It’s Saturday morning and you have a list of chores to complete. One of them is to fix part of the backyard fence. The wear of winter snow tore away some lengths of wire from the wooden posts, which are somewhat rotted.
Your child tags along. You talk to her out loud as you poke around in your workbench drawers. Which would work best, nails or staples? Should you try one first? Staple gun or hammer? Bungee cords? A tape measure? A shovel or not? A wheelbarrow? When your work apron and hers are full of supplies, out you go to fix the fence.
This scenario is the beginning of learning to tinker, to fix, to mess around, to try out an idea and then adapt it until it works. It’s the foundation of problem solving and visualizing and talking back and forth about what might work and why.
When children use real tools to solve real problems, it creates an opportunity for a parent to help show that tinkering around is real life problem solving. Find ways to involve your child in tinkering. You’ll be well on your way to building a good, solid, parent and child bond.
I have strong views on the subject of using “hi guys,” and “you guys” to address children. I believe it is an inappropriate and unprofessional term to use when addressing two or more people.
Perhaps I learned this as I came of age during the women’s movement of the 1970s and women could not even get a credit card in their own name. Only the “guys” could.
Whether I’m their principal or their college supervisor, I point it out to teachers when they say hi-, you-, or bye- guys.” They’re invariably shocked to realize they use it at all, because it is incorrect to address a group of boys and girls in that manner. Guys are boys, girls are not.
“Hello friends” or “Hi everyone” are better and inclusive.
For parents, I think it’s a bit more complicated. Some parents use it as a salutation to greet or shepherd their children out the door. Other parents feel it is relaxed, informal, friendly, even affectionate.
But using the word “guys” when addressing a group of boys and girls perpetuates the myth that the day of women’s liberation is over. It is not. We have all kinds of male referenced slang in our language and plenty of phrases in our speech from men’s sports.
Use salutations for your sons and daughters that are inclusive and appropriate.
Do you read every day? Even when I worked crazy, long hours as a principal, everyone in our family read every night. We ended up cutting down on TV when our children’s schedules got busy.
As your child’s first and most important teacher, you’re a role model. If you expect your child to do her 20 minutes of reading a night, you should, too.
Let me add that I believe the 20 minutes a night that most schools prescribe is far too low. It’s also misleading. Readers grow through practice and talking about what they read, but learning to sustain their attention over time is just as important.
Here are 3 tips to increase your reading:
Make reading time child and parent snuggling and comfort time.
If you read exclusively on a mobile device, show your child that you enjoy reading books, magazines, newspapers or other print material that is in your home, too.
Is your family in a routine of regular trips to the library? Library books are essential in the home. Bring your child to the children’s room and ask the children’s librarian to help him find books.
Part of helping kids learn to read is helping them to do it every day.
When it comes to visiting school, we educators know that some parents bring with them their own mixed experiences–lots of them negative–about school. In some cases, these feelings are so strong, they can cause a parent to avoid going to concerts or attending spring conferences.
I can help you with this, because schools have changed. Today, there are no stupid questions you can ask about your child’s education. No parent is expected to keep up with the latest trends and research–it’s hard enough for teachers, believe me. It is fine to bring along a list of questions you want to ask.
Here’s an example. It’s spring, you’re at a parent conference, and the teacher is raving about the book report your child did on Susan B. Anthony. You think, a book report? What book report? When did he read the book–I didn’t see that at home. And remind me who Susan B. Anthony is?—I’m working ten hours a day and am exhausted.
Go ahead and ask every question you have. You won’t look stupid. Your child’s teacher should easily answer every question without you feeling judged. We school people need to find more and better ways to communicate with families, and this may be one area for improvement.
A final word of advice about your questions. Sometimes the best or most important follow-up questions arise later on. Also, you may realize you don’t understand or remember what the teacher said about something. Don’t hesitate to call or email to follow up.
We want parents to ask us questions about their child because it shows that the parents are committed to their child’s learning.
When I taught piano, I noticed something about my students’ learning. The first two years were easy and a student got satisfaction quickly from playing recognizable melodies.
Year three, however, separated the long-term gain students from the others. Pieces are more difficult at this point and practice time is lengthier than 15 or 20 minutes a day. The student begins to learn more serious piano literature. Practice sessions involve more technique with exercises to improve the fingers and the ear.
Most parents can tell the difference between their child suffering through learning an instrument they dislike, and one going through growing pains. If you think it’s growing pains, encourage your child and help them to stick with it. Here’s why.
A child engages both sides of the brain when they study piano. Both hands and all fingers learn to operate independently. They problem solve, they learn creative interpretation, they develop listening skills, and they learn tenacity. Research reported in National Geographic calls piano study a “cognitive training program” that later on benefits aging brains.
After the year three difficulties, there’s smoother sailing, and your child learns that effort and stick-to-it-tive-ness pays off.
Today over thirty thousand runners run the 120th Boston Marathon, the world’s oldest and most prestigious marathon. It’s also the 50th official year that women have been running. If you live in Massachusetts, you might have watched along the route some years for hours as you screamed support, urged runners on, shouted encouragement, and yelled “Keep going! You can do it! You’re almost there!”
The first American winner today was Tatyana McFadden, a racer in the women’s wheelchair division.
I’m listening to our national anthem played now in her honor.
My father began taking me to watch the Boston Marathon when I was very young, so young that he had to squat down to be at my level. We’d stand across from Tasty Treat in Ashland on Route 135, and he’d tell me which runners to watch for.
Attending large sporting events is fun and teaches us lessons. At the very least, we reflect on our own achievements and reinforce the goals we hope to reach.
In the last post, I gave you a good framework to use when addressing back talk with your child. The last step to take is moving on, bringing her back into the family’s tasks and rhythms.
Of course, neither you nor your daughter may feel like falling into each other’s arms at this point.
That’s okay. By moving on, you demonstrate a powerful love and respect for her. I know you will do better the next time. I love you and will stick by you no matter what. I am here to help you even when the going’s tough.
A child’s development is rarely linear. There are not neat stages through which children pass, with infallible instructions for each. Growth is arduous and messy, trial and error, and many times the path is bumpy and rough.
Be proud of how you are raising your children to be thoughtful, thinkers in our world.
Your child is in her room, device free, cooling off during a time out.
Choose a reasonable amount of time to leave her alone. Don’t make it too long. You want to make a point without ruining the whole day.
The biggest lesson you’re about to show her is that in your family, you recognize bad behavior, address it, and then move on.
Because you are the adult, you must teach her how to do this. It is difficult but healthy, from both an educational and a developmental perspective. It demonstrates respect for your child and the consistency shows her that you love her and commit to helping her.
Choose a reasonable amount of time to let her cool off. About twenty minutes is right for most children this age.
Find a quiet corner and ask her to return and talk.
Revisit the issue of lip and what it means to your family. Avoid arguing about what happened. Focus instead on the behavior–giving lip, back talk—and speak calmly.
Olivia, do you remember the rule about back talk we have in our family?
Why do we have that rule?
You seemed angry about —-. Let her give a short explanation. There’s no need to argue over details.
I know that you can think about a better way to handle your feelings.
What will you do the next time you get angry?
4. End with a hug and move on.
I’ll write more about the importance of moving on in Part III.
There isn’t a child on earth who hasn’t given lip. Or back talked and made nasty remarks at you, their parent.
Developmentally speaking, children mostly use this language (or the accompanying tone of voice) as part of their separation from you. At the time, they have a strong reaction to something, or feel peevish or mean–and punching a pillow isn’t going to make them feel better. They lash out at someone close to them and usually it’s someone they trust.
It’s important to understand as much as possible about your child’s context when she gives lip. However, effective discipline means that you must follow through every single time.
Imagine that your fifth grader daughter talks back when you ask her to help with something:
“No! That’s stupid. You can’t make me! I hate you!” Her nasty sneer gives way to angry belligerence.
What do you say and do? Don’t let it pass. Drop everything and address it calmly whether you’re in public or private.
“That talk and tone is unacceptable in our family. You know that. Leave your [phone or electronic device] on the table here and go to your room.” Let her stomp away and slam her door.
Addressing lip in this concrete way does several things:
You address it immediately and calmly. There are no exceptions.
You take away something of value immediately, like electronic devices. This is better than “no TV for a week,” or ”You’re not going with your friends to…” because you are dealing with it right away, and moving on.
You direct her to a place where she can cool down and so you can calm down. Let her stomp and slam to get some of the anger out.
Did you know that today’s kindergartens look like yesterday’s first grades? A kinder garten is supposed to be a “child’s garden,” which means that a kindergarten curriculum centers on child development rather than gulping chunks of academics. Education policy makers and politicians started pushing this change years ago, with the result that everything is now driven by standardized test scores.
The case is made that children must do more, earlier, and that we must get on with delivering content. In many districts, if your kindergarten child isn’t reading by October, you can expect your child to receive endless assessments until he learns to read.
I call for the return of kindergarten to the social, emotional, behavioral, and developmental needs of children, learned through play. Skills for children to develop should center on the following:
Learn to listen. Wait your turn. Be kind. Do your work. Help others. Share. Take turns. Don’t hurt people. Play well with others. Speak nicely to all.
Children with a solid grounding in these skills will help to make the world a better place, because these skills matter in life. Can you think of any relationship or career that doesn’t benefit from these strengths?