THE PEOPLE SOLUTIONS NEWSLETTER
VOLUME #2, FOCUSING ON:
COACHING FOR BETTER PARENTS AND STRONGER KIDS
© Dr. Carol Renaud Gaffney
Originally printed October 1996 - reissued November 2003, All Rights Reserved
1. IN THE NEWS
2. BETTER PARENTS
3. STRONGER KIDS
4. COACH CORNER
5. MEDICAL FRONT
7. COACHING TIP
IN THE NEWS:
This annual event is making news everywhere - summer has come and is quickly fading and, as it does, the sound of the school bell beckons. Not all of us wait for the traditional after Labor Day start, in fact starting after Labor Day may now be more the exception than the rule. I know in Texas, friends of mine who were not already on a year-round calendar were gearing up for classes in early August when they wished they could still be by the pool.
But regardless, school has started nearly everywhere and with the start come new classes, new schools, new clothes, new friends, new teachers, new responsibilities, new, new, new. Even when there is excitement and fun, stress is experienced when changes are made. How can we get our families and kids off to a good start - and then not run out of energy two weeks into the year. I was interviewed last week about anxiety that kids experience as they are returning to school. Even though the responses were directed toward anxiety these steps can be kept in mind with our kids whenever a problem is experienced. And remember, even though we focus on what is going on with the kids, the parents and teachers are experiencing the stress of change as well.
Value what our kids are saying even when we think there is no reason for their concern. When your child says, "I'm afraid to go to school", it is very easy to say,
"There's nothing to worry about. We all have to do it". And you're right, they are going to have to attend school in the end...but....how this is handled up front may lay the groundwork for continued communication during the year.
So when we hear "l don't want to go to school" - we can listen and know that he is bothered by something. Respond to the feelings by saying something like: "You really are upset aren't you." or "I didn't realize this was bothering you so." or "Tell me a bit more of what's going on."
Once you hear about the feelings ask what he is afraid of. I have heard some interesting answers this year; 1. the snake the teacher keeps in the classroom, 2. the seniors are going to beat me up, 3. when I make a mistake in front of the other kids that they will mock me, 4. I might cry when I do something wrong, 5. no one will like me. The parents of the kids who said these things were amazed to hear what the concerns were.
Once the parents had this information they were able to engage more easily in problem-solving. How the problem is solved will depend on the age of the child involved and the experience they have had in the past with taking care of themselves.
Keep in mind- empower your children by supporting them in solving their problems and indicating the faith that you have in them for making good decisions. Their initial attempts at problem-solving may not work out the way they hoped. Then you can start the process again.
We all have in common that we have had an education of some sort whether in public school, private school or the school of hard knocks. Our experiences in school can shade our attitude toward our kids' experiences.
When problems occur with our kids, take a moment and evaluate how much of your response has to do with the present situation and how much has to do with the experiences you had when you were a kid. When Johnny is having difficulty with Mrs. Smith and we have had a miserable Ms. Meany in 5th grade we may be ready to take out our feelings for Ms. Meany on poor old unsuspecting Mrs. Smith. On the other hand, if you have loved every teacher you ever had you might be less than supportive with Johnny's frustration.
When Mary comes home and says she can't make friends in school your response can come from your own experience. "Oh, no, I couldn't make friends and now she can't. It's happening all over again" and then the response can be one of worry (which is picked up by Mary). Contrast this to Mary's parent who has been the social star who thinks "That's ridiculous. There are plenty of people she can choose from to be friends with. I never had problems, why should she." In both of these situations the parent is responding to his own past experience rather than Mary's present need.
If you deal with your own responses, insecurities or confidence, and realize that each person experiences similar situations differently, you will have a better chance to support your kids as individuals and help them in the problem solving they need to do. In the process, as you attend to your responses (emotional and behavioral) to these situations, you can learn more about yourself and not let that old stuff continue to influence the present.
I'm going to be saying the same thing again and again - to have strong kids you must provide age appropriate opportunities for problem-solving and then support your kids in learning how to manage the problems that are theirs to own. Last month we looked at kids learning to take care of their clothes and to be responsible for making decisions about what they purchased and wore.
Let's look at homework this month as that is certainly going to be an expectation in most homes. I did hear a couple of years ago from a high school counselor that the attitude toward homework is changing and less is expected because so few kids were doing it. Regardless of this attitude, I still think that homework is an important aspect of learning to learn - part of what happens as you become educated.
Studying effectively and completing homework are both skills that children must learn to be able to be effective students. Because these are skills and not attributes that we or are kids were born with, there is a process of learning to do homework that takes time to complete. The process of becoming an independent "studier" may take several years because children are limited in what they can do by their age and consequently their cognitive abilities. The process can start early in elementary school and continue into high school as kids become more cognitively sophisticated and are able to be more independent in their thinking and learning.
There are some basics that provide the platform for doing homework such as parents' expectations, parents' support, a place to do the homework, the proper tools, scheduled study time. There are certain study skills that are learned - how to memorize, how to learn spelling words, how to review, how to read for understanding, how to keep a calendar to plan ahead. There are different learning styles to be aware of because some kids have to go over stuff 10 times to learn it, others only twice. When you know yourself (and when you know your own kids) and are being realistic about what it takes to learn, then success it more likely. AND nothing breeds success like success.
I have met a lot of very capable kids who are discouraged about school and academics in general once they reach jr. high and high school. With some of them I have found that their natural intelligence is no longer sufficient to get them through classes. The problems actually started back in elementary school when kids who were not as "quick" had to learn how to study in order to get the grades and the more able students sailed through without developing the necessary skills and self-discipline for learning. Now in high school these bright kids think they are too old for that "baby stuff' and don't want to go back and learn what to do.
Take a few minutes with a paper and pen and answer the following: How old is your child? What does he already know about studying? What would I like him to know? How can you engage him in the plan for change? How much time do I honestly think it will take to get this in place? Are these expectations reasonable?
Let me know how you make out.
One mom has written in with a suggestion for managing some of the sibling conflict that occurs when the kids are always asking for the front seat, or to be first, and then complaining that it is never fair. The suggestion (and this will work with 2 kids) is to have each kiddo have the odd (or even) days of the month to make choices about who goes first or who gets what. Then when the argument comes up, such as "I want to be in the front seat", the question is simply, "what is the date and whose day is it to choose." Her children have responded very well to this simple strategy.
One response to last month's coach corner with the unsupportive spouse: "Danger here is that if unsupportive spouse doesn't respond, marriage could be on the rocks." Nonverbal messages make up the major portion of our communication so pay attention to what is not being said and then bring it up for clarification. Responding to what we think the other guy is thinking is called "mindreading" and although it occurs frequently, has generally not been a reliable method of communication in the United States since the Anasazi.
Another simple suggestion. As kids are getting ready to go back to school, color code their school supplies using the same color notebook, book cover for English, then another color for math, etc. This makes it a lot easier to get the right books together so they can actually get down to doing their homework. Another alternative is to use colored sticky dots to identify materials for a particular course.
For those of you whose kids are eating school lunches, check with your school cafeteria for the Nutrition Facts of the meals. Although there are Federal Guidelines for the school meal program, there evidently have been a few cracks for requirements to fall through and many of the programs are high in fat and filler. While you are at it, the next time you are in Wendy's or Burger King or McDonald's check out their nutrition facts. There are brochures available at the counter just for the asking.
I will step up to the soapbox without an invitation on this one with strong opinions about the necessity for adequate diet and regular meals. With the phenomenal food resources that we have at our disposal it is incredible that our children’s diets are so poor - and I am not referring just to the economically disadvantaged. Many children from affluent homes are malnourished because of fast, processed food with low fiber, low protein, high fat, and high sugar content. We often pay more attention to the octane of the gas that goes into our cars than we do the food that goes into our bodies. Proper nutrition is essential for healthy bodies, brains, minds, and spirits - they all work together.
Overcoming the culture of indulgence in our homes and
schools by William Damon Free Press Paperback,12.00 ISBN 0-684-82505-8
From the cover - William Damon is America's leading thinker on the moral development of children and adolescents. ... is the book that exposed the low standards that children are confronted with in our homes, our schools, and throughout our culture. It exploded many of the misconceptions about children and how to raise them, including the cult of self-esteem, "child centered" learning, and other overly indulgent practices that have been watering down the education and guidance that we are providing for our young people. It disclosed how the self-centered ethic is damaging our youth.
My opinion - an excellent read about the "demoralization" or our children, how we can honor them by expecting them to be responsible and accountable. Damon then goes on to provide ideas about addressing the misconceptions and how we as parents, how schools and communities can better serve our children's needs.
A Call to Character
a Family Treasury of stories, poems, plays, proverbs, and fables to guide the development of values for you and your children. Colin Greer & Herbert Kohl, Editors, Harper Collins, 25.00, ISBN 0-06-0173394
A book for families that helps to bring children and parents together. In the tradition of McGuffey's Reader, A Call to Character is a family read that includes contemporary children's stories as well as classic works. This unique collection gathers together a liberal assortment of voices...to enrich and enliven the child's imagination.
My opinion - a beautiful book of lovely stories organized into sections about values that relate to one's self, to people one knows, to people one doesn't know and nature, and values that relate to love. This is a book to have available to read when you have a minute. None of the selections is long - each is thought provoking. Kids and parents of all ages can enjoy this one.
The Coaching Guide for Better Parents and Stronger Kids
by me, Dr. Carol Renaud Gaffney! It is available through Bookpartners 1-800-895-READ for $14.95 plus 3.50 shipping and handling. ISBN 1-88522145-2
The information is organized into Know Yourself, Know Your Kids and Know the Ropes. This is a content rich book that involves the reader in evaluating what he/she brings to the role of parenting, understanding each of your children as individuals and then provides skills and techniques (some of which are actually fun) for managing yourself with your kids. Of course, I think this is a must for anyone living or working with kids.
Catch them doing something right!! Even the most difficult children have moments when they are pure joy.
Children will repeat what is paid attention to. So-o-o if you want them to repeat a certain behavior, acknowledge it - somehow let them know that you have noticed. I found myself doing just the opposite of what I wanted to accomplish when my kids were small. I was usually so glad when they were quiet and playing well and totally engaged that I would tiptoe around and not want to disturb the atmosphere and then when they started "getting into it" I would get into it with them. That sure backfired until I realized that I was rewarding them with my attention (Yes, negative attention works just as well as positive - what they can't stand is being ignored) and that this attention was supporting and encouraging the stuff I was hoping to get rid of.
You don't go have to go out of your way or spend money to give attention. A pat on the head, "good job", "attaboy" or "attagirl", a moment here or a moment there spread out over time is all it takes.
One more thing - I am working on a project that requires input from grandparents. I would appreciate hearing from you or from grandparents you could refer to me to respond to a brief questionnaire. This can be done by e-mail or telephone.
That’s it for this month. Keep the comments and questions coming and send the newsletter on to friends you think might want or need the information. Peace.
To subscribe, simply:
Or you may write Dr. Gaffney at Carol@DrGaffney.com and she will will gladly see to it your receive the newsletter.
BACK ISSUES and OTHER GAFFNEY RESOURCES
You may access back issues through my website (http://www.DrGaffney.com) which also has content and ordering information about the Coaching Guide for Parents and the Coaching Guide for Relaxation and Meditation. Please e-mail for details on weekly telechats as well as on-line chats that I host.
COPYRIGHT & DISTRIBUTION RIGHTS
This information is copyrighted by Dr. Carol Renaud Gaffney, people SOLUTIONS, and DrGaffney.com and may be only forwarded if done so in its entirety and as long as no changes or edits are made. Also, it must include subscription instructions. Please contact Dr. Gaffney for permission for excerpting and general distribution.
Dr. Carol Renaud Gaffney
32 Cole Street, Suite 5
Warren, RI 02885