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22 May

Kids and Horses: A Great Combination

Kids and Horses: A Great Combination

Kids and Horses: A Great Combination

If there’s one combination I am absolutely sure works, it’s kids and horses.

I remember being a young child and wanting to learn all I could about horses, but there was no one to teach me. Then my parents hired some teenaged sisters to babysit who had horses, and by the time I was ten or twelve I was visiting their ranch and learning all I could wish to know about those fantastic creatures. These were the Taylor sisters, and by the time I was old enough to get my first horse, they were busy raising beautiful Arabian horses at their GaFla Arabians horse ranch. I determined that when I was older, I would teach any child who wanted to learn as much about horses as I knew, and through the years, that knowledge grew.

Kids—girls especially—love horses.

A beautiful horse, his mane tossing in the wind, is the stuff of dreams. They imagine themselves riding bareback across an open field, the connection with the horse nothing short of miraculous. Of course, the reality is a lot different.

I once had the privilege of helping to design a program for youth at risk using horses as the vehicle to help them. We picked the kids up from school and brought them to the ranch where we began to teach them about horses. None of them were at all familiar with horses—without exception— and all were a bit intimidated by the horses’ size. As well they might be, since the horses outweighed the kids by more that twelve to one!

These kids were on the brink of becoming part of the juvenile system, and this program was their last chance. They were referred by the juvenile justice division of the local courts, and many of them came with hard exteriors but terribly wounded interiors. No one believed in them. Everyone expected them to fail, so fail they did. We determined that this program would be one where they succeeded.

The very first thing we taught them to do, after how to properly approach a horse, was to clean their back feet. It was the most intimidating task, because the kids had to trust the horse to patiently lift his feet and not kick while the child was underneath those powerful legs. Some kids took a lot of coaxing at first, but every single one managed to clean the hooves on the very first day. There was a lot of excitement when they realized that they had control over something in their lives, and something so big and powerful. This was the first time in some of those kids’ lives that they actually felt in control.

We went on from there to teach them how to groom and handle the horses, and eventually how to ride them. The funny thing was, many of the kids enjoyed grooming the horses even more than riding. There is something soothing about brushing a horse’s coat and combing out the mane and tail. And these kids really needed the break from their internal chaos!

When my middle daughter was about nine, we bought her a Western Pleasure show horse, which she rode and showed for several years. Eventually, though, she outgrew the horse’s abilities and needed a new horse. Because the mare was aged, we didn’t want to sell her to just anybody, so for several months, she stood in our pasture. Finally, our daughter told us she wanted to donate her to a riding for the handicapped group near us. That turned out to be the best possible match for the horse. She was treated gently and carefully and was able to help people who were challenged physically, mentally, emotionally, and developmentally. In fact, two autistic teenaged boys who had never spoken began talking first to the horse. We were so glad we made the decision to donate her!

As my children grew up, we involved them in 4H and United States Pony Club events, showing and competing in fun and rewarding times. I was a leader in both groups, so I stayed very engaged. They learned so much, not just about horses, but about sportsmanship, working as a team, and competing with oneself to improve personal bests. They formed lasting relationships, some of which they are still involved with today, many years later.

Kids and Horses: A Great Combination

Owning a horse is a great deal of responsibility as well as fun.

Horses have to be fed and cared for every day, not just when it’s sunny and warm. Feeding happens in the rain and in the cold, too. Shoeing is necessary, grooming, and veterinary care, and it is best to have the child assist in those activities as much as he is capable of. The most rewarding part of horse ownership is not necessarily riding the horse.

As my children gained skills, they were able to help me out in my riding business. We had nine horses and about thirty students, some of them handicapped. Walking alongside a handicapped rider was so rewarding when a child locked in an unresponsive body smiled. They also became so proficient that soon they were teaching their own students and training their own horses.

We never had problems with our kids getting involved with drugs, alcohol, or breaking the law. They were polite, responsible, and able to communicate appropriately with any age person. This, I believe, while not entirely because of horses, was aided by their involvement with them.

We gave up a lot to have our kids involved. There was no leaving town for the weekend or sleeping in on weekends. We didn’t have some of the things that other families did, because horses are expensive and take a lot of time. But if I had it all to do over again, I’d do it the same way.

14 Mar

Preschool Children And TV

Preschool Children And TVA “TV diet”

I recently read an article about a “TV diet.” It said what children watched was deemed more important than the amount of time spent in front of the TV. That’s a concept that I can wrap my mind around, and I bet if you’re a parent, you can, too. Especially with preschool children and TV, they must be more closely monitored than for other ages, because they are in their most formative years.

imagePreschool children are unable to differentiate between what is real and what is imaginary. So when they see a cartoon character fall off a cliff and get up and walk away, they have no frame of reference to understand that if they fall off a cliff, something much different will occur. Preschoolers are also more apt to act aggressively after witnessing violence on TV, especially in action programs with violence as well as cartoons. Parents should be cautious about allowing kids to watch these programs and should also avoid purchasing action figures that are spin offs.

Children 2-5 years of age should spend most of their time playing and socializing with other children their age. Kids under the age of 2 should not be watching television at all, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Canadian Pediatric Society. It is more important for parents to be interacting with their children at this stage.

So what does a parent look for when allowing a preschool child to watch TV?

Here are a few guidelines:

Look for repeatable themes

Monkey see, monkey do really applies here. Look for programming that offers your child a chance to learn something he can repeat when the TV is off. Curious George offers lessons in math, science and engineering that children may take away from their TV time. Counting, experimenting and building are all things that can be referenced when playing with your child. “Remember when Curious George did this?” Super Why emphasizes letter recognition which is another activity children can repeat.

Learning to resolve conflicts

Preschoolers are full of emotions, expressed out loud and to the max. They obviously don’t yet know how to manage those feelings, so finding programming that teaches positive conflict resolution is also a good idea. Clifford the Big Red Dog does an admirable job of showing how to deal with strong emotions and how those feeling affect others.

Different age, gender, and ethnic characters

Preschoolers are surrounded by people of different ages and relationships. Parents, siblings, aunts and uncles, grandparents, and friends all contribute to our community and are important to each other. Children’s viewings should emphasize that positive aspect of relationships. It’s important for children to realize that both boys and girls are strong and capable, and that activities are not necessarily just for boys or just for girls. Sesame Street does an admirable job of incorporating different ages, genders and ethnic personalities.

A love of thinking and learning

A child’s attitude toward school is largely formed just prior to and in the early grades. We want our preschoolers to enter the educational environment ready not only academically but also in terms of having a love of learning. TV character like those in Dinosaur Train introduce your preschooler to these concepts through a love of dinosaurs and trains. Critical thinking skills leveraged in this show are, well, critical.

Around the world

Preschoolers have little concept of space and time. Here or there, yesterday or tomorrow, mean little in the early years. Introduce them to other places and times through the medium of TV. Especially helpful are shows that allow children to travel with characters that are different from them, or perhaps speak a different language. Dora the Explorer and Diego! are two shows that teach basic Spanish and English together as the characters explore the world and introduce the viewer to different regions of the natural world. Maya and Miguel also incorporate American Sign Language and is strongly Hispanic.

Sharing the child’s world

Children aren’t born with positive skills. They don’t know how and must be taught to share and to play together. Their self-esteem is more caught than taught, but some TV can help them see themselves in a positive light. A four year old navigating his way through relationships with the patience of his parents is Caillou, who can help your child understand social constructs.

Skip the commercials

Saturday morning cartoons has evolved into programming that is more sales pitch than good viewing. Each program is interrupted numerous times to introduce toys that every child absolutely “must have.” But engaging a child’s imagination with simple things is more important, and time in front of the TV should not be an exercise in materialism.

Whatever you decide to allow your preschool child to watch on tv, spend time watching alongside so that you can talk about what has been learned and what can be used as a building block for further learning.

For the FCC Guidelines for Preschool Children and TV, click this link: http://www.fcc.gov/guides/childrens-educational-television

06 Mar

Help Kids Deal With Anger

kids and anger

EVER NOTICE that anger is contagious? Just let your two year old throw a temper tantrum in a public place, or listen to your elementary kid tell you she hates you, or witness a melt-down with a teenager, and you’ll find it’s true. You get angry too. Here’s how to help kids deal with anger.

Everyone gets angry. It’s not the sole province of either adults or children. And anger is not always wrong or bad. There are very legitimate reasons for anger.

In infancy, babies cannot communicate their needs. So they cry. And when the need is adequately met, they quit crying. But when the need is not met—possibly because the mother can’t figure out what’s wrong—the crying gets louder until suddenly the infant has balled up fists, a red face, and is breathing so hard she sometimes actually loses her breath. That’s developmental anger. Of course, all you can do is try to figure out what’s wrong. Wet diaper? Hunger? Hot? Cold? Lonely? Thirsty?

In toddlerhood, kids understand many more words than they can use. They still cannot adequately express themselves and this leads to frustration and then to anger. The child not only has trouble expressing herself to adults, but to other kids as well. But other kids are more her own size, so expressing anger may result in injury to another child.

This is the time we start to teach appropriate ways to handle anger. The one constant most people can agree on is that hurting other people or their possessions is not to be tolerated. When I was teaching a nursery school class of two and three year olds, one little girl came to class almost every day angry. She would scream and cry and flail her arms and legs, and woe to anyone in her path. So we set up an area padded with pillows and stuffed toys, and giving her a hug, we laid her down on the pillows. Then we walked away and ignored her. When her anger was spent, she smilingly came and joined the rest of the class—every time. She had learned an appropriate way to handle her anger. At this age, talking about future events is not very productive, because children of two or three have no clear concept of time. (That’s why it doesn’t help to say, “Mommy will be back after work.” The child lives in the now, not the later.)

Elementary aged kids still get mad at other kids for many of the same reasons that toddlers do. Another child took his baseball mitt or cut in line or said something mean. And often the response to that anger may look like a toddler’s reaction. But at this age, kids can start to learn about anger when they are not angry. When you and the child are both calm, that’s the time to talk about what’s okay and what isn’t. Is it okay to go outside and scream? Is it okay to punch a pillow? How about a wall or another person? Talk about how the child may act when he gets angry next time. Set ground rules and stick to them. Consistency is the single most important thing (next to love) that a parent can do to make sure a child grows up into a responsible, caring, compassionate adult.

 Of course, it works in reverse too. If you consistently show anger, yelling when something doesn’t go your way, that’s what your child will learn. As your child approaches adolescence, it is very important to be sure you model proper response to situations where anger could arise. This time is so important because it is the time that your child is testing you as she tries to discover who she is. Should I count to ten when I’m angry? Mom doesn’t. She just yells. She tells me to count, but she doesn’t and that makes me mad! Be sure you are setting a good precedent for your teen to follow.

 It’s important at any age to try and discover the source of anger so that it can be dealt with in a healthy way. Unexpressed anger will show up later, and it may not be expressed as anger. For example, many adults who have never dealt with the source of their anger suffer from ulcers or even heart disease. There is a major difference between expressing anger inappropriately and suppressing it. Deal with anger when it arises. Don’t put it off, or you may hide it from yourself and have much more difficult problems later.

God doesn’t condemn anger. He is often portrayed as angry in the Old Testament. Anger is simply one of the many emotions that reflect the Creator who gave them to us. Temper your anger, and express it quickly and suitably. Then move on.

Proverbs 29:11  “A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.”

Ephesians 4:26  “In your anger do not sin : Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry,”

James 1:20  “For man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.”

Here are some books to help you work through anger issues, whether with yourself or with your children. May God bless you on your way!

Hot Stuff to Help Kids Chill Out: The Anger Management Book (Paperback), by Jerry Wilde

When Anger Hurts Your Kids: A Parent’s Guide (Paperback), by Patrick Fanning and  Kim Paleg

Feelings: Frazzled, Frenzied & Frantic,  by Mark Gillespie, Mike Gillespie

The Anger Workbook for Christian Parents, by Les Carter and Frank Minirth