Archive for Kids

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 www.lulu.com:   http://tiny.cc/8gs8o

I also wanted to announce that over this past weekend, I receive the 1,000th comment on www.claytonpaulthomas.com.  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 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 tantrumstroublesandtreasures@yahoo.com.

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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Guilty Mom Complex

Hello to all!!!  Pardon me while I catch my breath.  I happened to look at my stats before deciding to write this blog and discovered you made Wednesday’s blog (Sowing Seeds) the top hit blog I have ever written.  Remember the contest involving 200 hits?  You actually did it!  Couple that with the fact that the month of December had more total hits by far than my first two months combined and what you have left is—a speechless blogger.  OK, not completely speechless; but you get my drift.  Thank you for reading my blog and passing it along to other parents!  Now, let’s get down to business.

Speechless (film)Promise I found this movie poster AFTER writing I was “speechless”

As a lot of us know, Friday’s are saved for questions from parents and today I have a chosen a difficult one.  A mom I’ll call “Barb” asks, “How can I not feel guilty as a mom because I can’t do it all?”  Barb is married, works full time, and has 3 children.   She feels she never has the time to accomplish all the things she wants to do in her professional and personal life.

Barb’s story and general question is all too familiar for a lot of us- not just moms. Some of us struggle to put in the time needed at work with the time wanted at home.  Keeping the house clean, maintaining a social life, and spending quality time with our children/spouse is hard.  Oh, I almost forgot that some of us would like to do more volunteer work in our places of worship or communities.  The burden can feel very heavy at times.   

The first thing I want Barb to know is “doing it all” is a myth.  Seriously, how many people does anyone know who can really “do it all?”  I can’t think of one.  While I’ll admit some of us do a better job than others, no one is perfect. 

Placing pressure on yourself to do it all is an exercise in futility.  I do believe though placing a little pressure on yourself is a good thing so let’s redirect that pressure into something a bit more manageable.

For example, let’s say you don’t think you are spending enough time with the kids.  I would challenge you to know exactly how much time you DO spend with your kids.  If you would like more time, here are some ideas.

1.  Pull your kid out of school during your lunch break.  If this idea doesn’t appeal to you, how about eating lunch at their school?  Clear it with teachers if you pull your kid out of school so you can figure out the best time to do it (as not to interfere with quizzes- tests).

2  Another idea is to schedule kids similar to meetings at work.  Many of us have a calender which is typically full.  Block out time purposely to know what you are going to do with your kids and how long it’s going to take.  Unless there’s an unavoidable crisis at work, don’t reschedule your kids.  Take this as seriously as you do any other meeting or you may not be as likely to follow through. 

3.  Keep your kids involved in activities with you at home.  Instead of you making dinner for the family- let the family work together to make the dinner.  This creates more family time and saves you from having to do it all.

I could go over countless problems overworked and overstressed moms and dads have like Barb; but here’s another piece of advice that may help.  On a piece of paper, prioritize what is important to you right now, what can wait, and what you can delegate.

For example, my wife and I are having a New Years Eve party.  The problem is I am raising and educating my kids, marketing a book, and writing this blog.  I don’t have time to do (above and beyond) cleaning.  Regardless, I wrote a small list this morning of simple things I could do while the kids were occupied.  

At 12:00, I decided to bake the boys a pizza for lunch. The plan was to clean some things while it was baking and while they were eating.  Sound easy enough?

Well, it was easy until I glanced over and saw my oven on fire!  Although I didn’t write it down, I knew the priority was to drop the cleaning supplies and put the fire out.  I am thankful I caught the problem in time.  My house is fine and no one was hurt.  Thinking about this story, here is my question.  What fires are going on in your life that have to be extinguished?  It’s simply called prioritizing.  When you stretch yourself too thin, you’ll feel like you’ve accomplished little and the fires will still roar on.  

Here’s a final thought to illustrate the point.  There were only two things I really focused on as an elementary school teacher in the public schools- reading and math.  If everything else in the day didn’t go well, I could accept that.  I didn’t have the same attitude about weekly faculty meetings, didn’t care about the state (of Kentucky) and what they do to teachers in bottom tier schools with low test scores, and didn’t care about what other teachers gossiped. 

When children can read and perform math problems, they can do almost anything academically. But if kids can’t do those two things, they won’t make it in the classroom or in life.  Low reading and math skills were the fires I tried to put out every day.

To Barb and all of my guilt filled moms and dads: please lighten up a bit, prioritize what’s important, and have a fantastic 2011.  Now, if you don’t mind, I have some cleaning that needs to be done.    

Sowing Seeds

Buckle up early for this blog because I’m jumping in head first!

The kids I’ve worked with in my life have looked up to me the same way your kids look up to you.  It didn’t matter if it was St. Josephs Children’s Home, as a public school teacher, or my own kids.  Being the authority figure and acting like the authority figure are two different things though.  For example, a teacher may BE the authority figure the kids are supposed to look up to; but if they don’t ACT like the authority figure, respect over time is lost.

The reason I made this distinctions is because we, as authority figures, have a golden opportunity with our kids.  As long as they respect us, they will take our words and actions to be meaningful and trusted.  Because of this simple fact, here’s the plan.  Let’s encourage kids to achieve heights they never thought they could. 

Children victimized by the United Kingdom's Ch...
Kids are looking to us right now for help!

At  St. Joseph’s Children’s Home, we worked a lot on behavior because that was a major factor in getting a child ready to be in a  foster home or better yet- adopted.   Because kids there looked up to me (along with many other super house parents) I used to praise them to no end for good behavior.  The various forms of praise from me were the seeds sown.  On the flip side, I didn’t baby them when they behaved poorly.  I had a clear goal of where I wanted them behaviorally even if they had lost some hope for ever being adopted. For some children, the goal was achieved but I worked tirelessly for years in order for that dream to be realized by all.

Another example could be found when I was teaching.  In the classroom, kids would sometimes tell me they couldn’t read.  Those were fighting words in my classroom.  I would go out of my way over time to prove to them they COULD read but they needed to practice to get better.  Since I was the authority figure, I could sow those seeds within a child and eventually have them reading at a higher level over time.

Don’t get me wrong.  Sowing seeds doesn’t always work.  But, it’s not my job to know when this tactic will work and when it won’t.  It’s my job to command the respect of children so when I sow the seeds, they have a chance of “sprouting.”

Here’s an example of a time your humble blogger apparently failed.  This story occurred on a picturesque fall day.  My son, Cameron, and I were driving to one of his tennis lessons. I remember pumping him up saying things like “let’s really concentrate today” and “hit the ball like your coach taught you.”  I also threw in “you can beat those kids even if they are a little older.”  In my own mind, I sounded like General Patton pumping up the troops.  In other words, the seeds were clearly sown and greatness was sure to follow.  It was at this point that Cameron exclaimed out of the blue, “Look daddy, there’s a bird in that nest!”

For the record, Cameron played fine that day.  Regardless, I’m not sure anything I said registered at the time;  but that’s not the point.  I tried to do what I could to encourage Cameron to play his best tennis. 

It’s not only your choice when to sow the seeds; but what seeds are to be sown and how often.  Though my tennis example with Cameron may prove it doesn’t always work, I will guarantee there are many times it does. In order to get the best out of kids, they have to have confidence.  Though parents sowing seeds is not the entire equation for a child to excel, it’s certainly an important step.

On a final note, any parent who has a child’s respect can also fall victim to sowing negative seeds.  If, for example, I told my children they were ugly, dumb, inferior to others, or not very good at something, they would completely believe me.  All parents should watch their words very carefully because the consequences are potentially devastating.  I once heard long ago, “don’t be the parent who thinks they know how the book ends before the final chapter is even written.” Even if your child isn’t the best at something (and whose child is) it’s still important to make them feel good about themselves and what they are doing. 

We want our children to be happy.  We want the best for them. Together, let’s sow seeds to give our kids every chance to achieve these things.

My next blog will be this Friday, I have several interesting parenting questions to choose from. If you have a parenting question, it can be sent to tantrumstroublesandtreasures@yahoo.com.

Take care of yourselves and your families and please don’t forget to pass this along to other parents!!!