The Good of Making Enemies

“You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something.” – Churchill

I’m writing this during a day of student walk-outs to protest gun violence. Speaking up for something you care about can be scary. Staying silent is scarier still.

When we speak up, or encourage our kids to speak up, we might make enemies. That’s OK. In fact, if you follow the words of Winston Churchill, it’s not only necessary but good. As he says:

“You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something.”

What would our life be like if we never woke up, stood up and spoke up? It’s the basic tenant of conflict mediation. It’s the essential nature of justice. Whatever the topic that bugs you, remember the central message of It’s OK to Go Up the Slide:

“If something is bothering you, it’s time to make a change.”

That simple adage works on the level of dealing with a toddler who won’t stay in bed. It works on the level of opting out of elementary school homework. It works on the level of major national issues like climate change and access to assault weapons. If something is wrong, if you know something is wrong or out of whack, it’s time to make a change.

Teaching our children to question and stand up for themselves begins in preschool. It continues throughout life. My new heroes are the thousands of students who are taking on adult roles and demanding change against gun violence.

As many voices have said, the children have to be leaders because the leaders are acting like children.

If this is the way children act, let us all follow their example.

What have you stood up against that made you uncomfortable or made you enemies? What was the result? What are you standing up for today?


Posted in Parenting with Renegade Rules | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Bedtime Stories, the Extra Parent

Books are like extra parents. Welcome reading aloud – at any age.

I don’t think I could parent without reading bedtime stories.

I’ve always read to my kids, despite my oldest child who announced at a very young age: “You don’t need to read to me anymore. I can read by myself now.” That would mean skipping out on one of the main joys and learning experiences of life.

I come from a long line of bedtime-story readers. My mother continued to read to us through high school, and my parents still read aloud to each other today.

Besides all the cozy joy and good stuff in books, reading aloud helps me parent.

Books explore bullying and bravery. Moral choices and tough situations. What it feels like to be somebody else. If a child is behaving like Eustace Scrubb in the Voyage of the Dawn Treader, we can call it out. “That sounds like something Eustace would say.” No more needs to be said. No one wants to be like Eustace.

Reading helps children enlarge their world. Raising two white American males, this is particularly important in our family. Kids need to know what it feels like – on the inside – to be a boy, a girl, from this country or another one, to have a home or not, and meet true-to-life characters from a variety of race, class and religious traditions. Stories have a unique way of getting inside your soul.

We often get to know characters in a book better than we may know most people in real life. That empathy extends into the real world from the book world.

As kids get older, the books we choose to read together may be different than the ones they gravitate to on their own. Part of reading together is to introduce kids to new ideas, to genres they might not try, to stories I can tell they need to hear, to humanize the history they get in school. We also tackle older, classic books together, where the language might be dated, and where social ideas certainly are. Sometimes it means just choosing a silly book so we get to laugh together each night.

Kids need parents. Parents need back-up. Reading books together gives you hundreds of extra parents who can help you out on the job.

If you find you don’t have time to read every night, try it for a week. Then stop and take a break and pick it back up again. Or change the time of day that works for you. Or try audio books in the car.

Or you might try this method – reading aloud to your kids while they wash the dishes

What age would you like to read aloud to your kids? Did your parents read to you past elementary school?

Posted in Our Bedtime Story Book, Parenting with Renegade Rules, Joyful Literacy | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

2 Responses to Bedtime Stories, the Extra Parent

  1. No kids, but I’d think just the tradition of having a parent read aloud to their kids, even when they’re in their teens, would be comforting and reassuring to the kids that no matter what might be going on at school, within the family, or in the real world, if Mom or Dad can take time to read to us every night, things can’t be THAT bad.

    To the second question–No, but mainly because we all probably wanted to prove our independence and read our own books. We did continue a Christmas tradition of Mom reading “Twas the Night Before Christmas” even when we three kids had reached our teens.

    I would LOVE to be a hired or volunteer reader for school classes or even individuals at home. Nothing quite so magical as having a book brought to life with someone’s voice.

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      That sounds like a great job! You should totally do it – try your local school or the senior center or advertise your reading aloud offer at the library. People will be lucky to have your voice telling them stories.

Why we Force Kids to Share

Sharing squabbles? Teach your child impulse control and positive assertiveness.

Sharing is about generosity, kindness, respect and awareness of others. All good things — but we strive so hard to promote sharing, that our efforts to promote kindness and generosity typically backfire when we try to teach young kids.

What elements need to be in place before YOU’RE ready to share as an adult? Give a quick brainstorm. Likely these will pop up:

  • Trust
  • Whether the object is valuable (your car)
  • Whether the object is personal (your lipstick)
  • Whether you’re done using it (a book)
  • Whether you think it will come back in good condition
  • If the object is brand new (a present)
  • If you know the person
  • If the person seems pleasant, polite and/or grateful
  • If you’re in a good mood

The list differs for kids: what’s personal for a child may be a Blankie or favorite teddy. What’s valuable could be a stick (never seen such a cool stick in that shape before). Their good mood might depend on whether or not they’ve had a nap. Whatever the situation, children learn to be kind and generous if they’re not forced into it.

True generosity comes from the inside.

At this season of giving, sharing and thinking of others, here’s a re-post of this blog’s MOST READ story about the wonders of “renegade sharing.” Here it is, already shared with more than a quarter million readers:

Throw Away your Timer: Why Kids Learn More when they Don’t Share

As soon as children are old enough to walk, we expect them to share. I prefer putting “share” in quotes, since this type of sharing is usually forced by the adult. Our goals are noble: kindness, generosity, awareness of others. Unfortunately, our approach backfires.

Kids learn more life skills –and develop better generosity–when they aren’t forced to share.

Of course, sharing squabbles happen all the time between kids. Here’s a typical scene: One child is busily engaged with a toy when a new child comes up and wants it. A nearby adult says: “Be nice and share your toys,” or “Give Ella the pony. You’ve had it a long time.” What happens? The child is forced to give something up and her play gets interrupted. She learns that sharing feels bad. It’s the parent who’s sharing here, not the child.

Traditional sharing expects kids to give up something the instant someone else demands. Yet we don’t do this ourselves. Imagine being on your cell phone when somebody suddenly comes up and asks for your phone or takes it from you. “I need to make a phone call,” he says. Would you get mad? As adults, we expect people to wait their turn. We might gladly lend our phone to a friend or even a stranger, but we want them to wait until we’re done. The same should apply to kids: let the child keep a toy until she’s “all done.” It’s turn-taking. It’s sharing. But the key is it’s child-directed turn-taking.

Positive assertiveness

Here’s what it looks like in real life. Instead of YOU saying “Five more minutes, then it’s Ella’s turn” or “I’m going to set the timer,” teach your child to say “You can have it when I’m done.” This teaches positive assertiveness. It helps kids stand up for themselves and learn to set boundaries on other kids. What a terrific life skill. How many of us as adults have trouble saying “no?”

True Generosity and Awareness of Others

When the first child drops the toy and moves on, remind her that Ella’s waiting for a turn (a great lesson in courtesy and awareness of others). The best part of all is when the first child willingly hands over the toy—it’s a joyous moment for both kids. That’s the moment when your child experiences the rush of good feelings that comes from being kind to others. It’s true generosity. It’s a warm feeling. One she’ll want to repeat over and over – whether a parent is watching or not.

Emotional Impulse Control

What about the waiting child? Waiting is hard, especially for impulsive 2-6 year olds, but just like assertiveness, waiting is an excellent life skill. It’s OK for the waiting child to feel frustrated, sad or angry for a time. Don’t be afraid of a few foot stompings or tears. Learning to control behavior and express intense feelings appropriately is really the main job of early childhood. Impulse control (waiting for a toy and not grabbing) is a vital part of brain development and gets stronger through practice. The more practice kids get, the better. Sharing through turn-taking provides excellent practice.

Life is much more relaxing when you stop playing referee.  Throw away your timer. Kids pick up the new method quickly, because it’s fair and simple. Let kids keep a toy until they are “all done.”

Words you can say

Positive assertiveness
– You can play with it until you’re all done.
– Are you finished with your turn? Max says he’s not done yet.
– Did you like it when he grabbed your truck? Tell him to stop!
– Say: “I’m not done. You can have it when I’m done.”
– She can have a turn. When she’s all done, you can have a turn.
– I see Bella still has the pony. She’s still using it.
– You’ll have to wait. I can’t let you take it out of her hands.

Waiting and awareness of others
– Oh, it’s so hard to wait!
– You’re so mad. You really want to play with the pony right now!
– You can be mad, but I can’t let you take the toy.
– Will you tell Max when you’re all done?
– I see you’re not using the truck any more. Go find Ben. Remember, he’s waiting for a turn.

Curious to learn more? Watch for future posts on taking loooong turns, hogging toys, waiting lists and making the transition to turn-taking.

Check out a free sample chapter from the book It’s OK Not to Share…and other Renegade Rules.

Sharing and long turns are just two of the 29 renegade rules. And there’s 21 more renegade rules in the sequel It’s OK to Go Up the Slide.



Did you ever resent sharing something as a child? Have you tried child-directed sharing?

Posted in Parenting with Renegade Rules | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off on Why we Force Kids to Share

Comments are closed.

Teaching “No” and “Stop” to Kids

Speaking up. Saying “no,” “stop” and “I don’t like that” are powerful skills. So is listening.

Sometimes we forget how sacred “No!” is. Young kids say it a lot, and for many adults that’s a word we’d rather not hear so much. But “No” and “Stop” are essential to healthy life, kindness and survival.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the torrent of sexual harassment and assault stories in the news. How it’s finally coming out into the open air. How hard it is to speak up. What happens when people don’t.

“No” is a sacred word. We have to teach our kids that, boy or girl. So is “Stop” and “I don’t like that.” Raising kids means teaching them to speak up. Raising kids means teaching them to listen. Listen and stop the unwanted action.

In my family growing up, we had a code word we used to say when tickle fights, rough housing and other wild play got too much. Our code word wasn’t too inventive, it was simply “Stop,” but whenever anyone said “Stop,” big or small, child or adult, everyone in the room instantly froze and stopped immediately. That taught me to speak up. It taught me to stop and listen when someone else spoke up.

Speaking up and listening are the essentials of human life. These are the skills that solve problems, from family relationships to international emergencies. We need to celebrate these skills in early childhood, model them, respect them, and get used to the discomfort they can produce.

So instead of saying “Be nice” or “Be a good boy” or “Behave” — vague words of complete obedience and compliance — teach your children everyday skills of emotional expression and conflict management. These skills are woven throughout my books “It’s OK Not to Shareand It’s OK to Go Up the Slide,” including:

  • It’s OK Not to Kiss Grandma – speaking up and setting limits on bodies – even loving grandma hugs
  • It’s OK to Talk to Strangers – gives your children tools, not fear
  • Kids Need Conflict – step-by-step guidance in helping kids speak up and stop behavior they don’t like. “Stop! I don’t like it when you ____.”
  • Only Punch Friends – celebrates rough-housing, gives conflict mediation practice, helps kids read body language and words that say “Stop!

Speaking up is hard.

Listening and stopping is hard.

Young kids can do it. And so can we.

We need to encourage these skills, for these are the skills of life. It gets easier with practice.

Are you good at saying no and speaking up? How are you teaching this to kids in your life?

Need more practice speaking up?

Or how to raise kids who can speak up, set limits and face the world with confidence?

Check out It’s OK Not to Share and It’s OK to Go Up the Slide.

Posted in Parenting with Renegade Rules | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

2 Responses to Teaching “No” and “Stop” to Kids

  1. Pam Leo says:

    This is such needed information Heather. I talked some about it in my book, Connection Parenting, but you nailed it!
    I am excited to share your resources.
    Pam Leo

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Thanks, Pam. Hard topics to talk about and absolutely necessary. Thanks for your good work on the subject.

Introducing…The Griffins of Castle Cary

Introducing…one of the characters from my soon-to-be-published children’s book.

I have AMAZING news!

All my life I’ve wanted to write fiction, especially fiction for children. I can’t think of a time when I didn’t want to write books. My desire to become an author was strong by age four.

Now I’m thrilled to announce that my first children’s novel will be published by Simon & Schuster: The Griffins of Castle Cary.

So excited! The book is being described as a charming, slightly spooky adventure story for elementary readers ages 8-12. You’ll meet the Griffin siblings, a couple of ghosts with big feelings, and a ginormous, drooly Newfoundland dog. My new editor says it’s got “Penderwick-y appeal and Neil Gaiman themes,” so if you like books with wholesome, family charm, like the Penderwicks or a touch of magic mixed in with real life, this might be the book for you and your family.

I like to think that preschoolers who started out with It’s OK Not to Share in their lives will be ready for The Griffins of Castle Cary when it comes out. Only one year to wait – publication is March 2019. In the meantime, we’ll be busy with revisions, copyedits and creating a cool cover. Maybe with a Newfoundland on the front?

Can’t wait to show you the finished book!

Meanwhile, here’s what some early readers had to say. These are all quotes from kids. As part of the book writing process, I had children read the draft manuscript.

Elizabeth, age 8: Keep going! Keep going! I was so excited. I wanted my mom to read more chapters before bed. There were so many mysteries.

Emerson, age 11: I’ve never read anything like this. I love all the action!

Tess, age 11: If there was a sequel, I would read it in a flash! It was really gripping. And just the right amount of scary. I finished it in two days and it was hard to put down when I had to go to bed.

Alex, age 9: It was awesome! Part mystery, part ghost story. I never wanted to stop reading it.

Thrilled to be a children’s book author as well as a renegade. Looking forward to sharing more book adventures with you.

How cute is that Newfoundland dog? Will your kids or grandkids be the right age to enjoy this adventure next year?

Posted in Agents and publishing, What I'm Reading, Parenting with Renegade Rules, Good Reads, Books for Kids | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off on Introducing…The Griffins of Castle Cary

Comments are closed.

What’s on your Walls? 3 Charts that have Got to Go

Focus on children’s real needs, not adult classroom habits.

When I walk into an early childhood classroom, I look for promising signs of play, like giant cardboard boxes, dress-ups clothes, and a bit of mess. What I often see are the Big Three: Behavior Charts, Calendars and Weather Charts. That’s a sign of trouble.

These three charts have got to go.

Young children have so much learning to do. These three charts take up time and get in the way of meaningful social/emotional and cognitive development. Calendars, weather charts and behavior charts may be popular classroom habits, but popular doesn’t make them right.

Let’s take a look at each one:

The Calendar

Teaching calendar time steals time. Time kids could be doing other things that are more developmentally appropriate. Experts who study human notions of time say calendar study has no meaning for children younger than first grade, and that holds true for many kids even at ages 7, 8 or beyond (see more in It’s OK to Go Up the Slide). Their brains simply aren’t ready. If you’re hoping to introduce counting or other math and sequencing ideas, do it through songs (Five little monkeys) and play itself. Take the giant calendar off the wall.

The Weather Chart

Weather is only relevant to children when they are outside in it. So recycle that weather chart with its clouds and suns, and GO OUTSIDE. Kids will notice it’s raining if they get wet. They might also notice some worms and puddles. Kids don’t sit around chatting about the weather the way adults do – unless there’s something cool to talk about, like a thunderstorm or a blizzard. Invest in a sturdy raincoat yourself, and don’t bother about days that are drizzly. After all, a real rainbow is much more exciting than a picture of a rainbow.

Behavior Charts

These charts are creeping into classrooms at an astounding pace. From green-yellow-red stoplight charts, to rainbow colors, sad cloud faces, and more, these public behavior charts are on many preschool and elementary classroom walls. Way too many.

Children typically have a clip marked with their name, and the clip gets moved from the “good” category down, and possibly further down, during the course of the day. Offenses like wiggling, talking, being bored and being a young child get lumped in with legitimate behavior conflicts like hurting someone.

Understanding good social behavior – and DOING it – takes time to learn. The process isn’t straightforward like a clip going down the chart. Human relationships and dealing with big feelings and conflicts is a messy, organic process. Kids can do it, but they need real-world practice and our guidance to learn emotional competence and conflict mediation skills. These skills are huge; they are the essence of any early childhood learning. Behavior charts use shaming, compliance without understanding, and threats (taking recess away). They do not teach skills. They do not change behavior overall. They do not teach children the real-life, essential skills they need to be successful. And too often, the reason kids are poking, talking and restless is that the adult-directed lesson is not a good match. Better go outside and play.

More blog posts

Chuck the Calendars

How to Find a True Play-based Preschool

Behavior Charts = Poor Adult Behavior


It’s OK Not to Share  and It’s OK to Go Up the Slide







What’s on your walls? What would happen if you took these charts down? What would your ideal early childhood classroom look like?

Posted in Parenting with Renegade Rules | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

One Response to What’s on your Walls? 3 Charts that have Got to Go

  1. Each post is a lesson in common sense to we parents and teachers. Interesting stuff. I’d never guess a weather chart is meaningless (or irrelevant) to a younger child. Makes sense though.


The Art of Moral Support: You don’t need a Helicopter

Moral support, combined with confidence in our kids, is more powerful than a helicopter.

Surely, you’re not one of those overly-supportive helicopter parents. Are you? For all of us, it bears examining from time to time.

What could your child be doing on her own, that you are doing for her?

This includes simple, physical tasks (pouring milk, packing lunch, cleaning the floor) to more complex social tasks (making phone calls (not texts), speaking up about a problem, trying something new).

The New York Times published an in-depth article this week about American teens and the sharp spike in social anxiety, fear of social discomfort and failure. It doesn’t start with teens. How we guide children starts now.

My mother was a master of moral support. Moral support sounds simple and easy, but it can be tough on both sides. It means having the confidence and strength to stand there and say to your child: “I can be with you, but I won’t do it for you.”

“I can be with you, but I won’t do it for you.”

Those words have echoed in my mind my entire life. I can remember my mother saying them when I was 4 years old and having trouble cutting with scissors. When I was 5 and had a conflict with another child. At age 7 when I wanted a book at the library and needed to ask the librarian for help. I heard them as a young teen when I was nervous about making phone calls. The implicit message was: It’s hard, but you can do it. I’ll be here for you.

Being there. Simply presenting yourself as a warm, supportive body who stands beside your child does wonders. It’s more powerful than you think.

“I can go with you, but you need to say the words yourself.”

The social challenges are probably the most tough. Practice on little conflicts that come up. When a child doesn’t like something, practice giving moral support to teach your child to advocate for herself and speak up. It will be uncomfortable. And it won’t be easy (until your child gets enough practice), but it’s necessary. “Did you like what she did? No, then tell her. Say “stop splashing my face.” I will go with you, but you need to say the words yourself.”

Moral support is an art. It’s a balance. Sometimes it means having a keen eye, and understanding what your child is actually capable of doing, then staying firm and placing your confidence in them. It can mean turning away.

Last year I took my youngest out in the neighborhood fundraising. I stood behind, but he was expected to do the talking. Despite practicing and being eager to do it, he sometimes got tongue-tied when a neighbor opened the door, saying nothing. “You need to do the talking,” I reminded him. “I’m right here.” Some days we had to turn away, but in a few days he’d be back, ready to try again.

Each child may need a different approach, but they all could use a strong, powerful adult beside them offering moral support during tough times. You’ve heard the phrase “Face your dragons.” The emphasis should be on your. We can’t face a child’s dragons for her, but we can stand beside her, strong and tall, giving the child the moral support she needs to face her own dragons.

Did you grow up this way? Do you think your child needs more experience and practice dealing with discomfort in her life? How good are you at standing by? When do adults intervene most?

Posted in Parenting with Renegade Rules | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

2 Responses to The Art of Moral Support: You don’t need a Helicopter

  1. No helicopters when I was growing up! I learned how to fry an egg when I was about 6 (tall enough to see inside the frying pan). Had regular chores that were expected to be done correctly (or we’d go back and do them correctly under Mom’s supervision). Did my own fundraising in Little League–parents at home NOT selling for me. Allowed to ride our bikes to friends’ houses a mile or so away as soon as we understood how to cross busy streets. Typical middle-class 1960s upbringing.

    *Sigh* In that respect, those WERE the days. 🙂

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      You know, I think it might be eye-opening for audiences of parents to hear simple stories from “the old days.” How much independence and responsibility kids can really take on. We could call it “Stories to Spread Confidence.”

Behavior Charts = Poor Adult Behavior

Red light - you're out. When it comes to behavior charts, adult behavior needs to change.

Red light – you’re out. When it comes to behavior charts, adult behavior needs to change.

I’m not a fan of behavior charts. You’ve probably seen them – red, yellow and green stoplight-like charts ubiquitous in preschool and kindergarten classrooms. Kids get put in the red category if they’re “bad.” The chart is posted in a visible place where everyone can see.

There’s so much wrong about behavior charts, I don’t know where to start, but most of it comes down to this: adults need to change their behavior.

You’re being bad =Vague  Moving a child’s name from the green/ good side to the yellow and red side of the chart usually doesn’t give the child any information except: “I’m in trouble.” Many times kids don’t know what they did that was wrong or disturbing. Much better to be specific. State what the child was doing and what needs to stop or change. Set a limit. No need to have red and green stop lights to do that.

Targets  You know who they are. Usually the same ones day after day. Kids who are restless, need to move their bodies, poke their neighbors or talk. These are often the most active kids. Often boys. Often ones with the least experience with impulse control and social learning. Behavior charts don’t change that dynamic, they just put the same kids in red day after day while other kids sail through as green and good.

I’m a bad kid   Kids who are repeatedly labeled as having bad behavior tend to internalize and think: “I’m a bad kid. The teacher doesn’t like me. School isn’t for me.” This is a rotten way to start 12-13 years of learning. Learning comes alive with joy, curiosity, encouragement, self-confidence and ability to make mistakes and still be accepted.

Incorrect adult expectations   Often, what’s wrong is not so much the wriggling child who pokes her neighbor, but the fact that the kids have been sitting too long, perhaps with an un-engaging curriculum. The antidote to that is a different instructional style. If kids are truly engaged, behavior is much more likely to be positive and focused. Try more hands-on learning and more recess.

Respecting needs  What’s misbehavior? All too often, what adults call misbehavior is simply unmet needs. Young kids have a need to move their bodies. Are we providing that? Is there time and space and acceptance for active children?

Skill learning   Behavior charts are a technique to control, but what is the learning goal? Do they teach anything? The only way kids can truly change behavior is by gaining skills (social/ emotional learning; conflict management skills) and gaining maturity. These both take time and practice.

Public shaming  Shaming shuts kids down. It doesn’t solve problems. It doesn’t respect kids. Some kids, often including first-borns, only children, boys, and many others based on personality, are especially shame-phobic. They hate making mistakes and hate public shaming. Shaming kids often backfires.

Loss of recess  Depending on the system, getting to red often means something even more terrible: loss of recess. Kids need recess protected for the sake of their own learning and mental health. Read more about recess.

Sometimes I think about how well we adults would do if someone erected a giant behavior chart for us during the day. Scream at the kids getting out the door in the morning (move from green to yellow); get grumpy at someone at the gas station (move from yellow to red); procrastinate and not get something done (we’re already lower than red, now we have to skip our coffee break). By 10am, we might be hopelessly irredeemable.

I’m glad there’s no Giant Behavior Chart in the Sky hovering over our adult lives. There shouldn’t be for children either. Kids have less experience coping with their bodies and feelings than we do. They need useful guidance learning how to express themselves appropriately – and that goes beyond red-yellow-green.

Have any behavior chart stories? What’s worked for you getting beyond behavior charts?

Interested? Read more in Heather Shumaker’s books on renegade parenting.UpTheSlide final cover

It's OK small cover

Posted in Parenting with Renegade Rules | Tagged , , , , , , | 12 Comments

12 Responses to Behavior Charts = Poor Adult Behavior

  1. Bette says:

    Alfie Cohn’s book Unconditional Parenting says it all for me with rewards and punishments. It doesn’t work if you want to make anything but temporary compliance.

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Yes, indeed. Another reason not to use behavior charts. They don’t work! Temporary compliance is exactly right. Thank you, Bette!

  2. Hi Heather,
    you’ve confirmed what I have suspected for years. I am a former teacher and mother of six beautiful, healthy children. I never liked using behaviour charts in my classroom but was told I had to manage the class ‘somehow’ (by a university lecturer). When my fourth child started school this year he was constantly placed on the ‘sad cloud’ on his classroom’s behaviour chart. I do not hold ill towards the teacher, she was, I assume, only teaching how she’d been taught, just as I had. However, my son was starting to dread going to school for fear that he would be moved from the ‘rainbow’ to the ‘sad cloud’. Talk about how to damage a child’s self-worth as he saw his name on the cloud day after day after day. He is a typically active 5 year old boy with, as I affectionately say, more energy than brains! I hope you understand what I mean by that. Thankyou for not being afraid to speak out on what you also have observed. Susan

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Rainbows and sad clouds…superheroes and losers…they come in many forms. Your insights as both a teacher and parent are insightful. And, yes, I know exactly what you mean by a 5-year-old with more energy than brains! He’s not the only one in this world.

  3. Shauna Kay says:

    I’m in Australia, however, my son experienced similar methods of control in his first year of school eg: a sad face and a happy face. The sad face was red and children’s names were placed under it for all to see. My son didn’t often appear under the “angry face” (that’s what he called it) however he often came home upset for the friends that did. He had an intuitive sense of right and wrong and he knew that this whole punitive system was very wrong. Other than offering him support I didn’t weigh in with my opinions as I didn’t want to create more anguish or add to the angst. I can tell you now, however, it made me furious! Shaming has absolutely nothing to do with learning and I could see the effect it had on the children. We homeschool now, part of a vibrant community full of kids that are excited to learn, fuelled by their passions with no shaming! It took a few years to recover fully from that truly horrible first year…Surely any educator worth their salt could work out that such methods are wrong? Anyway, thank you for your piece I appreciated it.

  4. Isabel says:

    I wish I could find something like this post, or even better, research to support this viewpoint, but in French! I am aching to share it with my daughter’s kindergarten teacher. She has a Masters degree, so I know she would appreciate evidence to support this position, but my daughter’s school is French.
    And I want to add that my daughter never gets the bad scores, but i still can’t stand these charts. There is so much wrong with them! Even for a “good” student! At her school there is a neutral green and then colours above that for “good day” and “magnifique!”. Except, as the teacher explained to me when I asked about it, a student will rarely get either of those. they would have to perform some special act of kindness. for example, my daughter got a “good day” for doing what I assume was a particularly good job of tidying up. But it’s still demotivating! My daughter gets bummed about always getting the neutral colour, and she can’t really understand what she needs to do better.
    It’s so frustrating for me.

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      You may be in luck – my book “It’s OK Not to Share” is being translated into French. It covers many similar topics, but not behavior charts specifically. There will be a little lag time until the French edition is available, but look for it!

      Thanks also for sharing your daughter’s experience being stuck on the “neutral” color. These charts really take away the human relationship side of relationships.

  5. Kelly L Overend says:

    As you know, these are big in Michigan with PBIS. Have you talked with school districts or are you available to do so in our area? thanks!

  6. Carolee says:

    My son is having a hard time sitting still and staying focused in grade 1. His teacher has wanted to use a daily chart, where he gets 10 stickers (5 in the morning and 5 in the afternoon). It’s sent home each day. If he can get all 10 stickers, I’m supposed to give him a small reward at home. After three weeks of this, I can see that it isn’t helping and I actually think it’s damaging. If he has a good day, we are all happy. But on days where he only got two stickers, the teacher will comment “I’ll call you”. Before the call, I ask my son what happened today, and he gets furious and angry. I can tell by his mood when I pick him up whether he has 10 stickers or not. He tells me that he has been ridiculed in class for having fewer points on another behavior chart. There was one day that he was crying and saying that nobody liked him (on a day when he got fewer stickers). He was sent to the pricipal’s office for throwing markers. (He is 6 years old). With the principal, he filled out a form for how he would move forward, and his plan to move on was “be good”. It was at this point that I let the school know that asking him to “be good” is the same as telling him that he was bad, and I asked his teacher to reconsider behavior charts. I’m not sure where to go from here or how to help him learn to behave in class. After doing research that led me to this article, I’m even more worried about the damage that these charts are causing.

    Behavior charts are damaging for the parent/child home relationship. It has caused many sad and stressful evenings where I have a grumpy child, and where the parent wonders why it seems that everyone doesn’t like their child.

    • Shauna Kay says:

      Oh gosh, I say with all kindness in my heart, PLEASE get him out of there if you can, before they do more damage to your gorgeous little 6-year-old. What you describe is heartbreaking and against everything, we know about natural child development. They are shutting down his natural responses, curiosity and killing any flicker of a love of learning. What in the world is the USA doing? It is absolutely crazy! How can any educator think inflicting a punitive system like that is OK? How are your teachers trained? It is insanity!

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      “When something is bothering you, it’s time to make a change,” is my motto. You’re doing that – researching and realizing something is wrong. If this school / teacher is not the right fit for your family, make a change. It’s unlikely that the teacher will change fast enough. Kids need to feel safe before they are ready to learn. Your child deserves to learn in a place that nurtures him.

      Or as my fellow author Laurie Buchanan says, “Whatever you are not changing, you are choosing.” Good luck with your next step!

Summers of Learning

Kids are constantly finding new identities. Breaks help kids find the new "me."

Kids are constantly finding new identities. Breaks help kids find the new “me.”

It’s fall, and kids have a summer-full of learning inside them. What’s more important than the “summer slide” of school skills is the fact that these are NEW people heading back to school. Summer gives a chance to restart.

However you spend your summer, kids are soaking up new experiences. They’re not the same as who they were last spring. The break is big enough to create a real break.

Breaks. We all need breaks. To reinvent. Refresh. Remember who we are, and discover who we are. Not who we were last year or last month, but who we are now.

Think about this proverb: “If you want to know where your heart is, look to where your mind goes when it wanders.” For children, where the mind wanders is called “Play.”

Regular schedules accomplish certain goals, but breaks are where our minds wander, where we encounter real life (good or bad) and where we are free from being judged by last year’s standards. For an adult, a break gives us the chance to remember or refocus our priorities. For kids, a break is a time to discover identity and make new leaps as it changes.

Without breaks, we just carry on. Carry on in our habits. Carry on with our judgments about a child’s abilities or behavior. Carry on without thinking. A child who’s been labeled as a troublemaker just continues that “I’m no good” mindset if there’s no break. A child who’s exploring new thoughts and friends can get stuck without a break.

A break can be an open door.

Breaks are essential for restarting life. And there are all kinds of breaks besides holidays from school routines and teachers. Our kids need breaks from us as parents, from the grip of regular friendships, and from constant sibling contact. Any of these can stifle kids without a few healthy breaks.

So if you’re the one who always puts your child to bed, trust your partner or a sitter to do it. Or see what happens when you separate siblings for a bit. Even a short break can help everyone realize we’ve been stuck in a rut.

It’s hard to see incremental changes when we live with kids day to day. “Look how they’ve grown!” aunts and uncles remark after a gap of time in seeing the kids. We also need to be saying: “Look how they’ve grown inside.”

Have you seen a child change into being “a new person” after a break or summer vacation? What types of summer learning do you see children do? Do you find it easy to see the present child, not the past one (from three months ago)?

Posted in Parenting with Renegade Rules | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

3 Responses to Summers of Learning

  1. Love my breaks. I suspect a child does even more.

  2. Anne Donn says:

    Thank you for once again for pointing the way to the truth of a growing heart and spirit. It’s so easy to get lost in expectations.

Win a copy of It’s OK Not to Share!

Win a copy of this book. Or choose another. Four books to choose from if you enter and add a review.

Win a copy of this book. Or choose another! Four books to choose from if you enter with a review.

It’s time to celebrate kids and summer – summer reading that is. Some of you may already be back to school, but there’s still time to dig into good books. And win books!

For the finale to the Book-Lover’s Summer Giveaway, I’m offering four fascinating parenting books. If you’re the first name I draw, you get first pick of the titles. The second winner gets to pick from the remaining titles, and so on.

To enter, show your love for books. Here’s how:

1) Show your love for books by posting a book review on Amazon and/or Goodreads. You can review any book – It’s OK to Go Up the Slide, Saving Arcadia, or any book you like that’s ever been published. Honest reviews only – that’s what readers want.

2) Leave a comment on this blog or my Facebook page, Heather Shumaker Writer saying which book you chose to review. That’s it!  You’re entered to win. (Winners drawn with a random number generator; U.S. mailing addresses only).

Winners will be drawn on September 5th.

The books are…

It's OK small coverIt’s OK Not to Share  by Heather Shumaker  This is my first book, the one that started it all. If you have young children with big feelings, active bodies and strong opinions who love to play, this book is for you. Or for a friend or family member if you already have one. Maybe yours is dog-eared and you need a fresh copy? Write a review (“It’s OK to Go Up the Slide” needs more reader reviews).




left aloneNo Child Left Alone by Abby Schachter  Do you love Free-Range Kids? This timely book shows us just how far American government interferes with raising independent kids. If you’re wondering if your child will be picked up by the police for walking home from the park alone, read this book.





not sayWhat NOT to Say by Sarah MacLaughlin  Be a big boy. I’m going to leave without you. That didn’t hurt. There’s nothing to be afraid of. What’s the magic word? Do you want a spanking? This little book unpacks all the common phrases parents say in our culture, and exactly what’s wrong with them.




cultureDiscovering the Culture of Childhood by Emily Plank  This gem from Emily Plank gets us to think about children on a new level. Not as unformed, imperfect adults, but as fully formed children. You may discover ideas you’ve never thought of before.





Intrigued?  Ready to enter? Just add a review by Sept. 5 and get ready to add new ideas to your life with a new book.

What titles are you eager to share with others? Read any good books lately?

Posted in Parenting with Renegade Rules, Good Reads | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off on Win a copy of It’s OK Not to Share!

Comments are closed.