Tag Archives: education

How to Ready Your Kids for Financial Success from the Beginning
Understanding finances

As parents, our goal is to prepare our children for adult life, independence, and successful living. A key component of this is ensuring they have the best understanding of personal finance as possible. However, this can be a daunting task, especially if we, as parents, may not be modeling the best behaviors when it comes to our wallets. Here are some helpful ways to set an example and educate your children on the importance of understanding their finances. 

Examine Your Own Relationship with Money through the Eyes of Your Children

As we know, children mirror us, watching everything we do and imitating both our best and worst behaviors. Extensive research done on this topic shows that kids copy us all on their own, and that these behaviors become part of their personalities. This extends to watching parents and caregivers navigate their relationships with money. Think about how you act when you take your kids shopping.

  • Do you make expensive purchases to relieve stress? If so, your kids will likely follow suit, creating a pattern early on of emotional spending. 
  • Do family conversations about money always turn into an argument, or are they simply non-existent? This will teach your kids shame and secrecy. Arguing about money can trigger a stress response in children.

Putting down an impulse purchase with a shrug and leaving the store teaches your child that it’s normal to pass on spending if it’s not in the budget. Setting an example by making the discussion of finances comfortable and open will teach your kids to be at ease when planning financial decisions. Look inward and examine your own attitudes and habits surrounding money, and as you improve, your kids will begin to reflect those healthy habits. 

read more
How to Give an Allowance
Teaching Kids About Money

~ so your kids grow up financially savvy.

  • Ever get sick and tired of kids begging for one more thing?
  • Ever feel taken for granted because your kids don’t appreciate all you do and buy for them?
  • Ever wish your teenager was more responsible with money?
  • Ever wish your children had a little more patience and stop expecting things RIGHT NOW?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, my advice to you is give them an allowance. It’s as important as teaching them to swim. 

Having an allowance will teach your children how to manage, use, save, spend, and value money. And, maybe most importantly, they will learn delayed gratification—a lost skill in this age of instant everything. 

Growing up with an allowance means your children have a much better chance of managing their future finances responsibly. When children have their own money to spend, they soon learn the value of what they spend it on. A tempting toy that breaks the first day becomes a lesson in quality. Spending the wad on candy means there is nothing left for anything else. 

You will no longer spend time and energy arguing over what you will and won’t give them money for. When you hear, “But Mom, everyone else has one,” you can say, “Great. How long do you think it will take to save up for it? Let’s figure it out.” When they beg for more money, you can say, “You’ll have it with your next allowance. I know it’s hard to wait.”

read more
Willful Defiance: A Lesson for Parents and Teachers
Defiant Child

We live in a school culture within a parenting culture that expects its children to fit in and embrace that culture.

For many children acculturation happens seamlessly. But for at least 1 in 5 children*, it requires giving up oneself, shifting off base, and surrendering to a non-nurturing authority. In other words, understanding that you are wrong and the other is right. Parents are expected to take on the role of enforcer using consequences, threats, punishment, withdrawal of what is most cherished—coercive tactics to manipulate children into being who they are expected to be. 

These are the children we see as defiant and oppositional. The square pegs society tries to fit into its round holes. And if they don’t adjust enough, they become the troublemakers, the problems, the ones we fear our children will grow up to be. These are the children who are tough to raise and who cause problems in classrooms. 

At home, they fight the rules and argue every direction given. Parents complain they never listen, won’t do as they’re told and refuse to comply. At school they are considered disruptive, attention-seekers. The problem worsens with reprimands, isolation, and punishment. Counselors are brought in but counseling that typically focuses on training the child to self-control, keep emotions in the “green zone”—messages that unintentionally say You’re not right the way you are. This “help” further identifies the child as the troublemaker, the one who can’t get along, the one who isn’t like the others who don’t need a counselor’s help. 

read more
The Power of Acceptance

All parents struggle with fears and worries about their children and many end up just getting in their own way. When you take your children’s behavior personally and use your authority to control them to do what you want, you may wind up creating the scenario you most fear.

The problem comes when we think it’s our children who need to change when indeed it is us. Whatever you need to do to get to acceptance is the answer.

The following is a story from one of my clients that I find truly inspiring. Her struggles to understand her son and ultimately herself have led to a wonderful relationship. I hope it motivates you to trust your children and let go of a small bit of your fears. You will always have fears and doubts — you wouldn’t be a conscientious parent without them. But in the moment, when your child needs your connection, you must be able to at least temporarily put those fears aside.

 

Reflections on my journey with my son – Mother of three

I am enjoying a playful moment in the kitchen with my 6’6, 17 year old son. He likes to get in my space and see if he can startle me with his big teenage energy. I get flustered and cry out, “You make me feel anxious when you do that!” He smiles with this gentle warmth and looking right in my eyes​ ​he says lovingly​, “​Mum, it’s not what I do​ that makes you feel anxious. It’s what you ​think​ about what I do.”

The wisdom of his insight seems far beyond his years and the truth of it shimmers in the moment. It has been a lot of inner and outer work for me to get here. I remember hearing years ago that I couldn’t worry and love at the same time. Given that choice I wanted to choose love as the energy that I was offering my children — also to myself as the worry felt utterly agonizing to live with. However, so often things happening on the outside seemed to justify worry and that “thought slide” became easy to glide down with ever repeated use.

We found Bonnie Harris when our child was in middle school. My husband and I consulted her, driven by our deep concerns that our son was developing a gaming addiction. Having been an incredibly active, outdoor-loving child, all of a sudden, he seemed willing to forego what we thought of as his “healthy” choices for spending hours on end in his room in front of a screen. We had entered into a pattern of trying to curb his screen time followed by endless arguing. We had majorly lost connection with our son.

I will not forget that late afternoon meeting in Bonnie’s office, me tearful, my husband and I feeling distant from each other because of our own fighting over how to parent our son, and both of us worried about him. After hearing what we had to say and a long, thoughtful pause, Bonnie gestured to the empty chair in our circle and asked gently, “What do you imagine your son would say if he were sitting here with us and could speak for himself?” Immediately I was drawn to my heart space that felt full of compassion and love for him and I said, “I think he would say, “You don’t understand me.’”

It was an instant, dramatic and powerful paradigm shift. I got out of my head which was very much about me and into my heart where I could truly be with ​him without my thoughts. And he really had spoken to me. At the end of that meeting, Bonnie suggested we make the shift to tell our son we trusted his inner guidance that would help him regulate his gaming. She prepared us that he might really go wild with this freedom for a time, but she suspected things would work out.

I wrote him a letter to express what we had learned and how we were shifting to a place of trust in him. It was greeted with a huge smile and relief. It was so clear that he wanted connection with us too and to feel that we had faith in him to make his own choices.

What a journey it has been in the last 7 years. I cannot count the number of times I have gotten buried in worry while my son smiled at me and said with his eyes, “Trust me.” The title of one of Bonnie’s books is, “When Your Kids Push Your Buttons”. I always used to focus on “When Your Kids Push…” but I had an Aha! moment recently and saw “​Your ​Buttons​” ​seemingly for the first time​.​ These are not our kids buttons, they are ours. And we can certainly do something about our own buttons.

Here is an example of how I have come to discover my own issue and address it. I have often fretted about seeing my son have an interest and then not have the discipline to develop it. He loved playing basketball in middle school, and I imagined he would play in high school but to my surprise he didn’t play any sports for the first three years. To get into a place of trust, I took a good hard look at the button that was being pushed. Where did I have an interest and no discipline? My contemplation led me to start taking voice lessons and practicing daily. It took enormous effort at first, but I felt so fulfilled when I honored my commitment! I saw how it also took my attention away from worrying about my son and it set an example of discipline that he could notice… or not!

To my absolute utter surprise, my son is now on the Varsity Basketball team in his senior year because he said he realized he missed it and wanted to play with his friends. When he tried out, the coach said, “Well son, this is unusual to be trying out in your senior year, but you don’t know what you can do if you don’t try!” He mostly doesn’t play in games but loves practicing, being on a great team and is often getting his teammates cups of water during a timeout. He’s happy and he did it his way. He also has even said that he can see how far he could have come if he had kept playing. And he feels comfortable saying that to us because he feels his parent’s detachment. I know I didn’t cause any of this but because I focused on myself, I feel so fulfilled with my own pursuits and I bring a more joyful, independent me to enjoy going to the team’s games.

In short, I’ve learned when someone pushes my buttons, the only thing I have control over is what I do with the opportunity to see and address my own stuff. That’s so empowering.

I have gotten very creative about my buttons too! I’ve looked for many ways to bring my attention back to myself and not wandering around into my son’s business. When my son got his license and I saw my mind going wild about the potential scenarios that might result from my thrill-seeking teen, I created an imaginary warm, loving and burly bodyguard that I would mentally see by my son’s side to look out for him. I would send them off in my mind with love. It puts my mind at rest in an outer situation where I had no control. It lessons my stress. The button was my own tendency toward anxiety.

After our first meeting with Bonnie, my husband and I jumped fully on the same page to make connection with our son the priority. Over the years we’ve consulted Bonnie when we felt we were parenting in a way that seemed so outside the “norm” of a “top down” approach that is so advocated in our culture. We were checking in with our intuition and having discussions with our son and arriving at solutions and compromises. It was so helpful to have a third party look at all of it and confirm that we were on the right track for our family because our connection and open communication was there. I remember during one of our discussions with our son, he said, “Mum, I know you really care about me, but I think what you don’t understand is that ​I ​really care about me too!”

I heard years ago that something so important to a human being is the ability to make choices. That a teen, when confronted with control from parents will do everything in their power to demonstrate that they have choice, even if it means that the way to do it is by doing something that may appear self-destructive. Whatever we resist persists, especially with regards to teens.

I have witnessed parents fighting to control their teenagers, and it appears that what they are really doing is teaching their teens to cultivate a habit of being really good at lying. What else are the children going to do when faced with a punishment if they tell the truth? And I have seen the heartache of a parent feeling disconnected from their child and at a loss for how to ever get that back with sincerely no understanding that perhaps the way to do it is to let go of their expectations of how things should be and sink into acceptance of what ​is​ with an open heart.

Byron Katie, in her book “A Thousand Names for Joy”, page 186, says it so exquisitely:

“It’s painful to think you know what’s best for your children. It’s hopeless. When you think that you need to protect them, you’re teaching anxiety and dependence. But when you question your mind and learn how not to be mentally in your children’s business, finally there’s an example in the house: someone who knows how to live a happy life. They notice that you have your act together and that you’re happy, so they start to follow. You have taught them everything they know about anxiety and dependence, and now they begin to learn something else, something about what freedom looks like…. If your happiness depends on your children being happy, that makes them your hostages. I think I’ll just skip them and be happy from here. That’s a lot saner. It’s called unconditional love…. If what they do brings them happiness, that’s what I want; if it brings them unhappiness, that’s what I want, because they learn from that what I could never teach them.”

So here I find myself, a woman and a mother who is continually growing and learning and living into new subtleties that are revealed on this journey with my son. There is part of me that wishes I could go back and tell my younger self that all that energy of worrying was for naught, but I had to learn it for myself just as Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz couldn’t know about her ruby red slippers and their power from the very beginning.

My son is in a wonderful place in his life, applying to colleges on his own terms, exploring all sorts of new hobbies, one of them being a passion for wall climbing. This young man who I wondered years ago if he would ever even stick it out through high school scored in the 98th percentile of the SAT. When I asked him how he got such a high verbal score he told me about how he is usually reading articles when he is on his phone. I never thought of that! He never had a book in his hand, so I thought…​

And all those hours of gaming? He still loves to game with his friends, and I imagine it will always be a hobby, but it doesn’t dominate his life. I guess we shouldn’t be surprised that he has a real knack for computer programming and plans to major in Computer Science. When I watch him program, I see that all those skills he was learning with his fingers in gaming are what he puts to use in programming.

I so look forward to having more of my assumptions dismantled. In fact, I find he has taught me that making assumptions about him, or anyone else for that matter, and judgement of any kind is a huge waste of energy and time. He has been and continues to be my greatest teacher and I am so grateful for it. After all, it is my immense love for my son that has been the force to guide me to continually choose connection with him and set aside my ego when required — to settle into the place of simply not knowing the answer of what is “right”. As I see it, that’s a win-win!      

read more

Mar. ’19 Q&A – Being Your Child’s Friend and Parent, Angry Behavior and When the Coach is a Bully

Being Your Child’s Friend and Parent

Q. I do welcome your advice and think you speak a lot of sense, but I am not sure about your advice to be your child’s friend in one of your articles. What is wrong with being a mum? I am the only person who can officially be regarded as mum in my daughter’s life and I feel very proud to be so. I am not sure being a friend is possible as the friendship is automatically unbalanced. I have a number of very good friends, some long term and we have quite balanced relationships, involving give and take. I do not regard my relationship with my daughter as balanced, and she does not seem to understand give and take. I would also say she is a very high maintenance friend, and therefore I would go out of my way not to be her friend if she wasn’t my daughter. I don’t think she is like that with her peers though – I think their relationship is balanced. When choosing activities, we try to pick nice things to do and see, and we get a lot of resistance from her until we get her there and then she loves it. We also get resistance around food and most things at the moment – she is quite selfish and does not seem to understand the notion of helping out, and she wants things from shops all the time, which is wearing.

read more

When Helicopter Parenting Crashes and Burns

In the wake of the recent college admissions scandal, my concern is with the students who are waking up to a whole new vision of themselves. Many of them from fifty known families—so far—apparently knew none of what their parents were up to—until now.

Some received a sports scholarship in a sport never played using photoshopped headshots; some had their SAT and ACT tests corrected by paid off proctors; some even had their tests taken for them. Coaches at the elites took huge amounts of money from an agent of a falsified non-profit who took even more from parents desperate to give their children a prestigious resume and a bumper sticker for their cars. The illegal non-profit allowed the parents to deduct their payments as donations.

Imagine what it must feel like to be that college student oblivious to what got you accepted? What happens to any trust you have in your parents—or any trust you thought they had in you? And then to find out your parents are under arrest for their illegal conduct. How could you not feel inadequate in your parents’ eyes knowing what they did to get you in? How must it feel to assume you deserved admittance only to learn oodles of money was your ticket?

Jack Buckingham was a bit remorseful. Jack is the son of Jane Buckingham, Los Angeles marketing executive and author of The Modern Girl’s Guide to Life. I would question her advice. Her daughter apparently gained admission through bribery to alter her ACT test. Her mother claimed she is “not a great test taker,” and has been arrested on a felony charge for paying an ACT proctor to take her son’s test. Jack told The Hollywood Reporter, “I know there are millions of kids out there both wealthy and less fortunate who grind their ass off just to have a shot at the college of their dreams. I am upset that I was unknowingly involved in a large scheme that helps give kids who may not work as hard as others an advantage over those who truly deserve those spots.”

Two Stanford University students have begun a growing movement on behalf of “qualified, rejected” students and filed a federal class action suit accusing eight schools of negligence.

Then, what of the students who knew all along and who feel perfectly entitled?

“They’re blowing this whole thing out of proportion,” Malcolm Abbott told the New York Post, “I believe everyone has a right to go to college, man.”

One would guess Olivia Jade Giannulli, the daughter of the indicted actress Lori Loughlin, knew what was going on when she posed on a rowing machine. Her parents allegedly passed her off as a rowing recruit, a sport she had never participated in. She told her followers on YouTube that she was there for the games and the parties, obviously not for the education.

Do these kids think they deserve to be where they are? Most have been on an entitled pedestal their whole lives and have never had to experience the ups and downs of success and failure on their own two feet. What of their futures after graduation? I suppose money will keep them on track. But what track? How will they know who they are?

Unethical college acceptance is the bucket of fool’s gold at the end of a long discolored, dysfunctional rainbow of over-involved parenting—or perhaps absent parents making up for lost time with the strings their money can pull. For years, children have been reaping the rewards from parents who snow-plowed their paths to glory.

From presents never denied, to activities allowed to quell fits of rage, inflated grades from a parent-coerced teacher, parent-produced school projects and homework, tutoring and advantages only money can buy, these kids have gotten their way all along. Do they deserve their advantages, or are they just lucky? Is the problem the spoiled, entitled kids who think they deserve anything they want, or the parents who make sure those advantages are offered, or the culture in which money and status have become increasingly necessary?

And how about the 35,000 kids who applied to Yale alone—diligent students who played by the rules seeking thousands in scholarship and student loans—who were denied admission only to learn it could have been stolen by an entitled rich kid?

How does this affect our culture’s moral fabric? What do these kids, both advantaged and disadvantaged, learn about fortitude, work ethic, achievement, and deserving?

As one of my Facebook followers put it, “This is another example of a parent not really seeing their kid, and instead just forcing through their vision of who that child should be, literally no matter the cost.”

If you had the money to make anything happen for your child, would you be tempted to use your advantage if you thought it would put your child on a successful life course? Would you be able to do the “right thing” if it meant your children losing out?

For eons, multi-million dollar donations have been an admission ticket. Money means grossly unfair advantages against people of color and students who play by the rules. But when bribery and cheating, illegality and immorality suffice for college entrance qualifications, the multitude of those denied have a right to outrage.

The job of a parent is to see, listen, learn from and support the child to find her own way over the humps and bumps of getting there, knowing she is capable. How can we be so presumptuous to think we know what is best for our children? Plain and simple–we don’t know. And to think we do, to believe we should because it’s “our job” not only puts us on a very fragile pedestal but truly hinders our relationship with our children.

The question to ask is, How do I support my child in finding his own way? Can you take yourself out of the picture long enough to see your child as separate from you on a path of his own? What if taking yourself (and your influence and money) out of the picture means your child might fail?

The slippery slope starts with harried, tired parents who give in “just this once” to a screaming, demanding child. Or it’s a parent who believes that his child’s wants and needs have top priority. Or it’s a parent who cannot bear to experience her child’s suffering, pain, or disappointment. Or it’s a parent who sees himself reflected in his child’s achievements because down deep he has a message of inadequacy.

This slippery slope for all, not just the wealthy, needs buffering when children are young. Not just so they get used to not always getting their way, but more importantly so you don’t get used to giving it. The more you give, the harder it becomes to withhold, and the meaner it seems to do so.

These entitled kids will not know how to get along on their own. They will depend on others to pave their way. Some will find the pavers; many will flounder. Many will sideline the deserving and underprivileged to get ahead—because they can.

For your children to succeed they need resilience and grit. This means allowing your children disappointment, boredom, argument, anger, and defeat. It may mean failure. But on the other side of defeat is the space where strength and success from achievement reside and where true deserving can be deeply known.

It takes a lot of faith and trust in your child to know that you can allow failure and your child will endure and come out the other end stronger for it.

Let’s hope that the “Me-First” operation (not my coinage, but I love it) has the legs of the #MeToo movement.

 

We punish our children in an attempt to keep them from pushing our buttons, often escalating the original problem into a cycle of anger and blame. When Your Kids Push Your Buttons is not about what to do to your kids to get them to stop pushing your buttons. This book is about how to be the parent you wish you could be-the parent that only you are holding yourself back from.

 

 

 

Related Articles:

When Life Throws Punches How Resilient is Your Child?

Building Resilience from the Ground Up

What the #MeToo Movement Can Teach Parents

  read more

4 Ways to Help Your Child Succeed in School

Of course, you want your children to succeed in school. You do all you can to manage getting their best. But what really is your job? Is it to insure good grades, getting involved in the right sports and extra-curriculars, and diligently doing their homework? If so how involved do you get? And what do you do if they don’t meet your expectations?

Do you know that all your best intentions can undermine your child’s school success and desire to learn?

Children are natural learners. We come evolved to soak up all the learning we can — until it becomes a requirement. Remember when your toddler kept asking you why? until you wanted to scream? How is she doing now in the curiosity department?

Here are four key aspects to help you help your children succeed in school:

 

1.      Stay Out of It

This makes parenting so much easier, gives you more time for connection, and hands over the responsibility they need to learn. But it’s hard give up managing your kids’ school lives and work, especially if your definition of success isn’t happening.

How did you do in school? If school was your source of competency, then you want your kids to experience the same and will possibly set unrealistic expectations for them that worked for you. If school was difficult for you, you want to save your children from that fate. In either case, you will impose your own school experience onto your kids. It’s all you have. Unless you stay out of it.

The way our system works, most kids think their school success is for you or their teachers — or their failure is your disappointment. Your approval is based on how well they perform. It’s not about them; it’s about you. When you take responsibility for their school progress, then everything they do becomes a reflection of how well you are doing. Your child’s grade becomes your grade.

The best way to kill your child’s love of learning and natural curiosity is to impose your will on how and what he does. Do you nag about homework because you fear he wouldn’t do it unless you make him? Do you use rewards and threats to insure good grades? When you oversee homework and grades, you child becomes dependent on that. He doesn’t have to take responsibility for his homework because you do.

Research has shown that intrinsic motivation, love of learning, is undermined by external rewards and punishments. In study after study, children who are rewarded for accomplishing tasks, accomplish way less than those not rewarded.

Jessica Lahey, author of The Gift of Failure — and upcoming speaker at Conval High School Oct. 23rd — says, “Applying pressure in the form of control is the single most damaging thing parents and teachers can do to their children’s learning. Whether in the form of threats, bribes, deals, surveillance, imposed goals, evaluations, or even rewards and praise, control is the enemy of autonomy.”

When the focus is on achievement and grades, natural curiosity dries up. When kids are force fed learning, it is no longer fun to learn.

 

2.      Let Your Children Fail

Resilience is built from tough times. When kids are pampered, have the path in front of them smoothed regularly, they lose ambition and come to expect someone else to manage their difficulties.

What do you do when your child complains about a grade she gets that seems terribly unfair? Do you call the teacher, or do you ask your child what she wants to do about it? If homework is not finished, do you take away computer privileges, blame it on irresponsibility, threaten to restrict social time, fight until she tells you she can’t stand living in this family anymore? Or do you allow her to experience the natural consequences of not handing homework in on time or not studying for a test? And without an I-told-you-so attitude.

If your child is controlled by threats and punishments, she will lose faith in herself and stop trying. Then you are even more tempted to use control tactics, the cycle spins, and she becomes less and less motivated. Maintaining your control over your child actually shields her from the far more powerful teaching of natural consequences. Building resilience is put at risk.

 

3.      Support

Paving the way for a child having a hard time in school, doing most of his homework, giving money for good grades is not supporting your child. Hearing his frustration over grades or teachers’ criticisms, acknowledging his efforts, and using problem solving to help him figure out how he wants to handle situations is supportive.

Fighting over grades, homework, and test scores sends the message that his worth is measured by his accomplishments rather than by his effort and character. The external carrot or stick only prods when you are there to do the prodding.

Talk about what your kids are studying at the dinner table, share your ideas about the subject, show interest in what they’re learning, look up related information together online. Your interest is motivating, your criticism, hovering, or lack of interest is not.

If your child is falling behind in school, spend time and energy understanding why. This requires trusting communication, so he feels safe being totally honest with you. Is the school environment the right fit for him? Are social relationships at risk? Does your child feel disrespected by certain teachers? Does he worry he can’t keep up with the class? Once you get to the bottom of it, then you can problem solve with him to determine what would be most helpful.

When you take responsibility for the problem your child is having, success or failure is up to you. When you listen and problem solve, your child can work it through with you to find solutions. But take his lead. You can make suggestions and offer your opinions but always ask if this would work for him. This is true support.

Each of your children is different. Each requires different expectations. Your support requires understanding what each child needs and never comparing them.

It is important to hand over your children’s education to them; put them in charge. When they sense your trust, and your expectations are set for their success, they are more likely to rise to the challenge education presents and feel proud of themselves with every accomplishment.

 

4.      Set Goals

Planning ahead is a skill everyone needs. It provides additional focus on what your child wants and thinks about. Telling a child what to do leaves her feeling powerless and provokes resistance. Asking what she wants to do about it, what her plan is, encourages thinking ahead and builds executive functioning and competence.

Try asking your kids what they want to accomplish this school year, what each hopes to gain. Ask your child if she were to overhear her teacher talking about her in the hallway, what would she like to hear. Then ask how she thinks she can accomplish that. Talking about goals with your kids keeps the focus under their control, not yours. When you tell them what you want them to accomplish, they become pawns under your control. Be prepared for either obstinance or compliance — compliance that brings with it mediocrity.

When your expectations focus on everyone doing their best, and when education is important to your family, your children know it. But make sure what you want for each of them matches what they are capable of with a short stretch beyond. When your expectations are unrealistic and set by external controls, your child will believe she can’t meet up, she’s not good enough, she’ll never be who you want her to be.

Imagination, ingenuity, and brilliance means taking risks and making lots of mistakes. It may mean doing poorly in one subject so attention can be paid where there is stimulation. If no stimulation is present in school, talk about where else it can be found.

Make sure your kids know you care far more about their efforts and desire to learn and grow than you do about grades. Your goals for them should be each finding their potential. Your goals for you should be sitting back, supporting, and watching in awe as their minds take off.

read more

Aug. ’18 Q&A – Does your child fit with his school, Disrespect and Test Anxiety

Does your child fit with his school?

Q. Our feisty 5 yo is not settling into school too well, and we have to attend meetings with the teacher due to his misbehaving ways. When asked why he acts out, ie: drawing on walls, running away from the class, ignoring instructions etc, he says, “because I felt like it”. This is quite concerning as he attends a Catholic School and is raised by a practising Catholic mother with very loving and devoted parents. He does not seem to understand what it feels like to be in someone else’s position. We are at a loss after trying to talk to him and discuss alternative ways of behaving with no positive results. Another concern is his lack of concentration as he has approx. 4 mins. of attentiveness before he loses interest and proceeds to do what he wants to do, sometimes ignoring instructions and/or consequences. I have been doing some research and strongly believe he may need some assistance with self-regulating. Do you have any suggestions as to how we can help our strong willed, stubborn child who is loved very much. We very much want him to enjoy school rather than say he hates school and doesn’t want to go?

A. Keep in mind that your son is only five and should not be expected to consider another’s position for several more years. This sounds like a misfit of child and environment. Our job as parents is to provide environments that meet our children’s needs, not the other way around. Your son sounds like a perfectly normal, active, distractible boy. His “misbehavior” shown as running off, not listening, drawing on walls indicates that he is being asked to do what he cannot do at this point. Teachers well versed in child development will know how to engage kids like this – he is by far not the only 5 year old who is not ready to settle down in a structured environment.

The structure of this school may be too restrictive for his needs. If his teacher has unrealistic expectations for him, he will not be able to meet them. They are calling it “misbehaving”, which tells me they must make him change. He will naturally act out in reaction to that. His response, “Because I felt like it” is quite logical. A 5 year old who feels pushed to do what he can’t will naturally find a way to do what he wants — until that aspect of him is punished enough that makes it not safe for him to do what he wants.

What you can be sure of is that he has a hard time sitting still and listening, so he uses his imagination to amuse himself. The problem comes when that doesn’t work in his environment. But isn’t that what we want for our children — to think creatively and imaginatively to solve problems. Of course he can’t do whatever he wants but imagine if his teacher put paper on the wall for him to draw on, other children as well, instead of getting yelled at, criticized, blamed, given consequences, all of which causes him to feel bad about himself, which exacerbates his behavior. When he learns he is bad, he will continue to behave badly. When appropriate expectations are held for him — that he can’t sit still yet like some of the other kids, he needs something to keep his body moving, etc. — then he will respond more cooperatively because he will feel heard and understood. If he cannot hold his attention longer than 4 min., put him in a school environment where that is okay, not one that forces him to be attentive longer than he can be. If his needs are met now, he will be able to regulate himself and follow rules as he gets older. You will have more success if you put him in an environment that accepts who he is rather than who you or the school wants him to be.

He may be loved very much but is he accepted? Do you and his school accept that he is a very busy, distractible, imaginative, 5 year old who cannot yet sit still and keep his attention focused for longer than 4 minutes? Or are you trying to get him to change and be calm, quiet, and attentive? I know you don’t want him to change, so find an environment that understands his perfectly normal, albeit hard to manage, temperament.

 

Disrespect at School

Q. My 9 year old son is smart, creative and very stubborn. He hates school, refuses to even try, disrespects the teachers and acts out in anger if they try to make him do his work. He is more than capable of getting As on tests but usually gets Ds because he just stares out the window instead of doing his test. He doesn’t do any of his school work during classtime so we have to spend a few hours with him every night catching up on his homework. He is well behaved and lovable when he’s doing something he enjoys but seems to think that if he’s bored, he doesn’t have to try. My husband and I have tried everything to help him realize that, even if he doesn’t enjoy school, he needs to still do his best. We praise him when he does well and try to acknowledge everything he is good at. We have also withheld privileges when he behaves inappropriately at school. Nothing works. He is now meeting weekly with a school social worker. Hopefully he will develop some coping skills. My problem is this – even though we are working very hard to help him be successful, I feel really judged by his teachers. They know he is meeting with the social worker (at their request) but they still phone me to complain about how difficult he is. I just want to burst into tears when I get those calls because I feel totally powerless. Can you give me any tips for how I can handle this?

A. I completely empathize with how powerless you feel when teachers call to complain. I imagine they feel powerless too since your son is not compliant with their wishes. Easy for me to say, but I think everyone needs to listen to what your son is trying to say. It sounds like he’s saying that this school is not the right place for him. Do you have any other options. (see the Q&A above about school fit.) Unfortunately many parents do not have options.

The problem with our mainstream parenting/teaching culture sees his resistance, defiant behavior as him being bad, doing it wrong. So we try behavioral techniques to change the behavior rather than looking to the inner emotional state that is causing the behavior. My guess is that he is responding disrespectfully to his teachers because he feels disrespected (unheard, unimportant) by them. If you feel judged by them, imagine how he feels.

He is smart and he is bored, and his nature will not comply with what offends him — he’s what I call an Integrity Child. But even when bored, children will work for someone who respects and believes in them. He is not happy nor engaged, and is being told that is not okay. When you withdraw privileges you are telling him “Don’t be yourself” and that your acceptance of him is conditional on doing something that his integrity cannot stomach. He will not respond well to that.

What he needs is to know that you hear him and that you want to work together to find a way for him to deal with this school that you know is not meeting his needs. When you tell him that “even though…he still needs to do his best”, you are not listening. You need to start where he is. “You hate your school experience and that must truly suck.” There is no “but” about it. He’s a smart kid and sees through your attempts to tell him what he needs to do. He hears you saying, You have to do it our way. True empathy is seeing his experience through his eyes.

Share your frustration that you feel judged as well. When you show compassion for his problem, and acknowledge the disrespect he feels at school for who he is without trying to change him, then you can talk about the importance of showing respect even for people we don’t like. A different school or home schooling has the potential of making the difference for all three of you—not always an option. Let him know that you find yourself in a predicament with the school that does not feel helpful or supportive and that you have been trying to get him to be compliant to help you with that predicament, and you see that is not helping him.

Then give it time for him to trust that you care more about him than the school. In the meantime, let his teachers know how judged you feel and that you are switching your focus to understand him better rather than pushing for compliance.

 

Test Anxiety

Q. Do you have suggestions for my 10-year old daughter who has panic attacks during tests/exams? She is generally a happy, outgoing person but tends to flounder faced with adversity and has self-esteem issues. She specifically has panic attacks during assessments at school, which obviously affect her performance. Although she is very able and should in principle do well, during tests she freezes when she cannot immediately answer a question, gets stressed when others are faster than her, and stops functioning altogether. Can you suggest coping techniques she could practice?

 A.Wow this sounds like me! Many children do well in school and panic when it comes to testing. Your daughter will only have self-esteem issues if she believes she is wrong or dumb for being the way she is. The best you can do for her is to assure her she’s perfectly normal. I’m not saying you do this, but DO NOT try to reassure her that “everything will be fine, and she will do well if she just relaxes”. That sends the message that you don’t get it, and she is alone in her worry, which exacerbates the panic.

Point out to her that FEELINGS of anxiety stem from her THOUGHTS. When she thinks, Here it comes, I’m going to fail on this test, she will naturally panic and then clutch. Help her identify the thoughts she has at the time panic hits and how she has control over her thoughts. For instance, “I’m going to fail this test” could change to “I’m feeling really nervous right now.” “Everybody’s going to beat me” could reframe to “I tend to be slower than some of the others. That’s okay.” She must keep it truthful and factual – something she can believe, rather than “I’m going to do just fine.”

The goal is to take the edge off, not to be completely confident going into an exam. Panic can change to nervous. And everybody feels nervous. She could write some reframed thoughts down and read them at the time. You can make suggestions but don’t tell her what she should do and don’t expect her worry to disappear.

Your job is to understand her, not make it go away. Don’t take her pain personally. It’s important for you to know that this is her problem, not yours. If you are upset about it, your upset makes her problem worse. Then she has your upset to deal with too. Your job is to understand her dilemma and to give her support — a non-judgmental, non-advice-giving shoulder to cry on, a compassionate sounding board to unload on. Every time she gets through it, she builds resilience. You must trust that for her.

You might also point out that the reason she gets panicky is because of the high expectations she holds for herself. She cares very much about how she does. Point out the obvious positives — she will never settle for mediocre, she will always strive to be better — and then add the downside — she will be very hard on herself — something she can work on over time.

Mindfulness meditation practices can help. The two of you could practice together a few minutes a day.

Of interest – 12 Ways to Encourage School Motivation

Bonus!

Getting your kids out the door in the morning is enough to ruin your day. Remember these 8 points:

  • Get yourself up in enough time to be relaxed and mostly focused on the kids.
  • If you wake your kids, allow time for hugs and an easy transition from sleep to awake.
  • Do not expect your child to WANT to leave home. Many children have difficulty with transitions. Fine after they get there. Difficult getting there.
  • Talk with your child about all the things she needs to get done in the morning. i.e. brushing teeth, playing, eat breakfast, etc. Make a list out of order. Let her put them in the order she chooses. You can object but let her take the lead. Then list them on a dry erase board with a check box next to each that she can check off as accomplished.
  • Do as much the night before as possible — set out clothes, gather everything for the backpack, put sports equipment by the door, make lunches.
  • Do the best you can to not RUSH. Kids hate to be rushed.
  • When they dawdle, resist temptation to criticize and nag. Getting out the door on time is your agenda, rarely their’s (altho some are hyper-sensitive to being on time – if so, you don’t have a problem here!). They need motivation to help you out with YOUR agenda.
  • For kids who have an especially hard time leaving, about 5 min. before hand, ask your child, “What is one more thing you’d like to do before we have to leave?” “Is there something you’d like to get to take with you today?” Giving them a choice gives a bit of control to a child who feels powerless to do what he wants.
  • read more

    May ’18 Q&A – Confidence, Empathy and Shopping

    Is it lack of confidence or too much control?

    Q. Our 5-year old boy is struggling with confidence. He has difficulty focusing at school and we don’t want him to get behind. There are 22 kids in his class and the school has an expectation of work. Also has trouble focusing at soccer practice/games, anytime things are going on around him. He has no issues interacting with people, kids or adults. I believe he lacks confidence because he is afraid of trying new things. He doesn’t like to fail and gets frustrated easily when he can’t learn fast. He also gets very embarrassed when things don’t go as expected.

    read more