Saturday, June 5, 2010

Teaching Writing to a Preschooler: How NOT to Kill Their Fire

“Linda!” Nandu puffed out in exasperation “I CAN’T write! I’m just 4!!”

I looked at her: “Nandu, do you know what writing is?”


This is my last post at this location. If you would like to continue following my posts, please visit us at:

Thanks for Reading!!

Lots of Love,


Riviera PlaySchool in Redondo Beach, California


A Mindful Program for the "Whole Child," Inspired by the best of Attachment Parenting,

Reggio Emilia, Bev Bos, Montessori, Waldorf, and Non Violent Communication.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

You don't have to adopt the values of your community!

You don't have to adopt the values of your community! You can establish your own values! I think it's time we rolled back the clock and start taking charge of our families again!!!

Hey Parents,

This blog has moved to its new home at

Come and visit us there!

Lots of Love,
Linda Shannon

Riviera PlaySchool in South Redondo Beach, California

A mindful program for the 'whole child,' inspired by the best of attachment parenting, Reggio Emilia, Bev Bos, Montssori, Waldorf, and Non Violent Communication

Monday, May 3, 2010

The King and the Scratched Diamond

Parable: The King and the Scratched Diamond
A great reminder about perfection begin imperfect.

Riviera PlaySchool in Redondo Beach, CA
A Mindful program for the 'Whole Child,' inspired by the best of Attachment Parenting, Reggio Emilia, Bev Bos, Montessori, Waldorf and Non-Violent Communication.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Vaccines: PBS hides the facts.....

Vaccines: PBS Frontline's shockingly slanted story. Scary that PBS would be political and hide facts. (Or am I just an idealist?) Read the story at

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

“Rhythms & Tales for Haiti”

You have to see this -- it's an incredible family and child experience.

Riviera PlaySchool in Redondo Beach, CA
A Mindful program for the 'Whole Child,' inspired by the best of Attachment Parenting, Reggio Emilia, Bev Bos, Montessori, Waldorf and Non-Violent Communication.

Riviera PlaySchool partners with El Camino College!

Riviera PlaySchool partners with El Camino College!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Play is not a break from learning—it’s the way young children learn.

Play is not a break from learning—it’s the way young children learn.

Parents, Many educational systems like Waldorf and Montessor use experiential learning as their basis, but this is still not PLAY. Reggio Emilia and Bev Bos schools are perhaps the closest thing to play AS education that is currently offered today.

Read the whole article at the new home for my blog:

~ Lots of Love, Linda

Friday, March 19, 2010

You Can't Say You Can't Play! Does setting this limit then make us the bully?

As parents and adults, we typically struggle a little with how to provide children the space to have their power, (and thus exclude) and also provide an opportunity for them to develop common ground.

I think it is so important, of primary importance, to allow children to have as much power over themselves as possible. Especially power over their own bodies. I think somehow that through providing children with the opportunity to have power over themselves and their environments, that they can develop empathy naturally.

And so I have, for the past few years, gone along with the thought that children should be allowed to exclude. As it was explained to me, it is a necessary factor in developing personal power.

In group play, we want to help the powerless. And the question is whether we make children include others, or allow then to exclude.

It is a delicate situation. There is a fine line between using our implicit power (by being adults, by having larger bodies) to "encourage" the excluders to include, and thereby becoming the bullies in the process.

And although I have been fairly comfortable in helping children see ways they can include each other, but I was not comfortable to making them, however gently, include another child in play if they do not want to. I felt that I was somehow circumventing a developmental stage they needed to travel through, unfettered by my persuasions or values.

But I have been rethinking that approach since starting to read "You Can't Say You Can't Play" is helping change my mind and find a new solution.
That way with excluded/excluder never resonated fully with me, and therefore I could never really explain the reasoning fully to anyone. That was my inkling to myself that I needed a new approach.

The approach I learned to take seems to imply that exclusion is a developmental need that children must engage in and experience fully before they can move on to inclusion. Kinda like the way sharing works, where we allow a child to have have an object until they feel secure and then they will spontaneously share. While it is true in the case of possessions, it does not work for exclusion.

It goes back, like everything, to what the unmet need is. There were 2 different needs in the dynamic at my house yesterday. Not sure I got the needs right, but there was my son, wanting to be a cool friend (be accepted) by his new friend Gerry, and Gerry, wanting to feel important? Wanting to feel powerful?

In examining the needs, I see that there are more valid ways to meet these needs. The behavior of exclusion as a tactic to meet these needs is not something I want my son to carry on with into his teen years. That would be bullying. So when will it end, if I let it go, unchecked?

I thought about how I had handled name calling in the last 2 years -- same thing. I originally thought I should let it go, and not give it energy, and it would resolve itself. It is only words, after all. But name calling can be just another way of excluding. And what happened instead was that a gang mentality appeared. It was like Lord of The Flies.

Yes, children are pure. And their intentions are never evil: and yet, when their behavior is allowed to go on, unexamined, it can feed off itself. We have an important function in the lives of our children: not as authoritarians, but as authoritative coaches.

We have to think again of that mountain of egocentricity, and society/community below. Our collective goal is to help them acquire the skills to interact productively and happily with society. To become a member.

Just yesterday my son had a playdate with 2 friends. One of them (a 6 yr old who also happens to be the newest addition to the group) has been trying the exclude the 3rd friend (a 4 year old and my son's best friend) for the last 2 playdates. This time I realized before hand what might be in store for Ari. My son had created 3 "kits" - one form each friend. He showed me them, proudly, and explained that the dumbest kit was for Ari.

I discussed in brief. First I said: I noticed last time you three played together, Gerry tried to exclude Ari and call him names. If that is your plan again this time, then it is better if we call him right now and ask him not to come.

"No! I want Ari to come."

"OK. Then I am also wondering about this kit. How would you feel if you went over to your friend's house, and he gave you the "dumbest" kit.?"

"OK Linda. I'll put together the kit and you can decide whether it's dumb." He put together the mini figure and held it up for me to see. "What do you think? Is it dumb?"

"I don't think it's dumb. I think it's kind of cool." I stated plainly, shrugging my shoulders. "I think it's great that you thought of making kits for each of your friends."

"Yes, and don't forget they are supposed to fill them up with their own figures from my box once they get here."

"Ok. I just want you to think about how you will play with both friends today. And if that is too hard, then don't invite one of them over. Sometimes people think they can't play with more than one friend at a time. And that's OK, too."

"Why is that, Linda?"

"I don't know. Maybe it just takes practice. But it's worth it. It can be more fun to have more friends together." As I talked with him, I remembered having a similar conversation with my own mother when I was 6, and I had been excluded. Only that time, my mother told me that 3 people cannot be friends together. She had laid it down as a law. How dismal is that?

I saw my son listening intently to me, and I saw the wheels turning in his head. I have a rule with conversations: 25 words or less. Otherwise the children turn off their ears, and float on down the road. After 25 words, my voice becomes the teacher's horn voice in Charlie Brown. "Bwaap bwap bwap bwap bwaap."
The boys arrived, and though of course I had to intervene a couple of times to help Gerry understand about name calling and using threats, Kelly happily included Ari in the play.

At one point when Gerry said to Kelly "Ari can't have cereal, right?!" Kelly seemed to have not heard the remark at all, and he said to Ari "Would you like some, Ari?"
The three boys simply needs to know what the rules of engagement were. They just needed to know what the limits were. And this is not knowledge they are born with.

This is why we are in their lives. And it is our job to be sure that when we are setting down those limits, we are not doing so out of fear, or control issues. We have to be coming from as much clarity as possible.

Some might say I usurped my son's power by not allowing him to exert his power to exclude. I disagree. The proof is in the pudding, as they say. I look at my son, and see that he is grounded, strong, confident, joyful, spontaneous, imaginative, fulfilled, and opinionated. My son is an awesome person, who is thoughtful and considerate, and has many friends. He speaks his truth clearly to anyone, adults and children alike. I am loving the person he is, and my guidance for him is helping him become a success in the world.

If he actually chose me as a spirit, then he chose me at least in part for my experience on earth, and the answers I have. If I fail to share with him my wisdom, then I am neglectful in allowing him to flounder and fail. It could be so much easier for him than it was for me -- because he has me and my husband as parents.

I know that there are also different kinds of exclusion. There are different reasons for it.

The kind of exclusion I am discussing above seems to fulfill some kind of self esteem issue. A need for power, a need to push someone else down to fill big enough in our own skin.

Today we had an impromptu staff meeting before school started about exclusion. We all discussed the approach I wrote about. Then the teachers put it into action. Ari, Gerry, and Kelly were all at playschool today, and so of course the situation was recast!

And this time, the 3 boys were at the top of the structure, and Kelly told a 4th boy: you can't come up here!

The teacher asked: how does that feel? I know when I have been excluded, I felt bad inside. Kelly agreed, and he said "But Heather, there isn't enough room up here for more people. When more people come up, it's crowded!"

(Teacher) Heather said "Oh! Well, that makes total sense. Maybe you could say that, then, to Jerry. I know that if you told me that, then I wouldn't feel bad, I would understand!"

Kelly: "Jerry, you can't come up here right now becaseu it will be too crowded, but you can be on the bottom!"

So although I know that it is different in classrooms than at home, it is still our job as teacher to mentor good citizenship. To be the best we can be, to offer guidance for their journey.

That's why we shouldn't judge them -- they are just struggling to figure it out.

And if we take the time, they really reflect on what we have to offer them.

Like Bev said once, with a child who is really having a hard time, if we can get down on their level and be there with them -- and let them know we are in it with them: "We'll get through this together" goes a long way. Kids just want to be successful.


One point I want to make clear: when I compare exclusion to sharing, I did not mean to say they are related.

What I meant by the comparison is simply that many people seem to think that exclusion is a developmental stage that children must travel through and work out on their own. Just as sharing is.

And my current professor at UCLA, Karen Fite, helped me see that the precise difference between the sharing thing and the exclusion thing is that though both are fear-based, with sharing, they will grow into the behavior of sharing once they have filled up. With exclusion, the act is often driven by "exclude them before they exclude us" or "unite before we become the outsider" which is part of our general society, and leads to competitiveness, and also lack of a community mentality, and instead a gang mentality...

So if they are indeed excluding (gang mentality) then you can talk to them about it.
However, I think you are including "not wanting to share" behavior in this -- and that is not what I was talking about. The "not wanting to share behavior" ("go away" as protection of a plan or property) can look like exclusion, but is not exclusion. It is simply not sharing. Exclusion has to do with power, and self-esteem. Sharing has to do with lack. We already know that sharing is something the child can work through more or less on their own. With one caveat -- I suggest to them less harsh language to use when expressing those needs that look like exclusion but are not what I am talking about here:

"I need some space"

"I want to play by myself with this plan (and then you can have a turn)"

I see the fine line here, but you might notice that at 4 years old some kids may start to band together against another kid. That is the exclusion I am talking about.

And then they need to be given better tools to use to overcome their fears, and successfully connect with other children. This is what many non traditional educational approaches, like waldorf, montessori, regio emilia, and constructivist schools, and trying to accomplish, just as we are.

Riviera PlaySchool in Redondo Beach, CA

A Mindful program for the 'Whole Child,' inspired by the best of Attachment Parenting, Bev Bos, Montessori, Waldorf and Non-Violent Communication.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Developmental I making the grade as a parent?

When I read anything about parenting and child development, I spontaneously begin evaluating myself on my own parenting of my son. As I recently read a developmental checklist for early childhood, I felt the urge to pat myself on the back many times. But then I came to the piece about peaceful conflict resolution "Has the ability to resolve conflicts peacefully" (which of course is the true point of all of my journey in parenting), and I flinched. Does my son resolve his conflicts with his peers peacefully?

I have heard that he is amazingly peaceful and tends to be the one who resolves the conflicts between and among the playing partners (when I am not around).

But when I read "resolves conflicts without aggression or hurtful language," I flinch. I do hear "Stop it, you idiot!" in the yard at playschool... and it is often my own son who is uttering those words (like little stabs into my ears). And I explain to him, or whoever else is yelling them, that this doesn't work for 2 reasons:

a) calling him an idiot doesn't tell him anything about what you are wanting him to do better next time

b) calling names is like hitting, because you are using a word as a weapon to hurt.

And still the name calling continues.

I guess I should take refuge in the fact that my son is only 5, and the prefrontal cortex, which governs impulse control, is not fully developed until the age of 27. But I still get tired saying it over and over again, for months... "please tell him what you don't want him to do. Don't call him a name. That's not OK... name calling is using words as weapons.....

It seems that every few months we circle back to this point again. And I get so frustrated at times with his incredible lack of progress in this area, that I am often not able to stop and observe what is going on for him in that moment. If I can just climb down from my judgmental throne and take up my post as Kian's champion, his unfailing supporter, then I can take a good look and see what has changed for him that made him lose the impulse control he so recently had mastery over. And it is always something that is a new challenge. This time it is a certain new boy at school who cannot control his own impulsivity and really intrudes on the space of others. He is 4 years old, and still working on impulse everyone who has not yet reached 30, in fact.

So my 5 year old big man (he doesn't allow me to call him a little boy) just needs a little slack, really. We all lose our control once in a while, even those of us waaay past the age of 27.

And just because so many parents think I am above all of this, and even perhaps a kind of "super mom;" and just because my son is incredibly adept at conflict resolution among his peers, doesn't mean that he travels through the developmental stages any quicker. I just have to remember that my job is to stand by him and be his champion, so he doesn't have to feel alone or judged for having traveling through them fully.

Lots of love,
Linda Shannon

Riviera PlaySchool in Redondo Beach, CA
A Mindful program for the 'Whole Child,' inspired by the best of Attachment Parenting, Bev Bos, Montessori, Waldorf and Non-Violent Communication.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Wade Davis about cultural heritage and the state of our world

I just watched a video of Wade Davis speaking about world cultures, and I am speechless. It was amazing. It makes me want to travel to remote areas with my son, and soak up the rich, perfect, real, natural experience.

For example, I loved that, in the indigenous culture he speaks of, every year in the festival of manhood, the young man who ran fastest was bequeathed with the honor of being a woman "a wailaka" for the day, and was allowed to wear women's clothing. And then led the men on a grueling run up and down the 20 thousand feet of mountainous terrain.

And I really love Wade Davis' final comment on his piece, that it is hopeful, that we are agents of cultural destruction. Because as such, we can also be facilitators of cultural survival.

You have to watch this one.

Riviera PlaySchool in Redondo Beach, CA
A Mindful program for the 'Whole Child,' inspired by the best of Attachment Parenting, Bev Bos, Montessori, Waldorf and Non-Violent Communication.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

I am learning to love my wiggly butt...and the world will be a better place!

I am still thinking about a comment made by a little boy recently, about whether a certain lady with dark skin was "some kind of brownie, or something." And I am just wondering why and how I might react to a comment like that. I guess I would react to it, if somewhere in myself I had that same belief against myself. In other words, I am sure I wouldn't react to the "brownie" comment, since I don't have strong negative beliefs about my value as it pertains to the color of my skin. Call me fat, on the other hand, and my blood pressure begins to rise, my self doubts creep in, and I jump to my own defense.

When my son sings me his favorite morning song, that sweet, innocent, laughing voice can really get my self-judgment going. I guess I should be honored that his made-up lyrics were inspired by me: "Linda has a wiggly butt! Linda had a wiggly butt!"

Of course I have biases, some more deeply etched than others. Some I have made a lot of movement on. I admit that my current biases are against fat, rich, and disabled, and are a result of a variety of my own fears. I am busy examining them so I can be freed from them. In the past I also had "less than" biases against people more degreed than me, and "greater than" biases against people from less developed cultures.

And before I lived overseas and become the foreigner, I also had a "stupid" bias against people who could not express themselves well in English. Until I became one of them. In one 16 hour flight I was instantly transformed from the upper echelons of one society, to the dregs of another.

(In the US, you are pegged in 1 or 2 minutes by your ability to communicate, and I have always been pretty able. But my mother didn't let me get away with that. She was proud of her children, but she also had her own biases. She would go right down the line introducing us: this is Gail, a teacher; Glenn, a business owner; Wayne, a business man; Judy, a marketing executive; Craig, a lawyer; and Linda. She studied English. Doesn't she speak well?)

My biases are my shackles. They blind me, and they keep me from experiencing everything that is available to me. I want to run free through this toy store called life, and I cannot as long as I have prejudices and biases.

In Japan I had my first ever experience at being less than upper middle class. I was classless in Japan. It was a kind of prejudice, kind of like a cultural "time out:" I was not treated as less, but certainly as an "other." I was not part of "the group." I was often objectified for what I was.. for the parts of my whole. My eyes, my English language, my otherness, even my thought process...

During my first year I worked in a marketing agency for a well known marketing consultant -- the man who made walkman a worldwide sensation. I found that in Japan, everything is inside out. Even statistics are comprehended differently. In a land where individuality is a borrowed word for lack of the concept in the native language, statistics were strangely compiled in an incremental way. Where I would use a line graph to show trending among groups of people, for example, in Japan they used bar graphs and analyzed each person separately. I became a wonderment after I shared that revelation with my company workers.

In Japan there was less crime because the culture was homogenous. The society was harmonious , and everyone there had common rules of engagement, and understood each other well. Which is probably why we have so much crime in the US. Because we are a social laboratory, an experiment. As confusing as the tower of Babel, we are a multi-culture mix trying to communicate across the space of No Common Ground. We really have an amazing country.

And it seems that we are coming closer to establishing a common "rules of engagement" in this country. With the spread of non violent communication, and the Four Agreement, it seems that we are coming closer to a space where we can establish common ground and common understanding. Even movies are now touting the benefits of no violent communication. Recently, in a Hollywood movie "Shutter Island," the lead character remarked about the patients at a psychiatric institute (to paraphrase): "'All these people need is someone to listen to them. They just need to be heard. And through being heard, they will hopefully arrive at a place of taking responsibility of their actions. They will do away with the blame. And thus they can live life fully, here, and in the now. In the present. In reality."

And therefore, maybe we are creating a new world order, as they say. Or at least, we might establish some peace and acceptance.

But this has to start on a very small level: with us. In the words of Dan Millman, we are mentoring all of the time. And we do so with every action. It isn't something we can fake. We can start addressing our personal paradigm shifts by first watching our words. Our words are pearls, strung together from thoughts, and they creates the reality we live within. So it is a great way to reposition our consciousness: by paying closer attention to our every word.

And to help this happen, we can start to pay attention to our own judgments. If we really examine them closely, we can often see that our judgments can be turned back to ourselves. When we judge someone else harshly, we are most likely harboring that same judgments against ourselves. So we can start the whole world shifting by giving ourselves the love we want our child to have. As desiderata says "be easy on yourself."

So I guess what that means is that I need to love my wiggly butt a little more. Tonight I decided to start singing along with my son. And while he sings, I do a little wiggly dance, and laugh with him.

Linda Shannon
Riviera PlaySchool in Redondo Beach, CA

A Mindful program for the 'Whole Child,' inspired by the best of Attachment Parenting, Bev Bos, Montessori, Waldorf and Non-Violent Communication. �

Friday, February 26, 2010

What do "Shutter Island" and non violent communication have in common?

My husband (my best buddy) and I went out to see Shutter Island last night. Oh my gosh it was shocking. I was not up for it. But very well done. If you love superbly fine actors like Leonardo DiCaprio, and Ben Kingsley, and you crave the psychological thrill of Alfred Hitchcock, the cinematography of Stanley Kubric, and the drama of Martin Scorsese, then this is for you.

Ben Kingsley, always amazing, played a sinister-looking yet surprisingly humanitarian head psychologist in a cutting edge psychological institute for criminally insane people.

And this brings me to why I would be writing about a movie on this blog: I was surprised to find that his character was an advocate for something resembling non violent communication! He said in one place in the movie (to paraphrase) 'All these people need is someone to listen to them. They just need to be heard. And through being heard, they will hopefully arrive at a place of taking responsibility for their actions. They will do away with the blame. And thus they can live life fully, here, and in the now. In the present. In reality.'

And if you haven't heard of non violent communication, then maybe you've heard of The Four Agreements. It is basically just another way to express non violent communication. There are many ways to describe that way of being in the world.
At Riviera PlaySchool, we have all of our teachers read "The Four Agreements" to read, and we let them know that this is how we want to operate within our community. We also send them downtown (Los Angeles) to train with Ruth Beaglehole at the Center for Non Violent Education and Parenting.

If we could all just try to come from that place, then the world would instantly shift to a much more peaceful and welcoming place to be.

Riviera PlaySchool (Redondo Beach, CA)
A Mindful program for the 'Whole Child,' inspired by the best of Attachment Parenting, Bev Bos, Montessori, Waldorf and Non-Violent Communication.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Allowing Magic to Happen....

I like to make opportunities to allow for magic in my teaching, by providing lots of parts of things for the children: tape, boxes, spools, pipe cleaners, twine, wire, glue-paint, glitter, scissors, tongue depressors, yarn, pom poms, cardboard tubes, corrugated cardboard, glue guns for attaching heavy parts (when building spaceships, for example) ribbon, string, fabric...

And we then let the kids lead us, and devise their own creations. Magic can happen in any environment if you have a few elements:

- freedom to explore
- power; permission to create
- space to create in

(I think this is also the definition of how invention happens!!)

I think that an environment that provided children with these elements is best suited for every child. Any person feels good in such an empowering environment.
We had a big box today at my preschool. The children first painted it, then another group made it into a car, and then it became a clubhouse....
The best "toys" are the ones that are open-ended and undefined.
We like to have plenty of "parts" around. Parts that one can create a fantasy from...

Riviera PlaySchool
A Mindful program for the 'Whole Child,' inspired by the best of Attachment Parenting, Bev Bos, Montessori, Waldorf and Non-Violent Communication.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

REM sleep and Deep Play....

There seems to be a parallel between "deep play" and REM sleep. There is something psychologically refreshing about both, and somehow a sameness... Something connected there. As if you somehow reap the benefits of REM sleep when you are engaging in deep play.

Now how to provide ourselves and our children with more of both!

Riviera PlaySchool
A Mindful program for the 'Whole Child,' inspired by the best of Attachment Parenting, Bev Bos, Montessori, Waldorf and Non-Violent Communication.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Academic Standards, and "Success"

It is so hard, as a parent, not to be seduced by the thrill of having our child "succeed." And what exactly defines "success?" In early childhood, we often judge success on how much a child knows. This leads many parents to put their children into "academic" programs that focus on abstract knowledge, rather than experiential, play-based programs. Is this drive for children to know lots of things, and to perform their knowledge, for the benefit of the children, or their parents, or the result of a misinformed society creating academic standards that are not developmentally appropriate?

These programs have a child ready (academically) for today's' highly academic kindergartens by the time they are 5! So the bigger quest here is how to get parents to relax, and understand that development takes time; and that time is dictated only by the clock within their child. And there is no judgment on this. Some kids are ready to read at 4, and some are ready at 8. It doesn't mean that either is better. They will all read finally, by third grade. Today's kids are not failing the academic standards -- the academic standards are failing our kids! Everyone has their own timetable. If we honor it, then they can bloom.

I read somewhere that Einstein didn't speak until he was 5. If he had been born in this decade, he would be facing evaluation by psychiatrists, and probably drug therapy for his potential autism or other neurological problem... and then what would the world lose?

A child is ready to learn when s/he is ready to learn. I read somewhere else that any academic advantage a child has in kindergarten is short-lived, and outgrown by the time they are in 4th grade. This means that if you take their 3rd and 4th years, and spend them drilling on alphabet and counting, you have simply wasted their time. These children might know how to spell apple, but do they know that an apple is crisp, and cool, and sweet, and white in the inside, red on the outside? They might know that one plus one is two, but do they know that "one" weighs less than "two"?

It also reminds me of the new "your baby can read" fad. What is the sense of this? It reminds me of something I did, when I first met my husband. He is a native Farsi speaker, which is written in the Arabic alphabet. I wanted to show him that I could read it, so I memorized the alphabet in one night. Not a big deal, really, since there are only 26 or so symbols to remember. In the morning I demonstrated my new ability to read Farsi by reading the title of the Persian newspaper. My husband said "very good. impressive. Now tell me what it means."

The same goes for these little guys who are drilled to learn abstract facts and codes. They can definitely do it -- that is not even in question. Their minds are supple sponges, ready to soak up anything within reach. But when we give them things to learn that are driven by our agenda, is that to their benefit, or ours? Are we allowing them to develop their gifts? Are we even allowing them to develop naturally?

And this pressure we feel to keep our child moving in rhythm with the rest of their society is all governed by "standards." And those standards for children are not developmentally appropriate. Kindergarten is intended as an arena for social and emotional developmental, and first grade a transitional year as our children move from the concrete to the abstract. The system now has foreshortened this in a disastrous way... in fact, many people now refuse to send their child to kindergarten until the age of 6, to avoid the stressful experience their child may encounter in today's academic and achievement-oriented kindergartens.

In setting guideline for appropriate standards for young people, most challenges arise because the people in charge lack an understanding of developmental milestones and stages. It is pervasive, throughout our society, and trickles down to the parents' level. The stigma of having a child who is "slow" is a hard one to bear. And if your child doesn't measure up according to academic standards, then he the implication is that he is a little inferior than the rest of the "normal" population. Ouch! It's hard not to take that one personally. This is your crown jewel, your little prince, the apple of your eye. A chip off the old block. And you have just been informed that he is not quite good enough. (And what does that say about you...?) And the funny thing is that there is really no "not measuring up" at all! If we all understood ages and stages, then most of these judgments about our children would not be made at all!

Just because our society has advanced into the computer age does not mean that children do not still need to develop from the ground, up. We need to allow children the opportunity to experience the REAL world before they advance into the abstract. We need to let them pick and eat and hold an apple, before we expect them to recognize that a black line drawing represents one.

But the bigger challenge, as educators and child advocates, is how to express this to parents, caretakers, and other educators in a way that they will embrace. How to express this without being judgmental and therefore turning them off completely to what we have to say (and therefore losing the opportunity to make a positive change in someone's life, and in the world itself.)

Riviera PlaySchool
A Mindful program for the 'Whole Child,' inspired by the best of Attachment Parenting, Bev Bos, Montessori, Waldorf and Non-Violent Communication.

Lots of Love,
Linda Shannon

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A good explanation for why we don't force sharing....

THE DAILY GROOVE ~ by Scott Noelle

:: Goodness Is Inspired, Not Required ::

Situation 1:
You ask your friend what she wants for a birthday
gift, and she says, "I would treasure *any* gift
from you!"

Wouldn't you feel inspired to give her something
very special?

Situation 2:
Another friend says, "I hope you're getting me
something *good* for my birthday... I just *hate*
tacky gifts!"

Wouldn't you feel like giving this friend a pile
of fake dog poop?! :-)

The point is that you feel most inspired to please
others when you don't feel pressured or coerced --
when you don't "have to."

Children are no different. They love to please others,
especially their parents, so long as their inspiration
to share pleasure isn't confounded by implied threats
of punishment, reward, or withdrawal of approval.

Today, let go of all "required goodness" by affirming
that your child is inherently good, and is *free* to
express that goodness... and free *not* to express it.

Remember that the best way to foster children's
authentic goodness is to let them see how much *you*
enjoy expressing your own goodness.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

What do Birds Know that We Don't?

As parents, we often want to save our child from every pain that comes by. We would gladly feel the pain ourselves rather than see our child struggle with it. (And without getting into it too deeply, this is probably because the crying or pain or struggle brings up things within ourselves that are unexamined or unresolved.)

For example, we naturally jiggle a child in our arms and against our hips to distract them from their crying. But what does it accomplish? Are we stopping them from crying for their benefit, or for ours?

Just yesterday I just had a wake-up call about my relationship with my 4 year old son. It began as I held another child for 40 minutes while he cried for no reason apparent to me, or to any of the other teachers. There was nothing obvious to "fix," so I did what I could: I simply held him and allowed him to cry. I didn't try to jiggle him out of it. I didn't try to joke with him, or cheer him up, or even reassure him about some fears I could imagine he might be having. I had absolutely no idea why he was crying, so I just let him cry. While he was crying, I periodically checked in with him: "Would you like to call your Mom?"


"Would you like to call your Dad?"


"Is there anything I can do to help you?"

"No. I'm sad. Hold me."

His little frame was filled with incredible resolve. I could feel him confidently conquering some big fears. And he obviously knew that he had the strength to do it on his own.

At one point I looked him in his teary eyes and said matter-of-factly "You're doing great." He nodded, and kept right on crying. During his process he was clearly reaching down inside and pulling out resources he had previously not yet discovered he possessed.

After about 20 minutes more he sobbed his final sob, and looked up. Something had caught his eye brightly enough to propel him out of my lap for some investigation. He quickly immersed himself in a starch and truck "snow" plan for 10 progressively sunny minutes while I sat nearby on the grass and watched invisibly. Suddenly he looked up, and said "Hey Linda, guess what?!"

"What, Joey?"

"I'm not sad anymore!"

His face was bright and triumphant. He had overcome something on his own, and in the process had developed another tool for his emotional tool chest... he had gained a skill that will carry him through life and allow him to stand on his own feet!

It hurts us so deeply to see our child in pain, in hardship. And it hurts our child even more when we shield him from that pain. It prevents him from filling his emotional toolchest!

Birds know this too: They must peck their way out of their own shell in order to survive in the world. In the process of pecking their way out, their cardiovascular system develops and strengthens enough to allow them to live outside of the shell that protected them pre-birth. And if they are helped out of the shell; if their mother were to remove some of the shell for them, they would not be capable of surviving outside of it.

It is all unfolding perfectly, and our children are more capable for having faced their own difficulties, with us standing by them, and allowing them to have their own process, and their own feelings and emotions.

Yes, yesterday was YET another wake up call for me, and it hurts a little. I have many children in my care, but my own son is 4 and a half. I know that I have not allowed him to cry in the way I allowed my little friend to cry yesterday. Sometimes I was too triggered by the crying, sometimes too tired, and other times too preoccupied to really hold him and let him cry at length. Maybe part of it was him: he doesn't seem to like to be held when he cries. But for whatever reason, I know I have not always been as present with my son as I was with Joey yesterday. And I am so glad that I am able to wake up now, before it is "too late."

Here's to Being Awake!

Lots of Love,
Linda Shannon
Riviera PlaySchool, a Redondo Beach preschool for attachment parents

Friday, January 15, 2010

Taking a Step Back

(another re-post from last year -- this is a good time to refresh and reflect!)

We all know that our children are not reflections of us, but every once in a while we get tricked into that lie again! It sneaks in, and we spring into RE-action, rather than mindful response. That way of "reactive" thinking is a trap that often leads us to seek approval from the random parents around us. It can throw us into a tizzy of self-judgment: Oh my gosh my child is screaming (at me)! What is that father/store clerk/woman thinking about us/me?! Instead of, "Oh my gosh my child is screaming... what does my child need that I can give him?" The irony is that those random parents who we are trying to please in that hot moment of crisis don't actually matter to us as much as our children do, nor are they even in line with our own core values!

That self-judgment is probably the most difficult thing to overcome in being parent. It seems we are never enough: we never do enough for our children, we don't do it well enough, we don't love them enough, we aren't patient enough with them, we aren't energetic enough for them, we aren't sweet enough for them. The JUDGE inside us tells us in so many ways how we simply aren't enough for our children.

Perhaps the most important thing about being a parent is to know that we are mentoring all of the time. As Joseph Chilton Pearce says, "We must be the person who we want our child to become." So if we want our child to love themselves as they deserve to be loved, and to respect themselves with the respect they deserve, and to be OK with being "less than perfect," then we have to offer that same regard to ourselves first. Ease up on yourself when you are less than "perfect." (What is, IS perfect, because it IS!)

You have all of the answers your family needs. When in doubt, tune into your your inner compass. You are the guiding light of the house; "mother (father) knows best." Your child chose you for the answers you have for her. Your child chose you for the parent you are right now -- not some perfect parent you will become someday. So the great news is that you get to relax and trust yourself! You ARE enough!

Our children are here to teach us as much as we are here to provide guidance to them. Who else in your life has the ability to take you deep within yourself on a journey of self-discovery and re-ignite that fire within?

Parenting from balance is as simple as taking a step back, and responding to life. How refreshing and so much easier it is to relax into your own family groove, than to keep a stiff upper lip and stay in that grueling race with the Jones'es!

Lots of Love,
Linda Shannon
Riviera PlaySchool, a Redondo Beach preschool for attachment parents

a note about consistency

(Ths is a repeat post from last year. It's a good time to repeat!! XOXO Linda)

Hello Parents,

I have been thinking about this lately, and wanted to share with you my thoughts. Society tells us that parents need to be CONSISTENT in order to be effective and responsible. If we aren't consistent, then we will send a message to our child that they can "get away with it," and then all hell will break loose! We will have a child who is out of control; a monster, who manipulates everything to their own end.

This need to be "consistent" is a fear-based reaction. We all know that life changes from moment to moment. What is absolutely not "ok" one moment, is often perfectly fine the next. How artificial to be stuck in a myriad of rules created just to teach a lesson to our child. And if you examine the rules themselves, are they really timeless? Will any of them teach our children something about being a better person in the world?

The only consistency any parent needs is to always connect with their inner self and respond, rather than react, from peace. The next time you need to answer your child, touch base with your inner compass, and then answer. Are you coming from fear, from reaction, from rote response (just because your mother did it that way?) Ask yourself whether one more book, for example, will harm your child, or show him that you really love spending time reading to him. Or will that cookie before dinner really kill her appetite? (Or, by making dessert the final "course" of a meal, are we really just elevating it to a special rank, and creating more allure around it, more "pull" toward it?)

As Scott Noelle says, "Perhaps most important is that Attraction Parenting is an inside-out approach. It doesn't tell parents what to do, but it helps parents connect with their authentic Inner Guidance. When parents feel connected, centered, and grounded, their children tend to move into a similar state of mind, and this leads to greater emotional stability and fewer difficult behaviors. The power of attraction eliminates the "need" for conventional, control-oriented, fear-based parenting. If you've resorted to coercive parenting tactics out of sheer frustration, the practice of Attraction Parenting will restore your faith in human nature. You will come to know with certainty that children are innately good, and their goodness can be fostered joyfully through unconditional love and creative partnership."

Lots of Love,
Linda Shannon
Riviera PlaySchool, a Redondo Beach preschool for attachment parents

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Emotion Coaching: The Key to Raising Emotionally Intelligent Kids

I am posting this excerpt because it is a really accessible way to understand many of the concepts that NVC also embraces, with the added step of clarifying the difference between "Authoritarian Parent," Authoritative Parent," and "Permissive Parent," and the importance of rule setting.

It is taken from a wonderful book called "Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child" by John Gottman

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Chapter 1
author: John Gottman

Emotion Coaching: The Key to Raising Emotionally Intelligent Kids

In the last decade or so, science has discovered a tremendous amount about the role emotions play in our lives. Researchers have found that even more than IQ, your emotional awareness and ability to handle feelings will determine your success and happiness in all walks of life, including family relationships. For parents, this quality of "emotional intelligence" -- as many now call it -- means being aware of your children's feelings, and being able to empathize, soothe, and guide them. For children, who learn most lessons about emotion from their parents, it includes the ability to control impulses, delay gratification, motivate themselves, read other people's social cues, and cope with life's ups and downs.

"Family life is our first school for emotional learning," writes Daniel Goleman, psychologist and author of Emotional Intelligence, a book that describes in rich detail the scientific research that has led to our growing understanding of this field. "In this intimate cauldron we learn how to feel about ourselves and how others will react to our feelings; how to think about these feelings and what choices we have in reacting; how to read and express hopes and fears. This emotional schooling operates not just through the things parents say and do directly to children, but also in the models they offer for handling their own feelings and those that pass between husband and wife. Some parents are gifted emotional teachers, others atrocious."

Our results tell a simple, yet compelling story. We have found that most parents fall into one of two broad categories: those who give their children guidance about the world of emotion and those who don't.

I call the parents who get involved with their children's feelings "Emotion Coaches." Much like athletic coaches, they teach their children strategies to deal with life's ups and downs. They don't object to their children's displays of anger, sadness, or fear. Nor do they ignore them. Instead, they accept negative emotions as a fact of life and they use emotional moments as opportunities for teaching their kids important life lessons and building closer relationships with them.

Taken alone, warm, positive parenting does not teach emotional intelligence. In fact, it's common for parents to be loving and attentive, yet incapable of dealing effectively with their children's negative emotions. Among these parents who fail to teach their kids emotional intelligence, I have identified three types:

1. Dismissing parents, who disregard, ignore, or trivialize children's negative emotions;

2. Disapproving parents, who are critical of their children's displays of negative feelings and may reprimand or punish them for emotional expression; and

3. Laissez-Faire parents, who accept their children's emotions and empathize with them, but fail to offer guidance or set limits on their children's behavior.

To give you an idea of how differently Emotion-Coaching parents and their three noncoaching counterparts respond to their children, imagine Diane, whose little boy protested going to daycare, in each of these roles.

If she was a Dismissing parent, she might tell him that his reluctance to go to daycare is "silly"; that there's no reason to feel sad about leaving the house. Then she might try to distract him from his sad thoughts, perhaps bribing him with a cookie or talking about fun activities his teacher has planned.

As a Disapproving parent, Diane might scold Joshua for his refusal to cooperate, telling him she's tired of his bratty behavior, and threatening to spank him.

As a Laissez-Faire parent, Diane might embrace Joshua in all his anger and sadness, empathize with him, tell him it's perfectly natural for him to want to stay home. But then she'd be at a loss for what to do next. She wouldn't want to scold, spank, or bribe her son, but staying home wouldn't be an option, either. Perhaps in the end, she'd cut a deal: I'll play a game with you for ten minutes -- then it's out the door with no crying. Until tomorrow morning, that is.

So what would the Emotion Coach do differently? She might start out like the Laissez-Faire parent, empathizing with Joshua, and letting him know that she understands his sadness. But she would go further, providing Joshua with guidance for what to do with his uncomfortable feelings. Perhaps the conversation would go something like this:

Diane: Let's put on your jacket, Joshua. It's time to go.

Joshua: No! I don't want to go to daycare.

Diane: You don't want to go? Why not?

Joshua: Because I want to stay here with you.

Diane: You do?

Joshua: Yeah I want to stay home.

Diane: Gosh, I think I know just how you feel. Some mornings I wish you and I could just curl up in a chair and look at books together instead of rushing out the door. But you know what? I made an important promise to the people at my office that I'd be there by nine o'clock and I can't break that promise.

Joshua (starting to cry): But why not? It's not fair. I don't want to go.

Diane: Come here, Josh. (Taking him onto her lap.) I'm sorry, honey, but we can't stay home. I'll bet that makes you feel disappointed doesn't it?

Joshua (nodding): Yeah.

Diane: And kind of sad?

Joshua: Yeah.

Diane: I feel kind of sad, too. (She lets him cry for a while and continues to hug him, letting him have his tears.) I know what we can do. Let's think about tomorrow, when we don't have to go to work and daycare. We'll be able to spend the whole day together. Can you think of anything special you'd like to do tomorrow?

Joshua: Have pancakes and watch cartoons?

Diane: Sure, that would be great. Anything else?

Joshua: Can we take my wagon to the park?

Diane: I think so.

Joshua: Can Kyle come, too?

Diane: Maybe. We'll have to ask his mom. But right now it's time to get going, okay?

Joshua: Okay.

At first glance, the Emotion-Coaching parent may seem much like the Dismissing parent because both directed Joshua to think about something other than staying home. But there is an important distinction. As an Emotion Coach, Diane acknowledged her son's sadness, helped him to name it, allowed him to experience his feelings, and stayed with him while he cried.
She didn't try to distract his attention away from his feelings. Nor did she scold him for feeling sad, as the Disapproving mother did. She let him know that she respects his feelings and thinks his wishes are valid.

Unlike the Laissez-Faire mother, the Emotion-Coaching parent set limits. She took a few extra minutes to deal with Joshua's feelings, but she let him know that she wasn't going to be late for work and break her promise to her co-workers. Joshua was disappointed but it was a feeling both he and Diane could deal with. And once Joshua had a chance to identify, experience, and accept the emotion, Diane showed him it was possible to move beyond his sad feelings and look forward to fun the next day.

This response is all part of the process of Emotion Coaching that my research colleagues and I uncovered in our studies of successful parent-child interactions. The process typically happens in five steps. The parents:
1. become aware of the child's emotion;
2. recognize the emotion as an opportunity for intimacy and teaching;
3. listen empathetically, validating the child's feelings;
4. help the child find words to label the emotion he is having; and
5. set limits while exploring strategies to solve the problem at hand.

The Effects of Emotion Coaching
What difference does it make when children have Emotion-Coaching parents? By observing and analyzing in detail the words, actions, and emotional responses of families over time, as we have done in our studies, we have discovered a truly significant contrast. Children whose parents consistently practice Emotion Coaching have better physical health and score higher academically than children whose parents don't offer such guidance. These kids get along better with friends, have fewer behavior problems, and are less prone to acts of violence. Over all, children who are Emotion-Coached experience fewer negative feelings and more positive feelings. In short, they're more healthy emotionally.

But here's the result I find most surprising: When mothers and fathers use a coaching style of parenting, their children become more resilient. The kids who are Emotion-Coached still get sad, angry, or scared under difficult circumstances, but they are better able to soothe themselves, bounce back from distress, and carry on with productive activities. In other words, they are more emotionally intelligent.
Indeed, our research shows that Emotion Coaching can even protect kids from the proven harmful effects of an increasingly common crisis for American families -- marital conflict and divorce.

With more than half of all marriages now ending in divorce, millions of children are at risk for problems many social scientists have linked to family dissolution. These problems include school failure, rejection by other children, depression, health challenges, and antisocial behavior. Such problems can also affect children from unhappy, conflict-ridden homes even when their parents don't divorce. Our own research shows that when a couple constantly fights, their conflict gets in the way of their child's ability to form friendships. We also found that marital conflict affects a child's schoolwork and increases the child's susceptibility to illness. We now know that a major result of the epidemic of ailing and dissolving marriages in our society is an increase in deviant and violent behavior among children and teenagers.

But when the Emotion-Coaching parents in our studies experienced marital conflict, or were separated or divorced, something different happened. With the exception of the fact that these kids were generally "sadder" than the other children in our study, Emotion Coaching seemed to shield them from the deleterious effects suffered by so many who have this experience. Previously proven effects of divorce and marital conflict, such as academic failure, aggression, and problems with peers, did not show up in the Emotion-Coached kids; all of which suggests that Emotion Coaching offers children the first proven buffer against the emotional trauma of divorce.

Lots of Love,
Linda Shannon
Riviera PlaySchool, a Redondo Beach preschool for attachment parents

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

“A human nurtured instead of shamed, and loved instead of driven by fear, develops a different brain and therefore a different mind.

Interview with Joseph Chilton Pearce
by Brent Cameron
Common ground: Archive : March 2005 © Copyright 1982-2006 Common Ground Publishing Corp. All rights reserved.

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Brent: Joe, as you look back over 50 years and four books on child development, I am wondering where you are at today. What are you thinking and feeling now? Perhaps as a starting place I can quote from the last page of your latest book, The Biology of Transcendence. “A human nurtured instead of shamed, and loved instead of driven by fear, develops a different brain and therefore a different mind. He will not act against the well-being of another nor against his larger body, the living Earth.”

Joseph Chilton Pearce: I stand by that. The word transcendence means the ability to go beyond limitation and constraint and that’s what the biological system is designed to do, provided nurturing and a safe base are given. Over the past 50 years researchers showed us more about the real development of children than we’ve ever known in history. Ironically in North America our education system is specifically going point for point against every single research discovery made.

Read the whole (amazing) interview here:

Lots of Love,
Linda Shannon
Riviera PlaySchool, a Redondo Beach preschool for attachment parents

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Goodness shows itself in behaviour

Goodness shows itself in behaviour and action and in relationship. Generally our daily behaviour is based on either the following of certain patterns - mechanical and therefore superficial - or according to very carefully thought-out motive, based on reward or punishment. So our behaviour, consciously or unconsciously, is calculated. This is not good behaviour. When one realizes this, not merely intellectually or by putting words together, then out of this total negation comes true behaviour. - Letters to the Schools vol I J. Krishnamurti

Lots of Love,
Linda Shannon
Riviera PlaySchool, a Redondo Beach preschool for attachment parents