Kids – No Hidden Agenda There!

by Katie Henderson on October 20, 2017

by Katie Henderson, Founder/Director of Music Connections Foundation

As an early childhood educator, one of my “go to” kid sayings comes from the author of a favorite parenting book – Conscious Discipline, by Dr. Becky Baily. “Children are either extending love or calling for it.” Period. End of story. There is no hidden agenda or premeditation for intentional mischief, particularly in the first five years of life. Now I know what you’re thinking – “I can see it in her eyes when she is getting ready to be naughty!” I remember that look well (like the one I got just before the picture here of my daughter, then two, now 20, was taken)! But in reality, ‘being naughty’ is not the motivation. Kids are exploring their world, their immerging independence, and, as they do, testing the boundaries that come with that territory. And such testing is really a call for guidance. When you have conflict with your little one, consider it a call for help, and an opportunity to teach. They don’t think “Let me see what I can get away with,” or “I’m gonna do this because my mom told me not to.” Truly, they do not. They are needing to be nurtured and ‘fed.’ Just as the flowers in a garden crumble when they do not have food and water, so do young children. They crave, want and need your attention, and they will subconsciously go to all extremes to get it, one way or another!

We can learn a lot of lessons as we embrace, with certainty, Becky Bailey’s statement. One of those is that young children desperately need our time and attention. I was reminded recently of one of the first extensive formal research studies using our Kindermusik® curriculum to measure effects on cognitive advancements using standard intelligence tests. The study was done at Sam Houston University in Texas, and measured 66 children, 4-6 years old, before and after an entire school year, half of whom participated in Kindermusik for the Young Child® classes and half of whom did not (the control group). The results were dramatic: at the end of the study, all Kindermusik students had drastic gains – from the 50th percentile up to the 87th percentile, regardless of their socioeconomic background or race (one third of the kids in BOTH groups were from Head Start). But the MOST dramatic finding in these results lay in a surprising factor: the largest gains in post-testing were in kids whose parents were in “high compliance,” participating in weekly home musical play and simple assignments, regardless of their background. The Kindermusik kids with “low compliance” parents, even, had gains from the 50th to the 78th percentile. However, those with “high compliance” parents rose to above the 87th percentile. It is even more impactful when you know that the definition of a “high compliance” parent was one who spent just 30 minutes a week at home in musical play and learning. TIME together matters in your child’s long term ‘smarts,’ if you will, and in Kindermusik, we see that it’s not time drilling numbers or letters, but, rather, quality time exploring and creating and interacting. Joyful, attentive parenting. And, by the way, research tells us that when we effect our child’s cognitive development in the first decade of life, the advances are permanent.

Another lesson we can learn is that what children sense and feel, in their hearts, motivates their actions, and is grounded in physiology. According to HeartMath Director of Research Rollin McCraty, “The heart is a sensory organ and acts as a sophisticated information encoding and processing center that enables it to learn, remember, and make independent functional decisions.” The heart generates a powerful electromagnetic energy field that radiates and can be measured 8 – 16 feet away. What that means, practically speaking, for us as parents, is that children can sense our feelings, and they respond accordingly. I cannot tell you how many times that a child in my class, for the very first time, at an age typically associated with stranger anxiety (like 18 months!) has ended up on my lap, particularly if their own parent was disengaged or seemingly disheartened. Time after time, over 25 years in this business, a parent has commented, something like “He never goes to anyone. I can’t believe he came right over and sat in your lap.” That child was calling for love, and sensed that I was extending it, because my heart’s energy field was sending out that signal. And when the child joined me, my positive energy and love transferred to him, and he needed it. Studies have shown that the heart’s electromagnetic field, as measured by an electrocardiogram (ECG), in one individual can be detected and measured in another person when the pair either were seated within about three feet of each other or held hands. When people touch or are in close proximity, a transference of the electromagnetic energy produced by the heart occurs. Isn’t that powerful? What we feel for another has real power to effect their being, in the very moment they are in. And when our children are in a state of upset, likely, we are feeling that in our hearts as well! The reverse is also true. In fact, we might ask ourselves, whose upset came first? Was theirs a result of sensing what we were feeling? Are they calling for love? When we stop and extend love to them, our hearts can join, in much more than just an emotional sense.

In today’s world of premeditation, anger and violence, I am thankful to work with children who simply radiate love, or the need for it, and blessed that I can provide parents strategies to meet their children’s needs in ways that enhance the moments of their often long, sometimes challenging days. We use music to make the navigation of parenting easier, more joyful and life for families richer. Love everyday. That’s my job. And by that count, I think I have the best job in the world!

Gratitude with Intention – a Powerful Choice!

by Katie Henderson on October 29, 2016

hol043-s-01-1In my collection of fall decorations is a plate, gifted me by one of my dearest friends, embossed with this saying: “Gratitude turns what we have into enough.” It was given to me at a time when I really needed to hear just that – you know, one of those messages from above – but continues to be an ongoing reminder each year as I enjoy it adorning my kitchen window sill during the fall.

I have always considered myself to be a genuinely positive and grateful person, and have thought that I “practiced” those things in my daily life. But, let’s face it, at some times in life, these practices are easier to maintain than at others. When life is on easy street, it’s not hard to be the most chipper, grateful person in the room. But when life gives you lemons, it’s easy to quickly go to the negative, tuning in to the “why nots” rather than the “thank you fors.” That’s where the practice, with intention, of gratitude becomes a powerful shifter in your life, IF you choose it. As I recently reminded my son, it takes 21 days to form a new habit, (and, in truth, maybe much longer) and it is easy to fall “off the wagon” as we practice. In a great book I read this summer, the Gratitude Diaries, How a Year Looking on the Bright Side can Transform Your Life!, by Janice Kaplan, the author, in simple stories, brought us into her year long journey to practice gratitude every single day, and how it changed her life and the lives of many others she encountered during the process. It began with an intentional act of writing three things down every day – CHOOSING three things that you can be authentically and sincerely grateful for. Some days, those things are hard to find, aren’t they? They take effort.

The day I began this writing was one such difficult day in my life. I had been traveling for a couple of weeks, and inundated with life’s struggles, inconveniences and worry as things didn’t go exactly as I had envisioned. My trip to Arizona to spend quality time with my “baby,” now off at college, found me seeing her very little, as she was headed into tech week of a musical production and had many, many rehearsals. The next leg of my trip to a Florida Kindermusik Maestro Conference was clad with airline delays that ensured me missing most of the event, and then, woven in between, a little event called “Hurricane Matthew” arose, and was headed straight for my hometown of Daytona Beach and my family. My 90 year old mother was in our home and my father hospitalized after major back surgery, and I found myself consumed with worry. Though, as I look back, I can see that blessings abounded through it all – hugs from some of my favorite Kindermusik educators from all over the world, a homestead with not one stitch of hurricane damage, me being able to be in Florida to help with the clean up efforts, getting my Daddy home from the hospital, etc. – I found myself each day tending to the negativity that crept in from various sources. Once home, the house was gravely quiet, (as my husband was still in sunny Arizona!), the reality of empty nest syndrome hit hard, and I was grasping to find the grateful me.

Of course, I know, in my head, all of those clichés that really do hold true in life – like the one about the tough times not lasting but that tough people do – but until I chose to make a step in another direction, I was stuck. I prayed – something I do every day, but more, of course, when I am stuck – for the help I needed, and I took action, though small at first. Watering my withered azaleas in my back yard, I began to think about them dying and not having lasted even one season, and then, I chose to shift: “Thank you Lord, that you gave me these many azaleas, discovered for only $4.99 each, so that my yard could be beautiful for my daughter’s high school graduation party!” And…! “Thank you that I am home in time to water them while there are green leaves still on them.” And…. “Thank you for the vision that I now hold for how beautiful they will be when they are all in bloom next Spring.” Ahhh. A sigh of relief as I broke the chain; a feeling that arose once I chose to control what my mind tended to in thought. Even though the thoughts I conjured were no more significant than yard “décor,” I could wrap my emotion around them, and I felt a spell was broken! If I could so choose at this low point, and transform how I felt, I could continue the practice. And so it goes. Any habit takes practice, so it is our job, then, to choose what our important practices will be.

In this season of Thanksgiving, what will you chose to focus on? There is always, ALWAYS something to be grateful for. I don’t care WHO you are, and what your circumstances are or have been, you can give thanks, or not. And, as Kaplan’s book will tell you, the practice of gratitude is much more than just “having a good attitude,” and can have much more dramatic results than you think. It can literally transform the chemistry in your brain! (In the book she interviews all sorts of professionals who tell her about the transformational powers of the practice of gratitude, including the physiological ones!)

And think of the results of practicing gratitude with each OTHER! Kaplan dedicates a chapter to that practice within her various family relationships; in fact, that’s how the book starts out, and understandably so, as we most often take our bad feelings and attitudes out on those who are closest to us, don’t we? She spends an entire month finding reasons for sincere gratitude, daily, for her husband, and he notices, and “jumps on the band wagon,” eventually, and their relationship takes a new turn. The next month she focuses on the relationship with her kids, with similar results.

We have the control within our hands. It is control over ourselves. Greek philosophers have shared their insight: “a key to living right is understanding that we have power only over ourselves and our own reactions. People are disturbed not by events, but by the views which they take of them.” It’s another way of saying that it’s not what happens to or around you, but how you choose to respond that dictates your attitude, your happiness, and, ultimately, your very life.

Among the political arena of late, it saddens me to see the “band wagons” onto which so many are jumping. Though I know that good intentions abound among many who feel passionately about the direction they see our country headed, it seems the inherent “practice” is not in selling the strengths of the one they support but rather in practicing hate and negativity towards the opponent. It’s a vicious circle that seems to be spinning out of control. I have finally chosen not to read or listen to any of it. At quiet times, when I think I see a person whom I respect write something that does not appear to be clad with negativity or emotion, I will read and disseminate it, and, in doing so, have formed my voting preference. And every time I see an inflamed post or story, I say a prayer for love to conquer hate, for focus to shift, for our supreme being to have a hand in it all, and I move quickly on.

So, this month, I am asking you to join the “Grateful Gathering.” Won’t you consider finding gratitude in the moments of each day? You can start small, as it has to be something you can be authentically and emotionally feel grateful for! And on some days, you may have to look hard to find what that is! Remember, gratitude has the power to turn what you have into enough – into MORE than enough! I believe that your gratitude path, and perhaps even sharing your intention with someone else, will bring you, and those around you, pleasure, peace and love. And isn’t that what we need to be spreading these days?

(As a side note, Music Connections is hosting a “Grateful Gathering – Night of Family and Music” event on Friday, November 18th from 6-7:30 at E-Free Church. This event is open to the public – there is a suggested $20 family donation to help offset the cost of the event, but no one will be turned away!. Come and share love with us, and relish in the transformational power of music, children & community.)

Keep Calm – Pass it On

October 17, 2016

This quote from L. R. Knost, a child development researcher and author, has crossed my path numerous times in the past year and it struck a chord in me from the first. Had I seen this 10 years ago when I was deep in the little one/big emotion drama, I would have printed posters of […]

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Advice to a Parent – Say YES more often!

August 4, 2016

by Katie Henderson, Founder/Director of Music Connections Foundation, Inc. Last night in my final Kindermusik summer class, “Zoo Train,” my little cuties were heavily “into” exploring every single thing in our classroom other than all the things I had intended for us to explore: a tiny, random little bucket hung on the wall just above […]

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Like the Waves upon the Oceans & Shells Upon the Shore

March 22, 2016

Today I am feeling nostalgic. Because circumstances were such that I have had to miss teaching my Kindermusik classes for TWO weeks in a row – the first time in 22 years that I can recall that happening – I am missing my students! After what was to be a quick trip to my hometown […]

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A Mother from Russia Relishes the Gift of Music

December 6, 2015

Hi everyone! My name is Olya. I came to Normal from Vladimir, Russia 8 years ago to get my Master’s degree in Communications. Then I got married and had a daughter Leah. The marriage did not work out. When Leah was almost 6 months old I had to flee from the place where we resided […]

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Kindermusik Makes all the Difference – A Mother’s Story

November 5, 2015

Last Thursday, I had 3 pediatric therapists, a developmental therapist and 2 physical therapists, come to my home to evaluate Ryan for his overall development to see if he is need of further services. (primarily for his lack of walking) The good news is, Ryan does not need further services, as he is only slightly […]

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Dads Do it Too (or The Tale of the Missing Kindermusik Mom) by Tawni Martin

October 21, 2015

Okay, I admit it, I never went to Kindermusik. Well, never is a strong word. I would go maybe once, twice a year. Sure, at home, I sang ALL the songs, read the stories, all of that. But rarely did I grace the doorstep of that magical world of a Kindermusik classroom…. As I mentioned […]

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Will it last?

October 15, 2015

By Tawni Martin – Music Connections Foundation Administrator Kindermusik entered our family’s life in the early winter of 1995. My husband came across some information about a fairly new music program in Bloomington, which included a class offered for very young children. Eager to begin, our daughter Brenna and her dad actually had to wait […]

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Making a difference at both “ends” of life

October 10, 2015

My heart overflowed this week when I had a chance to assist at our Foundation Class for seniors, (with Moms and their kiddos) at Heritage Manor in Bloomington. It struck me so profoundly how the goals we have for a little one – working on range of motion in the arms and legs, labeling and […]

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