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Are you struggling with your child’s behavior or with your students learning?

Ask Dr. Andrea Seidman, the 4B.E.L.S. expert on the brain and how to learn techniques that will improve behavior for all ages and all unique brains.

From ADHD, and the need for improved behavior to effective learning techniques for a interest in how the brain learns and works….Andrea can help.

Andrea Michelle Seidman, EdD

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What can I do to stop my child from unbuckling the seatbelt?

Unbuckling the seatbelt is a dangerous habit, like crossing a street without looking both ways for oncoming vehicles. It is important to explain this to your child as a required rule and state law for riding in a car. There are children that are ‘rule-followers’ and would not want to violate this rule. There are also children that are risk-takers and challenge the rules. Either way, the child must understand that this is a rule/law that may not be broken. When all else fails, perhaps research a more difficult car seat or seatbelt for confinement.

My child is potty trained but wants a diaper to poop. What to do?

Pooping is more difficult for a toilet learner than urination. A child may feel stressed giving up this object that comes out of the body. Try getting your child used to flushing the toilet after urinating and feeling happy doing it. Celebrate and cheer your child with every toilet event. Try, as much as possible, to not react negatively to a poop in the pants but rather calmly explain that it is best to put a stinky poop in the potty and not smell up his/her body and the rest of the room. This should be a non-threatening reaction on your part. Sooner or later (hopefully sooner) your child will be intrinsically motivated to poop and pee in the potty. 😊

How can I get my child to do homework?

It is unfortunate that we must “get my child to do homework” after working in school all day. I understand the possible benefit of a review or reinforcement of material yet, if effective instruction is inspiring a student with relevance to the curricular content in the classroom, there would be no need for homework or to “get a child to do homework”. Having said that, the best way to encourage a child to complete homework would be to create a situation in which the child feels emotionally safe doing it. A student that is stressed in the classroom will be stressed with homework for fear that the information is not understood accurately. The first step would be to see if your child is bored with the work or if your child does not fully understand it. Lack of understanding will create more stress in attempting to do the work without the ability for clarification. Once a brain is stressed, it is difficult to think, and subsequently, it is difficult to complete the work. A student who has trouble reading at grade school level, may be dyslexic or have another learning difference making it difficult to complete homework. Should this be the situation, seek outside help to assess the learning difference. Dyslexia is a learning difference in approximately 20% of the population. Inevitably, one in every 5 students are dyslexic. If your teacher or school is not addressing this issue with a reading program (Orton-Gillingham, Wilson, or Barton reading program) you must look for outside help and intervention. I understand that my concern about homework will not be solved in today’s educational system however, I feel responsible to state – How would or do you feel, after a long day at work, having to continue work for another hour or more at home? As adults, we would not be happy. Our children are not happy as well. Let’s advocate for our teachers to teach according to the way every unique brain learns best, and the frustration of completing homework will be an issue of the past and a more effective classroom for the students and teachers.

How can I modify activities to meet each child’s needs?

Many teachers are nervous that meeting each child’s individual needs may compromise the time and ability to cover required curricular content for everyone in the class. I am here to tell you that meeting the needs of each child, will increase your ability to gain your students’ attention, allowing more time for quality instruction, and less time for behavior management. Lesson planning according to research-based learning style preferences will accommodate the ways every student learns best according to his/her brain differences. You may want to set up auditory, visual, and kinesthetic classroom stations where the students control how, what, and with whom they will choose to learn. The curricular content is more easily comprehended and becomes more relevant to the student’s motivation to learn. Give your students the control each one of them craves and they will become independent thinkers and proud of being the best possible young scholar. For more detailed information on how to plan for and design this classroom, check out the book The Four Brain Essential Learning Steps – A process to create inclusive environments for every unique brain.

How do I expand my students’ attention span?

There are several factors involved in gaining and keeping a child’s attention. The first step would be to observe the child and assess the child’s strengths in the way his/her brain learns best. Is this child an auditory, kinesthetic, or visual learner? Can you assess a child’s intelligence strengths according to the Multiple Intelligence theory that we are all born with stronger potential to develop skills such as musical talent, athletic ability, inter or intra personal skills, etc….We also have left and right brain preferences that would influence the tendency to be organized or the need for creative expression. These are factors that influence a child’s ability to concentrate. A child will be interested when engaged in learning style instruction that creates emotionally safe situations that elicit confidence to comprehend. Each of us has our own learning and socially interactive preferences. As a teacher or parent, you want to assess your own preferences and pay attention to your teaching style in front of your students. This can ensure that you are not doing what is most comfortable for you but rather what is most comfortable for the students in your class. If you are an auditory learner and spend most of your time lecturing or talking about information, you will lose the attention of the visual and kinesthetic learners that will feel frustrated with the instruction. The more you engage a child in the way he/she learns best, the easier it will be to get the child’s attention, and subsequently start to develop attention span. As the child becomes more confident in the ability to comprehend and use the information, the more relevant the information becomes to his/her life. Once this relevance is established, the stronger a child’s attention span will continue to develop.

What do I do if my child cries when I am leaving him/her?

Your child loves you and wants you to know that he/she wants you to always be there. How wonderful! However, as adults, we all have responsibilities. We also know that a quality preschool environment is best for a child’s socialization, learning opportunities, skill development, and independence. It takes time for a young child to understand first, that you will return, and second, that he/she can trust that you will return. I emphasize the trust factor because too many parents feel the need to ‘sneak out’ while the child is being distracted. This sends the message that you cannot be trusted. It is better that the child cries because he/she wants to be with you and eventually stops and engages with teachers, friends, and activities that are enjoyable rather than feeling betrayed with a fear of abandonment without explanation. Separation anxiety many times is more stressful for the parent than it is for the child. The child is simply sending you the message that he/she loves you so much that he/she doesn’t want you to leave. Stay calm, explain that you love him/her very much, that you will be back, and leave as quickly as possible. The longer you stay, the longer it will take your child to find other options to have fun. Severe separation anxiety may take up to 2 weeks to overcome however in most cases only a day or two. Yet unless the child is truly upset about the school environment for other reasons, your child will learn to let go and happily kiss you farewell. Be happy about where you have chosen for your child to learn, and your happiness will reassure him/her whether it is with you or not.

What to do with a picky eater?

Think about times that make you feel good. We all tend to avoid negative feelings. Many times, we are upset when we are not in control of a situation. We are fearful and stressed when we lose control. Being in control depends on the child/person and the situation yet, most times we want to be able to make our own choices and feel good at the time of those choices. Mealtimes can turn into opportunities to manipulate and control the situation. It could be a time to exercise independence if the child does not have enough options to be independent throughout the day. Your child may be getting a lot of attention yet, it is attention that does not allow for independence and activities that elicit pride in oneself. Whether your child is in a preschool environment or home environment, you want to create learning opportunities and activities when achievements are accomplished. Mealtimes should be relaxing, fun, and enjoyable times with foods that are both healthy and tasty. They should not evolve into stressful situations where gaining control becomes the goal. In addition, unless your child has an eating disorder that must be addressed with a physician, you need to teach your child how to enjoy healthy foods. Healthy foods like tasty fruits, vegetables, and proteins nourish the body and subsequently the body ‘feels good’ when eating them. We may reason that eating pizza or chicken nuggets every day is nutritional enough if your picky child eats. Eating a balanced meal with all the healthy food groups is what truly develops a healthy body, and a healthy body feels good for every age. Stay strong, ensure emotionally safe creative learning environments, give your child healthy food choices, and remember that not everyone needs the same amount of food portions to thrive. Your child will eat and learn to enjoy mealtime as you develop his/her independence and pride.

What to do about tantrums?

Tantrums are behaviors when children want their anger or frustration to be noticed. However, once a child is at the point of severe stress, the brain area that processes emotions has taken control of the cognitive reasoning that happens in the frontal, thinking areas. The best reaction is to first calm the emotions enough for the child to have access to logical thought. The first step to calm a child is to recognize the child’s anxiety by saying – “I see you are angry, or I see you are upset. Let’s breath or let’s do calming brain exercises or suggest doing a physical action that you know your child enjoys doing.” Once the child is calm, you can then reason with him/her with choices for alternatives to tantrum behavior. It is important to remember that staying calm and consistent with your response is essential. These behaviors create stress for you as the adult, therefore, stay in your ‘thinking’ brain area and exhibit the behavior you want your child to learn is important. This practice takes time and effort for both you and your child. Practice brain exercises with your child every day so that in times of stress, it is easier to control emotions.

How can I get my toddler to stop biting?

Observing and understanding your toddler is the key to your ability to positively react to inappropriate behaviors with the hope to resolve the issue. The first step is to recognize your child’s behavior. Recognizing with a stern – “I see you are angry; however, you may not bite your friends (or adult that is involved).” Now it is time to tell your child the appropriate behavior that can calm frustrations or stress. Your instruction depends upon the situation. For example – “When you are angry or upset, you have choices. You may….” Everyone wants to be noticed and wants feelings to be recognized. In addition, many times our immediate reaction is to say “NO” without first letting the child know that his/her feelings are important. In addition, we tend to give negative behavior choices in times of stress. Negative choices are consequences or punishments. No child or adult would choose a punishment. Therefore, remember, first, let the child know you understand the stress and second, offer more positive choices to deal with the stress. Behavioral changes take time and consistency. Stay calm and exhibit the behavior you want to see your child exhibit.

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