Tag Archives: renegade rules

Behavior Charts = Poor Adult Behavior

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 … Continue reading

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9 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!

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Summers of Learning

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 … Continue reading

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.

Embracing Rejection

Allowing kids to reject each other can build inclusiveness. What?! No, this isn’t George Orwell’s 1984, where every truth is backwards. It’s simply another renegade rule that takes some getting used to. When I explain why respectful rejection is good … Continue reading

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7 Responses to Embracing Rejection

  1. Jan Waters says:

    Heather, You’ve learned SYC philosophy well and it is all developmentally sound. I love the way you can explain things. Jan Waters

  2. Funny, even as an adult I’m sooo hesitant to set boundaries when I’m deep in conversation with someone and another friend comes along. Maybe we all need practice at this.

  3. Erika says:

    Great topic! I really appreciate the example of questions to ask our kids if they don’t want to play with someone. It’s about being curious, open to their answers, to honor their choices and guide them to make it in a kind way. I tell my girls, it’s ok if you want to play by yourself, just say it respectfully. THanks for this post!!

  4. Zanzanil says:

    I used to see my daughter behaving badly with one particular child. I sat her down and explained that it’s ok to dislike some one. But there always a better way to say no. And it did work big time between them and eventually they did get along just fine.

  5. MIhaela says:

    Hello! Great material! Thank you for the precious information.
    I would like to ask you how can we help the rejected one? The case is: a pre-teen girl (11 years old) with Spina Bifida – she has a light locomotion issue (she is walking a little bit strange and she wares a special brace at her down part of the leg – she cannot run very fast and avoids to get involved in games with a ball or where she risks to be pushed, because her medical condition), who is willing to play more “calm” games with her peers when outdoors and she very often gets rejected. Many times she gets the answer: “we can play later with you a game in which you can participate”, but they forget her afterwards. She also gets this tough “no”. She is a bold child, who communicates easily with both children and adults. Thank you!

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Occasional rejection is one thing, and chronic rejection is another. With kids who are frequently rejected it often helps to have adult help, even if it’s talking about it and learning a few phrases “OK, my turn” or “When’s later? When you get to 10 points?” Later is too vague and it can help to quantify it. There’s a chapter on chronic rejection is my book “It’s OK Not to Share.” If she’s bold and tough and can communicate easily she can figure out many of these things herself, but it can help to ease the way.

Renegade Stories: “I Stopped Stopping Play”

I’d like you to meet Beth Wolff. She’s a play advocate from North Dakota who runs a daycare called Bethie’s Place. What’s marvelous are the CHANGES she made to her program after reading It’s OK Not to Share. If  you … Continue reading

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2 Responses to Renegade Stories: “I Stopped Stopping Play”

  1. I love seeing the real-life applications of your theories, Heather. Great story.

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Thanks – real life stories are what it’s all about. And inspiration for more!

Sane Rules for Homework

The new school year probably brought excitement. Now it probably brings…homework. If your children are in elementary school, homework has very little place in it. Research shows (analysis of more approx. 180 peer-reviewed studies) that homework assignments for this age … Continue reading

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Escaping Supervision

Writers of children’s books have always struggled with a challenge: how to get rid of the parents. Have you ever noticed how many children’s books feature orphans? Now authors have a new layer of challenge: how to get rid of … Continue reading

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3 Responses to Escaping Supervision

  1. Rosalie Talarzyk says:

    This email sent from me to Joanne Frantz (SYC) and our group of grandma aged friends.
    Joanne suggested I send it on to you. Enjoy my grandma saga of unsupervised adventures of three eight year old and one ten year old grand girls written in response to your article:

    ok…..now i have to share my latest adventure with my grand girls.

    after our easter egg hunt at westover park where my six plus our chinese friend were joined at the end by maggie and rees…….
    the girls all asked if they could sleep over since there was no monday school.
    i claimed some time for clean up and quiet. they were to come back at 6:30 with sleeping bags and having had dinner.

    they arrived.

    we went straight to play in the creek….since it was SO WARM.
    three ended up shoeless in the water.
    they all shed jackets.
    abby found a quarter in the water.
    lauren found a big blue shooter marble in the water.
    they performed gymnastics and musical pieces LOUDLY from the top of the culvert cover at the east end.
    we came home at 8pm for showers and general mayhem till lights out at nine for their basement sleepover.

    abby came up crying at midnight with an accident….but went right back to sleep.

    at five i heard them in the front hallway.
    i flipped on the light and went down.
    i wished with all my heart that i had had a camera.
    three of them were dressed for the day in same clothes from creek play.
    they all looked like deer in the headlights…..or night at the museum just before dawn…caught in the act.

    i sent them to different corners of the house and they all promptly went back to sleep.
    two woke up at 7:30, one at 8:30, one at 9.

    we walked to chef-o-nette for breakfast where chris met us after her morning IPE meetings at barrington.
    on the walk, evan shared that they had all gotten up at 3:00 and played till 5.
    abby shared that grace was sad and they talked it out.
    they got out a 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzle but decided it was too hard.
    they shared their animals….etc.

    while the waitress was taking orders evan announced to her mom and the waitress that “it was all fun till we got busted.”
    the first of many times….i am sure.
    i am still laughing at the looks on their faces when i came downstairs.
    they kept saying, “we thought we were being so quiet.”
    bubbe

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Rosalie, thanks for sharing this wonderful account of unsupervised adventures! Keep them coming.

Parent Signatures: Teaching Kids we don’t Trust Them

It’s still summer vacation in most parts of the U.S., but soon the dreaded Signatures will return. I’m talking about parent signatures on everything from school work to piano lessons. It used to be that parents signed their names for two … Continue reading

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8 Responses to Parent Signatures: Teaching Kids we don’t Trust Them

  1. Melya Long says:

    Thanks for the article Heather. I do not think Alberta Education has reached such a regulated level. I work with preschoolers and although the demands are not so extreme, sometimes I wonder if Child Care Licensing will reach that extreme. There are so many common sense practices that have become regulated and I hope signatures will not become one of them. One of my first jobs is to cultivate trust with the parents. Children learn from that too. One of the Covey’s wrote a great book on trust. Cultivating trust within families is so important. A new chapter needs to be added regarding the education system in the US.

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Melya, So glad signatures are not part of your program’s day! As you say, cultivating trust is the first step. Everyone needs to feel safe before learning can take place, and that safe feeling starts with trust.

  2. deidra says:

    We treat our children with so little distrust in so many ways in the school system. Most schools don’t even let kids second grade and higher walk up to the classroom themselves before school starts. They have to wait in the cafeteria until the teacher comes up and escorts all the students at once up to their room. What does this say? I don’t trust that you are capable of walking up to the room by yourself to put your things away and find something to do (read, write in your journal, play with math blocks) until I am ready to start instruction. Will a child make a mistake? Of course they will. But then you talk about it and what is expect ed of them. Kids have so little power these days, we have to throw them a bone once and awhile. It means the world to them and teaches responsibility.

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Hmm…I hadn’t heard of schools that don’t let kids walk to their own classrooms. Certainly shows lack of trust and stifling of independence, probably in the name of safety. I’m thinking of calling one of my new chapters “Safety Second.” Experiencing reasonable power is necessary at all ages.

  3. JR says:

    I agree that we are over-emphasizing parent signatures and that it has all of the negative effects you describe. However, it does one thing: insulate schools from the “you didn’t tell me” of helicopter parents who refuse to allow their children to fail, ore even to struggle. Some of these parents either do not understand or do not appreciate the value – nay, the necessity – of the struggle in learning. Unfortunately I think the hyper-signing is here to stay until helicoptering is under control.

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Love it! Glad it has been working so well for you. Vicki Hoefle has a lot of wisdom, doesn’t she?

      Thanks so much for sharing what worked for your family. Year by year I tell teachers they won’t be seeing my signature on spelling lists and other logs. It gets harder as more teachers get involved.

Intentional Parenting

Last week my kids helped me celebrate my birthday with a new family tradition:  Reciting poetry.  I asked everyone to memorize a poem and recite it on my birthday.  The result was lovely.  I felt serenaded.  The kids glowed.  Since … Continue reading

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6 Responses to Intentional Parenting

  1. Great list, Heather. All I can think to add is:

    Always be learning- the lifelong education idea

    Exercise your body as well as your mind- as you state, much can be learned by children from playing, and a healthy body also improves one’s self-esteem and confidence

    Chris

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Great additions, Chris. And as far as exercise goes, this message is more important than ever for today’s kids and parents. Maybe we need one that says “get outside every day.” Bravo!

  2. Heather – You rock! I love your list, thank you for sharing it.

    One of the things we do on purpose — by intent — is practice kindness. It’s as simple as that.

  3. Gina says:

    I am new to your blog (referred by Abundant Parenting), and I am enjoying your point of view immensely!

    I have just been making a list of skills and priorities that I want to pass on to my daughter, so this list is timely for me. I also appreciate the suggestions in the comments.

    My 5 year old daughter will be starting kindergarten next month, and I am trying to prepare her and myself for the transition. I want to keep encouraging her free spirit and natural curiousity, but it seems that many schools don’t subscribe to that notion, so I need to find ways to balance their “scheduled” learning style with more free play at home. Thank you for the many great ideas and support! 🙂

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Great to have you, Gina! Welcome aboard.

      Your daughter is lucky to have you, and I’m sure your list is packed with good priorities. So glad to hear you’re creating your own list.

      Yes, lots of open, unscheduled time at home will be even more important. Hopefully your kindergarten teacher will allow true free play during the school day, too, but kindergarten teachers are under lots of pressure and it’s rare to find a teacher who can give kids as much play-based learning as kids need. Good luck!

Modern Memorization

When my grandmother was losing her memory, she still remembered the poetry she had memorized as a girl.  She had no idea who I was (“this is my great friend…(pause) tell me again how we met?”), but out for a … Continue reading

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8 Responses to Modern Memorization

  1. Deidra says:

    Great Post. The photo is beautiful. I still know my child hood phone number by heart, random parts of the “Midnight ride of Paul Revere, the lyrics to “Show Me the Way to go Home,” and various other things. I often feel smart phones have made us dumb. Growing up, I probably knew everyone of my friends phone numbers by heart!

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      I just heard on NPR today that it’s a problem when we look up information on our smart phones and find information too fast. We don’t have time to wonder. The radio expert was suggesting that we wait 20 minutes before looking up an answer, pause, and exercise the human brain capacity to WONDER for a while. This is not a problem for me since I don’t have a smart phone…

      Love it that you have snippets of “Paul Revere” and “Show me the Way…” in your head!

  2. Heather – The poems I can recite from memory are the ones that my teacher, Mrs. Kline, had her students memorize in the fifth grade. To no surprise, in my heart she stands head-and-shoulders above the rest of all the other teachers I’ve ever had — and that’s saying a lot. When I was in my 20’s, I made a point of locating her and telling her what being her student meant to me. Needless to way, we both cried (happy tears).

    I agree with the list of items you suggest our children learn, by heart. Sadly, I’ve encountered many adult clients who don’t have a handle on half of it.

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Laurie, What a wonderful gift you were given in 5th grade! I’m so glad you told Mrs. Kline. A life gift indeed.

      Teachers out there – can you introduce poetry memorization into your classes? It carries forward.

  3. Fleda Brown says:

    I would never have started writing poems if I hadn’t listened to my father recite them all through my childhood. Nothing is more magical than hearing memorized poems. I am a lousy memorizer. My great loss. I have several lines of hundreds of poems, but I can’t seem to hold a whole one for very long.

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      The world is so glad you started writing poems! Thanks to your father. I agree there is something magical about hearing something memorized. I take my kids to the Beach Bards each summer where anyone can tell a story or recite a poem – as long as it’s from memory. Something glorious about that.

  4. Ah, memorization. I lament that it is one of the casualties of the Internet Age, and perhaps one of the negative “unintended consequences” of going electronic.

    I will always memorize important phone numbers because to me nothing would be worse than needing to call a family member or friend in an emergency and not having one’s cellphone available to speed dial the number.

  5. Heather Shumaker says:

    Yes, numbers. I agree it’s important to store vital information in our heads. I never was much good at remembering numbers — words I can remember! I still have trouble remembering my own phone number sometimes (!) but I do have several phone numbers memorized.

    I wonder what our culture’s current lack of memorization is doing to our brains?

Chicken Soup

I’m thankful for our chickens.  We’ve had a small backyard coop for three years now. Fresh eggs with golden yolks for breakfast, the joy of opening up the nesting box and cradling a warm newly laid egg. But after three … Continue reading

Posted in Parenting with Renegade Rules, Celebrating Holidays | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

4 Responses to Chicken Soup

  1. Natalie says:

    This could not have come at a better time. We have 5 hens and two roosters. Both of the rooster attacked my 6 yr old yesterday. She was taking eggs out of their coop. She was terrified. When we found out that we had two males, we said if they ever become aggressive Giant or Angel will become dinner. So their nicknames are Dinner.
    Back to my point, my children are so sad. This is our first time raising chickens. We don’t have any experience in killing/butchering them. My partner’s mother will do it for us the day after Thanksgiving. We will learn from her, as she grew up on a farm in Portugal.

    We started with 12 in May and now have 7. They have experienced loosing their chicks, but not killing them. It is important for us as well for them to know where our food comes from. They already said they don’t want to be here when it happens. The one that was attacked does not want Giant killed. I am afraid of how they will feel after. I don’t want to traumatize her. If you have any thoughts to share, I would really appreciate it. Thanks. Natalie

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Hello Natalie,
      Glad the post was timely for you. Sorry to hear about the rooster attack, and it’s understandable that your daughter has a mix of feelings about it – terror, but probably also guilt that she’s responsible for the rooster getting killed. Sounds as if you will be in good hands with your family expert from Portugal. If the person in charge is calm and matter-of-fact, that can help kids take it in stride. Be open to all your daughter’s emotions, and be ready for the fact that she may think it’s all her fault. You might try watching some nature videos which depict predator and prey – how it’s not the antelope’s fault or the cheetah’s fault, it’s just the mix of life. Good luck – and let us know how it goes!

  2. “If I couldn’t kill a chicken myself, I figured I shouldn’t go on eating them.”

    Heather, I admire your mindset. Whether a person is a carnivore, vegetarian, or vegan, it’s important to know where meat comes from. Many children understand that meat comes from a package in the grocery store, but they haven’t any experience to connect the dots back to the original source, a living animal.

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      It is hard to connect the dots for kids and adults as well. I agree with you that we all need to learn about food’s sources, no matter what our eating habits. I find killing a chicken makes me more grateful for the life energy the bird gives me.