By Rochelle Maruch Miller
Positive Parenting Plus develops effective strategies that work to improve defiant behavior in preschool and school-age children, establish routines, reduce tantrums, and improve communication skills. Additionally, they provide guidance to parents attending district meetings and advocating for parents and children. In this exclusive interview, Zahava Goldstein, a noted school psychologist and founder of Positive Parenting Plus, discusses her motivation for launching the program, its objectives and unique features, as well as the challenges children face today.
RMM: Zahava, what is your educational and professional background?
ZG: I received an advanced certificate in school psychology and a master’s degree in education. I have been working as a school psychologist for the past 20 years in the capacity of a school evaluator, school counselor, and disability consultant for various head-start programs throughout New York City and Far Rockaway. I have acted as a liaison between school districts and parents in advocating for parents seeking services, I’ve implemented behavior-modification plans for schools and parents, and I have held parenting groups in the head-start programs. I also worked with parents as I evaluated their children in planning appropriate school placement, devising parenting techniques for children with special needs, and identifying individual learning strengths of children and restructuring classrooms to meet those needs.
RMM: What inspired you to launch Positive Parenting Plus?
ZG: After working for various agencies for the past 20 years, I felt it was the right time to open Positive Parenting Plus. The best part of my job has always been working with parents to develop communication techniques that will improve the way their children listen to them. It is gratifying to watch as children’s behavior improves at home and in school as a result of improved communication. When parents call me to share that my suggestion worked for their child, then I know that what I am doing is making a difference. Knowing that one child succeeded in school because of a change that I made to his curriculum is especially rewarding. Behavior-management plans that can be implemented both at home and in school instill consistency with children who exhibit social and behavior delays, and prove to be successful. So for these reasons I was inspired to open Positive Parenting Plus.
RMM: What makes the program unique?
ZG: A unique feature of Positive Parenting Plus is the willingness to work with parents and schools to improve any behavior or social difficulty a child may be exhibiting. It may be necessary to observe a child in school to determine the nature of the delay; for example, the time of the day, during what activity the child is most likely to have difficulty, which behavior plans have been tried, and the activities the child enjoys most. When you combine that information with the parent’s report, you get a complete picture of the child. You can then prepare a detailed behavior plan that focuses on success. Once you have the cooperation of parents and schools to work together to improve a child’s behavior, that child can succeed in school and we can minimize the behavior difficulties exhibited. It is also important to observe how a child’s behavior at home reflects on his behavior in school. If a child learns at home that every time he screams his needs are met, then he will cry in school when he needs something from his teacher. However, if a child is taught to use his words at home and that screaming will be met with silence, that same child will learn to communicate with his teachers using his words.
If a child has no routine at home, he will have difficulty following the structured routine of the school day. When a child learns that there is a routine to his day, it will be easier for him to acclimate to his school day. Finally, if the parenting style at home is to let the child do as he wishes with little consequence, that same child will have difficulty in school learning to share and take turns. Sometimes it is harder and requires more time and patience to implement positive parenting, but the impact it makes on the child is so rewarding, both at home and in school.
RMM: Preschools have evolved over the past few decades; our children are learning so much more than in years past. Parents are doing their due diligence to ensure an outstanding learning environment for their children from as early as nursery. What do you consider the ideal preschool setting?
ZG: Throughout the years of working at various preschools, I have seen the “good, bad, and ugly” of preschool settings. The ones that work the best have a high teacher-to-student ratio and have teachers who are constantly talking to the students during play, during structured learning sessions, or even during lunch, and are encouraging the students to talk to them. The rooms have clearly marked centers so that children can pick an area of play that interests them, such as a kitchen area, dress-up space, and dollhouse, because preschool children should be developing their imagination and play skills. A relaxed space with books is essential, which encourages language and develops attention skills.
RMM: What challenges do children face today and how can we, as parents, help them overcome these challenges?
ZG: Children today, particularly younger children, face a range of challenges because most times they just don’t understand what is expected of them. Often there is a lack of routine or structure, and children thrive on routine. So if they come home from school and there is no clear understanding of what comes next, it is disconcerting for them. Children have to understand that after school, they have a snack, followed by play time or television time, after which is dinner, followed by play time, bath time, story time, and bed time. Obviously, the activities and timing vary according to the home; however, what is important is that the child knows what to expect. He knows that after a certain television show it is dinner time. When a parent tells a young child, “You have to clean up in ten minutes,” or “In five minutes it is bed time,” it means nothing, because a child has limited understanding of time and it only confuses the child. It is more effective to tell the child, “During the commercial you have to clean up your toys,” or “After the show is over it will be dinner time.” The timeframe has to be expressed in concrete terms the child can understand.
RMM: What response has Positive Parenting Plus elicited thus far?
ZG: The response has been very positive.
RMM: What is the objective of Positive Parenting Plus?
ZG: We will be focusing our efforts on preschool and younger children and the challenges parents face communicating with children who may not have the verbal skills to respond to them. The focus is on improving behavior delays facing younger children so that the child may not need intervention as he or she gets older and the parent develops different parenting styles that can be implemented at home with all the children in the house. Additionally, we focus on working with the school to improve the child’s behavior in the classroom and improving a child’s social development and social interaction skills.
For further information, please visit www.positiveparentingplus.com, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 718-288-7107. They offer school, office, and home visits to best accommodate your needs.