Fostering Healthy Boundaries and Creating a Culture of Respect
Author: Dr. Beatrice Jane Vittoria Balfour, Gan Shalom Director
Date: 20 November 2018
On November 4th, 2018, Gan Shalom held a workshop led by Zephira Derblich-Milea about “Fostering Healthy Boundaries and Creating a Culture of Respect.” The workshop was very well received, with about 30 people from the all over the Bay Area attending.
The workshop was part of a series entitled “Cultivating Kavod: How to Take Care of Your Child, Family and Yourself”, co-sponsored by Gan Shalom Preschool, JCC East Bay, Netivot Shalom and Congregation Beth El. Seminars will be held in Berkeley at different locations and will include topics such as setting positive boundaries with difficult behaviors, respecting yourself and others, being a partner as well as a parent, mindful parenting, and the permission to take care of yourself.
During Zephira’s workshop, we discussed creating a culture of respect and consent. A culture of consent is one in which the prevailing narrative of human interaction is centered around mutual consent and is normalized in popular culture.
Zephira provided a number of tips to teach children about respect and consent. These tips include the following:
- Stop asking children questions that they can’t say “no” to. For example, don’t ask a child if they want to get into their car seat if you need them to sit in the car — if they say “no” and you still put them in the car seat, you are not honoring their “no”. Instead, for instance, say: “would you like me to put you in the car seat or do you want to get in it on your own?”
- Modeling asking for consent and receiving a “no”. Model to your child what asking for consent is, for example by asking for consent to hug other people around you. Also, model to your child that you take “no” seriously. For example, if you are tickling them and your child says, “no, stop” then you “stop” and not continue.
- Never force a child to hug or kiss someone else. Teach children, instead, to ask first and listen/respect their answers.
- Teach children to help those in trouble through positive reinforcement.
- “No” and “stop” should always be honored by children and adults.
- Encourage children to read facial and body language.
- Teach children to trust their instincts.
- Teach children that they always need to be asked for consent for situations that involve touching their body.
How to Teach Children about Respect and Consent (Part II)
Author: Dr. Beatrice Jane Vittoria Balfour, Gan Shalom Director
Date: 31 October 2018
Last year, we started collaborating with Shalom Bayit with a staff training thinking about how to teach children about respect and consent. This year, we continued the collaboration with Shalom Bayit by creating a series of short videos sharing strategies about this topic. Here is the first video, which we filmed at The Jewish Studio Project in Berkeley (https://www.jewishstudioproject.org/) in which Zephira Derblich-Milea and I talk about two specific and simple strategies you can use with your child(ren) to teach about consent and respect. Enjoy!
Strategies to Help Children Cope with Stress and Anxieties
Author: Dr. Beatrice Jane Vittoria Balfour, Gan Shalom Director
Date: 28 October 2018
On Sunday, October 28 at Gan Shalom, we hosted our first parent educational meeting of the school year led by Bathea James, an experienced educator and psychologist in the Bay Area. Here is a brief outline of what we talked about.
Anxiety is often normal and is a part of life. In general, it’s important that children learn to recognize, address and care for themselves in a way that reduces their levels of stress.
The most important skills that we can teach children to help deal with feelings of anxiety is helping them to build resilience (the ability to fall down, get up and move on) and to give them a ‘box of tools’ to help them take care of themselves when they feel anxious.
More specifically, there are a series of strategies that we can teach children to prevent and learn to deal with anxiety:
- How to relax and to be mindful.
- Check what we allow children to hear, watch, and what we say in front of them, to prevent children from developing anxieties about events that happen around them in the world. Some conversations are simply adult talk and children should not be allowed to hear them or to be part of them.
- Model healthy coping behaviors with the children.
- Enforce a regular sleeping routine that is respected every day of the week.
- Keep children’s access to ‘screen time’ limited.
- Encourage children to engage in free, creative and collaborative play.
Anxiety can be expressed in different ways such as difficulty sleeping and changes in behavior, mood, and sleeping patterns. These reactions are often normal responses, and in these cases it is important that we allow children to find their own creative (verbal or non-verbal) ways to express themselves. Adults should not push children to express their emotions, but just listen to them, make them feel safe, check in with them and simply be empathetic listeners. If you notice any symptoms of continuous, repeated and systematic anxiety, you should reach out to a professional therapist to prevent the anxiety from becoming a more serious medical condition in your child(ren) (if you ever need help finding a therapist in the area, let me know).
How to Teach Children about ‘Conflict Resolution’?
Author: The Gan Shalom Staff
5 October 2018
This month for our professional development meeting we talked about children socio-emotional development, conflict resolution and how to teach children about the norms of living together and being respectful citizens of our community. We outlined a list of strategies that we use at Gan Shalom with children to teach them about respect, being with others, consent, and generally about conflict resultion – an important skill for children in the present and in the future. Here are few strategies and guidelines for conflict resolution that we discussed as important:
- Teach children to advocate for their needs
- Reinforce children’s positive responses
- Trust in children’s capacity to solve conflict
- Respond to the specific needs of the children
- For inappropriate words, you can say, “those words do not belong to us”
- Speak for the community when enforcing a rule
- Model how you would say something, don’t just say “be kind”
- Conflict is an opportunity to teach children rules about living together, respect and consent
- Observe the function of the behavior – what’s happening? why is the child acting this way? What are the child(ren)’s needs?
- Respect others, yourself and the community
- Ask permission before you touch others’ bodies or enter their space
- Open Hands, Open Hearts
- Be your best self
- Listen to each other
Kavod (or Respect), Conflict Resolution and Chidlren’s Socio-Emotional Development:
Learning Moments at Gan
Author: Dr. Beatrice Jane Vittoria Balfour, Gan Shalom Director
5 October 2018
Rabbi Eliezer says: “The Honor of your fellow should be as precious to you as your own…”
Pirkei Avot 2:10
An important part of being together and playing together is learning to deal with other children that have different desires, ideas of play, rhythms, and habits. When children play together and confront their differences, conflicts often arise. Learning to deal with conflict is an important part of being in preschool, an important skill for children to learn for the future, and an opportunity for adults to accompany children in their socio-emotional development (Piaget, 1967; Vygotsky, 1978). Through conflicts, children learn about themselves, their own emotions, about others’ thoughts and feelings, and about how to relate with others. In addition, through conflicts, children learn about Kavod, the norms and rules of living together. They can learn to: negotiate, share, wait their turn, play together, and respect others’ space, etc.
There are many reasons why conflict emerges among children. Generally, with young children, conflict emerges because a child does not want to share or does not want to be interrupted in whatever they are doing. With older children, the reasons for conflict can change, and can become more about symbolic games, partaking in (or excluding others from) a game, or about different ideas about how a game can/should be played.
At Gan Shalom, if we observe a conflict among children and there is no immediate danger – we don’t do anything. Children are typically capable of and often resolve their own conflicts, and it can be an opportunity for children to learn about themselves, others and the rules of the classroom. It’s an important skill for children to learn to address their conflicts and find their own creative ways to resolve them. We observe how they address it among themselves and note: What’s the children’s attitude among themselves; positive or negative? How did the children address the conflict and what did they learn? Is there anything that we can do in the day-to-day to help them prevent or address conflict?
At times however, children do not resolve conflict on their own. In this case, we intervene. To intervene, after having made sure that both parties are and feel safe, we can begin by telling them what we observed or we can ask them, “what do you need?” We repeat what the children have said and then ask them “how are you going to solve this?” At this point, children often find their own solutions. If not, we introduce our opinion.
Of course, we always seek to intervene when children (could) hurt, physically or verbally, each other, by explaining the rules, consoling the ones that have been hurt, and helping children to find ways of resolving the conflict as much as possible.
During conflict, we model for children:
- To remind and teach children about what Kavod or respect is by telling them what counts as respect in that particular situation
- How to resolve conflicts, how to establish and follow rules and how to set limits about their own bodies and respect for themselves and for others.
- It is especially difficult for a child to express negative content in a positive way. This is one of the actions that we model for children.
- Respect the physical or mental space of others.
- Keeping our voice low and calm when speaking to children or not touching their bodies to help them to resolve conflict is a way to model for children how we would expect them to act with each other.
Young children are often not able to intervene, but only to observe. It’s hard for little children to see things from different perspectives. If they observe fights among other children, they might also need comforting. We can engage them in understanding what happened. For the older children, we can encourage them to defend the child who is the victim in the conflict.
If children are playing a game and you observe that they are excluding other children, we, for example, intervene and function as a guide, suggesting other ways in which the game can develop in line with our ideas of what counts as respect (or Kavod).
Conflict resolution is a key way through which children learn about respect, consent, building community, following the rules of living together, and being better citizens. Recently, I was watching the new documentary about Mister Rogers’ show, Mister Rogers Neighborhood. In the documentary he talks about Tikkun Olam and says that ‘we are all called to be Tikkunei Olam -repairers of the world’ and that to do that we have to start from our own community, our own neighborhood. Like Mister Rogers, I believe that to teach children to be repairers of the world, we have to start with our own community and teaching them how to engage in their daily interactions in respectful ways that strengthen and contribute to our community. It is our role as adults to help children find their ways to do so and this is part of our Tikkun Olam, of creating a better world in the present and in the future.
For more about conflict resolution among children the book ‘The Social Lives of Young Children’ by Elly Singer and Dorian de Haan can be a useful resource.
Challah Day at Gan Shalom
Author: Inbal Cohen-Sadi
14 September 2018
One of the most popular comment that I hear on Fridays as parents and visitors walk in to our Gan is, “wow, the smell of the challah…”
We therefore organized Challah Day – a morning for parents to come and make challah with the children at school. We provided parents with a tray, the ingredients, and a recipe; parents made the challah with their child and brought it home for cooking. Both the 2 year-old class and the older class participated in Challah Day – each one in their own classroom. The 2 year-old classroom made the challah in the new art studio. The day was a great success and a majority of the families in our school were able to join us!
This was such a treat for children and staff, and many parents told us how much they loved the experience!
For us on staff, we started feeling the excitement the day before the event already, as we were setting up. We welcomed shabbat with each cup of flour we measured, with each amount of sugar, salt, and oil we prepped for the next day. On Friday morning, we got excited and joyful as we saw that so many of the parents came to experience this day with us. As we were parsing out flour and water from one person to another, I saw so many of the parents mixing ingredients with joy, getting hands on with the dough.
Personally, I loved seeing small sticky hands touching adults’ sticky hands to create dough. I saw some confused faces who quickly turned to “I can do it” faces, I saw smiles, I heard the conversation and laughter, I felt uplifted and most of all I saw the Jewish connections.
The word “challah” actually means “portion.” It used to represent the amount of bread that Jewish people gave to the Kohanim (High priest), each week. A while back, when the people entered the land of Israel, anyone who baked bread was obligated to give a portion of their dough to the Kohanim who worked in the Temple. This dough was part of the salary of the Kohanim, who essentially worked as public servants doing the Temple work, as well as serving as Divine conduits.
Traditionally, we bless the bread of Shabbat over two pieces of Challah. The two loaves of bread at our table during Shabbat meal symbolize the two manna which fell from the sky in the desert.
As I make challah dough I deeply feel the sense of belonging to my people, to my community, to our history, and a bit closer to Shabbat. For me the smell of the baked Challah reminds me of the journey of our people, it takes me back home to the land of Israel, and to meaningful family time. I am hoping that you will attempt to try this again in your homes with your loved ones.
One more spiritual aspect of baking challah is that some believe that when we make and bake challah, the gates open, providing us a direct path to Hashem, G-d. It is an opportunity to daven (pray) to Hashem G-d on behalf of our children, our friends, our family, our Kehilah (community) and ourselves.
I encourage you all to discover the depth and joy of baking challah. Get your hands dirty with flour and pour your love into it. Bring the Jewish tradition in to your home and to your Shabbat table.
Preparing for Rosh Hashanah: Doing Good Deeds, Cleaning up our Gan and Neighborhood
Posted by: Ann Litwack, Gan Shalom Teacher
In preparation for Rosh Hashanah, in the afternoon at Gan Shalom, we blew the shofar each day. We talked about how it wakes us up to realize that Rosh Hashanah, the birthday of the whole wide world, is almost here. To prepare we decided that we should take care of the world. The children became their, “Best Self Super Heroes” and took care of our Gan Shalom yard, cleaned-up the Shul yard, and our neighborhood. We began our exploration of Rosh Hashanah with very concrete activities, cleaning and taking care of the world, in which the students could see the results of their hard work. The children were excited and eager to take part in this important work and were proud of themselves when they completed it.
The first job that we did was to clean and take care of the Gan Shalom. The children chose one of several jobs: raking, sweeping, watering the plants, or picking up trash. After completing these jobs, we walked around to see how much nicer our Gan looked after our hard work.
One day we picked up trash in the Shul yard. The children became their “Best Self Superheroes” and used their x-ray vision to find trash. They were excited and eagerly ran up to the trash bag and showed many how many pieces of trash they found. Teachers and children were so involved in this project that we unfortunately did not get any photos but you can see what a big bag trash we collected.
Once again the children became their “Best Self Superheroes”, put on their pretend capes and used their x-ray vision to search for trash in the neighborhood. This particular activity was the most exciting for the children because they were not just taking care of their space but doing something in the world to make a difference for the whole neighborhood.
After completing all of our cleaning jobs, I had the children share some of the things they did that made the world a better place. Then the children drew pictures and shared words about the things that they did or would like to do to make the world a better place.
Sam: ‘I am cleaning up leaves. I am raking them.’
Yonathan: ‘I am going to help Ima make cookies.’
Eytan: ‘I am raking leaves with my rake.’
Ruthie: ‘I am cleaning up the park.’
How to Teach Children about Respect (Part I)
Posted by: Beatrice Jane Vittoria Balfour, Gan Shalom Director
2017-2018 School Year
Gan Shalom teachers recently attended a special workshop on the nuts and bolts of teaching children about respect and consent, hosted by Zephira Derblich-Milea — a representative of Shalom Bayit and one of the moms at our school.
In this workshop, we discussed the importance of respecting oneself as a necessary condition for respecting others, and for teaching children about respect. We also talked about consent as it relates to gender. Shalom Bayit is an organisation that works on preventing domestic violence and supporting women and children who have been the victim of domestic violence. An important take-away from our workshop is that consent is not something that has just to do with sex. Consent is about giving permission, agreement and respecting others.
We learned that studies have shown that our emotional brain map is not innate, and it develops when we are very young between the ages of 0 to 6 year-old. 80% of our brain develops during our first six years. Preschools are, in this sense, a key place for the socio-emotional development of children. This age range is when children learn what it means to teach others about respect, or to be respectful of others. Children for whom this is modeled early on are more likely to set boundaries, to make others respect them, and to respect others.
During the workshop, we talked about some strategies that can be used with children to talk about respect, for instance on the topic of telling and tattling. Zephira connected this with the Torah. Telling can be thought of as getting someone out of trouble, and tattling as getting someone in trouble. Telling on someone to help them is a value mandated by the Torah. When children come to us and tell us that ‘X did Y’, it is helpful to consider: are they trying to help someone out of trouble, or rather to get them in trouble? Putting things in context or asking children more details about what happened can help us answer that question.
We discussed the importance for caregivers, teachers, and parents to set their own boundaries in order to model what boundaries and respect can be. We talked about the safety videos you watch on an airplane. In particular, we talked about the part that teaches passengers how to use the oxygen mask and that the videos say that an adult should put their mask on first before helping others such as children. Similarly, before we can teach respect and consent to others, we need to respect ourselves, our time, and our space – all key parts of self-respect.
We learned three questions to ask ourselves when considering if an action is respectful: are there risks involved? Is it prolonged? Is safety compromised?
Other strategies we explored are: giving children real choices; talking with the children about respecting other children’s bodies; modeling respect for the children; learning that it is okay and sometimes uncomfortable to say “no”; explaining why we say “no” when we say “no” to them; and teaching the children about boundaries, to trust their own instincts, and to love and care for themselves and for one another.
Thank you Zephira for the wonderful workshop!
Quilt in the Making at Gan Shalom
Poster by: Jenna Lewis, Gan Shalom parent
2017-2018 School Year
During the 2018-2019 school year, the children of Gan Shalom made a quilt. It was a collaboration between all the downstairs children and me. After teacher Inbal had her baby daughter, Shira, we decided to make a quilt for both of them.
Everyone had a turn to choose fabric combinations that they liked, pin their fabrics, and sew them with the machine. We added small combinations together to make larger pieces, with children building on the sections made by others to create a whole. Sometimes, I asked children to alternate light and dark fabrics, and that created the ‘stair step’ or ‘log cabin’ sections. One group was interested in using the smallest scraps which had fallen on the floor, and those sections are represented by little squares and rectangles. After the children and I created the quilt top, I took it home and quilted the straight lines, creating the ‘quilt sandwich’ — top, batting, and back.
This project was joyful and thought provoking for me. It was meaningful to lead a group project that ended as a gift to someone else.
Many kids were fascinated with how the machine was causing the fabric to be joined together, and if I did another sewing project, I would like to bring one sewing machine to use and another to take apart.
I learned that pinning fabric is a great way to develop fine motor skills; kids want the thrill of working with a tool that carries a small amount of risk, and pins are just sharp enough to be ‘real’ without being dangerous.
Thank you Beatrice and the teachers who encouraged this project and made it possible.