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5 keys to keeping the calm

21 October 2012

What kind of environment to do we need to learn? One of the things we work hard for at The Music Garden is a calm atmosphere. It is this calm quiet that allows your child the space to observe, listen and learn. It’s very hard to take in anything in amid chaos! Maintaining this atmosphere is a group effort and we are extremely grateful for your support and cooperation in this area. It is always amazing to me how many moments of quiet or silence are achieved in a room full of lively babies and toddlers during a Music Garden class.

Apart from music skills, Suzuki Early Childhood Education (ECE) is designed to promote the development of listening and observations skills, along with social skills like waiting for a turn. These require a lot of self-control that can seem almost impossible for a lively bub or toddler! Every class has opportunities for the children to let off some steam and be more active (eg scarves, shakers). When it comes to activities where each child is taking or waiting for their turn, try using these 5 Keys to Keeping the Calm:

  1. Prepare. Give your child the opportunity to eat and drink before class, and have water on hand, especially in the warmer months. Make sure they are wearing appropriate clothing – comfortable clothes that aren’t too hot. Prepare yourself with a deep breath and connect yourself to a well of calm that you and your child can draw on during the next hour. Remember that this is a long-term process, and that every child can learn. The time-frames for mastery are different for each child, so avoid comparing - your child needs you to be there for them (where-ever they are) with love, kindness and patience.
  2. Communicate. Let you child know the behavior expected. “So this is when we sit together, and we’re going to help everyone have a good time by sitting and waiting when we need to ”. Remember to talk to your child in a whisper to avoid distracting others. This will cue that this is a quiet time, and often will get your child’s attention more than our normal talking voice. (If you need to have a louder conversation with your child, please do so outside and return as soon as possible). Explain what is happening – eg. “Now we play on our knees and sing… now we watch and listen…  now we sit and wait, and then it will be your turn… now it’s your turn!...  Direct your child’s attention to what is happening around them – “Who is having a turn now? Do you think they like it?”
  3. Encourage what you would like your child to do by modeling the desired behavior.  Older children will appreciate being given choices eg.  “Would you like to sit on my lap, or next to me?” “Shall we sing or play on our knees?"
  4. Empathise with your child. Being felt and understood by you, their parent is vital to a child. If they are having trouble waiting, let them know you understand their struggles and feelings eg. “You really want a turn now – you want it to be your turn right now – it’s hard to wait sometimes isn’t it? You don’t want to wait” REPEAT. When they begin to calm, try “you want a turn now, but it’s so-and-so’s turn now. Can you sit and play on your knees? That way you’ll be ready for your turn”. Avoid coaxing or threatening your child with "you won't get a turn" to gain their compliance. Simply empathise and state the behaviour that is required in that moment. It can be immensely frustrating for a toddler to have to wait - remember that well of calm you connected with earlier? Now is the time to draw on it and “lend” some to your child and show them that we understand their challenge.
  5. Assist your child to calm down as quickly as possible. If your little one is becoming upset or distressed for any reason, (crying, yelling, etc) please pick them up and move to side of the room to see if it calms them down. If it continues, please take them outside and bring them back in as soon as they have calmed down.  If you child is young, tired, hungry, thirsty, unwell, over-heated they can easily become overwhelmed with the amount of stimulation in the class and may need a few moments with you being held or having a drink/snack outside to re-calibrate so they are ready to continue.  Feel free to breastfeed anytime. Acting quickly in these situations will help your child recover sooner and will prevent the distress from spreading to other children.

Keep in mind that these classes give your child the opportunity and context to develop the self-control required to sit, listen and wait - skills that are so important to their future learning and socialising. We don’t expect everyone to be able to do it straight away, as different temperaments find it easier than others. It can take a long time for some to develop these particular skills, so your kind understanding and patience towards your child and others is vital. It doesn’t happen overnight, but with repeated use of these 5 Keys to Keeping the Calm we know that every child can master these valuable life skills that opens the doors to so much more.