development. We love them, we care about them, we don’t want to see them get hurt. When they ask to go outside and it’s too cold we say no, but maybe tomorrow. When they ask for a cookie after bed we say no, no sugar at night. When they run across the street we yell it, “no!”

It is our job to protect them but it is also our job to help them expand and grow. It is our job to foster and nurture the little beliefs inside of them that they are lions or princesses or crabs at the bottom of the ocean. I spoke a few weeks ago about the importance of “I can” in my classroom and how much it has changed these children. The simple words, the mantra, has made all of the difference. I can. I can tie my shoe. I can speak kindly. I can make a difference. And that isn’t even touching on the way it has changed me.

If this belief helps our children, if using these words can transform them the way I’ve seen, then don’t we owe ourselves the same mantra? Say it with me…I can. I can face today with an open heart. I can choose kindness and not annoyance. I can lend a helping hand. I can make a difference. Even if you don’t believe it ask yourself this question: what if I can? Soon, like my children, you will begin to believe it.

Much love,