Friday, October 3, 2014

Letter Writing & Book Recommendation

The idea of letter writing is so simple and yet can be vastly beneficial for several areas of your child's development. I first read about it in the book It's OK Not to Share by Heather Shumaker. Before I go on, I have to say this is the first parenting book that I have LOVED. To some, her ideas may be a little radical and strange but to me they just make sense. She echoed my Top 5 Phrases to Avoid as well as 5 more that I had listed but haven't yet posted. The main theme of the book is to stand up for your child's rights, in large part by limiting behaviors/actions/etc rather than banning them altogether. I could go on and on about it, but I honestly think everyone (parents and teachers alike!) should give it a read. Borrow it from the library if you don't want to invest the money, that's what I did (although I will be ordering a permanent copy because I liked it so much!).

Back to letter writing, Heather Shumaker introduces it as a method of problem solving and conflict resolution. Writing things down does a number of things - for children and adults alike:

  1. Writing things down helps make it real. Your facial expression and body language can be ignored, but once you write "I'm angry with you" there's no denying it. If you didn't mean it you wouldn't have written it and the other person knows it as well. For children, making their feelings real also validates them, it tells them it's ok to feel that way and it's nothing they should hide or be ashamed of.
  2. Writing things down helps you release them and move forward. When you worry and stress and get upset about things, writing them down can help you let go of them, even if no one but you reads it. Writing it down can be all you need to move on or it can help clarify the issues so you can decide on how to try and correct it.
  3. Writing things down helps you understand what you are feeling and simply pausing to write can calm you enough to approach the situation more rationally.
Little C doesn't have any siblings, nor does she have a classroom full of other students to get into arguments with so conflicts are fairly limited and easy to handle. However, I thought it would be a good way to help her understand and deal with her feelings. So the other day when she felt sad because she wanted to play with Papa Bear but he had to go mow the lawn, I figured it was as good a day as any to start!


I sat down with her and asked why she was sad and Little C answered, "I want to play with Daddy." So I suggested we write a letter to Daddy telling him how she felt. We agreed on the wording for the letter and I narrated the letter while I wrote it. And then Little C and I wrote her name hand over hand. I asked if she wanted to draw a picture for Daddy and she said, "No, just write some more letters."

The letter enabled Little C to let her feelings out and she was so proud and excited to give Daddy his letter when he was finally done mowing the lawn! Of course they played afterwards :-)

In addition to letter writing's usefulness in expressing feelings and resolving conflicts, it obviously is great literacy practice as well! Little C checked that I wrote "Daddy" and her name properly. She's understanding why we write. And look at her "writing" - letter-like symbols written in rows! All without any formal instruction. I am constantly amazed at how much she learns through our everyday interactions and play. I don't think I can stress enough how incredible "accidental learning" is - and how much more children enjoy it than formal instruction!

Age: 2.6 years

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