Archive for Goal

At What Point Should Children Earn Recognition

We are living in an age where red pens are not allowed to be used by some teachers in schools because the ink gives the wrong message.  We are also living in a time when everyone on a youth sports team receives a trophy no matter the team’s record or the child’s contribution. Finally, we are living in a moment where teachers aren’t allowed to fail a child in some schools. I don’t have the definitive answer as to when recognition should be given.  That answer comes down to your core values as a parent.  What I can do though is to tell you how the best parents I have ever seen work with this issue and how your humble writer approaches the issue with his own children.

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Parenting Resolutions for 2012

Have you ever heard of a parenting New Year’s resolution?  It’s not the first resolution a person usually has- is it?  There are plenty of resolutions involving weight, time, and perhaps income.  But, I seldom hear of resolutions people want to focus on concerning their children.  Today’s post will focus on a couple of things.  The first focus is ideas for parental resolutions.  The second is the most effective strategy to implement any resolution.

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How Far is Too Far?

Last Tuesday, I wrote a post called Sports Leagues for Children.  The article highlighted the fact that all sports leagues aren’t created equally.  Some are more competitive than others.  Depending on your child and their stage of development, non-competitive leagues have some advantages worth considering.  Here is a link to the article for more information.  That post leads me into today’s story.

Last week, a story broke out of Collier, Tennessee of a high school football coach named Shawn Abel who resigned after a profanity laced tirade (before a football game) was recorded and placed on Youtube.  For more details on the specifics of the story, here’s the link.  I will warn you though the actual clip is vulgar and children should not be around when you choose to listen to it.

After listening to the rant, my wife was convinced Coach Abel should have been fired immediately.  For those of you who agree with her, I can’t blame you.  The tirade was awful and deeply personal.  Others of you may think this is a free speech issue and the rant was in a locker room which has closed doors for a reason.  It’s hard for me to argue this point as well.

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Sports Leagues for Children

I feel that sports are a great addition to the maturation process for any child capable of playing.  But where a child plays is equally as important as the sport itself.

Some leagues are geared to be competitive.  Catholic school sports (in my area) are the first that come to mind-especially in the middle school years.  Their goal is to win each game and play the best players in order to achieve their means.  Systems are taught but all players aren’t “developed.” The players that coaches concentrate on are the ones again to achieve the final goal of winning. It seems to me the development of a player is more in the hands of the parents.  This was true when I was young and I haven’t seen evidence to the contrary.

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6 Parent/Teacher Conference Tips Not Often Heard

Parent- teacher conferences are a time where there should be a meeting of the minds.  Teachers should be able to lay out their case for the child’s progress academically, socially, and emotionally.  Parents should be able to compare what they are hearing to what is going on at home.  At that point, a plan should come together as to how to work with the child going forward. It should be the ultimate collaboration crammed into about 15 minutes.

When I was a teacher, I was meticulous about laying out my arguments about how a child was performing before a parent walked through my door.  Instead of dominating the meeting, I would lay out these arguments as quickly as possible in order to allow the parent to agree or disagree with my assessment.  Because I have been on both ends of the parent teacher conference table ( I was an elementary teacher for 7 years) perhaps these tips will guide you through a conference.


The first tip is for a parent to keep samples of student work just like a teacher.  This is especially helpful if there is a disputed grade in a subject.  Bring the student work to the conference and compare it with the work the teacher presents.

The second tip is to respect the knowledge of the teacher concerning your child but don’t take it as the law.  You have been around your child for years.  At this point, a teacher has had your child two months (give or take).  I’m not saying that teachers do not know what they are talking about.  What I am saying is that you know your child better than anyone.  There’s nothing wrong with trusting your instincts unless the teacher can present irrefutable evidence.

The third tip is to approach the conference as a problem solver.  The last thing a parent should want is to be lectured for 15 minutes about poor grades or behavior then sent home shamefully.  Let’s pretend there is a behavior problem in the classroom.  As a parent, you should be able to present a few effective methods you have used at home for handling discipline. If concentration is an issue, what do you do at home to help your child concentrate?

The fourth tip is for parents to understand that teachers aren’t the only professionals in the room.  All parents should be treated like professionals because when it comes to your child, you might as well have a PH. D.  If you feel like you are being talked down to or belittled by a teacher, you can choose to address it on the spot.  If you are not confrontational or if you have a situation that catches you off guard; going to the principal is always a good option.

My fifth bit of advice is to not get too excited or too depressed about the results of a parent/teacher conference.  A conference is simply a snapshot in time.  If a conference goes well, be happy for your child but understand there is still more work to do.  If a conference doesn’t go well, that’s fine in most cases.  There is  plenty of time to turn the problem around.

Finally, here’s the key once a conference has concluded.  Follow up with the teacher (in the next couple of weeks) by phone or email to make sure that the game plan from the conference is being implemented to everyone’s satisfaction.  Often, I had parents who I would not see again until the next conference 5 months later.  It’s much better for all parties (especially children) when the parent clearly demonstrates they are keeping their finger on the pulse.

I hope you liked today’s article.  Don’t forget that there are many other lessons parents can learn from my parenting book Tantrums, Troubles, and Treasures.  Feel free to read the preface located right below my picture.  I hope the lessons you will learn from the book will serve your family well.  Here’s the direct link to the book from

I also wanted to announce that over this past weekend, I receive the 1,000th comment on  For everyone who has ever cared enough to leave a thought on my website, I truly appreciate your time and effort.

My next post will be on Tuesday.  Have a terrific weekend.

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Three Don'ts of Discipline

First, let me send a note of thanks to people who have sent parenting questions they would like answered on my blog this Friday.  For anyone who would like to send a parenting question- feel free.  My mind has not been made up yet as to which one I will answer.  The email address is

Last Thursday, I wrote the Three Do’s of Discipline.  Please check it out at because it leads directly into this blog. Today, I want to flip the script.  There are some things you shouldn’t do when disciplining your child at any age.  I realize that all rules have exceptions.  But, by and large, what you are about to read will save any parent from a lot of stress and headaches.

1.  Don’t discipline your child if you aren’t thinking two steps ahead.

Any chess player knows you have to outwit and outmaneuver your opponent in order to be successful.  Parenting isn’t much different.  Any parent should be able to talk to their child in such a way to get them to open up, calm down, or discipline to redirect him/her.  You never want the tail to wag the dog if you know what I mean.

What happens though is that parents get caught up in the emotion of the situation.  When this occurs, they start to lose their composure which is one of the greatest advantages any parent should have over a misbehaving child.  When a parent loses their composure, it’s much more difficult to think two steps ahead.  Mark my words.  Parents who discipline when they are not composed make mistakes.

2.  Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.

This is a common saying where I am from.  I am using the phrase to mean to separate the overall good of the child from the bad behavior.  If parents were to chart the good versus bad things their children did, many would be surprised to find the amount of good in a child perceived as poorly behaved. Sometimes, parents get so consumed with a poor behavior that they fail to see the qualities of the whole child.  One of my strategies is to find (and file away) the good qualities of a difficult child immediately to combat the behaviors I may see down the line.

Let’s say that I see a child, who struggles controlling their anger, start to rev up.  I want to catch them before the wheels come unhinged and remind them of another time they were able to control their anger.  My theory is if they can do it once, they can do it again.  This tactic has worked countless times but it does take some quick thinking, patience, and self control on my part.

3.  Don’t allow children who struggle with discipline to stay idle.

This tactic is difficult and time consuming but is well worth it.  Children who struggle with self discipline need to stay busy as much as possible.  When they are idle, he/she is more likely to get into trouble.  Therefore, at dinner time, for example, I won’t cook alone if I have a child in the room who struggles with behavior.  The child may be helping me prepare the food, be put to a task (such as reading) or be sent outside to burn off some energy.

I can’t assume a child who struggles with discipline will magically “get it” one day.  What I can assume is that I will put in the time and training to assist as long as I am needed.  There are times, of course, when we have to let children go in order to evaluate what has been learned and what needs to be improved.  Sometimes, the child will misbehave and we have to start over from square one.  There are other times though they will do something right (help a friend, control their temper, etc).  This feeds right in with point two which is very exciting.

Here’s a final thought I’ll make about discipline.  Whether you are working with a “terrible two” or your teenager is testing his/her boundaries, discipline is essential.  Though it can be really hard work, there’s a big personal satisfaction to the parent who watches their “little hellion” start to grow up and implement the discipline that was painstakingly implemented.

I wish you well and can’t wait for Friday’s question/answer post!

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Three Do's of Discipline

Housekeeping Note:

Welcome to my blog.  Thanks for the feedback on my slideshow presentation for Tantrums, Troubles, and Treasures.  For those who haven’t seen it, click on the About the Book section located at the top of the blog.

Next Friday, I will have a question/answer blog.  Though I haven’t done this in a while, they are very popular and the parenting questions I get are thoughtful, serious, and sometimes zany (which I enjoy).  If you have a question about a real or hypothetical parenting situation, send it to

Too often, parents think of discipline in terms of “How to get that child back for what he/she did” or “How can I punish my child sorry for all the gray hair he/she is causing me.” Although consequences/punishment can be a form of discipline, it’s better to think of discipline in an overall behavioral context.  Discipline is simply a means of teaching right and wrong.  When a parent uses discipline effectively, they can often solve a problem before feeling like they have to pull out their hair. With that in mind here are three do’s of discipline.

1.  Make sure your supervision coincides appropriately with the child’s age. For example- If your 3 year old gets in a drawer, finds a pair of scissors, and cuts their hair to the scalp while you were busy watching The View, I would worry more about you taking it as a learning lesson in supervision versus getting on the child for the inappropriate behavior.  3 year old children shouldn’t have that type of access to scissors nor the time to do the deed.

The same principal can be said of the 11 year old who is struggling in math.  If, for example, you know your child struggles in math and you don’t help them- how can you consequence his academic behavior?  Of course, if you do help the child and he/she still struggles, there could be a deeper issue and consequences still would not be warranted.  Contrarily, if they are not giving any effort to improve their work despite your due diligence, consequences may come into play.

2.  When a child misbehaves, reflect back to assess what you could have done better. Something I’ve noticed is that children don’t always mess up on their own accord without a reason (unless we are talking about toddlers who are in their own world).  When a child talks back to their parent, fights their sibling, or misbehaves in school, there’s usually a reason.  Although consequences may still be warranted, sharp parents will dig to the root of the problem to avoid a repeat performance.  In past blogs, I have referred to this as keeping your finger on the pulse.

3.  Turn down the burner before stirring the pot. When I cook spaghetti, I turn the burner on high, boil the water, and turn the burner back down before I place the spaghetti in the pot and stir it.

This analogy is used because something similar happens when discipline is needed with children.  When a child is angry and misbehaving, the blood is already “boiling.”  At this point, I have a couple of options.  I could decide to consequence the behavior on the spot or I could wait for the child to calm down while staying close enough to keep him/her safe.  Waiting is very difficult and sometimes takes an extreme amount of patience.

If I consequence the child on the spot, it would be like never turning the burner down on the stove.  Eventually boiling water will escape the pot.  Children are not fun to work with once things have gone this far so I typically take a different approach although I have the right to use either method.

I like to turn the burner down on children.  By this I mean my own voice is under control, I will be a good listener, and I will apply consequences (if needed) based on the facts of the situation.  With smaller children, some parents may choose to use intimidation to get a child to calm down an angry child.  As a child gets older though, they are less apt to be intimidated-especially during the teenage years.  Turning down a child’s burner before stirring the pot with consequences has been a more effective way of dealing with difficult children for me.

If you’ve noticed closely, all 3 suggestions focused on us- the parents.  Don’t get me wrong, children misbehave all the time and there are times consequences have to be applied.  Regardless, the most effective parents I’ve seen and worked with have the three do’s down to an art.  The ones who didn’t were typically confused with why they were the parent of a “bad child.”

I’ll write to you again on Tuesday.  Until then, have a great weekend with your family!

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Cross Country Blues

As regular readers of this blog know, I like to talk about parenting, teach about parenting, and learn from other parents.  I find great satisfaction in becoming a better parent and helping others become better as well.  Please pardon me though because for today’s blog, I have to construct a couple of levels to the soap box.  A lesson was reinforced to me last night that I hope others can learn.  Allow me to explain.

My oldest child participates on a cross country team for the YMCA.  He was recruited by the coach and seems to like it.  While cross country isn’t my favorite sport, the rule has always been for my children to be active.  What they do is up to them.

During tonight’s practice, there were two children crying while running.  I understand pushing children to become better at what they are doing but I just don’t get why a child needs to be pushed that far.  To me, all sports should be used for the purpose of fitness, promoting competition, building confidence, and learning how to work with a team.  Oh, and I forgot the most important reason for sports.  It’s a thing I like to call HAVING FUN!

In Tantrums, Troubles, and Treasures, there is an extensive section on how sports are positive for many walks of life (even outside of sports).  There are so many sports from which children can choose.  Why push a kid to tears when they are in a sport they don’t enjoy?  What is a parent trying to get out of the sport?  In last night’s case, it was completely the parents’ fault.  The cross country coach is competitive but has a laid back personality.  The parents of the children crying wouldn’t let them stop running.

For all of my readers, let me leave you with this.  Sports are like food.  There are some things children like and others they don’t care for.  To this day, you won’t catch me eating a mushroom for some of the same reasons you won’t catch me driving my child to tears in a sporting event.  If they don’t like it then they don’t like it.  Children are individuals and they will find their passion in a sport (even if it’s only for recreation) over time.

Since I referenced my book once, how about I do it one more time?  At the end of every chapter, there is an assignment which is short but meant to reinforce what was taught. Therefore, here is your assignment.  Ask your child over the weekend what sport they would like to play and go play it with them.  You may totally stink at the sport but your child will appreciate the time you are spending with them.

My next post will be on Tuesday.  Until then, all my best to you and the ones you love. (Now, how I do climb down from this soap box anyway?)

Minnesota state meeting – Cross Country

This spot can be fun if parents are not driving their children to tears!

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The Finish Line

I hope everyone is having a wonderful Friday.  Today’s post centers on your assessment of the school year for your child.  It’s important to know what went right and what needs to be improved in order to send a stronger child to the next grade.  I’m certainly not saying all children need to work long days throughout the summer.  But, if you can help to tweak a couple of areas where your child struggled, the benefits could be significant. Here are some questions I think you may want to consider.

How did your child do? You’ve heard from the companies who handle standardized tests.  You’ve most likely seen the final grades or have a good idea what they will be.  What is your final assessment, as a parent, on how the school year went overall?

Did your child receive the grades deserved?  And, without laying guilt on yourself- what, if anything- should you have done differently to help your child?  Be brutally honest when trying to answer this question.

Were old friendships strengthened with peers?  Were new friendships built?  Do you feel your child is ready for the next grade academically, socially, and emotionally? More importantly, does your child feel ready in these three areas?

Are there any lingering problems that need your attention such as bullying, teasing, or general unhappiness?  Time does heal some wounds but ignoring problems typically does not cause them to go away.

Finally, this last point will lead to a future post but what about the overall confidence level of the child?  Is it as high as you’d like to see it?  Was your child’s confidence tested by difficult assignments or tricky situations with peers?  If their confidence was tested, do you feel your child is more confident or less confident in themselves now that the school year is over?

I hope answering these questions will help put into focus what needs to be addressed over the summer.  I’ll be back on Tuesday with another post.  Best wishes to all of your children.  May they have more fun this summer than all previous one’s put together!!!

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The Preschool Dilemma

Hello and welcome to another edition where you throw fastball parenting questions my way and I do my best to not strike out.  I suspect that today’s answer to the question will not be popular with some parents but it comes from the heart.  One of the best parts of writing these thoughts is  in knowing that it helps to get people thinking and, hopefully talking.   Feel free to agree or disagree in the comments section.  Today’s parenting question comes from “Sara.”  She asks, “When is the right age to send my daughter to preschool?”

For those who don’t know, I used to be an elementary teacher.  I faced the same preschool dilemma many of you (or someone you know) are facing.

The right age to send any child to a preschool is determined by a number of factors.  Therefore, I’m not going to give Sara a direct answer because it’s determined based on the circumstances.  Here are some things I want Sara to think about.

1.  What’s the point of preschool? If Sara’s answer is to learn, then why wouldn’t she teach her child at home in a one to one environment?  I think some parents have the assumption schools can teach young children better than we can.  In most cases, that’s not true until kids are older and learn more in depth subjects.  When I was a child, kids could go to kindergarten at age 5.  Over time, 4 year old schools popped up and now that’s been extended to age 3.  Where does it end?  I believe kids should stay at home and learn in a one on one environment as long as possible.

Let me put this in another way.  My oldest child didn’t attend a preschool. Therefore, he must have entered school far behind his peers academically- right?  Well, not exactly.  The only reason he attended Kindergarten was because the school (which goes from k-12) was ranked in the top 1% in the United States and he only had to attend two days a week.  Even at this great school, my child was completely bored with the academics because they were too easy.  Why is that?  It’s because I worked with him.  If there are questions with what I did, leave a comment or shoot me an email.  (

2.    What if I want for my kid to go to school to learn socialization skills? I don’t have a problem with that logic but how much socialization is needed to achieve your end goal?  For example, I solve the socialization dilemma by working out at my neighborhood YMCA and placing my child in their child care.  I get a great workout for an hour 3 times a week. My children get to socialize with their friends at this time.  The “Y” is expensive in my case but child care doesn’t carry an additional charge.  Also, I doubt if I pay as much for a gym membership as a lot of people pay in preschool expenses.

Former logo of the YMCA in the United States u...

This has been a great place for socialization!

My kids, socially speaking, are on par with other children.  As a matter of fact, they are friendlier and more social than many kids I know.  All I am saying is there are many ways to achieve socialization.   Participating on sports teams and playing with neighborhood kids can also do the trick.

3.  What if I HAVE to work? This is a tricky issue but hear me out.  You’d better make a pretty good salary to justify enrolling a child in preschool.  The better preschools in most areas are a bit pricey.  When Sara breaks down her salary into taxes, preschool costs, gas, dry-cleaners, car maintenance, etc.  she may be surprised what her usable take home dollar figure turns out to be.

For example, when I left teaching, my annual salary was a little over $40,000.  Without going into detail, I can honestly say that the loss in pay didn’t feel like as big a deal as I thought it was going to. I know there are a lot of single parents (like my mom) who must work.  Obviously, this generality wouldn’t apply. For those who are married, crunch the numbers with an accountant and see what the numerical truth entails.

If Sara still determines she HAS to work, it doesn’t matter what age her daughter goes to preschool because she has to work anyway.  For the sake of the post, I’m assuming Sara has a choice.    In saying that, I would save the preschool money, invest in some learning materials, and find an alternative to preschool unless there is literally no choice.

In summary, I have worked with over 400 kids (including two of my own).  Not one of them would have been better served in a preschool versus one on one time with me.  Instead of answering what age is best for a child to go to preschool for Sara, I will ask this question instead.  How hard is Sara willing to work, learn, and sacrifice in order to have a daughter that preschools would drool over?

Thanks so much for reading and I’ll publish another post Tuesday.  If you know a parent who is debating preschool, please pass along this article.  Best wishes!!!

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