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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 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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Building confidence in a child is one of the most important things a parent can do.  In the meantime, we have to make sure that we aren’t blowing smoke where there isn’t a fire.  This post is meant to help parents understand the difference.

It’s important for children to build swagger for a myriad of reasons.  Grades are likely to be higher, bullying isn’t as likely to occur, and children are more likely to be generally happy when they feel good about themselves.

Building confidence doesn’t have to be hard for parents.  The key word is BUILDING. Therefore, the process takes time. I advise parents to identify the strengths of their child, praise them for what they can do, and encourage them to improve.  That alone, over time, builds confidence.

Now, the trick to building a completely confident child is to also work on the child’s weaknesses.  With all the children I have worked with, the same rules basically apply.  Find out where the child is in area where they are weak and determine whether it’s important to build on the problem.  If so, build from where they are with heavy doses of praise when the child improves.

Determining the importance of the problem is really important.  Let’s say, for example, your child is not confident with their basketball ability.  It may be determined that the weakness isn’t that important.  If not, perhaps it is time to search for greener pastures and work on other sports/activities.  No one is good at everything and it is not a criteria of overall success.

It could be though that the weakness is important.  Perhaps the child isn’t a strong reader. This is important because if a child cannot read very well, school only gets much harder causing the child to fall further behind.  Therefore, the proper course is to see what the child can do and build from there.  Each time a new reading skill is achieved, heap him/her with praise.  Their confidence will grow with time which will make them want to catch to peers even faster.

Now, as far as blowing smoke by parents, this happens a lot.  Perhaps parents are misguided because they don’t want to make their child unhappy or perhaps they don’t know where the bar is so they are easily impressed.

Here’s an easy example to drive home the point.  Let’s say your 3 year old writes their name by themselves for the first time.  Writing is an essential skill so I would advise you to heap an enormous amount of praise for this milestone.  Contrarily, let’s pretend your 7 year old writes their name on a spelling test correctly but misses every other word. Because most 7 year old children can write their name, I am going to focus more on how to help the child improve their study skills versus heaping praise for writing their name.

In my home, I want my children’s confidence to be sky high and I’ll use praise to enhance this at every turn.  But, my children know I am not easily impressed.  I really believe this is why the 400+ children I have worked with rigorously actively sought praise from me. Simply put- they knew it was genuine.

If you’d like more ideas on building confidence, here is an excellent link I found.  http://www.more4kids.info/497/empowering-self-confidence/

I hope you have enjoyed this post.  If you liked Confidence, you’ll love my book Tantrums, Troubles, and Treasures. It goes into a lot more detail on hard parenting topics and gives entertaining real life examples.  Feel free to check out the reviews above and when you are ready to buy, simply click this link.  goo.gl/d7lsh

Best wishes to you and I’ll write to you again Friday!

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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 tantrumstroublesandtreasures@yahoo.com.

Last Thursday, I wrote the Three Do’s of Discipline.  Please check it out at http://www.claytonpaulthomas.com/archives/550 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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The Fairness of Parenting

Housekeeping note: Please click on the About the Book (Tantrums, Troubles, and Treasures) section located above to see a short presentation of how the book Tantrums, Troubles, and Treasures can benefit your family.  Now, on to the blog!

“Never be afraid to take a good idea.”  Those were the words of a high school teacher I’ll never forget.  Mr. Johnson taught me many things but these are the words I’ll remember the most.  It’s in this vain that I have to give credit to where this blog idea came from.  Over the weekend, I listened to the homily of Father Jeff Nicholas at the Cathedral of the Assumption.  One of his main points was that God is not fair.  God is love.  The way he articulated his points really struck a chord with me.  This post is dedicated to him.

I’ve never really thought of myself as a tough but fair parent.  I’m confident that I am tough. Fair is completely different.  My view on parenting is to give children what they need (and hopefully sprinkle in some desires along the way).  The thing is though the kids I have worked with have had different needs because children simply aren’t the same.  On a broad spectrum, I understand children need shelter, food, and love.  But, looking at them more closely, things are a bit different and they are not always fair.

Here’s an easy example of what I mean.  Let’s say I have two boys who are the same age.  One boy struggles in math so I tutor him an extra half hour every day to help him along.  Fairness, on the surface, dictates I should tutor the other boy as well.  Whether I actually do that or not depends on his strengths/weaknesses.  If the second boy is brilliant in math, my time with him may be spent doing something else academically.  Even the time I work with him may not be the same as the first child depending on his ability to effectively pay attention.

Let’s get into a more difficult issue such as discipline.  This time, I will use two girls who are the same age.  Let’s pretend both of them misbehave in the exact same manner.  Do you think I should consequence them in the same way?  That, of course, would be the fair thing to do.  But whether I take this approach or not really depend on the children.  When I discipline, I want to press their “buttons” inside them so that it will be known that their actions were inappropriate.   If time out works for one girl but doesn’t really affect the other, why should I be fair?  The more appropriate thing to do with the girl that time out doesn’t work is to give a different consequence which is more effective for that child.

Practically speaking, this approach can be difficult. I have little doubt that I will be challenged by a reader or two (which is always encouraged).  Nevertheless, one of my main teaching tenets to parents focuses on individual responsibility.  I really believe I would have trouble with this concept while working with children if I treated every child the same although it would be fair.

My mother used to tell me “life’s not fair.”  The older I get, the more I realize how right she was.  Whether you agree with this post or not- thanks so much for reading!  I will have another blog ready on Friday.  Take care of yourselves and your family!

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Children and Beer Caves

One thing I have noticed over my years of working with children is the attitude their parents take concerning the exposure to alcohol.  Before anyone believes that I have a holier than thou approach, the truth is my ideas are fairly convoluted.  For example, I don’t drink around my children.  But, my wife will have a glass of wine with dinner occasionally and it doesn’t bother me in the least.  My friends also drink around my children at parties and I’m not put off by them either.  Not drinking around my children is simply a personal decision.  My goal for this post is for parents to simply think about their attitudes about alcohol and their children.

Last weekend, my wife ran out of wine.  Therefore (being the hunter gatherer of the house) I went out to correct this atrocity.  When I went to the liquor store though, I saw something that was a bit unusual.  A mom, dad, and two children (probably ages 8 and 5) walked out of the store’s beer cave with a cart full of beer.  While there are some people reading this thinking what bad parents they are, there are others pumping their fists thinking, “Now that’s what I am talking about.” Though I don’t want to judge this family, I question the message this act sends to their children.

Though I have had the same attitudes about alcohol, that doesn’t mean I am immune to an alcoholic story.  For example, about a month ago, my family attended my god son’s birthday party where alcohol was served.  I was in the yard watching my 4 year old when my 7 year old approached me.  He asked if I would open his bottle of lemonade.  I wasn’t really paying attention so I said “sure.”  When I took the bottle, it felt ice cold.  I looked down to discover it was a bottle of Mike’s Hard Lemonade.  What was funny was that the other guests had thought I had sent him to the cooler to get it for me.  Of course, this was an innocent mistake.

Minutes before I started writing this post yesterday, I asked my 4 year old what he wanted to drink with his lunch.  He usually drinks chocolate milk but I am out of chocolate (I know- I know- poor parenting). Anyway, I asked what else he would like and he pointed to a bottle of Mike’s Lite Hard Cranberry Lemonade.  After a small chuckle, we settled on a Capri Sun.

I’m not about to tell parents where to draw the line on this issue.  But, out of all my convoluted opinions, I do have a strong one.  Our children may not always listen to what we say but they ALWAYS watch what we do.  Having a drink while socializing may be one thing but I can’t see why a parent would want to be drunk around their child.  If nothing else, a person’s ability to parent would have to be less than when he/she is sober.

Many of the children who I worked with at St. Joseph’s had problems with alcoholic parents.  Perhaps that’s where my disdain truly lies.  When I was growing up, I never saw my mother have a drink- let alone be drunk.  It’s certainly a lasting image I’ll always keep.  Please be responsible around your child no matter what your attitude is about alcohol. Here’s my final piece of advice. Make sure if you have to have your young child with you while you load up your cart in a refrigerated beer cave, be considerate and pack a sweater.

I’ll check in again with another post on Tuesday.  Until then, give the kids a sober hug!

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The Heart of a Power Struggle

Power struggles in the home usually boil down to a single issue.  Today, I am going to talk about that issue and how you, as a parent, can actually turn power struggles to your advantage.

Doesn’t it just stink when you tell your child to do something and what you get back isn’t what you asked for?  For example, when a child talks back, refuses to follow a direction, argues, screams, or fights, it can be enough to want to make a person pull their hair out. Sometimes, when a child gets older, they can be more manipulative, defiant, or say hurtful things to us.

The single issue power struggles typically boil down to is control.  It starts much earlier in children than you may think.  For example, my 4 year old hates having his hand held in a parking lot.  There is a power struggle between us.  He wants that little bit of independence and isn’t happy when he doesn’t get it.

The first key in handling a power struggle is to know you are the parent and it’s up to you to be in control of yourself and the situation.  One of the worst things a parent can do during any type of power struggle is to lose his/her cool.  In the short term, it can work if, for example, you scare a child into compliance.  Long term though, it’s more risky because over time, the shock factor is reduced or eliminated.

When children have really challenged me over the years, I have frequently made the conscience effort to control my voice.  I’ve always had the confidence that I was going to win the power struggle in the end. What’s the point of losing my cool? Besides, if any child I have worked with could see that their behavior could physically control my response- in essence, I have lost that part of the power struggle.

Another key to winning a power struggle with a child is to be quiet.  Go ahead and let the child have their say.  It’s beneficial for many reasons.   For example, the child may make a good point for you to consider.  But remember, just because a child makes a good point doesn’t mean the power struggle has been lost so relax.

Another reason to let the child have their say is because you are modeling how a power struggle can be handled with civility.  Power struggles tend to get really ugly when both sides are yelling and neither side is listening to the other.  It’s been my experience that when I let the child have their say- not only will I still get what I want in the end but the struggle itself takes much less time.  When I was a teenager, my mother obviously wasn’t privy to my blog.  We had knock down drag out verbal wars that would last for days.  I remember them well and refuse to have the same circumstances with children I work with.

One of the last things that have been a key for me concerning power struggles is that I have a short memory.  I don’t let arguments of the past consume me.  Harboring ill feelings of power struggles of days, months, and years past don’t serve any real purpose.

Towards the beginning of this piece, I referenced the power struggle of holding my 4 year old child’s hand in a parking lot.  I’ve already told you that power struggles typically boil down to control, and I told you I had full confidence I was going to win.  So, here’s how this plays out.  Keep in mind I have used the same general strategies even on tough teenagers.

When my child wants to let go of my hand, I listen clearly and then remind him to be safe in a parking lot by walking and staying close because cars can’t see him.  In essence, I let go but I am still very close.  If one misstep happened, I could grab him immediately.  From there though, I slowly back off.  Nowadays, the struggle doesn’t exist to a great degree because he clearly knows what to do.

The reason I won that power struggle was because I recognized what my child wanted and guided him on a path in order to achieve his goal.  Hypothetically speaking, some parents would have wanted me to win the power struggle by holding on to my child’s hand.  But, why do that unless, of course, he attempts to run away in the parking lot?

This piece, though long, wasn’t nearly long enough to handle all the “what ifs.”   There are so many ways power struggles can occur; I simply cannot cover all the situations.  If you have further questions or comments, please leave a message in the comment box.  If you want a private response, drop me an email at tantrumstroublesandtreasures@yahoo.com.

My next post will be on Tuesday.  It will deal with split second decision making on 9/11, how it was handled with my elementary classroom, and lessons I learned that day.

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A Story for Mothers

Today’s post is a story of when breaking a rule isn’t such a bad thing.  This was one of those moments I needed to keep my flexibility meter up.  While enforcing rules (in general) is vital to maintaining a disciplined household, knowing when to be flexible to very important as well.

A couple of nights ago, I had placed my 4 year old to bed.  In my home, once a child is placed in bed, they are expected to rest and go to sleep.  Although my older child can read (no televisions in bedrooms) in his bed, I haven’t implemented that policy for my younger one yet.

As the story goes, around 30-45 minutes had passed after I placed my children to bed. My wife went upstairs (where the kids sleep) to change into her pajama’s.  It took a lot more time for her to change than usual but I didn’t question anything.  I had had a long day and was exhausted.

The next morning, I mentioned something about the prior night in passing.  What happened was my wife peeked in on my 4 year old.  Unfortunately, he wasn’t quite asleep.  He looked up at her and sweetly asked, “Mommy, will you rock me?”  Though Lauren and I have the same general bedtime policies, she gave in.

The way she explained the situation was beyond question to me.  In essence, she said that the day will come when he’ll never ask to be rocked again.  Now, there may be a cynic or two who will question her decision on the basis of breaking routines.  But, here’s what I have learned after years of working with children.  You have to be clear to a child on your rules.  Your child has to be clear on the rules.  Then and only then can you take a jackhammer and smash a rule occasionally.

Tonight, of course, I’ll place the children to bed and make sure my wife stays the heck away from them.  (Ha Ha- just kidding)

Have a fabulous weekend and I’ll write to you again Tuesday.

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Because of what I have done with Tantrums, Troubles, and Treasures and the blog, I have a unique opportunity to speak to parents daily about the highs and lows of parenting.  I enjoy studying things parents do that work and ideas that I would scrap.  I call what I do parentology (No, this isn’t really a word).  Parentology is my study of parenting.

Most of the parents I talk to will not be met face to face but I value their opinions and sympathize with their issues.  One reoccurring theme lately has been their realization that they don’t always get the right answers while trying to parent.  It has led to some frustration in some parents because things don’t always work as planned.

It’s not possible for a parent to make the right move all the time with their child.  Mistakes are part of what makes us human.  The way I look at it is that mistakes should be accepted for the time being but worked on in order to not make the same type of mistake again. Being conscience of this has been a key to making me a better parent.

One sure way to work on correcting mistakes is by reflection.  Simply thinking about the problem at hand and pondering how it could have been handled differently is a big step. This tactic is great for single parents but it’s even better for parents who are married because you have a partner to bounce ideas off.  Parents who are single though can still seek out priests, counselors, and trusted friends to have virtually the same effect.

Now that I have given you a solution for when things do not go as planned while parenting; allow me to give you a solution I’ve seen used many times which fails miserably.  It’s called the “beat myself up until I am blue in the face” method.  This is when a parent convinces themselves of what a poor parent they are over a mistake they made and won’t let it go.

There’s nothing productive about this for you or the child.  A child needs to see you be a beacon of light- not wallowing in self pity because you can’t figure out how to make your child eat their peas.  Trust me, I’ve seen this (in many shapes and formats) many times.

Attaining perfection or even being close will never happen.  It’s like jumping as high as you can to touch the clouds and being disappointed when you miss.  The goal with parenting should be to accept your strengths and faults honestly.  From there, find the avenues to improve on your areas of weaknesses while maintaining the good qualities which make you special.  If you can find a way to do this, I promise you will be several steps ahead of a lot of parents.

My next post will come to you this Friday and my wife is going out of town for a couple of days.  Therefore, it will be just the boys and me together before I write to you again.  Why do I have the feeling there’s going to be a lot of blog material between now and then?  Best wishes!

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Who Let in the Joneses?

Today’s parenting question is a new one for me but one I am certain a lot of parents have.  “Sandra” is a mom of two girls (ages 11 and 7) who feels the pressures of wanting her kids to have nice things.  The problem is keeping up with Joneses and their latest trends can be very costly.  How should a parent manage this?

By the time Sandra (and the rest of you) read this, this post may be considered anywhere on the scale from brilliant to flat out no help at all.  It really will depend on your attitude about money versus the need to “fit in” with society.  As is customary, I don’t give a lot of do’s and don’ts but I like to ask questions to be considered and I’ll tell you what things are like in my home. The rest is up to you.

My first question is why do the Joneses have any power in our homes?  Don’t get me wrong.  I like nice things for my children.  But, I have a budget like most people.  Keeping up with the Joneses signifies that their acceptance is more important than the financial well being of your family.

Here’s an example.  I have Directv for the family but my children wear shoes from Target.  I could give up Directv for a while.  If I did, I could easily buy $200 shoes for my boys.  But, why would I do that?  Is it because “little Susie Jones” down the road has nice shoes?  An even worse decision, in my opinion, is if I don’t give up Directv and I buy the expensive shoes.

The Directv example hits at the heart of my point.  Many middle class families have SOME nice things.  I completely understand a child wanting nice things as well.  If a child wants an item and it fits in the budget, that’s fine.  If the item doesn’t fit in the budget, why would anyone care what Mr. Jones, Mrs. Jones, or little Susie Jones think.  Until the Jones family pays the bills in the Thomas household, their opinion means nothing to me.

Here’s another idea for that “must have” item.  Because, in this case, Sandra has an 11 year old, perhaps the child can do extra chores or save up her allowance.  If the item she wants is that important, let her buy it with her money.  Remember the goal is to allow children to earn their independence.  Over time, children who have to spend their own money learn that it doesn’t grow on trees.

Something else Sandra may want to consider is this.  How is she teaching her children to deal with the frustration of not being able to get everything she wants?

There is a modeling opportunity here for parents.  When children can see that there are limits, this will be internalized by them over time.  Conversely, maybe a parent sees something he/she can’t afford now (such as a car) but model a determination to save extra money, start a business from home, or work harder in their profession to achieve that “carrot.”  There are strong benefits to either route.

Though I can’t tell Sandra what to do, I can tell her this.  When any parent has the chance to model how to deal with an important issue, it can only benefit the child in the end.

Please have a safe weekend.  I’ve enjoyed reading the parenting questions sent to me.  Feel free to send in more questions (tantrumstroublesandtreasures@yahoo.com) and we’ll do this again.

On Tuesday, I will have a new post.  You will learn how the results of a chess game I played in high school could make all of us rethink parenting strategies in new and exciting ways.

On a final note, I will be on the Dr. Carol radio show Monday at 10:00AM est.  If you live in the Nashville area, tune into WNAH 1360.  For those outside the area, you can go to http://www.drcarolshow.com and click the listen live button.  Thanks for all the support!!!

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Celebrating the Tearing of a Book

Today’s blog is meant to be much more light-hearted than the Sink or Swim blogs of last week.  But, behind the pomp and circumstance of what you are going to read, there is a serious message on how to improve a child’s ability to read, write, or perform math problems.  There’s not a better time than now to get started.  Let’s begin!!!

My youngest child who is 4 years old recently tore the cover off of a book.  Obviously, if there are any librarians reading this, you may want to hide your children.  Seriously though, the tearing of a book is a big celebration in the Thomas household and after reading this, you may seek to have your children tear a book as well.

People who have been reading my blog for a while know that I take education very seriously.  One of the ways I educate is through various activity books.  We have a quirky celebration though.  When we finish the activities of a book to my satisfaction, the front cover is torn off and placed on a cork board for all to see.  My youngest child just finished his first book.  Not only was the cover torn; but there was an ice cream celebration as well.  Now that the celebration is over, my boy has been clamoring to work on more things.  (Guess he and I have a similar sweet tooth)  I recognize though there’s much more to life than educational materials so I limit his work to about 15-20 minutes a day.  The book he finished was a simple alphabet book where he had to learn how to write upper and lower case letters.

I recently read a book by Malcolm Gladwell called Outliers which I highly recommend.  One of his chapters deals with education.  His claim is there are glaring reasons why our educational system falls short of other countries.  One has to do with economics.  In essence, lower class families can’t expose their children to the same experiences as middle class families over the summer.  Perhaps I’ll tackle that issue in the future but another claim was that certain other countries have longer school years.  In essence, they get to practice the skills being taught longer than Americans.

Obviously, if one person practices more than another in any discipline, it stands to reason that over time, the additional practice will pay off.  According to Outliers, “Americans typically go to school on average 180 days.  The South Korean school year is 220 days long.  The Japanese school year is 243 days long.”

From what I saw as a teacher, most parents don’t do anything academically with their kids over the summer.  Therefore, anything I do in a one on one atmosphere with my child should help him in the long run.  While 15-20 minutes may not sound like a lot of time; multiplied out over the course of the summer,  it makes a big difference!

For those of you interested, the materials I use can be found at most bookstores and office supply stores.  Any small amount of additional work you do can only help your child going into their next school year.  I wish you all the best and hope one day you will email me to brag how your child ripped the cover off their first book!

This Friday, I’d like to write a blog based on one of your parenting questions on any issue you choose.  On a former blog, I used to do this every Friday and it would consistently be the most read blog of the week.  No question is too silly and I don’t use identifying information.  I look forward to reading your questions at tantrumstroublesandtreasures@yahoo.com.

Have a terrific week!!!

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