What a temper!

What a Temper!

What a temper! Your child, normally so sunny and the world’s sweetest kid, goes from zero to 100 and transforms into an out-of-control gremlin. What is actually going on? Usually your child radiates joy, calmness and wellbeing; but when frustrated, emotions run rampant.

Sound familiar?
Your child may have a volatile temperament. Does the textbook hit the wall if homework isn’t going well? Or does s/he have trouble concentrating and you receive notices from the teacher that your child is disruptive and doesn’t give others their turn?

Or is your child painfully shy and withdrawn?
A child who reacts strongly, is short-tempered or is withdrawn easily makes parents second-guess themselves as child raisers: “Am I doing something wrong?”
You may also wonder if your child will ever learn to control himself or overcome his fears.
I myself have occasionally been stumped in the face of the challenges of childrearing. That’s why I decided to meet with experts, classroom teachers who are also Ph.D. candidates, and an educational psychologist who conducts brain research.

I got a reassuring response: no need to panic. Extreme reactions are a normal part of a child’s development. A volatile or withdrawn child is just learning about controlling his/her feelings and temperament. Recent studies and classroom research demonstrate that hidden behind shy, impulsive, withdrawn or short-tempered dispositions is a set of character strengths that can be drawn out.

I spent a day in special education teacher Kaisa Vuorinen’s classroom, and I saw with my own eyes how recognition of the students’ strengths works beautifully. Based on positive psychology, Vuorinen’s method of teaching her students is a fine example of how with positive reinforcement, one can get a child to blossom.
Mistakes were not in the least sought out in her classroom; instead, every student received praise for their strengths all day long.
Educational psychologists point out that every child, even calm, even-tempered children, benefit from recognition of their own character strengths.
This is because children who know their strengths are able to harness them to their advantage. They learn better and achieve positive results in life.
The good news is that it is possible for every parent to help their child to recognize and develop his/her own character strengths.
The method Kaisa Vuorinen uses can well be put into practice in your own daily interactions with your child.

Would you like to take a closer look at these methods of helping to develop your child’s character strengths? Order the first chapter of my guidebook, free of charge!

The world is changing rapidly. What will the world be like when our children are adults? What kinds of skills will they need to succeed? No one really knows for certain.
Often we just hope that our children will become balanced, happy adults and that they will find their own path and passions.
Educators are more and more convinced that learning is strongly connected to character and growth.  That’s why success in school requires more than just cramming for tests.
Learning calls for skills such as motivation, curiosity, self-regulation (self-control), perseverance, courage, and compassion.
Many learning researchers believe that certain character strengths, such as perseverance and self-regulation, are skills that predict success in school even better than IQ.
Fortunately, perseverance, self-regulation, compassion, and courage are all skills that you can help your child to improve.
I also interviewed neuropsychologist Nina Sajaniemi because I wanted to know more about positive psychology and the impact of positivity on child brain development. She told me about how a positive attitude in childrearing develops a child’s brain in a healthy way.
The researcher’s view on temper tantrums was a little surprising.
Sajaniemi said that she considered a child’s tantrums and out-of-control behavior to be the best possible moments for teaching important life skills.
Nina Sajaniemi described situations where a toddler has a meltdown in line at the store when he doesn’t get the candy bar he wanted or when a teenager shouts and slams doors.
Feelings of powerlessness and frustration in these situations are very familiar to parents.

So, what should you do?
Tantrums and out-of-control behavior are actually a normal part of development for most children and youth.
In these situations, it is still important for the parent  to act correctly.
As shown by research, many traditional methods of childrearing have turned out to be harmful. Often, they just reinforce the child or youth’s impulses and out-of-control behavior.
The most recent brain research can tell us what is happening. What happens in a child’s brain during a tantrum? How can recklessness be contained and gradually tamed altogether?
The neuropsychologist provides clear and practical instructions on how to act in a constructive way in these situations.
I have put together practical advice and exercises for parents about how to help their child to strengthen his/her character and deal with his/her feelings.
Oftentimes, improved child rearing only requires a change of perspective and a little practice, so that it will turn into a habit.
With the help of practical exercises developed by researchers and teachers, wonders can happen at home!



PS. My eBook See the Good is now for sale at Amazon.com and you are welocme to dowload the first chapter as a pdf here for free: See the Good – First Chapter

Acting correctly demands skills

Lost at School at Amazon.com

I read Ross W Greene’s classic piece Lost at School and I was very inspired by his ideas. He writes that it’s easy for us to think that children act correctly and behave well if they just want to; that acting correctly and behaving well only depend on the desire to do so. However, that’s not the case. Children act correctly when they have sufficient skills to do so.

I find this revolutionary, because it obviously challenges the general attitude towards “troublemakers” and other “misfits”.

I was recommended to read Greene’s book by a teacher who teaches children with special needs. Kaisa Vuorinen had noticed that many of children with special needs have received so much negative feedback that we should change direction and start supporting what is positive in them. They certainly need strong guidance and someone to show them how to regulate their emotions and behavior. I had a chance to follow Vuorinen’s teaching in the classroom and saw in practice how she works with children. She has developed with her colleagues new ways to encounter children. She used new ways to teach them skills to learn and regulate their behavior. I got a good lesson on how to strengthen child’s perseverance, self-control and courage among other things. This visit to school changed my interaction with my own child. I realized that perseverance, self-control and courage are skills that can be taught.

See the Good cover
My eBook See the Good

If you want to take a closer look at my visit to school, you are welcome to download the reportage as a PDF-file by clicking the image of the book cover beside.




Creativity belongs to everybody!

“Creativity belongs to everybody!” declares education guru and creativity researcher Kari Uusikylä. His words strike home with his enthusiastic audience just like a knife sinks into melted butter. The crowded auditorium frequently bursts into applause. The year is 2007.
I was there as a journalist, listening once again to another view as to why Finland had surprisingly leapt to the top ranking in the OECD Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) study, which measures children’s educational knowledge. The international recognition of the excellence of the Finnish school system was welcome, and in part explained Nokia and other success stories in Finland.

Niina Melanen Bilberryideas.com
Niina Melanen, creator of Bilberryideas.com

Equal, high quality, and free education for everyone. As you might guess, it’s quite a rare phenomenon.
In listening to Uusikylä’s views, I understood that I’m also a major beneficiary of the school system. As a single parent, my mother could hardly have offered her three children a quality tuition-based (private) education. Free schooling and quality teaching have opened up doors to me, and I have reason to be thankful for that.
I’ve worked for almost 20 years on television as a news and current events reporter; and have directed, scripted, and produced documentaries, science programs and TV series.
My years as a reporter and managing editor of Finnish Broadcasting Company’s Teacher TV have given me a vantage point onto educational developments and scientific research on learning. In my work, I’ve often seen teachers enjoying their work and have been able to interview “hero teachers” who try out new things in the classroom without prejudice and are enthusiastic about their job. Oftentimes I’m surprised by how skilled, dedicated, and highly educated many of them are. It’s not rare for a primary school teacher to be working on a doctoral thesis on top of his or her work and then to put new insights from the research into practice in the classroom.
I myself also have gigs as a substitute teacher in schools in the Helsinki metropolitan region and have noticed that both the world and schools are changing rapidly. “It could be that the profession doesn’t even exist yet,” answers my 12-year-old son when I ask him what he dreams of becoming. He may well have hit the nail on the head. What kind of world will it be when they are adults? And what kinds of skills will they need in order to succeed?
Learning visionary Kari Uusitalo sensed today’s challenges already ten years ago. He has said that he detests the fuss around the school rankings and the focus on being “top performers.” For him, the school’s most important job is safeguarding the mental health of students. Of course, this wasn’t a particularly fashionable opinion at a time when everyone was excited about the knowledge possessed by Finnish children. People have quickly realized, though, that a child doesn’t reach his or her full potential just by studying for tests. Therefore, the study of self-knowledge or of, for instance, empathy skills, is nowadays considered to be an important guarantor of mental development and key to the achievement of a superior skill level. Creativity grows and learning progresses when the mind is balanced, self-esteem is healthy, and social skills are in hand.
I’m continuously inspired by scientific research into the human mind and teaching methods. Along the way, aha moments have shaken up my preconceived notions and enhanced my identity as a grown-up and parent. My intent is to share these revelations, tips, new perspectives, and scientific results from learning and a good life.