I recently had the opportunity to catch up with a good friend who, in my opinion, is justifiably revered as a superstar in the preschool world. During our conversation, best-selling children’s book author Rosemary Wells referred to herself, as she so often does, as Max and Ruby’s mother. She clearly meant it literally, and I was once again struck by just how seriously she takes her literary role as creator of Max and Ruby – those two beloved storybook bunnies – and how she does so with as much pride, insight and commitment as any parent I’ve ever met. Her ideals of positive parenting and fostering social and emotional learning are ones I definitely share, and are so clearly illustrated in her simple yet poignant books, that they all but jump off the page.
As a longtime fan of My Shining Star and Read To Your Bunny (to name but a few), I was excited to learn that Rosemary’s newest book – Time-Out for Sophie – is now available. I certainly deal with the concept of time-out on a frequent basis – both in my parenting and pediatric endeavors and in my Primrose school. I was therefore particularly interested to see how Rosemary illustrated the oft-debated subject of time-outs.
Let me stop mid-blog for a moment and say that as a big reader myself, I am exceedingly careful not to give away the ending of a good book lest I ruin it for future readers. With that said, consider this a spoiler alert: I’m about to tell you what happens in the end of the book because a) it will only spoil the handful of minutes it would take you to get through its 32 pages, and b) it so perfectly captures what I’ve always believed is a fundamentally important lesson in discipline for parents or caregivers.
In the beginning of the book, Time-Out for Sophie paints a picture of a misbehaving bunny who repeatedly gets put into time-out by her understandably frustrated parents, only to return to her button-pushing behavior. I don’t think there’s a parent out there who hasn’t experienced challenging behaviors like Sophie’s, nor a parent/caregiver who hasn’t employed the same disciplinary approach with limited effect. The book ends, however, with a granny bunny who is clearly wise beyond her years. When Sophie’s limit-testing behavior ensues yet again while granny is reading a book to her, granny chooses a novel approach. She decides to give herself a time-out. And guess what happens? Sophie stops what she’s doing and all but begs for granny to take herself out of time-out and continue reading. It is so simple, and in my experience, highly effective. Go granny!
So what’s the moral of the Sophie story? The answer isn’t actually as short as it may seem, because this book manages to dive layers deep into the importance of early childhood development and positive parenting – illustrating how much more effective it is when adults apply a good understanding of predictable early childhood behaviors and then help young children learn to want to spend time–in rather than assign them time-out. These skills may not seem like rocket science, but they are, in fact, consistent with brain science. How we interact with young children has everything to do with how their brains develop. The social, emotional and cognitive milestones of early childhood are both important and clearly defined, as are the developmental milestones of early literacy. And the importance of a caring, responsive adult and the development of executive function skills in preschoolers should not be underestimated, as they are central to our children’s healthy growth and development. It was for these reasons that I was left thinking about my conviction that young children would be better off if we, as parents, not only made time to read aloud to them each and every day, but if we also strove to possess the insight and patience of Sophie’s granny….and Max and Ruby’s mom, Rosemary Wells.
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