Thursday, 2 August 2012

When in doubt...SING!

I can remember many years ago working as a camp counsellor for a summer camp at a community centre.  I was in charge of planning activities and supervising children ages 4 years to 17 years old – quite a large age range. I was very new to working with children and was unfamiliar with how to deal with conflicts that came up between them.  My co-counsellor was also inexperienced so it made for quite the interesting summer.

We were playing a game in the gym one day and a few boys started to argue and then fight. My co-counsellor looked at me with panic in her eyes – and I knew it was up to me to do something. Not having any background in behaviour management I just did the first thing that came to mind…I started to sing. Yes, that’s right – four 16 year old boys are fighting each other in the gym and I randomly break out into song. I sang, “Please don’t fight, please…please don’t fight – I said…don’t fight, don’t fight, please…please don’t fight!” I sang it like I was a cheerleader and jumped up and down like I had pom-poms in my hands.
Well, as you can imagine – my co-counselor’s look of panic had changed to confusion and perhaps concern for my sanity. She looked at me and then looked at the boys, who had stopped fighting…looked back at me – and then, we all broke into hysterical laughter. The boys seemed to forget what they were fighting about and we went back to playing our game.

I never forgot that. There is a lot of power in singing.
As a mom, I have incorporated this philosophy, “When in doubt…Sing” into our daily lives.  There are instances that come up in a day, when Finley (my daughter, 19 months old) would rather not do what needs to be done (diaper changes, eating, washing hands and face, tidying up, going for a nap, using the toilet, coming in from outside…the list goes on). Singing almost always makes these tasks much easier to manage, for both of us. It has the power to break their focus for a minute, allowing you the opportunity to side-step a power struggle.  Example: Your child doesn't want to brush their teeth (we use this one with Finley) - pick a short song and sing it to them while brushing their teeth. This will give them something else to focus on and will help them learn that they can stop brushing their teeth when the song is done. We sing, "Twinkle, Twinkle, little star".

 It is not only great for defusing challenging situations, it is also helpful during transitions and encouraging life skills – like tidying.

When it is time for us to tidy up, we often sing the “Tidy up song”. Some parents may already be familiar with this song, but for those who aren’t, here are the lyrics. “Clean up, clean up, everybody - everywhere. Clean up, clean up, everybody do their share.”  It is amazing how quickly your children will tidy when you (and eventually them) are singing this song.  Children at this age (Toddlers) are starting to exert their independence and it can be hard to convince them that they need to do something that they don’t want to do.  Singing is a fun and positive approach to getting your children interested in something that needs to be done.
This Potty time song is also a favourite in our house:

It makes me laugh every time I listen to it…and is fun for Finley as she learns to use the toilet. I have also been known to make up songs for using the toilet, like: “Poo-Poo in the toilet” sung to the tune of “Message in a Bottle” by the Police. (But that’s a whole other blog!)
And, singing can be done anytime, anywhere. You carry around this great resource with you everywhere you go. I encourage you to sing…sing songs that you like (with appropriate lyrics of course) or make them up as you go along.

Remember, when you are transitioning, building on new skills or dealing with a challenging situation…

When in doubt…SING!

- PM

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