Frequently Asked Questions:
- Dr. Mac, how can I help my 4 year old daughter get over her fear of the dark?
- How can I help my children learn to handle their feelings without hurting each other?
- What are some of the most important principles of effective parenting?
- I wanted to ask you about spanking. Now that my 3 year old is starting to act up, I’m not sure if that’s what I should do?
- What are Happy Kids Songs?
- What is so unique about this product?
- What do you mean when you talk about the gap between Raffi and Rap?
- Why do you think it’s so important to teach children about social and emotional skills instead of just dealing with academic challenges?
- Do Happy Kids Songs also help kids with more significant problems?
- In that teachers are so busy, how can they effectively teach character ed with ever diminishing resources and time?
- How does music facilitate learning in children?
- Why does your music include such a variety of different kinds of songs?
- Why is it so important for adults to like the music that their children are listening to?
- Where do you get your song ideas?
- How did you find these amazing singers?
- How might you summarize all this?
Fear, in and of itself, is not a bad thing. Realistic fears help protect us from harmful situations by telling us to avoid them. They keep us from getting hurt.
Lots of people, and especially children, have silly, irrational fears that can be just as overwhelming as real fears. Most common for young kids are fears related to the dark, monsters, nightmares, etc. These are the kinds of fears we want to get rid of because they don’t help us in any way, and kids really need our help in doing this.
Since with silly fears there really is nothing to be afraid of, what we are really afraid of is what we are telling ourselves inside our heads. We are afraid of our own thoughts. As Winston Churchill once put it- “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
Go Away Bad Thoughts is a perfect song for this kind of challenge, with the following procedures:
- Play Go Away Bad Thoughts a number of times so your child can learn the song, and have them sing or yell along with the chorus (same as the title.)
- The next set of steps helps kids learn how powerful their minds are in making them feel either good or bad. First, have them imagine tasting their very favorite food. Let them describe the quality and flavor of the food, whether it is sweet, sour, etc. Then have them imagine tasting something that they don’t like. Help them to see how their thoughts have such a strong influence over how they feel. You might say, “You really have a powerful brain in your head, don’t you?”
- Now have your child name one of his/her specific fears. See if they can come up with a silly name for the fear. If not, they can merely call it a “bad thought”. Ask them if it is a thought that will help them to feel good and have a good day, or a bad day, etc.
- The next step is to empower your child with the idea that they can be the boss of their thoughts and fears. You are teaching them that they have thoughts but can also choose not to have them because they are a “big boy/girl”. Ask them “Who is in charge?” and they will most likely rise to the challenge and say “I am.” If they are familiar with the story about the “Three Little Pigs”, ask them if the little pigs want to let the wolf in when he knocks at the door. Help them to see how their bad thoughts are like that wolf, and that they don’t have to let them in.
- Now that the fearful or bad thought is something that seems more concrete and is separate from them, they can do something to get rid of it rather than listen to it and be afraid.
- Lots of kids like to take their bad thoughts and fight with them a bit. You can have them imagine that the thought is in a pillow and beat the pillow as they assert who the real “boss” is. Have them say, “I don’t like you, bad thought. You get out of my head right now.” (In that fears elevate adrenaline in the blood system and that constructive emotional expression serves to reduce adrenaline, there is a physiological basis for the effectiveness of this method, as well.)
- Kids are initially embarrassed by this pillow hitting procedure, and will usually need your help at showing them how to do it. Do it along with them. They’ll also tend to giggle a lot, but that’s fine because the laughter serves as yet another release.
- After a number of trials with the pillow hitting, (for example, before going to bed every night,) what happens is that the process gets internalized and they’ll learn to tell their thoughts to go away inside their heads rather than having to hit a pillow each time.
- Children often take issue when their parents tell them to look on the brighter side. Give them the choice as to whether or not they want to be happy that day.
- Be sure to praise your child for being so strong and becoming the master of his/her “bad thoughts.”
One of the best tools I know to use is what I call The Repair Kit. Listening is a key to resolving conflicts and letting go of negative feelings. When we feel understood it helps us to be naturally more caring. Explain to the kids that, just like when you get a flat tire and it’s in need of repair, “something’s just not right” when people aren’t acting in caring ways toward each other. Elements of this lesson can be adapted according to age.
Learning new things happens best when we’re not upset. Ask two children to pretend to be in conflict with each other. Child #1 starts as the speaker, and child #2 as the listener. Have the children sit face-to-face so their knees are almost touching. Then have child #1 share with child #2 each of the following:
Something he or she is (pretending to be) upset about.
Example: “It made me mad when you teased me about my shirt today.”
A wish or a want that would help fix the thing they are upset about.
Example: “I want you to be nice to me and not tease.”
After sharing one way, the kids reverse roles. Child #1 becomes the listener and child #2 becomes the speaker. Other guidelines:
- Coach the children to have eye contact.
- Speakers should be guided to say how they feel, avoiding blaming words that create defensiveness, such as labeling, name-calling, and words like “never,” “always,” and “every time.” (This can be challenging, but it’s great to give kids practice at it!)
- It’s helpful for the listener to take deep breaths while listening to the speaker.
- An adult or mediator is often needed to supervise the process even after the “repair kit” is learned.
- Sharing something that you appreciate or like about the other person is a nice way to end the process!
- This tool can be used as frequently as needed to help things run more smoothly when kids are really in conflict about something.
What are some of the most important principles of effective parenting?
- Parents play a very important role in teaching their children how to behave. Effective parenting includes love and warmth, as well as the setting of limits.
- Kids can misbehave to get their parents attention, show them how they are feeling, and sometimes to get them back for ways that they feel mistreated.
- Try to avoid negative games by learning how to be positive with your kids, paying attention to their appropriate behavior.
- Forms of positive attention include praise, thank yous, smiles, hugs, and giving them something they like. Try to catch them being good and give them attention then.
- When you put your time and attention into positive behaviors and qualities, it softens the conflict, increases self-esteem and fosters warm feelings between family members.
- Using a positive approach also increases the effectiveness of any punishments you use because your kids will care more about you and what you think.
- For more complex behaviors, break them down into smaller steps and reinforce each step toward that goal.
- For mild behavior problems, consider ignoring the child.
- Most kids don’t need or respond well to repetitive explanations or lectures. When a negative behavior occurs for the first time, provide a brief explanation to your child as to why it’s not OK. If a behavior is occurring as a pattern, the best solution is to create rules with pre-arranged and agreed-upon consequences.
- Punishments should be used very carefully with children, and only after you have tried more positive ways of dealing with them. One of the best ways to punish is to deprive them of something they like. A mild punishment connected with the problem behavior is usually most effective. This minimizes hostile feelings and yet the child “gets the message”.
- Punishments should be given as soon as possible after the behavior problem occurs, and ideally are thematically connected with the problem. One example is to take away a toy as a consequence of the child’s misusing it.
- When mild punishments are insufficient at changing the behavior, re-evaluate and select stronger consequences, using only the minimum amount of punishment needed to accomplish the goal.
- Prior to making changes in your parenting practices, arrange a family meeting and talk with your kids about the anticipated changes. As much as is appropriate and as they are willing, involve them in the creation of the rules, reinforcements and consequences. Ongoing family meetings can serve as a time to re-evaluate the behavior program you’re using.
- It is important to communicate well with your children to avoid problems. This means guiding them and helping them to understand what is happening in their lives. It also means listening to them and understanding and accepting their feelings.
- Pay attention to the feelings behind things that kids say and the questions they ask. Try to identify for them the feeling that is being expressed, e.g. “I know you really want to go to the basketball game and you’re very disappointed. I’d like to let you go but I just can’t since you still have a fever.”
- Our kids act like us, and when we are concerned about their behavior, we need to consider what we do. If a parent doesn’t listen to a child, the child probably won’t listen to the parent.
- Everyone needs to hear that they’re loved. Don’t assume that your children know this. Tell them you love them. Almost every family would benefit by increasing the amount of positive things they say and do. This investment in your kids can reap immeasurable returns.
Although it’s known that about 80% of parents in the U.S. spank their children, family researchers discourage the use of spanking and other forms of physical punishment, viewing these as both harmful and unnecessary. The primary disadvantages of spanking are the following. First, it sends the message that a good way to get what you want is to use physical force or violence. Kids who are spanked at home tend to use this model for working out their differences with others, regardless of any advice we may give. Why? Because they are far more likely to do what we do than to do what we say. Second, spanking provokes angry feelings that the child may then direct toward peers, siblings, pets—or, more than likely, back at us. Resentment builds up until it is unleashed, often in an altogether different context. Third, hitting a child can damage their self-esteem. Since kids identify so closely with their bodies, spanking leaves them with the distinct impression that they are bad rather than that their behavior is unacceptable. To be happy and healthy, children need to feel good about themselves and know that they are loved even when their behavior is not.
Hundreds of thousands of parents from all walks of life have made the shift. Recognizing their own response to the parenting they received, they were being too soft or strict with their own kids. They began to set appropriate limits, and before long their children flourished, including some of the most out-of-control kids imaginable. In reshaping their approach to discipline and adding lavish doses of reinforcement, these parents have not only corrected problems, but greatly enhanced harmony and good feelings for the whole family.
Considering the harmful side effects, all of which have been widely publicized in newspapers, magazines and news documentaries, why do so many parents still spank their kids? The simplest explanation is that in the absence of new models, most of us repeat history. Physical punishment also gives the illusion of being effective because it can abruptly stop unwanted behaviors. Trapped in the moment, we become too myopic to see the bigger picture involving the build-up of anger and other long-term side effects.
Another reason for the continuation of spanking is that parents habitually vent their own frustrations through physical punishment. Once we have learned how to deal with our negative feelings in healthier ways, we take care of ourselves but no longer at the expense of our children.
If and when you decide to revise your approach to discipline, give your kids some advance warning. Hold a family meeting to talk over the changes you would like to make. As much as they are able and willing, include them in the creation of new rules, reinforcements and consequences. Subsequent family meetings can be helpful to reevaluate your approach.
Happy Kids Songs are an award-winning series of full-production, adult-quality songs and activities for four to nine year old children. This music is fun and highly entertaining, yet also helps boost social and emotional skills. The music CDs, each containing twelve songs, can be purchased alone, or with an activity guide that includes reproducible lyrics, coloring pages and companion lessons.
What is so unique about this product?
This product is unique in its ability to capture and hold kids’ attention. Most of all, children love to hear other kids sing and the songs are filled with their voices. They also like the variety of adult soloists, different styles of songs, and the full-production sound. Parents and teachers love it too! It has to be heard to be understood.
As far as the themes go, today’s kids are struggling to face the demands of stressful and fast-paced times. They are searching for ways to feel good about themselves and get along with others. As a child psychologist, teacher, and school consultant I’ve gained an inside view of what kids want.
When I interview kindergarten through third grade and ask them what music they like, they talk about music that is developmentally inappropriate…by artists like Justin Timberlake, Christina Aguilera and a variety of rap artists. Kids are more musically sophisticated than we give them credit for, and are really attracted to the quality and rhythm of adult music. They’re no longer interested in pre-school music and need a sound of their own. Happy Kids Songs fill that gap.
To put it quite simply, happy kids learn better! The latest trend is for schools to focus on academics through testing and drill. But hundreds of studies show that even when time is taken away from the traditional “Three R’s” for programs to help children with their social and emotional concerns, academic scores improve!
I love to use the analogy of computer memory. When children are preoccupied, they have far less “memory” or attention available for learning. Imagine a kid who has just been teased on the playground. Now think about how well that child will be able to pay attention to the arithmetic problems the teacher’s putting up on the blackboard!
Yes. A high percentage of kids these days are melting down, inattentive in school, and not able to perform academically. And kids with problems in their younger years are at high risk for difficulties as teens, and even as adults.
The songs can initially be played during non-structured times or art classes to “seed” the concepts. Teachers have been amazed by how quickly kids memorize the words and meanings of the songs, even without a focus on the lessons.
Other teachers integrate the activities and concepts across the curriculum, providing a better chance for kids to understand and retain the skills. Many choose a song of the week to learn the words and music.
Teachers complain that they haven’t received enough training in dealing with social and emotional challenges, yet it’s what they are forced to spend a lot of time on. It helps to give kids these tools in a preventive fashion, also providing a positive and more productive classroom atmosphere.
Researchers tell us that music isn’t “necessary” for human survival, yet something inside us craves it, perhaps because it releases endorphins that make us happy and energized. It “lights up” the same emotional systems that are stimulated by food and sex! It also activates three different centers of the brain at the same time: language, hearing, and rhythmic motor control.
Music can change people’s emotions and put them into a cooperative, creative mood. (Anthropologists point out that all cultures embrace music in a variety of forms, and it’s the only thing that, worldwide, we spend more on than prescription drugs!)
Music is an effective, almost magical medium for learning and retaining information. As an example, we can remember the words and meanings of songs we haven’t heard for years. Isn’t it how you still remember your ABCs?
Bottom line, to hold people’s attention and keep things exciting. Different styles of music also lend themselves nicely to the portrayal of different social and emotional themes. For example, rap music lends itself nicely to communication issues.
As a side benefit, children have the opportunity to learn about different kinds of music, as well as to identify the instruments that are featured, particularly from the instrumental solos.
For better or worse, young children typically like to hear songs over and over again. To provide lasting value, Ready to Rock is designed to befun and interesting for teachers and parents as well.
Songs are usually inspired by my contacts with kids, parents and teachers. Given how prevalent it is, the world obviously needed a song to help kids with bullying. And another one for shyness, reaching out, taking responsibility and cleaning up, etc. After a kid told me about being teased for having facial “tics,” I wrote a song to normalize people’s differences and idiosyncrasies. It’s a fun little ditty called “Quirks.” I steal other song ideas from the research that I read.
Children who are soloists, rappers, talkers, and in the chorus are recruited from local Santa Barbara talent. For the last CD I selected twelve out of almost a hundred who auditioned. Most of the kids are also actors who have been leads in plays.
I am also quite proud of the other singers in the group- adult soloists and background singers who are some of the best available anywhere.
Happy Kids Songs are entertainment at its best… fun-filled, upbeat songs and activities… and with a unique and effective way to boost children’s all-important social and emotional skills.